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ON THE

70 YRS

STRONG Hodgdon Powder

Best Optics For Deer, Elk

PRODUCT REVIEWS PLUS

Beating

BUCK FEVER

Crosman’s Pioneer Airbow AR Barrel Cooler Check Out Ultimate Arms’ New M1911 - See page 157!

Tips & Tactics For Western, Plains

UPLAND BIRDS

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A MERIC A N

SHOOTING JOURNAL Volume 7 // Issue 1 // October 2017 PUBLISHER

James R. Baker ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER

Dick Openshaw

GENERAL MANAGER

John Rusnak

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Andy Walgamott EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Craig Hodgkins

LEAD CONTRIBUTOR

Frank Jardim

CONTRIBUTORS

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DISTRIBUTION

Gary Bickford, Barry Johnston, Tony Sorrentino ADVERTISING INQUIRIES

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ON THE COVER Chad Zoller bagged this nice mule deer buck in southeast Washington state. (CHAD ZOLLER)

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American Shooting Journal // October 2017

MEDIA INDEX PUBLISHING GROUP WASHINGTON OFFICE P.O. Box 24365 • Seattle, WA 98124-0365 14240 Interurban Ave. S. Ste. 190 • Tukwila, WA 98168 OREGON OFFICE 8116 SW Durham Rd • Tigard, OR 97224 (206) 382-9220 • (800) 332-1736 • Fax (206) 382-9437 media@media-inc.com • www.media-inc.com


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CONTENTS

VOLUME 7 • ISSUE 1 • August 2017

FEATURES 48

HOW TO CHOOSE HUNTING OPTICS

(KEITH MOEN)

Ready to update your field gear, but confused by all of the types, models and levels of hunting optics? Writer Rob Reed has an informative and handy guide to help make a personal solution easier to spot.

63

UP ON UPLAND BIRD OPS Even wingshooting veterans can use species-specific intel on weather and habitat conditions affecting bird populations, so take time to review these hunting tips, tactics and prospects from writer and fellow upland fan Troy Rodakowski.

76

THE BUCK (FEVER) STOPS HERE This debilitating mindset can affect experienced and new hunters of all ages, so make “mindful practice” a part of your preparation for this fall’s big game seasons.

85

STRAIGHT AND TRUE The Airbow from Crosman is a powerful, precharged pneumatic airgun, and is a hoot to shoot. So says Tom Claycomb, who shredded some targets with it on our behalf.

95

ROAD HUNTER: DEER OPS NOT JUST A BLACK(TAIL) AND WHITE(TAIL) CHOICE The whitetail is the most-hunted deer in North America with mulies not far behind, but there are several other species worthy of attention, from the bucks on stormy Alaskan islands to desertdwelling Coues, and from the rare to the exotic. Writer Scott Haugen takes us along to check out the other members of our continent’s huntable deer family.

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RELOADING: IS HANDLOADING STILL WORTHWHILE? The question is largely rhetorical, of course, but what type of shooters will gain the most from this popular practice? Just in case you are the one doing the asking, author and longtime loader Frank Jardim offers a well-reasoned and thorough introduction to help get you on your way.

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KEITH MOEN DOESN’T QUIT

Forty-four years ago an accident left him in a wheelchair, but this Washington state hunter, angler, carver and family man knows no bounds. Meet Keith Moen, who is more focused on the beauty of nature and notching his tags.

AMERICAN SHOOTING JOURNAL is published monthly by Media Index Publishing Group, 14240 Interurban Ave South Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Display Advertising. Call Media Index Publishing Group for a current rate card. Discounts for frequency advertising. All submitted materials become the property of Media Index Publishing Group and will not be returned. Copyright © 2017 Media Index Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A.

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American Shooting Journal // October 2017


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CONTENTS

107

SHOOTER’S SHELF:

THE GUNPOWDER PEOPLE In 1947, after serving in World War II, Bruce “B.E” Hodgdon took out a loan against a life insurance policy to purchase 50,000 pounds of government-surplus 4895 powder. Today, 70 years later, his namesake company manufactures and distributes some of the top brands in the industry, and a new book celebrates the whole true story. Also Inside 82 109 135 147 157

2018 Shooting and Outdoor Show Lineup Bullet Bulletin: Federal Edge TLR Black Powder: Lubricants Product Review: AR Barrel Cooler Company Spotlight: Ultimate Arms

DEPARTMENTS 17 19 21 25

14

Editor’s Note Competition Calendar Gun Show Calendar Industry News

American Shooting Journal // October 2017

(HODGDON)


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EDITOR’S NOTE

A

t the risk of converting this space into a regular book review column, I wanted to take a few paragraphs to wax rhapsodic, er, write more nice things about The Gunpowder People, the new book celebrating the 70th anniversary of Hodgdon Gunpowder Company, that we feature elsewhere in this issue. More to the point, I’d like to write nice things about the Hodgdons, and the many individuals and families who continue to lead and run companies like theirs – the folks who truly make the shooting, hunting and outdoor world what it is. Full disclosure: I’m a bit of a sucker for corporate and family histories, especially ones with lots of photos and personal anecdotes and stories. This volume has both, and even if you aren’t a raving fan of the company (although

I’m not sure how that could be possible), you certainly know of them and respect their products, as well as their positive impact on, and place in, the industry. I’m a bit of a newbie in this world – a scant four years as editor of this and other outdoor magazines – but one of the things that struck me at my first trade show was how many companies were still owned and run by their founders or their family members, sometimes two and three generations down the line. Reading the opening pages of the Hodgdon book brought that to mind again, because it contained testimonials and congratulatory remarks from Steve Hornady, Bob Nosler, and Frank Brownell, just to name a recognizable few. I have nothing against outside ownership, and there are some really fine brands out there currently falling

under growing corporate umbrellas. Sometimes that is the best way for companies to survive and thrive in a competitive marketplace. But there is something encouraging about family members running a family business, and this industry – perhaps more than any other – continues to provide opportunities for a new generation of company founders working to develop their ideas and build companies; companies which may one day become the next Brownells, Hornady, or Hodgdon. And we certainly can use more companies like those. -Craig Hodgkins

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American Sh S Shooting ho h oting Journa Journal r l // // O October ctob ber 2017


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The mounting method follows true STANAG (NATO Standardization Agreement) protocol using the two back angles and the top of the rail as the contact points. The result is perfect alignment with the centerline of the firearm. A feature that is not attainable with typical side clamping adapters. Another 24 American Shooting Journal October or 2017 bonus is that there are no visible//fasteners holes on the top and sides of the adapter giving it a clean sleek look.


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NEWS

NEW AMMUNITION AND GLOCK GEN 5 SIGHTS COMPILED BY THE EDITORS

SIG Sauer introduces 6.5 Creedmoor Match Grade Elite Performance Ammunition.

S

IG Sauer, Inc., extends its Match Grade Elite Performance Ammunition line for rifles with the addition of a 6.5 Creedmoor Open Tip Match (OTM) round. Featuring a 140-grain Sierra MatchKing bullet, this new 6.5 Creedmoor load has a muzzle velocity of 2,625 feet per second with muzzle energy of 2,142 foot-pounds. Designed for superior accuracy, the SIG 6.5 Creedmoor Match Grade load performs exceptionally well in wind, thanks to its high ballistic coefficient, delivering a flat trajectory with minimal recoil. Engineered to excel in today’s precision rifles, Match Grade Elite Performance Ammunition uses a

temperature-stable propellant ant that delivers consistent muzzle velocity in all weather conditions. Premiumnimum quality primers ensure minimum velocity variations, and thee shell case metallurgy is optimized in the SIG ge to yield Match Grade OTM cartridge consistent bullet retention round to iti round. All SIG Sauer rifle ammunition is precision loaded on state-of-theart equipment that is 100 percent electromechanically monitored to ensure geometric conformity and charge-weight consistency. All Elite Performance Ammunition is manufactured by SIG Sauer at its new ammunition manufacturing

facility in Jacksonville, Arkansas, to the same exacting standards as the company’s premium pistols and rifles. For more, visit sigsauer.com/ ammunition.

Truglo handgun sights for new Glock Gen 5 models.

T

ruglo, Inc., is pleased to announce complete compatibility of all existing Glock handgun sight models with the new Generation 5 series of Glock pistols. “Glock owners enjoy the ability to readily customize their pistols. Truglo is glad to continue providing great aftermarket support for the next generation of Glock pistols” said Pliny Gale, product marketing manager. A leader in innovative technology for firearm accessories, Truglo stays on the cutting edge of new firearm introductions and strives to maximize the compatibility of firearm accessories. Truglo manufacturers a wide variety of handgun sight technologies for Glock handguns, including the TFX Pro, TFX, TFO, Tritium Pro and Tritium. For more, visit truglo.com. americanshootingjournal.com 27


NEWS NovX introduces 9mm Self-Defense cartridge pair.

N

ovX has announced what they believe to be the most effective, lethal combination of bullet technology in more than a century. Stainless steel and copper polymer have come together to create the first 9mm Luger+P and standard-pressure Engagement: Extreme Self-Defense cartridges. At 1,655 fps, there is no +P copper poly bullet that is faster. At 65 grains there is none lighter. The bullet flies flatter than lead, offers less felt recoil, and creates absolutely devastating wound channels. The 9mm ARX Engagement: Extreme combines the intellectual properties of a polycarbonate/copper ARX bullet with the Shell Shock Technologies (SST) stainless steel casing and aluminum primer base, operating on the principles of aero and fluid dynamics, not hydrostatic shock or mushrooming. The

28 American Shooting Journal // October 2017

NovX technology is replacing old-world brass with a stronger, lighter and more consistent cartridge, creating possibly the most accurate defensive handgun ammunition on the market. The 9mm RNP CrossTrainer was developed in parallel with the ARX Engagement: Extreme Self-Defense cartridge utilizing the Shell Shock Technologies SST case, combined with the RNP (round nose projectile)

bullet in lieu of the ARX profile. With nearly identical weights and velocities as the Engagement: Extreme, the CrossTrainer is an excellent choice for training, competition and recreational shooting. The NovX 9mm+P generates more foot-pounds of energy than a standard .45 ACP 230 grain at 875 feet per second!  For more, visit novxammo.com.


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HOLSTERS


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American Shooting Journal // October 2017


KEITH MOEN DOESN’T QUIT This hunter, angler, carver and family man may be bound to a wheelchair, but he knows no bounds.

In the 44 years since his accident left him in a wheelchair, Keith Moen says he’s only cried once over his condition – on opening day of elk season that year. The Washington state man is more focused on the beauty of nature and notching his tag. (KEITH MOEN)

BY KRISTIN BISHOP

I

t was the second day of elk camp as Keith Moen wrestled out of his cot, pleasantly surprised to find

the wind had died down. Sometime in the middle of the night a storm had passed through, bringing with it just a little rain but heavy winds that had thrashed the walls of the

tent, nearly pulling up the stakes. The only sign of the night’s rampage was a few scattered branches and a light fog settling into the sparse trees. At nearly 5,000 feet the morning still americanshootingjournal.com 33


had a little bite to it. Keith, joined by his hunting partner Bob and his son, set out for the day, determined to fill his any elk tag. After a few missed opportunities the day before he was optimistic. Driving into the woods, it couldn’t have been more than 50 or 60 yards off the narrow jeep road that Keith saw what looked like a log lying in the grass. It was light brown and almost hairy, though – convincing enough to back up for a second look. That second glance confirmed the log was in fact an elk sitting tucked in the grass, not yet having taken heed of their presence. Trying not to be too eager, Keith pulled off the road as far as he could get, rolled down the window and killed the engine. Gently balancing his Browning A-Bolt .3006 on the mirror and, careful not to make a sound, he took aim on the animal’s shoulder. Although he couldn’t see the head he knew he was covered with the any elk tag. He hooked his bent spoon around the trigger, settled in to take

With limited use of his hands, Moen has had to find creative solutions to things you and I would find simple. He uses a bent spoon taped to his glove to hook over the trigger, and then pulls his arm back to fire his rifle and take bucks like this fine mule deer. (KEITH MOEN)

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his shot, pulled his arm back and sent the 180-grain Nosler partition bullet flying. The bullet struck its intended target, and although confident in his shot, Keith racked another round into the chamber and watched the elk closely, but it never got up to run off. Keith spotted one small antler tine and thought to himself, “Man, I just shot myself a little raghorn bull.” He rushed Bob out of the Bronco to check just in case it decided to run. As he approached, Bob yelled back, “It’s a three-point; no, four; no, five; no, make that a six-point bull elk!” Bob’s son offered to clear a path to the elk, but being his first-ever six-point, Keith said, “Screw that,” hit four-low and barreled over the brush and stumps. He pulled up beside the elk, lowered himself out of the truck into his wheelchair and wheeled next to the magnificent animal. With tears streaming down his face he stroked the elk, paying reverence to the animal and nature around him.

There are hidden talents in all of us just waiting to come out, and though the price was steep for Keith’s to emerge, they include woodcarving and drawing. Here’s one of his Haida-inspired pieces. (KEITH MOEN)

KEITH MOEN’S PASSION for hunting and the great outdoors came along far before that memorable day and long

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American Shooting Journal // October 2017


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when the woods were his playground to explore, climb trees and build forts. It was a simpler time, when the only rule was to be home by dinner. His dad raised him to respect the woods and the rules regarding it. It wasn’t until he was 13 years old and had passed hunter safety course that he was allowed to take his first deer. From then on he was hooked. He looked forward to taking a week off from school for elk camp, and more often than not, he could be seen racing for the hills after playing under the Friday night lights. Standing 6-foot-4 with a chiseled body, dark hair and a square jaw, Keith was far from your typical teenager. Although he loved to play football, basketball and baseball, he was not one to shy away from work. At the local gas station, blessed with what his sister Stephanie calls “pure charisma,” he quickly worked his way through the ranks, earning the title of assistant manager at just 16 years of age. After a short baseball career at Bellevue (Washington) Community

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American Shooting Journal // October 2017

College he felt it was time to move on. He packed his bags and headed off to join his father, building houses on the Crow Indian Reservation in Big Sky Country. Little did he know his life was about to change. AUGUST 29, 1973. Just after midnight. Driving home to Hardin, Montana, about an hour away from Billings. His roommate’s two friends had driven out from Seattle, and had wanted to go dancing. “I was seated in the front passenger seat, thankful for the extra leg room,” Keith remembers. “All four of us passed out from carbon monoxide entering the cab through a faulty rear taillight. The driver started to come to just as she drove off the right side into the gravel shoulder. She swerved the wheel back, overcorrecting and shooting us across the two lanes into the median. The car flipped three times, coming to rest on its side. When I came too I realized that something wasn’t right. I was

on top of the driver. I couldn’t move. I moved my head around and felt a weird crunch in my neck. The two back-seat passengers crawled out. The driver and I were stuck in the car. I was unable to move, and she couldn’t move with me on top of her. It was far before the days of carrying a cell phone, and the closest town was 20 minutes away. A passerby frantically rushed to the closest gas station and called 911. When the ambulance arrived, it was like music to my ears. They had to punch out the windshield and drag me out on a board. No one else was hurt.” Keith spent the first two weeks in traction at the hospital in Billings before being transferred to Seattle’s University of Washington Medical Center. “It was difficult walking into the hospital room and seeing my brother, who I had looked up to my entire life, laying there with two screws in his head where the traction attached, still covered in dirt and grass, looking so vulnerable,” recalls Stephanie.


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Western Washington fishing guide Shea Fisher credits his uncle Keith as the reason he wanted to get into the business, and says that fishing with Keith helped him become a better guide. (THEFISHERE.COM)

She was there when the doctors told him he would never walk again and that he would be lucky to live to see 40. Keith never blamed anyone or felt sorry for himself. “I only cried once over it,” he admits. It was opening day of elk season. He asked the nurse to open the blinds, and from his room at the rehab center he could see a light dusting of snow on the mountain. He knew that meant elk camp would have 4 or 5 inches of fresh snow. It would never be the same. I ASKED KEITH how his outlook changed after the accident and his answer surprised me somewhat. “It only amplified my love of the outdoors and made me want to do more in it, not less,” he replied. Adapting to his new life was not easy, though. It took close to a year to figure out how to shoot, to become a road hunter instead of a hiker, and, most importantly, how to do it safely. If Keith’s not physically able to do something, he just finds a way that works for him. Take shooting, for example. He has limited use of his hands and is unable to pull the trigger, so instead he tapes that bent spoon to his glove, hooks the trigger and pulls his arm back. Without a doubt, the major contributing factor to being able to do what he does is his beautiful wife of 33 years, Mary, as well as a strong support network of family 40

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and friends. Keith and Mary were set up by his brother Brian. Keith says that for their first date they went over to Mary’s house for dinner and she cooked stroganoff. When I asked Mary about it, her response was, “Silly, Keith! Our first date was watching the Sonics playoff game in some tavern. Stroganoff was the second or third date.” I guess it’s true what they say – that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Born and raised in Colorado, a scuba diving instructor and social worker, Mary loves all things that have to do with the water. She grew up fishing with her dad. I asked how Keith wooed her, and right off she said, “Well, those gorgeous blue eyes.” They started off friends, and then dated for about a year before he asked her to marry him. It was not something she took lightly. “I gave it a lot of serious thought, and did some soul searching,” she says. What she loves most about Keith is that he is always so positive. He never

let’s being in a wheelchair get in his way, and always wants to go do things. “I would say, ‘Let’s go,’ and he says, ‘OK, I’m ready.’ Doesn’t even ask where to.” Mary filled me in on the amazing trips they’ve had, including multiple adventures fly fishing and exploring Yellowstone, a road trip through the Redwoods, a Hawaiian vacation, and most recently, an Alaskan cruise. Together they develop techniques for what works best – like the spoon for the trigger finger, and a modified seat cushion to prevent sores. They put those ideas to use when out in the woods hunting turkeys or scouting together. Through Keith, Mary’s learned to be more patient. She has to let him figure out how to do something and allow him to struggle in a new situation. For example, their first time snorkeling in Hawaii, when he did more sinking than floating. Years ago, they visited a local heritage fair. In one of the booths was an instructor teaching how to

do Haida wood carvings, totem poles, etc. The instructor saw Keith watching and came over to him. In a deep husky voice, he said, “Hello. My name is Ralph. Do you want to learn to carve?” Through lots of practice, and many Band-Aids, Keith has learned to carve amazing works of art. He has produced over 50 commissioned pieces that can be found in Philadelphia, Chicago and even the Denver Art Museum. His artistic talent doesn’t stop there. Adorning the walls of he and Mary’s house are gorgeous colored-pencil drawings of everything from trout to the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. Keith had no idea that he had such talents before his accident. NOT ONLY DID Mary and Keith raise a successful son Spencer (who is currently in his third year of medical school), but he practically raised his nephew, Shea Fisher. Shea was born a few years after Keith’s accident, so he’s only known his uncle in his chair. Combine

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the two of them and their love for fishing and they are unstoppable on the water. Perhaps I am a biased girlfriend, but I think Shea is an incredibly talented guide (TheFisherE.com). I asked him what contributed to him wanting to be a guide, and Shea replied that hands down it was his uncle Keith. After his dad left around the age of 12, Keith stepped in to fill that role. Every weekend they were either out hunting or fishing together. Shea remembers going to the river with Keith and his boat, at just 12 or 13 years of age. Keith would back the boat down the ramp, and Shea would throw him in the boat and take it from there. “I learned to be a guide from fishing with my uncle,” Shea credits. Learning to run the boat while helping Keith cast or bait up helped him fine-tune the skills he uses today. It still only takes him a few extra minutes to pitch his boat sideways and “throw” his uncle in. If you hadn’t guessed by now,

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there’s very little that can stop Keith – sometimes not even the brakes of his wheelchair! He’s gone over the rocks towards the river, the whole time with a smile on his face. There are so many more Keith Moen stories. I’d love to recount the time when, fishing out of his pontoon boat, his rod sunk to the bottom after he momentarily set it on his lap to pour another cup of coffee and – of course – a fish had to hit at that moment. He got it back three weeks later when another fisherman hooked it, still with the Wicked Willy fly tied to the end. I’d also like to tell about the year he scouted seven bears prior to opening day, and about how he loves to call in turkeys and convince them they need to come to him and get shot. Maybe next time I can tell the good one about fishing Puget Sound in their glass-ply boat, or even show you the technique he uses when sidedrifting for steelhead with us out of

Shea’s boat. You can’t be too proud to take a handoff from Keith after he’s already caught his limit. Perhaps all those stories are better left for a book, though, or a conversation of your own. For Keith, his upcoming goals are as simple as his “next trip” – hopefully an antelope hunt, or shooting one of the four chocolatefaced bears he’s already scouted. Or maybe just fine-tuning his nine-month-old Lab Shadow’s shedhunting and bird-retrieval skills. Whatever it is, he’s guaranteed to have a smile on his face, and loving friends and family by his side. When I thanked Keith for being an amazing man, and giving me the opportunity to get to know him a little better, he replied, “No. Not amazing. I just love life and being able to get out and enjoy it. I’m not afraid to put myself out there, having an ultra-supportive wife and network of family and friends to be there for me and help me on my journey.” I rest my case. NS


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Choosing and using the correct binoculars for the task will greatly enhance your hunting experience and odds for success. (NIKON)

Ready to update your gear, but confused by all of the models and levels of hunting optics? Here’s a handy guide to help make a personal solution easier to spot. STORY BY ROB REED PHOTOS BY MANUFACTURERS

T

he importance of hunting binoculars cannot be overstated. The right pair of binoculars will hold up to harsh conditions, be easy to use without

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eyestrain and, most importantly, help you spot and identify game. There is more to picking a set of binoculars than finding the highest magnification at the lowest cost. To find out more about how design, build quality and optical considerations play a role I talked

to experts from two of the leading optics manufacturers: Adam Goess was the product manager for Nikon’s Sport and Recreational Optics line at the time of our interview (he has since left the company), and Shane Meisel is the brand manager for binoculars at Leupold & Stevens.


How to Choose Hunting Binoculars

Based on their recommendations, and other research, I’ve come up with a list of things you should consider before buying your next set of hunting binoculars, and I’ve arranged them by design components. I should also note that the experts recommended different products for Western (generally open areas) and Eastern hunting situations (generally dense woods), and I’ve identified those in captions accompanying each image. Finally, although I cover only Nikon and Leupold & Stevens models by name here, having a clearer understanding of the function of each of these components will help you choose from among an even wider array of makes and models. THE BASIC OPTICAL COMPONENTS of binoculars include the objective lens, which gathers light, and the ocular lens, which transmits the light to your eye. However, the image you see would be upside down if not for an internal prism system used to flip the image between the objective and ocular lenses. There are two different designs used for this purpose. The simplest system is a porroprism design, which uses prisms offset from the objective tube to flip the

Western: Nikon Model 16212-LaserForce 10x42 Rangefinder/Binocular – 1,900 yards, ED glass, I/D Technology, $1,199.95. americanshootingjournal.com 49


image. Porro-prism binoculars are recognized by their offset tubes which give them the classic “military binocular” look. “With a porro-prism binocular you are getting total internal light reflection,” said Leupold’s Meisel. “You also get a more lifelike 3D image and increased image depth because of the offset design. For the same amount of money a porro-prism system will give you a better image.” The downside is the offset tubes make this kind of binocular heavier and bulkier than roof-prism designs. By contrast, roof-prism binoculars appear more sleek, thanks to their straight-through tube design. The prism design is different and requires polishing, grinding and coatings to maximize effectiveness. These treatments add to the cost. The payoff is a binocular that is flatter and more compact than a comparable porro-prism unit. “Ergonomically, a roof-prism binocular is going to be much more comfortable to use in the field,” said Goess. “The industry is really moving towards the roof-prism design, as that is what consumers have shown they want.” MAGNIFICATION IS THE description of how much closer a viewed object appears to be. (A 10X magnification makes an object 500 feet away look like it’s 50 feet away). The objective is the size of the light-gathering objective lens, measured in millimeters. For any given magnification the larger the objective lens, the more light is gathered, and the brighter the image will appear. The specs are presented as magnification x objective, as in “10x40.” While many people believe “the more magnification, the better,” that is not necessarily the case. “The magnification also magnifies the movement of the person holding the binoculars,” said

Western: Leupold BX4 Pro Guide HD 10x42 – great light transmission, crisp resolution and a field-flattener lens for edge-to-edge clarity across the field of view.

Western: Model 7583-Nikon Monarch 5 20x56 – large field of view and large objectives, ED glass, $899.95.

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Meisel. “A 10X magnification is very popular, but a lot of people find they can’t hold it steady.” Another consideration is that as the magnification increases, the field of view (the amount of area you can see) decreases. Field of view is described in specs as how many feet wide you can see at 1,000 yards. A wider field of view makes it easier to spot game or track moving animals. “If I were to describe the perfect binocular for hunting, it would be an 8x42,” Goess said. Generally, a 10X binocular is considered the upper limit for a hand-held unit. More powerful units, such as 16X binoculars, are typically mounted on tripods and used in situations such as when hunters have to look from hilltop to hilltop across long distances. THE EXIT PUPIL IS THE amount of light that exits the binocular to hit your eye. The more light that hits your eye, the brighter and sharper the image will appear. The exit pupil is

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Western: Model 7548, Monarch 7 8x42 – ED glass, lightweight, $479.95.


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Eastern: Model 16027, Monarch HG 8x42 – ED glass, Field Flattener lens, edge-to-edge clarity field of view, awarded Field & Stream “Best of the Test” for 2017, best Monarch ever, $979.95.

Eastern: Leupold BX-2 Tioga 8x32.

calculated by dividing the objective by the magnification. This formula shows another advantage of having a slightly smaller magnification with the same size objective. While a 10x42 binocular has a 4.2mm exit pupil, an 8x42 would have a 5.25mm exit pupil. This gives the user of the 8-power binocular a brighter, easier-to-see image, with a reduced chance of eye strain. A larger exit pupil is especially important in low-light situations to provide more light as your pupil adjusts to darker conditions by expanding.

The quality of prism and lenses effects the clarity of the image, how precisely it can be focused, the color fidelity and the amount of any optical distortion such as “pin hole distortion” (squeezing the sides of straight lines in) or “barrel distortion” (pushing the sides of straight lines out). If the manufacturer specs detail what the prism glass is made of, look for prisms made of barium crown Bak-4 glass or other high-quality glass like SK-15. Avoid the lower quality boro-silicate BK-7 prisms. These specs may not be included

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Eastern: Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 6x30 – in heavy timber you want a wider field of view and a binocular that maximizes light getting to your eye since it is darker under the trees. The BX-1 Yosemite is a great option because the porro prism provides that broader depth of field to see through the brush.

on the packaging, so check the color fidelity, contrast and sharpness of the image. Higher quality roof-prism binoculars often include “phase correction coating” or “p coating” on their prisms. Binoculars of a higher quality will use extra-low dispersion (ED) glass. This glass is also known as high-density (HD) glass and should be mentioned on the packaging or

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product specs. To test unknown glass, look at the clarity, brightness and color reproduction in low light. Most binoculars feature antireflection lens coatings. The highest ratings are for fully multicoated lenses. Multicoated lenses are a step down, and fully-coated lenses are below that. Lenses that are just coated are the bare minimum, and are sign of lower quality manufacture.

EYE RELIEF IS HOW FAR you can hold the binoculars from your eye while still being able to see the entire image. This is especially important for eyeglass wearers. Foldable eyecups allow eyeglass wearers to keep their glasses on while maintaining good eye relief. The standard focus mechanism is a center focus dial that adjusts both tubes at the same time. Typically there will also be a diopter adjustment for


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the right eye to account for minor differences between eyes. Higher quality binoculars will allow this adjustment to be locked so it won’t be accidently reset. So-called “autofocus” binoculars are actually prefocused for infinity. While convenient, the drawbacks include the fact that you can’t adjust for each eye and that objects will only be in focus if they are past a certain minimum distance unchangeably preset at the factory. Hunting binoculars need to be able to stand up to the elements. Avoid products described as “water resistant” or “weather proof” in favor of those labelled as “waterproof.” “You want a fully rubberized body that has nitrogen purged and O ring sealed,” Goess said. “A true waterproof binocular should be able to be submerged.” The saying “you get what you pay for” is especially true for binoculars. A quality pair is expensive up front, but if cared for, they will last for a lifetime of hunting and pay for themselves afield over and over.

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Eastern: Leupold BX4 Pro Guide HD 10x42.


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Smiles all around for a successful mixed bag of birds. October is the month to begin chasing the full array of pheasant, quail and partridge.

Hunting prospects, tips, tactics and guns for 2017. STORY AND PHOTOS BY TROY RODAKOWSKI

e’ve waited for months, but upland bird season is finally upon us. All systems are “go,” and prospects are clearly on an upward path. But before you stash your smoothbore, shells and sports drinks in a go bag and race out the door, take a few minutes to review these tips, tactics and prospects. Even upland veterans can use an occasional reminder of species-specific intel, as well as up-to-date reports on weather and habitat conditions affecting bird populations.

roads adjacent to

clearcuts are where hunters need to search for quail. They love to move in and out of the high grass along the roadsides. Having a good gun dog is almost a requirement throughout the brushy, thick hills across the West, especially since downed birds often fall into the brambly abyss. Morning and evening hunts are easy if you have some places prescouted. Coveys will be regrouping at dawn as well as prior to sunset, and can often be located by listening for calls. Old logging roads or trails are best hunted with two or more hunters walking. Having a dog or two 15 to 20 yards out front will help immensely. Once birds are located, be ready to shoot several

times, since birds will flush in various directions. Always wear plenty of hunter orange, and know where your companions are at all times in these situations. For safety, when hunting logging roads, it is best to designate one or more shooters for uphill shots and the same for downhill. Using multiple dogs in the hills is also a good idea, since larger coveys of quail and grouse can be spread out, enabling a hunter to obtain multiple points or flushes. National forest and BLM lands are my favorite areas to hunt, especially since access to private timberlands may be restricted through October due to fire danger. However, later in the year these places can be crawling with coveys of birds. Taking short (30- to 45-minute) drives into the hills or farmlands from your place of residence will likely put you in prime country very quickly, especially for grouse. Make sure to assess the situation around you and always make a plan before hunting. Having a good plan will put more birds into your vest. Birds will typically flush specific directions when pushed from cover. If your dogs go on point downwind, position your fellow hunters accordingly before making the flush. This will allow your party to get in far more shooting. I always try to keep in mind a bottleneck approach when flushing birds, as it easily reminds me to press them (particularly chukar and quail) to a blocking point where they will flush a desired direction. and post-harvest manipulation play large roles in pheasant survival as well. A good majority of Conservation Reserve Program lands in eastern Oregon are more suited for upland birds, and there is less of that on the west side. Grass seed and grain are some of the major crops in the West and other portions of the U.S., and that has played a major role in the decline of wild populations of pheasant. But don’t just take my americanshootingjournal.com 63


Roosters are harder to come by due to farming changes. However, persistence will usually pay off when hunting in good habitat.

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word for it. “Grass seed fields usually only provide cover for a few months of the year,” says Brandon Reishus, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife game bird biologist. “They don’t provide much in the way of food, and the annual fields are usually tilled immediately following harvest.” Grains usually provide better habitat for birds, but seem to only be used as a smaller rotation crop in this region. “Most grain currently grown only provides enough cover and feed for a few months, and the stubble is also quickly removed which makes it tough on bird populations,” adds Reishus. Throughout the early season, most upland birds can be easier to find, as they are not spread out and will hold better. However, when hunting later, you will likely find fewer birds, many of which will not Racked up and ready to roll. hold well and run out ahead of your 64

American Shooting Journal // October 2017

I was fortunate enough to demo a couple fantastic new CZ-USA shotguns recently, namely the CZ620 and CZ628 Field Select pump actions. Both of these guns are light and swing very smoothly. Additionally, these guns also have a short action for fast shooting on quick-flying coveys of quail and doves. Built on gauge-specific 7075 aluminum actions, these guns have a deep glossy blue finish and select-grade Turkish walnut, and come with a set of interchangeable chokes that enable you to easily tune constriction. The full fore end and pistol grip help make these shotguns feel good in the hands. With 28-inch barrels, both variants clock in at well under 6 pounds, lightening your load for those full days chasing birds. MSRP $429.00

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Racked up and ready to roll.

drives and hounds. Blocking works well, and when hunting snow, one may also find birds kegged up in dense cover. Walking or hiking through thick brush or up hills in pursuit of coveys of feathered game can be taxing on the body. Look for birds to seek out locations with good cover and plentiful water. Hunters often forget that upland birds need ample water and cover in order to survive, particularly in cold, harsh climates such as eastern Washington and through portions of the Midwest. “Overall, our upland game bird numbers have been down in recent years,” adds David Budeau, another Oregon upland game bird manager. “We attribute much of that to weather, specifically the drier Good field dogs makes hunting much easier, especially when birds are scattered.

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weather in the eastern portions of Oregon where much of harvest takes place.”

and dry spring weather had the potential to greatly affect bird populations for 2017’s hunts. The ideal nesting weather for pheasants is moderate or warm temperatures with sufficient rainfall. Emmett Lenihan, a biologist and habitat organizer for Pheasants Forever, says, “Rainfall is important in helping grow cool-season grasses, which are necessary for nesting, cover and insect production.” He adds, “But if lack of rain stunts grass growth, predators on the ground and in the sky can more easily find eggs and baby chicks.” According to outdoor experts,

Pheasants can be found near agricultural lands from Iowa to Oregon. Hunters are optimistic for the 2017 season.


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Quail are one of the fine delicacies upland hunters look forward to filling their bird vests with.

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Nebraska and Kansas are two of the highest rated states in terms of good pheasant hunting. R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said surveys showed total pheasants observed per 100 miles are down 61 percent from last year. In addition, brood observations were down 63 percent, while the average brood size was down 19 percent. The final summary is based on 279 survey runs made along 103 brood routes across North Dakota. On the other side of the ledger, bird numbers are improving elsewhere in the Great Plains. “Compared to last year, our pheasant numbers were up in four of our six management units across the state,” said John Laux, Southwest District wildlife biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Department. “Statewide, we had an 8 percent increase in our pheasant index from the 2016 survey.”


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Chukar live in rough country. Make sure your four-legged friend is prepared and protected when hunting.

During preliminary hunter surveys in adjacent Kansas, numbers indicated there were more pheasant and quail hunters, as well as higher harvest ďŹ gures, this year compared to last. These recent surveys conducted by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks may provide some foreshadowing. Kansas pheasant hunters typically harvest an average of 600,000 birds a year, with a range of 450,000 to 900,000 depending on the season. Currently, a large percentage of the state is registering on the drought monitor as abnormally dry or worse. This includes areas of southwest Kansas that had some of the greatest densities of both pheasants and quail.

a large decline in CRP acreage along the northern tier of the state, which may have an impact on hunting experiences there. CRP is a program that pays landowners to remove environmentally sensitive

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Birds in thick cover are easily found by a good gun dog with an experienced nose.

land from agricultural production and plant species that improves the health and quality of bird habitat. Although conditions were good for nesting and hatching this spring, impacts from the ongoing severe drought on insects and forbs, important foods for young birds, is questionable heading into fall. In good pheasant and upland habitats throughout central Montana – such as around Conrad and Lewistown – pheasants are “overall pretty good,” according to Graham Taylor, a regional hunting manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

a close eye on your dog’s feet, especially this time of year when the calluses on their pads can crack or tear, causing pain and bleeding. Cold, frozen and/or icy conditions are quite tough on the bodies of our four-legged friends, and they will also need plenty of water to stay hydrated. When hunting rocky or dry terrain, make sure to prep your hound by using dog booties. Soreness will come regardless of the protection you provide, but it will help eliminate down time and improve recovery between hunts.  72

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Beating buck fever starts long before you ever line up a shot on a deer, elk or other game animal. (VISTA OUTDOOR)

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THE BUCK (FEVER)

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This debilitating mindset can affect experienced and new hunters of all ages, so make ‘mindful practice’ a part of your big game hunting preparations. STORY BY ROB REED

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t’s the day of the hunt and you’ve sighted your quarry. As you get ready to take the shot, your heart beats faster, you start to sweat, and your hands shake. You want to shoot, but are afraid to miss, and the longer you wait, the worse it gets. You realize you’re suffering from buck fever, but what can you do about it? “What hunters call ‘buck fever’ can be made up of different

psychological reactions,” said sports psychologist Dr. Eddie O’Connor. “One of the things about anxiety is that, physiologically, it is exactly the same as excitement. When you talk about not being able to be physically calm and to hold a steady shot, there’s no way to know whether it’s from excitement or nervousness or performance anxiety.” The good news, O’Connor said,

is that there are effective techniques to help that should work no matter the underlying cause. “Much of this comes down to focusing on the moment and concentrating on the process and not the outcome,” he said. According to O’Connor, beating buck fever starts long before the hunter enters the field. He stressed

STOPS HERE americanshootingjournal.com 77


Time spent glassing for game is also a good opportunity to practice relaxed breathing. (VISTA OUTDOOR)

You’ve got the shot lined up. Time to let your preparation take over. (ODFW)

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the importance of physically practicing the skills needed while visualizing a successful outcome. “When you visualize yourself performing a skill correctly, neural pathways are created in your brain that reinforce the physical practice you’ve taken. You associate the physical movements with the visualization of the success.” O’CONNOR RECOMMENDS hunters conduct “mindful practice” to help them become more aware of their mental and physical state. One technique is to practice deliberately controlling your breathing as a way to gain or maintain control over your reactions. “If you do breathing exercises for a few minutes every day, you will be much more aware of your strengths,” he said. “The ability to control your breathing helps your focus, and being able to focus reduces anxiety or nervousness.” Dr. James A. Swan, a retired sports psychologist and author of the video Conquering Buck Fever, said the overall key is to improve your full concentration. He defines this as “a focused mental state of mind-body coordination where intention and execution arise from a conscious decision that seems to happen without thought.” Swan agreed with O’Connor on the importance of advance preparation. “Practice builds confidence,” Swan said. “It’s important to know what to practice and how to practice.” He said that hunters need to practice both the physical and mental aspects of marksmanship to increase their odds of making the shot. One technique he recommended is that hunters first visualize themselves shooting a target and shooting a perfect bull’s-eye. “Now change your mental target to a big, beautiful deer and perform the shot in your mind again,” he said. “If you now feel more tense or nervous, this can show that


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you may have reservations about killing or wounding the animal.” Swan said these reservations are normal, especially for newer hunters, and need to be acknowledged if they exist. He said one way to do that is to think about what he calls “The Hunter’s Prayer,” during practice. The prayer is, “Lord, if I shoot at this animal, I pray that I will miss cleanly or kill cleanly.” SWAN ALSO EMPHASIZED the importance of breathing as a basic relaxation technique. “You want to take your breath in, hold it, and then slowly exhale. Count to four while you inhale, count to seven while you hold, and count to eight while you exhale. This will make you more aware and help you unite mind and body.” Another technique is to use a word to improve your focus. Swan suggests using the same word, such as “Bull’s-eye” or “Jackpot” as you shoot during practice and again when you shoot in the field. “If you say the word while you make the shot

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during practice, you then associate that word with success. By saying it in the field it adds those elements of success to the moment of truth.” Both men offered advice on what to do if you weren’t able to prepare ahead of time and have an attack of buck fever in the field. “Anxiety is normal,” said O’Connor. “Don’t be nervous about being nervous. That’s enough to get a negative feedback loop started. Instead just accept the physical symptoms, the shaking hands or whatever, and commit to the task. Don’t get distracted. Just take a deep breath and, if the shot feels good, take it.” Swan also said not to worry about the physical symptoms. “Don’t be critical of yourself if you are shaking. You still need to be aware of what you are doing, so note it, but don’t focus on it. Instead, focus on your breathing and the positive imagery of you making the shot.” “The goal is what I call ‘shooting in the zone,’” Swan said. “You want to feel comfortable with the excitement

It’s important to know what and how to practice. Practice builds confidence. (NSSF)

so the excitement itself does not make you nervous. Once you work in that positive imagery, and relaxation brought about with the breathing techniques, it’s almost magical how the anxiety slips away. You enter the zone of performance, and making the shot feels almost effortless.” 


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The Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show will take over Las Vegas once again in 2018 (Jan. 23-26, to be precise), but there are several other popular outdoor shows scheduled throughout the year. (NSSF)

Where entry at SHOT is limited to industry types, many other shows are open to the public. (NSSF)

OK, maybe this wasn’t the line outside our SHOT Show booth – but with our spinning wheel full of great prizes, these fellas were missing out! (ASJ)

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN: SHOWS NEARING

There are dozens of outstanding hunting, shooting and outdoor shows dotting the first half of 2018’s calendar, and our team is already making travel plans. How about you? COMPILED BY THE EDITORS

T

he new year is right around the corner, and the editors and staff of the American Shooting Journal (and our parent company, Media Inc., publishers of Northwest Sportsman and other fine publications) are making plans to be out on the road again at many of the most popular outdoor shows throughout the West in the first half of 2018. We would love to see and

meet you at one of them! You’d have to be living under a mighty large and soundproof rock to have not heard of the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show at some point. Next year marks the 40th annual gathering of the top companies, brands and personalities in the outdoor industry. Last year, our little corner of the show drew a nice crowd all week. It may have helped a little that our prize wheel rarely stopped spinning throughout the four-day

event. The whole shebang gets underway in Las Vegas Jan. 23-26. But SHOT and the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits – the other large-scale show scheduled next spring, May 4-6 in Dallas, Texas – each represent just one week in the year, and the former show is not open to the general public. So if the past is any indicator of the coming product release season, companies will continue to announce, preview and demonstrate new guns and gear at shows throughout the year. 

HERE ARE SEVERAL SHOWS WE PLAN TO ATTEND AND WHICH ARE ALREADY SCHEDULED FOR WESTERN STATES. WE’LL BE THERE – AND WE’D LOVE TO SEE YOU! International Sportsmen’s Expos (ISE) January 18-21, 2018 Sacramento, Calif.

Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen Show (Shuyler Productions) February 23-25, 2018 Wenatchee, Wash.

Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show (Shuyler Productions) January 19-21, 2018 Pasco, Wash.

Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show (O’Loughlin) March 1-4, 2018 Redmond, Ore.

SHOT Show 2018 (NSSF) January 23-26, 2018 Las Vegas, Nev.

NorCal Boat, Sport & RV Show (Exposure) March 2-4, 2018 Anderson, Calif.

Washington Sportsmen’s Show (O’Loughlin) January 24-28, 2018 Puyallup, Wash.

Fred Hall – Bakersfield March 2-4, 2018 Bakersfield, Calif.

Eugene Boat & Sportsmen’s Show (Exposure) February 2-4, 2018 Eugene, Ore.

Fred Hall – Long Beach March 7-11, 2018 Long Beach, Calif.

Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show (O’Loughlin) February 7-11, 2018 Portland, Ore.

Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show March 15-18, 2018 Spokane, Wash.

Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show (Exposure) February 16-18, 2018 Roseburg, Ore.

Fred Hall – San Diego March 22-25, 2018 Del Mar, Calif.

Central Washington Sportsmen Show (Shuyler Productions) February 16-18, 2018 Yakima, Wash.

Redding Sportsman’s Expo April 7-8, 2018 Redding, Calif.

Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show (Exposure) February 23-25, 2018 Medford, Ore.

NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits May 4-6, 2018 Dallas, Texas americanshootingjournal.com 83


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STRAIGHT AND TRUE

The Crosman Airbow is a fun weapon to shoot. Like most high-powered airguns, though, it is not silent, thus author Tom Claycomb’s ear plugs. americanshootingjournal.com 85


The author reports being “pleasantly surprised” by the Airbow’s accuracy.

The Airbow from Crosman is a powerful, precharged pheumatic airgun, and it is a hoot to shoot. STORY AND PHOTOS BY TOM CLAYCOMB

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ust when you think that you’ve got all the cool toys, they come out with a new one. Now, I’m not necessarily a pace-setting type of person, and I don’t buy all the brandnew gimmicks the minute they come out, but when Crosman introduced their new Airbow and wanted me to test a prototype, I jumped at the opportunity. That’s one thing fun about being an outdoor writer. You get to test new gear before it hits the market. Anyway, I received the Airbow and mounted the scope that comes with it. It was shooting low, so I cut some shims and put them under the back end of the scope (in the scope mounts). Remember, when sighting in, always move the back sight or back end of the scope the way you want the point of impact to go. On the prototype and on my own personal 86

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Airbow that I now own, they both shot low, even with the scope cranked up to its highest limit, so I ended up putting shims in my Airbow, as well and readjusted the scope to zero and started again. I’M AN ARCHERY HUNTER, as well as an air gunner, and the Airbow is

an interesting combination of the two. The Airbow charges just like Benjamin’s Maurader, which is a precharged pneumatic airgun. I use the same air tank and hose that I use to charge my Marauder, except that it takes the male end instead of a quick disconnect fitting on the end of the hose. The tank will hold up to

Arrows for the Airbow don’t have a nock – the back end is hollow and fits over a narrow tube – and they’re also pulled instead of pushed through the weapon.


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3,000 psi, so if you own a precharged pneumatic, or PCP, airgun, it will not be anything foreign or strange to you. Since I shoot a lot of pneumatic air guns, I grabbed an Air Ventura compressor to fill my air tanks, which is also perfect for the Airbow. The arrows are distinctive in that they don’t have a regular nock. The end of the arrow is hollow and slides over the aluminum tube, and the charged air tank on the Airbow expels air through the tube, which propels the arrow downrange. To mount the arrow, you place the matching colored fletchings on the bottom and slide it down the tube. I don’t want to say that it “snaps” into place, but it does in a way. To cock it, there’s a lever on the top of the rear end of the stock. You simply pull it up and snap it back down and you’re good to go. If you’ve shot the Benjamin Bulldog .357, it is similar, except the Bulldog has a sidecock action. As a word of caution, when mounting your scope, make sure that it is forward of the cocker when it is in the upright position.

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It is important to mount a scope far enough forward so the cocking mechanism doesn’t hit it.


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Here, the arrow has been placed on the tube with both white fletchings down.

I took the Airbow out and shot a few arrows and it imbedded them deeply into my target – too deeply, in fact. If I pushed them back through, it’d rip the fletching off, and if I pulled them forward to remove them, the result was likely to be the same. Well,

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I didn’t have a choice, so I pulled them through with disappointing but not unexpected results. CLEARLY, IT WAS TOO POWERFUL to shoot with a regular archery target, so I called Morrell targets and they

suggested I test their Double Duty target, which boasts that it can handle arrow speeds up to 400 feet per second. Butch at Morrell said he’d be interested to see how it stood up to the Airbow, since it spits out arrows at 450 fps. As soon as it arrived I ran out


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to check it out. The result? Arrows only sunk in about halfway. Now the question was whether I could pull them out or if I needed to soap them in the future. Surprisingly, I was able to pretty much pull them out with two fingers. Amazing. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Airbow’s accuracy. It “Robin Hooded” an arrow in the first group and destroyed it. I’d shot it with accuracy at the SHOT Show two years ago, and tested it again at the Professional Outdoor Media Association Convention last spring at 50 yards. I was able to easily drill the bull’s-eye, so it is accurate. After the testing was completed, I was convinced that it would easily kill big game, so I went to local wildlife managers and turned in a petition to let us hunt with an Airbow during regular weapons season. I think it’d be something cool and unique to hunt with, but due to its accuracy and range, I think that it should only be allowed in that season or populated areas with short-range restrictions.  The gauge is just like the one on the author’s Marauder, which is a PCP airgun. You can charge it up to 3,000 psi.

ADDITIONAL CROSMAN AIRBOW DETAILS: - Based off Benjamin’s proven Americanmade PCP platform. - Fires eight shots in the same amount of time it takes to fire three from most crossbows. - Spits out arrows at an amazing 450 fps. - Accuracy is not affected by canting. - Arrows are pulled from the front rather than pushed from the rear, resulting in tighter groups. - Arrows don’t have a nock, are 375 grains with a 100-grain field tip, and can use normal broadheads. – The cocking bolt is ambidextrous. - Ships complete with a 4x40 Center Point scope.


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ROAD HUNTER

MORE THAN JUST A STARK BLACK(TAIL) & WHITE(TAIL) CHOICE When it comes to deer, there are several other species that are worthy of hunters’ attention, from the bucks haunting stormy Alaskan islands to desert-dwelling Coues, and from the rare to the exotic. STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGEN

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he whitetail deer is North America’s most hunted big game animal. I live in and have hunted extensively throughout the West where it’s hard for folks in this region to fathom just how many whitetail deer there are east of the Mississippi River, and how many hunters live in that region. To help put it in perspective, there are more hunters in the state of Pennsylvania than all 11 Western states, combined. That’s a lot of hunters, going after a lot of deer. On the other hand, Easterners may not know this, but whitetail can be found in most Western states, too, with excellent hunting opportunities occurring on both public and private land. But with so much ink devoted to chasing whitetails in every big game magazine this fall, let’s not forget North America’s other deer species we have the good fortune of hunting. Out West, the mule deer is the most hunted of the deer, so I don’t want to spend time on that subspecies, either. Instead, let’s take a look at other deer that are fun to hunt, great eating and offer unique challenges in their own right. IF YOU’VE EVER DREAMED of hunting big game in Alaska, the hunt for Sitka blacktail deer is about the easiest, and most affordable. Tags can be purchased online or over the counter, and multiple deer can be taken.

Once threatened, Columbian whitetail deer have rebounded to huntable populations. Drawing a tag isn’t easy, and neither is the hunt. The author scored this nice buck along the banks of southwest Oregon’s Umpqua River, the only place the subspecies can be hunted. americanshootingjournal.com 95


ROAD HUNTER Sitkas thrive on famed Kodiak Island, as well as throughout the many islands in the Panhandle. Most hunters prefer traveling to Kodiak, as the terrain is more open than the timber-choked islands in Alaska’s southeastern corner. However, there’s good hunting to be had here too, especially on Prince of Wales Island, where logging helps create the perfect deer habitat. Guided hunts are an option, but hiring a transporter is easy to do and more cost-effective. Because it’s so challenging to get around in Alaska, the state allows licensed transporters to take hunters by boat to the hunting area, drop them off and pick them up later in the day. Hunters can stay on the boat each night or at a nearby lodge. You can also do a drop camp, where a boat or plane drops you off and picks you up a week or so later; you must be self-sufficient here, and know that brown bears are still up and active late in the year. With Sitka blacktail seasons opening in August, the weather is nice and there’s a lot of daylight. If you want to hunt bucks in velvet, this is a great option. By late November deer drop from their alpine habitat to the beaches, where food is abundant and living conditions are more favorable. Spot and stalk is the way to most efficiently hunt, so bring the best optics you can afford. Having a small spotting scope is worth the effort when sizing up bucks, as it will save you valued walking time. Starting in early November, rattling can be very effective for curious Sitka blacktails. These are incredibly tasty deer, so get at least two tags. WEST OF THE CASCADE RANGE in Washington, Oregon and northern California live what many hunters consider to be North America’s most challenging deer to pursue, the Columbian blacktail. These deer often live their entire lives without being seen by humans, and that’s due to the dense habitat they call home. From the Cascades to the valley floor, 96

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OPTICS FOR DEER HUNTING Covering ground with your eyes – not your feet – is one of the keys to notching a deer tag. For binoculars, I prefer Swarovski’s EL Range in a 10x42. These binoculars are rugged and feature a built-in rangefinder. The soft, rubber eye cups and the quality glass that holds flawless clarity from side to side, top to bottom, allows for glassing

in comfort all day long. Swarovski’s ATX spotting scope is my favorite, and I’ve tried many. With the interchangeable objective lenses of 65, 85 and 95mm, there’s an option to fit every deer hunter’s needs. A lightweight, sturdy tripod is a must, and don’t overlook cell phone adaptors to take pictures with and use to study animals.

A quality spotting scope and binocular go a long way in helping deer hunts go more efficiently.

the coastal ranges to the beach, this species thrives in a range of habitats. There’s a lot of public land access, and some great hunting options. California offers the earliest deer season in the continental U.S., one that starts in July. General rifle seasons run through October in most areas, with tags available over the counter. Some of the trophy areas require applying for a tag in the lottery system, but all in all, these are some of the easiest deer tags to get, even for nonresidents. The later in the season and the nastier the weather, the better the hunting. Rain and wind are a Columbian blacktail hunter’s best

friend, as the cooling conditions put otherwise nocturnal bucks on the move as they search for does in the prerut, late this month and early next. THERE ARE THREE MAIN SUBSPECIES of whitetails to pursue out West, and two of these ungulates can be addicting. The Coues deer ranges through parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora, Mexico, and is a favorite of many deer hunters. Take a whitetail and stick it in mule deer country, and you have the Coues. But these small-statured deer are very nervous, secretive, and tough to hunt. Be in shape and be ready to devote several hours of glassing for them at great distances. Their


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ROAD HUNTER Sitka blacktails are fun to hunt, be it on Alaska’s Kodiak Island or the archipelago in the state’s southeast corner. The author rattled in this monster buck on Kodiak one snowy day in late November.

movements are limited and very deliberate, meaning they are one tough deer to outsmart. Hunts at high elevation are the norm, with some good rut hunting action being had in late December and January. Similar in size to the Coues deer, which is small compared to other deer, is the Columbian whitetail. The only huntable population of these deer occurs in west-central Oregon, along the Umpqua River. Tags are acquired through a lottery draw. Bucks thrive on private land, but there are also some excellent public-land options if you can pull a tag. Columbian whitetails live in brushy river bottoms, making them challenging to hunt. The early-fall season is short, so be prepared to work hard for these prized deer. INDIGENOUS TO ASIA and parts of the South Pacific, axis deer were brought to Hawaii in the 1800s, a gift from

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China to King Kamehameha. Today the deer are thick on Lanai, Molokai and are present in a couple other places around the island state. Herds numbering into the hundreds are common, and with favorable living conditions and no predators, axis herds keep growing. Axis deer keep their spots all of their life, and offer what many consider to be the finest eating game meat on the planet. I’ve seen axis deer in India, Indonesia, Australia and other places around the Pacific Rim, and everywhere they are revered for their beauty and fine table fare – Hawaii is no exception. Axis deer can also be hunted in Texas, free-range. While whitetails dominate the deer hunting scene in most of the Lone Star State – there’s great mule deer hunting up north, too – axis deer should not go overlooked. While they thrive on private land, access is often granted to hunters, as


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ROAD HUNTER

Axis deer are one of the most striking, best eating deer on the planet. They can be hunted in Hawaii and parts of Texas. The author bagged this 33-inch-tall velvet buck on the island of Lanai.

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these deer populate very rapidly. Everywhere Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve hunted axis deer, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve appeared active the ďŹ rst hour or two of daylight as they move from open feeding areas to brushy terrain to bed for the day. They also start feeding earlier than any deer Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve hunted, with the last few hours of the day being very good. In areas of high population densities in Hawaii, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nothing to see over 400 deer in an evening. Finding a big buck you want is the biggest challenge. The great thing is axis can be hunted in the spring, when no other deer hunts are going on, and when their antlers are hardened. No matter where your deer hunting adventures take you, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t overlook some of these lesser known subspecies. If searching for something different, there are plenty of options. Be sure and start doing your homework well ahead of time. Begin with local ďŹ sh and wildlife websites and calling regional offices in your planned hunting area. This will help you learn


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ROAD HUNTER about the status of the deer and the habitat. From there, it’s simply a matter of getting a tag, the proper gear and hitting the road on a dream hunt. Some of these hunts take place in beautiful areas near popular tourist destinations, and if traveling on a family getaway, they can easily be combined. Then again, there are some very remote hunts. Indeed, the options are many when it comes to experiencing the wide range of deer hunting opportunities available throughout the country, and each one of them is worth every bit of time and effort. 

The author with a dandy Columbian blacktail, his favorite deer to hunt in North America. There are many public land hunting opportunities for the species in western Washington and Oregon and northern California.

Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s best selling book, Trophy Blacktails: The Science Of The Hunt, send a check for $20.00 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489. It and his other books can be ordered at scotthaugen.com.

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Our patented system cleans a bore “safer-deeper” and “cleaner-faster” than anything done by jags, loops, snakes, or mops. Ours is the notched Triangle Patch and two-diameter Jag Brush. The notches in our Triangle Patch prevent it from getting stuck, and because it has one less radius than a square patch, our Triangle reaches farther down a jag than does a square. The two diameters of our Jag Brush allows it to be dual-purpose, and that means one-third of it is wrapped by a patch, while the other two-thirds brushes the bore. Its flexible bristles enable it to push a patch deeper into grooves than done by snakes, loops, or spear jags. Discover for yourself why serious shooters have gravitated to our system. Buy at AMAZON.com by searching “boresmith,” and see feedback at rigelproducts.com/feedback/summary.html. Find out for yourself why elite sniper rifle maker Accuracy International sends them out to special operators worldwide.

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rigelproducts.com americanshootingjournal.com 103


RIFLE GALLERY

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.308/7.62x51mm 18 inches 36 to 39 inches 8.4 pounds 5 to 25+1 Composite $1,599 to $2,000

Anderson MFG - AM15 Patriot Caliber: 5.56/.223 Barrel length: 16 inches Overall length: 32.5 inches, 36.125 inches extended Weight: 7.7 pounds Magazine capacity: 30 Stock: Magpul six-position butt stock MSRP: $1,600

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Turnbull Restoration Caliber: Barrel length: Overall length: Weight: Magazine capacity:

LongRangeStore.com - Marlin 1895 .45-70 Gov’t 22 inches 40.5 inches 7 pounds Four-shot tubular magazine

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Delphi Tactical - DP-15 Silverbow Calibers: 5.56mm, .300 Blackout kout Barrel length: 16 inches Overall length: Variable Weight: Variable Magazine capacity: 30 Stock: MFT Battlelink Minimalist imalist MSRP: $1,484.99

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.223/5.56mm 18 inches 36 inches 30 rounds standard UTG Pro Mil-Spec Stock $950.00

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RIFLE GALLERY

Absolute Zero Ordnance - AZO Patriot 300 BLK (Blackstone coating) Caliber: .300 Blackout Barrel length: 16 inches Overall length: 38.25 inches (26.5 inchess folded) Weight: 7 pounds (variable with features) Magazine capacity: 30 Stock: Luth-AR with LAW Tactical ical Folding Stock MSRP: Uncoated: $1,699; coated: ed: $1,999; coated plus Micro Red Dot optic: $2,599

AZOCustoms.com AZOCustoms.co DEZ Tactical - USAR10-20G2 Caliber: .308/7.62x51mm Barrel length: 20 inches Overall length: 42 inches Weight: 11 pounds, 8.8 ounces Magazine capacity: 20 Stock: LuthAR MBA-1 MSRP: $2,839

DEZTacticalArms.com DE EZTacticalArm ms.com American Built Arms Caliber: Barrel length: Weight: Magazine capacity: Stock: MSRP:

- MOD*X Rifle .308, 6.5 Creedmoor .308: 20 inches; 6.5: 22 inches 8.75 pounds AI Spec 10-round mag A*B Arms MOD*X GEN III Chassis $1,199.99

CDNN Sports - Del-Ton Echo AR-15 Caliber: 5.56 NATO Barrel length: 16 inches Overall length: 32.25 to 35.58 inches Weight: 6.2 pounds Magazine capacity: 30 Stock: Retractable MSRP: $753.42 CDNN price: $399.99

Ultimate Arms - MAGNA - M4 Black Widow AR Rifle Caliber: 5.56 NATO Barrel length: 16-inch pencil barrel Weight: 5 pounds, 10 ounces Overall length: 33 to 36.5 inches RiďŹ&#x201A;ing: 1 in 8, right MSRP: $1,899.95

Ground Zero Precision - TAC-10B Tactical and Sporting Rifle Caliber: 5.56/.223 Wylde Barrel length: 16 inches Overall length: 32.5 inches (stock collapsed) Weight: 6 pounds, 3 ounces Magazine capacity: 30, or 10 rounds in accordance with delivery-state law Stock: Alpha MSRP: Starting at $425.49

Falkor Defense - Omega 6.5 Creedmoor AMBI Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor Barrel length: 22 inches Barrel type: Dracos StraightJacket, 1:8 twist Overall length: 43.25 inches Weight: 10.25 pounds (no mag/sights) Magazine capacity: 20 Stock: Luth AR MBA-1 MSRP: $3,995

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American Shooting Journal // September 2017


SHOOTERS SHELF

A TRUE STORY

The Hodgdon Powder Company, long known as ‘the brand that’s true,’ celebrates 70 years of growth and innovation with a new book release.

The Gunpowder People: The Official Authorized History of Hodgdon Powder Company By James W. Bequette 199 pages, $44.95 (including shipping), Bang Printing (2017) ISBN: 978-0-89103-2 COMPILED BY THE EDITOR

C

elebrating the 70th anniversary of the company’s founding, The Gunpowder People covers the history of the Hodgdon family, the founding of the company in 1947, key employees instrumental in building the brand over the last seven decades and many other stories. Born in 1910, founder Bruce “B.E” Hodgdon launched Hodgdon Powder Co. after serving in the military in World War II. Hearing how the U.S. government scrapped surplus gunpowder by the shipload after World War I, Hodgdon took out a loan against a life insurance policy in order to buy surplus 4895 gunpowder in 1947. With an ad in American Rifleman in January 1948, Hodgdon began selling powder to the handloading public. Along with wife Amy and sons J.B. and Bob, Hodgdon built Hodgdon Powder Co. in Shawnee, Kansas, into a quintessential American success story. J.B. and Bob (and a long list of passionate Hodgdon employees) grew the company further, establishing

The “true” story of Bruce Hodgdon and the Hodgdon Powder Co. is now available for purchase directly through the company’s website.

Pyrodex in 1976, purchasing competitor IMR in 2003, licensing Winchester Powder in 2005 and acquiring Goex Blackpowder in 2009. “When one of our employees originally brought us the concept, we weren’t quite sure what to make of it,” said J.B. and Bob Hodgdon. “We mean, how can you write a book about your family’s experience? But we’re grateful Jim Bequette was able to pull all the stories together, and Matt Johnson and the team from Ruckus for laying it out into book form. We really believe this is a heartfelt tribute to our father, B.E, and hope the rest of our family and the handloading industry will enjoy learning more about his life and the life of the company that

bears his name.” “The story of the Hodgdon family and the Hodgdon Powder Co. is the story of America,” said Steve Kehrwald, Hodgdon president and CEO. “We think it’s a story important to our customers and to our industry, and we wanted to help the Hodgdons get the story out.” The company is the largest U.S. supplier of smokeless, blackpowder and blackpowder substitute propellants, and distributes gunpowder under the Hodgdon, IMR, Winchester and Goex brands. This coffee-table-sized keepsake book is available for $44.95 (includes shipping) via the company’s website, hodgdon.com/product/2017gunpowder-people.  americanshootingjournal.com 107


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American Am Ame A me m erric riic ican can an S Sho Sh Shooting ho hoot oti o ttiiing ng J ng Journal ournal // October 2017


BULLET BULLETIN

ENGINEERING MEETS REALITY

The Federal Edge TLR may look like many other popular designs, but that’s about the end of the similarities.

The Edge TLR from Federal is a well-engineered bullet for most big game animals across North America.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO

N

ot all bullets are created equally, and considering the diverse types of game animals and terrain we hunters pursue, we ask an awful lot of any one bullet design. We want a bullet that will handle a close shot, where the impact velocities are high, without breaking up prematurely, and at the same time we want a bullet that will expand at low velocities when a

longer shot is required. We want a bullet that will resist wind deflection, hold a flat trajectory and retain almost all of its energy, yet hit and transfer energy as hard as a round nose. No one bullet can actually do all that, and as such we’ll always have to make some tradeoffs, but some do come very close. The Federal Edge TLR is one of them. Federal has been a cartridge company of great reputation for quite some time now, and was the

first major manufacturer to embrace the use of premium component projectiles. I still remember Dad buying those boxes of Federal “Premium” ammunition – loaded with Sierra GameKings – because they showed a significant accuracy increase in that old Mossberg .308 Winchester of his. Sierra, Barnes, Woodleigh, Swift; Federal has embraced them all at one point or another, and they’ve always been a leader in bullet technology. americanshootingjournal.com 109


bullet bulletin The Edge TLR is no exception, and it’s built around some definite improvements on a technological field that is rapidly advancing. Using a polymer tip, boat tail, and a bonded core, the Edge TLR may look like many other popular designs, but that’s about the end of the similarities. FEDERAL TOOK A LONG, HARD look at their own Trophy Bonded Tipped bullet – which uses a polymer tip and a shorter-than-normal lead core at the front of a solid copper base – to see how improvements could be made. The initial revamp came with the neon-blue polymer tip, which Federal calls the Slipstream tip. Now, the polymer was first employed as a means of retaining a nice, sharp meplat – the tip of a bullet – and as a means of initiating expansion. Upon impact, the polymer tip, nestled in a nice hollow cavity, acts as a wedge that forces the nose of the

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American Shooting Journal // October 2017

Edge TLR comes in a black-nickel finish, to resist corrosion in wet weather, or from sweaty hands in warmer weather.

bullet to open, giving us the classic mushroomed result that we all employ to destroy vital tissue. The Slipstream tip uses a hollow shaft, from the base of the tip to a

point just shy of the meplat, and is constructed of the same heatresistant material that has been used in the other proprietary tipped Federal bullets. This design does a


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bullet bulletin The author’s Savage .308 Winchester will launch the 175-grain TLR at a muzzle velocity of 2,600 feet per second, dropping only 9 inches at 300 yards and 25 inches at 400 yards, maximizing the cartridge’s capabilities.

couple of things. First, it regulates expansion, in that when the bullet impacts hide, flesh and bone, the very end of the polymer tip breaks off and the target material

The Edge TLR ammo and deer hunting will go hand-in-hand, as it offers qualities perfect for any range shot on a whitetail or mulie.

fills the hollow core, allowing for radial expansion. Secondly, for longer ranges, the heat-resistant tip will stay intact during flight, even at higher

velocities where friction can cause temperatures to rise rapidly, especially at magnum velocities. The Edge TLR is designed to provide a high ballistic coefficient value, which we know will help to flatten out trajectories and resist the effects of the wind. To improve interior ballistics – that time after firing and before the bullet leaves the muzzle – Federal has employed the AccuChannel groove, cut into the bullets shank perpendicular to the bore line. Cutting a groove in a bullet will reduce the bearing surface, and therefore the amount of fouling in your barrel. But, in the name of BC, Federal has angled the rear edge of the band, decreasing the drag in comparison to a band cut with a square edge. The ogive is of a secant curve, best for downrange performance, especially past 250 yards. That, and a proper boat tail, will make for a bullet with a high BC, especially since Federal has chosen bullet weights on the higher side of average. ONCE THE SLIPSTREAM TIP initiates the expansion, its work is done. The ogive is skived to allow for good expansion even at low velocities – Federal has obtained good expansion at velocities

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AMMO/RELOADING


bullet bulletin

Federal Edge TLR ammo in cross section. Notice the shortened lead core and copper shank at the base.

as low as 1,350 feet per second – which erases all worries of reliable expansion at any sane hunting range. Combining the skived ogive with a bonded core gives a good balance of the two desired qualities of a bullet during the terminal phase: expansion and penetration. All the expansion in the world is useless if a bullet won’t penetrate deep enough into the vital tissue of a game animal. When the core is chemically bonded to the copper jacket, expansion will only go so far, and then you see the penetrative qualities. By

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American Shooting Journal // October 2017

all accounts, Federal has a damned fine blend of the two. Once the lead core is morphed into the classic mushroom shape, the Edge TLR has yet another means of delivering the goods: the rear portion of the bullet shank has no core, and is constructed of a solid copper alloy. That design ensures that you’ll get deep penetration. And there you have it: a bullet engineered for fantastic terminal performance. The Federal Edge TLR ammunition uses a black-nickel coating to resist

corrosion – perfect for the worst weather conditions – on both bullet and cartridge case. Using premium propellants, cases and primers, the Edge TLR behaves much as Federal Premium ammunition is expected to. My Savage .308 Winchester will put three 175-grain bullets into a group just

A Federal Edge TLR recovered from ballistic gelatin. The nose of the bullet has expanded and folded rearward, yet the bonded core slowed expansion, critical for deep penetration.


AMMO/RELOADING


AMMO/RELOADING

The Edge TLR projectile. Note the lower, beveled edge on the AccuChannel groove.

under one minute of angle. With a G1 BC of 0.536, it mates very well with the stubby cartridge. As big game hunting seasons weren’t yet open at the time of this writing, the only opportunity I’ve had to test the Edge TLR ammo in the field was on a rogue woodchuck that had given me fits. Allow me to report that though the shot was not an easy one, the accuracy of the Edge TLR was more than good enough to sort him out, and the terminal ballistics quickly punched his ticket to the great vegetable garden in the sky. Needless to say, the ammunition will accompany me to the deer woods this season. Federal Edge TLR ammunition is available in .308 Winchester and .30’06 Springfield with 175-grain bullets, and in .300 Winchester Magnum and .300 Winchester Short Magnum with 200-grain bullets. 


AMMO/RELOADING


AMMO/RELOADING


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RE loading

IS HANDLOADING STILL WORTHWHILE? The question is largely rhetorical, of course, but just in case you are the one doing the asking, the author offers a well-reasoned and thorough introduction to help get you on your way.

Casting your own bullets requires lead (scrap bullets and wheel weights), a means to melt it, a ladle to pour it into the molds, molds and finally, lubricant.

The basic tools: dies to deprime, and resize your cases and seat and crimp your bullet , powder scale, caliper, caliber-specific shell holder for press ram, and single stage press.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY FRANK JARDIM

T

he answer to the question posed in the title of this piece is an emphatic "yes," but not for everyone, and for slightly different reasons than it once was. During one of the many ammo crises of the Obama presidency, I was really shocked to see old 55-grain FMJ military surplus 5.56mm ammo selling for $1 a round in one of the many small gun shops in my semirural Kentucky town. What was more surprising is people were buying it. The next weekend, I took all of that ammo that I had to a gunshow, minus the stripper clips and bandoleers, and sold it all at 75 cents a round to a dealer in the first hour. I wasn’t worried about getting more if the nation tumbled into chaos. My only thought was, “Wow! I can afford to make three handloads for every military surplus round I just sold.” When you load your own ammunition, you don’t tend to get

swept up in or even become concerned about those panic-buying frenzies. As long as you have enough expendable components (primers and bullets) and a good supply of brass, you can ride out the shortages and keep on shooting when the store shelves are empty. I GOT INTO HANDLOADING in the early 1980s because I didn’t have the money to buy all the ammo I wanted to shoot. Not only was factory ammo expensive, a lot of it wasn’t particularly accurate, as I quickly learned while shooting against people who reloaded. I went out and bought a copy of the Lyman Reloading Handbook and read it cover to cover three times while I saved up my money. In a rare example of youthful foresight, I tried to figure out what type of press would best serve my needs at the time for .38 Special, .45 ACP and 9mm, as well as in the future, when I hoped I'd be shooting all manner of handguns and rifles in modern and obsolete calibers in volume that were

Lee Loader hand press – simplest handloading tool.

economically unimaginable at that time. I went high-end and bought a Dillion 550B progressive reloading press, and I still use it for 99 percent of my loading requirements. I could have easily bought a new car with the money that machine has saved me over the years. Instead, I bought a used car and reloaded and shot more. In summary, here’s why you should consider reloading you own ammo. First, once you start reusing the brass cases, you get into substantial savings per round. Reloads are typically onethird of the cost of comparable factory rounds, excluding your labor. Economy americanshootingjournal.com 121


RELOADING used to be the major factor that got people reloading, but as the cost of factory ammo has dropped and its quality has improved, the savings are a bit less dramatic than they once were. Second, you can load to your gun and realize accuracy better than most (but not all) factory ammunition. A friend of mine who is a competition rifle shooter always points out that when you reload, every round can be match grade for the cost of an average factory round. You can also load to your specific need, be it casual target shooting, hunting or serious competition. Third, you control your ammunition supply. For the cost of one round of factory ammo, you can store up supplies of components to make two or three handloads and make them up as you need them. Fourth, you can make the obsolete ammo for historic and strange guns for your own enjoyment and the amazement of others. Fifth, some people like to stay off government lists, and buying your components in cash at gun shows is one way to do that. Sixth, it will make you a better shot because you tend to learn the science of ballistics when learning to reload. I know plenty of folks who started handloading for economy and ended up loving it for the endless experimental possibilities it offers. YOU DON’T NEED MUCH to get started. Begin by reading one or more good manuals – there are several available – that explain the processes and safety requirements, and that include loading data for cartridges you want to make. You need to understand what you are doing and how to do it safely. Most importantly while handloading, always wear eye protection, don’t smoke or be near flames, and don’t get distracted (no TV, cell phone, iPad or anything else that takes your eyes off what you are doing). Carelessness has caused people to overcharge or undercharge rounds, with disastrous results to life and property. Handloading 122 American Shooting Journal // October 2017

The consumables: brass, powder and primers. You can often get 10-15 uses out of a case if you don’t abuse it. That’s a huge savings.

Typical three-piece noncarbide die set: (left to right) depriming die, resizing die (needs lubrication), and seating/roll crimping die.

isn’t something you just wing. It’s a precision affair. If you aren’t the kind of person who can pay attention to the details, don’t try it. In any case, don’t start loading until you understand the whole process, even though not every step may be required for your particular load. Specifically, know what case preparation requires (inspection, cleaning, lubricating, resizing, depriming, trimming to length, repriming, and flaring the case mouth to accept the bullet), how to determine and measure the correct powder charges (using data from you loading manual for the bullet you intend to use and a scale), and how to assemble the new cartridge (metering the powder charge into the case, seating the bullet to the proper depth, crimping the case mouth around it and a doing a final inspection). This may sound complicated but a good illustrated manual will make it easy to understand. When you understand the process, you also know what you can and can’t do. For example, for years I never bothered to clean my brass. It was ugly, but it shot fine. I hated lubricating cases for resizing, so I bought some Lee dies with a carbide resizing ring that didn’t require lube. They only work with straight-walled cases, but most pistol cases are straight walled. Case

preparation is where you are going to realize your accuracy potential, but at 25 yards, with a low-pressure .38 Special target loads, I never had any case stretch enough to need trimming. High-pressure rifle cartridges always need checking and usually need trimming because they will stretch. Understanding the reloading process allows you to better evaluate your unique needs as a handloader, and to select the appropriate equipment. Regardless of what you plan to load, you will need: a reloading press, dies to reload the caliber you want, a scale to measure powder charges, a caliper to measure the overall length of your cases and bullet diameters, and some might say you need a little handheld chamfering tool to deburr and bevel your case mouths. That’s the bare minimum, and it will cost you from $120 to $200 when buying everything new from retailers like Brownells.com or MidwayUSA.com. By the way, when it comes to value-priced reloading equipment for beginners, Lee Precision Inc. is the undisputed leader. IF YOU PLAN TO RELOAD high-pressure cartridges subject to stretching, such as magnum pistol and any bottleneck rifle cartridges, you will need a case trimmer. All bottleneck cases require lubrication, so you’ll have to have a bottle or spray can of that. If you are


AMMO/RELOADING

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RELOADING recycling old military brass (a great bargain), you will need a tool to cut or swage the crimp out of the primer pockets so you can press a new primer in. For all this stuff, you will add another $140. If you like shiny brass, a vibratory tumbler and some polishing media will start at around $70. The cost of components varies, but

generally, primers of any type cost around $34 per thousand, and a pound container of name-brand powder costs from $21 to $27 (it’s cheaper in bigger containers). Military surplus powders can be half that. Ideally, you could get your brass cases for nothing. To the handloader, leaving a spent boxer-primed brass

cartridge case on the ground is akin to a mortal sin. Fortunately, the handloader is often surrounded by heathen unbelievers who wantonly abandon their spent centerfire cases all over the range floor. Like the good shepherd, it is the handloaders pleasure to pick them up. As a handloader, you should never be embarrassed picking up brass. Each .308 rifle case you bend over to get saves you 20 cents. Ranges know this too, and some of them forbid you to pick up any brass that isn’t your own. Bullet cost varies by weight and type. Cast-lead bullets cost less than copper jacketed, but need gas checks when driven beyond typical pistol

A Dillon 550B progressive press is three times as fast as a single stage and allows you to mount your dies in removable tool heads so they are always adjusted and ready to use. Some people even buy extra powder measures for each tool head so they don’t have to keep switching out powder.

124 American Shooting Journal // October 2017


AMMO/RELOADING BUY IT ONCE, BUY IT RIGHT, BUY SECURE!

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RELOADING velocities. Many people cast their own lead bullets at home, which can also save a lot of money if you keep an eye out for salvage lead, old linotype and wheel weights to melt down. In the case of obsolete calibers, casting is often the only way to get bullets. Polson, Montana’s Rim Rock Bullets (rimrockbullets.com) is a good source for very reasonably priced cast bullets and molds in a wide range of calibers. To give you an idea of jacketed bullet cost, I priced online 1,000 9mm 115-grain FMJ bullets at $83 (8.3 cents each), 500 military surplus 5.56mm 55-grain FMJBT bullets at $49 (9.8 cents each), and 500 7.62mm 147-grain IMI FMJBT bullets for $89 (17.8 cents each). ASSUMING YOU HAVE A GOOD good supply of salvage brass, and using a typical load for each round, I’ll calculate below what one round of 9mm, 5.56mm and .308 would cost, and compare it to the cheapest factory

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ammo I can find as of this writing. Keep in mind these calculations do not include sales tax or shipping costs. Many handloaders buy their primers and powder face to face over the counter or at guns shows because hazmat fees run about $20 above and beyond shipping. In my experience, it only makes sense to buy those things online if you need them quickly, or if you are buying a really big quantity and spreading out the hazmat expenses. Lead projectiles are also frequently bought locally because their great weight makes them costly to ship. Factory ammo purchased online from an out-of-state seller usually has no sales tax, but shipping drives up the price. Some online retailers offer free shipping if the order is big enough. But no matter what, always calculate your shipping costs before ordering online. In any case, for purposes of the analysis below, I’ve compared the

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18

19

These are the Dillon removable tool heads. Just like a single stage, you need to match the shell plate to the caliber. Progressive shell plates are more complex and thus more expensive than those from a single stage press. That’s the price you pay for speed.

handload cost to the absolute cheapest, imported, dubious-quality, steel-cased, nonreloadable factory ammo I could find. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Your handloads, being

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RELOADING tailored by you to your firearm, should outshoot these bargain-basement factory loads by a wide margin if you are making yours correctly. I wouldn’t run any of these steel case rounds through my guns, but I’ve seen people do it. Your percentage savings compared to quality factory loads of comparable quality to your handloads will be substantially higher. 9x19mm 115-grain FMJ ($0.083) over 5.6 grains of Bullseye powder ($0.0168) with Winchester small pistol primer ($0.034) = $0.134 handload compared to $0.195 for a cheap ($9.75) 50-round box of steel-cased, nonreloadable factory ammo. A 21 percent savings. 5.56mm 55-grain FMJBT ($0.098) over 26 grains of IMR 4895 powder ($0.097) with Winchester small rifle primer ($0.034) = $0.228 handload compared

Free reloading manuals from the powder manufactures. Take every one you can get and don’t ever throw them away, no matter how old they are.

to $0.28 for a cheap ($5.55) 20-round box of steel-cased, nonreloadable factory ammo. A 19 percent savings 7.62 x 51mm NATO (.308 Winchester) 147-grain IMI FMJBT ($0.178) over 42 grains of IMR 4895 ($0.156) with Winchester large rifle primer ($0.034) = $0.368 handload compared to $0.52 each for a cheap ($10.40) 20-round box

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RELOADING investment in handloading. The oldest and smallest is a hand press, such as the Lee Loader, which can be carried in the pocket and used to reload ammo in the field. This is a good item for your bug-out bag, but absurdly slow to use for anything more than a box or two of ammo. Think of how much ammo a cowboy carried in his belt and you’ll get the idea. The single stage press is the most common type and mounts to a bench for use. It has only one threaded hole for your dies, so you must process your ammunition one operation at a time. They are not as slow as you would think if you are well organized. The real time loss comes in having to repeatedly install, adjust and remove your die for each operation. The turret press is like a single stage press but it has a tool holder (turret) on top that holds three or four dies so you can set them once and leave them set. For each new operation,

130 American Shooting Journal // October 2017

Every prospective reloader needs to start with at least one in-depth, how-to manual. This one got me started in 1982.

you rotate the turret so the next die is in place. The last and most sophisticated reloading machine is the progressive press. Progressives produce a reloaded round with each stroke of the lever, making them the most efficient in terms of time, so they are the best choice for high-volume loading. I always knew that my time

was precious, which is why I opted for a progressive at the start. You get what you pay for, of course, and they generally cost two to three times more than a single stage press. The accessories to support various calibers are a bit more expensive and numerous too, but they will save time. I can get 75 to 100 pistol rounds per hour loaded with a single stage press. On my progressive Dillion 550, my production rate on the same round is closer to 300 rounds an hour. For pistol ammo where you can use carbide sizing dies, a progressive can’t be beat, but don’t discount the single stage press because it’s slower. Many serious rifle handloaders prefer to use single stage presses. If you start with the basic equipment, it will never be obsolete. As your handloading sophistication increases, you might want more advanced and faster equipment, but you can always find good use the equipment you started with. I still use my manual powder scale because I am sure it will never give me a funky reading due to low battery since it doesn’t have batteries. I also went out and bought a single stage press to do my rifle case resizing to avoid contaminating the progressive with case lube. Then I clean the cases off and do all the other operations quickly on the progressive. But no matter how you start, or with what equipment, get smart first. All the powder manufactures publish their own data tables for reloading, most of which are free for the asking if not downloadable from the web. Don’t walk by dusty handloading data manuals at the flea market. That old data is usually still useful, since most of the powders we currently have were around decades ago or longer. Consider any loading data not obtained from an official published source with a jaundiced eye. The care you take at the loading bench will pay off in safe, fun, and economical shooting. 


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134 American Shooting Journal // October 2017


BLACK POWDER

LET IT SLIDE

Using the right lubricants with cast lead bullets and smokeless powders will help keep your muzzleloader and breachloader barrels from crying ‘foul.’ STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT

I

n modern cartridges using cast lead bullets with smokeless powders, the bullets are generally lubed with a grease, which mainly serves to help reduce or prevent leading of the barrel. That’s a necessity because leading can occur at any velocity. But in black powder shooting, for both muzzleloaders and breechloaders, the lubrication does more than help prevent leading of the bore. For black powder shooting, the lube really performs a double duty. While shooting black powder, either with muzzleloaders or black powder cartridges, the lube on the bullets or on the patch for round ball shooting does help prevent leading of the bore, just like with the modern smokeless powder loads. However, that’s not the greatest benefit of having good lube with your black powder loads. The biggest duty for lube in black powder shooting is to keep the powder fouling soft, so its purpose is really for the next shot to be loaded or taken. As an example, the long-range black powder cartridges used at the Creedmoor Range on Long Island, New York, in the 1870s were loaded without any lube. For that style of shooting, the rifles were always cleaned between shots. So, with every shot taken with a clean barrel, lube for fouling control was not required. Other shooters, such as the buffalo hunters or those just target practicing, needed good

SPG is a very good lube, in cartridges or muzzleloaders.

lubrication in each load because without it, cleaning the bore lube is simply necessary. MUZZLELOADERS ARE OFTEN loaded with a round ball wrapped in a saliva-dampened patch, the original “spit patch.” That works fairly well, although the load should be fired rather soon. If not fired soon after being loaded, the spit patch can dry out. Then the next shot will be very difficult to load and hard fouling will have a negative effect on accuracy. To be more specific, I was recently shooting with some dry patches from Bridgers Best. Just prior to doing so,

the patches were lubed with SPG, the well-known black powder cartridge lube. A small tin of SPG was opened and some of that good-lookin’ lube was put in a casting ladle, then melted over the fire. Held with a small pair of pliers, dry patches were dipped into the lube and then allowed to drip lube back into the ladle. This basically guarantees complete saturation of the patch with lube, which is more than needed. After those lubed patches were cool, they were put in the rifle’s patch box. The SPG-lubed patches got a good tryout at the Paul Bunyan Rendezvous, held near Seattle in Puyallup, americanshootingjournal.com 135


BLACK POWDER Washington, and they worked very well. I missed only two shots – one at a hanging piece of 1-inch-diameter rebar at 50 yards, and the other at a standing bear silhouette at 200 yards. More importantly, the complete course of fire was completed without wiping or cleaning the bore. The patches had more than enough lube and some lube was “shaved off” at the muzzle while loading. SPG-lubed patches were used in my .54-caliber pistol too at that doin’s, with excellent results. That was followed by a trade gun match, at which I did the same thing but with Bumblin’ Bear Grease from October Country. These worked very well, and I do believe I could have shot that 20-gauge smoothbore all day long without needing to wipe or clean the barrel. While shooting loads of birdshot, I’ll punch a wad from blanket material and lube it with melted grease in the same way, and those lubed wads are a real big help or ease of loading.

A G IN

LD I U B

Bumblin’ Bear Grease is great, and it contains real rendered bear fat.

WHEN SHOOTING BLACK POWDER cartridge rifles, one good way to tell if you have enough lube either on the bullets or in

R

TE T E B

the load is by looking for a “lube star” on the muzzle. Getting a good lube star is essential and is actually a sign of

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BLACK POWDER too much lube – that is, excessive lube being blown out of the gun. But that’s OK, because in this case, too much is frequently just about right. Grease-groove bullets must carry enough lube for the load and for the length of the rifle’s barrel. Paperpatched bullet loads should be given a “cookie” of lube under the bullet, usually “cake cut” from a pan in which lube has been melted to form an 1/8 inch thickness before being cooled again. Each rifle or each load can have individual lube requirements. More than a year ago I was shooting some commercially made bullets for the .50-70, intending to write a review of those bullets. In order to give those bullets a real good test, I began using them in my 13-pound ’74 Hartford from C. Sharps Arms with the 32-inch barrel. That heavy rifle holds like a rock, and it should have given the bullets a good test but didn’t. The first shot went

138 American Shooting Journal // October 2017

This shows the “lube star” of grease at the muzzle, black powder cartridge.

right where it was supposed to go and was followed by the second. But after that, the group widened until it was hard to keep hits on the paper at 100

yards. While cleaning the gun’s barrel, hard fouling was found near the muzzle. The lube won’t be mentioned because it wasn’t the problem. The


americanshootingjournal.com 139


BLACK POWDER problem was there just wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t enough lube, and what there was had run out before the bullets left the muzzle. That was made very clear by ďŹ nishing the bullet test with my lighter .50-70 Sharps, which has a 26inch barrel. Out of that shorter gun, those bullets worked just ďŹ ne. The problem was those bullets simply didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have grease grooves large enough to carry enough lube for the longer 32-inch barrel. WITH THAT EXPERIENCE under my belt, I went to Accurate Molds (accuratemolds.com) and â&#x20AC;&#x153;designedâ&#x20AC;? the #52-450L2, a bullet very similar to Lymanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s #515141 but slightly longer and with larger grease grooves. Now, that bullet is my general-use slug for the .50-70, and it gets loaded over either 65 grains of Olde Eynsford 2F or 70 grains of Olde Eynsford 1 1/2F powder. And Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m currently ďŹ lling those larger grease grooves with Big

Paper-patched bullets are lubed with a â&#x20AC;&#x153;cookieâ&#x20AC;? of lube under the bullet.

Sky lube. My shooting with the .50-70 cartridge is only one example, but it does show how necessary a good lube and enough lube is for continued

shooting with black powder cartridges. There are several very good black powder lubes, but you usually must go to a black powder supplier, such

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BLACK POWDER

Bullets and loaded rounds (with bullets from Accurate Molds) for the .50-70.

as Buffalo Arms (buffaloarms.com) to find them. Let me name just a couple of other lubes and their websites. For muzzleloaders, I certainly recommend October Country’s Bumblin’ Bear Grease, sold in ¼-pound tubs for $15.75 (octobercountry.com). You’ve read

142 American Shooting Journal // October 2017

Big Sky Lube is available in tubs and in sticks.

about them here several times. Small tins of SPG (blackpowderspg .com) are priced at $4.50, and the large tin (pictured) is $7.20. Big Sky Lube is sold in tubs or in sticks. The tubs are priced at $15 for a half-pound or $25 for a full pound.

If you prefer sticks, a package of five is $20 – and these are rather large sticks, about an ounce and a half. Contact Big Sky Components by calling owner John Olsen at (406) 853-0196 or sending him an email at bscb0.jo@gmail.com. 


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146

American Shooting Journal // October 2017


The AccuMax AR Barrel Cooler cuts your barrel cooling time in half after high-capacity shooting.

A COOLER AR BARREL

The AccuMax AR Barrel Cooler from Caldwell Shooting Supplies is a worthy addition to your gear bag.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY TOM CLAYCOMB

C

aldwell Shooting Supplies recently brought out their AccuMax AR Barrel Cooler, and it seemed to be a unique enough product for me to give it a test run. After all, I’m always on the lookout for something that will improve my shooting and hunting experiences. The AccuMax fits into your AR like a clip, and with the flip of a switch, it blows air down your barrel, which speeds up the cooling process. It’s easy to operate and is rechargeable, so it doesn’t require batteries. If you’ve ever been on a prairie dog hunt when the shooting was hot and heavy, you know what a pain a hot barrel can be. I remember one particular event out in Wyoming. We were doing some serious shooting, and everyone was using three rifles except for me. I only had two. I spent half my time letting my barrels cool down, and this was more than 20

years ago, before ARs for hunting had begun to dominate the scene. Nowadays I can really heat up a barrel in a hot second! So, with the above said, keeping a barrel cool, or at least being able to shorten the cool-off time, is a big deal with high-speed shooting. I hoped that Caldwell had the answer. I NEEDED TO DEVISE A protocol for testing the efficiency of the AccuMax, and as luck would have it, well-known outdoor writer Ron Spomer called and said he had a half dozen guns to test, as well as a pile of ammo, so the next morning we ran out to the gun range. It was early morning and the temperature was hovering around 70. I emptied a 40-round clip of Aquila full metal jackets as fast as I could shoot, and then taped a meat thermometer to the barrel. That didn’t work. If I taped the thermometer tight enough against the barrel to hold it tight so as to get an accurate

reading, it held in the heat so it didn’t cool down naturally. I had to find an infrared surface thermometer. A few days later I was up in the mountains with a buddy who owns the dam that provides electricity for Atlanta. He had a surface thermometer to check the temperatures of the bearings on the turbines to determine if they were overheating. Perfect. I confiscated his thermometer, but before performing the test, I did a few preliminary checks. The ambient temp was 88, the barrel was 87 and the wind was blowing at 5 to 8 mph. I’ve used a lot of surface thermometers in the past but when working with metal, Nebo recommends you set it to the proper emissivity setting. I found that on my rifle I had to use the .95 setting to obtain accurate results. Now I was ready to perform the test. First, I would shoot and use the AccuMax, and in the second americanshootingjournal.com 147


test I’d shoot and let it cool down naturally and document the temps and elapsed time. FOR EACH TEST, I SHOT 30 rounds in quick succession, as 30 rapid rounds were enough to heat the barrel. The barrel was way too hot to touch. I pulled out the clip, inserted the AccuMax Barrel Cooler fan and turned it on. Here are the times/temps I recorded: I observed that the temperature dropped more rapidly when the barrel was hotter, but as it got down to around 115 there is not as radical of a difference in the ambient temperature and the hot barrel, so it took longer to equilibrate at that point. I then tested how long it would take to cool down without the help of the AccuMax. Here are those results. CONCLUSION: It took only 12 minutes with the AccuMax for the barrel

TIME 5:48 5:48 5:58 6:00 6:04 6:07 6:08 6:13 TIME TEMP 6:15 6:15 6:23 6:28 6:30 6:35 6:40 6:55

TEMP 88 175 125 115 110 107 105 102 NOTES 95 179 160 147 132 120 114 102

NOTES Starting temp of the cool barrel. Shot 30 rounds, removed the clip, and inserted the AccuMax. The barrel was cool enough to comfortably touch.

Again, I emptied 30 rounds in rapid succession.

The barrel was cool enough to comfortably touch.

temperature to drop to 115, which is plenty cool to start shooting again. Without the AccuMax attached, it took 25 minutes. That’s a 52 percent faster cooling time. And my guess is, when the outside temp is cooler, that percentage will

be even higher. So, in conclusion, if you do a lot of fast shooting with your AR, the Caldwell AccuMax is well worth the $45.00. PRODUCTS USED IN THE TEST: Caldwell AccuMax AR Barrel Cooler;

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American Shooting Journal // October 2017


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Author Tom Claycomb conducted his AccuMax AR Barrel Cooler test using a Nebo Tempra Laser-guided surface thermometer and a DPMS Bull 20 rifle firing Aquila full metal jacket 55-grain .223-caliber ammo.

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American Shooting Journal // October 2017

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COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

ULTIMATE ARMS

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ightweight, strong and highly resistant to corrosion, Magnesium ZK60A-T5 is the ultimate alloy for many aerospace and automotive industry applications. Now, Ultimate Arms is putting this alloy to use in the firearms industry, designing and manufacturing handguns, rifles and highperformance, ultra-lightweight firearm components. Magnesium is the lightest metal known to man, and zirconium is the hardest-known metal. Ultimate Arms blends these two for reduced weight and to eliminate corrosion. They then age this material for strength and hardness and coat all the pieces with nickel boron. All of their gun parts are cut from forged materials, and they use no castings. The average soldier carries 160

pounds of equipment and gear. Ultimate Arms figures to lighten their weapons load by 35 percent, and that’s a substantial difference. Add to that the high strength and the corrosion resistance of the material, and it makes for a highly durable weapon. Ultimate Arms believes this material will help pave the way for

the future off the weapons industry, and the company has filed for patents on their weapons materials for handguns, rifles and the gun parts, as well as their nickel-boron coating process.  Editor’s note: For more info: o: uaarms. 5) 970-9555 com; (615)

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