Bolly Featherweight Test
We recently did a short test on the Neopod bipod and have since had a number of questions about where the testing was done and requests for more details on the rifle, so we decided to get some gear we use out on the hill and do a Bolly Featherweight test. Luckily we only have to head out the back door and walk 25m to the shooting range for the test.
Bolly Featherweight Test Equipment
PDI’s Ultralight Medium Game Rifle
The rifle selected for the test was chambered in .243 Winchester (Pope Gun), an ever popular medium game hunting cartridge and proven performer at long range steel and paper punching. It’s also cheap to use, with high end hunting factory ammunition like federal premium vital shock being inexpensive. It would be a rare occurrence for .243win ammunition not to be available at the local. We also wanted to keep costs down but maintain a high level of accuracy, so we went with Australia’s best selling bolt action, the Tikka T3.
Tikka T3 Lite with Prototype Bolly Featherweight and Classic Limbsaver
The rifle started life as a standard T3 Lite Stainless chambered in .243 Winchester (currently on special for $1069 AUD at Gunpro Dubbo with free shipping anywhere in Australia 27/09/2016). The light but flexible plastic stock and aluminium recoil lug were quickly thrown away and replaced by one of the early prototype Bolly Featherweights (RRP $990), inletted for the T3 and factory DBM. A Lumley Arms Bedding Kit which includes replacement action screws, a titanium recoil lug and precision steel pillars were installed along with a Limbsaver Classic precision fit recoil pad.
The Classic isn’t an ideal choice for the featherweight as it adds unnecessary weight, but being a prototype we wanted to experiment a little and we now offer Featherweights with the lightweight Airtech as standard. This particular prototype is also missing the standard ruff-tuff coating which comes as standard on bolly hunting stocks. It was also the first featherweight to be inletted for the Tikka T3 action, and it didn’t go to plan and the inlet is not parallel with the barrel channel and has 1 degree of elevation. While inconsequential for accuracy it meant the barrel was certainly free floated (The program error was removed and this has been remedied).
Scope, Mounts and Bipod
To keep things light and because the cartridge is only a .243 winchester, the factory supplied mounts were used and have so far proven reliable. Scope selection was a contentious issue, we found a couple of Weavers and a pair of Leupolds. The Leupolds where nice and light, optically excellent and in two of the most common medium game magnifications, 3-9×40 and the 4.5-14×40. It was the choice between the two leupy’s that caused arguments, with the 4.5-14×40 winning as the preferred option for mountain medium game hunting, as was the brief. For some reason when the rifle was assembled the 3-9×40 was installed by mistake (in a rush to be out testing). To complete the rifle system a Harris bipod was installed as the stud system was intended for the Neopod, but we found the Neopod needed too much work from the shooter to be effective at medium ranges (you can read our initial thoughts on that bipod here). We ran out of time to install a second attachment point for a rail prior to the test (we recommend a rail and the Atlas PSR on all our hunting stocks).
Bushnell CONX and LMSS Spotter Bundle
To measure the distance to the targets during the Bolly Featherweight test we used the Bushnell CONX. A future blog post will focus on this unit, but it is a fast measuring tool that provides seemingly instant readings even out to 800m in poor ranging conditions. The LMSS was brought out to test out our filming technique and we did appallingly. It was intended to show in the footage the ability of the LMSS to accurately measure the POI and allow for rapid and precise adjustments when shooting at medium to long and even extreme distances. Unfortunately the kestrel tactical tripod it was supported by was accidentally pushed away prior to the first shot. We were however blown away by the clarity of the optic and how easily even with a rapidly printed phone adaptor we could ‘digiscope’ with the LMSS. This experience, along with regular digiscoping enquiries, has initiated a new relationship with Novagrade and we look forward to bringing these amazing digiscoping products to the Australian market. We leave the D3 Drop that comes as standard with the LMSS bundle at this particular range at all times. The drop is ideal for leaving out at a regular shooting spot as it allows for constant data logging that can be checked even before you head out the door or vehicle, owing to its impressive 30m bluetooth range. With a Drop D3, all you need to worry about is what the wind is doing.
Filming with the Kestrel Collapsible Tripod and Clamp
The Kestrel collapsible tripod is ideal for use with a Kestrel Elite Ballistics meter and a rotating vane mount for unequalled environment and wind measuring with live ballistic calculations. The tripod also comes with a handy clamp as standard. When used with the Kestrel tripod, the Kestrel clamp is perfect for a range of duties, from holding wind meters high enough to remove ground effects, to providing a stable platform for firearms in long grass. They also make an excellent platform for an action camera like the GoPro used for our testing.
Targets and Ammunition
We have found Federal Premium shoots to a high standard in most Tikka T3 rifles, while also being cheaply priced, readily available and there is a line dedicated to Australian hunting. We selected a devastating round on medium game, the 75Grain Speer HP Vital shock. To begin the Bolly Featherweight test,we did a brief zeroing and found accuracy to be excellent for factory ammunition. On paper at 100m, a 0.8MOA group was shot and then 4 shots went into a similar sized group at the 200m gong. The 4th shot was only a nick and was only noticed on fullscreen playback thanks to the enamel paint on the STS target causing a splash of copper and lead.
Finally, we want to take the opportunity to note that we almost exclusively use STS targets for all our LR steel gongs and have done so for a number of years now, with even our first gong still in use today with minimal damage. For frames, we simply bend Rebar and use D shackles… which was our ‘undoing’ as discovered in the 350m test.
The PDI “Test Facilities”
We have multiple ranges at our disposal, from a undercover 100m range with a bench, to a 100-1200m stretch used for long range testing. There are a number of other ranges, but being a working cattle and sheep farm we sometimes have to work around the current farm operations. The most commonly used range is the one literally out the back door. A valley with expansive views and an amphitheatre shaped gully that allows for shotgun testing, and 25m to 350m testing of rifles. It is this range that we performed the Bolly Featherweight test.
Failing at Filming
With all this equipment, all was let down with a simple push of the bipod into the tripod of the LMSS. We will follow up this test when the new Novagrade adaptors become available and we switch to using a tablet rather than a phone for digiscoping. For recreational shooting of steel and for teaching new shooters, the large screen of a tablet in conjunction with the LMSS spotting scope’s H32 reticule can provide easily viewed precise measurements of the shot to the intended target. Hopefully its large screen will also allow us to quickly glance over and realise that we have completely wrecked the sight picture before this happens…