Send it. I reached the natural pause in my breathing, relaxed, aimed and slowly squeezed the trigger. True to the fundamentals of my Marine Corps marksmanship training, each shot was a surprise as none other than good friend and season two winner of History Channel’s Top Shot, Chris Reed continued guiding me toward the center of the 900-yd. steel silhouette; my final three-shot group that afternoon was a tad under three inches.
The McRees Precision BR-10 .308 was a shooter for sure, seemingly compensating for any deficiency added to the precision shooting equation by the guy on the gun. While the McRees Precision BR-10 .308 shot like a dream, I could not take much credit. The rifle kit was designed and machined by world-class precision shooter, Scott McRee, owner of McRees Precision, and a member of the 2015 .50-Cal BMG World Championship Team. The kit was then assembled with the bulk of the help coming from Chris Reed again. I took the humble position of parts and tool gatherer, semi-wrench turner and gopher.
Since then, I have sent hundreds and hundreds of rounds down range at long-distances targets up to 1,000 yards. While I have shot a might further, ringing steel consistently out past the big 1k has been… well, less consistent. About the time I began pushing past 1,000 yards, I spent quality trigger time (and study time) with several 6.5 Creedmoor (6.5 CM) systems and was truly impressed with the cartridge’s flatter trajectory and longer reach.
At the time, I also studied 6.5 CM ballistics and PRS series results quite diligently and decided I needed a round two with the BR10, this time in 6.5 CM. And, while a 6.5 build-project seemed both fun and educational, as a die-hard hunter, there’s only one way to truly appreciate the fruits of such labor, reducing the unruly, often depredating population of coyotes or feral hogs.
PART I: Choices… choices
I was dead set on a McRees BR-10 chassis again. Not only am I comfortable with it, the system has been proven on the ranges as well as on the battlefield; McRees chassis have been used in the Middle East to take high-value targets and within our own borders to win national competitions. Besides, on a writer’s budget, I knew it as a kit I could afford if I pinched some hard-earned pennies. More importantly, if I had questions through the project, Scott McRee is the kind of guy who answers them without a soap box; not just for me, he does that for anybody. I needed this kind of support; after all, I was the sole master of the build, the lone builder of the kit and the only guy on the trigger from start to finish.
While I almost pulled the trigger (pun intended) on the McRees G10 stock, I’m still in love with the Model I BR-10 chassis on my .308 and stuck with it, this time in a richly contrasted olive-drab and black bake-on Cerakote finish. The BR-10 chassis includes a McRees Precision folding stock with 2-in. of length-of-pull adjustments, 20 MOA scope base, integrated MLEV Cant Indicator, split cheek piece with 1.25-in. fore/aft/up/down adjustability and butt pad with 1-in. of vertical travel.
When I began my search for a barreled action, I found a Remington 700 short-action at Brownells, added a Timney 510 trigger, adjustable from 1.5 to 4 lbs., and never looked back. I wanted consistent, precision accuracy and knew the quality of barrels and brakes McRees Precision kept in inventory. I went back to McRees and ordered a barrel kit. The kit included a heavy, stainless steel, ½-MOA-guaranteed, 6.5 CM Pac-Nor barrel with 1:8 twist, barrel nut wrench, barrel nut, recoil lug and thread protector. I also ordered a McRees .26-cal. muzzle brake. Since I ordered the chassis, barrel and brake from McRees Precision, I had the parts finished in Cerakote before shipping.
To round out the primary build components I also ordered a Yankee Hill Machine Co. (YHM) 2-in. x 12.5-in. Free Float Tube Handguard from McRees. I loved the feel of this handguard on my .308 and McRees was one of the last places with an inventory. My favorite toy store, Brownells, also offers several perfect-fitting YHM handguard alternatives.
To be honest, I spent quite a bit of time and moderate amount of coin at Brownells but pricing is very fair, sometimes surprisingly low, and their customer service is the best I’ve encountered… so I keep going back – this time for my accessories. Add-ons included a rock-solid Atlas BT10-LW17 Quick-Detach Bipod, Badger Ordnance Scope Rings and 200 rounds of Hornady 140gr ELD Match Ammo; 150 earmarked for warming up the barrel.
PART II: Warming her up
For warm up, I headed for the Heart of Texas Silhouette Association Range in Wortham, Texas. While the range is setup for 500-meter NRA silhouette shooting, an additional 750-yard target line was recently added. Although 750 yards is something of a chip shot for this level of rifle build, the HOTSA range remains one of my favorites.
For my optic, I simply moved my tried-and-true Sightmark Pinnacle 5-30×50 TMD First-Focal-Plane Riflescope from the .308 BR-10 to my new 6.5 CM. The scope is a beast, the good kind, with .1 mil adjustments, premium Japanese glass, illuminated TMD reticle, zero stop and a lifetime warranty.
With Joe Holmes, a next level marksman and one of my closest friends, on a Sightmark Latitude FFP Spotting Scope (perfect for my project because it employs a TMD reticle so Joe could quickly and easily call out adjustments), I settled in to sight-in the BR-10 at 100 yards. You could cut the tension with a knife as I settled behind the Pinnacle, shifted the safety forward and rested the pad of my finger on the cool steel 2.5-lb. trigger. Again, falling back to Marine Corps marksmanship fundamentals, I breathed, relaxed, aimed and squeezed. BOOM! With the brake, the report thundered but recoil was so slight, I never lost sight of the target.
Joe was quick to report, “Come left one and down two.” After making adjustments I settled in, rested, reached my natural pause in breathing and then squeezed off another round. “2 o’clock, three-quarter of an inch out. Move two and two.” I moved .2 mils down and .2 mils left and sent the third round into the bullseye. Four more rounds hit their mark; the result, a sub-1/2-inch elongated keyhole. With that I set the zero stop then took to longer ranges where, with wind factored, things were a bit trickier; however, mirage helped and Joe and I found ourselves on the same page. The hits were consistent and ½ MOA, as Scott McRee guaranteed out to 500 meters.
After the first box of Hornady was drained, I stopped to rid the bore of copper and clean her up. When warming up rifles, my method is simple: Clean after the first 15 or 20 rounds, then after every 40 until I get over about 150 shots down range; after that, it’s business as usual. So, we ran her from 200 meters to the new 750-yard targets and every distance in between, only adjusting from the DOPE sheet I had pre-printed a couple tenths as the temperatures of both the air and barrel rose. By the end of the afternoon, we followed my routine until 150 rounds had proven the build a precision shooting dream. I cleaned her one last time and we headed out. She was ready to unleash hell on song dogs or hogs.
PART III: If at first you don’t succeed
I learned most of what I know about predator hunting —quite a bit nowadays — from an expert but largely unknown predator hunter and close friend, Arron Cottongame; he’s that kind of friend you consider family. Unfortunately, he’s also an early-bird, hunting or not. This time our plan was to meet at 5 a.m. For me, it meant a 4 a.m. wake-up. I was on the road by 4:30 with a scorching hot cup of coffee, my new McRees BR-10 6.5 CM and my all-time favorite electronic predator call, the FoxPro Shockwave – the call is a stone-cold killer in its own right!
We met up, drove out to nearby Kerens, Texas to hunt a thousand acre ranch ripe with both predators and hogs. To say I was excited is an understatement. I was chomping at the bit when we settled into our first set. Unfortunately, while the FoxPro Shockwave howled, reality took hold. Not only was the wind picking up, forcefully, it was nearly 90 degrees and humid as all-get-out!
Sitting in the tall grass for the first set with nothing coming in to the call or the expert predator hunter at my side running the show, only served to set the stage for the rest of the day. After a half-dozen sets, the temperature had risen to the mid 90’s and the wind gusted and swirled. We packed it in and that was that. Was I leaving empty handed? Not at all. While I did not put any fur on the ground, I left with a healthy dose of chiggers. They are, without question, the scourge of the earth. On to plan B and plenty of scratching…
PART IV: The juice is worth the squeeze
Plan B was simply a mix of searching and waiting for my next opportunity to hit the field. At the height of my chigger episode, another good friend and guide with Three Curl Outfitters, Casey Cochran, asked if I had been successful on the predator hunt. After laughing at my misfortune, he explained some hunting clients had cancelled and that Three Curl owners Brett Jepsen and Charles Spiegel wanted to help with my project – Casey was inviting me to hunt hogs with thermal imaging riflescopes on a couple fields devastated by hogs near Italy, Texas. As a side note, Three Curl manages hunts on over 80,000 acres, one way or another, there would be blood.
To say we were well equipped would be an understatement. Casey carried my Sharps Rifle Company .25-45 AR-15, a .223 necked up to a .257, for quick shooting while I toted the BR-10… and the aging Jarhead that I am, a Blackhawk! Pro Shooters Mat. As far as thermal imaging riflescopes and monoculars, we carried Pulsar devices. Casey topped the SRC .25-45 with a Trail XP38 and carried a Pulsar Helion XP50 Thermal Monocular for stalking. I topped the BR-10 with an older yet seriously amazing Pulsar Apex XD50 Thermal Riflescope and carried a Quantum XD50 monocular. Scouting out past 1,000 yards in the dead of the night was easy; nothing was hidden.
We sighted in Pulsar Riflescopes using Hornady 120-grain GMX Full Boar ammo and a couple ice cubes wrapped in tin foil at 50 yards then double-checked accuracy at 100 yards. Within a few rounds each, both rifles were ready for action. Although I hated removing the Sightmark Pinnacle 5-30×50 just after sighting in and setting zero, I was more in love with achieving the goal I had set, taking a precision rifle from build to a kill. Rifles ready, we hit the first field.
Not long after driving through the gate, we spotted a 250-plus pound boar alone near a patch of sunflowers. Unfortunately, while circling around to cut him off, he flat disappeared! With nothing else in the field, we left and checked another just a few miles away. We scoured the field and short of a handful of jackrabbits, found nothing. As a seasoned veteran hog hunter, I suggested sliding back into the original field. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen hogs on my trail cameras just minutes after I’ve left. The idea worked. Upon returning, we found four hogs rooting less than 400 yards away. We slid out of truck and stalked through the darkness until we were less than 75 yards from the small sounder. Thermal monoculars are worth their weight in gold when you can’t see what you’re walking on.
While Casey dropped to a knee, I rolled out that Blackhawk! Shooting mat (seriously, my new best friend), extend the legs on the Atlas Bipod and settled down in a solid prone position. Casey waited, a good friend knows the importance of first blood, besides, shooting a bolt-gun, the most I could likely hope for was two hogs. Casey could shoot the Sharps much more quickly. I settled the Pulsar Apex’s digital crosshair on the largest hog’s head then activated the 2x-zoomed picture-in-picture function to be assured of a precise shot. My breathing relaxed again and I waited for that natural pause before squeezing the trigger.
BOOM! The first hog dropped in its tracks as I jacked the bolt and swung on another. BOOM! The second hog rolled hard and never got back up. Between my first and second shots, Casey hammered number three and sent the final shot to drop the fourth and final hog. While I didn’t cry, I was quite overcome a flood of adrenaline and emotion.
After a few photos, we headed down the same stretch to another field where we reduce Texas’ feral hog population by four more, this time they were larger… we were even happier. A handful of friends were going to get some great meat!
It was nearly 3 a.m. when my head finally hit the pillow. Just three hours later I was up and on the run again. Sure, I was tired. Perhaps I should not have been on the highway but the sense of achievement sometimes outweighs common sense. Regardless, when it comes to hard work and realizing success, the juice is always worth the squeeze.
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