Not long ago, everyone suggested practicing with a .22, what with the caliber’s light recoil and lower ammo cost. That may have been sound advice, but with the astronomical jump in the price of .22 ammo, it is no longer that much of a savings, even if loads are available. I don’t know whether SIG’s plans were prompted by the higher prices or it was just lucky timing, but I’m glad they did what they did.
It is easier to practice your drawing techniques using a gun that is nearly identical to your real weapon, for example, and it’s much more fun than dry ﬁring your real pistol. And, if you live in a suburban setting, an air gun is much quieter and there are no powerful ﬂying projectiles.
IN THE JULY ISSUE of this magazine, I wrote a review covering the SIG Sauer 226 airgun, and the following month did a feature on their MCX AR airgun. Since each of these is a near copy of a full-caliber gun in the SIG Sauer line, it gave me an idea. For this third and ﬁnal SIG airgun piece, I decided to do a combination review of the airgun and the pistol it was designed to mimic. And, since SIG’s 1911 Max Michel BB pistol is set to hit the market later this month, this will probably be one of the ﬁrst published reviews of it.
As with the ﬁrst two SIG airguns I tested, I was impressed by how closely these two resembled each other. In fact, if you lay them on top of each other, they are basically the same size. There are just a few small, understandable differences.
First, the sights on the air gun are not as nice on the actual .45, which makes perfect sense. Second, the airgun has a Picatinny rail, while the .45 doesn’t. Third, there is a slight difference in the butt due to the differences in the clips. And ﬁnally, although they each appear to have ambidextrous safeties, the “left-handed” safety on the airgun is nonfunctional.
I mentioned that the airgun sights are not as good as on the .45, but I should add that they are adjustable for windage and elevation with a ﬂat-head screwdriver.
To really make this a family affair, I did some of the testing of the .45 alongside my wife, Katy. I shot my normal mediocre groups, but she obtained some good groups.
Normally, I recommend a .357 Mag for smaller shooters. That way, in town they can load up with .38s, and in the mountains they can shoot .357 magnums for bears, wolves and cougars. But although Katy is somewhat recoil-sensitive, she loved shooting the .45. Needless to say, our pace of ﬁre was nowhere as intense as that of the handgun’s namesake, Max Michel, the captain of SIG Sauer’s shooting team and recently crowned world-speed shooting champion.
It is rare, but occasionally I hear someone dissing a 1911. How can you do that to one of the most popular pistol models for more than 100 years running? My dad, who was a B24 pilot in World War II, carried one, and I’ll bet your dad or grandfather did too at some point. If you can handle the recoil and obtain adequate reset times, the .45 is the ticket. And if my wife and my 110-pound daughters like shooting a 1911, then I think that it is safe to say that you can probably handle the SIG Sauer .45.
I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED shooting both guns. For our test we used SIG 230-grain FMJ ammo for the .45, and with the airgun we used SIG BBs. Airgun ammo can vary wildly in accuracy, but in all of my tests, SIG pellets and BBs grouped as good as any of the leading manufacturers other than JSB, which are match-grade pellets.
Like many of SIG’s airguns, the 1911 version has a detachable 16-shot clip that is released by pushing a button identical to the one on its larger and more powerful cousin. You pull down a slide knob and load the BBs into a hole. Then slide the clip back into the bottom of the grip. To load the 12gram CO2 cylinder, you remove the clip and pull out the back of the grip. Insert the gas cartridge and close the handle, and that snaps it into place. Slap in the clip and you’re good to go.
The airgun is not only great for training purposes, but also fun for shooting small varmints. It is a semiautomatic, so it would also be a great tool to run deer and other pests out of your garden. It would sting them enough to make them leave but not cause any long-lasting damage.
As with all SIG semiautos I have tested, the .45 is a great pistol. And once again, I think that in developing the airgun to go along with it, SIG has come up with a great training tool.
So there you have it – several really good reasons to buy two guns instead of just one. Tell your spouse that I said so, and let me know how that goes! ASJ
A knife is a tool, and you must choose the correct one for each speciﬁc job. While you can dig a hole with a spoon, a shovel works a lot better, and the same goes with knives.
Also, I don’t jump out of helicopters with a tactical knife clenched in my teeth to cut oﬀ the heads of the bad guys. I just like to hunt and ﬁsh, and gut, skin and cut up what I kill, so my advice comes from that perspective.
LET’S DISPEL A MYTH. Just because you skinned your ﬁrst bear with a certain knife doesn’t automatically mean that it is the best skinning knife. In fact, it may not even be a good skinning knife. It just means that it has some sentimental value.
Years ago, the Idaho Press Tribune ran a photo of a 12-year-old boy who had just shot his ﬁrst deer with an old Winchester .30-30. Beside him in the photo were his dad and granddad, who’d shot their ﬁrst deer with the same riﬂe. Do you think you could ever convince that kid that a .30-30 isn’t the best deer riﬂe? I wouldn’t even try.
So if your favorite uncle – the one who taught you how to hunt – entrusted you with his knife on his deathbed, then carry it and be happy. Who cares what I say? Just don’t try to tell me that it is the best design for every task.
Hunters can justify carrying four diﬀerent knives. These are: a clip point to cut the pattern (the initial cut when skinning), a drop-point knife to skin, a caping knife to skin around the eyes, ears and lips, as well as the feet of bears, and a boning knife to bone out your game.
Do I always carry all four? No. When I’m hunting hard in the mountains, I usually only carry two: a knife to skin my animal and a boning knife. I’ve skinned more than a hundred deer with a clip-point knife, because it’s a versatile choice. However, if you want to keep the hide or mount the head, it’s best if you use a drop point.
Let’s brieﬂy review each style of blade, and why they are best for a speciﬁc task.
The tip of this design sweeps upward and comes to a deﬁnite point, which allows you to stab into the hide and cut a pattern. The pattern is the initial cut you make down each leg, around the hocks and up the belly before you start removing the skin. You can skin your animal with a clip-point knife, but due to the shape of the blade, they have more of a tendency to cut holes in the hide while skinning. If you’re just skinning your deer so you can cut it up, then it doesn’t matter if you skin it with your clip point knife.
If I could only carry one knife, this would be it.
A drop-point knife is less likely to cut through the hide, and you can skin faster without being as careful. You’ll notice on a drop-point knife that the tip doesn’t sweep upwards like a clippoint knife. Although I can’t explain the mechanics of why, you’ll simply cut through the hide less often while skinning with a drop-point knife than with a clip-point knife.
If you plan to mount the animal head, you’ll want to carry a caping knife. A caping knife has a shorter, thinner blade with a deﬁnite point. This allows you to make intricate cuts around the eyes and lips of your trophy, as well as when skinning the feet on bears.
When I was a kid, we’d use a hunting knife for this job, but while working in beef production plants, I discovered what a real boning knife could do. I took what I learned there and applied it in my outdoor world.
To get a clean bone (which means to remove all the meat) you’ll want a semi-ﬂexible knife. You don’t want it too ﬂimsy or you won’t be able to control the blade while working. I favor a 6-inch boning knife, but have buddies who favor a 5-inch blade. I favor a semiﬂex, but some people prefer a superﬂex blade. It’s a matter of preference.
A SOFTER METAL BLADE is easier to sharpen, but it doesn’t stay sharp as long. A harder knife is more diﬃcult to sharpen but will keep an edge longer. Again, it’s not a matter of right or wrong, just personal preference.
If you’ve hiked in 7 miles and shoot an elk, it’s nice to have a knife that will hold an edge long enough to skin him so you don’t have to carry a sharpening stone. For that reason, I favor a knife that is hard and will keep an edge but that is not insanely hard. Something of the hardness of a Knives of Alaska knife is perfect.
What about straight blade versus fold-ups? Again, it’s a matter of preference. I like both, and sometimes interchange at the drop of a hat. However, if you choose a folder, make sure it has a locking blade so it doesn’t close on your hand while working, although nearly all folders are lock blades now.
There are several good manufacturers on the market. Choose which brand you prefer, and then pick one with the task-speciﬁc designs that I’ve listed above. And after you’ve made your selection, happy hunting! ASJ
Editor’s note: For more on this and other knife-related topics, see the author’s e-article “Knife Sharpening” (available on Amazon Kindle), and check out the YouTube videos on RonSpomerOutdoors.
I’ve worked in several high-capacity plant settings, so I am familiar with that environment. Most of my career was spent as a high-speed production man, but at one time I was a quality control director for ConAgra Foods and oversaw ﬁve beef plants. I share that bit of history because, in my experience, if you know what to look for, you can get a feel of how a plant actually runs.
I recently had the opportunity to join a tour of the Crimson Trace plant just outside Portland, Ore. As a former production man, I liked the environment. People worked in sync and production ﬂowed smoothly. I was especially impressed with their quality control system. They not only do 100 percent checks but also conduct an audit system. In my day this was called statistical process control, where you randomly pulled a certain percentage of product and audited it for defects. The audit determines if an entire lot passes or must be reworked.
Our group was able to see how Crimson Trace actually produces its products from start to ﬁnish, and we were also able to test the goods in a specially designed indoor shooting range in both lighted and blacked-out environments with the company’s night-lighting systems and lasers.
This may not be as newsworthy, but I loved the advertising posters that lined the walls in the company lobby. One depicted a mature housewife pulling out her pistol with the caption, “The beam says there’s no victim at this address.” Another one with a young woman read, “He thought I wouldn’t be prepared. The dot on his chest proved him wrong.” A third depicted a mom and stated, “The laser conﬁrms my overprotective nature.”
As a dad of two daughters, I appreciated the posters.
The posters and slogans may have been created for advertising purposes, but they are as descriptive as they are accurate. Few words in any language are more universal than a red dot on your chest. In that moment of illumination, even a gangbanger knows it’s time to ﬁnd another customer to prey on. So a laser sight may prevent you from having to shoot someone.
Laser sights are extremely popular for self-protection weapons, but I purchased my ﬁrst one for another use. I do a lot of solo bear hunting and backpacking, and I wanted to mount one on my .44 Magnum for tracking a wounded bruin in the dark, or for when bears pay my camp a visit in the middle of the night.
Crimson Trace is widely recognized as a world leader in not only establishing laser sights as standard equipment on concealed-carry and personal-defense ﬁrearms, but for helping to create the market in the ﬁrst place. The company has been manufacturing laser sights and lights for ﬁrearms for more than 20 years.
With more than 200 SKUs and products there’s no way that I can cover all of Crimson Trace’s products in this brief article, so instead I’ll oﬀer a quick rundown from a 30,000-foot view:
GREEN LASERS: Crimson Trace is now producing numerous laser sights in green. The greens can be found in the Lasergrips, Laserguard, Rail Master, Rail Master Pros and MVF series. These products ﬁt ﬁrearms ranging from 1911s to models by Glock, Smith & Wesson, Ruger and others.
LINQ: When it hits the market later this year, Crimson Trace’s LiNQ will be the world’s ﬁrst wireless laser and white-light system. The replaceable control grip pairs with the remote module that houses the laser sight and 300-lumen LED white light. A few advantages include no wires to tangle or disconnect and no activation pads to search for. This ease of operation makes it simple to use, and the two components can be quickly transferred to another ﬁrearm. The product easily installs onto nearly any standard AR/MSR platform riﬂe.
RAIL MASTER AND RAIL MASTER PRO: These compact units quickly install on any ﬁrearm equipped with a M1913/Picatinny or Weaver rail system. The Rail Master features tap-on/oﬀ activation, and the new Rail Master PRO features a laser and light combo in one small unit. You can select to use laser only, light only, light and laser, or disorienting strobe light with either a red or green laser.
MASTER SERIES: These replacement grips ﬁt many pistols. Available wood grips include rosewood, walnut, cocobolo, and G10 green, black and gray. This series incorporates Instinctive Activation, so the laser activates when the ﬁrearm is gripped normally.
LIGHTGUARD: A series of powerful lights that snuggly ﬁt onto a handgun’s trigger guard. All have Instinctive Activation, so when you pick up the ﬁrearm and hold it normally, you have a light – no searching for a ﬂashlight or holding a light in one hand and the ﬁrearm in another hand. Lightguards oﬀer a distinct advantage in the dark. You can also install a Lasergrip on the handgun for a combo system.
INFRARED LASERS: Observable only through night-vision equipment, these laser sights oﬀer the ability to mark a target invisibly, or without alerting it. This military technology on the civilian market is popular with predator-control specialists and security personnel. These lasers are oﬀered as a Rail Master, grips for the 1911 full-sized handguns, and also
for Glock full-size and compact pistols. IR can also be found in the Crimson Trace MVF-515 system.
LASERGRIPS: The largest product line at Crimson Trace, these laser-emitting grips are designed to ﬁt a wide range of pistols. Holsters are also available from Crimson Trace for several of these handguns with Lasergrips.
LASERGUARD: Laserguards are designed to ﬁt over the trigger guard on speciﬁc handgun models and keep the proﬁle and sleek form of compact semiauto pistols. These products emit a single red laser beam.
LASERGUARD PRO: Continues the popular Laserguard line with a combined 150-lumen white light and red or green laser in lightweight unit to securely attach to a handgun’s trigger guard.
MODULAR VERTICAL FOREGRIP (MVF): Designed for rail-equipped long guns, including the AR (or MSR) platform riﬂes, this red or green laser and white light combo vertical foregrip is crafted of 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum. This unit is adjustable for windage and elevation, and will ﬁt M1913/Picatinny or similar accessory rails measuring at least 4 inches in length. The MVF is also oﬀered in an IR (infrared) version. Military units and law enforcement groups around the globe use these.
DEFENDER SERIES: This series sets a new standard in laser sighting systems with cutting edge design and superior technology in an aﬀordable product. Popular features include the Bean Lock adjustments, N-Gage activation with a large easy-to-ﬁnd activation button along with a powerful red aiming laser. The Defender Series products are oﬀered in red laser beams only.
BASED ON MY FAMILIARITY with production and if my tour of Crimson Trace’s facility is any indication, I’d say that the Oregon company will remain a leader in laser sights and more for a long time to come – and that we just might see a few more cool posters hung up on the factory’s walls. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more information about Crimson Trace products, visit crimsontrace.com.
Now, your vote may be swayed by the current AR platform rage, but that involves multiple calibers and brands. I’m talking about the most popular single gun, and the Ruger 10/22 owns that honor, hands down.
Not bad for a riﬂe that ﬁrst hit the market in 1964.
The 10/22 became my go-to riﬂe pretty quickly. How could I not love it? It’s extremely dependable, accurate and, as I mentioned, you can trick it out as much as you want. But it was my quest to hunt the elusive whistle pig (which in southern Idaho, where I shoot, refers to a Townsend’s ground squirrel) that led me to desire a higher level of accuracy, which in turn led to this article.
I love hunting varmints in the spring, and on good days I’ll shoot 400 to 500 rounds at these ornery targets. But if you’re like me when shooting hundreds of rounds using a gun with a small capacity clip, you’ll get frustrated, and I mean fast. In fact, it’s easy enough to get frustrated if you don’t have two or three fully stocked 25-shot banana clips on hand.
As my experience progressed, it got to be fun to see how far out I could hit whistle pigs. I hit one a year or so ago at 197 yards, and then another at 207 yards. If they hold still and let you get three shots to zero in, you can hit them out there. Of course, the gale-like winds we encounter regularly out on the high plains here in Idaho don’t help with long-range shooting.
I noticed that while sighting in with a new scope, I’d have one or two ﬂiers out of a 10-round group. Then, when I listened good, I observed that there’d be a diﬀerence in the loudness or volume of the report, which meant it had a little less powder than the previous shot.
I then begin to doubt the ammo more than my shooting ability, a conclusion that was conﬁrmed when my buddy told me that even with good ammo, match shooters weigh their bullets and kick out those with the highest and lowest weights. I also shot his tricked-out 10/22, and although I thought he might have gone a little overboard with his, it got me thinking about which steps I should take with mine to achieve a higher level of accuracy.
In other words, which items helped me and which ones did not?
Hunting whistle pigs requires a scope because they’re small targets. You may have to take head shots when they pop out of their holes, so I didn’t begin this test using open sights. In fact, with a cheap scope and Remington ammo I was already getting between .65-inch and 1.0-inch groups at 25 yards. Then I shot some Eley ammo and got my groups
down to .4 inches.
The ﬁrst thing I did was install a Leupold VX2 4-12 AO CDS scope that I’d had painted in the company’s Custom Shop to match my new Boyd stock. Now I could really focus in and I was able to get my shooting down to groups of .6 inches with the Remington ammo and .4 with the Eley.
My original trigger had a pull of 5.5 pounds but it had a rough spot and some drag, which hurt my accuracy. So after adding the scope I installed a Timney trigger with a 2¾-pound pull. This lighter setting aided my squeeze immensely.
Installing a Timney 10/22 trigger was super simple. In fact, my son-in-law located a YouTube video that showed everything we needed to do, so we did the ﬁrst one together. The video said to remove the stock and pull the pins. Well, we removed the stock and two pins fell out, so I looked at him and said, “I assume those are the two pins we’re supposed to take out.” They had been held in place by the stock, so the process couldn’t have been simpler.
Despite the wind being pretty bad, with the new scope and trigger I was able to shoot groups between .5 inches and 1.0 inch using Remington ammo, and with the Eley I was consistently getting .5-inch groups. I now felt as if I had a good shooting riﬂe.
The next step was to put on a Brownells barrel and a Boyd Stock. Removing the barrel was also pretty simple. First you remove the stock, and then there are two Allen bolts holding a block that pins in the barrel. Remove them. My barrel was tight, so I ran home and used a wooden dowel rod to tap it oﬀ. To mount it again, just reverse the
order of steps. Then I slid on the Boyd stock and tightened it down with the one screw. What a sweet-looking riﬂe!
The following day I had to teach some seminars at Sportsman’s Warehouse, but as soon as I was done I took oﬀ for the plains. Now, I didn’t measure it, but I’ll estimate that the wind was blowing around 15 miles per hour. The next day there was a little less, probably 8 to 10 mph, so that helped. But with my new, tricked-out 10/22, I was able to achieve .4- to .6-inch groups with the Remington ammo, and .2- to .3-inch groups with the Eley. I now had a shooter.
If you believe diﬀerent brands of ammo vary in your bigger caliber riﬂes (and I do), the variance is even more so with a .22. So on the ﬁnal day, just for the sake of this article, I shot four brands. Here were the best groups that I obtained with each brand.
Federal Target Grade Performance: 1.3-inch group
Winchester M22: .9-inch group
Remington Golden Bullet: .4-inch group
Eley Force: .2-inch group
Tests were performed at 25 yards oﬀ a stable bench with Altus shooting bags;
Distances were set using a Leupold RS-1200iTBR/W Digital Laser Rangeﬁnder;
Five-shot groups were ﬁred;
Shooting was done out on the prairie, so wind was a factor. For example, using Eley ammo indoors, I believe I could have obtained .1-inch groups.
Here is how I would rank (from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most important) which item most aﬀected and/or improved accuracy besides choice of ammunition:
1. Scope You must be able to pinpoint one spot or you just aren’t going to be accurate.
2. Trigger If you can’t get a good squeeze, you just aren’t going to be able to tighten up your groups.
3. Boyd stock My stock is super comfortable and I feel like I have a good grasp of my riﬂe. Does that really help the accuracy? I think it does, if only minutely. Your mind will not drift oﬀ thinking how awkward or uncomfortable it is to hold. And although it is not a factor on a .22, Boyd claims that they help reduce recoil on larger caliber riﬂes.
4. Bull barrel I think this add-on would play a bigger factor on hot days when you’re pouring out the ammo. A lighter barrel would get warm.
5. Cool factor If you want to have a riﬂe that takes people’s breath away, a scope out of the Leupold Custom Shop and a Boyd stock will surely help. Tell Leupold what type of stock you’re buying and they’ll paint your scope to match it. What’s cooler than that? In addition, both companies have options too numerous to mention. ASJ
For that small minority who may not have read last month’s review of SIG’s P226 airgun, not only did SIG launch an airgun line, they went the extra mile and developed a good selection of extremely accurate pellets and a large choice of airgun targets. This was extremely smart on their part, as this new line will be a huge drawing card for kids … and grown-up kids, of course.
It is the same weight as the original model, and is designed to deliver comparable handling. This “real gun” feel guarantees that it will be fun and challenging to shoot, but as with the P226, it’s also great for training purposes. The MCX is charged by CO2, which is a new experience for me. Even as a kid I have never had an airgun that used a CO2 canister. My airguns have always been pump-ups, break-action or PCPs.
The MCX is quite simple to operate. To begin with, it uses a 90-gram canister instead of the normal 12-gram ones. To install a canister you remove the butt stock, screw it in and replace the stock over it. I’m sure it was designed around a larger canister because it holds a 30 shot clip. And speaking of clips, the clip pops out the same as on your regular AR. Inside is a rotary belt that you insert pellets into, which will hold 30 pellets. To load it you pull back the bolt just like on your AR. The gun does have a forward assist bolt, but it is merely decorative, not functional.
With it holding 30 pellets and being a semiauto, that makes it a fun gun to shoot. I fell in love with it right when I opened the box, and was impressed with how solid it felt.
For the initial voyage, we went out to shoot and chronograph. There were a few ground squirrels out, but we tried to focus on the task at hand. We had a lot of guns to shoot that day and pellets to test. But we ﬁnally broke down and shot ground squirrels for a couple of hours when we were ﬁnished with the real work.
Although the gun is listed as shooting up to 750 feet per second, we attained only 590. But fps can vary greatly for a variety of reasons, such as if you have a fully charged canister or not, what kind of pellet that you’re shooting and variations in temperature. I think it’d be fun to chronograph it in 30-degree weather and then again in 105-degree conditions, conducting both tests on a new canister and the same pellets, and compare speeds.
I was unhappy with the groups that I was getting on the range. But I took it along when we went to the mountains for some coyote hunting, and I was able to retest in the middle of the day when things slowed down. I got a little over a 7/8-inch three-shot group at 30 feet. That’s more like it.
I wrote about hunting ground squirrels elsewhere in this issue, and mentioned that on a good day I’ll get 400 to 500 shots oﬀ, so the cost of .22 ammo can quickly add up. So for close shots in a similar hunting scenario, the MCX will not only be a fun little gun to shoot, but it’s also very economical.
The MCX comes with a 1-4×24 SIG Sauer scope, and I was impressed by how crisp and clear it is. The crosshairs have marks for distance and windage. The only downside is that the scope is a 1-4x; as I’m shooting small targets and pushing the limit on yardage when I’m hunting with my airguns, I wish that it was at least a 3-9x.
The trigger was really rough at ﬁrst. But while I was trying to measure the poundage, it leveled out and pulled straight through at 6.25 pounds. Maybe it just had to break in to get smooth. Obviously, if it had a better trigger, I know that I could tighten my group.
But despite the minor issues with the trigger and scope, it is a great little gun, and as soon as the ground squirrels come out in full force I’m going to burn the barrel out. Shooters of all ages will certainly enjoy it, but as with most modern airguns, it is deﬁnitely not a toy. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more, see sigsauerasp.com.
The P226 air pistol uses a conventional size 12-gram Co2 canister, which slips into the back of the grip. The magazine pops out of the bottom the same way it would on any modern semiauto handgun. Each end of the magazine has a rotary clip that holds eight pellets, so when you empty one end you simply eject the magazine, ﬂip it over, reinsert and shoot again. To load the chamber, rack the slide, just like any semiauto.
It’s a blast to shoot. My daughter has several pesky deer that invade her garden. I think this will be a good airgun for chasing them off. The P226 is billed as spitting out pellets at up to 510 feet per second, but we were only able to get 308 fps. However, the feet-per-second measurement is directly related to the charge pressure in your cartridge, outside temperatures – because cooler or very cold temperatures drastically reduce the Co2 capability – and which pellets you use. Even at 308 fps, it would still be perfect for running deer out of your yard without damaging or penetrating the hide, like many high-powered pellet guns might do.
SHOOTING FROM ABOUT 20 feet, we were getting 1¾-inch groups with the JSB Match Diabolo pellets and 1½ with the SIG Match Ballistic pellets. OK, I’ll be honest: When I say “we,” I mean Ron Spomer, an outdoor hunting professional and television host. I used his groups, since I am not a world-renowned pistol shot.
UNIQUE FEATURES OF THE P226 AIR PISTOL
• Picatinny rail on the bottom, which is great for mounting a light;
• Realistic blow-back slide;
• Each magazine holds a total of 16 pellets.
The P226 air pistol comes in black or ﬂatdark earth, which is similar to a light tan. I think the moment you pick it up you’re going to be impressed with the authentic feel of this pistol, and it is fun to shoot. I also think this pistol would be the perfect gun for shooting grouse or varmints.
Now, let’s get into SIG’s line of airgun targets. I don’t know about the kids you take shooting, but mine like dynamic targets, and this line offers all the ﬂippers and spinners for just such stimulation. While testing these guns, we set up four SIG targets to work with, but they offer as many as 10 different styles. Shooting these targets deﬁnitely encouraged my kids to shoot more. SIG recommends setting the targets at least 25 yards away because pellets and fragments might ricochet off the spinners. Also, if you have a clear stretch in your garage or basement, you could even set up SIG’s box target to plink. These targets are speciﬁcally designed to trap the pellet, which makes it perfect for shooting inside.
Ah! Yet another gun and line of accessories one cannot live without. ASJ
Editor’s note: If you would like to know more about SIG Sauer’s P226 air pistol, you can visit them at sigsauer.com
We can all boast life lessons that have taught us certain principles. For me, the optics lesson happened years ago. Ed Sweet, the host of Kid Outdoors, and I would take a lot of kids bear hunting. I’d write articles about the hunts and he’d film them for his show. On one of our first hunts we saw 10 bears in two afternoons. Only once did I spot the bear before anyone else. That’s because my partners had good glass. I had an average pair of binoculars and have realized over the years that I had been missing a lot of game. I started a quest to learn more.
Unfortunately, the old saying “you get what you pay for” is never so true as it is in the optics world. When you buy a set, get the best that you can afford and you’ll never be sorry. I’ve heard a lot of people cuss bad optics, but I’ve never seen anyone regret buying good ones.
I thought I knew most of the optic companies out there and had tested products for at least half of them, but then I attended my first SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor and Trade) Show years ago. Wow, was I shocked. I bet there were 50 to 75 optic companies on display.
So, who’s the best? What makes one better than another? They all look clear and crisp in the store, don’t they? So how can you tell which one to buy, and why spend $2,000 on a pair of binoculars when you can buy a pair for $99? Why would you buy a spotting scope instead of just using your binoculars or the scope on your rifle? Well, let’s try to get our sights around these questions.
I teach a lot of glassing for big-game seminars, have been sponsored by a lot of optic companies over the years and I still don’t claim to know it all, but here are some of the things I have learned.
On an 8×42, the 8 signifies the power or magnification. The second number, 42, is the objective size. You preferably want your objective size to be four times the power. If it is less than four times, it won’t let in enough light for low-light conditions like dawn or dusk. The problem is, the higher the objective, the heavier the weight. Therein lies our dilemma.
If you’re a sedentary hunter, buy a 10×50, but if you’re hiking all day, buy a 10×42. I used to recommend 8×42. My thinking was that when you’re huffing and puffing up a mountain and throw up anything larger than an 8x, you wouldn’t be stable enough to focus. Years ago, however, I realized how much game I was missing, so I now carry a 10x.
Basically, there are three main options: compact, semicompact and full size. You need to determine your application. Where I live, we often scramble up and down mountains all day; this is why I carry a semicompact version. A full-sized binocular would be too heavy, and I know that I would never carry them. On the other hand, if you live in Texas and hunt out of a blind, then by all means get the larger set.
Now the tough choice: What brand should you buy? There are several good choices on the market. I’m sponsored by Leica and they have top-notch optics. Leupold and Bushnell also offer models that meet different budgets, and both offer decent warranties as well.
Years ago, everyone used leather straps to carry their binoculars. After a hard day of scrambling up and down it would feel like my neck had been dislocated by all the bouncing around. This is when I discovered Butler Creek elastic straps. They fit like a bra – not that I’ve ever worn a bra – and hold the binoculars against my chest. A lot of people make straps that are similar, but back in the day Butler Creek owned the market.
Now let’s cover spotting scopes. Why buy a spotting scope? Why not just use your binoculars? Because you’ll miss a ton of game. What size should you buy? Because of weight, I choose to carry a 35x, which is sufficient for me here in Idaho. If you’re sheep hunting in Alaska, you may want a 60x. You will need to determine where and how you hunt before making your decision.
When I glass, I do what is known as “zoning” – no, not fall asleep. I’ll climb to the top of a high ridge and set up. I start viewing towards one end of the mountain and glass across horizontally, then drop down 50 yards and go back. I will do this until I get to the visual bottom. Try to avoid randomly looking around. Have a system or you’ll miss game and never even know it.
Animals feed in and out of cover, so wait a few minutes and repeat glassing. If you glass an area long enough, you’ll grow accustomed to odd-shaped rocks and stumps, and notice when something new appears that wasn’t there before. As the sun moves, shadows may cause things to look different throughout the day too.
One good thing about using a spotting scope is if you see something, you can back away from the optic and let your partner look through. How many times have you seen an elk across a mountain and it’s taken five minutes for your buddy to see it too? Problem solved!
Which is best? A straight or a 45-degree angled optic? Over the years I’ve started favoring an angled neck. To me it’s a little more user friendly and causes less muscle stress throughout the day.
At the end of a hard day of glassing your eyes are going to be strained. You’ll go to bed feeling like you’re seasick or worse, hallucinating. I know everyone is on a budget, but as an old buddy used to say, “On this purchase, don’t leave any change in your pocket.”
Let’s move onto scopes. For fast shots you’ll want a 3x to 9x. They use smaller powers so they can pick up game fast. For hunting out West, you’ll want more magnification for the longer shots you’ll take.
I love the idea of a scope cover because the last time I hunted deer in Nebraska during a blizzard, I found a deer, threw up my rifle, looked through the scope and it was full of snow. Needless to say, I missed. I’ve tested numerous scope covers over the years and every single one has managed to get hung up on a limb and disappeared. This also goes for the covers on my binoculars. Maybe it is just me.
Some people will tell you to spend more on the scope than you do your rifle. This is somewhat true, I feel. I have a stainless-steel Remington 700 .338 Winchester Magnum. The scope is a Leupold VXIII 4.5x to 14x, so it’s half again as expensive as the rifle. This must mean that I somewhat agree with this concept.
It goes without saying, baby them! I don’t strap my rifle on my four-wheeler and go bouncing around. I baby my scope and consequently it stays on tight. It is also not a good idea to leave optics in the blistering sun either.
To properly clean them, Hamilton Boykin at Leica told me to hold them upside down, blow off any loose dust and then pour water on the lens to rinse off. Then with a soft, wet lens rag, wipe them clean in swooping motions. Don’t wipe in a circular motion or you will grind in sand particulates. Spitting on the lenses and wiping them off with your dusty shirt tail doesn’t cut it either.
Try a good optic once and you’ll never go back. ASJ