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:

YouTube Preview Image

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 »
November 4th, 2009

Affordable Timex Offers Temp, Air Pressure, Timer Functions

Temperature, Atmospheric Pressure, and Altitude — all these things can and do affect bullet ballistics. Moreover, temperature changes can alter powder performance and chamber pressures. The smart reloader takes the predicted ambient temperature into account. And when calculating your come-ups and windage click values, you need to factor in Temperature, Air Pressure, AND Altitude.

Kestrel 4000 Weather TrackerHow do you keep track of these important variables when you’re shooting? The Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather Tracker®, is compact and provides a wealth of information: atmospheric pressure, altitude, density altitude, temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind chill, dew point, and heat index. We like the Kestrels and recommend them. But at $279.00, a Kestrel 4000 is too expensive for many shooters.

Timex now offers a solution. Selling for about $60.00-$75.00 (street price), the Timex Expedition® Adventure Tech™ watch (item T41501EA) displays Altitude, Barometric Pressure, and Temperature (ABT). The thermometer function records temps from 14° F to 140° F. The Altimeter reads from -2,296 feet to +29,520 feet with 10-foot resolution. The Barometer tracks current and sea level pressure, and provides a graph of pressure changes over time.

Timex Altimeter Watch

Encased in a stainless housing with a resin band, the Timex watch is water resistant to 50 meters, and offers many other nice features, including dual time zones, countdown timer, alarm, and backlit nightlight (very handy). The countdown timer is very easy to set and activate; and yes the timer can be used effectively in a shooting match.

There are other quality watches, such as the Suunto Core, that provide Altitude, Atmospheric Pressure, and Temperature read-outs. But, at under $70.00, the Timex is one-fourth the price of the Suunto. Amazon.com is currently offering the Timex Temp/Altitude/Barometer watch for $62.88. It is offered with a silver band as well as the black shown above.

Useful Tool or Just Another Gadget?
Is this watch really useful or just another piece of male jewelry? Well just last week a friend was developing loads and he wanted to input the ambient temperature, and current air pressure. The Timex gave us the desired data. (Note: it’s best to take the watch off your arm when gauging air temp). For this editor, the Timex ABT watch is a useful tool. I bought one and use it during load development and when shooting competitively. Negatives? Well the Timex IS big and thick, really thick, but then it’s much handier than carrying BOTH a digital thermometer/altimeter AND a separate count-down timer.

Here’s an owner’s review: “I have been through a Nike ABT, a Swiss Army ABT, and a High Gear ABT watch this year alone. None of them, which cost quite a bit more, have been as accurate and durable as this Timex. It has a better fit, was easy to use and read and just plain ‘on the money’ as far as forecasting weather and altitude. Also, I have not had to take it off my arm for 10-15 mins to get a decent temperature rating. It has always been within 1-3 degrees of actual temp. And I live in the Carribean in a tropical climate… so, for it to be this accurate is a statement in itself.”

Permalink Gear Review No Comments »
November 1st, 2009

New "Outside-In" Flash Hole Reamer for Large Flash Holes

For years, Sinclair Int’l has offered a reamer for small, BR-sized flash-holes, product #07-3000. This popular tool features an 0.0625″ cutting tip to uniform the .059″ flash-holes on Lapua 220 Russian, 6mmBR, 6.5 Grendel, and 6.5×47 brass. Sinclair’s tool works from the outside, indexing off the primer pocket. For those people who believe in the utility of reaming small flash-holes (an open question), the Sinclair “outside-in” design may be the best. But until now, there has been no equivalent “outside-in” reamer for cases with large flash-holes.

Large flash-hole reamer Sinclair AccurateShooterSinclair recently introduced its NEW .081″ large flash-hole reamer, item #07-3081. This $37.50 tool is designed to ream standard flash holes (.080″) to exactly .081 inch, both for small primer pockets and large primer pockets. This tool will remove most burrs left in manufacturing and will uniform the flash-hole diameter of all your brass to ensure consistent ignition.

Double-Ended Design Works with Both Small and Large Primer Pockets
Sinclair’s all-stainless three-piece tool features a double-ended reamer guide for both large and small primer pockets, a knurled handle for easy turning and a straight fluted .081″ reamer. It is designed for all cartridges (with either small OR large primer pockets) with standard .080″ flash holes.

As one Sinclair customer noted: “This is a tool that has been needed for a long time.” As a result, the .081″ flash-hole reamers have been back-ordered through 12/1/2009. But if you order now you should have yours within 5-6 weeks.

IMPORTANT: We recommend, if you order this tool, that you mic the actual diameter of the cutter tip. We have found that some flash-hole reamers, of ALL brands, arrive with slightly oversized cutter tips. Indeed we’ve seen tip diameters of other brands (not Sinclair) vary by as much as .006″ (six-thousandths). You want to make sure you don’t have an oversize cutter before you ream hundreds of cases.

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October 21st, 2009

Gear Review: Lee Classic Cast Iron Press

Lee reloading products have always represented good “bang for the buck”. The Lee Classic Cast “O”-style press is no exception — it works as well as some other presses costing twice as much. One well-known “boutique” bullet maker has recently switched to Lee presses because the tolerances and lack of slop were actually superior to more expensive presses.

The Lee Classic Cast press is a well-designed unit with a strong, cast-iron frame and all-steel linkage. It has important (and very cool) features you won’t find on an RCBS RockChucker. First, the ram is drilled in the center and fitted with a plastic drop tube so spent primers drop right out the bottom (where you position your trash can). Second, the handle adjusts for length and “attack angle”. This allows you to change the leverage to suit your task. As Lee explains: “The start and stop position is adjustable with a 48-tooth, ratchet-type handle clamp. In addition, the handle length is completely adjustable. Shorten when you’re loading handgun and short rifle cases.” As you can see, you can also mount the handle on either side, left or right.

Lee Classic Cast Iron PressLee Classic Cast Iron Press

You can purchase the Lee Classic Cast Press for under $86.00 at major vendors. FactorySales.com offers the Lee Classic Cast for $73.40, item 90998. MidwayUSA sells the Lee Classic (item 317831) for $85.99. Natchez Shooters Supply also offers the Lee Classic for $80.99, item LEE90998.

Lee Classic Cast Press Primer systemMark Trope of SurplusRifle.com has written a detailed Review of the Lee Classic Press. He notes that the press is “southpaw friendly” and he praises the priming system. Mark found that the spent primer drop tube worked very well and that the press “works perfect and has great sensitivity” when seating primers.

Not yet convinced? CLICK HERE to read comments from actual Lee Classic owners. Here are some highlights:

“It has a large, heavy-duty 1-1/8″ diameter ram that has been drilled out for spent primers … and a long clear plastic hose attached to it so you can route it to a trash can. [This is] a VERY well thought-out way to collect ALL primers to your trash can when you’re decapping.” –D. Oldham

“Fit and finish are impeccable. The spent primer disposal system is simple and neat. There is no spring or flexing of any kind. There is virtually no play in the ram, which is a good tight fit in the frame. Operation is totally smooth.” –R. Smith

“Totally outclasses any other press in its price range. Runs with presses in the $100-$120 range.”–W. Rose

“I like…the position of the ram at priming. The Lee seats the primer with the ram at the bottom of the stroke vs. the RC II, which seats in the middle of the stroke. Priming at the bottom of the stroke gives you a much better ‘feel’.” –M. Gallagher

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October 17th, 2009

Greatest Hits: Money-Saving Bipod Swivel Adjuster Kits

LINK: Make Your Own Swivel Bipod Adjustment Handles
Save $15-20 by assembling your own easy-adjusting bipod handles with components from T-Nuts.com.

Permalink Gear Review, Hot Deals 1 Comment »
October 17th, 2009

Greatest Hits: Texas Twins Showcase Eliseo TubeGuns

LINK: Eliseo You-Tube Gun Video from the Cole Twins
Rockin’ soundtrack and tack-drivin’ Tube Guns made this one of our most popular videos ever. Them Cole boys from Texas can shoot….

YouTube Preview Image
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October 17th, 2009

Greatest Hits: Machining Art from John Loh

LINK: John Loh Rest Donated for World BR Championships
Can a rest be a work of art? Yes, it can — when crafted by John Loh of JJ Industries. John, one of the great guys in the sport, donated this rest to support the U.S. Team at the BR Worlds in South Africa.

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October 9th, 2009

Brass Jag Alternatives: Nylon, Nickel, SS, Clear-Coated

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.

There are now some good alternatives to brass jags. The best may be the Gunslick® Nylon Snap-Lock™ jags shown at left. These never leave a “false positive” and snap on and off quickly. Larry Bartholome, past USA F-Class Team Captain says: “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.”

92400 22 through 270 calibers: $1.49
92421 30 through 375 Calibers: $1.49

If you prefer a metal jag, MidwayUSA sells Tipton Nickel-coated jags, both individually and as a boxed set. 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 22-caliber nickel-plated jag (item 996840) costs $4.79. The complete 12-jag set (item 812503), covering .17 to .45 calibers, costs $24.49 including a fitted box, shown below.

MidwayUSA Nickel Cleaning Jags

K&M Stainless Jags
K&M Tools offers stainless spire-point jags in .22, .243, and .308 calibers. These are well-made and won’t produce false positives. However, with stainless jags, you MUST always keep the jag covered with a patch when inside the barrel. Otherwise you can rub steel against steel — not good. The downside of stainless is the potential for barrel scratching. On the other hand, according to Forum member Dans40x: “300 series stainless steel jags last a few lifetimes”.

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.

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading 3 Comments »
October 1st, 2009

Spotting Scope Stands for F-Class and Prone

The 2009 F-Class Nationals are underway right now at Camp Butner, NC. While riflescopes are allowed in both F-Open and F-TR classes, many competitors use a spotting scope as well. With a low-mounted spotting scope placed near the shooter, you can keep your riflescope trained on the target, then quickly check wind flags or mirage by looking through the spotter.

Here’s a smart product from Ray-Vin.com that lets F-Class and prone shooters mount their spotting scopes in the ideal viewing position. Ray-Vin’s patented MKII F-Stand is solid and sturdy, and “floats” the scope close to the shooter’s head without interfering with the placement of a front pedestal rest or ultra-wide bipod. The base can sit off the shooter’s mat.

Ray-vin fstand

How much? The entire F-Stand package costs $310.00, including 8″ bottom for prone, two 24″ extensions, Ray-Vin 360 Head, and Take-Off Knob. But if you don’t need the extensions, you can purchase components separately.

Ray-vin fstandThe F-Stand is shown with Ray-Vin’s $85.00 Scope Head. This head allows the shooter to adjust scope height, rotation (around the stand shaft), scope angular elevation, and eyepiece orientation, all with one control. Some other scope heads, though more expensive, require you to use multiple knobs or friction adjusters. Conveniently, most of the adjustments can be done easily with one hand, using the black adjusting handle. Smart engineering we’d say.

You can see that the F-Stand places the spotting scope right where the shooter wants it, yet the legs do not interfere with the shooting position. A heavy-duty milled metal bracket clamps the base stud and scope rod securely. The F-stand will hold even heavy 80mm spotting scopes without flexing.

Ray-vin fstand

CLICK HERE to Read Reports from F-Stand Owners.

Permalink Gear Review, Optics 5 Comments »
September 27th, 2009

Improved Ultrasonic Cleaning with Citranox

Citranox Case CleanerForum Member Dave B., aka “Gunamonth”, is a chemist/physicist with decades of experience working with the ultrasound process. He has achieved great results cleaning cases via ultrasound. Dave tried a variety of solutions and he favors a mix of water and Citranox®. This achieved the best results, and did not require a separate neutralizing step if you rinse the cases thoroughly after. Citranox, mixed 1:75 or 1:100 with water (distilled H20 is best), is inexpensive to use. Phospate-free Citranox® contains a blend of organic acids, anionic and non-ionic surfactants and alkanolamines. For more information on using Citranox®, check out THIS FORUM THREAD.

Dave notes: “I had a lot of communication with the technical VP of Alconox about trying to clean fired cases with an ultrasonic unit. He sent me a copy of his ultrasonic cleaning manual and recommended a product called Citranox®. So far I’ve been very impressed. With once- or twice-fired brass they clean up very quickly. The worst cases I tried were 6 Dashers that had been fired ten times with Varget and never cleaned. The worst fouling was in the bottom of the case around the flash hole. They took longer and I used a more concentrated cleaning solution but they did come out clean. The price is reasonable. I paid $35 a gallon and for once- or twice-fired cases I dilute the cleaner 100 to 1. There is much less chemical reaction with the brass than there is with vinegar. No weird colors, just shiny bright. I even used it with hot water, which speeds up the cleaning process. No need to neutralize. Just rinse in running water and they’re squeaky clean. The cleaner is mostly detergents with a little citric acid. Even at a 1:75 ratio my $35 worth of cleaner will make 75 gallons of solution. It doesn’t seem to be reusable but 75 gallons is a whole lot of solution when I only use about two cups at a time.”

The price has gone up a bit since Dave acquired his Citranox, but Amazon.com sells Citranox for $40.00 per gallon, or you can buy a gallon of Citranox from LabSafety Supply for $46.40.

Permalink Gear Review, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
September 26th, 2009

Electronic Target Systems — Fast, Precise, and Expensive

We live in a digital, electronic era. The very story you’re reading right now consists of digital data packets transmitted electronically around the globe. Because of cost factors, 99+% of shooting matches in the USA still rely on old-fashioned manual scoring methods. However, target scoring can be done faster and more precisely with electronic scoring systems. Olympic and international CISM shooting competitions now employ electronic target systems. And electronic scoring is widely used in Europe already.

Below is a video showing an electronic scoring system developed by Norway’s Kongsberg Mikroelektronikk AS. Watch as a prone shooter puts five rounds on a 300m target. You can see the group form on the video screen at his shooting station. He’s a good shooter (with an accurate rifle). The first three shots are touching.

As you can see from the video, viewing shots on the monitor is easier than using a spotting scope and waiting for targets to be marked. The electronic target eliminates the need for a crew of target pullers in the pits.

YouTube Preview Image

The Kongsberg system, like the electronic systems produced by Sius Ascor of Switzerland, do more than just display shot locations to the shooter. The target units automatically calculate scores, which are transmitted to a central computer. This can provide updated competitor rankings, and can even display the results to event spectators on large view screens.


CLICK HERE for a longer streaming Flash VIDEO showing how electronic target systems work. This video, produced by Sius Ascor, shows olympic target systems in action.

Permalink - Videos, Competition, Gear Review 2 Comments »
September 24th, 2009

Lambeth Builds a Tack-Driving Savage Prone Rifle

North Carolina-based gunsmith Nat Lambeth is one of the gurus of the Savage world. He has built many highly competitive match rifles using Savage actions, employing his special accurizing methods. Nat recently built up a 6 BRX prone rifle using Gary Eliseo’s new S1 Savage Chassis. The 6 BRX, a 6BR improved with 30° shoulder, can be a very accurate cartridge, as demonstrated by Nat’s new rifle. Right out of the gate, this gun shot an 0.290 five-shot group during barrel break-in.

Savage Prone Rifle Eliseo

The rifle features a Savage Target action, factory Accutrigger, and a very accurate 32.5″, 8-twist Broughton 5C™ barrel. The load was Lapua 6BR brass hydraulically formed to 6 BRX, 32.5 grains of Hodgdon Varget, Wolf (Russian) SRM primers, and a Berger 105gr VLD bullet.

Nat really likes the 6 BRX chambering in a long-range prone rifle: “The 6mm BRX is like a 6mmBR on steroids. The whole purpose of the 6mm BRX and 6mm Dasher is to make the 6mmBR a better round for 600-1000 yard shooting. The have the advantages of the 6mmBR with a little more velocity. Most folks who shoot a 6mm BRX fire-form their 6mmBR brass by seating the bullets in the rifling and loading the 6mmBR case with a 90% load. The case expands into the larger chamber making a 6mmBR case now a 6mm BRX. [For this gun] I used my new Hornady Hydraulic Forming Die. [Editor: the hydraulic die will form the cases to about 95% of final shape using just the die, a water-filled case, and a mallet.] As you can see, the hydraulic die allowed me to start off with a standard 6mm BRX load from the get go. For optimum accuracy, barrel life, and case life the 6mm BRX seems to have an accuracy node between 3000 fps and 3080 fps.

Another factor is that the Broughton barrels seem to give about 100-150 fps more velocity. Almost every Broughton barrel that I have chambered seem to gain a little velocity after the first 200 rounds. I have chambered the 6mm BRX with most other barrel manufacturers and they all have shot well. This is a very sweet round.”

Savage Prone Rifle Eliseo

If you want to check out this rifle, head to the 2009 F-Class Nationals at Camp Butner, Sept. 30 – October 4. Nat explains: “This rifle will be at Butner for the F-Class Nationals and future matches and practices. I will have it and ammo available for those who would like to shoot it during the practice sessions both as a 6mm BRX and .308 Win.” For more info, call Nat Lambeth at (919) 556-0554 (Home/shop — evenings and weekends), (919) 662-6848 (cell), or email NLambeth [at] embarqmail.com.

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