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FN TSR XP rifle in .300 WSM

FNH USA, LLC, a U.S. subsidiary of FN Herstal (FN), is a world leader in developing and manufacturing reliable, innovative, high-quality firearms for military, law enforcement and commercial customers. FN was established in 1889 to build 150,000 Mauser Model 89 rifles for the Belgian government.

Over the years, FN has also made motorcycles, cars and trucks, but today specializes in weapons only. FN produces, pistols, shotguns, ammunition, accessories, firing systems and rifles in bolt-action, semi-auto, full-auto and an assortment of pretty neat weapons that mount to vehicles and boats. I even found one that – with a little rigging – would fit on the front deck of my boat!

But this article is about the FN TSR XP in .300 WSM – a bolt-action, hunting, tactical or target rifle introduced in 2009 and designed on the Special Police Rifle (SPR) line with a reputation for rugged, pinpoint accuracy and dependability.

This rifle has a forged receiver with integral recoil lug and a free-floated, hammer-forged and target-crowned barrel. If surrounded with a FN/Hogue soft-rubber stock, it has a tacky feel and sort of grips your hands, even in the rain or cold. The receiver fits in a full-length aluminum bedded stock to help it achieve “one-hole” accuracy.

It also comes with a one-piece steel Mil-STD 1913 optics rail with additional elevation built in for those who like taking long-range shots. It is chambered in both .308 Winchester or .300 WSM, and I chose the .300 WSM.

This rifle weighs in at 10.1 pounds before you add ammo or a scope. When I first saw this, I was somewhat concerned it might seem a little heavy – until I considered that the difference in weight between it and most of my hunting rifles was just 1.5 lbs.

I weigh around 280 lbs. and carry a pack that weighs at least 15 lbs. I wear another 15 lbs. of clothes and boots, and I carry a handgun that weighs 4 lbs. That is a total of around 325 lbs. that my frame supports when I hunt, so I figured an extra 1.5 lbs. would only add another 0.4% to my total hunting weight. When you look at it like that, the extra 1.5 lbs. seems like nothing, and it sure helps reduce the felt recoil when you are shooting a magnum caliber like the .300 WSM.

After I unpacked the rifle, one of the first things I noticed was that the bottom of the forend is flat, providing a much more steady platform when shooting from a rest – which is what I mostly do when hunting and shooting at the range. When I am trying to hit the dot in the “i” this flat rest is one less thing I need to worry about. I’m telling you it DOES make a positive difference in accuracy.

My next job was to find glass for this rifle. I just happened to have a Leupold VX IIIL 4.5-14 sitting in a box waiting for some action, and it fit just right on the scope rail of this rifle.

Now I needed ammo, and .300 WSM is a caliber that people have started to hoard. So with only a few factory loads available, I ordered a pile of brass to hand load.

My hand loads were going to be H-4350 Extreme powder, CCI-250 primers, Norma brass and Hornady 165-grain Interbond #30459. I started by reaming a taper in the mouth of each case, allowing the bullet to start in easier and preventing the bullet from being scratched when you push it into the case.

Next, I pressed a primer into each brass before deciding on a powder amount and seating depth. I remembered reading somewhere that this caliber liked the bullet loaded on the faster (rather than slower) velocity, and I asked myself, “What is the purpose of a magnum cartridge if the velocity is as slow as a non-magnum of the same caliber?”

The handloading data I was using showed this caliber with this bullet has a maximum powder weight of 66.4 grains, so I started with 65 grains of H-4350 EXT for my first load and 66.0 grains of the same powder for the second load.

I then wanted to adjust the bullet seating depth by 100th of an inch for the five different loads I was going to put together. Most of the time I measure the length using the ogive (the part of the side of the bullet that first comes in contact with the barrel) instead of the tip of the bullet for the OAL (overall length of the loaded round).

The reason I use this measurement instead of OAL is because I am interested in what happens to the bullet after it touches the barrel. If you measure OAL only, and the tip of the bullet is even VERY slightly deformed (not even noticeable with the naked eye), pushed in, flattened, bent or whatever, your OAL will be different compared to bullets that are not deformed.

This small amount of deformed tip would not matter if dealing in feet, but I’m dealing with thousandths of an inch. When you can change accuracy by seating the bullet a few thousandths either way, I want to know where the bullet touches the barrel, because this is when the interaction between bullet, barrel and velocity begins.

To measure ogive, I use the Hornady Comparator kit, (http://www.hornady.com/store/Bullet-Comparator-Kits/) so that I know EACH bullet is touching the barrel at exactly the same place for that measurement of loaded bullet length.

I started with an ogive measurement of 2.225 inches and worked my way down to 2.195 inches. This gave me four different loads – each with both 65 and 66 grains of powder – for a total of eight different loads.

At the range, after shooting a few times at the 25-yard target to dial in the scope, I set up on the 100-yard area. I started with the factory offerings I had, which consisted of Federal 180-grain Trophy Bonded, Federal Fusion 150-grain, HSM 185-grain Berger HPBT hunting bullet and Remington Premier 180-grain Swift Scirocco.

The factory ammo produced as follows:

Conditions: No wind, 55 degrees, distance of 100 yards, and all shots were fired from a Caldwell Lead Sled.

Average was 5 groups of 4 shots each.

Federal Trophy Bonded 180 grain was 1.75 inches;

Federal Fusion 150 grain was 1.25 inches;

HSM 185-grain Berger HPBT was 0.35 inches.

Remington 180-grain Swift Scirocco: Only one of these cartridges fired. The first one I chambered hit dead on the crosshairs, but the others in this box would not go “BOOM” when I pulled the trigger! I have contacted Remington, but as of this writing, I have not heard back from them. I shot over 180 rounds in two days through this rifle, and these were the only ones that did not fire.

Now to my hand loads results:

Here are the formulas (or “recipes”):

Brass: Nosler, that I taper-reamed the inside throat of to make the bullet slip into it easier.

Bullet: Hornady 165-grain Interbond

Powder: H-4350 Ext, 65.00 and 66.00 grains

Primer: CCI 250

Bullet ogive seating depth: 2.225”, 2.215”, 2.205” and 2.195”

NO Crimp.

The handloads with 66 grains of powder shot groups from 3.75” to 1.75”.

Not at all impressive.

The hand-loads with 65 grains of powder shot groups from 2 inches to less than 0.5 inch. This was more like it! The 0.5-inch groups had two bullets in the same hole.

Check out the pictures of the targets on the previous page and you will see the groups tighten up as the ogive goes from 2.225” to 2.195”. This is one big reason why I hand-load.

My take on this rifle: I like it! It is hard not to like a rifle that will produce groups of less than 1/2 inch at 100 yards. I bet if I continue to adjust the bullet seating depth, I can get this rifle to shoot ONE HOLE groups!

I love the stock. It is soft rubber, easy to hold on to and comfortable in my hands. The trigger is user-adjustable down to around 2 lbs. The recoil pad is nice and squishy-soft to help absorb the “thump” you get from a Magnum cartridge.

The bolt locks up nice and tight and is smooth to operate. I do not like the safety. It is hard to move and feels like it sticks. (After I spent a few days at the range with this rifle, I took the safety mechanism apart and applied some real slippery lubricant to it, and it became more user-friendly). The metal is non-reflective and weather-resistant.

This is a keeper.

If all firearms were treated as if they were loaded, there would be no more accidental shootings. Shoot Straight, Shoot Safe!

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Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”