February 25th, 2010

Custom Dies — The Hornady Option (Call Lonnie)

How would you like a full-length sizing die perfectly fitted to your fired brass? At one time that required you to purchase a die blank, a special undersized reamer (a chamber reamer is too big), and send the work out to a skilled gunsmith. You could expect to have $250-$350 tied up in your custom die when all was said and done.

Now Hornady’s custom shop offers a much less expensive alternative. For $121-$140, plus shipping, Hornady will produce a custom-made die based on your reamer print, spec sheet or fired brass. Lonnie Hummel and his team of skilled machinists have produced custom dies for many top shooters. Scott Parker had Hornady produce a custom full-length die for Scott’s 6BRX. Scott reports: “The die is great. I’m very impressed. The die is a perfect fit for my brass and the sized brass has very low run-out.”

Hornady’s non-bushing custom full-length sizing dies cost $121.00 for cases up to 2.60″ COAL, or $140.00 for cases 2.60″-2.99″ long. Add $20-$25.00 if you want a custom, non-micrometer seater die also. Hornaday also offers custom “match grade” bushing dies — both FL-sizing dies and bushing neck-sizers. These “match grade” (bushing-equipped) sizing dies (FL, or neck-only) cost $152.00 up to 2.60″, or $166.00 for longer dies.

To order any type of Hornady custom die (bushing or non-bushing) we recommend you send 3 or 4 fired cases along with a reamer print to Lonnie Hummel at Hornady Mfg., Box 1848, Grand Island, NE, 68802. Give Lonnie a call first at (800) 338-3220, ext. 208, to discuss design details and get an estimated delivery date.

Hornady Custom Dies

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading No Comments »
February 20th, 2010

NEW Caldwell Tip Top Targets — Crisp Holes, No Rips

Caldwell recently sent us some new pre-printed targets that we really like. The new Caldwell Tip Top Targets have a combination of features we’ve never seen before in pre-packaged targets. First, the targets are printed on a unique, plasticized card stock — just slightly thinner than a business card. The plasticized material is very rip-resistant (if you really try, you can make a small tear on the edge, but it takes a LOT of deliberate effort). The plasticized material makes the targets 100% weatherproof, though you can still write on the surface. At the bottom of the targets, Caldwell includes a labeled data entry area where you can record firearm type, shooting conditions, distance, group size, load info, and chron data. Very Handy! The targets even come pre-punched for a 3-ring binder. That’s great if you want to save your targets. The 8″ Sight-In Tip Top Targets cost $7.49 for 25-pack, or $24.99 for 100 targets.

Tip Top Target Caldwell

Bullets Punch Perfect Circles on New Target
What makes these “Tip-Top Targets” really unique is the way bullet holes appear. When a bullet passes through a normal paper target, the paper can rip. At best you get a fairly round hole but with a fuzzy, uneven edge. With these Tip Top Targets, the bullet hole looks like it was made with a hole punch. No more ragged, fuzzy edges. If you’ve ever shot wadcutter rounds from a pistol into a paper target, that’s the effect here. But the bullet hole edges are even MORE sharp and uniform. As a result, you can measure your group sizes quickly, with great precision.

Overall, we think the Tip Top Target is a real step forward. Caldwell did a great job with this product. The new material does not tear, does not get soggy in wet conditions, and does not flap around in the wind. The new material delivers crisp, uniform bullet holes for easy group measurement, and the 1″ square gridlines let you quickly estimate your group size.

Caldwell Tip Top Targets are offered in six (6) different versions: large, Inverted “T” for iron-sighted rifles or pistols; 4″-diam. Bullseyes; 8″-diam. single Bullseye; 100-yard Benchrest Target; 200-yard Benchrest Target; and 8″ Sight-in Target with 1″ grid (shown in photos).

We really like the layout of the sight-in target. In has five different aim points with a central diamond split by horizontal and vertical lines running through the points of the diamond. The diamond, which measures 1/4″ on a side, provides a VERY precise aiming point. Just line up your cross-hairs with the heavy black lines and you should be able to shoot bugholes with this target. It’s a very good design, with good contrast in the center of each aiming square.

Is there anything we would change on the Sight-In Target we sampled? Yes… First, we’d like to see a long-range version with an all-white background so that bullet holes are easier to see at long distances. Second, we’d modify the data entry table so you could list results for multiple loads. See our FREE Targets Page for paper targets with multiple load-entry/chron data boxes.

Review Disclosure: Caldwell provided a free 25-ct pack of 8″ Sight-In Targets for testing.

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 2 Comments »
February 17th, 2010

New 8 oz. to 10-lb Trigger Pull Gauge from Timney

Timney Triggers has a new Trigger Pull Gauge. This spring-type tension scale measures pull weights from 8 oz. to 10 lbs. and is also calibrated for metric (kg) weights. The wide hook makes the gauge easy to use even with over-sized trigger guards. The Timney gauge features a “tattle-tail indicator” that stops at the highest resistance. This works as follows — as you pull back on the gauge, the sliding indicator will move towards the heavier side of the scale; once the sear releases the sliding indicator remains at the point where the highest amount of pressure was exerted on the trigger.

Timney trigger pull gauge

We still think the Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge is the best on the market, but it costs $52-55.00 compared to $28.49 for the Timney gauge. The Timney Trigger Pull Gauge will be available at MidwayUSA (item 969947) before the end of February.

Lyman trigger pull gauge

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February 9th, 2010

Gear Review: SEB Coaxial Rest and Rear Bag

Mark Trope, Webmaster of the Gun Owner Network website, has written a very thorough review of the SEB Coaxial front rest. Mark’s SEB Rest Review covers all the bases, showing how the rest works with a variety of rifle types, including both wide-forearm match rifles and narrow-forearm sporter rifles.

SEB Coaxial Rest Review

Mark provides dozens of good photos of the rest, including many close-ups showing the fine points of SEB’s impressive design. The review shows how to set-up and level the rest, and how to tune the “feel” of the joystick to suit your preferences. Some rest users prefer the joystick to move quite freely, while others prefer to dial in some resistance so there is no chance of movement when you remove your hand from the joystick.

SEB Coaxial Rest Review

After covering the features and performance of the SEB Rest, Trope turns his attention to the SEB “BigFoot” rear bag. He explains why it’s a super-stable choice in rear bags, one of the best products available. You’ll note we acquired a SEB BigFoot rear bag for our latest AccurateShooter.com Project Rifle (see story above). After providing tips on how to fill the bag with heavy sand, Trope shows how to adapt a RubberMaid “ActionPacker” plastic storage bin to carry both the SEB Front Rest and the BigFoot Bag.

SEB Bigfoot bag eview

If you are considering the purchase of a joystick-style front rest, or joystick-style rest top, you should definitely read Trope’s Rest Review. It will definitely help you identify the features you need, so you can make an informed decision, whatever brand you ultimately choose. To learn more about the SEB coaxial rest, or to place an order, contact Sebastian Lambang’s American dealer, Ernie Bishop:

Ernie Bishop
306 West Flying Circle Drive
Gillette, WY 82716
(307) 257-7431
ernieemily [at] yahoo.com

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February 4th, 2010

Long-Range Scope Comparison: Schmidt & Bender, Leupold, Zeiss

Forum member Thomas Haugland (aka “Roe”) from Norway has created an excellent video comparing the features on four long-range scopes: Schmidt & Bender PMII 3-12x50mm, Schmidt & Bender PMII 12-50x56mm, Leupold MK IV, and Zeiss Diavari Victory 6-24x56mm. Thomas shows how the adjustments function, he records the available vertical elevation, and he takes apart the turrets to show how the weather seals work. While the Leupold MK IV has MOA clicks, the three Euro scopes tested by Thomas have mil-based or mil/cm adjustments. These mil-based clicks work well with first focal plane reticles that have mil or half-mil hash marks.

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Thomas explains:

These films emphasize the shooter’s Point of View (POV) and ‘user friendliness’. ALL these scopes get the job done, but they have some similarities and differences in the details and your own personal preferences would decide what scope can be labeled ‘best’. The perfect scope doesn’t exist, you’ll have a compromise somewhere — be that economy, magnification, reticle, turret, optical quality, sturdiness…

In these films I’ve set the Schmidt & Bender PMII 3-12×50 as the benchmark for comparison. Not because it is ‘best’ (it isn’t!) but because S&B is one of the manufacturers which first recognized the needs of professional Long Range shooters and put together products [optimized to work well] in high stress environments. The features that are important are: First focal plane, MIL reticles and MIL turrets, plenty of adjustment and suitable magnification.

Note that S&B and Zeiss scopes are also available in the USA with MOA-based turrets and/or second focal plane (SFP) reticles, for those shooters who prefer the MOA system, and SFP. A first focal plane reticle is best for ranging, but a target shooter working at known distances will probably prefer a second focal plane reticle that doesn’t change in size with magnification.

Permalink - Videos, Gear Review, New Product, Optics 3 Comments »
February 3rd, 2010

New Combo Shooting Mat and Rifle Carry Case

Many of our readers have been looking for a folding shooting mat that does double duty as a rifle case. Well, the NRA just released such a combo mat/carry case that appears to have all the needed capabilities. In carry mode, the case is 48″ long by 13″ wide. The rifle is stowed in a padded center section, and held in place with velcro straps. A center handle lets you carry the bag like a suitcase, or optional shoulder straps allow backpack-style carry. These straps stow away in a zippered compartment when not in use.

Shooting mat carry case

When you arrive at the range, just open up the bag and you have a 3 foot wide by 6 foot long shooting mat with rubberized “elbow” contact zones. In shooting position you’ll find a convenient pouch for ammo on the right, and a place for your log-book on the left. Constructed of tough, 600D polyester with heavy-duty silent zippers, the NRA Mat includes four multi-position pouches: a 9″ x 8″ clear map / document pouch, a 10″ x 10″ zippered ammo pouch with 20 cartridge loops, a 9½” x 10″ exterior MOLLE pouch, and a 9″ x 18″ utility / strap pouch. The front exterior has MOLLE loops to attach additional pouches.

The NRA combo carry case/shooting mat costs $99.95, in either “coyote” tan or black. We think thats a pretty good price considering that a quality roll-up mat by itself can cost $80.00 or more and you still need a rifle case. This mat would be a good choice for F-Class shooters, and for long-range High Power shooters, provided their rifle is less than 45-46″ overall. Measure your gun before you order this product from the NRA Store.

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 3 Comments »
January 24th, 2010

SHOT Show Report: Innovative GunSafes from Browning and Pendleton

Among the many brands of gunsafes on display at SHOT Show 2010, two series of safes caught our attention. Browning’s new Tactical MK II safes possess many smart features, such as rubber-coated shelves and built-in LED lighting, that we’d like to see as ‘standard equipment’ on other safes. The Browning Tactical safes even offer handy Picatinny rail sections on the bottom of the upper shelves, so you can securely stow optics or rail-mounted accessories when not in use. Check out the video below, which showcases the unique features of the 60″x30″ Browning Tactical MKII safe.

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Pendleton circular gunsafeCylindrical High-Security Safes from Pendleton
Pendleton drew crowds with its innovative line-up of cylindrical safes. A Pendleton Safe looks like a large vertical water heater clad in heavy steel. Pendletons feature a fairly narrow front door with a multi-level, rotating gun storage carousel inside.

The big advantage of the Pendleton safes is that they are very, very resistent to pry-bar attacks. The door gap is just .090″ (ninety thousandths) making it very hard to insert a prybar. The safe’s curved sides offer no entry points for prybars, and if a thief manages to tilt the safe over, it just rolls when leverage is applied to a prybar. The doors feature a patented cam locking mechanism and a commercial grade blocking plate to prevent drill attacks. Notable were the number of locking “bolts” — actually rectangular locking tabs of solid 1/4″ steel, providing 54 square inches of locking surface (compared to 4-8 sq. inches on bargain Costco/Walmart safes). Where some cheaper safes may have only three locking bolts on one side of the entry door, the 72″ Pendleton has 14 locking “tabs”, arrayed on the left AND right door sides (seven per side). A very impressive new safe, the Pendleton offers exclusive, patented security features, along with quality fabrication by a well-known, US-based commercial safe manufacturer.

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January 20th, 2010

SHOT Show Report: Murdica Tests New Norma 6PPC Brass

Lou MurdicaAt the request of AccurateShooter.com, respected Benchrest ace Lou Murdica tested the brand new, early production Norma 6PPC brass. Lou shot 30 cases (both turned and unturned) over the past few days, and he endorses the Norma brass without hesitation. Lou says “the Norma PPC brass is great brass. Without a doubt this will be highly competitive brass in the short-range benchrest group”. Lou did observe that the necks on the Norma brass were slightly thinner than on Lapua 220 Russian brass, but that really doesn’t matter. With a slight neck turn, Lou declares, “the Norma PPC brass is as good as any out there.”

Lou said, based on his testing, the Norma brass holds pressure well, and the accuracy is outstanding. Lou shot five 5-round groups, as in a match course of fire, and his largest group was “around 0.148″ at 100 yards.

If you’re a short-range benchrester, definitely watch this video and listen to Lou. He thinks this new Norma brass will “change the game”. Note — Lou said most PPC shooters can shoot the Norma cases with no change in their powder recipes. So you won’t lose any velocity using Norma’s new brass. Lou was very impressed with Norma’s new offering, enough so that he declared: “I would go right for the Norma right now if I could put a bunch in my hand.”

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Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
January 20th, 2010

SHOT Show Report: Manners Composite Stocks

Manners Composite Stocks builds very strong, stiff stocks employing advanced manufacturing methods and high tech carbon fiber materials. In this video, stock-maker Tom Manners showcases his new products for 2010. These include the handsome new MCST 5A Tactical stock, composed of 30% carbon fiber, 65% fiberglass. Though as strong as any comparable stock on the market, the MCST 5A weighs just 4.1 pounds. Tom also displayed his impressive “long wheelbase” F-Class stock. A full 7″ longer than any other F-Class stock on the market, the Manners F-Class stock features all-carbon construction and a unique “fish-belly” design that provides extra rigidity so the stock tracks smoothly without the “springboard effect” common to some other low profile stock designs.

Manners F-Class stock

Manners F-Class stock

Tom also previewed the new Manners Mini Chassis, an integrated v-block/bottom metal/mag carriage. Manners’ Mini Chassis can be installed in one of Manners stocks or other designs, and it provides a rock-solid, “bolt-in and go” mount for a Rem-700 footprint action. The Mini Chassis takes both 5-round and 10-round AI magazines.

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Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing, New Product No Comments »
January 19th, 2010

NEW Steyr SSG 08 Showcases Sophisticated Design Features

At the Media Day rifle venues, “Tactical” rifles were definitely the featured attraction. There were, of course, many AR-based black rifle offerings, but the purpose-built, precision bolt guns really were the stars of Media Day this year. Savage has a new .338 Lapua Magnum, its first ever. SAKO unveiled an impressive new .338 TRG with front rails and a very sophisticated folding stock (more on that later). Barrett had some thundering big boomers on display. You could feel the compression from the muzzle blast on the new .416 Barrett a dozen feet away. JP Enterprises had its handsome new MOR-07 on display. This features an aluminum chassis with either tubular or square 2×4-style fore-arm, plus a buttstock that looks like the Magpul AR stock. JP’s new MOR (Manually Operated Rifle) is offered either as a chassis to fit Rem footprint receivers, or as a $4499.00 complete rifle.

Though there were many impressive domestic tactical bolt guns, one of the nicest overall designs, in this Editor’s opinion, came from Austria’s Steyr Arms. The new Steyr SSG 08, shown below, features an advanced folding stock that is solid in the locked position while offering full adjustability of comb height and length of pull. The pistol grip was one of the most comfortable I’ve tried. The SSG 08 features a unique, 3-position triggersafety. In the “full safe” position, a positive pop-up selector locks the safety in place and actually blocks the firing pin. The detachable box magazine can be secured in two positions. In the first, the magazine is fully retained in the gun but you can cycle the bolt without picking up or extracting a round.

While the SSG 08 had all the tactical bells and whistles (such as forearm rails and 10-round magazine), it was the overall execution and competence of the weapon that impressed me. The design was well thought out — there were no “rough edges”, and everything, from the buttstock hinge to the mag release, functioned smoothly (and quietly). What separated the SSG 08 from most of the competition was the quality of the trigger. Many of the tactical rifles had very, very heavy trigger pulls with lots of over-travel. The Steyr SSG 08’s trigger was crisp and light. Shooting this gun was a pleasure. One noticed the attention to detail in every element of the rifle. We are told that Steyr received input from Austria’s Special Forces on this rifle. We aren’t surprised. With the SSG 08, one can see that real marksmen were involved in the design.

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Permalink Gear Review, New Product 1 Comment »
January 19th, 2010

NEW Savage m93 17 HMR Varmint/Tactical Rimfire

Savage Arms was well represented today at the SHOT Show’s “Media Day as the Range.” We saw and shot several new offerings from Savage (including a tactical rifle in 338 Lapua Magnum and a hunting weight 6.5-284). We’ll cover these centerfire Savages later this week. One of the new Savages we really liked was the model 93R17 TR, a slick little 17 HMR. It looks and feels like a full-sized centerfire tactical bolt-gun, it comes with an excellent stock and nice trigger, and it is both affordable and very accurate. (NOTE:v Savage is also offering 22LRs rimfires in the same stock, the MK II TR and TRR.)

This rifle features an all-new, texture-painted wood stock with a very sound “tactical” design. It is well thought out, with good ergonomics, and offers options and design details that most rimfires do not. The stock features a moderate beavertail fore-end, a fairly vertical grip and a shallow butt-hook at the rear for support using the non-shooting hand. The black textured paint is very similar to the black painted finish on McMillan stocks (notice the texture in the photo).

The “look and feel” of the model 93 TR is similar to the popular Rem 700 PSS, and that’s good news for tactical shooters. With the new m93 TR, you feel like you are shooting a full-size tactical rifle. It feels solid and comfortable. And this rifle features with an optional factory-installed picatinny rail — a very nice feature on a rimfire rifle. You can easily move your scope back and forth between the model 93 and a Picatinny equipped centerfire bolt-gun. The model 93 should prove very popular with shooters who want to train with an economical rimfire that has very similar ergonomics to a centerfire bolt gun. For training duties only you may prefer the 22LR version. But the 17 HMR would be our pick for a “working” varmint rifle.

With CCI hollowpoint 17 HMR ammo, the m93 proved very accurate — we hit everything we shot at with ease, even in rainy, gusty conditions. Targets were mostly clay pigeons at 50-100 yards; we could break a clay, then easily hit the smaller pieces. Clearly this gun can be a very effective short-range varminter.

Overall, we really liked the feel and ergonomics of this rifle. It is a good choice for those seeking a rimfire trainer that handles like an “adult-sized” centerfire rifle. We are confident this will make a great varmint rifle as well as a economical tactical trainer. Your Editor expects that this rifle will be a hot seller for Savage.

Savage m93 17 TR Specs: Cal 17HMR; barrel 21″; overall-length 40″; weight about 7.5 lbs.

Permalink Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting, New Product 1 Comment »
January 13th, 2010

Blaser Unveils new R8 Rifle with Detachable Magazine

Blaser, popular German builder of deluxe straight-pull hunting rifles, has released a new rifle with a unique, to say the least, detachable magazine system. The magazine is integrated with what would be the trigger guard/bottom metal on a conventional rifle. Pull out the R8’s magazine and the trigger guard and trigger shoe come with it — it’s all one unit.

Blaser R8 rifle

This short video illustrates how the unique magazine/trigger works:

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Presumably, combining the external trigger linkage with the magazine offers a safety advantage. This way, if you have a round still in the chamber, even after removing the magazine, you can’t pull the trigger to fire the round. Blaser states: “When removing the magazine, the R8 automatically de-cocks and once the magazine is removed, the cocking slide cannot engage anymore. Today, this is a very important safety feature securing the rifle against misuse by unauthorized persons.” It sounds like a good idea, but we wonder how practical this system is. Murphy’s law dictates that some hunter will travel half way around the world for his “hunt of a lifetime” only to find he forgot his magazine and now he has a rifle without a trigger. Most conventional rifles with detachable magazines can still be used as single shots even without the magazine.

Blaser R8 rifle

The one real advantage we see to the R8 design is that the whole action/receiver is extremely short, allowing a more compact rifle length. Blaser claims: “The design of the R8 magazine above the trigger allows the overall length of the rifle to be 9 cm (3.5 inches) shorter than conventional bolt action rifles.” Another nice thing about the R8 is that the trigger pull is crisp and light right out of the box. The Blaser R8’s trigger breaks at just 1 5/8 pounds, and lock time is extremely fast. And the R8’s cocking mechanism is something new. According to Blaser, the R8 does not rely on a spring to reset the trigger after firing. Instead it uses a “desmodromic trigger mechanism” for improved reliability in wet or dusty conditions. (For those of you who don’t ride desmo-valved Ducati motorcycles, a “desmodromic” design typically employs a rocker arm and cam lobe to achieve reset.)

All the interesting new features of the Blaser R8 are illustrated on Blaser’s German website via an interactive Product Gallery. CLICK HERE to view the Product Gallery.

Blaser R8 rifle

Starting in February 2010, the Blaser R8 will be available from Blaser dealers in a variety of models: Professional, Jaeger, Luxus, Attaché, Baronesse, Safari PH and Safari Luxus. In addition a custom-engraved R8 Custom class model will be offered. For more information, visit Blaser-usa.com.

Permalink Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting, New Product 4 Comments »
December 31st, 2009

Kokopelli Ring Lapping Tool and Scope Alignment Bars

If you use mass-production ring sets, other than Burris Signature Rings or SAKO Optilock Rings (which both feature polymer inserts), you can benefit from lapping your scope rings. Lapping your rings, when done properly, with the right tools, can improve the fit of the rings, reducing bending forces and stress on the scope. Properly-lapped rings are also less likely to leave prominent marks on your scope tubes.

Forum member Boyd Allen is a strong advocate of ring lapping for factory-produced ring sets. He’s tried various lapping tools and he believes that the Kokopelli system is one of the best available. Custom crafted in Kalispell, Montana by John Werre, the Kokopelli lapping system combines a specially-machined lapping rod with patented flat-ended scope alignment bars.

Kokopelli Lapping Tool
John Werre, Kokopelli’s owner, explains why his lapping tool works better than most others: “No one was making a lapping bar that would lap anything more than the bottom half of the rings and they were made of rolled stock and only a very short stroke was possible, rapidly wearing out the bar due to the limited area of use. I did something entirely different. I designed the bar to be used with the top halves of the rings in place and utilizing a long stroke thereby distributing the wear over the entire 12″ length of the bar. Why just do half a job?”

Kokopelli Ring Lapping Tool

John adds: “Another problem was that the lapping compound would readily scrape off the bar, slide around and wear the bar out as fast as the rings. I added the spiral groove to stop the scraping off of the compound and later changed to a much softer steel and put a very rough, but carefully designed, finish to accept the lapping compound, actually allowing the grit to be driven into the surface of the bar. The nasty, scruffy rough finish is full of grooves and valleys of a depth designed to ‘catch’ the very sharp lapping compound, imbedding it into the bar. You then will wear out what you’re trying to lap rather than wear out the bar at the same time. The spiral grooves also cannot catch on the edge of the scope rings as can one which has annular grooves cut perpendicular to the axis of the bar in separate rings. I have very good reasons for every unique feature of my tools. Every aspect has a valid design behind it.”

Kokopelli Scope Alignment Bars
Kokopelli’s patented scope alignment bars have flat ends and work differently than alignment bars which use pointed tips. Kokopelli came up with a flat-ended design because alignment bars with pointed tips can yield a “false positive”, meaning the points can touch when the scope rings are out of alignment. To demonstrate, try this simple experiment. Take two ordinary pencils. With one pencil in each hand, hold them parallel with the pointed (lead) tips touching. Now simply move the outboard end of each pencil, while keeping the tips touching. You can see instantly that the tips can touch even if the pencils are way out of alignment. The same thing can be true of scope alignment bars.

With the Kokopelli scope alignment bars, each bar is an exact cylindrical projection of the interior of each ring. When you bring the bars together, if they don’t mate perfectly, i.e. if there is any gap between the flat ends when the bars are touching, then you know you have an alignment problem. Kokopelli claims that misalignments as small as .002″ can be detected. John Werre explains: “The bars actually are a three-dimensional projection of each ring ‘hole’. You’re looking at a solid representation of the hole through the ring. Put one bar in each ring and you can then compare the axial alignment of the ‘ring holes’ to each other. If the ends match and are flat together you have reconstructed the bars into one [cylinder] and the alignment is PERFECT.” Below, in Figure 1, you can see rings that are out of alignment. In Figure 2 you can see rings that are properly aligned. Interestingly, the misalignment illustrated in Figure 1 did NOT show up with pointed ring alignment bars. This amount of misalignment can create up to 3/16″ of scope tube bending (depending on ring spacing).

Kokopelli Scope Alignment Tool

Kokopelli Scope alignment Tool

The function of the Kokopelli lapping tool and alignment bars are described in greater detail on the Kokopelli website. The lapping tool and alignment bars are sold separately, or as part of Kokopelli’s complete Accurizing Kit shown below. The kit, which combines Scope Alignment Bars, Lapping Bar, pointer rod, and lapping compound in a fitted box, costs $84.50 for 1″ rings, or $91.00 for 30mm rings. For more info, contact John Werre at Kokopelli Products, 3820 Foothill Rd., Kalispell, MT 59901; phone (406) 755-3220. NOTE: Kokopelli has maintained the same prices since 2003. However, due to increased costs of materials, John Werre plans to raise his prices by mid-January, 2010. You can get current pricing by ordering soon.

Kokopelli Accurizing Kit

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing, Optics 2 Comments »
December 20th, 2009

Top-Rated Garmin GPS Units on Sale for $119

Portable GPS vehicle navigation systems are hot items this shopping season. It’s easy to understand why. Top-rated units that sold for nearly $300.00 a year ago, are now offered for under $125.00. The 4.3″ Garmin Nüvi 255W is now on sale again on Amazon.com for just $119.00 plus $6.27 shipping. The similar, but older, 4.3″ Garmin Nüvi 260W model is $119.99 with FREE SHIPPING.

Garmin 255w GPS

The Garmin 260W was rated best in its class by Consumer Reports, and it is a “Top 10″ selling item on Amazon. The 255W has newer software, and may actually be a bit better. (Consumer Reports did not test the newer 255W model). Our Assistant Editor Jason Baney owns and uses a Garmin 255W and recommends it highly. One reviewer noted: “I own both and the 255W is the one to buy. It is faster and has some new features. The 2X0 and 7X0 model [may] soon be discontinued. The 2X5 and the 7X5 are the newest. Go with the newer model.”

LINKS for Best Prices

Garmin nüvi 255W 4.3-Inch Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator

Garmin nüvi 260W 4.3-Inch Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator

Bluetooth and Voice Navigation on Higher-Priced Garmins
Other Garmin Nüvi models to consider are the 265WT and the 855 (both 4.3″). The 265WT comes with blue-tooth connectivity so you can use it to make phone calls when you drive. The model 855 has voice-activated commands. That’s a very nice feature that lets you keep both hands on the wheel. The model 855 also has the “Lane Assist” feature. As shown below, Lane Assist zooms in to show the lane you need when exiting freeways, or navigating through large interchanges. UPDATE: The Garmin 855 is Amazon’s “Deal of the Day” for December 22 — Price dropped from $189.99 to $159.00 — that’s by far the lowest price on the web.

Garmin nüvi 855 4.3-Inch Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator with Speech Recognition

Garmin 855 Voice Navigation

Permalink Gear Review 1 Comment »
December 17th, 2009

Jackie Schmidt Tests New IMR 8208 XBR Powder — Results are Very Impressive

IMR 8208 XBR is a new powder to be released by Hodgdon in January, 2010. The powder is said to be extremely accurate, and Hodgdon believes it will set new standards for stability across a wide temperature range. We spoke to Chris Hodgdon last week and he confirmed that “the 8208 XBR is packaged and ready to go. We plan to start shipping in quantity starting January 4th”.

Schmidt Tests IMR 8208 XBR with 6 PPC Railgun
Is the new powder as good as early reports have suggested? Ace Benchrest shooter Jackie Schmidt recently tested IMR 8208 XBR with his 6PPC rail gun. The results were very impressive. (Test observer 333 Smitty said: “This was the best testing session I have ever witnessed — It looks like the new 8208 is a huge success!”)

IMR 8208 XBR test Schmidt

Shooting five, 5-shot groups, Jackie put together an .0976 Agg. His last two groups, both using weighed 8208 XBR loads, were in the zeros. (See target photo.) Jackie was shooting his Unlimited Rail with 65gr “Bartail” bullets, Fed 205 primers. The barrel was a 23.5″ straight-contour Kreiger with a 1:13.5″ twist. Conditions were “were really nice, just a gentle ebb and flow” with temps in the 50s and about 60% humidity.

Here is Jackie’s report, originally posted in the Benchrest Central Forum:

“I first started out with my ’08 Vihtavuori N133, just to see if the Rail was on its game. After a few 3-shot groups to find the window, I settled in on 30.4 grains with a 65gr Barts Boattail. I then nailed a nice 5-shot ‘zero’ that you can see on the far left, second row up. Average velocity was 3470 fps.

I then switched over to the 8208 XBR. I started with a load that Tom Libby recommended, 31.3 grains. While it did not nail a ‘zero’, you can see it shot pretty well. The average velocity for the five record shots was 3430 fps.

I then decided to drop the load down into another window, a flat 30.0 grains. The average velocity was 3320, and as you can see, the group opened up. I felt like I hit the condition just right on each shot. Maybe a little cool for this light of a load.

IMR 8208 XBR test Schmidt

We then decided to up the charge until it matched the velocity of the N133. This took 31.8 grains. With a slow trickle this was just about half-way up into the neck. The group was really nice, so I decided to try the load again, only weighing each charge. The results were the group you see on the far right. That is really probably about a .040″, pretty darned small. The average velocity on both groups was about 3470 fps.

I then decided to go back to the 31.3 grain charge, but weighing each charge this time. The results were another nice “zero”. The velocity was the same as before, but the total spread on this group was only 12 fps.”

IMR 8208 Also Shoots Well in Sporter Rifle
Jackie reports: “I then pulled out my Sporter, and put the 31.8 grain XBR load in. I shot a couple of 3-shot groups that were about .110, then shot a 5-shot group that was a ‘zero’ for the first four. But I missed the last condition, and opened it up to about a .180, straight to the right.”

IMR 8208 XBR test Schmidt

Observations and Conclusions
Jackie writes: “So, what did I find out? First, this stuff is more dense than N133. I can barely get the 30.4 grain N133 load in the case, but there is no problem at all getting the XBR in at darned near 32.0 grains. This shows that, by weight, XBR is slower than the ’08 N133.

The 8208 XBR also burned just as clean as N133. I could not tell the difference in the patches that came out after shooting N133 and the XBR. Also, this stuff meters VERY WELL. Much more consistant than N133. While I started weighing charges, I could count on the XBR out of my Hensler Measure to be within ± 0.1 grain. I simply cannot do this with N133.

An added note, the Rail Gun has a 23 1/2 inch barrel, the Sporter a 21 1/2. With the same load, I saw an average 70 to 80 fps slower velocity out of the shorter barrel. These two barrels are just about identical in the land and groove diameter, both .237 4-groove Kriegers[.] I guess this shows that some of the powder is still burning at 21 1/2 inches.

I showed that yes, at 52 degrees overcast and dreary, I made the stuff shoot pretty darned good. But, I do not have a clue what will happen when the weather changes. Only time will tell.

That about covers it. This new powder will shoot, and velocity is certainly not a problem. I had zero problems with any pressure signs, the handle on the Diamondback on the Rail and the Bat action on the Sporter lifted really easy on all loads, and the primers looked nice, with a generous radius still on the outside edge.”

General Comments — Can 8208 XBR Live Up to Expectations?

Jackie offered these general thoughts about IMR 8208 XBR and how it stacks up versus Vihtavuori N133:

“I have been shooting Benchrest since the mid ’90s, and I can’t think of a single product causing this much excitement, or generating this much hype. Just what are everyone’s expectations? Being able to arrive at a competitive tune, and have it stay there all day? Being able to shoot in the upper window without wrecking the brass? Being able to concentrate on the actual ‘shooting’ rather than worrying about the rifle going ‘vertical’ at any moment?

As of now, a few shooters have been able to test this new powder and found it to be capable of producing good velocity, and great groups. But, the realities of the ‘Competitive Arena’ can be very harsh. Nothing is more aggravating than trying to keep up with the pack when your rifle is locked into a .300 tune, and try as you do, nothing seems to work. We have all been there.

My expectations are that the new powder will be more stable in the perameters that govern that all important ‘Agging Capability’. By that I mean that if the rifle does get a little ragged, just a little tweek one way or another will get it back. Or even better, that the rifle will stay reasonably competitive over a day’s worth of aggregates without fear of getting so ragged that your entire day is ruined by two bullet holes worth of vertical.

This is a tough sell. But then, this is a tough game. I, for one, really hope that this new powder is more ‘user friendly’, so Benchrest can get back to being more about shooting, rather than chasing loads all day long.

N133 is probably the most used powder in 100-200 yard Benchrest today. It is also, at the same time, the biggest source of aggravation. If it is right, nothing can beat it. But, as we all know, if it isn’t quite right, the fun can go away real quick. One of the Holy Grails of Benchrest has always been how to make N133 shoot over an entire Aggregate.”

Photos Courtesy G.A. Villarreal, used with permission.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, New Product 2 Comments »
December 15th, 2009

Review of Accuracy International AE MKII

Accuracy International AE MK IIOn the GunsandHunting.com (Shooting Illustrated) website, you’ll find a well-written, in-depth review of the updated Accuracy International AE MKII rifle in .308 Winchester. (The MKII title means the rifle has a threaded barrel with brake.) The reviewer, Steve Adelmann, is a former Army sniper, so he certainly knows his tactical rifles. Adelmann praised the rifle’s ergonomics and folding stock. He also said the detachable mag system is one of the best available: “AI’s rifles also allow the magazine to be pushed straight into and dropped from the magazine well[.] The feeding and function of the five- and 10-round magazines were flawless during my evaluation, totaling 230 rounds.”

We often hear claims about tactical rifles delivering “benchrest-quality accuracy” when shot from bipod with factory ammo. We always take such reports with a grain of salt. For this article, at 100 yards, Adelmann tested two types of factory ammo, and three sets of handloaded ammo. The average accuracy of ALL the ammunition, based on five, 5-shot groups for each type, was right around one MOA (see chart).

Accuracy International AE MK II

We’re pleased Adelmann published honest results with five groups per load. Some testers will only shoot one or two 3-shot groups, which can give a false impression of the rifle’s true accuracy. Adelman writes: “The rifle still managed sub-MOA performance with the best factory ammo and handloads averaged together for all distances.”

CLICK HERE for full Accuracy Int’l AE MK II Review

Photos and Charts © 2009 National Rifle Association

Permalink - Articles, Gear Review 7 Comments »
December 14th, 2009

MOBALL Deployable Ballistics Computer from Bryan Litz

There are a variety of ballistics programs that can be used with handheld PDAs, and even Apple iPhones. But Bryan Litz, author of the new Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting book, has come up with something bigger and better. Employing the powerful Texas Instruments (TI) Voyage 200 graphing calculator, Bryan has created a Mobile Ballistics Solution (MOBALL) that is more sophisticated (and accurate) than typical PDA-based programs.

Litz Moball Ballistics Calculator
MOBALL includes TI graphing calculator and ballistics software. Kestrel windmeter NOT included.

Bryan tells us: “The Mobile Ballistics Computer (MOBALL) was created for one purpose: to provide shooters with the most accurate and complete ballistic firing solution possible for application in the field.” MOBALL runs on a TI graphing calculator — a sturdy, stand-alone, non-network device. That means you don’t need long-term cell phone contracts, expensive data plans, or weekly OS “updates” and patches. The TI also delivers long run-time on ordinary AAA batteries. That’s a big advantage over most laptop computers, which run out of “juice” after only 4-5 hours in the field.

According to Bryan, what sets MOBALL apart from other “deployable” ballistics calculators is that: “MOBALL provides a complete ballistic solution, with the ability to account for every major and minor variable affecting a bullets trajectory. In addition to the standard variables like atmospherics, uphill/downhill angles and wind, MOBALL also has the ability to account for more subtle ballistic effects like spin drift, Coriolis effect, and multiple winds in up to 3 zones.”

Importantly, Bryan’s MOBALL device can employ Ballistic Coefficients (BCs) referenced to the G7 standard. Compared to the older G1 BC model, the G7 BC standard better matches the characterics of the long, boat-tail bullets actually used by long-range shooters. Trajectories calculated using the G7 BC are more accurate for long-range bullets because the G7 BC doesn’t vary with velocity like the conventional G1 BC.

G1 BCG1 BC

The difference between G1 and G7 BCs is explained online in the Berger Blog article A Better Ballistic Coefficient. The subject is also discussed in detail in Chapter 2 of Bryan’s Applied Ballistics book.

Litz Moball Ballistics CalculatorAt $290.00, MOBALL isn’t the least expensive option for a mobile ballistics device, but that price includes the TI Voyage 200 graphing calculator, worth $180.00 by itself. Bryan adds: “As already mentioned, the feature set is extensive, and the software is much more sophisticated than most ballistics programs designed for PDAs. The solution is VERY accurate (CLICK to download MOBALL Accuracy Report). Also, the TI Voyage 200 is an impressive device itself, capable of solving advanced engineering and math problems. If you’re a high school/college student, engineer, etc, the TI Voyage 200 can be used for many school and work tasks unrelated to ballistics.”

Save $20 on MOBALL and Ballistics Book Combo
As a special Holiday Offer valid through December 31, 2009, you can save money when purchasing MOBALL and Bryan’s Applied Ballistics book together. The book and MOBALL unit are being offered as a Holiday Combo Set for $309.95. That’s a $20 savings over the $329.95 cost of purchasing both book and MOBALL unit separately.

Permalink Gear Review, New Product, News 14 Comments »
November 28th, 2009

Dislodge Stuck Bullets with Brass Drop Rods

sinclair bullet drop rodWhen using the Stoney Point type OAL gauge (now sold by Hornady), we sometimes get a bullet stuck in the rifling. This can also happen with a squib load or when extracting a round with the bullet seated hard in the lands. You can use a cleaning rod or a wood dowel to tap out the bullet, but a brass drop rod will do the job faster and easier, with less risk of nicking your crown.

You can make a drop rod yourself from brass or bronze rod. Just make sure to smooth over any burrs or rough spots on the ends. Or just order a set of brass bullet drop rods from Sinclair Int’l. You drop the Sinclair Rods (item 52-500) down the barrel from the muzzle end with the rifle standing upright. Sinclair Bullet Drop Rods are made of brass so they will not harm the rifling in your barrel. Each $11.95 set consists of two Drop Rods — a 3/16″ diameter rod for 20 caliber through 25 caliber bores, and 1/4″ diameter rod for 6.5 through 416 caliber bores.

Remember, for safety sake:
Drop Rods are never to be used to dislodge live or loaded rounds! Always remove the Drop Rod from the barrel before chambering another round!

Sinclair Bullet Drop Rod

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading 2 Comments »
November 28th, 2009

Great Price on Widescreen Garmin 255W GPS Navigator

A vehicle GPS Navigation system is great for the active shooter or hunter who regularly travels to distant ranges or hunting grounds. Prices for high-quality GPS systems have been dropping even while more features are being added. When we saw that the latest-generation Garmin nüvi 255W 4.3-Inch Widescreen Portable GPS went on sale for $119.99, we thought that was worth a mention in the Bulletin. Assistant Editor Jason Baney did a lot of research on vehicle GPS systems a few months back. He concluded that the Garmin 255W offered the best “bang for the buck.” And that was when a 255W cost about $160.00. Jason purchased a Garmin 255W and recommends it: “My Garmin 255W is easy to use, the screen is bright and easy to read, and the routing is usually very good.”

CLICK for Best Price on Garmin nüvi 255W 4.3″ Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator

Garmin nuvi 255W GPS

CLICK HERE for more Garmin 255W Photos and Complete Specs.

This unit has some impressive features. Of course it provides spoken turn by turn directions. You can also search locations with your home computer and load them into the 255W — the unit can hold up to 1000 destinations or way points. The 255W has a large, bright touchscreen that makes it easy to enter directions. With so many GPS Nav units available, the 255W has become one of the most popular on the market. One nüvi 255W owner explains why: “I chose the 255W for several reasons… It uses some of the newest and best maps available. It has one of the more usable touch screens for entering destinations. It’s fast to acquire satellites. And Garmin almost always comes out on top in reviews — especially in routing. Ultimately, you buy a car GPS to get you from Point A to Point B as easily and efficiently as possible. And that’s what the 255W does best. If you’ve ever had a ‘Brand X’ GPS take you on some strange route that adds 20 minutes to your trip, has you turn the wrong way down a one way road, tells you to turn AFTER you’ve passed the street, frequently loses the satellite signal, or has old maps missing streets, you know how important this stuff is.”

No Lane Assist on 255W
We do wish the $120.00 Garmin 255W offered the “Lane Assist” feature found in the more expensive Garmins (but for $120 you can’t have everything). Lane Assist zooms in to show the lane you need when exiting freeways, or navigating through large interchanges. The Garmin 255W does tell you when and where to turn, it just doesn’t offer enhanced Lane Assist graphics. If you want a unit with Lane Assist, we recommend the Garmin nüvi 855. Along with Lane Assist the 855 model offers speech recognition — a nice feature that can simplify inputting new destinations or switching among GPS displays while driving.

Garmin nuvi Lane Assist

Permalink Gear Review, Hot Deals 1 Comment »
November 8th, 2009

NEW Product: Borden 'Tubegun Special' Action

This gear review is by respected prone shooter German Salazar. German recently received the first production version (Serial No. 0001) of the NEW Borden Action espressly designed for Tubeguns. German reports this is “really a great piece of equipment” and it’s affordable at $800 for the single-shot version or $850.00 for the repeater.

NEW Action for the Tubegun Revolution by German Salazar
If you’re a High Power shooter then you know that the Tubegun Revolution is in full swing both in across-the-course and prone matches. For many reasons, including accuracy, availability, cost, delivery time, ergonomics, familiar feel (for AR15 shooters) and more, the Tubeguns are becoming the norm in High Power. I recently built a 30-06 Tubegun for prone matches and have been extremely satisfied with the results, but I had a desire for a better action for it, now that desire is a reality.

Borden Tubegun special action

While most Tubegun stocks are made to take Remington 700 actions or clone, it has become difficult to get bare Remington actions and bargain priced 700s are non-existent these days. Buying a complete rifle to strip, then blueprinting the action leaves you with about the cost of a custom action invested in the Remington — not the most economically sensible outcome.

Seeing the need for a custom action to fit the Tubeguns at a moderate price, Jim Borden of Borden Rifles is now making a Tubegun Special (TGS) action –- actually six variants of it. The TGS action is made to fit the Tubegun stocks without alteration and has been designed in cooperation with Gary Eliseo (Competition Shooting Stuff) to ensure compatibility and functionality.

Special Features Optimized for Tubegun Installations
The TGS is a full round action, without the scallops of the Borden Alpine/Timberline series and without the flattened rear bridge of the Remington 700. This full round surface presents a much larger surface area for epoxy if you intend to glue-in the action, and simply a better fit if you intend to bolt the action into the tube. Additionally, the TGS has no scope mounting holes or bolt stop since these are not required in a Tubegun stock and their elimination reduces machining costs, helping to keep the retail price competitive with a blueprinted Remington.

Borden Tubegun special action

Beyond the action profile, there are a few choices in the TGS. You can order it right-handed or left-handed, long action or short action, single-shot or repeater. The single-shot models have a coned bolt as shown in the photos, which helps feeding from the action trough, whereas the repeaters have a flat-faced bolt like a Remington to ensure reliable feeding from a magazine.

The TGS has the familiar Remington-type plunger ejector and a claw extractor similar to the Sako. I have put over 4,000 rounds through my 6BR Borden Alpine with 100% reliability from the extractor. It’s a solid, reliable design. The bolt is nicely fluted in a spiral pattern and the fit and finish of every bit of the action and bolt are first class. It’s almost a shame to epoxy it into the tube, but that’s what it’s meant for!

Borden Accuracy is now a distributor for the CG triggers (X-tremeshooting.com) and can time the action to the trigger before delivery. Other triggers are available from Borden as well and the action takes any Remington-type trigger. Finally, Gary and Jim have standardized locations for the serial number and manufacturer information and the CSS stocks have small windows in the main sleeve to allow those to be seen at all times.

Borden Tubegun special action

If you’re planning to build a Tubegun, you should take a close look at the Borden Tubegun Special action, it’s a very practical and cost-effective approach with the single-shot actions priced at $800 and the repeaters at $850 as of this writing.

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 4 Comments »