All posts by coldboremiracle

450 Bushmaster, Slow and Steady Wins the Race

If I had a rifle for every time I fell in love with an idea, the world would lay quietly in a torpid slumber beneath a blanket of heaped weapons strewn beyond the horizon. I was blessed with a vivid imagination since childhood. My mind is in a perpetual cycle of finding project ideas, digesting them mentally until my brain has either built the whole thing and tested its flaws, or until the same has been exhausted to the smoldering dumpster where ideas die. If it weren’t for the occasional successful brainstorm that ends with a nifty new project, I might lose my mind. This is a story about one of those.

450 Bushmaster cartridges loaded with Hornady 350 grain round nose bullets, these bullets were .458 until I swedged them down to .452 for the Bushmaster

I have long wished for a slow and heavy cartridge that could readily be used for subsonic launching of big, heavy bullets that will go a very long distance. There were many possible suspects; big bore cartridges, the Whisper family, and many others. I had long wished for a 510 Whisper, but my suppressor inventory ventured only to the .46 mark. Making the 510 and similar cartridges inapplicable. The next best thing for a diet of heavy and slow would then be something in the .45 realm.
But even then, .451 or .458? Why not both?

The .458 bore has a much larger and heavier selection of bullets, and they are easily swaged down to .451. Which makes a perfect fit for the 450 Bushmaster. The 450 enjoys quality brass from Hornady, making reloading a snap. And using mild charges for subsonic velocities would keep the brass life high. The straight walls of the cartridge would hopefully last to be reloaded again and again.
The beauty of my main rifle, the Desert Tech SRS A1 Covert, is its multi-caliber role. I have a pile of barrels accumulating for it in my safe, so starting this 450 project was as simple as a barrel, some dies, and some powder and bullets.
The sixteen and a half-inch barrel was made by ES Tactical, crowned and threaded for my SilencerCo Hybrid. It didn’t take long to start falling in love with this basically large pistol.
I found that the factory Hornady Black 450 Bushmaster ammunition was a good place to start. At 100 yards it was printing groups just under two inches, I was hoping for better so I tried my hand at reloading. A set of dies for the BM isn’t as easy to come by as other calibers, all I could find were Hornady and another set from Lee Precision. I opted for the Lee set, which I still don’t regret. The four die set has allowed me to load quite a bit of very precise ammunition.

Seeing as how my objective was to eventually reach a heavy subsonic load, I went ahead and ordered Lee’s .458 to .451 swage die. That way I could take advantage of the larger and heavier selection of bullets in the 458 family. I wasted no time in doing so, some of the first reloads I tried were Hornady 350 grain round nose bullets swaged down to 451. They did pretty well, but I wanted bigger, so I purchased a box of 405-grain lead bullets that had been made for the 45-70. The lead slipped easily through my swage die, and in no time they were 451’s.

Subsonic loads for the Bushmaster used 405-grain lead solids, these were made to shoot in the 45-70, but after running them through the Lee sizing die, they ran perfectly through my Bushmaster

I tried a couple different powders, but as usual, when it comes to subsonic shooting, IMR Trailboss powder was the ticket I needed. I was blown away with the consistency of the results, I was seeing velocities more consistent than anything I had loaded prior. Not only single digits but SD numbers in the 1-4 fps range. I was praying that this would translate into extremely accurate ammunition, it wasn’t bad but not as good as I’d hoped. Accuracy still averaged around 1-1.5 MOA at 100 yards, good enough to hit most targets of mine at the ranges we expected.

My excitement about this whole Bushmaster project was tripled when Mad Scientist/Gunsmith Eric Smith built me a second barrel, this time for my Desert Tech MDR. The MDR is a semi-automatic bullpup, it brings accuracy and multi-caliber universality to a compact and quality package. I couldn’t wait to try my same loads in the MDR, I figured it likely wouldn’t cycle the action but I wanted to try anyway.

The accuracy was almost the same from the MDR as from my SRS A1, but as I feared it would only cycle the faster supersonic ammunition. I am currently working on an alteration to make it cycle, if it works out, it may be the coolest thing ever.

The goal, of course, was to use this project for some very quiet hunting. Sneaking into bow range of animals is exciting enough, but the ability for movie quiet rifle shots with one MOA accuracy made it even more exciting.

This past season we were able to put it into use, and the results were exactly as I had hoped. We had eyes on a small group of mule deer that we could predict movements with some regularity, so a good hide was fashioned that would give a view of them with no more than 120 or so yards max range. As it turns out, a young buck made his way across the opening one dusky evening, and he wandered around the 60-yard line.
The hushed report of the Bushmaster made every ear in the group perk up, but only one of them jumped. He jumped from the impact of the bullet, which hit him right above his right elbow, and passed through him exiting almost exactly opposite. He ran for about 20 yards where he toppled over and kicked on the ground for a short time.

This young buck hoped to escape from the Bushmaster, but a perfect shot through both lungs shortened his run to a 20-yard dash before he toppled

Internal inspection of the buck showed perfect damage to his lungs, the bullet passed through both lungs rupturing many vital passages along the way. His lungs quickly filled with blood, causing what most of us would call a near-perfect kill. Another positive result was very minimal meat damage, the lower velocity didn’t seem to cause all the bloody mess that supersonic bullets tend to do. It was more reminiscent of an arrow wound.

With experiences like this and all the other advantages that it brings, this will likely not be the last time we use the 450 Bushmaster for a hunt. While the purpose I have described here today may not be orthodox, it shows you what can be done with a little imagination and firepower.

-CBM

How to Spec Out Your Dream Rifle Build

I receive questions almost daily from people who are in the process of putting a custom rifle together, its usually a question about chambers, barrel lengths, different manufacturers or some other specific part. Many times during the discussion, it comes out that maybe one or more of the options aren’t ideal for the intended purpose of the rifle, and that inevitably ends up causing a change in strategy. In the interest of not wasting valuable time, money and other resources, I figured I would put down a good process so that anyone who is interested in a custom rifle build can follow along in the hopes of avoiding that waste. And perhaps the details that follow can get you on the range sooner.

Whether you are rebuilding a rifle or starting from scratch, there are a few very important criteria that should be considered every step of the way. There may be others, but the main two I will focus on, and the rest are based upon are; the intended purpose of the rifle, and the budget you have to spend on it.

The intended purpose of the rifle is very important, it will dictate many of the rifles aspects such as caliber, weight, quality, etc. If your intended purpose is a hunting rifle, then a twenty-plus pound rifle would not be a good starting point. Just as if you are building a match rifle for PRS style competition, a 338 Lapua Magnum may not be the ideal cartridge to choose. So it is very important to evaluate what you intend to do with this rifle when you’re done with it. Many people start with the idea of a do-all rifle when building a custom, in my experience, custom rifles are an addiction and if you build one, you will likely follow it with more. So don’t be too afraid to get fairly specific with your purpose.

The budget you have to spend on a rifle has just as much influence as the intended purpose because many of us are not rich, and the dollars we have available to spend are limited. You should make sure that your choices are made with that in mind. If you blow your entire budget on a receiver and barrel, you may not have enough left to spend on a good scope. With so many great options available to you today, there are components that will meet most every custom rifle build budget.

Moving forward, here is the order in which I typically choose my components. Afterward, I will discuss them individually:

  • Intended Purpose
  • Project Budget
  • Accuracy Required
  • Distances intended to shoot
  • Weight Limit
  • Bore Diameter
  • Bullet intended to shoot
  • Velocity required
  • Barrel Twist
  • Cartridge Selection
  • Barrel Length
  • Receiver Selection
  • Barrel selection
  • Capacity needed (magazine)
  • Chassis or Stock Choice
  • Trigger
  • Scope & Mounts
  • Accessories
  • The distances you intend to shoot are very important. If it is a match gun for thousand-yard benchrest, then you probably want to shoot something 6mm or larger. If you plan on dangerous game in Africa, then you probably want something .375 or bigger. It’s pretty easy to decide on this subject, if in doubt, just look at what most others are using to do the same. The important part is to match the distance and bore-size to the job at hand. Hitting targets at 1000 yards don’t require huge amounts of energy, whereas hitting a buffalo at 100 yards does. And it’s especially important if you plan on shooting animals at any significant distance, you need to know what kind of energy and accuracy you need before moving to the bullet.

    Selecting a bullet you’ll notice is almost at the top of the list, which may seem like putting the cart before the horse but you’ll soon see why. The only reason we shoot rifles is that we want to hit what we’re aiming at, accuracy then must be one of our top priorities. So once you figure out your available budget, and what you plan to do with the rifle, you should have a pretty good idea about the level of accuracy that will be necessary. Most of the time we want as good of accuracy as can possibly be achieved, so it goes almost without saying that we want a precise shooting rifle capable of sub-MOA (minute of angle) accuracy, and preferably better than half MOA.
    So the next step is choosing the bullet you intend on shooting. The reason this is so important and at the beginning of the list is because so much of the rest depends on it. You should pick a bullet that meets the criteria of your budget and purpose, personally, I try and use the most inexpensive and readily available bullet I can, but one that is heavy for caliber, and has the highest Ballistic Coefficient (BC) as possible. For example;
    If I am planning on shooting a 6.5 for competition, I would probably find something that is 140 grains or more, preferably with a high .290 or better BC, and available readily and in bulk packages to save money. Just how high a BC is up to you, there are plenty of inexpensive options like the Barnes Bullets Match Burner, or you could spend quite a bit more on something like a Berger Bullets 156 EOL.
    Another example; If you are building a hunting rifle and only anticipate shots inside of two hundred yards on whitetail sized game, then you probably don’t need to spend a fortune on specialty or high BC bullets. A simple and inexpensive soft pointed bullet would do the trick just fine. There are pros and cons to either, so pick a bullet that fits your budget and availability, I say bullet but it could be multiple bullets if you must. I prefer and suggest to others to stick to one bullet, if you dont know why, then you should read this when your done.

    Once you have decided on a bullet or perhaps bullets, then you know what kind of barrel twist is required by that manufacturer in order to shoot it well. So mark that down on your build list right next to the bullet. I like fast twist barrels, they are better for shooting the typically heavier bullets that have the higher BC’s. And with technology going the way it is, there are more and longer and heavier bullets headed our way. So favoring a faster twist may leave the door open to shooting better bullets in the future. I have at least one barrel that is an 8.5 twist and I wish it was an 8 or a 7.5, but that’s life in the fast lane.

    If your goal is to hunt big game animals at long range, then you will definitely need as much energy as possible, that can be achieved by higher velocity. A 308 and 300WM can both shoot a 180-grain bullet, but the 300WM can shoot it much faster and therefore carry more energy. The 300WM then would be the better choice of the two for long-range hunting. That is the simple way to choose a cartridge, you can make it as simple or as hard as you want. Just keep in mind the two governing factors we spoke of at the top, what fits both my purpose and budget. It might be a 300WM or it might be a 30 Nosler or PRC, one has more energy, one is cheaper, pick your poison.

    Now that you know your bullet and cartridge combination, you need to decide on a barrel length. How much barrel do you need to get your selected bullet up to speed for the job you’ve tasked it to? Bigger cases with lots of powder usually need a long barrel to burn it all, and that’s what gives those big cartridges their speed. So if you chose the 300WM with a twenty-two-inch barrel, you’ll be slower than had you chosen a twenty-six inch. With as much data as there is available today, this is a very simple calculation to find. Just figure what muzzle velocity you need to stay above the minimum required velocity and energy at the distance you have determined at the outset of the project. Today’s ballistic solvers are an extremely valuable tool for doing this, there are many available, I prefer Trasol.
    There are many fantastic barrel manufacturers, some cost more than others, and some have features and services others don’t. You may want a less expensive button-rifled barrel, or perhaps a cut rifle barrel. You may want flutes cut in the barrel to reduce weight, or maybe a carbon fiber wrapped barrel. Each has its pros and cons again, look into as many options as you can, so you don’t regret it after your rifle is done.

    With barrel details, and the cartridge now written down on your build sheet, its time to pick a receiver to house all this excitement. If you are building a short action cartridge like a 6.5 Creedmoor, then you can pick from a plethora of high-quality short action receivers. Whether it’s a simple Remington 700, or something real fancy like the Badger Ordnance 2013 Action, it once again comes back to your budget and purpose. There are too many manufacturers to list nowadays, making short, long, and XL actions. You can get them in the very common Remington 700 footprint, to use the huge aftermarket support of that pattern, or try one of the many others. Just make sure that when choosing a receiver, you make sure your components are compatible (chassis/stock, bottom metal, etc.).
    Keep in mind that some of these receiver options come with built-in canted scope bases, or available scope bases with various cant options. Do yourself a favor and research those options before buying to make sure it matches your intended purpose.

    The purpose of your rifle will also determine what kind of round capacity you will need. Whether its three, or twelve, you can feed your rifle through a magazine. Most hunting rifles use a blind box mag, and if that meets your requirements then you needn’t look any further. But if you want a larger capacity, then you may consider a detachable box magazine. If your not sure, you can always choose a DBM setup, and run five round mags, ten rounders, or whatever fits your needs. Just keep in mind that additional weight for your end goal.

    Another big choice you will need to decide on is what kind of chassis or stock you plan on using. But since you now know what action, barrel & contour, magazine or DBM, and of course what the purpose of the rifle is, it just comes down to choice and what you can fit in the budget. Keep in mind features between chassis, such as construction and accessories. A carbon fiber stock is much lighter than a fiberglass stock, but maybe you want a heavy chassis instead, with adjustable weights on it.

    Almost any rifle receiver worth having has a good trigger available. Again, do your research and see what you can get that fits your taste, your rifle, and your budget. I am a very big fan of Trigger Tech triggers, but there are many others as well. One thing on triggers, make dang sure you are getting the right model for your build, and ensure safeties, bolt stops, and releases are compatible before you order one. The last thing you want is to get everything put together only to find out your bolt release won’t work or some damn thing.

    The scope and mounting system are incredibly important, so don’t skimp on them. It can be very hard to know what heigh rings to get, or what base to mount them to if you don’t have the components in hands. Many of us order these parts online, so you cant really dry fit them until they arrive. Unfortunately, the best you can do is estimate from your best measurements, and see how it turns out.
    Your scope and base choice are critically dependent on your ballistic data (determined by numbers we figured out already above). You may need a 20, 30, or 40 MOA scope base in order to reach your distance goal, particularly if the scope you choose has inadequate internal travel. Whereas if you are building a short-range rifle or a super flat shooting rifle, you may not need any additional cant.
    Your scope magnification depends greatly on preference and your eyes. But choose one that will allow you to see targets within your intended range, and has the range of magnification you will need. Optics are very subjective because we all have different eyes, so you cant always take others’ opinions for granted, not even mine. Ideally, you should try out your prospective scopes beforehand, but if that isn’t an option, then you may just have to base your choice on other people’s reviews.

    The last thing to cover is accessories, things like bipods, slings, suppressors etc. Now that you have all of your other bases covered, it should be pretty easy to pick out accessories. A stockpack perhaps that fits the stock you already selected or a support bag that attaches directly to the chassis you picked out. With all the minutia of your build nailed down, you can select all the accessories that will fit it.

    Hopefully this has been a helpful walkthrough on how to put your dream rifle together, these steps can be followed or applied to additional build aspects. If you’ve done it right, you should basically have a build sheet with everything you need to aquire. The end goal is to have a rifle you are pleased with, functions as designed, and brings a smile to your face. But dont be too satisfied with it, as it won’t be long till the build bug bites you again and the whole process starts over again. And when it does, come back and read this again.

    -CBM

    Riton Optics RT-S Mod 7 4-32X56

    Riton Optics is a relatively new manufacturer of optics, since their start in 2013 they have been working in the Arizona heat to make affordable sighting optics without sacrificing quality.
    My first encounter with Riton Optics came a year or so ago, when I put their RT-S MOD 5 6-24X50 scope on one of my rifles. I wasn’t sure what to expect as Riton was relatively new to me, but in a short time the scope’s performance had earned my praise. That same scope has been hauled all over these Rocky Mountains on my Tikka , dropped, snowed on, rained on, used as a crutch, and still maintains a perfect zero. Its no stranger to distance work, these past two seasons it has been used to take five mule deer and two cow elk from two hundred to eleven hundred yards. So I can say with pretty good certainty that these scopes are robust enough for western hunters.

    The Riton Optics RT-S Mod 5 6-24X50 mounted on my Tikka T3 25 Creedmoor

    I recently talked myself into one of Riton’s newer and bigger scopes, the RT-S Mod 7 4-32X56. The Mod 7 is definitely a step up in both price and performance from my Mod 5, at more than twice the price, the Mod 7 delivers quite a few more features to the optics aficionado. Both scopes are front focal plane (FFP), which means the reticle is magnified with the power adjustment. This feature allows shooters to use the reticle for accurate holdovers and corrections regardless of the magnification setting. The 8X zoom of the Mod 7 gives a substantial power range from 4X up to 32X, like many scopes, however, I found the very top end of the magnification (29-32x) to be too dark and aberrated to be very useful in the field. It was fine for shooting paper targets up close though.

    The PSR reticle in the Riton Mod 7

    The PSR reticle featured in my Mod 7 was also a significant step up from the Mod 5. I say step up, some might call it stepping out, the PSR reticle is a bit busier than some. It is a “Christmas Tree” style reticle, with a broadening grid of wind and drop values. I am growing more and more fond of these kinds of reticles, and this one is done very well. Subtensions are clearly marked (on the evens) so you can keep track of your holds, and the marks are thin enough to not bother your view of potential targets. A hollow center and .2 Mrad hash marks come in handy when doing long-range work. The illumination rheostat allows shooters to adjust reticle illumination to fit their surroundings.
    Speaking of Mrad, the Mod 7 is available in Mrad which made me very happy. It was one of few complaints I had with my Mod 5, that it wasn’t available in anything other than MOA. Seems like most Riton optics are MOA, could be related to their military background, but I am glad to see newer products available with an Mrad option.
    The Mod 7 has a 34mm tube, this again is a step up from the Mod 5’s 30mm tube. The bigger tube allows for more internal travel, giving the Mod 7 a total of 30 Mrad of elevation adjustment. That’s more than enough elevation for your average long-range shooter.

    Turret details and throw lever on the Mod 7

    Another feature I appreciated on the Mod 7 was the integrated throw lever on the magnification ring. Some call it a “Cat Tail”. You can run the scope with or without it, the throw lever gives you more purchase when trying to adjust the power ring, not a big deal, but a nice touch.
    The Mod 7 also features a zero stop in the elevation turret, something the Mod 5 did not. This feature is handy, as you can return your elevation turret to zero without even needing to look at it. This will save you from a miss by being a rotation or more off.
    One of the features both scopes have that I don’t like is there isn’t graduation marks on the turret housing to show which rotation you are on, to be fair it is much less of a problem on the Mod 7 because there are only two turns. The Mod 5 has several more, making it hard to be sure which rev you are on unless you keep track in your head.

    I mounted the Mod 7 on my Desert Tech SRS A2 rifle, which seemed like a good fit for the scope. With the new hunting weight 6.5 Creedmoor barrel mounted in the rifle, I figured it would make a good companion for this years elk hunts.
    But first I took the rifle to the range to get a good solid zero and check a few other things. My first impression with the Mod 7, was that the eye relief seemed to be just a bit touchy. Not so much as to be a problem, just more so than I was used to. I quickly zeroed the rifle and adjusted the zero stop per the instructions, easy enough and very functional. I then took the rifle up into the mountains to do some more testing at further ranges. I was very happy with the optical clarity of the Mod 7, even when looking at animals and trees at a mile or more away, it was a very clean and bright image.
    As I mentioned earlier, the quality does degrade some at the very upper end of the scopes magnification, this is something I have noticed with most scopes including the Riton Mod 5. This is a phenomenon I have noticed on almost all riflescopes, but it is significantly less an issue as the price tag goes up.
    It doesn’t bother me much as I rarely use a scope at its maximum power setting, for that matter I rarely use them above 60-70 of their maximum. The glass clarity of the Mod 7 is a great improvement over the Mod 5, as it should be at this price point.

    The turrets on the Mod 5 have a push pull locking system, whereas the Mod 7 does not. I am torn a bit as to which I prefer, sometimes I like having my turrets locked, to avoid involuntary elevation changes. And other times I like just being able to turn the turret without having to unlock it. For hunting, I think I prefer the locking system, but for range or competition use I would prefer it without.
    The turrets are plenty stiff so as not to be inadvertently moved, the clicks are plenty audible, though I would like them a tiny bit more defined. The line between too stiff, and to mushy a click is a hard line to walk sometimes.

    As it turns out, I really enjoyed the throw lever on the magnification ring. To be honest I couldn’t describe the tension on the magnification ring, because with the throw lever it doesn’t even register.

    It didn’t take long for me to get quite proficient shooting with the Riton Mod 7, so when the time came to put this rifle into action I was quite comfortable. The late season elk hunt had arrived, and I took my Riton topped SRS up into the snow covered mountains. The first shot I was given was some 475 yards away from a young cow, I dialed the 2.0 MIL on the Mod7’s elevation turret, and pressed the trigger. The cold and clean mountain air was visibly disturbed by my shot, I watched the trace cut through the bright image before me as I followed the shot in. I watched the cow drop, kick, and slide down the snowy slope.

    The Riton Mod 7 has turned out to be a strong, clear, accurate and repeatable rifle scope. I look forward to using it more in the future.

    -CBM

    One of the five deer killed over two seasons using the RT-S Mod 5 6-24X50

    Leapers UTG OTB Bipod

    Sometimes I forget how long I’ve been around this business of shooting. There was a time when I couldn’t wait to visit the gun shows, and believe it or not I even bought some of the stamped garbage they sell there. There was a time where I even picked up one of those garbage bipods that clamp to your barrel, looks almost like a WWII machine gun bipod? You know the one. Thank goodness times have changed, my tastes have matured, but they still sell all that garbage.

    The reason I bring it up is, just as we mature and grow, so too can manufacturers. Leapers UTG is not a new name to me, I have heard it and seen it a million times over the years. I never bought anything from them, but I had always associated the brand with inexpensive gear I considered not worthy of my time. As the years have passed, I paid them no attention, until I was recently given the chance to try one of their bipods. My historical perception almost instantly biased me against the idea, I was quite sure I wasn’t going to like it. But when it finally arrived in my hands, my bias began to dissipate just as quickly as it had risen.

    The bipod is quickly detached if needed, while the mounting block remains fixed

    The UTG Over the Bore Bipod is as its name suggests mounted above the bore. It uses a mounting block that clamps to the 12 o’clock rail of your rifle, the bipod has a spike that is received into the block. The bipod cants on the spike allowing the rifle to be leveled on uneven terrain, the spike is also mounted on a horizontal hinge, which allows the rifle to pan left and right. In the mounting block itself, there is a small tension knob, which tightens like a clutch around the bipod spike to tension the cant of the bipod to your liking.

    The mounting of the Over Bore Bipod did not interfere with sights

    My initial impression of the bipod was that it looked like a strong and buxom piece of kit, the weight made me confident that it was well built. But I was also initially concerned that the cant and pan of the bipod wouldn’t be sufficient for my anything but flat world. As it happens, I was quite happy with the panning radius of the bipod, I was able to pan left and right enough to have to move my body position. I figured that if I can pan enough to have to move my body position, then it’s no big deal to reposition the rifle in the process. The cant, while sufficient was not quite as much as I would have liked. Though this may be directly related to the rifle it is mounted on. The diameter of the barrel/handguard is the limiting factor with this bipod, so the thicker your setup, the less cant you will have before the bipod legs stop against the rifle.

    From above, you can see the pivot point allowing the rifle to pan left and right
    Up close detail of the OTB Bipod features, notice tension knob on the side of the mounting block, pivot hinge, and oversize leg-locking buttons.

    The legs of the bipod are one of its greatest strengths, the pivot of each leg is very robust, and the large lock release on the outer edge of each pivot is easy to feel and press whether or not you are looking at it. The legs fold both forward and backward with several locking points allowing more stowing options, as well as shooting positions. The legs extend with a pull, and have notches every half-inch or so to lock them at height. The legs are spring retracted when the leg-lock is depressed, these controls are easy and intuitive.

    One of my biggest fears when I saw the bipod initially was that it would be too bulky to stow when walking around. Most bipods add bulk to the front bottom end of the rifle handguards, when affixed they reduce the space you have to grip when shooting from the offhand position. This is something most of us either get over, or get used to. When I saw the size of the UTG bipod, I thought for sure this thing will be a significant hindrance while trying to maneuver. Again, to my surprise, the UTG bipod when stowed to the front or rear was completely out of my way and allowed unmolested use of the entire handguard. And with the ability to quickly remove it by simply depressing the release on the mounting block, it can easily be stowed elsewhere if you wish.

    The UTG OTB Bipod as seen mounted to the Desert Tech HTI 50BMG

    Shooting with the UTG bipod was also more pleasant than I had anticipated, with both the pan and cant features providing more radius than I expected. Shooting the rifle with the bipod folded up and stowed was also no issue. Almost every fear I had about this bipod going in was a non-issue, all but one. The only problem I could honestly give about this bipod is its weight, it is not a light bipod. I have several others that weigh very similar, and they are certainly in another class, but cost two to four times as much money too.

    The UTG bipod is built well enough I would consider using it on very heavy rifles, and even on lighter built rifles provided I didn’t have to pack them very far. I think this bipod would be perfect for range shooting, prairie dog shooting or any other activity where the weight wouldn’t cause an issue. I love the way my rifle hangs from the bipod, it naturally wants to rest level, and it never wants to topple over, which is an issue I’ve had with many other bipods. With a street price under $150 its no surprise it has five-star reviews from Amazon and Optics Planet.

    So, while I’m not going to ditch my Harris and Atlas bipods anytime soon, as they all have their use, this UTG bipod will definitely stay in my collection.
    -CBM

    US Optics TS-20X Rifle Scope

    Im a sucker for scopes, you might say I have a weak spot for them. I have used most of the very best scopes, and Ive also used many that weren’t worth straining my eye to focus through them. Part of my affliction is due to being spoiled for some time now, and I blame US Optics for it, at least partially. I have had several of them over the years, and they have earned their keep in my safe.

    US Optics has a history for robust builds, with nail driving strength. They have seen many changes over the years, and we could argue surely over the pros and cons. But for me, only one thing matters, whats on-top of my rifle, and how does it perform.

    The USO TS20 mounted on my Desert Tech SRS A2

    As a riflescope addict, I was interested when US Optics launched their Tactical Sporting line of scopes, the TS Series. Like any true addict I rested not until I had the TS 20 in my hands. It was love at first sight.

    My initial impression of the TS 20 was its weight, it seemed light for a USO. This new TS line was clearly a more economical series of scopes, so I expected a simpler construction. Lightweight, and a very clear and clean image were both very welcome features. The JVCR reticle was new to me, and well received. I prefer the newer “Christmas tree” style milling reticles, and I found the JVCR to be very handy to use. The offset two tenth windage holds made perfect sense when hurriedly making a wind call. And like most good reticles, even numbering to keep track of your holds. With as many as ten mils to hold over, and five wide for windage, it makes a perfect companion for todays ultra-flat shooting rifles.

    Another feature that impressed me very quickly was the focus/parallax adjustment, which is adjustable down to ten yards. At first I didn’t think it was a big deal, but when I dialed the scope down to 2.5X, I realized that this scope could almost be used like a red-dot. If I ever had any up close shooting to do such as approaching a wounded animal, I could simply turn on the illumination, and mark the target with the red cross and pull the trigger. This to me seemed like a very handy feature for a scope I would surely use while hunting. And yet with the max power of 20X from the scope, there are few things I would not be able to shoot at inside my distance envelope.

    US Optics has always helped me put food on the table

    The turrets of the TS20 are ten MIL per revolution, that for me is a minimum. Long gone are the days of five MIL per turn scopes, that was so 2010. The clicks are clean, and you can both feel and hear them as you turn the turret. The TS20 has an interesting zero-stop feature, but it requires you to limit the rotation to one turn only. Not a big deal for many things, but since I like to live on the edge, I decided to pull any stops and run it wide open. One complaint if you’ll allow it, the turret housing isn’t numbered to help you keep track of what revolution you are on. Bit of a pet peeve of mine, but not a deal breaker by any stretch. The tension of the turrets, power ring, and focus knob were all just right, not too hard to turn, but stiff enough to avoid accidental movement while packing it around.
    I already mentioned the parallax/focus adjustment, but just next to it on the left side of the scope, is the rheostat to adjust the illumination on the JVCR reticle. It’s your standard 1-10 clicks with an off position in between each setting. 10 is bright enough to use as a red-dot in dim daylight, and 1 is dim enough to use with night-vision and thermals.

    A downed animal, as seen at 500yds through the TS20 and thermal. Notice JVCR reticle detail

    With 24 useable MILS of elevation from its 34mm tube, the TS20 is a very useful long range tool. The rifle it currently commands only needs 5MRAD of elevation to get to a thousand yards. But even if you are shooting a 308 you wont have a problem getting way out there. But with it’s super low power setting, and 28 ounce weight, it is a good option for a long-range hunting rifle as well.

    The TS20 mounted on my all carbon 257 Blackjack

    In the field the TS20 performed exactly like every other USO I’ve ever fielded. Click values were consistent, and lined up with my known ballistic data. I keep coming back to it so forgive me, but I love the high and low range of this scope. I never thought I would want a 2X precision rifle optic, but I sure am glad I have one now. In the field was the best place to see the value.
    I am not huge on high magnification, I rarely use my scopes above 20X. So the TS20 is right in the middle of where I want all my X’s. Even at max power the image is still clear, and the reticle is very useful. Even so, I usually find my power ring somewhere between 10 and 15. It is at those medium settings that I find the optical magnification and reticle proportions to be ideal, both for targeting, and making corrections.

    The USO TS20 played well with everything, especially this clip-on thermal

    I mounted the TS20 on three different rifles, first on my Desert Tech SRS A2, and then on my MDR. Regardless of which caliber I was shooting I had every confidence that the TS would keep up. Whether it was hunting varmints on the foothills around my home, or chasing big game like mule deer or elk through these big Rocky Mountains. I’ve never had to worry about my US Optics scopes while traipsing through the brush, and no amount of bumps, drops, or bouncing around in the bed of a truck has ever knocked them out of zero. The heavy recoil from my 300 Remington Ultra Mag didn’t phase the scope, and neither did the repetitive cycling of my 450 Bushmaster MDR, it just kept on ticking.

    This young buck couldn’t escape into the dusk, not from this combo. 450BM/MDR/TS20

    The Tactical Sporting Series of scopes from US Optics looks like it has a bright future. The scopes are well made, and fit a price point that opens the door to a less expensive market than historically available to those wanting US Optics products. The premium Foundation Series remains the flagship of US Optics quality, I may need to get one of those too, but for now I will enjoy the view from this little TS20.

    -CBM