by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

RAW
The RAW field target rifle built on the new chassis frame.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Website and blog update
  • It was a cold and windy day
  • The rifle
  • Power set at max
  • November 23 Accuracy Testing
  • December 26 — cold-weather and moderator testing
  • January 2 Accuracy Testing
  • January 8 Accuracy Testing
  • Summary

Website and blog update

Pyramyd Air will be redoing the website and the blog design next week. The anticipated cutover date is Wednesday evening, 1/27/21. Therefore today is my last blog posting before the new site goes live next Thursday. There is a possibility that the blog will also be dark on Thursday, 1/28/21.

Nobody likes missing the blog for several days, but I will use the time to get several things done that take a lot of time. Please bear with us as we make this transition. Now on to today’s report.

A special look inside development

I hope you readers appreciate what this report is giving you. Reader Cloud9 is testing a purpose-built RAW field target rifle. It’s not that RAW rifles haven’t competed in field target before. Many have. But this is the first one built especially for that purpose. You are getting a look over the shoulder of a field target competitor as he sorts out his new match outfit. We talk about stuff like this all the time on this blog but seeing it is quite rare.

It was a cold and windy day

Remember that nasty 40-degree day I reported to you on January 12, when I tested the BSA R10 Mark II? We were all surprised at the greater-that-one-inch groups I got from an air rifle that’s supposed to be quite accurate, but several of you allowed that it’s difficult to shoot at 50 yards when you’re cold and the wind is blowing. Reader Yogi even said he read the weather report and the wind was gusting 15-20 mph, while I had reported 5-10 mph. The wind came from my back, so downrange it was swirling.

Seated next to me was Cloud9, shooting his RAW for the umpteenth time. He was trying to find the one best pellet for the rifle, and this was not a good day to do that. Still, it was what it was.

Remember that this RAW has to shoot at less than 12 foot-pounds because Cloud9 is competing in the World Field Target Federation (WFTF) class that restricts the power of the rifle. In his own words:

The rifle

My rifle is a new RAW TM1000 in .177 caliber, set up to shoot just under 12 foot-pounds muzzle energy to be legal for World Field Target Federation competitions in the US and around the world.  It was manufactured in Burleson, TX and Minor Hill, TN.  The parts were produced in the AirForce factory in Texas because this gun was built after the acquisition of RAW by AirForce in 2018.  It has the same tried and true TM1000 action, but in a new aluminum chassis.  It has a single-shot breech, a regulator, a 250bar (3600psi) titanium pressure vessel, a black aluminum chassis and an AR-15 buffer tube and adjustable buttstock. I added a RAW butthook in place of the buttpad, and also a Rowan Engineering adjustable forend (that I call a hamster), and a very comfortable ergonomic target grip.

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Power set at max

Part One of this report concluded with data derived on October 30 and 31 of 2020. I was trying to shoot the JSB Exact 8.44-grain dome because at my power threshold I get velocities of between 790 and 800 f.p.s. I am right at 12 foot-pounds when this pellet reaches 800.09 f.p.s.

I leave the FX Radar Pocket Wireless Chronograph attached to the outside of my moderator and it tells me the velocities of each shot through my smart phone. That way I know what each shot does without having to concentrate on a set of skyscreens. I am free to concentrate on the targets. The radar measures velocity as the pellet leaves the muzzle and I have determined that this chronograph is within 5 f.p.s. of what my other chrony registers.

RAW FX radar chrono
I use the FX Radar chrono attached to my moderator.

November 23 Accuracy Testing

Today, I went back out to the range very early to shoot some more groups. There were a few differences this time. First, instead of shootiung off a bench I shot while sitting on my bum bag with my shooting coat on. I supported the rifle on my knee and nestled the butt hook in my shoulder. This is how I shoot in matches. I had decided to see how the rifle shoots under actual match conditions.  

Second, I was shooting next to the concrete wall that separates the 100-yard range I was on from its neighbor range, so there was very little wind to affect my shots.  However, what very slight wind there was tended to swirl and was unpredictable.  I ended up shooting 80 shots @ 60yards using JSB 4.50mm pellets.  I didn’t use the 4.51mm head size because they were in very short supply, and the 4.50mm are very plentiful.  I plan to sort some more pellets this week, so that I have plenty of 4.51mm to shoot going forward.  Here are the results of my shooting session.  At 60 yards, my rifle with this pellet will shoot 1.30” groups or 2 MOA.

RAW FX 60 shots
Eighty shots at 60 yards.

That group size is larger than I expected, and I believe there are some contributing factors.  To start, there was some wind swirling that I know moved some pellets slightly. This was shot at 60 yards.  Next, when shooting off a bumbag and supporting the rifle, it is not as steady as it can be while supported with shooting bags on a bench.  

Finally, I noticed that if I didn’t hold the rifle exactly the same each time (same pressure on grip, same supporting pressure on hamster, same support of right elbow on right knee, and same smooth trigger pull where I am surprised when it goes off, then the pellet would not hit where I was aiming. 

The hold-sensitivity is something I am going to have to work on to reduce or if I cannot do that, then I will have to adapt to it.  One thing I may try is adding weights to the rifle to increase its inertia, or resistance to movement.  A heavier rifle should be less hold-sensitive because it will not move as much when fired.

December 26 — cold-weather and moderator testing

Back at the end of October, I mentioned that with colder temps I was experiencing a poi change that I needed to understand better.  In the first portion of this article, there were some questions asked on the blog about my terminology of scope shift and clarifications were made by myself and others. 

To summarize, at cold temperatures using the side-focus wheel, my scope ranges approximately 4 yards short at 55 yards (indicates 51 yards instead of 55 yards).  Because the scope ranging was slightly short at the last field target match, I had unknowingly added fewer clicks for elevation than I should for what was in reality a 55 yard target. My pellets landed low on the target and I missed!  The poi change was caused by a scope ranging error and not by any other changes in the scope or velocity changes in the gun.  Now that I know to add up to 4 yards to long distance targets over 45 yards, my pellets hit where I aim.

I also mentioned that it seemed the rifle was a little more hold-sensitive than I preferred. To add some weight to the rifle, I removed the the adjustable stock that came with the rife and installed a Magpul PRS Gen3 Precision-Adjustable Stock.  The Magpul’s cheek rest and buttpad have precision dial adjusters with firm clicks that keep them locked in place.  In addition, there is no flex to the buttstock as a result of its robust construction and added mass.

RAW Magpul PRS stock
Magpul PRS buttstock.

Now for the testing, all of which was from the bench using sandbags.  I shot Air Arms 8.44-grain pellets with 4.49mm diameter heads, JSB 8.44-grain pellets with 4.50mm diameter heads and H&N Field Target Trophy 8.64-grain pellets with 4.51mm diameter heads today.  That is a smattering of pellets, and the reason is that I have a baseline for the Air Arms and JSBs of this size but I didn’t have any of my preferred 4.51mm yet.  I decided to try some H&N FTT pellets that are 4.51mm, just to see what would happen.

With the new stock, the group sizes for the Air Arms & JSB pellets were about the same as in previous testing, but it was a little easier to achieve those groups. Perhaps this result is because the added mass of the new buttstock has settled the rifle down a bit and allowed me to hold it more consistently. Or maybe the result was all psychological and I was just shooting more consistently on this day.  I really cannot attribute any improvement to the stock, but I prefer the way the rifle now feels in my hands, especially during a shot.

I wanted to see what the H&N FTT pellets would do, but the group sizes were larger than the Air Arms or JSB, so I quickly decided these weren’t the pellets for this gun.  I do really like these pellets in my HW-97K springers though.

For one final change today, I shot the rifle both with and without the silencer to determine its effect on group sizes. I did see a poi change when adding and removing the silencer, but I could not definitively say that the group sizes were better or worse with or without it.  I will shoot with it going forward, because I like the sound of silence!

January 2 Accuracy Testing

To try and learn some more about my rifle with the intent to reduce the size of the groups, I investigated the effect of increasing and decreasing the velocity that it sends pellets downrange.  After some reading on the internet, I began thinking that perhaps the pellets’ forward velocity was slowing more rapidly than the spin rate at longer distances and perhaps causing them to nutate and precess, resulting in a spiral at longer distances that decreased accuracy. One way to find out is to increase and decrease the muzzle velocity of the pellet and the resulting rotational RPM from the barrel twist, then I can evaluate those changes on group size.  There was no wind this morning, so any group size changes shouldn’t be skewed arbitrarily by it.  All of today’s testing was from the bench using sandbags using JSB 8.44-grain 4.50mm head pellets.

So far, I can say that I’m not seeing much difference in group size by slowing the pellets down.  I started at 795 f.p.s. and reduced the velocity in 20 f.p.s. steps to 740 f.p.s., but the group sizes looked the same.  I also increased the velocity to 820 f.p.s. before I had to halt my testing session and I saw some improvement, but I cannot be sure without further testing.  To be clear, I was testing at muzzle energies greater than 12 foot-pounds, but I won’t be able to do the same in a WFTF field target match.  I would show my results, but I can’t find the targets from this day, so I’ll have to do this over at a later date. 

January 8 Accuracy Testing

This morning, I finally had a chance to test a tin of JSB 8.44-grain, 4.53mm head size pellets that arrived over Christmas.  I never trust the labels on the tins of pellets for head size or weight, so I sorted the tin using the PelletgageR from Jerry Cupples.  Approximately 50 percent of the tin had pellets with head sizes between 4.51 to 4.53mm, with the other half being smaller than 4.51mm.

I also tested about 20 JSB 10.3-grain pellets that Tom Gaylord brought for me, but these weren’t sorted.  I quickly sorted them into 2 piles (4.50mm & 4.51mm).  Tom promised to send me some other pellets that are 4.52mm or larger to test next time. 

All of today’s testing was from the bench using sandbags at 50 yards.  The temperature was 42 degrees F and the winds were swirling at about 9 mph on the range.  The wind definitely affected the group sizes.  I tried to keep notes about when the wind blew or not and resulted in obvious flyers, so that I could try and exclude those shots in my analysis and determine the true capability of the rifle and ammo.

I started with the JSB 10.3-grain pellets from Tom.  These pellets came out of the muzzle at 735 f.p.s.

RAW JSB 10.3 pellets

You can see in this first group that the 14-shot group is 1.144” (2.19 MOA) CTC which is not promising, but the wind was blowing from left to right mostly, so if I try and exclude the probable flyers, the group size shrinks to .685” (1.31 MOA) which is very promising.

Group size was 1.039 inches (1.99MOA) with these JSB pellets, so I think they are not the right ones either.  I do plan to test some additional JSB 10.3-grain pellets when I get some 4.52mm head sizes.

Now I moved on to my sorted JSB 8.44-grain 4.52mm head size pellets, flying downrange at 795 f.p.s. On these next targets I tried to focus on getting 5 good shots and ignoring obvious flyers or impacts affected by wind.

RAW JSB sorted pellets 1

Throwing out three fliers from wind, my first 5-shot group at 50 yards measured just over one-half inch!

EDITOR’S NOTE: I will break in here because I was there to witness what happened. After this first group Cloud9 was very excited. Had he finally found the right pellet for his rifle? He sure hoped so!

RAW JSA 844 sorted pellets 2
Group 2 is 3/8-inches (0.375-inches) between centers at 50 yards and only one pellet is disregarded.

RAW JSA 844 sorted pellets 3
This 50-yard group is slightly larger than the last, at 0.401-inches between centers, but there are no fliers!

RAW JSA 844 sorted pellets 4
These five shots are in 0.201-inches at 50 yards. Sure there are two fliers, but even with them this group is well under an inch.

Summary

I’m going to stop there. Cloud9 was beside himself at this point, because I had been shooting inch-plus groups right next to him with a rifle that was far more powerful. And up to this point, he had been doing p[retty much the same thing. This JSB pellet with a sorted 4.53mm head was looking very good in his rifle.

I had now switched to shooting the .458 Texan that I also recently reported to you. When I finished with that we both ended our range day and went to AirForce to share the goods news with John McCaslin. He was delighted to learn of the success of the day and he and Cloud9 spent some time talking about the design of the field target RAW. I left to start writing my next blog.

There is more to come, but we are taking this slow because there is so much to digest as the testing unfolds.