2006 Steel Safari report (PICS!)


Zak Smith
June 14, 2006, 03:00 PM
I recently shot the Steel Safari rifle match, run at a private ranch near Logan NM. This match follows the general idea of the Keneyathlon-- movement, target location, and engagement. The match format this year was two field courses, and a couple side-stages.

The field courses comprised a "short" 2.0 mile and a "long" 2.5 course. In each of these events, shooters departed the meeting area at 10-minute intervals, and followed orange or pink flags along the route. The path was cross-country, usually off even a foot-path, with elevation changes and some obstacles to negotiate. The "short" course was actually more physically challenging due to elevation change and terrain features. Movement was not timed.

Each long course had approximately 10 stations. Upon arrival at a shooting station, the shooter waited at two yellow flags until the shooter acting as his "RO" was ready. Once ready, the shooter would approach the position and the RO would read him the stage briefing. A typical briefing specified the shooting location and any restrictions on shooting position or equipment used, along with flags or geographic features locating the general area in which to locate targets. Almost all rifle stages had 5 targets: 4 normal targets and 1 bonus target.

The shooter got 1 point for locating each normal target, and one point each for hitting the normal targets. Once all the normal targets had been engaged, the shooter could engage the bonus target for 3 points. There was one stage that only had 2 bonus targets. At some stations, instead of 4 regular targets, there would be 2 targets, which would have to be engaged once from each of two positions. Once at a station, each shooter had generally 4 - 5 minutes to locate, range, and engage the targets.

Each day, there were a couple pistol stages, just to keep things interesting. These targets were worth 1/2 point each, and were things like steel chickens or pigs at 10-20 yards. At one stage, you started out at about 20 yards and shot at a steel ram. If you hit, you got to retreat 10 yards and try again, until you got to the last position at approx 60 yards.

The two side stages were a 400, 500, and 560 yard stage on the KD range, and a very challenging 12" mover stage (approx 5mph) at 135 yards.

The longest rifle shot was a bonus target at 725 yards. Most targets were between 300 and 500 yards. Shooting positions were varied. About 1/3 of the shots could be taken from what I would call a good prone with bipod. The rest, due to terrain features, target location, or stage briefing, were shot from the best improved position the shooter could come up with. Two stages were shot offhand.

Heat and sun were issues this year. Temps were 100F in the shade, with no cloud cover. Shooters found shade under scrub bushes while waiting on the course (for shooters before them, or to RO the next shooter). There was some relief as the winds picked up Sunday.

To be successful at this match, a shooter needed to bring together a number of skills. First, he had to be able to locate targets spread out and sometimes hidden in the terrain, then he had to range them. Laser range-finders were allowed. Next, he had to know his rifle's trajectory to be able to make hits at arbitrary distances out to 725 yards. Beyond just dialing, it was helpful to know things like point-blank range for closer engagements, and how much of a difference in target distance made a difference at longer range. Finally, he had to be able to find and get into improvised and hopefully stable positions with some speed. At each stage, over-all efficiency was important. There's no time for fiddling around.

Overall, this was one of the best rifle matches I've shot so far. Targets were challenging, and the terrain of the course is fantastic. Winds on the course are deceiving, and the angles change dramatically as you move around a large "cap" rock formation and shoot down into flats below.

I didn't get very many pictures, but here are some from the only stage with K.D. targets and the only one shot from a set position:

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/SteelSafari-2006/small/B100_1285_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/SteelSafari-2006/?medium=B100_1285_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/SteelSafari-2006/?medium=B100_1285_img.jpg)
http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/SteelSafari-2006/small/B100_1293_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/SteelSafari-2006/?medium=B100_1293_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/SteelSafari-2006/?medium=B100_1293_img.jpg)

Pictures taken at the facility earlier this year, of the same type of stages-
http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/BSR-2006.05/small/B100_1046_imgt.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/BSR-2006.05/?medium=B100_1046_imgt.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/BSR-2006.05/?medium=B100_1046_imgt.jpg)
http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/BSR-2006.05/small/B100_1078_imgt.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/BSR-2006.05/?medium=B100_1078_imgt.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/BSR-2006.05/?medium=B100_1078_imgt.jpg)
http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/BSR-2005.05/small/159_5980_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/BSR-2005.05/?medium=159_5980_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/BSR-2005.05/?medium=159_5980_img.jpg)

My setup-- I shot an AI-AW chambered in 260 Remington shooting the 139-grain Lapua Scenar bullets. Scope is a S&B 3-12x50mm PMII (metric). For ranging, I used the Swarovski LRF. Suppressor (cover visible) is a .30 caliber JET.

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/SteelSafari-2006/small/B100_1303_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/SteelSafari-2006/?medium=B100_1303_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/SteelSafari-2006/?medium=B100_1303_img.jpg)

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June 16, 2006, 02:09 AM
That looks like a lot of fun. I'm not sure I ever read how you're liking that .260 Remington, did it work out well for you at the match?

Zak Smith
June 16, 2006, 11:49 AM

The .260 Remington seems to be not enjoing much success as a mainstream rifle cartridge. It's even more rare than 7mm-08. Both cartridges have been around for a long time as wildcats of the 308 case.

For target and practical long-range shooting, the 260 makes a lot of sense. It is more overbore than 308, which means we can shoot those long and skinny high-BC bullets at high velocity, yet it is not as overbore as the 6.5-284 and 264 Magnum so barrel life is much better. The other benefit of the 260 is that any 308 caliber rifle can be converted with just a barrel change. Magazines and bolt face are identical.

As far as ballistics, the 260 can sling a 139-142gr bullet at 2800-2850fps from a 26" barrel, or a 120-123gr bullet at 2950-3100fps. Typical BC's for the 140-gr-class bullets are 0.58 - 0.64, and typical BC's for the 120-123's are 0.51 - 0.55. The best 308 can do is a 0.508 @ 2850-2900, or a 0.64 (200+gr) at maybe 2400-2500fps.

This translates into 12 - 20 inches less wind drift (10mph cross) at 1000 yards, and a flatter trajectory with the 139-140-gr bullets. With the 123's, the 260 is flatter still - approaching 338 Lapua (250's) - and the wind drift is still 10-15" better than the best 308 loads at 1000. At 1000 yards, the 139gr 6.5mm bullets have within 5% of 308's momentum, so knocking over distant steel is not a problem. 260 has noticably less recoil.

The downsides to 260 are that there is currently no good factory "match" ammunition available here in the U.S., there is no Lapua-quality brass available in 260, and it is a bit more finicky to reload than the 308. I have heard rumors that Black Hills may produce 260 soon. I have also heard rumors that in Europe, Lapua has 260 ammunition.

Reloaders have basically two choices for brass: 1. use Remington (R-P) .260 brass, 2. use some other brass and neck it up/down.

The batch of 1000+ R-P that I have played with has relatively loose primer pockets, and the brass is soft. It needs prep. When compared to my next experiment with Lapua 243 brass, it was less accurate and had higher standard deviations.

With regard to choosing some other brass and necking it up or down, it depends on what brass manufacturer you want to use, and what and how much work you want to put into it. One obvious choice is using Lapua 243Win brass and necking it up. This involves neck-turning to remove some material, but the results are excellent. Another notable choice is taking Winchester 7mm-08 brass and necking it down. The other thing people do is take their favorite 308 brass and neck it down.

I am working on getting a US source for "Lapua-quality" 260 Rem brass, but we'll see...

As far as the ballistics in my rifle, I am getting 2820fps with the 139gr Lapua Scenar using 40.7gr H4350 in necked-up Lapua 243 cases, with BR2 primers. Or I can shoot the 123gr Scenars at 3020fps with 43.0gr H4350 (it's a mild load). My barrel is a relatively tight 5R cut barrel, and some button-rifled barrels will use more powder to get the same velocity.

With higher-capacity brass, the velocity could be increased a few tens of fps, but otherwise this is about at the limit.


June 16, 2006, 09:43 PM
Howdy, and thanks so much for all the info. I'm glad it's working so well. I really had even seen that cartridge in person before, or a rifle chambered for it, but I had read of it a long time ago. It's quite intruiging that the 3,000+ fps is a 'mild' load!

I like that there is less recoil, but that it can still retain so much energy even to 1000 yds. I also really like that any .308 can be converted so easily.

Out of curiosity, how's the sound reduction with the can? Comparable to anything commonplace?

Cool stuff!


PS- Congrats on becoming a mod! When they mentioned they were going to take on a few, your name was the first to come to mind as a great candidate.

Zak Smith
June 17, 2006, 02:13 AM
The 308 caliber suppressor on the 260 seems quieter than it on the 308.

Here's some video--

June 26, 2006, 04:26 PM
Thanks for posting . . . especially the pictures. What a great locale for a rifle match!

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