Was it me? I don’t think so, not any longer. You see, I spent a weekend at Camp Atterbury shooting my M1 at 100 to 500 yards.
I didn’t set any records. I didn’t even shoot as well as I have in the past. I had not shot my M1 in over 3 years and my glasses and vision have both changed. Once I found a new sight picture though, things improved. The prize was that I always had multiple shots under the spotters at all distances. After nearly 300 rounds in three position field shooting, my marksmanship was fine.
The following weekend I tried yet another set of changes to the Kerr. I wrote about those plans in my last post. Things did not work out as I had planned. In fact, things just didn’t work out. While I have made progress in getting the Kerr to shoot, I should have much better groups by now and a loading-cleaning method that will allow me to fire 15 shots in 50 minutes, without the problems I have been experiencing. That day I had the same issues as before and more failed solutions.
Afterwards, I worked through the things I had done, and what my remaining options were if I was to be shooting well by this spring. Lengthy and honest discussions with my coach and wife brought about my possible choices:
- Continue with the Kerr – I have no clear path at this point.
- Buy a new barrel – A custom barrel is, at best, a six month wait.
- Build a different rifle – I have the parts, but that would be a six month project, at least. I have not built a rifle in twenty years.
- Buy a different rifle – My budget does not allow a new Gibbs or any original rifle.
- Take up Bass fishing – I hate fishing. DNR won’t let you shoot the fish.
My coach, she is one smart cookie, laid it out bluntly and asked why I was not shopping for a rifle. In her view, I either wanted to shoot this sport or I did not. If I wanted to shoot well, I needed a working rifle by Oak Ridge.
I spent the next few nights searching the web for rifles both new and used. In a moment of boredom, I clicked a bookmark to one of my favorite video feeds. If you have not watched any of the Capandball channel, you may enjoy it, Balázs Németh always has something interesting to show. Last fall, he did a video review of the new Pedersoli Whitworth rifle. I can not post a video in this blog, but the following link will take you to the website, and this link will take you to the video review.
I first saw a Whitworth sometime in the mid seventies at Friendship, and once I held it, I promised myself I would own one someday. The balance and form of a Whitworth rifle just feels right to me, the perfect Enfield. The hexagon bore certainly inspires questions from other shooters and is a great connection to the birth of the long range shooting we enjoy today. Finding one is a problem, since the Parker Hale rifles are no longer made, and when found they command a high price. The Pedersoli Whitworth just might be the solution to a boyhood dream. I did some searching and made some phone calls. The wonderful folks at Navy Arms had Whitworth rifles made for them by Pedersoli and they had them in stock. I could have one in three days.
I pulled the trigger, so to speak.
Upon opening the box three days later, I found the rifle well made and the fit and finish very good. I did not take pictures of the big unboxing. I understand people like those in posts, but no apologies. The only fault I saw with the rifle was the checkering was obviously machine done and not nearly as neatly executed as my 375 Winchester. Overall, I was pleased with the appearance, but what I really wanted to know was if it would shoot. I had some musket caps, plenty of bullets, and wads of all shapes and sizes. Powder was plentiful in three granulations and three brands. I decided to just throw some charges, grab the last bullets and wads I had tried with the Kerr, and see what would happen.
I tested with my cup based 500 something gr bullet over Swiss 3F and my 560 gr dreadnought bullet over Swiss 1.5F. Both bullets were loaded over a 7/16″ lubed felt wad and a charge that I have no idea what the weight was. It was whatever was left set on the measure the last time I threw charges for the Kerr.
After the first shot, I wiped one dampened patch three strokes where I could feel fouling, followed by a single dry patch three strokes, re-loaded and shot again. Ten shots in 45 minutes with no problems was the result. After the ninth shot, the barrel cleaned and loaded as easily as the first. Using the bead front and V rear factory sights, I had a 3″ round group at 100 yards without a sling or a bench rest.
- No stuck bullet patches.
- No fouling issues.
- No misfires.
- I didn’t try hard.
- It was easy.
- It was simple.
By the time I was firing shot six, I realized I was not worried about the loading and cleaning anymore. I was concentrating on the shooting part. That is how it is supposed to be.
Checking the barrel I found the distance to be .4488 between the flats and my bullets were .4473 diameter after sizing.
The bullets, sizing die, and paper I used for the Kerr barrel were a good fit without modification. I mounted my sights and sling on the rifle and the following weekend my wife and I went to the NMLRA range in Friendship with high hopes, a thermos of coffee, 49 bullets, and a pound of 1.5F Swiss.
The difference in shooting the Navy Arms Whitworth verses shooting the Kerr was astounding. By the time we were finished, about 2 and 1/2 hours, I had fired 49 bullets without a problem from the rifle. The last bullet slid down the barrel as easily as the first. My cleaning method consisted of one damp patch pumped four times in the bottom six inches of the barrel, followed by one dry patch stroked four times the full barrel length. Load powder, wad, bullet, and shoot again.
The conditions were less than stellar for testing. We had winds switching from left to right. The left wind was constant and held the flag to full extension at the 300 yard line. Then the wind would come around and gust from four o`clock hard enough to knock a full thermos over. I still had 15″ groups at 500 yards (holding elevation but drifting right and left) and shots touching at 100 yards. I wanted to try the Mini Creedmore target, but by the time we got to it we realized the rear sight mount had become loose and was swiveling 6 minutes right and left. We poked the last few rounds at the 500 yard rams just for fun, and called it a day.
Retrieving the target backer after shooting, we saw the cylindrical bullets had filled the hexagonal bore well, leaving nice little hex shaped holes. The bullets were stable and flying straight.
We tried a few different loads during the day with two bullets and two felt wads, we even tried no wad at all. The rifle liked everything we fed it.
The only issue we had were the caps. I had but one tin of RWS musket caps and only CCI brand were available locally the day before we went to the range. While the CCI brand worked well enough, they left a heavy coating of ash over the nipple that required brushing off between shots. If not cleaned, you were rewarded with a misfire. I will buy RWS brand musket caps before Oak Ridge comes around.
The day ended on a high note. I had found a solution of sorts. I was happy to have a properly shooting rifle now, but I was also left with mixed feelings about leaving the Kerr behind. Did I give up too soon? Was I abandoning a project that may have needed only one more range trip to find success?
I will keep the Navy Arms Whitworth and not trade up to a better rifle later, partly because I love the history of it and partly because I just always wanted one. As my skills improve, I will start to build a more accurate rifle. I have a lock from Bob Roller and a fast twist barrel from Les Bauska. Together, they will make a rifle that will outshoot me. For now however, the Navy Arms Whitworth puts me in the game.
The Kerr barrel now sits on my work bench and already I find myself re-reading the descriptions of its rifling. James Kerr was no fool. His rifles won medals and ranked with the rifles of Thomas Turner and Joseph Whitworth. After two years of trying, my Kerr still did not shoot well. What was I missing?
I suspect the Kerr project isn’t over yet.