Andy McLachlan is looking for a bit of light relief, so starts making a few modifications to his beloved Walther LG400 target rifle
Regular readers may remember my recent comments regarding the use of my cherished Walther LG400 as I changed its main use from that of a benchrest rifle to a gun set up specifically for Hunter Field Target. Basically, the requirements of both types of shooting require completely different set-ups to both the gun and the scope.
Gone was the fixed 45x magnification offered by the old Leupold: this was to be replaced by my favourite HFT scope, the Leupold 2-8×36 with the superb TMR (Tactical Milling Reticle).
When first attempting a course of fire, a practice day at the beautiful Fort outdoor range in North Wales, I surprised both myself and those I shot with by scoring a very (for me) respectable score of 55.
At the time, the gun was set up using a forened support (hamster) that weighs a few pounds, as it helps to keep the gun still when in the aiming position. The problem of course is that it was me and my ageing body that had to carry the thing attached to a higher-than-average-weight HFT rifle around the course.
To those fit young leopards out there who think nothing of getting up and down 30 times and wielding a heavy target rifle into position all day long, believe me when I say that you too will experience the joys of the ageing process eventually. Saying this to my shooting partner and son James usually results in me getting a look of disbelief and comments along the lines of: “You are just overweight and unfit.” Swine.
So, again suitably chastised for my lack of monkey-like abilities to leap about and position myself without effort, particularly during the getting up bit, I decided to consider additional ways that I might reduce the overall carrying weight for my combination when in the competition field.
Firstly, the much smaller scope certainly helped lose a fair bit of weight. I then rooted through that box of bits that we all have containing all sorts of shooting-related items from our recent and sometimes distant past. What I was looking for was the rather nice CNC-cut aluminium lightweight forend hamster produced by G-Tech for my old Anschutz 9015 HFT rifle.
This slotted perfectly into the fitted under-rail of the Walther and now provides much in the way of reduced weight while still allowing a lot of support for the forend when in the aim, either low at the peg in the prone position, or for unsupported or supported positional shots.
The gun was now feeling noticeably lighter when in the aiming position, but could still not really be classed as being any more manageable. My attention was then drawn to the Walther air cylinder.
This is the standard cylinder provided with the gun when purchased, with the outdoor 16 joules UK legal-limit format, and is a gloss black tube that does not contain a quick-fill adapter.
Incidentally, a number of shooters, both indoor and out have asked me if I intend to get the cylinder modified for fitment of a quick-fill, but to be honest, winding out the cylinder for a fill takes no time at all and is far less of a faff when approaching the air tank and going through the process of making sure that the gun doesn’t fall over and is properly supported as you slowly bleed in the air fill.
Walther have fitted a nice coarse thread to the cylinder, which is something that other manufacturers of target rifles should think about.
I have spent many happy hours with tight PCP air cylinder threads in the past. The Walther item spins in and out with ease, only tightening up when it bleeds air into the action assembly itself.
Although the standard Walther steel air cylinder performs perfectly well, the fact that it is made from steel rather than the considerably lighter aluminium alternative had me checking out various suppliers of Walther rifles to see if I could track down a suitable cylinder within the UK.
Our movement as a nation to be outside of the European Union has certainly done nothing for our ability as shooters to enjoy what was an excellent service from various foreign suppliers of guns and parts. Items that would have taken just a few days to arrive from some European traders have, I am told, been stuck in vast hold-ups at EU exit points as UK suppliers try to maintain their own stock items. I would of course much prefer to purchase things here in good old Blighty, so I was chuffed to bits when I noticed that Optics Warehouse had a Walther aluminium cylinder in stock.
Upon ordering, the Optics Warehouse staff once again made short work of sending out the product, with my new air cylinder arriving the next day. They really are particularly good at looking after their customers, so well done to Shaun and the team once again!
The new cylinder certainly reduces the overall weight and balance of the LG400. It is actually just over 10oz lighter than the steel cylinder. Losing a few centimetres of length has obviously reduced the overall shot count slightly, but following a zeroing session and a course of HFT the cylinder still reads 180 bar following a 210 bar fill, so plenty in the tank as the saying goes.
The balance of the gun with the reduced weight at the front altered the point of balance of the combination. I allowed for this by moving the hamster forward on the rail, which compensated for the new weight distribution and has resulted in a rig that balances for me perfectly when in the aim.
It was while I was looking closely at the new setup that my attention was drawn to the plastic barrel band that is attached to the stock and surrounds the air cylinder. On my own gun’s version of this arrangement, and unlike that of the aluminium chassis body of the 10 metre version, it is possible to remove the upper part of the assembly and free-float the barrel, ensuring that no other part of the gun touches the barrel during the firing cycle.
If we consider how changes in air temperature affect the expansion of certain metals, it is not surprising that a great many target shooters much prefer to have a free-floating barrel assembly. It is one thing less that can affect the fall of shot variances encountered occasionally by barrels touching other parts of the action. Look at a Theoben Rapid. All models had a fully floating barrel, and we all know how accurate and successful that rifle has been over the years!
Once this small plastic appendage was removed and the new aluminium air cylinder was fitted, all that remained was to check that my fiddling had not affected the zero and all was ready for a proper field test in competition. I was impressed with the results, but I will tell you more about that next time.