All posts by coldboremiracle

Seasons Change

Many was the time that I woke up early in the morning, grabbing boots and other gear as I fumbled out the doorway into the winter cold. Though I was not the exceptional scholar my parents had hoped for, I eventually made it to school hours later but not after shooting up a limit of ducks in the muddy marshes near my home. Hunting has always been a passion of mine, but there came a time as a young man that I often chose other things over my beloved waterfowl. Life often has a way of distracting us from passions and responsibilities, and teenage boys seem to catch the lot of it.
Years later I returned to my old ways, and it seems the absence had only increased my passion for the outdoors and being a part of it. A whole generation later, it would seem that my son is in the same haze of youth we all passed through. He has hunted by my side since he was three years old, and even as a toddler he was always excited to do anything that involved the mountains. But the past few years he has been so busy with the life of a teen, friends and other activities to spend much time glassing the mountains with me. It’s natural I suppose that everyone chooses their own path and eventually decides where to focus their efforts and time, but it warmed my heart when several of my kids voiced a desire to spend the hunting season with me in the high country.

My Ridley on one of his first deer hunts.

Despite their busy schedules and school, we managed to spend a few days enjoying the beauty of these Rocky Mountains. My son Ridley shew great interest in tagging along to fish, ride ATV’s, and shoot both pictures with his camera and his little Remington that I put together for him years ago.
Being an astute father with a taste for venison, I had ensured my kids would have at least one tag in their pockets this fall. Just incase the freezer got light. We spent a week in the High Uintas chasing after elk and Brook Trout, we celebrated Ridley’s eighteenth birthday up there at 10,000 feet. I could see the excitement of adventure even through the smug teenage faces he would make, and though getting up early was a challenge he still did it most days.

The country was just too beautiful to not have a good time, even though the elk hunting was pretty high pressure and not successful we still came home happy as could be. And laden with fish for the smoker, to be canned and put into storage for a rainy day.

As the deer hunt quickly approached, we prepared our gear and plotted our plans. Ridley ended up missing the first weekend of the hunt as he participated in his High School mountain bike team final race, which ended up being ok, as I had my hands full with my other son’s first deer. Mid-week Ridley caught back up with us, and he was excited as ever. I could see the competitive desire to outdo his friends who might also be deer hunting with their family.

I have found that consistency is what gets me within striking distance of animals. Not necessarily consistently going to the same place or anything, but consistently working hard to be in the best places I can be as often as I can. Furiously glassing and peering over every blade of grass to take advantage of every opportunity we might get.
Taking new and/or young hunters along is often a roll of the dice. I saw deer and bucks every day of the hunt, but it was often when my “pupils” were busy with something else. I passed more bucks this year than any year prior if I’m not mistaken, hoping they would still be there when I came back with my children.

It was a Tuesday afternoon when Ridley, my wife, and I returned up a canyon draw where I had seen several bucks earlier that morning. I carried my gun because I can’t be without it, but I was really there trying to get both of them on a buck. As we climbed steadily I pointed out a knob on a ridge to Ridley, and explained how I had seen a deer disappear there earlier that day. My hope was that him or any other buck was still hiding out in this little canyon, but when I told Ridley of my hopes he quickly shot down the idea saying “that was three hours ago Dad.” As we carried on up the ridge spine before us, the sun poured down over us making it nearly uncomfortably hot. Only a few hours earlier I sat on this same ridge uncontrollably shivering in the ice cold wind of a storm front, driving snow sideways across the mountains and blanketing the whole of it in white.

The contrast was incredible, but my hope for a buck was still high so we carried on. In a simple stop to catch our breath, everything changed quite rapidly. Incapable of turning off, my eyes peered through my binoculars combing the ridges for the sign of a deer. I froze as I turned and looked behind us, as my eyes made out the obvious outline of a buck laying in his afternoon bed. The same knob that I had indicated to Ridley earlier was now the complete focus of all three sets of our eyes. I was astounded that the young buck had simply laid there and watched while we walked right under him on the opposing ridge, and another set of hunters had followed the same path only a few minutes before us. Yet there he lay, confident in his hide. Obviously he didn’t know who he was dealing with, but he would very soon.

With as little excitement as we could manage, both Ridley and my wife lay their rifles across their backpacks to get the right angle for a shot. I feigned disinterest and avoided looking at him, as he was studying our movement. Ridley was in a good shooting position and watched the buck through his little TS8X riflescope while I helped my wife build a solid shooting position on the steep hillside.
Despite my disinterested attitude and the minimal movement, way up on that knob where the buck lay quietly three-hundred and thirty yards away, I think he was starting to get worried. I often think that deer can feel a rifle bearing down on them, like the all seeing eye of Sauron looking into the heart of whoever wears the ring. And with it comes the accompanying discomfort.
I wasn’t looking his direction when he stood up, but Ridley was on his scope and announced it to the rest of us. I immediately raised my binos to my eyes, and not wanting to lose our opportunity I told him; if he is standing up shoot him. As I said those words he was already starting his press. My wife and I watched through our optics as the first shot broke, and the buck jumped as if startled by the noise. Ridley ran his bolt as I told him he had shot just under him, the deer took a few steps towards the other side of the ridge but he stopped to give us one last look. By then Ridley had already sent a second bullet his way, and this one was perfect. I watched through my binos as the bullet impacted, sending a patch of hair into the air and the buck dropped from sight.

Ridley’s rifle with the Yankee Hill Machine R9 suppressor

We hugged with excitement, and then we quickly made our way up the ridge to the downed buck. I am not one to trust a deer that I can’t see, so we snuck up on the buck who had died almost instantly but looked suspiciously alive. We gave him a moment of reverence, and then spent a few minutes examining what a fine example of a Rocky Mountain mule deer he was. He’d already had a close call during the season, someone had taken a shot at him nicking one of his antlers, but his luck had run out.

Ridley pulled out his knife, a knife my brother had given to him several years ago but he had yet to use it for its intended purpose. As we enjoyed the beautiful afternoon, Ridley did his best to clean the deer and fill his phone up with pictures of it. We didn’t kill any other deer that day, but not for a lack of effort.

I have watched my son grow up, and though he has his own plans it warms my heart to see his success and be a part of it. My greatest hope is that we can continue to share our passions with each other, and if at all possible continue to hunt together for as long as we’re able to. We make a pretty good team.

-CBM


Deer Hunting Heritage

New hunters come into our midst all the time. Much like generations of deer come and go over the seasons, old hunters slowly fade from our camps every year and are replaced by newer and younger faces.
As sad as it is not seeing old friends and loved ones, the new possibilities of teaching the next generation is the only suitable substitute.

One of the newer faces around my fire this year was Leonardo, my wife’s oldest son. His very first hunting adventure happened only a few months ago. He was lucky enough to draw a pair of doe antelope tags, and we made an adventure out of the opportunity. If you haven’t read that story, click here to read it after this one.

After thoroughly enjoying his first big game hunting experience, Leo was even more excited for the mule deer hunt that would follow. We spend a few trips into the mountains during the summer to practice shooting techniques and prepare for what was ahead. Leo is a level-headed kid, responsible and astute. So I was quite confident we would see success as the sun began to rise that cold October morning.

In a stroke of luck, a storm front passed through our mountains in the early hours of opening morning. It brought rain and snow which was a good thing, but it also brought a fierce wind with it as well. Storm fronts like this one typically get the deer out of their hiding spots, and I was hoping to see them as the first rays of light began to cut through the cold and dark clouds.

My little brother, Leo and I hiked noisily up a steep and rocky hillside. Hoping to sneak into a good shooting position on the downwind side of the ridge. I say noisily because the wind blew so hard it pushed us uphill. None of the breaking of sticks or tumbling stones could be heard over the winds howl.
Just as official shooting light arrived, we had crested the peak nine-thousand feet above sea level. We found some solace from the wind, and we were immediately into spotting deer. A small group made their way over the next ridge a mere two-hundred yards away. After confirming that they were our only prospect, we slowly and as quietly as could be given the conditions, made our way towards the ridge they had crossed. Obviously not where they had crossed, but uphill from there hoping to have a better view of them from above.
My brother would stay and cover other vistas while Leo and I pursued the group.

We cautiously crossed over the crest of the ridge, keeping low and looking over the very tips of the brush as we went. I was very surprised to find the deer only a few hundred yards away from us. And I was also concerned as two of the group seemed to already be aware of our presence. I don’t know how, as it was still too noisy to hear us, and the wind carried our scent another direction, but none the less we seemed to be nearly busted on arrival. As I studied the group cautiously through my binoculars, one of the deer was quite conspicuous as he carried a white face and headgear much bonier than the rest. I whispered to Leo that there was a buck watching us, but it seemed as we had the time to get a rifle up and on him. I say seemed because we had been looking at them for over a minute and they still stood there, many of them eating.
As soon as we lifted our eyes back above the brushline however, they had vanished into the thickly wooded canyon below.
As we hiked back towards my brother, I explained to Leo about one of the rules of hunting.
Oftentimes you gotta screw up one opportunity in order to get in the right state of mind for a proper opportunity. So we chalked this one up to our practice run, and we searched out another stalk.

Only a hour or so later, we sat perched on another high point glassing a draw that we had spotted a few does feed across.
Upon closer inspection, we noticed that one of the deer in that opening was a spike. Being his first hunt, Leo was not exactly particular about antlers.
After a few goings on that ended up moving the deer into thicker brush, we spent almost an hour trying to pick him out in the fall colored cover he was hiding in. Even knowing exactly where he was, it was nearly impossible to make him out. I think Leo perhaps felt a little out of sorts not being able to see or make out the deer. But when another hunter spooked him from his hide, he hopped uphill into an opening.
As several of us struggled to keep eyes on the deer, Leo announced that he had him in his scope. Having previously dialed the proper elevation for the three-hundred yard shot, I told him if you’ve got a shot, go a head and take it.

I watched the hillside through my binoculars excitedly waiting to see how it would go. The chamber of Leo’s rifle carried a 122 grain Cayuga solid copper bullet loaded in a 6.5 Creedmoor case. The rifle itself was a Ruger American that he had practiced with earlier that year. On top of the rifle was a US Optics TS25X riflescope that Leo now had centered on the buck across the draw.

When his shot broke, the blast had been tamed by the Yankee Hill Machine Nitro N20. We both watched intently as the bullet cut the distance and hit the deer.
We kept watching him until he went down, where Leo and a friend closed in on him.

From there, we all followed their path to the thorny and burr covered thicket where Leo was already elbow deep in guts. We took pictures and shared congratulations and a hug.

After putting in the work, Leo had his very first buck in hand. We stumbled back down the way we’d come in, dragging the little buck towards our vehicle. I am quite sure that Leo enjoyed his experience and will likely return next season for round two. After hanging the buck in my skinning tree at home, we cleaned him up and made a delicious meal with deer tenderloins as the center-piece. Garden vegetables made it even more delectable.

As Leo and I sat at the table, chewing on the tasty spoils of our days work, I contemplated the conundrum we all find ourselves in. We are destined to spend the first half of our hunting career learning and sharing with familiar old faces of fathers, uncles, and other family and friends. And at some point in our life, it switches to being the familiar old face. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, I can only hope that someday my children will think back to the old days when I taught them and led them through these steep Rocky Mountains. And with any luck they will harbor the same warm feelings I do remembering the great men who showed them to me.

-CBM

IWI Tavor X95 5.56 Bullpup

Your first reaction to the IWI Tavor X95 might be wrinkling your nose and wincing at the word bullpup. After all, the short and stubby design is not as common in America and is typically frowned upon by many.

But those that look down their nose at these rifles do so at their own loss, as there are many benefits and even superior features to some bullpup designs.

Today we will look at one of the flagship rifles from the Israeli arms giant IWI, the Tavor X95 bullpup. Like all bullpups, the X95’s breech and firing mechanisms are behind the trigger. This shortens the overall size of the weapon by utilizing the space in the butt of the firearm that is normally vacant.

I’m no stranger to bullpups, so prepare yourself for some perspective as we go over this very popular and robust little rifle.

The first trip to the range with the X95 included a hundred or so rounds. I’d brought a few magazines to run through the rifle of various types. I had only installed a red dot as a sighting device with plans to shoot with a riflescope at a later date.

After loading a few magazines and a quick preflight inspection of the rifle, it was time to go hot. Charging the rifle is a very familiar process, seating the magazine and running the charging handle to chamber a cartridge. The safety selector is easily operated with the thumb, making the rifle ready to fire.

I fired a few magazines through the rifle, adjusting my sight a few times for a better point of impact. My initial impressions of the rifle were better than expected. The rifle shot smoothly and reliably. The trigger was a bit mushy for my taste, something common with some bullpups. But I could still shoot properly and get hits where I wanted them.

Reloading the rifle is different than a typical modern sporting rifle. Stabbing the magazine into the rear of the rifle can take some getting used to if you are new to bullpups. The bolt release is centrally located behind the magwell, allowing you to actuate it with your thumb upon seating the magazine. I would have liked to see a more flared magwell, but it could have just been my familiarity with this particular model.

The controls and ergonomics of the rifle seemed to fit me well. The charging handle does have a claw to capture it under recoil. I would have liked a slightly different configuration that offered just a smidge more purchase but again, this is just my preference.

One thing I did find a little annoying was during a reload motion; my trigger finger would often migrate behind the trigger. This made for an awkward transition back to shooting, but again it is likely just a lack of practice with the rifle that could be overcome with some training. Continue reading here

Why Upgrade Your Riflescope?

Wisdom often comes with age, at least it used to. As years pass we learn new things and experience new practices, and despite the semi-conservative nature of many gun owners we should never miss out on an opportunity to improve on what we can.
Our equipment can also improve as we learn new tactics and skills, and today we are discussing how you can breathe new life into an older rifle by upgrading the scope.

But why tho?
Why fix something that isn’t broken you might ask? We either are the person or know one that seems to religiously keep one or more firearms in a certain configuration or style. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there are also great gains to be made with upgrades.
Technology has made great advances in a very short time. Modern riflescopes incorporate an incredible amount of features and new tech, so much in fact that a good scope from years past can and have been easily eclipsed by modern designs. It also rings true that they don’t make them like they used to, but sometimes they do it better.

Upgrade to what?
To actually qualify as an upgrade, there needs to be added value or performance by replacing your riflescope. That could mean better optical quality or a different variable power range. It also could mean added features that increase your ability to hit more targets.
A perfect example of this comes from my father’s first hunting rifle. A sporterized 1903 Springfield from the post war era, part of it’s post service alteration was to drill and tap for scope mounting. And Dad had put a 4X Weaver on it much like everyone else did back then, making the rifle into a venerable deer rifle for these rugged Rocky Mountains. The old Springfield can still put five shots into a sub MOA group, making it certainly capable of doing more and better shooting than the 4X scope would allow. Removing the old Weaver scope, and replacing it with something a bit more modern could greatly improve the capabilities of this old rifle.
Installing something like a Leupold VX Freedom 3-9X40, would do several things to improve the rifle’s performance. The greater magnification will offer the shooter a more detailed view of the target and its surroundings, in addition, the newer optical lens coatings will surely outperform the old scope. Furthermore, with the ability to dial corrected elevation for more distant targets the old Springfield could easily reach targets as far as five and six-hundred yards or more. Something as simple as a change in scope can put new life and action into an old rifle.

Reticles
Another example of what can be done comes from an old model 70 I have. It’s probably had the same Leupold VXIII 3-9X40 on it for the last 30 years or so, its not one of Hathcock’s Model 70’s but it does shoot well. The old duplex reticle that has inhabited Leupold scopes forever can be useful for sure, but I was thinking something a little more useful was in order. I have a little Vortex Crossfire 3-9X40 that would easily drop into the same rings, and instead of the plain jane duplex it has a few added points. The elevation post has 1.5, 4.5 and a 7.5 MOA drop point on it, which give perfect holdovers for 180, 315, and 410 yards for that rifle. Not that you couldn’t shoot those ranges with a duplex, it just makes it more consistent to have a fixed point you can hold for those distances.
Something that simple can greatly effect your ability to hit targets, and we haven’t even had to mess with your rifle or load at all. I could keep going all day about other ways to improve the performance of your old rifle, but we’ll stay on topic.

Electronics
A discussion on optics upgrades would be incomplete without mentioning some of the electronic advancements that have been made over the past decade. Simple electronic advancements like the Level-plex system from Sig Sauer give the shooter real-time leveling indications to ensure the rifle is on a level plane prior to making the shot. Also from Sig come the BDX riflescopes that include illuminated holdover points that are calculated from a rangefinder’s measurement. There are also night vision and thermal riflescopes that will allow nighttime hunting opportunities that include digital recording and other data hunters will find useful. While many of these gizmos may seem foreign to some, they can greatly improve your old rifles performance and your experience shooting them. Continue Reading Here…

Colt M4 Carbine

The AR-15 is perhaps one of the most well known rifles in America, enough to even be known as America’s rifle. And of all the many different AR-15 configurations perhaps one of the most popular is the M4, or one of its clones. Colt has been one of the longest standing manufacturers of this type of rifle, so it feels a bit daunting to try and revisit this as a review. After all, what could I possibly have to offer that hasn’t been said a thousand times over the past twenty years?

The Colt M4 Carbine
The M4 Carbine I received for review is as familiar as Mom’s bacon and eggs on a Sunday morning. The rifle uses all of the standard features we have come to know, a mil-spec two-stage trigger, detachable Stanag pattern magazines released with the push of a button. Charging handle at twelve o’clock above the buffer tube, with a collapsible CAR type buttstock. A single sided safety operated by the thumb, and a bolt-release on the left side of the receiver.
This model came with a sixteen-inch seven twist barrel, threaded 1/2-28 at the muzzle and you guessed it; a bird-cage flash hider on the muzzle. Also included were sling attachment rings front and rear, as well as a fold down rear sight assembly to use with the gas-block mounted front sight.
This is almost exactly the rifle we have all seen in the movies and magazines since childhood, with its flattop receiver designed to take whatever kind of sight you’d like to install there. Commonly you’d see an Aimpoint, Eotech, or ACOG in this position. The only thing left to investigate was to see if it lived up to the expectation.
I prepped the Colt for a range trip, which consisted of mounting up a Trijicon MRO and some ammo to feed it.

On the Range
The M4 is configured for a fighting scenario, or for civilians like myself lots of shooting and maneuvering at relatively close range. Surely it can be used at further distances but for the most part two-hundred yards or less are a most likely where it will be used. A red dot sight like the MRO works great for that scenario.
After sending a few test rounds, I zeroed the sight at 75 yards. Shooting for accuracy is a little easier for me to do with a riflescope, but I was able to shoot some inch and a half groups at seventy five yards. I don’t imagine it would open up too much more at one hundred yards, but it was certainly accurate enough for hitting forty-five percent IPSC targets all over the range. The XM193 ammo flowed through the rifle like a Vegas slot machine payout, and it felt just as valuable to watch it disappear.

Shooting the Colt M4 was as pleasant as you might expect. The mild recoil of the 5.56 cartridge makes shooting the rifle soft and easy to control, muzzle rise is minimal and easily reduced by adding a different muzzle device. The collapsible stock is easily adjusted to fit smaller statured shooters or to accommodate body armor. I’ve never envied left-handed shooters that had to operate an AR, and yet my oldest who has been given by Uncle Sam the opportunity to shoot the M4 extensively using his left-handed stance seemed to not have any issues. He even likes it to my surprise.
Hitting targets for both of us was great fun while using the MRO, I am definitely a scope kind of guy so using iron sights always comes with its contrasting results. It would likely serve me very well to spend more time shooting through these sights if only to improve my capabilities. The Magpul rear sight that came with this rifle was easily used through the Trijicon, I just need to up my iron game.
The M4 comes with pretty much no embellishments, a standard trigger, Magpul Pmag, single-sided safety and so on. That came as no surprise for a service-grade weapon, but I found it didn’t significantly inhibit the performance. Making shots and reloads went as smooth as I could go, and only slowed by my skills or lack of them anyway. Continue Reading Here…

Christensen Ridgeline 300WSM

I was born and raised in the dry desert state of Utah, as such I am no stranger to the fine firearms manufacturers in this state. One of the more famous firearms companies comes from the beautiful little town of Gunnison Utah, Christensen Arms. I have known of the company for some time, but several years ago I was offered tour of their facility. Their famous carbon fiber is just part of the whole Christensen production, titanium, stainless and aerospace technology are all part of Christensen’s multi-faceted production facility. Many manufacturers, particularly those with higher price-points source their barrel blanks from well known barrel producers. Christensen cuts their own barrels, and wraps them in carbon fiber before mounting to their custom actions. They are then married them to a stock or chassis that also might be built from carbon fiber molded right there in the factory.
Things may have changed even more since my visit to the factory, but ever since then I have been wanting to try out one of these rifles. Today is finally my first chance, as I have in my possession a Christensen Ridgeline 300WSM.

The Ridgeline
The Ridgeline from Christensen is built from a stainless steel action, which shares many dimensions with the Remington 700 pattern. This allows users to utilize the large aftermarket support enjoyed by the 700 series. The action features additional cuts to reduce weight and enhance performance, and things like an enhanced bolt release make it superior to other designs. The Ridgeline comes from the factory with a Trigger Tech trigger, which are very well known for their quality and performance. The fluted bolt uses an M16 like extractor, and a plunger ejector. The threaded bolt handle comes with a petite bolt-knob which you can change out if you desire.

The carbon wrapped barrel on this rifle is chambered in the powerful 300 Winchester Short Magnum, a cartridge I am quite familiar with. The barrel is twenty-four inches long, and features a one-in-ten twist, and threaded 5/8-24 at the muzzle where you will find Christensen’s radially ported muzzle brake.
The stock for the rifle is a composite construction, which uses a pillar-bedded design to improve the accuracy and performance of the rifle. A comfortable recoil pad and sling-studs are of course standard.

In the hands

As I lifted the Ridgeline from its box, the definitive feature of these rifles was immediately evident. This thing is quite light! A rifle this size feels impressively light at under seven pounds, very desirable for a hunting rifle like this. I ran the bolt a few times, and squeezed the trigger to make sure everything looked good. And then It was time to get thing thing ready for the field.
I installed a Nightforce 30 MOA scope base, that made mounting my scope easy. I used one of my favorite scopes, and one that I frequently switch back and forth between a great many rifles. The TS20X from US Optics is an excellent choice for a long range hunting rifle like this. The 2.5X is useful for an up close encounter should you be a stealthy sneaker, and if you get a shot that is way out there, 20X is plenty for making those long shots. I mounted up the scope with a set of 34mm rings, I would have preferred a bit lower set to better fit me but these would do for now.
I also attached a Harris bipod to the front of the stock, a good bipod almost goes without saying on a long-range hunting rifle. The three-round magazine looked rather vacant without anything to fill it, so it was time to find some ammo. As I mentioned I am no stranger to the 300WSM, I’ve probably shot several thousand rounds of it over the many years I’ve spent chasing Utah’s big game, and preparing for the hunt. So I had everything on hand to make my own ammunition for the Ridgeline, but I also wanted to shoot some factory produced ammunition for those that want to know. I had on hand some Federal Fusion 300WSM loaded with 180 grain bullets, a perfect representation of what a Rocky Mountain hunter would want to use for elk or deer. Besides that I loaded up some Norma Brass with my favorite load featuring a Sierra 190 grain Match King, a load responsible for dropping a dozen or so big game animals from my first antelope at 880 yards to big cow elk at 400 yards.

Let’s Hunt
The Ridgeline is a hunting rifle, everything about it is optimized for a hard-core big game hunter. I imagine it in the frigid cold hands of a sheep hunter in the Northwest Territories, or over the shoulder of a backcountry elk hunter leading mules to a distant basecamp. I wanted to see how it would do in exactly that situation, so I took it deep into the high Rocky Mountains. After zeroing the rifle at 100 yards, I wanted to see how accurate the rifle would shoot considering Christensen rifles come with a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee. The Federal Fusion 180’s shot a sub-MOA three shot group, but when I fired two more it opened up what I would call considerably. I assume this is likely to do with the barrel heating up from the magnum cartridges and pressure.

I installed a suppressor on the rifle, in my experience most rifles seem to shoot better when suppressed. And besides that, it’s just better. The Desert Tech Sound Suppressor (DTSS) was a perfect match for the lightweight Ridgeline, its titanium construction doesn’t add much to the rifle. And it easily handles the pressure of the 300WSM reducing the noise to a reasonable raucous.
I then stretched out the rifle to some more realistic distances, this open country allows for long shots. It isn’t uncommon to find big game from a mile or two away, and stalking into a closer distance. Its also not uncommon for the terrain to keep you from getting within a certain distance, so being able to make shots at long-range is helpful.
Making hits with this rifle at five and seven hundred yards was not difficult, but I again noticed that after a few shots my hits began to wander despite the nonexistent wind. Continue Reading Here…

Howa 1500 Kratos 6.5 Creedmoor

Howa has long been a trusted brand for affordable performance. In today’s article we will be discussing another model from Howa, a variant of the model 1500. The Kratos 6.5 Creedmoor is sold as a hunting rifle and introductory precision rifle, built on the durable 1500 action and placed in a synthetic stock ready for whatever activity you choose.

The Kratos
The God of war seems a bit off for the name of a hunting or match rifle, but here we are. The features that set he Kratos apart give it some excellent handling and performance. The synthetic stock feature bedded pillars in its composite structure to keep the action firmly stabilized. The model I received came with both a hinged floorplate and a detachable box magazine system that holds five rounds. The exterior of the stock features a very nice texturing that allows excellent handling, and the whole thing is finished off with an attractive camouflaged paint pattern.
The 1500 action and barrel are also Cerakoted in a tan color, which makes the whole thing quite handsome. Controls on the action include a right side safety near the bolt-shroud, and opposite that is a petite bolt-release lever. The bolt is a ninety-degree two lug type, it uses an M16 type claw extractor and a traditional plunger ejector.
The barrel itself is a twenty-two inch eight twist barrel of a fairly light profile. Nothing wrong with that for a hunting rifle, but it did seem a little light for even an entry level match rifle. This was of little concern to me, as the only plans I had for the rifle was as a hunting tool.
The muzzle of the rifle features a very slender muzzle brake with radial ports to reduce recoil. Underneath the brake were a clean set of 1/2-28 threads, perfect for mounting a suppressor. The rifle I received also came with a one-piece scope base, which would reduce the time needed to get a scope mounted and on the range.


Range Preparation

The first thing I wanted to add to the rifle was a good scope, I had a Crimson Trace Hardline 3-12 scope handy, and already in a mount. This made installing it a breeze, leaving me needing only to zero the gun and get shooting. But before that, I installed a Harris bipod and I also grabbed my Yankee Hill Machine R9 suppressor which would make a nice addition to the ensemble.

With several hunts coming in the next few weeks, I wanted to make sure the rifle was ready for anything. Both my wife and son would also be hunting this year, and I was going to see if either of them wanted to try the new Howa as their main gun. That being the case I grabbed a couple different selections of ammunition, a Hornady 120 grain Match Load, as well as my own custom hunting load featuring the Patriot Valley arms Cayuga bullets. I’ve used these bullets many times in the past to take deer and elk, and these 122 grain bullets loaded in the 6.5 Creedmoor have dropped elk with outstanding performance.

After packing up all my gear and accessories, I took the Howa to my shooting spot. With a target hung at one hundred yards, I laid down behind the Kratos and bore-sighted the scope. I zeroed the rifle using the Hornady ammo, and also tried some 130 grain Federal Gold Medal ammunition. They all shot equally, so I tried my Cayuga hunting load as well. They averaged right at one MOA with a five shot group.

With a little refinement I figured I could tighten that up before hunting season. I would prefer the rifle shoot half MOA groups, this better consistency is very handy when shots get longer.
One thing I noticed while shooting the rifle at one hundred yards was how much I liked the two-stage trigger. You could tell it wasn’t a seven thousand dollar sniper rifle trigger, but it still was a great little trigger and better than average for a hunting rifle. I also noticed just the slightest bind on the bolt when running it, but it was also dry. I added a touch of lube to the contact points and it ran as smooth as could be.

Now that I had the rifle zeroed, I figured I would do some real world shooting. My favorite part of shooting here in the mountains is that it allows me to practice in the same scenarios that I would during a hunt. I picked out a rock about the size of a deer’s vitals, I picked it because it had the right shape, and lay surrounded by nothing but dry dirt. I ranged it with my LRF, and the range came back at four-hundred-twenty yards. It was a steep canyon and my target lay deep below me, so I dialed the elevation correction, subtracting for the incline of course. I favored into the wind which was coming down the canyon, and took up the first stage of the trigger. When my hold was just right, I pressed harder and sent the shot crushing the thin rock into the dirt.
With a fresh sense of confidence, I decided to try another shot. This one was straight across the canyon, with a good wind blowing at full-value. The laser came back with six-hundred and fifteen yards, so I again corrected my scope elevation for the distance and evaluated the wind as I lay there. A full MIL into the wind seemed a bit much, but I’ve certainly misjudged the wind before so I held the full MIL. After breaking the trigger again, I watched my bullet impact a few inches downwind of where I wanted it too. Shoulda probably held 1.1 or 1.2 MIL, but that is exactly why I like doing this, to get more experience doping the wind. Continue Reading Here…

Keltec RDB 5.56 Bullpup

I’ve had a bit of experience with bullpups, some more than others. But if you’re interested enough in them to be reading this, you may want to read my last piece “Ode to bullpups” where we discussed bullpups in general. Today we will be speaking specifically about the Keltec RDB bullpup, a sixteen inch barreled 5.56 bullpup semi-auto.

Keltec
Keltec has been around since the early nineties, with a motto of creating original and innovative firearms in the state of Florida. An overview of Keltec firearms gives the impression that affordability, alternative designs and materials are all part of their operation. My personal experience with Keltec has been modest at best until this RDB came to me, so this review will represent a fresh look at the rifle.

The RDB
The RDB is a 5.56 nato chambered bullpup rifle, the action and magazine are located behind the pistol grip. This allows the rifle to present with a much shorter and well balanced platform than a traditionally configured rifle such as an AR-15. The RDB is fed by standard AR type magazines, and those cartridges are loaded by a piston driven bolt-carrier. The sixteen-inch one in seven twist barrel features a 1/2-28 threaded muzzle that came with a birdcage style muzzle device, as well as an adjustable gas block to meter pressure into the operating system. The cunning ejection system that sets the RDB apart from its competition is it downward ejection, the spent cases are pulled behind the magazine and ejected out the bottom of the rifle. The controls of the rifle are pretty standard, but not like you are used to for sure. There is a reversible charging handle that can be placed on either side of the fore-grip after disassembling the rifle. The safety is ambidextrous and located in the right position, right where your thumb would expect it to be.

The magazine release and bolt catch are both located behind the pistol grip. The mag release is a stamped piece of metal that reaches around both sides of the lower-rear receiver, there is a push-pad at the front of this horseshoe shaped piece just behind the pistol grip to release the magazine. The rifles locks open upon emptying the magazine, and the bolt release is located on either side of the lower receiver, but uses a captured lever on the right side of the rifle to aid in leverage to easily release the bolt after loading a fresh magazine.
There is a picatinny rail across the top of the rifle for sight mounting, and there are several points on the rifle for attaching slings with a hook or other attachment. The Defender handguard features M-Lok slots at three, six, and nine o’clock for attaching additional accessories.

First Impressions
I have seen Keltec firearms for years and had many opportunities to handle them. So when the RDB case arrived I wasn’t particularly surprised by its contents. I picked the RDB up from its case, and cleared it for inspection. I shouldered the rifle to give it a feel, it was then that I noticed it was lighter than I had anticipated, six-point-seven pounds according to Keltec. This was a pleasant discovery.

I played with the rifle for a few minutes to get a full understanding of its operation and features, and then I stared at it for a bit. At first I thought it appeared like a high school or college engineering class had drawn this thing in Solid Works, but the more I looked the more I could see what they were working at. The bullpup balance was like most others I’ve held, balanced right at the grip area. I again ran the charging handle a few times, the handle can be pulled to the rear and lifted into a locked position to leave the action open. But the ejection port being on the bottom, there isn’t really a place to inspect.
I wanted to try out the trigger, which for many bullpups is famously terrible. To my surprise the trigger was not bad, the first stage gave way to a solid wall that broke clean and firmly. So firmly in fact I almost immediately felt the desire to open up the rifle and see what was making such a significant strike when I pulled the trigger. Internal inspection showed a very curious design, both the hammer and trigger mechanisms were far from what I’d imagined.
The hammer itself is not unlike a turkey wishbone, with two legs coming together at the top to form a hammer anvil. The hammer splits around the magazine well, and the sear/connecting linkage travel all the way up to the trigger group itself. The whole thing is quite interesting, and explains why the trigger feels so good compared to other bullpups.
While inside I noticed the very short bolt carrier. The bottom ejection requires the bolt-face to travel far enough behind the magazine as to allow spent cases to clear the magazine and trigger parts. The short bolt and firing pin are similar to most other semi-auto bolt designs, with a rotating bolt guided by a cam-pin that also locks into the receiver guide rails as it goes into battery.
With fresh perspective, I reassembled the rifle and went to work preparing it for a range session. The rifle had come with set of Magpul flip up sights, but I also added a Sig Sauer Romeo RDS. I was surely going to try the rifle suppressed as well, to see how the adjustable gas system could accommodate the difference.

On the Range
Once on the firing line, with some thirty-round magazines I loaded the RDB and prepared to fire. Initial ergonomics were not bad, the rifle fit me well. The charging handle on the left side of the rifle was easy to find blindly and provided plenty of purchase. With an easy click of the safety I was in business. Recoil was just what I expected from a 5.56 caliber bullpup, not bad at all. The spent shells began to pile up neatly on the ground in front of me. When my first magazine went empty, it was time to try out the reloading controls of the rifle. Stuffing magazines through the rifle and doing lots of reload drills taught me a couple things about the RDB. It could use a more flared magwell, as it seemed a little bit of a stickler to get the magazine stabbed in properly. The magazine release worked better than I had anticipated, almost too good. I have long heard of people complaining that the mag release is too easy to inadvertently drop the magazine while maneuvering the rifle. And it proved to be so for me as well, a slight miscalculated move of the shooting hand can drop your magazine from the rifle. The bolt release took some time to get used to as well, reaching back and hitting it with my right thumb seemed to be the best option. I’m sure with some training it could become second nature. Cross training on different rifle platforms doesn’t hurt anyone, and its a bit of a pet peeve of mine when bullpup haters act as though a slight retraining in operation somehow renders a gun “useless” in their opinion. Continue Reading Here…