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Bear Down! Top Tips For Spring Bruins



Feathered Frenzy T k TTactics, Turkey ti Tips, Guns & Gear Patterning Your Gobbler Gun ALSO INSIDE

The Sharps Story: A Frontier Fave

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017




American Shooting Journal // March 2017 7


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Be Prepared with the Best.

Top of the line appliances, sturdy cabinetry, heavy gauge hinges and hardware, and beautifully trimmed wood work.

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SHOOTING JOURNAL Volume 6 // Issue 6 // March 2017 PUBLISHER


Dick Openshaw


John Rusnak



Craig Hodgkins


Brad Fitzpatrick CONTRIBUTORS

Larry Case, Mike Dickerson, Scott Haugen, Phil Massaro, Mike Nesbitt, Troy Rodakowski, Bob Shell SALES MANAGER

Katie Higgins


Mamie Griffin, Steve Joseph, Garn Kennedy, Mike Smith, Paul Yarnold PRODUCTION MANAGER

Sonjia Kells DESIGNERS

Michelle Hatcher, Sam Rockwell, Liz Weickum PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

Kelly Baker


Audra Higgins


Katie Sauro


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Jon Hines



Heidi Belew


Gary Bickford, Barry Johnston, Tony Sorrentino ADVERTISING INQUIRIES

ON THE COVER The just-released MSR-10 from Savage comes in two models, the Hunter and the Long Range. ASJ columnist Mike Dickerson put the Hunter to good use on a West Texas pig hunt. (MIKE DICKERSON)

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 •


American Shooting Journal // March 2017 11


RANDOM SHOTS: FAVORITE RIFLES Most shooters own more than one gun, and many own several. There are a number of factors that go into making a particular rifle a favorite, and columnist Mike Dickerson shares how one rifle and load became a go-to combo for deer-sized game for him.


ROAD HUNTER: TIME TO BEAR DOWN! No matter how you plan to hunt them, spring is the best season to get serious about tagging a black bear. So grab a notepad, settle down beside our virtual campfire and take some tips from our resident bruin whisperer, Scott Haugen.


SHOOTING SHARPS In the mid- to late 1800s, gunmaker Christian Sharp’s eponymous rifles were seemingly in the hands of every long-range shooter in the West. Columnist Mike Nesbitt traces the origins and development of the popular rifle up to the present day, where you can still hold history in your hands with some spot-on replicas.



SHOT SHOW REPORT: TOP 10 GUNS & OPTICS The SHOT Show is a great place for manufacturers to premier their new products, and writer Brad Fitzpatrick wore out some boot leather checking out everything he could. The result? Here are his 10 top picks from among the best new firearms and optics at this year’s show.




PELLETS AND PATTERNS Choosing the right loads and chokes are all part of patterning your turkey gun for spring success, and writer Troy Rodakowski returns from last month’s Uruguay getaway

With the intro of two MSR-10 rifles for long-range shooting and hunting, Savage Arms is providing modern shooters with interesting and satisfying choices. Our editor Craig Hodgkins provides an overview of what the new Savage line has to offer.

ASJ columnist Mike Dickerson takes dead aim with the new Savage MSR-10 Hunter when the results really mattered during a recent West Texas hog hunt. (MIKE DICKERSON)

just in time to provide his hard-earned and field-tested expertise on the subject.

127 GUN REVIEW: WEATHERBY VANGUARD .375 H&H MAGNUM Weatherby’s impressive Vanguard line has been drawing more and more

shooters to the brand over the last decade, but the company lacked a true budget-priced big bore. The new Vanguard .375 H&H Magnum solves that problem, and writer Brad Fitzpatrick braves California’s San Andreas fault country to field test it on feral swine.

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 © 2016 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.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

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CONTENTS ALSO INSIDE 141 BULLET BULLETIN: Swift Scirocco II 151 RELOADING: Military Surplus Rifle Calibers 163 COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Hardened Arms 167 COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Ulticlip 173 COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Turnbull Restoration


Spring is upon us, and for many gobbler gunners, that means it is time to talk turkey. Writer and shotgun slinger Larry Case offers up some of his favorite tactics and tips for taking the stress out of the hunt, and shares a passel of great gear for your upcoming battles with the bird we hunt like no other.

DEPARTMENTS 17 21 23 27

Editor’s Note Competition Calendar Gun Show Calendar Industry News – Mossberg’s New .410, Bolt-actions We’ll stick our necks out on this one – it’s time to get ready to hunt spring gobblers. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)


American Shooting Journal // March 2017 15


American Shooting Journal // March 2017



have the opportunity to meet a wonderfully wide variety of people as part of this job of mine, and I consider it a privilege to speak with them on your behalf, and on behalf of the American Shooting Journal team. In addition to being your representative in the field and at shows and events, an editor is a sort of gatekeeper or ombudsman, and we spend more time than you may imagine sorting through virtual piles of content in order to assemble each monthly issue. As you can imagine, there are vastly more companies and people who want you to read about their

products and services than even our generous space allows, and there are also scores of scribes pitching interesting story ideas and product pieces to us each week. All of these sources of input add up to choice after choice, and the result of what we select is what you see on the newsstands or in your mailbox each month. To help us get better at the “publishing what you want to read about” thing, we’d love to hear from more of you, either via our website ( or Facebook page, an email, or even a written note folded up in one of those paper envelope things with a stamp.

Lord knows there are more timely – heck, many nearinstantaneous – sources of information available to you than a monthly print magazine, but we appreciate that you take the time to give us a look or a read when you have the chance. Now, speaking of talking to wonderful people, this past week I enjoyed a great conversation with six-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode. In addition to her amazing skill with a shotgun, Kim is a fabulous storyteller, and that feature will appear in our special NRA Meetings issue for April, so be on the lookout for it next month.

–Craig Hodgkins 17


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Stability and Accuracy


Enhanced Pistol Cheek Rest Kit with CAA saddle shown

AR/AK Pistol Cheekrest Kits Our Pistol Cheek Rest Kits are a Hybrid design combining our Standard or Enhanced Buffer Tube Covers and the Command Arms SST1 or the Mission First Tactical Evolv Stock Saddle. The two are joined together using a specially designed adapter and mounting hardware. The result is a rock solid, ergonomic, cheek weld that provides stability for accurate, repeatable, shooting and a proper sight line for your favorite optics or sights. Our kits come pre-assembled in house with new, easy to follow, instructions on the inside flap of the new header card. Instructional videos are also available on our website.

BD-180 Blast Deflector Kits An inexpensive and easy to install upgrade for short barreled rifle and AR Pistol applications. It redirects high pressure concussion, flame, and hot muzzle gasses forward away from the shooter and bystanders. The BD-180 is unique because it can be installed between your existing A1, A2, and 3 pronged flash hider and the barrel, eliminating the need to buy an entirely new muzzle device. It can be used in place of or in conjunction with a crush washer for a secure connection and proper timing. At 1.35 inches in diameter and weighing in at a mere 2 ounces, it will fit inside most low profile or lightweight foreends without adding significant weight.

Picatinny Buffer Tube Adapter Our new Picatinny Buffer Tube Adapter is a great addition to your Sig MPX, Sig MCX, Sig P556XI, Rock River PDS, or any other pistol that utilizes a rear vertical picatinny rail. It gives a shooter the ability to add a cheek rest for greater stability or a stock for SBR conversions (federal tax stamp required).

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 bonus is that there are no visible fasteners or holes on the top and sides of the adapter giving it a clean sleek look. 19

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MARCH 11-12 2017 Accuracy International Long Range Classic hosted by CORE Baker, Fla. March 25-26 Long Range Shooters Experience LRSE presented by Defiance Actions Park City, Ky.

Participants in Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) and similar events need to master their riding and shooting skills. (WIKIPEDIA COMMONS)

March 11-12 Delaware State GSSF Challenge II Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club Bridgeville, Del.

March 18-19 Northern California GLOCK Challenge IX Yolo Sportsman’s Association Yolo, Calif.

March 18-19 River Bend Ballistic Challenge X River Bend Gun Club Dawsonville (Canton), Ga.

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017



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American Shooting Journal // March 2017 25


American Shooting Journal // March 2017



The popular manufacturer continues a busy 2017 release schedule with a variety of great guns – here are some that caught our attention. COMPILED BY THE EDITORS – PHOTOS BY MOSSBERG

510 MINI MUDDY GIRL NOW AVAILABLE IN .410 BORE O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. continues to design and develop shotguns, rimfire and centerfire rifles for younger and smallstatured shooters with the release of another version of its smallest pump-action to its family of youth products – the 510 Mini Muddy Girl, chambered in .410 with the capability to load 2½- and 3-inch shells. The unique design features of the Mossberg 510 Mini provide for proper balance, swing and less recoil. The stock is equipped with a reduced grip size and shorter length-of-pull (LOP) with convenient stock spacer to increase LOP by one inch, so the 510 Mini can grow with your young shooter. The 18.5-inch vent-rib barrel features a fixed modified choke and twin bead sights. With an overall length of less than 35 inches, compact barrel length and weight of 5 pounds, the 510 Mini is easy to handle in the field. And convenient top-mounted safety makes the 510 Mini ideal for right- or left-handed shooters. The durable synthetic stock, barrel and exposed metalwork are fully covered with Muddy Girl camo – a blend of pink, white and black blended into an outdoor pattern. Front and rear sling swivel studs complete this full-featured shotgun. MSRP is $469. FIVE BOLT-ACTIONS NOW IN 6.5 CREEDMOOR Mossberg also announced that five of their bolt-action rifles are now chambered in 6.5mm Creedmoor, desired for its flatshooting, long-range ballistics by target shooters, and popular with hunters for its low recoil and on-game performance. Three of those are in the MVP Series – the MVP LC (Light Chassis), MVP LR (Long Range) and MVP Predator bolt-

action rifles – while the other two rifles are from its classic bolt-action hunting line – the Patriot Predator, a new series of rifles for 2017, and a Patriot Synthetic. All five rifles feature a 1:8 twist rate with 20- or 22-inch fluted barrels, Mossberg’s Lightning Bolt Action (LBA) Trigger System that delivers a crisp, creep-free trigger pull and is user-adjustable, and matte blue finishes on exposed metalwork. For ease of adding a suppressor, four of the models feature a threaded barrel (5/8 -inch by 24 threads per inch) with thread cap included. The MVP Predator is a more compact rifle, with a gray laminate sporter-style stock with stippling on the forend and pistol grip combined with a 20-inch medium-bull, threaded barrel. With its patented bolt and latch designs, the MVP Predator allows the use of both M1A/M14 and AR10-style magazines. Other standard features include sling swivel studs, factory-installed Weaver-style scope bases, and 10-round magazine. MSRP is $732. The classically-styled Patriot stock is well-designed for comfort and reduced felt recoil with its straight comb, rounded edges, raised cheekpiece and traditional black rubber recoil pad. Textured stippling on the grip and forend completes the stock design and the flat dark earth finish is ideal for varied terrain. The Patriot Predator has Mossberg’s proven twin-lug, push-feed machined-steel action at its core, fed from a lightweight polymer, flush four-round box magazine and standard contour, free-floating 22-inch threaded barrel. Completing the Predator package is a topmounted Picatinny rail for ease of adding optics, oversized bolt handles, spiral-fluted bolts, and sling swivel studs. MSRP is $441.

Mossberg’s new 510 Mini Muddy Girl in .410.

Mossberg’s MVP Predator is one of five bolt-actions now available in the popular 6.5mm Creedmoor caliber. The new-for-2017 Dodge Ram Power Wagon is well equipped for off-road work, and can get you just about anywhere you need to go. 27


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Although the MSR-10 Hunter hit the market too late for extensive range testing before our monthly print deadline, American Shooting Journal columnist (and current cover boy) Mike Dickerson enjoyed obvious success with the brand-new gun on a recent west Texas hog hunt. (MIKE DICKERSON)


With the introduction of two MSR-10 rifles for hunting and long-range shooting, Savage Arms gives STORY BY CRAIG HODGKINS • PHOTOS BY SAVAGE ARMS shooters some excellent choices.


avage Arms’ new line of next-generation semiautos comes to the marketplace with an attitude – the company has cleverly co-opted the MSR acronym for

branding the guns, using the tagline “MSR now stands for Modern Savage Rifle” – but the guns are poised to deliver in the field and on the range as well, with everything from expanded caliber choices and badass

designs to a full suite of custom upgrades packaged as standard features. Although the four-gun family includes two MSR-15 models in 5.56mm (the Recon and Blackhawk), 33

The new MSR-10 Hunter is part of a four-gun family of next-gen semiautos from Savage Arms. (Inset) The Long Range ships with one 10-round magazine (foreground) and the Hunter uses a 20-rounder.

our focus here will be on a dynamic duo of aptly named, hard-hitting MSR-10s, the Hunter and the Long Range. And while the company’s slick new AR-15 rifles are already gaining a reputation as straight shooters, the chance to zero in on building a better AR-10 was a perfect fit for Savage – offering opportunities to play to the brand’s strengths, including longrange accuracy and innovation. SAVAGE MAY BE BEST KNOWN for its extensive collection of bolt-actions for hunting, competitive shooting and plain old plinking, but the

company has also been in the AR business, off and on, for years, quietly creating custom barrels for other manufacturers. Simply put, the AR-10 platform offered Savage engineers a chance to innovate. According to Al Caspar, president of Savage Arms, “One of the stumbling blocks to unbridled creativity with the AR15 platform is the nagging need for conformity – in other words, keeping the rifle compatible with a variety of accessories. With AR-10s, there are far fewer such constraints. Savage engineers were able to think

MSR-10 HUNTER Savage’s new MSR-10 Hunter gives big game fans a hardhitting, high-powered alternative to smaller AR-15 calibers, without the additional weight or hefty pricetags of traditional AR-10 options. Retailing for $1,399, the new MSR-10 Hunter is light enough to carry anywhere, yet features calibers with plenty ple t off punch to stop whit t whitetails and other similar-sized targets in their tracks. Savage didn’t design the Hunter just for packing heat, however. Flawless performance and shot placement are equally paramount. Case in point: secondary grinding and a painstaking polishing process put the Mil-Spec+ trigger on a higher plane than standard trigger systems common on other AR rifles. The MSR-10 Hunter also features a reliable proprietary target chamber, along with an adjustable gas block and ergonomic yet highly cool Blackhawk! pistol grip and backup sights. Realizing that the rifle won’t just be used for hunting, Savage retained the M-Lok forend, which leaves the door open to accessorizing the platform for tactical pursuits. 34

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

SPECIFICATIONS: Action: Caliber: Capacity: Barrel: Overall length: Weight: Rifling: Stock: MSRP:

Direct-impingement semiauto .308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor 20-round magazine 16.125 inches (.308), 18 inches (Creedmoor) 35.75 to 39 inches 7.8 pounds (.308), 8 pounds (Creedmoor) 1:10 5R (.308), 1:8 5R (Creedmoor) Blackhawk! $1,481

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outside the box to bring gamechanging features to both the MSR Hunter and MSR Long Range.” While developing its modern, precision AR-10s, Savage also addressed other longstanding shortcomings of MSRs designed for larger cartridges. “For example,” Caspar added, “AR10s have traditionally been heavy, bulky and unwieldy. We tackled these issues head-on, shaving off unnecessary weight and trimming size with a smaller, lighter chassis that strikes a perfect balance between performance, fit and function. As a result, both the MSR-10 Hunter and MSR-10 Long Range feature a compact AR-10 design that feels and handles more like an AR-15.” “Savage’s new AR-10s also feature custom-forged uppers and lowers for a look unlike anything afield or on the range, plus a free-floating forend that locks down so tight you can bridge a scope mount from forend to receiver with no loss of accuracy. Tactical Blackhawk! grips, buttstock and flip-


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

The buttstock on the MSR-10 Long Range is a Magpul PRS Gen3.

up sights are also standard.” Professional 3-gun competitor Patrick Kelley knows a thing or five about the needs of long-range shooters, and he knows the Long

Range model well, having been involved in early testing of the gun. “It’s got all the cool features that a free gunner would want in one package,” said Kelley at the recent

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SPECIFICATIONS: Action: Caliber: Capacity: Barrel: Overall length: Weight: Rifling: Stock: MSRP:

Direct-impingement semiauto .308 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor 10-round magazine 20 inches (.308), 22 inches (Creedmoor) 40 5/8 inches to 42 5/8 inches 9.5 pounds (.308), 9.75 pounds (Creedmoor) 5R (.308), 1:8 5R (Creedmoor) Magpul PRS Gen3 $2,284

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Purpose-built for incredibly accurate long-range shooting right out of the box, the new MSR-10 Long Range brings five-shot minute-of-angle accuracy within range of factory rifles. The new rifle deserves a hard look from serious long-distance long-distan shooters, along with anyone else who wants to brandish a badass kit capable of connecting with targets at extreme ranges well out of reach of standard ARs. The Blackhawk! Blaze two-stage target trigger fuels crisp, clean releases unheard of on competitive ARs. Also equipped with an adjustable gas block, the MSR-10 Long Range features a Magpul PRS target-adjustable buttstock for quick and easy tweaking to fit any shooter or position. The MSR-10 Long Range also features a side-charging handle that is infinitely easier to operate than standard rear-charging configurations when shooting from a prone position or with a large scope. Armed with such a full suite of high-tech features that you’d expect to find as expensive aftermarket additions, the MSR-10 Long Range’s MSRP of $2,199 makes it an even sweeter deal for shooters looking for a modern, high-performance AR-10 able to hit the mark when the chips are down.

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017 39

A closer look at the muzzle of the Long Range model.

SHOT Show in Las Vegas. “A longer gas system, 5R-rifled barrel,l Melonite M l it coating, 22-inch barrel length for 6.5 Creedmoor, 20-inch in .308 Win. An M-Lok hand guard.” “The upper and lower are both proprietary,” Kelley added, “and shorter in length, which allows us to


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

make the gun more compact, bring the center of balance back closer to th the center line of the shooter, which makes for better handling. The bolt carrier group is also lighter than a standard bolt carrier group. Again, less reciprocating mass means a lower recall impulse.”

“It’s got every feature in it it should have,” Kelley concluded, “at a price point that will make you smile and make you want it all the more. (This) rifle has all the cool features that little boutique gun makers can do, but in one rifle from a large manufacturer: Savage Arms.”


BOTH MSR-10S ARE AVAILABLE in .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor chamberings, each of which offers applications in hunting and long-range shooting. The .308 Win. is a fine all-around choice for big game, not to mention a top traditional pick of snipers and other long-range shooters. A relative newcomer, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a long-range performer developed for target shooting but perfectly capable in hunting applications as well. Savage tailored barrel length to caliber and purpose. The .308 Win. version of the MSR-10 Hunter sports

The nonreciprocating side charging handle on the Long Range model.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

a 16-inch barrel (and weighs just 7.5 pounds), while the 6.5 Creedmoor Hunter carries an 18-inch barrel. MSR10 Long Range barrel lengths are 20 inches for the .308 Win. and 22 inches with 6.5 Creedmoor. Regardless of length, all barrels are button-rifled and paired to their particular action with Savage’s obsessive attention to precise headspace control. To further enhance accuracy while reducing fouling, the bore features innovative 5R rifling. And to extend barrel life, Savage applies an ultradurable, Melonite QPQ surface

hardening treatment inside and out. With roughly 10 million modern sporting rifles already in the hands of American gun owners, there’s no denying the platform’s appeal for a variety of uses. And, after talking to thousands of shooters online and in person at ranges across the continent, Savage knew exactly where to aim with their new line. The company is convinced that both new MSR-10s will quickly find a place in the hands and hearts of discerning shooters, and with early results trending so favorably, it would be hard to argue otherwise. 

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American Shooting Journal // August 2016

random Shots

PLAYING FAVORITES How one rifle and load became a go-to combo for deer-sized game.

The author most recently put his old favorite Weatherby Vanguard rifle, chambered in .257 Wby. Mag., to good use on a whitetail hunt with Frio County Hunts in south Texas.



s an outdoor writer, I’m often asked what my favorite rifle is. My standard answer, especially when I’m in the field, is whatever rifle I happen to be holding in my hands at any given moment. But that’s not entirely true. We all have our favorites. For some, it may be a beat-up rifle that’s been handed down from generation to generation.

It may be one with high-grade wood and fancy engraving. Many prefer turnbolt-action guns. Some swoon over a fine double gun, while others may shoot only an AR platform rifle. A favorite may be a rifle that shoots tiny little groups, or one that’s light enough to pack up steep mountains. For some, it might be the only rifle they own – or one that literally saved their life. In truth, I have several favorite rifles for several specific jobs. For

deer-sized game, however, one rifle in my collection has accounted for more animals than all of the others combined. It’s not the fanciest rifle in the safe, nor is it the most expensive. It’s the one I’ve made more great memories with than any other. THAT RIFLE BEGAN ITS LONG RUN with me many years ago as an original Weatherby Vanguard rifle, chambered in .257 Wby. Mag. It had a Tupperware stock and creepy trigger, so it did not 49

random shots

One of the author’s favorite rifles for deer-sized game is an original Weatherby Vanguard chambered in .257 Wby. Mag. It’s been much modified from its original configuration with the addition of a fine Timney trigger and a Fiberguard stock.

long stay in its original configuration. I installed a fine Timney trigger and swapped the stock out for a pillarbedded Fiberguard stock, in an attractive tan color with black spider web finish. I long ago lost count of the number of deer and hogs I shot with this rifle in the coastal mountains of central California before I left that state for more gun-friendly environs. It was with me when I shot my first pronghorn antelope in Wyoming, and it was the rifle I used to bag

a record-book pronghorn in New Mexico. There’s a nice axis deer on my wall, thanks to that rifle, and a snarling javelina. The rifle has taken mule deer in several Western states, and was the one I used to take my best whitetail buck, a barrel-chested 11-pointer nudging the 160 Boone and Crockett mark. It was also the rifle I held when I made a running shot on a whitetail in the state of my birth, Kentucky, a number of years ago. He was an old buck, with thin, broken-up antlers,

and wasn’t much to look at. But it was a hunt I’ll never forget. It was the first time I had seen many of my relatives in nearly two decades, and I was able to share a venison dinner with them from that homecoming hunt, surrounded by the warmth, laughter and happiness I remembered so well from my childhood. Sadly, many of those relatives are no longer with us, and I think of them every time I pick up the .257. And that, as Forest Gump would say, is all I have to say about that.

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017 51

random shots LAST YEAR, I REALIZED THAT the rifle had become something of a safe queen. I was spending so much time testing and hunting with new rifle models that I had little time left to shoot or hunt with my own guns. Determined to remedy that, I carved a day out of my schedule last December and visited my friend, Bryan Wilson, of Frio County Hunts. Bryan runs a great hunting operation on his family’s lowfence, high-quality hunting ranch in south Texas. He had been keeping an eye on a big-bodied, 5½-year-old, eight-point buck that made regular appearances on game cameras. His antlers weren’t going to get any better, and he was bossing around some younger bucks with greater trophy potential, so that made him a prime candidate for my freezer. Sitting in a blind with Bryan in the predawn darkness that December morning, we watched deer filter out of

the thick south Texas brush and into an open field in front of us. It took some time before we had enough light to make out antlers, and bit more time before we could count points. There were a couple of younger, promising bucks in the field, and far down a sendero to our left, we spotted a truly spectacular young buck. But none of them were on the menu. We were after the boss eight-pointer. And then he appeared, walking slowly and confidently down a long path to our front before entering the field. The younger bucks watched him nervously, and it was clear that this old fellow ruled the roost. I watched the buck feed for a while, and then reached for my old friend with the words “.257 WBY MAG” stamped on the barrel. I centered the crosshairs of the Leupold scope on the buck’s vitals, and touched off the Timney trigger, which is set to break crisply at a trigger pull of a hair over 2 pounds.

AS IT HAD SO MANY TIMES BEFORE, a 120-grain Nosler Partition bullet found its mark. The buck ran about 20 yards, staggered for another 10 yards, and fell over. That bullet, in factory loading, is all I’ve ever fed the rifle, and it will shoot sub-MOA groups with the load all day long. Launching the 120-grain Partition at .257 Wby. Mag. velocity, the rifle has proven to be nothing less than a death ray. The vast majority of animals I’ve shot with that rifle and load simply dropped in their tracks. A few made it 30 yards or so, as this big buck did, but none have ever required any tracking to recover. I’ve been on several hunts where people, after watching the rifle perform, have offered to buy it from me on the spot. Needless to say, it’s not for sale. The .257 Wby. Mag. was reportedly Roy Weatherby’s favorite caliber, and it’s easy to understand why when you take a close look at the ballistics. The

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017 53

random shots 120-grain Partition load I favor steps out at a bit more than 3,300 feet per second from the muzzle. Using the old-timer’s trick of zeroing the rifle to place bullets 3 inches high at 100 yards, it is dead on at 300 yards, and a bit less than 4 inches low at 350 yards. This means that, for the vast majority of hunters and the majority of hunting situations, you need only hold steady on the vitals to make a clean kill out to 350 yards. Notably, that .257 isn’t the only Vanguard in my safe. I also have a Vanguard sub-MOA model chambered in .300 WSM. It has the same Timney trigger installed and the same stock, albeit in a different color. I also have this rifle zeroed at 300 yards, with a 150-grain Winchester XP3 load grouping 3 inches high at 100 yards. The trajectory is nearly identical to that of my .257 zeroed at the same distance. Picking up that rifle is, for all practical purposes, the same




American Shooting Journal // March 2017

This large axis deer fell to the author’s Vanguard pushing a 120-grain Nosler Partition bullet out of the muzzle at 3,300 feet per second.


random shots as picking up the .257. It, too, has accounted for its fair share of game, including a scimitar-horned oryx in Texas. These are large animals, weighing up to 460 pounds, and the Weatherby handled the job nicely. You may, by now, not be surprised to learn that I have yet another Vanguard rifle in my safe. This one is the newer Vanguard S2 Back Country rifle, a featherweight rifle weighing just 6 pounds, 12 ounces. Chambered in .30-06 Springfield, it’s a real tack driver, especially with Federal’s VitalShok 165-grain Trophy Copper load. I also have this rifle zeroed to group bullets 3 inches high at 100 yards. They’ll impact less than 4 inches low at 300 yards, allowing for a dead-on hold at that distance, and I’m looking forward to putting the rifle to good use. All of this, I suppose, lends a lot of truth to the old adage, “Beware the man with one rifle.” Or, in my case, two or three. 


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

The author used his Vanguard to take this recordbook pronghorn antelope in New Mexico.



Best new firearms and optics we saw at this year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show. STORY BY BRAD FITZPATRICK • PHOTOS BY MANUFACTURERS


he aisles of the 2017 SHOT Show in Las Vegas were crowded with new products for every shooting discipline, from long-range target shooting to hunting and competition. This year’s show seemed to offer a wider variety of new

products than any in recent memory. Over the course of the last few years carry handguns and ARs dominated the show floor, but this time around there were more bolt-action hunting rifles, more revolvers, more shotguns and a growing list of 1,000-yard competition guns. Here’s a look at eight new guns and two special optics that launched at SHOT 2017.

Ruger GP100 .44 Special • The new GP100 in .44 Special was one of the most talked-about items on the show floor despite the fact that neither the GP100 nor the .44 Special are new. When Ruger chambered their venerable wheelgun in a classic defensive cartridge the whole shooting world took notice, however, and this five-shot revolver is now in high demand. Lighter and more compact that the Redhawk .44 Magnum, the GP100 .44 Special serves as a target and personal defense firearm, and Ruger’s triple locking cylinder and generous use of heavy-duty steel make this a robust gun that produces threat-stopping power without unmanageable recoil. MSRP: $829

CMMG Anvil • The Anvil is an AR chambered in .458 SOCOM. The clever thing about the engineering on this gun is that, like the brand’s Mutant line of rifles based on AK-47s, it’s a hybrid of sorts. The Powerbolt is larger than traditional AR-15-based .458 SOCOM bolts, and yet the whole rifle is more compact and lighter than an AR-10. It’s also very accurate, and recoil is manageable. This rifle accepts standard AR-15 magazines and has an SLR adjustable gas blocks. MSRP: $1,849.95 61

Benelli Super Black Eagle III • Benelli’s SBE firearms have amassed a legion of followers over the last two decades, all of whom are cheering the unveiling of the next-gen Super Black Eagle, the SBE III. The new design includes a Comfort Tech 3 stock with redesigned chevrons that help reduce

felt recoil even more. The beveled loading port, redesigned carrier and two-piece carrier latch make loading easy and cycling flawless, and technology incorporated from Benelli’s Ethos semiauto shotgun line makes it virtually impossible to lower the bolt without it rotating and locking for the shot. The SBE III is available in a host of camo colors to match any waterfowling attire. MSRP: $1,899

Remington RP9 • Remington’s handgun lineup continues to grow with the addition of the RP9, a striker-fired polymer-frame 9mm pistol with an impressive 18+1 capacity. The slide and barrel have a tough PVD finish and the dovetailed rear sight has a “fighting surface” for one-handed operation. The grip is comfortable and the RP9 comes with three distinct grip inserts so you can find the proper fit. Other features include large slide serrations, a tactile loaded chamber indicator, reversible mag release and deep serrations on the slide for easy manipulation. MSRP: $489

Christensen Arms Mesa • Christensen Arms is known for building lightweight, precision rifles that are exceptionally accurate, and in that regard the Mesa is no different than its brethren. What is different, though, is the price — under $1,300. That may seem a bit high to you, but rest assured that based upon what you get with a Mesa rifle it’s a steal. Each of

Browning X-Bolt Target McMillan A3-5 • Browning’s X-Bolt appeared in a SHOT Show special rifle that combines the X-Bolt action with a 28-inch fluted bull-profile barrel with removable brake on 5/8x24 threads and a McMillan A3-5 composite target stock with an adjustable comb, textured gripping surfaces, palm swell, Pachmayr Decelrator recoil pad and A-TACS 62

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

these guns has a 416 stainless-steel billet receiver with enlarged ejection port, match-grade trigger and match chamber, handlapped, button-rifled barrel, a carbon-fiber composite sporter stock, and much, much more. Plus, both long- and short-action variants weigh less than 7 pounds. MSRP: $1,299

LE camo finish. The free-floated barrel has a target crown and it is hand-chambered. The gun comes with the X-Bolt’s Feather trigger and rotary magazine and is available in a number of calibers (including 6 and 6.5 Creedmoor and 26 Nosler) in both right and left-handed versions. MSRP: $2,799.99 63

CZ 628 Field Select • CZ-USA’s pump guns are all excellent values, but the svelte little 628 28 gauge that launched this year is one of the finest of the bunch. It features a 7075 aluminum receiver, deep glossy blue finish, and well-figured select Turkish walnut stock. The barrel is ported, which means there’s very little recoil with 28-gauge loads,

and this gun weighs just 5.4 pounds. The 28-inch barrel has an 8mm flat vent rib and comes with three interchangeable choke tubes. It’s a perfect sub-gauge gun for kids or recoil-sensitive shooters, and it is ideal for those who walk long miles in upland fields or want to shoot sub-gauge guns in competition. It’s also available in a 20-gauge version, the 620. MSRP: $429

Trijicon Accupower 1-8 •

Leupold LTO-Tracker •

This scope features a first focal plane reticle, multicoated broadband anti-reflective glass, and a true 1x power setting. Knobs are locking and resettable without the use of tools. Graduated in .25 MOA or .1 mils, and with a 100 MOA adjustment range, this scope offers maximum versatility for hunting large and dangerous game, tactical applications and competition. It’s available with either red or green illumination powered by a CR 2032 battery for long life. MSRP: $1,699

The LTO-Tracker is a handheld thermal imaging device with a 21-degree field of view, a 600-yard range and a 6x zoom. There are six different color palette options, and at just 5.6 inches long and weighing in at 10 ounces, it fits easily into your pocket. Activation time is just three seconds, and CR123 batteries allow for up to 10 hours of continuous use. This will change the way you hunt, scout, and will improve personal security since you can, in essence, see in the dark. MSRP: $909.99

Winchester SX4 • Winchester’s SX3 is the most successful autoloader in the company’s long history, and the SX4 improves upon that great design. For starters, it’s slimmer and more streamlined, and it comes with an oversized bolt handle and bolt release button. What hasn’t changed is the fact Active Valve self-adjusting gas system that works seamlessly with a wide range of different 12-gauge loads. There’s a new Inflex recoil pad design that helps keep recoil 64

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

to a minimum, and the Truglo Long Beard fiber optic front sight helps you get on target quickly. I put this gun through the paces in Manitoba last year and it stood up to serious punishment without a hiccup. It’s available with a wood stock or polymer stock with black finish or Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo dip. There’s also a compact version as well. The SX4 is an affordable and reliable game and target gun. MSRP: $799 and up 65


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017


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American Shooting Journal // March 2017



No matter how you plan to hunt them, spring is the best season to get serious about filling a tag for black bear. STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGEN


t’s spring, and if you want to hit the road and fill a bear tag, now is the time to get serious. With black bear populations on the rise in many parts of North America, hunting opportunities are growing. In some states, over-the-counter tags can be purchased, while others are increasing their lottery draws. From the Western U.S. to Alaska, Canada and select states east of the Rocky Mountains, black bear hunting opportunities abound. Once you decide where you’re going to hunt bears, here are some options to help put one down. NO MATTER WHERE OR HOW you hunt black bears, most of your spotting and stalking time will be spent focusing on their appetite. Bears have a short digestive tract, thus pass a lot of undigested food through their system. As a result, they’re feeding many hours a day during the spring. Wherever you hunt, study potential food sources. Look for droppings and break them open to see what the bears have been eating. You’ll see anything from grass to weeds, berries to carrion. Bears are largely vegetarians in the spring, but if they happen upon a winterkill deer or elk, they won’t usually pass it up. Grass is the number one food source to focus on when hunting spring bears. South-facing slopes are the first to green-up, and that’s where the majority of your time should be spent. Be prepared to spend hours behind the spotting scope and

Scott Haugen with a monster chocolate-phase black bear. If looking to score on a bear, spring is prime time.

binoculars. As spring progresses and grass grows tall, it’s easy for a bear to hide, even on fairly open hillsides. Once a bear is located on a food source, dedicate time to looking over that area, for there will often be more than one bear around. When food is in prime condition, it can attract multiple bears from miles around. When you find a bear to make a move on, keep the wind in your face. The best sense a bear has is its ability to smell. Keeping the wind in your face

or blowing across your body, and if you’re quiet, you’ll be surprised how close you can get to a feeding bear. Should the wind switch or start swirling during your stalk, back out. Either come in from another angle, wait for the thermals to steady or come back another day. As long as the bear isn’t spooked, it will stay on that food source. Over the years I’ve seen the same bears grazing in the same spot for up to two weeks. Don’t be in a rush if the conditions to stalk aren’t ideal. 73

ROAD HUNTER IN STATES WHERE IT’S LEGAL, baiting and waiting is a highly effective way to hunt bears. I have a place in Idaho I’ve been hunting for over a decade. It’s nothing to have over a dozen different bears hitting baits, yet I’ve never seen one roaming the open hillsides, as they stick to brushy, big timbered draws. Baiting isn’t for everyone, but if hunting thick habitat, amid big, deep canyons and anywhere else where the terrain makes it hard to see a bear, then it is a great option. For archery hunters, baiting is nice as it allows up-close, high-percentage shots. If looking for a trophy-sized bear, baiting is ideal as it allows you to study and field-judge the size of the bear.

Baiting is also a high-percentage approach, meaning you can put some great meat in the freezer. Bear is delicious, and having taken more than 50 over the years, I can honestly say it’s one of my favorite big game animals to eat. The key is getting the hide off the bear as quickly as possible, then filleting the fat away from the meat and getting the meat off the bone. There’s no need to age bear meat. Just get it butchered, wrapped and in the freezer. In states and provinces where baiting is allowed, it’s usually done to help control bear numbers. Bears are very hard to spot in the woods, and baiting is a very efficient way to help keep the local numbers in check.

Bear populations are at record highs in some states, creating many opportunities for hunters.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

As for what baits work best, that depends on the bears. I’ve baited bears with beaver carcasses in Canada, popcorn in Alaska and sweets and cooking oil in Idaho. Burning some cooking oil poured over green fir boughs, frying up some bacon, even popping popcorn at the bait site puts an aroma in the woods that attracts bears. Once a bear starts hitting the bait, get a trail camera on it. This will allow you to see how many bears are coming to the bait, how big they are and what time they are visiting the site. Setting multiple baits will increase the odds of finding that big bear you’re after. When setting up on a bait, situate the blind or treestand so the wind is not blowing toward the bait or the anticipated direction the bear might come from. Then again, if a bear’s hungry, sometimes human scent doesn’t matter. I’ve had bears stick their heads into my ground blind and crawl up the same tree my stand was in. When it comes to odd, unpredictable behavior, bears are different than hunting any other big game, and there are no written rules as to what they’ll do, when or why. That’s what makes bear hunting so exciting and challenging. FOR THE ULTIMATE BEAR-HUNTING THRILL, try calling one in. Just know that when calling bears, the bear is the predator and you are the food source, which means that he’s coming to kill you. I’ve had a higher percentage of boars than sows respond in the spring. This is because sows are with cubs and are more focused on grazing and avoiding boars that may kill the cubs to bring the sow into estrus so he can breed her. Early in the season, predator calls and bird-in-distress sounds are effective for calling in bears. A crippled rabbit, distressed woodpecker and even goat sounds can all be good. As spring progresses and the rut nears – usually late May to early June – bear cub distress sounds can be effective. As deer and elk start dropping 75

Greens dominate a bear’s diets in the spring. This bear is lying in the middle of a dandelion patch, eating everything within reach.

their young, fawn bawls and doe and cow distress sounds are good choices. Using a fawn or cow elk decoy can help bring a bear in that might be hesitant. Before calling bears, I like to locate them first. This way I can see how they respond to my calls. Sometimes they come on the run from over a mile away. Sometimes they turn and run the opposite direction. Sometimes they pay no attention to the sound whatsoever. When a bear starts coming in, keep calling. If they lose interest and begin feeding or moving in another direction, switch calls. Calling bears is not like calling coyotes, where you call, sit in silence and call again five minutes later. When you start a bear-calling sequence, be prepared to call, nonstop, for up to an hour. This is where electronic calls are ideal, along with moving decoys, but make certain they are legal in the place you’re hunting. If a bear approaches and gets hung up in the brush, high-pitched squeals and bird-in-distress sounds can help pull them into the open. Sometimes you’ll hear them 76

American Shooting Journal // March 2017 77

ROAD HUNTER (Left) Calling in bears can be very effective, but be ready, as the action can happen fast. (Right) Glassing south-facing hillsides, where the sun shines and food sources abound, is a great starting point when it comes to filling a spring black bear tag.


popping their teeth, growling and tearing up brush. When this happens, keep working the calls until you find what pulls them out. If you’re hunting brushy country and are seeing lots of fresh droppings and tracks, set up and call. Again, give it 45 minutes to an hour, as it may take a while for the bear to hear you. Then again, if they are close, they can come busting out of the brush midway through your first sequence, so be ready. If you’re bowhunting, have an arrow nocked and your release on the string, as everything can happen fast. Once a bear is down, the fun part of bear hunting ceases. Make sure you have a way to get the bear out of the woods. More than 90 percent of the bears I take I breakdown on the spot. I quickly get the hide off, remove the fat (placing it in a game bag, as it’s great to render and cook with) and debone the meat. This is much easier than trying to drag a bear out, whole. Have a pack frame ready, as well as a headlamp with extra batteries – many bear tags are filled in the closing minutes of legal shooting light. HIT THE ROAD THIS SPRING and go on a bear hunt. Take your time, cover the ground with your eyes, and study bears in their respective habitats. Simply observing bears from a distance will teach you so much about their behavior, and thus how to hunt them. With so many places to go, and so many bears roaming the woods, the time has never been better to experience what black bear hunting is all about. Once you get a taste of it – the action and the meat – I guarantee you’ll want more of both. 

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017

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guns off our fathers


The gun that made it safe for the Winchester to win the West. STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT


hristian Sharps already had some limited experience with breechloaders when he patented his fallingblock action in 1848. He’d worked at Harpers Ferry where the Hall breechloaders were made, and many people have assumed that that was where the seed was planted in his head to design a better breechloader. But designing that “better mousetrap” was only the beginning for the young gunmaker. Unfortunately, Sharps had difficulty in selling or marketing his idea. Over the next three years, he had a number of different business partners, and the total output of rifles and carbines he produced was very low. At one point, Sharps sold his patents as well as his interests in the company, receiving a cash agreement plus $1 per rifle made. Then, very late in 1851, the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was formed and that’s when things finally got rolling. A number of the features of the Sharps rifles were redesigned, primarily to make various parts more adaptable to increased production. While the models of 1849, 1850, and 1851 were all basically hand-fitted and hand-finished, beginning in 1852, models were built with a much greater dependability by using machines for fitting and finishing. This is all related here in a highly summarized form, but it is generally accepted that the Model 1852 Sharps is the first rifle to be in the form or profile that we recognize as the famous Sharps rifle.

slant instead of being vertical. It was also the first Sharps to be produced in the thousands of rifles rather than just in the hundreds. The very distinctive slant-breech Sharps were made as military-style rifles and carbines, plus sporting rifles and even a few shotguns. The slant breeches included the models of 1852, 1853, and the very rare tall-hammered Model 1855. Incidentally, it was carbines of the slant-breech Sharps that were smuggled to John Brown and his followers, hidden in cases that were marked as “Bibles.” A preacher, Henry W. Beecher, was an abolitionist who supported Brown. That’s where the slang expression referring to a Sharps rifle as a “Beecher’s Bible” came from. With the model of 1859 another notable change was seen – the s. beginning of the vertical-block actions. The reason for going to the vertical breech block was for operation of a more effective gas seal. This is the model of the Sharps that really went

A Hartford ’74 with a No. 1 heavy barrel, chambered for the .50-70. The author (inset) proudly poses in colorful period regalia with his favorite .44-77 over his shoulder. (BJ LANES)

THE 1852 MODEL WAS THE FIRST of the highly recognizable “slant breech” Sharps, with the breech block at a back 83 americanshootingjour

guns of our fathers Some Sharps cartridges: .44-40 Winchester (for comparison), .44-77 paper patched, .44-90 paper patched, .45-70 carbine load, .45-110, .50-70, and the Big .50 – .50-90.

to war, our Civil War, and some of these rifles that went to Berdan’s Sharpshooters were equipped with double set triggers. Further updates and slight improvements were made in the New Models of 1863 and 1865, and the reputation of Sharps rifles for accuracy, particularly for long-range shooting, got began to build during that War Between the States. Afterwards, when self-contained cartridges were being considered much more seriously, the late models of the Sharps rifles with the vertical breech block were updated and converted to chamber those cartridges, primarily the new government cartridge of 1866, the famous .50-70.

THIS IS THE ERA OF THE SHARPS rifle history that I find the most interesting. It was the cartridge-firing Sharps rifles that “went West” in search of the buffalo herds, and in the hands of hunters and frontiersmen who needed a rifle that would perform at long range. These were the Sharps rifles that proved to be legendary. The Model 1969 was the first sporting model of the Sharps rifles that was made for use with centerfire metallic cartridges. It was chambered for the .50-70 Government and it also introduced a new Sharps cartridge that was designated as the .44-2¼-inch, with .44 for the caliber and 2¼ inches for the length of the case, as guns for it were marked on their barrels. That

.44 fairly quickly became known as the .44-77, which was the UMC (Union Metallic Cartridge Company) loading for it, and it became the most common and popular cartridge in the Sharps rifles until the .45-70 edged it out in popularity beginning in 1876. Despite their heavy usage and good reputation, the Model 1869 rifles were made for only two years. In 1871, the Model 1874, the Sharps rifle that many people remember the very most, was introduced. And yes, you read that correctly. Although the Model 1874 was first manufactured in 1871, it went unnamed for three years. It was finally given recognition when the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was reformed as the Sharps Rifle Company in 1874. It is also a fact that Christian Sharps died in 1874 and the designation for the rifle might stand as a monument to him although I doubt if that was really intended. But no matter why the naming delay occurred, there is no doubt that the 1871 debut of the Model 1874 was timed perfectly. The great buffalo hunts were just beginning, and the Sharps – with its powerful long-range cartridges – were just what the buffalo hunters wanted. Both the .44-77 and the .50-70 made names for themselves, and the .44-77 was the most produced Sharps chambering during the Hartford era. But the buffalo hunters kept asking for longer-range cartridges, so in 1872 both the .44-90 and the “Big .50,” (what we today refer to as the .50-90) were introduced. Those cartridges, particularly the .44-90, made more long-range shots

The author’s .44-77 again, a semicustom Classic Hartford model with 28-inch barrel.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017 85

guns of our fathers

A five-shot group fired with the .44-77 using grease-groove bullets.

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017

possible, and good shots out to 1,000 yards were not unknown. It was during that time when the “buffalo wars” were fought, including the 1874 Battle of Adobe Walls. That’s the legendary battle where 28 buffalo hunters withstood the attack of several hundred Indians from a collection of tribes. The hunters’ success is generally attributed to the long-range Sharps rifles which most of them were using. One hunter, Billy Dixon, is credited with the long shot that truly became a legend, shooting an Indian off of his horse at a very long range. The actual distance for that shot is lost to time, but various claims put it at more than 1,000 yards to over 1,500 yards. IN EARLY 1876, the Sharps Rifle Company moved their factory from Hartford to Bridgeport, Conn. Some changes were made in the rifles, so a Bridgeport Sharps is generally recognizable to the trained eye when compared to a Hartford model. For instance, the silver-colored pewter nose cap on the forearm was generally no longer used. 87

guns of our fathers More important than that, the famous Sharps .44- and .50-caliber cartridges were no longer chambered except for special orders. That’s when the .45-70 became the most popular cartridge in the Sharps sporting rifles lineup, and what we call the .45-110 (Quigley’s cartridge) became the leader in longrange shooting. In 1878, Sharps introduced their hammerless model, the SharpsBorchardt. While the Model 1878 had certain advantages, ad it was not particularly popular in the West. The

The author’s best Sharps for longrange shooting is this Hartford Model in .44-90 caliber.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Shooting over crossed sticks, the author aims at a target over 800 yards in the distance. (ALLEN CUNNIFF) 89

Allen Cunniff fires at a wooden bucket at the Quigley match with his .45-70.

big buffalo hunts were rapidly coming to an end, and with them the demand for a rifle with the “personality” of the big Sharps was also diminishing. The Sharps Rifle Company closed their doors for good in 1881. Still, the Sharps rifles deserve a fair amount of credit for opening the West up for other brands of rifles. What had been the “wild” West was pretty well tamed by the time the Winchester ’73 appeared on the scene. There were a few .44 rimfires shooting the Henry cartridge at the Battle of Adobe Walls, but odds are those were mainly fired from revolvers. The .44-40 simply hadn’t made it out West at that time, and it is a simple fact that the Winchester repeaters had neither the range nor the punch of the big Sharps. Today, however, we can still enjoy some “Sharps shooting” because excellent modern copies of the old rifles continue to be made, and remain in high demand. These include those manufactured by the C. Sharps Arms Company ( of Big Timber, Mont., which made each of the guns you see pictured in this article. And so, whether your target is a live buffalo bull on ranches where they can still be hunted, or a paper target posted at 1,000 yards, firing a big Sharps with lead bullets and black powder loads remains a long-range thrill. And while shooting one of the newly made Sharps rifles, you can’t help but have the feeling that you’re holding history in your hands.  90

American Shooting Journal // March 2017 91


FEATHERED FRENZY Tactics, tips and a passel of great gear for your upcoming battles with Mr. Gobbler. STORY AND PHOTOS BY LARRY CASE


American Shooting Journal // March 2017



he wild turkey is an American bird right down to his red, white and blue head. You may recall that shortly after we had that little scuffle with the British a few hundred years ago, Ben Franklin himself wanted to make the wild turkey our national bird. Thank heaven ol’ Ben was outvoted on this particular idea. Imagine the wild turkey as a completely protected species. We would be forced to hunt something else, like maybe the bald eagle. Hunting eagles wouldn’t be much fun, and I sincerely doubt they are anywhere near as tasty. But even if it had never flirted with a highfalutin yet largely ceremonial government title, the wild turkey would remain unique among game birds. We don’t hunt any other feathered creature the way we hunt turkeys, with the basic premise being sitting and attempting to call them into shotgun range. Their habits and wariness, coupled with ultra-keen eyesight and hearing create a need for the use of hunting tactics and equipment that we apply to no other type or breed of fowl. Herewith are some strategies and gobblerappropriate gear for you to consider for your next feathered frenzy.

This big Missouri gobbler was taken with CZ-USA’s 612 Turkey model shotgun. The gun also comes in a Magnum version. (CZ-USA)

CALLING TURKEYS HAS BECOME the most overrated, mystifying, and downright lied about phase of turkey hunting. Some supposed experts claim that calling comprises only about 30 percent of what is needed to seal the deal with a gobbler, maybe less. I could argue with that figure, but if you are a beginner, you will need to find a call that you are comfortable with. I would go with a box call or a slate friction-type call. Learn to make the simple yelp of a hen turkey and maybe the cluck to begin with, and that will give you a strong start. Don’t worry about doing 14 different calls like the guys on TV. If a turkey is ready to be called in, sometimes a 95

HUNTing couple yelps and a cluck or two is all that is necessary. Let the guys at the calling contests do all the fancy stuff; you are out in the woods to shoot turkeys. Give the gobbler just enough to keep him interested. If he is coming toward you, quit calling. Less is sometimes better than more. Whether you call more or less, you still need a call. And, friends, there are a lot of turkey calls out there. There are many good ones that will call turkeys most days. Prices run from really cheap to what you might shell out on the down payment of a nice truck. HS Strut offers several moderately priced box calls that work; they sound like a turkey. What I like about the Undertaker box call is it features an abrasive, waterproof surface on the paddle and the striking surfaces of the call. If you have ever been afield and have your favorite box call get soaked and rendered useless, you know what a great feature this is. MSRP is $39.99. The new Triple Trauma box call has an adjustable lid that allows you to change the tone of the call and mimic three different hens. MSRP is $29.99, and you can contact them via their website ( Finally, the new Hensanity call from Primos offers a couple new twists to a tried-and-true form of turkey call. (Editor’s note: This was featured in last month’s News column.) The body of the call or “pot” has four sound ports that you control with your hand and allows you to make a wide array of variations in your calling. The frictionite surface means you don’t have to worry about losing your sandpaper to rough up the call. MSRP is $29.99, and you can find more information from Primos ( WHEN TURKEYS HAVE SEEMINGLY quit talking (they will do this often during any given season), sometimes the best thing to do is to get really aggressive. Cinch up your boots, call like you mean it, and cover as much real estate as possible. Go to your listening place and use your locater crow or 96

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

A selection of Undertaker calls from HS Strut.

owl call; if you hear nothing, try the turkey calls. Get assertive with a lot of loud calling, cuts and cackles. If no gobbler responds, move on to the next spot. One down side of this method, of course, is sometimes the gobbler shows up for a date after you leave. You can deal with it; if you hear him gobble at your last stop, get back over there. The opposite of the marathon runner with a shotgun technique is to simply wait them out. If you know the place you are hunting well and you know the turkeys are there, maybe you just want to sit tight. Find a good

spot to call from and set up camp. Get comfortable, call every 15 or 20 minutes, and by all means take a nap if you want to. A word of caution on the nap thing: You need to be ready for the dreaded “come in silent” gobbler. These are the turkeys that never say a word, slip in on you and don’t gobble. And a turkey with these antisocial tendencies needs to be taken out of the gene pool. But no matter if you run and gun or sit on your hindquarters all day, you still need durable camouflage clothing that is functional for turkey hunting.


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HUNTing HS Strut’s Triple Trauma call has an adjustable lid that allows you to mimic three different hens.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Nomad performance hunting apparel has partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation to create a line of premium performance fabrics that feature the NWTF logo and the new NWTF Mossy Oak Obsession camouflage pattern. A collection featuring the Bottomland pattern (one of my favorites) is also available. A portion of all profits from this line will go to the NWTF for conservation-based projects. Although I have hunted spring gobblers in the snow (notice that I didn’t say I liked it), most spring hunts are in warmer weather. The Nomad/NWTF collection should have you covered from early to late season. Their woven long-sleeve shirt and pant features rugged, lightweight Rip-Stop Technology with secured cargo pockets – designed specifically for the turkey woods. For warm-weather hunts, the company offers a quarter-zip and cooling T-shirt option built from breathable materials that feature vented back/underarms and offers moisture transport. To round out the collection, Nomad also offers hats, gaiters and gloves. 99

HUNTing Their website is EXPERIENCED TURKEY HUNTERS KNOW that the last several yards of a turkey’s approach toward you are the most critical. Make a mistake after he crosses the 50-yard line and you will not be partaking of fried turkey breast. The key here is just to be ready. Sit at the base of the largest tree you can find and face the direction the gobbler will approach from. If you are a righthanded shooter, point your left shoulder at the place you think he will appear; do the opposite if you are a lefty. This allows you to swing the gun in order to cover as much area as possible. As you sit with your knees up, the shotgun is on one knee. Get as comfortable as you can, because you’ll need to be able to sit like this for some time. When the gobbler comes into view, you cannot move. Let me repeat that sentence and add an exclamation point for emphasis: You cannot move!


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

(Above) Nomad’s Rip Stop shirt in Mossy Oak Obsession. (Right) Nomad’s Rip Stop pants in Mossy Oak Bottomland features the National Wild Turkey Federation logo on the side pocket. 101


As the moment of truth draws near, you may need to make a very slight adjustment in aiming at the turkey. This is accomplished by carefully watching the bird and waiting until his head goes behind something big, usually a tree (and the tree has to be pretty large for this to work). Keep in mind the turkey must be within a few feet of this tree if you are to go undetected. Remember the old turkey hunter adage: “A turkey can see through a thin rock.” Ask any experienced turkey hunter;


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

the scenario of sitting at the base of a tree while the gobbler approaches can be torture. The gobbler may take his own sweet time in getting to you, longer if you’re sitting on a rock, tree root or other sharp object, all while you are trying to hold the shotgun on your knee without moving! (Did I mention you cannot move?) Through the years, I have sat and watched the barrel of more than one companion’s gun start to wobble in increasingly larger circles. Turkey shotguns can be heavy, and so something to help relieve the weight of

(Top left) The three-pack flock of Strut Lite decoys from HS Strut feature a semistrutting jake, a feeding hen and a breeding hen. (Above) Primos’ Gen 3 Trigger Stick series has added improved features such as locking leg angles to provide more stability. They come in monopod, bipod and tripod models, and in short and tall lengths. 103

HUNTing The Remington 870 – this is the Express Super Magnum Waterfowl model – may account for more dead turkeys than any other shotgun, the author argues.

models, and in short and tall lengths.

that gun may be in i order. rder The Primos Trigger Stick Gen 3 series can really help with this. The best feature of this product to me is it will adjust to the desired height with one hand. Simply grab the “trigger” and boom, it’s right where you need it to be. The Gen 3 series has added improved features such as locking leg angles to provide more stability, and the gun rest rotates so you can easily adjust your aim. These sticks come in monopod, bipod and tripod

ONCE TURKEY DECOYS FINALLY MADE their debut, I began to see some hunters get away with movement near an approaching gobbler that would previously have been impossible. The reason is simple. The turkey has his eyes on the decoy and is less likely to see the hunter. However, until recently, I’ve been discouraged from carrying decoys because they are too bulky and heavy, and some early versions of light, packable decoys were often lacking in the appearance department, resembling a mutant ostrich as much as anything else. But I’m beginning to change my

opinion on that, because HS Strut’s new Strut Lite decoys look and feel great. They have a flake-resistant paint job and have a foldable, hollow body construction for easy storage in your vest. They are available in a three-pack with a semistrutting jake, a feeding hen and a breeding hen, and individually. MSRP for the flock is $99.99; singles range from $34.99 to $44.99. See ALTHOUGH SOME STATES ALLOW RIFLES for taking turkeys, it is generally thought of as a shotgun sport. The choices for turkey shotguns out there are wide and varied, and choosing just one or two shotguns to discuss with you here is

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017 105

HUNTing Chris Ellis of Ellis Communications and his son Jack proudly pose with their Osceola gobbler. It was Jack’s first turkey.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

not easy. I’ve gone back to my roots a bit with the choice of two pump guns, but I may have balanced that out with decidedly new and improved ammo. With more than 12 million models sold since it appeared in 1951, what can you say about the Remington 870 that has not already been said? I will stick my neck out (pun intended) and say more turkeys have been shot with a Remington 870 than any other shotgun. It has the rock-solid dependability and functionality that turkey and waterfowl hunters demand, and I’m sure that many of you out there are still hunting with your dad’s or granddad’s 870 Wingmaster. I am not sure I can even count the number of variations of the 870, but the Super Magnum Turkey/ Waterfowl model will do most anything you need a shotgun for. The “Super” in the name designates it will handle 2¾to 3½-inch shells for those days when you want a little extra punch for turkeys, or Canada geese. Another good reason

to choose this one is because it comes in Mossy Oak Bottomland. MSRP for this model is $629.00. If for some reason you’d like another brand or flavor of pump gun, the 612 Magnum Turkey from CZ-USA may be the one for you. And, although this smoothbore was designed for turkey hunting, you won’t have any trouble taking it to the duck blind or pheasant fields. It weighs in at an amazing 6.8 pounds, a big bonus that you are going to appreciate if you need to lug it though the turkey woods. The 612 Magnum Turkey is hydrodipped in Realtree Xtra Green, shoots everything up to 3½-inch ammo and comes with an extra-full choke for turkeys and a modified for upland game and steel shot. This pump gun has an action reminiscent of the Model 12, and with an MSRP of $429 it is hard to beat. As with the countless calls, there are various and sundry shotgun shells out there for turkeys these days. 107

HUNTing UNTing CZ-USA’s 612 Magnum Turkey model is hydrodipped in Realtree Xtra Green, and comes with an extra-full choke for turkeys.

$22.99 for 3½-inch shells.

Winchester seems to be ruling the roost in this area with their Long Beard XR ammo. The boys at Winchester made shot shell history when they perfected the Shot-Lok technology, which allowed them to load shot in a liquefied resin. This resin hardens, and upon ignition in the chamber of the shotgun it shatters and produces a super-effective buffering compound. All of this translates into the tight downrange patterns today’s turkey hunters want. New this year will be 20-gauge rounds in the Long Beard XR line, so stay tuned for news about this. MSRP is $18.99 for a box of 10 3-inch shells for 12-gauge shotguns, and

FINALLY AND FOR BETTER OR worse, turkey FINALLY, hunting has become a game of tightshooting shotguns, and to many turkey hunters the tighter the better. Today’s gobbler hunters want effective killing patterns on turkeys at 50 yards and beyond. George Trulock in Whigham, Ga., has been making choke tubes for many years and he is good at it. Mr. Trulock has forgotten more about choke tubes on shotguns than most of us will ever know. Currently TruLock Chokes ( has an inventory of over 2,000 choke tubes in stock, so take your pic. Trulock went so far as to not only make a choke tube specifically to be used with the Winchester Long Beard XR ammo, but he is making choke tubes specific to the shot size

you want to use. He’s said use. He’s said, ““If you shoot different shot sizes through the same choke, you could see a big difference in the pattern for each size. That’s why we decided to make each choke model specific to the Longbeard XR No. 4, 5 and 6 shot, and to tell you the truth, the results were quite impressive.” PERSONALLY, I’M VERY THANKFUL that Mr. Franklin lost out on his bid to make the wild turkey our national bird. I would hate to think about the redbuds blooming and all of those old gobblers filling the spring air with their racket and we couldn’t be out there pursuing them. Not only do we get to match wits with this most American of birds, but we also get to justify the purchase of some really cool guns and gear. I love turkey hunting. Don’t you? 

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Choosing the right loads and chokes is all part of preparing your turkey gun for spring success.




hether you prefer a 20-, 12- or even a 10-gauge shotgun to go after your spring gobbler, the time is now to pick the right load for maximum effectiveness. You might only get one chance at that trophy bird, so why not give yourself the best opportunity at a quick clean and ethical harvest? There are many turkey choke tubes on the market, and folks often ask me which one is best. I always tell them to pick a choke designed for your gun and the load you plan to shoot. But whatever you do, choose something, because you shouldn’t head into the woods without a turkey choke. Trust me, you are not doing yourself any favors by not having one. Choke tubes come in four standard sizes, commonly known as cylinder choke (C), improved cylinder choke (IC), modified choke (M), and full choke (F). Essentially, turkey chokes are extra full. Once upon a time, the standard for shotgun patterns was the 30-inch circle and what percentage of the pellets in a shotgun shell was delivered inside that area. The idea was to have an evenly distributed pattern inside the circle, but modern turkey hunters want something tighter than that. TURKEY CHOKES ARE DESIGNED specifically to keep your pattern tight at various distances. Turkey shells have more of a powder charge than a typical shotgun load, and this is where this distinctive choke will pay dividends. The general rule of thumb is that it takes three pellets to break a clay target and six pellets to take down a small game bird. Of course, as the size of the game bird increases, so does the number of pellets that are needed for a successful shot. In other words, it takes more pellets to kill a turkey than it does to bag a quail! Shot size is also important, as a larger shot will be needed to take down a turkey. In order to choose your chokes, you want to predict how far away your 112

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Using range finders and shot-tracking equipment such as the Bullseye system can be very helpful. 113


Counting the number of pellets in the vitals is key to finding the best patterning load for your gun.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

shot is going to be. Hunters go after spring turkeys using a variety of methods; so one load won’t be perfect for everybody. But everyone can pick the perfect load to match his or her style of hunting. First, determine which size shot you like best – 2¾-, 3- or 3½-inch shells loaded with size 3, 4, 5 or 6 shot? Again, you need to shoot several through your gun and see which one patterns best on paper. There are even pelleted blends with specially designed wads for greater distance. Last year I hunted with Federal 3rd Degree Turkey Loads, copper-plated lead pellets in size 4, 5 and 6 shot. I was impressed with the effectiveness through my gun prior to season, especially at intermediate ranges. There are old fixed-choke guns that will shoot certain loads better regardless of other factors. I like to start out with standard No. 6s and see what the pattern looks like


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Blends of copper and lead with specially formulated wads have increased pellet density and range for gobbler gunners over the last few years.

before trying something different. My father has an old Remington 870 ďŹ xed full choke, and he seems to shoot size 6 loads through it best.

Newer 20-gauge shotguns will shoot size 7s at 1,100 feet per second, and these are great for a young hunter or beginning sportsmen or -women.

FOR HUNTERS ON THE MOVE, lighter guns with good loads chambered in 3- and 3½-inch size 4 or 5 shot with velocity over 1,100 fps are more desirable.

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017




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HUNTing Regardless, a hunter needs to practice with several loads and determine which one works best. I like to find at least two that pattern well, choose one that I prefer and have another on standby. Why have two, you may ask? Well, I have found that not all loads are readily available especially during season, so this way I don’t find myself running out of shells halfway through the month of May and have to scramble to find another type that I’m comfortable with. Does that sound like planning ahead? It sure does. The bottom line is, you want the largest possible percentage of pellets in the vitals as possible. Pattern your gun according to the type of terrain you’ve chosen to hunt. For example, if you are hunting thick brushy country, make sure to pattern for 30 yards or less, and in a more open environment pattern out to 40 yards. Counting your pellets at each range and figuring out your kill percentage


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

These loads have been very consistent for the author over the years.

9-* 1*&)*7 .3 57*2.:2 &7X <<<(4'&190.3*9.(8(42 119


It’s not easy to bring down these amazing birds, so why not take a little time to make sure your time counts. A favorite shotgun with a turkey choke and a consistent load is all you need.

provides valuable information. You will be very surprised at the different performance of various loads at the similar ranges. The ideal pattern for a turkey gun is 100 pellets within a 10-inch circle at 40 yards. Achieving this density essentially means that there should be a large enough percentage of pellets in the vitals to ethically harvest your turkey. WHEN PATTERNING YOUR GUN, remember to always shoot from a stable rest, 120

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

bench or sled. I like to use my Bullseye camera system ( or other digital range finder to help simplify the process. This also helps save time running up and down range and changing targets. No matter what shot size you choose, the pattern should equate to 25 to 35 percent (on average) of pellets in the vitals or 10-inch diameter. Density is the key ingredient in determining which load you prefer and works best. You can make your own targets out of butcher paper or print out your

own. Several outdoor companies sell high-quality shoot-n-see style targets that can be found at Cabela’s, Gander Mountain and other sporting goods retailers. A general rule and helpful reminder is that most turkey guns are patterned for 40 yards or less, since this distance is universally considered “ethical” to shoot and harvest a bird. But spring is nearly upon us, so now is the time to quit reading about turkeys and get out there to burn some powder in preparation for a great season.  121


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American Shooting Journal // March 2017




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American Shooting Journal // March 2017

gun review


The author and a Weatherby Vanguard .375 H&M Magnum pursue feral pigs in the ‘Earthquake Capital of the World.’ STORY AND PHOTOS BY BRAD FITZPATRICK

The new Vanguard .375 H&H Magnum from Weatherby provides top-end power at a budget-conscious price to the venerable rifle family. For this hog hunt, Weatherby’s Vanguard Synthetic .375 H&H was topped with a Leupold VX-6 1-6x scope.


alfway between California’s Bay Area and the sprawling urban megalopolis of Los Angeles lies the Central Coast, a range of green hills and oak forests. It’s home to a good portion of the Golden State’s remaining agricultural land, and in hamlets such as Parkfield (population 18 or 34, depending on whether you believe the city limit sign or the abandoned railway car in the center of town) you’re more likely to see flatbed pickups and cowboy hats than sports cars and hipster garb. The Central Coast is so far removed from the hustle of Hollywood that it’s hard to remember that Parkfield and L.A. are only a few hours’ drive apart. At

Santa Lucia Outfitters’ hunting camp outside of town there are no lights visible at night except the field of stars stretching from one horizon to the next. There’s no road sound, just the hum of wind through the pines. Idyllic as this landscape may appear, however, the green hills and old-growth oaks mask a powerful secret. Just below the surface of the earth, two enormous tectonic plates, the North American and Pacific, are pressing against one another with incredible force in a zone known as the San Andreas Fault. In Parkfield, there’s an earthquake every single day, a fact that makes this tiny town the self-proclaimed “Earthquake Capital of the World.” Most shakes are small and

There’s no hiding the fact that the ground will occasionally move beneath your feet in this area of California’s Central Coast. 127

gun review Many Parkfield businesses and residents take pride in the town’s designation as the Earthquake Capital of the World – the white diagonal slash across the hillside at center is the San Andreas Fault.

unnoticeable. But many of the local residents I spoke with assured me that when a big one hits, I would have no trouble noticing. On this visit, though, I was out to create some seismic tremors of my own. I was testing Weatherby’s new Vanguard in .375 H&H Magnum, a big bore for the brand’s budget rifle line. Parkfield is just down the road from Weatherby’s headquarters in Paso Robles, and the Central Coast ranch country around these towns has, like many other places in the country, been overrun with feral swine. In the region’s steep canyons and dense forests, the pigs enjoy reprieve from area hunters and reach impressive proportions on a steady diet of acorns, barley crops, and tubers. As you no doubt know, they’re a big nuisance to farmers and detrimental to native species, and their numbers are increasing rapidly. THE WILD HOG’S ABILITY TO SURVIVE in California and elsewhere is due in large part to the species’ ability to adapt to human habitation and avoid detection. Though they’re myopic and relatively easy to approach when the wind is right, hogs are anything 128

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

but stupid. On the first night of the hunt we were stalking a sounder of perhaps 30 adult pigs and shoats. The sounder was scattered across a field of short-cropped green barley 100 yards from an oak forest. It was evening, and the sun had disappeared below the low hills behind us. Long shadows stretched across the flat valley below, and we were busy looking over the sounder when one of the pigs spooked and ran for the forest. The remaining hogs followed suit immediately, rushing full-tilt for the trees en masse. The last two shoats, not much bigger than a football, disappeared less than 10 seconds after the first pig broke for cover. The swirling winds had betrayed our position, and that was all that was required to spread panic amongst the hogs and send them straight to cover. Most Central Coast hog hunting consists of driving backroads or glassing hillsides in search of pigs. So, with our group of hogs gone from that particular field, guide Jim Martinez, Weatherby’s Brad Dykhouse and I started scanning the hills with our binoculars in search of our next target. There was a particular cleft on a hillside opposite our location that caught my attention. It was a dirty

white, jagged ribbon that ran along the top of the face of slope, not a road or a cattle path but similar in appearance. I leaned toward Jim. “What’s that mark on the hill over there?” I pointed at the scar that ran along the mountain. “That’s a fault line.” Seeing a fault line, the same type of geological rift that lifted the Rockies and the Himalayas far above the earth’s surface was unnerving, for sure, but there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I shrugged and started glassing the hillside once more. The mountains of the Central Coast are often referred to as “rolling” hills, but that characterization was not devised by anyone who has had to climb them in search of pigs. After a few hours of following Jim up and down those slopes on a quest to find our prey we were looking for, I ceased to refer to them as anything but mountains. Fortunately, the peaks provided a perfect vantage point from which to scout the next draw (and then the next) for pig activity. It was early April, and the weather was perfect. The all-day sunshine warmed the hills, and as evening approached the cool thermal winds


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gun review started rushing over the face of the mountain, bringing relief from the afternoon heat. It felt far more like mule deer or elk hunting than pig hunting, the three of us sitting back against the hillside watching the valley below and the opposite slope for any sign of hogs. Brad managed to catch up with his hog in just this fashion, positioning himself on a steep ridge when a sounder crossed the face of the opposite slope on their way to lower ground and hidden pools of water in the oak forests below. Brad’s chosen pig, a buttermilk-colored sow, stepped clear of the trees at 180 yards and a single shot from his Vanguard .308 did the job. My pig hunt occurred in lower country, along a winding creek bed lined with oaks. There were still plenty of vantage points from which to glass pigs, but it didn’t require quite the climb that Brad’s hunt demanded. With Jim in the lead we crested a rounded hilltop and sat three abreast on the grassy rise glassing the shadowed agriculture fields below. Between our vantage point and the creek was a narrow field, and as the sun sank down below the tops of the hills the pigs started appearing out in the open country at the edge of the forest. A brace of sows came first, a red and black with so many fast-moving shoats underfoot that it was impossible to get an accurate count. More pigs came, more sows with young as well as dry sows that hadn’t been bred. There was a boar among them, a young male with short teeth and a sleek black coat. Jimmy dismissed him. We were looking for something larger. As the sun set and the air cooled, a form appeared in the trees. It was lighter in color than the other pigs but considerably larger and heavier. The big boar slipped out of the trees at the tail of the sounder, easily identifiable because of his impressive size and a large black patch of skin on his hind leg. Jim looked him over in the glasses, but the long snout and tail, impressive 130

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Guide Jim Martinez of Santa Lucia Outfitters glasses the horizon for hogs. (JOHN MACGILLIVRAY)

WEATHERBY’S BIG BORE VANGUARD Weatherby’s impressive Vanguard line has been drawing more and more shooters to the brand over the last decade, but the company lacked a true budget-priced big bore. The new Vanguard .375 H&H Magnum solves that problem, providing top-end power to the venerable rifle family. Mechanically, it’s very similar to other Vanguard rifles, with a push-feed bolt with dual opposed locking lugs and a plungertype ejector. The bolt body is fluted and has three vents for safety in the event of a case rupture. The rear of the bolt shroud is also enclosed, offering further protection for the shooter. The three-position rockertype safety is easy to find and manipulate, and the two-stage trigger is outstanding. Unlike other Vanguards, the .375 H&H Magnum gets a set of Williams iron sights with an adjustable rear and hooded

front bead. The gray synthetic stock is durable, and Griptonite inserts. The .375’s 24-inch, No. 2.5 contour barrel puts the overall weight at 7¾ pounds, and that added weight and a soft, dense recoil pad help keep recoil manageable, especially when the scope is loaded and scoped. The Vanguard .375 H&H came for testing with a Leupold VX-6 1-6x scope with illuminated reticle and Talley QD bases and rings. The Leupold scope offers plenty of eye clearance (important on a rifle of this caliber) and a true 1X reticle for easy shooting with both eyes open. The ammunition was Barnes 300-grain TSX, and the bullet performed perfectly. With an MSRP of $799, the Vanguard .375 is an affordable, durable, accurate entry into the world big bore rifles, and charge stopper for the rest of us.



Made in USA 131

gun review

bulk and visible tusks left little question that this was a shootable pig. Jim ranged the boar at 200 yards, a long shot for the area but still manageable with the .375 H&H Magnum. The problem was that the ridge, with its uneven ground surface, didn’t offer us a very good shooting position. We could make it work, but I wanted to be sure that I had a solid rest. Before I could get in position the lead sows turned 90 degrees along the creek and one by one they disappeared into the oaks and down into the drainage below, vanishing from sight one by one. The boar followed, appearing as a shadow passing through the wide oak trees before finally slipping over the hillside and out of sight. “Just wait,” Jim said as he watched the pigs through the grey trunks of the pines and oaks. “I think they’ll come back up.” He lowered the glasses and 132

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Successfully hunting crop-raiding hogs – the sows and piglets at bottom are in a barley field – can take a village. Above, author Brad Fitzpatrick lines up a shot, while guide Jim Martinez (foreground) and Weatherby’s Brad Dykhouse glass the target. (JOHN MACGILLIVRAY, BOTH) 133

gun review The author’s hard-earned boar succumbed to one 300-grain .375-inch TSX bullet, and literally dropped it in its tracks. (JOHN MACGILLIVRAY)


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

looked up and down the creek. “They have to come back out eventually.” I turned around and looked at the valley behind us, and less than 100 yards away I saw the form of a big, mahogany-coated boar standing alone in the field. “Jim!” I said. “Jim!” He looked at me and I gestured in the direction of the boar. It turned out that Jim had known that pig was there all along, and while his proximity to our position and lack of sows with which to compare convinced me that he dwarfed the white pig on the opposite side of the field, Jim knew better. Pigs are notoriously hard to judge if you don’t know what to look for, and I’d been fooled by the pig’s position. Jim said he believed the pig opposite our position in the creek was about 100 pounds heavier. Humbled and happy that I hadn’t screwed up and shot a much younger boar, I decided to make a move. If we could slip down the slope, we could cut the range by about 50 yards and I could get in position to take a shot from a more solid rest. When the trees swallowed up the last of the shoeboxsized piglets across the field, we crawled down through the green oats and set up where we could wait for the big white pig to give us another chance. One by one, the pigs started to reappear in the barley, the haggard sows and their demanding broods. Jim, Brad and I counted the pigs and watched for the white boar. One by one they appeared, black and reds and a couple very large brown pigs, but no white one. Where had the boar gone? How had we lost him in the shallow swale? We glassed the sounder from the leading sow to the last pig, watching as they moved across the field away from us. “There he is,” Jim said. The boar had found one of the few remaining patches of surface water in the creek bed and had rolled in it, covering the length of his side in brown mud and camouflaging him in the sounder. When he doubled back to check a sow,

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017

he revealed himself as the white boar we’d initially seen. “You think you can make the shot?” It was just over 150 yards, no problem for the .375 H&H from a steady rest. I settled down behind the Leupold VX-6 1-6x illuminated scope and centered the bouncing red dot on the point of the boar’s shoulder. I held firmly to the rifle and slipped the safety forward into the fire position. “When he stops,” Jim said. I waited until the pig paused in the center of the field, well away from the sows and the swarming shoats. I pressed the trigger, taking up the slack in the Vanguard’s two-stage trigger until it came taut. Then, with one light press, fired the shot. The .375 roared and the earth seemed to tremble as I rose up in recoil, but by the time I came back down into the scope the pig lay motionless in the short-cropped barley field. A cloud of dried mud and dust hung in the air above the dead boar. By the time we’d finished dressing the pig and had him skinned and hanging in the meat locker it was well after dark. The last purple light of day was vanishing over the hills and the first bright stars were appearing in the sky. There was just time to return to the lodge, wash up, and eat dinner. The next morning we were scheduled to start hunting turkey. Two days later when I left the Central Coast we pulled up to the same stop sign on Route 46 where James Dean had been killed decades before. On our right, far out across an agricultural field, there was a herd of tule elk visible through the waves of heat. It seemed the perfect end to the hunt, the sharp fault line between two very different worlds. To the south was L.A., its glowing lights visible for miles. Behind us, the interior of the Central Coast was much the same as it had been for millennia. As badly as I would like to have spent more time in this secret piece of wilderness, I had to return home, and that meant heading south. The car turned and we headed off.  137


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American Shooting Journal // March 2017



The .308 Winchester 180-grain Scirocco load that cleanly took this Quebec black bear.

Like the hot desert wind of the same name, Scirocco II bullets are powerful and unrelenting. STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO


had been frustrated with the terminal performance of my .300 Winchester Magnum, as the cup-andcore bullets – which flew very well when punching paper – were giving too much expansion when used in the New York deer woods. I needed a stiffer bullet, yet wanted to take full advantage of the flat trajectories and wind deflection characteristics of the spitzer boat-tail bullets. I did a bit of research, and found an advertisement for the Swift Scirocco II. The ad copy touted a newly engineered jacket, which would improve the accuracy of the bullet. I ordered a box of 100 .308-caliber 180-grain Scirocco IIs, and headed to the bench. I had developed a load for this particular rifle that gave just under minute-of-angle accuracy, so decided to start there (it was well below maximum), and see what the new bullets would do. I firmly believed the first three-shot group was a fluke – my wiggles must’ve accounted for my waggles – as it printed just under a half inch, but when the second and third did the same thing, I was a convert. They gave good velocities out of my 24-inch barrel – 2,965 feet per second, to be precise – but would they perform as advertised in the field? You see, the Scirocco is a bondedcore boat-tail bullet, with a very thick jacket and a black polymer tip. It is designed to not only fly accurately – which it proved to be true – but to give the consummate blend of expansion and penetration. Many cup-and-core boat tails have a tendency to have the copper jacket separate from the lead core upon impact at higher velocities, 141

the bullet bulletin


The .338 210-grain Scirocco II.

and that didn’t make me happy. The Scirocco’s thick jacket is chemically bonded to the lead core to hold things together should you strike bone, yet the jacket tapers down toward the nose, allowing for good expansion. That expansion creates a larger wound channel, which destroys more vital tissue and causes death sooner. MY FIRST FIELD TEST was in Wyoming, where I would be hunting pronghorn antelope. Anyone who has hunted the Great Plains of the American West knows that the wind is always blowing, and sometimes it blows good and hard. I found the antelope I wanted after a couple of hours glassing the prairie, and it required a stalk of just over a mile. I lay prone over a small mound, with cactus everywhere it shouldn’t have been, and settled the crosshairs of my Winchester 70 on the buck’s shoulder 215 yards away. Even through the recoil, I could see that the antelope’s feet drew up to his body as he fell earthward, stone dead, and in that moment, this bullet captured my undivided attention. 142

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

The .338 Winchester Magnum is well served by the 210-grain Scirocco, giving the cartridge a flat trajectory and good terminal ballistics. 143

the bullet bulletin

The Scirocco II offers good expansion at a wide variety of velocities, and works well in mild cartridges like the .308 Winchester right up to the magnums.

I used it the next spring on a black bear hunt in Quebec. While I knew the shots were going to be inside of 75 yards, as it was a baited hunt, I wanted to see how the bullet would handle the tough shoulder bones of a bear. Canada’s ever-changing weather kept the action slow for the first few days, but a warm-up later in the week drew the bears out like moths to a flame. A 200-plus-pound boar decided to pay a visit to my bait, and I decided to ruin his day. I had loaded the 180-grain Scirocco in my .308 Winchester, to a muzzle velocity of 2,450 fps, and the bullet took him without issue, despite punching through both shoulders. I couldn’t recover either bullet, which was no problem with me, but I was highly impressed with the performance. Since then, I’ve loaded this bullet in many different cartridges, from the 6.5x55 Swede and 6.5-284 Norma, to the 7mm Remington Ultra Magnum, to many of the .30s including the .308 Winchester and 144

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

The 180-grain .30-caliber polymer-tipped Swift Scirocco IIs make a fantastic all-around big game load.


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This Wyoming pronghorn fell to the author (right) and his .300 Winchester Magnum and a 180-grain Swift Scirocco II.

.30-06 Springfield, the .300 Holland and Holland Magnum, and the huge cases like the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum and .30-378 Weatherby Magnum. I’ve even loaded the 210-grain Scirocco in the .338 Winchester Magnum with great results. THE OUTCOME IS USUALLY THE SAME: almost all of the rifles (with the exception of one particularly evil .264 Winchester Magnum) gave subMOA accuracy and excellent field performance. The few bullets we’ve been able to recover from game animals have retained between 80 and 95 percent of their weight, with expansion running right around 2 times to 2.5 times caliber dimension. My wife loves the 150-grain Scirocco II in her .308 Winchester, as it offers less recoil yet great terminal ballistics; her Savage Lady Hunter prints ½-inch groups with this load. The Scirocco is available in calibers from .224 up to and including .338, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go hunting with this bullet in any situation shy of the truly large and dangerous game that requires a larger bore and heavier bullet. With the Scirocco, between my own hunts and those of friends and colleagues, we have taken animals ranging in size from deer and antelope to caribou to African plains game to elk and moose. Swift only makes two softpoints – the Scirocco and the A-Frame – and that’s one of the best combinations on the market. 



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ENDURING LOADS MEET ENDURON Testing IMR’s recently launched powder line with a variety of military-surplus rifle-caliber loads, including some well-remembered 6.5s.

The line of Enduron powders from IMR react better to temperature changes and possess additives that reduce copper fouling.



t seems that every day, new guns, ammo, bullets, scopes, and a variety of other shooting-related items appear on the scene. One that caught my attention was the newer line of IMR powders with something the company calls “Enduron” technology. Hodgdon produces the IMR line, so I wasn’t concerned about quality, and these four – IMR 4166, 4451, 4955 and 7977 – are billed to react better to temperature changes and possess additives that reduce copper fouling. My goal was to test these powders in various rifles, focusing on some military-surplus makes and models that are obsolete but can still deal with modern smokeless powder loads. Many of these guns remain available, and with the reasonable prices that

they usually have, popularity remains good. These guns are well made and are durable, so unless they have been shot excessively or abused they are still well worth shooting. For those who like to hunt, they are powerful and accurate enough to get the job done. For the most part, brass and bullets are plentiful for these makes, but even if you can’t track down some specific ammo for them, they can be made by the experienced handloader. With these powders, I am looking for good performance, which always includes good accuracy and velocity with safety. My goal wasn’t to exceed the original ballistics, but due to some improvements that did happen on some occasions. If this was achieved without excess pressure, then I would consider that to be acceptable. As always, for your own projects, you should start on the low side and carefully work up until you

get a safe load that you are seeking. Since every rifle covered here is considered on an individual basis, these loads should be used as guides. You will undoubtedly get some different results with your rifles. All of these loads listed in the chart at right were personally tested by me and not copied from another source. Most reloaders have favorite loads for their guns, but with the supply problems we often experience, having

A closer look at IMR’s 7977 powder. 151

RELOADING backup loading info is always a good idea. I have listed virtually all of the loads I tested including the ones that were “too warm.” The purpose is to inform the reader and to use caution when approaching the max loads, so they are listed for a guide only. THE .25-35 HAS BEEN AROUND for many years. Most are lever action, so they need a round or flat-nose bullet to prevent chain fires. Unfortunately, most bullets won’t work in this format, and since suitable bullets are hard to come by, I loaded the bullets backwards to produce a flat point. In the past, I’ve used boattail bullets with success, because with their profile they feed better. And since the original bullet was 117 grains, a boattail bullet (noted as BT in the chart) should work fine. The rifle used here is a Savage Model 99 that was rebarreled after the original was shot out. THE .257 ROBERTS has also put in its time, and I used a converted Mexican Mauser that was originally a 7x57 to test these loads. I can get more velocity out of a .257, but I didn’t fully trust that rifle with high-performing loads; additionally, it isn’t my gun. Therefore, with those thoughts I throttled back a bit. Perhaps later I will be able to pick up another rifle on retest these loads. THE 6.5x50 JAPANESE ARISAKA came out to replace the 8x53 Murata. The case is small, but due to the strength of the action, loads can be made to compare to some of the other 6.5mm rifles. Like most of the 6.5mm military guns, the ammo used a 156- to 160-grain FMJ RN bullet that gives some good penetration but lacks the stopping power of a larger round. Lighter softpoint bullets are better for hunting, as they possess more velocity and open up upon impact. The action on these rifles is considered one of the very strongest in existence. It is almost impossible to blow one up, as tests have shown 152

American Shooting Journal // March 2017

This cut-down Carcano rifle was used for testing Carcano loads. The author considers it a better gun than many critics believe.

THE .25-35 LOAD 25 grains 4166

BULLET 90-gr. Sierra BT *

VELOCITY (fps) 2,266

24 grains 4166 22 grains 4166

100-gr. Privi 117-gr. Hornady *

2,258.7 2,118

COMMENT mild; not consistent OK consistent

THE .257 ROBERTS LOAD 38 grains 4166 43 grains 4451 45 grains 4451 45 grains 4451 43 grains 4451 45 grains 4955

BULLET 87-gr. Hornady 87-gr. Hornady 100-gr. Privi 100-gr. Privi 117-gr. Hornady 117-gr. Hornady

VELOCITY (fps) 2,786.8 2,623.38 2,597.5 2,645.67 2,534 2,662.67

COMMENT fair; slow slow OK Second test good load nice

THE 6.5x50 JAPANESE ARISAKA LOAD 34 grains 4166 36 grains 4451

BULLET 139-gr. Privi 160-gr. Hornady

VELOCITY (fps) 2,468.18 2,284.28

COMMENT nice consistent

VELOCITY (fps) 2,574 2,400.44


VELOCITY (fps) 2,631.12 2,472.75 2,308.5

COMMENT nice; consistent consistent nice load

VELOCITY (fps) 2,479 2,321.5 2,168.1 2,241.2 1,972.1 2,012.33 2,148.09

COMMENT consistent mild very mild OK very mild OK very consistent

THE 6.5 DAUDETEAU LOAD 47 grains 7977 46 grains 7977

BULLET 140-gr. Hornady 160-gr. Hornady RN

THE 6.5 DUTCH LOAD 37 grains 4166 40 grains 4451 39 grains 4451

BULLET 120-gr. Sierra 140-gr. Hornady 160-gr. Hornady

THE 6.5 CARCANO LOAD 40 grains 4451 38 grains 4451 36 grains 4451 37 grains 4451 35 grains 4451 36 grains 4451 37 grains 4451

BULLET 120-gr. Sierra 139-gr. Privi 140-gr. Hornady 140-gr. Hornady 160-gr. Hornady RN 160-gr. Hornady RN 160-gr. Hornady RN

RELOADING that the barrel has been blown off but the action held. That doesn’t mean that you should try and make it a magnum round. There are other limits to consider. For example, how does it handle gas if there is a rupture? A well-designed action such as the Mauser 98 vents the gas away from the shooter’s face. In addition, the case will give up

before the action does. Barrel length is a very important factor with velocity. I have chronographed many long guns and handguns and, almost without exception in my experience, a longer barrel produces more velocity. When you take your readings keep that in mind. That is especially true with large cases and max loads.

THE 6.5 DAUDETEAU WAS THE MILITARY round used by Uruguayan forces in the 1890s. I used a conversion of the Mauser Model 71 converted to fire this round. France also used the round to a small amount during the same period. There is no commercial brass or ammo available so it has to be made. The 7.62x54 Russian cases seem to be the best option. With a good selection of bullets and some common sense, it can be a decent hunting round. While well made it has only one locking lug, so keep that in mind. The Daudeteau loads are right where they should be. I used the slowest powder, as the rifle has only one locking lug, so trying to increase velocity a lot would be foolhardy. The long barrel does help increase the velocity. THE 6.5 DUTCH is the forerunner of the 6.5x54 Mannlicher. It is offered in the Model 95 but not available commercially except possibly in Europe. The rifle is well made with a smooth action, and with good loads, it is a good hunting round for deer-sized game. The carbine is light and handy to carry with an 18-inch barrel. Cases have to be made from .303 British brass, which is currently available. With a good selection of 6.5 bullets it is a desirable round, if you don’t mind a little extra work. The Dutch has a short barrel, so obtaining much more velocity would be difficult and unproductive. THE 6.5 CARCANO was an earlier smokeless round introduced by some military powers. Italy brought it out to replace the 10.4 Vetterli in 1891, and it also served through World War II. The Carcano rifle is not highly regarded by collectors or shooters, as it is considered inferior to most other period rifles. However, for those in the know, it is a much better weapon than usually given credit for. There is a good selection of bullets for it, and with a little common sense, it will provide a shooter or hunter with


American Shooting Journal // March 2017


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(Left) The author loaded boat-tail bullets backwards with some success, such as the .2535 with a 117-grain bullet shown here. (Right) IMR’s cylindrical 4166 powder.

good performance. The Carcano loads can be increased somewhat, though common sense should always apply. With this gun, I started mild and worked up to the top loads listed. It has a short barrel, which will put a limit on available velocity. The last 160-grain load was consistent, and due to the very short barrel it would be difficult to get more velocity without excess pressure. A 24-inch barrel would increase velocities by 150 to 200 feet per second. If I get a longer-barreled Carcano, then I may work with these loads some more. I hope you’ve found these tests to be interesting and worthwhile. I have tested many more rifles of this general type, and may write about them in future issues. 

A look at the .257 Roberts load alongside the converted Mexican Mauser used for testing.



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American Shooting Journal // March 2017


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American Shooting Journal // March 2017


LIVING THE DREAM Hardened Arms, a family-owned and -operated AR-15 manufacturer, is the product of dreaming big, American style. PHOTOS BY HARDENED ARMS


stablished in 2012, Hardened Arms has grown from selling firearms parts out of a closet-sized space to a complete machine and production shop covering 8,000-plus square feet, all in the span of just four years. The company is now the third largest private employer on San Juan Island, in northwest Washington state. Hardened Arms is an 07-03 licensed manufacturer that specializes in Mil-Spec AR-15 firearms, AR-10s and suppressors. Each firearm and firearm upper the company produces is machined and custom-assembled to order. The company insists on strict quality control and employees test fire all of their firearms and upper receivers to ensure proper function prior to shipping. The company prides itself on a hardworking and dedicated team, led by the Merlino family. Patrick Merlino is the owner and the technical mind behind the innovation g that takes p place on the machining

floor. He has a deep understanding of the proper specifications and function of the AR platform and is committed to the utmost in quality. As a hands-on owner, you will most likely find him in the machine shop bringing a new part to life. Carol, better known as “Momma CJ,” is the bookkeeper. She handles procurement, sales and makes lunch every day for the entire staff, a group of roughly two dozen staff who she lovingly refers to as her “children.” Rick, Pat’s dad and Carol’s husband, is the general manager of the company. With more than 40 years’ experience in the business world and a commitment to meet the needs of each and every customer, he brings a world of experience that continues to move the company forward. The Hardened Arms staff comes from all different backgrounds: law enforcement, firefighters, marines, soldiers, emergency medical services, engineers, moms, students,

The LumaShark illuminated rail allows for additional lights, highlumen dazzlers, law enforcementgrade infrared bulbs and lasers.

The patented LumaShark is an illuminated 12-inch free float handguard, the patented features of which have eliminated the need for bulky bolt-on flashlights on the AR platform. It all starts with T-6061 aluminum and machined illumination tubes.

mechanics and more. The entire Hardened Arms team has a core love for America and the deepest respect for all those who have served or are currently serving this country. That patriotic mindset pushes them to produce the very best firearms, parts and accessories and make them available to those Americans in this great country who choose to exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Currently, Hardened Arms has several patents and patentpending products. They are now in full production and are excited to announce the release of a patented, unique, new handguard called the LumaShark. The illuminated rail allows for lights, high-lumen dazzlers, law enforcement-grade infrared bulbs and lasers that use a state-of-the-art, integral mounting system that is machined right into the rail. Hardened Arms truly does embody the spirit of the American dream: If you can conceive it, and put your heart and soul into it, you can create a great product and achieve success.  For more information about Hardened Arms and any of its products, visit or call (425) 530-0837. 163

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017

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5.56 BCG

.308 BCG




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Check your local dealer for price and availability. 166

American Shooting Journal // March 2017



A holster clip from a company that continues to do well while doing plenty of good.



hen Randall Darby was searching for an option that would allow him to carry his firearm in a holster while at the same time providing the utmost concealment and retention, he stumbled upon a problem. No such product existed. So Darby came up with the Ulticlip, a clamp-like design that allows holsters to be securely clipped on clothing and bags, while still remaining concealed. American Shooting Journal recently caught up with Darby to find out more about the Ulticlip design and its multitude of other uses.

American Shooting Journal: How did you create the unique design of the Ulticlip? Randall Darby: I am a Christian missionary living overseas. I have a concealed-carry permit in the country where I live. There were no options that would allow me to carry my firearm in a holster while providing great concealment and retention. The holsters I own are great, but the problem I had was with the holster clips. I realized there was a need for a better holster clip design. As far as the unique design, I have to say that God literally gave me the idea. ASJ: A growing number of holster companies seem to be embracing the Ulticlip. How does it compare to regular clips? RD: Traditional clips rely on a secondary item like a belt in order to provide retention. Ulticlip does

Randall Darby developed the Ulticlip because he felt there was a need for a better holster clip design in the marketplace. The red, cross-like T in the company’s name speaks to his Christian faith.

not require a belt or any other secondary item to provide secure retention. Ulticlip’s design allows it to clamp directly to clothing and provides a level of retention not found with traditional clips. The clamping design also makes it more versatile than the traditional clips.

Ulticlip can be securely clamped on backpacks, purses, and on boots or clothing. Traditional holster clips do not conceal well because they are generally clipped over a belt. Ulticlip can be clamped directly to your pants, allowing a belt to cover it, making it more discreet and concealable than 167


the traditional clips.

have also seen Ulticlip used with flashlights, tourniquets, magazine carriers, handcuffs, fishing pliers and Kydex wallets. There is also interest in incorporating Ulticlip into bags and backpacks. We now have a police department that is using Ulticlip for the body cameras that the officers wear. They tested it in the field and found that it was the best solution for attaching the body cameras to officers so that the camera does not come off when they are apprehending a suspect.

ASJ: There are multiple uses for the Ulticlip, beyond guns. Can you tell us about some of them? RD: Ulticlip has numerous applications due to the versatility it provides. Aside from being used to carry firearms, our second largest market is with the knife industry. A knife sheath with an Ulticlip can be clamped virtually anywhere. We

ASJ: Are any new products coming out that you can share with us? RD: We are currently prototyping a new design called the Ulticlip XL. The XL model will be a new addition to our product line. It will not replace the clips we are currently producing. We expect to release it at the NRA show this April. The XL is designed to allow for IWB, OWB and beltless

At less than an inch wide, the Ulticlip is a compact yet strong carry solution.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Ulticlip’s design allows it to clamp directly to clothing and provides a level of retention not found with traditional clips. 169

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017

A knife sheath with an Ulticlip can be clamped virtually anywhere.

carry. We showed the prototype to a select group of people during SHOT Show, and it was well received. Representatives from various holster companies are excited and commented that the Ulticlip XL will offer options that have not been available before. ASJ: Is there anything else our readers should know about your company or your product? RD: Ulticlip is focused on providing quality carry solutions, and our products are made in the United States. We want to provide better options for whatever people carry, and how they choose to carry it. But exceeding our desire to produce quality carry solutions is our desire to make a difference in this world. We believe that real change starts in the heart of man. The heart and vision of Ulticlip is to help and empower people so that they can help others. For this reason, Ulticlip gives a portion of its profit from each clip sold to faith-based charities in the United States and around the world. Â? For more information, visit

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American Shooting Journal // March 2017

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT Doug Turnbull has a passion for restoring vintage firearms.

RESTORATION AND RENEWAL Vintage firearms shine anew at Turnbull Restoration & Manufacturing PHOTOS BY TURNBULL RESTORATION & MANUFACTURING CO.


aving worked in his family’s gun shop from a young age, it’s no surprise that Doug Turnbull launched his own firearms business as soon as he was able. The industrious young man started his business in the back of his family’s shop in 1983. Back then, he specialized in the restoration

of vintage firearms, and his passion for the craft continues today. “It’s very rewarding to bring back a firearm, whether there’s a family history, it’s heavily worn, or altered from original by a previous refinish,” he explained. “It’s so rewarding to hear, ‘Wow, this is the gun I gave you – it’s too beautiful not to use.’ These guns are meant to be used and enjoyed, not become that safe queen.” For more than 30 years, Turnbull

Restoration & Manufacturing has been the go-to company for those looking to restore their rifle, shotgun or pistol to factory new condition. To find out more about the company’s history and the services they provide, the American Shooting Journal went straight to the source.

American Shooting Journal: Can you tell us how Turnbull Restoration & Manufacturing Co. got started? Turnbull Restoration: Doug’s parents owned and operated the largest gun 173

company mp SPOTLIGHT A before (left) and after look at Turnbull’s work on a Winchester 1886.

shop in upstate New York, Creekside Gun Shop, established establish in 1959. Doug grew up and worked w in the shop from a very early ea age, doing everything from stocking st shelves to sales and gunsmith gunsmithing. fa Doug became fascinated with the bone charcoal colo color case-hardening process that distin distinguished one American gun ma manufacturer from the other between th the 1880s and 1940s. th firearms Doug began the restoration busin business in 1983 with two employees from the back of Creekside Gun Shop. In Ap April of 1998 he moved the business to a new 4,000-squarefoot building. M Multiple expansions over the years finds Turnbull Restoration to today occupying 13,000 square feet. ASJ: What pa part of the business did Doug focus on o when he first started the company company? Was it case hardening? TR: Doug began be to experiment with the old scho school method of bone charcoal co color case hardening by trying to d duplicate the original H needed to find a way process. He to avoid w warping the metal and discovere quickly that the key lie in discovered controlli time and temperature. He controlling nee also needed to find the exact mixture carbo of carbonizing material that would no only the colors but also yield not harden the parts so they would not wear o out from use. Cou Countless hours of research, exper experimentation and interviews of deale and collectors were all critical dealers in thi this learning process. ASJ: What types of restoration services does Turnbull provide? serv TR: Our goal is to accurately recreate the polish, texture and finish on all historic his firearms that come through our ou shop. We accomplish this by closely following the same techniques cl that th were used when the guns were originally manufactured. This o painstaking attention to detail is what p sets Turnbull Restoration apart from other gun restorers.


American Shooting Journal // March 2017

Restoration work can include filling holes and repairing guns that have been heavily damaged by rust or wear; polishing the grain of the metal; recutting, sharpening and deepening the lettering; and selecting and putting on the proper finish for the period and metal. Honesty and integrity are the bedrock of how we do business. ASJ: Has the type of firearms Turnbull works on changed over the years? TR: The majority of firearms Turnbull Restoration restores today are those produced by iconic companies, including Winchester, Marlin, Colt, Parker, L.C. Smith and Fox. Orders come from collectors across America and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Holland and South Africa. Several new creations feature renowned Turnbull finishes as well. Examples include the Turnbull 1886 and Turnbull Ruger Mark IV. Recent finishing collaborations include the Nighthawk Custom Turnbull VIP1 and VIP2, along with the Ruger Turnbull Super Blackhawk.  For more information about Turnbull Restoration & Manufacturing, visit

Doug Turnbull at work in his shop. 175 176

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