The ram we were looking for was near the back of the herd, grazing and totally unaware of our presence. I asked for the distance and my hunting partner – Ben Frank of Browning Ammo – called back to me that it was 277 yards. With a normal scope, that would mean accounting for the drop and holding somewhere above where I wanted the bullet to strike. But with the Leupold VX-3i scope with CDS turrets I had another option.
Based on the load and the accompanying chart I had printed with the trajectory for my .30-06, I knew that I needed a 1¾ minute-ofangle elevation adjustment to be dead on-target at 275 yards. Simple enough. I turned the dial, held right where I wanted the bullet to strike, and pressed the trigger on the riﬂe. There was a crack and a thump, and even in the recoiling scope I could see that the ram was hit hard. He went down within 20 yards.
A FEW YEARS AGO, hunters and shooters faced a challenge when they sought to extend their effective range. The serious long-range equipment of a few years ago required some knowledge of milradians and MOAs, and relatively few had a good grasp on how to range targets and make windage and elevation adjustments in the ﬁeld.
But as new laser rangeﬁnders hit the market, that process became simpliﬁed. Suddenly, it was easy to know how far away a target was, but there was still the matter of hitting that target.
Scope makers also did their part to help simplify tough shots. Today, most scope companies offer custom turrets that are precisely cut to your own speciﬁcations for your load based on a variety of factors (bullet weight, velocity, altitude, and more). Nikon offers their Spot On turrets, Leupold their CDS (Custom Dial System) versions, and there are many, many more. And, if the optics company doesn’t provide custom turrets, custom builders such as Kenton Industries will ﬁll the void.
The advantage of a custom turret is that you no longer need to cheat the scope up and guess holdover. Many shooters do just that because, frankly, that’s what they’ve always done, trusting rough estimation more than the wizardry of custom scope knobs. However, if your scope does its job, your turrets are properly cut and you’re using the right load in the riﬂe, you’ll be amazed at just how accurate these turrets really can be.
For example, on the Browning hunt mentioned above, some of our scopes had turrets cut the particular load we were using, and all we required was a range estimation to quickly get on target. After that, it’s simply a matter of turning the dial to the correct range and pressing the trigger. And, if you want to change loads, most turrets are easily removable.
EVEN IF YOU AREN’T CERTAIN about which loads you will be using, that’s not a problem. There are a variety of phone and tablet apps that take your data and develop a custom trajectory curve. You can then enter this information and it will relate your elevation adjustment. You can also print out this info in advance for multiple loads and keep it on a range card in your pocket or taped to the stock of your riﬂe. This method is especially useful if you will be traveling to country where you will have no cell service.
By using a ballistic calculation system, you can quickly adjust to the current conditions and match your riﬂe’s load exactly. It may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. The digital age has helped consumers understand how to input data in ﬁelds, so typing in your bullet’s ballistic coefficient is really no different than typing in your address when you purchase an item online. This ballistic data will give you an elevation and windage adjustment, and you can simply dial this into your scope using the turrets.
Need 2.25 MOAs of elevation adjustment? Simply turn the elevation knob on your scope. A half MOA of wind? Make that adjustment, too, and simply hold where you want the bullet to strike. There’s no speciﬁc brand of scope that is tied to these applications, so regardless of whether you have a Trijicon, Leupold, Bushnell, Nikon, Zeiss or other optic, one MOA is equal to one MOA – provided, of course, your scope is calibrated correctly.
What these turrets – and learning to use them – eliminate is the need to guesstimate and hold over game. If you’re planning on using the “hold a little higher on the shoulder” principle, that’s fine, and there are hunters who don’t ever plan on taking game or ringing targets outside of a couple hundred yards.
But if you want to extend the potential range of your ﬁrearm to a quarter mile or more, the notion of holdover begins to fall apart, shots become inaccurate and game suffers. I’ve known a lot of hunters who were hesitant to use turrets to dial for long shots, but once you understand how the process works, it’s no more complex than operating a remote control or programming a cell phone – provided, of course, you know how to handle your riﬂe, know your loads and have mastered basic shooting skills.
Using custom turrets is an inexpensive way to shoot accurately at longer ranges, and new technology has effectively reduced the learning curve for those new to long-range shooting. You should never shoot beyond your limits, always respecting the game and doing absolutely everything possible to ensure a clean kill, but new dial technology on scopes has made it easier than ever for you to be a better shooter. ASJ
STORY AND PHOTOS BY BRAD FITZPATRICKIt’s hard to pick up a shooting magazine or wander through a large gun store without coming face to face with one of the myriad of popular 6.5 cartridges. Some, like the 6.5 Grendel, 26 Nosler and 6.5 Creedmoor
I won’t take anything away from the 6.5s. They’re versatile cartridges that are accurate out to long range. But the king of the metric mountain is and will be (at least in the foreseeable future) the 7mms, and here’s why.
Modern smokeless 7mm cartridges have been around for more than a century. The ﬁrst truly successful sporting and military 7mm across the Atlantic was the 7mm Mauser, and at the Battle of San Juan Hill, Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders realized that the fast, accurate, ﬂat-shooting Mauser 93s in 7mm Mauser were far superior to their .45-70 Springﬁelds. That battle prompted a change in American cartridge design that continues to this day.
Shortly after the Second Boer War ended, WDM “Karamojo” Bell, the Scottish adventurer, soldier and hunter, began hunting ivory professionally in Africa using a 7mm Mauser riﬂe. Also known as the 7×57, Bell’s riﬂe accounted for a number of big tusker trophies across the Dark Continent, most of them taken with precarious brain shots.
Why was the 7mm so eﬀective?
In that particular case, Bell used a 173-grain bullet with a sectional density of .306, higher than a .375 H&H Magnum with a 300-grain bullet. Long, heavy-for-caliber bullets penetrate well, battle the wind and carry energy over long distances. But despite its power, the mild little 7mm Mauser was (and is) very comfortable to shoot.
Today, the round faces competition from the 7mm-08, another mild 7 formed by necking down the .308 Winchester.
But while the 7mm Mauser and 7mm-08 remain excellent options, 170-plus-grain bullets are no longer the norm. Modern factory loads have bullets from 120 to 140 grains, which oﬀer ample knockdown power for nearly all North American game at moderate ranges. These two mild 7s are great for just about any game, and that includes elk and moose, though there are better, more specialized options outlined below.
IN THE 1950S AND 1960S, there was an arms race of sorts going on in the United States. Big, belted magnums that shot ﬂat and hit hard were en vogue, and no person symbolized that line of thought more than Roy Weatherby. Weatherby had recently designed his ultrasafe Mark V riﬂe, and that led to a jump in the popularity of his cartridges.
Weatherby already oﬀered a 7mm Weatherby Magnum design, but the caliber took oﬀ in the Mark V with Western hunters who wanted to kill elk, mule deer, whitetail and just about anything else across wide canyons. The ﬂatshooting 7mm Weatherby, with its large case and Venturi shoulder, had the capacity to burn lots of powder. And with better bullets on the market, the 7mm Weatherby became a star.
Remington seized on the 7mm’s success in 1963 with the production of the 7mm Remington Magnum, an eﬀort that happened to coincide with the release of the budget-priced but accurate Model 700. The years that followed saw an unprecedented jump in the 7mm Remington Magnum’s success, and it remains one of the most popular American hunting cartridges today.
Although these two 7mm magnums were at the top of the class in speed and power in the ’60s, they have since been eclipsed. But each remains an extraordinarily versatile round that blends suﬃcient game-killing energy, ﬂat trajectories, and tolerable recoil. In fact, both the 7mm Remington Magnum and 7mm Weatherby Magnum beat .30-06 velocities by more than 300 feet per second with the same or slightly higher recoil.
The midmagnum 7s are perfect for everything from antelope and whitetails to elk and moose, and both have great reputations among African professional hunters. If you are sheep hunting, these are your rounds as well.
The 7mm Remington Magnum is more widely available, and ammo and guns for it are less expensive, but don’t overlook the Weatherby. If you are a fan of the Mark V or are looking to have a custom riﬂe built, it’s a great option. Bullet weights for these cartridges pick up where the mild 7s leave oﬀ; expect to ﬁnd what you need ranging from 139 to 175 grains. There are precious few things that these 7mms won’t do, and I’d be at a loss without one midpower 7mm in the gun rack.
THE 7MM FAMILY continues to grow, which is a testament to how great this bullet diameter really is. The ﬁrst is the .280 Ackley Improved (.284 is the diameter in inches of the 7mms). It isn’t exactly new – developer P.O. Ackley used the .280 Remington case as its base – but Ackley gave the case a steeper shoulder slant (40 degrees), and in 2008, this wildcat cartridge became SAAMI recognized.
Since then, the hunting world has adopted this cartridge with gusto; Nosler loads a variety of ammo for it, and really good factory riﬂes are available from Kimber, Nosler, Montana Riﬂe Company and others. The .280 AI, as it’s called, can ﬁre .280 Remington ammo (and the resulting case is ﬁre-formed to .280 AI afterwards), yet it is capable of nearly matching 7mm Remington Magnum velocities with less powder and muzzle blast from lighter riﬂes. Plus, it’s known for accuracy. While the .280 isn’t as widely available as the 7mm Remington Magnum it’s a great option that gives you – pardon the pun– the most bang for your buck.
Another new 7mm is the impressive 28 Nosler. Based on the 26 Nosler case (which, a few generations back, came to us from the .404 Jeﬀrey), the 28 Nosler uses a lot of slow-burning powder. The 160-grain factory loads leave the muzzle at 3,300 feet per second and, when sighted in at 200 yards, the bullet is only 14.9 inches low at 400 yards. That’s ﬂat-shooting!
The 28 Nosler is winning fans quickly, especially among sheep and elk hunters who want plenty of power and range without getting thumped at the back end by a .300 magnum. The ﬂat trajectory simpliﬁes long shots, and this cartridge will kill anything reliably with the exception of the largest and most dangerous game. Nosler has begun to make riﬂes chambered for this cartridge, and they promise sub-minute-of-angle accuracy. The Model 48 Liberty riﬂe I tested from Nosler beat that ﬁgure considerably.
It appears that the next generation of great, fast 7mms has arrived, so whether you are hunting big game or clanking targets from long range, this versatile caliber – from the wild and mild to a host of newer cartridges – will help you achieve your goals. ASJ
It’s diﬃcult to imagine two more diﬀerent environments than the UFC Octagon and the Sierra Nevada mountain range in autumn. It may be harder to imagine that anyone could feel equally at home in both places.
Everything in and surrounding the ring – the bright lights, screaming crowds, intrusive cameras and Octagon Girls – can dazzle and distract, yet none of it merits a moment of Chad “Money” Mendes’ attention when he circles an opponent. Inside the cage, a moment’s distraction is all that is required for the top ﬁghters in the world to take you down.
Compare that frenzied environment with the giant old-growth forests of northern California, where the silence can be as overwhelming as the Octagon’s noise.
Two diﬀerent worlds, worlds apart. And Mendes belongs to both.
To truly understand this perplexing puzzle, you must focus on what the ring and the woods have in common, not what makes them diﬀerent. In both the Octagon and the backcountry, your senses are honed to a ﬁne edge. That’s part of what it takes to survive in these respective environments. Fighting and hunting also oﬀer physical challenges, and if you disagree, you’re probably not hunting like Chad Mendes, who prides himself on ﬁnding big bucks and big bulls that others can’t because he goes places others won’t.
BUT PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT thread connecting the wilderness and the Octagon, for Mendes at least, is that both sturdy strands tie directly back to his father, Alvin. For Mendes’ two great loves—wrestling and the outdoors – were shared with his father from a very young age.
“At ﬁve years old, my father made us bows from the ﬁberglass poles that mount on ATVs,” Mendes recalls, laughing a little at the thought. “He made arrows, and we shot targets in the backyard. Later, it was BB guns, shooting cans oﬀ hay bales.”
Mendes remembers going to school and waiting impatiently to get back home so he could shoot until darkness forced him indoors, where he would go to sleep anticipating the next day … and the next shot.
Something else entered Mendes’ life at age ﬁve, and that was wrestling. He brought that same focus and dedication to the sport that he brought to shooting and hunting, and once again, his father was right beside him.
“My father coached me in wrestling from the age of ﬁve through high school,” Mendes says. Apparently, the elder Mendes did a pretty good job, as Chad went on to become one of the best high school wrestlers to ever hail from central California. (He was raised in the small town of Hanford.) At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he earned two PAC-10 championships and was named a two-time D-1 All-American.
While still in high school, Mendes met fellow wrestler Urijah Faber, and during his summers home from college he helped Faber conduct wrestling clinics. After ﬁnishing up at Cal Poly, Mendes traveled to Sacramento to train with Faber full-time as part of Team Alpha Male.
Throughout his college and UFC career, Mendes has been known for an intense physical training regimen that helps the 31-year-old stay in top condition. But when he isn’t training, Mendes is often in the woods, and it has been that way since he was a boy.
HE BEGAN BY FOLLOWING HIS FATHER through the forest, learning to move silently and to watch for game. Soon, Mendes’ woods training began to progress. He took his hunter safety course and began chasing blacktails in the Sierras with a bow and a riﬂe. And although he’s hunted all over the world for a variety of game, the diminutive blacktail still holds a place in his heart.
“Some people ask me why I hunt them,” Mendes says. “They’re small, but I enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed hunting blacktails. There are big bucks out there, but they’re a challenge to ﬁnd.”
If you imagine that Mendes’ other passion – the one that puts him in the crosshairs of some of the most dangerous men on the planet – has hardened him to the killing of game, you’re wrong. He doesn’t hunt for the kill, and he respects the game. His father taught him that, and if you haven’t ﬁgured out by now, Chad Mendes listens to what his father says. It’s served him well so far.
“He has been in my corner for about the last ten ﬁghts, and that’s been great.” But on a recent elk hunt in Utah the roles were reversed, and Chad suddenly found himself as the corner man for his father.
“This big bull came in, maybe 355 or 360 [points]. A six-by-seven,” Mendes says with a laugh. “Dad was getting ready to shoot and I was videoing. I had to calm him down, tell him to relax. It was great.”
As previously mentioned, the challenge of being in peak physical condition has served Mendes well as a professional athlete. But it’s also served him as a hunter, and that same drive to compete – primarily against himself – compels Mendes to hunt harder and to travel on foot into more remote country.
Today, instead of following at his dad’s heels, Mendes blazes trails into country where few hunters are willing to go, and that’s where Mendes ﬁnds some outstanding trophies. He’s had great success with both blacktails and big Ohio whitetails, and he counts elk among his favorite species to hunt with both a bow and a riﬂe. Northern California is also home to some excellent game country, and there Mendes chases turkeys and wild hogs. He’s also been to New Zealand, where he’s hunted fallow deer and red stags.
HIS UFC TRAINING DOESN’T ALLOW Much free time, but Mendes devotes a portion of each day to some hunting- or ﬁshing-related activity.
“If I’m not hunting, I’m shooting or I’m out scouting,” he says. That same drive that has compelled him to become one of the most watched ﬁghters is the same passion that drives him to hunt where there are no crowds, no reporters and no cameras. Well, sometimes there are no cameras; Mendes is a regular on outdoor television shows, and he’s also a member of Team Weatherby.
Mendes has been lucky – blessed, in his words – to have had the opportunity to turn his passion for wrestling into a proﬁtable career, and for someone who has received many honors, he’s remained humble. But ﬁghting for a living does not make for a long career. Each bout takes a physical toll, and there are always new, younger ﬁghters coming up.
Although he is currently sidelined because of a rules infraction for taking a banned substance, Mendes has made it clear to his fans and the world that the substance wasn’t a steroid but rather a peptide found in, oddly enough, medication for plaque psoriasis.
Mendes will surely ﬁght again, but for how long, even he doesn’t know.
“There’s no retirement system for ﬁghters,” he says. For that reason it’s critical to make wise investments for the future, and Mendes is doing just that. He’s started Finz and Featherz Outﬁtters (ﬁnzandfeatherz.com), which oﬀers hunters and anglers a rare opportunity to go on a hunting or ﬁshing trip with a celebrity. Several of Mendes’ fellow MMA ﬁghters go on these trips, including Faber, T.J. Dillashaw and Paige Van Zant, as do other professional athletes and celebrities from outside the Octagon.
For hunters and anglers, Finz and Featherz provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to pursue big ﬁsh and big game while rubbing elbows with some of their heroes. For Mendes, it’s an opportunity to launch a second career, one that will make him that rare guy who is able to earn a livelihood from not just one, but from two great passions.
But Mendes won’t brag about it. He’ll just smile, and say that he’s blessed. ASJ