May 31st, 2018 by asjstaff

You’ve probably heard that the US military is replacing the M16/M4 and looking into new rifles and ammo.  (US Army and Marine Corp) Wondering why they’re looking into 6.5 Creedmoor in particular? No, its not because the Russians are out gunning us. Here’s the scoop.

There are a couple things you should know about 6.5 Creedmoor and today, we’ll put this round into sharper focus for you.  So let’s look at it in more detail so that you’ll see why it works for the military and why it could work for you.

Creedmoor Kicks Ass at Long Range

6.5mm Creedmore Cartridge
6.5 Creedmoor Cartridge

Right off the bat, the US Special Operations Command understood all the good things about this cartridge as an alternative to its existing ammo.
The cartridge was introduced in 2008 as one of the first and best cartridges for precision long range shooting.

At the time, there weren’t a lot of civilians shooting long range, but in recent years, the company has seen demand grow in the hunting industry, and grow as manufacturers continue to put out more affordable long range rifles.
Today, it is the go-to cartridge for many hunters and competitive shooters.

Long Distance Shooters
Long Distance Shooters Love Creedmoor

Precision long range shooting skill a learned trait which is an advantage to have in combat and the military seems to be catching onto Creedmoor’s awesome reputation and populatiry for shooting close and tight precision groups at 500 yards or more.

Having a bigger bullet means you’ll do bigger damage to your target, whether your target is a tango or a blood thirsty wild hog.  

Our brothers in arms go through enough shit.  The last thing they need is hellish recoil.
If there’s one thing you won’t get with 6.5 Creedmoor, is its crazy blowback.

US Military in Desert
These guys don’t need to be dealing with blowback.

6.5 Creedmoor is specially designed for low recoil rounds without compromising pinpoint accuracy.
Did you also know that it can go subsonic after 1,300 yards?

When it comes to tactical applications, this cartridge packs a serious wallop

6.5 Creedmoor vs.  .308 Winchester

There are some long range groups think that there aren’t any real differences between 6.5 Creedmoor and the long-established .308 Win.
But those people would be ill-informed.
The truth is, they are very similar, however there are some things in which they differ.

First there is the huge gap between the two when it comes to ballistics.  6.5 Creedmoor loads can reach a thousand yards with less than three hundred inches of drop with proper windage.  
This is true of just about any ammo, particularly Hornady 178 grain HPBT, that is used with a 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge.  
The .308 Win doesn’t compare to that kind of numbers.

6.5 Creedmore and .308 Winchester Cartridges Compared
The Cartridges Compared

Another area in which 6.5 Creedmoor often bests .308 Win is in its accessibility.  
A lot of .308 ammo is out of stock when you visit
the major online ammo dealers.
But if you run a search for Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr AMAX, they’re everywhere.

And thats the other thing that is very good news for the military and all of us: there are plenty of dealers – large and small – from which they could order 6.5 ammo in bulk.

Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor
Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor

Another argument that comes up is about barrel longevity, claiming that the 6.5 Creedmoor only last for 2-3,000 rounds whereas the .308 Win will be good for as many as 10,000 rounds.

This is simply bogus since it all depends on whether you’re shooting 1 MOA.
Theres just no way that the .308 could be reaching that mark at 10,000.

If you’re using it with a precision rifle or for seasonal deer shooting, you’re going to go long ways with your 6.5 Creedmoor, no if, and, or buts..about it, except the butt you put a bullet in.

And thats another thing.  Combat isn’t always what it looks like in movies and on TV.  For those that have served can tell you that there are many days where you don’t see much action and, even when you do, its not necessarily a rapid fire situation.
But Murphy’s law does exist when the shit hits the fan.

If you’re an active duty sniper (Marksman Observer), you’re gonna get a whole lot more life outta your 6.5 Creedmoor than you would with the .308.

Solving the Problem
What’s really crazy about the 6.5 versus .308 argument is the simple fact that 6.5 Creedmoor was specifically conceived to be a cartridge that would be superior to the wildcat cartridges of the day.
As the story goes at the Civilian Marksmanship Program 2007 National Matches at Camp Perry, Hornady engineer Dave Emary decided to remedy what he saw as a problem among competitive shooters.

Dave Emary
The Man Himself

As Emary saw it, people were trying to push their cartridges to the limit, attempting to defy the laws of physics by brainstorming methods by which to get their cartridges to perform at levels that weren’t made to.  Problems would then crop up as a result of these jeri-rigging formulas.

In Emary’s own words, “People were having a lot of problems with functioning the 6mms.  They were running these things at very high pressures to try to get the performance they need to compete.”
“Our solution was to go to a 6.5, firing a lot higher BC bullet, and not have to push it as hard to get what they wanted.”

Dave Emary in the Hornady Workshop
Dave Emary in the Hornady Workshop

Emary and his team solved this problem by taking existing .264 cartridges and altering the specs, giving the cartridge the capacity for long-ogive, high-ballistic rounds.
Lo and behold the 6.5 was born, a short-action rifle cartridge capable of insane performance.

Make Your Hunting Experience a Good One

Like I said earlier, this cartridge isn’t just a slam dunk for the military should they end up choosing it over the others they’ve been testing.
Its also a damn good option for almost any civilian hunter or gun enthusiast.

If you didn’t hear the news: USSOCOM has adopted the 6.5 CM as their new Precision Rifle cartridge. It was a close call between the 260 Remington and the 6.5 Creedmoor, but the 6.5 CM won the day due to the military’s belief that the 6.5 CM has more room for innovation for the future.

Many target shooters have taken to the Ruger Precision Rifleand my targets gets shredded to pieces.  The results are always incredible.  At long range, many are saying the the CM leave 2.8 inches at five hundred yards.

Ruger Precision Rifle

Ruger Precision Rifle

But the advantages for game hunters is where this one really shines.  Its got a sick muzzle velocity due to its extra powder space and its able to accommodate a wealth of different medium-burning rifle powders.

If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t automatically think of long-range shooting when it comes to big game.  After all, ethical hunting requires limiting your range to as short as possible to ensure a clean kill. 

That being said, it should also stand to reason that if 6.5 Creedmoor can take out a target at 500 yards, its going to take care of business at 100 yards with no problem.

Long Range Hunting
If you can kill it from this far away, then you can kill it from just about anywhere in between.

From personal experience, I’ve seen how this can perform in a close quarters situations and I was every bit as impressed as I was when I hunted with the .308.
The round went right where I wanted it to and I bagged a deer without a rechamber.  Like I said: clean humane kill.

Why 6.5 Creedmoor is Awesome for Target Shooting

Better grouping and more affordable ammo makes the 6.5 Creedmoor a no-brainer for those who camp out a lot at the firing range.

Holes in Target from a 6.5 Creedmoor
Holes in Target from a 6.5 Creedmoor

When we take into account the rising cost of ammo in the last few years and the scrutiny that many firearm and ammo companies have faced, 6.5 ammo maintains a reasonable price point and remains readily available.

Bulk Ammo Storage
And cheaper when you buy in bulk. so stock up.

And when it comes to high-end ballistics, you can’t beat these suckers.  The BC numbers on these bad boys are awe-inspiring (approximately .610 G1 at 140 grain).  If you’re looking to impress, you really can’t go wrong with the 6.5’s remarkable 1,400 fps at 1,000 yards(!).

Best 6.5 CM Ammo

If you want the very best from this cartridge, you’ll have to get into reloading. You can start with our Beginner’s Guide To Reloading But if you’re not into that, then you’ll need something you can pick up at the store.

Training/Plinking

If you’re on the range to have fun, you don’t want to spend a fortune. But this also isn’t the kind of caliber that you buy cheap, crappy ammo for – you’ll want something that shoots consistent and for a fair price.

Sellier & Bellot is what you’re looking for, from 9mm to 6.5CM they make a good product for a good price.

Sellier & Bellot 6.5 Creedmoor 140g FMJBT - 20 Rounds

Sellier & Bellot 6.5 Creedmoor 140g FMJBT – 20 Rounds

Match Grade Long-Range Target

Of course, once you’re ready to really stretch your legs and see what this bad boy can do – it’s time to get out the good stuff!

Match grade ammo isn’t cheap, but it is amazing. Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor Extremely Low Drag match bullet is outstanding for factory ammo. Your mileage may vary, but I’ve been getting half-MOA with this ammo.

Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 120gn ELD Match - 20 Rounds

Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 147gn ELD Match – 20 Rounds

Prices accurate at time of writing

Hunting

When it comes to hunting ammo, you want great ammo. Not only for accuracy but also with a bullet that will expand and do a lot of damage to your target to ensure a clean, humane kill.

Hornady with their Super Shock Tip bullets gives that every time. A polymer tip gives you the ballistics of FMJ with the expansion and killing power of a hollow-point.

Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor 129 gr SST Polymer Tip - 20 Rounds

Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor 129 gr SST Polymer Tip – 20 Rounds

Prices accurate at time of writing

Best 6.5 CM Rifles

A cool cartridge is only as good as the weapon that throws it, just like a weapon that throws it is only as good as what it throws.

Hunting Rifle

For a budget hunting rifle, it’s hard to beat the Savage Arms 12 FV – not only is this a solid rifle out of the box, but it is at a price that is hard to beat. I commonly see this is the $370-$410 range. 

Savage Arms 12 FV

Savage Arms 12 FV

Prices accurate at time of writing

Long-Range Precision Target Rifle

I already said it, but when it comes to long-range target shooting the Ruger Precision Rifle is just too good to beat. For the price, the options, the aftermarket, and the out-of-the-box quality – you want this rifle.

Ruger Precision Rifle

Ruger Precision Rifle

Honorable Mention Rifle

A dedicated rifle for every role is the dream for many of us, but if you don’t have the room in your safe (or your budget) for that then you might want to consider a middle of the road do-it-all rifle.

The Tikka T3x is that rifle. Rugged, lightweight, smooth as butter action and outstanding trigger – a Tikka T3x is my go-to hunting rifle.

On the precision side, Tikka offers a 1 MOA from the factory guarantee and lives up to it!

Best Scopes for 6.5 CM Rifles

Once you have your ammo and rifle picked out,  you’ll want to invest in a quality scope.  Depending on what role your 6.5 Creedmoor will be filling you might want a couple of scopes!

For hunting, you’ll generally want something a little lower magnification, like this Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x.

Crossfire II 2-7x32 by Vortex

Crossfire II 2-7×32 by Vortex

But if you’re looking to do some real precision shooting, really put this cartridge to the test, then you’ll need something with a LOT more magnification: Vortex Golden Eagle 15-60x fills the bill!

Highest Magnification
Vortex Golden Eagle HD 15-60x52

Vortex Golden Eagle HD 15-60×52

Other Accessories

Another important thing to keep in mind when purchasing any cartridge is maintenance.  If you’re going to be participating in extended shooting sessions, you should always bring along the proper gear for cleaning your rifle and cartridge.  Maintenance will help you to sustain that pinpoint precision you’re hoping for.

I always take my J Dewey Rods’ Complete Bolt Action Rifle Cleaning Kit with me when I know I’m gonna spend all day at the range or out in the field.  The 6.5 kit costs around $30 and includes everything I need for proper upkeep.

J Dewey Rods

J Dewey Rods’ Complete Bolt Action Rifle Cleaning Kit

Prices accurate at time of writing

You get a BAC Chamber Kit, a B-6.5 Bore brush, an M-22 Bore mop, a CH-308 Chamber brush and a 100 count of P-221 1 ½” Round Patches.

Closing Thoughts

So what’s the bottom line? Quite simply, 6.5 Creedmoor is a formidable cartridge for tactical and target shooting applications alike.  

At the end of the day, the battle between 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester will wage on, but I think it’s clear that 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t going anywhere.

If anything, it’s only going to continue to grow in popularity as more and more long range shooters embrace it.  

What about you! Did you get the 6.5 Creedmoor? Take any game this year with it? Do you agree with the military adopting it? Let us know in the comments!

Reviews by Megan Kriss, revised by ASJ Staff

Posted in Ammo Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

May 24th, 2018 by asjstaff

Let’s say I wanted a rifle, chambered in 5.56, with a 16-inch barrel, and I wanted it to be about the same size as an SMG.

Some may say I’m crazy, others may have seen the title of this article, and are also be Die Hard aficionados.

Die Hard AUG
Die Hard badguys with their AUG

If you were in the latter group, you’d know that this is possible with guns like the Steyr AUG.

The Steyr AUG is a bullpup rifle that manages to pack a lot in a little space. It does this by placing the action behind the trigger group. This includes the magazine, bolt, and ejection port.

Steyr AUG

Steyr AUG

Prices accurate at time of writing

What the engineers at Steyr did was create a simple rifle, that incorporated a 16-inch barrel in a gun the same size as an SMG. Seriously, let’s use Die Hard as a reference because…I love Die Hard.

The Steyr AUG is only 28.15 inches with a 16-inch barrel and its chambered in a rifle caliber. That’s a pretty substantial rifle in a tiny package. That’s the magic of a bullpup.

AUG Vs. 7.5 inch AR
AUG Vs. 7.5 inch AR

Smaller guns are easier to handle in close quarters, but in rifle calibers that usually means a shorter barrel.

A shorter barrel in a rifle caliber usually means less range and a drop in ballistic performance. The Steyr AUG is the best of both worlds in many ways.

AUG Vs. 16 inch AR-15
AUG Vs. 16 inch AR-15

Table of Contents

Loading…

My AUG

The Steyr AUG’s current incarnation is the Steyr AUG A3 M1. This particular rifle sports a 1.5x optic, but is available with a 3x optic, or no optic and a scope rail. This is the NATO model, so it does accept AR 15 magazines.

Best Magazine
Magpul 30 Round PMAG Gen M3 .223/5.56 Magazine

Magpul 30 Round PMAG Gen M3 .223/5.56 Magazine

The downside is that you lose the ability to swap the gun to a left-handed configuration. With the standard model you can do that, but has to use the less common AUG mags. Although, the 42 round semi-transparent AUG magazine has a place in my heart.

The gun weighs 8.8 pounds with an optic, and in the world of lightweight ARs, it’s a little hefty. However, once you pick it up the balance is perfect. The slightly heavier than average weight isn’t that significant.

AUG Plus Pew Pew SWAG
AUG Plus Pew Pew SWAG

The optic on the gun sports Pic rails for attaching a small red dot, or whatever else you may want. There is also a small section on the left-hand side for an accessory. It is perfect for a light attachment.

A Streamlight TLR-1 with a simple switch lever works well here. It’s made for a pistol, but due to the rails placement near the support hand, it’s easy to turn on and off.

Not much room for accessories...
Not much room for accessories…

Other than that there isn’t much room for accessories. You can’t load this thing down like a traditional AR, but do you need to?

One of the cool features is how easy and quick you can remove the barrel. Right above the folding pistol grip is a small button, you move the button forward with one hand and pull the barrel with the other. Bam, it’s off.

In the past Steyr produced the AUG para kit which allowed you to convert the gun to 9mm with just a few changes, the barrel is one of them. Those kits seem few and far between these days.

You can swap the barrels out though. You can add a 20 inch, or even a 24-inch barrel to your AUG. This allows to convert the AUG to a DMR style weapon or pretend it is the squad support model of the AUG.

Ergonomics

This is my first real experience with a bullpup. I’ve played and toyed with some in the past, but this was my first time running and gunning with one. I’m keeping that in mind as I judge ergos.

Base Ergonomics

Everything feels right about this gun. The stock is nice and full and fits comfortably into the shoulder. The 15-inch LOP is excellent with or without armor. (Disclaimer I’m also 6’4” and have gorilla arms.)

The grip angle is perfect, and it better be because it can’t be changed. I’ve always like vertical foregrips, and this one works as intended. Without it, you wouldn’t have much space to grip the rifle.

AUG ADS
Aiming down the AUG optical sight

Since this gun doesn’t have a proper forend trying to rest it on barriers is almost impossible. Also if you don’t like the location of the VFG… Well too bad, because it can’t be moved.

Lastly, the gun is equipped with two QD sling swivels for right-handed users only. Perfect for my favorite Blue Force Gear Vickers sling.

Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling

Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling

Reloading

As a Marine and AR owner, I’m used to a more standard layout, and my muscle memory was clinging to that style. It took a lot of practice both dry and live fire for me to master the ergos. Admittedly reloading is nowhere near as intuitive as an AR or standard layout rifle.

I did a lot of practice reloads and eventually found my way of reloading efficiently, but I don’t feel I’d ever be as fast as I am with a standard rifle. The gun has two mag releases and both work depending on your style of reloading.

Reloading the AUG isn’t the most natural of movements…but you can train into it

The first is a small button forward of the magazine well. The second is a rear lever placed right behind the magazine. I prefer the rear lever. If I keep my thumb pointing up on my fresh magazine my thumb presses the lever up and releases the magazine.

I grip it with the same hand, remove it, reload, and carry on.

Controls

The controls used outside of reloading are very simple and intuitive. The charging handle is placed on the left side and easy to reach and use. That being said it takes a little force to get that bolt back.

AUG Safety
Square cross bolt safety located back and above of the trigger

The safety is just a square push button, and it works as intended, is easy to use, and provides a tactile method of knowing what state your rifle is in.

Live Fire

The gun points exceptionally well. It feels so natural to take it from low ready to high ready and fire. It’s short size, and excellent balance comes into effect here. It points so well it’s honestly easy to fire with one hand.

I’m no physics buff, but the fact that most of the gun is to the rear and barely any barrel is forward of the shooter means the muzzle is much easier to control. Remember the exaggerated C-Clamp so many guys use with ARs?

AUG ADS Side
AUG cheek weld is easy to aquire

The same theory is in effect here. Recoil is typical of a 5.56 caliber weapon, so there isn’t much to say other than its minimal and pleasant.

The most prominent downside to the AUG is its trigger. If you run Timneys in your AR, then you will be aghast at the AUG’s trigger. It’s functional, but far from the match grade performance many of us are accustom to.

It’s squishy, the pull is long, and it’s quite gritty. It’s 9 pounds, and you feel every ounce of it. I wouldn’t take it to an NRA High Power match, or a precision rifle contest. With that said it’s not bad enough to make you miss, just bad enough to open up your groups a bit.

Uses

This rifle could be used for a wide variety of purposes. It’s certainly an exciting gun to bring to 3-Gun, albeit reloading may be a little tricky for speedy purposes. It’s certainly a great home defense weapon.

The compact size is perfect for inside the house and close quarters use. It’s balanced well, in a competent caliber, and even equipped with a suppressor it’s still roughly the same size as a standard AR 15.

AUG ADS Rear
Careful of that ejection port, lefties beware of righthanded rifles!

As a duty gun, it’s served several countries exceptionally well. At one point it was even adopted by the Department of Homeland Security. The AUG is one of the longest-serving bullpup rifles out there and its proven in terms of reliability and usefulness.

It’s an excellent gun for smaller shooters who want to exercise the most control over their weapon possible. It’s got a great length of pull, gives the shooter an excellent degree of control over the gun, and with a little time and effort put into training, the controls are flawless.

The last use is, of course, the best one, it’s fun. It’s fun to shoot, it looks like a space gun, and its a dream to shoot. Plus, it’s excellent for shooting glass. (last Die Hard reference I promise.)

Upgrades

We all like accessorizing our guns, but unfortunately, the AUG doesn’t have a massive aftermarket. There are a few companies producing some excellent, high-quality upgrades. Corvus Defensio comes to mind immediately.

The big problem is that the AUG itself doesn’t leave a lot of room for customization. It’s a simple weapon, and it was designed over thirty years ago.

AUG taking a nap on a tree
AUG taking a nap on a tree after a long day at the range

By the Numbers

Reliability 5/5

The thing never went click when it should have gone bang. I went through everything from nice TAP ammo to cheap Tula and it worked. No issues ejecting, loading, or firing. The AUG has been around long enough that any such problems would be corrected by now.

Ergonomics 3/5

The gun gets really high marks in some areas and low marks in others. The trigger kinda sucks and I’m taking a point away solely for that. Reloading is an iffy proposition, and will never be AR fast, but with practice, it’s intuitive enough. The other big flaw is that should the gun have a failure the placement of the ejection port makes squick access difficult.

Accuracy 4/5

The gun is quite accurate and capable of producing respective groups. It well beyond Minute of Bad Guy accuracy and out to several hundred yards I can hit the chest area of my targets. The trigger is kinda crap takes a point off.

Accessories and Upgrades 2/5

I’m going to give it one point for the barrel and bipod options and 1 point for potential. The Steyr AUG is so simple it seems like it would be easy to do caliber conversions, offer different forward grips, and really change things up. Unfortunately, the rifle isn’t popular enough in the US to receive the AR treatment.

Looks 5/5

So this is obviously subjective and my 5 rating is clearly based on a lot of inherent bias about this gun. It looks cool to me. Sorry, but it always will. Objectively I can say the finish is nice and evenly applied, and looks smooth and classy. The stock’s FDE mixed with the black metal gives a nice balanced look of colors.

Bang for Your Buck Value 2/5

This is not a cheap gun by any stretch. It’s not even really a cheap bullpup these days. On average it’s at least 500 bucks more than the base model of the Tavor. Compared to the AR market it’s even higher than some nice Daniel Defense AR rifles. I’m giving it a 2 because if you want an AUG it’s really your only option… and it’s not FN SCAR money.

Overall 3.5/5

The Steyr AUG is a great gun. It does have some flaws, and if it was available for around 1,500 bucks it’d be a real winner. This particular model typically retails for over 2k and that’s a hard sell. It’s a straight-shooting, compact, and well-designed platform that shows us what a bullpup can really do.

Do you have an AUG? How do you like it? What other bullpups do you love (Best Bullpup Rifles & Shotguns)? Most importantly, what is your favorite Die Hard movie? Let us know in the comments!

The post Steyr AUG [Hands-On Review] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.

Posted in Fun, Gear, Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , ,

May 20th, 2018 by asjstaff

Are PSA’s low prices too good to be true?

For years I’ve heard of Palmetto State Armory and their ultra-affordable AR-15s.  The only negative things were some finishing issues and shipping delays here and there.

But… for a long time I was a little obsessed with name brands and scoffed at sub-$500 rifles.

I finally bit the bullet…

PSA 5.56 & .223 Wylde
PSA 5.56 & .223 Wylde

I got three of their uppers (16″ 5.56 with front sight block, 16″ 5.56 free-float rail, 18″ stainless .223 Wylde), one of their lowers, and shot a lot of rounds through them.

Palmetto State Armory (PSA) Complete AR-15s

Palmetto State Armory (PSA) Complete AR-15s

Prices accurate at time of writing

By the end you’ll know if a PSA rifle/upper is right for you…and the best model to get based on your use.

Table of Contents

Loading…

Who Is It For?

  • Budget conscious buyers who want something that works and can overlook some details like perfect finishing and dead-on accuracy
  • Someone who wants a lot of options in terms of barrel length and handguard
  • People who can wait a while for something to go into stock or ship

Why Is It So Cheap?

PSA sent me these three uppers and one lower for testing.

But they are going through the same testing procedures I do for all my other guns.

And at a higher round count since reliability is key when I recommend more budget-friendly options.

I spoke with PSA and the reason their AR-15s are so affordable is due to full vertical integration.  From raw metal to the finished product…they do it themselves.

Fit, Feel, & Finish

PSA has their Freedom line which is their most affordable and is pretty much mil-spec (meets military specifications).

PSA 16" Freedom Rifle

PSA 16″ Freedom Rifle

Prices accurate at time of writing

However, like I outlined in our AR-15 Buyer’s Guide…I like a mid-length gas system way better than the standard carbine-length.

It gives you more rail space and a softer shooting impulse since the gas tube is longer and gas block is more forward.

Unless you’re going for the pure M4 look…I’d opt for something in the mid-length arena.  Or at least their Magpul MOE furniture models so you can add some rails in the future.

Barrels & Gas Systems

For my upper with a FSB (front sight block…that triangle thing you see above), I went with a 16″ mid-length Magpul model and Nitride-coated barrel.

PSA 16" Mid-Length Uppers

PSA 16″ Mid-Length Uppers

Prices accurate at time of writing

This gives me a longer handguard (with M-LOK), ability to add rails, Magpul rear flip sight, and a nicer barrel finish compared to phosphate.

 PSA 16" Nitride with FSB
PSA 16″ Nitride with FSB

Since it has a pinned FSB…it’s a little front-heavy….but that’s the nature of the beast.  The FSB is pinned well and the handguard is really on there.  You can see my segment of Picatinny I added to the handguard’s M-LOK attachment points.

PSA Pinned FSB
PSA Pinned FSB

The next upper would be my favorite overall setup.  16″ mid-length with a 13.5″ M-LOK free-floating barrel and Nitride barrel.

PSA 16" Nitride Free Floating
PSA 16″ Nitride Free Floating

Now you get the benefit of not having a FSB which helps the weight balance, and also having a free-floating handguard that increases accuracy by taking away contact points on the barrel.

For absolute reliability I’d still opt for the FSB model…but free-float AR’s are now the standard, you can attach a lot of stuff, and the gas block is really on there.

PSA FSB vs Free-Floating
PSA FSB vs Free-Floating

The last model is the 18″ .223 Wylde which is a relatively new chambering that will shoot BOTH 5.56 and .223 but offers a slight accuracy edge.  Usually you’ll see the more accurate barrels in stainless which is what we have here.

This comes in an even softer shooting rifle-length gas system and 15″ M-LOK free-floating rail.

PSA .223 Wylde 18"
PSA .223 Wylde 18″

All came with mil-spec A2 bird-case flash-hiders that were installed correctly and didn’t require superhuman strength to take off and switch for some compensators.

Barrels

PSA seems to have three tiers of barrels.

  1. Premium: chrome-lined or CHF (cold hammer forged) that are made by FN
  2. Standard: Nitride, Melonite, and stainless barrels
  3. Basic: phosphate coated

The two 5.56 uppers I received were Nitride coated instead of regular phosphate…while the Wylde was stainless steel.

PSA Barrel Coatings
PSA Barrel Coatings

Nitride (two left black ones) is smooth while stainless is…stainless.  The BCG on the right gives you a sense of what the rougher texture phosphate looks like.  Nitride is supposed to be a little tougher and I like the smooth look.

I took apart the free-floating 5.56 and Wylde.  Straight gas tubes…

Straight Gas Tube
Straight Gas Tube

And at least 35 in-lb of torque on the gas block with some sort of weird spill on the 5.56.

PSA 5.56 Gas Block Torque
PSA 5.56 Gas Block Torque

Upper Receivers

There’s not too much to say here…everything is where it’s supposed to be.

PSA Upper Receivers
PSA Upper Receivers
  • Ejection port door works
  • Forward assist works
  • Charging handle feels mil-spec and works
  • T-Markings present and easy to read
  • Evenly phosphate coated

If I had to nitpick…there’s some super small machining marks on the forward assist for two of the uppers I had.  Not even sure you can see them in the pics.

Small Machining Marks on Upper Receivers
Small Machining Marks on Upper Receivers

Handguards

The Magpul mid-length polymer handguard is what it is.  A great update to the mil-spec plastic handguard that can’t attach anything.

PSA 5.56 Uppers
PSA 5.56 Uppers

The free-floating M-LOK handguards work too.  The thin profile feels great in the hand…but could use a little more TLC in the CNC to get rid of sharper edges.

Also the 13.5″ is a little on the purple-ish side and a little off in orientation between receiver and handguard…but nothing an Allen wrench and a small turn didn’t fix.

PSA Handguard Misalignment
PSA Handguard Misalignment

The more “premium” Wylde upper was properly aligned and colored.

BCG + Charging Handles

As mil-spec as they come.  Everything is as it should be and the gas-keys are properly staked.

PSA BCGs Disassembled
PSA BCGs Disassembled

The 5.56 uppers had phosphate coated BCGs (mil-spec) while the Wylde had a Nitride coated one.

PSA Phosphate & Nitride BCGs
PSA Phosphate & Nitride BCGs

If I had to nitpick again…the coating is a little bumpier than other phosphates I’ve used, but since only the rails of the BCG contact anything…there’s no real downside.

I found that the mil-spec phosphate BCGs were not MP marked (magnetic particle inspected) while the more premium .223 Wylde one was.

PSA Bolts
PSA Bolts (Bottom is Wylde)

All the bolts were listed Carpenter 158 steel (mil-spec) but I’ve seen some PSA models where it is 9310 steel.  Fine for civilian use but if you really want mil-spec…go for the Carpenter 158.  The carriers were all 9620 steel (mil-spec).

Charging handles were mil-spec as well.

PSA Charging Handles
PSA Charging Handles

Since I’ve gone with aftermarket charging handles…I cannot go back (Best AR-15 Charging Handles).

Lower

I built the lower as a kit so I added a few dings here and there (How to Build an AR-15 Lower).  I got the Magpul kit which has their buttstock, grip, and trigger guard.

This one also comes with PSA’s EPT trigger which is silver compared to mil-spec phosphate black.  Much less grit!

PSA Lower
PSA Lower

But for this one I did have a little trouble threading the grip screw initially.  I’m thinking the coating was a little thick since I had to muscle my way through the initial turns.

Otherwise everything installed as it should.

How Does It Shoot?

What really matters…right?

PSA 5.56 Testing
PSA 5.56 Testing

I took a bunch of ammo, a buddy, and the two 5.56 uppers to the range.  With the goal of putting as many rounds downrange as possible.

I cleaned the barrels but otherwise did not do any break-in procedures.  I started with ~300 rounds of Wolf Gold (Best AR-15 Ammo) through each one before the accuracy tests.

PSA Break-In
PSA Break-In

For the 16″ with FSB…there were two failures to load a new round after a magazine change in the first 40 rounds.  However after that it shot without a hiccup.

For the M-LOK free-floating version, there was one failure to load on the first magazine change and no more problems afterwards.

This is likely due to all the parts breaking in.

Recoil was standard and mild for both 5.56 uppers.  After a few mags I was easily hitting 12″ plates at 100 yards with my EOTech.

PSA 5.56 Uppers
PSA 5.56 Uppers

But still made me realize how spoiled I’ve been with adjustable gas-blocks and compensators (Best AR-15 Upgrades).

Adjustable Gas Block & Compensator
Adjustable Gas Block & Compensator

One thing…

For the free-floating version, if you grip around the gas block like I do…you’ll feel a little heat when dumping rounds.  Not enough to burn…but enough to have a red hand after 500 rounds.

Here’s my buddy and me at our second range day.  I’m running my competition lower with a much better trigger (Best AR-15 Triggers).

https://fast.wistia.com/embed/medias/6anh6ves58.jsonp https://fast.wistia.com/assets/external/E-v1.js

Compatibility

The uppers worked flawlessly after the initial break-in on the following lowers:

  • Aero Precision (x2)
  • Colt
  • Anderson
  • Daniel Defense

While the lower worked with the following uppers:

  • Aero Precision (x2)
  • Colt
  • Daniel Defense

Accuracy

The 5.56 barrels are the middle of the road for PSA.  Let’s see how they fare.

I let the barrels cool down and then ran through Wolf Gold, PMC Bronze, American Eagle, and Federal Gold Match.

PSA 5.56 Testing Rounds
PSA 5.56 Testing Rounds

I used my standard testing platform for all my AR-15 stuff…

Testing PSA FSB
Testing PSA FSB

Targets were placed at 100 yards and I shot at a pace of around 1 shot per 10 seconds.  10 shots each group.

PSA FSB Accuracy
PSA FSB Accuracy

Mil-spec is 3-4 MOA which means 3-4 inch groups at 100 yards.  The FSB version falls within that (targets are 8″).  With PMC Bronze doing the best of the plinking rounds at around 3 MOA.

Gold Match does the best but keep in mind it’s about $1 a shot.  If you’re shooting that on a regular basis you’re probably looking at other rifles (Best AR-15s).

All in all…it’s as I expected.  When there’s a front sight block there’s a whole lot of stuff touching the barrel which doesn’t help accuracy.  Let’s see the free-floating model.

PSA Free Floating Accuracy
PSA Free Floating Accuracy

Much better!  Looks like all the groups closed up.  PMC Bronze and American Eagle are pretty even at what looks like 2 MOA.  Gold Match is still the ultimate winner but it’s not THAT much off from PMC and AE.

When you have a free-floating handguard there’s less contact with the barrel and the accuracy shows.

Now how about the .223 Wylde we’ve forgotten?

PSA .223 Wylde 18"
PSA .223 Wylde 18″

Since this is a more premium barrel and made for accuracy…I did a break-in procedure with it as well as with PSA’s .224 Valkyrie (coming soon).

PSA Breakin Procedure
PSA Breakin Procedure

I cleaned the barrel and shot 1 round through before using copper solvent and a brush.  Repeat the shoot and clean for 5x total.  Then I changed it up to 5 shots before cleaning.  Repeat 5x.

I then plinked ~200 rounds.

Finally, I was ready…

PSA .223 Wylde Testing
PSA .223 Wylde Testing

I used a different lower with a Triggertech trigger which I might actually like more than my Hiperfire (Best AR-15 Triggers).  I started running low on Gold Medal so the last group only has 4 rounds.

PSA .223 Wylde Accuracy
PSA .223 Wylde Accuracy

Disappointing…

It really looks like the FSB version instead of something that uses a tighter chamber and a free-floating handguard.

I’ll continue testing but right now looks like I would stick with PSA’s regular 5.56 offerings (free-floating of course).

Recommended Models

The thing with PSA is that they are always in and out of stock of everything.  And they have almost every combination under the sun…which makes it nice but also a headache to find what you want.

Complete Rifles

No fuss of building anything…out of the box ready to go.

Palmetto State Armory (PSA) Complete AR-15s

Palmetto State Armory (PSA) Complete AR-15s

Prices accurate at time of writing

I again like mid-length gas systems and it looks like their Nitride barrels are GTG.  Their more premium selections (CHF) should be great as well if you have a little more to spend.  I haven’t spent time with their regular barrels (phosphate), but other reviews vouch for them.

I personally like free-floating M-LOK handguards since they give you added accuracy and lots of space to put stuff.  Unless you really want the look of a FSB…go for free-floating!

Uppers

Already have a lower and want an affordable upper?  There’s a bazillion options again…so here’s a search for 16″ mid-lengths to narrow it down a little:

PSA 16" Mid-Length Uppers

PSA 16″ Mid-Length Uppers

Prices accurate at time of writing

Remember to choose the options with BCG (bolt carrier group), CH (charging handle), and Magpul MBUS (flip backup sights) if you need them.

Lowers

Looking at complete lowers?  I prefer the Magpul editions…mil-spec buttstocks and pistol grips are not great.

PSA Complete AR-15 Lowers

PSA Complete AR-15 Lowers

Prices accurate at time of writing

Rifle Kits

A little something I learned recently…retailers must add on a 11% tax for fully assembled firearms.

PSA has rifle kits which…if you’re a little handy…will save you a bunch when you build your own lower.

PSA 16" Rifle Kits

PSA 16″ Rifle Kits

Prices accurate at time of writing

And be sure to get a stripped lower since the kit will contain everything except that.

PSA Stripped Lower

PSA Stripped Lower

Prices accurate at time of writing

Follow our How to Build an AR-15 Lower guide to put it all together.

By the Numbers

Reliability: 5/5

After some minor break-in to loosen things up…my PSA uppers were fully reliable at my current round count of 1500 across all three.

Accuracy: 3/5

It’ll do its job within mil-spec with regular plinking ammo, and seems to like PMC Bronze overall the best (Best AR-15 Ammo).  Little bummed out that the .223 Wylde didn’t perform as well as it should.

Ergonomics: 4.5/5

Magpul kit makes it pretty good with the buttstock and pistol grip.  Free-floating handguard is thin but a little too sharp around the edges.

Looks: 4/5

Pretty average here but could use more consistency in color.

Customization: 5/5

It’s an AR-15 with M-Lok so the sky’s the limit.  Check out my list of the Best AR-15 Upgrades & Best AR-15 Optics if you need help.

Bang for the Buck: 5/5

You can get a fully reliable AR for under $500…and even lower if you get the kits.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Conclusion

The online legends are true.

PSA 5.56 & .223 Wylde
PSA 5.56 & .223 Wylde

Based on my testing I can totally recommend Palmetto State Armory for an affordable AR-15 that will go bang every time.

My favorite would still be their mid-length free-floating options…but their more M4-looking FSB ones also fit the bill.

Palmetto State Armory (PSA) Complete AR-15s

Palmetto State Armory (PSA) Complete AR-15s

Prices accurate at time of writing

For now…stay away from their Wylde and soon I’ll have reports on their .224 Valkyrie and more.  Plus I’m going to put much more rounds in all three and update if anything changes.

And once you get one…check out our AR-15 Definitive Resource for everything AR.

What do you think of the review?  Is a PSA AR-15 on your horizon?  Or if you already have one…how’s it working out for you?

The post Palmetto State Armory (PSA) AR-15 [3 Rifle Review] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , ,

May 16th, 2018 by asjstaff

Looking for bull barrel accuracy in a lightweight package?

Check out the new generation of barrels…carbon fiber, baby!

BSF Barrel, No Handguard
BSF Barrel, Fully Exposed

We cover the most popular ones in Best Carbon Fiber Barrels…but today we focus on BSF which brings us perforated carbon fiber instead of a wrap.

Plus…compared to the others out there…the BSF is the most affordable (I use that term loosely).

Carbon Fiber Goodness
BSF Barrels .223 Wylde Carbon Fiber 1/8 Twist

BSF Barrels .223 Wylde Carbon Fiber 1/8 Twist

Who Is It For?

  • Competition shooters who want a stiff bull barrel profile but not all the weight
  • Shooters who don’t want their barrel heating up and all the accuracy problems that come with it
  • Someone who needs your barrel to look really really cool

About BSF

I only heard about BSF in the last year but they are making a splash in the carbon fiber (CF) arena with their perforated barrels instead of standard wraps.

My understanding is that there’s a 416R stainless steel match barrel underneath there that is covered with CF.  However…95% of the CF doesn’t even touch the steel (only 4 contact points: chamber, before/after the gas block, and near the muzzle).

This creates air gaps that cool the barrel through the perforations.

BSF Barrel Closeup
BSF Barrel Closeup

I was lucky enough to try this out in a new build thanks to Rainier Arms who sent me a barrel for testing.

Fit & Feel

The barrel was a sight to behold.  Even the wife said it was cool…and by now all the barrels and uppers around the house look the same to her.

I tried out the 16.5″ .223 Wylde in 1:8 twist which clocks in at 26.9 oz.  Compare that to a standard M4 profile 16″ barrel at 28 oz.  If you want to go bull barrel stainless…it can reach 3 lbs (48 oz).  I couldn’t find exact numbers since I could only find 18″ bull barrels that are over 3.5 lbs.

BSF Complete Upper
BSF Complete Upper

My full build which contains all my favorites:

Install

It is a little more difficult to install since there’s no barrel shoulder to gauge where to put the gas block.  But if you have an electronic caliper…you should be good.

My go-to Superlative Arms block (this time in .936 for the bull barrel) went on easily after I made a small etch marking on the stainless section of the barrel.

BSF Barrel with Superlative Gas Block
BSF Barrel with Superlative Gas Block

Otherwise with my combo of the Brigand Arms CF handguard…I found that it rubbed the top of the gas block.  Which technically makes it no longer free-floating…but I wanted to see how it would shoot still.

My second build was with a Midwest ML G3 handguard which made it true free-floating plus a stiffer Aero upper receiver instead of the F1.

Competition Rifle with BSF Barrel
2nd Rifle Build with BSF Barrel

Testing

What you’ve been waiting for…does it actually work?

I conducted two rounds of tests…one with the touching CF handguard and one with the free-floating.

BSF Barrel Testing
BSF Barrel Testing

200 round break-in, targets at 100 yards, and shooting at a fast pace (as soon as sights were back on target) with no cooling down period.

And an assortment of my Best AR-15 Ammo.

BSF Barrel Groups
BSF Barrel Groups

If these were my regular groups with some cool-down and a slow steady shooting pace…I’d be a little disappointed.  But I wanted to test how the heat dissipation worked and how it would perform in a little more competitive arena.

In that regard…I’m pretty impressed.  It was pretty happy with Wolf Gold (the cheapest ammo) and very happy with Gold Match ($$$).

I also shot 30 rounds as fast as I could at the range and held the barrel.  Only warm!

BSF Barrel 30 Round Dump
BSF Barrel 30 Round Dump

In my second round of tests on another range day, I used the Midwest Handguard and Aero upper.  And a new Triggertech trigger which I actually like the most now.

BSF Barrel Testing, Round 2
BSF Barrel Testing, Round 2

And the results were on par…

BSF Barrel Groups, Round 2
BSF Barrel Groups, Round 2

All in all…pretty happy about the groups when I was shooting as fast as I could get on target with no cool down.

I’m sure if I started hand-loading I could really close up the groups.  But it’s a pain to prep .223/5.56 brass so I stopped doing that.  But even with this I was ringing steel at 300-400 pretty easily on a 1-6x scope.

Specifications:

  • Lightest .936 bull barrel
  • Chambered in .223 Wylde
  • Twist Rate 1:8
  • Drilled to vent heat-fastest cooling carbon fiber barrel
  • Carbon sleeved space between the carbon and stainless barrel- there are air gaps in between the stainless and the carbon
  • Can be held without burning hand after 60 consecutive shots
  • Match grade double stress relieved
  • Roll wrapped carbon is 3 times stronger than stainless steel

By the Numbers

Reliability: 5/5

No failures of any kind in the ~400 rounds I shot through.

Accuracy: 4.5/5

Great groups when you consider shooting with no cool down and as fast as I could get back on target.  A 5 would be consisten sub-moa even at high speed.

Looks: 5/5

I’d make it a 10 if I could.  But it really stands out…especially with the sweet carbon fiber drilled holes.

Bang for the Buck: 3.5/5

It’s $500…would I count it as double a really high quality 16″ Wylde barrel?  Probably not.  But if you’re at the top of your game or want an unfair advantage in relation to your groups opening up due to heat…this could be it.  However…the most affordable out of other CF options.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Conclusion

I believe the hype of carbon fiber barrels now.

Take a lightweight bull barrel profile with great groups at speed…and you have a winner.  If you have the coin for a sweet new build…check out BSF.  It’s definitely my new competition rifle.

Ringing steel at 100 was easy standing up and with a 1x.  The rifle was well balanced and once I got the Superlative Arms gas block tuned in…it felt like a pea shooter.

Competition Rifle with BSF Barrel
Competition Rifle with BSF Barrel

I’ll be reporting back as I get more rounds and comps through it.

Carbon Fiber Goodness
BSF Barrels .223 Wylde Carbon Fiber 1/8 Twist

BSF Barrels .223 Wylde Carbon Fiber 1/8 Twist

Otherwise…check out our other Best AR-15 Barrels for something more bang-for-the-buck for the everyday shooter.

The post BSF Carbon Fiber Barrel [Review] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

May 2nd, 2018 by asjstaff

Deer seasons in most of the USA doesn’t start until September – but if you’re looking to harvest some whitetail this year you’re probably already planning your hunt now.  

Hopefully, you’re planning on shooting and developing your loads for upcoming hunts and maybe spending some time hiking, working out and getting ready for long days in the field and packing that hard-earned venison back to the trailhead. If you haven’t started yet, get going.

Hunting Is Never This Easy
Hunting Is Never This Easy

This fall some 10 million hunters will go afield in search of the whitetail buck of their dreams.  On average, about 6 million deer will be harvested.

Though the numbers seem astronomical, consider this.  In 1900 it is estimated that less than 500,000 whitetail deer remained in the US.  As of 2013, there were an estimated 32,000,000 whitetails.  

A true conservation success story and one that points to the hunter as the true conservationist.

The whitetail deer is the most popular big-game species to hunt.  Partly because of the sheer numbers, but also because the whitetail can be found from as far north as the  Arctic Circle in Canada to Brazil and Peru in South America.

From the east coast to the west coast whitetails can be found in every state in the Lower 48.

Whitetails live in vastly different habitats.  You may find them in the edges around agricultural operations such as beans, corn, and alfalfa.  Some you find at high elevation in the aspens in Colorado and Wyoming. Others prefer the tight, close confines of the river bottoms.  

Because of the adaptability of whitetails, where you hunt will largely determine the rifle and ammo combination needed to be successful.

The whitetail is the smallest of the deer species in North America.  On average a mature buck will weigh about 150 pounds, and a doe about 100 pounds.  They are thin-skinned and have a relatively dainty bone structure.

So cleanly killing a whitetail does not take a specialized or heavy rifle and cartridge.  A well-placed bullet from nearly any centerfire rifle will allow you to ethically take whitetail deer.

What About The Guns?

There are a lot of options when it comes to rifle and cartridges, let’s take a look at some good choices for whitetail hunting to get you started down the path to a whitetail hunting career.

(top to bottom) Tikka T3 Lite .308, Savage Model 99 .300 Savage, Winchester Model 94 Trapper .30-30
(top to bottom) Tikka T3 Lite .308, Savage Model 99 .300 Savage, Winchester Model 94 Trapper .30-30

 

.30-30

You’re kidding, right?  With all the fast new and sexy cartridges out there, why do I list the .30-30 first?  

In all likelihood, the .30-30 Winchester Centerfire has taken more whitetail than any other cartridge.  Often packaged in a compact, light and easy to carry lever-action rifle, the .30-30 makes a lot of sense.  

There are a lot of whitetail in the river bottoms and thick forest and swamps.  Shots will be short. You’ll likely be on a stand or stalk hunting and catch a glimpse of a whitetail sneaking through the woods.  

Traditional open sights or a peep sight are quick to acquire and quite accurate for 50-100 yard shots.

Any good bullet designed for tubular magazines will be fine.  My Winchester Model 94’s prefer 150-grain flat-points. 

Normally you need to use round nose or flat nose bullets in a tube magazine for safety reasons, however, Hornady now offers a tube magazine safe spitzer cartridge using their FTX bullets.  Although these cost a bit more than standard .30-30 rounds, they offer better penetration, better accuracy, longer range, and more reliable feeding.

Hornady LeverEvolution .30-30

Hornady LeverEvolution .30-30

.308 Winchester

The .308 was originally designed as a military cartridge.  Sportsmen quickly realized that the .308 cartridge design was very accurate and could be housed in short action rifles, making them quite handy in the field.  

The .308 gives up very little performance as far as velocity and energy compared to the 30-06. What it doesn’t do is recoil very much. A .308 with good 165 – 180-grain bullets will easily handle all your whitetail hunting from very close cover to 300+ yards with good optics.  

I am a fan of Nosler Partitions and have never had one fail me.  My hunting partners use Barnes TTSX and Hornady GMX with equal success.

Federal Vital-Shock .308 Win 180gn Nosler Partition

Federal Vital-Shock .308 Win 180gn Nosler Partition

.30-06 Springfield

Another military cartridge adopted for sporting use.  The .30-06 is a do-it-all cartridge.

With the exception of big bears and the dangerous game of Africa, you would be well-served with a quality bolt action rifle in .30-06 to take on virtually any big-game species on the planet.  

In fact, in his book “One Man, One Rifle, One Land”  JY Jones writes about his quest to take all 43 North American Species with the same .30-06 rifle.

Loaded with bullets from 150-180 grains, the .30-06 is a solid choice for someone who wants to hunt big game and do their hunting with one rifle.

Winchester .30-06 180gn AccuBond CT

Winchester .30-06 180gn AccuBond CT

The Modern Sporting Rifle – AKA:  The AR-15

I know, ‘who hunts deer with an AR?’.  Truth be told, lots of folks do.

The AR is one of, if not the fastest selling rifle platform available today.  The simple fact is the AR is today’s modern sporting rifle. 

Light, handy, ammo is stocked in every gun store in the nation and in all different loads, and priced so an AR-15 is within reach of nearly anyone.

However, several states require deer hunting to be done with a cartridge larger than .23cal and/or have magazine restrictions for what can be used in a hunting rifle – check your regulations before deciding on your rifle!

If it is legal and you do choose standard .223/5.56mm as your cartridge you should be aware that although possible, these cartridges limit you greatly. Choose heavy grain, soft tip ammo and keep your range within 150 yards and a standard AR-15 will serve you well.

Federal Power-Shok .223 64gn SP

Federal Power-Shok .223 64gn SP

But if you’re looking to expand your options – you can always choose a new upper for your AR-15 and unlock a whole new world of ballistic possibilities!

Uppers in cartridges such as 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 Remington SPC are fine options – however, the far more popular is the .300 Blackout.

The .300 Blk gets a lot of press for use in AR’s and some specialty handguns.  It was designed in part to work well in AR’s as well as for use in suppressed weapons systems.

If you want to hunt with the .300 Blackout, stick with bullets that 150 grains and you will get adequate energy and penetration on deer-sized game out to 200 yards.

Winchester Deer Season .300 Blackout 150gn XP

Winchester Deer Season .300 Blackout 150gn XP

Prices accurate at time of writing

While the above cartridges will likely serve the vast majority of whitetails hunters just fine, there are those who may wish to stretch the yardage a bit or pursue bigger game.  If you want to stay in the AR platform look closely at the AR-10 platform and move into the .308 Winchester with 150 or 165-grain bullets. 

We’ve laid out the differences between the AR-15 and AR-10 and should Help You Decide Between the AR-15 and AR-10.

Now you have a powerful cartridge in a semi-auto package capable of taking game cleanly at extended ranges.  You will pay a penalty in weight and cost, but it is a viable option if you plan to hunt in areas where shots may be long.

(Left to Right) .308 165gn Nosler Partition taken from 350lbs Black Bear, .308 165gn Nosler Partition taken from Cow Elk
(Left to Right) .308 165gn Nosler Partition taken from 350lbs Black Bear, .308 165gn Nosler Partition taken from Cow Elk

These are the only 2 bullets I’ve recovered from game shot with a Nosler Partition.

While not at all an exhaustive list, I believe anyone looking to start big game hunting with whitetails will be well served with the above choices.  

As for what rifle to buy, you have to decide.  My personal experience has been mostly with bolt actions;  Remington Model 700, Tikka T3 Lite, Ruger Mod 77, Ruger American Predator and semi-custom Mauser 98’s.  All work well. All are accurate. All kill whitetail deer just fine if you place your shots correctly.

If you’re interested in the newest iterations of hunting rifles, check out our Best New Hunting Rifles of 2018.

Gear For Your Hunt

Now that you have a rifle in hand, what else do you need to have to be able to spend the entire day in the field hunting?  

I’m a little over-the-top in what I carry. I grew in the Scouting program and I am a firm believer in Being Prepared.

Also, being from the Northwest I carry more gear than the average hunter because we have wide temperature swings, it will most likely be raining and/or snowing and I want to be sure I am 100% able to function on my own and not be a burden on my partners.

Let’s take a quick look at the very minimum I would have in my pack for a day of whitetail hunting in northeast Washington.  I will not go too much into clothing since that is a regional and seasonal variable that everyone needs to deal with on hunt-by-hunt basis.

In the photo below is my gear:

Hunting Gear
My Hunting Gear for NE Washington

Here’s a quick run-down of what you see and why.  Starting in the upper left of the photo:

  • Sawyer water filter to make more water as needed.
  • Food.  You need to stay fueled all day.   The colder the weather, the more you need.  I always have soups, coffee, tea, etc to help me warm on a cold day.
  • GSI Bottle Cup.  Stainless steel.  Can be used on a stove or over a fire.
  • Esbit Folding Stove.  Quick and easy way to heat water for lunch.
  • Fire starters:  At least 2 lighters, matches, flint and steel and fire starters.  It is critical you learn how to make fire and do it every time.
  • Leatherman Multi-Plier.  There is always something you need to hold, cut, bend.  My multitool has been in my pack since 1994.
Leatherman Wave Multitool

Leatherman Wave Multitool

Prices accurate at time of writing

  • Space Blanket:  Use it as a tarp, a ground cover or a sleeping bag.
  • Rangefinder and binoculars.  I like the compact models.  The ones shown are both Leupold brand products.  You need to be able to glass at distance and in thick cover.  The rangefinder is handy if you are in a more open area or are shooting cartridges or a muzzleloader with less range.
  • A headlamp and a flashlight.  Ever boned out a deer trying to hold a flashlight with one hand?  I like the Zebra Light for my headlamp.  A single AA battery gives me 200 lumens at the top end and multiple lower settings.  A great tool for traveling early morning and at night. I like Surefire flashlights because they always work.  I use the G2 series.  Relatively inexpensive and very bright and durable.
  • 50 feet of paracord.  Get real, made in the USA cord.  It has a multitude of uses and always comes in handy.
  • The little bottle is a Nalgene with a flip-top filled with cornstarch.  I use it as my wind-puffer. An easy way to keep track of the breeze and thermals as you move during the day.
  • Stoney Point shooting sticks.  This size is perfect for sitting or kneeling shots.  Any rest in the field will help make your shots more accurate.
  • Map and compass.  Yep, I have a GPS.  I never use it for navigation.  The GPS will crap out at the most inopportune time.  Heavy snow and thick timber will not allow a signal. Carry a topographic map of the area you are in.  Get a good quality compass. LEARN HOW TO USE THEM TOGETHER! A compass does not tell you where you are.  It only points North.
REI Map
Outdoor Co-Op REI Has Some Great Articles on How to use a Map and Compass!
  • Meat care:  the long white bag like the Kifaru Meat Baggie.  These 1 ozs. bags will hold 75 pounds of boned meat.  You can usually get an average whitetail in one bag. The bag holds the meat in a vertical tube to make it easier to pack out in your backpack.  I use two bags for my deer hunting. All the meat that will be ground goes in one. The big cuts go in the other.
  • Meat Knife – Havalon Piranta: A changeable blade knife.  You should be able to easily skin, bone, and process a deer with two blades.  I also carry a couple pairs of nitrile gloves to keep my hands dry and a bit warmer.  The nitrile also provides a better grip.

Again, this is what I have found works for me.  Every area and every hunt is different, so adjust your gear accordingly.  But you will find after a few trips there are some things that always get used and will go in your pack every time you go hunting.

A note on meat care:  I mentioned boning your deer.  I am a big proponent of quick and quality field care.  I will go out on a limb here and say that most ‘gamey’ meat results from poor care of the animal in the field.  

With any animal the number one enemy is heat. Get the animal broken down and cooling immediately. That means skin off, and meat off the bones.  There is a tremendous amount of internal heat and the quicker the meat is separated from the bones, better.

Because nearly all of our hunting is done in the backcountry we bone our animals on spot using the ‘gutless method’.  Check the link and do some research on your own.  I think you will find it’s a quick, clean and easy way to care for deer.

They even have videos taking  you step by step as they clean a Bull Elk!

Large-bull-elk-on-the-ground-guided-by-Jay-Scott
Large Bull Elk, photo by Jay Scott

Tips and Tactics

Because whitetails live in such vastly different habitats, tactics must be adjusted depending on the location.  However, there are a few things that remain constant that will help you tag a whitetail this year.

Be Patient

Whitetails are creatures of habit.  They stay pretty close to one area and tend to use the same trails and routes.  My preferred method of hunting is to find an intersection of two or more trails in the timber or edges of food crops. I’ll then find a good place to sit, usually on the ground with a tree or log to my back.

Then I get comfortable and wait. Be sure to situate yourself so you are downwind of the prevailing winds in the area.  If you have too much scent blowing across or down the trail you may alert the deer.

Stay out all day

Take another look at my pack list.  Once I leave camp I intend to stay out until dark.  I have my lunch, a closed-cell foam pad to sit on and appropriate clothing.  Yes, I get cold. Yes, I get bored. Yes, I have sat in the pouring rain and wet snow all day.  

But here’s the deal. Most hunters go back to camp in early or mid-morning. Most go back when the weather sucks.  I have found that whitetails, especially in cold weather tend to get up and mosey around about 11 in the morning. They get stiff and cold too.  

They will get up, eat a little, take a leak and maybe look for an area in the open if the sun is out. I have killed the majority of my whitetails mid-morning.

Use your binoculars

Whitetails like thick stuff.  Human eyes are good, but not great.  For the most part, we detect motion.

So if a whitetail is moving through heavy timber or brush you may notice the movement, not necessarily the deer.  With binoculars, you can pick apart the timber. You see more color. You see shapes.

Schwarzenegger binos
Use Your Binoculars!

One of my PH’s in South Africa taught me a lot about thick cover hunting.  He always said, “look through the bush.”  Meaning, look beyond the stuff on the edges.  

Look through the screen. Change the focus on your binoculars so you see through different layers of the cover.  You will be surprised how much more is out there than if you just sit and watch.

Hunt late 

Whitetail bucks are solitary creatures.  However, if you can hunt a late season, your odds go up.  

In general terms, the rut begins to crank up in mid to late-November and will run through December and January in many parts of the country.  As the rut approaches, the bucks begin to wander more in search of ladies.

As such, they spend more time on the move and are a lot less wary.  They are intent on breeding. Not necessarily paying attention. That said, if you are hunting a late season and you have some does or youngsters walk past your stand, get ready.  

Often a buck will be following behind to determine if a suitable mate is ahead of him. Be sure you are dressed for the weather this time of year. It will be cold and often wet.

Shoot fast

While in your sitting spot keep your rifle across your lap and at the ready.  

You will often only have a couple of shooting lanes and even if the deer are just walking you only have a few seconds to make your shot.  

If you have to reach for your gun and make noise or sudden movements, you will very likely not get a shot. You must be ready to quickly identify if your buck or deer is legal and then make a very quick decision to either shoot or not shoot the deer.

Cold Buck
Cold Buck

I shot this buck on cold November day after I had built a fire to warm up and have some coffee.  It was 11 am.

Have fun

How can you not?  You are hunting. You are in the woods, with a rifle in your hands, a tag in your pocket and a whitetail somewhere in the neighborhood.  

Yeah, you may walk miles. You may freeze on stand. You may get wet.

So what? You’ll likely be in camp or home sometime tonight. You can get dry, warm and fed when you get back.  

Take a camera and shoot photos of your gear, your stand, your rifle. Shoot a pic of that pesky squirrel telling the whole basin you are under his tree.

Hunting is about making memories and enjoying your outdoor heritage.  Tying your tag on a whitetail and enjoying the pure organic protein the venison provides is a bonus.

What deer have you harvested? Planning your first trip? Let us know in the comments!

The post Introduction to Deer Hunting appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

April 29th, 2018 by asjstaff

Seeing if a holographic weapons sight is for you?

Top Holographic Sights
Top Holographic Sights

We bought the two most popular holographic sights right now…plus a third underdog contender.

And we break them down into what we think is the best.  If you can’t wait, here’s our picks:

  1. Editor’s Choice: EOTech EXPS2-0 ($490)
  2. Runner Up: Vortex AMG UH-1 ($499)
  3. Most Worth It: Holosun 510C ($299)

Holographic vs Red Dots

Without going too much into everything…why would you even want a holographic sight compared to a red dot?

Red dots (or reflex sights) operate by having an LED project a dot towards a lens, which is specially coated so that it bounces back towards your eye.  Check out our Best Red Dots Under $200 article.

Best Budget Red Dots
Best Budget Red Dots

Holographic sights use a laser transmitted hologram of a reticle through a series of lenses back to your eye.

Holographic Sight Light Path
Holographic Sight Light Path

Since it’s laser based instead of LED, the battery life is significantly less.  But it allows for more specialized reticles (the big difference in my mind) and also does not need a specially coated lens.

Budget Red Dots All On
Red Dots All On

You also tend to get a bigger view window with holographic sights.

Tested Holographic Sights
Tested Holographic Sights

Now onto our favorites…

1. EOTech EXPS2-0

EOTech is the giant in the holographic sight game.

Sure, they had a little snafu a few years back about thermal drift (where the reticle doesn’t return to zero if subjected to extreme temperatures).  But they are back and better than ever.

John Wick I'm Back
John Wick I’m Back

If you’re still worried about the thermal drift (all sights, red dot or holo, have them)…check out EOTech’s response for their new sights.  When put through temperatures of -4 to 122 degrees F, there is a max drift of 3.5 MOA.

My favorite is their new EXPS2-0 which is shorter than the most popular previous model…the 512.

EOTech EXPS2-0
EOTech EXPS2-0

It has a big rectangular window that is very clear.  And the famous 68 MOA circle with a 1 MOA dot in the center.

EOTech Reticle, 3x Zoom
EOTech Reticle, 3x Zoom

The perfect blend of quick acquisition and fine-tuned accuracy.  Note that the above is 3x magnified using a Vortex 3x to show the reticle (Best 3x Magnifiers).

Here it is at the range.  I had trouble getting clear shots of the reticle in high brightness.  But it works great even in the sunniest of days in the desert.

EOTech EXPS2-0 At the Range
EOTech EXPS2-0 At the Range

And a better image of it inside.

EOTech Reticle
EOTech Reticle

The shorter EOTech’s have a couple variants…but I like the EXPS2-0 compared to the regular XPS line since it is 1/3 co-witness which doesn’t get in the way as much if you have irons or backup irons (Best AR-15 Backup Irons).

Co-Witness, Absolute vs Lower Third
Co-Witness, Absolute vs Lower Third

It also has a robust quick detach (QD) rail system and the buttons on the side (essential if you’re going to run magnifiers).

EOTech EXPS2-0 Side
EOTech EXPS2-0 Side

The 2-0 designates that it is the 68 MOA circle with 1 MOA center.  A must if you ask me.  If you’re running night vision, opt for the EXPS3-0 which has some settings for NVGs.

Here’s a video of it in action with a little simulated head movement to show how it’s devoid of almost all parallax.

https://fast.wistia.com/embed/medias/fm4jzt1fuw.jsonphttps://fast.wistia.com/assets/external/E-v1.js

 
The reticle makes it super easy for close up shots when I used the optic for pistol caliber carbine (PCC) competitions.  While the 1 MOA dot was useful for farther plate racks.

I even took it on and off a couple of times while testing and it always stayed in zero (plate racks at 25 yards).

My choice for best overall holographic weapons sight.

EOTech EXPS2-0, Adjustment
EOTech EXPS2-0, Adjustment

Stats

  • 11.3 Oz
  • 10 ft waterproof
  • CR123A Battery
  • 600 hours battery life
  • Not NVG Compatible

2. Vortex AMG UH-1

The AMG UH-1 is a newish sight from Vortex and is the only real holographic contender to EOTech.  It’s affectionately known as the “Huey” because of the UH-1 designation.

Vortex AMG UH-1
Vortex AMG UH-1

Built like a tank…it looks like it’s much bigger than the EXPS but it’s about the same length.  It’s the extra hood that protects everything that makes it seem that way.

Since it’s new, it doesn’t have the military track record of the EOTech but so far no major complaints besides a first initial batch that had some reticle flaring that is now fixed.  Plus it’s Vortex so it has a lifetime transferable warranty.

Vortex UH-1 Reticle, 3x Zoom
Vortex UH-1 Reticle, 3x Zoom

Speaking of reticles…the Huey’s reticle is my favorite out of the bunch.  Still has the large circle for CQB but also has a nice chevron at the bottom for shorter engagements.

I set my zero at 25 yards for the shorter PCC competitions…but if you zero at the standard 100 yards…the triangle will really help.  Also has a great integrated QD mount that maintained zero between testing.

Vortex UH-1 Reticle
Vortex UH-1 Reticle

One thing I gotta knock it down for is…the greenish tint.  It’s a lot more apparent than the EOTech which if it has one…is nearly imperceptible.

Vortex AMG UH-1 At the Range
Vortex AMG UH-1 At the Range

It didn’t matter too much during actual shooting…but looking at it by itself it bugs me a little.

https://fast.wistia.com/embed/medias/memlo34369.jsonphttps://fast.wistia.com/assets/external/E-v1.js

 
Another is that the buttons are on the back so it might also interfere with magnifiers.

However, one cool thing is that it has a rechargeable battery inside that you can charge through USB.

Vortex UH-1, USB Charging
Vortex UH-1, USB Charging

I tried it out to see if it works…and it does.  But realistically I’m not sure if I’m really going to be plugging in my upper to my computer when swapping batteries seems so much easier.

Speaking of batteries…the AMG UH-1 has a sweet 1500 hour battery life compared to the EOTech’s 600 hours.

Overall, my runner-up if you want to get into the holographic sight game at a slightly lower entry fee.

Stats

  • 11.8 Oz
  • 10 ft waterproof
  • CR123A Battery
  • 1500 hours battery life
  • Not NVG Compatible

3. Holosun 510C

Holosun 510C
Holosun 510C

Ok…it’s not technically a holographic sight.  But instead the Holosun 510C brings together the best of both worlds of red dot and holographic.

Long battery life and a sweet reticle that isn’t “fuzzy” like normal holographic sights.

Holosun 510C Reticle, 3x Zoom
Holosun 510C Reticle, 3x Zoom

The center is a 2 MOA while the outside ring is 65 MOA.  You can also cycle between using the dot only, ring only, or the combo.

Holosun 510C Reticle
Holosun 510C Reticle

Has a greenish hue on par with the Vortex.  Again, it was hard to get good pictures at the range.

Holosun 510C At the Range
Holosun 510C At the Range

If you’re solely looking for the circle and dot reticle…you can’t go wrong with this optic.

https://fast.wistia.com/embed/medias/5pzuqp0psm.jsonphttps://fast.wistia.com/assets/external/E-v1.js

 
It’s crisp and nearly parallax free like its brethren.

AND with a 50,000 hour battery life since it runs off LED and not lasers.  PLUS it has solar capability that switches in the sun so you aren’t running off batteries.  Finally, it’s lighter and has a smaller profile.

Holosun 510C Side
Holosun 510C Side

Buttons are on the side for easy access and also has a QD attachment system that also maintains zero.  Has NVG capabilities but is less waterproof than the others.

My pick for the best worth-it “holographic-esque” sight.

Stats

  • 8.3 Oz
  • 1 meter (IP67)
  • CR2032 Battery
  • 50,000 hours battery life
  • NVG Compatible (10 day and 2 NVG)

Conclusion

Three Mounted Holographic Sights
Three Mounted Holographic Sights

If you’re looking for something more than a simple red dot…holographic sights are the way to go.

The big player and my favorite model is the EOTech EXPS2-0 which has the clearest glass, great button placement, and decent battery life.

My runner-up is the Vortex AMG UH-1 which is built tough, has my favorite reticle, has a longer battery life, but has a greenish hue.

Lastly…if you’re interested in the holographic reticle, go with the Holosun 510C which sports an impressive 50K battery life.

Did we miss any holographic sights out there?  Find out more of our favorite optics and scopes in our Gear Reviews section.

The post Best Holographic Sights [Real Views]: EOTech, Vortex, Holosun appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.

Posted in Gear, Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

April 13th, 2018 by asjstaff

So you’re ready to build your own AR-15 upper but aren’t sure of the upper receiver?

We’ve got you covered with our personal go-to mil-spec receiver and also a couple of unique options that will turn heads.

F1 UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver
F1 UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver

If you haven’t read my AR-15 Guide that goes over all the components of an AR, I’d suggest starting there first.  Otherwise, I’ll suppose that you’re well-versed in everything AR and ready to just see what’s the best upper receiver.

*Updated 2018*: More lightweight uppers.

Here’s a sneak peek of our best uppers list if you can’t wait:

  1. Best Mil-Spec: Aero Stripped Mil-Spec
  2. Mil-Spec Upgrade: Aero M4E1
  3. Best Slick Upper: Aero Slick
  4. More Accurate: VLTOR MUR
  5. Light & Reliable: Battle Arms Development Lighweight
  6. Lightest: F1 Firearms UDR-15-3G

Best AR-15 Upper Receivers

I’ve built almost a dozen AR-15 uppers for myself and friends and have almost exclusively gone with Aero Precision.  They got their start manufacturing for the aerospace industry (name checks out) and moved into AR-15 parts.  Now they are really gunning with complete AR-15’s and even barrels too.

Upper Receiver Forge Marks

AR-15 Upper Receive Forge Mark
AR-15 Upper Receive Forge Mark

You might have heard about forge marks, which are above the forward assist.  This just designates which metal forging company created the upper blank.  The end company (such as Aero) is the one that actually machines the upper.

So the forge mark by itself means nothing since the quality really comes from the final company (and there are differences).  As far as I know, Aero uses several forges but mostly the “broken A” which comes from Anchor Harvey Aluminum.

1. Aero Stripped Upper Receiver

Mil-Spec Goodness
Aero Stripped Upper Receiver

Aero Stripped Upper Receiver

The gold standard ($80) in my mind that lets you choose your own forward assist and port door.  Comes with M4 feedramps, laser engraved T-marks for the rails, and also available in several colors for a little bit more.

Stripped Upper Receiver and Forward Assist
Stripped Upper Receiver and Forward Assist

I’ve had no problems with any of my builds and if you do any searches you’ll see that it’s almost exclusively positive comments.  Remember to finish out your stripped upper with an upper parts kit ($17)

2. Aero M4E1 Stripped Upper Receiver

Editor’s Choice
Aero M4E1 Stripped Upper Receiver

Aero M4E1 Stripped Upper Receiver

The upgraded version of the mil-spec that gives a billet look without the doubling in price.  My personal favorite now for my builds and what lives on my home defense gun (full review).

Aero Precision M4E1 16 Midlength Pencil
Aero Precision M4E1 16 Midlength Pencil

Remember to finish out your stripped upper with an upper parts kit ($17) or simply look at assembled uppers which are basically the same price with the upper parts installed.

Aero Assembled Uppers

Aero Assembled Uppers

Prices accurate at time of writing

No need to scrape anything when installing…or go nuts on the port door.

Ejection Port Spring
Ejection Port Spring, SnareMan

3. Blemished Aero Uppers

And if you’re balling on a budget, you can get a “blemished” version (~25% off) of the stripped or assembled upper (depending on their stock).  “Blemished” just means there’s some cosmetic abnormalities that will not affect actual function.

The last two builds I’ve done have been with Aero blem uppers and I had to really look to find the cosmetic problem.  And of course they’ve all worked fine.

Here’s the latest one…looks like there’s a scuff & a dimple.  I put more scuffs on mine during a match!  If you want to save a couple bucks I’d go this route.

Aero Blemished Upper
Aero Blemished Upper

Bad thing is that they are usually snatched up as soon as they become available.

4. Aero Slick (No Forward Assist) Upper

Aero No Forward Assist Upper

Aero No Forward Assist Upper

If you have never used the forward assist and want to shave some weight off…you can get a no forward assist upper ($84).  This type of upper is also known as a “slick” upper.

In my opinion I just like the look of the forward assist and I go by the mantra that I’d rather have it and not use it, than need it and not have it.  Especially on a more duty rifle build.

5. VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver

VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver

VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver

The MUR upper receiver ($200) has thicker walls to make it a more rigid shooting platform which should translate to more accuracy.  Plus it looks different and cool enough to get some envious looks.

6. Battle Arms Development

Best Lightweight Upper
Battle Arms Development Lightweight Upper

Battle Arms Development Lightweight Upper

If you want to go light…but not at the expense of extreme lightening cuts and possible reduced reliability.

Plus…I dig the Tron-esque design.

7. F1 Firearms UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver

Lightest Upper Receiver
F1 Firearms UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver

F1 Firearms UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver

Prices accurate at time of writing

My newest muse…

Probably as light as you can go…and geared towards turning heads at rifle competitions (not home-defense).  If you’re in a dusty environment I’d keep it covered…but otherwise initial reports say that the large cuts don’t affect function even with tons of rounds downrange.

I have one on the way for my new competition gun so I’ll report back soon.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve seen our suggestions for the best AR-15 upper receiver (both stripped and assembled), you’re one step closer to your build.  Check out the rest of our AR- 15 Guides to continue your parts selection and overall education.  And if you’re ready to build…here’s our AR-15 Upper Assembly Visual Guide.

The post 7 Best AR-15 Stripped Upper Receivers [Hands-On 2018] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

May 11th, 2017 by asjstaff

Despite the continuing impact of inflation, you can still find some excellent hunting rifles that won’t break the bank.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE DICKERSON 

Progress and the march of time can be very hard on the wallet, especially when it comes to hunting rifles. Consider, if you will, the classic Big Three of American hunting rifles. According to a 2004 gun-value reference in my collection, you could at that time buy a new Remington 700 BDL rifle for about $500, and the ADL model went for even less. A new Ruger Model 77 All-Weather rifle could also be found for less than $500, and the same could be said for a Winchester Model 70 Black Shadow.

In testing, the Mossberg Patriot in .25-06 Rem. produced sub-minute-of-angle best groups with five factory loads.

Today, the latest incarnations of these flagship models of American hunting rifles all have a suggested retail price of close to $1,000. In little more than a decade, these iconic American rifles have essentially doubled in price.

Not everyone can afford to lay out that kind of change for a hunting rifle. The Even fewer can afford semicustom or custom rifles, and if you have to ask the price of, say, a fine European double rifle, you may want to be sitting down when you hear the answer.

Of course, gun makers are well aware of this economic reality and have scrambled in recent years to produce more affordable guns for the masses. Many of these guns won’t win any beauty contests. Some may be described as downright ugly. Actions may be less than silky smooth, and stocks may bend in a stiff breeze. They’re often described rather euphemistically as “budget-friendly” or “entry-level” rifles. These are, of course, handy phrases when you’re trying to avoid using the word “cheap.”

Another look at Mossberg’s Patriot shows why it is one of the most feature-rich and aesthetically pleasing offerings among budget-priced hunting rifles.

Have the manufacturers cut corners on these guns? You bet they have, but they had to in order to make the guns less expensive to produce and offer them at what are, by today’s standards, crazy-cheap prices.
TODAY, VIRTUALLY EVERY MAJOR mass-manufacturer of hunting rifles has added an inexpensive rifle to their product lineup. While some have derisively called this a race to the bottom, I don’t exactly see it that way. Sure, I’m fond of guns that have richly figured walnut stocks, elegantly engraved receivers, and fit and finish reflective of old world craftsmanship, but those guns won’t smack deer into the freezer any more effectively than most of today’s more affordable rifles. Advances in manufacturing processes and materials now enable gun makers to offer inexpensive rifles that resist the elements, work reliably and shoot tight groups – and that’s all many buyers, especially first-time buyers, are looking for in a hunting rifle.

Browning’s affordable AB3 rifle offers features like a button-rifled barrel, Inflex recoil pad, tang safety and bolt unlock button. (BROWNING)

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the more popular inexpensive rifles currently on dealers’ shelves. Since there must, I suppose, be rules to the game, I’ll limit this discussion to rifles that you can buy at a real-world price of $500 or less.

Remington’s entry in the bargain hunting rifle category is the Model 783, which has a free-floated, button-rifled barrel and pillar bedding. (REMINGTON)

Consider, for example, the Thompson Center Venture rifle, with which I’ve had a fair amount of experience. These rifles feature a free-floated barrel with 5R rifling and pillar-bedded action. I used the Venture Compact model chambered in .308 Win. on a memorable Texas deer hunt, dropping two whitetail bucks and two does with four shots guns over two days of hunting. Several other outdoor writers did the same. I didn’t subject that rifle to accuracy testing, but I did test an identical gun chambered in .22-250 Rem. Five of six factory loads shot sub-minute-of-angle best groups, easily living up the rifle’s MOA accuracy guarantee. I was impressed enough that I bought a Venture Predator rifle, chambered in .204 Ruger, and it regularly shoots half-inch groups with its preferred load. That’s more than can be said of many more expensive rifles. You can find the Venture for less than $500, but if that’s too rich for your blood, you can look for the no-frills TC Compass rifle for less than $400.

The TC Venture is one of the author’s top choices in bargain-priced hunting rifles.

Another $500 rifle I’ve had some experience with is the Winchester XPR rifle. The one I tested, chambered in .30-06 Springfield, put six different factory loads into groups averaging 1.3 inches, but that’s only part of the story. It dropped a 165-grain Federal load with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets into average groups of 0.58 inch and a best group of just 0.31 inch. This gun is quite similar to the Browning AB3 rifle. Both have decent triggers, a boltunlock button, 60-degree bolt lift and detachable box magazines. Both are offered in a variety of configurations and calibers, and if you shop around, you can find either one on sale for about $500.

One of the most aesthetically pleasing and feature-rich offerings among the bargain-priced rifles is the Mossberg Patriot. This rifle’s lines are very much in a classic configuration, and you can get it with stocks that are walnut, laminate, black synthetic or synthetic Kryptek Highlander camo. Standard features include drop-box magazines, fluted barrels with recessed crowns, a spiral-fluted bolt and adjustable trigger system. I tested one in .25-06 Rem., and five different factory loads turned in sub-MOA best groups. Surprisingly, I’ve seen the basic black synthetic model retail for less than $300.

 

The Winchester XPR rifle in .30-06 shot tight groups for the author using a Federal Premium 165-grain load with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets.

ANOTHER POPULAR ENTRY in the value-priced category is the Ruger American Rifle. I haven’t tested one yet, but have just received the Predator model, chambered in – wonder of wonders – 6mm Creedmoor. I plan to give this one a thorough workout as soon as I can obtain enough ammo to put it through its paces. Available in several configurations, this rifle has an adjustable trigger, cold hammer-forged barrel and a tang safety. It utilizes an integral bedding block system to free-float the barrel and has a removable rotary magazine. The one-piece bolt has three locking lugs and a 70-degree throw to allow ample room for mounting scopes on the bases supplied with the rifle.

According to Big Green, also known as Remington, the bargain-priced Remington 783 is “not dressed to impress, it’s dressed for work.” With a MSRP of $399, the 783 has freefloated, button-rifled barrels mated to receivers that are pillar-bedded to a high-nylon-content synthetic stock. The rifle is equipped with an adjustable trigger and, notably, detachable steel magazines. The bolt has two locking lugs and a 90-degree lift.

The author reports that the Winchester XPR rifle has a decent trigger, 60-degree bolt lift and detachable box magazine.

The main thing going for the Savage Axis rifle is the fact that it is, well, a Savage. That usually means you can expect good out-of-the-box accuracy. With an MSRP of around $368 and a real-world price of around $330 for the basic model with a black synthetic stock, you’ll get a rifle that uses the classic Savage locknut approach to set headspace set to minimum. This has always driven some purists mildly nuts, but it significantly contributes to the accuracy Savage rifles are known for. Barrels on the Axis are button-rifled. The two locking-lug bolt is unusual in that it uses a floating bolt head design, which theoretically also contributes to accuracy. Detachable box magazines are part metal, part plastic, with metal feed lips. Triggers on the Axis models I’ve seen aren’t overly impressive, but at a cost of about $450, you can step up to the Axis II rifle and get the Savage Accutrigger and a Weaver Kaspa 3-9×40 scope.

The Ruger American Rifle has quickly become one of the most popular of the economy hunting rifles. (RUGER)

Savage rifles, including the budget-friendly Axis and Axis II (shown) models, are known for their outof-the-box accuracy. (SAVAGE)

These rifles and others like them may not be your firearms cup of tea, but taken as a group, they fill an important gap in the marketplace. They give people who might not
otherwise be able to afford a decent rifle an affordable entry point into hunting. If we’re going to preserve our cherished hunting traditions in this country, we’re going to need their participation – and their votes – in the years ahead. That’s worth thinking about the next time you bypass the bargain-rifle section of your local gun store. ASJ

The author used a Thompson Center Venture Compact rifle to take two whitetail bucks and two does with four shots over a two-day hunt in Texas.

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , , ,

May 3rd, 2017 by asjstaff

The new Savage A22 impresses with its accuracy and volume. 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY LARRY CASE 

Dotzie was telling me to hurry. Treed at the base of a big white oak, my little mountain cur barked impatiently to inform me there was a squirrel up above that required my undivided attention. Out of breath from hurrying to her side, it took me several minutes to spot the gray squirrel pinned to a limb. Still a little shaky, I pulled a miss on my first shot and the squirrel darted through the upper limbs to begin his high-wire act.

I settled down by the third shot, and after I squeezed the AccuTrigger on the Savage A22, the bushytail tumbled out of the tree. I was happy, and more importantly, Dotzie was happy.

The new Savage A22 is an accurate shooter, with a solid proficiency of putting rounds down range.

IN MY MISSPENT YOUTH, I knew an old codger who I thought of as my mentor when it came to rifles. He had survived Korea and a battle that took place in a location now called the Frozen Chozin. He had a house full of guns, and was always shooting, reloading, or doing something with a rifle. I tried to learn as much as I could from him, while staying out of his way at the same time.

“Boy,” he told me, “everyone needs a good .22 rifle, if for nothing else than just to shoot.” By “just to shoot” he meant target practice, can plinking, hunting small game, pest control, and anything else a body would need a rifle for in a caliber below a .3030. To him, a dependable .22 was a tool much like an axe or a wrench; and when you needed one, it had to work and work well.

The author tested the A22 with a Bushnell 3.5-10X A22 Rimfire Optics scope.

Long known for their brand of no-nonsense firearms, Savage Arms (savagearms.com) has returned to the forefront in recent years with high-quality rifles that work well when you need them to. Savage wowed the rimfire world a couple of years ago with the introduction of the A17, the first high-performance semiautomatic rimfire specifically designed for the .17 HMR cartridge. They followed that success up with the A22 in .22 WMR (Winchester Magnum rimfire). Now, Savage is adding another new model to the A series: the A22 in (you guessed it) .22 Long Rifle. Here are some thoughts on this nifty little rifle, and why I think my old long gun mentor would approve.

Like the A17 and A22 Magnum, this rifle features a thread-in barrel with zero-tolerance head space, much like Savage builds their centerfire rifles. The barrel is “button” rifled and recessed on the business end, which is going to save on accuracy over time by protecting it. This is important if you are as hard on guns as I am, hauling them around in vehicles, getting knocked around while carrying them and the like.

The A22 comes equipped with a Savage AccuTrigger that outdoes many triggers in the centerfire line. No pulling the trigger housing or disassembly required. A small, simple tool, supplied by Savage, is inserted through the trigger guard and turned one direction to lighten the trigger pull, and  the other to make it heavier. This could easily be done in the field if necessary. The trigger is the most important element of any rifle and the AccuTrigger is a good one.

The A22 is equally at home on the range. (SAVAGE)

The A22 has a smooth-cycling, straight-blowback action that reliably feeds a variety of .22-caliber ammunition from the magazine to the chamber. This little rifle ate every kind of .22 ammo that I fed it, including CCI Mini Mag, Federal Hunter Match, Aguila Sub Sonic and Super Extra, and Remington Gold Bullet and Target rounds. The A22 chewed them all up and spit them out without fail. That in itself is no small feat for any rimfire autoloader.

With a weight of just over 5.5 pounds, the A22 is an easy-carrying rifle for all manner of small game.

COMPANY LITERATURE TELLS US that Savage engineers did some exhaustive factory testing, and it appears they were successful across the board. The 10-round rotary magazine reliably fed the rounds every time the trigger was pulled. The magazine is flush mounted, and two other hunters besides myself who carried the A22 liked this feature.

For those times when you may want more ammo on hand, Savage also partnered with shooting accessories supplier Butler Creek (butlercreek.com) to increase the rifle’s ammo capacity by creating a 25-round, spring-fed aftermarket magazine. I haven’t got my hands on one of these magazines yet, but that is definitely my plan.

At the risk of sounding like the typical prattling gun writer, I must say I was very impressed with the A22’s accuracy. Holetouching groups did not seem to be a problem out to 50 yards, which I deemed far enough for squirrel shooting. The rifle comes equipped with adjustable open steel sights, so it’s ready to shoot right out of the box, but it is also drilled and tapped for scope mounts, allowing shooters to easily add their favorite optic.

The ten-round, flush-mounted rotary magazine is another fully functional design feature on the A22.(SAVAGE)

The rifle I tested had a Bushnell 3.5-10x A22 Rimfire Optics scope mounted on it, and at first I thought this was too much scope for a .22 rifle. But after shooting this rig for a few days I really began to like it. This optic has a turret calibrated for high-velocity .22 ammo, and you can have a lot of fun with this system out to 125 yards. You can check out more info on this particular scope and many others by visiting bushnell.com.

Dotzie taking a well deserved break from squirrel searching with the author’s friend Ritchie Miller.

I do herby proclaim the A22 to be a shooter, both in accuracy and proficiency of putting rounds down range. At a suggested retail of 281 American dollars, I doubt you can find a .22 rifle that is this much gun for less money. I think my old rifle guru would approve. ASJ

Dotzie the mountain cur spent a fair part of the author’s hunt barking up the right tree.

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

April 11th, 2017 by asjstaff

Gamo’s annual Squirrel Master Classic continues to remain on target with kids and adults alike.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY LARRY CASE

Many of us started out shooting a BB or pellet gun at a target and graduated to small game like rabbits and squirrels. Some of us did the other way around. But it seems that in these times of shrinking hunter numbers fewer and fewer of our young people are going down that path. Four years ago Jackie Bushman of Buckmasters fame decided to do something about that and created the Squirrel Master Classic. The event is held every year at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge west of Montgomery in Alabama’s legendarily rich-soiled “Black Belt” region.

Bone Collector cameraman Hunter Rollins captures footage of outdoor TV’s Kenneth Lancaster.

Kenneth Lancaster with a squirrel and his Gamo gun.

The Squirrel Master Classic could be classified as a friendly competition, as it pairs up teams consisting of an outdoor TV personality, a young person involved in 4H Shooting Sports, outdoor writers, and a squirrel dog handler. The teams compete in a morning and evening squirrel hunt with a shooting competition at midday. This year, the range was supervised by world champion shooter Doug Koening, whose most recent major win (as of this writing) came at the 2016 NRA Bianchi Cup.

Vicki Cianciarulo of Archer’s Choice and Travis “T-Bone” Turner of Bone Collector sight in their air rifles before the competition.

Scoring is simple. The team with the most squirrels and most points earned in the shooting competition wins the competition. In order to qualify to take part in the event, the six 4H shooters in this year’s classic had to compete with other 4H’ers for the privilege. The lone girl in that half dozen, Moriah Christian, outshot all of her colleagues during the shooting competition.

Six 4H shooters qualified to join the competition: (left to right) Joseph McFarland, Jeremy McFarland, Luke Christian, Dawson Kissik, Jackson Umlauf and Moriah Christian.

ALL HUNTING AND COMPETITIVE shooting is done using Gamo air rifles, the event’s sponsor. Each hunter this year were supplied with Gamo’s new Swarm .22-caliber pellet rifle (see sidebar), which features a 10-shot detachable magazine, eliminating the need to reload after each shot.

While the competition is intense for the coveted squirrel trophy awarded to the winners, the real emphasis here is on the young hunters. The TV personalities attending this year – Jackie Bushman, Michael Waddell, Travis “T-Bone” Turner, Kenneth Lancaster, Ralph and Vickie Cianciarulo, and Richard Eutsler – along with Gamo president Keith Higginbotham and others at the event all recognize the need to encourage and nurture young people in hunting and the shooting sports.

Host Jackie Bushman (left), Kenneth Lancaster and ‘T-Bone’ Turner at the noon squirrel weigh-in.

Despite an influx of new shooters to the squad, T-Bone’s Team Bone Collector took the competition honors for the third consecutive year.

The coveted Gamo Squirrel Master competition trophy.

In the end, Turner’s team (which I was fortunate enough to be a member of) took the trophy, and while we were very pleased I saw no smiles bigger than those of the young 4H shooters. They had a day in the beautiful Alabama woodlands following some feisty squirrel dogs, shooting air rifles, and spending time with some of their media heroes. It was a day they will not forget anytime soon – nor will I, for that matter – and that, my friends, is whole idea of the Squirrel Master Classic. ASJ

The first squirrel of the day brings smiles to everyone at this year’s Squirrel Master Classic, including Luke Christian (left), Mo the squirrel dog, and Butch Morton.

Posted in Competitions Tagged with: , , , ,

April 10th, 2017 by asjstaff

The New “Chubby Grip” AR Pistol Grip by Luth-AR LLC; Thick, Robust and Tough.

 

The Chubby Grip was designed with shooter ergonomics in mind. The full palm swell fills the hand, providing a consistent and rapid grip, properly positioned to promote accurate and repeatable shots on target. The thumb rest and palm shelf work together to lock the hand in place shot after shot, while the raised trigger finger surface, forces the finger into the proper curved position for better trigger control and comfort.

 

Features:

• A hand fitted grip that offers a natural hand-in-glove feel

• A full rounded grip that fills the inside of the palm for a solid hold

• A natural extension between hand and rifle

• Textured for a non-slip grip, with good looks included

• Left side thumb rest is included for a natural ergonomic grip and comfort

• Palm shelf to help lock-in the grip

• A raised surface on the trigger finger side designed to force the trigger finger into a curved position for better trigger control and comfort

• Easy to Install , one screw only on the Chubby Grip You can get your Chubby Grip in Black or FDE (Flat Dark Earth ).

Material: Impact Modified Nylon for a strong and tough Chubby Grip.

Priced affordably, the MSRP is $23.95 Dealer, Quantity and OEM pricing is available upon request.

Paired with one of the Luth-AR MBA buttstocks featuring an adjustable cheek rest and length-of-pull, the shooter can custom fit their AR rifle or carbine to enhance their shooting performance and comfort.

*Available in right-hand orientation only.

For more information about Luth-AR’s award-winning products including the Chubby Grip, Trigger Trainer

and the MBA Modular Buttstock Assembly, visit us at http://www.Luth-AR.com.

Posted in Industry News Tagged with: , , , , ,

April 9th, 2017 by asjstaff

On any continent, the Barnes LRX offers hunters eye-opening accuracy potential and deep penetration at long distance.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO

“How far?”

The two simple words said much more than they implied. First, both Poen van Zyl and I clearly understood we each knew which of the reedbuck rams were to be killed, and second, it was down to a matter of the mathematics involved in taking him cleanly. Based on my professional hunter’s momentary silence, I responded with a brief question of my own.

“One-fifty?”

“Just hold on the point of the shoulder, and squeeze the trigger.” Poen van Zyl may have thought in Afrikaans, but knew how to guide a visiting sportsman in English. The Schmidt & Bender’s crosshairs quickly settled on the ram’s shoulder, and I broke the trigger of the Heym SR30 like you’d snap an icicle in two. Even through the recoil, I could see the lean reedbuck fold and collapse to its death; the .300 Winchester Magnum had once again done its job, as it had on so many other African species. Though the rifle and optic were new to me, the cartridge and bullet were not; I have come to love the .300 Winchester Magnum, and the Barnes LRX is among the best projectiles the company has ever produced.

The Barnes LRX bullet is available in 6.5mm, .270, 7mm, .30 and .338 calibers. (BARNES)

Barnes Bullets – the success story of Randy and Coni Brooks – has its roots in the brainchild of Fred Barnes, who saw the need for quality softpoints in a number of different calibers. Fred had a limited success, but his name surely carried on, defining a trend in modern bullet construction that is equal parts revolutionary and genius.

I am on the young end of the gunwriter age spectrum, but at 45 years old I am also wise enough to know whom to contact for the story. Randy Brooks and I have had more than one conversation, albeit via telephone, regarding the roots of his company and the development of the Barnes X bullet. As the famous story goes – and as it was related to me directly – the good Mr. Brooks was glassing for Alaskan bears when the impetus for a genre of projectiles popped into his head. “If the lead core is an issue with bullet separation, why not take the lead out?” And thus the Barnes X monometal softpoint was born. And while that bullet gave me equal parts exhilaration and fits of mania, I loved the design. Being an all-copper bullet, the Barnes X was designed to expand into four petals, giving a devastating balance of expansion and penetration. The original design had some issues with accuracy and copper fouling, but that was all rectified with the release of the Barnes TSX – or Triple Shock X – bullet, which has three large grooves on the bearing surface to reduce fouling and improve accuracy.

The Barnes LRX, original and after expansion.

The TSX, and its tipped counterpart, the TTSX, both serve most hunting scenarios perfectly, the LRX – or Long Range X bullet – has a sleeker profile and higher ballistic coefficient, to retain as much energy as possible downrange, and keep the trajectories flat. The LRX retains the royal blue polymer tip of the TTSX, but the ogive is engineered for the best downrange performance, and will indeed show the benefits over the flat base spitzers out past 250 or 275 yards.

The LRX, like all Barnes bullets, are praised and noted for their weight retention, as the monometal construction prevents any jacket separation – because there is no jacket – but it’s the accuracy potential of the LRX that truly opened my eyes. I’ve loaded this bullet in several different cartridges – with the best results coming from the .30-caliber magnums – and all of the accuracy has been more than acceptable. But it seems that the 175-grain .30-caliber LRX has garnered a special place in my heart.

The 175-grain Barnes LRX worked very well in the .300 Winchester Magnum and .30 Nosler.

While testing the new .30 Nosler, I utilized a number of bullets – bullets that have, in the past, produced fantastic results – but the best performer by far was the 175-grain LRX. Delivering ½ minute-of-angle accuracy and velocities on par with the .300 Weatherby, I know this combination could easily handle everything in North America, and 90 percent of the African species. In the Heym SR30 HPPR – the straight pull, High Performance Precision Rifle – it easily prints ½ to ¾ MOA five-shot groups using handloaded Barnes 175-grain LRX bullets.

The Heym SR30 HPPR and a reedbuck taken with the Barnes LRX. (Inset, below) With a steep boat tail, polymer tip and sleek ogive, the Barnes LRX makes a great long-range hunting bullet.

For the record, that reedbuck didn’t stand a chance; the shot went exactly where I intended it to, and the buck fell as if the very hand of God struck him. Two more of his kin did the same, at ranges from 125 to 250 yards, and I couldn’t recover any of the bullets; the LRX gave excellent penetration. The Barnes LRX and that Heym SR30 kept the Mozambican village of Peau well fed. If you appreciate the performance of the Barnes bullets – more than 90 percent weight retention and deep, deep penetration – combined with the best accuracy of the lot, try some LRXs and I’ll bet you’ll be happy. They’re available in 6.5mm, .270, 7mm, .30 and .338 calibers. ASJ

The first Mozambican reedbuck taken by the author with the .30-caliber Barnes LRX.

 

Posted in Ammo Tagged with: , , ,

March 13th, 2017 by asjstaff

Tactics, tips and a passel of great gear for your upcoming battles with Mr. Gobbler. 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY LARRY CASE

A selection of Undertaker calls from HS Strut.

The wild turkey is an American bird right down to his red, white and blue head. You may recall that shortly after we had that little scuffle with the British a few hundred years ago, Ben Franklin himself wanted to make the wild turkey our national bird. Thank heaven ol’ Ben was outvoted on this particular idea. Imagine the wild turkey as a completely protected species. We would be forced to hunt something else, like maybe the bald eagle. Hunting eagles wouldn’t be much fun, and I sincerely doubt they are anywhere near as tasty.

But even if it had never flirted with a highfalutin yet largely ceremonial government title, the wild turkey would remain unique among game birds. We don’t hunt any other feathered creature the way we hunt turkeys, with the basic premise being sitting and attempting to call them into shotgun range. Their habits and wariness, coupled with ultra-keen eyesight and hearing create a need for the use of hunting tactics and equipment that we apply to no other type or breed of fowl. Herewith are some strategies and gobblerappropriate gear for you to consider for your next feathered frenzy.

HS Strut’s Triple Trauma call has an adjustable lid that allows you to mimic three different hens.

CALLING TURKEYS HAS BECOME the most overrated, mystifying, and downright lied about phase of turkey hunting. Some supposed experts claim that calling comprises only about 30 percent of what is needed to seal the deal with a gobbler, maybe less. I could argue with that figure, but if you are a beginner, you will need to find a call that you are comfortable with. I would go with a box call or a slate friction-type call. Learn to make the simple yelp of a hen turkey and maybe the cluck to begin with, and that will give you a strong start.

Don’t worry about doing 14 different calls like the guys on TV. If a turkey is ready to be called in, sometimes a couple yelps and a cluck or two is all that is necessary. Let the guys at the calling contests do all the fancy stuff; you are out in the woods to shoot turkeys. Give the gobbler just enough to keep him interested. If he is coming toward you, quit calling. Less is sometimes better than more.

Nomad’s Rip Stop shirt in Mossy Oak Obsession.

Whether you call more or less, you still need a call. And, friends, there are a lot of turkey calls out there. There are many good ones that will call turkeys most days. Prices run from really cheap to what you might shell out on the down payment of a nice truck. HS Strut offers several moderately priced box calls that work; they sound like a turkey. What I like about the Undertaker box call is it features an abrasive, waterproof surface on the paddle and the striking surfaces of the call. If you have ever been afield and have your favorite box call get soaked and rendered useless, you know what a great feature this is. MSRP is $39.99. The new Triple Trauma box call has an adjustable lid that allows you to change the tone of the call and mimic three different hens. MSRP is $29.99, and you can contact them via their website (hunterspec.com).

Nomad’s Rip Stop pants in Mossy Oak Bottomland features the National Wild Turkey Federation logo on the side pocket.

Finally, the new Hensanity call from Primos offers a couple new twists to a tried-and-true form of turkey call. (Editor’s note: This was featured in last month’s News column.) The body of the call or “pot” has four sound ports that you control with your hand and allows you to make a wide array of variations in your calling. The frictionite surface means you don’t have to worry about losing your sandpaper to rough up the call. MSRP is $29.99, and you can find more information from Primos (primos.com).
WHEN TURKEYS HAVE SEEMINGLY quit talking (they will do this often during any given season), sometimes the best thing to do is to get really aggressive. Cinch up your boots, call like you mean it, and cover as much real estate as possible. Go to your listening place and use your locator crow or owl call; if you hear nothing, try the turkey calls. Get assertive with a lot of loud calling, cuts and cackles. If no gobbler responds, move on to the next spot. One down side of this method, of course, is sometimes the gobbler shows up for a date after you leave. You can deal with it; if you hear him gobble at your last stop, get back over there.

The opposite of the marathon runner with a shotgun technique is to simply wait them out. If you know the place you are hunting well and you know the turkeys are there, maybe you just want to sit tight. Find a good spot to call from and set up camp. Get comfortable, call every 15 or 20 minutes, and by all means take a nap if you want to. A word of caution on the nap thing: You need to be ready for the dreaded “come in silent” gobbler. These are the turkeys that never say a word, slip in on you and don’t gobble. And a turkey with these antisocial tendencies needs to be taken out of the gene pool.

The three-pack flock of Strut Lite decoys from HS Strut feature a semistrutting jake, a feeding hen and a breeding hen.

But no matter if you run and gun or sit on your hindquarters all day, you still need durable camouflage clothing that is functional for turkey hunting. Nomad performance hunting apparel has partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation to create a line of premium performance fabrics that feature the NWTF logo and the new NWTF Mossy Oak Obsession camouflage pattern. A collection featuring the Bottomland pattern (one of my favorites) is also available. A portion of all profits from this line will go to the NWTF for conservation-based projects.

Primos’ Gen 3 Trigger Stick series has added improved features such as locking leg angles to provide more stability. They come in monopod, bipod and tripod models, and in short and tall lengths.

Although I have hunted spring gobblers in the snow (notice that I didn’t say I liked it), most spring hunts are in warmer weather. The Nomad/NWTF collection should have you covered from early to late season. Their woven long-sleeve shirt and pant features rugged, lightweight Rip-Stop Technology with secured cargo pockets – designed specifically for the turkey woods. For warm-weather hunts, the company offers a quarter-zip and cooling T-shirt option built from breathable materials that feature vented back/underarms and offers moisture transport. To round out the collection, Nomad also offers hats, gaiters and gloves. Their website is nomad.com.
EXPERIENCED TURKEY HUNTERS KNOW that the last several yards of a turkey’s approach toward you are the most critical. Make a mistake after he crosses the 50-yard line and you will not be partaking of fried turkey breast. The key here is just to be ready. Sit at the base of the largest tree you can find and face the direction the gobbler will approach from. If you are a right-handed shooter, point your left shoulder at the place you think he will appear; do the opposite if you are a lefty. This allows you to swing the gun in order to cover as much area as possible. As you sit with your knees up, the shotgun is on one knee. Get as comfortable as you can, because you’ll need to be able to sit like this for some time.

When the gobbler comes into view, you cannot move. Let me repeat that sentence and add an exclamation point for emphasis: You cannot move!

As the moment of truth draws near, you may need to make a very slight adjustment in aiming at the turkey. This is accomplished by carefully watching the bird and waiting until his head goes behind something big, usually a tree (and the tree has to be pretty large for this to work). Keep in mind the turkey must be within a few feet of this tree if you are to go undetected. Remember the old turkey hunter adage: “A turkey can see through a thin rock.”

Ask any experienced turkey hunter; the scenario of sitting at the base of a tree while the gobbler approaches can be torture. The gobbler may take his own sweet time in getting to you, longer if you’re sitting on a rock, tree root or other sharp object, all while you are trying to hold the shotgun on your knee without moving! (Did I mention you cannot move?) Through the years, I have sat and watched the barrel of more than one companion’s gun start to wobble in increasingly larger circles. Turkey shotguns can be heavy, and so something to help relieve the weight of that gun may be in order. The Primos Trigger Stick Gen 3 series can really help with this.

The best feature of this product to me is it will adjust to the desired height with one hand. Simply grab the “trigger” and boom, it’s right where you need it to be. The Gen 3 series has added improved features such as locking leg angles to provide more stability, and the gun rest rotates so you can easily adjust your aim. These sticks come in monopod, bipod and tripod models, and in short and tall lengths.

The Remington 870 – this is the Express Super Magnum Waterfowl model – may account for more dead turkeys than any other shotgun, the author argues.

ONCE TURKEY DECOYS FINALLY MADE their debut, I began to see some hunters get away with movement near an approaching gobbler that would previously have been impossible. The reason is simple. The turkey has his eyes on the decoy and is less likely to see the hunter. However, until recently, I’ve been discouraged from carrying decoys because they are too bulky and heavy, and some early versions of light, packable decoys were often lacking in the appearance department, resembling a mutant ostrich as much as anything else.

But I’m beginning to change my opinion on that, because HS Strut’s new Strut Lite decoys look and feel great. They have a flake-resistant paint job and have a foldable, hollow body construction for easy storage in your vest. They are available in a three-pack with a semistrutting jake, a feeding hen and a breeding hen, and individually. MSRP for the flock is $99.99; singles range from $34.99 to $44.99. See hunterspec.com.
ALTHOUGH SOME STATES ALLOW RIFLES for taking turkeys, it is generally thought of as a shotgun sport. The choices for turkey shotguns out there are wide and varied, and choosing just one or two shotguns to discuss with you here is not easy. I’ve gone back to my roots a bit with the choice of two pump guns, but I may have balanced that out with decidedly new and improved ammo.

Chris Ellis of Ellis Communications and his son Jack proudly pose with their Osceola gobbler. It was Jack’s first turkey.

With more than 12 million models sold since it appeared in 1951, what can you say about the Remington 870 that has not already been said? I will stick my neck out (pun intended) and say more turkeys have been shot with a Remington 870 than any other shotgun. It has the rock-solid dependability and functionality that turkey and waterfowl hunters demand, and I’m sure that many of you out there are still hunting with your dad’s or granddad’s 870 Wingmaster. I am not sure I can even count the number of variations of the 870, but the Super Magnum Turkey/ Waterfowl model will do most anything you need a shotgun for. The “Super” in the name designates it will handle 2¾- to 3½-inch shells for those days when you want a little extra punch for turkeys, or Canada geese. Another good reason to choose this one is because it comes in Mossy Oak Bottomland. MSRP for this model is $629.00.

If for some reason you’d like another brand or flavor of pump gun, the 612 Magnum Turkey from CZ-USA may be the one for you. And, although this smoothbore was designed for turkey hunting, you won’t have any trouble taking it to the duck blind or pheasant fields. It weighs in at an amazing 6.8 pounds, a big bonus that you are going to appreciate if you need to lug it though the turkey woods. The 612 Magnum Turkey is hydrodipped in Realtree Xtra Green, shoots everything up to 3½-inch ammo and comes with an extra-full choke for turkeys and a modified for upland game and steel shot. This pump gun has an action reminiscent of the Model 12, and with an MSRP of $429 it is hard to beat.

As with the countless calls, there are various and sundry shotgun shells out there for turkeys these days. Winchester seems to be ruling the roost in this area with their Long Beard XR ammo. The boys at Winchester made shot shell history when they perfected the Shot-Lok technology, which allowed them to load shot in a liquefied resin. This resin hardens, and upon ignition in the chamber of the shotgun it shatters and produces a super-effective buffering compound. All of this translates into the tight downrange patterns today’s turkey hunters want. New this year will be 20-gauge rounds in the Long Beard XR line, so stay tuned for news about this. MSRP is $18.99 for a box of 10 3-inch shells for 12-gauge shotguns, and $22.99 for 3½-inch shells.

CZ-USA’s 612 Magnum Turkey model is hydrodipped in Realtree Xtra Green, and comes with an extra-full choke for turkeys.

FINALLY, AND FOR BETTER OR worse, turkey hunting has become a game of tightshooting shotguns, and to many turkey hunters the tighter the better. Today’s gobbler hunters want effective killing patterns on turkeys at 50 yards and beyond. George Trulock in Whigham, Ga., has been making choke tubes for many years and he is good at it. Mr. Trulock has forgotten more about choke tubes on shotguns than most of us will ever know. Currently TruLock Chokes (trulockchokes.com) has an inventory of over 2,000 choke tubes in stock, so take your pic. Trulock went so far as to not only make a choke tube specifically to be used with the Winchester Long Beard XR ammo, but he is making choke tubes specific to the shot size you want to use. He’s said, “If you shoot different shot sizes through the same choke, you could see a big difference in the pattern for each size. That’s why we decided to make each choke model specific to the Longbeard XR No. 4, 5 and 6 shot, and to tell you the truth, the results were quite impressive.”
PERSONALLY, I’M VERY THANKFUL that Mr. Franklin lost out on his bid to make the wild turkey our national bird. I would hate to think about the redbuds blooming and all of those old gobblers filling the spring air with their racket and we couldn’t be out there pursuing them. Not only do we get to match wits with this most American of birds, but we also get to justify the purchase of some really cool guns and gear. I love turkey hunting. Don’t you? ASJ

This big Missouri gobbler was taken with CZ-USA’s 612 Turkey model shotgun. The gun also comes in a Magnum version. (CZ-USA)

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , ,

March 8th, 2017 by asjstaff

The gun that made it safe for the Winchester to win the West.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT

Christian Sharps already had some limited experience with breechloaders when he patented his fallingblock action in 1848. He’d worked at Harpers Ferry where the Hall breechloaders were made, and many people have assumed that that was where the seed was planted in his head to design a better breechloader.

But designing that “better mousetrap” was only the beginning for the young gunmaker. Unfortunately, Sharps had difficulty in selling or marketing his idea. Over the next three years, he had a number of different business partners, and the total output of rifles and carbines he produced was very low. At one point, Sharps sold his patents as well as his interests in the company, receiving a cash agreement plus $1 per rifle made. Then, very late in 1851, the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was formed and that’s when things finally got rolling.

A number of the features of the Sharps rifles were redesigned, primarily to make various parts more adaptable to increased production. While the models of 1849, 1850, and 1851 were all basically hand-fitted and hand-finished, beginning in 1852, models were built with a much greater dependability by using machines for fitting and finishing. This is all related here in a highly summarized form, but it is generally accepted that the Model 1852 Sharps is the first rifle to be in the form or profile that we recognize as the famous Sharps rifle.

A Hartford ’74 with a No. 1 heavy barrel, chambered for the .50-70. The author (inset) proudly poses in colorful period regalia with his favorite .44-77 over his shoulder. (BJ LANES)

THE 1852 MODEL WAS THE FIRST of the highly recognizable “slant breech” Sharps, with the breech block at a back slant instead of being vertical. It was also the first Sharps to be produced in the thousands of rifles rather than just in the hundreds. The very distinctive slant-breech Sharps were made as military-style rifles and carbines, plus sporting rifles and even a few shotguns. The slant breeches included the models of 1852, 1853, and the very rare tall-hammered Model 1855.

Incidentally, it was carbines of the slant-breech Sharps that were smuggled to John Brown and his followers, hidden in cases that were marked as “Bibles.” A preacher, Henry W. Beecher, was an abolitionist who supported Brown. That’s where the slang expression referring to a Sharps rifle as a “Beecher’s Bible” came from.

Some Sharps cartridges: .44-40 Winchester (for comparison), .44-77 paper patched, .44-90 paper patched, .45-70 carbine load, .45-110, .50-70, and the Big .50 – .50-90.

With the model of 1859 another notable change was seen – the beginning of the vertical-block actions.  The reason for going to the vertical breech block was for operation of a more effective gas seal.  This is the model of the Sharps that really went to war, our Civil War, and some of these rifles that went to Berdan’s Sharpshooters were equipped with double set triggers.

Further updates and slight improvements were made in the New Models of 1863 and 1865, and the reputation of Sharps rifles for accuracy, particularly for long-range shooting, got began to build during that War Between the States. Afterwards, when self-contained cartridges were being considered much more seriously, the late models of the Sharps rifles with the vertical breech block were updated and converted to chamber those cartridges, primarily the new government cartridge of 1866, the famous .50-70.
THIS IS THE ERA OF THE SHARPS rifle history that I find the most interesting. It was the cartridge-firing Sharps rifles that “went West” in search of the buffalo herds, and in the hands of hunters and frontiersmen who needed a rifle that would perform at long range. These were the Sharps rifles that proved to be legendary.

The author’s .44-77 again, a semicustom Classic Hartford model with 28-inch barrel.

The Model 1969 was the first sporting model of the Sharps rifles that was made for use with centerfire metallic cartridges. It was chambered for the .50-70 Government and it also introduced a new Sharps cartridge that was designated as the .44-2¼-inch, with .44 for the caliber and 2¼ inches for the length of the case, as guns for it were marked on their barrels. That .44 fairly quickly became known as the .44-77, which was the UMC (Union Metallic Cartridge Company) loading for it, and it became the most common and popular cartridge in the Sharps rifles until the .45-70 edged it out in popularity beginning in 1876.

Despite their heavy usage and good reputation, the Model 1869 rifles were made for only two years. In 1871, the Model 1874, the Sharps rifle that many people remember the very most, was introduced. And yes, you read that correctly. Although the Model 1874 was first manufactured in 1871, it went unnamed for three years. It was finally given recognition when the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was reformed as the Sharps Rifle Company in 1874. It is also a fact that Christian Sharps died in 1874 and the designation for the rifle might stand as a monument to him although I doubt if that was really intended.

A five-shot group fired with the .44-77 using grease-groove bullets.

But no matter why the naming delay occurred, there is no doubt that the 1871 debut of the Model 1874 was timed perfectly. The great buffalo hunts were just beginning, and the Sharps – with its powerful long-range cartridges – were just what the buffalo hunters wanted. Both the .44-77 and the .50-70 made names for themselves, and the .44-77 was the most produced Sharps chambering during the Hartford era. But the buffalo hunters kept asking for longer-range cartridges, so in 1872 both the .44-90 and the “Big .50,” (what we today refer to as the .50-90) were introduced. Those cartridges, particularly the .44-90, made more long-range shots possible, and good shots out to 1,000 yards were not unknown.

It was during that time when the “buffalo wars” were fought, including the 1874 Battle of Adobe Walls. That’s the legendary battle where 28 buffalo hunters withstood the attack of several hundred Indians from a collection of tribes. The hunters’ success is generally attributed to the long-range Sharps rifles which most of them were using. One hunter, Billy Dixon, is credited with the long shot that truly became a legend, shooting an Indian off of his horse at a very long range. The actual distance for that shot is lost to time, but various claims put it at more than 1,000 yards to over 1,500 yards.
IN EARLY 1876, the Sharps Rifle Company moved their factory from Hartford to Bridgeport, Conn. Some changes were made in the rifles, so a Bridgeport Sharps is generally recognizable to the trained eye when compared to a Hartford model. For instance, the silver-colored pewter nose cap on the forearm was generally no longer used. More important than that, the famous Sharps .44- and .50-caliber cartridges were no longer chambered except for special orders. That’s when the .45-70 became the most popular cartridge in the Sharps sporting rifles lineup, and what we call the .45-110 (Quigley’s cartridge) became the leader in long-range shooting.

Shooting over crossed sticks, the author aims at a target over 800 yards in the distance. (ALLEN CUNNIFF)

In 1878, Sharps introduced their hammerless model, the SharpsBorchardt. While the Model 1878 had certain advantages, it was not particularly popular in the West. The big buffalo hunts were rapidly coming to an end, and with them the demand for a rifle with the “personality” of the big Sharps was also diminishing. The Sharps Rifle Company closed their doors for good in 1881.

Still, the Sharps rifles deserve a fair amount of credit for opening the West up for other brands of rifles. What had been the “wild” West was pretty well tamed by the time the Winchester ’73 appeared on the scene. There were a few .44 rimfires shooting the Henry cartridge at the Battle of Adobe Walls, but odds are those were mainly fired from revolvers. The .44-40 simply hadn’t made it out West at that time, and it is a simple fact that the Winchester repeaters had neither the range nor the punch of the big Sharps.

Today, however, we can still enjoy some “Sharps shooting” because excellent modern copies of the old rifles continue to be made, and remain in high demand. These include those manufactured by the C. Sharps Arms Company (csharpsarms.com) of Big Timber, Mont., which made each of the guns you see pictured in this article.

The author’s best Sharps for longrange shooting is this Hartford Model in .44-90 caliber.

And so, whether your target is a live buffalo bull on ranches where they can still be hunted, or a paper target posted at 1,000 yards, firing a big Sharps with lead bullets and black powder loads remains a long-range thrill. And while shooting one of the newly made Sharps rifles, you can’t help but have the feeling that you’re holding history in your hands. ASJ

Posted in History Tagged with: , , , ,