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Lt. Col. Oliver North NRA’s New President

Tucker Carlson


VERA KOO A Truly Unlikely Super Shot

Fox Host, Hunter & Shooter Stands Up For The 2nd GUN REVIEW

Hunt Harder! Optics Buying Guide Elite’s Preseason Prep Nosler’s Bullet Revolution Kyrgyzstan Ibex Midwest Crows

Mossberg’s Patriot Revere IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Troy Industries Riton Optics CZ-USA



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As she prepared for last month’s NRA Bianchi Cup, 70-year-old Vera Koo spoke with us about her unexpected journey to the top of the shooting world, and shared an excerpt from her new book, The Most Unlikely Champion. (VERA KOO)

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59 BARRIERS BLOWN AWAY Vera Koo is a most unlikely champion shooter. As she prepared for last month’s NRA Bianchi Cup, the 70-year-old immigrant from Hong Kong who settled down in San Francisco chatted with our Chris Cocoles, as well as shared a chapter on her journey from her inspiring new book.


PHOTOS FROM THE NRA SHOW American Shooting Journal was there in Dallas for last month’s big 147th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits. Our crew shares some of what they saw!


NORTH STAR Famed U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. (ret.) Oliver North is taking the reins as the National Rifle Association’s new president. Frank Jardim previews what to expect as Ollie puts the organization on the march to new membership goals.


TV’S 2A DEFENDER If you thought that Tucker Carlson had a pro-gun stance because of where he works – on Fox – Nancy Keaton has some news: The lifetime Second Amendment defender and host of Tucker Carlson Tonight talks about growing up hunting and shooting, and the importance of the constitutional right.



113 OPTICS BUYING GUIDE, PART ONE: GENERAL KNOWLEDGE With the price of good glass high, it pays to know what to look for when you’re in the market for a new scope and other optics. Long-range shooter Caylen Wojcik gets you dialed in on the terms and what to look for.

135 SHE HUNTS: SADDLING UP IN CENTRAL ASIA Seeking to challenge herself, Brittany Boddington got more than she bargained for when she went halfway around the world to hunt ibex in remote, mountainous and breathtaking Kyrgyzstan – part one of two!

149 BULLET BULLETIN: BUILDING A GREAT WALL John Nosler’s Partition, with its two cores and copper barrier between them, revolutionized hunting bullets. Our Phil Massaro has an appreciation of how this round changed things and why you might want to pick up a box or two ahead of the coming big game seasons.

Scott Haugen hunts harder than 99 percent of us, so when he shares his rigorous preseason routine, it’s wise to take notes.

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 © 2018 Media Index Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A.


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Making your own bullets over a small fire with simple tools is about as authentic as it gets for muzzleloaders. Mike Nesbitt shares the tricks of an old trade.

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GUN REVIEW: Mossberg Patriot Revere .30-06 Outsmarting The ‘Smartest Bird In The World’ – Crows How To Steel Boning Knives

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USAS Rifle/Pistol Championships Benning, Ga.

Calif. State International 3-P Championship Long Beach, Calif.

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Golden Bullet Championship Redding, Calif.

Michigan Sectional Championship Utica, Mich.

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Big Sioux Ballistic Challenge VII Sioux Falls, S.D.

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Rockcastle Classic VI Park City, Ky.

Beaver State Ballistic Challenge XXV Dundee, Ore.

Joe Ocken Montana GLOCK Classic XIII Missoula, Mont.

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Wisconsin IDPA Championship Ripon, Wis.

Virginia State IDPA Match Bristol, Va.

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MA State IDPA Championship Bedford, Mass.

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USPSA Area 7 Championship Dunbarton, N.H.

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Lt. Col. Oliver North (ret.), seen here speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, was recently chosen by the National Rifle Association’s board of directors as the organization’s next president. (FLICKR/GAGE SKIVMORE)

NRA’S NEW NORTH STAR Ollie, famed U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. (ret.), takes reins as National Rifle Association’s new president. STORY BY FRANK JARDIM


f you don’t know this yet, get out from under your rock and take note that the National Rifle Association’s elected board of directors selected U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Oliver North as the five-millionstrong organization’s next president. The gun prohibitionists are naturally horrified by the choice. As much as the anti-gun liberal left wished North was just another Fox News celebrity stooge of the conservative movement, the smarter ones know that he is a highly capable, highly motivated man of action and a real threat to their media-supported campaign of disinformation to destroy the Second

Amendment. North plans to add another million members to the NRA during his term, and I expect he will. In an interview with The Washington Times, North didn’t hold back in his assessment of the true nature of the gun prohibitionists who attack the NRA. He stated, “They call them activists. That’s what they’re calling themselves. They’re not activists. This is civil terrorism. This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America.” NORTH IS NOT THE FIRST celebrity, military man, or even the first USMC veteran to lead the NRA. In recent memory there’s actor Charlton

Heston, and WWII Marine fighter pilot and Medal of Honor holder Joe Foss. However, North stands out because of the way his patriotism has defined his entire life, in both thought and deed. He is, and appears to have always been, a true believer in the causes he supports. When other young men were dreading the draft, North was worried injuries he’d gotten in a car accident might keep him out of the war. He got accepted into the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and became a USMC officer to go to Vietnam to fight communism with all the powers and talents of his body and mind in 196869. While leading his rifle platoon in various engagements, he earned Silver and Bronze Stars for valor in combat and two Purple Hearts. He had a reputation for bravery, coolness 29

under fire, and dedication to mission, even refusing to leave the field or seek treatment for wounds while leading his men in battle. Afterward, he trained other Marines with the same vigor at Quantico and then went to Okinawa to command the U.S. Marine Corps’ Northern Training Area. That was followed by six years of headquarters staff positions stateside before he went to the Naval War College to attend the Command and Staff Course. He graduated in 1981. Long recognized as an energetic and capable officer, he was selected as a staff officer for President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council the same year. He served there as counterterrorism coordinator from 1983-86, working on the successfully executed operations to rescue American medical students during the Invasion of Grenada, the midair capture of the Achille Lauro hijackers and the attacks on Muammar alQaddafi’s terrorist bases in Libya. That’s also where he unintentionally began his television career, and in the process became the most famous Marine in history, during his testimony to Congress during the Iran-Contra Hearings in 1987. INDEED, NO DISCUSSION OF THE man can be complete without grappling with the 800-pound gorilla in the room and addressing his important role in the clandestine operations revealed to the public during those hearings. They showed North for what he was, a sincere patriot, willing to do what needed to be done, inside or outside the law, to support the interests of American national security. He emerged from the hearings an allAmerican hero to some, a dangerous shadow government villain to others. With military calculation, he organized secret operations to fight communism in Latin America, keep the growing threat of Radical Islam in the Middle East in check, and secure the release of the Americans held hostage by Hezbollah. North’s critics found it hard to find fault with his motives, but they did object to his 30

American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Ollie, as he’s also popularly known as, won several commendations for service in the Vietnam War, and later became a member of President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council. He made for a stirring figure during Congressional hearings on the Iran-Contra affair. (© GLOBE PHOTOS/ ZUMAPRESS.COM)

methods and the compromises and deceptions he accepted to accomplish the mission. The short version is that during the devastatingly costly Iran-Iraq War, America supported both proSaudi Iraq openly and radical Iran secretly, intent that neither would emerge the victor and destabilize the region. Despite an arms embargo, Iran was sold heisted American weapons through intermediaries at grossly inflated prices in return for securing the release of American hostages. The money was used to support the anticommunist Contra guerillas fighting the Russian/Cuban-backed Sandinista government in Nicaragua. There’s a lot more, of course, and though it smacks of Machiavellian brilliance, it raised

important questions about the roles of Congress and the Executive branch in foreign policy. As a result of his testimony, North was tried in 1988. He was indicted on 16 felony counts in 1989, three of which stuck. However, all the charges were reversed or dismissed by 1991 and North never served any time in jail. I always thought it was ironic that North, while acting in the capacity of clandestine operative, was convicted of lying to Congress and destroying documentation regarding those very same clandestine activities. Apparently, Congress can’t brook a lie unless they’re the ones telling it. SINCE THEN, NORTH HAS REMAINED in the public eye as a conservative 31

North is the 33rd NRA president and takes over from Pete Brownell, of Brownells. Other military members who’ve served in the position include Capt. Joe Foss, a Marine Corps ace, and, harkening back to the organization’s earliest days, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Phillip Sheridan. (DAVE WORKMAN)

commentator and radio show host, war correspondent, syndicated newspaper columnist, best-selling author, television show host, senatorial candidate and philanthropist. He’s still the same Oliver North, just without the uniform. North started a not-for-profit foundation called Freedom Alliance in 1990. Its mission is classic North: “Advance the American heritage of freedom by honoring and encouraging military service, defending the sovereignty of the United States, and promoting a strong national defense.” He is a big advocate of American veterans and the foundation is mainly involved with helping wounded veterans and awarding scholarships to the kids of servicemen and women killed in the line of duty. One of the reasons the gun prohibitionists are so afraid of North relates back to his unsuccessful bid for 32

American Shooting Journal // June 2018

a Virginia Senate seat in 1994. North lost by 3 percent, but before he did, he managed to raise in one year $20.3 million. A record-breaking $16 million of it came from direct mail pitches alone, just like the NRA raises money for their Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). People open the mail when it’s from Ollie North. I HAD THE PLEASURE OF working with North on an episode of his television show War Stories with Oliver North, which ran on Fox News Channel from 2001 to 2016. I was impressed with his professionalism, friendliness and his work ethic. When he wasn’t on the set, he sat alone at a table diligently typing his newspaper column on his laptop. Unrelated to the show, we talked a little about guns and I recall he told me he had a collection of shotguns. He made no claims to being a collector of shotguns, just

those family heirloom pieces that were clearly more important to him because of who owned them rather than any other factor. Frankly, he didn’t seem all that much like a gun guy at the time, and maybe he isn’t. That’s not really important in my opinion because his record shows he is a true believer in the causes he stands up for and that he will support them indefatigably. “It is a fight,” the 74-year-old North was quoted by the Washington Post as saying. “At the end of the day, and the end is probably not too far away from me, I want my grandchildren to be able to say, ‘My granddad taught me how to fight the good fight, how to finish the race, how to keep the faith.’” By the way, North has 17 grandchildren and he’s only ever had one wife. He and Betsy North have been married over 50 years. The NRA is lucky to have him. 33



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TUCKER CARLSON DEFENDS THE SECOND ‘You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to be safe and exercising a constitutional right,’ says Fox News Channel host and longtime gun owner, hunter and shooter. STORY BY NANCY KEATON


he week before heading to Dallas, Texas, Tucker Carlson was looking forward to the honor of speaking at the Women’s Leadership Forum and Luncheon at the NRA Annual Meeting. “I’m a fully convinced defender of the Second Amendment. I spend my life talking to people and debating people who disagree with me. They seem to think there’s an empty void between the First and the Third Amendments. It’s nice to be around people who understand the importance of the Second Amendment. The Bill of Rights is even more applicable today than when it was written. It’s always a rare pleasure to be around people I agree with,” he says with a sigh of relief.

KNOWN FOR HIS SPIRITED DEBATES, one might think that the popular Fox News host of Tucker Carlson Tonight, with nearly three million viewers each evening, may simply have a pro-gun stance because of where he works. But Carlson is a lifetime defender of the Second Amendment. He grew up in a hunting and shooting family. Guns for Christmas presents occurred on a yearly basis from childhood on. Shooting and safety has always been a part of his life. He particularly likes to bird hunt.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is a proponent of the Second Amendment. (TUCKER CARLSON) ame me icans meri icans ic an nssho hoo hoo otin tiingjourn gjo journ urnal. al. co com om 39 9

“I don’t even think I’m capable of pulling a trigger on an upland bird shoot unless I see blue skies,” he laughs. “My children are the same way; they are comfortable around guns, they are safe around guns because they understand the destructive power of guns. Safety is the first thing you learn. It’s reflective; it’s muscle memory.” Carlson says that when you grow up around guns, you are comfortable and safe because you understand them. “They’re not toys; they’re tools. I’ve always thought that if you want to reduce gun violence, both accidental and intentional, you get kids comfortable with firearms.” He goes on to say that you rarely see any kind of gun violence in rural communities because people understand how to use them. “You don’t want to hand a 15-year-old a chainsaw and say, ‘Here, go clear a wood lot.’ It’s a great tool, it has changed the world, but if it’s misused or mishandled, it can really hurt you. So the idea that more guns

means more violence is insane. The data disproves it; it’s just a talking point.” Carlson says he has lived a life surrounded by firearms, yet there’s been no threat to him because he knows how to use them responsibly. His personal life reflects his thoughts. “I built two gun ranges myself, with a chainsaw. They’re nothing fancy,” he humbly admits, “but they’re fun.” Shooting clay targets, bowling pins, golf balls or steel targets clearly provides him a lot of enjoyment as he laughs the whole time, he describes it. “I’m a redneck shooter, shooting bowling pins and Tannerite with my kids. Throw in a Mountain Dew can, and oh boy, is that fun,” he laughs heartily. When asked what kinds of guns he likes to shoot, Carlson says he favors side-by-side shotguns and lever-action rifles. “My favorite is my field bird gun that I take everywhere. It’s a Henry 20-gauge side-by-side, Damascus barreled. I’ve had it since I was a kid. I shoot low brass, shoot doves, chukar, pheasant, clays and

quails. I have a Ruger 12-gauge for waterfowl, sometimes pheasants if I’m feeling like it. But I shoot 20-gauge almost exclusively.” He also likes the 17 HMR. “I like bolt-action; I get better accuracy with them. I have every kind of semi-auto but for my own shooting I like lever or bolt. Then when we had the (ammo) shortage a couple years ago, I switched to .38 and 9mm. I could go in and buy it anywhere. Probably my favorite rifle right now, though, is a .38-357 lever-action that my brother gave me for Christmas a couple years ago. At 50 yards I can smack a golf ball every time. It’s accurate, has light loads. I mostly shoot .38 in it because I’m cheap. But I’m always buying guns; nothing expensive, except maybe a shotgun.” Carlson admits that he’s not a big game hunter, nor a long-distance precision shooter. “I’m not killing anything at 300 yards,” he laughs. He says he will go snowshoeing and hunting rabbits but no other mammals. “I’m more of a bird

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American Shooting Journal // June 2018

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hunter and a fly fisherman. At NRA events there are guys who are law enforcement, military pilots and engineers that are into shooting 1,000 yards and shooting very expensive rifles at very long distance. I’m not precise enough,” he chuckles. Carlson’s wife and daughters are all shooters, as well. “My third daughter is an unbelievable shot. We spend a lot of time shooting and she likes all the stuff I do. All the girls started on a Ruger 10/22.” BESIDES JUST ENJOYING THE FUN of shooting, Carlson is also a strong believer in the Constitution. “I think the country functioned quite well for 240 years. The Constitution applies to modern life as much as it did life in the 18th century.” He is a life member of the NRA and has been for over 30 years. “Again, I grew up with it; it’s not a pose. I have changed a lot of opinions over the years as I have grown up but I have not changed my opinions about guns. My views are evolving but this is the one view that

has not changed.” Carlson’s biggest concern about our Second Amendment rights now is the attack on it from all around us. “Does someone who says ugly things discredit the First Amendment? Our rights are completely under attack and it’s not by just the Brady Campaign and (former New York Mayor Michael) Bloomberg but also the media, banks, the tech industry. Everyone with power is attacking this constitutional right. The question is, why are they doing that? You should be suspicious when the people in charge are telling you that you don’t have a right to defend yourself and that they should have the monopoly on guns and that you should be dependent on them. It has nothing to do with school shootings. It’s a power grab. They don’t plan to disarm themselves. This is about moving power from rural America, middle America, the center of the country, to the coast.” “They were infuriated by the election,” Carlson notes. “The ability

to protect yourself is the most basic signifier that you’re free. You’re not free if you’re unarmed. It’s basically everyone in power that stays armed. So what’s the lesson from this attack? They have to disarm Trump voters. We elected a guy they don’t like. We fall for this lie that this is really about safety, but they don’t even make the case for that anymore. Nobody disagrees that school shootings are horrible, that shooting crimes of all kinds are awful. That’s why gun owners support law enforcement, concealed carry training and safety.” Carlson is frustrated with some of the useless “common sense” ideas coming out again. “Show me how getting rid of capacity makes us safer. Show me how that’s going to work, where’s the data? There was no drop in crime before, why are we doing it again? It’s because it’s not about safety. Our mistake is playing along with them when they’re totally disingenuous.” AS FOR WOMEN AND GUNS, Carlson gets



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animated and passionate when talking about the subject, because it really hits close to home. With a wife and three daughters in his household, Carlson is a fervent supporter of a woman’s right to bear arms and their ability to protect themselves. “From the perspective of personal safety, a firearm is an equalizer. I know that we’re living in a moment where women and men are supposed to be thought of as the same. But on average, women have less upperbody strength than men. It’s true; I’m not making it up, it’s true. We live in a pretty safe country, but it’s not entirely safe. I wish it were but it’s not. To pretend there are no threats is dishonest. So in a world with threats, it’s nice to think that women are able to defend themselves. The subject has become so political you’re required to lie about it, to pretend reality isn’t real. I’m not playing along, I’m too old. Normal people know the truth. In a world where there’s a cop on your step you probably don’t need a gun, but we


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

don’t live in that world and are never going to. Firearms are just like any tool; they can be used to make life better. A woman having a gun is a great thing!” he exclaims. Carlson gets passionate as he talks about his message to the women at the NRA luncheon. “This is a very important subject to me. You’re working to make this a safer country. Are they? When Bloomberg wants to be safe and protect his family and his house, what does he use to do that? Guns. It’s more than hypocrisy, it’s a power grab, a form of aggression, aimed at you. He’s on the offense, trying to hurt you. Don’t be on the defense and don’t be embarrassed. That’s the bottom line: don’t be embarrassed. There’s nothing embarrassing about defending yourself. You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to be safe and exercising a constitutional right.” Editor’s note: Tucker Carlson can be seen on Fox News Channel weeknights at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

Carlson speaking at 2018’s NRA Women’s Leadership Forum. (CONI BROOKS)



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Nimble, innovative Massachusetts company aims to please with military, LEO, consumer rifles, accessories. STORY BY BRITTANY BODDINGTON


always enjoy attending the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits. There’s a ton to see and I always meet interesting people and companies. The excitement on the floor at this year’s show in Dallas was incredible and it seemed like more members than ever felt the need to attend in order to show the NRA that we still support them. The newsletter recap on the event stated that 87,000 people went through the doors of the convention hall, which I believe is more than ever before. It is an interesting contrast to the media that is pushing gun control and trying to make it seem as if the battle is lost. I’d say the organization that is fighting to protect our Second Amendment rights is stronger and more supported than ever. There were protesters outside the building but I didn’t see more than 50 or so at a time over the course of the three days. When you compare the unhappy people to the attendees, it is clear which side has the numbers. Back inside, the hall was buzzing with new products, live videos and podcasts taking place. I was lucky to squeeze in a few minutes to chat with some companies that I was interested in learning more about. I SAT DOWN with Andrew Finn, the president of Troy Industries. He took on that role this past January and comes from a long history in the firearms and optics industries, a good match for the New England-based company. Troy’s mission statement says it was “founded on the principle of making reliable, innovative products

Andrew Finn became Troy Industries’ president in January 2018 and says one of the company’s strong suits is that it’s “come up with some really impressive designs that don’t require the end user to retrain themselves.” He credits that to founder Stephen Troy, a retired Massachusetts state trooper. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

that will function without question when lives are on the line.” While at first glance, many of the AR-platform maker’s products look similar, some are truly in a class of their own. Finn is warm, friendly and easy to talk to, but more than anything my first impression was that he was excited about the company he works for. “Troy as a company is very innovative; innovative in unique, nextgeneration products,” he said when asked what makes it special. “We hold quality to a very high regard; products

are used by militaries globally, used by military special operations domestically, used by state, local and federal officers, and used by consumers. We make absolutely no difference between the product that goes to a military member and a product that goes to a consumer. They are held to exactly the same high-quality standard. Both in terms of quality and innovation, Troy is at the top of the mark.” “What also makes Troy quite unique is that we maintain a smaller size rather than the larger, Tier 1 registered, 47

publicly traded companies, which permits us to move rather quickly to unique desires or special features or requests from our customers. That also resonates very well with our customer base,” Finn added. It’s important to note that Troy’s factory is in Massachusetts and that everything is manufactured right here in the U.S.

Author Brittany Boddington takes a look down the barrel of one of Troy’s line of pump-action rifles, firearms with defensive and hunting applications. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

AS A PRIVATELY owned company, Troy does not disclose its exact sales, but they did hit a major milestone in April by shipping more guns than any previous month since December 2016. “While a lot of other gun companies are contracting, Troy is expanding,” Finn stated. I asked if he thought that the expansion has anything to do with the market trends toward 3-gun competitions gaining popularity and ARs being marketed more for hunting. “I think there is a lot of uncertainty in the market right now precipitated by these unfortunate and tragic events,” he answered.





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“But having said that, we have never seen the groundswell of emotion, certainly at the millennial level which is exacerbated by YouTube videos and Facebook, etc., so I think there is still some uncertainty in the market place. But we as a company are seeing an increased appetite in law enforcement and we are pursuing


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

international opportunities.” “A few things that Troy has done very well is the emergence of the 9mm PCC gun for those competitive shooters who are used to an AR-type platform but maybe the 5.56mm or .308 round has a bit too much recoil,” Finn said. “The 9mm gives them that same form factor of the AR platform but with

a lot less recoil, so is much easier to manage, and we are very proud of that. We are also 50-state legal with a pumpaction rifle in both 5.56mm and we are developing a .308 caliber. It does permit a legitimate pump action that is not dissimilar to a shotgun.” “We are also very proud of our sporting rifle that is a side action that 51

is similar to a bolt-action rifle but it does carry the same form factor and feature of an AR platform,” Finn said. TROY DOESN’T JUST use the word innovation as a flattering description of their products, as they are truly innovating and currently hold over 32 approved patents and another dozen or so pending. “You will notice this recurring theme of AR-type ergonomics, and the rationale for that is that the market – whether it is federal, state, government, weekend shooters or hunters, etc. – are used to the form factor of the AR,” Finn said. “But we have through Steve Troy – who is an extremely innovative guy; I’m very proud to work with him – has come up with some really impressive designs that don’t require the end user to retrain themselves. All muscle memory is effectively the same. The way we have employed some novel concepts has allowed us to become 50-state legal.” I had never held a Troy firearm before I went into the interview, but


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

some of the products they make blew my mind. I really liked the Squid Grips rail inserts. They are made from a heat-resistant durable rubber and they make it so much easier to keep a tight grip on an AR, especially in high stress or high-heat conditions where hands may get a little slippery. I also really liked the pump-action AR which starts at around $800 for the optic-ready hunting rifle. Not only does it look impressive, it is extremely comfortable to shoot. It’s rare to find a firearm that is that much fun to shoot and also legal in all 50 states. The last Troy product I’ll mention won them the 2018 Ballistic’s Best award and was on display in the booth. It is the National PAR pumpaction rifle with an AR stock that not only folds down but also has the ability to telescope out for adjustment. I found the staffers at Troy’s booth to be friendly and I ended up going back over there several times during the NRA show to introduce friends to their products. I wasn’t in the market for another AR but I am now. The way

Troy Industries is very proud of its 2018 Ballistic’s Best award for the National PAR pump-action rifle. Its AR stock folds down and can telescope out. (BRITTANY BODDINGTON)

things are going in politics these days, I’m not going to risk that pump-action rifle being outlawed in my state before I can get my hands on one, and I’ve already ordered Squid Grips for the AR I have. I walked into Troy’s booth having only read about the company online and I left as a customer, so they must be doing something right. 53


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A 70-year-old world-class shooter shares her journey in inspiring new book.

She didn’t pick up a gun for the first time until she was 40, but Vera Koo would eventually become a national- and world-class shooter. Now 70, the San Francisco resident who came to the U.S. from her native Hong Kong has written a book about her extraordinary career. (VERA KOO)



rom the outside, some people might look at the 2012 World Championships as my last great achievement in sport shooting. After all, I hadn’t won the Bianchi Cup since 2008. And less than a year later, I’d break my leg while preparing for the 2013 Bianchi Cup. But to me, shooting has never been about wins or losses. It’s been about the way the sport shapes you as a person – the way you have to be stronger, more disciplined, and more focused to shoot your best. It’s not about the people you’re shooting against. It’s about you – the things you’re bringing to the range, the disappointments and hopes, and your ability to set those aside.

Editor’s note: How successful has Vera Koo’s career been in the shooting sports? Her accomplishments – including gold medals in various individual and team events both domestically and internationally – fills three pages in her memoir. Koo, now 70, immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong, settled in San Francisco and, as a mother of three, shot a gun for the first time at 40. She became a world-class shooter over the next three decades, an incredible and – as the title of her book illustrates – rare feat. The following is excerpted from The Most Unlikely Champion, published by Balboa Press (a division of Hay House) and reprinted with permission.

Shooting competitively is about facing challenges. Time and again, the sport has taught me how to get up after I fall. So when I stepped onto the range in Columbia, Missouri, for the 2014 Bianchi Cup, I knew I wasn’t going to win my first title in six years. I knew I wasn’t going to be best newcomer. I wasn’t going to be leaving with any kind of prize. But then, most people don’t go to the range because they expect to win anything. WE ALL HOPE TO enjoy the challenge and the journey in self-discovery. Most of us that come back over and over are workaholics. We have that kind of rare total focus where we can walk off the range knowing that we shot the absolute best we could –

and have that be enough. My presence at the Bianchi Cup was against all odds. I was 67, and I’d shattered my leg. I’d grown up a Chinese-American woman in a family and culture that valued the old, traditional ways of life. And yet, in May 2014, there I was, ready to shoot. I was there because I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to participate in another Bianchi Cup. Because I wanted to test my strength and ability to persevere. I wanted to put into practice the words “never give up.” And I was also there because my mother had taught me what it is to live a life of kindness. Because my son, Bryan, had taught me how to get through unimaginable pain. Because (husband) Carlos has supported me, through thick and thin, and has always 59

Koo’s accomplishments include setting a national record for women’s score on the outdoor action pistol Crawford Barricade. (VERA KOO)

Q&A WITH VERA KOO American Shooting Journal writer Chris Cocoles sat down with author Vera Koo as she prepared for last month’s NRA Bianchi Cup in Missouri, and Koo shared some more details about her ascension to a champion shooter: Chris Cocoles Congratulations on the book and for all of your success in your career. From the title of your book, how unlikely is your story as a world champion shooter? Vera Koo Picture a petite 5-foot, 4-inch 116-pound, middle-aged Asian immigrant who is a mother of three and has no previous action pistol experience, entering a shooting range by herself. It’s very unlikely that you would be able to imagine that this woman would someday become an international and national champion in one of the most prestigious shooting competitions, pitted against


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

the best shooters in the world. I’ve competed on the biggest stages, against the best marksmen, and I didn’t pick up a gun until the age of 40. CC Tell me about where your passion for shooting originated from and how you stuck with it through some personally difficult times. VK My love for the shooting sport is derived from the challenges and the degree of difficulty that the Bianchi Cup poses. The sport pushes me to my personal limits, and it demands that I keep myself fit and healthy in both body and mind. I am a natural workaholic, so the immense workload that comes with the competitive sport seem to fit well into my personality traits. During personal crises in my life, I have found that the sport helped distract me from the emotional suffering of that time. The

training and competition have become therapeutic for me. CC How hard did you have to work in terms of practice and preparing for the level you eventually reached? VK When I had finally taken the Bianchi Cup competitions seriously, I practiced 1,000 rounds a day for seven days straight, regardless of the weather conditions. With temperatures ranging from 27 degrees to 110 degrees, snow, rain or shine, I remained dedicated to my passion. There were times I practiced so long that I would have to soak my hands in ice water in the middle of the night to alleviate the swelling. Even when I traveled, I would remain focused and take any opportunities to get practice in. CC I think you’ve become a role model for women everywhere. Did someone have a 61

similar effect on you? VK My mother was my role model. Although she did not go to college, she was incredibly intelligent and carried a spirited and optimistic outlook on life. She had a great capacity to cope with whatever came her way. My mother passed away in 2011. When I first started shooting in competitions, she advised me to stay home to take care of my husband and cook for him. So, while she had not encouraged me to further my shooting endeavors, she did not object to it after I had become very successful. Basically, I did not have much support from my immediate family and friends besides my husband until after I had won many national and international titles. I channel my mother’s spirit and mindset whenever I encounter difficulties in the sport, which always encourages me to never give up.

“Even if you are not interested in the subject matter or if you feel that you are not ready, just fly by the seat of your pants and go,” she says. “You will be amazed by what you will and can learn.” (VERA KOO)

CC I read a little bit about your affection for the term “shing ping” and it was inspiring. Can you share a little bit about what that means to you? VK The words “shing ping” were actually spoken by one of my friends who played a lot of golf. He was speaking to me in Chinese when I heard this phrase, and it is the perfect phrase to describe my psychological mindset on the range. Shing ping is a concept where the heart and mind are at peace in the world. When I’m shooting, I know I’ve reached shing ping when I have completely blocked out all the other competitors, spectators and distractions. I am solely focused on my performance during the match. CC There’s so much controversy right now with guns, the Second Amendment and the rights of responsible firearm owners like you. Do you have an opinion on some of the misconceptions that are out there? VK The media has failed to address the fact to the public that the guns do not run around and hurt people. It is the people behind the guns that hurt others. We must address the current state of the mental health care system and breakdowns in family infrastructure. There are far too many single-parent households that need more family


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

support. It is also crucial that we address where and how underaged people are getting their hands on guns and how we can prevent criminals and those who are not fit to operate a weapon from acquiring one. CC You and your husband Carlos have experienced a lot of adventures around

the world. What was one of your most memorable? VK The most memorable experience I had was spending five days with my husband and family in the Maldives, a republic occupying an archipelago of 1,087 coral islands in the Indian Ocean. It was a paradise in heaven – clear turquoise-blue water and 63

Koo’s trophy case has been steadily filling over time. Her achievements include eight national titles in the National Rifle Association’s Bianchi Cup and two World Action Pistol championships. (VERA KOO)

manicured white sand beaches paired with ultimate luxury service and accommodations. But after three days, my husband said to me, “This is truly a paradise; everything is picture perfect and beautiful, but it gets kind of boring here.” My husband’s comments have made a lasting impression on me because I agreed with him. Living in absolute perfection without a care in the world and with no challenges or obstacles would become, as he said, boring. CC What advice would you give to young women and girls who want to be involved in the shooting sports/ hunting? VK I’ve always believed in learning and acquiring new skills. If you encounter someone who is willing to give their time to teach you something new, grab the opportunity! Even if you are not


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

interested in the subject matter or if you feel that you are not ready, just fly by the seat of your pants and go. You will be amazed by what you will and can learn. Because ultimately all the skills that you have picked up in your lifetime will come together into one thing that is major for you. Everything that I have learned and experienced in my life has come together for me into one sport. For the girls who want to get involved in the shooting sports, the most important thing is to find a qualified firearm instructor to teach the fundamentals correctly. It was because I had learned to shoot very accurately before I embarked onto the path of competitive shooting that I could be successful in my endeavors. You can climb the ladder better in the world of competitive shooting if you have the basics down. Otherwise, you may hit a wall that

stops you in your tracks. Additionally, practice is absolutely a necessary requirement if one wants to become good at doing anything. CC Is there something else in shooting or for that matter anything else that you want to accomplish? VK Beside promoting my book, The Most Unlikely Champion, I am looking to go take classes in computer graphic design. Since I was an art major in college, I would like to open a small business doing graphic design on brochures, ads and flyers at a discount rate to help small businesses that are just starting up. It will be a way to keep myself busy after I retired from my shooting sport, but that won’t be for quite some time! Right now, my mindset singularly set on the upcoming Bianchi Cup and World Action Pistol Competition that takes place in May. CC 65

remained my partner. Above all, I was there because God has a plan for us. That plan isn’t always easy, but God is there every step of the way. And although we may not always see it, God is in every molecule of everything. If we’re listening to God’s plan, if we’re looking for His presence, anything is possible. I like to think the sport-shooting world has changed over my time in the sport – that more and more women are involved in it. But I know it’s still a male-dominated world. But then, so many worlds are still male-dominated. I realize that, as one of the prominent female shooters in the sport – and a prominent ChineseAmerican woman – I’m a bit of a rarity from my generation. I hope I’ll serve as an example to women from all backgrounds: that they can look at my story and see shooting can be a great sport for women. Since most women don’t have much experience shooting, they tend to be blank slates. This means it’s easier to take instruction, especially in a sport like

“I hope I’ll serve as an example to women from all backgrounds: that they can look at my story and see shooting can be a great sport for women,” says Koo, here with husband Carlos. (VERA KOO)

target shooting. I hope more women get into the sport, as it builds self-esteem and discipline. Even if you don’t shoot competitively, knowing gun safety and understanding how to shoot well are great skills to have.

Editor’s note: Buy Vera Koo’s book at You can also check out her website (, like at and follow on Twitter and Instagram (@officialverakoo).

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gun review

TWO THUMBS AND ONE WILD BOAR UP Mossberg Patriot Revere in .30-06 put to the test on the range, and on the hunt. STORY AND PHOTOS BY TOM CLAYCOMB III


year ago I used a Mossberg Patriot on a brown bear hunt. I was impressed with how economical it was and yet still very functional. I don’t need to tell you how unforgiving Alaska weather can be. One night we had 80- to 90mph winds and half of the week it was raining pretty hard. We’d head upstream to hunt every morning before daylight and my rifle rode leaning against the seat of the jonboat with a few inches of water sloshing around the floor boards. My hunting rifles don’t have an easy life. So when I had a series of Texas hog and varmint hunts lined up in January and February, it was decided for me to test the Mossberg Patriot Revere. Originally, I wanted it chambered in the popular 6.5 Creedmoor, but they were in such demand that they were

The Mossberg Patriot Revere .30-06 worked great on a Texas hog hunt with Slow Glow. 71

gun review unavailable, so I went with the old tried-and-true .30-06. My first deer rifle, which I bought with my paper route earnings in sixth or seventh grade, was a .30-06. That’s what my dad hunted with, so of course that’s what I had to have. They’re still one of the most versatile calibers on the market to this day. You can buy factory ammo from 55 grains all the way up to 220 grains. Some modern writers try to discount the validity of the ol’ .3006. I don’t diss on other writers, but I’d have to say they need a few more years under their belt before they earn the right to criticize it. MAYBE IT’S JUST PERSONAL taste, but the Revere has a beautiful walnut stock that is 100 times more attractive than a black plastic one. When I opened the box and saw the stock, I was impressed with its looks. To me, it’s a beautiful rifle at a great price. It doesn’t hurt to


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

A 11⁄8-inch group is excellent for a factory rifle shooting factory ammo.

be a little vain, does it? I also like that it has a detachable clip. That way you can carry a couple of extra clips, which is really nice when you’re hunting dangerous

game. That way you aren’t digging for loose shells out of an overstuffed pocket when it’s panic in the disco. While at the 2018 SHOT Show I discovered a new optic company 73

gun review named Riton USA. In talking to them, one thing led to another and I ended up putting their RT-S MOD 5 4-16x50 on the Revere. I used the Sightmark Laser Bore Sight to bore sight it and was ready to see how it shot. At first, I wasn’t getting as good of groups as I wanted. I talked to a long-range shooting instructor who I know. He checked some of the obvious “might be” causes and all he noticed was a loose action bolt and tightened that. Then I took it home and threw it on my Otis Range Box. Sometimes if you properly clean a gun it will shoot better, so I used some Otis guncleaning gear and cleaned it until a rag came out white. I’D ALREADY TESTED OUT FIVE variations of ammo from a company that I usually get good groups with. For some reason, though, they wouldn’t group in this rifle, so I grabbed a


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Author Tom Claycomb used Otis gear to clean the Mossberg Patriot Revere for excellent results.

variety of different weight bullets of Nosler ammo to see if I could tighten the groups. I went back out to shoot and here’s the Nosler ammo I tested and the best threeshot groups that I got:

125-grain boattail 168-grain E-Tip 180-grain AccuBond

1¼ inch 1½ inch 1 1/8 inch

I was shooting off a stable table with sand bags but it was out on the prairie, which means there’s always a 5- to 10mph wind even on the best of days, so it might be possible to get even better groups under optimum conditions. Any time you conduct a test, you always make one tweak and then retest. If you make more than one tweak/ adjustment, then you don’t know which one resulted in the positive change, and as mentioned above, I did two adjustments between shootings. I both tightened the action bolt and gave the barrel a thorough cleaning. I’m going to attribute the favorable tightening of the groups to cleaning the barrel because after shooting for awhile, the groups widened out, which tells me for this rifle to be peaked out I need to clean it every 15 to 20 shots. You may say that a warm barrel was affecting it, but the temps were in the high 50s so I believe it cooled off adequately between groups. So after finding the right ammo, I’m going to give the Mossberg Patriot Revere two thumbs up. For a factory rifle, a 11/8-inch group is excellent.

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American Shooting Journal // June 2018




American Shooting Journal // June 2018


HUNTing Motion decoys aren’t just for ducks – they work for hunting crows as well. Author Tom Claycomb poses with a passel of north Texas corvids.

HOW TO OUTSMART CROWS ‘Smartest bird in the world’ can provide good offseason challenge for hunters. STORY AND PHOTOS BY TOM CLAYCOMB III


rows are the smartest birds in the world, aren’t they? As a kid I had an old PS Olt hand call and was always trying to call one in. I can only for sure remember killing one as a grade-schooler. In my mind, they were invincible. Years later, an old buddy, Jack Sweet, told us about a buddy of his who killed hundreds a day back in Pennsylvania. I couldn’t believe it. Then a couple of decades ago, a buddy took me crow

hunting and showed me how it was done. If you learn how to properly hunt them, it’s like they go in brain-dead mode. To explain how it’s done, I’ll cover a recent north Texas crow hunt that I went on. I was in the area to conduct some seminars at the Dallas Safari Club Convention & Expo. After that I ran over to east Texas on Monday and Tuesday for a flooded timber mallard hunt with Charles Allen, president and owner of Knives of Alaska and Diamond Blades. I then ran up to north Texas for a striper fishing trip on Wednesday. The following Monday

I was to meet Bill Olson, editor of Texas Outdoor Journal, to go on a varmint hunt in west Texas. I had a couple of free days, so Friday and Saturday I decided to go crow hunting. YOU HEAR ABOUT CERTAIN LOCALES where there are thousands of crows. This wasn’t one of those areas, so I’m going to discuss hunting normal areas. When you pull up to your area, what you’ll want to do is locate a thick clump of trees. I love hunting out of cedar thickets. You don’t want to get in too tall of a clump, though, because 81


Having a good morning – send more shells!

when they fly over they’ll already be at least 40 yards away. What works best is if the trees are about 15 to 20 feet high. They’ll come skimming in right


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

at treetop level. You’ll want to get in the thickest part and only have an opening over you. While flying in, if they see you

they’ll scatter. It’s not always possible to find a perfect set-up, so do the best you can. If one side is open, stand back in the shadows. And it goes without saying, you need to be camouflaged up, including a face net. Also wear gloves, even if it is just some green wool Army gloves. Your hands are the source of most of your movement. Electronic calls work best. You’ll want to place one or more a little bit away from you so hopefully the birds don’t focus right on you. I also like to use Mojo crow decoys. The higher they’re set, the better they’re seen. While varmint calling I’ve also noticed the birds seem to be attracted to the little electronic decoys that wave a white tail around. Speaking of varmint calling, I’ve noticed that crows always come into my varmint set-ups right at daylight. I’m always in coyote hunting mode at that time and don’t want to booger up

HUNTing my set-up, but you can always pop a few crows at daylight like this. For a shotgun, I like my Mossberg 930 Pro-Series Waterfowler and I’d recommend a modified Tru-Lock choke. You get singles coming in, but usually I’ll have a few crows come in at a time. For shells, I use size 6 shot Aguila. Crows aren’t exceptionally hard to kill, so a low-base shell will work fine, but high base is even better. If you don’t have an electronic call, a hand call will work. It’s just that with an electronic call it sounds like a swarm of crows and they respond better. On this trip I had to use a hand call, which I hadn’t done in years because I had ordered a Primos Boss Dogg and it had been delivered down to Bill’s house for me to use the next week while out varmint hunting. Theoretically, if crows don’t see you and you don’t miss, they should keep coming in until you’ve cleaned them out.

SO HERE’S HOW IT’LL GO in your typical set-up. You’ll hear a few off in the distance cawing. You start calling and here they come. Many times you’ll hear them coming and can be ready, but a high percentage of the time they’ll come gliding in at treetop level silently and surprise you. Due to being hid in thick cover, you don’t have but a hot second to take a shot. This tactic can provide for fast action and is a blast. Since owls and hawks are mortal enemies, I always start off with a hawk or owl call. Then I shift into crows fighting with hawks/owls and then into my normal crow sounds. If you only have a small parcel to hunt, don’t crank up the sound too loud. On my first set-up I only had 50 acres in that one spot. I set up on the northwest corner and faced the speakers to the north. After getting some shooting there, I then went to the southeast corner and called there and then to the southeast side. Surprisingly,

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American Shooting Journal // June 2018 85

HUNTing even on a small parcel of land you can get multiple set-ups and do well, especially if it is a little windy and muffles the sound of the call on the other side of the property. I then moved north several miles to another spot and repeated. Hunting crows is a blast and fun to do in the off-season. And for every crow you shoot, you’re helping the environment. They’re not good neighbors. They cause a lot of destruction to agriculture and eat the eggs of a lot of ground birds. That brings up ravens. Here in Idaho they’re a major predator on the eggs of the greater sage grouse. For the life of me I cannot understand why it is against the law to shoot ravens. The feds keep trying to put extreme limitations on outdoorsmen and ranchers to protect sage grouse and yet ignore the main problem. To be fair, last year they did try to limit raven numbers, but of course the antis


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Claycomb takes aim at crows from cover.

took them to court. I don’t understand how certain predators have reached a god-like stature. Anyway, if you’re a little bored right now and want to get out hunting, grab

your shotgun, electronic call and go try your hand at crow hunting. Editor's note: Crow hunting seasons vary, so check your state's regulations. 87

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10 inch barrel: 77-grain .223: 137.28dB; 55-grain .223: 139.74dB Materials: 17-4 HH 1150 SS, Melonite-/ QPQ core, sleeve and base; 17-4 HH 1150 SS QPQ core and sleeve with G5 Ti Base Finish: Anodized black MSRP: Ti Base: $899; SS Base: $799 More info: 89


From top to bottom, old F. Dick smooth steel that is 40 years old; modern F. Dick steel; same as above but author Tom Claycomb removed the orange handle and replaced it with an antler; ceramic steel; and rough, or coarse, steel.

HOW TO PROPERLY STEEL YOUR science, half art,’ learning it BONING KNIVES Awill‘skillhelpthatyouisbehalfa better game butcher. STORY AND PHOTOS BY TOM CLAYCOMB III


nymore, hardly anyone knows how to properly sharpen a knife, so consequently I teach knife-sharpening seminars from Texas to Alaska. From January through March, I’ve had six seminars, starting at the Dallas Safari Club Convention & Expo, to the SCI Convention in Vegas, on up to Idaho. But after you learn how to sharpen your knives, you need to learn how to

take your boning knives to the next level by steeling them, which is a whole topic in and of itself. If you want to get and keep your boning knives sharp, you have to learn how to steel a knife. First, let’s discuss what kind of steel you need. Most people are accustomed to seeing rough steel, which are the ones with definite lines running the length of the steel. These are very abrasive and are to be used in place of a stone. They are not for carrying your knife to the next level of sharpness.

If you lose the edge on your boning knife, you can bring it back with a rough steel. But if you use one on a knife that is razor-sharp, it will annihilate your edge. So after the knife is sharp, you don’t want to use the rough steel again. To take your edge to the next level you must use a smooth steel, which appears smooth until you look closely and see that in fact it has microscopic lines. For your smooth steel to work, you need to dress it with emery cloth. Years ago I used 200-grit emery 91

KNIVES cloth but anymore I use 80-grit. This makes slightly larger lines and works faster. To dress your steel, pinch a small piece of emery cloth (about 3 inches long) around the steel and rub it up and down. When you’re ready to rotate, do so with the paper at the bottom of the steel by the handle. You want the lines running straight up and down the steel. You will need to dress your steel anytime it gets dinged up or has surface rust. If you clean it, dry it and apply a light coat of white oil after use, it won’t rust, though. You need to really be careful and keep your rough steel from getting dinged up or rusty because you can’t bring it back. So that’s how to care for your steels. SO, HOW DO YOU STEEL a knife? If you watch most chefs at hotels slicing meat they’re proudly cocked back on their heels, noisily clanging their knife on their steel. You can hear the

You can see how coarse the lines are on a rough steel. The author uses these when a knife loses its edge.

banging from across the room. That’s not how you do it. To have a good relationship with your wife, you have to be gentle and kind. Imagine you get home after work and tell your wife that she is fat, stupid and ugly. And on top of that, her cooking stinks. That’s the recipe for a bad night – and life. Imagine that your knife is your wife. Be gentle with her or things will go south fast. It is amazing, but if you steel your knife even for just two

minutes properly, it will stay sharp as a razor all day long. You can cut meat for eight hours and it will not get dull. I always get racing and showing off so my knives don’t last all day, but if you stick by the rules, it’s possible. I used to have a guy who worked for me and he’d only use one knife all day long. NOW THAT WE’VE TALKED ABOUT the differences between steels, how to care for them and how to dress your



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(Left) Steeling a boning knife. Claycomb likes to place his thumb on top of the spine for stability and steel away from himself. (Right) When steeling a 6-inch knife, the author holds the steel still. When steeling an 8-inch or larger knife, he recommends moving the knife and the steel, or else you get to the end of the steel and hasn’t hit the full length of the blade yet.

smooth steel, let’s cover how to use one. Hold your knife firmly. I like to have my thumb on top to steady the knife. Run it gently down the steel, covering the entire edge of the knife by the time it gets to the tip of the steel. Steel your knife gently, with hardly any pressure, once on each side for five to eight revolutions at exactly the same angle that it was sharpened

on the stone or grinder. It doesn’t matter if you cut away from yourself, towards yourself, run the knife backwards or stand on your head. All that matters is that you hold it at the same angle all the way down the blade. For me, it’s easier to steel away from myself. Here’s the goal: The metal in a boning knife is softer (and thinner) than in a regular knife so that






American Shooting Journal // June 2018

as you cut meat, the edge can roll. You want to restraighten the edge. The steel is magnetized, which helps in lining the metal back up. Speaking of, I’ve always heard “don’t lose the magnetism in your steel or it will ruin it.” I’ve always been paranoid of doing that. Finally, the other day it hit me. I’ve used a steel for 40 years and never have lost the magnetism in one. In fact, I don’t even know what it’d take to lose it, so I decided not to worry about it anymore. Once in a while if I lose an edge and can’t bring it back, I’ll steel my knife backwards and at a little less of an angle and a little more pressure than normal. Here’s my theory: The edge has rolled, so if you’re steeling into the edge you’re just going to roll it more, right? A big percentage of the time I can bring the edge back. If not, I use a rough steel or resharpen it on a stone. What about ceramic steels? They used to be popular and I used them a lot 35 years ago. They land somewhere between a smooth steel and a rough steel. They aren’t as aggressive as a rough steel but I don’t use them anymore. I just use the other two. So, in a nutshell those are the secrets to using a steel. Don’t give up. I’ve trained literally tens of thousands of boners to use a steel and it takes everyone a month to even begin to sort of get the hang of it. And that’s using one eight hours a day for a month. It’s a skill that is half science, half art. Good luck! 95

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Spending summer days behind glass, looking for big game and observing their behavior, is one of the best ways to learn about the animals you’ll soon be hunting.

Summer’s prime time to scout, test and dial in gear, get in shape. STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGEN


une, July and August are generally considered the off-season months for big game hunters in North America. For me, making my living in the outdoors, there is no off-season. In fact, the summer months are when I do most of my scouting, work hard at getting in shape, shoot on a regular basis and test out every bit of gear I’ll be using come hunting season. When it comes time for the hunt, I don’t want to speculate what my

gear will do and how it will perform. I should know every piece of my gear and how it performs. If my boots are Gore-Tex-lined, I want to make sure they do their job before the hunt, and that’s achieved by wearing them on preseason hikes, walking through fields with early morning dew and through shallow creeks to make sure they don’t leak. I want to know what every piece of clothing I’ll be hunting in is capable of. If it’s breathable clothes for early season hunts, I’ll wear them in a range of situations throughout the summer,

from short hikes to overnight camping trips, and from brief runs to long days on extended scouting missions. On cold mornings and nights, I’ll test out my warm weather gear. When a rainstorm comes through, I’ll test every piece of waterproof clothing I’ll be hunting in, making sure it works. When I’m hunting, the last thing I want to do is question my clothing, and preseason preparation is the only practical way to learn how it all performs. THE SAME GOES FOR SHOOTING. You can’t practice too much, be it shooting on the range or in the field. Putting in range time is necessary to make sure your gun, or guns, are 99

ROAD HUNTER shooting with precision. If they’re not, figure out the problem. Check all bases and rings to make sure they’re solid. Make sure the scope is level and in top working order. And make certain the loads you’re shooting are the ones you’ll be hunting with. Remember, a 150-grain bullet will have a different point of impact than a 180-grain bullet fired from the same gun. This is also the time to figure out your effective shooting range. You should know exactly what your comfortable shooting distance is, and don’t attempt to shoot any further than that on a big game animal. If you have the land access, head into the hills throughout the summer with all of your gear, gun and shooting sticks. Treat it as you would a hunt, testing out all your gear, from boots to clothes, packs to hydration systems. And shoot that gun throughout the day. Pick an object on a hillside that’s safe to shoot at. Shoot from various

Summer is a great time to be afield, getting in shape and learning all you can about your gear, the animals you’ll be hunting and the area you’ll be hunting in.

positions, using shooting sticks to provide a solid rest. Practice changing the length of your sticks and shooting from sitting, kneeling and standing

positions. Know how to handle and cycle your gun without looking at it. Be aware of what the trigger pull is like and how stiff the safety is. SUMMER IS A GREAT TIME to run trail cameras in search of bucks, bulls and other big game. Each time you head out to check your cameras, test out different gear. Take your binoculars and a spotting scope and spend time glassing for game. This is a good time to try different tripods in order to find what works best for you. A pastime that’s fun and challenging, and will greatly help build hunting skills during the offseason, is wildlife photography. Having traveled the world photographing big game animals, I can tell you the challenge of getting within camera range of animals is much greater than with a rifle. On top of that, what you learn while snapping photos and stalking closer and closer to animals is amazing. The big challenge of photographing animals often comes in dealing with low-light situations, as early and late in the day are when most big game are active. Watching animals through a lens teaches you a lot about their behavior, and this is a prime time


American Shooting Journal // June 2018 101

ROAD HUNTER to learn about the animals you’ll be hunting. Of all the days I spend in the woods every year, observing animals is where I learn the most. It’s common to spend hours stalking a single animal, watching it, patiently getting closer and snapping photos all the while. ANOTHER GREAT WAY TO BUILD hunting skills this time of year is simply heading afield to observe animals and their behavior, without a gun, bow or camera. This can extend into hunting season, too. A valuable situation where I’ve learned a lot about animals is when I’ve found them on a hunt, but decided not to shoot, for whatever reason. Maybe the animal wasn’t as big as I’d hoped, or perhaps it was early and I didn’t want the hunt to end. When you’re not trying to kill an animal, and they have no idea you’re around, it’s amazing how relaxed they are. You’ll get to watch how they feed, use the


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Summer is the best time to find bucks and bulls, as they are in velvet and active throughout the day. Devote time to summer scouting and it will pay off come hunting season. 103

ROAD HUNTER wind, rely on their ears and depend on members of the same species – even birds – to alert them of danger. One of the biggest mistakes I see hunters make is getting excited and rushing when they see an animal they want to shoot. Instead, keep calm, watch the animal, study the wind and take your time setting up for a shot. If the animal doesn’t know you’re there, there’s rarely a reason to be in a rush. Being in a hurry to shoot often leads to bad decisions, increased heart rates and missed shots. And during hunting season, after filling a tag, it’s worth taking the time to continue “hunting” without a gun, if you have time. More than once I’ve been in hunting camp and tagged out early. Rather than leave, I kept heading afield, watching and learning from the animals in the area. What can be learned through observation, no matter the time of year, will help build hunting skills.


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Throughout the summer, heading afield with all your hunting gear is the best way to learn how it performs. If possible, take your gun afield and practice shooting from various positions.

A MAJOR PART OF BECOMING A betterthan-average hunter depends on knowing when to make a move on an animal, and learning those skills

comes from spending time in the field. Now is the time to ask yourself what can be done to get afield more often in preparation for hunting a am ame m me eri rric iicans nsshoo ho oo oti ttin iin ng gjo journ jo urrn na al. al l com om m 10 1105 05

ROAD HUNTER season. Don’t focus on practicing what you’re good at. Instead, focus building up your weaknesses. If you’re not confident with hiking in the dark, then practice that this summer. If you need to learn how to navigate with a map and compass, or GPS, now is the time to learn how to do that. You, more than anyone, know what you need to do to build those hunting skills, so get to work. If you need to invest in a camera, lens and tripod to get you out there taking pictures, consider it. If you can set trail cameras, you’ll be impressed with what can be learned from them. They’ll reveal the size of animals in an area, population densities, what predators are around, and that’s just the beginning. If you’re finding lots of coyotes on a trail camera in your area, summer is prime time to start weeding out these predators. Spend as much time as you can scouting different areas. Now is the


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Preseason hunt preparation has paid off many times over the decades for author Scott Haugen, pictured here with a nice bull he called to within bow range. 107

time to find the game you’ll be hunting next fall. Never start a hunting season by looking for a place to hunt. That’s what the off-season is for, to learn where the animals are and where your hunt will begin. Preseason scouting can teach you a lot about animals and their behavior. Invest in the best binoculars and spotting scope you can, as this will allow you to spend more time glassing. When scouting, it’s not uncommon to be looking through optics 10 hours a day, and the highest quality glass will prevent eye fatigue. I’ve used many brands of optics around the world over the last 40 years, and have been most pleased with my Swarovskis, which have performed in a wide range of conditions. Highend optics aren’t cheap, but they’ll last a lifetime, thwart eye fatigue and offer unmatched clarity from top to bottom, side to side, on every bit of the glass. AS YOU PREPARE FOR HUNTING season during these summer months, think ahead about how you can increase the odds of filling a tag. In addition to all we’ve touched on, get on the internet and study the areas you’ll be hunting. Sites like Google Earth will allow you to study your hunt area in great detail. Track wildfires this summer, as that can impact when and where you hunt. There’s always something you can be doing this time of year to prepare for the hunt. There’s no substitute for hard work, practice and learning all you can about the game you hunt. If serious about taking your hunting skills to the next level, the time to start is now. Editor’s note: To order Scott Haugen’s specialized Field Dressing, Skinning & Caping Big Game DVD, visit The two-hour DVD shows six ways to breakdown animals in the field. Haugen is host of The Hunt on Netflix. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 108

American Shooting Journal // June 2018 109



American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Identifying your mission is critical to selecting the correct optic. Author Caylen Wojcik set up the lightweight hunting rifle at right with the Leupold Mark 5 3.6-18x scope, while the rifle at left, designed for more tactical applications, is outfitted with a Nightforce ATACR 5x-25x.


PART ONE: GENERAL KNOWLEDGE With the price of good glass high, it pays to know what to look for when buying scopes and more.



f there’s one question I receive, or view as a question posed on the vast expanses of the internet, it’s “what scope should I buy?” The resultant answers are usually comprised of about 95 percent useless information, whereas the remaining 5 percent is generated by folks who have a solid understanding of how to make a good choice with optics. Optics aren’t cheap, and it’s always a good idea to subscribe to the “buy once, cry once” policy when it comes to buying them.

Why is that useless information percentage so high? Because there’s an incredible amount of old and untrue information continuously being circulated throughout the shooting industry. We’re going to touch on some major points on how to select an optic that best suits your needs as a shooter, and follow-up with a deep dive into some of the more technical aspects of optics in future issues. When someone presents the optics question to me, I cut right to the chase and ask them what they’ve budgeted. I want to see where their expectations lie, which is going to help me direct

them to certain brands that have the highest quality and featurerich products that fit that budget. That said, how they present their answer can also indicate whether they really know what they want, or if they’ve got no idea and are looking for more help than just a product recommendation. If that’s the case, or the budget is flexible as a result of the customer being educated, their options can open up significantly. Budget is important, because if it’s fixed, this is what you’ve got to work with, and options can be narrow. That’s not always difficult, and it’s not always easy either, especially if the budget isn’t in line with the features they expect to get. Throw the obvious component of quality in there, and quickly 113

that expectation can get sideways depending on how much they can spend. Let’s face it, no one wants to spend the money that they work hard for on a crap product. The optics industry has progressed at a rapid rate over the last decade, and there are a lot of budgetminded scopes out there that are rich in features. It takes education to be able to navigate the industry marketing and hype, though, which is what we’re ultimately looking to sift through. ONCE WE DIAL IN THE BUDGET, my next question is about the intended use, or the customer’s requirements. Requirements will drive the features the customer needs the optic to possess. If the scope is to be used for hunting, that drives more questions such as what kind of country does the customer hunt? Open western hunting where the possibility of longer shots occur? Timber country? Or thick coastal temperate rainforest? For the open country,


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Great optics help tremendously when it comes to precision shooting, but the rest of the package – rifle barrel, stock, trigger as well as ammunition used – play a role too.

you’re going to want the ability to precisely adjust for elevation, have the ability to adjust your field of view based on the range to the target, and have adjustable parallax for those longer shots. A front focal plane reticle also helps here, but more

on that later. For those hunting in tight timber country, a scope that’s really effective at light transmission is a huge plus so that you can take advantage of every available minute of shooting light in those deep dark pockets of timber. Here, a front focal 115

plane reticle probably isn’t necessary, and for those closer ranges, a bullet-drop-compensated turret/ reticle combination might be the best option for quick shots. If we’re looking at an optic for competitive shooting, then that’s going to direct us to a more full-featured tactical optic. We can see that understanding requirements is educational in itself, which might result in upping the budget to get the features needed. ANOTHER COMMENT I HEAR A lot is “the glass is awesome …” This is a pitfall that lots of consumers unknowingly take. We can prevent this through education. Lens construction, clarity, image resolution, color and contrast resolution are all complex optical engineering topics that warrant their own discussions. For the purposes of this article, I want to skim the surface and give you the information you need to know. First off, if you’re looking for more light transmission, you’re not going to get it from a bigger objective


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

The compactness of the Leupold Mark 5 is shown here in comparison to the Nightforce, though it should be noted the scopes aren’t in the same class.

lens, or a bigger main tube. Those two items have zero influence on light transmission, which is one of the biggest misconceptions

people have on rifle scopes. Light transmission has everything to do with the refraction rate of the optical system, how many lens to air

transitions the incoming light has to navigate before it gets to your eye, and the effectiveness of the coatings on the lenses. Further, there are a lot of optics companies out there that optimize the brightness and clarity of their lenses for in-store fluorescent lighting because that’s where the vast majority of scope purchasing decisions are made by the consumer. The scope might look bright and clear in the store, but it might not be all you thought it would be in fading light when you’re trying to find that animal your buddy is trying desperately to talk you onto. If you’re interested in an optic, or a couple you want to compare, tell the sales guy you want to take them outside for a look. You might even want to strategically plan your visit in the evening to get the best representation of the conditions you’ll be hunting in. Just a thought! Side-by-side comparisons are absolutely necessary, and can be an eye-opening experience, pun totally intended here. You’ll be astonished

For tactical applications in conjunction with night vision use, the BE Meyers MAWL-DA is an infared pointer and illuminator, and is mounted to the top of the Nightforce optic shown here.

that some of those superexpensive brand names are less than optimal performers in low light and highglare conditions, and you’d never know it unless you did that side-byside comparison. It’s your money,



and you as the consumer have the right to know before you buy. THE METHOD WITH WHICH YOU AIM your rifle through a scope is using a reticle, or the crosshairs. There’s a

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American Shooting Journal // June 2018

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Another compact lightweight option from Leupold that is feature rich is the Mark 5 3x-18x. This is an optic that the author prefers to use on gas-operated platforms.

lot to be said about this, and again, it’s its own topic entirely, but for this article, I just want to focus on the big picture. There are two types of reticle placements inside your optic: a placement in the second focal plane, and a placement in the first, or front, focal plane. This is very important to know, as it

directly influences your ability to use the reticle for elevation or wind holds. Reticles in the second focal plane were the most common about five to seven years ago. This means that the reticle subtensions (the precisely measured spaces between all those little dots or lines) remain

the same size through the whole magnification range of the scope. The target gets bigger or smaller, but the reticle stays the same size. This can be a valuable feature for someone to have, especially hunting in tighter country where speed and simplicity is a must, and the chances of holding for elevation or wind are slim. Conversely, I’ve seen lots of missed easy shots because the optic possessed a bullet-drop-compensated reticle, but the shooter had the scope on the incorrect magnification for that reticle to function properly. Know before you go. On the other hand, front focal, or first focal plane, reticles grow and shrink proportionally with the scope’s magnification. This lets you use your reticle for elevation and wind holds no matter what magnification you’re using. For Western hunters, and most definitely competitors, this is a must-have feature for those longer shots in windy conditions. HOPEFULLY YOU’VE GLEANED SOME information out of this article to help you make a more educated optic purchase in the future. There’s a lot that goes into making this choice, and although we touched on the major points here, there’s an incredible amount of information that we still need to discuss so you as the consumer can fully grasp these concepts and make a more informed decision when you buy. Further, don’t ever take anything when it comes to optics for face-value. Get out there and see for yourself. Everyone’s eyes are completely different, and just because a scope works for someone else doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Remember, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” Knowledge gives us the power to follow our own paths with confidence. Look for more articles on optics in coming issues.


American Shooting Journal // June 2018




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Product review

‘PRETTY DARN GOOD’ Riton’s scopes earn high praise for workmanship, reliability, plus they won’t cost you your right arm and a leg.

Charlie Melton, retired Navy Spec Warfare Sniper Instructor, world record holder for longest rifle shot, and Navy SEAL sniper instructor for Marcus Luttrell and Chris Kyle, inspects a Riton scope.



while back, I was honored to be invited to attend Jeff Axelson’s grand opening of his custom rifle/ tactical shop. The name Jeff Axelson is pretty recognized in the shooting community for the quality guns they make and the custom work they do, as well. It is a family-owned business that pays homage to Jeff’s brother, Matt Axelson. Matt was forever immortalized in both the best-selling book and movie The Lone Survivor as one of the heroic Navy SEALs who fought against overwhelming odds during Operation Red Wings. The story is told by Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of that mission. To say there was a who’s who of celebrities from the Special Operations community in attendance at the grand event is an understatement, and I was honored to be amongst such giants. More on that later. With a plethora of venders to behold at this grand opening, as a gun writer and T&E tester for the National Association of Chiefs of Police for products law enforcement officers use, I am always looking for good products to write about. I was listening intently to a man who was singing praises to Jeff Axelson of a vendor whose product line was tactical scopes. The man speaking, Charlie Melton, is a living legend in the Navy Spec Warfare community, a SEAL sniper instructor, a world record holder for shooting the longest shot with a rifle,

and the shooting instructor for Navy sniper legends Marcus Luttrell and Chris Kyle (the latter of whom was the greatest military sniper of all time and the author of the best-selling book American Sniper, which became a movie of the same name). Melton was extolling Riton USA scopes. I was introduced to the owner of Riton, Brady Speth, and was immediately impressed with his bearing and professionalism. Speth served in our military and was a Capitol Police officer. The fact that he is an avid hunter and shooter as well is just icing on the cake. Speth started this company with his wife Carrie in

2013 and they continue to steadily grow and expand their line. Speth was quick to state right out of the gate that his company is not reinventing the wheel with their optics. Riton is simply putting their take on fundamental optic technology and tailoring it to their own designs, and from their own experience creating the best platform, aesthetics, quality, etc. So far, so good. Asked what he thought of the scopes, Melton’s reply was, “These scopes are pretty darn good” and that, my friend, is an endorsement that speaks volumes. 125

PRODUCT review

Melton tests out Riton scopes (left, above) on the range.

RITON’S OPTIC PRODUCT LINE currently includes not only rifle scopes, but red dot sights and binoculars as well, all made to withstand a variety of torturous conditions, which we will discuss shortly. What separates Riton from their competition is Riton sources all their individual components and contracts the assembly; this allows for better control of the process and risk mitigation in regard to the availability of their product. All Riton products


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Col. Danny McKnight of Black Hawk Down fame shoots the author’s AR pistol with a Riton scope on it.

SOCOM training consultant/talk show host/ firearms trainer/gun writer Dr. E.J. Owens shoots a rifle with Riton optics.



PRODUCT review are quality controlled in their facility in Tucson, Arizona, upon incoming and receiving, and then again once pulled from shipment. The optics go through multiple checks for potential defects and quality before reaching the customer. Riton is passionate about their product and also customer service, advising customers on optic solutions and providing support. Riton’s optics feature aircraft-grade aluminum and high-definition glass with a light transmission rate of 99.5 percent, which is pretty darn good. The optics are waterproof; I know because I have had them submerged in Florida’s lakes and oceans as law enforcement in Florida trudge through swamps looking for suspects or board boats and vessels, as many an officer has gone overboard into the water fighting a suspect in the water. The optics are pretty much shock-proof and fog-proof. The optics are dry-nitrogen or argon-sealed, which allows the scopes to withstand the


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Gold Star mother Cindy DietzMarsh, mother of Navy SEAL Danny Dietz of Operation Red Wings/Lone Survivor.

Ex-Delta Force operator Jim Erwin inspects a Riton scope. ame eric ricans ans n hoo otin ingjo g urn gjo urnal. al. com om m 12 129 9

PRODUCT review

Special Force legend/Ranger Hall of Famer/SF sniper instructor/ author of American Warrior Gary O’Neal inspects Riton scopes.

harshest of conditions. These scopes have been put through countless torture tests prior to production runs. Riton currently has 13 models of scopes that range from 1-4x24 all the way to 6-24x50, and they offer both 1-inch and 30mm tubes along with several different reticle combinations in illuminated and non-illuminated styles. The Riton scopes will pretty much beat their competition on value. Their line features

Author Paul Pawela with Brady Speth, owner of Riton.


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PRODUCT review

An Axelson Tactical Rifle with a Riton scope.

four categories of product classified by features and have been designed to provide options at every price point. In layman’s terms, Riton scopes are tough, work well and compete well for the dollar, which is always good news for the consumer. Riton is so confident in quality and performance of their product that they provide an unlimited lifetime warranty on them all.

AMERICAN SHOOTING JOURNAL READERS are some of the smartest and wellinformed shooters on the planet and could probably find more technical data on Riton than the author has stated. However, what needs to be told is the number of military legends who I have personally witnessed singing the praises of Riton scopes. We have already mentioned Charlie Melton, but then there is Gary O’Neal, retired Special Forces/Ranger Hall of Famer and SF sniper instructor; Jim Erwin, retired former Army Delta Operator;

Dr. E.J. Owens, former Army combat officer/now talk radio show host, gun writer and trainer; this list could literally go on forever, but I believe the names mentioned are solid enough. On a final note, I have Riton on my AR pistols, as that is what I teach to my students for home defense. One AR pistol has had over 30,000 rounds of every type of ammo one could put through a gun, including blanks and man marking cartridges. Riton never failed in any way ever!

I wish Riton had been around when I finished my book The Special Operations Tactical Interdiction Sniper Manual, which I am proud to say is endorsed by Maj. John Plaster, former SOG/Special Forces operator and one of the world’s leading experts on sniping. Riton scopes would have certainly been in it, as I cannot think of a stronger endorsement. Editor’s note: Visit for more information.

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American Shooting Journal // June 2018

she hunts

The steep, rocky mountains of Kyrgyzstan aren’t exactly a destination for American tourists, but Southwest U.S.-based Brittany Boddington wanted a new challenge and found it on horseback while hunting ibex in this former Soviet republic in Central Asia.

SADDLING UP IN CENTRAL ASIA Seeking to challenge herself, hunter chases ibex in remote, mountainous and breathtaking Kyrgyzstan – part one of two. STORY AND PHOTOS BY BRITTANY BODDINGTON


like the idea of pushing my limitations to try and see how far I can go and how much I can learn when I book my hunts. But hunting

in the country of Kyrgyzstan was by far the most adventurous hunt I have ever done. Hunting in Asia takes patience and the ability to go with the flow because the plan is always sort of up in the air. Fortunately, the people were nice, which

made it easier to roll with the punches.

A MYSTERIOUS, FARAWAY LAND Kyrgyzstan is often confused with Kazakhstan, its neighbor to the north, but Kyrgyzstan will make you feel much more like you’re in Asia. The Kyrgyz people remind me of my friends from Mongolia. Since China is just to the east, Kyrgyzstan was once part of the famous Silk Road 135

she hunts When their van broke down, the Kyrgyz guides provided strong yet gentle horses to traverse the mountainsides – along with a warning what to do when the steeds inevitably would fall.

trade route. And although the country gained independence as the Iron Curtain fell in 1991, because it was part of the former Soviet Union for so long, cities there still show the signs of Soviet domination. The culture of Kyrgyzstan has remained intact and traditional over the years because the mountains keep the country mostly isolated. Not only did we soak in the culture in a place few Americans have ever been or will likely travel to, we experienced hunting there as well. OFF TO THE HIGH COUNTRY We flew into the capital city of Bishkek and were greeted with VIP signs, then were taken to a nice little lounge where we had coffee with my friend Bryan Martin, who set up the hunt for us. My boyfriend Brad and I landed around 5 a.m. and waited three hours for our cameraman Bill to arrive around 8. After all the gun paperwork was finished we headed off with a translator, a cook, a guide and another hunter who also flew in that morning. 136

American Shooting Journal // June 2018


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she hunts At some point on our 12-hour drive we stopped and picked up our guide. He didn’t speak any English but he always had a smile on his face, so that helped with the language barrier. When we got to base camp we were told that we would stay the night there and check the guns in the morning before heading off to go set up a spike camp. The translator soon joined us, which was a huge relief. We left the next morning after checking the guns and making some adjustments to acclimate ourselves to the altitude. We packed up everything we would need for a few days in spike camp – I was shooting a 6.5 Creedmoor by CZ with SIG Sauer optics – and loaded it into the modified van that we’d driven into base camp, then started off into the mountains. It was like the van was on steroids – it contained every modification you could think of in order to be an offroad mountain vehicle. It was even

Steadying himself on the loose soil and rocks of a steep mountainside, a cameraman lines up the shot.

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American Shooting Journal // June 2018 139

she hunts Line-X coated! Unfortunately, even with all the work they had put into this thing, the rough roads got the upper hand and we broke down about halfway to where the guys wanted us to camp. After a few tries at fixing the van, it was apparent that it wasn’t going to be an easy job. HORSES TO THE RESCUE Fortunately, the guide and the translator had gone ahead of us on horseback that morning and had started to worry that we had not arrived, so they came looking for us. They brought horses and we started to pare down our gear to pack up on the animals. The guides said camp was only a few hours’ ride from where the van was stuck. We left the hard cases in the truck, got our camera and hunting gear into the saddle bags and loaded up our backpacks with as much as we could fit. This was the first time I had been on a horse in the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan; the experience was breathtaking. The mountains seem to be painted in greens and browns, and they go on forever. To say that we were in a remote area was almost a laughable understatement. We were near the border of China in an area that looked like no humans had touched it. That night we slept at a Sovietera military base. I’m not sure when the plan to spike camp changed; the translator was also confused but we welcomed the shelter. We were not allowed to take photos of the base but it was extremely interesting and pretty creepy at night. The next morning we headed out to hunt in the dark. It was freezing and pitch black when we mounted the horses. I have never ridden a horse in the dark like that before and it was a little nerve-racking. Thank goodness Brad is good with horses because, sadly, I am not very experienced in the saddle. My grandfather fancied himself a cowboy 140

American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Kyrgystan is about 80 percent mountains, earning it the moniker of the Switzerland of Asia.

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she hunts Taking the majestic ibex in a setting like this had the author a bit emotional.

and I rode a lot with him on visits as a child, but I really haven’t saddled up much as an adult. My horse was stubborn and slow as can be, but also very careful and I came to love it for that. The terrain was treacherous and the riding was much more technical than anything I was prepared for. The horses in Kyrgyzstan are tall and strong, but above all fearless and nimble. They weave up and down those incredibly steep mountains as gracefully as possible. The translator told me the first 142

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morning that when my horse fell, I needed to pull the reins back sharply to keep my mount from going down completely. The word “when” stuck out to me. He didn’t say “if your horse falls;” it was “when your horse falls.” Those words echoed in my head the rest of the trip. And sure enough, all the horses fell at some point. TREACHEROUS CLIMBING That first morning we covered a massive amount of ground before the sun came up. We climbed over

mountains and through valleys, and crossed frozen streams and icy rocks before reaching a massively steep mountainside. The guide and the translator jumped off the horses and started cinching down the saddles. They asked us to get off and did the same to our horses. They pulled those saddles as tight as they could and I took this to be a bad sign of what we were about to climb. It looked impossible to me; I wondered if I could have even climbed

she hunts that hill on foot because it was so steep and the rocks all were loose. But they instructed us to get on the horses and my worried murmurs dissolved. We started up – straight up. The horses would go in bursts of energy while bounding upward. In really steep spots the horses would zigzag, switching back on themselves so tightly that at times they would have to hop to get their feet to the other side. Some horses would falter and trip but pick themselves up and keep going. My adrenaline was through the roof and while I was thinking of pulling the plug most of the way up, the thought of going down was far scarier than continuing up, so I kept my mouth shut and hung on. I kept hearing my grandfather’s advice about keeping my weight in my stirrups and I leaned forward as much as possible. But there were times that I was sure I was going to go rolling

down the hill with my horse. IBEX IN RANGE At the top things got better and we cruised along the mountain ridge, peeking around each corner. It was morning now and the sun was starting to shine. We came around one corner and I heard a commotion from the guide and the translator. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but they were excited. The translator told me that there were ibex around but were all small. I rode up and looked around the corner and was surprised because they didn’t look small to me at all. I looked through my binoculars and was sure they were big. The guide got very excited and jumped off of his horse. All of a sudden all I could hear was the word “shoot” being chanted over and over. I got off my horse and tried to calm everyone while Brad and Bill got off their horses and Bill got

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the camera set up. Brad ranged the group of ibex at around 400 yards, but they were moving up the mountain. Undoubtedly the shouting of “shoot, shoot, shoot” was scaring them. I got settled in the prone position and picked a nice big male that was very pretty and was standing clear of the other ibex. There were bigger trophy males in the group but they were all bunched up. I could tell that they wouldn’t stand still for long. Brad ranged the ibex I had my crosshairs on at 425 yards. I adjusted accordingly, took a deep breath, exhaled halfway and fired. I heard it hit. I have never been so sure of a shot in my life. The ibex was hit hard and it took a tumble down the hill. It stood up again and I finished the job. We watched to make sure it wouldn’t get up again, then started to head up the hill on the horses. It was all rocks and shale from where we were to where the ibex was and the horses were sliding and tripping a lot. I finally got to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore, jumped off the horse and decided to go up on foot. It was a bad decision. The altitude totally kicked my butt and I had to sit and breathe every few yards, but I finally made it up to my beautiful ibex. They are built like bulldogs and packed with solid muscle. They are the largest of the ibex and, to me, the most beautiful. I teared up when I got to the animal, which is something I never do, but for me this was the hunt of a lifetime and the top of my wish list for animals. It was surreal realizing such a faroff dream. My hunt was incredible and Brad was up next on the gun, but I’ll save his adventure for later. Editor’s note: Look for part two in next month’s issue. Los Angeles native Brittany Boddington is a Phoenix-based hunter, journalist and adventurer. For more, go to and


American Shooting Journal // June 2018


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American Shooting Journal // June 2018



An array of Nosler Partition bullets, in .375-, 7mm and .308-inch diameters.

John Nosler’s Partition, with its two cores and copper barrier between, revolutionized hunting bullets. STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO


he premium bullet industry owes a debt to Mr. John Nosler, and a bull moose in British Columbia that refused to die. In the mid-1940s, Nosler was hunting in Canada and wellarmed with a .300 Holland & Holland Magnum – a perfect choice for any moose – when he leveled his sights on the beast’s shoulder. He fired, and fired again, with little effect; while his cup-and-core bullets moved at an impressive velocity, they simply broke up on the shoulder, doing nothing more than superficial damage. He left that hunting experience with the desire to build a better mouse trap and set to the drawing board to improve on the customary bullet designs. The result was the now-famous Nosler Partition, a staple in the shooting world and a bullet celebrating

its 70th anniversary. John Nosler had a genius idea to prevent the bullet from breaking up prematurely, where he’d use two lead cores, separated by a thick wall – or partition – of copper jacket material. This concept allows the bullet’s front core to give good expansion to destroy vital tissue, yet have the rear core remain intact and undisturbed to guarantee deep penetration. A cup-and-core bullet, using a single lead core inside a drawn copper jacket (which helps avoid lead fouling and allows the bullet to handle velocities in excess of 2,000 feet per second) relies on its length and/or jacket thickness to resist the violent effects of smashing into thick hide and bones. The cup-and-core design has been with us since the late 19th century, and can work wonderfully on thin-skinned animals, but can show its flaws quickly when the animals are tough. John Nosler created a

true controlled expansion bullet, and the first models were available for purchase commercially in 1948. It was a game-changer. The Nosler Partition bullet would increase the potential of the existing calibers, giving reliable penetration and retained weight, and making those cartridges considered marginal absolutely viable. CONSIDER JACK O’CONNER’S .270 Winchester, which Elmer Keith would’ve scoffed at as a selection for elk hunting. Load the cartridge with a 150-grain Nosler Partition, and the cartridge takes on an entirely new persona. The bullet – in spite of its age – remains a wonderfully viable choice for an all-around hunting projectile. There are those who’ve complained that the front core tends to “wipe off” during the terminal phase, but I believe that’s the point; the front core does the work of expanding to a 149

bullet bulletin

suitable diameter to cause as much trauma as possible, while the rear portion tries to perform like a solid, or non-expanding, bullet, concentrating on penetration over expansion. With the rear portion remaining intact, I’m not particularly concerned with the condition of the front core – so long as it expands and destroys tissue as it “wipes away.”


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

My own experiences with the Nosler Partition have been nothing but positive. I’ve used or loaded the Partition for numerous game species, from deer, bear and hogs here in the U.S., to a wide selection of plains game in Africa. Loaded in his .30-06 Springfield, my buddy Joel Ritter took impala, blesbok, and the tough blue wildebeest and zebra with a

(Top left) The .375-caliber 300-grain Nosler Partition, a great choice for an all-around hunting bullet in this caliber. (Top right) These 150-grain 7mm Nosler Partitions are perfect for the mild 7x57 and 7mm-08 Remington, and the 7mm Remington Magnum as well. (Above) A cross-section of the Nosler Partition shows its thick copper wall that keeps the rear core intact.

bullet bulletin The base of the Nosler Partition leaves the lead exposed, due to the partition between cores.

The Federal Premium 130-grain Nosler Partition load.

165-grain Partition. My father took my handloaded 200-grain Partitions in his .308 Winchester for thick-bodied hogs, and dropped his in its tracks; my wife killed a large black boar in

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Florida with her .308 and 165-grain Partitions. All required only one shot. MY FAVORITE PARTITION EXPERIENCE came with a solo deer hunt on

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American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Thanksgiving Day 2013. I had headed to the Catskill Mountains to hunt one of my favorite patches of wilderness. I had my own .308 Winchester over my shoulder, a Ruger 77 MKII topped with a Leupold Vari-X IIc 3-9x40; it’s an old friend that has accompanied me on many adventures. There was a light snow, with temperatures having dropped from the mid-40s to the teens overnight. I immediately struck the tracks of a doe with her fawn, meandering down a logging road, when 200 yards down the trail I saw the large tracks of a buck, easy to tell by the way he was following the other deer like a heat-seeking missile. In the name of brevity, I actually succeeded in tracking the trio, and getting a shot at the beautiful Catskills eight-point buck. One hundred and twenty-five inches of antler were quickly and neatly put down – on the run – by a 165-grain Nosler Partition, and he remains my best New York deer to date. The Nosler Partition is available in calibers from .224 to .458, so there is truly something for everyone. In the larger safari calibers, say, from 9.3mm and .375 up to the .416 and .458, the Partition is a good choice for all game except the African elephant. Cape buffalo, eland, Kodiak and polar



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The author’s Catskill Mountain eight-point whitetail, neatly dispatched with a 165-grain Partition from a .308 Winchester.


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American Shooting Journal // June 2018

bears; all can be handled neatly with a Partition of suitable sectional density. While some have claimed that the Partition is an inaccurate bullet, I have always been able to get acceptable hunting accuracy out of my handloads, and the factory ammunition I’ve used with the Partition on top has been – with few exceptions – adequate. Is it a hairsplitting target bullet? No, I wouldn’t describe it as such, but when I weigh the bullets for use in my handloads, I’ve seen accuracy that would make any rifleman smile. But, as I’ve described, it’s the terminal ballistics of the Partition that made its reputation. As a flatbased spitzer, it doesn’t have a terrible ballistic coefficient value, but it wasn’t designed to punch 1,000-yard steel. What you do have in the Partition is a good, smart and reliable design, and if you were to show up in just about any hunting camp with them, I doubt you’d meet a guide or professional hunter who would frown at your choice. Thank you Mr. Nosler, both for the Partition and for the spark that has led to an entire science. John Nosler had a vision, and though I’m not sure that he knew he’d create the entire niche industry that is the premium bullet market, I’m certainly glad he saw his vision to fruition.




















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American Shooting Journal // June 2018



The tools of the casting trade consist of a ladle for melting lead over a heat source and a “bag mold,” the pliers-looking tool, for pouring it into. The former was made by a blacksmith, the latter by Larry Callahan.

Making your own over a small fire with simple tools is about as authentic as it gets for muzzleloaders. STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT


et’s talk about fire. For doin’ it “primitive” and casting bullets, you certainly want a hot but small fire. After all, you’ll need to be able to get real close. A small cooking fire is just about right, so keep plenty of small pieces of wood handy because you’ll find yourself feeding this little fire, probably with every ladle-full of lead you melt. A bed of coal is very nice but not hot enough; you want some flame from those small pieces of wood to renew the coals and to lick the bottom of the ladle just to

keep it real hot. It is best to have that fire circled with rocks, but there is something more that you’ll certainly want. That is either a good-sized stone or just a fairly large piece of wood to act as a heat shield. While melting your lead, balance the ladle across this block so the ladle’s bowl is right over the fire but the handle is shielded from the heat so it can stay fairly cool. That handle must remain cool enough for you to hold it, usually with a bare hand. Another point about the fire is to have it in an area of very good draft or ventilation. Even though we melt lead

in very small quantities while casting round balls for our muzzle-loading guns, don’t forget that molten lead gives off fumes. Because of that, I very seldom cast bullets inside a tepee and always prefer to use a fire that is outside the lodge. Also, because of the possibility of fumes, I do not cook over the fire at the same time the lead is melting. Maybe I’m being too careful but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a pot of good coffee being kept warm by the fire. The coffee in that pot is very well protected when compared to food in a wide-open pan being fried 157

BLACK POWDER in the same fire. Believe me, no one appreciates good cooking more than me, but please keep your cooking separate from lead casting. Actually, casting balls inside a tepee should be OK provided that your smoke flaps are set properly with the outside breeze in order to make for a good draft. If the fire’s smoke goes out of the tepee, any lead fumes should also go. Likewise, I do often cast round balls at the fireplace in my living room, allowing any lead fumes to go up the chimney along with the wood smoke. THERE IS ANOTHER LITTLE THING to mention: you will want a stick, a piece of firewood, or just a tomahawk handle lying on the ground close to you while you do your casting. That is simply so you have something kind of sturdy to tap the mold against in order to get the new ball to drop from the mold. And don’t roll the freshly cast round ball right out of the mold into your


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Pour the lead into the mold slowly until completely full.

hand like we saw done in the movie The Patriot. That round ball might not be molten or in liquid form, but it is still more than hot enough to make

picking one up a very memorable experience. Tap the still-hot balls out of the mold by tapping on the stick, and let those new and very shiny balls 159

BLACK POWDER PAINTING OF ‘CASTING BY THE CAMPFIRE’ Bill Conant, a well-known mountain man artist in Washington state, did a painting of me doing some bullet casting beside a campfire. I must admit, that makes me rather proud. Bill sells his prints and paintings at our rendezvous and gun shows, so if you’d like to see one of the prints close up, just drop over to his trade tent. For those of you who don’t commonly travel these trails, you can also contact him at Bill Conant, P.O. Box 308, Ashford, WA 98304 or by calling (360) 556-6006. He doesn’t have an email address but somehow he does get some of his work posted on Facebook, so you might be able to see more of his work there. Bill goes by the camp name of “Sweet William” and his business card lists “Mountain Man Paintings and Stuff.” Prints available for most of his works and prices for those prints vary with the size. You’ll have to contact him for a price if you are interested in a print and he will also add some personal remarques in the corners of the matting if you desire. Bill has a favorite little story to tell about me and those remarques if you just ask him. Right now let me tell you a little story about Bill. When the painting was done – the first time anyway – he showed it to me so I could admire it. It looked great but he had painted me with the lead ladle in my left hand and the bullet mold in my right hand. I commented that I’m not left-handed. He said, “I can fix that in ten minutes.” Bill did fix it too. But he also had about ten artists’ proofs showing me casting left-handed and I had to have one of those. Those left-handed prints can be called rare.

drop into the grass. For safety’s sake, I must mention that you simply cannot let any amount of water or moisture come in contact


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

with your molten lead, regardless of how little lead you might have melted. This is something that I repeat every time I talk about casting bullets,

A painting by Bill Conant portrays the author casting bullet.

whether it is face-to-face or through the written word such as this, because I must give complete information for anyone who might be learning about 161

BLACK POWDER casting their own bullets for the first time. The point is that the expansion ratio from water to steam is almost 400 times. And because molten lead is just about four times hotter than the boiling point of water, any little drop of water that hits your molten lead will be instantly converted into steam and that will make your ladle of molten lead act like a little bomb. It will happen so fast you won’t have time to blink your eyes. The only solution is to never allow even the tiniest drop of moisture, such as on a damp piece of lead, be introduced to your hot ladle. WITH YOUR LADLE FULL OF hot lead, hold your mold down on a board or a flat piece of split firewood, then hold the pouring lip of the ladle right in the open hole on the mold’s top and slowly pour lead into the mold. If you’re gentle enough, the lead will simply stop flowing when the mold is full. If you are more like me, you’ll overfill


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

Mike Moran casting bullets by the fire for his trade rifle. americanshoo hoo ootin oo t gjo ti tin ourn urn urnal. nal al com m 163

BLACK POWDER A flintlock rifle, like this TVM Leman, will “appreciate” those fire-side balls.

the mold and spill some lead onto the wood that the mold is resting on. There h th h is nothing wrong with spilling some hot lead, as long as you are prepared for it, and I seem to spill a little every time I cast some balls. Just let that spilled drop of lead cool, then add it back to the ladle, perhaps along with the sprues you’ve cut from the good, freshly made balls. Holding the mold down on that piece of wood, or even a flat rock, will increase your steadiness and that will help reduce any spilling. One time another ’skinner called me over to his campfire while he was making some .390-inch-diameter balls for his .40-caliber light Leman flintlock. He was having some trouble and I could see a lot of lead spilled on the ground.

As I said, I’ve spilled lead too, so that wasn’t much to notice, but he began to say how there must be something wrong with his mold because he was only getting a good ball every six or seven tries. The mold he was talking about was one from Larry Callahan, and it sure didn’t look bad. Then I noticed something about his casting technique; we might say he was trying to dump lead into the mold, rather than slowly pour it in. When he began to melt the next ladle-full of lead, I asked if I could give his mold a try. He surrendered it quickly and after I had cast three or four good balls in a row, I offered this explanation. When he tried to pour into the mold too fast, the lead would splash across the

hole and simply seal it closed. Now he pours his lead more slowly and makes a good ball with almost every try. That was some time ago and he lar “casting compadre” became a regular who makes most all of his round ball bullets over a campfire. He also has gotten Callahan molds in other sizes to feed his .54-caliber TVM Leman rifle and his short 20-gauge canoe gun. We often visit each other’s camps just to see “what’s cooking,” whether it’s meat or just some hot lead. When I needed to take some pictures for this story that showed some bullets actually being poured, he was quick to say, “C’mon over!” I certainly do thank him for his cooperation. A RATHER GOOD PARTNER WHO should be mentioned here is Mike Moran, an hombre who has been doggin’ this child’s trail for a couple of years now. I watched Mike take his first shots with a muzzleloader and, believe me, he has come a long way since then. The only bad thing about Mike is that he doesn’t heed any of this old-timer’s warnings. First I told him to never fire a flintlock simply because they are so addicting; he didn’t listen and now he shoots a flintlock all of the time. Next I advised him to always buy his round balls, mainly because making them is simply too much fun. Well, he didn’t listen to that either and now Mike and I find ourselves casting beside a campfire at every chance we get. He’s a good partner and you’ll probably be seeing and hearing more about him. If you’d like more information about a bag mold for your muzzleloader, I will recommend contacting Larry Callahan at The Callahan bag molds are the most modern-made, and most accurate, primitive molds available. Larry can also supply ladles and other “primitive fixin’s.”


American Shooting Journal // June 2018 165



Company celebrates two decades in business with first American American-made made product line, at Kansas fafactory. PHOTOS BY CZ-USA


his is a milestone year for CZ-USA, a firearms company headquartered in Kansas City, Kansas. Not only is the company celebrating 20 years in business but also its first U.S.made CZ model handguns. “P-10 models will be built in our Kansas City facilities starting in the second half of the year,” explains Jason Morton, vice president of marketing for CZ-USA. Most of their products are imported directly from their Czech Republic parent company, Česká zbrojovka a.s. Uherský Brod (CZUB), so this new in-house manufacturing capability is a big deal. IT’S AN EXCITING TIME FOR the company whose products run the gamut from handguns to rifles to shotguns and beyond. CZ-USA’s also introducing a host of new and updated products. “Some of the most in-demand of our new products are the Scorpion EVO 3 S2 Micro, our new suppressor line designed specifically for CZ models, and our Supreme Field O/U shotgun,” says Morton. Readers can view the entire new lineup at With such a wide-ranging product line, CZ handguns tend to be the biggest sellers, according to Morton. “We’ve managed to remain popular with our legacy models like the CZ 75, and with newer models based on the 75, due to the fact that they are truly superior ergonomically than the competition,” he explains. “The natural point of aim of our handguns feels more natural to most shooters than do those from other manufacturers. This trait is carried through all of 166

American Shooting Journal // June 2018

New ffrom CZ-USA for 2018 are the Scorpion on EVO 3 S2 Micro (top) and Supreme Field O/U shotgun. CZ-USA’s Dan Wesson 715 Revolver ver comes in .357.

our handgun models, including our P series polymer-framed models. “This, combined with the fact that our reliability and accuracy claims are more than just marketing copy, keeps the popularity of the CZ models growing. This is evident through the fact that our models are the numberone choice of USPSA production class based on the USPSA Nationals equipment surveys for several years running now. We also continue to innovate with the convertible decocker/manual safety levers of the Omega, P-09 and P-07 models. Our newest offering, the P-10 strikerfired handgun, combines the abovementioned ergonomics, reliability and accuracy with a best-in-class trigger pull and reset.” Another popular CZ line is the Dan Wesson line, named for Daniel B. Wesson, founder of Wesson Firearms Co. and the great-grandson

of D. B. Wesson, cofounder of Smith & Wesson. Wesson “Our Dan Wesson line gives us a handcrafted product in a higher-end brand,” says Morton. “The Dan Wesson 1911 models deliver significant value and is recognized for the top-shelf components and build quality that you have to pay twice as much for when comparing it to competing models. The Dan Wesson brand has a place in U.S. firearms history, as well. This is the 50th anniversary of Dan Wesson Firearms. They started out building a unique revolver that was prized among silhouette competition shooters and big game hunters. Today, the revolver is alive and well in the 715 model .357, but the company makes far more of our 1911 models.” Editor’s note: For more information about the company and its full line of products, visit 167


American Shooting Journal // June 2018

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