January 17th, 2012

SHOT Show Media Day — Firing Off the Bulldog 1877 Gatling Gun

Our 2012 SHOT Show Media day adventure kicked off with some serious firepower. After arriving at the Boulder City Rifle range and signing the obligatory legal release forms, Jason Baney and I made a beeline for the Colt shooting bay where an amazing Bulldog 1877 repro Gatling Gun was on display. These fully-functional, authentic replicas are crafted by the Bulldog company for Colt. You can buy one if you have a cool $50,000.00 to spend. You heard it right — fifty thousand dollars.

Jason is friends with Gatling project director John Buhay, who let both of us send some 45-70 rounds downrange. While the Bulldog Gatling can dispense a prodigious amount of lead in a few seconds (rate of fire determined by how fast the operator cranks), this firearm is not considered an NFA machine gun. Because an advancement of the crank is required for each shot to be fired, this Gatling is not subject to the severe restrictions imposed on Class III arms. You can purchase a Bulldog Gatling, so long as you would otherwise qualify to legally own a long gun.

Three things surprised me about this Gatling. First was the stunning appearance of the unit. It is beautifully machined and every polished metal component shown like gold in the morning sun. The stability of the unit was also surprising. Because the Bulldog is so big and heavy, it barely bobbles as it sends round after round through its five barrels. And surprisingly little force is required to work those barrels. The crank spins easily. I could see how a trained team of Gatling operators could, back in the 19th century, burn through thousands of rounds of ammunition in a few minutes.

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January 17th, 2012

Media Day Report: New High-End FFP Tactical Optics

While we were somewhat disappointed that we didn’t see many all-new precision rifles at Media Day 2012, there were plenty of new riflescopes on display. Among the most impressive new optics were rugged new high-zoom-range, First Focal Plane (FFP) tactical scopes from Hensoldt (Carl Zeiss), Leupold and Trijicon. These new scopes all featured fat tubes, compact overall length, and abundant elevation travel. These lastest top-end FFP tactical scopes offer as much as 26-power in a form factor not much bigger than a “normal” 4-16X scope.

New 3.5-26x50mm Hensoldt Was Outstanding
Hensoldt showcased a very impressive, prototype 3.5-26x56mm FFP tactical scope. Though this scope offers a whopping 7.4X zoom range and 26-power on top, this new Hensold is relatively compact. The reticle in these prototype versions was a very useful (and simple) milradian-based reticle that we hope Hensoldt retains in the production versions. The Hensoldt boasted an impressive 36 Mils of total elevation travel in two (2) turns of the turret. The new Hensoldt still shares the same superior glass and compact size that puts these scopes at the top of their class. We tested a prototype mounted to an Accuracy International AX 338. Expect the production version to be the same size and cost approximately $4000.00.

As you can see in the video, the new Hensoldt coupled with the new Accuracy Int’l AX in 338 Lapua Magnum worked very effectively at 900 meters in some tricky winds. This combination made it fairly easy to break clay pigeons on the bank at 900 meters. Off camera this combination continued to show great accuracy and very effective design features.

New Leupold MK-8
Leupold showed off a brand new MK-8 3.5-25x56mm with a Horus reticle and a beefy main tube. Again, this featured a lot of elevation in one turn as well as a pinch-and-turn locking turrets. This is a big leap forward for Leupold and we feel this will be well-received in the tactical world. Along with the new MK8, we also sampled Leupold’s new MK6 3-18x50mm. This shared similar features as the 3.5-25, and was incredibly compact as well. We expect the MK8 to sell near $4000 and the MK6 to be substantially less, likely under $3000 according to company reps.

Trijicon made a departure from their standard fare and jumped into the tactical scope world with a beefy Front-Focal Plane 3-15x50mm. This featured a well-executed MOA-based reticle and turrets with 30 MOA per turn (a Milrad version offers 10 Mils per turn). The Trijicon showcased the “short and fat” appearance that seems to be the latest design trend in tactical scopes. But though the Trijicon had a fairly short OAL (for its zoom range), it was still quite heavy at 47 ounces. The glass in this prototype version was disappointing for a scope that will retail in the $4K range. Reps told us the production version glass would be much improved. (It had better be, if Trijicon hopes to play in this stratospheric price range.)

It was apparent at Media Day 2012 that scope companies have worked hard to provide more features and more performance in their high-end tactical scopes. Consequently, the latest generation of scopes offer some very interesting and useful innovations — wider zoom range, more compact size, more elevation travel per rotation, and “goof-proof” turret mechanisms. We can only hope that, with more competition in this market, prices may become more reasonable. $4000 is an awful lot of money to pay for a scope.

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January 17th, 2012

Hands-On Test of New Ruger American Rifle in 30-06

Ruger has introduced a modern bolt-gun, the Ruger American Rifle (RAR), that combines smart featurea of popular rifles made by Tikka, Browning, and Savage. The New Ruger American Rifle features a three-lug bolt with short 70° bolt lift. Dual cocking cams are used to lighten the bolt lifting force so the bolt can be manipulated easily. This rifle uses a barrel nut like a Savage, and it also has a safety trigger similar in appearance to the Savage Accutrigger, though the mechanics of the Ruger trigger are different. Currently the RAR is available in a comfortable yet somewhat flexy synthetic stock, with pillars and a deep channel to free-float the barrel.

ruger american rifle

We liked the beefy action, which has as positive tang safety along with a nice rotary magazine. This gun offers many good features considering the affordable price (under $500.00 without optics). We hope Ruger expands the RAR line-up to include a heavy-barreled varmint version with a longer stiffer stock. The RAR will be offered in both short-action and long-action versions.

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