Celebrity Shooter March 2010
Bryan Litz is this month's celebrity shooter
Bryan answers 10 questions and provides his views and insights into our sport
Celebrity Shooter June 2010
Our Celebrity Shooter this month is Bryan Litz and its a privilege to be afforded the opportunity to ask Bryan the 10 questions for this month's article. Thank you Bryan for agreeing to be this month's Celebrity Shooter. I first got to know about Bryan through his website Applied Ballistics LLC and discovered his ability to make ballistics interesting and understandable. Then just as I was getting more and more interested in the science of shooting, in the quest for higher scores and consistency, Bryan released his book, "Applied Ballistics For Long Range Shooting". This book gave me what I needed to calculate for myself the best solutions of bullet, velocity, calibre and much, much more, it gave me an understanding of ballistics!
Bryan comes from a rocket science background, (air to air missiles) and has successfully made the science of ballistics available to the average shooter through his book. Bryan's contribution to long range shooting now continues on with him as Chief Ballistician of Berger Bullets. We have in Bryan someone that can combine the art and science of long range shooting, so lets get on to the questions and hear from the man, himself.
Q1. How did you get interested in competitive long range shooting?
I’ve been interested in rifle shooting since childhood. My Dad taught me to reload for our deer rifles when I was 12. From there we started loading for varmint hunting in the summer months which improved our accuracy and extended our range. By the time I was 15 we learned of the Williamsport 1000 yard Benchrest Club and that it was under 2 hours drive. My first matches were 1000 yard BR matches with a 7mm Rem Mag Sendero.
Q2. Do you have a favourite rifle, cartridge, bullet combination for competition?
I like different things for different applications. 7mm is my favorite balance between recoil and good ballistics for long range. It’s hard to beat those heavy 7mm bullets. On the other hand it can be relatively high maintenance in terms of fouling, barrel wear, and the seating depth sensitivity of the VLD bullet (more on this later). That brings me to my other favorite; the .308 Winchester. The only reason I got a .308 for LR shooting was because it’s the mandatory cartridge used in Palma/FULLBORE type shooting. The merits of the .308 are not found in ballistic superiority, but rather in its ease of loading and shooting. Its low maintenance, very hard to find a load that doesn’t shoot good in it, and the barrels last a long time.
Q3. I notice that you use Barnard Model P actions, how have you found their performance?
The Barnard is the first ‘custom’ action I’ve owned, and I don’t see a need to try anything else for the type of competition I do. They’re simple, reliable, not too expensive, and includes a very good trigger.
Q4. Do you think using more than one calibre of rifle in F-Class Open competitions, that may include 300, 600 and 1000 yard ranges, would be an advantage?
Sure. I think there is an ‘optimal’ cartridge/bullet combination for any range and condition. The balance is usually struck between inherent precision of the lower (ballistic) performing combinations vs the compromised precision of the higher performing combinations. Sometimes you can’t know until the day of the match which is the right choice because the ‘right’ choice depends so much on the conditions. There’s also the cost and logistics of keeping several rifles in top condition ready to use in any given match. All things considered, it may be smart to choose one cartridge/bullet combination (one rifle) which is optimized for the prevailing conditions that you’re most likely to encounter.
Q5. The 7mm calibres seem to be becoming the best performing long range round to use and the Berger Bullets 180gr VLDs the bullet of choice. Can you see this changing anytime soon with a hybrid 30 cal bullet that the 7mm cant equal?
You’re eluding to the development of higher BC .30 caliber bullets which are currently under development (no timeline yet on release dates). The new .30 caliber bullets will have much higher BC’s than any existing line of bullets. Since they’re basically scaled up copies of the new 7mm Hybrid, the BC’s on the new .30 cal Hybrids will be higher than the 7mm’s. Will they be favored over the 7mm’s? That’s a question I think will be governed by each individuals thoughts/feelings about recoil. Consider the 6.5mm vs 7mm debate. The consensus seems to be that the 6.5mm is inherently more precise than the 7mm’s, probably due to the effects of recoil on the platform and shooter. However the 7mm is a better ballistic performer, so there’s a trade-off. The introduction of high BC .30 caliber bullets is simply an extension of that same trade off. Rifles built to shoot the new .30 caliber heavies (~230 grain range) will probably be capable of less inherent precision than the 6.5mm’s and 7mm’s, but will be even better ballistic performers than the 7mm’s.
For those seeking advice regarding the trade-off between precision and ballistics, I’ll offer the following. Consider the scores and standings during a long tournament or season aggregate. On the relays/days/matches where the conditions are good (this is where the smaller, more precise calibers do well) the point spread in the standings is very small. In other words, the top twenty places are only separated by a couple points. For example, the 200’s, 199’s, and 198’s might be fired with the 6mm’s and 6.5mm’s because they tend to be more precise, and the 197’s, 196’s, and 195’s are shot by the 7mm’s and .30 cals. Now if the event is long enough, there is going to be at least one, likely several relays/days/matches where the conditions are horrible. On those inevitable days, the point spread is greater, and the larger calibers have the advantage. Now the larger calibers (better ballistics) are shooting 195’s, 193’s, and 191’s, while the smaller calibers are getting all blown around in the wind and shooting in the 180’s. Here’s the important conclusion to draw from the above analysis: It’s better to optimize your equipment for the situations when the point spreads are large. Imagine you’re shooting a 7mm in a 3-day tournament. It’s calm the first two days and you’re a couple points and a bunch of X’s behind the smaller calibers. Now the last day comes, and with it, the inevitable wind. You can make up more on a windy day with superior ballistics than you’re likely to lose in two days to slightly compromised precision.
Of course things don’t always play out as described above. There are exceptionally precise large caliber rifles, and exceptionally talented wind readers shooting small caliber rifles. However as an analysis of general trends, I’ve participated in the scenario above many times.
Q6. There is a lot of interest in your newly designed hybrid ogive Berger Bullets and the increased BC that comes from that design. The 7mm bullet is the one we are all really excited about, can you give any details as to what gains we might pick up from your new design for this calibre?
There are several benefits of the Hybrid ogive. The biggest one addresses the high maintenance aspect of the original VLD which is a design that’s known to be sensitive to seating depth. The Hybrid ogive meets the bearing surface on a tangent for the portion which engages the riflings. What that means is that the bullet will not be sensitive to seating depth the way a VLD is. In other words, you’re likely to find top precision with these bullets over a wide range of seating depths rather than have to tinker around to get it just right.
Another advantage that’s specific to the 7mm hybrids is the steps taken to ensure greater consistency. In particular, the bullet meplat (tip) is deliberately made wider. A wider meplat is easier to make consistently and initial measurements have shown over 30% reduction in OAL variation, which corresponds to tip diameter variation, which corresponds to BC variation, which corresponds to vertical dispersion on long range targets. Not to worry though, the wider tip doesn’t hurt the bullet’s BC too much. In fact, due to the other design features including a 7 degree boat tail and long ogive, the new 7mm 180 grain Hybrid actually has a higher BC than the original 7mm 180 grain VLD. The measured BC’s of the new 7mm Hybrid are: G1 BC = .674, G7 BC = .345. So the new hybrid design is exciting for a lot of reasons. It’s easier to achieve precision with, more consistent BC, and higher BC than the 180 grain VLD which until recently has been the highest BC bullet in Berger’s entire line.
One more thing regarding the 7mm Hybrids is the disproportional advantage that’s possible from pointing the bullets in an aftermarket pointing die like the one made by John Whidden. Since this bullet comes out of the box with a larger than average tip, you get a larger than average benefit by pointing the tip. Most bullets realize around 2 to 4% improvement in BC from pointing. The 7mm Hybrid achieves an 8% improvement in the already high BC by pointing its tip. Note that the above information regarding BC’s has been measured directly in test firings.
Q7. Will the hybrid bullet design be suited to the smaller calibres?
That is yet to be seen. So far the Hybrid design has been successful in .338 and 7mm. We plan to extend this design concept into smaller calibers over time with the hopes that similar advantages will be realized.
Q8. In the testing of your new hybrid design have you found that as well as the BC improving, the development of accurate loads for the bullets has been made easier by the bullet seating position becoming more tolerant in the chamber?
Absolutely. This was one of the original design goals, and it seems to have been achieved.
Q9. As you are now the Chief Ballistician of Berger Bullets we look forward to your innovation continuing with new and revised bullets. Having said that, do you ever consider what is outside of your control in the ways that propellant powders could be improved?
To be honest I’m not much of an expert on chemistry and the formulation of powders. I know there are formulations in existence that are much more energetic and consistent than what we use in civilian applications, but the expense and other obstacles have kept it out of our reach. If we were to gain access to more energetic powders, it would stress the other components in the system including the bullets, barrels, cases, etc. Honestly I’m pretty happy with existing powders in terms of consistency. Much of the velocity variation we see in careful reloads is due to other variables in the system other than the powder.
Q10. If you look into your crystal ball, what do you see as the future for long range target shooting?
My crystal ball shows a very promising and optimistic future for long range shooting. The industry is healthy and there are many signs that shooting is growing in popularity in many areas of the world. We’ll always have political battles, but the more people who get exposed to real, responsible shooting, the more will participate or at least not oppose the advancement of the shooting sports.
One technological advancement that I’m personally excited to see is the use of electronic targets for long range shooting. This does much more than keep us out of the pits. It has the potential to make the shooting contest visible from anywhere in the world. Imagine the electronic targets networked to an internet server and hosted on a website real time so that anyone could watch the match progress. You could see each shooters target and how many points they’re behind the leader at any moment. With the right visual presentation and analysis, long range shooting may be broadcast to a very wide and interested international audience.
Thanks once more for participating Bryan!
L to R: Original 7mm, 180gr Berger VLD, New Hybrid 180gr Bullet
Dimension VLD Hybrid OAL 1.525 1.529 Boat Tail 0.220 0.220 Nose Length 0.764 0.850 Bearing Surface 0.541 0.459 G7 BC 0.337 0.345 G1 BC 0.659 0.674
If you are curious about Bryan's website then follow the link:
I recommend Bryan's book "Applied Ballistics For Long Range Shooting" its simply a must have!
For info on Berger Bullets follow the link here:
Our next Celebrity Shooter will be a F-Standard shooter who favours the humble but accurate 223R, all the way out to 1000 yards. This shooter is known for his wind reading abilities gained from shooting at long range at Pt Pirie. He is presently competing in Darwin and I will catch up with him when he returns next month!
Article for safclass.com.au by Ian Pavy 1-06-2010