October 21st, 2016 by Sam Morstan

Modern range finders, scopes and custom turrets make it simpler than ever to shoot accurately out to long ranges.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY BRAD FITZPATRICK

The aoudad were camouflaged in the dry grass and rocks above us, but there was no way to stalk any closer to the herd in the barren west Texas landscape. It had already been a difficult hunt, with lots of vertical climbing in the heat of the day. The band had several sentinels, and these sharp-eyed young sheep hung back behind the rest of the herd watching our position. If we were going to get a shot, it would have to be right at that moment, and from right where we were positioned.

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.

Author Brad Fitzpatrick (right) with an aoudad taken with Leupold’s CDS system on a Browning rifle. The old holdover method of shooting works fine in some cases, but there are a number of shots at game in country like this that you may have to forego.

Author Brad Fitzpatrick (right) with an aoudad taken with Leupold’s CDS system on a Browning rifle. The old holdover method of shooting works fine in some cases, but there are a number of shots at game in country like this that you may have to forego.

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.

The new LRHS from Bushnell comes with either a mil or MOA reticle and easy-to-use windage and elevation knobs. It’s also a front focal plane scope, which means you can use it to estimate range because the relative size of the reticle stays the same as you change magnification.

The new LRHS from Bushnell comes with either a mil or MOA reticle and easy-to-use windage and elevation knobs. It’s also a front focal plane scope, which means you can use it to estimate range because the relative size of the reticle stays the same as you change magnification.

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.

The Leupold CDS offers a custom dial option or, as shown here, you can opt for mil or MOA adjustments. This helps take the guesswork out of long-range hunting.

The Leupold CDS offers a custom dial option or, as shown here, you can opt for mil or MOA adjustments. This helps take the guesswork out of long-range hunting.

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.

If you carry a smartphone, it makes sense to have a ballistic app. This will give precise holdover points. If you can’t carry your phone, a range card, which the author is using with this DPMS rifle with Trijicon Accupower Mil reticle scope, works well.

If you carry a smartphone, it makes sense to have a ballistic app. This will give precise holdover points. If you can’t carry your phone, a range card, which the author is using with this DPMS rifle with Trijicon Accupower Mil reticle scope, works well.

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.

 Range cards give you all the data you need to make accurate shots. You simply have to print them – and use them.

Range cards give you all the data you need to make accurate shots. You simply have to print them – and use them.

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

 In many places, long shots are the norm, and having a dial makes accurate shooting much simpler.

In many places, long shots are the norm, and having a dial makes accurate shooting much simpler.


Posted in Gear Tagged with: , , , , ,

September 17th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

Despite The Rise Of The 6.5, The 7mm Remains America’s Favorite Metric Hunting Cartridge

STORY AND PHOTOS BY BRAD FITZPATRICK

It’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
are relatively new. Others, like the 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, are practically historic. But the 6.5s are trending right now in every platform for hunting and competitive shooting.

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.

1609-MAGNIFICENT-02

From mild to wild: The 7mm Mauser, .280 AI, 7mm Rem Mag, and 28 Nosler

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.

The Nosler Model 48 Liberty rifle comes with a 1-inch accuracy guarantee and is available in a host of 7mm chamberings, including 7mm-08, .280 AI, 7mm Remington Magnum and the company’s own 28 Nosler.

The Nosler Model 48 Liberty rifle comes with a 1-inch accuracy guarantee and is available in a host of 7mm chamberings, including 7mm-08, .280 AI, 7mm Remington Magnum and the company’s own 28 Nosler.

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.

Nosler’s 28 is a nonbelted cartridge capable of long-range shooting for all North American game. It’s an excellent elk cartridge.

Nosler’s 28 is a nonbelted cartridge capable of long-range shooting for all North American game. It’s an excellent elk cartridge.

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 7mm Remington Magnum is widely available and perfectly suited for a variety of game. If you want a versatile cartridge that is affordable, then this is the gun for you.

The 7mm Remington Magnum is widely available and perfectly suited for a variety of game. If you want a versatile cartridge that is affordable, then this is the gun for you.

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 Nosler Model 48 Liberty rifle comes with a 1-inch accuracy guarantee and is available in a host of 7mm chamberings, including 7mm-08, .280 AI, 7mm Remington Magnum and the company’s own 28 Nosler.

The Nosler Model 48 Liberty rifle comes with a 1-inch accuracy guarantee and is available in a host of 7mm chamberings, including 7mm-08, .280 AI, 7mm Remington Magnum and the company’s own 28 Nosler.

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

The 7mm Mauser, or 7x57, has little recoil and is perfect for light, handy rifles like this Ruger No. 1.

The 7mm Mauser, or 7×57, has little recoil and is perfect for light, handy rifles like this Ruger No. 1.

Posted in Ammo Tagged with: , ,

September 12th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

CHAD ‘MONEY’ MENDES BALANCES A DYNAMIC CAREER INSIDE THE UFC’S OCTAGON WITH A PASSION FOR THE OUTDOORS

STORY BY BRAD FITZPATRICK • PHOTOS BY CHAD MENDES 

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.

Mendes learned to hunt by following in his father Alvin’s footsteps. Today, he hunts right beside him (left). On this trip, they were joined by Mendes’ fiancee Abby Raines.

Mendes learned to hunt by following in his father Alvin’s footsteps. Today, he hunts right beside him (left). On this trip, they were joined by Mendes’ fiancee Abby Raines.

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.

Mendes frequently fishes the Sacramento River near his home for fall Chinook and other species.

Mendes frequently fishes the Sacramento River near his home for fall Chinook and other species.

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.IMG_0715

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.”

Mendes faces some pretty tough opponents inside the Octogan as well as outside; he took this Florida gator (above) with a bow during a hunt with Triple M Outfitters. But intense workouts with trainer Joey Rodrigues keep him in top condition.

Mendes faces some pretty tough opponents inside the Octogan as well as outside; he took this Florida gator (above) with a bow during a hunt with Triple M Outfitters. But intense workouts with trainer Joey Rodrigues keep him in top condition.

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.

Mendes is equally comfortable taking on large game with a gun or a bow. Here he poses with an aoudad, or Barbary, sheep.

Mendes is equally comfortable taking on large game with a gun or a bow. Here he poses with an aoudad, or Barbary, sheep.

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.

This gobbler was no match for Mendes’ patience and determination.

This gobbler was no match for Mendes’ patience and determination.

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.

Hunting is all about family with Mendes, and he’s often accompanied by Abby and his dad, who also sparked his interest in wrestling at a young age.

Hunting is all about family with Mendes, and he’s often accompanied by Abby and his dad, who also sparked his interest in wrestling at a young age.

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.

Finz & Featherz Guide Service is Mendes’ newest project. The service provides hunters and anglers the opportunity to fish and hunt with a variety of celebrities.

Finz & Featherz Guide Service is Mendes’ newest project. The service provides hunters and anglers the opportunity to fish and hunt with a variety of celebrities.

“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

Hailing from California’s Central Valley and best known as a UFC fighter, Chad Mendes also enjoys traveling far in search of great hunting. He took this red stag in New Zealand.

Hailing from California’s Central Valley and best known as a UFC fighter, Chad Mendes also enjoys traveling far in search of great hunting. He took this red stag in New Zealand.

Posted in Hollywood and Pop Culture Tagged with: , , , , , ,