Category Archives: Featured

The Slim Glock 41

The GEN4 Duty And Competition Model
In .45 ACP.

There are now some 50-odd variations of the basic Glock pistol ranging from the sub-compacts to a 10mm “long slide” for hunters and outdoorsmen. The Glock domination of a large slice of the police and military realm and its iconic place in the entertainment industry has won it wide acceptance among the shooting public. Early on, the Glocks earned a reputation for durability, reliable function and basic simplicity.

New shooters—both newly armed civilians and weapon-using professionals-in-training—take to the uncomplicated operating drill and the “safe action” trigger. While the long and relatively heavy trigger represents a paradigm shift and an initial challenge to shooters attuned to traditional single- and double-action pistols and revolvers, the system proves intuitive to many new shooters.

It is not unusual to see a seasoned shooter set up a table full of guns to introduce his significant other to shooting. Often as not, the novice will work through the standard bestiary of revolvers and auto-loaders with unremarkable results and then see the hit probability increase significantly when the Glock comes into play.

Glock-equipped action pistol shooters are well-represented in the upper tier of IPSC and USPSA competitions. The models 34 and 35 and now the 41 in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP respectively are optimized for competition. All have 5.3-inch barrels, will “fit in the box” with the 1911, are available in the Generation 4 configuration and an available Modular Optical System variation for mounting the optical sights popular in competition. Glock specifies the Model 41 as suitable for military, police, sporting applications, the general enthusiast and, along with the G40 Gen4 MOS in 10mm, is a suitable hunting tool. Of the eight categories recognized by Glock, the 41 appears in every category except “Personal Defense” (concealed) and “Women Shooters.” It appears to be Glock USA’s favorite for versatility.

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The Glock performed well with all loads tried including CorBon DPX. The wicked knife,
a Boker Magnum Starfighter, is a perfect compliment if 13 .45’s aren’t enough. The
dagger-shaped blade is ground on one side and crafted of 440 stainless steel.

Gen4

The Model 41 is 8.9 inches long and 1.28 inches wide across the grip—the same or a bit wider than other members of its competition/duty/hunting family but a bit narrower across the slide. The sights are Patridge profile with tritium inserts laterally adjustable and highly visible with about 1/2-inch greater sighting radius than the 1911. The height from top of rear sight to magazine floorplate is about the same as a Model 1911 and other similar service pistols. Weight unloaded is 27 ounces and with 13 rounds in the magazine, it comes in at 36 ounces—2 ounces lighter than the unloaded weight of my Ten-Ring Custom Gold Cup. The overall trigger travel is 0.49-inch.

Weighing from the tip of the trigger with a Timney mechanical gauge, it releases at 4.5 pounds. With “normal” finger placement in the center of the trigger, the striker releases at 7 pounds. The safety is the familiar center-trigger frame impingement rocker and a passive internal striker block. The barrel is 5.3 inches long with polygonal rifling. Urban legend says the PG twist barrel provides the bullet with a more perfect seal, higher velocity and greater accuracy.

I did a comparison from the same lots of 230-grain Black Hills JHP, Hornady 185-grain Critical Defense and CorBon 230-grain JHP +P using the Glock 41 against a Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special with standard 5-inch barrel. The Black Hills gained 15 feet per second from the Glock. The CorBon was 14 fps slower and the Hornady load was 4 fps slower from the Glock than the Les Baer. Incidentally, all three of these rounds reach full expansion in 4 inches of raw beef brisket and stop after penetrating one side of a gallon water jug. The Model 41 comes with three 13-round magazines (or 10 in certain jurisdictions), a loading tool, cable lock, nylon bore brush and the owner’s manual. The inclusion of three magazines makes it good-to-go from the box for competition or duty.

The Gen4 enhancements include a heavy-duty 2-spring recoil system captured on a guide rod. This arrangement makes the sub compact, full-caliber CCW pistols feasible and provides a useful spring life. In the case of the Gen4, official word is the system greatly increases recoil spring life and moderates slide travel and perceived recoil. There is a large but well-shielded reversible magazine release and the grip and backstraps are festooned with 4-sided “polymids” deemed the “Rough Textured Frame.” The basic grip frame is somewhat smaller than the previous standard and comes with four snap-on and pin-secured backstraps in medium and large, with and without beavertail.

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The front of the slide is given a nicely contoured shape to ease reholstering.

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The rear sight is fixed, adjustable for windage only, and our test sample was fitted with
optional tritium night sights. The front, with one tritium dot, is fixed in the slide.

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Controls include twin takedown tabs over the trigger window, a protected slide stop,
a trigger-mounted safety, and a reversible magazine release.

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Mike found the Glock rocked sharply upward from the rest firmly on his first shot
imbedding the polymidal protuberances into the palm of his hand. Time out for a
trip to the backstrap locker.

Basic Bench Groups

The charted groups are the usual 5-round strings from a Caldwell Pistol Rest from 25 yards. Overall, the results with the full array of high-quality rounds produced a fairly narrow spread of individual group measurements. Initially, I shot from the bench using the basic grip frame sans alternative backstraps. With the first shot, came the mental image of having seized a concupiscent hedgehog or barrel cactus. The Glock rocked sharply upward from the rest, firmly imbedding the polymidal protuberances into the palm of my hand. It did kind of hurt and made me wonder what lay in store when I put it to more purpose-driven use.

Given the emphatic up-thrust of the recoiling Model 41, I figured my best bet would be one of the backstraps with a beavertail. I picked one at random—the one marked, “medium” as it turned out—and it wrought a profound change in the overall behavior of this pistol. Recoil driven up-chuck was greatly reduced and the texture no longer caused even minor discomfort. Likely the small grip option might be ideal for a person with small hands but the medium adapter was ideal for me and the other people who shot the 41. Loads included high-quality jacketed rounds of 185- and 230-grain weight of standard and +P pressures. There was no great difference in felt recoil or torque among them. All loads centered their groups 2- to 2-1/2 inches above point of aim shooting from the rest and close to point of aim unsupported. Hornady American Gunner 185-grain JHP’s using XTP Bullets shot groups of 2.1 and then 1.9 inches. The Hornady Critical Defense Load took the lead with a 1.4-inch 5-round cluster though the apparent ranking of my benchrest groups should never be taken as gospel nor my rested groups representative of what might come with a Ransom rest.

All of the loads performed very well and are very likely more similar in absolute accuracy than my shooting will ever demonstrate. They all delivered a level of accuracy completely compatible with the entire field of action shooting competition. All of the JHP loads were completely reliable.

The most energetic load in the table is the Buffalo Bore 185-grain Lead Free Barnes Hollow Point. It is rated at 1,150 fps but actual chronographed speeds were well on the road to the nominal velocity of the Buffalo-Barnes combination using a 160-grain bullet. I pulled a bullet and confirmed that it is a 185-grain bullet and the measured velocity of 1,211 fps is accurate. Three of the loads in the table utilize the 185-grain Barnes bullets. They are the hot Buffalo Bore load, The CorBon Deep-Penetrating X Bullet load and the Black Hills TAC XP. The Barnes bullet retains 100 percent of its weight, providing deep penetration and consistent expansion across a wide range of velocities and performing well against various barriers.

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While the 41 standing alone has a “long slide” appearance, the overall size is virtually the
same as the 1911 underneath. Note the slightly longer sight radius of the Glock.

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Mike chose the medium backstrap with a generous beavertail. Simple to interchange, it
improved the handling characteristics for him tremendously. Glock provides the four
extra backstraps with the pistol.

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Kenny Hunt, a professional handgun instructor, enjoyed popping plates at 15 yards.
The medium beavertail backstrap fit Kenny perfectly and moderated muzzle rise.

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The group on the left is from one hand at 25 yards fired “NRA” Timed Fire Cadence.
Two of the three out of the primary cluster came with the first five rounds and
prompted Mike to compensate for a tendency to push the group. The right hand
target was fired from two hands unsupported at the same distance.

Shooting 6-inch plates from 15 yards on handgun instructor Kenny Hunt’s range, rapid transition from one plate to the next was the order of the day. Recoil with the beavertail grip was not the limiting factor. Recovering from the uptick and moving to the next plate was accomplished smoothly and at good speed. Barrel rise with the standard and +P loads was well controlled. My tendency to push the trigger was a significant limiting factor and did cause me to miss plates to the left if I tried to increase my speed to levels normally comfortable for me with a single action release. Reliable hits on all eight plates were the rule if I kept my breaks at the 1-second level (Pact Club Timer 1.03-1.05 seconds between shots.). This is encouraging entry-level performance predicting significant improvement with sustained trigger time. Kenny’s results were essentially the same as mine.

Shooting 2-handed, unsupported isosceles from 25 yards produced satisfactory center-mass hits at a deliberate pace and the groups I tended to push to left of center were now, with improving trigger control, more in register with the sights. Shooting 1-handed at the NRA timed-fire cadence, I put two of my first five rounds to the left away from the centered group. Another 5-round string and the three remaining in the magazine produced a decent cluster considering the realities of a trigger not geared toward bull’s-eye matches.

The slide of the Model 41 wears a pleasing flat black, non-glare finish matching the polymer frame perfectly. After several hundred rounds of standard and +P .45 ACP ammunition, the only indications the pistol has been fired is a very slight line on the barrel about 3/8-inch from the muzzle where it contacts the slide. There are two faint skid marks on the top of the barrel hood from low impact contact with the recoiling slide though the finish is still intact. Rails, the underside of the slide and the metallic elements of the frame appear pristine.

The Model 41 is a solid performer that Glock enthusiasts will value for its full exploitation of the potential of the .45 ACP cartridge.
By Mike Cumpston
Photos By Joseph R. Novelozo

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The 41 was completely reliable and delivered good accuracy with the full range of high-performance
JHP ammunition. Groups were fairly close across the board but the Hornady Critical Defense round
turned in the best 25-yard bench group.

G41
Maker: Glock
6000 Highlands Parkway
Smyrna, GA 30082
(770) 432-1202
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/glock-inc/

Action: Safe action
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 13+1
Overall length: 8.90 inches
Width: 1.28 inches
Height: 5.47 inches
Barrel length: 5.31 inches
Weight [unloaded): 27 ounces
Finish: Black Tenifer
Grips: Integral polymer, interchangeable backstraps
Price: $699

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.45 ACP Factory Ammo Performance

Load Velocity Energy Group Size
(brand, bullet weight, type) (fps) (ft-lbs) (inches)
American Gunner 185 JHP XTP 952 372 1.9
Buffalo Bore 185+P 1,211 603 2.5
CorBon 185 DPX 1,040 444 3.1
Hornady 185 CD 989 402 1.4
Black Hills 185 TAC XP 972 388 2.4
Black Hills 185 JHP 1,045 449 2.1
Black Hills 230 JHP 851 370 2.3
CorBon 230 JHP +P 902 416 2.3
Remington 230 JHP 807 333 2.5

Notes: Velocity taken by Competition Electronics Chronograph at 10 feet, 500 feet elevation,
temperature 40 degrees F. Group size the product of 5 shots at 25 yards.

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Basic Bench Groups

Moose Medicine

The .300 Win Mag in Ruger’s Hawkeye Magnum
Hunter Delivers Reach And Whack.

If you’re like many of us avid deer hunters, sometime in your hunting career you may be inclined to tackle North America’s largest deer commonly referred to as moose. These awkward-looking animals grow some of the most impressive headgear of any game animal, anywhere in the world. The large rack of really big bulls is a strong motivator not to mention a winter’s worth of delicious meat.

There are basically three subspecies including the Alaska-Yukon, Canadian and Shiras moose. Eventually I want to experience all of them as they are magnificent game animals and believe it or not, challenging to hunt. Having taken the largest of the species, the Alaskan-Yukon variety, I guess it would be natural to arrange a Canadian moose hunt next. My good friend and hunting consultant Wade Derby of Cross Hair Consulting arranged such an adventure in Alberta, so I begin to prepare for a cold and possibly snowy moose hunt.

It didn’t take any brainstorming sessions on my behalf to decide on Ruger’s Hawkeye Magnum Hunter. This is a serious, dependable working gun ideally suited for harsh conditions likely encountered on any given moose hunt. Whether the hunt involves floating down some scenic river in a raft or hiking the frozen north backcountry, the utilitarian M77 Hawkeye Magnum Hunter can dish out any and all obstacles; a perfect choice for harsh environments. This particular model is only available in .300 Winchester Magnum, a worthy candidate for a large, wide-racked Canadian moose.

Several features on the Hawkeye are appealing to many hunters including the muzzlebrake system. I realize there is a love/hate relationship with muzzlebrakes—shooters and hunters alike either love or abhor their very existence. Personally I prefer muzzlebrakes and yes, I wear hearing protection while I am hunting just the same as I do on the range. If a brake helps you shoot better, there is less chance of tracking wounded game. If a guide dislikes muzzlebrakes I can guarantee you he will hate tracking wounded game even worse! Hearing protection is the order of the day, on the range or in the field.

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A 3-position safety rests directly behind the bolt handle (above) and locks the bolt
fully back, allowing safe manipulation of the bolt in the center position. The muzzlebrake
system (below) on the Ruger is different from most others. The brake can be removed and
replaced with a matched weight so point-of-impact won’t be affected.

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The Leupold VX-3 4.5-14X proved a perfect match for the Ruger .300 Win Mag. Integral scope
mounts with 1-inch rings are provided with the gun. The hinged magazine floorplate (below)
fits flush against the triggerguard.

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Brake Or No?

It is quite common for some to develop the proverbial flinch from shooting magnum rounds. The muzzlebrake simply helps reduce felt recoil. For many of us, that equates to better shooting. The Hawkeye’s unique system gives the shooter a choice without impacting point of impact when removing the radial-port brake. If you don’t want to use the brake, unscrew it and replace it with Ruger’s dynamically-matched muzzle weight. Now your bullet will have the same POI. No kidding! The brake and weight provided weigh the same. If you prefer, the Hawkeye also comes with a thread protector if you opt for using neither the brake nor weight. This is a pretty nifty innovation for some as it gives you options. For me, I left the brake intact and never looked back.

A rifle such as this is a tool to accomplish a specific task, one reason I like the Hogue stock. The overmolded rubber delivers a textured, sure-grip surface. It also allows a true, free-floating barrel. Not only is this soft, synthetic injection-molded material immune from harsh weather, it’s also quiet. With some sort of enhanced, non-slip, ribbed texture situated on parts of the fore-end and grip, it allows for safe handling even in the pouring rain. This can be especially beneficial when you have a shot in wet conditions. The pillar-bedded green stock incorporates a large recoil pad, which indeed dampens recoil. For the adventurous hunter heading to rough terrain and unforgiving environments, this Hogue stock is just the ticket. Don’t lose any sleep over a small scratch or ding.

Other features worth noting include the rifle’s LC6 trigger. My test gun came with no creep or gritty pull. While it does not lend itself to be self-adjustable, I did have a gunsmith lighten the pull. The trigger broke around 5 pounds and I preferred something a tad less.

A Leupold VX 3 4.5-14X with Boone & Crocket reticle was fitted in Ruger’s integral scope mount, which is integral with the receiver. The gun comes with 1-inch rings. Even I could mount the scope correctly with this system. Truthfully, I was concerned about this mounting system keeping the scope in-check with .300 Win Mag rounds. Well, after 100 rounds or so the rings are doing their job nicely. The Leupold 4.5-14X is a great scope and perfect match for this Ruger.

The hinged, solid-steel magazine floorplate fits flush with the triggerguard. It would be next to impossible to accidently dump cartridges while shooting or fighting your way through a brush thicket. The magazine holds three rounds.

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The Canadian moose is a large animal, and Ruger’s .300 Win Mag, Leupold VX 3
scope delivering a Nosler Partition bullet from Federal Premium ammunition was
an ideal combination for such an adventure.

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Getting a steady rest from Bog-Pod’s shooting sticks ensured Mark was
able to punch his moose tag.

The Hawkeye wears a Mauser-type, matte stainless action utilizing a large external claw extractor for controlled-round feed. When cycling the bolt aggressively, the blade ejector is due credit for slinging out spent brass with authority. The 3-position safety is easily reached and allows the shooter to open the bolt for loading and unloading without switching to fire mode. On the opposite side of the action lies a bolt release. The 24-inch stainless barrel is hammer-forged.

The Hawkeye tips the scales at 8 pounds. After mounting the Leupold scope my gun weighed in at 9 pounds. This may seem a bit heavy until you shoot a steady diet of .300 Win Mag ammo. The real benefit came when shooting sessions from the bench heated up. I was somewhat shocked at the recoil, or should I say lack of recoil. The gun didn’t kick the fillings out of my teeth. I could shoot as much as needed to evaluate accuracy potential. I attribute this to the combination of weight, recoil pad and effectiveness of the muzzlebrake. Some .308 Winchester rifles I’ve fired produced more recoil.

Before leaving for Alberta, I headed to the range with a variety of factory ammo including Winchester 180-grain Power Point, Hornady’s Superformance 165-grain GMX, Fusion 165-grain, Black Hills 165-grain GMX and Federal Premium 165-grain topped with a Nosler Partition. I really didn’t know what to expect but I certainly wasn’t expecting the type of accuracy discovered. All of these factory offerings maintained 3-shot groups from one hundred yards of less than 1-3/4 inch. That’s well inside minute-of-moose.

Federal’s 165-grain Partition load shot particularly well with an impressive 3-shot group. The Partition bullet would be ideally suited for a big-bodied moose so I chose this round for the hunt. In all honesty, any of the .300 Win Mag ammo tested would have let the air out of Bullwinkle as long as I did my part. I returned home from the range and gave the barrel a good cleaning before shooting a few days later. When I shot the Federal ammo again it consistently produced tight groups. Now if we could only get a moose to cooperate.

This was intended to be a fun/economical moose hunt with a lifelong friend. Unfortunately, some last minute issues came up and my buddy couldn’t make the trip. Wade Derby had organized this budget-friendly moose hunt with Kevin Sikkens who also offers hunts for big whitetail and bear. When I arrived in camp it was unusually warm for November. And I thought it would be snowing!

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Federal ammo performed well in the Hawkeye Magnum Hunter giving Mark confidence
he would be able to deliver his shot on a Canadian moose. This sub-MOA 3-shot group
(below) was shot at 100 yards with the Federal 165-grain Partition.

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The game was not moving much and the hunting a bit challenging. We did see wolves, coyotes, whitetail, mule deer, and our intended quarry, moose. As a matter of fact, we spotted 14 moose the first morning and passed on a couple of smaller bulls. I kept reminding myself, this is a fun hunt, not a trophy hunt. And the meat is some of the best wild game ever to occupy a plate next to biscuits and gravy.

The countryside was scattered with agriculture fields planted in oats and other crops including some alfalfa. Apparently the warmer weather didn’t require the moose to be out in the fields feeding heavily. Most of the game we spotted was feeding in the willows early in the morning or very late in the evening. We covered a lot of real estate during the hunt and I got to see some beautiful country in the process.

Late in the hunt we stumbled upon a lone bull feeding out in a field right before dark. He wasn’t the biggest bull in Canada by any means, but it was showtime. The bull was standing quartering slightly toward us around 150 yards away. I had the Leupold scope cranked up to 10X. Kevin setup the Bog-Pod shooting sticks and the Ruger quickly found its position in the cradle.

Just about the time I placed the crosshairs on his shoulder, the bull figured something was up and took off running. The first Partition landed as the bull changed direction offering a better broadside opportunity. Two more Partitions later our bull was down. The last shot struck around 200 yards. I didn’t notice any recoil during the excitement. And yes, I was wearing ear protection in the form of those handy Impact Sports muffs. They cover my ears on every hunt and save what little hearing I have remaining. Kevin mentioned he could hear those Partitions smack on every shot. So could I.

The Ruger cycled smoothly and the Federal ammo performed as intended. Those Partitions are just the ticket for big-bodied game like moose, elk, and such. I couldn’t have been more pleased with gun, gear, and equipment used on this hunt. The Alberta adventure had been a wonderful testing ground for me to gain more confidence in the Hawkeye Magnum Hunter.

If you’re looking for a dependable working-type gun capable of withstanding the rigors of travel and whatever Mother Nature dishes out, this Ruger is a worthy candidate. It’s the type of gun I like taking on those backcountry elk hunts because I don’t worry about getting a little scratch on the stock. Even though the gun (with scope) tips the scales at 9 pounds, I wouldn’t hesitate to carry this rig on a sheep hunt. Those long-range pokes on a magnificent ram could be executed consistently, excluding pilot error. Any big-game pursuits in harsh environments will be handled reliably. That’s what the Ruger Hawkeye Magnum Hunter is designed to handle.
By Mark Hampton

Hawkeye Magnum Hunter
Maker: Sturm, Ruger & Co.
411 Sunapee Street, Newport, NH 03773
(603) 865-2442
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/sturm-ruger-co/

Action type: Bolt action
Caliber: .300 Win Mag
Capacity: 3+1
Barrel length: 24 inches
Overall length: 44-3/4 inches
Weight: 8 pounds (unscoped)
Finish: Matte stainless steel
Sights: None, Ruger 1-inch rings provided
Stock: Green Hogue synthetic
Price: $1,139

VX 3 4.5-14x40mm
Maker: Leupold & Stevens
14400 Northwest Greenbriar Parkway
Beaverton, OR 97006
(503) 646-9171
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/leupold-stevens-inc/

Magnification (actual): 4.9X to 14.20X
Objective diameter: 40mm
Eye relief: 4.4 inches (4.5X), 3.7 inches (14X)
Internal adj. range: 62 MOA elevation & windage at 100 yards
Click value: 1/4 MOA
Tube diameter: 1 inch
Weight: 15.1 ounces, Overall length: 12.6 inches
Reticles: B&C (tested), others available
Price: $749

Federal Premium Ammunition
900 Ehlen Drive, Anoka, MN 55303
(800) 322-2342
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/federal-premium-ammunition/

Bog-Pod
Battenfeld Technologies
2501 Lemone Industrial Blvd.
Columbia, MO 65201
(573) 445-9200
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/battenfeld-technologies-inc/

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Browning Hi-Power Then & Now

John M. Browning’s Last Creation
Still Serves, And Serves Well.

Few handguns have been used by both sides in numerous conflicts, been made on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and remained in production for 80 years. The Browning Hi-Power 9mm has done so.

Often hallmarked as John M. Browning’s last design, he died several years before it was introduced. More accurately he died before the design was finished. For a quarter century, JMB had close ties with the Belgian firearms manufacturer Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre, the factory for which he was designing and what came to be known as the Hi-Power. After his death in 1927 the chief arms designer for FN, Dieudonne Saive, finished his work and in 1935 the pistol was introduced in Belgium.

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Duke’s WWII Hi-Powers include (top) an Inglis with canvas British/Canadian issue holster,
(middle) a Chinese contract Inglis with wooden shoulder stock/holster, and (bottom) an
FN-made Nazi issued one with replica of German military holster.

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These three Browning Hi-Powers (aka P35) span a 70-year manufacturing period and were made
on both sides of the Atlantic. From left: FN made one with German World War II markings of
1944/45 vintage. Middle is John Inglis (Canadian) made one also from 1944/45. At right is
current Browning production labeled “Made in Belgium/Assembled in Portugal.”

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In shooting the WWII Hi-Powers and the current production Browning Hi-Power, Duke has
fed them factory loads, handloads with home cast bullets, commercially cased bullets
and jacketed bullets. He has not experienced a single stoppage with any of the 9mm
ammunition types.

PISTOLE 640(b)

Although it was quickly adopted by the military forces of several small nations, only about 35,000 were produced prior to World War II. In May 1940 Germany’s Blitzkreig overran Belgium, but the workforce at FN was instructed to continue production. Of course everything made went towards the German war effort. Its official designation in German use was Pistole 640(b). More commonly it was referred to as P35.

In details the FN Hi-Power had a 4.65-inch barrel, weighed 35 ounces, was 7.75 inches in overall length and had a magazine capacity of 13 rounds. Grips were checkered wood but the sights were the most unusual feature. Front sight was ordinary: a simple blade. The rear sight was both odd and unrealistic. It was a tangent-type with graduations to 500 meters! Remember we’re talking about a 115-grain bullet moving out at about 1,200 to 1,300 fps.

The oddness isn’t over yet. The rear of the grip was slotted to accept a detachable wooden shoulder stock and being hollowed out the stock also served as a holster. As we will see shortly, this combination was greatly favored by the Chinese.

Just before WWII began, a Canadian company called John Inglis Ltd. gained a contract to make BREN light machine guns for both Great Britain and Canada. Further into the conflict, the company was enticed to begin making copies of the Browning Hi-Power. However, the Nazis controlled the drawings and specifications necessary for manufacture of such. According to the book The Inglis-Browning Hi-Power Pistol by R. Blake Stevens, the Inglis engineers received six Belgian-made Hi-Powers from China and then reverse engineered them for their own production lines.

Also according to the book mentioned above, the first Inglis Hi-Powers left the factory in February 1944 with production ending in September 1945. During that time over 151,000 Canadian Hi-Powers were made. They were sent to China and Great Britain and also served with Canada’s own troops. The Inglis Hi-Powers came in two broad versions. One is referred to by collectors as the “Chinese version.” It has the tangent sight and is cut for the wooden shoulder stock. However, it must be noted not all the Chinese versions went to China. The one in my collection has British proof marks.

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Duke plinks steel with an Inglis Hi-Power.

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Many thousands of FN Hi-Powers were made in Belgium when occupied by the German Army
and all were taken. Production continued until the end of the war.

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The John Inglis Company of Canada acquired six FN Hi-Powers from China and reverse engineered
them into two broad versions. This is the so-called “Chinese version” because it is equipped
with wooden shoulder stock and also has the 500-meter tangent rear sight.

Allied Power

The British and Canadian governments saw the 500 meter sight and heavy wooden shoulder stocks as relatively useless and had their Inglis Hi-Powers uncut on the back of the grip frame and with more traditional notched blade rear sight machined integral with a hump at the rear of the slide. That hump is unique to Inglis Hi-Powers.

Belgian and Canadian wartime Hi-Powers also differed in exterior finish and grip materials. On this side of the Atlantic, Hi-Powers were given a phosphate finish akin to American Parkerizing, while those from Europe were blued. It is written by others that FN wartime’ manufacturing quality ranged from pre-war exquisite to war-emergency crude towards the end. The one in my collection fits in between those extremes. Grips on FN Hi-Powers remained checkered wood but those by Inglis were checkered synthetic material. Both of my Inglis ones have lanyard rings but my FN does not.

Regardless of origin, the military use of Browning’s Hi-Power did not end with WWII. The Brits adopted them for general issue in 1954 but had been using them for special troops such as airborne soldiers since 1944. The book The Last Drop by Stephen L. Wright is about the great airborne invasion of Germany east of the Rhine River in March 1944. In it, one British paratrooper is quoted as saying his officer was waving a “Browning 9mm” at a German tank but had the good sense to take cover instead of engaging it.

According to Military Small Arms Of The 20th Century by Ian V. Hogg and John S. Weeks, no fewer than 55 nations adopted Hi-Power pistols purchased from FN in the post-WWII decades. Without doubt many of those thousands of pistols are still riding in active-duty military holsters.

And still the story continues as the Browning Hi-Power is far from obsolete. It is still a fine defensive handgun. Today, a great selling point for many gun buyers is a double-action trigger mechanism, but many tactical experts consider DA triggers far less than important. After all, the ubiquitous Model 1911 from so many makers has a standard single-action trigger.

For the purposes of this article I ordered a currently produced Browning Hi-Power to shoot and show alongside my three of WWII vintage. In short, it compares well. According to several references, post-1950 production Hi-Power barrels will not interchange with pre-1950 ones. There may be other internal changes which would be of interest more to engineers than to shooters.

Outwardly, early and current Hi-Powers are amazingly similar. I had the choice of target or fixed sights and picked the latter. They are dovetailed to the slide, front and rear. Interestingly, my 1944 vintage FN sample has a nearly identical rear sight dovetailed in but the front sight is staked as with the Colt Model 1911/1911A1. Note here the front sights on both my Inglis Hi-Powers are dovetailed. The new version’s sights are also white-dot types, which, of course, the early ones are not. Nor do current Hi-Powers have lanyard rings.

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The backstrap of the Inglis Chinese Hi-Power (above, left) is cut for a shoulder stock and has
a lanyard ring. The current Browning Hi-Power (above, right) has neither. Front sights on Inglis
Hi-Powers were dovetailed to the slide (below). FN Hi-Power front sights were staked to the slide.

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An average group from Duke’s FN Hi-Power (above) using 115-grain FMJ factory ammunition is
an acceptable 2-3/4 inches at 25 yards. The best group fired by Duke with the current
production Browning Hi-Power (below) using 115-grain FMJ Federal American Eagle factory
loads was an exemplary 1-3/8 inches.

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Another external difference of these pistols is the safety arrangement. The WWII-era ones have a thumb-actuated safety on the pistol’s left side. The new one’s safety is ambidextrous. In terms of function, the safety on all versions can be engaged only when the hammers are at full cock. There is a half-cock notch on the hammer. Its purpose is to catch the hammer if it slips from your grasp when de-cocking. Lastly, all three of my early Hi-Powers have the so-called “burr” hammer spur but the new one has a traditionally-styled one. Grips are checkered and look like wood but are some sort of synthetic material.

On the left side of the new Hi-Power’s slide is an interesting stamping. It says “Made in Belgium, Assembled in Portugal.” Its exterior finish is a deep blue with good polish and the fit is very nice. In operation it is far stiffer than my 70-year-old Hi-Powers, which is not a criticism. It’s understandable.

My “tests” of the current production Browning Hi-Power were mostly an insult to the word. I didn’t test anything. I simply played with shooting the Browning using a wide variety of factory loads and handloads, which I had sitting around in my “shooting shack.” Ranges ran from 25 to a full 100 yards. Targets were both paper and steel. About 200 rounds of 9mm were fired.

At least at the very end I shot some groups on paper with good quality, American Eagle 115-grain FMJ ammo. Five-shot clusters ran from about 1-1/2 to 3 inches. They were generally on for elevation but a bit left of center. If this pistol were mine I’d drift the rear sight, but seeing as how it must go back to Browning I didn’t mess with it. Still, once I gained insight as to a point of aim, hitting my steel PT-Torso target at 100 yards wasn’t difficult.

Here is one last thing I can say for Hi-Powers, both old and new. In my experience they are virtually trouble free in regards to functioning. Cast bullets, jacketed bullets, factory loads, handloads…, none of the four in my experience have ever failed to function. For perspective, I have three P08 Lugers made between 1917 and 1938. All are finicky about ammunition. Sometimes they will feed one brand of 115-grain FMJ factory loads but not another even though I can see no differences. My P38 made in 1943 is better than the Lugers but not perfect.

As yet in the firing of hundreds—perhaps thousands—of rounds through my three WWII vintage Hi-Powers and 200 through this current one, I have never suffered a stoppage of any type.

The world is full of autoloading pistols today, but all-steel ones are certainly a minority and the Browning Hi-Power must be one of the best available.
By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos By Yvonne Venturino

Browning
One Browning Way
Morgan, UT 84050
(801) 876-271
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/browning/

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Levergun Cartridge Supreme

For Over 100 Years, The .35 Remington Has
Been America’s Unheralded Close-Cover
Big-Game Getter.

When tallying fine hunting cartridge and gun combinations, the gun press has more-or-less ignored the fact the .35 Remington in the Marlin 336 or a hunting handgun should probably be near the top of any list. No reasonable person could possibly dispute the effectiveness of the Marlin 336 in the hands of most big-game hunters in most situations. Equally, this chambering in a hunting handgun is a well-proven, world-class option. Typical .35 Remington ballistics far surpass .30-30 ballistics. With best modern factory loads or optimum handloads, the .35 is adequate and appropriate for use against all but the largest species.

In 1895, Winchester started a revolution with its introduction of the first smokeless-powder hunting cartridge, the .30-30. In an era when 1,400 fps was considered hot stuff, the original .30-30 load launched a 165-grain bullet at 1,950 fps. The load proved effective for hunting smaller species of North American big game.

In 1906 Remington introduced a far more powerful cartridge, the .35 Remington. Marlin eventually recognized the value of the .35 Remington chambering and has offered it in its 336 since just after WWII, and this chambering has long been a popular option in hunting handguns.

Original .35 Rem factory loads launched 200-grain bullets at about 2,050 fps and therefore produced about 25 percent more muzzle energy than .30-30 loads. However, through subsequent decades, ammunition manufacturers approached the loading of these cartridges with diametrically opposite philosophies. For the .30-30, manufacturers took advantage of advances in propellant technology to improve ballistics, while loading at the same pressure. Conversely, for the .35, manufacturers took advantage of advances in propellant technology to reduce load pressure, while steadily reducing velocity! Therefore, as the decades passed, differences in muzzle energy between the best factory .30-30 and .35 loads narrowed down to insignificance.

Recently, Federal has begun to turn this situation around. Its current .35 Remington load launches a 200-grain bullet at almost 2,100 fps. Energy of this load far exceeds energy of any factory .30-30 load.

SAAMI should establish a +P .35 Remington specification, with 15 percent greater pressure. This would match .30-30 pressure. It would allow loads generating about 100 fps greater muzzle velocity.

Meanwhile, Buffalo Bore Ammunition’s .35 Remington load takes full advantage of the existing SAAMI pressure specification and modern propellants. This load launches the excellent Speer 220-grain Hot-Cor at 2,200 fps, which is faster than any standard .30-30 load actually launches a 170-grain bullet. Regardless of load, the .30-30 is a marginal elk cartridge. Conversely, with best modern loads, the .35 Remington is fully adequate.

Generally, while benchtesting any lever-action rifle is difficult, the Marlin is an accurate gun. When hunting, it is a rare person who can hold one well enough to exercise this accuracy potential. And, how much accuracy do you need when trajectory and retained energy limitations suggest shots on big game should not exceed about 200 yards?
Among all chamberings offered in the 336 Marlin, guns chambered in .35 Remington are the most accurate. While the following might be difficult for some bolt-action fans to accept, these guns routinely beat the MOA-accuracy standard for three shots at 100-yards. And, as the included pictures of test groups clearly demonstrate, accuracy far surpasses what is actually needed for any appropriate and reasonable big-game hunting application.

The following results represent what I saw with one gun during maximum-load development work—I was only interested in velocity. Surely, by investing more time, energy and money into load development I will find better accuracy; however, other than proving the “potential accuracy” point, such an investment would be of little value.

levergun2

The original smokeless-powder sporting cartridge, the .30-30 Winchester (left), was introduced in 1895.
Mic feels the .35 Remington (middle), introduced in 1906, is a superior hunting cartridge. The .356
Winchester, introduced in 1983 (right), is only slightly more powerful.

levergun3

Factory loads tested included (left to right) the Buffalo Bore topped with a 220-grain Speer FN bullet
at 2,187 fps, the Federal 200-grain at 2,083 fps, the Remington 150-grain at 2,150 fps and the Winchester
200-grain at 1,955 fps. Remington could easily load their unusually efficient 150-grain bullet to 2,550 fps,
which would make a far more interesting load. The Ballistic Coefficient of this bullet is similar to the
200-grain roundnose bullets, but the BC of the 220-grain FN is about 25 percent better.

levergun4

Sample bullets used in the testing included (left to right) the Bear Creek Supply 180-grain TC,
Speer 180 FN Hot-Cor, Speer 220 FN Hot-Cor, Cast 225 WSC, and the Cast 240 WFN. Each is useful
and this selection covers applications from plinking to vermin to moose.

Marlin And Handguns

While the .35 Remington Marlin 336 has always intrigued me, it took me the better part of a lifetime to finally own one. Much as I enjoy the other Marlin 336 chamberings, if I could only own one 336, it would now probably be a .35 Remington.

Among the almost endless chambering options for a 1-hand hunting gun, the .35 Remington offers the best combination of recoil, delivered energy, terminal performance and ammunition availability. Again, if I were hunting North American game with a handgun, it would be chambered in .35 Remington.

When using typical propellants, a charge generating 40,000 psi in a new Remington case would generate almost 45,000 psi in a new Federal case.

Of the modern cases I tested, Remington case necks were about 5 percent thicker than Winchester or Federal case necks. This might suggest an advantage in using the Remington cases, owing to greater neck tension and superior bullet centering and alignment. However, this modest difference is probably more-or-less insignificant and other brand-to-brand variations are also important.

In my opinion, all .35 Remington handloads for the Marlin should use CCI Large Pistol primers. Due to the relatively low-striker energy, pistol primers give more uniform ballistics, and such modest charges of easily ignited propellants do not require rifle primers. For extruded propellants, the CCI-300 is the best choice; for ball-type propellants, the CCI-350 is the best choice.

If using pistol primers makes you nervous, the best alternative is match-grade rifle primers. Compared to the CCI-200 or the Federal 210, the CCI-BR2 and the 210M give better accuracy and ballistic uniformity. (Likely, these match-grade primers ignite more consistently in response to the relatively light striker impact.)

When handloading for tubular-magazine rifles generating significant recoil, I prefer combinations where bullet seating significantly compresses the charge. This eliminates the potential for recoil battering to drive bullets into cases in rounds in the magazine. In this regard, H322, Benchmark, AA2495, IMR4895, and H4895 are fine .35 Rem. choices. For those interested in top-end loads for use in only strong, modern guns, H322 is probably the best choice among conventional propellants. When loaded to the same pressure, LEVERevolution—the high-performance propellant from Hodgdon—will give about 100 fps greater velocity than any conventional propellant will. Such .35 Rem loads generate as much energy as typical .30-06 factory loads do. For heavy cast bullet loads, AA2495 is unbeatable.

levergun1

Despite the significant benchtesting limitations of a 2-1/2X scope with a heavy (European-style)
duplex reticle, testing this gun was a pleasure. The Leupold scout scope mounted with Leupold QRW
rings on the XS Systems scout scope base makes a fantastic hunting combination. The back-up XS Systems
rear-aperture and front-post system is equally useful. Bench technique is critical to getting the most
out of any gun with a 2-piece stock.

levergun5

Anyone who does not believe a lever-action rifle can be accurate enough for varminting should consider
these 50-yards groups using a 200-grain cast RN. A representative and typical group with Varget (top),
and groups with H4895 (middle and bottom) were equally impressive.

In standard .35 Rem loads, hunters interested in expanding bullets will never need anything other than the Speer 180- or 220-grain flatpoint. These Hot-Cor bullets have very impressive BC’s (0.240 and 0.301, respectively) and, terminal performance is comparable to that of the best premium hunting bullets. For top-end loads at higher-than-standard .35 Rem pressure, Alaska Bullet Works’ bonded-core 250-grain bullet will provide maximum terminal performance on moose and big bear—double caliber expansion and practically 100 percent weight retention. For applications where a non-expanding bullet is preferred, several companies offer excellent cast bullets, which work well when loaded at full pressure.

Those interested in a rifle for use in hunting most species of North American game, and many similar species worldwide, will find with the right loads the Marlin 336 in .35 Remington is a handy and capable combination. While inappropriate for shots beyond about 250 yards (even with best bullets and loads, limitations of trajectory and retained energy quickly mount), this combination is fully adequate for most hunting situations.

Similarly, handgun hunters will find that the .35 Rem chambering offers splendid performance. The factory loads that are available worldwide will certainly get the job done.
Is the .35 Rem better than the .30-30? In every category excepting recoil, the .35 Rem has a significant edge. Those who are only interested in using top-end loads and who are particularly sensitive to recoil will find that the .30-30 a better choice because shot placement always trumps delivered energy and, for most of us, a gun generating less recoil is easier to shoot accurately.

Handloaders will find the .35 Rem offers significant advantages. For example, myriad inexpensive cast and jacketed .357 Magnum bullets for plinking are available, and the .35 Rem is an outstanding cast-bullet cartridge. And, as noted, sufficient jacketed bullet choices exist to cover any big-game hunting application.

After more than a century of serving hunters well, perhaps the .35 Remington can finally begin to receive the recognition it deserves. The introduction of +P factory loads would certainly encourage this.
By M.I. McPherson

levergun6

The very accurate Federal load delivered this group (above, left) in Mic’s Marlin (4 shots, 100 yards).
Other brands (above, right), shot good enough for big game hunting but were otherwise unimpressive.

levergun7

A Mr. Dekovics was developing loads for his Marlin, .35 Remington. He sent me these
targets, the four groups he fired one day. Dekovics and two other Marlin 336, .35
Remington owners have sent me enough pictures of similar groups to persuade me that
this was not a statistical fluke.

.35 Remington Handloaded Ammo Performance

Bullet Powder Charge Velocity Group Size
(brand, bullet weight, type) (brand) (grains weight) (FPS) (MOA)
BCS 180 TC N310 6.0 1,100 0.4
BCS 180 TC N310 6.4 1,143 0.3
BCS 180 TC N310 6.9 1,193 0.35
BCS 180 TC N310 7.3 1,233 0.3

Notes: Groups the product of 5 shots at 25 yards.
Cast bullets in Federal cases, CCI 300 primers.

.35 Remington Handloaded Ammo Performance

Bullet Powder Charge Velocity Group Size
(brand, bullet weight, type) (brand) (grains weight) (FPS) (MOA)
Speer 180 FN* H322 41.5 2,504 3.0
Speer 180 FN* H322 42.5 2,517 1.4
Speer 180 FN** H4895 42.5 2,290 0.6***
Speer 180 FN* VarGet 42.5 2,163 2.4
Speer 180 FN* VarGet 43.5 2,214 2.2
Speer 220 FN* H322 38.5 2,216 2.5
Speer 220 FN* H322 39.0 2,244 2.3
Speer 220 FN** BenchMark 38.0 2,114 0.3***
Speer 220 FN** BenchMark 39.0 2,166 0.2***

Notes: *Rem Cases, **Winchester cases, CCI 300 primers. ***Groups the product of 5
shots at 50 yards. All other groups the product of 5 shots at 100 yards.

.35 Remington Factory Ammo Performance

Load Velocity Group Size
(brand, bullet weight, type) (FPS) (MOA)
Remington 150 CLRN 2,150 1.5
Federal 200 SPRN 2,083 0.8
Winchester 200 PPRN 1,955 2.5
Buffalo Bore 220 Speer FN 2,187 2.0

Bear Creek Supply
P.O. Box 177
Waterford, CA 95386
(209) 874-4322

Alaska Bullet Works
9978 Crazy Horse Drive
Juneau, AK 99801
(907) 789-3834

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Another Fun Gun From Magnum Research, Inc

I’ve watched the late Bob Munden on TV and I’ve also shot one-on-one with him. I fantasize I could shoot like him if I just practiced enough. I’ve watched Jerry Miculek on TV and I’ve also shot one-on-one with him, and again I fantasize I could, too, if I just practiced enough. But then I’ve watched the late Tom Knapp handle a shotgun and I don’t even bother to fantasize—there is no way in 1,000 years I could ever do what he could do with a shotgun.

For me, sixguns, semi-automatic pistols, and rifles have two sides: They are used for serious and fun purposes. However, when it comes to shotguns, the only serious use I will never put them to (and I hope it never happens) would be that of self-defense. I have what are normally referred to as home shotguns at the ready and I’ve also use several double-barreled shotguns when I participated in Cowboy Action Shooting. For me the latter was never serious but simply fun, whether using sixguns, leverguns or shotguns.

02-0715-8

Here’s a comparison of the scope set-up on .30-30 BFR (top) with
the ventilated rib of the .45 Colt/.410 BFR.

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The Magnum Research BFR .45 Colt/.410 accepts five .45 Colt rounds or
five 3-inch .410 shotgun shells.

02-0715-7

The BFR looks large, but when compared with a conventionally-sized single-action
sixgun, the BFR .45 Colt/.410 does not loom as big.

The Hunt

I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of hunting in my lifetime but only about 1 percent or less has been with a shotgun. I’ve only bird-hunted a couple of times, and it was less than satisfactory. When I was younger my friend and I used to spend a lot of Saturday afternoons chasing jackrabbits through the sagebrush. At these times we often traded firearms. He would use my Marlin 39A Mountie .22 and I would shoot his Ithaca 20-gauge single-shot. The latter shot like a rifle for me and I took down quite a few jackrabbits with it, but this was all fun shooting.

I’ve tried clay pigeons and sporting clays and they were both also less than satisfactory. The only time I’ve been good on birds with a shotgun was when I mounted a Bushnell Holo-Sight on one. I think subconsciously, although I’m fascinated especially by lightweight over/under shotguns, I’m afraid to get too involved as I spend way too much already in dollars, time and energy on sixguns, semi-automatic pistols and leverguns. Perhaps that is what holds me back from becoming too serious about shotguns. They remain basically fun guns for me, which brings me to the latest offering from Magnum Research.

Sixguns have always been my first love and Magnum Research has combined a shotgun with a sixgun in this BFR (Biggest Finest Revolver). The BFR has been offered in .45-70, .454 Casull, .444 Marlin, .450 Marlin, .475 Linebaugh, .50 Action Express, .500 S&W, the diminutive .22 Hornet, and recently, .30-30. The latest offering is their Long Cylinder Model which accepts .45 Colt and 3-inch .410 shotgun shells.

02-0715-3

The small rear bead on the ventilated rib (above) is lined up with the larger front bead
for aiming. The top of the rib is ribbed to reduce glare. The BFR .45 Colt/.410’s ventilated
rib (below) is reminiscent of the steel girder on a bridge.

02-0715-2

Now here’s a shotgun I can really have fun with as it is not something to mount to my shoulder, which I’ve always seemed to have trouble doing very efficiently and quickly, but rather handles like a sixgun… albeit a very heavy sixgun. This BFR weighs in at 4-1/2 pounds with its 7-1/2-inch barrel. After handling the BFR .30-30, which weighs almost a pound more, this sixgun/shotgun almost feels light.

In the past I’ve tried to hunt turkeys in Idaho with a shotgun (it’s required). I’ve even purchased two hunts through the Turkey Federation Banquet and felt jinxed both times even hyperventilating under the almost-required camouflage face netting. I gave up and started hunting turkeys in Texas where I can use a sixgun and wound up taking several trips resulting in six gobblers, all with a sixgun—a scoped .357 Magnum, which I could use for head shots.

Now the BFR .410 combines the sixgun with a shotgun. In test firing with No. 4 shot at 20 yards, I have no doubt it could be used for taking turkeys at close range. (Of course, check your state’s game regulations closely to see if this “shotgun” is allowed.)

Everything said in the November 2014 issue about the .30-30 BFR’s operation and quality basically applies also to this version: “The BFR is an exceptionally well-made single-action revolver, all brushed stainless steel. The cylinder has a capacity of five rounds and is 3 inches in length. Opening the loading gate allows the cylinder to rotate clockwise for loading and unloading or counterclockwise if the need arises (it has what is known as a free-spinning pawl). This feature is normally only found on custom revolvers. The action, which is quite smooth, has a transfer bar safety such as found on the Ruger Super Blackhawk.

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The BFR .45 Colt/.410 from Magnum Research has a screw to ensure the cylinder pin
doesn’t walk out under recoil, but takedown for cleaning is still quick and easy.

02-0715-10

John found the .45/.410 surprisingly accurate even with the twin shotgun-style bead sights.
At 20 yards the BFR shot just under the beads with both .45 Colt and .410 slugs.

In fact, some of the parts used in the BFR are Ruger parts or copies. Most noticeable are the hammer, trigger, transfer bar and sights. The rear sight is 100-percent Ruger with the Ruger emblem on it. The grip frame, although it does not have the totally square back triggerguard of the super Blackhawk has checkered rubber grips, which fill in behind the triggerguard and are marked on the inside for the Super Blackhawk. The cylinder pin uses a locking screw rather than the spring-loaded cylinder pin latching system, which often unlocks under recoil. The action is smooth, the cylinder locks up tight and the trigger pull is a creep-free 4 pounds.

Unlike the .30-30 version, the .45 Colt/.410 does not come with typical sixgun sights but rather has a full-length rib mounted on its 7-1/2-inch barrel. This shotgun rib has a silver bead mounted at the front and a much smaller bead about 5 inches back. The rib itself travels the full-length of the barrel and topstrap and is very attractive, reminding me of steel girders on a bridge. The same massive topstrap is present as found on the .30-30 version and is also drilled and tapped for a scope base, or standard rear and front sights can be installed. If you so desire, a Weaver-style base can be mounted to the top of the frame allowing the use of a traditional scope or red dot, either one of which would be quite handy for turkey hunting.

As mentioned earlier, I patterned this .410 at 20 yards by lining the two beads up and getting excellent results on a paper turkey target at 20 yards. The barrel of the .45 Colt/.410 BFR is threaded to accept a choke, which is designed to give a modified pattern at 30 yards. This tube must be removed before shooting .410 slugs or .45 Colt bullets. A special key is provided, which I put on a keychain to better keep track of. If the choke is not removed nasty things may (will?) happen if slugs or bullets are fired with it in place.

After removing the choke I fired this BFR at 20 yards using both slugs and bullets. There are no traditional sights in play, so I tried to line up the rear bead so it centered the front bead placed on target. I was pleasantly surprised at how well slugs and bullets shot with this set-up. My .45 Colt load, consisting of a hard cast 260-grain Keith bullet over 8.5 grains of Unique, clocked over 940 fps, grouped four shots in about 3 inches and about 3 inches low. Both muzzle velocity and groups surprised me when shooting from a 3-inch long cylinder and without typical sights. Both Federal and Remington .410 slugs clocked out at over 1,500 fps with three shots in less than 3 inches and about 2 inches below point of aim. I would expect .410 slugs and .45 Colt bullets to both shoot even better with traditional sights or a red-dot scope in place.

Used as a .410 shotgun and carried in a shoulder holster, this BFR could be a real fun gun for close range birds and/or varmints. Of course, once again, check your local game regulations.

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Shooting .410 3-inch shells (above) loaded with No. 4 shot, no turkey would have a chance
at 20 yards. John’s results shooting .410 slugs and .45 Colt bullets at 20 yards (below)
show the sights are pretty darn close even though they are just the twin shotgun beads.

02-0715-6

By John Taffin

BFR Long Cylinder Model
Maker: Magnum Research
12602 33rd Ave. SW
Philager, MN 56473
(508) 635-4273
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/magnum-research-inc/

Action type: Single action
Caliber: .45 Colt and .410
Capacity: 5
Barrel length: 7-1/2 inches
Overall length: 15 inches
Weight: 4.5 pounds
Finish: Stainless steel
Sights: Vent rib with dual beads, tapped for scope base
Grips: Pachmayr checkered rubber
Price: $1,269

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GN0715_320

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The “Hillbilly Scout” Cur Rifle

Modified Mossberg MVP.

Always intrigued by compact bolt-action rifles, I was immediately enthralled with Mossberg’s MVP rifle when it was introduced in 2011. It’s sized to perfectly fit the .223 Remington cartridge. The MVP also feeds from AR-15 magazines. With its 24″ barrel and target style stock, the first MVP was a dedicated varmint rifle. The MVP Predator, with either the 18.5 or 20″ barrel was more my speed which is why I bought one.

The more my son and I shot this rifle the more I thought I’d like it to have a little more punch. I also thought it would be very versatile if configured like a pseudo scout rifle. After working with the .25-45 Sharps in an AR it seemed like the answer so I had a Shilen, 18.5″, medium contour, .25-45 Sharps barrel with a 1:10″ twist installed. I also had the muzzle threaded and a sight ramp fitted to the barrel.

I’ve always liked Col. Cooper’s scout — general-purpose — rifle concept but after using a scout rifle twice in Africa, I became less enthralled with the scout scope. A rifle configured to do anything needed was the appeal, but what appealed to me even more so was a rifle set up to do anything I — not everyone — needed it to do. That’s the direction I took with the MVP. I needed a rifle at Shadowland for pest control, varmint and deer hunting, range training and for personal protection in a pinch. I wanted it light enough everyone in the family could use it. And, it would need to be versatile in the sighting department. It had to have open sights but be easily and quickly adaptable for use with a traditional scope and a red dot style sight.

When the barreled action was returned, I assembled the rifle and put it on the scale. Unloaded it weighed 6.6 lbs and it was 37.5″ long. More importantly, it was short enough I could hold it at the wrist, carrying it comfortably at my side, and the muzzle was well above the ground.

An XS Sights’ aperture rear sight was a must but XS does not make a rear sight for the MVP. They do make a Weaver-style base for the Remington 700, which has an integral, adjustable aperture built in. Remington model 700 scope bases will fit the MVP; you just have to flip the rear base 180 degrees. This only moved the aperture about a half-inch further from my eye. Not an issue. To keep the rear aperture as low as possible (More on this in a minute.) I screwed it all the way into the base and installed an XS test post on the front ramp. After a few shots I determined the needed height of the front sight and ordered a red, fiber optic bead from Williams Gun Sight Company. (If you ever need to calculate the proper sight height for a rifle, check out the online calculator at www.brownells.com.)

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The modified MVP CUR in .25-45 Sharps is a versatile rifle that is
capable for a variety of tasks from hunting to personaldefense.
The cartridge is capable for any and all game in West Virginia.

GN15_3_12

For precision work, a Redfield Battlezone scope can be quickly
attached to the scope bases after the Trijicon RMR on the
American Defense mount has been removed.

The next step was to mount a traditional scope for precision work. I went with the Redfield Battlezone 3-9X 40mm because it costs less than $200, because it has external, easy to adjust target turrets, one of which is pre-calibrated to a .308 Winchester load (More on that in a moment too.) And, because it’s equipped with an MOA reticle to match the MOA adjustments. With medium height, quick-release rings I tried to mount the scope but the XS aperture sight was slightly too high. (This is why I wanted to keep the aperture as low as possible.) So, exercising some hillbilly engineering, I took a flat file and flattened the top of the aperture a tad. Problem solved!

Next, I needed to mount the Trijicon RMR but I needed a quick release mount so it could be taken off and installed without loss of zero. I found the answer at American Defense Manufacturing. They offer a dedicated Trijicon RMR mount with a quick release lever. But, there was another problem; this mount is configured for a Picatinny rail. I had to get out the flat file again and open up the slot in the Weaver-style base so the American Defense mount would fit. This took about 30 minutes.

Almost every rifle I own is fitted with a Timney trigger but Timney did not offer a trigger for the MVP. After a few minutes on the phone with the guys at Timney I convinced them to build one and now they’re offering a replacement trigger for the .223 and .308 versions of the MVP. In a couple weeks my new Timney arrived and it was a one screw — five minute — install. As you would expect with a Timney, there’s no take-up or creep and it feels the same way every time you pull it.

GN15_3_11

For general-purpose use, a Trijicon RMR is the primary sight.
It attaches to the front, modified Weaver-style base using a
quick-detach mount from American Defense. Notice the SureFire
X200 flashlight mounted to the right side of the forearm.

GN15_3_9

A Williams’ Gun Sight front sight ramp, Fire Sight and open
protective hood were installed to the end of the Shilen barrel
(above). An XS Sights’ Remington 700 Back-Up scope base and
aperture sight were mounted to the MVP (below).

GN15_3_10

The rifle was coming together nicely but I needed more kit. I wanted to be able to use the rifle at night for predators and protection and this meant I needed a light. I wanted it to be optional and any mounting device unobtrusive. I pulled a Surefire X 200 Weapons light out of the closet and while noodling the problem I remembered I had the scope base that came with the MVP. I fitted it to the right side of the forearm where my support hand could easily operate the light. I had to countersink the screw holes in the base to work with wood screws but other than that all I had to do was drill two small holes, fill them with Brownells Acraglas and the job was done. With the light removed all that remains is the short and thin Weaver base; you hardly notice it’s there.

A rifle must have a sling and I’m a believer in the Galco Safari Ching Sling. However, while taking the Magpul Precision Hunter Rifle Course, instructor Caylen Wojcik showed me another sling technique where you wrap the sling around your shooting elbow, instead of your support elbow. I did a little work on a quick-adjust AR sling and it worked splendidly.

The last bit of kit needed was a case suitable for carrying the rifle, ammo and accessories. After some searching I found the Fieldline 38″ Cobra Gun Case. It has three large external pockets an additional large utility pocket and it easily accommodated the necessary gear. And, when my daughter sewed a Mossberg patch on the side of the case I figured it just about perfect.

GN15_3_3

At over 3,100 fps, Sierra’s 70-grain BlitzKing bullet turns the
.25-45 Sharps into a wicked little varmint rifle.

GN15_3_6

For deer or similar sized game, Sierra’s 90-grain BTHP bullet
is fine projectile to launch from a .25-45 Sharps.

GN15_3_7

The only factory load available for the .25-45 Sharps is an 87-grain
Speer SP bullet. Thought it probably offers plenty of accuracy for
hunting or defense, it did not shoot as well as handloads.

GN15_3_19

117-grain Remington Core-Lokt bullets worked well in the MVP
chambered for the .25-45 Sharps. Even at a low muzzle velocity
of 2,300 fps, they will still expand out to around 200 yards.

So, how does the hillbilly scout shoot? It didn’t particularly like the only available factory .25-45 Sharps load but the great thing about the .25-45 Sharps is it’s easy to handload. You can make brass by simply sizing .223 Remington cases. Sierra’s 70-grain BlitzKing ahead of 27.5 grains of Accurate 2200 averaged just a thick hair more than one inch for five, 5-shot groups and Sierra’s 90-grain HPBT averaged 1.25″. I can live with it and plan to load up a supply of both — one for varmints the other for deer. (I’ve used the 90-grain HPBT with great success on deer out of the .250 Savage.)

I mentioned earlier the Battlezone scope comes with a pre-calibrated target turret for a .308 Winchester load. It just so happens that the 90-grain Sierra, .25-45 Sharps load matches the calibration on the Battlezone .308 target turret perfectly out to 400 yards. This is about 100 yards further than I’ll be shooting at anything with this rifle anyway. Luck or coincidence — I’ll take it.

I also wanted a heavy bullet that would drive deep but the heavier, spritzer style bullets are just too long to work with the .25-45 Sharps in the AR-15 magazine. This got me to thinking and I pulled a few 117-grain round nose Core-Lokt bullets out of factory Remington .257 Roberts ammo. When seated with the cannelure at the end of the .25-45 case neck, they produced an overall length of 2.55″. That’s ideal, but Remington does not offer these bullets as components for handloaders. What to do? I exercised what little pull I have at Remington and asked for 100 of these bullets (With Hornady discontinuing their 117-grain RN .257 caliber bullet, Remington should offer these bullets for sale.) Ahead of 22.2 grains of AA 2200, those long round nose bullets had a muzzle velocity of 2,300 fps and, thanks to the 1 in 10 twist, shot well.

A rifle this unique and versatile needed a name and while it is similar to a scout, it does not conform to Cooper’s requirements. In truth, it was not my objective; I wanted a pragmatic rifle to suit my needs, where I live and hunt. That stipulation in conjunction with the rifle’s swift adaptability to three sight systems reminded me of the Cur dog because they have been bred to hunt specific geographic locations while relying equally on their three senses: scent, sight and sound. The CUR (Conditional Utility Rifle) seemed like a fitting name since a rifle like this would be configured conditionally, based on the needs of the shooter and their operational environment.

What should you take away from this article? Mossberg’s MVP is a very adaptable platform, perfectly suited as a basis for a rifle like the CUR. I’m hoping someone at Mossberg takes note; an MVP so configured from the factory and chambered for the .25-45 Sharps should have as much appeal as it does versatility. Hey, I’ve already given them a name for it! 
By Richard Mann

GN15_3_17

Specifications

Manufacturer: O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. 7 Grasso Ave. North Haven,
CT 06473, (203) 230-5300, www.mossberg.com
Model: MVP Predator
Chambering: .25-45 Sharps
Barrel: Shilen Chrome Moly, 18.5″, 1:10″ twist
Action: Bolt-Action
Stock: Laminated hardwood
Sights: XS Remington 700 Back-Up Rear, Williams Fire Sight Front.
(Scope bases for installation of standard riflescope and reflex sight)
Trigger: Timney
Capacity: Compatible with all AR-15 magazines
Accessories: Redfield Battlezone 3-9X40, Trijicon RMR, SureFire X 200
Base Price for rifle: $708.00

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The .38 & .44 WCF

Winchester’s Two Most Popular Old West
Cartridges Served Equally Well In Revolvers
Of The Day.

My early years as a Colt SAA shooter included quite a bit of floundering in regards to what I liked. My very first one purchased in 1968 was a .45 with 5-1/2-inch barrel length. I was happy with it because I knew no other. The second was a .357 Magnum purchased in 1970 and it had the 4-3/4-inch barrel. Within hours of driving away from the store I knew a mistake had been made. To me that Colt just did not have the proper feel and heft. Both of those had color case hardened frames with blued remainder.

My third SAA came in 1971. It was a .38 Special with 4-3/4-inch barrel and was fully nickel-plated. Besides feeling exactly like the .357 in my hands, I considered it rather garish and sold it for a $25 profit two years later. A decade passed and I realized my mistake upon discovering in the 2nd Generation of Colt SAA production only 113 were made with combination of nickel finish, 4-3/4-inch barrel and .38 Special chambering.

Now, with 47 years of Colt SAA shooting under my belt I know exactly what I like. No longer does nickel-plating seem garish. I welcome nickel finish because it is easier to clean black powder fouling from, which I am sure was the reason why so many late 19th century revolvers were nickeled. And while 4-3/4-inch barrel lengths have a “look” and are likely the best-selling SAA’s today from Colt and many other replica manufacturers, I’ve come to prefer the 7-1/2-inch length. That said, I still like and keep all the standard SAA barrel variations.

And here’s the icing on the cake: The SAA’s I prefer over all others are chambered for the .38 and .44 WCF’s. That’s right—I prefer my Colt SAA’s to shoot cartridges developed by Winchester Repeating Arms over anything Colt ever developed. Consider this: Except for the big .45, Colt’s 19th century cartridge developments were dismal. The .38 Colt, .41 Colt and .44 Colt went exactly nowhere in the long run.

But the .38 WCF and .44 WCF, which we 21st century shooters usually call .38-40 and .44-40, were humdingers right from the start. Skeeter Skelton, of gunwriting fame once wrote that old Southwestern lawmen felt the .38 WCF “shot hard.” Col. Charles Askins, also a notable gunwriter wrote he saw no reason for the .44 S&W Special to ever have been invented because it did nothing the .44 WCF could not do.

Like just about every reader from my Medicare-aged generation I was influenced by Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton. They were great fans of .45 Colts and .44 Specials in regards to SAA’s. I really tried to follow their lead but it just didn’t happen. My opinion is the .45 Colt was the ultimate black powder revolver cartridge, but its case capacity is just too big for smokeless powders unless you’re loading it for some super strong sixgun like the Ruger Bisley or Freedom Arms’ .454 five-shooters.

WCF2

One reason Duke prefers the .38 & .44 WCF cartridges is their compatibility with
lever guns in the same chambering, all originating in the Winchester Model 1873.
Duke’s battery includes (from top) a Cimarron saddle ring carbine .38 WCF, Cimarron
Arms Sporting Rifle .44 WCF, Winchester standard rifle .38 WCF, and Winchester
Musket .44 WCF.

WCF3

A few of Duke’s .44 WCF revolvers include (above, left top to bottom) Merwin &
Hulbert Pocket Army, 1st Generation Colt SAA, and 2nd Generation Colt SAA “Peacemaker
Commemorative, (right side top to bottom) a 3rd Generation Colt Sheriff’s Model and
US Firearms Frontier Six-Shooter.

WCF5

Duke has owned many .38 WCF revolvers, but now only keeps (from left) a 3rd
Generation Colt SAA with custom rosewood grips, a 3rd Generation Colt SAA with
custom stag grips and a Colt New Service of 1908 vintage.

Just about everyone who was a loyal Skeeter fan (and I was) managed to convert one or other type of big-frame revolver to .44 Special. Of course that was back when you couldn’t just buy .44 Special revolvers. I did that too.

Here’s how mine went. At a gun shop in Milton, W. Va., in 1976 I found a 5-1/2-inch Colt barrel marked Colt Frontier Six Shooter, which was Colt-speak for .44 WCF. It was still new in factory packing and I paid $37.50 for it. A 7-1/2-inch one was there too and I went back 10 years later and got it.

Next I rounded up a 2nd Generation Colt SAA .357 Magnum into which I had a gunsmith put that barrel. And then finally by also switching out the cylinder hand I was able to use a new 3rd Generation .44 Special cylinder. It is a fact Colt always used the same barrel dimensions for .44 Special and .44 WCF (0.427 inch to be exact).

That Colt .44 Special stayed that way for years and Yvonne took to carrying it with her when riding one of her horses about the Montana hills. Then when she began shooting Cowboy competition with me I got a 3rd Generation .44 WCF cylinder fitted to it so she could use the same ammo as her Winchester Model 1892 lever gun. The .44 Special cylinder has not been re-installed for a couple of decades.

Without a doubt, the ability to use the same ammo in lever guns and SAA’s counts for my preference for .38 and .44 WCF. I have several .38 WCF and .44 WCF Model 1873 and Model 1892 Winchesters in my racks. I used to occasionally hunt deer with the .44’s but never used the .38’s on anything but small varmints. Mostly they were fired in Cowboy Action matches to the tune of several thousand rounds. That’s where the concept of sharing ammunition with revolvers really shines.

WCF6

Thought obsolete, the .44-40 was revived by Cowboy Action and here are a
Colt SAA 3rd Generation Frontier Six-Shooter (above, left) and a US Firearms
Frontier Six-Shooter (right).

WCF7

In 1976 Duke found a 5-1/2-inch barrel in a small gun shop wearing the stamping Colt Frontier
Six-Shooter. He bought it and had it installed on a 2nd Generation .357 Magnum SAA. Lying
with it is a 7-1/2-inch barrel he found in the same gun shop 10 years later.

m many Colt SAA fans. I am not disdainful of 3rd Generation manufacture. I admit Colt went through some rough times with early fit and finish of 3rd Generation SAA’s. Those started in 1976 and through the 1980’s the Colt firm deserved the sneers gun buyers gave to some of their products.

Conversely, some of the best Colt SAA’s I’ve ever owned were made in the 1990’s, especially the .38 WCF’s. In the 1st Generation of production (1873-1941) Colt was loose in regards to dimensions. In .38 WCF I’ve slugged barrels running from 0.401- to 0.408-inch. Conversely every modern made .38 WCF’s barrel I’ve measured has been right on at 0.400-inch across its grooves. Matching that have been chamber mouths of 0.401-inch. I’ve owned no less than eight of the 1990’s .38 WCF’s and all have been superbly accurate because of those closely matched dimensions. (I also have a Colt New Service .38 WCF from 1908. Its barrel/cylinder dimensions are 0.400-inch for both.)

There can be one trouble spot with new made Colt SAA .38 WCF’s. That is in regards to chambering handloaded ammunition. Actually the problem is with some reloading dies and not with the revolvers themselves. Some dies simply do not set the shoulder of fired .38 WCF cases back far enough for easy chambering in the Colt SAA. My set was made by RCBS in 1983 and does an exemplary job in that respect. Some of my friends have had a bit of steel taken off the base of their resizing dies so that case shoulders are moved back far enough.

At this writing I have two Colt SAA, 3rd Generation .38 WCF’s left of the eight I’ve owned. Incidentally, here I’m using the .38 WCF name purposefully instead of the much more common .38-40. That’s because mine are barrel-stamped with the original moniker .38 WCF instead of .38-40, as were most of the early 1990’s resurrections. One of these sixguns has a 5-1/2-inch barrel and one has a 7-1/2-inch barrel. Neither have their original grips. On the shorter one there are a set of very old stag grips and on the longer one there are a set of 1-piece style grips of rosewood. The latter ones were crafted by my friend Tom Sargis who also slicked up their actions.

WCF11

Duke felt fortunate both his 3rd Generation .38 WCF’s were marked this earlier way rather than .38-40
as they later were. Colt began acid etching Frontier Six-Shooter (below) on their .44 WCF single
actions as early as the late 1870’s and sometimes still does. A roll die was used on later arms.

WCF10

I kind of cheat a bit in regards to my favorite .44 WCF’s. Those are commemoratives never actually intended for shooting. Colt called them Peacemaker Centennials. They were made precisely as Colt Frontier Six-Shooters were in the 1870’s: nickel-plated with 7-1/2-inch barrels, etched panel with Colt Frontier Six-Shooter and even down to the tiny “.44 CF” on the left side of the triggerguard. Somehow or other 1970’s Colt engineers got their barrels and chambers dimensions correct. Barrels are 0.427-inch and chamber’s mouths are 0.429-inch. I have a matched set.

My other matched set of Colt Frontier Six-Shooters was made in the 1990’s. During that time Colt still offered the so-called black-powder frame, which has a screw angling in from the front to secure the base pin. I ended up with a pair with consecutive serial numbers, 4-3/4-inch barrels and blue/case color finish. Those are also stamped Colt Frontier Six-Shooter and were also slicked up by Tom Sargis.

It is doubtful if I’ll ever buy anymore Colt SAA’s in any caliber. I’ve got more than ever could be worn out anyway. Besides, I know exactly what handloads suit these on hand now. For the .38 WCF I either cast my own bullets in RCBS mold 40-180CM or use ones from Oregon Trail Cast Bullets made in that fine Magma Engineering mold. These bullets weigh 180 grains, are roundnose/flatpoints and have their crimping grooves located precisely where needed for functioning in tubular magazine lever guns and pump actions. Bullet size is 0.401-inch. Into the Starline brass goes 5.5 grains of IMR’s Trail Boss powder with a sturdy crimp placed in the proper groove. Velocity from a 7-1/2-inch barrel is about 825 fps.

With the .44 WCF’s I load RCBS bullet 44-200FN. It weighs 200 to 210 grains depending on exact alloy. If I run short of time I buy this same bullet from a custom casting operation, Montana Cast Bullets. Mine are sized .428-inch but the custom cast ones are .429-inch. Those are then seated in Starline cases over 6.0 grains of Trail Boss and crimped securely. Those loads break about 800 fps from a 7-1/2-inch barrel.

Other Colts are fired for articles, but these .38 and .44 WCF’s are my personal shooting favorites.
By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos By Yvonne Venturino

WCF12

These two cartridges are vintage .38 and .44 WCF cartridges (above) loaded with lead
bullets and black powder. Bullet weights were 180 and 200 grains in the same order.
They were powerhouses in their day and not too shabby even today. Today, new manufactured
.44 and .38 WCF rounds (bottom) as factory loaded by Winchester. Bullet weights again are
200 and 180 grains in the same order. Because of the small amount of smokeless propellant,
Winchester has added a cannelure below the bullet to prevent the bullets from telescoping
into the case.

WCF9

Montana Cast Bullets
527 West Babcock
Bozeman, MT 59715

Tom Sargis Jr.
Bozeman Trail Arms Mfg.
28 Lake Dr.
Livingston, MT 59047
(406) 223-1111
www.bozemantrailarms.com

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Think Sharp!

When It Comes To Getting An Edge, There’s
More Than One Way To Skin A Cat.

For some, sharpening a knife ranks somewhere between going to the dentist and mowing the lawn. It’s a thankless job unless you’re just one of those who like to see if they can shave the hair off their arm with their favorite pocketknife. It doesn’t have to be that way. Today sharpening mediums such as diamond and ceramic make putting an edge on your blade much easier and faster, plus systems to enhance precision.

The boom in tactical knives of the past two decades brought with it improvements to all areas of the cutlery market, including sharpening products. A perfect example of this is the rise of super steels developed to be indigenous to the knife world. These exotic steels are harder and tougher than the ones many of us grew up with—so resilient in fact they can’t be sharpened on a typical whetstone. They require grits tougher than the steel they are meant to sharpen, hence the boom in diamond and ceramic mediums.

With so many choices at the sharpening consumers fingertips, we thought it would be interesting exploring what’s out there to help you choose the perfect medium for your needs. Hopefully you’ll be able to find the sharpening tool that works best for you!

Although there are many great systems, which can make your sharpening job easier and faster, I highly recommend anyone who may be in a circumstance where their knife could be critical to their survival learn the basics of hand sharpening. There is no electricity in the wild. Fancy electric sharpening systems will not help you in the middle of the wilderness or even at home during an extended power outage. You need to learn the basics.

Blade grinds vary from concave to convex to flat, but the overwhelming majority have a secondary bevel along the edge, and that’s the part you sharpen. (The exception to this is the Bushcraft Scandi or Zero Grind, which sharpens all the way to the edge.) The typical secondary bevel typically falls into the range of a 15- to 22-degree angle. Learn to hold your knife at the angle you desire as you slide it over the surface of a stone on a consistent basis and you’re home free. This takes practice but one you’ve mastered it sharpening a knife becomes a breeze and the whole process can be done quickly.

sharp6

Knife systems vary from triangulate sharpeners such as the Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker (above, left)
to the Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Ken Onion model (above, right). Systems such as these bring
precision to the table. Spyderco, known for putting out very sharp knives right out of the box,
specializes in ceramic sharpeners such as the fine and medium grit benchstones and Double Stuff
field sharpener (below). The knife is Spyderco’s Slysz Bowie Pin folder.

sharp5

Bench Beveling

There is nothing more basic—and pleasing once you master it—than sharpening on a benchstone. Rule number one is: It is essential to choose a benchstone capable of processing the edge of the blade steel. Softer high-carbon steels—1095, O1 and A2 are common types—are easily sharpened on a natural Arkansas whetstone and their manufactured aluminum oxide and carborundum (silicon carbide) relatives plus any of the more aggressive mediums such as diamond or ceramic.

In a survival pinch, these steels can be sharpened on a rock, which is one of the reasons there has been a popular revival of high-carbon varieties in recent years. Some of the older stainless steels such as the ubiquitous 440 series can be sharpened on a whetstone as well. Smith’s and Dan’s Whetstone Company are good sources for Arkansas Stones. Smith’s offers a Tri-Stone benchstone with three different stone grits (as well as a Tri-Hone version with three different diamond grits). Norton’s India stone is an excellent silicone carbide sharpener.

Modern stainless steels—such as state-of-the-art proprietary offerings by Crucible Industries, Carpenter Steel and Bohler-Uddeholm—are a whole different animal. Here diamond and ceramic sharpeners are a must. If you use knives with high-end exotic steels, it’s recommended you sharpen your knife before leaving for your outing and carry a small field sharpener in case of emergency. The most predominant of the aggressive sharpeners on the market today use diamond as a medium. These are offered by companies such as DMT, Eze-Lap, Lansky and Fällkniven (which uses a combination of diamond and ceramic medium) in a variety of grits from coarse to very fine. The coarse grits are bit of overkill unless you have a knife with an atrociously damaged edge.

I recommend a medium grit for those edges in need of a little extra persuasion and a fine for an edge in need of a touch-up. Very fine or “super fine” grits work well for getting a hair-shaving edge. Using water on the surface of the diamond stone during sharpening helps to keep the surface from clogging and makes for easier cleanup. There are two types of diamond honing surfaces: continuous (one flat surface) and interrupted (with small round holes). The interrupted surfaces tend to cut faster than continuous ones. I use continuous and am content with the speed and results.

Ceramic benchstones are not as common, but every bit as effective. No American manufacturer is more invested in ceramic sharpeners than Spyderco, who is known for having some of the sharpest out-of-the-box knives on the market. Their ceramic medium uses particles made by kiln-firing alumina (synthetic sapphires) with a bonding medium. Unlike other whetstones, a surface lubricant is not recommended. Rather, cleanup is done after sharpening using soap and water. (Some suggest Lava soap works well.)

You may be asking, what size benchstone is right for you? A 2-inch by 6-inch stone can handle most folding knives and small fixed-blades. A 2.5 to 3-inch by 10-inch benchstone can easily handle those knives plus larger fixed blades. Starting out, I recommended buying a medium and fine grit stone and adding coarser or finer grits as you deem necessary. Some benchstones are available mounted to wooden or plastic bases and some are available with different grits on two sides, so check out your options.

Being able to maintain a blade edge in the field is important and fortunately there are many choices. From simple Arkansas Stones to diamond and ceramic mediums, the gang’s all here. Some of the old leather fixed-blade sheaths of yesteryear had front pockets for carrying a whetstone and that tradition has carried on today with ballistic nylon fare. It’s a great way to keep a sharpener handy in the wild and know exactly where it is when you need it. Small sharpening stones are available in all the main mediums from natural stone to diamond and ceramic.

sharp3

Diamond benchstones will handle everything from carbon steel knives, like the 1095 found on the
TOPS B.O.B. Bushcraft knife shown here, to all the modern exotic steel varieties you care to
throw at it. From top to bottom are fare by Fällkniven, DMT and Eze-Lap.

sharp1

Knife sharpeners abound thanks to modern cutting edge technology. A nice group of sharpeners
available from Spyderco, Smith’s, DMT and Fällkniven are shown here along with Benchmade’s
Hidden Canyon Skinner.

Folding diamond sharpeners are extremely popular, and rightfully so. These handy edgers fold out of a plastic handle like a Balisong knife and are offered in a variety of grits. Some offer a choice of grits on each side and others are fitted with tapered rods geared for sharpening serrations. DMT, Eze-Lap, and Lansky make a wide selection of these. Fällkniven makes a unique sharpener similar to a folding knife dubbed the Flipstone. Instead of a knife blade you get an ovate-shaped stone with a medium and fine grit on opposite sides. There are other handy styles, including some shaped in the form of credit cards and flat sticks.

Spyderco makes a variety of compact ceramic stones perfect for field use. Their Pocket Stone line offers a variety of 1×5-inch stones in a variety of grits, including one called Double Stuff with back-to-back medium and fine grits—all come in a handsome protective leather pouch.

Serrations present the user with a more difficult challenge as they must be sharpened separately, one at a time. There are sharpeners for this specific purpose, some tapered and some round, and typically you’ll find them in diamond and ceramic mediums. Sharpening serrations is tedious work and the knife buyer should weigh whether they’re worth the extra trouble. Serrations are great for cutting cord and rope and other functions which require a sawing motion, but keep in mind a plain edge can also be used for the same, although perhaps not as quickly.

In addition, you’ll find a wide variety of palm-sized “pocket sharpeners.” These are not recommended for regular maintenance due to their limitations, such as fixed angles, but can impart a serviceable edge in a pinch.

Sharpening systems can be as simple as using a pair of crock sticks to more elaborate processes such as bench-mounted guided sharpeners and electric units of several configurations. An entire article could be dedicated to these systems due to their range and diversity, and virtually every sharpening product manufacturer offers at least one.

Knife users have been using simple crock sticks or “triangulate” systems for decades. Spyderco’s Triangle Sharpmaker takes the technique to a whole new level. Using triangular ceramic sticks set in a base, this system can be adjusted to different angles and uses guide rods to keep the edge consistent. Not only will it sharpen knives, but grooves in the sticks can also handle pointed edges such as fishhooks and awls. Flip the base and lay the sticks side-by-side and you have a benchstone. There’s incredible diversity here.

sharp2

Arkansas Stones, like the generic models pictured here and the Norton Indian stone (bottom) work
very well on carbon steels and some early stainless steels. You’ll need honing oil, such as that
offered by Lansky, for keeping the surface lubed.

sharp4

Handy, compact field sharpeners come in a wide range of styles. Here (from left to right)
are a nice group from Fällkniven, Spyderco, Eze-Lap, Smith’s and DMT. Note the tapered
serration sharpener on the Smith’s pocket model.

Like crock sticks, tabletop electric sharpeners with V-grooved slots have been around for many moons. The Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener takes a totally different approach by using sanding belts fitted to a hand-held unit with guides for keeping the angle consistent. Belts are available in a wide range of grits capable of putting a fine edge on fixed-blades, folding knives and scissors all the way up to machetes, mower blades and axes. It can also handle those pesky serrations—a big timesaver. A second generation Ken Onion model has additional goodies such as a variable speed motor and expanded adjustability features.

Systems such as these do have to be set up, tend to have a steeper learning curve and some require you to replenish parts (such as bands on the Work Sharp unit), but they can make your job easier and more precise. Take the time to see what’s out there and gauge how much of your time you wish to dedicate to a sharpening system.

As you can see, there are a multitude of ways to keep a keen edge on your knives and tools. Keep in mind many cutlery manufacturers not mentioned here offer a modest group of sharpeners under their own brand and these should not be overlooked. Be sure to add the final touch to your edge by stropping it to remove any residual burr left by the sharpening process. This can be done on a simple strip of leather (I’ve re-purposed old belts) or you can go pro with a professional strop with rouge to polish it to razor sharp perfection.
To choose the sharpener that’s best for your purposes consider how much time you wish to spend sharpening a knife and how finicky you are about your edge. Also determine where you’ll use the knife as field sharpening on the go has a different set of parameters than that of the comfort of your own workspace. It’s very possible you’ll need a variety of sharpeners to cover all your needs!
By Pat Covert

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Dan’s Whetstone Company Inc.
418 Hilltop Road, Pearcy, AR 71964
(501) 767-1616

DMT Diamond Machining Technology
85 Hayes Memorial Drive
Marlborough, MA 01752
(800) 666-4368
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/dmt-diamond-machining-technology/

Eze-Lap Diamond Products
3572 Arrowhead Drive, Carson City, NV 89706
(800) 843-4815
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/eze-lap-diamond-products-inc/

Fällkniven Knives
Granatvägen 8, 96143, Boden, Sweden
+4692154422
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/fallkniven/

Lansky Sharpeners
P.O. Box 800, Buffalo, NY 14231
(800) 825-2675
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/lansky-sharpeners/

Norton Abrasives
2770 W. Washington Street
Stephenville, TX 76401
(800) 551-4415

Smith’s Products
747 Mid-America Blvd, Hot Springs, AR 71913
(800) 221-4156
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/smiths/

Spyderco, Inc.
820 Spyderco Way, Golden, CO 80403
(800) 525-7770
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/spyderco-inc/

Work Sharp Tools
210 E. Hersey Street, Ashland, OR 97520
(800) 418-1439
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/work-sharp/

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Bringin’ Home The Bacon And The Chops, Too

A .300 Blackout Pig-Buster From
Ambush Arms.

I didn’t know quite what to expect when I opened the box, for two reasons: First, I had no experience with, and was only vaguely aware of the existence of Ambush Arms. I sure didn’t know they are the sporting arms division of Daniel Defense. That would have at least rung some bells for me. I didn’t know much about the .300 Blackout cartridge, either. Basically, I knew it’s a .223 case with a .30-caliber slug stuck in it, a couple of AKA’s, and it had become pretty popular with hunters, particularly feral hog-poppers.

Second, I decided not to do any research on the rifle before it arrived—particularly any reviews online—so my impressions would at least be fresh, unbiased and mine alone. It helped I was crazy-busy with other assignments. And lazy. It didn’t take much of a nudge for it to slip right off my Teflon-coated mind.

Yeah, there was another factor too. I’m not much on “sporting arms,” unless you count combat as a sport. So, I was semi-prepared to be anything from bored to amused… maybe appreciative. But not prepared for this: “Pretty” isn’t a word I would ordinarily use to describe firearms, but—this is one handsome rifle! Nice, clean lines, an uncluttered look of what you might call “intrinsic efficiency,” like a Los Angeles-class submarine. It looks graceful, and in the curves and planes of the stock and fore-end, kinda elegant. You may see it differently but remember, I’m more accustomed to working with firearms which resemble scrap iron mashed into sections of stovepipe, y’know?

There are no colors other than black, discreet white markings and Realtree camo; no gold-plated trigger or contrasting controls, but it’s just right—like the difference between a dude in a hand-tailored charcoal suit vs. some doofus in a cheap rented tux with a purple brocade cummerbund. It ain’t gaudy, just stylish. Gotta admit, the Realtree looks classier than my rattle-can spray paint jobs done with weeds and dead leaves strewn over an innocent black rifle—and it resists wear a heck of a lot better too.

Yup. She’s a looker. But, the prettiest girl at the barn dance can turn out to be an evil-tempered, slew-footed klutz with whom attempting a simple twirl can be a catastrophic evening-ender involving sawdust in your hair, a bloody nose and two broken toes.

That concern was put to rest as soon as I picked her up, put her to my shoulder and swung her around. Insert the word “sweet” here and that says it all. Of course, you can’t be sure with this kind of rifle until you’ve got an optic and a loaded magazine on board, but you can sure get a good clue. I did. My immediate impression was of agility, like fluidly tracking a fast target through heavy brush. Call that “bacon on my mind.”

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The fore-end is designed for the hunter and is comfortable in the hand. The bottom rail proved
perfect for a Harris Bi-Pod, something John added for the shooting portion of the test.

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The generous pistol grip is better suited to hunting than the common AR grip. The grip
is hollow and capped should you desire to store some small items inside.

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The Ambush Arms .300 AAC comes factory threaded for a suppressor should you decide
to add one down the line. More and more states are allowing the use of suppressors when hunting.

They didn’t just slap parts together. It’s not an assembly of components; it’s a thoughtful melding of attributes to create a well-balanced, smooth-swinging, naturally-pointing entity. Kudos to the design crew, Ambush! Before taking the top-down tour, some generalities:

The .300 Blackout, also known as .300 AAC (for Advanced Armament Corporation) and an interchangeable fraternal twin to the .300 Whisper, is essentially a .223 cut down and blown out to 7.62x35mm. It was designed to accommodate both supersonic loads in the 110- to 120-grain range and subsonic loads to 200 grains for sound-suppressed use, doing all this within the AR-15/M4/M16 structure, including use of .223/5.56x45mm magazines. The only significant difference is the barrel and the size of its gas port.

As you can guess from the photos, the heart and guts of the Ambush .300 is a classic direct gas impingement AR-15. It’s a carbine-length system with a low-profile gas block. All the usual controls and features—safety, bolt hold-open and release, magazine release et-inclusive-cetera are in all the old familiar places. Although the Ambush .300 shoots 7.62x35mm rounds, it remains completely compatible with the standard M4 bolt and carrier group. Fieldstripping, cleaning and maintenance are all samey-same, which for many of you means you can do it on autopilot. That hole in the barrel may be a little bigger than you’re used to, otherwise, it’s all about proprietary features and qualities.

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All the controls familiar to AR users are located in their usual spots. The illumination
control for the scope is located on the left side of the turret manifold.

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Leupold’s new Mark 4 MR/T 1.5-5x20mm illuminated scope tuned for .300 Blackout has a reticle
designed for use with either super-sonic or subsonic loads with twin holdover hashmarks in
the reticle.

Top Down & Inside Out

The 16-inch barrel is cold hammer forged (as all barrels should be), a process that aligns steel at the molecular level, enhancing accuracy and long barrel life. Then a salt-bath nitride treatment is applied for maximum corrosion and abrasion resistance. Both the barrel and mil-spec bolt carrier group are magnetic particle tested for voids, defects, and the tiniest irregularities. On to the tour!

Topside you’ve got a whopping 15 level inches of T-marked Picatinny “rail estate” for mounting optics, lasers, hydraulic clam diggers etc., plus three more 3-inch modular moveable/removable rails at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock on the fore-end. That distinctive fore-end is a free-floated, 12-inch ventilated aluminum tube sporting an Ambush Arms exclusive “shotgun-inspired” hand grip. I gotta tell you, it feels even better than it looks, and is extremely comfortable and solid in the hand. The barrel is an S2W profile, about 0.735 inches in diameter, tipped with a knurled muzzle cap to protect the 5/8×24-inch threads, provided for mounting a sound or flash suppressor.

The charging handle is a BCM (Bravo Company Manufacturing) extended type, medium-latch length. This allows you an easier grasp when working around the rear of an optic. I like the Bravo Company charging handles because they direct force away from the pivot pin, so you won’t shear it when riding the handle hard or “blading” it with the knife edge of your hand, as I do. The upper and lower receivers are mil-spec forged 7075 aluminum, precisely mated, and within lurks a real treat.

The firing group is the premium Geissele SSA Super Semi-Automatic trigger, a 2-stage delight. Total pull weight is 4.5 pounds—2.5 on the first stage and 2 pounds on the second, with a crisp, clean break. It is ideal for combining precision with speed. I have one on a 7.62×51 semi-auto rifle set up for long-range “selective targeting” and love it. If you’re accustomed to single-stage triggers, it just takes a bit of practice to wring maximum performance out of the SSA, with the first stage letting you know you’re on the trigger and the second stage providing match-grade controllability. You can get the precision of double set triggers out of it, but faster and safer.

Ordinary polymer pistol grips and buttstocks on AR’s don’t merit a heck of a lot of attention, but these do. Like the shotgun-inspired fore-end, they are Daniel Defense exclusives. See the textured areas? Those are soft, tactile, comfortable and slightly compressible rubber overmoldings. On the fully adjustable stock, the overmolding provides an excellent cheekweld without any of the slip ’n’ slide effect you get with smooth polymer, especially when you’re sweating. The inboard cant of the rubber buttpad and turned-in toe ease shouldering of the rifle, and there’s a QD mount for a sling.

The pistol grip’s overmolding is well placed too, and the grip also features a dished thumb relief and a middle finger groove. The grip buttcap is a friction and rubber-compression fit, providing access to the hollow interior. Just be sure you don’t put any rattle-prone items inside and you’re good to go. Keep your “emergency Skittles” in your pocket.

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The magazine well is nicely beveled for slick reloading, but there is no electrically-driven Hoover system to vacuum-suck mags into the weapon. Hmph.

Leupold graciously sent us a pristine Mark 4 MR/T 1.5-5x20mm illuminated scope tuned for .300 Blackout, along with their slick, solid Mark 2 IMS integral mounting system with 30mm rings. All that remained was to attach a Harris Ultralight Bipod and then—find a hole in the weather and hit the range…

Good for you, not-so-good for me. This was a short turn-around assignment with a drop-dead deadline, and Mr. Weather was not our friend. It was late January, and as the East Coast braced for “Snowmageddon,” Texas was gettin’ raked by nasty sleet and freezing rainstorms rollin’ in like freight trains. My range had been closed due to slick, frozen mud and ice on the flats. There was supposed to be an 8-hour window between storms—there wasn’t, quite—and I jumped it.

I had the range to myself, except for two guys down in the full-auto bay firing long bursts from select-fire weapons and screaming “Yee-haww!” I don’t think they were shooting for accuracy though. I had to. The sky was solid aluminum overhead, creating twilight effect. Temps were above freezing, but penetrating winds of 25 miles per hour with gusts to 45 were blowing from 2 to 3 o’clock. How bad were the gusts? I secured small items, but one gust scooped the empty rifle case off a concrete shooting table and hurled it several yards down the firing line. I didn’t try to grab it, because when I turned I saw my expensive (for me) spotting scope raise two legs up off the table, balancing precariously on the third leg of the tripod. Already hearing that Crash! Tinkle-tinkle! sound in my head, I grabbed it instead. I put it in the Jeep. So, no benefit of spotting scope. Sorry, no chronograph workup either. I knew better than to even try to set it up without mooring hawsers and twin bollards. The wind had had its way with my chrono before, and it was ugly.

The angle of the wind was perfect for ripping targets off the frames too. After watching four fired-on targets take off for Nacogdoches, or maybe Texarkana, I started taping the right edges of the targets as well as tripling their weight with 10mm staples. The only good thing going for me was, the crests of the high berms weren’t crusted over, and every time a big gust hit ’em, they would toss up heavier dust, bits of vegetation and plastic grocery bags probably coming from downtown Phoenix. So I’d take note of the berm to my right, and try to shoot between Godzilla-gusts. Then a thought struck me. (Some grit too, but a thought.)

You’ve taken time off work, laid out hefty bucks for a pig-busting trip, driven 382 miles, were delayed by two flats outside of Festered Corners, you have one day to git ’er done—and you shoot in the weather you’re dealt. It ain’t always sunny, still and clear. It’s one thing to determine what a rifle will do from a clean bench under fair skies, and quite another thing when Mother Nature is irked. But if you can hunker down with this rifle on a bipod, what can she do? So, maybe poor conditions for me, but good real-world data for you, huh?

I shot eight, 5-round groups with each of three types of supersonic ammo at 100 yards. I knew there would be some throw-aways, and would hope for the best with four groups of each selected “for record.” The sky kept darkening with purple-bellied clouds, so I got to test the illumination on the scope in failing light without violating the “no shooting after the sun hits the horizon” rule. The sun was nowhere to be seen, but the clock said it wasn’t “sunset” yet.

The Ambush .300 worked great. I didn’t get to do much snap-shooting, but yes, the rifle handled, balanced, poked and pointed very, very well. I can’t say enough about the quality of that Geissele trigger, and all the fine points I had listed before—the cheekweld, the grip et al—translated from the shop to the field.

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Best actor in a supporting role—literally—was the Harris Ultralight bipod. They are a top
choice for fieldwork being tough, super light and fully adjustable.

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All standard 5.56 magazines should work, but varying contours of followers will stabilize the
.300 Blackout round more or less well (above). Twenty-round polymer MagPul P-Mags and
Brownells aluminum magazines both worked fine. The .300 Blackout ammo tested in the Ambush
Arms included (below from left to right) Barnes 120-grain VOR-TX, HPR 110-grain TAC-TX,
and G2 Research’s 110-grain Rip-Out. At far right, a standard 55-grain 5.56×45 round for comparison.

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.300 Blackout Factory Ammo Performance

Load Best Group Largest Average
(brand, bullet weight, type) (inches) (inches) (inches)
Barnes 120 VOR-TX 1.75 2.125 1.93
G2 Research 110 Rip-Out JHP 1.625 2.5 2.09
HPR 110 TAC-TX 1.625 2.375 2.03

Note: Groups the product of 5-round groups at 100 yards, best 4 of 8 groups.
Differential between average groups of ammunition types was only 0.16-inch!

Then the skies opened up and the rain came down. I didn’t even get to peep the groups; just tore down the targets. I had to get outta Dodge before the range road became the Rio Poquito.

At home and warmed up, I was semi-stunned and definitely tickled when I peeled my soppin’ wet targets apart. I checked online and found many shooters were getting minute-of-angle groups with .300 Blackout supersonic, and others—mostly using bolt guns and handloads—were shooting 1/2-MOA groups. Most of those were 3-round groups. Mine were all 5-rounders. Go ahead, check out my groups, (page 44). We’ll wait. See? Given the conditions, I’ll take groups running 2 inches or less all day long. The premium ammo really delivered for me too.

I used Barnes VOR-TX featuring a 120-grain TAC-TX slug, G2 Research’s .300 Rip-Out 110-grain JHP’s, and HPR Ammunition’s 110-grain TAC-TX loads. Their listed velocity is 2,100 fps, and they shot so consistently as to be virtually indistinguishable. Their points-of-impact were extremely close, and obviously, they all bucked stout crosswinds just fine.

One note about magazines: .300 Blackout is supposed to be compatible with all standard 5.56mm mags. But, the contours of followers vary, so “standard” is a loose term. I had feeding problems with two types, and excellent performance with MagPul P-Mags and Brownells military-contract metal magazines, both in 20-round configuration.

Best Supporting Actor awards go to Leupold and Harris Engineering. The Mark 4 MR/T scope was up to Leupold’s usual superior performance, with outstanding light transmission and precise controls. Eye relief is very forgiving of slight changes in head position, and its illuminated reticle proved great for low-light snap shooting. One really useful feature is the illumination-off stop between each brightness setting. With ’em, you’re never more than one click away from your personal default setting.

No matter what game you’re after under what conditions, I highly recommend the Harris Ultralight Series S bipod, model BRM, mated to the Ambush .300’s 6 o’clock rail with a GG&G Harris Bipod Adaptor. Light, tough, stable and fully leg-length adjustable, it can make or break those critical shots.

All in all, this was a pleasant and productive introduction to the Ambush Arms rifle and the .300 Blackout cartridge. I don’t know if I could have done better with the platform, optic, ammo and bipod used, because this setup was, I think, a “gold standard” combo. I know there are other applications, but if you wanna bring home the bacon and pile up the pork chops, this is the gear to do it with.

There are no feral hogs around here (not enough potable water, dirt or foliage for more than stunted snakes and dehydrated lizards). But 200 miles to the south, wild piggies reproduce like Baltimore rats. Landowners welcome “harvesters,” and April prime time ain’t that far off. I like bacon. Hmmm… Connor OUT
By John Connor

.300 Blackout
Maker: Ambush Arms
101 Warfighter Way, Black Creek, GA 31308
(855) 262-8742
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/ambush-firearms/

Action type: Direct gas, semi-auto
Caliber: .300 AAC, Capacity: 5 (accepts AR magazines)
Barrel length: 16 inches
Overall length: 32.5-inches, 35.75 inches extended
Weight: 6.9 pounds
Finish: Realtree AP camo (tested), black
Sights: None, Picatinny rail installed
Stock: Collapsible, rubber overmolded
Price: $1,799

Mark 4 MR/T 1.5-5x20mm Illuminated
Maker: Leupold & Stevens
14400 Northwest Greenbriar Parkway
Beaverton, OR 97006
(503) 646-9171
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/leupold-stevens-inc/

Magnification: 1.5X-5X, Objective diameter: 1.2 inches
Eye relief: 4.4 inches (1.5X), 3.7 inches (5X)
Internal adj. range: 120 MOA elevation, & windage at 100 yards
Click value: 1/2 MOA, Tube diameter: 30mm
Weight: 18 ounces, Overall length: 9.8 inches
Reticles: Blackout illuminated
Price: $1,749.99

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Optics Tips & Tricks

Make The Most Of Today’s Wonderful Optic Technology.

Modern optics help hunters enormously both in finding big game and placing shots precisely, but over the decades I’ve found several tricks to help optics work even better. Let’s start with riflescopes. These days most hunters use far more magnification than their fathers and grandfathers, and more magnification makes focus critical. The standard advice since granddad’s day has been to focus the scope until both the view and reticle become as sharp as possible.

This sounds easy, but most shooters focus their scopes in broad daylight, often by aiming the rifle out a window. Bright light shrinks the pupil of our eyes, in particular the pupil of our aiming eye, since it’s the recipient of all that magnified light. Like the F-stop in a camera lens, a smaller pupil makes the view sharper, with more depth of field. As a result, in midday light, the focus of our scope can be slightly off but both target and reticle will still appear sharp. In dim light the pupils of our eyes expand to admit more light, and the view or reticle (or both) can turn slightly fuzzy. It’s better to focus a scope at home rather than in the field, with a big buck dimly visible through the timber.

One item many hunters neglect before focusing their scope, however, is cleaning the lenses. The first Swarovski I ever laid eyes on was a great big scope on the .300 Weatherby Magnum belonging to a great big Cajun who was hunting for a few days at White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Ala. The guy bragged about how he could aim at deer in moonlight with this super-scope, but when he handed me the rifle to take a look I immediately noticed a substantial layer of Deep South dust on the huge objective lens. This doesn’t tend to enhance the view, no matter how good the optics behind the dust. Clean lenses help us see through binoculars and spotting scopes far better, especially when glassing anywhere near a rising or setting sun, reducing flare and increasing contrast.

The slick “hydrophobic” coatings on some of today’s scopes reduce the need for frequent cleaning, partly because they also don’t allow much dust to settle on lens surfaces. Many scopes don’t have such coatings, but there are sprays on the market to provide temporary hydrophobic coatings, though they must be reapplied after a thorough lens cleaning.

Many hunters have misconceptions about cleaning optical lenses, perhaps from the use of older, softer lens coatings. Today’s coatings are much harder and can take quite a bit of abuse, but ideally we still shouldn’t rub dry lenses. Removing as much dust as possible with a super-soft brush or compressed air helps, but the biggie is to wet the lens before wiping it clean.

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A higher-magnification binocular can help hunters even in thick woods, by “fuzzing out”
layers of vegetation to reveal animals in sharp focus. Do this by rolling the focus
wheel while you glass.

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Successful use of today’s optics results in a freezer full of tasty game.

If there’s no optical cleaning fluid on hand, clean water or even your foggy breath works pretty well, but don’t wipe the lenses with any sort of paper unless it’s made for cleaning lenses. Even face tissue often contains tiny, abrasive particles capable of scratching modern hard coatings, and tiny scratches eventually scatter enough light to dim the view (though not as much as a layer of Louisiana dust). Clean microfiber or cotton cloth works fine, but it’s a good idea not to rub the lenses of your scope with a shirttail after a few days in hunting camp. I have one of those tiny elastic bags containing a small microfiber cloth attached to the neck-strap of the small Nikon camera always in my shirt pocket while hunting, for use not only on the camera’s lens but rifle scopes, binoculars and spotting scopes.

It’s also far easier to see detail through binoculars when they’re steady. While “stabilized” binoculars have been around for a while now, they’ve never become very popular with hunters because they’re heavy and to save weight, manufacturers tend to use relatively small objective lenses. I have a 16×32 Nikon StabilEyes that provides a marvelous view during midday, but also weighs 40 ounces, half a pound more than my Swarovski EL 10×42, and doesn’t provide nearly as bright a view as the Swarovski at dawn and dusk, when big-game animals tend to be out and about. This is why most hunters prefer lighter, brighter binoculars they have to steady themselves.

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When glassing from a vehicle, using a spotting scope is a lot quicker with the scope
mounted on a stock. This is a camera stock, also useful for telephoto photography.

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If your scope’s lenses aren’t clean, even the finest glass won’t help you aim,
especially into sunlight.

The easiest way to steady binoculars is to use a lower shooting position such as sitting or prone, but even sitting can be improved with a set of shooting sticks, which work just as well for steadying binoculars. When glassing “offhand” it really helps to wear a baseball-style cap, and grab the brim of the hat in your fingers along with the binocular. This essentially locks the binocular to your head, so it moves along with the tiny movements of your head. (The brim of the cap also reduces stray light between the ocular lenses and your eyes, improving brightness and contrast.)

The binocular strap makes a difference when hunting. Many people prefer one of the elastic harnesses that keep their binocular from bouncing around on their chest. While I use these quite a bit in warmer weather, in cooler weather I’m usually wearing layers of clothing, and taking them off and putting them on to adjust for temperature and my exertion level. The elastic straps are something of a hassle when having to take a layer off or put it back on, so I often use a standard strap shortened enough to barely fit over my head. This keeps the binocular from bouncing much, and sticking it inside my jacket keeps it from bouncing at all, handy when crawling on hands and knees during the final phase of a stalk.

Some people can’t stand to have a close-fitting strap of any sort around their neck, so use a very long strap. My wife Eileen is one of these, and when possible, likes the strap so long her binocular can ride on her left hip. This is actually a very comfortable way to carry the darn things, especially in warmer weather—the reason it’s used by many African professional hunters.

Most modern binoculars include both an eyepiece cover and front lens covers. The eyepiece cover is usually a single unit, to keep rain or snow off the rear lenses. The front lens covers aren’t all that useful, since most people carry binoculars with the front lenses hanging down, away from falling precipitation, but can be handy in wet country, when water on tall grass splashes upwards while hiking. I found them very handy, for instance, when hunting on Kodiak Island.

These days many front lens covers are individual, each connected to the barrel by what’s essentially a thick rubber band. Theoretically you can just let the covers hang down in nice weather, but I’ve often raised my binocular for a quick look at something to find one cover has flipped onto the lens during my hike, blocking the view. The solution that eventually occurred to me was twisting the connecting band 180 degrees, so with the covers are hanging, their backsides are toward the lens.

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Wearing a baseball-style cap while glassing blocks out stray light between the
binocular and your eyes, and grabbing the brim along with the binocular steadies
the view, especially when glassing offhand.

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These Alaskan brown bear hunters spend the entire day glassing a huge valley from a hill
next to camp, the reason they can use a big tripod on their big spotting scope. When they
find a bear, they’ll leave the scope in camp while making the stalk.

Spotting Scopes

Spotting scopes can be extremely useful in big country, saving a lot of effort by allowing us to view a lot of terrain. In fact, in really big country many hunters glass as much with spotting scopes as binoculars, but after a few minutes this becomes uncomfortable, due to having to squint with our off eye. I wear glasses and many years ago found using a spotting scope for longer periods was far more comfortable when I stuck a piece of tape over the left lens of my glasses, allowing me to glass with both eyes open. I always have some tape in my hunting pack, for various purposes, but keep a small piece stuck to the outside of my spotter, where it’s handy. Some hunters carry a cheap eye patch for the same purpose.

Spotting scopes have enough magnification for the slightest vibration to affect viewing, the reason many hunters use short tripods, since placing the scope as low to the ground as possible reduces vibrations. Some tripods also have a little hook underneath the head, where a weight can be hung to further reduce vibrations, but if not, screw-in hooks are cheap and easily installed.

A drawstring bag (say from a bottle of Crown Royal) full of rocks or sand reduces vibration noticeably, and the rocks or sand can be dumped out when you leave to hike somewhere else. Another trick is to drape a hunting vest with its pockets full of rocks over the top of the scope. (Of course, if hunting from a vehicle, or when sitting in one place all day long not far from a camp, a big, heavy tripod can be used, but many of us end up a long way from the vehicle, where only a small tripod’s practical.)

Some hunters mount spotting scopes on shoulder stocks, making it easy to glass but also making the unit more bulky, so a stock’s also primarily a vehicle solution. The stock can be anything from a discarded rifle stock to one made for cameras, handy for those who also do some telephoto photography.

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When open, front lens covers have a maddening way of accidentally
flipping onto the lenses while hiking (above). Twisting the rubber
connection a half-turn prevents this. John has one of those tiny
stuff-sacks with a microfiber cloth attached to the small camera
(below) he always has along when hunting to clean
the lenses of all his optics
.

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The best way to steady binoculars is to drop to a steady shooting position,
whether prone or sitting.

Most open-country hunters carry laser rangefinders these days, but many seem unaware of the “scan” function on most recent lasers. Last year I hunted nilgai in Texas with several companions. It was very flat country, with big openings up to a half-mile wide between patches of typical South Texas brush. The first day one of my partners missed a big bull because his laser rangefinder read a little over 200 yards when the range was actually almost twice as far. This wasn’t obvious to my friend, since he’d never hunted nilgai before and didn’t have a feel for how big they looked, especially across flat ground.

The problem’s easily solved by scanning. In most newer rangefinders, if the ranging button is held down and the reticle moved across the landscape, the yardage readout will change as the beam bounces off different objects. If there’s an animal out in the middle of a big flat, the digital readout will blip as it crosses the animal. I demonstrated the scan function to my friend, and two days later he killed another big bull with one well-placed shot at around 350 yards.

Another form of “scanning” can be used with binoculars when woods hunting. Slowly rolling the focus wheel while looking through thick cover can “fuzz out” branches and leaves concealing parts of animals. Most hunters believe lower-magnification binoculars work best for woods hunting, since they result in less visible vibration when glassing offhand, and have wider fields of view. But I actually prefer 10X even in close cover, because the shorter depth of field helps separate layers of branches from the game I’m seeking.

Yes, modern optics can really help hunters, but only if hunters help them work!
By John Barsness

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