June 26th, 2010

Warning: New Apple 4th-Gen iPhone May Have Serious Flaws

Many of our readers use iPhones to run ballistics programs and to access travel maps and weather reports. We CAUTION readers who may be planning to purchase a new Apple iPhone 4 (Fourth Generation), first released on June 24th: Wait until the flaws are fixed.

You May Want to Hold Off on Purchasing a iPhone 4
We know many of you guys are anxious to get the latest iPhone 4… but we strongly advise you to wait a week or two at least. Or perhaps wait a few months until an improved version of the new iPhone is available. The reason for this advice is simple — the glass panels on the new iPhone are prone to cracking, and there is a serious reception problem on many of the latest generation of iPhones.

iPhone 4 Major Problems
We suggest readers WAIT before purchasing an iPhone 4, based on issues we observed ourselves, as well as thousands of reports that are flooding in. There are three main problems.

1. Many iPhone 4s have hardware-related reception problems causing dropped calls. This is apparently caused by hand interference with the antenna.

2. The iPhone 4’s front screen and back plate, which are composed of a new, ultra-hard Aluminosilicate glass, are very prone to cracking. We observed this first-hand.

3. Some iPhone 4 users are reporting yellow blotches and other abnormal screen discolorations. This is apparently a manufacturing defect.

iPhone 4GCracked Glass on Faceplate and Backplate
On June 24th, we went to the shooting range. One of our shooters, Katrina, had just acquired a brand new iPhone 4. She carried it in a protective belt holster. After a couple hours of shooting from a sitting position at the bench, she tried to make a call, only to find that the front glass screen had a full-width diagonal crack. This phone was never dropped, tossed, or abused in any way. While the screen needs to be replaced, Katrina’s iPhone is still able to make calls — the first one of which went to Apple customer support.

Many reports are surfacing about broken iPhone 4 glass. Unlike our experience with Katrina’s phone, most of the breakages appear to be on the back plate. You’ll find reports of the breakages in the Apple forums and on major tech websites.

Gizmodo.com reports: “Cases of broken iPhone 4’s backs are already appearing. This hasn’t changed from previous generations…. But the difference is that the iPhone 4 is all glass. If you drop any other phone, you have a 50% chance of breaking its screen. With the iPhone 4, the risk will always be there, no matter how it falls. It’s just more exposed to damage because of the material choice.” Another breakage report.

CNET confirms the cracking glass problem in iPhone 4s, and has already published a do-it-yourself YouTube video showing how to replace the glass rear plate.

Reception and Dropped Call Problem
There is a widespread problem with iPhone 4s losing reception when held in the hand. The video below shows how just picking up the iPhone and holding it normally will cause loss of reception. The problem appears to be hand contact with the iPhone 4’s metal frame, which serves as the antenna.

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An article in Gizmodo.com addresses the issue: “There’s no great fix for the iPhone 4 reception issues right now. We’re also pretty sure—and Apple confirms it—that touching the antenna does affect things—whether or not it has the final result of killing calls or speed of data connection.”

Rubber Bumper Partial Reception Fix?
Here is a further CNET video report confirming the reception issue with multiple iPhone 4 test units. The problem is more acute with some users than others, and CNET did suggest that installing a $30 rubber bumper may help with the problem. Tests by igear360.com show that bumper can raise iPhone 4 downloading speeds, but uploading speeds still suffer substantially. Click here for iPhone bumper tests.

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Permalink Gear Review, New Product 7 Comments »
May 5th, 2010

Paco Kelly’s Acu’Rzr Tool Reshapes Lead Rimfire Bullets

Here is an interesting tool that lets shooters re-shape and uniform the tips of their .22 rimfire lead bullets. Paco Kelly’s Acu’Rzr comes in two basic versions, the “Phase III Nasti-Nose” and the “Phase IV Baby Scorp’n”. The Phase III tool produces a deep-dished hollowpoint (like an ash-tray) that opens quickly and efficiently. There is also a Phase III insert that creates a flatter, open dish HP for target shooting. The Phase IV Scorpion tool creates a deep hollow point with a central post. The internal post in the middle helps achieve deeper penetration in game. The designer claims that ammo modified with either tool is more accurate because the bullet diameter “comes out the same every time”. In addition to the Phase III & IV tools, which reform one round at a time, Paco offers a Maxi series for bulk production. These let you process either three rounds at once (Maxi 3) or four rounds at once (Maxi 4).

Lead Bullet Accurizer

Why re-shape lead rimfire bullets? The first reason is accuracy. The tool’s designer, Paco Kelly, claims you can improve the accuracy of budget-priced ammo by using the dish nose rod with the Phase III tool: “The dish nose forming rod is for accuracy and paper targets. It makes very sharp and clean cut holes in paper. And the consistency of the [re-shaped] bullet diameter pulls the group together.”

Lead Bullet Accurizer

The main reason to use Paco Acu’Rzr tools is to improve perfomance on small game such as squirrels, prairie dogs, and jack-rabbits. Kelly says: “Unlike most commercial 22 rimfire ammo with small holes and negligible HP expansion, the Nasti-Nose will open even with standard velocity ammo. Yet it will NOT explode on contact like the hyper-velocity ammo. For small eating game, such as squirrels, the Hyper ammo is too much and the medium-velocity, hollow-pointed commercial ammo often fails to open. But not so with the Nasti-Nose.” The idea, Kelly suggests, is that you get reliable expansion with medium-velocity ammo, without destroying the game the way hyper-velocity ammo does.

The Phase III tool costs $65.00, while the Phase IV tool costs $75.00. The Maxi 3 which does three (3) rounds at once, costs $100.00, and the four-round Maxi 4 is $128.00. All tools can be customized for target rifles or European chambers. To order, contact Paco Kelly, P.O. Box 1170, Cortaro, AZ 85652 or use this ORDER FORM.

EDITOR’s NOTE: Do NOT use this tool with premium-grade rimfire target ammo. It won’t help. Use it with the cheaper bulk-pack ammo. Also, we have not tested the reformed ammo on live targets, so you have to draw your own conclusions as to its benefits on small critters.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting No Comments »
May 3rd, 2010

Sinclair Int’l Introduces New Competition Front Rest

sinclair competition BR front restSinclair International has just released its completely new Competition Shooting Rest BR. It’s a beefy unit, weighing over 30 pounds… and yes, it’s fully approved for both IBS and NBRSA benchrest competition at all distances. The new rest should start shipping in mid-May, 2010. The price is $599.00 including top bracket, but not the front sand-bag (both Edgewood and Protektor bags will fit).

Key features are: 1) Very low center of gravity for stability; 2) Smooth, precise windage control built in to the base-plate; 3) Ambi-dextrous design; and 4) Built-in carry handle on the front (target) side. The windage control, which employs twin tapered roller bearings for smoothness, is a clever design that provides nearly 48″ of windage movement at 100 yards. The oversized windage control knob is positioned near the rear (vertical) speed screw so you can easily and quickly control both the vertical and horizontal with the same hand. And you Southpaws, don’t worry… the post, center column, controls and windage adjustment disassemble and reassemble on the opposite side, for left-hand use.

The Sinclair Competition Rest’s components are “super-sized” compared to older Sinclair front pedestal designs. The new rest’s center column diameter is upsized to 1.95″ from 1.375″, the threaded post is increased to 1″ diameter from 3/4″, and the leg screws are now .5″ (up from .375″). The rear fluted speed screw is also oversized. The new Competition Rest also includes mounting holes for attachment of raised ammo caddies or a timer-holder. In addition, the Sinclair Competition Rest features a new, lockable fore-end stop assembly that adjusts for length, height, and cant (angle).

Permalink Gear Review, New Product No Comments »
April 30th, 2010

Gear Review: MidwayUSA Compact Competition Range Bag

MidwayUSA recently sent us its new Compact Competition Range Bag for review. Overall, we were very impressed. The bag is made from a strong, heavy-duty PVC-coated polyester, with high-quality, large-toothed zippers. A comfortable, curved carry strap is secured by sturdy, all-metal clips. The “build quality” is visibly much better than most range bags on the market. I wish my airline carry-on bags were built as well as this. The bag is offered in black for $26.99 or olive-drab for $39.99. We tested the handsome olive-drab version which is a good match for our khaki AIM 60 Tactical Drag Bag.

Measuring 16″L x 12″W x 10″H, this Compact Range Bag is definitely smaller than MidwayUSA’s popular Large Range Bag (22″L x 15″W x 10″H). However, the “Compact” version will hold plenty of gear — pretty much all a pistol shooter will need at the range. For a rifle shooter, it will haul ammo boxes, earmuffs, magazines, and other miscellaneous gear. You CAN get a rear sandbag in the MidwayUSA range bag, but it’s probably best to use the bag for ammo boxes and the like. Overall, we really like this bag, as do most buyers. Among 43 MidwayUSA customer reviews, the average rating is 4.9 out of 5 stars. Here are two typical buyer reports:

“This bag is great. It easily holds both my S&W MP9s, hearing and eye protection, 6 magazines, magazine loader, targets and enough ammo (200-300 rds) for a good session at the range. The quality is comparable to bags costing twice as much.” — Richard B, Virginia

“I have used many different range bags over the years, but I have to say that this is by far the best…. Plenty of room for ammo, hearing and eye protection, documentation and other materials. This bag is a great buy.” — Mark C, Oklahoma

MidwayUSA Compact Competition Range Bag

Quality Revealed in the Details
The details of this bag reveal smart design and quality construction. On the bottom, two plastic foot pads with ¼” high ribs are stitched to the fabric for grip and moisture standoff. On the inside of the bag a removable, waterproof sole further protects the contents. On both ends of the bag are full-width zippered pockets, with a handy clear identification window on one side. Metal D-rings above the end pockets provide solid attachment points for the heavy-duty shoulder strap. The shoulder strap pad has a rubberized underside that keeps the strap from sliding off your shoulder.

The main compartment is conveniently accessed through a Velcro end closure plus two long, parallel zippers whose pull-tabs are connected with a cord. The main compartment is big enough to hold two large MTM Caseguard R-100 series rifle ammo boxes, with plenty of room left over. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to lock any compartment on the bag. That’s too bad, since some jurisdictions require handgun cases to be locked during transport.

Deceptively Large Capacity for a ‘Compact’ Bag
To test the carrying capacity of the MidwayUSA bag, we loaded it up with 100 rounds of rifle ammo, 600 rounds of centerfire pistol ammo, 500 rounds rimfire, earmuffs and FOUR pistols tucked in the padded side sleeves. All that gear fit nicely with room to spare. (We recommend putting handguns in protective sleeves if you load two per side). The padded, full-width, zippered main pocket keeps seven spare magazines organized and protected. On the reverse side of the bag, a similar, full-length padded pocket provides undivided storage space. That large outside pocket also has a zippered compartment with dividers for pens and a small notepad. The bag’s many pockets make it easy to organize miscellaneous gear such as staple gun, target stickers, small binoculars, timers, and radios.

The durable fabric, thick padding, heavy-duty zippers, and quality stitching should deliver many years of hard duty. This is a bag that holds its shape more like a luggage piece, not a thin bag that will squash flat and lay on the shelf out of the way when not in use. The black Compact Range Bag is available now. The olive drab version we tested should be in in stock on 5/28/2010.

Permalink Gear Review, New Product No Comments »
April 9th, 2010

New TriMag™ Mag Coupler for Ruger 10/22s and Volquartsens

We know many of our readers have a Ruger 10/22 for varminting, fun shooting, or rimfire tactical competition. Here’s an affordable new product for the Ruger 10/22 that will fit the highly-accurate Volquartsen rimfires as well. The new TriMag™ magazine coupler secures three standard, 10-round 10/22 rotary magazines together, giving you extra ammo capacity with full factory reliability. Yes there are long, banana-style magazines for the 10/22, but a TriMag 3-mag assembly won’t interfere with prone or off-hand shooting. And when varminting, you won’t have to set your tripod super-high to provide clearance for a long single-column magazine. This is ideal for rimfire tactical matches.

TriMag Ruger 10/22 Magazine

Designed and crafted by Alangator of Hayden Lake, Idaho, the $9.95 patent-pending TriMag™ is a clever, U.S.-made invention that any 10/22 or Volquartsen owner can afford. Puchasers give the TriMag™ high marks. One Cabela’s customer writes: “One of the best 10/22 products ever! As everyone who owns a 10/22 knows, aftermarket or non-factory extended capacity 10/22 magazines perform terribly. This product resolves that issue because you have 30 rounds available using your perfectly-functioning factory magazines.” Another buyer adds: “IMO one of the best accessories for the 10/22… one of those things that you can’t go without. An added bonus is that when you set your gun on a bench it holds it up right.”

TriMag Ruger 10/22 Magazine

Where to Buy
The TriMag™ is currently offered by Cabela’s, Volquartsen, and other vendors starting at $9.95. Volquartsen says the device fits all Volquartsen .22 LR semi-auto rifles.

Permalink Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting, New Product 3 Comments »
April 7th, 2010

FREE April Target Shooter Magazine is Full of Great Content

Congratulations to Carl Boswell, Vince Bottomley, Andy Dubreuil, Laurie Holland and all the staff at Target Shooter online magazine. Target Shooter has released its April 2010 First Anniversary issue, and it may be the best yet. The hardware photography is high quality and there is something for everyone — from Benchresters to Tactical shooters. You can view the 110-page April issue for FREE at www.targetshooter.co.uk.

Carl tells us: “Yes, this is our first anniversary issue and we have it packed with articles.” Here are some of the recommended articles in the April Anniversary Edition of Target Shooter:

  • Loading for the .308, Part 6 — Laurie Holland continues his informative reloading series.
  • SEB Neo Coaxial Rest — Vince Bottomley reviews one of the most impressive rests on the market. This is a very thorough review which compares the old SEB Coax with the SEB NEO side by side.
  • Rimfire and Air Rifle Benchrest — Carl Boswell looks at these rapidly evolving disciplines.
  • Gallery Rifle 1500 — Gwyn Roberts continues his course on Gallery Rifle Basics.
  • New GBR Custom Action — A New Rem 700-footprint action made in the UK.
  • Steyr LG110 Field Test — Tim Finley reviews the Steyr LG110 rifle for Field Target.

Definitely check out the latest edition of Target Shooter magazine. Laurie Holland is one of the best technical gun writers in the business, and when Vince Bottomley reviews a product, he delivers intelligent conclusions you can “take to the bank”. As a special bonus, this April edition includes exclusive reports from the IWA Expo in Germany — the “Euro Shot Show”.

Permalink - Articles, Gear Review 1 Comment »
April 3rd, 2010

Danny Biggs’ Height-Adjusting F-Class Bipod

Biggs F-Class bipodDanny Biggs, two-time F-TR National Champion, decided to shoot Open Class at this year’s 2010 F-Class National Championships in Sacramento. Danny did very well, finishing third overall in F-Open with a score of 1324-67X. Danny’s X-count, the highest of all competitors, was 10 Xs higher than F-Open winner Derek Rogers and runner-up Ken Dickerman, who both finished with 57X.

While most F-Open shooters used a front pedestal rest, either a joystick design or a center column pedestal with remote-adjustable windage top, Danny used a wide-base bipod, as he had done at past Nationals in the F-TR class. But Danny’s bipod was very special. It is a prototype, modified Sinclair design with height adjustment via a central, vertical-axis knob. As you can see from the pictures below, the left and right bipod legs are attached to a T-shaped silver (aluminum) bracket. This bracket moves up and down as the silver knob is turned clockwise or counter-clockwise. As the knob turns, its threads pull the T-shaped bracket up and down relative to a center block of aluminum bolted to the bipod’s attachment to the rifle’s forearm accessory rail. With this system, Danny can easily reach forward and make precise adjustments in elevation. Note that the Sinclair bipod’s secure rail attachment is retained and Danny can still adjust rifle cant (tilt), using the rear push-button handle. This rear handle functions like a Pod-lock allowing the rifle to be tilted a few degrees to one side or the other to compensate for side-sloping terrain.

We watched Danny shoot with this heigh-adjustable bipod, and it worked superbly. With its wide foot-print, the bipod is ultra-stable. During recoil, the ski-type feet slide evenly straight back. Danny was able to quickly dial in a little vertical, as needed, during his string of fire. This gave him more precise control over elevation than other bipod shooters who had to slide their guns forward or backward or pinch the ears of their rear bags to make small changes in rifle elevation.

Production Plans Not Yet Certain
Wondering “Where can I get one?” Unfortunately, the Biggs Bipod adjuster is not in production yet, and we don’t know for sure if this design (or something like it) will be added to the Sinclair Int’l F-Class Bipod in the future. But Danny Biggs certainly demonstrated that the concept works superbly. We expect micro-adjusting vertical controls to appear on other F-Class bipods at future matches.

Permalink Competition, Gear Review, New Product 3 Comments »
March 23rd, 2010

Affordable Aperture Sight Upgrade for CZ 452 and Ruger 10/22

In everyone’s inventory of rifles, we think there should be at least one basic utility rifle with decent iron sights. Tech-SIGHTS, a small company in Hartsville, South Carolina, produces high-quality, yet affordable front post/rear aperture sights that fit popular rifles such as the Ruger 10/22, Marlin 60, SKS, and the CZ 452. We were particularly impressed with the new CZ200 sight set for the CZ 452, a very popular .22LR and 17HMR training and varmint rifle.

For CZ 452s sold without iron sights, the $69.00 CZ200 sight package provides both an easily-adjustable rear aperture sight and a durable, hooded front sight. The Tech-SIGHTs, designed to fit the dovetail on top of the CZ receiver, can be quickly fitted to CZ 452s. Both the rear aperture and the front post (with protective ears) can be installed easily with no drilling or tapping. For CZ 452s equipped with factory iron sights, the Tech-SIGHTs will replace the rear tangent sight with a more precise micro-adjustable aperture sight, increasing sight radius by 6.5 inches.

Ruger 10/22 Tech-SIGHTS

Ruger Sight Set Features AR-style Front Sight
The Ruger 10/22 Tech-SIGHTs mount on the rear of the receiver utilizing the existing, tapped scopebase holes. Two versions are offered, the TSR100 with dual leaf (flip-adjust) apertures, and the TSR200 with a single (non-flip) aperture with enhanced elevation adjustment. Both TSR100 ($59.00) and TSR200 ($69.00) sight sets come with a front sight tower fitted with AR15-spec detent-adjustable post. This allows the shooter to swap in a variety of front sight posts made for ARs.

Ruger 10/22 Tech-SIGHTS

For more information, close-up product photos, mounting instructions, and user testimonials, visit www.tech-sights.com. The Tech-SIGHT website has a secure shopping cart system so you can order direct from the manufacturer.

Permalink Gear Review, Optics 1 Comment »
March 16th, 2010

RWS 34P Air Rifle, Just $227.99 with Scope

Here’s a good deal from AirGunsDaily.com if you’re looking for an inexpensive air rifle for your kids, or just a “fun gun” for plinking. Today only, AirgunsDaily.com is offering the RWS 34P (Panther) .22 Cal (pellet) Air Rifle with 4X32mm Scope and a 2-piece C-mount for just $227.99. Shipping is just $7.00.

RWS panther 34P air rifle

The RWS 34 Panther is the most popular air rifle sold by RWS. It has an injection-molded synthetic stock and adjustable fiber optic sights. It is a break-barrel design with a 2-stage adjustable trigger, and 33-lb cocking weight. RWS has a good warranty and this rifle has earned excellent reviews from Pyramid Air customers, one of whom wrote: “Appearance and finish out of the box were flawless. It cocks smoothly and has a very well-balanced feel. From the very first shot I was surprised how accurate it is.”

If you miss today’s AirGunsDaily.com offer, Pyramid Air sells the RWS 34P, in either .177 (1000 fps) or .22 (800 fps) calibers, with NO scope, for $216.85. Pyramid also offers a package deal: $220.09 for the .177 version with a tin of .177 pellets and FREE Shipping.

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Permalink Gear Review, Hot Deals 1 Comment »
March 10th, 2010

Advanced Ballistics Program Runs on iPhone or iPod Touch

Knights Armament has developed a sophisticated yet easy-to-use ballistics program that runs on the Apple iPod Touch and Apple iPhone platforms. The KAC Bullet Flight 3.1.0 software contains all the features you would want, including: user-selectable BC models (G1, G7, G8 etc.); output in inches, cm, MOA, Mils, and scope clicks; 360° wind drift calculation; computation of actual BC from collected data; and built-in accelerometer for angle detection.

AccurateShooter KAC Bullet Flight Ballistics Software

In addition, KAC Bullet Flight 3.1.0 comes with a large database of bullet types (including weights, BCs etc.). You can also create your own custom ammo profiles (with velocity, BC, bullet type), allowing you to easily output ballistic plots for multiple firearms, without having to enter the rifle/bullet profile every time.

AccurateShooter KAC Bullet Flight Ballistics Software AccurateShooter KAC Bullet Flight Ballistics Software

KAC Bullet Flight 3.1.0 is a very sophisticated program that rivals anything you can run on your home computer. A version of Bullet Flight is already in use with the U.S. Military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Apple iPod touch/iPhone platform was chosen because this is now the #1 hand-held computing platform in the world. (With the iPod Touch, you do NOT need a phone service contract.) Also the Apple operating system and “multi-touch” screen allows an extremely user-friendly, easy-to-operate interface. “Ruggedized” Otterbox carry cases are also available for both first- and second-generation I-pods.

AccurateShooter KAC Bullet Flight Ballistics Software AccurateShooter KAC Bullet Flight Ballistics Software

Software Starts at Just $3.99
There are three versions of KAC Bullet Flight, all very affordable. The basic L1 version costs just $3.99. We recommend the L2 version ($11.99) which adds a full calculation screen, the ability to generate a range-card, cosine-angle calculation, and GPS functionality. Finally, the $29.99 Level ‘M’ (Military) version further adds the ability to calculate an actual BC based on bullet drop, two velocities, or flight time. With Level ‘M’ you can also correct for very subtle factors, such as the Coriolis Effects, which come into play at ultra-long ranges.

AccurateShooter KAC Bullet Flight Ballistics Software

Permalink Gear Review, New Product 2 Comments »
March 7th, 2010

Sinclair Offers New Tactical Bipod and Hornady AutoCharge

Sinclair Int’l has added many new products to its catalog, including recently-introduced reloading products from Hornady: AutoCharge electronic powder measure ($249.95), Lock-N-Load Concentricity Gauge ($99.95), and the Lock-N-Load UltraSonic Cleaning machine ($99.95). In addition, Sinclair has rolled out some impressive new products of its own, such as the new fully-adjustable, quick-attach Tactical/Varmint Bipod.

Sinclair Int’l Tactical/Varmint Bipod
With a hefty $229.95 MSRP, the new Sinclair Tactical/Varmint Bipod (item 04-8500) is nearly three times the price of a Harris bipod. Is it worth the extra money? For a typical varmint hunter, the answer might be no. But for the tactical competitor, the enhanced performance (and extra features) of the Sinclair tactical/varmint bipod may well be worth the extra coin.

The new Sinclair Tactical/Varmint Bipod is a strong, rugged design with billet aluminum and stainless steel construction throughout. There are many enhanced features compared to a Harris. First, the Sinclair Bipod’s individually adjustable legs can spread much wider (and lower) than on a Harris. The legs adjust from 6 1/2 inches to 12 1/2 inches in length, and there is a positive stop on each leg. The Sinclair Bipod also comes with a built-in “Pod-Loc” style cant adjuster, a really important feature that must be retrofitted (for about $27) on a Harris. In addition to the cant adjustment lever, the Sinclair bipod has a secure quick-release attachment system — the same system used on Sinclair’s popular F-Class Bipod. This lets you install or remove the bipod in seconds without any tools. Showing attention to detail, Sinclair also included an extra swivel stud on the bipod upper section, so you can attach a sling. Overall, the new 1 lb., 12 oz. Sinclair Tactical Bipod looks like a very good product that offers real advantages over a Harris for the tactical shooter. We just wish the price was lower.

Hornady AutoCharge Electronic Powder Scale & Dispenser
Here’s the first look at Hornady’s brand new Lock-N-Load AutoCharge electronic powder scale/dispenser. This unit can measure up to 1000 grains of powder. According to Hornady, the unit will calculate weight precisely to within ± 0.1 grains. That would put it on a par with the RCBS Chargemaster, though the Hornady unit sells for $60-$80 less than the “green machine”. The Hornady has many nice features, such as an easily readable, back-lit display, trickle function, calibration weights suitable to both low and high powder charges, and plenty of memory for your favorite loads. The Hornady, priced at $249.95 (item 050068) at Sinclair, also features three, user-selectable dispensing speeds — something you won’t find on the RCBS ChargeMaster. Those three speed settings let you optimize dispensing flow for the type of powder you’re using.

Hornady AutoCharge Lock-N-Load

We hope to get one of these Hornady AutoCharge units soon and run a head-to-head comparison with our RCBS Chargemaster. Below is a video from SHOT Show 2010 of an early production Hornady AutoCharge.

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Permalink Gear Review, New Product, News 2 Comments »
March 5th, 2010

NEW Prototype SEB NEO Rest Unveiled

We recently received a prototype version of the new NEO rest from SebCoax.com. Designer Sebastian Lambang’s new rest is an engineering tour de force. Your editor can say, straight up, that this is the best joystick rest I’ve ever used. It is butter smooth in horizontal travel. The NEO does not suffer from the jerky, or jumpy vertical movement of some other joystick rests. With a 17-lb gun on the rest, yes there is more resistance in the vertical plane than in the horizontal, but you can still move the crosshairs up smoothly in one motion. You don’t have to “over-shoot” and then come back down on your aiming point. If you’ve used other coaxial rests, you know that the upward movement can be jerky if the resistance is set so that the joystick does not droop when you let go. Not so with the NEO. Seb Lambang has fitted the NEO rest with expensive, new German-made internal bearings. These new teflon liner bearings, plus two additional internal leaf springs for weight support, make all the difference.

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The upward movement is MUCH smoother than before. In this Editor’s opinion, the NEO is smoother (with less jumpiness) than the Farley. It is also easier to set joystick tension on the NEO rest that on the previous (Gen 1) SEB rest. Before you had to fiddle with hex-head bolts. On the NEO rest, SEB has provided two, large diameter knobs. It is easy to set the tension so the joystick doesn’t fall on release, but travel is still smooth and positive in all planes.

Make no mistake, joystick movement on this rest is smooth and fluid, even in straight upwards motion with a 17-pound rifle. No more of the jumpiness or stacking found on lesser designs. SEB has got a winner here. Just as a top-fuel dragster lives or dies on quarter-mile speed, a coaxial rest is judged, foremost, on its ability to move quickly and precisely to point of aim in ONE MOVEMENT. Here the NEO rest shines. It may be the smoothest-functioning coaxial rest ever produced. And it also has the unique feature of adjustable front bag width (see videos). That’s great if you shoot both wide benchrest rigs and narrow-forearm rifles. Also, when disassembled, the NEO rest packs up very compactly — a big plus when traveling. If you didn’t like joystick rests before, the SEB NEO may make you a believer.

Triple-Sandbag Configuration and Vibration Damping
How about shooting performance? The rest is rock-solid, with no wobbly movement, so no mechanical flaws should prevent match-winning performance. However, the NEO rest has three separate, fairly thin bags. This configuration has been used with success in rimfire benchrest. Some European centerfire rests use a similar tri-bag arrangement. However, we are concerned that the smaller, separate bags could behave differently than a conventional front bag. There may be differences in vibration damping and how the bag responds under recoil. We have NOT done enough testing to judge how the NEO’s tri-bag system performs compared to a conventional one-piece sandbag. But it’s something to consider.

NEO Rest Offers More JoyStick Travel
The SEB NEO rest has a very wide range of travel. Running the joystick to max travel, we placed shots 43 MOA apart vertically and 48 MOA apart horizontally. That’s four FEET of horizontal travel at 100 yards using JUST the joystick! If you need more than 43 MOA of vertical travel, the whole coaxial carriage moves up and down on two large columns, delivering a bag height range from about 5″ to 10″ above the bench top. That’s a HUGE amount of travel. The gross height is adjusted with two large knobs, one on either side of the carriage. This movement is very smooth — as if the carriage is on ball bearings.

The geometry of the NEO Rest is somewhat unique. Although the NEO can be positioned in either direction (i.e. it is reversible), it is designed to have the long, narrow foot out front, on the target side. This opens up the entire area behind the rest, so there is no interference with the joystick’s movement. “But what about my vertical speedscrew?” you may be saying. Well, with the SEB NEO’s 43 MOA of vertical travel, you really don’t need a vertical adjustment screw on the shooter’s side of the rest when aiming your rifle. There ARE two adjustment screws on the left and right rear sides, but these are intended to level the rest only.

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Overall, we were very impressed with the quality, range of adjustment, and versatility of the NEO rest. It has more than enough joystick travel to shoot an ARA rimfire target with 25 bulls. It has enough gross vertical adjustment for 1000-yard F-Class use, even if the target is way up on a hill or down in a valley. And, the rest is relatively easy to transport, with a fairly small footprint and a convenient carry handle built into the “back” side of the rest.

NEO Rest Specifications

- Reversible base configuration: Rest can work with joystick tension adjustments in front, or in rear, per user preference. If you want the single long foot on the “driver’s side”, that is also possible.
– Size assembled: Approx. 13″ wide x 14″ long, 8.6″ tall.
– MOA adjustment (joystick travel): At least 40 MOA (vertical) x 44 MOA (horizontal).
– Net weight: approx 9.3 kgs (20.5 lbs), with standard aluminum base and filled bags.
– Bag Width Range: 200 mm (approx 7.874″) between posts CTC. This allows a max forearm width of about 4″ (four inches).
– Height Range (from bottom of base to top of horizontal bag): Approx. 5″ (lowest) to 10″ (highest).
– Sand Bag Thickness: Approx. 3/4″ for the “horizontal’ bag, approx. 1/2″ for the side chambers.
– Construction: All metal throughout. Base is cast aluminum. Rack gear posts and pinion are stainless steel (SUS 420J). Coaxial body, rest top, forearm stopper are made from aircraft grade alumunium.
– Price: Not yet set, but probably $675.00 to $750.00 US.

NEO Rest vs. SEB Standard Rest
Seb told us: “The NEO rest is NOT designed to replace the regular SEB rest. It’s only for people that need faster elevation adjustment, and a rest that can be set to a lower level overall or a higher lever overall. On the production NEO rests, the ‘body’ of the coaxial unit will be polished, just like the current (Gen 1) rest. The current (Gen 1) rest will remain in production, so don’t worry if you prefer that design. I haven’t established the final price of the NEO rest yet, but I think it will be about $675.00 to $750.00. Yes, it will be somewhat more expensive because of the extended travel capability and increased cost of materials.”

Further Enhancements for Production Model?
The NEO we received is a prototype model and SEB tells us that he may add or modify some features in the final production version. What changes would we like? First, we think a front rest in the $700+ price range should have a built-in level. Obviously you can buy a bubble level and stick it on, but Seb should include one. Second, we’d like to see some variations on the side sand chambers. They tend to plump up in the middle. For stocks with side flats, such as the McMillan Edge, the thickest part of the side bags is a bit too high. Also the side tension knobs push the bags inwards well above the contact point with the stock. We also would like to have more forearm stop travel. As made, the front forearm stop has a good range of adjustment. But an optional, longer extension for the stop would better suit rifles that balance/shoot best with the rest placed well back on the forearm.

Included Cord Helps Rest Alignment
Included with the NEO rest is a nylon cord with metal ends. Just pop one end of the cord in a hole in the middle of the forearm stop and draw the cord back in line with the target, running the cord through the ears of your rear sandbag. This allows you to center and align the rear bag optimally. The cord is a thoughtful accessory provided by SEB.

Review Disclosure: SebCoax.com provided the Seb NEO rest for testing and evaluation. The rest’s manufacturer is not currently advertising with AccurateShooter.com.

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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

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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.

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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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