Posted on: 2012-05-07 20:05:00 -0400

I got to spend the weekend shooting my AI AW .308 on the unknown-distance range at AIMA in south Georgia thanks to organization of the 2012 Sniper’s Paradise shoot.

I started by recording dope out to 800 yards with cheap 147 gr. 7.62x51 surplus ammo. The Prvi Partizan that I’m currently shooting groups a bit under 2 MOA out of my AW, which is fine for shooting from standing or moderately supported positions. Why only 800 yards? It seemed to fall apart after that in that neither I nor my spotter could see where they were going at 900. Not a big deal since my range at home only goes 300 yards.

The Southwest Ammunition 175 SMK match loads worked quite a bit better, and I was able to hit out to 1,500 yards with them by maxing out my elevation turret and using hold-overs on the reticle (a total of 22.5 mils of elevation). I need to run some numbers and see if jumping to a 30 MOA base will let me get to a mile during the November shoot. I already had dope on these rounds but ran a few comparisons due to the change in conditions.

The unknown-distance targets were a blast. It was great fun lying down with my data book and calculator to range the targets, adjust my hold, and whack them with a round. Doing this with a second-focal-plane scope must be a pain, as you'd need to performing another step of calculations to adjust for the magnification setting on the scope (assuming that the number matches the actual magnification) or stay at the magnification at which the reticle appears the proper size. The Horus reticle seems like it would make a lot of sense for UKD shooting on relatively large, high-contrast targets, as you could get quickly get both windage and elevation holds via the Christmas tree under the crosshairs.

I was surprised that I didn't feel the need to go above 12–15x on my scope. Acquiring targets at higher magnification proved difficult due to the narrow field of view, and once on target, the higher magnification mostly just magnified the mirage without adding additional detail. My scope also looses a significant amount of contrast in the 15–20x range.

It was fun checking out the gear that other people brought to the range. I looked through a couple of Nightforce scopes and wasn't terribly impressed with the glass considering the price of the scopes. They might be durable and offer repeatable adjustments, but my SWFA 5–20x50 tracks fine and gives a better image. The Vortex scopes costing half as much looked just as good. The US Optics scopes were another matter entirely. They’re crystal clear, and I loved the wide, flat EREK elevation adjustment knob. I can see one of these scopes on my AW in the future, particularly given US Optics "have it your way" approach of specifying details of the knob configuration, optics, and other features.

A couple of guys from American Precision Arms were at the shoot and brought a few custom rifles. The workmanship looked first class across the board, particularly the machining on the muzzle brakes. They had one rifle on display based on a Badger M2008 action that looked just like an AW. But it didn't feel like one. Bolt lift on the AW is a breeze; you had to whack the M2008's bolt knob hard to unlock the action and cock the firing pin. Opening the AW is a breeze. They were also shooting a 7 mm wildcat that launched a 180 gr. Berger bullet at 3,300 fps and were hitting at 1,800 yards.

I checked out a couple of custom Remingtons, and many of them handled and shot really well, but no amount of customization will fix the 90-degree bolt lift. There was also a variety of grumbling about delivery times on custom work. It’s the old adage: "Quality, cost, and time. Pick two." These custom rifles hit the quality and cost marks while my AW goes for quality and time (I had it in a week).