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by John B. Snow

Things were not going well. I was prone on a mound of dirt, baking under the South Texas sun. It was hot, as only South Texas in the summer can be hot. The breeze offered no relief—with the mercury hovering at 103 degrees, a 10 mph wind is like a hair dryer blowing across your face. Plus, this wind was humid. Not pleasant at all.

I was staring at my rifle, silently asking it to work, but it wasn't listening. Ants were crawling all over me. When I set up, I had been too busy trying to scratch out a trench in the dirt with my knife for the bipod to notice the ant holes. The trench hadn't amounted to much, just a dusty line in the concrete earth. I couldn't get it deep enough to properly support the legs. My shirt was soaked with sweat.

Even more unforgiving than the ground and the sun was Jacob Bynum, who was looking down at me through sunglasses. His hat had floppy wings to keep the sun off his neck, and because Jacob reminds me of The Dude from The Big Lebowski, the scene should have been funny. But his mouth was tight after I failed to complete the drill.
"What's going on there?" he asked.

I told him that the .308, which was on its maiden voyage, was fighting me, not feeding smoothly. The bolt was binding in the action, and the harder I ran the bolt, the worse it got. For this drill, I was trying to shoot a series of five 1-inch dots on a target 100 yards downrange in under 20 seconds. The shots I managed to get off were on target, but I couldn't get the rounds chambered fast enough to shoot five times.

The rifle had first started acting up on the previous exercise. In that drill, I ran from one barricade to the next, using whatever support each station offered to brace the .308 and engage steel targets at distances from 250 to 400 yards. The last barricade was a section of an old hog wire fence. I had jammed the muzzle through one of the rusty metal squares, took a kneeling position, and held a few inches low because I knew the pressure on the barrel from the fence would push the shots high. The first bullet thwacked the metal silhouette, but I felt the bolt catch in the raceway as I went to reload. I had to double-pump the bolt to get a round in the chamber for each shot that followed.

More: The Crucible: Building the Ultimate Long-Range .308 Rifle | Outdoor Life
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