Aquatic Lumberjacking

| Shooter's RX |
How A Precision Rifle Doubles As A Chainsaw.

Will Dabbs, MD
Photos: Sarah Dabbs

The psychologists call it “learned helplessness.” When something unpleasant is inevitable, the eventual result is reluctant acceptance. After so many years my poor bride thought she had heard every possible outlandish excuse to buy a new gun.

When first we started out we needed a decent social handgun to keep the castle secure. The pocket pistol was to keep us safe while out on the town. The AR was for when the zombies come. Then the old German guns were investments. The machineguns would appreciate in value. The sound suppressors would help preserve my hearing. My long-suffering wife has heard it all. Countless smokepoles later she has simply succumbed to the relentless tide. She patiently explained early on it wasn’t really an investment if you were never going to sell it. After that she just sighed in resignation.

Then I tripped over something truly revolutionary. We needed a proper sniper rifle. This wasn’t because I expected to do any tactical sniping. I needed a sniper rifle to cut down trees.

Unconventional Applications

I live on a rural farm near a little creek. Many years ago I scraped together what little cash I could muster and built a dam. The following year our modest valley flooded into a fairly respectable fishing lake. The problem was, it took every penny I had to build the dam and there wasn’t anything left over to clear the trees. The resulting sea of drowned trees make great fish structure but is frightfully unsightly.

Logging is one of the most dangerous jobs in America when practiced on dry land. As a physician I have lost count of the chainsaw injuries I have repaired. One poor fellow I saw years ago had his right ear torn off when a tree fell in an unexpected direction and bounced off the side of his face. Now, imagine trying to undertake this profession from a boat.

The physics of the task are fascinating. Sit in a canoe and touch a running chainsaw to a tree trunk and the roaring saw chain spins the boat around the tree with remarkable vigor. (I’ll give you one guess how I know that.) It is then nothing more than fate that decides whether your boat will be at the particular point where the trunk will fall. “Killed Trying to Fell a Tree with a Chainsaw from a Boat—Good Riddance” lacks a certain poetic gravitas when engraved upon a tombstone. There had to be a better way.


Little is more fun than cutting trees with reactive target material and a
precision rifle. A Saturday spent behind these tuned bolt guns is way more
fun than the same day running a chainsaw. A Remington 700 bolt-action rifle
nestled into an Archangel stock and sporting a quality Lucid 4-16x44mm scope
makes for a superb home-built precision rifle. The Archangel stocks adjust for
both length-of-pull and comb height via easy-to-use thumbwheels. Winchester
ammunition is timelessly reliable and monotonously consistent.

Canned Fun

Nowadays anybody who squeezes triggers knows about reactive targets. Typically a combination of ammonium nitrate and atomized aluminum, this amazing stuff is safe enough to ship through the mail when separated. However, mix it together and pass a high-velocity bullet through it and the resulting mixture will detonate. These reactive targets will liven up any shooting trip and take all the ambiguity out of whether or not you connected with the target. The most popular version sells under the trade name “Tannerite.”

Reactive targets come in convenient bottles ready to be mixed at the range. Considering the prodigious fun factor it is also very reasonably priced. There is one unexpectedly serendipitous application of this amazing stuff few appreciate—yet. Under the right circumstances it does a simply brilliant job of cutting otherwise inaccessible trees.

Techniques For Tannerite

Experimenting is half the fun. Affix the material to the outside of a derelict conifer and it denudes the bark from the tree in a simply spectacular fashion while leaving the trunk nonetheless intact.

This isn’t fun. This is work. At least that’s what I told my wife. The mission is to cut the trees from a safe distance. The key is to get the explosive inside the tree where it can push outward.

Take a boat to the tree and bore a hole at the waterline with a rechargeable drill and a spade bit. Pack a small watertight container with reactive target material and shove it as deep into the hole as possible. Those little sample medicine bottles work great. Be sure to orient the hole in the direction of your firing point. Now things get interesting, from a shooting standpoint that is.

You’ve all known them. You may even be one yourself. I’m speaking of those tiresome gun guys who are always bragging about the amazing groups they get with their precision rifles. Here is a typical claim:

“Yeah, I ‘one-holed’ five rounds at 600 meters with my custom .300 Win Mag bolt gun last weekend. My overall group size measured less than a 1/4-inch edge-to-edge. With my super secret handloads I can print groups like that blindfolded until I get bored doing it.”

Really? Let’s prove it

Now, be sensible. We are about to blow up a tree with a rifle and some binary explosive. Park yourself a long ways off. However, here is your chance to ring out that sub-MOA precision rifle. The target is 1-inch across. Take it from 100 meters. That way nobody gets showered in splinters and atomized lumber.

The end result is impressive. Get the bottle deep enough and a thumb-sized volume of reactive target material will cut even the largest dead tree right at the waterline. Bring some of your gun buddies along and you will laugh until your face hurts. Take several dead trees and make it a competition. There is no question as to whether you connect with the target or not. You either blow up the tree or you don’t.




This is inevitably what happens when you try to cut trees with machineguns
(above, top). In this case an RPK and an RPD chewed the trunk to bits and
seemed to hit everything except the cutting charge. There is little ambiguity
(middle) as to whether you hit the target or not. You either blow up the tree
or you don’t. It took plenty of effort (bottom) but we eventually cleared most
all of the dead trees from our modest fishing lake using reactive target
material and a precision rifle. The pursuit hardly qualifies as work.

New-Age Lumberjack

I use a Stihl chainsaw when cutting firewood on dry land. I have an even snazzier rig for my waterborne forestry operations. The beating heart is a heavy barrel Remington 700 in .308. Remington builds arguably the finest mass-production bolt guns in the world. Their reputation for quality is both indisputable and well deserved.

The custom chassis is from Archangel. The stock is indestructible and weatherproof. It adjusts in two dimensions and fits me better than my clothes. Each robust carbon fiber stock incorporates a full-length aluminum bedding block and a removable magazine. The stock is festooned with sling attachment points and sports an integral built-in bipod. The pistol grip includes a hidden compartment suitable for batteries, spare parts, a couple of last-ditch emergency rounds, or some M&M’s to munch while waiting on your buddies to stop laughing after you pulverize a defunct elm. This stock takes a superb rifle and amps it to the next level.

The glass is from Lucid. This variable-power optic sports nitrogen-purged weatherproof tubes and flawless lenses. There is a side-mounted parallax knob and an ocular diopter adjustment. The 1/8-MOA adjustment knobs are easy to manage without tools and their associated caps simply push down to lock. These scopes grab light like a magnet and are robust. Lucid optics offers all the high-end features you could want at a fraction of the price of the Other Guys. It is truly great glass.

The ammo comes from Winchester. Once I have my logging rifle dialed in it really does print those crazy groups your obnoxious precision-rifle buddy is always bragging about.

The resulting package is impervious to weather, amply capable of initiating detonation, and monotonously effective. All that and it looks cool to boot. Hard work has never been such fun.


Lucid makes top-quality riflescopes such as this 4-16x44mm at a reasonable
$419 with user-friendly features such as locking adjustment knobs graduated
in 1/8 MOA clicks and a side-mounted parallax adjustment combined with an
ocular diopter ring.

Read This

Here is the obligatory disclaimer: The aforementioned narrative is for entertainment purposes only. Anyone astute and responsible enough to be a safe and courteous shooter can use reactive target material to remove trees from a lake at a distance. Like anything else involving firearms, however, do something stupid and you can go to jail, get killed or both sequentially.

So, if you have exhausted all the standard excuses for buying more guns here is a new one that worked for me. At the end of the day reactive target material combined with a precision rifle really is the safest way imaginable to remove dead trees from a lake or pond. This also ranks among the top five coolest things I think I have ever done. The resulting pursuit accomplishes a needed goal and gives the responsible shooter a legitimate justification to build up a hot sniper rig while all the while maintaining domestic tranquility. Even my long-suffering bride admits it is a nifty way to get dead trees out of the lake.

Archangel Mfg
43 North 48th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85043
(800) 438-2547

824 East Lincoln Suite A
Riverton, WY 82501
(307) 840-2160

Tannerite Sports
36366 Valley Road
Pleasant Hill, OR 97455
(541) 744-1406,

Winchester Ammunition
600 Powder Mill Road
East Alton, IL 62024
(618) 258-2000

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