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Bill's Blog

Bill McLeod is our branch Patron with years of hunting and shooting experience, including representing some of the biggest firearms manufacturers in the business.  During his career he has come across almost every kind of problem a shooter can have.  In the series of posts below he offers some insights, comments and advice to shooters and hunters.

Thanks Bill.

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  • 04/09/2019 10:33 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    When I was a youngster the myth circulated that “all the deercullers use 222s.”
    This was far from the truth. In my day there were more heavier caliber than light caliber rifles in the deer hunters hands. Certainly some of the hunters used 222s to very good effect, I still recall seeing Charlie Whitings battered Sako with a bore so rusted that it’s a wonder the bullets came out of it. He said he only shot deer at very close range so he had no problems.

    Being a smart arse I just had to give it a go. I was very disappointed when the first deer kept going not to be recovered. I got a real break on the next one when, after the initial shot to the shoulder, I saw it stagger down the hill toward me with an obviously broken shoulder. A quick finisher and I had the tail. An autopsy revealed that the first shot had hit well in the shoulder, had broken the bone but had failed to penetrate into the thoracic cavity.

    This proved to be my introduction to the limitation of the 222 deer. If you get the bullet into a vital area the 222 is a very effective rifle. It won’t penetrate significant areas of bone or meat.  Fortunately there are many places on a deer where vital areas are readily reached by these little bullets. The classic immediately behind the shoulder into the lung or heart tissue is deadly. The neck striking the spinal column preferably near the atlas- axis joint can be used. The head shot presents some challenges particularly if the brain is shielded behind a lot of bone.

    The 222 proved to be effective on very big red stags if you understood where to place the shots. I even had a two for one with the rifle. A deer rushed off after the shot which I followed and located. Checking the shot location I found it behind the shoulder. My shot had been directed at the neck area. Could it be? Went back to the location of the deer when I fired the shot and there was a neck shot hind. Two tails, one bullet.

    These experiences prompted me to develop my own rules about using the little rifle on deer if you would indulge an old coozer in sharing them.

    You must be able to shoot. You can’t kid yourself.
    You cannot get excited. You must be able to assess the opportunity, select a vital spot and hit it. Then the rifle will do the job.

  • 24/06/2019 6:56 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    by Bill McLeod.

    Teaching of the Prof
    New Zealand anti whaling groups were fiercely picking on Japanese whalers for killing whales inhumanly. Some bright spark decided that New Zealand authorities had better get their act together and appointed Prof Blackmore to lead the charge on effectively euthanizing beached whales. I was lucky enough to have been trusted to do the field work. It was an eye opener for me, not so much about terminal ballistics in whales but in effective killing of animals. He taught me that there were two ways of killing an animal, massively disrupting the brain or depriving the brain of oxygen. 
    This helped me understand why I could not replicate on a consistent basis the folklore which surrounded rifle performance on game. We’ve all heard it. This magic gun drops them on the spot. If you use a 130 as opposed to a 150 the deer will finish up much closer to where you hit it. If you use a ——- they will run off laughing but if, like me, you use a ——— you only have to point it at them and they will surrender immediately. Great fun and vigorous conversations but missing the point that you have to disrupt the brain or deprive it of oxygen. Knowledge of anatomy is more important than subtleties in ballistics in being effective.
    I was told that I had to wait till the whales came ashore before I opened fire on them, I wasn’t allowed to go stalking them in a row boat off Ninety Mile Beach.
    Sent from my iPad

  • 10/06/2019 4:40 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Where do YOU hit them?

    As kids we got all sorts of good advice on where to hit our target species, particularly deer and goats. On reflection a lot of it was based on limited experience and hearsay.
    One of the soundest pieces of advice proved to be “follow the front leg up a third of the body depth and shoot for that spot”. For a lot of my early years hunting, this was a very effective method. Then we got the stories shoot them in the neck or head. Again this proved very effective.

    It wasn’t until I worked as a paid hunter that I had to question this advice. The sheer number of animals that we were required to kill in a wide variety of conditions meant that a different shot placement selection process had to be found. A few simple choices proved useful for most opportunities but not all. Another factor was we were required to be efficient in our shooting in order to be effective. Hunters who could not shoot efficiently were not well regarded.

    Eventually I used a shot selection process that I had heard of while watching golf on television. I believe it was Sam Sneed who promoted percentage golf, selecting a stroke and club which gave you the highest chance of being successful. On the strength of that l found that selecting the largest target area available to me on the animal gave me the largest margin of error. In some cases the largest target area was ridiculously small, but if that was going to be the best opportunity available, just hit it.


  • 27/04/2019 8:13 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Semi autos in the hands of professionals I know. Written by Bill McLeod

    Professionals are not necessarily better hunters, marksmen, bushmen, or knowledgeable riflemen than amateurs. In fact, on reflection, some of the outstanding blokes in each category I have known have been amateurs.

    I make the distinction because I think the professional is paid to produce a result and to keep his employer happy needs to show results or it is the ignominious “down the road”. A firearm is a tool of his trade, just like a carpenters hammer, and if the hunter can get a better tool, he will.

    Very few of the hunters I worked with used semi autos. The overwhelming favourite was the bolt gun. The particular make of rifle used was as much by accident as by design and all did a good job. Most of the hunters l worked with either had or wanted one of the legendary rifles, a Sako 222.  The consensus at the time was that the Sako could be fed and reloaded fast enough for our purposes and we appreciated their accuracy and reliability.

    Bolt guns of every make and caliber were used on deer blocks, very much dependent on the preference of the shooter. Semi autos were used by some of my contemporaries. Russel had a Winchester 308, Keith had a Browning 270, and Murray had a Browning 243.  Murray used his Browning for a long time in the Ureweras. Years later he confided in me that he thought that, over the whole time he used the semi, he probably got one more tail with the semi than he would have had he kept using his Sako bolt gun.  I don’t recall how much beer we had consumed when this revelation was made.

    A newer generation of hunter has, l believe, a different view. The difference was the introduction of the AR15 and the influence of the aerial shooter. The competent professions who I know now have a AR15 or equivalent as part of their tool kit. While most still keep a bolt rifle for a lot of their work, they value the rapid recovery of the semi for quick accurate shooting.



  • 14/03/2019 11:06 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    I’ve never shot a deer with a group yet.

    Shooting groups with your rifle is great fun, great practice, and educational on the capabilities of your combination of rifle, scope, and ammo.  Most of us do it, no drama.

    The consequent reporting of the rifles accuracy, brilliant selection of reloading components, and our own ability to shoot, modestly presented of course, delights us in our story telling.

    If the reports were true you would wonder why people bothered getting match grade rifles because our hunting rifles are so incredibly accurate.

    A lot of the reports are presented without regard to statistical analysis. If you ran a confidence test on the data presented, the test results would fail miserably.

    All this fun may result in an over emphasis on group sizes and a lack of practice on the very important skill of putting your bullet cleanly on your intended target.
    Accurate alignment of sights and development of basic rifleman's skill will better contribute to achieving the goal of bringing home the quarry.

  • 21/02/2019 11:34 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Having trouble getting your rifle to group?

    By Bill McLeod

    You’ve made it to your shooting area with the rifle, scope, and bullets which wouldn’t shoot for nuts. 
    Wipe out the barrel with dry patches till no sign of oil shows.
    Find a seriously stable place to shoot from.
    Leaning against the mudguard of the Ute or over a gate does not cut it.
    Preferably a benchrest or if not available use a prone position where you can lie down comfortably.
    Ditch the suppressor and the bi-pod.
    Both can be very useful aids but both may seriously compromise accuracy. Your test should be to establish the performance of the three important elements of your combination, rifle, scope and ammo.
    Find a very stable block, rest, pack to rest your front hand on. Preferably this will have a cushion of sorts to avoid abrasion of your hand and be more comfortable to shoot off.
    Grip the rifle conventionally with both hands. Wriggle your shooting shoulder back and forward to establish a controlled movement zone. Your rifle will recoil, it will not kill you. Give it room to move using enough control to avoid the scope biting you above the eye.
    The single most important step is next. Dry fire your rifle till you are sick of it.
    Not just once or twice, heaps of times. I like to see the shooter releasing the trigger with no movement of the rifle after release. Ask yourself after each release was the sight correctly aligned with the target when the trigger broke. Was there any movement.
    My preference at this stage if possible is have your mate put a cartridge into the breach so that you don’t have to change position.
    While doing your test shooting be aware the everyone is not an Olympic class shooter so be forgiving of yourself if all your shots are not perfect.
    You may be surprised at the improvement in the rifles performance.

  • 08/02/2019 11:15 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    By Bill McLeod.

    The new rifle you’ve been so keen to have a go with won’t shoot for nuts.
    All over the place. Or a couple of good ones and one way out. Seriously not good enough. Must be the ammo. Must be the scope. Must be the mounts. Must be the bedding. Must be the recoil pad. Must have heated up the barrel and started to spray them all over the show.  Should have got one of the ones my mate told me to get. I’m going to go back and stick it up someone’s behind.
    Go home.
    Clean the rifle.
    Put it away.
    Have a beer.
    Some days later
    Take the bolts which attach the stock to the rifle off.
    Wipe the areas where the stock contacts the action and barrel with a dry patch. Oil can migrate into the bedding surfaces and create problems.
    Reattach the stock to the rifle using firm pressure. The old rule of front screw tight, rear screw tight less an eighth seems less significant now, I use both tight now.
    Clean the rifle using a good solvent. Fouling may be an issue, my normal practice is to eliminate that as an issue by using a bore abrading paste to clean the barrel properly.
    Check all screws on the rifle for firm tension. One set of screws frequently overlooked are the small screws holding the scope bases on. 
    If possible obtain the use of a bore sighter. Use the appropriate spud for the bore size.
    While looking through the scope rotate the power shift ring and, if it has one, the parallax adjustment. You are looking for crosshairs wandering around the grid.
    Still looking through the scope wind the elevation dial and then the windage dial normally returning the crosshairs to about centre. You are checking to see that the crosshairs track across the grid following the adjustments you have made.
    These are the basic steps to prepare for your next shooting session.

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