Looking for a gift for a young shooter in the family? Perhaps a niece or nephew, grandson or grand-daughter? Then head over to the Pyramyd Air website. Pyramyd, the nation’s largest retailer of air rifles and air pistols, has a huge selection of airguns that can provide the perfect introduction to the shooting sports for a youngster. And right now, Pyramyd is running a 12 Deals of Christmas Special, with new bargains every day through December 15th. Pyramyd also offers FREE Shipping on orders over $150.00. That all adds up to impressive savings on gift items for this holiday season.
Pyramyd offers a vast collection of air rifles, from $35.00 Red Ryder BB guns to $3700.00 Olympic-class air Rifles from Anschutz and Feinwerkbau.
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Christmas is coming up soon, so today we’re featuring a hand-picked collection of “stocking stuffers” for precision shooters. You can order most of these items online, and if you get your orders in soon, your selections should arrive before December 25th. So as not to bust your holiday budget, all of our selections are priced under $10.00. These items are handy tools that you’ll use over and over again at the range and/or at your loading bench (so you’re allowed to buy them for yourself, even after Christmas).
Gifts $1 to $5
Bifocal 3X/6X Magnifier
MAX-1 Ear Plugs
$3.17 (20 pair)
Barrel Mirage Shade
Surveyors’ Flagging Tape. You should always watch the wind when you shoot. Inexpensive, Surveyors’ Tape, attached to a stake or target frame, makes a great wind indicator. Available in a variety of colors (including day-glo neons) flagging tap will flutter even in mild breezes, alerting you to both angle and velocity shifts. This should be part of every range kit. Don’t leave home without it.
Bifocal 3X/6X magnifier. This handy, inexpensive dual-power magnifier is always close at hand on our loading bench, because it helps with so many task. We use a compact magnifier to inspect bullet tips, to check brass chamfers, and inspect the internals of triggers and other parts. Priced at just $2.95, a magnifier like this (or the folding variety) is a “must-have” item for every hand-loader.
MAX-1 NRR33 Ear Plugs. Get serious. Protect your hearing. These Howard Leight MAX-1 Foam Ear plugs are the best we’ve tried. They have a superior 33 Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) — better than most other foam plugs. These MAX-1 plugs are very comfortable to wear and with a belled outside shape they are easy to insert and remove. On Amazon.com you can get a 20-Pair pack of MAX-1 plugs for just $3.17 with free shipping. Can’t beat that.
Sinclair Barrel Mirage Shade. For high-volume varminters, and competitors who shoot fast in warm weather, a mirage shield is absolutely essential. This prevents hot air rising off the barrel from distorting the image in your scope. The aluminum Sinclair shield can be trimmed to fit, and comes with stick-on Velcro attachments. Two lengths are available: 18″ for short BR barrels, and 24″ for longer barrels.
Gifts $6 to $10
Ballistol Aerosol Lube
Sinclair Barrel Bag
Sinclair Load Block
Dewey Crocogator. The Crocogator tool, with knurled “teeth” at both ends, is simple, inexpensive, and compact. Yet nothing zips though primer-pocket gunk faster or better. Unlike some cutter-tipped primer pocket tools, the Crocogator removes the carbon quick and easy without shaving brass. One end is sized for large primer pockets, the other for small.
Ballistol Aerosol Lube. Ballistol is a versatile, non-toxic product with many uses in the reloading room. We have found it is ideal for lubricating cases for normal full-length sizing. It is clear, not gooey or chalky like other lubes. It is very, very slippery, yet is easy to apply and just as easy to wipe off. As you lube your cases, the Ballistol will also clean powder fouling off the case necks. For heavy-duty case forming and neck expansion, we’ll still use Imperial die wax, but for every-day case sizing, Ballistol is our first choice. It also helps prevent your dies from rusting and it even conditions leather. Ballistol is a favored bore cleaner for Black Powder shooters because it neutralizes acidic powder residues.
Sinclair Barrel Bag. If you run a switch-barrel rig, or take spare barrels to a big match, this simple but effective barrel bag will protect your valuable steel. The bag is moisture-resistant vinyl on the outside with a soft, quilted interior to protect the barrel’s finish and delicate crown. There are two sizes: one for barrels up to 26 inches, the other for barrels up to 31 inches. Both sizes are priced at $9.95 per bag. That’s cheap insurance for those priceless barrels.
Sinclair ‘Poly’ Loading Block. We’ve tried wood and injection-molded loading trays, and we prefer Sinclair’s white polyethylene loading blocks. They featured chamfered holes properly sized for the particular case you reload. The blocks are heavy enough to be stable on the bench, and the “dishwasher-friendly” material is easy to clean. The standard Poly Loading Block holds 50 cases, while the Competition Loading Block holds 25 cases with a tray for empties. There is also a Heavy-Duty 50-case model with an extra-thick 1″ base.
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One of our Forum members recently asked the question “Does anybody make a good range box with cradles for cleaning at the bench?” The answer is yes — the MTM model RBMC Range Box offers slide-in plastic cradles that provide a reasonably sturdy platform for a quick clean when you’re done shooting. The RBMC box also offers plenty of storage for jags, brushes, solvents, ammo boxes and other miscellaneous gear you need for the range. MTM’s green version is product number RBMC-11, while the red version is RBMC-30. We have one of each, filled with gear for two different rifles.
Among the many range boxes available, the MTM model RBMC Range Box leads the pack in terms of versatility. It is rugged, it has plenty of storage space, plus it doubles as a handy cleaning station. This Editor has used the MTM Range Box to clean rifles and as a “range expedient” rifle holder when adjusting scopes and tensioning action screws. It’s a good product that does the job.
Fitted Cleaning Cradles
The key feature setting the RBMC-11 apart from most range boxes is the rubber-coated cradle system. Wide enough to fit a 3″-wide fore-arm, the cradles slide into vertical slots on either end of the box. This allows your range box to serve as a stable maintenance station. The RBMC-11 is really pretty stable in this role, and the cradles won’t mark your stock. The cradles even feature slots on each side to hold your cleaning rods when not in use. The MTM Range Box is secure enough to stay in place when you’re brushing the barrel. However, if you’re working on a carpeted bench top, you may want to keep one hand on the box when running a cleaning rod through the bore, just to ensure the box doesn’t slide.
Versatile Upper Tray with Dividers
The MTM Range Box has two major components — the box base (with cradles), and a large upper tray with hinged top and carry handle. This large upper tray clamps securely to the bottom unit for transport. The top tray has a long section that holds cleaning rod guides, long brushes, grease syringes and the like. There are two, clear-plastic fitted divider trays. These will hold your patches and jags, plus comparators, ring wrenches, and other small tools.
What Might Be Improved
Though we really like the MTM Range Box, it’s not perfect. First, we wish the box was a bit deeper, to have added carrying capacity. The dimensions of the MTM Range Box are: 25″ long x 11.5″ wide x 8.75″ high. We’d like to see it 12″ high/deep to allow larger solvent bottles to stand upright and to provide more space to carry tools and shooting muffs. However, it is deep enough to hold the large 100-round MTM cartridge boxes that are popular with many shooters (see photo at left).
The cradles are very nicely designed, and will hold your rifle securely without marking the stock. However, we’ve found that sometimes the rear cradle grips the gun so well that the cradle slides out as you lift the gun up. This is not a big deal, but it does demand a little extra attention when you’ve finished cleaning. We really like the twin clear plastic dividers that fit into the large removable top-tray, but we wish the dividers had individual hinged tops. This would keep patches and small parts more secure.
The MTM Range Box costs about $50.00 at most vendors. Currently, the MTM Shooting Range Box RBMC-11 (green version) is $48.45 at Amazon.com. The red RBMC-30 version (shown below) is slightly more.
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Every shooter needs a gun vise to hold a rifle securely during cleaning, scope-fitting, and other operations. Ideally the vise should adapt to a variety of firearms and have storage for patches, jags, and solvents. The Tipton Best Gun Vise fits the bill, and right now you can get this versatile vise for just $49.99 at Cabelas.com. The Tipton Best Gun Vise is an highly-adaptable unit that can be configured in many ways.
This is a very good deal — you may want to jump on it. Consider this — the lowest price we found elsewhere was $81.57 at Amazon.com. Cabela’s normally sells this unit for $99.99, so the $49.99 Sale Price is a steal.
Best Gun Vise Offers Great Adjustability
On the “Best” Vise, the front support, center support, and rear support all slide back and forth AND adjust for height. That makes the Best Vise incredibly versatile. It has a convertible central support that works well for AR rifles, and even some handguns. One Tipton Best Vise owner explains: “I am a gunsmith and am always putting guns in awkward positions to work on them. The versatility from the adjustable parts of this vise makes those once awkward positions stable and solid. I have yet to find a position the vise would not hold my gun in. This product was very well thought out and is well worth the money.”
Another verified owner of the Tipton Best Gun Vise says: “The center post is reversible with long and short towers which makes it great for break-open guns like single shots, over/under, and my favorite, my AR. The clamps can be pre-adjusted so that you just place the buttstock between the protective clamp pads and squeeze the cam-locks on each side and you’re ready to clean, work on, or even [do a bore-sighting]. The vise has a nice assortment of different shaped storage slots (some round, some rectangular) to hold solvent, patches, brushes or other tools. It is very sturdy… and made to last.”
To really understand how the Tipton Best Gun Vise can adapt to just about any rifle, you have to see it in action. In the video below, MidwayUSA President Larry Potterfield puts a Best Gun Vise through its paces, and shows hows to adjust the various supports.
Sale Find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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Do you need a solid, yet affordable front pedestal rest for load testing or varmint shooting from a bench? Here’s very good deal from Grafs.com. Right now the Caldwell Rock BR front rest is on sale for $129.99. That’s $20-$50 cheaper than you’ll find it elsewhere. And Graf’s $129.99 price includes ground shipping (after a single $6.95 handling fee for any order). The Caldwell BR rest isn’t super high-tech, but at 15.5 pounds, it provides a solid platform, with a wishbone-style, cast-iron base. A knob on the left allows easy windage adjustments. The three-lobe bag works fine for prairie dog safaris and general use. For competition, you may want to upgrade to a higher-quality front bag from Edgewood or Protecktor (this may require some minor modification to bag cradle).
We think this $129.99 price is a stellar deal. Check out the prices for the Caldwell Rock BR rest at other vendors (prices effective November 14, 2013):
Will this Caldwell Rock rest perform as well as a Farley, John Loh, or SEB front rest? Obviously not, but not everyone needs a state-of-the-art rest costing more than a factory hunting rifle. And consider this, you can buy the complete front rest for less than the cost of some of the super-deluxe, large-footprint rear bags. If you’re looking for a general-purpose rest that may see hard use around a ranch or farm property (or on varmint hunts), keeping your investment down isn’t such a bad idea.
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A quality borescope is a pricey tool, but once you get to use one, it’s hard to imagine how you ever did without it. To learn how a borescope can help you diagnose barrel issues, you should read a Rifle Shooter magazine feature story, What the Eye Can See.
In this article, writer Terry Wieland explains how to inspect for defects in new barrels, how to recognize different kinds of fouling (in both barrels and brass), and how to spot throat erosion in its early stages. Terry uses a Gradient Lens HawkEye BoreScope. The current generation of HawkEyes can be attached to a still or video camera to record digital images of your bore. The most interesting part of the article is on the second page. There, author Wieland provides photos of various types of internal flaws that can appear in barrels. This will help you spot pitting, excessive land wear, rust damage, and damage from corrosive primers.
Wieland notes that BoreScopes aren’t just for barrels: “The borescope has other uses as well. It can be used to examine the interior of a cartridge case to look for the beginnings of a case separation or to examine the interior of a loading die that is giving you trouble. When you consider the number of tubular objects that play such an important role in rifle shooting, it is a wonder we were ever able to function without such a method of studying bores.”
This Gradient Lens video shows how to correctly borescope your barrel:
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Sinclair International offers a handy tool assembly that lets you sort bullets by base to ogive length. Yes you can do this with a comparator tool attached to calipers, but the Sinclair tool really speed up the process when you’re sorting large quantities of bullets.
The $79.95 Sinclair Bullet Sorting Stand with Dial Indicator (item 749-011-469WS) comes with a heavy black granite base that stays put on your loading bench. The included analog dial indicator has a quick-release lever allowing easy placement and removal of bullets into the comparator. This lever allow the spring-loaded indicator shaft to pop up out of the way.
In the video below, Sinclair shows how to use the Bullet Sorting device. Sinclair recommend sorting in batches with variance no greater than .005 (five-thousandths) in base-to-ogive length. We like to hold tolerances even tighter, trying to hold spreads to .003. The special base comparators used with this tool are offered for $10.99 in .22 caliber, 6mm, 6.5mm, 7mm, .30 caliber, and .338 caliber. The sorting stand can also be used with Sinclair multi-caliber hex-style comparators (items 749-002-942WS, or 748-002-833WS, $19.99).
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Generally you want the biggest, heaviest gunsafe you can afford. However, for many gun owners, a 1000+ pound behemoth is impractical. For those who relocate frequently for their jobs, or who live up many flights of stairs, it is more practical to have a safe that breaks down into separate pieces for storage. In our Guide to Gunsafes, we reviewed the Zanotti Safe, a quality modular safe that breaks down into smaller, lighter components. Now there is a new type of modular safe that is more affordable than the Zanotti. Snapsafe’s Titan safe ships in three (3) flat boxes. Simply unpack the components and assemble the 330-lb. Titan on-site in about 30 minutes without tools.
Watch video to see how the SnapSafe Titan clamps together with steel latches:
The SnapSafe™ Titan holds 10 rifles, weighs 330 lbs. assembled, and measures 60” H x 22” W x 17.5”. Side panels are 1/8″ steel and the door is 3/16”steel secured by eight 3/4″ live locking bolts. SnapSafe claims that its patented “Latch Wall Assembly” can be stronger than conventional welded construction. The safe does have some nice security features, including a Sargent & Greenleaf® digital lock, and spring-loaded relocker. We are pleased to see the safe comes with fire-sealing gaskets lining the door frame. These gaskets, combined with ceramic wool blankets in the walls provide a claimed one hour of fire protection against temperatures up to 2300ºF.
SnapSafe sells its Titan 10-Gun safe on SnapSafe.com for $899.00 (without shipping). The same safe is currently on sale at Midsouth Shooters Supply for $956.42 as a dropship item. Depending on your location, it may be less expensive to buy the SnapSafe from MidSouth.
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Any experienced varmint hunter knows the value of a good .17 HMR rifle, particular when used inside 150 yards on small critters such as ground squirrels. The .17 HMR is a great round, but for general plinking and target practice, we prefer shooting the venerable .22 Long Rifle. The .22 LR has less recoil and less noise. Importantly, .22 LR ammo (even with today’s shortages) remains much less expensive than .17 HMR ammunition.
Wouldn’t it be great if a single, affordable varmint rifle could shoot both .22 LR and .17 HMR? Well, CZ offers just such a rig — the CZ Model 455 American Combo, a versatile switch-caliber rifle priced at about $485.00 (MSRP is $531.00). The American Combo comes complete with both .22 LR and .17 HMR barrels, easily interchanged with a simple Allen wrench. As CZ explains: “The CZ 455 eliminates the need to spend the extra expense on a second rifle when you want to add another quality shooter to your rimfire battery”. For a bit more money, you can even purchase a .22 WMR barrel, making your CZ a triple-threat varmint-slayer.
The little CZ 455 has shown impressive accuracy in both .17 HMR and .22 LR versions. With good ammo, expect groups around half an inch (or better) at 50 yards. In fact, when GunsAmerica.com tested the CZ 455 American Combo, the .17 HMR version delivered quarter-inch groups at 50 yards. That’s pretty impressive accuracy for the price.
Video Shows Switch-Barrel Functionality on CZ 455
If you want to learn more about the CZ 455 American Combo, we suggest you read the GunsAmerica review. A comprehensive write-up with plenty of photos, this review answers most of the questions a potential buyer might have. Here’s a sample from the review:
“The 455 does now come in single calibers as well, but all of the guns retain the ability to shoot .22LR, .17HMR, and .22WMR with the purchase of extra barrels. CZ engineered the swapability with a novel bolt-locking system that works without levers or collars or any of the other things you generally see in convertible firearms. The barrels are machined with a two 45° cuts in them. the receiver then holds two bolts [seated at 45° angles]. To change the barrels you remove two action screws and the two 45° bolts. The system is elegant in its simplicity. Swapping the barrels takes about 5 minutes. You first remove the two action screws, then the action and free-floated barrel come right off the stock.”
If you have a digital camera or scanner, you can measure your shot groups easily with the FREE On-Target software (read our On-Target Software Review). However, not many people want to lug a laptop to the range just to measure their groups. Most folks measure their groups at the range with a small ruler, or a set of calipers. That works pretty well, but there is a much more precise method.
Neil Jones Target Measure Tool
Neil Jones makes a specialized group-measuring tool that fits a special optical viewing lens and shot-size template to your precision calipers. There are two main parts to the tool. The first part, attached to the fixed caliper jaw, is a block holding a spring-loaded plunger with a sharp point (used to anchor the tool). The second part is clamped to the sliding jaw assembly. This viewing unit has a magnifying lens plus a plexiglass plate with scribed centerline and circular reticles for various calibers (.224, 6mm, 30 cal). This device works with both conventional and digital calipers. You’ll find the Jones Target Measure Tool used by the official target measurers at many big benchrest matches. Jones claims that his tool “will speed up the measuring process and be more accurate than other methods.” The Neil Jones Target Measure Tool costs $80.00, which includes magnifier, but not calipers. It comes in two versions, one for dial calipers, the other for digital calipers. Neil Jones also sells his tool complete with dial calipers for $120.00, or with digital calipers for $150.00. It is probably cheaper to source your own calipers.
To order the Jones Tool, visit Neiljones.com, email email@example.com, or phone (814) 763-2769.
Forum member RidgeRunner has devised a clever shooting support for field use. He calls it the “Pogo Stick”. It’s simply welded stainless rod with a two-pronged base, and a ‘U’-shaped cradle that adjusts for height along a vertical shaft. RidgeRunner tells us: “It is very solid and made from stainless steel so it won’t rust under sweaty hands. The rifle hook, or support, slides up and down the main stem and secures with the knob. It has two prongs you tramp into the ground and is VERY stable. It is shiny, but I have been using this one since about 1983, and I can’t say I have noticed it spooking any whistlers. Before I had an actual bench to shoot off of, I used it to sight-in rifles. I would lay down and use a sand bag under the butt stock. Worked just fine.”
While this “Pogo Stick” rest was created for varmint hunting, it would work well for hunters of larger game, in terrain where the prongs could be set in the ground. The whole unit is small enough to carry easily in a day-pack. It sets up in seconds, and it stays in position by itself, unlike shooting sticks, which normally require a firm hold with one hand.
Yep, that’s one big Pennsylvania groundhog in the photo below. RidgeRunner reports: “This old boy has been giving me the slip for a couple weeks. I finally got a 52gr A-Max in him before the hay got high enough to hide him again. This sucker weighed 15 pounds. My heaviest to date I believe. The rifle is a Tikka 22/250 with a 4-16X Weaver 1/8-MOA dot scope. Nice and light for carry, nice and accurate too.”
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Brass jags perform well for their intended purpose — with one hitch. Strong copper solvents can actually leech metal from the jag itself, leaving the tell-tale blue tint on your patches. This “false positive” can be frustrating, and may lead shooters to over-clean their barrels.
Gunslick Nylon Spire-Point Jags
There are now some good alternatives to brass jags. The best may be the Gunslick® Nylon Snap-Lock™ jags shown at right. These never leave a “false positive”. A while back, Larry Bartholome, past USA F-Class Team Captain told us: “The best spear-type jags I have used are the GunSlick black nylon tips. I have used the model 92400 for the last couple years in my 6BR and 6.5-284s. Unlike the white plastic jags, these are strong and there’s no brass to worry about.” You can purchase these nylon jags directly from GunSlick just $1.49 each. At that price, they’re worth a try.
#92400 for 22 through 270 calibers: $1.49
#92421 for 30 through 375/8mm calibers: $1.49
#92423 for 38 through 38/9mm calibers: $1.49
Tipton Nickel-Coated Jags
If you prefer a metal jag, consider the Tipton Nickel-coated Ultra Jags, sold both individually and as a boxed set. All Tipton nickel-plated jags have 8-32 thread, except for the .17 caliber jag which has a 5-40 thread. The vast majority of user reviews have been very positive. A few guys have complained that the nickel-plated Tipton jags run oversize, but we use a .22-caliber jag in our 6mms anyway, so this hasn’t been a problem for us. The 6mm (.243 caliber) nickel-plated jag (MidwayUSA item 259834) costs $4.79. The complete 12-jag set, covering .17 to .45 calibers, including a flip-top carry case, is offered by Midsouth Shooters Supply for $17.56 (Midsouth item 094-500012).
For a few dollars more, you can get the new-style, 12-Jag Kit from MidwayUSA (Midway item, 812503, $24.49). This features an easy-to-use, clear-topped fitted caddy that can lie flat on your bench, or be attached vertically (to save space).
Clear-Coating Your Brass Jags
If you’re reluctant to give up your collection of brass jags (after all they’ve worked pretty well so far), try covering the jag itself with a thin, transparent coating. Forum Member BillPA says: “I give the brass jags a coat of clear lacquer or acrylic; that works for me”. You may need to experiment to find a coating that stands up to your favorite solvent. BillPA says: “The only solvent I’ve found that eats the lacquer off is TM Solution. Butch’s, Shooter’s Choice, or Wipe-Out don’t seem to bother it. Most of the time I use rattle-can clear lacquer”. If you’re feeling creative, you could even color-code your jags by adding tints to the clear-coat.
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