WeaponsMan On A P.O. Ackley Biography

For those interested both in guns and American shooting history.

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18 responses to “WeaponsMan On A P.O. Ackley Biography

  1. Ackley was the man for improved performance cartridges. The .257 Roberts Improved is phenomenal for example.

  2. Ackley has always been one of my favorites…

    Knowing how to “make stuff” is almost an art form. Well, there’s a good bit of science in there, but it can be an art more than not…

    Smithies… need to have skill sets in both scope and depth. Most “working guns” – meaning the AR platform… guys treat them like Legos because they can treat them like Legos. But that’s just parts changing, not smithing…

    I consider one of the fundamental skills of a talented smithy to be the ability to get into the mind of the man who designed what you’re trying to work on… to be able to appreciate that instead of having 5 things that do 1 task each, he designed 1 thing that accomplished 5 tasks. And that any fool can make something much stronger than it needs to be – that’s easy. But that true genius is making it so that it is as small/light/weak as possible – an elegance of conservative design – yet still accomplishes the task you need it to…

    Being a smithy is a pain in the ass sometimes… and you won’t get rich doing it (unless you’re very cunning – like Doug Turnbull. He bought up the old Winchester, Colt, etc, roll stamps – so if you want a genuine restoration for that rusted tomato stake you found in Grandaddy’s closet, he’s the only guy in town who can do it – your only option. He names his price and you can either accept it, or not. That’s just the way it is)…

    You won’t get rich, but you won’t want for anything and you won’t go hungry.

    And for me, that’s enough.

  3. Considering ” ackley-ing” my sniper grade .243. Swore I’d never build a gamer rifle, another one bits the dust. Blue printed 700 action, Krieger #9 26 in barrel, timney straight trigger, at 2 lb. KRG stock, AI mags, don’t remember which scope, think it’s the newer Vortex MRAD gen II 4.5x 27×56 EBR-2C, with it’s own devoted thunderbeast Can. ” thread on” I don’t like QD cans.

    This thing is a lazer out to 1500y and change. Have to shoot the detac 115 g bullets to get the performance I’m looking for.

    Not my first choice in a gun fight, if it were my final option, I’d make it work.

    This thing shoots no shit sub 1/2 groups at 100 and 3/4 groups at 200 y. My pause on akley- is simply this, how much is enough regarding accuracy.

    If we’re calling dope right, it’s been a consistent first shot hitter, at all distances. I’m into her 1500 rounds already , going to,have the boys at NorthWest Rifle Actions, bore scope the barrel for finesses. Although I don’t load hot, I do worry about chamber fire cracks. Which fucks with primers popping.

    With this kind of lazer results, I don’t know that I’d gain anything with the chamber upgrade. AND I hate the idea of resizing all my Lapua brass, shits expensive, got roughly 2000 casings in 243.

    Not difficult, just a weeks work tweeting the bullets. Already have the die.

    I hate it when I’m thinking of so,etching, and it pops up. Kinda like karma, but different.

    Dirk

    • What extra cowbell are you seeking from the wildcat?

      Not stealing your sunshine – just interested.

      Am in process of playing with .260 Rem, btw…

      • Heh… building Death Lasers is just another mountain to climb… sometimes the weirder, the better.

        Not trying to horn in on your discussion with Dirk or answer for him – he’s perfectly capable of answering on his own. But extra cowbell? That’s just it – there is no extra cowbell. We do it because we can.

        Like turning an old CJ7 into a Rock Spider or an old El Camino into stoplight racer… it’s fun to take something the size and shape of a Bic pen cap, throw it about a half mile and actually hit what we were intending to… 🙂

        Putting all your skill, talent, imagination and love into something that 99.8% of shooters wouldn’t pay you to build? Oh yeah… that’s good shit right there.

      • SemperFi, 0321

        Not trying to steal his thunder either, but some folks are never happy with just factory performance. Something to do with OCD.
        I know a guy who regrinds carburetor needles since the engineers at KTM aren’t smart enough for him. He thinks he can make it better.
        Guys who buy new trucks and immediately swap out the computer cards, then spend the next 2 yrs tweaking it, because it won’t run the way they want. I just got done messing with a Glock20 for the last 3 yrs, finally threw in the towel and dropped back down to almost anemic factory loads to get it to function 100%.
        40+ yrs in the gun business and I’ve known lots of guys who shoot bench rest rifles and still obsess over tightening their groups by another 1,000th of an inch, since the last ones sucked.
        I’ve known many folks with AI chambers, but I truly don’t understand why the need to blow out a shoulder on an ’06 or .375 H&H when they already kill so well. A deer won’t know the difference from 2750 fps to 2900. 7×57 and 30-40 Krag are still outstanding cartridges, they don’t need improving. If you don’t like it, buy a .300 Win Mag.
        New and improved…..it’s the American way. Sells lotsa shit too, ask the gun mag writers.

        And nice choice on the .260 Rem. It’s what I’d use today if I were to start over. Right now the 6-6.5mm is the rage, in a decade it will be something else again. Using a proven cartridge won’t hurt in the long run, you can make all sorts of stuff from a .308 Win, including a .22 CHeetah (normally made with BR brass but you get my point).

        • I agree 100%. Especially about the 7×57. Don’t know why it never caught on on this side of the pond, but it’s my go-to round for deer. One and done. Never had a deer get up and walk off after being hit…

          Fooling with stuff because someone thinks the first guy who thought it up didn’t do a good enough job? That’s an industry all in and of itself. So is fixing the.. ah.. “improvements”… that guys attempt from time to time. Cartridges of the World is up to 568 pages now… 1500+ cartridges… can’t you find something that already exists?

          I thank God that the Dremel was invented (though I prefer Foredom). One guy I remember very clearly… inherited a Colt Commercial in .38 Super. Real early pre-war one. Pistol was worth what? Maybe $5,000 at the time? Pristine. He literally took a 1/4” drill bit to it in an effort to “lighten it up some”… tolerances were so tight, he took a pair of channel locks and took off the barrel bushing…

          Yeah… that face you’re making? I made the same face. Some people shouldn’t be trusted with pointy objects… or running with scissors…

          Took me a few weeks to source all the correct replacement parts (thank God he didn’t touch the frame), including two NOS magazines, and some careful surgery, but eventually it was put back in 100% shape. He then thanked me by bitching about the repair bill…

          As far as cartridges, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at the .260… but, I am going the other way at the moment. Playing with rolling my own for a .50-70 NYM Roller and seriously contemplating picking up a Martini Henry…

          *shrug* Why not? Hundreds of thousands of British infantrymen lived to tell the tale because of it… just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it won’t work as advertised.

          Be well.

          • SemperFi, 0321

            I gave an old .43 Spanish RB to a fellow gunmaker, I’d had it laying around for yrs and never did anything with it. Next time I saw it, he’d made it into a beautiful Hawken/Gemmer 45-70, glad it worked out so well for him.
            I loved those old BP cartridges for yrs, and then somewhere just lost interest, went to old bolt military guns, and back to more modern mil weapons. Never did pick up a .577, or 450/577 though I wish I had.

        • That old issue that Econ 101 calls “opportunity cost” puts a spoiler on such efforts for me, and aids keeping OCD behavior in check.

          Guess I’ll have to just go lay down by my dish. On the way, I might pause to crank out another hundred rounds of M80 ball on the Dillon.

      • I hate to use this, but I find accurate rifles fascinating. I have had built several, ringing the Ar500 at 1500 or even 1760y, just feels good. Means you did everything JUST right.

        Back in the day slinking in to an over watch, ranging everything, building a card, knowing the wind, high medium and low, knowing trajectory , and placing a bullet on target at will is just humbling.

        Doing the wind work, altitude density running the shot comport, then doing the trig backwards, for verification, dialing your dope. Pressing the trigger, surprising yourself with the release, sweeping to recover you trace, and impact.

        A lot going on.

        Perhaps the DA is what amazes me the most. My range is at 4300/4400 ft. Daily in the summer when doing kestrel work, I find me Density Altitude is 8 to 12 thousand corrected. That’s plus 3 k up to 12 k, just amazes me.

        DA at 1500 y is a thing of Beauty, watching trace and knowing a its a hit, when the bullets at 500/800y, is a Kodak moment for me.

        Waiting multiple seconds for impact on the .243 at distance is like time stops. I feel like I could have shit shower and shave in the time impact is recorded.

        I could go on all day about shooting long range.

        I’ve said this before, boys come on out, I’ve got my friends ranch, with 30 ar 500 targets out. One shot is down hill into a tree in the middle of the lake. We shoot off of the rim of a collapsed volcano, in roughly A ” C” shape.

        Perhaps my personal favorite target is a target at 800 in an old homestead which has toppled over. Sits in the middle of a valley, wind can be very very very challenging.

        Anyway I just dig accurate rifles, to include high end ARs, and old battle rifles.

        I’ve collected since I was a kid, well young adult. I’m blessed I’ve got a decent selection around.

        Dirk

        • Sounds like a nice range Dirk.

          My property has 3 ravines (with water obstacles) and ridges about 120ft deep/high and about 150 yards across each and has replicas of an airplane that glides across the air on a cable, a replica vehicle that traverses the ground on a track, sand bagged bunkers, bad guy targets, and pop-up Ivans.

          heh heh

      • CA, I had a .260 commissioned and built for my son in law, 6.5 .243 .260 are the same game, all fine calibers. Right now the 6.5 is the flavor of the week.

        The .260 was built by my friends over at North West Rifle Actions. Here in Klamath Falls. Make a wicked accurate rifle at still reasonable prices.

        I do have a GAP .338 LM. Fantastic rifle. Just wayyyy to much money. I’m a manners stock fan most don’t realize toms a silent partner in GAP. Dam good man. Also a Stiller Action fan.

        Good shit,

        Dirk

    • Randall Flagg

      Great comment!

      I love the .243. A bit over-bored, but what the heck. Try to keep my casings to a minimum, and most of them are in .308 or .30-06. For the longest time considered making a long-range (i.e., 1000y+) rifle in .30-06. It can be done. But at the end of the day, the ballistics and mass of the 7mm just got to me.
      Essentially, at 162gr–which is about the most I wanted to be hurtling down-range–the 7mm bullets just shined above the rest. Have been spending my time slowly building up a rifle in 7 Rem Mag. But the .243 is a great, well-proven round that I wouldn’t mind having as well.

      • SemperFi, 0321

        My GF has her dad’s old M700 in 7mmRM (1st yr mfg). He got it when he moved to WY with the USFS in ’67, she still takes an elk or 2 almost every yr with it. I load the Barnes 160 TSX.
        Still had it’s original K.3 in a tip off mount until last yr when I put a 2-7x Weaver on it.

  4. Miles Long

    Dirk,

    A few things, pro & con. I have worked with 3 different Ackley Imps. 22-250, 30-06, & 338-06. I dont understand your resizing comment. The brass needs to be blown out, not resized. Maybe it’s just a terminology… you say to-may-to thing. In any event, it may be best to start with new brass considering the shape shifting that happens. Maybe wait til you build new, or rebarrel next time?

    if you take the plunge, read the original Ackley articles first. Headspace is crucial lest you have case seperations on the 2nd firing if just using factory sized brass. The go gauge becomes the no-go gauge & a .004″ shorter gauge becomes the go gauge for an Ackley Improved chamber. Powder choices in a nutshell should never be quicker than any of the 4350s & reduced “practice” loads should never be an option. Ackley did a few articles about 2ndary pressure spikes with medium powders in improved cases. There was a crazy man named Gibbs that documented the same spikes with his minimum taper, sharp shoulder blown way forward wildcats, but that’s a whole ‘nuther subject.

    All 3 of my rifles shoot extremely well. The 22-250 (a sloppily rechambered factory bbl… see headspace comment above) & the 30-06 (Douglas 26″ sporter bbl.) were taken in trade years ago. The 338 was done by a competent smith to my specs (Shilen select, mimimal throat, & a snug chamber). I still own 1/2 of that reamer. Speeds with the larger caliber, lighter bullets (up to 180 in .30 & 225 in .338) equal or slightly beat same cal. standard magnum velocities with c.20 gr. less powder, less recoil, & better accuracy. The heavier bullets, not so much as there’s not quite enough powder space for top speeds. The 22-250 is a speed demon with 50-52 gr. easily breaking 4100 fps. & 5 shot jagged holes at 200 yds. if the wind’s calm. Extraction with full power loads is an effortless two finger lift. Fireforming has been one damned thing after another, but that’s mostly due to chamber/brass dimensions. Once formed the brass for all of my Imps. lasts almost forever if it’s not overworked when resizing. While developing loads, the usual pressure signs (really flat primers, hard bolt lift, etc.) don’t appear earlier than later, so be careful if pushing for top speed.

    The heavy bullet thing may be a deal breaker for you with the 115s, & the only benefit might be case longevity. If you have a good chamber & good dies in the standard chambering, even that will be negligible.

    The sharp shoulder on the 40 degree Ackley may not feed reliably during a rapid fire scenario if that matters to you which is why a friend built a 6.5-243 RCBS (28 degree) Imp. for Camp Perry & was extremely happy with it out to 1000 yds. with Berger VLDs. I have no other details on that one as he passed a few years back.

    • Miles:

      You triggered (heh) longstanding intereat in the .22-250.

      What case is its daddy?

      When you say 4100fps easy w 50-52 grain projo, how is barrel life?

      Any of your experience would be helpful, along w the rest of the crowd.

      Thanks in advance.

  5. Gents, their are no wrong answers here. Agree with all of you. As for the 22.250 a lot of those here, this is Sqweek country, the guys like to stretch it out a bit.

    I don’t own one, I’ve considered a build, my problem is I have so many hobbies and and each is very expensive.

    Also a lot of .222s here. Sqweek shooting at 3/400 y is a tricky proposition,,and great training. Hitting a lil tiny squirrel maybe 2 inchs tak by 1 inch wide is impressive.

    Out on the range,the bald eagles become impatient with us shooters. They seem to know we won’t harm them. They land and await literally 10/15 ft away and await our carnage.

    Doesn’t seem to spook the sqweeks, they tend to watch for the Balds and others in the air.

    Dirk

  6. Miles Long

    CA, Not sure what else there is, but… I got the 22-250 Imp. & 30-06 Imp. from the same guy as a trade. He gave me a bunch of load data which was useless except to know what didn’t work. It seems he couldn’t get either of them to shoot. The bores looked really ugly with just the old eyeball. I cleaned with Sweets… twice, then Shooters Choice until the patches came out clean & suddenly there was visible rifling again. The 22-250 is an old 700V with an unknown amount of rounds before I got it. The 06 was a Ruger 77 in about the same shape, but it was glass bedded. The damned fool didn’t take the trigger off & it was full of loose bedding chunks. I think hand tool buyers should be licensed, but that’s another bitch.

    To headspace a factory chamber to an Ackley Imp. correctly, apparently the barrel needs to be set back some. Whoever chambered the 22-250 just ran the reamer in till it cleaned up the old chamber & then some is my guess. The 1st set of cases I fireformed had that shiny ring warning of a future head separation around the bases. I tried fireforming with 8 or 10 gr. of Bullseye & cornmeal filler pointed straight up in the air, hanging the bullets out to touch the throat, & a few other tricks, but couldn’t get the shoulder to move forward far enough until I tried 250 Savage (it’s daddy) brass necked down with a 2ndary shoulder. The brass ended up being too thick in the neck for my liking & for the sizing die. The hot setup was to neck 22-250 up to 25, then resize back to 22 with the 2ndary shoulder until the bolt just closes with some effort. What a pain in the ass. Fireformed with a mid power H4895 Swift load & whatever mismatched old 50s were on the shelf.

    For all the 1/2 assed butchery on the rifle & the abuse it must have seen, it shoots unbelievably well with a W-W case full of RL-19, an old lot of Fed 210Ms, & an old lot of (N.L.A.) Nosler 50 Xpanders I had for a 222, seated long to about .005 off the lands. The Nosler book specfies med. velocity only with these but this lot holds together at full speed & absolutely guts groundhogs at over 350 of my longer than 36″ paces. I cant find the original load development sheet, but the exterior ballistics in the notebook were calculated at 4100 fps. Hornady 52 HPs are pretty much interchangable with the the 50s with a different OAL, again just short of touching. I think it’s sighted 1 1/2″ high at 100 yds. but haven’t had to fool with it for years. I love old Leopolds.

    It also likes Rubright (a PA benchrest guy) & Hornady 53 match HPs, Fed. 215s & a case full of IMR-4350 at about 3900fps.for best accuracy. Another 1.5 gr. got 4026 fps. I wonder how 4350SC will work. The Rubrights expand, I’m unsure what the Hornady’s do. The speeds were all instrumental over an Oehler 33, with the first screen at 10 ft.

    I dont shoot as much as I did, & not near as much as the guys out west. A good groundhog day sees 4 or 5 shots so the barrel will probably last as long as I do. I haven’t had to adjust the OAL after well over 500 rounds. A shiny new stainless barrel should be even better. Ackley wrote something about barrel life being good with the improved case, he thought because the sharp shoulders directed much of the gas into the case neck rather than the bore. A buddy & I were talking about the 22-250 Ackley, & he agrees it seems like one of those cartridges, like 308, that just shoots without a lot of fuss.

    From a Model 54 to a Model 70 to 3 different Rugers, I’ve never had a Swift that actually was able to break 4000 fps. Factory loads were c.3650 tops & I always got pressure signs around 3800 with various handloads.

    The original Ackley books should still be around somewhere at better prices than the Amazon foolishness. Brownell’s may still have them.

    https://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Shooters-Reloaders-Volumes-Complete/dp/B00CWGSMZ0/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491716487&sr=1-6&keywords=p.o.+ackley