November 17th, 2012

6.5 Creedmoor for High Power and Tactical Shooters

While the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge was devised primarily for High Power and Across the Course shooters, it has also found favor with tactical shooters looking for a highly accurate round that feeds well from a magazine, but offers significantly less recoil than a .308 Winchester. In fact, the 6.5 Creedmoor has become so popular that some vendors we checked were sold out of both brass and loaded ammo. (Don’t worry though — Creedmoor Sports has both 6.5 Creedmoor brass and loaded ammo in stock.)

6.5 Creedmoor Hornady
CLICK HERE for 6.5 Creedmoor Video and Specifications

6.5 Creedmoor brass cartridge6.5 Creedmoor vs. 6.5×47 Lapua — Cost Factor
The 6.5×47 Lapua and 6.5 Creedmoor offer very similar ballistics with 120gr and 140gr bullets. However, 6.5 Creedmoor brass AND loaded ammo are cheaper. That’s a big plus in the tactical game. At tactical competitions, there are “move and shoot” stages where you need to shoot quickly and then move to another position. It’s very difficult to recover all your brass. Losing a piece of 6.5×47 brass (at $1 dollar a pop) is painful. The Hornady brass is $34.49 per 50 (69 cents each) at Sinclair Int’l or $34.95 per 50 (70 cents each) at Creedmoor Sports.

Hornady’s 6.5 Creedmoor loaded ammunition is also much less expensive than the loaded 6.5×47 Lapua rounds. For shooters that don’t have the time (or skills) to reload, the 6.5 Creedmoor (at $25.95 per 20-rd box) makes more financial sense. Grafs.com currently sells loaded 123gr 6.5×47 Lapua ammo for $52.79 per 20 rounds.

On the other hand, the Lapua brass is tougher. Forum member Mudcat observes: “[As to] the Hornady brass, while it’s good, it ain’t no Lapua, so don’t try to run hot loads cause all you are going to do is blow out the primer pockets. Keep your loads reasonable and you will get over 20 loads out of em. I have some I have loaded well over 20 times during testing…they grow like a mother though, as they are a lot softer than Win or Lapua, which is why the pockets will go. However the necks haven’t been splitting.”

Barrel Life Looks Promising
Barrel life appears to be pretty good with the 6.5 Creedmoor. Barrels will last significantly longer than with a typical .243 Win or 6.5-284. Forum Member Mudcat reports: “Based on my throat wear at 600 rounds on my 6.5 Creedmoor barrel, I bet we are looking at 2500 rounds EASY of great accuracy and then probably to at least 3000 where you ain’t going to notice it shooting Cross the Course — you might see something at 600, but nothing worse than a few less Xs. At 600 rounds, I have not had to move my VLD seating depth yet.” Forum member Rob1, who shoots tactical comps with Team Blaster, notes that Hornady puts its load and velocity on every box (see photo below), so it’s easy for reloaders to duplicate the factory ammo. That way you can start with a few boxes of factory fodder, and then load your own.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review 12 Comments »
November 13th, 2012

Upgrade for Caldwell Fire Control Joystick Front Rest

Available for under $180.00 including front bag, the Caldwell Fire Control front rest is a remarkable value. It makes the co-axial, joystick design more affordable than ever. We used the Fire Control front rest when testing our Ultimate Varminter 20 Practical AR. Once we removed some sand from the tri-lobe front bag, the rest worked quite well.

Get a Fire Control Rest for Just $179.40
Amazon.com
currently sells the Fire Control rest (item 956104) for $179.40. That’s a really spectacular deal for guys on a tight budget, looking to try out a joystick-style front rest. With the conversion described in this article, you can put together a system that works pretty darn well, and is more than adequate for many applications, including prairie-dog hunting (from a bench).

While most Fire Control owners are happy with the product, many have wanted to replace the tri-lobe front bag with a more conventional front bag from Protektor or Edgewood. This isn’t as easy as it looks because the width of the Fire Control top is too narrow for most standard 3″-wide front bags. On a “special order” basis, Protektor has crafted some narrower leather front bags that fit pretty well, but some shooters have decided to “upgrade” the entire front assembly.

Forum member Doug M. (aka DrJeckyl), has come up with an elegant solution that allows a Sinclair Int’l Benchrest Rest Top to be fitted to the Fire Control Rest. Doug notes: “The Caldwell Fire Control is a nice rest for the money, but it comes up short in the rest top department. The Sinclair RT-3 [or its replacement, the Gen II B/R top] fits perfect with minor modifications.” Shown below are the main components:

fire control rest conversion

To adapt the Sinclair RT-3 or Gen II B/R top, Doug merely had to drill a couple holes in the RT-3 baseplate, and adapt a spacer to get the height correct: “The Caldwell factory top has a raised mounting portion so a 1/8″ piece of stock will be needed as a spacer to the flat-bottom RT-3. The spacer needs to be cut to the same length as the movable portion on the rest. And you should plan the mounting accordingly so the left thumbscrew clears the vertical height column at full left position (there is a cutaway in the rest under the thumbscrew that allows for easy access to the screw).” We have labeled the photo with dimensions, but Doug cautions you should measure your own original plate to insure the drill locations are correct for your unit.

fire control rest conversion

Below you’ll see the completed installation, with the RT-3 installed on the Fire Control rest. Doug says it works very well. For more information on this Fire Control rest top conversion, with Doug’s measurments for the hole-spacing and his specs on the fasteners, go to the original thread in our Shooter’s Forum. NOTE: Sinclair no longer sells the RT-3 top, but Sinclair’s $69.95 Gen II B/R top can be converted just as easily. LINK to Fire Control Rest Top Conversion Forum Thread.

fire control rest conversion

Permalink Gear Review, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
November 5th, 2012

New AR30-A1 from Armalite in .300 WM and .338 Lapua Magnum

ArmaLite has just introduced its latest bolt-action rifle, the new AR-30A1. Armalite’s AR-30A1 is available in .300 Win Magnum (24″ barrel) and .338 Lapua Magnum (26″ barrel). Both the .300 WM and .338 LM are offered in two versions: Standard and Target. The Target versions feature an adjustable stock, plus an extended Picatinny rail running forward of the action.

Armalite AR30-a1 rifle

On the surface, the AR-30A1 bears a family resemblance to its predecessor, the AR-30. But, the AR-30A1 actually shares few components from the AR-30: grip, buttpad, trigger, and a few small parts. All other components are new and/or improved. Armalite claims that the new AR30-A1 has better ergonomics, versatility, reliability, and ease of use.

Armalite AR30-a1 rifle

Features of all versions of the new AR-30A1:

  • Muzzle brake threads are suppressor industry standard (5/8 x 24 for the 300 WM and 3/4 x 24 for the 338 LM). Many suppressors can be attached without an adaptor.
  • The bolt-mounted safety mechanism locks the firing pin to the rear. This design is stronger and more secure than a sear- or trigger-blocking safety.
  • Cheek-piece supports contain integral cleaning rod guides to prevent bore damage.
  • Multiple sling installation locations allow simultaneous use of a sling and a bipod. Rear sling swivel can be moved to either left or right side.
  • The entire buttstock assembly can be quickly and easily removed with only one allen wrench. Standard and target buttstocks are interchangeable on any receiver.
  • Steel single-stack magazines. Ambidextrous magazine release.

Features specific to the AR-30A1 Target version:

  • Target rifles feature 18″-long, +20-MOA Picatinny rail over the receiver and barrel, plus rails on both sides of the forearm.
  • The buttstock can be adjusted without tools for lengths of pull from 13.6″ to 15.6″. Buttpad adjusts for height and cheek-piece offers 1″ of vertical adjustment.
Specifications — .300 WM Standard
Caliber: .300 Winchester Magnum
Barrel: 24″ Chrome Moly
Rifling Twist: 1:10
Muzzle Device: Muzzle Brake
Trigger: Single Stage
Stock: Standard
Fixed — nonadjustable
Overall Length: 46.0″
Length of Pull: 13.5″
Weight: 12.8 LBS
Accuracy: 1/4 to 3/4 MOA at 300 Yards
Included: One 5-Round Mag, Detachable Sight Rail, Hard Case, Sling, Manual
Price: $3,264.00
Specifications — .338 LM Target
Caliber: .338 Lapua Magnum
Barrel: 26″ Chrome Moly
Rifling Twist: 1:10
Muzzle Device: Muzzle Brake
Trigger: Single Stage
Stock: Adjustable Cheek Piece (height) & Buttstock (length)
Overall Length: 48.1″ – 50.1″
Length of Pull: 13.6″ – 15.6″
Weight: 15.3 LBS
Accuracy: 1/4 to 3/4 MOA at 300 Yards
Included: One 5-Round Mag, Detachable Sight and Accessory Rails, Hard Case, Sling, Manual
Price: $3,599.00
Permalink Gear Review, New Product No Comments »
November 4th, 2012

New Steve Jennings Skeleton F-TR Stock with Integral Bipod

Wow. If James Bond shot F-TR, we think this is what he might use. You’re looking at the radical new Steve Jennings stock for F-TR competition. This skeletonized stock is crafted to fit the Barnard action. As you can see, there is no conventional fore-arm. Instead a carbon fiber tube extends forward of the action. At the front end of the tube, a fixture hold the beefy, forward-angled, girder-style bipod legs. These legs adjust to two heights, for prone or bench shooting. Large Delrin cylinders at the bottom of the legs provide stability and help resist bipod hop. Cost of the Jennings stock, including bipod legs and bag-rider assembly, is $700.00 at Chesebro Rifles.

Chesebro Rifles Steve Jennings F-TR stock

Chesebro Rifles Steve Jennings F-TR stock

The rear bag-rider, which adjusts for height, is also carried by a carbon-fiber tube that runs from the bottom of the pistol grip back to the buttplate. The bag-rider is attached via an eccentric fixture. This way, as you spin it in and out, the vertical position changes. This allows you to get the elevation centered -up on the target, but this system is not designed for fast changes “on the fly”. Small changes in elevation are made by squeezing the bag.

Chesebro Rifles Steve Jennings F-TR stock

Chesebro Rifles Steve Jennings F-TR stockMark Chesebro also offers a complete rifle built around the new Jennings stock. Built with a Barnard Action, Trueflite (NZ) barrel, and Barnard trigger, a complete Jennings F-TR rifle costs $2500.00. For more information on the Steve Jennings F-TR stock, or complete rifles built with this stock, visit ChesebroRifles.com or call (805) 280-5311. We hope to get our hands on one of these rigs for testing very soon!

EDITOR’s COMMENT: Now it would be great if Seb Lambang’s joystick bipod head could somehow be adapted to this rig, with the joystick running under the carbon fiber “fore-end”, but still using the forward-angled Jennings girder-style legs and oversize “Coke-Can” bipod feet. That could definitely be a James Bond-worthy F-TR rig.

Product Tip by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink Gear Review, New Product 12 Comments »
November 3rd, 2012

Tikka T3 Review and Varminting Tips from Scotland

David, a hunter and wilderness skills teacher from Scotland, has created an informative 9-minute video that should interest varmint hunters and fans of Tikka rifles. In the video, David demonstrates the features (and remarkable accuracy) of a factory Tikka T3, chambered in .223 Remington. With David’s handloads, this rifle has grouped just over an inch at 250 yards, as shown near the end of the video.

You’ll notice that David’s rifle is equipped with a sound moderator (aka “suppressor”), a common hunting accessory in Europe. (Someday, hopefully, American shooters in all states will be able to employ sound suppressors without misguided, restrictive laws or prohibitive taxation.) David explains that a suppressor has many benefits. In addition to protecting the shooter’s hearing, the suppressor reduces the report of the shot, so there’s much less chance of spooking the game. A good suppressor also reduces recoil substantially.

Tikka Fox HuntingTikka Fox Hunting

David uses his rifle primarily for fox-hunting, often done at night. He employs a variable-power scope with an illuminated reticle to target his night-time prey. David offers many useful tips for predator hunters. He prefers an extra-high Harris bipod. With the bipod’s legs fully extended, he can assume a comfortable and solid sitting position. The rifle is supported on his shoulder and on the bipod, leaving both of his hands free. Being able to support the rifle without gripping it is a major advantage, David explains. This frees his hands to search for animals with binoculars or scan distances with his rangefinder. Additionally, he shows how to call in foxes, blowing on his cupped hands to make an very realistic distress call. This guy doesn’t need an electronic boom box with recorded sounds to effectively call in a fox.

Tikka Fox Hunting

We think you’ll enjoy the video, even if it is a bit grainy and David’s accent may be a bit hard for Americans to understand. He offers a lot of good, solid advice, and he certainly demonstrates the capabilities of the Tikka rifle. Above, check out the three-shot, 250-yard group David shoots. We’d say that’s better than minute-of-varmint accuracy. Tikka T3s have a reputation for excellent accuracy and smooth-working actions. Current street price for a stainless T3 Lite (like David’s), with synthetic stock, is about $580.00, but we’ve seen them as low as $540.00 on sale (price without scope).

Permalink - Videos, Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting 3 Comments »
October 31st, 2012

Target-Sight.com Turnkey 1000-Yard Target-Cam System

When you’re practicing or developing loads at long range, it can be a challenge to see your bullet holes on the target, even with a premium spotting scope. Yes, when viewing conditions are perfect, a top spotting scope such as the 88mm Kowa Prominar can resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards and beyond. However, when there is dust or mist in the air, or when the mirage gets thick and heavy, even the best spotting scope may be unable to resolve bullet holes clearly at just 300 yards.

That’s why, if you do much long-range shooting, you should consider getting a wireless target-cam system. This combines a video camera placed near the target with a monitor on your shooting bench. The image from the camera is sent wirelessly to a receiver hooked up to your monitor. With a good camera and quality electronics, a target-cam system can provide sharp images out to 1000 yards.

Target-sight.com Target Camera Video

Until recently, good “turnkey” target-cam systems have been expensive — $1400.00 and up. Guys who couldn’t afford this investment have tried cobbling together systems from various parts. Sometimes the “home-built” systems work, but sometimes they are disappointing.

Turnkey Target-Cam Systems Starting at $725.00
Now Target-Sight.com offers complete Target-Cam systems starting at $725.00 (for 600-yard system). This includes everything you need: 27X Sony Video Camera, transmitter, receiver, color monitor, three Li-Ion batteries, AC adapters/battery chargers, and even the tripod. Or $800.00 buys Target-Sight’s complete 1000-yard system. It includes the same package of components, but with extended range.

Dan Norgrove, the man behind Target-Sight.com, has been able to source quality electronic components at very good prices. Accordingly, you may be able to buy a complete, field-tested Target-Sight system, for not much more than the cost of buying the hardware yourself. And if you put together a bunch of miscellaneous parts, you can’t be confident that they will all work together optimally. The Target-Sight systems work, have good battery life, and everything arrives in one box — delivered with free shipping.

We know that folks considering target-cam systems are justifiably cautious before they shell out hundreds of bucks. You want to be assured that the system is easy to set-up, functions right, and that the image on the monitor is sharp and clear. To satisfy those concerns, Dan Norgrove has created a video showing his Target-Sight system in use in the field. This video shows the actual image on the Monitor from a target-cam placed 300 yards away. (Please note this video is slow in sections because the field test is an uninterrupted “single take”. That way you can be confident there were no tricks done during the editing. What you see is what you get.)

Watch Target-Sight.com Target-Cam Field Test

Target-Sight Target Cam Systems:

600-yd system: $725 + free shipping
1000-yd system: $800 + free shipping

1-Year Warranty on All Systems
Spare Parts Available

To order call 1-509-982-0077
(11 am – 7 pm PST Mon-Friday)

Target-Sight.com
18100 Zagelow Rd. North
Odessa, WA 99159

Target-Sight Video Camera
Permalink - Videos, Gear Review, Optics 5 Comments »
October 29th, 2012

Gear Review: SEB Front Bag for Pedestal Rest

We’ve had our original SEB coaxial front rest for a few years now and we are impressed with its quality and performance (although the SEB NEO Rest is even more sophisticated). One of the great features of the original SEB Rest is the front sandbag. It employs double-layer construction on the sides and bottom, and has a unique microfiber material on the surfaces contacting the stock. The bottom of the bag is hard and flat, so the bag sits nice and square. We whole-heartedly endorse the SEB front bag — it is an outstanding product, affordably priced at $40.00, shipped (unfilled) anywhere in the lower 48 states. (SEB NEO front bags are $45.00 shipped to lower 48).

SEB coaxial rest bag

We’ve tested both 3″-wide and 2 1/4″-wide SEB front bags and they work great. With guns ranging from 22 lbs. to 10.5 lbs. we’ve found that that SEB front bags perform very, very well. They hold their shape, and don’t “hump up” in the middle. The microfiber material, in our opinion, is superior to either Cordura or untreated leather. Even without stock tape on your gun, the microfiber allows the rifle to slide very easily. With stock tape, friction is super-low. You don’t need to put silicone, sailcloth lube, or powder on the front bag — it’s not necessary.

Less Vertical, Better Groups with SEB Front Bag
One of our testers was experiencing vertical when shooting a 6 PPC with a different front bag. He tried both leather and Cordura front bags, and experimented with various amounts of sand fill, but the results were unsatisfactory. The leather and Cordura bags either did not hold their shape, or, with more sand fill, they were too hard and the gun jumped. Then our tester switched to a SEB front bag. He noticed an immediate improvement in gun handling and his targets showed reduced vertical with the same load. Problem solved.

Bag Works with Other Front Rests Too
field tested productWhile the SEB front bag is optimized for use with the original SEB coaxial rest, it can be adapted to other front rest tops. The standard version is made from black microfiber with brown leather, but it is also available with black leather sides. The standard vertical thickness for the 3″ or 2 1/4″ section between the ears is approximately 1″, but other dimensions are available on request. The latest SEB front bags have a filler spout on each side. SEB front bags are available in the USA from Ernie Bishop in Gillette, Wyoming. Call (307) 257-7431, or email ernieemily [at] yahoo.com. The standard SEB front bag sells for $40.00 including shipping to lower 48. Front bags for SEB NEO rests, either one-piece or Tri-lobe style, cost $45.00 including shipping to lower 48.

SEB coaxial rest bag

Permalink Gear Review No Comments »
October 28th, 2012

Cabela’s ‘Bullet-Proof’ Aluminum Gun Cases on Sale

This week, Cabelas.com is offering big discounts on its line of “Bullet-Proof” metal gun transport cases. Cabela’s toaster-style, double-gun safari case (item IK-226585) offers exceptional protection for your rifles. And this week the case is on sale for $339.88 — that’s $100 off the regular price.

Cabelas Bullet Proof Case Cabela’s premium safari case is built from .063″ aircraft aluminum with 45° heli-arc welded corners all around. Your rifles drop in vertically, each in its own slot, providing a very stable “pocket of protection” for the guns. This safari case has long been popular with hunters taking high-grade rifles to far-away hunting grounds (from Alaska to Africa). It’s tough enough to stand up to rough treatment from baggage handlers.

NOTE: This heavy-duty case weighs 34 lbs. empty. Some travelers report that domestic airlines may impose weight surcharges.

Cabelas Bullet Proof Case

Owner Review: The Bullet Proof gun case is the best I have seen. It left Medford, Oregon and made four airplane changes. When we arrived in Johannesburg, S.Africa, the case was well scuffed from typical baggage handling. We arrived at camp, open the case and everything was in good shape. Test fired our rifles and all was well. A great, well constructed case that I plan to use many more times. I believe it will be in good shape for me to hand down to my grandson. — MMiker, Medford, OR

Another good choice is the Cabela’s “Bullet Proof” Double Scoped Rifle Case with Wheels and Luggage Rack (item IK-227343). This unit is now marked down from $264.99 to $199.88. This case measures 52″ x 14″ x 4-1/2″. It features integral wheels and a fold-out tray that holds additional luggage when rolling through an airport or train station. The baggage tray is very useful, and the wheels come in handy in large airports.

Cabelas Bullet Proof Case

Owner Review: I purchased one for a trip to Africa two years ago and the bag handlers, TSA, & Customs Agents in three countries, on both legs of the trip, were unable to knock the rifles out of sight-in adjustments. I went to Wyoming with my son for pronghorn this fall, again no problems. The rifles were still sighted in for 200 yards when we returned. I’m very impressed with this case so I purchased a second for my son for Christmas this year. Almost enough air time to fly around the world and only minor scratches to show for it. I don’t know about “bullet proof” but it sure is baggage-handler proof! — Steve, Long Island, NY

Owner Review: Takes a beating. This case has been through it all, and the two rifles inside have always been dead-on after the case has been abused by baggage loaders, bounced around [in the] back of a truck 4-wheeling into elk country. In the airport the flip-open shelf is great — load duffle bag on it and roll on out. — TM, Tennessee

If you have a tight budget, the best bargain of all may be Cabela’s 52″ x 14″ x 4″ “Bullet-Proof” double scoped rifle case (item IK-226580) that is also on sale right now. The non-wheeled version of this case is now $90.00 off, marked down from $219.99 to just $129.88. That’s a heck of a deal for an all-metal case, with sturdy latches and welded corners.

Cabelas Bullet Proof Case

Owner Review:This is one tough case. I painted a large white lightening bolt on each side to make mine unique. The wear and tear on my paint job showed how rough the handling had been back and forth to Africa. My rifles were in perfect condition. — Richard, Oxnard, CA

Sale Report by EdLongRange. We welcome reader submissions.

Permalink Gear Review, Hot Deals 1 Comment »
October 27th, 2012

Gear Review: Houle Bloop Tubes for Match Rifles

Houle Bloop Tube (Sight Extension) Gear Review by Robert Whitley
As a competitive shooter and a builder of custom AR-15 accuracy competition uppers, one of the frequent requests I have from shooters is for a recommendation for a good bloop tube. What people want is a bloop tube that is light and strong, one that has no detrimental effect on accuracy, one that works well with many of the existing front sights, and can be removed and re-attached quickly and easily with no loss of zero. For years finding a bloop tube that fulfills all these requirements has been a somewhat elusive exercise. I am pleased to report that I have found the Houle Bloop Tube to meet all my requirements. In my opinion, this is the best bloop tube on the market, by far. You can order a Houle tube from Norm’s Website, TopGunRI.com or e-mail Norm at topgunngh [at] verizon.net.

Norm Houle High Power Bloop Tube
Zoom picture

Norm Houle High Power Bloop TubeBloop Tubes Designed by a National Champion
Norm Houle is a High Power and long-range shooter who has used these tubes to win National High Power Rifle Championships multiple times in past years. This past summer at Camp Perry, Norm’s bloop tubes were used by top “podium level” shooters in various events, including David Tubb, who won the National Long Range Championship using one of Norm’s tubes. Rodrigo Rosa also used Houle tubes this year to place second in the National High Power Rifle Championship and third in the Long Range National Championship.

Norm Houle High Power Bloop Tube

I have a couple of Norm Houle’s bloop tubes that I have used with a couple of rifle projects. Here are some of my thoughts on installation and use of the Houle Bloop Tubes:

  • Accuracy with the tubes in place is excellent!
  • The tube assemblies are two piece clamp-on tube assemblies, and the bloop tubes can be removed and re-attached with no loss of zero (and I mean no loss of zero). This is a big one! Over the years I have had quite a few clamp on tubes, but few of them repeated like these.
  • The tubes are very light but also very strong and low profile. Some of the clamp-on bloop tubes I have had over the years were huge, heavy and provided a large side profile (crosswind sail factor for offhand, etc.).
  • Norm offers 2″, 4″, and 6″ bloop tube lengths. The tubes are made to work with a .750″ dia. muzzle turn down and both of the ones I have work perfectly with a minimum turndown of 1.625″ long which provides enough “front-back” distance to permit the locating ring and bloop tube to be properly mounted on the barrel at the same time and work as they should. The tubes are also set up to use front sights set up to mount on a .750″ diameter mounting.
  • Each tube assembly has a clamp-on locating ring plus a clamp-on bloop tube that positively indexes off a tapered pin that protrudes from the locating ring. The locating ring is light but very strong and absolutely stays put when you clamp it on the barrel end (clamps on with one screw using a common 7/64″ Allen wrench). The bloop tube part of the assembly has two clamp-on screws (use a common 7/64″ Allen to put on, mount and take off).

Norm Houle High Power Bloop Tube

Using Different-Length Tubes for Different Applications
You can buy one tube with two or more locating rings and set multiple rifles up so you can move your bloop tube (with front sight attached) from rifle to rifle. You can also use two different bloop tubes to mate up with one locating ring on the same rifle. Norm uses a 2″ tube (with a front sight attached) for offhand and rapid sitting at 200 yards (short tube minimizes crosswind sail factor). For 300-yard rapid prone and 600-yard slow prone, Norm takes off the 2″ tube and mounts a 6″ tube on the rifle (with a front sight attached to it). Norm switches back and forth as needed from match to match (a 4″ tube is also offered). Norm noted that Rodrigo Rosa also used the same Houle bloop tube set-up with two different tubes this year at Perry to take second overall.

The price of a Houle bloop tube assembly with locating ring is $125.00. That’s more than some other brands, but a good value considering the design, features, and high-quality construction of Norm’s bloop tubes. Just as with all sights and optics… you get what you pay for.

Permalink Competition, Gear Review, Optics 4 Comments »
October 23rd, 2012

Set Up Your Own 10 meter Air Rifle Range

The great thing about shooting a precision air rifle is that you can practice indoors, for example in your garage or basement. All you need is a lighted room with an uninterrupted run of 10 meters (32.8 feet) and a secure backstop. Champion’s Choice, www.champchoice.com, has a neat, turn-key solution for Airgun shooters. The Gehmann 10 meter Target Set (item 180LP) offers everything you need for your own 10 meter shooting station. The set includes:

– Target holder (attaches to transport lines)
– Pellet trap with transporter wheel
– Transporter drive and cables
– Crank Drive wheel, v-belt, and mount

Gehmann Target Changer

You can place the pellet trap against any solid backstop, and mount the drive wheel to a secure bench or platform at a convenient height. The entire manual system shown above costs $175.00. Note, Gehmann also makes a motorized 10m airgun target changer (model 182). It’s made for 230v only, and to get one in the USA, you’d probably have to special order it. Still, it’s pretty slick as you can see:

Better Targets for Better Airgun Scores
Champion’s Choice and PilkGuns.com also sell German-made Edelmann 10m air rifle and air pistol targets, the best available. These high-grade targets are printed on the finest cross-grain card stock so pellets punch clean, clear holes. This allows easier, more reliable scoring.

CLICK HERE for Specifications of Edelmann Targets

Permalink Competition, Gear Review 4 Comments »
October 22nd, 2012

Try Vihtavuori N320 in your .45 ACP Pistol

VV N320 for .45 ACP

VV N320 for .45 ACPMan does not live by long-guns alone. We know that many of our readers own .45 ACP handguns and load for this extremely accurate “classic” cartridge. When selecting a powder for the .45 ACP, there are many good options. All the major powder manufacturers make propellants with appropriate density and burn rate characteristics for the .45 ACP. Popular choices include: AA #5 (Accurate Powder); Bullseye (Alliant); Clays, HP-38, and Titegroup (Hodgdon); VV N310 and N320 (Vihtavuori); and WW 231 and WST (Winchester). We’ve tried all those powders in a variety of .45 ACP handguns. When we consider all the factors that make for a good pistol powder, we think N320 is one of the best available propellants for the .45 ACP. Vihtavuori N320 is very accurate, it meters well, and it burns clean, with minimal smoke and flash. If you haven’t tried VV N320 yet, you should.

Pros and Cons of Different Powders for the .45 ACP
This Editor has personally tried out eight or more different powders for the .45 ACP. Bullseye works but it is very dirty (both smoke out the barrel and sooty powder fouling on case). Though it otherwise burns clean, Titegroup leaves a singular (and nasty) high-temp flame streak on your brass that is hard to remove. AA #5 is a good choice for progressive press newbies as you use more powder so a double charge will (usually) be obvious. I like AA #5 but N320 was more accurate. Clays burns clean but some powder measures struggle with flake powders like this. WW 231 offered excellent accuracy and metered well, but it kicked out sparks with little pieces of debris that would hit me in the face. Who wants that?

I personally tried all the powders listed above with lead, plated, and jacketed bullets. After testing for accuracy, consistency, and ease of metering, I selected VV N320 as the best overall performer.

Vihtavuori N320

  • No powder tested was more accurate (WW 231 was equally accurate).
  • Meters very well in all kinds of powder measures.
  • Produces very little smoke from muzzle.
  • Does not put nasty burn streak on brass like Tite-Group does.
  • Low Flash — you don’t get particles and sparks flying out like WW 231.
  • Cases come out from gun very clean — so you can tumble less often.

Forum member and gunsmith Michael Ezell agrees that N320 is a good choice for the .45 ACP. Mike has also found that WW 231, while accurate, produces sparks and a large flash. Mike writes: “I first started using N320 after my first night shoot, while shooting IDPA/IPSC matches. It was astonishing how much of a fireball the WW 231 created. I was literally blinded by the flash while trying to shoot a match. As you can imagine, that didn’t work out very well. I went from WW 231 to N320 and never looked back…and the flash from it was a fraction of what a kid’s sparkler would give off. I have nothing but good things to say about [N320] after using both. Night shoots are a real eye-opener! When it comes to a personal protection… there is, statistically, a very high chance that if you ever have to use a gun to protect yourself or your family, it’ll be in the darkness[.] Being blinded by muzzle flash (and deafened by the noise) are things that should be considered, IMO.”

This Editor owns a full-size, all-stainless S&W 1911. After trying numerous powders, I found VV N320 delivered the best combination of accuracy, easy metering, consistency, clean burning qualities, and low muzzle flash. My gun has proven exceptionally accurate using N320 with bullets from 180 grains to 230 grains — it will shoot as accurately as some expensive customs I’ve tried. At right is 5-round group I shot offhand at 10 yards with my 5″ S&W 1911. The bullet hole edges are sharp because I was using semi-wad-cutters. Rounds were loaded with Vihtavuori N320 and 200-grain SWCs from Precision Bullets in Texas.

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading 8 Comments »
October 22nd, 2012

Kowa Now Offers Digiscoping Adapters for Spotters and Binocs

Kowa Sporting Optics now offers a DigiScoping adapter for the iPhone 4 and 4S models. Kowa’s TSN-IP4S iPhone adapter comes with two standard rings, one for the 880/770 series scopes and one for the BD/SV/YF series of binoculars. Similar in design to Meopta’s Digiscoping adapter released last year, the Kowa product holds an iPhone securely and attaches to the rear ocular of a spotting scope (or binoculars) using a cylindrical sleeve (aka lens ring). Crafted from aluminum, the precision-fit Kowa lens rings are coated with a soft material so they won’t mar your eyepiece(s).

Kowa digiscoping adapter

Kowa digiscoping adapterThe Kowa adapter comes with two standard rings, one for the 88/77 series scopes and one for the BD/SV/YF series of binoculars. Additional adapter rings for the Genesis 33 and 44 series of binoculars and TSN 660/600/82SV spotting scope eyepieces (except long eye-relief eyepieces) and 21x, 32x, and 50x High Lander eyepieces may be purchased separately. The lightweight adapter is made of an epoxy resin material that will not damage the finish of your iPhone.

For more information, visit the Kowa’s Digiscoping Webpage. Watch the video below to see how the Adapter holds the iPhone on spotting scopes.

Permalink - Videos, Gear Review 2 Comments »
October 19th, 2012

World’s First Joystick-Controlled Bipod — NEW from SEB Coaxial

Sebastian Lambang SEB coaxialSebastian (Seb) Lambang of SEB Coaxial, a brilliant designer and fabricator, has created an ingenious joystick bipod. The first coaxial bipod we’ve ever seen, Seb’s new bipod is a superb example of creative design and smart engineering. This unit gives F-TR and other bipod shooters precise, one-handed control of both windage and elevation. Seb’s innovative joystick bipod is yet one more example of the innovative, advanced engineering we’ve come to expect from his company. We think this guy could be building Formula 1 cars if he set his mind to it. We are fortunate that Seb loves shooting, so he applies his talent to designing and building great new products for the shooting sports.

Seb tells us: “I just finished a prototype joystick bipod, i.e. a bipod with joystick (coaxial) elevation and windage control. This patent-pending bipod is my newest project/invention. As far as I know, there is no one that makes this type of bipod… so it’s probably the only one in the world.” We already know some shooters who want to order Seb’s joystick bipod, but Seb cautions: “It’s not for sale yet. It’s still in prototype step. There is always a rough draft before the masterpiece.”

Sebastian Lambang SEB coaxial

Seb will test and refine the design in the next couple of months before production starts. But Seb is quite satisfied with the design so far: “The rigidity, ease and comfort of use, and compactness, are already OK in my opinion.” Folks in Europe will be able to see the design very soon. The first real-world test of Seb’s new joystick bipod will be at the European F-Class Championship, slated for November 2-3 in the UK. Seb notes: “I won’t be shooting F-TR in the match, but I will ask some fellow F-TR shooters at the Bisley range to test it, and provide feedback.” Seb invites Daily Bulletin readers to look at the photos and provide comments or suggestions on design enhancements.

Technical Description
Sebastian Lambang SEB coaxialAt the lowest setting with the adjustable legs, the SEB bipod is approximately 6″ tall. At the highest setting, the unit is about 9″ tall. To smooth upward movement of the rifle, Seb designed the coaxial head with “built-in uplift”. The joystick itself is about 10″ long, with a collet-type head. When folded, the new SEB Bipod is relatively compact, about 9″ long x 5″ wide x 2″ thick. Most parts are made from aircraft grade 7000 series aluminum. The current weight of the prototype is 26 ounces (740 grams). Seb is working on reducing weight for the production models.

Joystick Function and Adjustment Range
As with SEB Coaxial front rests, the joystick function is user-selectable. The joystick handle can operate either ‘up for up’ or ‘up for down’, simply by reversing the unit and the joystick. The bipod’s effective windage and elevation range* is approximately 38 MOA horizontal (windage) and 16 MOA vertical (elevation). Seb explains: “That’s not as much as my other rests, but for F-Class use it should be adequate. The finer the adjustment, the better on the target and the smoother the joystick operation. It’s like using a scope with 1/8 MOA adjustment rather than 1/4 MOA.”


*True vertical travel is about 32 MOA but in the field the rifle stock will limit how far you can lift the joysticK. Note also that the adjustment range varies with your set-up geometry. The shorter the distance between the rear bag and the bipod, the greater the travel in MOA. This means that if you extend the distance between rear bag and bipod, you will lose some MOA travel.
Permalink Gear Review, New Product 11 Comments »
October 14th, 2012

Lee Classic Cast Breech-Lock Press & Quick-Change Bushings

The Lee Classic Cast “O”-style press has always been an excellent value — it works as well as some other presses costing twice as much. And now Lee has improved on its Classic Cast Press design by adding a breech-lock fitting in the top. This allows you to swap dies in and out in seconds, once your dies are equipped with breech-lock quick-change bushings. The Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock press is available for under $120.00. That makes it a bargain compared to other heavy-duty single-stage presses. Midsouth Shooters Supply offers this press (item #006-90999) for $112.95, while Natchez Shooters Supplies sells the press (item #LEE90999) for $112.99.

Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock Press

Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock PressBreech-Lock System Allows Fast Die Exchanges
With the Lee Breech-Lock Press system, the die drops straight in from the top. Then, with a quick 1/6th (60°) turn, the die locks firmly in place (like the breech on an artillery canon). The interrupted three-start thread assures dies return and lock into the exact same position each time. Bushings cost $7.43 each at Midsouth. If you prefer, you can leave a bushing in the press, and screw your dies in normally. But consider that it normally takes a dozen or more turns to screw in a normally threaded die. The Breech-lock system is way faster.

The Lee Classic Cast press features a strong, cast-iron frame and all-steel linkage. The large 1 1/8″-diameter ram is guided by over twelve square inches of ram bearing surface. We like the fact that you can mount the handle on either side, and adjust handle angle and length. 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 [it] when you’re loading handgun and short rifle cases.”

Lock-Ring Eliminator Quick-Change Bushings
With Lee’s basic quick-lock bushings, you control vertical die position with the normal locking ring that seats against the top of the bushing. That works fine, but Lee also offers a handy Lock-Ring Eliminator Bushing (Lee SKU 90063). This clever design combines bushing and lock-ring into a single part. The Eliminator is turned from a solid piece of steel and the lock ring is integrated into the design of the part. With the Eliminator you’ll get the most repeatable and precise die positioning because lock ring and bushing are all one piece. Moreover, some guys say the Eliminator Bushings are easier to grab and remove than the standard Lee Breech-Lock Bushings.

Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock Press

Press owners have praised their Lee Classic Cast Breech-Lock units. Here are reports from two MidwayUSA customers:

Five Stars: Perfect single stage press. Loads accurately 6mm BR and 308 Win for competition. Large clearance is also great for my 460 Wby and 30-378 Wby. Pistol rounds in 44 mag and 45 ACP also load easy. The press has a lot of leverage for full-length rifle case sizing. Nice primer disposal system. Lowest price for its class. This unit beats my Lyman press by several miles…. ” — J. Davidson, California

Five Stars: I waited until Lee would bring out their breech-lock system in classic cast design. This thing is outstanding and better than my old RCBS partner press. Once you get the sweet setting of the die, lock it in place and next time you load, you need not fumble to find the best setting. Breech lock is the key. I choose this press over Hornady, due to all-steel construction. I load a lot of .308 Win and .223 Rem for my ARs and this requires full-length sizing. Lee meets the challenge with no flex and excellent ram/die fit and alignment. Another nice feature is that the breech-lock inserts have a lock preventing [them] from unlocking. [T]he spent primer disposal is perfect vs. RCBS where primers can miss the primer catcher. The handle can also be placed left or right as needed and shortened for small cases or pistol to reduce the handle travel. I don’t see how you can get a better press for the price.” — E. Stanley, Rockford, IL

Permalink Gear Review 1 Comment »
October 12th, 2012

Handy Products from NRA Store Catalog

The NRA Store’s Catalog has hundreds of interesting items for sale, ranging from belt-buckles to a ballistic calculator watch. There are plenty of unique gift items — how about a “Don’t Tread on Me” blanket, or a stag-handle NRA Tomahawk?

AR15 Cleaning MatAmong the many catalog items, two smart, utilitarian products caught our eye.

AR15 and m1911 Cleaning Mats
The NRA offers handy waterproof, stain-resistant Zorb-tech cleaning mats for black rifle shooters and 1911 fans. Printed on the 40″ x 14″ AR15 mat (item SA 21577, $16.95) are complete AR parts schematics, plus cleaning guide and AR assembly instructions. If you’ve ever fiddled with all the little parts on an AR15 bolt assembly, you’ll know how handy this Assembly/Cleaning mat can be. A smaller cleaning mat with 1911 pistol schematics sells for $13.95.

AR15 Cleaning Mat

Magnet gun holderMagnetic Gun Clamp
For years we’ve been wanting a product like this. This simple magnetic device allows a handgun to be stored out of sight, yet instantly retrieved in an emergency. The device is simplicity itself. No more fumbling with jury-rigged holsters or hard-to-access drawers.

A magnet strong enough to lift 10 pounds is sealed in durable, scratch-resistant plastic, and backed with a mounting bracket. You can easily place the magnet under countertops or on the side of a cabinet or desk. (On steel surfaces the magnet will grip without screws or through-bolts). The NRA Rapid Access Gun Magnet (item SA 24385) costs $27.95.

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing 2 Comments »
September 28th, 2012

Custom-Crafted Bolt Knobs from Bill Hawk

Looking for a cool extended bolt knob to provide extra leverage and more secure grip while working the action of your rifle? Bolt Knobs by Bill offers a wide array of styles and colors, all hand-crafted with great precision. Bill Hawk’s products range in price from $13.50 to $35, with most metal knobs priced at $30 to $32. The O-Ring style provides excellent comfort and grip. The Tactical style knob is slightly longer and has no o-rings. It is available with or without knurling. Bill also offers a conventional oversized ball in plastic or metal. Click images below to see LARGE PHOTOS.

Custom bolt knobs are made from aluminum stock that has been machined, media blasted, and powder coated for a durable and uniform finish. Choose from dozens of powder-coat colors. Knobs are drilled and tapped to fit 5/16 x 24 threaded bolt handles. A round ball style is available in aluminum, steel, or phenolic (hard plastic with threaded brass insert). This configuration still provides plenty of gripping surface but keeps the overall length of the bolt handle shorter compared to the tactical model.

Bill Hawks tells us that all his products can be customized: “I started selling bolt knobs a few years ago when I began to combine my passion for metal working and my passion for shooting. Of course, there were other manufacturers who already made bolt knobs, but I wanted to offer something a little different by allowing the shooter to tell me what they wanted and do my best to produce it. Hence the ‘custom’ part. Most people are happy with the tactical and O-ring knobs that are featured on my website, but I also make them to customer spec. Length, profile, thread size, and material can all be adjusted at no extra charge in most cases. My emphasis is primarily on offering a service to my fellow shooters.” There is a secure shopping cart on Bill’s website, BoltKnobsbyBill.com, so it’s easy to order. Send any questions regarding Bill’s products, or the ordering process, to: info [at] boltknobsbybill.com .

Permalink Gear Review, Hot Deals 2 Comments »
September 24th, 2012

RCBS Neck Bushings with Tungsten Disulfide Coating Option

RCBS neck bushingGear Review by Boyd Allen
Just about everyone knows that Wilson and Redding make neck-sizing bushings. But few shooters seem to be aware that RCBS produces bushings. In fact, RCBS does make quality neck-sizing bushings, including very nice Tungsten Disulfide-coated bushings.

As a companion product for their Gold Medal bushing-style dies, RCBS produces its own line of sizing bushings, that have a couple of notable features. First, along with plain steel bushings, RCBS offers bushings with a distinctive, dark gray Tungsten Disulfide (WS2) anti-friction coating. Redding offers bushings in bare “white” steel or with a gold-colored Titanium-Nitride anti-friction coating. Wilson bushings are plain steel with a shiny silver finish. Though the Redding and Wilson plain steel bushings may look like stainless, remember that these un-coated bushings need to be kept oiled or they WILL rust. In normal use, you shouldn’t have to worry about rust on the Tungsten Disulfide-coated RCBS bushings.

Comparing coated bushings, Redding’s gold TiN-coated bushings look pretty, but the WS2 anti-friction coating on RCBS bushings seems to work as well. Tungsten Disulfide (WS2) has an extremely low coefficient of friction — 0.03 compared to 0.6 for Titanium Nitride. Accordingly, the RCBS WS2-coated bushings can work with minimal neck lubrication. When I actually sized necks with the RCBS WS2-coated bushings, the “smoothness” of the neck-sizing operation seemed on a par with other quality, coated bushings.

Another notable difference with the RCBS bushings (compared to other brands) is that RCBS stamps the bushing size onto the outside of the bushing, rather than on the top. RCBS puts the bushing diameter on a reduced-diameter band that runs around the circumference of each RCBS bushing. I think that this is a good idea because it eliminates the possibility that raised edges from the stamping itself might interfere with proper bushing alignment*. (Remember that the top of the bushing — where size marks are stamped by other bushing-makers — contacts the retaining cap in the die during sizing.) Putting the size marks on the outside also makes it easy to distinguish RCBS bushings from other bushing brands.

RCBS neck bushing

The other feature that I like is the shape of the entry chamfer on the bottom of the RCBS bushing. This chamfer is large and angular, rather than curved. This is only a guess, but I think that it may do a better job of letting the bushing align itself with the case as it is inserted into the die, and do a better job on brass from chambers that allow more neck expansion. (The picture shows the smaller chamfer at the top of the bushing.)

That about wraps it up, with the exception of one small point. While MidwayUSA has a wide selection of RCBS bushings, other retailers need to do a better job of stocking these bushings. I got mine from RCBS, but you may have trouble finding them in many online catalogs, or on dealers’ shelves. Hopefully this small review will help to increase awareness of RCBS bushings, and more retailers will carry them.

*As you probably know, stamping displaces metal, some of which is raised above the level of the surface that was stamped. Although it can be argued that shooters have gotten some pretty spectacular results in spite of any cocking of neck bushings caused by their being stamped on top, I am sure that a lot of us would prefer to have things as straight as they can be, and moving the stamping to a recessed band that runs around the outside of the bushing helps accomplish this.
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September 13th, 2012

New Flex-Arm Mount for Sure Feed Ammo Caddies

A few days ago we featured Tim Sellar’s new Double-stack Sure Feed Ammo Caddy. No sooner had we revealed Tim’s double-stacker, than we got a call from Tim saying that he was developing a new flex-arm support for his gravity-fed ammo caddies. The advantage of the flex arm is that it allows the vertical position of the caddy to be adjusted for different guns (or different shooter positions). In addition, the arm raises the caddy up off the bench, clearing space for the operation of a joystick on a coaxial front rest.

Tim explains: “At the IBS 1000-yard nationals in West Virginia this year I had a lot of requests for a flex-arm type caddy. Here’s the first prototype — the paint just dried this morning. It works great especially for the joy-stick type rest. This opens up space for the arm movement. The example in the photo has a bracket attaching the flex-arm to the rest. I can fabricate any mount specified. I also plan to offer a magnetic base for the caddy flex-arm for use with ferrous metal front rests.”

Sure Feed Flex Arm Caddy

Tim hasn’t announced a price for the flex-arm option yet: “The price is still being worked out. I will announce it after some anodizing and aluminum estimates come in. Production should start early January next year”. For more information on Sure Feed Ammo Caddies contact Tim in Texas:

Sure Feed Ammo Caddies (Tim Sellars)
4704 Redondo Street
North Richland Hills, TX 76180
Phone: (817) 581-7665 (cell)
eMail: sel248 [at] aol.com

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September 10th, 2012

New Double-Stack Sure Feed Ammo Caddy by Tim Sellars

On his Facebook Page, Gunsmith Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzales featured the Sure Feed cartridge caddy by Tim Sellars. This device works well, and Tim can customize the height to fit your rifle and rest elevation. Speedy reports: “Here’s the new double-stack Sure Feed made by Tim Sellars out of Ft. Worth, Texas. This is one he made for me for my PPC. Each column holds 10 rounds plus five additional hole on the side for sighters or for holding a different test load. Tim makes these for all calibers and work great if you need to dump rounds down-range fast. Each consecutive round slides out and goes directly into the chamber without having to orient it into the correct position.”

To order a Sure Feed Cartridge Caddy (either the original single-stack or the new double-stack model), send email to sel248 [at] aol.com, or call Tim at 817-581-7665, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Speedy adds: “Tim is very accommodating and will build just about whatever [size caddy] you want.” Single-column caddies are $85.00 (short) and $95.00 (tall). Call for prices on the double-stack models.

Sure Feed Ammo Caddies
Tim Sellars – Sure Feed
4704 Redondo Street
North Richland Hills, TX 76180
Phone: (817) 581-7665 (cell)
eMail: sel248 [at] aol.com

Permalink Gear Review, New Product No Comments »
September 9th, 2012

Digital Scale Comparison: GemPro 500, AY123, Sartorius GD503

This article first appeared in 2011.
JayChris, AccurateShooter.com’s IT “guru”, has tested three different digital scales. The first is the relatively inexpensive ($150.00) GemPro 500, the second was the $333.00 Sartorius AY123, which is very similar to the Denver Instrument MXX123 and Acculab-123. Lastly, JayChris tested his $1225.00 Sartorius GD503 lab scale. The 3-way comparison test produced interesting findings. We learned that the AY123 had some serious shortcomings when used to weigh powder. The GemPro 500 performed well for the price, but was quite a bit slower than the big GD503. In speed of response, accuracy of measurement, resistance to drift, and overall reliability, the GD503 was the clear winner in our comparison. Sometimes you do get what you pay for. CLICK HERE for GD503 Review with Videos.

digital scales GD503, AY124, GemPro 500 250

BATTLE of the BALANCES

Three-Way Comparison Test: GemPro 500, Sartorius AY123, Sartorius GD503
Testing Report by JayChris
Precision Weighing Balances, www.balances.com, an authorized Sartorius Distributor, shipped me an AY123 (same as Denver MXX123, Acculab 123, etc.) along with a high-end GD503 force restoration scale. I had purchased the GD503, while the AY123 was a loaner for this comparison test. I included in this test a GemPro 500 scale that I already had. My key objective in this comparison test was to test each scale for measurement drift over time. We wanted to see if the displayed weight of a given object (here a certified test weight), would change over time, or with repeated measurements.

The first test was a “quick” test, where I measured the same weight ten (10) times, in the same order, about every 30 seconds or so. I did this at about the same speed as weighing out powder, maybe a bit slower. This took about 5 or 6 minutes. The second test was more-or-less an overnight test, where I measured the same weight in lengthening intervals, starting every 10 minutes, then every 30, then every 60, and so on. You can see the time series on the included graphs.

digital scales GD503, AY124, GemPro 500 250

TEST SETUP:
– I used the same 100 GRAM Sartorius certified check weight for every test (see photo). Note: 100 GRAMS = 1543.233 GRAINS
– I calibrated each scale within 30 seconds of each other before starting the test.
– I tare’d each scale within a few seconds of each other
– All three scales are connected to the same line conditioning PDU and are located in the same environment (right next to each other)

Measurement Resolution and Display Increments
– The Sartorius AY123 measures to the nearest hundredth of a grain (.00). Increments are in 0.02 grain divisions, i.e. the nearest two hundredth of a grain.
– The Sartorius GD503 measures to the nearest thousandth of a grain (.000). Increments are in 0.005 grain divisions, i.e. the nearest five thousandth of a grain.
– The GemPro 500 measures to the nearest half-tenth of a grain (.05).

NOTE: When weighing powder, I weigh to the nearest .05 grain so any of these provide adequate (or more-than) resolution.

FIRST SERIES Quick Test:

digital scales GD503, AY124, GemPro 500 250

* X-axis is weighing series iteration

SECOND SERIES Time-based:

digital scales GD503, AY124, GemPro 500 250

* X-axis is a time series in minutes-from-0.

THIRD SERIES AY123 “Stable” vs. “Unstable”:

digital scales GD503, AY124, GemPro 500 250

* X-axis is a weighing series iteration

This is a test of the AY123 in “Stable” vs. “Unstable” environment mode. The GD503 was used for comparison. I ran this test to compare the AY123 in “Stable” conditions mode (default) vs. “Unstable” conditions mode, based on anecdotal reports that the “Unstable” mode produces more consistent results. I did not find that to be so. In addition, I found that the weighing time for the “Unstable” mode was extremely slow — taking nearly 5 – 7 seconds per instance to complete a measurement. It then takes a few seconds to return to zero. In the AY123’s default “Stable” mode, it takes a second or so. Based on my testing then, there is no advantage to running the AY123 (or similar clones) in the “unstable mood”. It will simply slow you down.

Observations and Conclusions
Overall, the GD503 was the most consistent, never varying more than .005 (five-thousandths) of a grain, which is about ten times less drift than the next closest scale. The GemPro was “close” behind, never varying more than .05 of a grain. The AY123 was consistently variable and lost significant resolution over time. It was difficult to plot the AY123 results because it rarely settled at a weight for longer than a few seconds — it would routinely come up with a different weight every few seconds, varying by as much as .04 of a grain. I selected the first reading it “settled” on as the “official” reading.

The one thing this test does NOT demonstrate is trickling — our previous Review of the GD503 has a video that shows that nicely. The GD503 gives you near instantaneous read-outs when trickling. By contrast, both the AY123 and GemPro 500 require a “trickle-and-wait-for-update” plan. The GD503 is really dramatically better in its ability to return a “final” weight very quickly. This allows efficient trickling. CLICK HERE for GD503 Review with Videos.

[UPDATE: One of our readers observed that there is a setting which can make the AY123 more responsive (and accurate) when trickling charges: “Note that the video shows the 123 jumping as powder is added. The reason is the scale is in the default setting, which is for single weightings. When changed to ‘Filling’ mode, the scale reacts very quickly, and in my case accurately. Trickling is easy in the ‘Filling’ mode. My experience is that the AY123 is an excellent scale, but is sensitive to environmental factors. The GD503 is way better and is also way more expensive.” — Matt P.]

GemPro 500 Performed Well — Drift Was Usually Minimal and Charges Settle Fairly Quickly
I’ve used the GemPro 500 for quite a while now and have found it to be fairly reliable. However, over one previous loading session I have seen it drift as much as .150 of a grain. I had to go back and re-weigh charges because of this. Therefore, I tend to tare it every five (5) weighings or so which is probably overkill based on one case. I’ve not had that problem since so I am guessing something happened environmentally (maybe I bumped it or something). Overall, the GemPro is not overly sensitive to environment and settles fairly quickly and reliably.

Charges Weighed by SD503 Have More Consistent Velocities, with lower SDs
I’ve loaded a few hundred rounds with the GD503 now. I have not found it to drift more than .010 of a grain in that time. So, now, I only tend to tare it once at the beginning of a load session. I have gotten extremely consistent velocities from charges loaded with this scale, with single-digit standard deviations. By contrast, previously, my best efforts usually resulted in standard deviations (SDs) in the low teens.

Based on my experience testing the AY123, I would not choose this scale to load powder with. The readings are just too variable. The slightest environment factors (breathing, hand movement, etc.) cause large changes in results. I tried to load some rounds using this scale (backed by my GD503 to verify) and I couldn’t do better than a few tenths of a grain, and that was with considerable effort. The Sartorius AY123 is really the wrong tool for the job when it comes to measuring powder.

Thanks to Precision Weighing Balances for providing the AY123 for comparison. The other two scales, the GemPro 500 and GD503, I purchased on my own nickel. [Editor’s Note: When purchased in 2011, Jay’s GD503 cost approximately $900.00. The current 2012 price at Balances.com is $1225.00.] All three of these digital scales can be purchased through the Precision Weighing Balances webstore:

GemPro 250 | GemPro 500 |AY-123 |GD503

Permalink Gear Review, New Product, Reloading 8 Comments »