This $2,000 custom conversion is fashion forward, grip forward, and accurate as hell.
To be successful in one of the most challenging handgun matches currently being competed—the Masters International Long Range Handgun event—shooters are turning to a heavily modified version of a now-defunct gun model. The base model, no longer being manufactured by Remington Arms Co., is the XP-100; the tricked-out XP-100 that makes it possible to hit and knock over 6-inch, 9-inch, and 12-inch steel plates at 200 meters is made by Accuracy Unlimited, Frank Glenn’s precision-gunsmithing firm based in Glendale, Arizona.
Glenn’s gun is dominating the Masters Long Range Handgun event because it is uniquely suited for the difficult course of fire. Sixty seconds are allowed for five shots on five steel targets and ninety seconds for ten shots on ten targets some of which weigh as much as 23 pounds. The event is run in six strings of fire, three of five shots in 60 seconds and three of ten shots, at alternating distances, in 90 seconds. One shot is allowed for each of the total of 45 targets. The distances include targets at 75, 100, 150, and 200 meters, and the first fifteen and the last five targets must be shot from an offhand (standing) position. The middle 25 shots are freestyle. If the course of fire isn’t challenging enough, there is also a significant noise factor in the event. While you are shooting your handcannon, eleven other people are doing the same thing. Besides the incredible noise level, each shot from your gun and that of the other eleven shooters hits you with a concussion you feel throughout your body.
Glenn’s XP modifications don’t make the targets bigger, the wind settle, or the muzzle blast lessen. But they can make a handgun accurate and shootable enough to knock over 42 of 45 steel targets, as Jerry Barnhart did in 1994, or to drop only four targets, as I did in 1995. They are also a kick when used to hunt prairie dogs, which can hone your ability to judge distances and shoot from difficult positions. Here’s what Glenn does to the XP-100 to make it perform at top levels.
The Forward Grip
Some shooters use the standard XP stock, which is called a center grip, for competition. It’s terrific for shooting from the Creedmore or other rested position, but it is difficult to stabilize the gun when it is shot offhand. Others have tried the Thompson Center Contender, which has a rear grip, and discovered the same results. It is easily stabilized from a rest, but wobbly offhand.
Glenn started modifying the XP’s grip after he and other top Masters competitors got tired of practicing on the Long Range event targets and took out their .38 Super action pistols to play. After a few shots, they found their holds and could reliably hit the 12-inch targets at 200 meters. “Then Brian Enos commented that maybe the grips were on the wrong end of their guns,” Glenn said. “I went home thinking about the comment and commenced to cutting up some center and rear grip stocks and then whittled a prototype out of a 2- by 8-inch chunk of maple.”
Thus the forward-grip stock was born. It allows the placement of both hands on the one grip that extends below the stock and allows the rear of the gun, where the bolt and chamber are located, to rest on the shooter’s forearm. “I took this sample stock to the SHOT Show in 1989 to get the impressions of Enos, J. Michael Plaxco, and some other shooters,” Glenn said. “There were favorable opinions expressed because of the stability offered by the stock.”
The forward grip stabilizes the gun, but there are some tricks to shooting it well. First, the shooter must not apply pressure to the grip. It is vital to allow the gun to simply rest in both hands. Applying muscle to the gun makes the rear of the gun jump during recoil because tensing the forearm muscles makes the gun move.
The next trick is to form a flat platform upon which to rest the stock. This is done by holding the strong hand out at arm’s length with the fingers spread and the palm facing inward, and then rotating the palm upward without bending the elbow. Paying special attention to the forearm, make sure the muscles have rotated and you will see that an area that was formerly about 30 degrees off horizontal, just forward of the elbow, has now become parallel to the floor. This is where the rear base of the stock will sit. Now rotate the hand back to the shooting position moving only the forearm, not rotating from the shoulder, and the position is complete.
Rebarreling The XP-100,
And Other Metalwork
Along with changing the XP-100’s stock, most shooters remove the Remington factory barrels and install a heavier barrel from Lilja Precision, Inc. If the replacement barrel has stresses in it, which makes shots “walk” when the barrel heats up, Glenn will recommend having the tube stress-relieved cryogenically by the 300 Below Company.
He pays special attention to truing up the bolt lugs and the face of the receiver to increase lug engagement and to reduce stress on the receiver. He changes the bolt handle to allow easier reloads in the shooting positions used at the Masters. This translates into reduced time off target. Depending on the customer’s desires, Glenn may also flute the bolt or lighten the entire bolt assembly. He also relieves the top of the receiver, and he may even change the factory bolt stop to an aluminum stop to reduce weight. He also affixes a compensator to the muzzle that reduces lift.
Another challenge presented by changing the stock to a forward grip was developing the linkage that would allow the trigger to be pulled about 10 inches forward of its usual position. To do this, the original Remington trigger design is reshaped, and an engagement screw is added along with the necessary linkage so that it pulls using the factory geometry.
Mounting a scope on these guns also required development. Originally, he mounted rings directly on the receiver and barrel, but Glenn expected this to cause the scopes to walk because of heat generated by big cartridges. This has not proved to be the case. However, Glenn has since changed the design, and he now uses an extended Weaver-type base which allows more latitude in scope placement for an individual’s eye relief. The Burris 7X handgun scope is a favorite optics choice.
The next step is to discover just how much tip or forward extension of the head will be necessary to achieve full eye relief through the scope. In our experience, the breadth of a man’s shoulders and his generally shorter neck make it tougher for him to look down the scope because the base of the triangle, formed by the shoulders, has opened up compared to that formed by a women’s narrower shoulders. Some offsetting of scopes has been attempted in the past, but that creates its own set of problems with parallax. The straighter and more relaxed the head can be held, the better, as it will improve blood flow to the brain and eyes.These practices hold true whether shooting from the offhand or prone positions.
The Foregrip XP-100
Traditional handgun compensators, such as those found on IPSC pistols, generally have multiple ports that point upward to give maximum effect in holding down the muzzle jump. The compensator for the Glenn XP-100 is quite different from those found on traditional handguns. The Glenn-designed compensator has only one upward port, but has four lateral ports; two on each side. There are several reasons for this design.
First, the Masters tournament specifies a maximum weight of 6 pounds and an overall length of 25 inches for the fully equipped handgun, thus the compensator must be short and light in weight, as well as effective. Second, traditional IPSC handguns use cartridges with limited propellant capacity fired from pistols that have relatively large diameter bores. This allows the propellant gases generated by 10 to 11 grains of fast-burning powder to expand and be fully consumed in the short 5- to 6-inch bores. This gives very limited gas volume and low gas pressure at the muzzle that must be utilized to hold down the muzzle. In the 7mmBR cartridge, we burn 28.3 grains of a medium-burning rifle powder in a bore of relatively small diameter. This leads to an excess of pressure and gas volume at the muzzle; much more than is needed to control muzzle lift. The Glenn compensator was designed with only one small vertical vent to take this into account. Excess vertical venting in these guns actually forces the muzzle below line of sight in a disconcerting “negative recoil” effect. To utilize more of the excess propellant gases to reduce recoil, Glenn cuts four lateral vents. These vents redirect the gases at 90 degrees from bore-line to eliminate some of the total ejecta mass that exits the muzzle and contributes to recoil. In addition, as these gases impinge on the front deflector plate and are redirected, they push the handgun forward away from the shooter. The result is a very high-power handgun that can be shot with a minimum of discomfort and sight disturbance.
When Glenn himself is shooting the long-range handgun event, he chooses a 6.5mmBR case from which he shoots a Nosler 120-grain bullet. Picked for its high ballistic coefficient and minimal recoil, the round enables Glenn to use two zeroes for the event but still cover all the target distances. However, he said, “About 90 percent of the guns I have modified have been in the 7mmBR.”
Though many competitors have tried a range of calibers, including the 6mm, the 6.5mm, the 7mm.08, and the 7mmTCU, the favorite is the 7mmBR. The range of 7mm bullet weights and the fact that the caliber is easily handloaded have helped its popularity. The 7TCU fell out of favor because of the amount of time it took to tend to every nit-picking reloading detail for the wildcat cartridge, and the 6mm didn’t offer reliable knock-down power on heavier targets.
For a time, Masters competitors tried to minimize the variable of bullet drop because all three of the 10-shot strings require targets at two distances to be engaged (75 and 100, 100 and 200, 150 and 200 meters). They tried using lighter, faster bullets, which decreased trajectory over the entire distance, but more than one shooter went away feeling cheated because his best center shots failed to knock the heavy steel targets clear of their bases. Also, the lighter bullets would disintegrate upon impact without imparting enough energy to topple the target.
Some shooters have tried changing their scope settings between shots to allow a dead-on hold for each shot, but more than one shooter has lost track in the heat of battle as to which setting they were on. Instead, some shooters have simplified this approach by settling on two zeros, or in my case, one zero with hold-offs.
Also, some shooters were put off by the recoil and felt that the lighter bullets would reduce the felt recoil. The result: perfect center shots often left targets standing with a nicely centered smear. To compensate, they would aim for off-center hits, but this reduced the effective target area by about 60, eliminating the imagined advantage of reducing recoil or trajectory.
Although it was considered too heavy for many years, I wound up choosing the 7mmBR myself. I shot 145-grain Speer bullets for the first year and then switched to the 140-grain Sierra boattail softpoint. I didn’t worry about recoil or trajectory. Instead, after zeroing at roughly 150 meters, I adjusted my holds on the various targets and then concentrated on breaking the shot correctly.