If you have ever thought of getting involved in precision shooting, or are already immersed in the Precision Riﬂe Series competition, Bartlein Barrels is an industry name to know. Frank Green, Tracy Bartlein and Andy Kihn, who all previously worked for Kreiger Barrels, founded Bartlein Barrels and built it into what many are familiar with today – and for good reason.
Green sat down and gave us the ins and outs (pun intended) of their process and concepts of what makes them one of the best in the industry.
American Shooting Journal Who are the people behind Bartlein Barrels?
Frank Green We are experienced shooters, reloaders and hunters who have been working in the ﬁrearms industry collectively for over 30 years.
ASJ What is your title and tell us more about your background?
FG My title depends on which hat I’m wearing at the time. For the most part, I would say sales and technical service manager. I also do research and development for gun manufacturers, and riﬂe testing.
ASJ How did Bartlein get involved in the PRS?
FG Well, GA Precision-built riﬂes are used in the PRS more than any other builder, and GAP is one of our top customers. Also, other customers like Wade Stuteville at Stuteville Precision, who used to be one of the lead guys at Surgeon Riﬂes, Surgeon Riﬂes, Accuracy International, Dave Tooley, Marc Soulie at Spartan Riﬂes, Mark Gordon at Short Action Customs and several other makers use our barrels, and not just in PRS. You can ﬁnd our barrels in short- and long-range benchrest, F-Class and Palma matches, high-power riﬂe matches and many others. A lot of people say that we are the go-to barrel maker. Becoming involved in the PRS just happened naturally.
ASJ Why would someone choose your barrels over another maker in the industry?
FG The uniformity in our barrels and bore ﬁnishes are second to none. Our riﬂing machines are so accurate that we can carry the twist rate to the fourth decimal point (example: 11.3642). The process of single-point cut riﬂing is the most stress-free way to riﬂe a barrel. The twist is exact. Other forms of riﬂing can have variances due to the process they use. Also, the bore and groove dimensions are more uniform.
We pre-lap (a smoothing process) our barrels before riﬂing and ﬁnish-lap the barrel after riﬂing. There is no need to ﬁre-lap or conduct any other sort of bore polishing to the barrel. Contrary to what others say, a lapped barrel will not wear out earlier versus an unlapped one. In our experience, our barrels will typically last longer than a button barrel. Our desire is to make the best and be the best.
ASJ What types of barrels do you oﬀer?
FG We oﬀer chrome-moly steel (CM 4140) and stainless steel (SS 416R).
ASJ Which steel do you think is better?
FG Neither, from what we can see. If we had to pick one, we would lean towards the chrome-moly, possibly because it lasts longer, but how long a barrel lasts is subject to many variables: type of powder being used; how it is being shot and cleaned; types of bullets being shot, etc.
ASJ People often ask what “T-style” riﬂing is. Can you explain that?
FG We call it transitional riﬂing, but some refer to it as either gain twist, progressive twist or incremental twist. We can cut virtually any twist into a barrel, subject to tooling, of course, and we can start the twist at 1 in 14 and end up at 1 in 7, and have it uniformly increase from the breech to muzzle. We can also increase it very slowly, say, from 1 in 7.5 at the breech to a 1 in 7 at the muzzle.
“A cut barrel, even with a straight twist, is more uniform and consistent than a button barrel”
ASJ What are the beneﬁts of the transition-style riﬂing?
FG I’ll quote a great bygone-era barrel maker named Pope:
“The advantages of the gain twist are three: A) A lower twist rate at the breech gives less friction to the bullet, causing it to start easier and quicker, giving the powder less time to burn in front of the chamber, therefore less fouling than in a barrel with a uniform twist at the same muzzle pitch; B) The slight change in riﬂing angle, in connection with choke bore, eﬀectively shuts oﬀ any gas escaping and prevents gas cutting, which is another cause of imperfect delivery; C) It holds a muzzle-loaded bullet in position much better than a uniform twist.
I will add some more to this. First, I feel this applies more to a lead-bullet shooter than a jacketed-bullet shooter, but some of the why and why-nots do overlap. With a transition-style barrel the bullet cannot go to sleep. The riﬂing is always putting a fresh bite on the bullet as it goes down the bore of the barrel. This is why I always go back to a cut barrel being better than a button barrel.
A cut barrel, even with a straight twist, is more uniform and consistent than a button barrel. With button riﬂing, the button can hit a hard or soft spot in the steel, and it will slow the button down. The button could speed back up and complete its twist, but either way you end up with a non-uniform twist. This and a twist that keeps getting slower towards the muzzle are accuracy killers and consistently lead to problems such as ﬂiers. Even a slight gain in twist will help accuracy and not hurt a jacketed bullet. What has been conveyed to us – and this goes back to Pope’s ﬁrst point – is that shooters have noticed that they can run a slightly heavier powder charge versus a shooter with a straight twist barrel.
“More damage is done from cleaning than physically shooting the gun”
ASJ There are a lot of diﬀerent schools of thought on cleaners, and what types to use. What do you recommend?
FG We do not recommend things like Iosso bore paste. The paste cleaners get imbedded into the bore, so the next rounds ﬁred through the barrel will damage the bore. There is no way to be sure you have removed it completely from the barrel after cleaning, and some shooters have claimed that their barrel starts fouling right after use. We feel so strongly about this that we will not warranty any barrel cleaned with it. If you want to use a paste-type cleaner, we recommend Remington bore cleaner or JB.
ASJ What about cleaning brushes, do you recommend using them?
FG We only recommend using cleaning patches and solvent. If a shooter insists on using a brush, then we recommend one caliber smaller or an old worn-out one. Wrap a patch around the brush and push it breech to muzzle, unscrew the brush before pulling the cleaning rod back through the bore or over the crown. More damage is done from cleaning than physically shooting the gun.
ASJ Many shooters don’t even clean their riﬂes, and swear by this. What do you think?
FG I shoot them, I clean them, and the biggest reason is carbon fouling. The carbon fouling will keep building up and can cause pressure issues. Also, as the barrel wears over time, it won’t hold accuracy as long between strings of ﬁring. So you have to clean the barrel. I do not recommend not cleaning at all.
ASJ Frank, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Your knowledge and expertise are greatly appreciated.
FG My pleasure. Thank you. ASJ
The History Channel and the producers of “Top Shot” are looking for military, police, sheriff, SWAT and other agency marksmen and snipers with compelling stories of shots that they’ve taken while in service.
Maybe you’re a current or former military sniper or precision marksman who succeeded in an extraordinary long or short-range engagement. Maybe you’re a serviceman, federal agent or cop who landed an incredibly accurate shot that saved your life or the lives of others.
If you have a memorable tale of marksmanship that served your community or country, then the History Channel wants to know your story.
You will also have the opportunity to take part in a precision or sniper-related challenge to WIN A PRIZE!
CONTACT US TODAY!
Send an email to Casting@pilgrimstudios.com with:
* Your name
* Your city/state
* Your phone number
* A recent photo of yourself
* And a brief explanation of why you are right for this show
All former/current law-enforcement and military personnel are encouraged to apply. This is your opportunity to share your story with the rest of America!
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Exclusive interview by Frank Jardim
Caylen Wojcik was a U.S. Marine Corps scout sniper for eight years as a trainer and warrior. He served as the chief sniper in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, conducting 100 sniper missions until he was seriously wounded during Operation Phantom Fury. He returned to training duties during his recovery and now works in the private sector for Magpul Industries as its director of training of Precision Rifle Operations. He is a man who knows what it’s like to be behind a sniper rifle in battle. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Frank Jardim You’ve spent a good deal of your life preparing snipers for battle and being a sniper in battle. What do you think is important for people to know about snipers?
Caylen Wojcik It doesn’t take long for commanders to identify the extreme effectiveness and lethality of a well-trained and equipped sniper on the battlefield. I think with the duration of our current conflict that snipers will ultimately benefit, for many years to come, as their effectiveness on the battlefield is solidified, without question. It’s important to understand that not everyone can become a sniper. Snipers aren’t cut from a “sniper cloth,” nor do they magically acquire skills with an application of “sniper dust.” Being a sniper requires more than just marksmanship skills. Snipers are highly intelligent, extremely resourceful, incredibly disciplined and above all, undeniably passionate about the science and art of sniping. Those traits cannot be cultivated. The skills, however, can be cultivated and honed through effective training. It’s important to remember that snipers’ continue to be effective problem solvers on the battlefield.
FJ How do you explain the relative celebrity of present-day snipers compared to those from previous wars, when they remained virtually unknown outside of their units and the shooting community? (I don’t recall anybody making a movie about Carlos Hathcock.)
CW In terms of factual events, the only movie I’ve seen (or know of) about a sniper besides American Sniper is Enemy at the Gates, which was a rendition of the Soviet sniper Vasily Zeytsev, who was a Russian hero of WWII, and was incredibly lethal during the Battle of Stalingrad. Snipers pride themselves on being silent professionals, as their passion for the job is enough for personal satisfaction. Very few snipers, if any, will actively seek out recognition for their accomplishments, as it usually finds them.
FJ Were snipers used as effectively as they could have been in the units you fought with? Did commanders understand how to deploy expert riflemen?
CW Sniper employment is a steep learning curve for both the sniper and the commander, especially if it’s their first time around in combat. Commanders in the past had very little, if any, training in how to employ snipers on the battlefield. Young snipers, learning sniper employment on a fundamental level at the Scout/Sniper Basic Course, need to be excellent communicators of their capabilities and limitations with their supported unit commanders. In my experience, once we got the major bugs worked out and both the commander and sniper understood each other, things went smoothly and effectively. Having been at war for the past 13 years, there are many seasoned commanders and snipers who are passing on those lessons learned to make both sides run more smoothly.
FJ Have the current infantry rifles and training helped or hurt basic combat marksmanship among typical soldiers?
CW I’m not currently on active duty, nor have I been since the Marine Corps adopted the ACOG as their primary sighting device on the service rifle. Several of my peers are now Marine gunners who are directly responsible for the development of that system and they speak highly of the increased average qualification scores. The addition of requiring Marines to qualify on combat marksmanship is also a huge step forward from my time when only known distance rifle qualification was scored. More emphasis on close-quarters marksmanship and weapons manipulation was definitely required to adapt to our modern battlefield. ASJ
Story by Frank Jardim
In 1944, the War Department Basic Field Manual FM 21-75, Infantry Scouting, Patrolling and Sniping defined the sniper as “… an expert rifleman, well qualified in scouting, whose duty is to pick off key enemy personnel who expose themselves. By eliminating enemy leaders and harassing the troops, sniping softens the enemy’s resistance and weakens his morale.” That definition remains consistent through the broader history of sniping, before and since, whether the weapon was a crossbow or a high-powered, telescopically sighted rifle.
The sniper is an incredibly efficient fighter, compared to the typical infantryman. Consider that in World War II, American infantry units fired 25,000 rounds to kill just one enemy soldier. By the Korean War, that figure jumped to 50,000 rounds, and the select-fire M14 and M16 infantry rifles of the Vietnam War only seem to have produced more misses, requiring the expenditure of 200,000 rounds to kill one enemy combatant. Nowadays, it’s a quarter million rounds of spraying and praying to kill a single Taliban.
By comparison, on average, a sniper requires only 1.3 bullets to kill an enemy. During the Vietnam War, it was noted on many occasions that a handful of snipers accounted for more enemy killed than the entire infantry battalion (and sometimes even regiment) they were assigned to.
It was the wildly disproportionate contribution of snipers in the Vietnam War that set the stage for the first permanent peacetime sniper training programs. The U.S. Marine Corps set theirs up first at Quantico, Va., in 1977, and the U.S. Army followed suit at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1985. Snipers were finally on the TO&E (Tables of Organization & Equipment) of combat units, which meant they would always be ready for deployment. The rigorous training programs ensured the accumulated knowledge, gained from combat experience, would be preserved and ready when it was needed.
Another critically important achievement of the USMC Scout Sniper and U.S. Army Sniper Schools was the creation of the U.S. military’s first purpose-built sniper rifles. Again, the USMC led the way with the M40A1 and the U.S. Army followed with the M24 Sniper Weapons System. Both were based on the Remington 700-bolt action rifle, chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. Prior to that, snipers used standard service rifles, specially selected for their accuracy and equipped with telescopic sights or commercial, off-the-shelf sporting rifles, as was the case in the black powder era and the Vietnam War. The upside of using the standard service rifle as the basis for a sniper conversion was complete parts and ordnance maintenance support from the normal supply channels. The downside was that the most accurate service rifles were not nearly as good as the best commercially available hunting rifles. The accuracy of the service rifle was always hampered by hand guards, stacking swivels and bayonet lugs hanging off the barrel – items totally useless to a sniper.
It is ironic that a country built on a tradition of rifle marksmanship took nearly 200 years to formally embrace the sniper, the man that represents the military apex of that long tradition. In each major war, through Vietnam, our armed forces began with no snipers and had to create training programs, usually in the theater of operations, to train them on the spot. Training varied from none to good, but the typical formula that has made many a successful American sniper is a rural background with early and continuous exposure to hunting or competitive, rifle shooting.
Time after time, at the conclusion of the war, the sniper schools were closed and the snipers faded away. The knowledge they gained in the deadly art of hunting men faded away with them and had to be re-taught in the next war. This happened because America’s senior military leaders saw the sniper as a specialist, of small importance compared to the conventional infantry, artillery, cavalry (and later armored) forces who massively outnumbered him. From the general’s point of view, snipers didn’t win wars; huge armies did.
During the American Revolution, volunteers from the frontier colonies took their long rifles to war. No British soldier within 400 yards was safe, and 200-yard, one-shot-kills were common. Riflemen terrorized the British, on the march and in garrison, picking off officers and noncommissioned officers from hidden positions. Without any formal guidance, they were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today, but the British had far greater respect for them than General George Washington. Slow to load and lacking the capacity for a bayonet, the rifles and the unruly men who wielded them were ill-suited to the linear tactics of the day. General Washington thought the riflemen were more trouble than they were worth and didn’t want them in the Continental Army.
In the American Civil War, snipers were called sharpshooters and recruited for their marksmanship skill. The percussion-lock rifled musket and minie ball of the period greatly increased accuracy, without sacrificing speed of loading, and made the battlefield a much deadlier place. Some sharpshooters made use of early telescopic sights and many used their personal weapons in battle. The breech-loading Sharps rifle was popular among Union sharpshooters because it could be loaded lying down, behind cover. The standard muzzleloading, rifled musket required the soldier to stand up to load it, thus exposing himself to enemy fire. Confederates favored the British Whitworth rifle, when they could get it. With its unique hexagonal-shaped, fast-twisting bore, instead of conventional cut rifling, it fired a six-sided bullet accurately just over a mile. It was the first military rifle built for long range accuracy. A Confederate sharpshooter, armed with a Whitworth rifle, killed Union General John Sedgwick at the Battle of Spotsylvania from a range of 800 yards.
During WW I, the skill sets and standard operating procedures of our present-day snipers were developed and codified in no-man’s land and the trenches. By that time, the bolt-action rifle reached the pinnacle of its development as an infantry weapon. It had a five- to 10-round magazine and fired a much smaller caliber, high-velocity and aerodynamic bullet, propelled by smokeless powder, up to 3 miles.
Once he had a suitable modern weapon, the scout sniper emerged in a form identical to the present day. Now actually called a sniper, he can engage targets at 1,000 yards with more precision than luck. Whether shooting from behind or in front of friendly lines, he selects his hiding place carefully and uses camouflage to conceal himself and his spotter. He may wait for hours or days to get a shot at his target. When and if he does fire, it is rarely more than a few shots before he must move to avoid detection. (Smokeless powder makes it much more difficult for the enemy to locate his position.)
Sniper rifles are now commonly equipped with telescopic sights. Germany, thanks to their world-renowned optics industry, initially dominated the battlefield by putting 20,000 scoped rifles (some of them civilian hunting rifles) in the hands of its best marksmen. The Allied nations had to play catch up. The United States Army fielded the ungainly 6x magnification prismatic Warner & Swasey scope, mounted on the .30-06 M1903 Springfield Rifle. It looked strange and it was clumsy, but it worked. It had over twice the magnification of most scopes of the day.
By World War II, telescopic sights improved and rugged, domestically made ones with fair weather resistance, like the 2.5x-power Lyman Alaskan (military M81/M82), were mounted on the standard .30-06 M1 semiautomatic rifle. The old M1903 Springfield, with an improved 10x-power Unertl scope, served the USMC, and the simplified M1903A4, with a 2x-power M73B1 scope was a substitute standard for both services.
In World War II, the United States was almost continuously on the offensive. Both the Japanese and Germans often used snipers, suicidally, to cover their withdrawals and stall the allied advance. The greatest threat to a sniper is another sniper, so U.S. Army infantry platoons commonly designated a scout sniper in the headquarters section to be employed at the commander’s discretion.
Contrary to our image of the American sniper as a lone wolf on the battlefield, they also fought as platoons. When the Marines invaded Betio in the Tarawa Atoll on Nov. 20, 1943, Lt. William D. Hawkins led his platoon of scout snipers on a mission, far in advance of the main forces. They hunted down, and eliminated, enemy machine gunners and snipers to protect the advance of their fellow Marines at the long pier. They fought with grenades and flamethrowers, as well as precision rifle fire. Lt. Hawkins died in the battle, but his ferocity in combat earned him the Medal of Honor.
The snipers role in the Korean War bore similarities to World War I: static lines, an attrition strategy and costly frontal attacks. Once again, the precision contributions of the hastily trained snipers (now equipped with M1D sniper rifles and 2.2x-power M84 scopes) was overshadowed by the mass slaughter wrought by concentrated small arms and artillery fire. Korea was a big war fought in a small place. If machine guns had trouble stopping human-wave attacks used by the Communist Chinese, what could snipers possibly do?
By contrast, snipers made undeniably significant contributions in the Vietnam War and all the wars that followed it. The nature and scale of combat changed in a manner that favored the sniper. Vietnam was a big war, but only in the aggregate. It was fought in small engagements over a large area and a long period of time. In this environment, the sniper was on more equal terms with the enemy. Combat actions in Grenada, Beirut, Iraq and Afghanistan were likewise small in scale, compared to the World Wars and Korea.
The superior equipment, training and communication of today’s snipers makes them the deadliest warriors on the battlefield. In Vietnam in 1967, USMC scout sniper legend Carlos Hathcock mounted a scope on an M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun and used it to make the longest recorded sniper kill in history. His 2,286-meter record stood until 2002, when a Canadian sniper broke it by 24 meters in Afghanistan using a MacMillan Tac-50 bolt-action rifle in the same caliber. Hathcock’s improvised, ultralong-range, sniping demonstration was a harbinger of things to come. In 1990 the U.S. Army purchased the .50-caliber BMG M82 Barrett, semiautomatic sniper rifle for use in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Iraq. Later it would be standardized as the M107. This rifle was used by Army Ranger Sgt. Bryan Kremer in Iraq, in March 2004, to make the 2,300-meter kill that now stands as the farthest for an American sniper. His was the fourth-longest kill shot in recorded history.
For the record, the credit for the farthest kill goes to British sniper Craig Harrison, who made an incredible 2,475-meter shot with an Accuracy International L115A3 rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum. The .338 Lapua round was designed to outrange the powerful .300 Winchester and extend the sniper’s lethality to 1,600 meters. Chief petty officer Chris Kyle used a McMillan Tac-338 bolt-action rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum to make his farthest kill, at 1,920 meters, against an enemy combatant about to fire an RPG at a passing American convoy.
In World Wars I and II, American snipers were expected to make 600-yard hits. This was reasonable, in light of the limitations of their service-rifle-based sniper rifles, and the ordinary ball ammunition they had to use. Today’s sniper is expected to hit the target at twice that range. The sniper’s skills remain the same, but his tools have greatly improved. Laser range finders, bipods, high-magnification scopes, night-vision scopes, match-grade ammunition, rugged specialty rifles built to take the abuse of combat and deliver competition accuracy, and excellent, often continuous communication, all contribute to getting the bullet where the sniper needs it to go, with greater accuracy than ever before possible.
The film American Sniper has grossed over $250,000,000 as of this writing, making it the most popular war film in American history. Its themes resonate with the public right now and are sure to generate an increased interest in long-range rifle marksmanship that will serve the cause of freedom well in wars to come. The film tells a slightly fictionalized account of the life of the aforementioned SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who learned to shoot as a boy in rural Texas, perhaps not unlike our sharpshooters of yore, and became one of the most successful snipers in U.S. military history, saving countless American lives on the battlefield with his shooting ability. ASJ
Posted in History Tagged with: Carlos Hathcock, Chris Kyle, Craig Harrison, Frank Jardim, History, Lt. William D. Hawkins, SEAL, Sgt. Bryan Kremer, Sniper, The longest shot, Trey Dominick, USMC Scout Sniper