Ordered on November 15th from https://ballisticdeals.com. It shipped on November 18th and I got email notifications of order and shipment. It arrived on November 23rd and I immediately pulled it out to do some testing. Finish is fantastic, fit is perfect save a tiny bit of play in one direction.
It’s extremely nice and super compact. Obviously made to that quintessentially Teutonic standard which borders on the manufacturing equivalent of pedantry. Germans just make things well. It’s in their DNA.
It would have been nice if the design didn’t need a snugging up mechanism like the MDT design but, alas, the Hera unit doesn’t come with a snugging up mechanism which cost it a point. Still, ever the optimist, I applied 1 layer of masking tape on the flat mating surfaces and that brought all the wiggle to zero and the sound of it closing took on the thud of a bank vault. It wouldn’t have been enough wiggle to notice behind the gun. Interesting note, when XLR Industries later licensed the design they added two set screws that you could back out to snug the thing up. I’ll forgive it in my heart but still deduct the point and I’ll end up adding those set screws because they just make sense even if a layer of masking tape does just as well.
It has a fantastic ball detent does a good hold-open job for extremely light butt stocks but if your butt is made of metal, it’s probably not going to hold it open against a firm shake. It will probably keep the thing from banging you in the head during a hike with the rifle backpack stowed. Even if it’s not super functional it counts as a two way locking design. NOTE: I’m using “locking” very loosely during this whole thing for fairness. Manufacturing quality is very nice. No machining marks, nice anodized finish, no dings. Install is as easy as with the XLR unit and pretty much identical. Spin the adapter onto your chassis, clock it, snug the hell out of the 2 locking screws, install butt, snug castle nut.
It’s super compact too. Upside all other units is visibly the smallest by a good ways. The XLR and MDT units are not a lot bigger but they are a bit bigger. Why does side matter for this? It’s mostly a matter of clearance for your bolt cycling hand. Some of these units I’ve tested (UTG/Leapers, looking your direction) stick out in places that hands will eventually be cycling bolts in. Drag your knuckle at high speed across a folding stock adapter and I bet you’ll howl. So, it matters about size and it matters about where that size is concentrated.
Here’s a little trivia for you: Dark Rey’s light saber actually uses a real Hera Arms SFU as its folding mechanism in whatever Star Something movie has a character named “Dark Rey” whom also uses a thing called a “light saber” (also pedant moment: anyone knowing their physics very well says, “‘Sabre’ implies a tip exists in a fixed location and that’s not how light works.”) It’s true. I looked it up and there are even pictures of it. Cool huh? You can see in the image below the distinctive locking hasp and overall profile and above you can see the actual unit used on the actual light saber from the movie.
This unit, like most of them being tested is not compatible with any AR-15 where the bolt carrier reciprocates through the buffer tube/upper interface. For a bolt action rifle though it’s awesome. Slim, sleek, well made, tough and relatively inexpensive but with all the features one might want and it installs as easily as a child’s finger goes into his nose.
Where did it fall down? No instructions in the box or generally available to a quick Google search. Honestly if you need instructions though, you should not have tools or guns or hands and any of those will just get you into trouble. The rest of us already assume that you’re mechanically inept enough to destroy the Earth with an extravagant gesture. For everyone else, it’s trivially easy to overlook Hera losing 2 points there.
It picked up some point value for the steel locking mechanism, lost some for 6061 aluminum and balanced out at .75 for construction. It lost another full point for no tuning mechanism for the wiggle and for there being wiggle when the bipod is unloaded. It got full pretty much points otherwise and looks like it’ll probably end up either winning for compactness unless the SB Tactical unit is insanely compact. The total score of 14.75 out of 19 places it in a solid 3rd place so far.
The speed with which the unit arrived is exemplary of my experiences with MDT. Every single time they surprise me by getting my order to my door several days ahead of when I might expect. It was ordered on the 10th and arrived on the 13th. I got order and ship notices via email with all the information I needed.
Installation was trivially easy and fast. It took only 2 minutes to uninstall the XLR unit and install the MDT unit. Getting it timed into position was not as easy as the XLR because the MDT uses a single screw to snug up the receiver block to the FSA and the act of snugging it up can easily cause the FSA to rotate a bit. It was not the unending bitch to get clocked right that the UTG/Leapers unit was. The XLR system uses 2 screws which avoids the whole issue and I think MDT might make a few friends by adopting that design element. Getting the butt stock installed was trivial and the castle nut locked it up just fine.
Now came the biggest surprise so far. The lockup of the MDT unit was FLAWLESS out of the box and there was no way (or need) to tweak it. It’s just tight as a nun’s cunt right out of the box. That being the case, it occasionally was a little less willing to unlock than the XLR unit. You might notice I’m comparing the XLR and MDT directly a lot. Well, that’s because so far they’re really close and it’s the only comparison so far that seemed remotely fair.
After installation and some snap-open and snap close work, it was outside to bash against a barricade. The MDT unit simply excelled. Pushing, pulling, plopping hard on the ground, high angle where I’m putting my fully body weight down through the stock and into the bipod… all were easily tolerated and no evidence of strain on the unit was evident.
It’s a little longer than the XLR unit, just enough that I had to reset my XLR Tactical butt stock LOP from where it was with the XLR unit. Interestingly, not one has been 100% interchangeable with any other so far though the UTG and XLR units were the closest so far.
The MDT has no mechanism for adding drag to the open/close and if you want it double locking then it’s another $50. Getting to $200 for what is really nothing but a toy for most civilian uses is starting to get excessive especially when UTG manages two-way locking for $15. If MDT would have included that lock-open at the $149 price point, they’d have OWNED this comparison on value for features, and performance.
Given the testing criteria some points were deducted. The steel locking mechanism added .25pts it might not have otherwise gotten but it lost .5pts because it didn’t come with instructions (you have to go online to get them). The choice for steel lockup parts and aluminum body parts, that’s good material selection. That the lockup was SO tight right out of the box actually got it an extra .5pts just for being pimp-tastic on lockup. It’s very difficult to have 2 pieces of anything that don’t actually screw together that lock up that tightly. MDT’s engineering team outdid themselves on that feature. After all was said and done, the MDT unit pulled in 16.75 out of 19 points. That reflects my own personal feelings on the matter pretty well so there’s good inter-observer correlation between my subjective analysis and the objective points-based analysis. There’s a bit about the MDT that’s more admirable from an engineering point of view than with the XLR but, I like the XLR a little more overall right now, not least of which because it comes in 30 bucks cheaper and doesn’t really sacrifice anything over the MDT unit.
Additional Notes on XLR and UTG/Leapers Units
Continuing our testing and evaluation of these folding stock adapters, while we waited for the MDT unit to arrive and almost every other unit to come off back order, the fiddling picked up. So what new do we have to report? Not a lot of news but some refinement of earlier points. It’s surprising really how much you get right on a surface examination and a couple quick function tests. The long testing procedure that’s being done is actually almost unnecessary. Important differences jump out at you and unimportant ones don’t.
The XLR unit is really fantastic and after stopping worrying about breaking the allen key in my hand, I got a little more twist on the drag screw… which didn’t really help at all. I’ve gotten the lockup tuned to perfectly snug. This XLR unit is fast becoming a favorite. It’s just elegant and smooth in all its design and operation. So far this is looking like the one that I’ll use on all of my buffer-tube equipped bolt action rifles long term but it’s still a bit early to say. The SB Tactical is so small and light that it might have to win… if we could ever get hold of one.
The UTG/Leapers unit continues to not be my favorite but it also continues to impress me with its strength and surprise me with how good it manages to be for fifteen measly bucks. Then again, thinking back to that install and the fact that it’s actually quite difficult to unlock from either the open or closed position it’s certainly not in first place even if it was free. The question is will it be second to last or not. The jury is still out but I suspect that it will be higher up the ladder than 2nd to last. One thing we can pronounce right here and now: If your budget is insanely tight and you need to fold your rifle stock and it accepts AR-15 buffer tubes, then you could do a shitload worse than the UTG. It is not sexy and sophisticated but it is 100% workable.
This is the least expensive unit by FAR. 5x cheaper than the next cheapest and ~10x cheaper than the average. Definitely made of aluminum and lacking in pretty much any kind of sophistication. That’s ok. Keeps prices down. It also is not capable of being what it advertises itself to be because AK’s don’t come with buffer tubes. It’s unclear how much we should expect from this thing. The unit was ordered on October 24th and is arrived on November 9th. A single shipping notice was sent when it was shipped. If someone were really smart they’d take this design and make it out of steel with very snug tolerances and burn off some of the pointy parts while they’re at it. I betcha that would be a heck of a unit.
Installation is a bitch. It’s not hard to thread the thing in, and it comes with its own especially slender castle nut but that castle nut is still a little fucker to get cinched down. Pro-tip: Start at the back and snug forward. Seems to be the only way. If you don’t have a standard AR armorers tool or a specialized castle nut tool for AR’s then don’t even try to start the installation. While installing, pre-clock the stock about 20 degrees short of where you want it to come out and then when you’re snugging the castle nut the stock will end up rotating into position. Yeah, shitty but it was the only way I could get it to work.
Once you do manage to get it installed and everything lined up you’ll go to open it and find that it will either be very easy or very much a little pain in the dick. Whilst being a pain in the dick it will bite the absolute hell out of your hand. It’ll do this a number of times before you work out a technique that allows you to open and close the thing and not get bit. For me it’s not easy to have the muzzle resting anywhere but on my toes and the scope pressed against my belly to fold/unfold it. The upside of that is, when it’s closed it’s staying closed and there’s a lot of material involved in the lock-up so it’s looking like that’ll be pretty hard to bust.
Honestly, if some enterprising individual were to look at it and make a couple tiny design improvements like: unlocking cams (so you don’t have to muscle it to unlock it), rounding off all the places that are in line with bolt operation, making the engagement angles wider, making the whole damned thing out of carbon steel… but I digress, they would make an affordable as heck to produce and thence own FSA that would probably own the rifle market just on price.
It’s hard to stress how weird the thing is. It’s cheeeeeeeeeeap and it sweats cheap out of every pore but it’s not the typical kind of cheap that has it breaking on installation. It’s the kind of cheap that says, “I’m ok with the occasional blood blister if it makes the total cost under $20.” Lockup isn’t super solid but it’s not a wiggle-bitch either. 8 strips of masking tape strategically applied to oppose the lockup surfaces took 100% of the wiggle out.
I have to say that for under $20 and 8 little strips of masking tape, it’s pretty darned surprisingly ok. It really is something that I think MOST guys with rifles in chassis stocks that use AR buffer tubes could probably get by with. I certainly would personally and at minimum upgrade to the XLR unit. That said, if $115 is hard for your budget to justify, under $20 sure as shit isn’t so hard, especially when they made the thing pretty robustly. Probably they made it robustly because they care about their name so they went cheap-ish on the materials but not so cheap that they have to violate PayPal and Facebook ToU’s to sell any of them.
Instead of stealing a design that really necessitates steel, they went with aluminum and a design that could deal with being made from aluminum. UTG is one of those outfits I give TONS of well deserved shit to because they aim at the low end of the market and their quality of execution is nearly always below my expectation. The suitability of the stuff they make to at least minimally function isn’t normally the problem. It’s that it only minimally functions on average. This FSA minimally functions. It functions well in the open and closed positions and it accomplishes the transition with, if not no bloodletting, at least a minimum of it and I think guys on an extremely snug budget would be decently served with one. That said, save the money and get the XLR or a Doublestar. The amount better that they are over the cheapest options is pretty worth it, if for no other reason than the reduction in blood blisters the thing will give you.
With all that going for it, the initial score for the UTG unit was 11.5 out of 20. That’s pretty darned good, especially since it lost a high proprotion of the points that it did lose in there being a little wiggle and there being no instructions or tools included.
Folding stocks are great. They let us collapse the overall length of our rifles for easier transport or carrying. Folding stocks started on guns that were commonly carried by troops like tankers and truck drivers and, most notably, paratroopers. Airplanes and vehicles are confining places. If you’re stuck with a 4ft long gun all the time, you’re going to be bumping into shit and flagging everyone else that happens to live through being around you. Shortening the weapon system made it safer to have a number of armed men all packed like sardines in a can.
Solutio? Folding that butt stock over the side of the rifle is a heck of a good start. It’s an easy way to cut a full foot off of the average rifle or carbine. Of course as soon as you solve any one problem with technology, you end up creating new ones. With folding stocks, the act of folding them over can interfere with the operation of the weapon. When deciding on a weapon and a folding stock mechanism, one should know if they’re going to want to fire while folded and select accordingly.
Some time back in history Law Tactical came out with what is considered by many to be kind of the gold standard of folding stock adapters for AR-15’s. Their system is clever, durable and functional. There’s only 1 way they could have made it any better which would be being able to shoot with the stock folded. Doing that is impossible with the normal operational mechanism of the AR-15 platform. So, it’s a pretty big win for Law Tactical to hit all the other nails so squarely on their heads.
Since Law Tactical came out with their unit criminals in China and the USA have copied the design and produced thousands of poor quality units from inferior materials. At the same time additional players have entered the market with their own, occasionally original, designs. Law Tactical doesn’t go out and whine though. They know that if you want the best, you’ll get their unit and if you don’t, you won’t and there’s nothing they can do to change your mind.
What nobody has done so far is try to break every single one of them and compare and contrast them for appropriateness on bolt action rifles. So here at BallisticXLR, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re looking at the available designs with an eye to how well they’ll work on a bolt action rifle that gets used roughly. We’re looking for function, materials selection, ergonomics, lockup when closed, lockup when open, engagement surface wear-in, accumulated dings/dents, and then if they work on gas guns, we’ll check that all out on a gas gun too.
To look at each of those areas we have formalized a testing regime. Each test is worth 1 point and fractional points are allowed. Beyond those functional points we’ll be looking subjectively at the lot and taking a critical eye to each design. Hopefully at the end we can find a set of criteria that make selecting an adapter easy and we might just inspire someone to make the next coolest thing.
Materials – Steel 1pt, 7075 Al .75pt, 6061 AL .5pt, pot metal .25pt, glass 0pt.
Lock-open Detent – Locks in the open position as well as the closed position.
Surface Pre-test- Inspect surface finish of all surfaces. No wear 1pt, light scratches .75pt, dents .5pt, galling .25pt, breakage 0pt.
Installation – comes with all tools/parts/etc… needed for installation.
Installation – comes with instructions for installation.
Installation – instructions are easily followed and include useful pictures or pictographic representations which are easily identified.
Tuning – Methods exist to close buffer tube interface tolerances to zero. both ends 1pt, 1 end .5pt, none at all 0pt.
Snap Close – 10 snap closures with no dents/dings/breakage/failure to lock
Snap Open – 10 snap opening with no dents/dings/breakage/failure to lock/unlock
Barricade Bash – run prone, 3-step barricade, prone exercise 5x
Wiggle Check – Prone w/ bipod loaded
Wiggle Check – Prone w/ bipod unloaded
Wiggle Check – Prone w/ bipod reverse loaded
Wiggle Check – Torque load
Wiggle Check – Bending load
Wiggle Check – Shear load
Ergonomics – does not invade grip space on bolt gun 1pt, gas gun 1pt
Ergonomics – sharp edges, pinchy parts, etc…
Surface Post-test- Inspect surface finish of all surfaces. No wear 1pt, light scratches .75pt, dents .5pt, galling .25pt, breakage 0pt.
Compactness – Measured by water displacement. Rank order based on number of units in test total. Divide 10 by that number to get the rank order point total. Top gets 1 point. Bottom gets 0 points.
Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter – $239-269 retail vs. Facebook Knock-off: $58 retail
So far we’ve tested a knock-off of the Law Tactical unit as well as the real thing. The real deal Law Tactical FSA is stupid strong and really works well at everything it does. Guns with really touchy gas systems or that are a bit undergassed may experience cycling issues but that’s easily treated with a change to buffer, spring or gas port. The Law tactical unit is so good that I’m really surprised that they don’t get factory equipped on TONS of AR’s. In fact, the Law Tactical unit is so good that it is the benchmark against which all others will be measured (with the exception of the water displacement test which we won’t know the results of for a while). That being the case, the Law Tactical comes out with an otherwise perfect benchmark score of 19. I have good reason to believe that it will not scrape up the extra point for a perfect 20 because I know some of the other units are a bit smaller.
The first new unit tested was pretty obvious about how it was going to turn out as it was advertised on Facebook at a price point that simply couldn’t be done with good materials. It was purchased just to see how bad something could be and still have thousands of units sold. Well, how bad was it? It broke during installation so it couldn’t have possibly done much worse. Even if it hadn’t broken so early, given where it broke it would have broken very early in the more physical of the remaining tests and would not have scored any of those points. That’s pretty pathetic.
The Chinese unit was found on Facebook. It was ordered on September 5th and arrived on October 24th (~50 days to deliver), mailed from New York City in an envelope littered with Chinese characters. An obvious re-ship despite the ad saying “Made in the USA”. I’d actually stopped expecting it to show up at all and just counted that $58 as a loss. In addition to all the other shady shit going on with this thing, the PayPal transaction showed that the seller was involved in selling “Clothing” which was a lie as their actual market space is a violation of the PayPal ToS.
The locking hasp for the Chinese unit showing deep dings in the ramp and the nose busted clean off.
The unit was made of partly what seems to be very light/low density aluminum alloy but all the little parts that go inside it are made of what appears to be pot metal or an even lower grade of aluminum alloy that has all the strength of egg shells from very small birds. If you tried to do something this badly, I don’t think that you could. Since it’s the same size as the Law unit, we’ll assume it won’t do very well on the displacement test either. Both the Law and the fake Law do invade the area behind the web of your thumb when put on a pure carbine tube interface on bolt action rifles like that on my gen 1 MDT LSS chassis but, it does not do that on AR-15’s or bolt action chassis that were meant to take the taller, teardrop shaped fixed stock interface.
Our unit broke at the locking pin that keeps it closed. The nose of that just snapped off the first time it was given a snap close. Prior to snap closing a couple tries at more slowly closing it didn’t work. That was the reason for trying to snap it closed. You can see on the picture above that each of the gentle attempts to close it actually damaged this part. When I followed that up with a snap closing, the poor quality material made its opinion heard. So the Facebook / Chinese Law clone graduates with 2.4 points earnedso farout of a possble 19.
This was only the third unit to arrive for testing and, boy, we could not have had a better counterpoint to the garbage from China. Nicely made, clearly aluminum but good strong aluminum (I’m betting 7075 but can’t confirm yet). I’ve bashed this thing around really hard trying to get it to break but it just won’t. I’ve done the barricade bashing and live fire range testing and all the other tests. The designer should feel really good about their work. It’s a small unit full of very clever ways to deal with inevitable issues native to folding stocks being put where they maybe weren’t originally intended to go.
There’s just the tiniest amount of audible jiggle in there but I can’t tell where. You can only get an idea that it’s not a single piece by shaking it roughly. The lockup is really tight and is adjustable through a very clever and dead simple adjustment screw. A standard castle nut on the rear holds that side firm. The chassis to adapter interface is rock solid and like the rest of it, clever. Cinching up the adapter to the chassis side and getting it clocked properly is the easiest of any unit tested so far.
The method to add drag to the folding mechanism is simple and easy to use but I wish it’d let me add a little more drag. At some point the screw you snug up for that just doesn’t turn anymore but there’s still not that much drag on the mechanism. The drag helps to keep the thing in the open position when folded but it’s not quite enough to deal with the weight of my XLR Tactical stock and full length buffer tube if I shake the thing vigorously while holding the whole contraption horizontal. It did just fine for a vigorous hike while stowed on a pack frame, in that it didn’t come loose and bang me in the back of the head. On the other side of the coin, it can hold itself open on a hike and still take a flick to make it snap closed, which is neat. This is only possible because there is no need to unlock from the open position. The lack of a ‘real’ lock-open feature still cost it half of that point. It doesn’t have to be a hard lock, just a ball detent that can hold it open.
From a compactness standpoint it’s looking like it should end up as the #2 or #3 smallest (that test is the last test and I’m still waiting for my new graduated cylinder to arrive). Where it really wins is on price. It’s quite a bit cheaper than all but the Ebay/Facebook/ripoff or the UTG (both of whose low prices should ring alarm bells) and it’s right on par with the DoubleStar unit. $115 is not a lot to spend on such a well made gizmo and against the $150 average buy-in for most of the others, it’s a pretty decently low cost option.
From order to delivery took 6 days and notifications came via email the entire time. All in all it got 18.5 of the 19 points it could have so far and it’s fast becoming a personal favorite. Since it doesn’t work with gas guns we’ll ignore gas gun performance. Because it doesn’t work with gas guns we should then assume that the designers were able to use area previously carved out for bolt carriers to cycle though and put it to use doing something useful for a bolt action rifle. Given the tight lockup, I’m glad they only pursued one mission.
Well, this is the least expensive unit by FAR. 5x cheaper than the next cheapest and ~10x cheaper than the average. Definitely made of aluminum and lacking in pretty much any kind of sophistication. That’s ok. Keeps prices down. It also is not capable of being what it advertises itself to be because it is obviously for AR-15 pattern interfaces, not AK-47 interfaces. It’s unclear how much we should expect from this thing but we’ll keep an open mind and report back next week. The unit was ordered on October 24th and is set to arrive on November 9th. A single shipping notice was sent when it was shipped. If someone were really smart they’d take this design and make it out of steel with very snug tolerances. I betcha that would be a heck of a unit.
Project Deathstroke. A Howa 1500 in a Postman Precision Rifle chassis. It’s wearing a Columbia River Arms 8 twist barrel that previously had 1800 rounds of .243AI snot rockets put through it before being set back and re-chambered. It’s got a Timney trigger, PTG bottom metal, Accurate Mag magazine, EGW rail and UTG soft pistol grip all held up by a Harris 6-9″ notched leg bipod. The optic in the picture is a Nikon P-223 but I think that will be replaced today by a US Optics SN3 3.8-22×44 in Seekins rings. Headspace is set at zero just like Project Deadpool and they’re identically chambered so they’ll be able to share ammo without buggering up my brass. See below for pictures of the progress of this rifle.
Deathstroke character paint job inspiration.
Postman Precision Rifle Chassis
Mockup with original .308Win barrel before painting.
I got one of these chassis when I was in South Africa so I had to run right out and buy a rifle for it. So I picked up a new Howa 1500 in .308win and have a barrel being cut for it now in 6XC. For the moment it’s wearing a Nikon P-223 optic but I also have an SWFA 16×42 and a Primary Arms 4-16x SFP that could work until I can save enough moolah to put down for another US Optics ERGO scope.
Adjustable LoP, butt pad height, cheek rest, pistol grip distance from trigger, aluminum construction.
Comes with a super cool bubble level that you can actually see without moving your head.
I already have a Deadpool rifle so this one will be painted in Deathlock paint scheme. Action/bolt, scope rings and bottom metal in orange. A few little nicknacks in silver and everything else in flat black.
Here it is mocked up with the pencil weight .308win barrel still on it and a Nikon P-223 optic in Warne rings (which I hate).
I painted the stock with the Deathstroke colors. Yes the picture sucks. I’ll take a better one later.
Do you have $500 laying around that you’re looking for a good use for? Boy do I have one. The new Triggercam scope camera. This is one hell of a cool piece of kit. If you’re a guide or a rifle shooting instructor you’re wasting your time not having one of these. If you’re a competitive rifle shooter and your discipline requires a rifle scope, you’d be a fool to not have one of these on your match rifle. I came across this slick little gizmo during a recent trip to South Africa and I gotta say, it’s pretty damned sweet.
Apparently it was created in South Africa though it sports a US patent so don’t expect to see a lot of competitors anytime soon. A friend of mine who lives in South Africa introduced me to Triggercam while I was there and I couldn’t be stopped. It was very much “a take my money” moment. For someone like me that competes, provides live fire instruction/training and who produces how-to videos for shooters there’s no end of real need for such a thing.
I used to make a lot of how-to videos but found them to suffer from the lack of the point of view that viewers might actually be interested in, the through the reticle shot. How do you teach mirage reading without a view through an optic? How can you show dynamic wind correcting hold-off without being able to see the mirage and react to it whilst getting it on video? If you’re using one of those horrid phone-scope dealie boppers then the simple answer is that you don’t. You can’t see mirage well enough on a phone display to use it for instructive purposes even if it does get recorded on the video because you can’t react to what you can’t see.
My website even has a blog section called Through the Reticle which was meant to show this exact sort of thing but to date never has because I hadn’t found a solution this good to the video quality issue. I really couldn’t get past the fact that my phone’s low resolution screen would be the thing I’m looking through when trying to hit a long range target on film. I own expensive optics with top end glass. Why handicap my eye with an iffy phone video. That’s for the people that watch my videos on their phones rather than on a large desktop display like they should, not for me while I’m shooting.
I’ve never really bothered with any through the reticle shots of live action till now because the phone scope things that exist never seemed to fit the phone that I have and the video was of such poor quality that it was pointless anyway so, I gave up on that. At least I gave up until RIGHT BLOODY NOW.
I’ve already put it on every scope I own and it fit even the massive ocular bells on my US Optics ERGO scopes. Getting it on Nikon P-223, Leupold VX-series, SWFA SS series and various Weaver/Nikon/Pentax target scopes has been a non-issue. The only real issue you might get into is some scopes like Nightforce have the whole ocular bell spin to change magnification which won’t really help if you plan to zoom in and out while recording video. In matches I almost never adjust magnification. Instead I set it at a useful level like 12-14x and just leave it there. So even if I used Nightforce (which I don’t because I’m an unabashed fanboy of USO Ergo scopes) it wouldn’t be a problem.
I’ve approached Triggercam about bringing their product to the USA and they assure me that they’re racing to do so at top speed. Stay tuned! I’ll be posting some “Through the Reticle” articles a lot more often now and the video will be HD and of decent quality so you can see what I’m looking to enable you to see. This is a very exciting time!
This article is all about recipes. Not just for food but for fun and for fellowship. It’s about the search for ingredients in a world of unsure availability. It’s about doing what you love with those you care about. It’s also about how even though no plan ever goes as planned, we still insist on making plans and will occasionally create a plan to make a plan. We even make plans for what to do when the initial plan fails. That’s like making a New Year’s resolution to make a certain-to-fail New Year’s resolution. This year I took another trip to South Africa. I explicitly did not plan it all out. I had a good (and tried and true) plan of what I wanted to do over 5 specific days where I would be expected to have a carefully timed plan ready but the plan I made also wasn’t inflexible so nearly any part of it could be pushed aside if needed without spoiling the whole thing. Plans and trying to stick rigidly to them are bad for just about anyone that might use one. Plans must be durable against reality in the way that crunchy tacos very specifically are not.
Having friends in South Africa gives one enough reason to go there. Having friends who like to hunt and shoot as much as you do and who also reside in South Africa means that it pulls on you somewhat vigorously. The pull is not just a little fond perusing of memories that distracts your attention from your day job now and then. It’s more like a soul spaghetti-fying, ripping, tearing, shredding of your attention span that you might expect if sensations of nostalgia were induced by being alone, naked and really really close to a hungry lion of unknown temperament.
I went back for my second trip this summer and had yet another amazing experience full of friends old and new, hunting, shooting, grilling meat over flame and enjoying a general sense of fellowship that I don’t get in the states much. It is also where the night sky is at its absolute best. It’s not that the ingredients for any of those kinds of good times aren’t available here but it seems that here they’re mixed in the proper proportions much more rarely and when they are it often requires reservations. Where in Africa you just turn on the bush TV (braai), crack open a cold one of whatever you like and enjoy as side conversations flow in and out of a main direction of discussion while that main discussion ebbs and flows in volume and participation to its own more complex rhythm.
My latest trip occupied the bulk of August which is late winter in SA. I left on a Saturday and arrived on a Monday whilst spending 23 hours in the air and enduring a 7 hour layover in Zurich (Zurich airport is insanely clean, insanely boring and full of the least helpful and least friendly staff I have encountered anywhere). You should know that I cannot sleep on airplanes or in cars to save my life. So, when I landed it was extremely late Sunday night by my own body clock and I had woken up very early Saturday morning and then had not a single a wink of sleep since.
Day 1 I arrived at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg around 10am. Joburg isn’t very pretty from the air. Parts of it are quite interesting from the ground and other parts are places you simply do not go lest you find your day get overly interesting in a way you probably do not want it to. The freeway exits that get you to either option do not have the courtesy to tell you which option they’re taking you to. So it’s really best to have a guide. My guide (a friend actually) was/is a firearms and self-defense instructor who’d previously attended one of my long range rifle classes. A nicer and more welcoming or generous soul would be hard to find. He’s also a farmer and since he was spending a week with me in a different part of the country he decided to send his family to stay somewhere else other than the farm. The political situation on the ground being what it is this is a sensible move. Farm attacks are commonplace, with the attackers resorting to torture, rape, murder and all of the worst stuff humans can do to each other pretty much right out of the gate. Not even the courtesy to ramp things up or just kill people. Nope, they have to torture them too because, who knows. In any event, it’s a lot more stable there than you might pick up in the media or even in my writings. It’s so stable that you can find a bag of chips like those below at any gas and sip and it doesn’t matter who you are when you buy them, they’ll still sell them to you. Nobody riots over the chips. In the USA (P)Antifa would have the building that sold them burned down in minutes and the owners sent off to concentration camps.
A side note about the situation on the ground: In post-apartheid South Africa there’s a new racism which, if possible, is even stupider than you might think and vastly less helpful than the last version. Racism goes the normal way now with the majority black population taking on tones and rhetoric that even the most venomous KKK rally speakers don’t have the stones to approach. Actually, I suspect that black on white racism is how it’s always been there and certain widely hated policies like apartheid may have been logical seeming responses (at the time) to a bizarre reality. Certainly most people there do not seem to want their lives to improve. In fact, if you look at the behavior of the majority in South Africa you could be excused for starting to think that they want their lives to become more difficult if you base your assessment strictly on their actions. If you think that sounds racist, go there and take an honest look around without making excuses for people’s behavior and instead simply observe it and then tell me what you think. Walk around a small town like any town a bit, you’ll see. What you might expect of the country is what Google images shows:
What you actually get is something that actually resembles San Diego a great deal in weather, topography and flora, and which closely resembles Baltimore in almost every other way right down to the failed liberal policies that precipitate massive humanitarian catastrophes and economic collapses whilst never learning from past mistakes. South Africa is a microcosm of all of worst that a democratically elected representative government is capable of. It also shows that the government you have is usually a good approximation of the government that the people electing it might want, at least on a statistical level. So congratulations South Africa, you got what you wanted. I hope it hurts so that we can still say, “Stupidity hurts doesn’t it?”.
An extremist, other-izing and overtly racist government which forces bad policies on the people. These bad policies are simple gimme-gimme socialism and are supported by liberals worldwide who have no idea what the reality of South Africa is. Those policies have brought internal discord to new levels of rancor while contributing greatly to corruption with restultant infrastructure decay and social disharmony. All of this has lead to murders of white farmers being celebrated by popular politicians in public speeches and encouraged. It’s not like the place is on fire or that everyone is attacking everyone else. It’s more like a growing internal level of stupidity having predictable cumulative effects. As long as you stay to the areas that don’t look like they were built by syphilitic idiots you’ll probably be ok. Also stay out of places that are crammed full of people. People are bad in large groups which is why I don’t like them that way anywhere.
Farms in South Africa are almost entirely white owned for a host of reasons. The dominant (and entirely black populated) political parties blame white farmers for every reality the South African society and government (as well as foreign powers sticking their noses in for their own reasons) has brought upon itself and they vocally encourage militant aggressive action and they do it with vile and hate filled rhetoric for which they never seem to take a rebuking. That’s just not good for a society, especially mixed society. It’s mixed in a weird way too. ~4% of the population is white and by-in-large the minority are the ones paying taxes and obeying laws. The minority doesn’t have a choice but to play by the rules. It’s very bad for a white person to go to jail there. Like the worst kind of bad you could think of. It’s also bad to have an encounter of any kind with the police. The great majority are certainly not on anyone’s side but their own and corruption is standard practice. The racial majority of the population more or less appears to have the option to do things legally. They seem to ignore the laws entirely and do whatever the hell they want when they want. The authorities almost totally ignore them because even if they didn’t ignore them, the arrest would merely cost money from the state and only pauses the committing of crimes by 1 person. Anyway since no fines, much less bribes, would ever be paid anyway they seem to think, “Why bother?”. If you do have an encounter with the police there it’s more likely than not that the “fine” you may be asked to pay is actually a “bribe”. Law and order has little meaning in South Africa unless you’re in the minority, then it means everything.
Back to the main story… So, we met up with another friend whom I’d hunted with last year who I’ll call Jack since it’s easier to spell than his actual name. Anyway, he and I hanged around the airport chugging cappuccinos and scarfing down iffy burgers for a few hours while my farmer friend dealt with the hassles of getting 3 small children and a wife onto an airplane. That took 3 hours thanks to inane and recent policy changes by an individual airline. Those matters dealt with my farmer friend and I made off for a little drive to a local gun shop and then a grocery store where I expected to be able to find things like chili powder, tortillas and the like. I wanted those things because I live in California where we make the best tacos in the world, which are minted by the millions daily. I wanted therefore to make tacos for my friends in SA and maybe teach them how to make them properly. One fast food joint I never saw was a Taco Bell. I was so so so wrong about ingredient availability and while it’s a very funny story, it’ll take a bit to explain so we’ll come to the taco story in a bit.
After the grocery and gun shop tour it was several hours of driving to the farm and where we mixed bourbon, beer and cigarettes in injudicious proportions before a quick dinner of meat with a side dish of some more meat and I think some kind of potato. After the bourbon bottle got satisfyingly low we finally we made it to our respective rooms somewhere around 11pm. I woke in the morning pretty well adjusted to the sleep schedule by virtue of not having slept at all in something around 50 hours and thus having slept very soundly except for the epic nightmares that plague me whenever I travel and the headache when I came to. I was only slightly hung over. That’s kind of how the next couple days went in general. Busy bees during daylight and busy boozers during the night time hours. So, day 2-4 are necessarily something of a blur except that for at least one of those days and possibly 2 we hunted pretty hard. It was also partly a blur because I was still unsure of what day it actually was and partly because I didn’t care what day it was and fully planned not to for at least 17 more days. My heart just wasn’t in “tracking time mode”.
Upon setting out on the hunt it was expected that my friend the farmer would be able to find the desired zebra herd quickly and we’d take one of those within an hour and then spend all day tromping around looking for an eland and then finish out the day if there was any of it left with an easy to find warthog. HA! Surely no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy and this was no exception. In short: zebra were almost impossible to find, eland were standing right there waiting for us and despite warthog presenting themselves at 100m distance all day long while we were walking, we passed on every opportunity up until the last minute because, well we’re prone to that sort of decision making.
We had walked literally less than 5 minutes out of the main house and come around a corner where there’s a very large eland standing there looking delicious not even 50 yards from me. My farmer friend was looking another way and I was the first to see the eland. I said, “Eland!” and hurriedly pointed. As my friend turned to see it I quietly deployed the bipod on the .375 Ruger chambered rifle and got very quietly prone, dialed back to minimum magnification and as quietly as I could jacked a round in. The eland didn’t seem to mind any of those things to any great degree but was clearly starting to get nervous. Just as it moved one front hoof a few inches off the ground I put a 250 grain monometal bullet made in SA into its left shoulder. That shattered the shoulder and blew a large hole in the lungs and some vitally important large blood vessels. The bullet went through to the other side and broke the off-side shoulder before halting in some shoulder meat below the skin. The eland took two collapsing steps into the bush and fell on its face. It didn’t seem very conscious as we approached. It was definitely going to be all the way dead any minute but we; being merciful humans, elected to put a .308 in the head to bring about a quick end to any suffering that might ensue. That eland was meat for a neighbor and so went meat, horns and hide to them directly but, I got a picture. I’m used to boy critters having horns/antlers and the girls not having them. Eland don’t play that game. This is a female eland. The horns of the female tend to be longer and more slender compared to a bull’s horns. Still it was a beast weighing something around 1000lbs on the hoof. It took 6 men to get it onto the tractor’s platform.
We then walked all bloody day looking for the zebra herd but it was nowhere to be found. Gone like a fart in the wind. We headed back for lunch and cold fluids before going out again to another herd of zebra that was less difficult to find but challenging to stalk into. There were only 3 of those monometal 250gr pills left and they were loaded in ammo that had for some reason been set aside. We quickly found out why they were set aside. The first shot on the eland was only 50m if that and hit right where I aimed. By the time we’d stalked in on the zebra we could only get to 184m which is a dead on 200 yards. I proned out and aimed carefully with the zebra facing me and the shot hit about a foot low of where it should have. WTF! It clearly hit the zebra as there was a nasty hole in its side just behind the liver but it wasn’t bleeding heavily and I couldn’t see the entry wound. We needed to follow that shot up and put it down before it suffered much. I tried jacking the final round into the chamber but it was out of dimensional spec somewhere and jammed so hard I couldn’t open or close the bolt. I set that rifle aside and grabbed the .308 by friend was carrying and as soon as the zebra turned its side to me I put the crosshairs just behind the shoulder bones and let fly. That shot hit about 9 inches right which put it too in the bloody liver. There was no wind to speak of and I’m a pretty good shot who doesn’t get buck fever (or pony fever) but I chalked it up to a bad shot on my part anyway. That shot didn’t help at all and now the zebra faced away from us for a good 20 minutes. As soon as it gave me a side profile of the neck I lined up on the ear and put the final shot in which hit about 8 inches rearward of where I’d planed on it hitting but it snapped its neck and blew the big blood vessels apart so the pony curled up its toes and joined the choir invisible directly. My farmer friend had been wanting a zebra skin so he got the skin (hey, it’s his animal after all) and we took the meat to a processing plant where I gather that they make salami out of it and I got a picture and a once in a lifetime experience. If I want a zebra skin, they’re cheap and plentiful at Cost Plus or over the intarwebs.
After the Zebra we went out for warthog. I did manage to shoot one and it was gunna die any minute after I shot it but as warthog are wont to do, it promptly ran and dove into a hole from which it simply refused to be dislodged. We were disinclined to harass a mortally wounded warthog (it was pouring blood from an artery hit but was still pretty vocal and thrashing). So we elected to leave it be for the moment and have the workers dig it out in the morning after it’d had a little bit to die in peace, whereupon the workers would parcel out the meat and share it amongst themselves. For our part, we’d be hitting the road very early in the morning anyway so I didn’t get a chance for a picture. Sigh. The best laid plans of mice.
On the road we had a good long 8 hour drive ahead of us and only suffered one catastrophic failure on the way. Our trailer blew a wheel bearing and a tire and all we had was a spare tire. We had to use beer and soda and flecks of ice to keep the tire from overheating every 500m or so as it rubbed on the trailer chassis. We got to a little turd of a town and found a mechanic who could and would replace the wheel bearing and after another horrid South African cheeseburger (seriously, they cannot make a burger to save 10,000 lives anywhere in the whole country) we got back on the road arriving in the Karoo just about at sundown on Friday. This was handy as my friends place the sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday and observe it rather strictly. We rested until sundown the next day and then Sunday a whole bunch of people arrived and we did some long range shooting for the next 5 days. We had endless fun characterizing guns and then doing drills to work on speed and accuracy and then experimented with different ways of dealing with wind and generally had a great time. That culminated in 3 of us, me included, attempting to and subsequently putting hits on a man size steel target at 1-mile. I made the shot with a .50BMG Steyr with A-Max’s after 1 shot to get the drop sorted and another to get the wind sorted. Another shooter made it with a 6.5CM from his RPR (we had to walk that in a bit). The last guy made it with 655gr South African ball .50BMG ammo from the same Steyr I was shooting. The Sus-Tec suppressor on the Steyr really tamed the recoil and cut the blast to levels that were, if not totally ear safe, at least not super uncomfortable. I still wore plugs because I only have 25% of my hearing left and I’m stingy about giving up any more of it. I should note that I generally detest firing .50BMG’s but that Sus-Tec suppressor on that Steyr made it about as not-unpleasant as such a thing can be.
After a week of long range plinking and general good times, it was time to hunt. This time we were going for my kudu. Another friend who I call Kudu van Klipspringer (because of his habit of literally running up and down mountains that would have olympians panting and spitting) owns this farm and they’d sort of set one of the kudu bulls aside for me. If anyone else spotted it they’d say, “No that’s meccastreisand’s bull.” It was a very old bull that had done its thing and now was just fighting with other bulls and not reproducing much. Its teeth were worn down and due to the drought it was getting pretty skinny in addition to its hide looking a bit ratty with numerous bare patches. In short, it was time to pull the guy from the herd and put it in the freezer. It would not make it through the next winter and it wouldn’t make it through the current one (our summer is their winter) if I had anything to say about it. I did have something to say about it as it happens.
We stalked in over fairly rugged country for a good 3 hours before taking position in some bushes on the edge of a rock outcropping that had solid views of the 2 hills that they seemed to like to use as bridges between feeding areas. No sooner had we tucked in to the bushes and proned out did we see the first set of 15-20 kudu cows coming around the ridge towing a couple nice middle-age bulls with them. While my friend is inspecting those ANOTHER herd of 15 or so comes around with a very grey, and very clearly old bull with nice curling horns strolling in the middle of the pack. It was over 400m away at that point and my buddy and I got our wires crossed and I pitched the shot just over its back. We were crushed but I cranked that bolt handle and got back on target just in time for it to crawl into a bush for a quick nap.
The shot sent the cows and calves trotting off but not truly spooked. The bull crawled into a bush and just laid there having a snooze. We went to, let’s say, interestingly outrageous methods to try to get the bugger to stand up which it eventually did… inside the bush. It just didn’t want to leave the bush. So, lacking a perfect shot I lined up for at least an effective shot at now 375m, held for wind by 1.5mils and took the shot. We thought the kudu was facing us inside that bush but it turned out that only its head was facing us and the “shoulder” I shot was actually front end of the thigh but, the hit was such that it didn’t really destroy any meat. Instead it went through the rumen, then through the liver, through the diaphragm and then through one lung and all kinds of important large blood vessels before coming to rest in a muscle that sits on the underside of the spine between the shoulders. The bullet jacket separated on the 225gr Hornady SST after about 18 inches of penetration which SST’s have shown a habit of doing for me. Otherwise bullet performance is fully acceptable and penetration was almost 1 meter. The beastie sure felt that hit and tried to run but only took 2 steps before hosing blood from the nose and crumpling up.
We did a little more tromping around the bush but at that point it was really time to get back to farm life so we put the guns away and did farm work for a few days. We sorted sheep, we made my kudu into driewors, we handled some building construction details. General farm work which I actually like. It’s not like computer work. When you’re done with computer work you can’t see anything different in the real world, at least if you did it right. Driewors? What’s that? Well, it is a kind of traditional South African boer (farmer) sausage with coriander, clove, salt, pepper, garlic and mutton meat and fat mixed in which is then hanged for weeks to dry. It’s a bit like a really fat Slim Jim with more texture to the meat and with an entirely different spice pack which is largely clove and coriander. It tastes like Christmas if you’re an Amercan.
Each year I set up my vacation time to spend a week longer in South Africa than I think I’ll need in order to get everything on the itinerary done. Every year I find I’m short about 5 days. The first year I did 2 weeks which was way too little to even get over jet lag. This year I did 3 weeks which was way too little to actually relax properly. Next year I have a lot more planned and so I’ve got a month set aside which will of course be entirely too little. Eventually I’ll have to move there just so I can get all the things I want to do while on vacation there done. I’ve actually given some serious thought to that and will continue to do so. It’s not for everyone but being an expat in South Africa is actually pretty common and not a bad way to go if you start out in an industrialized western European country or north American country that’s not Mexico. Your money goes a lot further there, largely because their economy sucks and has little hope of improving under the current system of government.
Of course who can visit South Africa without picking up some souvenirs? Not me and certainly not with my friends in the mix. One of them hooked me up with a Triggercam. This is super cool. It’s a camera that goes on your scope but doesn’t interfere with the normal operation of the scope and it records full motion HD video and sound. It’s really quite brilliant. Invented in South Africa and initially distributed only there, I’m showing it on in the USA and I think that that will cause them to revise their FAQ about where they will and will not ship to. They run about $500 but it’s really worth it if you need to make videos showing what’s going on in the optic and don’t want the hassle and poor usability of a phone-scope dealie (which suck by the way). It has wifi so you can connect your phone to its network and get live video streamed to your phone while you record video. It even fits my US Optics SN3’s which have a massive occular bell and it looks like it’ll go slightly larger than even that which I guess helps if you want to look down an actual wine barrel. For professional hunters this is liquid gold. They can see what their clients see and help to make them more successful and safer. For Americans, we like to show people all of our shit so we can humble-brag about it and especially we like to do that with video. What better humble-brag engine than cherry picked video taken from a $500 scope camera instead of some janky phone-scope adapter that just makes shooting harder anyway.
In addition to the Triggercam, I also picked up a new chassis stock. This has some cool features that I don’t want to discuss here until the intellectual property stuff is dealt with but it has features that no other chassis anywhere in the world has, it’s made of 7075 aluminum (much stronger than the 6061 that most chassis stocks are made of) and it’s cheaper than its competitors. Better materials, innovative features, ultra precision machining, lower price, cleaner lines. That’s what you call a better mousetrap. It’s got the obvious adjustable length of pull and adjustable cheek-rest height and adjustable butt pad height but none of those are innovative. The other thing that I’m keeping secret for now, that’s innovative. If you want one of these they’re $900 as an introductory price and they are made to fit Howa 1500 short actions. We’ll be adding Savage and Remington and Tikka actions and long and short action length options to the line as quickly as possible.
Finally, I brought home my trophies from Africa from last year. My eland (center) and my springbok (right) now share a wall with my 5×5 blacktail deer rack. The springbok skin is now draped elegantly over the back of my sofa and is not pictured. The size of that eland skull really gives some idea of the initial size of the animal. I plan to put the kudu skull up in a European mount below the eland so the horns come up on either side of the eland skull. There’s no other way it’ll fit. The horns are almost a meter long and with the skull it’s going to be well over a meter tall.
Now for the taco story. I had planned on making proper tacos for everyone in SA. The least I could do since they showed me all around their cuisine, several items of which are life changers. We stopped at a grocery store in Pretoria looking just for tortillas or even just flatbread and a few simple spices. No dice on that and especially no dice on the spices I needed, particularly chili powder. They have a thing they call peri-peri but if you don’t know what’s inside the package it might surprise you as to the level of spiciness or lack thereof. White South Africa is not a spicy food loving people from what I can see. Salt and pepper usually do them just right. So, we went to a grocery store in Bloomfontein. No dice there either. They had though thing I needed to buy in high quality and low quantity and right then: ground beef. I got a kilogram of ground beef which they call “mince”. I don’t like verbs being used for nouns so I called it ground beef or hamburger and translated each time I used the terms to anyone.
I also tried a grocery store in Edenburg. Well, if you can call it that. It had literally: piles of orange Fanta, 2 bags of wheat flour, a can of something illegible, a bunch of bags of cornmeal and some sad looking sandwiches which I hope to hell were for display only. It was also where I’d purchased the two singularly most hideous cheeseburgers I think I’ve ever stuck in my face hole. I think it’s to do with Dutch Calvinism… you can’t be a Dutch Calvinist and enjoy a truly good hamburger. At least that’s how it seems but, I digress. That grocery didn’t even have bread that was not already devoted to vomit inducing sandwiches and burgers so we decided to sally forth and forsake the orange Fanta and corn meal.
Finally we come to a little town called Willowmore where I have been before (it’s home to a coffee shop called Sophie’s Choice) and there was some kind of cycling competition in town that weekend meaning there were 50,000 brandy sozzled people in sun hats in town instead of the more normal <1000 people not in hats of any kind. I don’t like crowds. Crowds in Africa are a fantastic way for you to find out how bad of a day you can really have. I really don’t like crowds of pasty drunks in sun hats. Crowds in Africa give me a special kind of the heebie jeebies. Mix all three liberally together and I’m looking for an exit sign.
So as we dodged traffic and traded off leaving one person in the pickup whilst the other gathered supplies, I finally found my way in to the 3rd of the 3 grocery stores after the first two were beyond completely hopeless. Again, grocery store is a misleading term for Americans to see here. It implies certain levels of variety and availability which simply do not exist anywhere in Africa much less in Podunkville in the province of “Other”. Wouldn’t you know it, not only did I find 4 packages of crunchy taco shells with a convincingly Mexican sounding brand name but right bloody next to them was 4 packages of “Taco Seasoning” by the same vaguely Mexican sounding company. All I needed now was jalapenos, right. Ha! I hate jalapeños. What I needed was sour cream, shredded cheese, ripe avocados, ripe tomato, lime and shredded lettuce. I managed to source all but the lettuce from KVK’s wife and I eschewed the jalapeños because they’re disgusting. Besides, if folks there are skeered of a little spice packet such that anything outside salt and pepper is considered spicy, they’ll get downright negative about jalapeño peppers even in cooked form. The tacos were a 100% hit. KVK’s eldest daughter actually danced while eating them. Her siblings were equally as excited but a great deal less dancy about it. I made sure that my host’s family got first serving before telling the guy about it. Just to make sure they got some. The whole group of guys then piled in and trepidatiously tried what they came to find out was the food of the gods. I know it’s mean to introduce people to something delicious that they simply cannot even fabricate in their country due to lacking availability of ingredients. I really do. I also love the idea that one day each of those people will come visit me here in California and the first question they ask will be, “Is there anywhere good to get tacos around here?” to which I’ll be able to respond, “Well, it’s funny you should ask. I think the answer would be ‘literally anywhere’. Even Chinese food restaurants here have good tacos these days.” But I won’t take them out for tacos. We’ll drive the hour and a half to my place and then spend an hour making tacos. Crunchy tacos, soft tacos, corn flour tortilla tacos, wheat flour tortilla tacos, tacos al’ carbon, tacos guisado, tacos de carnitas, tacos de carne asada, tacos de pescado, tacos de lengua, tacos al pastor and of course, the magical Choco Taco.
Recipe for Tacos de Africa:
Find taco shells in Africa (One of 3 grocery stores in Willowmore, Western Cape, South Africa has these normally in stock.).
Find taco seasoning in Africa.
Find pico de gallo in Africa (this is optional because it’s actually impossible.).
Find ground beef in Africa.
Prepare as directed.
Place a large table spoon of prepared and seasoned taco meat into the bottom of a warmed taco shell. Add a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Just a sprinkle, a lot does not help. Add a dollop of pico de gallo. Then a dollop of sour cream. Then add a dollop of guacamole. Then top with a spoonful of chopped tomato.
WARNING: Lettuce has no place on a taco. If you put some on one then you are at fault for how it turns out. Also, you’ll burn in heck. Heck, I say.
The motivation here was to test Modern Spartan Systems line of gun cleaning kit against established known quantities with proven performance. Their promise of no foul smell, lack of toxicity and some of the other claims they made caused me to get curious enough to do a Pepsi challenge for their whole cleaning system. This includes Accuracy Oil; which claims to increase velocity & cut group size & extend barrel life. It also includes their Carbon Destroyer and Copper/Lead Destroyer and their Carbon Destroyer.
I’ve already started long term testing of their Accuracy Oil’s claims at longer barrel life and improvements in velocity, group size and consistency. Those experiments are continuing and I’ve built an impressive data set so far with more coming in every week. In the meantime, the fundamental ability of the fouling removal products to perform like they say it will had not yet been established by any kind of usefully conducted experiment I could find. So, I’m doing it. I’ve already put the Carbon Destroyer up to the Pepsi challenge and it flat works. It’s pleasant enough to use and worked like a charm on everything from revolvers to pistols to high power modern rifles to black powder cartridge rifles. The way it worked on our set of Trapdoor Springfields was terrific. What about the big one though…COPPER!?! Let’s git’er done.
I’ve got enough barrels around with sufficient fouling, including some I’m entirely willing to destroy, to give a good test of effectiveness and side-effects. In the spirit of experimentation I set up the first round of testing with 3 barrels:
Stock Glock 21 barrel. 1000’s of rounds since being cleaned.
Savage 10 .308 24″ heavy barrel, >500 rounds since cleaning.
Black Hole Weapons 26″ .223 barrel > 200 rounds since cleaning.
Cliff’s Notes: In short, MSS’s Copper/Lead Destroyer is very effective. Zero question about that.
More detailed findings and experimental procedure:
C/L-D not as strong as Sweet’s by a mile nor is it as strong as Wipe-Out as a copper remover but it’s a lot more pleasant to use than Sweet’s and less messy than Wipe-Out. This is about removing copper and copper fouling is hard to remove well without damaging the barrel steel. You either get mechanical action which is by definition damaging to the bore or you get chemical action which may be damaging to the bore. Bore damage can be dependent on the length of time of exposure to chemical agents and some of them are really nasty for everyone involved.
To start I took a G21 barrel that had been belled just in front of the chamber by a squib. It had previously had Carbon Destroyer run through it and then was soaked overnight (26 hours) in Copper/Lead Destroyer, hosed out and stored. I ran some Wipe-Out into it and gave it 15 minutes to soak and pushed a patch through. Zero color change on the patch. Then I ran some Sweet’s in it and let that soak for 5 minutes and pushed a patch through. Zero color change on the patch.
Ok, that’s the null result I was expecting. The barrel was clearly clean of copper to begin with but you don’t know the state of fouling before the 26 hour soak. Could have been a lot, could have been a little, could have been none for all you know, right?
Now to find the more interesting results. I took a factory Savage .308 Win barrel that I’d abused and not cleaned in literally years. It had at least a couple hundred rounds put through it before it got yanked and set aside. I started by running patch of Sweet’s through the barrel without running a brush through it, hoping that the carbon that stayed behind would protect some of the copper from the Sweet’s to serve as an indicator later. It came out with gooey gobs of blue on the patch with no soak at all, just applied and patched out. I immediately took the barrel outside and hosed it out for a solid couple minutes to keep the Sweet’s from finishing the job. I plugged the breech with a .45acp case and filled the bore with Copper/Lead Destroyer and gave it 2 hours to soak. After the soak I ran a patch through it a couple times (remember, no color change on the patches, C/L-D doesn’t do that) and then went and hosed it out. Now I needed to see if there was any copper still in there so I took the Wipe-Out and ran that in the barrel and gave it a 20 minute soak. After pushing a patch through what I found were traces of blue streaking on the patch and plenty of black and brown. Not much blue but enough to tell me that the carbon was in fact protecting the copper. There wasn’t enough copper coming out to make a good finish up to the experiment on that barrel so I reset the experiment by virtue of moving on to the .223 barrel.
The .223 barrel started with at least 200 rounds since the last even partial cleaning so it got a thorough carbon removal with Carbon Destroyer. When patches wrapped around a bore brush came out without any black or brown on them, I called that done. I put a fired case in the breech, closed the bolt and then filled the bore with Copper/Lead Destroyer and let it soak for 2 hours. Then I pushed a pair of patches through which came out not much different than they went in. Now to see if the C/L-D worked I ran a patch of sweet’s down the bore, gave it a solid 3 minutes to soak and pushed another patch though looking for color change and got NONE AT ALL. That was a null result I did not honestly expect. I expected to find some copper remaining, I mean Sweet’s is as aggressive as it gets. But no.
What’s that all mean? Leave the Copper/Lead Destroyer to soak a while and it works as thoroughly as Sweet’s or Wipe-Out. I really like using C/L-D way more than Sweet’s. I can’t even stand opening the bottle on that cat piss smelling Sweet’s. I actually really like Wipe-Out too and will continue to use it at the range because it’s super easy to deal with there. At home though, I think I’ve found my new cleaning product suite. All the chemicals I need are now finally not unpleasant.
Modern Spartan Systems – Copper/Lead Destroyer: No bad smell. A detergent-y smell similar to cold bluing solution is what it reminds me of most. The directions say you can leave in barrel safely for many hours, even overnight. I left it in a G21 barrel for 26 hours with no adverse affect noted. MUST use a carbon solvent prior to applying for it to be properly effective. Modern Spartan’s carbon remover works great. Getting C/L-D to stay wet in the barrel was another story. It dried quickly in my low humidity area. I eventually stuffed a fired case in the breech, stood the barrel up and filled the bore on rifles. On pistols it was easier to soak a narrow strip of paper towel in it and thread that down the bore and let it sit that way overnight. Directions say 3-5 minutes of soak. I got best results on heavy fouling after 2 hours. No color change on the patch so it’s a little hard to “know” when you’re done.
Wipe-Out: It’s got a smell but nothing like Sweet’s. Can leave in barrel overnight, no ammonia. It’s a foam that expands so some will end up in your action and it’ll probably drip out of the muzzle so, a little messy to use. Patch’s change color to blue if copper is present. Works on carbon and copper. Usually 15 minutes is more than sufficient as a soak time.
Sweet’s 7.62: Super strong ammonia smell. Do not leave in barrel longer than necessary, clean residue off skin and gun thoroughly immediately after use. Known to be hard on steel. Must use carbon remover prior for full effectiveness.
I have video and all that jazz but it’s not very interesting TV. It’s just me slowly, methodically and painfully boringly working out the surprisingly obvious. On the upside, MSS’s stuff works like a dream so far. I can officially endorse the Copper and Lead Destroyer and the Carbon Destroyer because I have proven beyond any doubt that they work as advertised.