LONG-RANGE KILLING MA­CHINE

THE DE­FEN­SIVE EDGE 338 TER­MI­NA­TOR UPS THE ANTE FOR BIG-BORE BAL­LIS­TICS

Recoil - - Front Page - BY RYAN CLECK­NER PHO­TOS BY LUKAS LAMB

A ri­fle case and a large card­board box ar­rived for me in the mail. I opened the card­board box and found two mon­strous am­mu­ni­tion con­tain­ers with 50 rounds each of what looked like 338 La­pua ammo on steroids — slightly larger case ca­pac­ity with a long, 300-grain Berger bul­let stick­ing out.

I then opened the ri­fle case and found a bullpup sin­gle-shot bolt-ac­tion ri­fle with a very beefy 32-inch bar­rel in a pis­tol-grip chas­sis. Be­fore I even picked up the ri­fle, my phone was al­ready in my hand, and I was wait­ing for our fear­less ed­i­tor to an­swer.

Cleck­ner: What in the world did you send me to test?

Har­ri­son: (laugh­ter with a Bri­tish ac­cent, of course)

Cleck­ner: Have you seen this thing?

Har­ri­son: I saw pic­tures. Fig­ured it’d be right up your al­ley.

Cleck­ner: You ex­pect me to put my cheek on top of the cham­ber while I torch-off a 300-grain bul­let out of ammo hand-loaded by some­one else in a wild­cat car­tridge that is push­ing a mod­i­fied 338 La­pua Mag­num to the ex­treme?

Har­ri­son: Well, you didn’t ex­pect me to do it, did you?

Cleck­ner: I’m head­ing to the range. If you don’t hear from me in a few hours, you know what hap­pened.

Har­ri­son: Make sure some­one else is tak­ing the pho­tos. All likely out­comes will be in­ter­est­ing.

I hung up, loaded up the ri­fle and am­mu­ni­tion, and headed to the range.

FIRST SHOTS

At the range, I set up the ri­fle and my chrono­graph and pre­pared to con­firm the ri­fle’s zero at 100 yards.

I noted am­mu­ni­tion head­stamp, “338 Ter­mi­na­tor,” and the ri­fle’s mark­ing, “De­fen­sive Edge LRKM” (which I later found stands for “Long Range Killing Ma­chine”).

A quick Google search on my phone showed me that I should ex­pect the ve­loc­ity of the 300-grain bul­let to be just over 3,000 feet per sec­ond! For those of you who don’t geek-out on bal­lis­tics, this is very fast for such a heavy bul­let. Great. A 338 La­pua Mag will launch the same bul­let at around 2,800 fps, and that ex­tra 300 fps is a big dif­fer­ence and should re­sult in some very high pres­sures.

Know­ing that I’d be tempted to flinch when shoot­ing this ri­fle, I dry-fired a few times to get used to the trig­ger and con­firm my po­si­tion. And here’s where I found my first pleas­ant sur­prise. The trig­ger was phe­nom­e­nal! As you may know, bullpup-style ri­fles are gen­er­ally known for hav­ing poor trig­gers (the link­age re­quired usu­ally re­sults in poor trig­ger feel, slop in the sys­tem, and higher pull-weights). How­ever, it’s worth not­ing again: the De­fen­sive Edge LRKM has an amaz­ing trig­ger — and it hap­pens to be a bullpup­style ri­fle. They’ve clearly fig­ured out the bullpup link­age prob­lem, and oth­ers should take note.

I loaded up and fired my first shot out of the LRKM. It was ex­actly where I was aim­ing and my chrono­graph read 3,071 fps. The next two shots reg­is­tered at 3,074 fps and 3,072 fps and were within a 1⁄2 MOA group. I in­spected the brass and noted no pres­sure signs. This was un­ex­pected. A 338 La­pua Mag would’ve likely blown a primer, long be­fore that speed was reached. More on this later.

I moved out to 600 yards and then quickly worked my way out to 1,000, where I placed three rounds in a 6-inch group on a steel gong. Shoot­ing 0.6 MOA at 1,000 yards is doable for me, but I surely don’t do it ev­ery time. The other long-range shoot­ers at the range and I were pleas­antly sur­prised with the ri­fle’s ac­cu­racy. As a note, I of­fered to let them shoot the ri­fle, but they were hap­pier watch­ing me from a safe dis­tance. Cow­ards.

OK, now I’m im­pressed. Per­haps I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge the sys­tem. The am­mu­ni­tion was ex­tremely con­sis­tent, and the ri­fle seemed to be very ac­cu­rate, es­pe­cially for that large of a round. The ri­fle shipped with two test tar­gets show­ing 1⁄ 3 MOA groups, and while I shot mul­ti­ple 1⁄2 MOA groups, I never quite got them as small as the test tar­gets. That’s likely shooter er­ror.

The am­mu­ni­tion load­ing was some of the best I’ve seen. The brass is gor­geous and the ex­treme spread (ES) of the ve­loc­ity was 6 fps for the first 10 rounds — im­pres­sive in­deed. The 11th round dropped to 3,045 fps, open­ing the ES up to 30 fps, but all but one other round out of 50 stayed within a 10 fps spread.

When you’re look­ing for good lon­grange per­for­mance, con­sis­tent ve­loc­i­ties are nec­es­sary. As an ex­am­ple, a loss of 10 fps for this round is al­most a foot more drop at 2,000 yards. And yes, this round is ca­pa­ble at 2,000 yards. A 40-fps de­crease is al­most a 4-foot dif­fer­ence at 2,000 yards — enough to miss a tar­get com­pletely.

THE RI­FLE

Be­ly­ing its shorter over­all length due to the bullpup de­sign, is the ri­fle’s weight at just un­der 16 pounds with the Night­force ATAC-R that ar­rived with it, (13.5 pounds for the ri­fle alone).

It was, how­ever, eas­ier to hold off-hand than a sim­i­lar-weighted ri­fle and it was very sta­ble on a bag due to much of its weight be­ing dis­trib­uted to­ward the rear. I’m not a fan of a pis­tol-grip chas­sis on bolt-ac­tion ri­fles. My bias stems from op­er­at­ing the ri­fle and sta­bil­ity/height is­sues due to the stock be­ing high enough to make room for the pis­tol grip.

A stan­dard ri­fle stock al­lows me to run the bolt eas­ier and faster. When pos­si­ble, I shoot ri­fles with my fir­ing­side thumb on the same side as, and near, my trig­ger fin­ger. This not only al­lows for eas­ier ma­nip­u­la­tion of the safety, it also pre­vents over grip­ping or torquing the ri­fle, while plac­ing my thumb near the bolt knob for fast reloads. I know I’m in the mi­nor­ity here — there’s noth­ing “wrong” with pis­tol grip chas­sis, I sim­ply pre­fer stan­dard-style ri­fle stocks.

The ri­fle func­tioned well. As men­tioned be­fore, the trig­ger was great. It was a crisp and light sin­gle-stage trig­ger. The bolt was smooth (it would get smoother as the cer­akote bur­nished in) and it ex­tracted and ejected as it should. Above all, the ri­fle was dead nuts ac­cu­rate.

I re­turned to the range for a sec­ond trip and ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar re­sults — I was able to get ½ MOA groups out to 1,250 yards. I did strug­gle a bit with an­tic­i­pat­ing the re­coil on my 100-yard groups. My worst at that dis­tance was just over 1 MOA, and I at­tribute much of that to a poor fit for me and the ri­fle. I’m a big­ger guy and my large head usu­ally re­quires a scope mounted fur­ther for­ward and a longer length of pull.

I wasn’t a fan of the bullpup de­sign. Don’t get me wrong … the ac­tual de­sign of the LRKM was great for a bullpup ri­fle. I just didn’t like bullpup bolt ac­tion ri­fles in gen­eral. Yes, the de­sign did save over a foot off the over­all length but it in­tro­duced too many is­sues for me.

First, the ri­fle was dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate. I am a big be­liever in quickly run­ning the bolt and get­ting the ri­fle back into the fight for a quick fol­lowup shot if needed. This is a prob­lem with the LRKM.

Due to the link­age re­quired for the bullpup de­sign, the LRKM is a sin­gleshot ri­fle. A new round must be man­u­ally loaded into the ri­fle be­fore clos­ing the bolt. De­fen­sive Edge, the ri­fle’s man­u­fac­turer and de­signer, did in­clude a ky­dex holder for two rounds for­ward of the ejec­tion port so that a cou­ple of spares were read­ily avail­able.

Sec­ond, I needed to change my po­si­tion be­tween each shot. Yep, that’s right — I couldn’t op­er­ate the bolt while stay­ing in po­si­tion on the ri­fle. In ad­di­tion to be­ing very awk­ward to grab the bolt so close to my body, once the bolt was about 1⁄3 of the way back, it ran into my shoul­der and stopped. I needed to com­pletely re­move my shoul­der from the ri­fle in or­der to op­er­ate it. This is less than ideal.

Con­sis­tency is the key to ac­cu­racy. Mod­i­fy­ing your po­si­tion be­tween ev­ery shot, and then hav­ing to re-set­tle on the ri­fle and re-find the tar­get, is what most in­struc­tors (me in­cluded) would strongly ad­vise against.

THE CAR­TRIDGE

The 338 Ter­mi­na­tor is a mon­ster. It’s ef­fec­tively a 338 La­pua Mag Im­proved +P. The brass is cus­tom made for De­fen­sive Edge, and it car­ries the “338 ter­mi­na­tor” head­stamp. The brass starts out as ex­tremely high­qual­ity 338 La­pua brass, and then it’s fire-formed by De­fen­sive Edge to push the shoul­ders for­ward a bit for its “im­proved” de­sign. They sell the brass for $400 for 100 pieces.

This “im­proved” de­sign with the shoul­ders pushed for­ward, and at a steeper an­gle, al­lows for more case ca­pac­ity, which in turn al­lows for more pow­der. After see­ing the high ve­loc­ity and learn­ing that the brass started as 338 La­pua Mag brass, I couldn’t fig­ure out how it was able to han­dle the per­for­mance with­out show­ing signs of pres­sure.

A con­ver­sa­tion with the ri­fle’s de­signer cleared it up and this is, in my opin­ion, the most novel part of the en­tire sys­tem … It has a unique cham­ber that al­lows for a more pow­er­ful round while min­i­miz­ing the cham­ber pres­sure. More on this after some bal­lis­tics of the round.

The 338 Ter­mi­na­tor has some im­pres­sive stats. The 338 La­pua Mag has been king for a while in the big­boy long-range car­tridges. Then 300 Norma Mag came along and our mil­i­tary re­ally started to like it be­cause it out­per­forms the 338 La­pua Mag with less re­coil. The 338 Ter­mi­na­tor hand­ily out­per­forms both (on paper).

I shot 1,000 yards with 5.9 Mils of el­e­va­tion above my 100-yard zero and 1,250 yards with 8 Mils of el­e­va­tion. That’s a heavy bul­let, trav­el­ling very flat, and pack­ing a wal­lop on the tar­get.

How did they get a 300-grain bul­let trav­el­ing over 3,000 fps with­out se­ri­ous over-pres­sure is­sues? The spe­cial cham­ber.

THE CHAM­BER

De­fen­sive Edge has a patented cham­ber de­sign wherein they use a spe­cial throat to han­dle the power of these mon­ster rounds with­out dan­ger­ous pres­sures.

In­stead of sim­ply hav­ing an elon­gated throat and thereby hav­ing too much free-bore with a con­se­quent ad­verse ef­fect on ac­cu­racy (I’m look­ing at you, Weatherby), they have the ri­fling start at the throat, but they don’t have the bore down to its fi­nal di­am­e­ter yet.

There’s a step wherein the bul­let en­gages the ri­fling as it should, how­ever, it isn’t un­der full pres­sure yet be­cause it isn’t necked down to its fi­nal bore size un­til it can travel a bit. I de­scribed this as a grad­u­ated throat (to the dis­may of the de­signer).

This re­ally is novel — it al­lows the bul­let to be con­trolled and start spin­ning with­out the abrupt start nor­mally in­curred with a stan­dard cham­ber. My money is on this help­ing to in­crease bar­rel life too. After all, the throat is usu­ally what goes first on a bar­rel be­cause of in­tense heat and pres­sure gen­er­ated by pow­der par­ti­cles and fric­tion from the bul­let.

This unique throat de­sign low­ers pres­sure so much that a stan­dard car­tridge/load will not meet its nor­mal per­for­mance ex­pec­ta­tions in this cham­ber. The re­duced pres­sure pre­vents a car­tridge from reach­ing the ve­loc­ity it would nor­mally, so this throat/cham­ber de­sign is best suited for mon­sters like the 338

Ter­mi­na­tor.

SO WHAT’S THE VER­DICT?

Both the car­tridge and the ri­fle have some mer­its and im­pres­sive per­for­mance. How­ever, I per­son­ally rec­om­mend nei­ther for most shoot­ers.

The LRKM ri­fle is ex­tremely ac­cu­rate but the bullpup de­sign, although ex­e­cuted as well as it could be, is clumsy on a bolt-ac­tion ri­fle. And the car­tridge, although very ac­cu­rate with im­pres­sive bal­lis­tics, is too mono­ma­ni­a­cal for the ma­jor­ity of ap­pli­ca­tions.

This ri­fle and car­tridge are built for one pur­pose: launch­ing a mon­ster pro­jec­tile a long way from a static po­si­tion. The bullpup de­sign isn’t prac­ti­cal for any use that I have for a ri­fle, but is re­quired in or­der to keep the OAL some­what man­age­able be­cause of the hu­mon­gous 32-inch bar­rel needed for the car­tridge to per­form.

This sys­tem is only use­ful if you have the money for it ($4 per piece of brass is pricey), you hand-load am­mu­ni­tion (and are will­ing and ca­pa­ble of mak­ing ex­tremely ac­cu­rate rounds), and mostly want to shoot one round at a time from one lo­ca­tion (the weight, func­tion, and re­coil of this ri­fle don’t match with “on the move” shoot­ing).

But, if you’re that guy who re­ally wants to shoot a 300-grain bul­let that stays su­per­sonic out to 2,000 yards and doesn’t mind re­con­fig­ur­ing be­tween each shot be­cause you want a long bar­rel, but short over­all length, then the LRKM and the 338 Ter­mi­na­tor are for you.

This ri­fle and car­tridge are surely nov­el­ties. I had a won­der­ful time test­ing them and learn­ing about them. How­ever, for the vast ma­jor­ity of shoot­ers look­ing for an ex­treme long range ri­fle and car­tridge, I’d rec­om­mend some­thing like a Bar­rett MRAD in 338 La­pua Mag or even the new 300 PRC.

As a note, the ri­fle is billed as a so­lu­tion for long-range hunt­ing. Here’s my opin­ion on the mat­ter — not that you asked. If your big­gest risk of fail­ure is spook­ing an an­i­mal, then you’re hunt­ing. How­ever, if your big­gest risk of fail­ure is miss­ing the tar­get, then you’re tar­get shoot­ing. You may not agree, but you don’t have to — as for me, I’ll ex­tend the stalk and not the shot.

That beau­ti­fully ma­chined trig­ger bar is re­spon­si­ble for the LRKM’s ver y un­bullpup-like trig­ger pull. It also means there’s no way to feed it from a mag­a­zine.

That M700 bolt ex­it­ing the rear of the ac­tion means you have to take the ri­fle out of the shoul­der each time you stuff in a reload.

Take­down is pretty straight­for ward, as­sum­ing you can turn two screws.

Ter­mi­na­tor (lef t) and par­ent 338 LM(right). PO Ack­ley would’ve ap­proved.

Thou­sand-yard groups on the gong, and 1,250yard groups on the sil­houet te, like this are al­most wor th the price of ad­mis­sion. Al­most.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.