Hey everyone, it’s your favorite Viking from the north again. Today, I’m getting down to what you’ve all probably been waiting for: my day of shooting with Criterion Barrels. We had some of the details hammered out about a week and a half in advance, and of course nothing ever goes as planned. After rolling myself out of bed and making my way down to the continental breakfast, I had my car packed up with my range gear. I arrived a little bit earlier than we planned because I wanted to retake a few pictures that hadn’t really come out the previous day. Steve was happy to guide me and chat with me for a bit.
A Short Ride, and a Thundering Herd
We piled our gear for this trip into both Josh’s car and Steve’s truck, and headed north. Our destination was The Highland Sportsmens Club in Cascade, Wisconsin. I rode with Josh on the way there, and we talked about a number of things, including some details about where we were going. Apparently they were a game farm as well as a range, which was interesting to me since in addition to long range shooting I’m also an upland game hunter. They definitely made us feel welcome right away when we pulled up. We were greeted by what can only be described as a thundering herd of labs, and I could hear the distinct crowing of pheasants in the distance. This made me remember my not very successful trip out to South Dakota in October for pheasant hunting. After talking with our contact there for a short while, hammering out some of the details of what we were wanting to do, we piled back into the vehicles and took a short drive over to the ranges.
The Best Laid Plans
Now when we planned this day originally, the weather was looking good. There was rain forecast for the previous day, but not a huge deal. But as Robert Burns wrote in his poem “To A Mouse” all the way back in 1785, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men gang aft agley. For those not as familiar with Scots it roughly translates as the best laid plans of mice and men often go wrong. The rain that was supposed to happen the previous day was instead going to happen on the afternoon of the range day. And conditions at the range were less than stellar initially. It’s a lot easier if I show you what I mean.
Collectively we made the decision that the fog was far too heavy to stretch it out to 300 yards for the time being. We sat up target stands at 100 and 200 yards, and a 6 inch steel gong target at 200 yards as well. We were going to use the bench inside the bunker, but we discarded that idea pretty quickly. Instead, we rolled out a few shooting mats in front of the bunker, and used the bench as a convenient place to lay some of our gear out so we could have it out of the way but still close at hand. When we got down to shooting, it actually seemed the fog was kind of useful. I pulled out my Kestrel and made note of the conditions. It was so thick and heavy we were actually able to use it as a way of reading the wind.
Shooting With A Criterion Barrel
When all of us had a little time shooting the Ruger Precision Rifle that Criterion Barrels had decked out, we shared opinions on the rifle. One thing that was pretty apparent was that we all were not fans of the factory stock. The rail on it had a habit of getting hung up on the rear bag while shooting, and was causing an irritating amount of muzzle flip. This was solved by taking the rail cover off the Magpul PRS on my rifle and putting it on the Ruger stock. We also had to do some tweaking of the front rest, as well as some other tweaks of the stock. With the adjustments done, we each spent some time on the Criterion Barrels Ruger Precision Rifle getting used to it.
Time For Something New
It was at this point we broke out some of the ammunition I had brought along. I’ve actually been keeping something of a secret from you readers for a while now: I got my hands on some of Hornady’s new ELD-Match ammunition. We were all extremely interested to give it a try, with Steve giving it first go. I was second and I have to say it really felt like we were in one of those key moments in the experience. I decided that I was interested in grouping more than anything, and that my point of aim was going to be the same regardless. The moment after my first shot I realized that Steve was as big of a joker as I am when he said from the spotting scope, “Nice one shot group!” After my next few shots he heckled me a bit more until I was looking at a fairly nice 4 shot group. The last shot of this 5 shot group definitely felt like there was a lot of pressure. I emptied my mind, focused on what I was doing, and ripped off that fifth shot.
The results speak for themselves, and I was definitely impressed. While we were down measuring the group and taking pictures Steve got a phone call, and when we got back to the firing line he told us that he had to go. I was really sorry to see him go because he was definitely fun to shoot with, and I’m sure he could have taught me a lot in a short amount of time. We shook hands and I thanked him for the opportunity he’d given me. Josh and I continued shooting. By this point the weather had shaped up, and we could actually see the berm we were shooting at 300 yards away. We changed targets, and moved the gong down to 300 yards.
Factory vs Criterion Barrels
I pulled out my personal rifle because I wanted to get a solid comparison between the factory barrel and the Criterion barrel. Josh also pulled out his Rem/Age .308 Winchester build to take the opportunity to practice for an upcoming match. Unfortunately, he’d left the AR-10 in .308 Winchester in his safe that morning, which was probably for the best when all is said and done. I settled in and started working with my rifle, and after a bit I tried to get as good of a group as I could.
Clearly we have a very different result from the Criterion barrel, and with the earlier results I’m absolutely standing by my decision to order one of their barrels. At this point I highly recommend that anyone looking for a new barrel for a Ruger Precision Rifle give Criterion Barrels some very serious thought. You would really be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t.
Wrapping it up
At this point I felt that the list of things I wanted to get done for this article were done, and that now I could mess around and enjoy the range time. I had some time with Josh’s rifle, and it really drove home the point of how everyone sets up their own rifle differently. Using his personal rifle felt very strange to me, sort of like getting into the driver’s seat of another person’s car. And since it was in .308 Winchester instead of 6.5 Creedmoor, I noticed a lot of the differences people had talked about between the two rounds. We had a few friendly competitions as well. One thing that stood out was when we were both trying to hit a small target at 300 yards. Josh was trying to dial in his dope, and I entered some information into the ballistic calculator app I have on my phone. He took a number of shots and didn’t manage to hit it, where as I took a bit of time to get the information punched in, and hit it on my first shot. I think I used the phrase, “If you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying hard enough,” which came back and bit me in the ass in a later friendly game.
By now it was getting to be about four in the afternoon, and we were both feeling hungry. We began to pack up and it chose that moment to begin to rain. We stopped back in at the clubhouse and grabbed a burger with all the fixings which was excellent. Then we made our way back to Criterion’s offices. On the whole it was an excellent way to spend the day, and I was coming away with a very positive impression with very positive results. I know this has been a long time coming, but there’s more to look forward to in the future. I’m still going to be writing about Hornady’s ELD-Match bullets, as well as a few other things you can look forward to.