The last time I went deer hunting my hunting buddy and I arrived at our campsite which we’d scouted weeks earlier only to find it substantially destroyed. The log ring around the fire pit was pulled apart, there were car parts strewn around, glass bottles had been shot up on the perimeter of the camp. The forest itself was wild and wonderful. None of that nasty old growth dead zone stuff. This was a young and vibrant forest with a good mix of old and young trees and lots of low cover. That’s the kind of environment that supports lots of deer. It’s also apparently the sort of environment that encourages douchebag assholes to destroy a perfectly good campsite.
This campsite was car accessible and deep in the woods. That’s pretty rare around here. It was well shaded and shielded from the bulk of the wind. Steep hills covered with tree limbs and leaf cover meant predators approaching would be hard pressed to do so quietly. There are a LOT of bears and quite a number of moutain lions in the area so being able to get up in the middle of the night to pee without worrying much about the local fauna deciding to chow down on you is nice.
After a couple hours of cleanup work and gathering of firewood we finally got around to cranking up a fire, getting dinner ready and setting up the tents.
Once camp was set up we had a brilliant dinner of bratwurst and caramelized onions with shells-n-cheese and a salad of wild gathered greens and capers dressed with rice wine vinegar.
By the next morning camp was starting to get a little cluttered but we were at least keeping the trash localized and trying to maintain some level of sorting. The red tent acted as a supply depot and kept our gear dry and at least concealed from open view.
When you have a camp that’s clean and well maintained and you hunt with people who have some sort of ethics about treating our shared wilderness properly you’ll find the enjoyment goes right up. Hunting is a sport to be shared and the victory is shared just as well as the rout. Take your friends hunting and try to enjoy the time you have just being friends. Let the hunt be a background thing that you do while you’re there and you’ll be more relaxed and enjoy the hunt more. A relaxed hunter is just another critter in the forest and less likely to stink of anxiety. This is why we always see a buck when we don’t have a tag and why the best way to not see a bear is to not get a bear tag.
Below is a pic taken after a wild pig harvest a number of years ago. The camp was amazing. The guys were awesome people of good humor and open hearts. The pig was delicious and we harvested it as a group and everyone took home quite a lot of meat home. Only one pig was taken among four hunters and we all thought at the end that it was a successful hunt for each of us regardless of who took the shot. We all contributed to setting it up and we all had a great time together doing that. That’s yours truly in the center.
I’ve been collecting and making my own chronographs for a few years trying to find one that does what I need when I need. In doing so I’ve collected and used extensively quite a number of them. Of those 3 seem to come to the front of most people’s decision tree. Here we’ll cover one of the more expensive options.
Pros: Easy to slip on, when it works it just works, stores large number of shots, attached to the gun, easy to use, aluminum cam-lock strap.
Cons: Muzzle breaks and magnums = unreliable operation, POI change, bayo slip-off problems, cables (what no bluetooth), no display weapon mount, standard plastic cam-lock sucks, bayo pitting.
For the most part this thing is fantastic. I really love the ability to change where I’m pointing and still gather data. It works without regard to the lighting which is excellent. The low end cam-lock setup is junk. Broke out of the box. The aluminum upgrade dealie they offer for about 20 bucks is money well spent and apart from a ridiculous strap routing complexity it’s pretty easy to use.
I’ve found I get more shots before it tries to work itself off the barrel if I use both rubber adapters, one on either side. I’ve found that I’d really like a weapon mount for the display as well. On my .223 it works perfectly with no brake. On my .308 it didn’t like working with the brake on it but was just fine without it. On my 7-mag it hasn’t been totally reliable even without the brake on the gun and was completely non-functional with the brake on. My brakes are shorties, only about an inch and a quarter longer than the barrel and they’re barrel diameter or less with tight exit ports so blast shouldn’t be an issue however it seems to be (I’ll update on this as I shoot the big gun more). With my 7br it was 100% reliable.
No weapon mount seems like they missed a logical next step. So does the lack of bluetooth (or iRDA or 2.4GHz or whatever not fucking wired) connection between bayo and display. They really missed the boat on those two bits. Not everyone sits down or lays down with their rifles. Some of us like to shoot standing up too. Some of us have spotters that are taking down data for us or want to put the display somewhere else than on or next to the rifle. First, it’s a little awkward when you have your display unit gallivanting around the bench top as it gets jerked around by the cord or to have it dangling from the end of your rifle. Long cables are a treatment but not a solution. It’s more awkward to have only just a little flexibility about where I can put the display. Weapon mount makes it so cables are still ok (if primitive) and un-cabled makes it so weapon mount or not is irrelevant.
The display on my V1 is old school LCD. For 300-400 bucks or more a little better display could have been used. Backlighting in blue (or white) is nutty for sure though. Red would have been the appropriate choice if only one color were to be offered. Battery life is so far pretty good but I’m not sure exactly how good yet. I haven’t replaced the battery so far after a couple hundred rounds of data gathering and powered on lag time in the many hours range.
The bayo unit has started to pit and while that’s only cosmetic for now I’ll need to periodically hit it with a coat of epoxy to fill in the holes so it doesn’t get worse. I think this is actually a great selling point for the choice of the plastic they are using. It’s durable and tough up to a point and it’s still repairable by most people that can figure out how to open a tube of epoxy. The epoxy treatments so far are done just like bondo. You don’t want a lot, just enough to smooth the surface. I find a good 2-part steel epoxy works great as an ablative layer there.
The way the bayo mounts is a little nerve tickling for a bit until you get used to it and realize you’d have to have a massive taper rate on your barrel in order to get the bullet to strike the bayo. It’s still something to verify each time but it’s not something to be pissing your pants over unlike the possibility of a guest shooter pushing a rifle bullet right through your optically activated chronograph. If you let other people shoot through your conventional rabbit eared chronograph, eventually one of them is going to drop a round in the unit itself and kill it. Either that or you will. In any event the Magnetospeed does a solid job of alleviating this hazard if even the tiniest amount of sense is used in installing it onto the barrel.
Finally is the price. It’s a bit gouge-y if you know what you’re getting. A couple hall effect sensors, some injection molded plastic and a very limited bit of software, an relatively primitive display, and a small amount of inexpensive microelectronics. They’re certainly making their profit on the hardware bits in spades.
Competitors are basically optically activated setups like ProChrony, ShootingChrony, Oehler and other similar more traditional chronographs and not much of a damned thing else. Labradar is a radar based bit of vaporware that has been due out shortly for two years. In the meantime if lighting is something you can’t always control or you’d like to have aimpoint flexibility then for now Magnetospeed is the only game in town and it’s not bad at all. It’s a bit expensive and some of the hardware is a little janky but it’s worked so far.
Here you go. We only got footage of the turkeys and rams stages. I cleaned up on chickens at the end and got my highest percentage of hits to date. This is a 1/5 scale match. Turkeys are 77 yards. Rams are 100 yards. Chickens are at 40 and pigs are at 60. Rams are 2.5×4 (inches) in the body. Turkeys are about 2×3 in the body. Pigs are 2×3 and chickens are about 1.5×1. I made 18:60 shots.
Most any competition you want to get into is going to have a course of fire that’s more than trivial numbers of rounds. For most kinds of competitive shooting you’re looking at 30-50 rounds per match. Some get up to 80 or even more. If you’re shooting rifle ammo and hoping to do better than just tossing rounds downrange then you’ll need match ammo. Rifle ammo for blastin’ is over a buck a shell easily and can quickly find 2-3 dollars each a comfy place to be. That might be comfy for the price to be but it’s not for most folks to pay.
Now let’s call it a 40 round match. That’s a quick and easy 50 bucks in ammo but, you don’t think you’re going to show up with 2 boxes of FGMM, shoot exactly 40 rounds and go home do you? Nope. The way it works is, you get to the venue and verify your zero (at a bare minimum), maybe verify some DOPE at specific ranges, if you’re smart you’ll take a couple chronograph reads before the match to put into your log book and you’ll want to do a few practice shots to warm up and get in the zone. Now you need a whole additional box of shells. Bang we’re at about 70 bucks in ammo for the day. Sure you might have a few left but are you honestly going to buy 60 rounds per outing at retail. That’s nasty expensive. For FGMM we’re talking about 100 dollars.
This means that unless you’re profoundly lazy, extremely unintelligent or untrustworthy, wealthy or resolved to failure that you’re going to need to have a way to make sure you have match grade ammo by the bucketful. Well if you donate your time you can come out really far ahead by reloading.
Primers are about 3-5 bucks per 100. Powder is 20-35 bucks a pound. Good bullets in sporting calibres are 25-70 cents each but let’s call it 35 cents a pop. Those will be good bullets at that price. For 100 bucks you can pick up enough supplies for 150-200 rounds or more (given a 45gn capacity size case). It’s not just a savings it’s a huge savings. Don’t forget that FGMM might or might not like your gun. Certainly with infinite combinations available to you you’ll have the ability to tailor a load to meet your needs and to be highly precise and repeatable. Good brass is a dollar a piece but you can use them 10-20 times or more if you don’t go nuts with the pressures. The only reason to buy retail ammo is to get the brass.
Once you decide that I’m right you’ll need to know one other detail. Buy your components in bulk. Bullets by the 1000. Powder in 8lbs kegs (or more). Primers by the 1000. Cases by the 1000. Once you have 1000 rounds worth in stock, build your next 1000. If you’re going to compete you need supplies and they’re going to be in various stages of processing continuously so you need to make sure you have a few hundred basically loaded and ready to go all the time. Use the off-season to build up a stock once you find a good load to settle on. You don’t think it’ll be a big deal but if you really want to compete you’re going to want to do a match about every month if possible and some months things get busy. If you have 4 matches in a month you’re going to need maybe 500 rounds or more. The last thing you do is only show up with just exactly enough bullets. You need to prepare for duds, out of whack shells that won’t chamber and for things like shoot-offs to break ties. Don’t show up under-equipped and take 2nd because you didn’t think there could be a tie.
There’s one other thing to pay close attention to. Set a goal for your load recipe. Something reasonable that it needs to accomplish. Then engineer your load recipe to achieve that goal. If you only need to knock down some steel chickens at 200m then there’s no reason to get all hot roddy about it. Use enough power to definitely do the job but don’t load the extra 200fps if you don’t need to. Save the wear and tear for the 500m rams. Similarly if you’re loading to push the envelope you’re just going to burn out the throat. Back it off a little and save the wear. A few FPS isn’t going to change things at the target.