Cast Bullet Military Rifle Matches
By Jeff Rowsam
Shooters who want to keep their favorite vintage military rifles on the range but don’t want to struggle with military sling straps, shooting coats and expensive bullets and lots of recoil should consider trying a local match with cast lead bullets.
The Cast Bullet Association (CBA) has for many years sponsored organized bench rest rifle matches. About 15 years ago the CBA created official rules for Military Rifle Matches. Events are held around the country and here in Wisconsin. Several local gun clubs in Wisconsin host regular matches. The Lincoln Gun Club near Merrill recently held a match and others are fired at Van Dyne (near Oshkosh) and at Rice Lake during the summer.
Old time shooters in the days before factory manufactured jacketed bullets all made their own ammunition by casting soft lead bullets. The bullet casting segment of hand loading diminished as factory loaded ammunition with jacketed bullets became popular. The smaller and smaller caliber cartridges demonstrated the “need for speed”. The high velocity craze (which continues to this day) pushed the idea of accurate ammunition well beyond the lower velocity of traditional cast bullets. Bullet casting with modern technology and a little casting practice can still produce very accurate bullets that can be fired in your favorite surplus military rifle or any other popular modern or vintage firearm.
Any current reloading manual will provide safe and accurate “cook book” loads with jacketed bullets. Developing an accurate load combination with cast bullets takes some extra time at trial and error. Making consistent bullets with a good lead alloy fitted to the rifle bore and using the right powder combination will make accurate cast bullet match ammo. When the right component combination is reached, shooters will find they have great accuracy, lower ammunition cost, less recoil from lower velocity and they can reduce the wear and tear on that prized arsenal or factory original rifle barrel.
The CBA Military Rifle Match is mostly a bench rest contest. A minimum of equipment is required. Ammunition of course must be cast lead bullets. Firing is done off the supported bench. Matches allow sighting shots and 20 rounds for record at 100 yards and sighters and 20 rounds for record at 200 yards. All slow fire single loading. Shooters can also enter a separate cast bullet match the same day fired in the standing position. Usually 10 or 20 shots are fired in the offhand matches.
Jeff Heeler is the match director for Cast Bullet Military matches at the Lincoln Gun Club west of Merrill in north central Wisconsin. At Jeff’s invitation I decided to see what it was about and after casting and load development, I met Jeff at the range on a Saturday in June to shoot my first Military Cast Bullet match. Jeff answered all my questions and showed me the ropes. He explained the different rifle classes. In addition to “as issued” service rifles, there are categories for modified (sporterized rifles with iron sights) and scope sighted guns. And an open cast bullet completion for anything else you can carry to the firing line.