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The Winchester Extreme SS .325WSM
light weight, long range pack rifle or piece of junk?
I was given this rifle to investigate the reason for poor accuracy that the owner was experiencing.
Now the owner had purchased this rifle with the goal of shooting deer and foxes out to 300m and beyond. The problem was that he could not keep groups under 3 or 4 inches at 100 yards.
Now on paper this sounds like a very good outfit. The Winchester rifle comes with the stainless steel model 70 control feed action and a light weight fluted barrel in the hard hitting .325WSM calibre.
The rifle was topped with a reasonable quality Zeiss 3-12x50 Duralyt scope, set up on leupold, turn in style front base and windage adjustable rear base. It had standard blue steel rings.
The stock was a composite material with an integral aluminium bedding block and soft rubber recoil pad.
On first inspection of the rifle it was obvious that something was wrong with the scope mounts, as the rear ring had moved forward and was almost out of the rear base. The owner of this rifle stated that the scope had moved in the mounts previously and that he had tightened the windage and ring screws.
He also stated that this was the second Zeiss scope on this rifle having destroyed the first one!
Now I don't like these type of scope mounting. Incorrectly used they can place enormous stress onto a scope and damage to the scope is highly likely. I suspect that this is the cause of the first scope failure.
So I removed the scope and set it back up into the mounts correctly. However the single screw rings were inadequate.
|Next I removed the barreled
action and inspected the mounting system. It appears that the factory had
done a very poor job of bedding the front recoil lug into some type of
When done properly this gives the recoil lug a more consistent bearing surface and can help with accuracy. This bedding job however was crap.
The factory job was full of voids and had only partial contact at front, side and to the rear of the lug. A small ridge of material about 5mm wide was in contact with the bottom of the barrel at the point where the barrel and lug met. This set up is not the best and could destroy accuracy.
The Aluminium bedding block was a good feature and helps with accuracy in most rifles.
|The action was poorly fitted
into the stock in the area of the bolt handle recess. When the rifle was
dry fired, the bolt would jump up about 2cm as the firing pin fell. This
was due to the bolt handle making contact with the stock and possible
problems with the bolt lug recess contact. When the bolt handle was lifted
a few millimeters and dry fired, the bolt jump did not happen.
The light weight fluted barrel on this rifle is of real concern. There is only about 3mm of steel between the bottom of the flutes and the bore. When you consider that this barrel has to contain the torque and pressure of a 200 grain bullet fired from a large magnum cartridge. It is no wonder that accuracy is poor.
One good thing about this rifle was the
trigger. It was quite good for a factory tuned trigger.
With the scope now firmly attached to the rifle, I took the rifle down to my private range and fired a couple of groups to see what sort of accuracy I could obtain from the rifle.
I was using Winchester Supreme, factory ammunition loaded up with 200 grain combined technology bullets. This factory load is used by another hunter that I know and he gets very good accuracy from his .325WSM with this load.
The first 3 shot group from a cold bore with 5 minutes between shots was encouraging. It was just over 1 inch in size. In the photo above the first group is the bottom group. The second group is the top group.
This second group was fired without waiting for the barrel to cool down between shots. It was fired immediately after the first group was completed. This second, hot barrel group measured about 5 inches. Any sort of accuracy is lost once this rifle gets hot and it gets hot very quickly with this thin barrel.
Recoil from this very light rifle was very sharp. The recoil was calculated at. ..............Recoil Velocity 18.6 ft/s, Recoil Energy 37.4 ft.lbs and Recoil Impulse of 4 lb/s.
This is in comparison to a standard .30-06 hunting rifle and 150 grain load.......Recoil Velocity 10.4 ft/s, Recoil Energy 15 ft.lbs and Recoil Impulse of 2.9 lb/s.
So this light weight rifle has quite some kick to it. The mounts are certainly inadequate to hold a 30mm tube scope such as this Zeiss.
Conclusion : There are a number of possible causes for the inaccuracy of this rifle. The most likely include the following.
Barrel too light weight and fluted for the calibre. The scope mounts are inadequate. The bolt contact with the stock and the poor bedding job. I would say that a combination of these things are all acting to destroy accuracy.
The idea of this rifle was to have an accurate, light weight rifle that was capable of taking deer and foxes out to beyond 300m. In reality, what the owner ended up with was a basic 200m hunting rifle of dubious reliability and accuracy.
Light weight rifles are a compromise. In order to save weight you must give up something. In most cases the thing that you give up is accuracy. The choice of components in a light weight rifle will determine if you also give up reliability. In this case the owner gave up both.
Light weight, magnum rifles are hard on scopes and mounts. If you want a reliable outfit then you need to invest in high quality, high strength scope mounts. Crap will let you down every time.
Copyright austargets.com 2012