Shooting In the Zeroes Inside The Warehouse

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Precision Rifle Blog posted up this article about a Houston Warehouse that was used to achieve the impossible in precision shooting. There is a warehouse in Houston that was used as the ideal indoor shooting range by precision shooters. It was one of those places that you had to know someone and that someone had to like you for you to get in. That person was Virgil King. Dave Scott interviews Virgil King, the man behind the warehouse. According to the article, they were able to achieve 5 shot groups in the “zeroes”.

The most accurate rifle ever to punctuate the stillness of the Houston Warehouse happened to be Virgil King’s own 10 1/2 pound Light Varmint benchrest rifle. The rifle was built around an action made to Virgil’s specifications by Houston shooter Wilbur Cooper, a mechanical engineer, master machinist, and fanatical perfectionist. The action was machined from #416 stainless steel and had an integral sleeve extending 5/8″ forward around the barrel, but not touching it, to provide additional bedding surface. Virgil said the tolerances were held so close in this action that he estimated, as an example, that the clearance between the bolt and boltway measured perhaps a minuscule .0001″ on all sides. Consequently, simply inserting the bolt took a measure of concentration.
This miraculous rifle would shoot groups between 0.035 to 0.050. Yes you read that right. It was not an error in typing.
If the rifle looked like the devil, it shot like the hammers of hell. “Day after day, week
after week,” Virgil recalled “it would NOT shoot a group in the warehouse bigger than
.070″. You had to cheek it or thumb it to get it to shoot that big. Generally, it shot
.035″ to .050″, with most groups holding around .035″. But now and then you’d sneak
one in a little better than that.
How did Virgil King accomplish this amazing task? He figured out the ideal method for shooting accuracy. He calls this technique “free-recoil”. The only part of the body that touches the gun is the trigger finger touching the trigger. His shoulder would be 3/16″ to 5/16″ from the stock so that he could catch the rifle so the recoil would not disturb the rear bag. He would try to place his finger print in the same position every time on the trigger. Virgil never even touched the bench.
That is the rifle, what about the ammo? As I only have a beginner’s understanding of reloading, most of the article is unknown to me. But it is interesting to read.
Powder charges, as long as they were fairly consistent and bracketed within a couple of
grains, were not important, he said. On one occasion, as an experiment Virgil shot one
group with his 6PPC barrel on the Cooper action using a 53 Culver setting of Winchester
748, the next 52 and the third 51. All three groups were identical.
According to the Virgil, primers are not a big concern unless you crush it an ruin it. What is important in the case refinement.
Building a load is important, Virgil conceded, but “tuning” cases is what stands between you and that final fraction of an inch that separates a good gun from a barn burner. “Tuning” cases goes far beyond sorting, neck turning and prepping the primer pockets and flash holes. These case refinements will get you only so far, Virgil stressed. To produce cases capable of shooting groups better than the guy at the next bench, you have to go the extra mile. And you make the journey with sensitive hands and a piece of #400 sandpaper. For Virgil, the process started by purchasing a substantial number of Sako .220 Russian cases. (Yes, Virginia, there once was such a case.) After the cases were weight sorted, he annealed the necks with a small propane torch. He then loaded Bullseye powder behind toilet paper bullets and fired the rounds in a special rifle assembled for this purpose. The necks of the fire-formed cases were next inside bored. This was accomplished on a precision lathe, with the necks supported in a die during the operation. Virgil would then outside turn the necks for a total clearance of about .0007″ between loaded round and chamber. Since the neck turner left cutting rings, Virgil sanded the necks shiny smooth, which typically resulted in a somewhat widened neck-

to -chamber clearance of .00075″. He emphasized that until the hills and valleys were smoothed, the case neck was prevented from laying flat against the chamber. Flash holes were cut identically and chamfered inside, but he didn’t uniform primer pockets or turn the case bases. He also had not the foggiest idea what amount of case-wall variances existed in any of his brass, but in those excellent Sako cases, probably not much. Then came the final, critical step. The step requiring a sensitive touch and #400 sandpaper — the “tuning” step. “The secret,” Virgil said, “is to get the neck tension — the grip of the brass on the bullet — exactly the same on every case. You do this by firing the case and then feeling the bullet slide in the case neck as you seat it. Here, a micrometer won’t do you any good. Feel is the whole thing. If any case grips the bullet harder than the others, you take three turns over the sandpaper and fire it again, until you get exactly the same amount of seating pressure. Until the necks were tuned, I didn’t feel I was ready to start tuning the gun.”

After firing the cases a couple of times, a tiny groove pressed into the neck, by the pressure ring on a flat-base bullet, causes the bullet to “snap” into place when it’s seated. Virgil could sense this by hand and when inserting the bullet into the case, he would be able to feel if the everything about the round and whether it would go into the group or not. Virgil would seat bullets in a Wilson straight-line tool by hand.
The warehouse allowed these shooters to test barrel deterioration. A barrel over 1,000 shots was “over the hill”. Noticeable deterioration started at around 700 rounds fired.
Another myth addressed was the relationship between distance and accuracy.
Rumors have persisted for years that some rifles shoot proportionally better at 200 yards than 100 yards, or vice versa. Virgil files that one under “occultism.”
His experience in the warehouse was, if a rifle was shooting a consistent .100″ at 100 yards, it shot a consistent .200″ at 200 yards. He admitted, however, that his knowledge here is limited, because in the warehouse they rarely fired at 200 and 300 yards.

There is a lot of information in this article. A lot more than this novice shooter can comprehend. However the last secret that Virgil dangled to Dave Scott was that he was able arc his 22PC to get consistent 0.025″ groups!!

To read the whole article click here.



Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • TVOrZ6dw

    My hats off to those with the patience for this kind of precision shooting. For me, the tolerances involved and “leaving only a single finger print” give me a headache. I’ll stick to my Ruger Mk II and a brick of .22 ammo.

    • Paul White

      To me it’s just so specific that it doesn’t appeal that much. It’s like…sure, that’s amazing accuracy on a mechanical level. But the technique you use is ONLY good for benchrest. It’s not like I can use that type of shooting if I’m out hunting. Can you imagine lugging that set up out for rabbits or deer?

      • Nicholas Chen

        There are diminishing returns with any endeavor. It all comes down to the individual pursuing their goal. For this man, it was a time in his life where he achieved perfection. Other people, myself included rather spend our time and energy elsewhere. However, I can admire the narrow focus and drive this man had.

      • DIR911911 .

        you HAVE to imagine it since no one even supplied a picture of the gun. wow a pic of an empty warehouse , how impressive.

        • Nashvone

          Your average anti-gun blowhard probably wouldn’t even recognize it as a firearm.

        • Nicholas Chen

          The interview was taken a while ago. 1993 was when it was printed in the magazine. Pictures would be nice. But not needed.

    • Nicks87

      Yeah it all sounds pretty ridiculous to me. It might be fun for him but to me it sounds tedious and impractical.

  • Dracon1201

    Fantastic. I’m glad he enjoys what he does. It’s always interesting to listen to an artist speak passionately about his craft. For me, shooting smiley faces at 50-100 yds with an MCX is good enough.

  • Full Name

    Geeze, that is a lot of work!

  • Anon

    This whole thing goes way beyond nerddom and ascends into something different, possibly madness

    • FightFireJay

      Yes, its called, “the scientific method”.

      This was an ongoing experiment to find out what really affects accuracy. Just think how many bench rest shooters have spent time uniforming primer pockets. His results show that you’re working on the wrong end of the case.

      Even a novice reloader can use some of this information to make better ammo without using steps that waste time.

      • FarmerB

        Exactly – where would we be if we all just sat around and said “we know it all?” It’s this striving for knowledge that makes humans great.

    • milesfortis

      Often the difference between genius and madness is merely a matter of perception.
      The true work will be figuring out how much of what this guy did can be used in the world of ‘everyday’ shooting.
      All those computer geeks that we’d figure were past nerddom are who developed what turned into the internet and all the other digicrap most of us use today.

  • Jwedel1231

    I have the original article saved as a PDF on my laptop. Very interesting read, to a geek like me.

  • Aaron E

    Though this precision shooter went the extra mile on his build, the underlying principle reinforces what firearms instructors have been preaching for years – the firearm is built to shoot straight, if its off it’s because of you!

    Take the movement, breathing, change of position, grip squeeze and other human factors out of the equation, and the firearm should shoot straight – to reasonable distances before gravity, lost energy, and wind resistance effect the bullets path.

    • Nicholas Chen

      Yes but not all guns are built the same. Too many variables in the gun themselves.

      • Tyler

        @Nicholas Chen, how did you mount the Angry Gun Wire Cutter Rail to a Mil-Spec Barrel Nut for an AR15?

        • Nicholas Chen

          Email me.

          • Tyler

            What’s your email address? I can’t seem to find it on here.

          • Nicholas Chen

            Scroll up and look at the bottom of the article. My email address is in my bio.

      • Aaron E

        I agree with that completely. There are definitely firearms with greater tolerances and better materials that will clearly shine over others, especially out to longer distances. My point was more generic, and referring more to the shooter’s removal of contact with the rifle except the trigger finger.

        Doing that at say 100 yards or closer with most rifles will see dramatic improvements in accuracy, and a much smaller difference in groupings between the various rifles used. Some cartridge companies use an automatic firing system when testing the accuracy of their bullets – to remove the human error problem. Follow-up with professional shooters is then just the icing on the cake.

  • The_Champ

    All day long!

  • Gregory

    Someone has money and a lot of time on his hands.

  • I think the word “Neckbeard” is a good way to describe these gentlemen.

    Nothing against them, but as a guy who’s more than once burned through an entire 1440 round crate of 7.62×39 in one afternoon (with a bone-stock SKS!) I can’t imagine spending that long reloading once case.

    Different strokes.

  • Goody

    I neck turn for all my ammo, and load on Wilson dies. Even when I have a new shooter try my gun, I give them the best.

    For practical shooting from field positions, it’s easy to say “But .2moa doesn’t matter if you can only hold 4moa”, to which I think “tolerance stacking”. On the silhouette range, .2moa is all you need to miss a shot that would have struck the edge.

  • Patrick M.

    I guarantee no one wants to talk to Virgil at parties

  • Fred Johnson

    I remember reading this article a few years ago. To realize it was published in 1993 puts those events in a “Legendary” category.

    It was done in my own hometown, too. I sure wonder which warehouse it was and if it is still standing?