Announcing LiTLR League! Competition Shooting Re-Invented.

For years I’ve shot PRS and LTR and F-Class and metallic silhouette competition; among others, and I’ve come away with the idea that you can never really have too many shooting sports. This is because you can never have too many guns. Maybe it’s vice versa. Who cares? I recently saw the thing pictured below and my weenie almost got hard.

I thought, “You know that .460 Rowland I made from a Swedish Mauser? Yeah, that’s perfect for this. I can get 250’s going 1600fps I bet.” I was also thinking about last night when Coach and I pulled out the 9mm CZ 75-B’s we were carrying and instead of shooting the target that was 25 yards away we walked away to closer to 75 yards before shooting because it would have been too close otherwise. Then I thought about using my .460Rowland Swedish Mauser to swat a plate at 800yrds. Then I thought about how Coach and I were lamenting the fact that under 600 yards is simply no fun anymore and under a kilometer is starting to get there but that ranges that long are shockingly few and far between in this country. I started to think about the chaps that only have ranges that go out to 100 or 200 or 300 yards or so and certainly there are a small percentage that get as far out as 500 yards. People just don’t have the room for real long range.

This series will be loaded down with NFA and non-NFA guns. There are plenty of guns we think of as rifles already made as pistols for purposes of legal compliance. Many will elect to make their own. Most will fret a little about NFA compliance. All I can say is, with everyone having one of these at a match, nobody’s going to be able to check them all. That said, you’ll want to comply with all applicable laws for your own sake.

Long range shooting is challenging partly because in order to get the bullet far away you’ve pissed away all that amazing velocity in exchange for the distance. So what we’re really making then are shots and waiting abnormally long for the target to let us know it’s been hit. Ok, so you want to wait to find out that you made the hit but you want to make the shot now and for it to be hard? Simple, bring the target in closer and chop your velocity in half. Same exact thing with 1/4 of the gunpowder being used.

So (drum roll): I’m happy to announce the newest creation from BallisticXLR: “LiTLR League“, the Lilliputian Tactical Long Range League.

The rules are not onerous, the targets are meant to be a bit whimsical, the ranges are insane and the equipment requirements help to make sure that this will never become a contest that races your wallet against someone else’s wallet. No wallet depth is going to make up for doing something that’s inherently darned near impossible.

We start with a “pistol” which was intended by its original designer to be a rifle. So, AR-15 pistols, Remington Chassis Pistols and the like are the stock in trade of this game. Take a Swedish Mauser and equip it with a stock that provides the functionality of an AR-15 pistol brace, cut the barrel down (get your NFA stamp in the process) and set it up for a pistol round.

The basic rules are:

  • 10.5″ maximum barrel length as measured from breech face to end of muzzle device.
  • .30cal minimum bore diameter.
  • .458 cal maximum bore diameter.
  • 1600fps maximum muzzle velocity.
  • 250gn maximum projectile weight.
  • Pistol brace must be affixed to the gun.
  • Folding pistol brace stocks are allowed. Brace may be folded or unfolded unless required to be unfolded for a stage.
  • Gun must have at least either functional safety or an external hammer.
  • Gun must be able to accept an attached bipod (some stages will require a bipod be used).
  • No bags/pillows/pads allowed.
  • Targets are 100-500m.
  • Brakes/Suppressors are allowed.
  • 30 seconds per shot.
  • 1 shot per target.
  • Firing at each stage to be done from each of:
    • prone, kneeling, sitting, standing.
  • 10 rounds per stage.
  • Targets are to be:
    • Life size and shape silhouettes of animals.
    • Zombie silhouettes.
    • Extinct product logos.
    • Punctuation marks.
    • Orange or white clay shotgun targets.
      • Targets are to be placed such that they provide a target width of at least 2 minutes of angle from the stage firing position.
  • Scoring is on targets successfully engaged divided by time taken in each of the following classes:
    • Semi-Auto Class
    • Bolt Action Class
    • Break Action Class
    • Other/Open Class
  • Overall match winner is the one with the most targets successfully engaged.
    • Tie results in sudden death shoot off with 15 second shot clock.
  • Maximum weapon weight: 7lbs
  • Stages timing is started when the shooter’s foot touches the ground outside of the 2’x2′ starting box.
  • Shooters are not permitted to use shooting jackets, shooting gloves, shooting shoes, slings, vision blocking devices, yellow/red/green/blue glasses lenses.
  • Shooters may not have any part of their gun mechanically fixed to any prosthetic limb.

This is the perfect game to take your .300BLK out for a day of fun. Have a Mauser rifle that you converted to fire a pistol cartridge? This is your jam. The goal is to have a weapon that operates very much like a rifle but which has been hobbled by a non-rifle-like chamber. We’re taking what is basically a handgun which most people think of as being useful from 1-5 meters and using it at 100x that distance. Shots will drop quickly through their supersonic velocity and transition into transonic flight and subsonic flight which makes the ballistics less predictable.

Lacking long sight radii and higher velocities associated with longer barrels, it will be on the shooter to be on their game for every shot. Even the littlest deviation in executing on the fundamentals will have a negative impact on your score. The distance and weapon configuration and performance limitations put the shooter into a challenging situation that will show who’s got the skills versus who’s just rocking the dollars.

This series will be a points series with a national winner and prizes (we’ll cover those details later on). Any clubs, individuals or product vendors wanting to get involved in this series or to operate a LiTLR match in your area should contact ballisticxlr@gmail.com to get an application, a media kit, stage maps, official rules, swag and a points form. We’re also currently setting up a website to allow participants to track their status against the rest of the world.

Join the fun!

 

6XC Load Development – Analysis Time

6XC Load Development – Analysis Time


This little case seems to really like being as full as possible and/or run a little hard and put away a little bit wet if you get my meaning. We broke in the barrel with 15 shots but as you can see from the data below, around shot #6 things stabilized. By round 10 I had warmed up the barrel a bit and was vacillating between baking rounds in the chamber while I wiggled around trying to get a natural point of aim and firing quickly when I was already at a good NPoA.

All discussions of load data and charge weights come with the “don’t copy me and hurt yourself” disclaimer. Don’t just run my loads, work up to them. These are all on Norma brass, F210 primers, 115gn DTAC bullets and COAL at 2.8″.

Around shot #6 things pretty well started to stabilize. Inconsistently going between firing quickly and baking rounds in a warm-ish chamber widened the ES a bit around shot 11.

After grinding out the first 15 rounds to break in the bore and establish a zero; this was a BRAND NEW barrel after all, we took a little break and went to check the target. The new barrel shot to such a different POI than the prior barrel that it took quite a few shots just to get on steel at 100yrds. By round 10 we were on steel at what seemed like pretty close to POI=POA. Enough to move to the BoxToBench Precision 100yrd Load Development Target and dialed the zero in on the cold zero aiming point. 5 rounds at the cold zero put us at 15 shots and we were already seeing each set of 2 bullet holes (because: adjust, fire 2, adjust) either touching or very close to it. We’re pretty excited about the performance we’re seeing so far.

After the first 15 shots and letting the gun cool down I settled in to go for groups for record. Starting off we did the Coach’s match load (CML) which is 38.5gn of H4350. Then the RL-23 was run followed by N550 and IMR-4166. To wrap things up we came back to the H4350 and did the 39.5gn load then finished out our paper punching with 5 at 39 grains. After that I had 5 rounds left and wanted to drop a shot on the 900 yard target so we went up there and I rang the gong for 5 rounds of 38.5gn. There’s a called flyer (obvious) on 4 of the 6 aiming points. I wasn’t in the most stable position and I knew it.

 

My velocities are a solid 150fps above what Coach gets from his Enfield rifled barrel of the same length with the same load. Ok, to be completely transparent, it’s not EXACTLY the same load. We do actually seat the bullets about .120 deeper forn my new barrel than Coach’s barrel but I can’t see 150fps difference from that. This is the polygonal rifling in full effect. Less friction because you’re not engraving the bullet, you’re swaging then and then twizzlering them, if only ever so slightly.

So now on to the powder results. H4350 you see the curves change shape as you fill the case up. To my eye it almost looks like someone’s grabbed on to the right side and started pulling the string taut. Group sizes went down as powder charges went up but we’re talking about going from a .75″ group to a .71″ group to a .3″ group. The academic in me is crying out to be let loose with a scale and all of my reloading supplies to do a 1/10th grain at a time experiment. But, that’s expensive and I have other matters to attend to. The experienced rifle shooter in me says, “You do realize that any one of those is sufficient for the 1000yrd stuff you’re doing right?” The competitive rifle shooter in me says, “Take the 39.5 and let’s go home and load ammo before you change your mind again.”

This is Coach’s match load in his current barrel. Featuring a tight 10.87fps standard deviation from my gun and a not disappointing .75″ group this load showed promise. I just don’t want to tune it. In Coach’s gun this load runs 150fps slower, has a 32fps SD and turns in the same .75″ groups.
The group size collapsed on this load down to .4″ until I popped a flyer into it (which I called) that took the final group to .71″. 40fps ES is a bit on the broad side for me out of a 5 shot sample size. I could maybe do half of that. This load does suggest it might want just a little more powder.
When we give it 39.5 grains the dissonant came into harmony and it made a .3″ group with 2fps SD’s and 5fps ES. It’s running mild pressures and making within a gnat’s ass of 3,000 fps where I’d draw the velocity line anyway. 2900-2950 was our target and we’re there with a solid load.

Onward and upward. We still have loads to analyze. Everyone knows that after my experience with it in .243AI and 6.5x55AU that I’m a big fan of Reloader 23. It’s sloooooooow burning and has been returning impressive velocities with reasonable pressures from very heavy for caliber bullets in relatively long bores from very overbore cases… as you would expect it to do if you are at all familiar with Boyle’s Gas Law. We had no idea how much to start with so we did exactly what Coach did with it for my .243AI. We filled the case up to the body:shoulder junction, dumped it out and weighed it and put that much into 5 cases. It came out at 38 grains with no drop tube, just a funnel and a weighing pan.

Reloader 23 showed me with my .243AI that it likes a full case (I’m sensing a trend here with these slow burning magnum powders) and that it’s pretty hard to put enough into a 6mm case based on a .473 case head to blow the damned thing up if you’re seating to SAAMI/CIP lengths. 38 grains produced pretty nice velocity. A testament to the efficiency of the 6XC case setup. Still with 28fps SD’s, 66fps ES and a .68″ group of 5, it would “do” but I’d want to develop it more if I were to use it. We did find that RL-23 is a great option. Somewhere around 40 grains should give high 2900’s at reasonable pressures even when seating bullets deepish.

                                That right there is porn star sloppy.

Pressing on, we have N550. A double base NG/NC powder known for being a little temperature touchy after 90F and for being pretty darned expensive. 36.5 grains of N550 gave us a nice narrow 11.95fps SD’s on ES’s of only 29fps. Still a little tall but velocities were touching 2900 and pressures were VERY low. It also grouped a .2″ group of 5 shots. Oh man am I tempted to increase my powder budget by 25%. We figure we could fill the case on this stuff somewhere around 39 grains at 3,000fps. But, I don’t want to develop a load; much less an expensive one, if one jumps out at me and that H4350 load at 39.5 grains is hard to beat even with stupid tight groups.

             A lot of promise in this one. Super stable velocity potential.

Now we cross into “Coach style load” territory. So far we’ve been on the very slow side of the slow side of the rifle powder spectrum. Now we’re going to cross the street where the Beatles fans turn into Stones fans and start dragging their knuckles. Not really. Just making fun of coach. The defining line between a “Me” style and a “Coach” style of handload is I like my powder to burn all the way down the barrel giving consistent pressure all the way without a huge spike of pressure in the case itself. My way is easier on brass but harder on barrel throats because there’s more grit coming out of the case neck this way. Coach likes his pressure to form in the case, for all the combustion events to happen in that space and then to use the built up pressure. He also tends to jam bullets rather than jump them where I jump them at least a little bit normally.

Making a Coach style recipe means you know you’ll see pressure sooner or later in your experimenting. That being the case and the fact that there was no data for IMR-4166 (which is around Varget/IMR-4895 burn speed) we elected to hot-foot bloody educated guess it. I calculated that 37.5 grains was about the most we’d want to try and so we tried that. It came back hot enough to imprint my ejector hole on the brass so that’s at least 1 full grain too much juice. It did however make 3080fps with a 2fps SD and a 6fps ES for 5 rounds. Drop a grain or two and you’re right up around 2950-3000fps. What a smoker though! Too bad the pressures were simply too high.

      If it wasn’t running north of 70,000psi This would be my new load.

Below you can see the velocities as they came out of the gun during testing.  You can see it took about 5 rounds to season the bore and then it’s pretty much standard load development wavy gravy until you get to 2 very specific sections whose extreme flatness gives away that something very cool happened there and needed to be paid attention to.

So while N550 turned in the best group and ok SD’s, the extremely tight SD’s and the super tight group out of the 39.5gn load of H4350 has won the day. I might mess with bullet jump a little but really, I’m happy. Best not to waste barrel life.

On the topic of barrel life. Common wisdom is somewhere north of 1500 rounds but under 2000 before it’s smoked. Well that’s about a year and a half or 2 worth of life. That’s from a conventional Enfield rifled gun. I run Columbia River Arms polygonally rifled barrels which have been giving me very long barrel life and I used only HBN coated bullets for the last 1000 rounds (it’s at north of 1300 rounds now).

                     6XC Dimensions

My .243AI still runs like a laser. I only took it off because seating depth was longer than my magazine, but there’s plenty of bullet still in the case yet. I could take it another 500+ rounds if I was willing to single feed. Pushing 115’s at 3200 can’t have been gentle on it and the expectation was that by 1000 rounds it was going to look like 5 miles of rough road down the bore but it’s not. It’s smooth as glass still and makes tiny 1000 yard groups. So if we take this barrel life thing to mean the point at which the boat tail is up inside the neck of a loaded case when seated equals cooked, my .243AI will have gotten something like 2000 rounds before its death. Thanks to some combination of the HBN coating and the polygonal rifling.

Well then, I expect something like 4,000 rounds of life from my 6XC and something like 6,000 rounds from Coach’s since we’re giving his the Modern Sparts Systems Accuracy Oil treatment for its whole life. If I pull 4,000 rounds out of this barrel I’ll be surprised as hell. 3,000 rounds wouldn’t go amiss though and would be well representative of my real expectations.

How will it all turn out? Stay tuned to find out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kalah Combat System – What’cha think?

I’ve seen quite a bit of what they do and I gotta say, pretty badass. I’ve been in my share of scuffles and in my share of situations that only luckily ended well. In all of those I’ve never thought that I had “enough” fighting skills during the fight. I always want to be a lot better right about then. No sane man ever decides that he’s so badass he can officially take on all comers without worry of injury much less defeat with no more skill and knowledge than he has right then.

A while back, during some travels, I met up with a gentleman that runs a combat training school in another country and we’d spoken a few times about getting him to bring his training to American shores. The system he teaches is called Kalah and is based heavily in Israeli self defense techniques from Krav Maga as well as some military derived material. It would be inaccurate to call it a self-defense class. It’s not and they make that point themselves very clearly. To quote:

“The Kalah System is not a sports fighting system, nor is it what would be commonly labeled as a self-defense program. It’s a combat system. This means that it deals with real world violence, in a real way.”

Boy oh boy are they not kidding. This kind of fighting isn’t about some argument you have in a sports bar. It’s not about a tiff with someone in line at the Wal-Mart. It’s about being the one that walks away; even if a bit bloodied, from an encounter where someone is trying to kill you or yours or do someone under your protection great bodily harm. Loudmouths at ballparks notwithstanding, this isn’t fighting. It’s combat.

Combat means someone is may just die before it’s all over and that fact is simply not a factor in the decision process to engage because you’ve been committed already. Either you committed yourself by your own actions or someone else committed you to it without your permission. Either way, you’re in. If you’re skipping over the possibility nee probability that someone’s going to come out either on a gurney or a slab then the situation has very much passed up simple fighting. In a fight I might blacken your eye or bust a rib or maybe knock you out cold. In combat, on the other hand, I’m going to try my hardest to kill you.

It’s a critical mindset difference. When you have a simple fight you’re looking to settle an issue completely separate to the fight through the vehicle of a fight. When you’re in combat you’re looking to settle the fact that someone’s about to kill or seriously injure you and whatever issue started it is no longer a matter for consideration.

Once you have this kind of skill set, you then become responsible for making decisions (mindset) on when and how to use the skills. Certainly some techniques are likely to bring the ballpark loudmouth fight to a much more rapid conclusion than the traditional squaring off and trading of blows would. It’s also pretty sure that many of the techniques will inflict substantial physical injury requiring professional treatment to your opponent so it can’t be used flippantly lest you open yourself up to potential civil and criminal sanction. There is, after all, such a thing as a use of force continuum which can be escalated through but you’re not supposed to skip over whole sections.

When James Yeager says, “Mindset, tactics, skill, gear. In that order.” it’s not a joke. He’s saying something very important. Mindset and tactics set Kalah apart from others that pay lip service to mindset and tactics but in reality focus on skills and gear.

Taking this kind of class, expect that you’re going to take a swat or two now and then. I mean they try to not punch you in the face but if you’re ever going to need to deal with getting punched in the face, it probably helps to have dealt with it before when your life wasn’t on the line. This training includes not only hand to hand but also hand to gun and hand to knife and other mixtures of those things. The training assumes that when you get to using it, you’ll be in a real life and death scenario. Also assume that whatever clothes you bring are going to be pretty tore up from the floor up when you’re done. They won’t just be dirty.

For more information, take a peek at http://www.echocharlie.co.za/kalah-combat-training/ .

So what do you think? Are you ready for Kalah? I’m thinking about working out a class in California, another somewhere mid-west-y like Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri and somewhere east coast-y, perhaps near to North Carolia and somewhere in New England.

If you’re interested in a class, email ballisticxlr@gmail.com and tell me about it or comment below. We’ll keep updates coming on the progress. If there’s enough interest I’ll pop dates and details on the training page under Products and you can register there.

 

 

Garmin Foretrex 701 With Applied Ballistics

Garmin Foretrex 701 With Applied Ballistics

 

Overall, I’ll give it 5 stars for quality. 3 stars for usability. 1 star for price. That’s a 3 star average but don’t let that conceal the fact that the quality of product, how reliably it does the job it’s to do, is 5 stars and that’s what you’re buying. A perfectly functioning bit of kit. Any negativity from here on out may as well be just the griping of some dude on the internet. Still there are gripes.

All in all I have the same complaint about putting AB in a GPS as I did about putting it in a Kestrel: Ballistics is a complicated business and user interface matters. You can’t shoe horn external ballistics into an otherwise simple gizmo and have a brilliant user interface. Yes, it works perfectly in every technological sense but it’s a pain to actually operate. I also think this gizmo is about the perfect confluence of form with a pairing of two functions as it pertains to long range hunters. You’ve got 1 gun, 1 load, 1 basic environment and 1 mission. You need a GPS and for it to be compact, durable and light. You should have good ballistics data too. So, good job Garmin and A.B. finding a decent pairing for purpose if not for sales volume.

If you’re my parents age you might actually remember when radios weren’t all that common as standard equipment in cars. If the wildly antique set of encyclopedias I grew up with were correct then it was some time around 1955 that they started to become common. So, you pretty suddenly had a car with a radio inside it. That was a pretty big deal at the time. Now cars are arguably more like radios that you drive around and the thing doing the job of the old school radios are much, much more than a simple radio receiver. For those considerably younger than me it might be easier to pick something temporally closer to home like when telephones suddenly lost their buttons and got big color screens, impressive processing capability and GPS. Telephones are now very sophisticated computers with telephones in them.

What that has to do with anything else here is that cars, radios, computers and phones were things that existed already and had served their purposes very well for a very long time before getting all, “You got your peanut butter in my chocolate.” The new capability mixture was not even on the same planet of use cases that the devices themselves were each originally meant to do so it was not a sure thing to change the landscape and become an absolute standard. The mixes were so far outside the old paradigms that it wasn’t known how things would settle out in the end. Things turned out interesting.

Cars weren’t things you’d expect to provide entertainment when they first came out. Cars were things you’d use to take you to entertainment. Similarly, telephones weren’t things you’d use to play video games. They were for making phone calls to your friends to arrange a trip to the arcade to play video games. Both cars and phones were for a very long time common and viable tools of social interaction. Nowadays, they seem like ways to self-separate from everyone else which is entirely the opposite situation. Both car stereos and smart phones were the initiation events of a whole new set of industries that popped up in direct response to the new consumer demands that would come from listening to anything you want to while driving or having a phone conversation and  playing Angry Birds at the same time on the same device.

When someone shoe horns some new capability into a previously more single purpose widget one really does have to reserve judgement on the soundness of the decision for a long time. You can’t really tell how people will adjust to this new model. It might just be the next great thing. I mean, cars and radios go together like formerly living animals and gravy. Video games on phones are a double-edged sword if anything but are almost universally popular with consumers. Cars and Phones now enable you to ignore the world around you in general more effectively than before but they also go farther and experience more if you elect to do so.

When I saw the Garmin Foretrex 701 I wondered which side it would end up on and figured it would end up just another gadget with Applied Ballistics shoe-horned in to an otherwise high quality if pedestrian device which is only related to the topic of ballistics at one side. Applied Ballistics on a Kestrel weather meter made a ton of sense on the surface and sold like hot cakes. I don’t know if a GPS will be that natural of a pairing nor do I predict the kind of market penetration that the A/B equipped Kestrels have. We’ll see. I’ve been wrong before.

For the purposes of this article I used the little gizmo myself around town and at a desk and then my coach and I took it to a proper long range precision rifle competition and my coach actually competed using it instead of his usual notebook full of written DOPE. I tested the ballistics and GPS features against other ballistics apps and GPS’s and found everything works 100% as advertised. That is no surprise. Garmin is a recognized world leader in GPS devices. They don’t mess those up a lot. Applied Ballistics is known to deliver accurate ballistics data when used correctly because, like every ballistics app, it uses known mathematical models which very accurately reflect reality. Those mathematical models have known levels of precision and those levels are very high. That’s why we use them. So, there’s really little room for either the GPS or ballistics calculation feature to fail to work as intended. What it all comes down to then is not the steak but the sizzle.

Form is very much a personal preference sort of thing and while the Garmin Foretrex 701 is in fact quite nifty, I have some distinct complaints and some compliments. I’ll itemize the good, the bad and the ugly bits but they break down to the following areas: Manual, Display, User Interface, Flexibility, Comfort, Speed, Includes, Ruggedness.

Manual: The manual comes with a font size suitable only to teenagers and those few people that have microscopes on their desk. Maybe I’m just old. They could have nearly doubled the size of the manual and the font and still fit it in the box and old eyes like mine wouldn’t gripe (that assumes that your Y chromosome allows the reading of manuals). The manual’s size is a minor gripe.

The content of the manual is not a minor gripe. It is very frequently unhelpful while you try to figure it out because little though important details are left out and pictograms are seemingly avoided where they’d be especially helpful. They’re left out all over the place. Basically, the manual seems to assume a ton of familiarity with the device rather than being an instruction set breaking down exactly how all the little features work. Honestly, if you’ve not been trained how to use it by someone/something else, I think you’ll end up calling tech support at some point. If you’re any part a luddite, get ready for a steep learning curve.

Display: The monochrome LCD displays are not high resolution. In fact, they have a dot pitch which is pretty coarse and the display is pretty small at about 2.5x the size of a postage stamp. This makes it so that old guys like me have to hold it at arm’s length to see some bits and right close to see other bits. What we see on the display isn’t visually appealing or always easy to digest either. I suspect it looked better on the story board. It just doesn’t read quickly in most views. The backlight really helped with up-taking the data for me. Somehow it was vastly easier to sort through and digest the info with the backlight running in the broad daylight for both me and my coach. Your mileage there may vary.

User Interface (UI): First off, the UI for all AB integrated products I’ve ever held has been simply horrid. That’s a personal opinion and should be salted by the fact that I’m a geek in my day job and have to deal with UI’s of varying usability all the time so I’m kind of hard on them. The LCD UI is simply about the least intuitive and most tedious I’ve encountered in any device since that all-in-one copy machine was put into my office that nobody has so far figured out how to use. The user interface is as un-intuitive as all get out. It took me nearly an hour to get all of my inputs in and there are several annoying little idiosyncrasies about how the UI works that drove me up the wall. One big annoyance: If you hold down on an arrow button adjusting a value it’ll start slow, then picks up a little then after a seemingly very long time it suddenly goes to warp speed. There’s no reason to have to hold down the button for so long for fast scroll to start working or for it to be quite that fast. 2-3 seconds is plenty. Warp speed is so fast that adjustment overruns were constant. What it amounted to in the end was a lot of time wasted adjusting up after adjusting down went too far too fast. Thankfully once set, it’s set and you won’t mess with it again.

Flexibility: Not bad really if you constrain that assessment to flexibility for very small changes. The tedious first-time setup still takes entirely too long, though slightly modifying a couple inputs isn’t too bad. I originally set it up for my PRS match load to verify that it would give exactly the same data as the calculators that I publish (BallisticXLR/BallisticPRS/BallisticDLR). That initial setup took entirely too long but altering the 2 inputs that changed for my coach’s gun/load combo though was reasonably fast and easy taking about one minute. If the differences in the loads had been more substantial (the loads are 200fps different and he uses MOA while I use MIL) this assessment would change because the UI is so slow to use for large change sets or large changes in a single variable.

Comfort: The non-elastic wrist strap that it comes with was apparently sized in Lilliput. I have small wrists, like really small, and the velcro strap was less than an inch from being insufficiently long to work on me. My coach has hefty wrists for a sub-6-footer and was barely able to get it on his wrist. It had to be pretty tight; tighter than one would wear a watch. Thankfully there’s an extension with elastic stretch to it in the box.

There is also simply no way that you can put this gizmo on your non-firing wrist and use it from a properly set up supported prone position. Once you reach for the toe support bag the Garmin is out of view. Putting it above your bicep is an option but not a great one as the viewing angle is then hard to read. You can’t set it so it sits on the side of the wrist stably either. The normal wrist card location simply doesn’t work well because the thing has a flat bottom. On the upside, the strap didn’t make wrists excessively sweaty or itchy which was appreciated. All in all, it’s actually quite comfortable to wear which I think back country hunters will appreciate. It’s just not easy to use while in a firing position.

Speed: Speed of use is not really there. It has a range card which requires you to scroll to get more than a handful of data rows. The scroll function isn’t super slick visually either. Using the GPS features on that screen was to me, infuriating. I think I do better with a large field of view, detailed views, terrain data and such that come with a much more advanced screen or a plain old paper map. If you were to want to use the ballistics functionality to calculate for a specific long range shot then I hope your target is dead already. If not, your target is going to get bored and wander away. Yes, the data presented will be accurate but it takes entirely too long to get there for really long shooting, especially if you’re wanting to adjust for non-standard conditions.

Includes: This one irked me. For a $600 gizmo, it doesn’t come with batteries. It only takes AAA’s so it’s not like they’re a big investment. Garmin could easily drop in a couple lithium ion AAA’s in the box and still make margin. Or if they’re feeling cheap, just a couple knock-off brand alkaline AAA’s. But none at all? Who thought that was a good idea. My wireless mouse came with batteries. The mini-flashlight you buy from the impulse purchase bucket at a gas station comes with batteries. My wireless security camera came with CR123 batteries. A $600 Garmin GPS with Applied Ballistics doesn’t? Ok, moving on… It is reportedly compatible with night vision goggles though which is pretty slick and suggests military use is already happening. Speaking of which:

Ruggedness: As I gather, it’s got a MIL-Spec rating for thermal, water & shock resistance so I think we can just stipulate to the ruggedness. Coach and I had that thing out in the sun all day bashing it against barricades and burying it in the finest of powder fine dirt and grit. It was subjected to recoil and a not gentle ride to the range in my gear box. I don’t know about the little twist lock for the battery compartment. I don’t know how that’s going to hold up long term but it very reliably keeps that battery door closed right now. The buttons appear to be meant to be water resistant however in the interests of not destroying something I was loaned to review, I didn’t dunk it in water to find out. I will bet a crispy dollar bill that’ll work in any machine that it’ll survive a long dunk and should have exactly zero problem with torrential levels of rain.

All in all, the thing is ferociously expensive and it works perfectly. That said, I’ve not hunted in a long time and even then, it was mostly under at rock throwing distance and almost all under 100yrds. For almost everyone else into long range hunting/shooting, this is probably a better idea than the Kestrel with Applied Ballistics by a long way. The average hunter isn’t going to change elevations on the order of several thousand feet but they will change position and distance from target. As much as this doesn’t get my juices going or excite me it does seem to make a ton of sense for hunters who even MIGHT take a long range shot on game. I think I would be superficially pretty excited if a model with a UI that was enormously better was available but the costs to that in reality in terms of battery life, durability and reliability would make me probably hate owing it. Rock, meet hard place.

 

Modern Spartan Systems – Long Term Testing Update – The Snake Gun

Numbers don’t lie so if you want to see those numbers, scroll down and check ’em out.

Definitely seeing a velocity boost evolving during the treatment phase. Looks like SD’s are growing but we won’t know the long term trends on this for another week as there are more shots to fire. Treatment phase is 5 sets of 5 shot groups. Between each group we apply a very light coat of MSS Accuracy Oil down the bore on a patch wrapped around a brush. That pulls the carbon out pretty well and puts another layer of their crazy effective lubricating oil down the bore.

This test data shows 50 rounds of history gathered during bench-rested zero-checking, load development and grouping data collected over the last year with me not cleaning the bore at all on my heavily customized, Columbia River Arms barreled Mossberg MVP .223 followed by another 25 rounds of very recent history from last weekend’s testing with MSS’s cleaning system being used.

Avoiding much discussion of velocities we can look at group sizes. This rifle with this load has been a pretty consistent 1-1.5MOA rifle. It doesn’t like this load, never has, and that has annoyed me because it should be a killer load. During the testing and doing the Accuracy Oil re-application treatments I saw very consistently that the first shot was wild, then the 2nd-5th shots gradually closed in on each other finally ending with shots 4-5 stacking on top of each other. Overall group sizes started at 1.2MOA and by the end of the initial Accuracy Oil treatment plan had reduced to a very nice group under .7MOA with the last 3 shots touching and the first 2 just slightly off that cluster (could have been shooter error but I doubt it). This behavior was consistent from the first string to the 5th string. I have not cleaned the barrel after shooting. I did run a patch down the bore with Accuracy Oil on it though. Before shooting next time we’ll run a few dry patches down the pipe to make sure it’s completely dry and then we’ll see what happens.

Each string below represents a 5-shot set with statistics reported for the string. This load has slowly evolved over the last couple years with a little OAL and a little powder being added between string 1 and string 9. I stopped messing with the load spec after string 9 because I just wasn’t shooting the gun. Now I’m sticking with that practice while we finish up our testing. 75 rounds in to the testing we’re seeing definitely trend line activity but we’ll save the analysis and conclusion drawing until we have more data.

So what do you think? Will this trend continue? Will it even out? Will it reverse? We shall see.

Note: This is not one of my match loads. This is a load I never shoot in competition because it’s not been consistent enough. I’ve wanted to do a little more work on it because it’s a really mild load with long legs. I chose this load because it’s not a one-holer out of the gate so we have some room to see if MSS’s claims are worth taking seriously. So far, they’re at least intriguing.

Stay tuned!

Coach & Mecca’s New 6XC Rifle Build – The Saga Begins In Earnest

I guess we could call this “The Log’a of the Saga”.
My coach and I are building new rifles for next years’ match season. We put a year on our last set of pipes and those wore well and got coach into the sport. The game we’re playing with these is styled after PRS but we have prone, obstacle and PRS classes available. Prone is prone only but you can shoot from obstacles if you want. Obstacle is PRS style but with more time than normal PRS matches would allow and usually simpler requirements for moving around the obstacles. PRS is short time and more complex courses of fire from the obstacles. We only get one shot at each target and it’s hit or miss. All this is done on a brutal course you have to walk and the winds are mostly unreadable.
We’ve been pulling top-10 to top-5 finishes very consistently as a team for the last year and we’re looking to try to dominate this year with nothing but top 5 finishes. Part of our strategy is; since we operate as a proper team, to have identically chambered rifles with identically performing loads so we can share rifles, data and the carrying of the load. We can share a rifle for each match and save half of the humping of rifles along the course as well as getting what amounts to a second shot at each target because of the sharing of the rifle. If the first shooter misses, we’ll know how far and why and be able to correct for the second shooter. It’s not cheating, it’s adapting. Nothing says we can’t share a rifle.
I got my ExactShooting.com (check these guys out, they’re amazing) custom sizing die with the custom neck bushings for 6XC. We tried that die on Coach’s existing rifle in 6XC but the combination of the gun being stupid accurate to begin with, the brass having a huge number of fires on it already and the barrel nearing the end of its life meant that we didn’t see any statistically interesting difference going from a Redding neck die to the Exact Shooting die. So, I got us 2 new barrel blanks and a new custom made chamber reamer and a big sack of new 6CX Norma brass from Tubb along with a big bucket load of 115gn HBN coated DTAC’s. We’ll be using an M24/MTU type barrel profile with a finished length somewhere around 25-26 inches.
My die came with a series of bushings which we spec’d for a chamber that requires very slightly turning the outside of the case necks and provides for minimum working of the brass between firing and sizing. We’ll also be running zero headspace to a new case. After firing we’ll bump the shoulders back .0005″ to assure smooth chambering with even bolt closure pressure. Neck bushing diameter selection lets us size the necks in .0005″ increments from .005″ neck tension to .003″ neck tension.
I dropped off the barrels and our actions to the gunsmith last week and went over yesterday to verify that everything was righteous. The smith had them set up with dual point indication on the lathes and showed me that everything mic’d out as it should. He showed me his lathe setup which was very satisfactory. With spuds in each end of the barrel set up on dial indicators I gave the chuck a spin and with the dial indicators set up 29″ apart we got 0 readable change on the dials (you could see a subtle shimmy but not enough to read). Ok, that’s up to snuff.
The barrels we’re using are from Columbia River Arms, formerly Black Hole Weaponry. They’re polygonal rifled 3-groove .243 pipes. I got my reamer from PTG and as it turns out, the pilot that came with the reamer is .002 under size so the first complication has already hit. These barrels don’t have conventional lands. In fact to the naked eye you can’t really tell at this bore size that it’s not a plain ol’ cylinder, so the bushing size issue was something that was anticipated. So, we begin the 3-4 week wait for a new set of pilot bushings if I can’t find another shooter to loan/rent/sell one to me.
In the meantime I need to figure out what theme my rifle will take on for this barrel. I could continue with the hot dog theme but I’m thinking Mega Man 8: Dr. Wily’s Island. I do something goofy with each rifle I build. So far I’ve done two coral snakes, a hot dog and a bowling ball. Weird finishes get in the heads of other competitors and make it easier to pick out my rifle from the racks full of nearly identical rifles whose only usual differentiating factor is the optic the owner put on theirs. Coach has the only rifle in the rack with a classic wood stock.
My Current Rifle (Hot Dog Gun):
[IMG]
Coach’s Rifle:
[IMG]
Mega-Man 8 Barrel & Chassis Finish:
[IMG]

KubeGrid: Using Kubernetes to Supplant Common Grid Computing Engines

This is not my normal fare. If you’re not a computer geek you may find the following paragraphs a little bit technical and quite possibly uninteresting because of that. I’d encourage you to read on though as what you should come away with is a new way to look at the problems you face and a strategy for dealing with them that will bring you much personal satisfaction or at least will cause you to pull the least amount of hair out of your head as possible.

Start here: https://kubernetes.io/docs/concepts/workloads/controllers/jobs-run-to-completion

There is never anything really new in the world of computing. All we have are problems that have been solved before and new flavors of those same problems and solutions. What really changes is that people forget that we’ve already solved all of the really difficult problems many years ago. We had to because they were new problems when computing was something fresh in industry. Now that computing is pervasive what we have is a repeating cycle of identifying problems to be solved and figuring out how they’ve been solved before or ignoring the past (at our peril) and creating entirely new solutions which are in fact, just different colors of the same solutions we came up with before… if we’re lucky. That amounts to a statement like, “Well, we have a really complex problem, so here’s a stunningly complicated solution.”

I, for one, detest the idea that complex problems need newly invented ultra complex solutions simply because the problem appeared superficially (or actually is) complex or new. There is no problem so complicated that a very simple solution cannot be identified if you think about the problem the right way. There are insanely few problems which are in reality the least bit new. At best, they’re just the same problem in a new shape or color, so to speak. In a moment, you’ll be introduced to my preferred method of solving problems which always yields fairly simple solutions. It does that because it works like the thought process of early Macintosh computers. Early Mac’s were built; seemingly, with a notion something like, “Give them so little memory and processing power that they won’t be able to do anything anyway.” I must at this point give a wink and a nod to Douglas Adams who originally made that exact statement and from whom I’ve borrowed it. There’s a certain amount of sarcasm in that but hang with me and you’ll see my point.

What I mean by all of that is, simplifying the problem comes down to really seeing where the actual fundamental problem is (Mac users, of which I am one, wanting to do very intensive computational tasks on end-user grade hardware is the fundamental problem.) and not where the superficial problem is. In this case the superficial problem is one of Mac’s being the preferred platform for those doing computationally intensive tasks; like video editing for example because they’re user friendly, as opposed to Windows which is user unfriendly and UNIX/Linux which is downright user-hostile. UNIX/Linux server-grade hardware would be the right way to do these computationally intensive tasks but they suck to use for humans. So Mac users are the fundamental problem. They picked the wrong tool. Apple responded by making sure that the user would realize that and would eventually put those workloads onto higher end hardware. Now we have video editors doing very small bits of editing on very small bits of video on their Mac and then sending many such snippets to a larger compute cluster for rendering and final processing to come out with a whole “thing”.

Those familiar with “Grid Computing”, “High Performance Compute” and other flavors of the topic know that what you’re really dealing with is a system that understands bounded resource blocks and workload. What it amounts to is you have a bucket of resource (CPU/Memory/Disk/Network) capacity and a bucket of workloads that have a discreet moment of being started and which will run to “completion”. You want to dispatch computation jobs to be executed, allow them to run to completion and then report on the status and resources taken to accomplish that. What you don’t want to do is worry about uneven load profiles, manually intervening when jobs fail or systems lean over, or figuring out which host to execute a job on.

Some systems like LSF/OpenLava and others were created back in a day where there was a huge variety of capability as far as horsepower and there were lots of proprietary hardware platforms. Those factors joined with factors like making sure that software licenses which were few in number were always in use, fair share allocation of computational horsepower & software licenses and organizationally induced prioritization of this project versus that project.

Today, hardware performance is orders of magnitude better and we’re not so much worried about computational horsepower so much as footprint cost efficiency. Back in the old days we’d run on-premise clusters of large numbers of very expensive servers in very expensive data centers. Nowadays we Cloud Service Providers which can provide enormous amounts of extra computational capacity on-demand which can be spun up only for as long as it’s needed and then spun down immediately afterward to minimize run costs. We’ve eliminated the sunken portion of data center run cost from the equation.

As we all know, most of the really great inventions in history were made by eliminating something from a prior invention: A magnificent martini is made that way by the elimination, or at least minimization, of the Martini (vermouth) from the equation. In the same way, eliminating the concept of owning actual servers and putting the load in the cloud enables organizations to radically alter the cost associated with operating high performance computation grids.

Kubernetes has the ability to dispatch arbitrary code execution to nodes. The cluster is aware of what nodes are part of the cluster and how much load they’re under so it’s relatively easy to code in a little Python/Ruby/C/Whatever to interface with a SQL or NoSQL database to build a list of jobs needing dispatch and to get them dispatched. When there becomes a queue of jobs due to lacking of free resources the code can, with very simple boundary configurations, elect to launch new execution node instances on the CSP (Cloud Service Provider) infrastructure of choice or to persist with the queue having some non-zero depth.

The efficiency to be gained is not simply in the fact that the company no longer has to own large numbers of servers and to pay for the continuous operation of those servers regardless of their being fully utilized or not. A huge gain is in the simple fact that CSP’s tend toward pricing based on utilization of network bandwidth and data ingress/egress from their assorted block or object storage systems but not from in-cloud usage of those very same storage sub-systems. The actual cost of the CSP provided CPU cycles, memory utilization and in-cloud storage access is heavily subsidized by out-of-cloud network/storage IO charges. High performance compute grids are almost universally highly intense in their utilization of CPU and memory and are notoriously weak in their need to import/export large amounts of data from the computational environment.

The next big change we see is that jobs are not actually arbitrary in large part. Many jobs are regularized. That is, they are routine and come about as a byproduct of the development process. When you complete a piece of code, it needs unit tested and regression tested. When you design an ASIC it generates follow-on load which is predictable. Many organizations rely on grid computing to run routine, regular reports, analytics and business processes. These are things that can be statically defined either in code or in databases. It’s a standard workload. Everything else is arbitrary workload.

So what we have here is an incipient change in how HPC gets done. The hard part had always been dispatching jobs. Now the hard part is architectural. Orchestrating job dispatch has been made trivially easy. Discerning what is a static job versus what is an arbitrary job and causing Kubernetes configuration to be automated is the current challenge. This is actually trivially easy to accomplish because of the ease of determining the static versus arbitrary nature of any particular job.

I’m not saying that there’s no effort in creating the necessary bits of code and building the necessary back end systems to accomplish these goals. What I’m saying is that we no longer need to pay IBM’s (or whomever) extortionist license fees for LSF (or whatever) and we no longer need to maintain extensive farms of servers, difficult to manage and highly specialized grid computing engines which require expensive-as-hell HPC experts like myself. All you need now is a basic bitch sysadmin who knows extremely common and popular technologies like NoSQL/SQL, Python/Perl/Ruby, Linux, Kubernetes, Docker, etc… There are maybe a few thousand people in the USA that really know how to make IBM’s LSF grid computing software work and to troubleshoot it. There are probably a million or so Linux sysadmins (also like myself) who know NoSQL/SQL, Python/Perl/Ruby, Linux, Kubernetes, Docker, etc… and even if they don’t know one of more of those things, they’re all easy to learn if you’re already a Linux sysadmin. They’re easy to learn for us because they were bloody well meant to be. If we’re to use them, and we’re a lazy bunch which is why we automate everything we can figure out how to, it has to be easy to learn, easy to use and easy to automate or we won’t do it.

So, now that I’ve given you this off book use case for Kubernetes, get out and use it. Yes it’ll take a few weeks longer than LSF would to implement but in the end it’ll cost you millions of dollars less to maintain and you won’t have to pay IBM’s (or anyone else’s) heart thumping-ly exorbitant license fees which are deliberately structured to extract every possible last cent from your organization.

Go (to heck Big) Blue!

New Friends Are Only 8,078 or 19 Miles Away

I had to land for a four hour layover in Dubai during my recent flights to and from South Africa. On the way to SA as soon as we landed I went to the Duty Free which actually is the entire airport area near the boarding gates in Dubai Airport now. I needed cigarettes. Wasn’t going to buy them in California at 8 dollars a pack and I was told they were 2-3 dollars a pack in SA. I didn’t figure they’d have any of the rather rare smokes I like though so I checked around the Duty Free and found cartons of Djarum Black for $13.26US and immediately bought a carton and headed to the nearest smoking lounge.

After I’d finished my first smoke another guy, middle eastern looking, walked in and sat at the next seat over around the same ashtray as me. We exchanged greetings and queries of where you going, where you from and such. The were are you coming from question for both of us had the same answer, San Francisco Bay Area. Our destinations couldn’t be much different. He was going to Afghanistan and I to South Africa.

Whiskeys of Scotland in airport of Dubai. My budget almost vomited. There are $30,000 bottles in that case.

Turns out the guy worked with our boys in brown over there during the war’s heyday and had moved at the first opportunity to California where he loves the climate and culture and clean & safe everywhere sort of feeling. The last remnants of his family, I gather, are in Afghanistan taking care of the last of their property holdings.

We chatted for a long while about religion, politics, war and sports and found that despite our mutual distaste for each other’s system of beliefs that we were perfectly happy to be in each other’s company and to talk, entertain and educate each other. After a while both of us were hungry and we retired to the nearest place where one can get shawarma. Having never really had an authentic regional copy I asked if I should get the sandwich or Arabic version (a wrap lightly grilled). He suggested the Arabic version and so we ordered. The food place had nice seating but didn’t serve alcohol so we both had what they called tea though it was doped with sweetened condensed milk and cardamom so heavily that it really resembled the taste of horchata more than tea. I was unused to the flavors but tried to enjoy them without a preconception. The tea worked to soothe and really broke the shawarma flavor up. The shawarma was, according to my companion, terrible if edible. I thought it would be spicier but was otherwise getting the distinct sensation that a Greek had introduced them to the gyro but called it shawarma so they wouldn’t get offended at it not being a local delicacy.

Arabic style shawarma. Broiled thin sliced meat, flatbread, salad, wrapped & grilled.

In the end we ate till just before my boarding time and then I ran full out to my gate to make my flight. My companion, whose name is Ghani, turned out to live not 20 minutes from my house so we traded contact info and agreed that we’d try to find a decent shawarma and continue our conversation upon our respective returns to the States.

In almost every way, the pair is incompatible. Opposites in so many ways. The salve for that problem though was to simply leave aside distaste and to engage in open and honest conversation where we didn’t bog down in the rote definitions of words. We defined the words with contentious possible meanings ourselves and left the “well that’s not what I call that” over to one side. It really made the conversation entertaining and educational.

If countries, religions, political movements and most of all groups of people could accomplish what we did there would be no international conflicts and fewer conflicts within individual nations. Live and let live gets you only so far. Sometimes you really need to deliberately set aside distrust or dislike and simply coexist.

Hi Ghani! Be safe in your travels and let me know when you’re back in the States. This time the dinner is on me.

Africa and Back – A Brief On My Trip In Pics & Text

My recent trip to South Africa was partly to do a couple hunts and partly to see what the long range precision rifle scene there was all about and how it could be well served. What products and services were available, what are needed and what just won’t play there. They have their own competitive rifle sports that are very like some of ours but different enough to have special needs. They also have a budding long range precision scene in the more common American influenced sports like F-Class.

Along the way I met a huge number of people: Gunsmiths, Knifemakers, Suppressor Makers, Farmers, Competitive Shooters, Guides, Importers, Exporters, Collectors, Legendary Hunters & Soldiers and 3 of the toughest, most well behaved polite & intelligent teenagers it’s possible to raise in this world.

I took some time to teach a few basic ballistics classes for some friends and we even got down to doing some long range live fire work complete with challenging drills and tests of both bravado and ability. Shots under 500m were there but we focused on shots over 500m and I have to tell you, these guys in South Africa are not fooling around. They’re motivated, well educated and not afraid to spend money if it’s going to return results.

I learned not only what biltong is but how to make it and why it throws jerky straight into a cocked hat. I saw fully 15 species of antelope, along with warthogs, ostrich, cape buffalo, and more. I got to experience what it’s like to be an ethnic super-minority and a chance to learn a little Afrikaans.

Afrikaans is a lot like Dutch but to the ear it sounds like there’s a lot of Hebrew or Arabic language influence with some of the sounds. I found it greatly difficult to understand spoken Afrikaans with my hearing loss eliminating vast wadges of the audio inputs and lip reading it is right out, much like Hebrew and Arabic. I did manage to toss a bit of surprise around when I picked up a book about wildlife which was written in Afrikaans and I started translating it to English on the fly, out loud.

For those that don’t know, modern English decends from Old English with tons of Norse, Latin and French tossed in. This is why English seems to lack a coherent set of rules… there’s nothing but exceptions to the rules it might otherwise have because all the languages it’s based on have different rules. Old English itself is largely descended from Dutch, or a Dutch relative and a surprising number of the words they use are pronounced identically (cheese, bread, meat, beer, blue, etc…) but are spelled in a way that would make Chaucer giggle. Once you figure out how they use vowels and some odd uses of the letter “g” though translating the language to English is almost unnecessary as it’s so much the same as English and the rest you can get from context pretty well. For someone that truly sucks at languages, this was a nice experience.

If you’re thinking of a trip remember that you don’t have to know a lick of Afrikaans to get along. Everyone there, EVERYONE, speaks English pretty fluently if with various accents and sets of commonly used phraseology. All the signs are in English. The retail infrastructure is quite a lot like a mix of European and American. It lacks the number of big box stores and has oodles of smaller more specialized shops (though big box stores are there).

It’s almost like visiting San Diego in a lot of ways, especially in the visual appearance of the landscape. Apart from the racial makeup (who is in the minority) you’d have trouble figuring out you’re not in a city in the American southwest somewhere, other than all the cars are diesel powered and they drive on the other side of the road.

Also, for your first time especially if you’re an American: DO NOT RENT A CAR TO DRIVE THERE. You really need a primer trip where you get driven around first so you can see how the locals actually drive or you most definitely will find yourself in a surprising situation or two and may piss someone right off by trying to be safe instead of polite. If you’ve driven in India you’re probably not going to be surprised as much but otherwise, take the first one with a local driving you around.

PICTURE TIME!

Knife made for me by Danie Joubert.

My Eland.

.308 150gn Sierra Game Kings working springbok innards.

Draining blood and guts from my eland.

One of the two toughest little girls I’ve ever met.

My eland on the ground.

Tracking my eland as it walks off to die.

Rough country doesn’t mean you can’t prone out properly.

Filling my guide in on where the eland went to die.

Getting our stalk on.

Africa is as austere a place as it is beautiful.

The tall thin trees are actually aloe’s. 3m tall aloe. Just wow. Never knew they grew into trees!

Authentic South African Boer recipes. In Afrikaans of course.

A braai of livers, hearts and sausages. OMG that was good.

My springboks getting their cool down on.

That’s a happy hunter.

With a poker face carved in stone.

My trophy springbok.

My first springbok.

Egyptian geese.

Wildebeest

Bontebok

A landscape that says, “You’re totally alone here. Don’t get injured.”

Outline for a little classroom ballistics session.

It wasn’t a formal class, actually greatly condensed. Still, we wanted everything to look nice.

Sakkie and his bride. A more amazing pair of honest, hard working, kind and generous people I have not met. Only James Yeager comes close (if you haven’t met James, you don’t know him).

It’s winter in Africa. And quite cold and windy.

Landowner warthog trophy.

Landowner bushbuck & caracal trophies.

A caracal trophy.

Kudu trophies.

My impala ram.

My impala ewe.

The buckey (what South Africans call a pickup truck)

Jacques confirming zero.

Black giraffe not 100m from our accommodations.

Ostrich

Johannesburg, SA suburbs. They name restaurants very strangely there.

Teaching ballistics eventually leads to a range session.

Dubai looks cool from the air.

Russia looks greener than I ever imagined it.

Teaching a little ballistics to a few friends.

Cruising through acacia trees on dirt roads. Like being a kid again.

These guys are great people, great shots and great students.

A landscape you just can’t find anymore. Empty of apparent human activity.

Back From Africa – Journey of a Lifetime

I just got back from South Africa and thought it might be nice if my followers got to see some highlights before I get into the weeds with longer articles on smaller subjects.

Africa is weird. You find the strangest places there. And the strangest things. And the strangest things in the strangest places. And the strangest people in the strangest places doing the strangest things to the strangest other things.
Take this for example. Not the movie I would have named a coffee shop after but to each their own. Still, it’s a really neat coffee shop inside. We elected to look at the sign but not stay or visit directly as parking long enough to properly patronize the business would have meant leaving the buckeys (what they call pickups) unattended for whole minutes with our stuff inside, which is not a recommended behavior.
My first springbok. Very nicely curving horns. 240m in 20mph winds with gusts quite a bit higher. I waited for the wind to peak and held on the nose. It ran 20 feet and piled up. Right through the lower bit of the heart with a 150gn Game King from a suppressed .308. Bullet performed nicely with minimal meat damage, decent penetration and good expansion. I took another springbok about an hour later with even a nicer rack yet and the dark stripe was much closer to black. That one was at just over 100m in the same wind. The SGK opened up much more vigorously at the closer range but didn’t ruin any meat to speak of. Another heart hit on the second one but smack in the middle of it instead of at the base leaving very little heart to eat from that one. We ate the livers & heart that night and ate some neck that was braised into pulled springbuck rolls that looked like meat filled cannoli (and which were amazing).
I got a ewe and a ram impala as well. The ram I’m told is a trophy grade example despite the fact we were meat hunting. Great spread, great length and big bases. This guy took a .300wsm stoked with TMK’s to the lower back. The bullet came apart in the chest and liquefied the pumping and gas transfer stations within. It hit the ground where it stood, wobbled side to side and pretended to be alive but was clearly very much done in one. We put a cut on the neck to be sure and no blood came out. The ewe impala was my first African game harvest. This ram was my 2nd. Both taken from the back of a buckey in driving wind and very surprisingly cold weather. Africa gets cold too. Whodathunkit.
The smaller game hunts were really exciting but from the back of a buckey, as an American where such things are generally verbotten, it was a little weird feeling. Almost like shopping while doing a drive by shooting. Still very exciting but so different to what I’m used to I almost didn’t know how to feel about it. That was not to be the case for my big hunt.
For the big hunt, we were looking for kudu, eland, blue wildebeest or whatever walked onto the scene and we found examples of them all around the countryside. Oryx and blesbok and nyala were also around and I want to do at least one of those next year. After scouting some areas rich with oryx and blesbok, kudu, eland and wildebeest we decided on a hunting area and route to do a good ol’ walk-n-stalk. Hunting the hard way. About 3 hours into the walking (Where my friend who owns the place got his new nickname of Klipspringer Van Kudu. Man that guy can run up a mountainside!), we ran into a large herd of cow & immature bull kudu 200yrds+ away on the next hill with their satellite dish sized ears scanning their perimeter and managed to not have them bust us. A red hartebeest was not so easy to fool and it bounced well before coming into shooting range. We were able to get within rock throwing distance of a klipspringer which was super cool.
Then we got word from the other side of the property where there were oodles of zebra standing vigil that 3 eland bulls may just be heading our way so we posted up and waited while watching a variety of other species mill around. What do you know… a very little while later 1 super big trophy bull and 2 smaller but still impressive eatin’ size bulls wander in a half mile away. We wanted to save the big guy for now as he was the boss breeder and had another good year in him being dominant and with good genetics before it would be right to cull it out. I picked one of the lesser guys to fill some freezer space and we got within 50 yards stalking in before nature spoiled the shot and I came off the trigger rather than maybe wound one at a distance where a charging animal would be hard to stop.
I waited another few minutes and it moved to 100yrds away and gave a nice shot presentation. I put one in the monster’s chest from a .338WM with 225gn SST’s and boy, it noticed. Then it and its 2 friends calmly walked about 2km down to a wadi where the friends mosey’d off eventually leaving the hit one behind. I watched it like a hawk till we thought it would certainly go no further and we hiked down to it. As soon as we got the blood trail at the edge of the wadi it bolted out the other side and Klipspringer Van Kudu put another shot on it which while it only opened up the back leg a bit, it did put the big eland’s e-brake firmly into the on position. It made it another 150 yards down to another wadi and holed up under a tree. We stalked close enough to guarantee a downing shot and I put the .338 over my buddies shoulder and put the final hit on the bull eland. It pulled a spun-n-run which didn’t go far at all, just a few steps really, and piled up doornail dead.
Once we ran over to it we took a knife to the neck to start the blood draining and then I was sure that I’d hit the vitals hard as not a drop of blood came out of the neck’s blood vessels. When we got it back to the farm and took the feathers off we noticed the thing had no blood really outside its chest cavity at all as the first shot clipped the top of the heart and punched both lungs. So, when the 2nd 225gn SST hit the chest it hydraulic’d the blood filled space hard and the thing took 3 steps in surprise and gave it up. Minus head/guts/feet it scale weighed 276kg (which if I’m doing my math right is ~700lbs) meaning a live weight of ~900-1000lbs. When we opened it up for processing it poured literally gallons of blood from the chest cavity. We ate the liver braii’d nicely as liver patties with onion and herbs (a tradition in my family and my guide’s family) along with some of the heart and then finished up with a tenderlion grilled whole and to perfection and sliced at the table. The meat was fork tender with zero elaborate prep. Open flame, salt & pepper and bango, epic chow.
Some perspective and soda about the size of this beastie.
Heads are being done European mounts. Skin from the best springbuck is being made to hide and the skin of the eland tanned to leather.
While in country I managed to pick up the most singularly amazing knife I’ve ever owned made by knifemaker and gunsmith Danie Joubert as well as a new kind of sizing die which I promise will 100% change the game of precision rifle reloading forever.
Lots more pics and juicy details in the video. Enjoy!
-meccastreisand
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