October 2nd, 2022
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Sunday GunDay: Matt’s Screamin’ Yellow .243 Ackley Improved
.243 Ackley Improved for Long-Range Varminting and Benchrest Competition
Whenever Matt Bianchini brings his bright yellow .243 Ackley to the firing line, heads turn. This is one truly handsome rig-as good-looking as it is accurate. Built to smoke varmints at long-range as well as compete in 1000-yard benchrest matches, this rifle is proof that competition improves the breed. Fitted with a Farley action, Jewell trigger, Leupold LRT scope, and Lilja or Krieger barrel, the Yellow Ackley is a “no compromise” match rifle that can run with the big dogs in 1K Benchrest competition. And with the Ackley’s ability to toss 106gr Clinch Rivers at 3350 fps, this is one flat-shooting, hard-hitting varmint rifle.
Ultra-Fast, Ultra-Smooth Farley Action…and One Wicked Paint Job
The heart of Matt’s rifle is a Farley action. Farleys have found favor with Benchrest competitors, because the bolt can be worked so fast. And the Farley is as smooth as it is speedy. The difference is quite noticeable if you compare it to a blue-printed Rem 700, or even a recent Stolle Panda. Farleys were true customs, built one at a time by the Farley family in Oklahoma. Unlike a BAT action which is machined from billet steel, a Farley starts with a stainless investment casting, much like Ruger pistol frames. It uses a cone bolt for smooth, yet solid lock-up.
One of the unique features of the Farley is the ejector-it can be switched on or off, depending on the shooter’s preference. So, if you’re load testing some hot rounds, you can turn the ejector off. In a match you can turn the ejector “on” to function normally. Matt is now a confirmed Farley fanatic. He tells us: “I’ve got quite a few other very nice actions, including Nesikas. But none of them are as slick as that Farley. When you work the bolt it feels like it’s on ball-bearings.”
Matt’s Screamin’ Yellow Ackley-The Need for Speed
.243 AI Speed Demon
Matt has explored the upper limits of .243 Ackley Improved performance with his yellow long-range rig, fitted with a 29? Lilja 3-groove, 1:8?-twist barrel. Using a stout load of Alliant Reloder 25, Matt’s “Screamin’ Yellow Ackley” has topped 3340 fps with Clinch River 106s. That’s serious speed for heavy 6mm bullets. This shows a well-built .243 AI leaves Dashers and 6XCs in the dust when it comes to pure velocity.
Ultimate Evolution of the .243 Winchester
Matt’s show-stopping rifle is a .243 Ackley Improved (40-degree shoulder, .271? neck), chambered with a Manson reamer. On top of the stainless Farley “S” action, in Farley 30mm rings, sits a Leupold LRT (1/16 MOA dot) boosted to 18X-40X by Premier Reticles. Matt has SIX barrels for the gun, three Lilja 3-grooves, a couple Kriegers, and a Shilen.
Matt’s gun currently sports an 8-twist 29? Lilja 3-groove HV taper that Matt says cleans up like a dream. The stock is a Shehane ST-1000 Tracker made in fiberglass by McMillan, with a BAT trigger guard and Shehane polished billet aluminum buttplate. Prior to final finishing, Matt worked over the flats and some of the angles. That’s why the facets are so well-defined on this rifle compared to some ‘glass Trackers you may have seen. The gun was chambered by Dave Bruno of Cheswick, PA.
Matt bedded the stock and applied the stunning Sikken “Viper” yellow paint job himself. That flawless, smooth-as-glass Screamin’ Yellow finish is no ordinary paint-job, but then Matt Bianchini is no ordinary do-it-yourself painter. His family runs an automotive body-shop, so he had access to premium paints and a quarter-million-dollar spray booth with all the latest technology. Still, Matt spent many hours on this stock to get everything right, trying a couple colors before he settled on a Sikken automotive “Viper Race Yellow” formulated for the Dodge Viper sports car. After careful prep work, Matt sprayed two coats of Viper Yellow, and then added three coats of high-grade automotive clear, which was then baked-on in a heat chamber. Matt also painted the Sinclair front rest to match the stock, and even polished the surfaces of the Hoehn windage top. A lot of effort, Matt told us, was required to achieve the results you see here.
.243 Ackley Improved-More Velocity, Less Case Stretch
by Bob Blaine, Sinclair International
Parker Ackley reluctantly developed the .243 Ackley Improved (“AI”). Ackley finally gave in to his customers’ requests to develop the .243 AI. He had always felt that the .243 Winchester was already an improved configuration, but he did say that the best thing to be gained by improving the .243 Winchester was to substantially reduce the case-stretching problems. The .243 Winchester parent case has always stretched brass, almost as bad as the Swift. Even though you get more velocity with the improved .243, I’ve also found that the improved version gives a bit more throat life than the parent case does.
The .243 AI delivers more velocity by virtue of enhanced case capacity-roughly five grains more H20 capacity than a standard .243 Winchester. The .243 AI has a water capacity of approximately 57 to 58 grains, compared to 52-53 grains for the standard .243 Winchester.
Loading for Long-Range
For long-range shooting, Matt loads 106gr Clinch Rivers with 47.5gr of Alliant Reloder 25 for his Krieger barrels, a little more powder with the Lilja 3-grooves. The Lilja load runs 3342 fps, with a 3.228? OAL. Cases are neck-turned Lapua .243 Winchester. He uses Wilson inline seater and Wilson eck-sizer dies (.267? bushing), and a custom, reamer-cut FL sizing die.
Not Just for BR, This Gun Can Hunt
While Matt has a big stable of varmint rifles, the Yellow Ackley has seen plenty of duty in the ‘Hog fields. Matt is from a farming family and he can shoot practically right out his back door (see top photo at the farm). He has nailed some big ground-hogs at 800 yards and beyond. The .243 AI does kick a bit compared to other varmint cartridges, but even with 105-106gr bullets, it’s not bad. He has considered adding a muzzle brake at some point to one of the barrels, just so he can see impacts better.
Screamin’ Yellow Dasher?
Matt originally thought of building the gun up as a 6BR or a 6BR Improved. He has a Manson reamer similar to a 6mm Dasher, with a 40-degree shoulder and .008? body taper. He actually chambered a couple barrels with that 6BR Improved reamer, but he hasn’t shot them yet. He was so pleased with how the gun performed in .243 AI, that he saw no reason to change. And it may be a while before he slaps a Dasher-chambered barrel on the rig: “I really like the way it shoots as a .243 AI. I’m so impressed with it that I don’t want to mess with anything. And I don’t think I’ll be running out of Ackley barrels anytime soon.”
Millender’s .243 Ackley Improved Page
.243 Win Dies and Reloading Gear
Since the .243 Win is such a popular cartridge, all the major die-makers offer reloading dies. It’s hard to go wrong with a Redding Type ‘S’ Full-length bushing die-item 77114 for the standard .243 Win and item 77420 for .243 AI. Whidden Gunworks also makes great .243 Win sizing dies (and custom .243 Win AI dies on request). These will both resize the case (and bump the shoulder) as necessary, and allow you to adjust neck tension with bushings. Alternatively, you can go with a body die, and a separate neck bushing die.
If you load primarily one brand of bullets, another slick set-up is to buy a Forster or Whidden full-length, non-bushing .243 Win sizing die, and then have Forster or Whidden hone the neck for your desired amount of tension. This elegant one-pass sizing solution produces very straight rounds with low run-out.
For bullet seating, both the Redding Competition Seater (item 55114) and the Forster Ultra-Seater (item U00034) work great for the standard .243 Win case. If you shoot a .243 Ackley, Redding’s .243 AI Comp Seater (item 55420) costs quite a bit more than the standard version Forster doesn’t list a .243 AI seater in their catalog. However, you can just run your chambering reamer into the inner sleeve of either seating die to fit the .243 Ackley Improved case.
If you want the “Cadillac” of production seater dies for the .243 Win, order the Wilson Stainless Micrometer seater (item 50-1114S) from Sinclair International. Costing only a few dollars more than a Redding Comp seater, this die is a joy to use, providing very positive control over bullet seating depth. When used with a quality arbor press, the Wilson offers unrivaled “feel” for bullet-seating force. This can help you monitor neck tension, one of the most critical factors in maintaining low ES and SD for long-range accuracy.
Tags: .243 Ackley, .243 AI, .243 Winchester, 1000 Yards, Alliant Powder, Clinch River bullets, Farley Action, IBS, Jewell Trigger, Krieger, Lapua Brass, Lilja, McMillan, NBRSA, Norma, powder selection, Redding Bushing, Reloading, Rifle Accuracy, RL25, Shehane stocks, ST1000, Tracker, Varmint, Varminting