Well, it's time for the moment of truth. I shot an IDPA match this morning, and did reasonably well. I shot some follow-up drills and did better. Then I scampered off to the rifle side of the facility to test out my first-ever batch of rifle handloads.
I set up a makeshift rest with the range's carpet-covered wooden blocks and my folded soft case, loaded up the first three rounds (56.5gr of Big Game) and got to work, checking each individual case for pressure signs. Then three rounds with 57.5, three more with 58.5 and so on until I got to 61.5gr. By that time, I had started to develop a bit of a flinch from shooting off the bench, and I decided it would be impractical to continue shooting groups. I fired one round with 62.0gr from the shooting sticks (mostly to verify there were no pressure signs, and there weren't), and banged steel @ 200 yards. I fired five more factory Prvi rounds, but the flinch was starting to show. I buckled down and fired one last round and banged steel. I like to finish on a high note.
Then it was off to the butts to see how I did. And boy, was I surprised. I had a few stringers that I will readily ascribe to the emergent flinch (especially on the last two sets of three), but the 59.5gr load (rounds 10, 11 and 12) shot sub-MOA @ 100 yards!
Now I need to get a chronograph and see how much velocity that load's pushing, and load up some more from about 59gr to 62.5gr and see if that's the sweetest spot or if there are greener pastures.
Now, on to the shooting sticks. Work bit into my free time, so I only had time to craft one set of sticks. I used the green Home Depot garden stakes with a section of bicycle inner tube to make a very simple apparatus. And yet, with a proper hold, I was able to shoot reasonably well @ 200 yards with it. I found that by laying my hand in the crotch of the sticks, and using that to brace the gun and prevent it from bouncing, I could shoot pretty well. I really like these sticks. They're extremely lightweight, stiff, tough, and practical. Best of all, they cost me all of $7 and change. I'm thinking of getting a third stake to try the tripod route, but right now I'm finding it hard to argue with the simple effectiveness of the current setup. Still, experimentation is what this is all about, so I'll give it and the wooden swivel bipod sticks a run for the money.