February 10th, 2011

Vortex Optics — New Products for 2011

Vortex is an up-and-coming optics maker that has made great strides in recent years. Vortex scopes, spotting scopes and binoculars offer excellent value for the dollar. This year, at SHOT Show, Vortex unveiled its new Viper HS series of scopes, with 30mm tubes and 4X magnification ranges. We checked out the new Viper HS 4-16×50 LR (Long Range) model. This features an exposed elevation turret with Vortex’s CRS zero stop. The 4-16 Viper HS offers 75 MOA of elevation travel (24 MOA per revolution).

Vortex Viper HS

Vortex Custom Elevation turretOrder Custom-Calibrated Elevation Turret Caps
One thing we really liked about the new Viper series of scopes is the availability of custom elevation turret caps. For about $100.00, Vortex will craft a elevation turret cap with range markings custom-calibrated for the ballistics of your load in your rifle. As explained in the video below, you can go to the Vortex website, and input your MV, bullet BC, altitude and other load variables. Then, using the custom elevation turret cap, simply dial in your target range, and hold ‘dead on’.

YouTube Preview Image

New Viper HS 1-4x24mm with TMCQ Reticle
The growing popularity of multi-gun competition has spurred interest in compact, zoom scopes that can switch from a wide-angle, zero magnification view for close work to four- or five-power magnification for long-range stages. Vortex Optics has developed a new scope that should work well for 3-Gun carbines, as well as dangerous game hunting rifles. The Viper HS 1-4x24mm with the TMCQ (Tactical Milling Close Quarter) reticle features a 30mm main tube and built-in illumination with 10 intensity levels with an off position between each setting.

Vortex Viper HS

Permalink Hunting/Varminting, New Product, Optics No Comments »
December 23rd, 2010

Model 1000LP One-Piece Rest From TargetShooting.com

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a chance to test and evaluate a one-piece shooting rest designed by Wally Brownlee of TargetShooting.com. The model 1000LP rest is solid, strong, nicely-machined, and versatile. We found it provides a very stable platform for every kind of rifle — from big magnums all the way down to benchrest air rifles.

TargetShooting.com 1000LP Rest

The 1000LP rest is distinguished by its use of two (2) leather sandbags, a normal-sized one in the front and a compact mini-bag in the rear. Many other one-piece target rests use low-friction pads or Delrin contacts in the rear. The typical “lead-sled” rests use a solid cradle or V-block in the rear. The small, cube-like, rear mini-bag helps the model 1000LP out-perform typical, one-piece steady-rests. The small rear bag, which is supported by metal plates on three sides, does a great job stabilizing your gun. We also found that the combination of front and rear sandbags seems to provide good vibration damping — something that really helps with precision shooting.

When our designated trigger-puller Joe Friedrich tried the 1000LP with his tuned rimfire benchrest rifle, he immediately noticed that his gun shot amazingly well. Joe owns a variety of high-quality, one-piece rests, and the model 1000LP produced results equal to the best of them. Consider this, in Joe’s ARA unlimited discipline, a perfect score on a 25-bull target is a 2500, with “worst edge” scoring. “Perfect” 2500s are very rare. Only a handful are shot each year in ARA competition. Now get this, Joe managed to shoot multiple 2500s in a row off this rest, and he did that shooting in a variety of conditions (with different lots of ammo) over a 24-hour period. Joe was amazed that this rest, which was not designed for rimfire benchrest competition, could perform so well.

YouTube Preview Image

TargetShooting.com RestThe model 1000LP has many features which contribute to the rest’s fine performance. First, as noted above, the small, 3-way-braced rear bag really seems to work, as long as it fits your stock well. Second, the windage control (which can be switched from left side to right side), is extremely precise and positive — it has zero slop. Third, the 1000LP has a relatively low-mass center bridge connecting the higher-mass front and rear sections. We think this barbell-type design, combined with the integral hand-rest, helps quell vibrations. Finally, the rear height control lets you make fine elevation adjustments without altering the gun’s position on the front bag.

The 1000LP Works Well for Many Purposes
While we were enthusiastic about the 1000LP’s performance with a rimfire benchrest rifle, we want to stress that this rest was not optimized for smallbore shooting. In fact the 1000LP was designed primarily to provide a stable platform for centerfire rifles. It works great for sighting in your hunting rifle, and it is a fine choice for varminters shooting off a field bench. Though not as fast to adjust as a joystick rest, the 1000LP is no slouch. The rear elevation knob is very quick and easy to employ, while the windage adjustment provides precise horizontal tracking with no vertical or diagonal drift. And because the front support is connected rigidly to the rear section, your front and rear bag always stay in perfect alignment, shot after shot. In the video below you can see Wally Brownlee shooting a 22-250 varmint rifle off his 1000LP rest. Note how well the gun tracks, and how little torque and hop there are, even with a narrow sporter-style stock. (Of course, the installed suppressor does reduce some recoil.)

YouTube Preview Image

1000LP Breaks Down into Sections for Transport
The TargetShooting.com model 1000LP easily breaks down into two or three sections. This makes it is easier to pack up and transport than most one-piece rests. The 1000LP also allows easy exchange of front bag assemblies so you can quickly switch from a 3″-wide bag to a narrow front bag for thinner, hunter-style fore-ends. A variety of accessories are available for the model 1000LP, including extra quick-release front bag units ($125.00), large-diameter machined discs for the feet (for added stability), and a dual-rail, front fore-end stop ($89.95).

Model 1000LP Starts at $699.95
Are there downsides to the model 1000LP? Well at $699.95 for the base unit, the 1000LP is far more expensive than a typical Lead Sled-type one-piece rest sold for hunters. However, that’s like comparing a Mercedes with a Yugo. The 1000LP is far more sophisticated than a Lead Sled. Plus, as Joe demonstrated, the model 1000LP can do double-duty as a true competition rest. Don’t even think about using a primitive $130.00 Lead Sled in ARA benchrest competition.

We also found that peak performance demands careful sandbag packing and a good fit of the rear bag to your particular stock. Someone who shoots multiple rifles may want to purchase more than one rear mini-bag so that the rear bag-to-stock fit is optimal. Joe found that bag-to-stock matching was important if you want to shoot ultra-small groups off this rest.

If you are interested in the model 1000LP one-piece rest, visit www.TargetShooting.com or call Wally Brownlee at (800) 611-2164, or +1 605-868-2164 (int’l).

Disclosure: TargetShooting.com provided a “loaner” 1000LP (with accessories) for testing, but Joe Friedrich then purchased the rest at a slight discount off retail.
Permalink - Videos, Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting 4 Comments »
February 2nd, 2010

Nightforce Adds High-Speed Elevation Adjustments for 2010

Nightforce Optics has enhanced their elevation adjustments in this year’s lineup of high-magnification Nightforce scopes. Now you can get DOUBLE the elevation travel with a SINGLE TURN of the elevation knob. For an NXS with 1/4-MOA clicks, this means you can get a full 20 MOA of elevation travel with a single turn of the knob.

Bravo, Nightforce — this simple enhancement can make a BIG difference in the field. With most “high-performance” calibers, 20 MOA will get you to 700 yards or beyond. This means that the varminter can zero at all likely hunting yardages within the same revolution of the turret. That makes life much simpler, and reduces the chance of being way off in your elevation. No more confusion about which revolution you’re on….

Likewise, a tactical shooter, moving from near to far targets and back again, can likely stay on the same revolution at most target yardages. Even if you shoot out to 1000 yards, you will be able to get all the way out to 1K within two complete revolutions. This upgrade — doubling the elevation travel in each turret revolution — gives Nightforce scopes practical performance (inside 700 yards) similar to much more expensive scopes fitted with a single-turn or double-turn elevation systems (such as the U.S. Optics EREK knob). The new high-speed adjustment system will be offered in Nightforce’s 15x, 22x, 32x, and 42x series of scopes. Anticipated delivery date for scopes with the high-speed adjustment is May, 2010.

YouTube Preview Image

What About Retro-fitting Older NF Scopes?
Nightforce plans to provide an upgrade path for existing Nightforce scopes “eventually, but not right away”. The upgrade would allow installation of the “high-speed adjustment” system on older NF scopes. We don’t have any more specifics. Nightforce has NOT revealed how much the high-speed conversion would cost or when it might be available for pre-2010 scopes.

Permalink - Videos, New Product, Optics 2 Comments »
July 5th, 2009

Custom-Calibrated Windage & Elevation Knobs from Kenton

Kenton Calibrated Windage KnobHere’s something that can save you lots of time and aggravation on a varminting trip. This little $90 gizmo is great for varmint hunters and any one who needs to make a quick shot in shifty wind conditions. Instead of the traditional 1/4-MOA hash marks, the Kenton windage turret features markers corresponding to the wind drift your rifle will encounter at various distances.

Custom-Calibrated Windage Knobs
Kenton Industries’ Tuned Windage Compensator (TWC) has built-in windage marks for 10 mph cross-winds at 100-1000 yards. How do they do that? Well the knobs are calibrated either for specific calibers/loads, or they can make custom knobs using your observed field data. The knobs can compensate for various wind speeds (2-20 mph) and angles (15°- 90°), by applying some simple conversion ratios. As a general rule, with a “full-value”, i.e. 90°, crosswind, the wind drift will go up or down in direct proportion to the change in windspeed. That means, for example, a 10 mph crosswind will push the bullet twice as much sideways as a 5 mph crosswind.

Two versions of Kenton’s TWC knobs are offered. The $89.95 TWC #1 features calculated ballistics for standardized factory ammo for the caliber and barrel length you specify. The $89.95 TWC #2 feature customized windage settings based on bullet BC, environmental conditions, elevation, and ballistic information you provide.

Custom Elevation Knobs
Kenton also makes an $79.95 elevation-compensating TTC knob, that can be customized to your rifle. With this elevation turret, yardages are marked in 50-yard increments, and you can literally just “dial in your distance”. However, to work effectively the TTC knob must be tailored to a particular load (velocity and bullet). Moreover, actual bullet drop will differ with changes in altitude, temperature, and shooting angle — so it’s not as simple as it sounds, and you may need multiple knobs if you shoot a variety of loads. Kenton offers it TTC #1 model calibrated for standardized factory ammo. The TTC #2 is calibrated out to the maximum effective range of your cartridge based on bullet type, muzzle velocity, altitude, and temperature. Select the type of yardage format to be used. The #2 is recommended for wildcatters or for those who want to adjust to specific conditions. Lastly, a TTC #3 elevation knob is offered that relies on the purchaser’s actual recorded drop data from the field. The TTC #3 elevation knob will be calibrated based on the click-value or MOA you provide for each 50-yard increment.

Permalink Optics 2 Comments »
May 28th, 2009

Print and Laminate a Ballistics Data Card

Three-gun match competitor Zak Smith employs a simple, handy means to store his elevation and wind dift data — a laminated data card. To make one, first generate a come-up table, using one of the free online ballistics programs such as JBM Ballistics. You can also put the information in an Excel spreadsheet or MS Word table and print it out. You want to keep it pretty small.

Below is a sample of a data card. For each distance, the card includes drop in inches, drop in MOA, drop in mils. It also shows drift for a 10-mph cross wind, expressed three ways–inches, MOA, and mils. Zak explained that “to save space… I printed data every 50 yards. For an actual data-card, I recommend printing data every 20 or 25 yards.” But Zak also advised that you’ll want to customize the card format to keep things simple: “The sample card has multiple sets of data to be more universal. But if you make your own data card, you can reduce the chance of a mistake by keeping it simple. Because I use scopes with MILS, my own card (bottom photo) just has three items: range, wind, drop in MILS only.”

Once you have the card you can fold it in half and then have it laminated at a local office store or Kinko’s. You can keep this in your pocket, tape it to your stock, or tie the laminated card to your rifle. If you regularly shoot at both low and high elevations, you may want to create multiple cards (since your ballistics change with altitude). To learn more about ballistic tables and data cards, check out the excellent “Practical Long-Range Rifle Shooting–Part 1″ article on Zak’s website. This article offers many other insights as well–including valuable tips on caliber and rifle selection.

Another option is to place your ballistics card on the back of the front flip-up scope cover. This set-up is used by Forum member Greg C. (aka “Rem40X”). With your ‘come-up’ table on the flip-up cover you can check your windage and elevation easily without having to move up off the rifle and roll the gun over to look at the side of the stock. Greg tells us: “Placing my trajectory table on the front scope cover has worked well for me for a couple of years and thought I’d share. It’s in plain view and not under my armpit. And the table is far enough away that my aging eyes can read it easily. To apply, just use clear tape on the front objective cover.”

ballistics data scope cover

Permalink Tech Tip 2 Comments »