It doesn’t get much more telling than seeing it on video. This was taken through my US Optics 3.8-22x58mm with CaPRC reticle. Watch for some language. It’s a match and I don’t hear well so there’s entirely likely to be some I don’t know about.
TriggerCam came through with great results. I even played with the zoom on the scope and that turned out great. Battery life wasn’t bad. The match has 8 stages and I managed to get video of 5 stages from an 80% full battery before shutting it down at 17% and proceeding without it for the rest of the day. As it turns out, I did better with the TriggerCam on the gun than without it. Something about being recorded made me try harder I guess.
Durability is there. I am not gentle with my kit and the match is pretty fast moving. I handled my rifle case roughly, the day was pretty darned hot and I switched back and forth from free recoil to heavily loading the bipod. The unit never got in the way of fiddling with my scopes assorted knobs and turrets. Weight is around a pound but I didn’t measure it. It’s not ultra light. You can feel that there’s good quality glass and plenty of battery in there.
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.
So we have initial results. I’d like to thank you all for the views on my video.
We will be testing this die set more over the next year. This is out of my pocket and out of my own curiosity. I have the credit card bills and had the arguments with my wife to show for it. I must caution, because of some things people seem to have in their heads, that this isn’t ever going to make a 1″ gun into a .5″ gun. Anyone suggesting such a thing is either a fool or a liar. What you should be expecting is to reduce variability in your ammo which reduces things like flyers & SD’s. Effects on group size, maybe small ones should be expected as a normal effect of better consistency but because barrel harmonics are involved there so heavily it’s best to keep your hopes in check and out of the land of silliness.
I set up a partially blinded experiment with unfired, 2x fired and >5x fired cases. We (Coach and I) sized up 50rds of each from my Exact die and 50 of each from Coach’s Redding die and tested that in Coach’s rifle. Coach’s rifle has somewhere over 1900rds down the pipe now which is a concern as you’ll see soon. We set the ammo up identically in everything from components to neck tension. We ran 10 shot groups which were composed of 2 non-consecutive 5-shot groups fired at the same aim point. Coach loaded, packed and labelled the ammo boxes (labels are “1” and “2”) and didn’t tell me till after the shooting was done which was which. I pulled the rounds from the boxes, logged data and called the target to engage while coach did the shooting. That way neither of us knew during shooting which ammo was being fired at any given time. That was the best way I could think of for me to pull out experimenter induced bias with a research team of 2.
The result of the first accuracy test was null. That is to say that the numbers difference in average group size was not outside the level of statistical noise. The exception was with brand new brass. It always shot more consistently than reloaded brass and so I removed those results from the full data set due to the noise they introduced. We also weren’t meant to be testing new brass as that would not apply anyway but I wanted that data for another experiment I’ve been running. This is all precisely what was expected. I expected no big result (but certainly hoped for one) in accuracy simply by going to full length resizing and having extremely consistent neck tension and headspace.
Because the result is null though, we’ll re-run the experiment on that rifle just before we replace the barrel, just to verify the results reproduce reliably. We also did some velocity testing as part of that and there was no statistical change in average velocities or SD’s except that in the new brass loads but it was more consistent set to set. Why pull the barrel? The rifle used for that run of the experiment now has ~1900 rounds through it in 6XC with a single load spec (38.5gr H4350, F210M, Norma brass, 115gr HBN coated DTAC). The load is mild; generating only 2800fps, but we know that that barrel is within a few hundred of being pulled on principle; if not actual need, as far as match work goes and it may not be capable of the repeatable accuracy that might show up with the Exact die. So, we’ll try another barrel. A new one. Actually, a new two! So stay tuned, there’s more to come.
In September I purchased 2x new barrels which I got as blanks from the same production run (from Black Hole Weapons). I purchased a new custom reamer in 6XC that produces a chamber that is very tight to the dimensions of the Exact die. Thankfully you can order a reamer with any number of customizations and it’s still the same price as a custom reamer with just 1 custom dimension. Unfortunately it takes weeks for such a reamer to be made. Over the winter I handed the whole works over to a gunsmith friend of mine that also makes ultra-precise gauges as a business. So, he has the equipment and skills to set up barrels that are truly as identical as we could make them and identical enough for a useful experiment to come out of it despite a sample size that’s extremely small.
Anyway, I got both barrels cut, profiled and chambered identically. It was at great cost too. The cost to set each one up was double what I normally pay him to set up a barrel for me for each barrel with over 15 hours of work on each one. These are our new match barrels for the next 2 seasons too. Coach and I will be shooting from the same ammo box so we can share data. Maybe we’ll pick up a few points on same-day wind calls.
We did have a non-null result and from a different direction, which I also predicted. That was that with loads that were sized with my ExactShooting.com die we never had trouble closing the bolt. It was, in fact, always exactly the same effort. On the cases that we sized on the Redding neck die that Coach uses bolt close effort was either not much or a TON. Some post-facto testing later on with coach’s FL die showed the same random bolt close effort. This is obviously due to random headspacing which means that Coach’s FL die probably needs a thou or two buzzed off the bottom. Irrelevant though because we’re testing what’s available out of the box and his FL die out of the box didn’t cut it so I suspect that a lot of FL dies out there may be a little long or short and aren’t sizing things like people think they are.
That is only the results from a well used barrel. We will be running this exact same test using the 2 newly set up barrels. One will be on the same gun (Coach’s match rifle) while its twin which now has just under 400 rounds on it is on a different my “Hot Dog Gun” match rifle. I don’t expect any difference but I could wind up being surprised. The new barrel on Hot Dog Gun is extremely accurate so far, better than Coach’s rifle on its first day. We’ve already developed a load for the new barrel that runs things a bit faster (2980fps) so hopefully with more pressure more differences might start to manifest.
One of the cool things about the ES die is you can pull the body/shoulder portion out and still use the neck sizing portion which itself is easily adjustable for neck tension and neck sizing depth. When you start getting hard bolt close you can dial in .0005″ or .001″ or .0015″ or whatever amount of push-back on the shoulder with an easy click adjustment and know it’ll give that to you exactly. We’ll be running a neck tension accuracy test here real soon. We’ll see if .0005″ increments makes real differences on paper. First though, I’m ordering some brand new brass for that test.
Cost is fairly high for these dies but not unprecedented. That’s true but, beside the point. If you have the money then that’s not an issue anyway. Functionality is THE issue. It’s perfectly functional and makes it super easy to dial in neck tension at .0005″ increments for those really finicky loads, to dial neck sizing depth at .020″ increments and to dial how far back you actually push your shoulders in .0005″ increments. They’ll make one to a reamer print too. How precise are the dies? Well I had my machinist do some gauging to see if they were that precise and he was pretty darned impressed.
For benchrest guys and F-class guys, I think this is really packing the potential to up their game a bit but only because those guys tend toward having done everything else already. BR and F-class are the only places I can think of of offhand where neck tension and headspacing are tightly controlled by the shooters both routinely and with an obsession rarely seen.
Is it going to help joe sixpack? Well no, to be honest. Joe doesn’t know enough to get the potential benefit to begin with. Owners of this die will 100% want to keep their brass sorted by number of firings. They’ll know about what spring back is and why it’s important to them and a lot more. They will be the type that can’t deal with unexpected 5’s instead of 0’s or 1’s in the 4th decimal place of a measurement. The right owner for this die is someone very much like me in the respect that they are prone to setting up narrowly defined experiments and to analyze the statistical data that results before forming opinions. They’re nerds.
For Coach and I the benefit is being able to share ammo and ballistics data in a match, not running out of time anymore on match stages due to bolt cycling problems, not overworking or insufficiently sizing the brass and being able to make subtle adjustments with truly minimal effort as precisely as adjusting a tactical rifle scope.
Epic scope. My only gripes (except the price point) are very minor quibbles in reality. Same perfect tracking, same great glass (actually some of the best ever in a USO), some real improvements in the turret setups. Some things are not so much improvements as changes but you can’t turn your nose up at a USO.
I’m running a .243AI set up by Columbia River Arms (formerly Black Hole Weaponry) about a year ago. It’s a pre-chambered drop-in with a pretty tightly necked chamber set up by CRA. I’ve got it set at zero head space so between that and the Ackley Improved case there’s zero brass growth after 4-5 firings.
It’s got just a touch over 1000 rounds down the pipe and appears to be going strong. So far I’ve only had to push the bullet out .010 and add .1gn powder to keep everything tight to my original load spec. I don’t know what kind of life the pipe has left in it. I’m running 115gn 6mm DTAC bullets at 3200fps with a modest charge of very slow burning powder (RL-23). Pressures are pretty mellow but it’s, for sure, burning that powder all the way down the barrel. This is evidenced by the fact that there’s just the tiniest bit of flash in the first chamber of my brake that’s visible in low light conditions.
In a more conventional barrel I’d guess I’ve have between 100 and 300 rounds more life before it’s just not match grade anymore (based on a 1200-1500rnd life expectancy) but I would also expect substantially more throat erosion than I’ve gotten to this point if that were the case. I started with uncoated 108ELD’s and quickly went to HBN (hexagonal boron nitride) coated 115DTAC’s. The rebated boat tail and pointed tip on the DTAC’s pulls the BC up to .620 which puts me up to 1mile of supersonic range. So far it’s been as far as 1500yrds and proven itself very capable.
Out of the gate I was getting 10 shot groups like those below (these are fireforming and load development groups, the first loads out of the barrel). After a little refinement they settled down to repeatable .5-.7MOA across 10 shots with single digit SD’s (5fps across over 100 rounds loaded in 3 sessions). The thing has since then been ridiculously consistent. Once I found an optic I could deal with in matches (I hated the turrets on Vortex Razor 2’s, U.S. Optics ER-25 was just too damned big, SWFA 16×42 was too much minimum magnification, etc… nitpicky stuff) in the form of the U.S. Optics SN3 3.8-22x58mm with a custom made PRS oriented reticle and 35mm main tube, I really started to have some fun with it including punishing the rifle with 10 shots strings in 90 seconds on hot days (hey, that’s the stage on the match). I wasn’t going to take it easy on this barrel.
I crossed the 1000 round mark in the summer of 2018 at a match and I’d thought the barrel might be toasted then due to some repeated and huge misses on otherwise simple shots. It was so convincing that I decided to not take the rifle with me to Africa on a hunting trip. Turns out it was just me. I clearly did something wrong to make those misses. I know that because I went out again this month to teach a long range precision rifle class and demonstrated most drills and techniques with my .243AI. It started out by making a .5″ 5 shot group @ 100 yards. At the end of the class it got to be time to see what I could do under some performance pressure so I got right down into the prone with my Columbia River Arms barreled Savage 10FPSR, dialed the parallax on my U.S. Optics SN3 3.8-22×58, extended the Accuracy Solutions BipodEXT, set the Accu-Tac SR-5 bipod to 45deg forward and slapped a 6″ 900 yard 5 shot group on the steel rapid fire in direction shifting 5-15mph winds while the student body looked on.
I’m using 45.6gn of powder now. It started at 45.5gn of Reloader 23 in a very tight chamber with Hornady brass. By the book one should expect to see 3000-3100fps with 44-45gn of powder in a 24-inch barrel with 100gn to 105gn bullets. I’m getting 3200fps with 115’s and only 45.6gn in a 26″ barrel. I’d expect to see 25fps or thereabouts per inch of barrel after 24″ but certainly not 50fps per inch from barrel length alone and not with a heavier longer bullet. I’m also not even remotely pushing this round. I can go another 3gn of powder before even starting to flatten primers but 3300fps only serves to damage steel targets and is technically against the rules. 3200fps is max so that’s what I’m running. I already damage quite a few targets at 3200fps anyway so I don’t need any help in that department.
Typically as I wear out a barrel I’ll see it shoot fine, fine, fine, start to open up, plateau, fine at plateau, open up more, open up more, open up more and it’s all downhill from there. After the plateau if it doesn’t quickly plateau again it’s getting there and it’s time to start planning my next pipe. I’ve already started planning my next pipe, a 6XC to match an identical one we’ll put on Coach’s gun. Nonetheless, this barrel is still good. Question is, for how long?
I know from prior experience that I get a little longer barrel life from the polygonal rifling that CRA uses. I’ve not burned out enough of their barrels to get a useful statistical value for how much longer but I can speculate based on the limited data I do have. Right now, given the throat wear and grouping we’re getting on Coach’s existing 6XC; which is at 1500 rounds so far, and the expected life of that Shilen barrel being around 2200-2300 rounds, I’m estimating; and trying to be extremely conservative in that estimation, that I’ll make it to 1800 rounds or further before this .243AI pipe is really done for match work. (See update below).
That’s almost 40% longer barrel life than I initially anticipated, if it gets there. We knew that the HBN coating on the bullets would help barrel life but probably only marginally so I’m confident it’ll get to 1500rds. We knew the CRA polygonal rifling means no sharp edges for the burning powder plasma to ablate would help too. We knew the Ackley shoulder angle would keep the flame vertex inside the case neck and that that would help too.
It’s just with all those things helping, we have no idea where this train is going to stop. If I go on throat erosion alone, calculating how far until the boat tail is up inside the case neck, then I’m looking at almost 3000 rounds of barrel life. That’d be 230% of anticipated barrel life and I just don’t see that as being realistic given the amount of powder being burned and the rapidity with which I shoot in matches. I’ll get that barrel pretty hot sometimes.
I get higher velocities than one might expect from less powder than one might expect. I get longer barrel life than one would expect. I get amazingly accurate and consistent performance, moreso than one might expect (especially for a drop-in pre-fit). The thing turned out sub-MOA groups with fire forming loads. It did not like 55gn varmint bullets at all though. No surprise on an 8 twist. The chamber on it is very tight. It’s meant for someone who’s willing to turn necks if necessary (my inside neck diameter on a fired case is .2435). Thankfully I don’t have to neck turn. Lucky me, everything just fits perfectly. When I ordered it I specified that I would not be put off by a possible requirement to neck turn brass if that were what their reamer would require.
Much of this situation was and is by design. When I initially decided I wanted a fast 6mm I found what my options were and then picked a chamber that would maximize performance, brass life and throat life. I picked a powder that would give maximum velocities without pressures being tall or a lot of flash. I picked projectiles that had very high BC’s and would be routinely available in boxes of 500 (including a primary and backup bullet). I set up a load that performs identically with both bullets and shoots to the same point of aim, just in case I’m unable to re-up on one I can use my backup supply of the other. I bought all of the brass, powder and primers I expected to ever use in this barrel ahead of time (8lbs of powder, looks like I might need another 8lbs). Everything about the gun except the optic I’d settle on was decided before the barrel even arrived. Best of all, the barrel was set up to CRA’s rigorous standards which means it was done perfectly and it was under $400.
So why am I building a 6XC now? Well Coach and I shoot together. It’s best if we have one set of ballistics DOPE and shoot the exact same load through identical chambers. It’s actually best if we share a gun but I like mine and he likes his. We find that when we can use drop and wind corrections from each other that we win more matches. Duh. If I run a stage and miss 2 of 7 shots on wind, I can tell him what the adjustments would have been and what the wind was for those misses then he can adjust accordingly and pick up those points and vice versa. (Update: Coach has left the BallisticXLR team.)
So, I’ve got 2 new barrels on the way from CRA, 27″ 6mm 8-twist unprofiled blanks which we’ll have a local gunsmith chamber, thread and profile for us in 6XC with a .264 neck (CRA doesn’t have a 6XC reamer or I’d have them do it). We’ll set them up for zero head space to minimize brass growth and then we’ll use my new ExactShooting.com Custom Collection sizing die to perfectly set the head space and neck tension of our reloaded ammo. We’ll be as close to shooting the same rifle as two guys can possibly get. If you want faster velocities, longer barrel life and one heck of an accurate barrel, you could do a lot worse than to drop Columbia River Arms a line.
UPDATE: November 2019
Hot Dog Gun’s barrel finally gave it up. Throat erosion made it to the point that ammo was longer than mag length and if I made the ammo fit in the mag then group sizes opened up to almost 2MOA with tons of flyer action. The final round count was 1800+. So I took that barrel off and had my gunsmith gauge it. He found that the bore was still .239 which is exactly what it was when it was brand new. So we’ve cut the chamber off and run my 6XC reamer into it as well as cutting the tenon for M26x1.5 to stuff into my new Howa 1500 receiver. It’s got a new crown as well. We’re going to shoot this rifle till it starts key-hole-ing. Right now I’m betting that I’ll get a full 2000 rounds from this barrel. Probably a little more as we’re using HBN coated bullets. Let’s see.
It’s simple: In normal form a bipod will be about 1/2 way between the muzzle and the butt of the rifle. By adding a BipodeXt from Accuracy Solutions you’ll move your bipod forward by from several inches to a couple feet. This takes the pivoting load off of the fulcrum and puts it all to one side of the fulcrum meaning that it takes a larger effort on the butt side to make the a change in the muzzle direction than it used to. You could even (and I do) extend your bipod out a few inches (or quite a number of inches on <24″ barrels) in front of your muzzle making the system as rock stable as it could possibly be.
Here’s how stable it is: I don’t carry toe supports for my rifle anymore. I don’t need them. Ever again. The video below is using a BDC reticle which is sensitive to hold by its very nature. I got my 2nd highest .223rem score with the BDC on it only because I had the BipodEXT on it too.
I could spend all day telling you about every detail and if you want me to, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask me. If on the other hand you’re willing to accept that someone that knows what they’re talking about is telling you that with one gadget your groups will shrink, your hits will increase, your misses will decrease, you’ll have more fun and you’ll not have to spend a HUGE amount of money to get there from here. Usually I’d call that snake oil but it’s not and I’ve taken a year of using the thing to be 100% sure. It doesn’t even matter what position you want to shoot from, the BipodeXt will help you get more stable when properly utilized. It can’t not because trigonometry is what its leveraging (pardon the pun) and you can’t make real numbers work 2 ways in 1 equation. 1 equation always yields 1 answer.
So, now I can say without a hint of gun writer contrivance or the slightest prevarication that this is the best 300-500 bucks you’ll spend on your long range shooting rig. You will thank me later. If I didn’t know it’s helping me I wouldn’t take the extra effort to hump it around all day at my monthly precision rifle match (it’s a hiking match, any weight reduction is good). I leave the thing on my rifle full time because there’s no good reason to remove it given the benefits I get from it. I’m sure you’ll see things the same way in very short order.
You can see the stability I’m getting from that bipod position being so far in front of the usual position at the mid-point of the rifle. Geometry doesn’t lie.
When I picked it up, I got it only because it could take my 20 & 30 round AR-15 magazines and I was in to squirrel shooting and preparing a trip to Cedarville, CA for their annual Squirrel Wars event. I was going to not spend all day loading mags this time and didn’t want to use an AR-15 again. Bolt action seemed better.
I ran over to my closest Big5 Sporting Goods and they had one on the rack with a $50 off sale price. So I snagged that right up. It was a 24″ varmint model and I was happy as a clam, for about 2 days. Within those 2 days I pulled it apart and found it was bedded with plastic, the stock leaned to the right down the barrel channel and action screw torque was unrepeatable. Fine. It’ll shoot. Right?
Well, I tossed on a Bushnell 10x40mm optic, some Burris Signature Series 1″ rings and a bipod and went to the range with some steel cased russian 55gn FMJ. The gun printed nothing inside 1.5″ at 100yrds. Ok, let’s start replacing parts. That’s always the right thing to do. Right? Using better ammo wouldn’t help, obviously. That said, I did start some handloads for it and found it had certain proclivities toward heavy weight bullets and being pushed to primer popping pressures.
So, I found out the Bushnell optic was not tracking consistently. While it was back at Bushnell being replaced (This is a common theme with the 10×40’s. Of 4 of them I’d bought, 3 needed RMA’d) I added a 16×42 fixed power SWFA SS optic and 30mm Burris Signature Series rings. I took that out squirrel shooting and was not impressed. Accuracy with 40-55gn ammo was horrid. With heavier stuff it started performing though. So, change of plans. It’s not a squirrel gun anymore. It’s a match rifle. See, I’d just gotten into a regular local prone long range precision match and needed something inexpensive to shoot there. Well, one trip in and that factory stock was shit-canned. Replaced with an MDT LSS chassis, DPMS PSG-1 pistol grip and a Magpul MOE buttstock. That did really well and I managed to turn in the 2nd highest score ever with a .223 at my regular long range match. That still stands. I haven’t bested it to date.
Not too much time passed and I came into a big bonus so I wanted a major optics upgrade. A quick call to US Optics and I had 2x ST-10’s on the way for various rifles. Epic scopes. Simply wonderful. I took that out with my spotter/best friend, The Disco Tripper, and we turned in some groups on steel. Man that combo could shoot. Running 70gn Berger VLD’s and 75gn Hornady BTHP it was an easy gun to hit long range steel with. I mostly kept those ST-10’s on my bigger guns and used the 16x SWFA optics though. They’re a lot harder to use than an ST-10 but I wanted the extra magnification for the aim-small-miss-small thing.
Once we got to this point my coach started harassing me about trying a bedding job on the chassis. So we grabbed some epoxy and fully bedded the recoil lug and skim bedded the action. I also added a MOE cheek riser to the butt. Instant improvement came from the bedding in that no more flyers plagued me. That settled her ass down nicely and I shot quite a few matches as well as a bunch of informal plinking sessions with the gun. The cheek riser had the rifle as comfortable as if it were injection molded around me. I’ve not yet gotten the rifle in its current form to fit quite that nicely, mostly due to time.
I have been able to shoot the living piss out of it regardless of whatever else is going on because it’s a .223 and very inexpensive to load for. That’s been a saving grace with this project.
It was about the time that my barrel was starting to really age that I also decided to upgrade basically all of my scopes. I started with some more US Optics in the form of an ER-25 for my .308. Not the best choice. It worked great on the big 7mm Remington Magnum (below far left) but not so much on the .308. It was also just too damned big for my safe. No rifle fit in there with the ER-25 on it so I had to bounce that optic and began a long journey of horse trading to end up with what I have now which is more US Optics but these fit in my safe and you’ll see them further down in this article. One thing I was really trying to nail down was parts commonality so I could take parts off of one and put them on another if the occasion arose that it was necessary. My mindset was really into TEOTWAWKI at the time. I’m in a better place now that President Daddy is in the White House.
It wasn’t too long after I’d bounced the larger US Optics ER-25 and an ST-10 in favor of a set of Vortex Razor 2 HD’s. One in 3-18×50 and the other in 4.5-27×56. They are excellent scopes but I hate hate hate pinch screws on turret knobs for exactly the reason that I bounced those Vortex optics. They loosen enough to not adjust when you twist em’ but they still click and it happened multiple times on both turrets of both scopes. Plus they’re heavy as all get out and the 3-18x on the MVP was in MOA because that’s what I could get at the time. All combined I just was not happy. So, I looked around and looked around and finally after almost a year found a US Optics B-17 I could sell the 3-18x Razor and buy. Excellent choice. I guess I’m just a US Optics guy.
I ditched the factory trigger early on and got myself a Jard and a Timney. The Timney spends most time on the rifle. The Jard is special purpose and breaks at just ounces. It’s not a safe trigger for most use cases but it’s brilliant when I’m trying to hit chicken eggs at 500m. The Timney doesn’t have that annoying blade in the middle of it but otherwise is set about the same, 2.5lbs.
The first Razor 2 to go away was the 4.5-27x Razor II because I had a buyer for it and something on the line to replace it with. I sold it and had enough money left to buy a used US Optics SN3 3.8-22×44 ERGO on a 35mm tube in MOA with a really slick Dragunov style reticle that heavily uses chevrons. It’s a battle ready optic for sure. My coach decided to get into long range prone though and needed a scope so that went on his gun. Now I needed another. Begin the long look for just the right swap.
I shot Project Rolling Stone in variations of one form for a good long time. Long enough to burn out the barrel. Truth be told I’d more or less killed that barrel the week I got the gun. I had a bunch of steel cased Russian bulk ammo with bullets that were copper washed steel and started the gun on those. That must have eaten half the barrel life. By the time I’d had around 3K rounds out of it (IIRC, it’s been a while) that barrel just wouldn’t reliably hold the match level accuracy I needed. It was fine for a sportsman, and I gave that barrel away to a sportsman later on, but not for a match long range precision gun. Thing is, only 1 outfit had reportedly made any small ring MVP barrels and they made them shouldered instead of barrel-nutted. I also wanted a particular barrel maker’s barrel. Black Hole Weaponry. Why? Well, their pipes are just too easy to deal with, shoot excellently, clean easily, are inexpensive, stainless and come threaded at no extra charge.
Once I got that barrel situation settled then I wanted to do a little something with the finish. So I got the idea to make it look like a Sonoran coral snake. 3 months of beating on my local Cerakote guy and getting nothing but excuses later I finally got it back, literally hot from the oven and the scale pattern was backward. Fuck! Well, such is life. Only dorks and herpetologists ever notice. What everyone notices is he didn’t finish the last 4 inches of the pipe. Dick! I eventually got it back and had my 26″ pipe at 1:7 twist in Caudle 3-groove polygonal rifled 416R stainless steel. I bought a bunch of 73gn ELD-M projectiles and a ton of new PPU brass and have been swatting steel on the regular with it since.
It was such a hassle dealing with the Cerakote guy that I did my .308 barrel with rattle can spray paint and it actually turned out pretty cool despite me not having much experience with this sort of thing. I used the mesh plastic thingy they send barrels in to make the scale pattern and 3 colors of paint with blue painters tape.
Then at some point one of the guys at Primary Arms and another guy from Accuracy Solutions were both interested in how their assorted products would do at my monthly long range prone match. Being a good sport and a bit curious, I set out to find out. I added a Primary Arms 4-14x FFP ACSS HUD/DMR optic and an Accuracy Solutions BipodEXT to the gun. I also switched out the Magpul MOE based butt section for an XLR Industries Tactical stock to gain full adjustability which I wanted for various reasons but mostly because I needed a proper cheek weld with the PA optic on there. The Primary Arms scope works if you trust and use the BDC reticle and did not do well at all when using the mil dots and calculating. This also is predicated on getting the bastard to establish or hold a zero. This isn’t my first rodeo with the PA 4-14×44 FFP. So far every one that’s been to one of my classes has been what I’d call defective in one way or another. Glass is routinely milky, turret click values are wishes at best and inconsistent click to click and across the range, getting one to hold zero is almost as fun as trying to establish a zero. You’ll end up needing a screwdriver to beat the shit out of the scope with after each adjustment. The BipodEXT was brilliant. It put the axis of rotation out in front of the muzzle which increased the lever length enough to make it like shooting from a machine rest. All wiggle was gone! I would recommend the Primary Arms low end line as targets rather than as optics. The PA Platinum line, on the other hand, are fantastic optics that work as advertised, just like the price suggests.
Having finished with testing stuff I didn’t want to use long term and written the appropriate articles, I went back to perfecting the combo and slapped a US Optics B-17 on top. To finish the whole thing I bounced my usual Harris 6-9″ swivel type bipod and put a new AccuTac BR5 into my kit. That’s a beast of a bipod.
I get a lot of strange looks and a lot of people stopping by to make comments from snide to supportive about the rifle and all my rifles for that matter. It’s my toy and I’ll play with it how I like to so I don’t mind when they get snide or chiding. All my match guns are meant to elicit a visceral response. Partly that’s to destabilize my co-competitors mentally so I have a better chance of them doing shitty. Part of it is just for conversation starting. Part of it is, I like these rifles and I like to make them look how I like them to look. I betcha you’ll never find another coral snake gun or another hot dog gun but everyone and their sister has a Hello Kitty AR-15 or a grass pattern on the entirety of their AR-15 or Air Force style shark teeth, etc… Just because they’re unoriginal repeating pieces of camel poo doesn’t mean I have to be unoriginal.
If you do the math, this gun has cost me a pure fortune. $600 for the base gun, $750 in various stock parts, $5500 in various optics, $400-ish on triggers, $500 on barrels, $300 on rings and mounts, $10 in muzzle devices (A2 birdcage) and $100 in Cerakote and spray paint. So there you go. I’m about $8,000 in if I’d had to buy each piece at full price. Thankfully, I did a lot of swapping this for that and either reselling or directly trading most of the time so my actual spend on the gun as it sits is closer to $2500US in real money spent.
That said, for $2500 I’ve got a .223 that will easily swat a bad guy or a critter to well beyond the effective range of the bullet it shoots and shoots under .75MOA. It’s got the best parts on the aftermarket on it without resorting to blatantly overly expensive bits that are just more expensive without being any better. I know a lot of folks with $2500 in an AR-15 that couldn’t shoot a 3/4MOA group to save their skin. I’m pretty happy with what I have here.