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Bullet selection for hunting this roar

For many young girls and guys around the country, this roar will be their first opportunity to hunt – or at least to hunt some of the more prized species New Zealand has to offer in their prime coats and colours. While a shooter may be proficient with their weapon of choice, this does not automatically make them a good hunter.

Aside from the bushcraft, fitness and stalking involved – not to mention antler-induced-excitement behind the trigger – a serious consideration is the choice of ammunition. Fortunately for those shooting a more common calibre, there is plenty of off-the-shelf ammo that will do the trick. If you don’t intend to shoot much aside from sighting in and hunting, then buying ammo makes much more sense than reloading.

Bullet choice in New Zealand

Some common hunting calibres in New Zealand include .308, .303, .223, 6.5×55, 7mm-08, .243, .270, .260 and .30-06. To a limited extent the old Russian military calibres see some use (7.62×39 on goats or yearlings at close range or 7.62x54R if you’re running around with a sporterised Mosin-Nagant). And .300 BLK is becoming quite popular for goat culling or in short-range (but fancy) bush guns.

If you’re buying ammo for more common calibres like .308 or 7mm-08, your store owner’s recommendation will likely be good enough. Remington Core-LOKT and Winchester Power-Point are popular choices, and Hornady Whitetail does very well in most modern bolt actions too. However, for reloaders who have been chasing accuracy, bullet choice can change the game completely.

Some of the more common 7mm-08 hunting choices.
Some of the more common 7mm-08 hunting choices.

For example, with my 6.5×55 a 142 gr SMK or 140 gr AMAX does a beautiful group at 100 yards. In fact, my new favourite is Norma-Sierra 144 gr – it’s a factory load, but I can’t seem to beat it with the projectiles I have on hand. However, all of these loads have hit-and-miss performance on game. The AMAX less so, but certainly the SMKs are not meant for hunting. They have erratic terminal performance, sometimes yawing and producing massive wounds, sometimes producing pinhole wounds that can lead to inhumane kills and extended tracking of wounded animals.

But isn’t the Sierra Match King a hollow point? Yes it is, however the HP in this projectile is not designed for expansion on game. This hollow section in the bullet is to keep weight to the rear of the bullet, stabilizing it in flight and making it a more accurate round.

The SMK looks great on paper but does not produce consistent wounds.
The SMK looks great on paper but does not produce consistent wounds.

Factors like this need to be considered carefully, especially in calibres with higher sectional density, which can lead to deep penetration, but poor expansion if bullet choice is incorrect. This can be prominent in the 6mm and 7mm calibres.

If you’re about to start working up your hunting load for this year’s roar and do some quick sighting in, there are a few ways you can narrow down your bullet selection. You could start by checking out the forums or facebook pages and seeing what others with your rifle/calibre have been using. Or you could start by doing some research on sites like Nathan Foster’s Terminal Ballistics, or checking out the projectile manufacturer’s website. If you are the type to learn better by doing rather than reading, try a sampler pack from Gunworks to get a few different projectiles through your rifle and find its sweet spot.

If I had a range like this in my back yard, I may divide my time slightly differently.

Swiss 300 metre shoot – Any Sights Any Rifle

There are a few centrefire rifle events every year that are just thoroughly enjoyable and worth attending. The Auckland NZDA Prize Shoot is one, as is the Thames NZDA shoot. The Hangiwera Station Sniper Shoot is definitely up there, and so is the Swiss Club’s Any Sights Any Rifle 300 metre shoot.

This year was my first shoot at the Swiss Club, although some of my shooting buddies have been going for years, and I attended on their recommendation.

An enjoyable shoot

The shoot is well organised, and is accommodating for younger or inexperienced shooters. There are club rifles available and the RO is very helpful with sighting in. The club rifles are either straight-pull Karabiners (K31s), chambered in the venerable 7.5×55, or modern semi-autos in 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington.

If you’re bringing your own rifle (as most do), you can use anything you like. If you’re really ambitious, you can try your open-sighted SKS and see what it will do at 300, but you’ll be going up against Bench Rest rifles that hit 10.1 more often than not. Most rifles on the day were a mix of F-Class, BR, sporting and service rifles. Because there is such a variety of shooters and equipment, it’s more likely that you will be competing amongst your group of friends than with the top of the table – unless you’re an excellent BR shooter.

The variety of rifles on the range is a joy in itself.
The variety of rifles on the range is a joy in itself.

Although I knew there was no way I could beat the top BR shooters with my modest sporter, this did not diminish my enjoyment of the day at all. I’m pretty competitive by nature, but found myself comparing my scores to my wife’s and those of the other Howick shooters. It also meant I got to see a bunch of really cool guns that you wouldn’t usually see in one competition.

Three-hundred metres is a pretty challenging distance if you haven’t shot past a hundred before. There were even a few who had not shot at all before. However, with the help of the club’s rifle master, these young shooters were hitting paper in no time.

The cost of the shoot is not prohibitive, with a range of $20 on the day, and of the cost of 25 rounds of ammo. The Swiss Club has a really good website for the ASAR shoot, which lets you book your position on the mound ahead of time. With several details across a few days of shooting, you’ll definitely find a time to shoot, and you may even try and better your score on another day.

Swiss Club target.
Swiss Club target.

The format

The shoot starts with 5 individual sighters. Each shooter on the line takes a single shot from the prone position (all shooting is prone), after which the targets go down and the scorers call back the score and location of the round to the RO via radio. A notepad and pen are handy, as you try and figure out where your sighters are landing. The shots are called out like “9 at 3 o’clock” or “7 at at 1 o’clock”, with the first number being the score (1-10) and the position on the clock helping you to identify which segment of the target you are landing on.

After you’ve gone through your 5 sighters, there are 10 individual scoring shots, shot in a very similar fashion. Each shot is still called out, helping you adjust your shot placement, especially if the wind picks up downrange.

A notepad is essential to sighting in at 300 metres.
A notepad is essential to sighting in at 300 metres.

After the individual shots, you have “rapid” groups of 2, 3 and 5. I say rapid, but it’s really not. It’s simply a few shots in a row. There is no pressure to hurry up, and there are plenty of people single loading their shots.

All shots are still called out, except for the final group. This means you can adjust your shot placement right up the last minute.

How hard is it to hit the 10 ring? You’ll need to be shooting around MOA (just over) to consistently hit the 10 ring at 300 metres. If you want to notch up a bunch of 10.1’s, you’ll need to be shooting around between 0.5 and 0.66 MOA.

The experience

I thoroughly enjoyed the shoot. I went a bit early to watch some of my mates shoot, but also to familiarise myself with the format and calls. I did end up waiting around a bit, but I ended up being there for most of the day, as I had some “technical difficulties”.

After watching the 11 am detail, I hung around over lunch time before taking up my spot on the mound. I was a bit nervous as I was shooting my rifle in its complete configuration for the first time. Since the last time I had shot, I had fitted and bedded my Boyds Prairie Hunter stock, had a new bolt handle machined, and modified my magazine follower. Also unfamiliar to me was a 6-24 scope that I had been sent to review.

One new bolt handle coming up, thanks to my mate Thomas.
One new bolt handle coming up, thanks to my mate Thomas.

Unfortunately the scope did not perform and was unable to be zeroed on the day. This meant I had to wait through an entire detail, pushing out my wife’s shoot as well. However, I used this time to fit my trusty Vortex Diamondback 4-12×40 BDC, which I brought just in case. I have learnt my lesson with taking unfamiliar equipment to a shoot.

Unfortunately this meant I had to sight in from scratch, however, I was on paper on my 3rd shot, and the rest was just fine-tuning. By the end of my shoot I had it right were I wanted it, which meant my wife had the rifle ready to go for her shoot, and actually did quite well. Results can be seen here.

Overall I was very happy with the my complete sporter set up, and with some more powerful glass, I think I’d be comfortable taking this rig out onto the F-Class range.

Looking forward to some Norma brass at the end of this.
Looking forward to some Norma brass at the end of this.

I think the load development still has some way to go, particularly as the barrel on this rifle is quite short. Not having developed a satisfactory handload, I shot this competition with factory 6.5×55 ammo. I used the Norma-Sierra 144gr HPBT, and the round seemed to perform pretty well. To be honest, I was more interested in the brass than anything else, as I think this rifle will prefer lighter projectiles, in the 130 – 140 grain range. Over the holidays I’ll be testing out the 129 gr Hornady Interlock and 140 gr A-max. I’ll be comparing this projectiles side-by-side with the 142 gr SMK and the 144 gr OEM projectile in the Norma-Sierra load.

At the end of the day, the shoot was enjoyable, and definitely an experience worth repeating. You can shoot multiple times on one day, or on multiple days across the competition. If I have the time next year, I’ll probably try shoot it on a few days. Being located only 45 mins or so north of Auckland, the range is really accessible, although it is also rarely accessible. The Swiss Club is, of course, a club for Swiss nationals, and as far as I know, this shoot is the only time of the year that the range is opened up to the general public.

If you would like to try a different range and format, and perhaps a longer distance than you usually get to, you’ll definitely enjoy the Swiss Club’s ASAR shoot.

Choosing a calibre for a secondary AR-15 upper?

Best upper for AR-15

So you’ve bought your first AR-15 and you’re super excited by the fact that you can swap in just about any upper you want to create a whole new weapon. But which is the best upper to choose? While the .223 is a great round, it’s not the be-all and end-all of rifle shooting (nothing is), so what about about a different calibre?

Here’s my take on what you can achieve my swapping out the upper on your AR-style rifle.

How about a .22LR Upper?

Well, not the worst idea actually. If you want a cheap way to practice with your AR or to introduce younger shooters to the sport, using 22LR ammo is a great and inexpensive way to do it. However, there are some conversions that use your 5.56 barrel – don’t do it. It can work, but it won’t be a satisfactory way to shoot either caliber, and it requires more work.

Rather, spend the money on a full upper and magazine, like this one from, which will work with any milspec receiver. Although, to be honest, for not much more you could buy an entire .22LR AR-type rifle.

7.62×39 anyone?

Okay, let’s be honest, I’m a big fan of the humble 7.62×39 Soviet cartridge. It’s cheap and dirty and does the job. But, would I put it through an AR upper? Not really to be honest. While the AR platform is great. there’s not much reason to get it to shoot cheap Russian ammo.

If you want a cheap way to shoot this calibre, you can get a Chinese SKS for a third of the price of a 7.62×39 upper, and again, you have a whole new rifle to enjoy. You also won’t feel nearly as bad using it as a knock-around bush gun.

AR-15 in .300 BLK

If you want 7.62×39 ballistics in an AR-15, .300 BLK might be the way to go. Developed for spec-op military applications, this round is AR-friendly. It feeds from a standard STANAG magazine with no modifications, and without reducing the capacity, so at least you can use your current AR mags.

If you’re looking for something novel and interesting to shoot, which is designed for the platform and actually useful, the .300 AAC Blackout could be the answer. It is more expensive to shoot than any of the other rounds, and would probably necessitate reloading to make it a viable addition to your safe.

Which AR-15 upper should I choose?

Well, my personal preference would be to have one completely milspec rifle for service rifle competitions, a 20 inch barreled set up for 3-Gun, and perhaps a .300 BLK upper to enjoy shooting something a bit different.

But hey, that’s just me! What would you choose as your ideal black gun set up?

Ejected .223 brass

Starting out in 3-gun competition: Affordable AR-15 options

One of my goals over the next couple years is to get into 3-gun competition. I say the next couple years because this will necessitate qualifying for and buying a pistol, with all the hefty club fees and added security that goes with that. Not to mention it’s a lengthy process.

On top of that I will, at some stage, need to get an E-Cat licence, as it’s hard to be competitive in these games with a 7-round magazine. This is starting to get expensive. And then there’s the shotgun which, when all is considered, is the least of my concerns.

So, before I’m elbow-deep in debt and fired casings, I’ll probably want to get an A-Cat AR-15 which I can practice with in the meantime. While I’d love a $3000 AR-15 variant chambered in .223 Webley, I’ll settle for a more run-of-the-mill offering for now. Fortunately, getting into black rifles isn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be, even just a few short years ago.

Here are my top picks for affordable AR-15s to help get you into your desired shooting sport. Remember, if you’re going to do service rifle shooting, you may need to modify these to comply with your club’s rules.

NEA-15 Carbine

You can spend a couple hundred more to get these in a fuller-length version, but the point of this blog post is to find the most cheap and cheerful AR variants out there.

The NEA-15 is a Canadian export which is on the cheaper side of things when it comes to North American firearms. As with any AR, they are highly accessorisbale, and have many interchangable parts which will help you customise your new rifle.

You can pick these up for $1799 from, and they come in a variety of configurations. At the time of writing they have chamberings of 5.56 mm and 300BLK available, colour options of Flat Dark Earth (FDE) or black, and barrel lengths of 12.5 or 14.5 inches.

The barrel twist is 1:7 – perfect for those long, heavy bullets that dominate sport competitions. However, the extremely short barrel will make practising at longer ranges a bit more difficult. Most serious 3Gun competitors use 18 – 20 inch barrels. Bear in mind that some shots can be up to 500 yards in a 3Gun match.

S&W M&P-15 Sport

Smith & Wesson has some great offerings in their M&P (Military and Police) range. The Sport variant is an AR-type rifle that compromises on some features and gives more in other areas. The S&W M&P-15 Sport is a well-balanced offering.

The 16-inch barrel is a pretty good all-rounder, as is the 1 in 9 inch twist rate. The large trigger guard is great for those with larger hands and/or gloves in winter. It comes with adjustable sights already fitted as well, which is a bit of a saving – unless you’re going for magnified optics anyway. On the downside, the foregrip doesn’t have the wealth of rails found on the NEA-15 or most other modern AR-variants. And the forward assist. There isn’t one.

How many times have you seen an AR user engage the forward assist to re-chamber a round? Never? Me neither. And realistically, if you did have a reclacitrant round that wouldn’t chamber in the middle of a match or fast-paced shooting situation, you’d simply rack the bolt and chamber a fresh round. I personally don’t like it, because that means there’s a live round on the deck – but it’s not exactly dangerous. I’ve shot with many ex-military types who advise to simply rack the bolt in a high-pressure or high-speed scenario, regardless of whether you have a forward assist or not. Get the offender out of there and chamber a fresh round is the most common response.

Some ups, some downs, but the most attractive thing about this AR is it’s price point. You can pick one up from for a mere $1595.

Chinese AR-15 copies

There are an abundance of AR clones out there, and just about everyone is making them. There are a couple Chinese-made versions floating around, including the Ranger offerings. realistically, these are probably made using the same tooling as many other more “up-market” brands. Most manufacturers purchase their parts from each other anyway, and simply assemble to varying specifications. Why pay an extra grand for a fancy rollmark?

I haven’t fired a Chinese AR yet, but have handled one and found the finish to be as good as any other budget-minded AR-15 clone. The Chinese weapons that I have owned have all had varying levels of fit and finish, but were pretty damn accurate with a little coaxing. My cheapest rifle regularly outscores guns that are 4 or 5 times the price, even 10 times the price I paid for mine. But then again, I did spend the better part of 6 months getting it that way.

A great bonus with the Chinese guns is that they are most likely pretty close to milspec – ideal for service rifle competitors. Other than that, I would personally opt for one of the other rifles mentioned here, especially seeing that they are a little cheaper in general than what is being asked for Norinco or Ranger weapons at the moment.

The most important thing is fit, finish and feel when you personally inspect and handle the rifle. It also helps if it’s milspec or pretty close, so that you can change uppers and lowers later down the line.