Category Archives: Ancillary gear

Accessories needed for shooting

Cole TAC Bino PremierPack

Is there ever such a thing as too much gear? I say yes and no. If you are going on a ten mile hike into the backcountry looking to shoot an elk, then definitely there is such a thing as too much. But kicking around in the basement, it’s hard to say when there is too much. I definitely have too much, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.

I’ve carried a few bino harness’s around in my day, starting way back with those old Crooked Horn outfitters things that looked like a man-zier. There are many models I like, and I’ve been using the Badlands Packs bino case’s for several years now. But today we are discussing a new one from one of my favorite companies. I say my favorite not because I have all their stuff, but because they are always innovating the market of shooting soft-goods. They are constantly coming up with great new products, some that take off, and others that may not have. But they have the balls to take risks and bring American made high-quality textiles to the precision rifle shooting community.
Among the many products they make, my favorites have to be the Ammo Novel, (a great way to safely transport your precious handloads), their Tripod Leggings (which create a perfect little load-bearing shelf under your tripod head), and of course their Suppressor Covers that protect from contacting hot cans, and keeping the mirage down. But today we are on the subject of bino harness’s so I’ll stop gushing and get to the point.

Why do you even?
If you missed the bus, you’ll notice that everybody who didn’t is using a carry pouch or harness of some sort to protect their precious extra eyes. They are extremely useful for all kinds of things beside just keeping your binos close. Who doesn’t carry a phone these days? And it fits right close to your heart where you can keep an eye on it. Everything from phones to game-calls to earplugs and chewing-gum, but don’t mix those last two up. It keeps all your most important things front and center, I almost use it like a catch-all-wallet when I’m in the mountains.

Even without padding, the PremierPack was extremely comfortable

The Bino PremierPack
So lets get into the Cole TAC version of this handy predator purse. I was surprised to see a lack of padding around the shoulder straps, something I had grown quite accustomed to using other models. I was also surprised at how robust the harness material was, seemed strong enough for a day pack, but balanced enough for a bino case. The harness panel that runs across your back spreads the weight carried up front over a wide area making it feel lighter, as well as giving molle attachment points for extra accessories (might I suggest the ammo novel). There are also molle attachment points on the front, which are handy for attaching additional pouches or gear.

Pack details: molle back panel, and binocular attachment straps.

The pouch itself features a padded compartment for your binoculars, big enough to fit the average pair of hunting binos with a little wiggle room. The lid of the pouch is secured by a neat little elastic draw-string that slides through a magnetic catch. The catch has both magnetic retention, as well as a physical retainer by way of a dovetail. It goes together so quick I rarely have to do more than get them close together for them to lock right up. You can adjust the elastic draw-string to keep a safe amount of retention on the lid.
In the back of the pouch there is a zipper compartment that rides right against your chest. A great place to keep dope cards, deer tags, or any other little items you’d like to keep handy.
The buckles and other fasteners on the pack are very stout, I don’t recommend that I’d tie-off to it when in a tree-stand, but as strong as they are I’d be afraid of hanging myself if it got caught on a branch on the way down.

So does it WORK?
The first thing I did was adjust it for a good fit, and I wore it around the office for a whole day. I was sure that the lack of padding would make it less comfortable than I was used to, but boy was I wrong. To my surprise, not only was it comfortable but it felt great even after eight hours. And the best part was that it didn’t sag at all, it stayed right where I had put it.
The smaller straps that secure the binoculars to the pack are easily attached, and your binos are easily disconnected with a squeeze of the coupler clips should you need to share your view.
The lid and its securing strap proved to be very intuitive, never did I worry about them coming open and spilling my contents.
The zipper pouch is perfect for small things, though I wish it was a touch bigger so I could fit my big fat clubber-girl phone in there.
The attachment points both front and back proved to very useful for accessories and such when I didn’t want to carry a whole backpack. I did in fact attach my ammo novel to the molle panel across the back, this was a great place for as it was out of the way and the weight helped balance the whole harness even more.


I’ve been carrying the PremierPack for a month or so now, hiking, riding, and driving. Its comfortable and robust, and it feels much stronger than perhaps some of the more elegant looking products from big names, though I’d wager those ones are made overseas. Cole TAC products like the Bino PremierPack feel like they were made for NASA missions to the moon.

Conclusion
With so many gadgets and gizmos piling up around, the gear-queer in me loves it when cool ones that I will actually use come out. The Cole TAC Bino PremierPack will definitely stay in my go pile, and I look forward to seeing what the next great thing they either improve upon, or build from scratch.

Area 419 ARCALOCK Dovetail Rail

Can I start out by just saying how I love American ingenuity? I am constantly presented with impressive new products from an untold well of small business’ that push the envelope. Today that product is from Area 419, some of you will be quite familiar with their products and for those that aren’t, prepare yourselves for fresh lust.
see video below
Area 419 is a precision rifle shooters wet dream, they produce custom rifles, precision loading equipment, muzzle brakes, suppressors and more. Its all done with top tier industry standards, and has kept 419 at the top of their game for some time.

As much as I’d like to evangelize the entirety of their products, today I must focus on one product in particular. The ARCALOCK rail system is Area 419’s proprietary version of the impressive and popular ARCA rail. The ARCA has become the go to accessory rail for precision rifle shooters in PRS and NRL style shooting. The 1.5 inch wide rail allows shooters an impressive host of rifle supporting equipment, it allows quick attachment and adjustment of bipods, clamps, bags, tripods and more.

The ARCALOCK system made by Area 419 features a serration like edge, with tiny radii down both sides. The ARCALOCK clamps that go with it have three hard steel pins that engage the serrations when tightened down. It does this while still retaining the reciprocal use of standard ARCA products from other manufacturers as well. The augmented engagement of the ARCALOCK system allows shooters to quickly and securely install and adjust their rifle support hardware.

It may look like a measuring device for small fish, but the index marks are simply reference points for the shooter.

How it works
The ARCALOCK rail attaches via machine screws to the bottom of your rifle chassis, it is available in various lengths to fit most rifles. It has a long slot down the center line to take advantage of most any attachment point. The dove tail of all ARCA rails give a broad clamping surface, with lots of surface contact. The added benefit of the ARCALOCK system is that with the clamp lugs engaging the rail, there is a mechanical engagement in addition to the clamping, which will reduce wear. Also in my experience, the ARCALOCK’s additional engagement translates into lower torque required to firmly secure your clamped on accessories.
I decided to install the ARCALOCK rail on my 25 Creedmoor, which uses the KRG Bravo chassis. The rifle is a perfect candidate for the rail, and I’ve wanted to add something like this to it since I first got it.
Once installed, I was immediately intrigued with its use. I played with both a Harris and an Atlas bipod that had been fitted with 419’s ARCALOCK clamp. The clamp is easily attached to the Atlas with two screws, the Harris does require an adaptor that Area 419 produces that only improves the mounting and use of it in my opinion.

It mounted up neatly in my tripod, which gave my rifle a firm foundation that locks up so tight it feels like you could stand on it.

My Cole-TAC Support bag attaches to the ARCALOCK perfectly for shooting from barricades or rocks. There are many other accessories made by Area 419 like barricade stops, weights, and bag riders. These all clamp right onto the rail, giving the shooter an impressive amount of support.

Conclusion
As I stated at the opening of this article, I am constantly impressed by so many great ideas that good people like those at Area 419. Simple yet brilliant solutions to advance our shooting sports.
After shooting just a short time with the ARCALOCK system, I find myself wanting to add it to all of my rifles. I don’t shoot as many matches as I used to, but I can see how this system would add trigger-time to the clock. Together with all the available accessories, it will absolutely help you stabilize your rifle, through transitions of all sorts.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this system continues to see proliferation, and offered as OE from precision rifle companies.
In the meantime, I think I may have to get a few more of these for my other rifles, because good rifles should be spoiled.
-CBM

Strike Industries Adjustable Scope Mount (ASM)

I go through a lot of scopes, not like you think though. I find myself constantly switching optics back and forth, from one rifle to another. One of the reasons I can getaway with it is because of quality scope mounts. And today I’d like to share a little bit about the latest one I have been fortunate to use.

That scope mount is from Strike Industries, a company I am well familiar with. They make all kinds of firearms accessories, the ASM is the first scope mount from Strike that I have used. The ASM is a 30mm set of rings, joined together as one billet piece of aluminum. It does come with ring reducers should you choose to mount a 1” tube scope. The base and rings are held together by a few screws, that also allows one of the paramount features of this mount. The rings can be slid fore and aft to use the mount either as a standard scope mount, or as a cantilever mount. The base of the mount features a recoil lug and two claw clamps to attach to the pic-rail of the rifle.

These features make this mount extremely useful, particularly if your like me and switching back and forth between rifles.
The design and style that comes with most Strike Industries products wasn’t lost on this unit, its clean lines and slender features make it both attractive and unlikely to snag on clothing or other gear.

I like that they used appropriate sized fasteners, some scope rings use insufficient screws that are easily stripped or broken. And I like that there are nearly zero exposed clamps, or screws and such to hangup on. This minimalist design style likely reduces the weight of the mount.

This scope mount is a handsome and useful piece of equipment, no matter which of its four positions you need, I think you will be very pleased with it.

-CBM

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

Field Optics Research Carbon Fiber Tripods

If you’ve followed me for very long, you’ve surely seen me shooting from a tripod. I am rarely without one, as I find them infinitely useful in building shooting positions, and supporting equipment. You may have read my previous article about tripods, but today I am writing specifically about the Field Optics Research tripods.

Field Optics Research fills the void between the 100-200 dollar tripods, and the carbon fiber 800 plus dollar tripods. That said, Field Optics makes both sub 200 dollar tripods, as well as carbon fiber models, but they are very affordable. They are not photography tripods adapted for shooting, this makes them an ideal candidate for those who wish to spend just a bit more on their field equipment and expect good returns on their investment.

The BT Precision FBT5436C Bowl Top Tripod seen here with the FBH-44DT ball head, which together give the user two pivot points.

The first and bigger of the two models I’ve fielded is the BT Precision FBT5436C Bowl Top Tripod, It can be used from a prone position, all the way up to a standing position. With carbon fiber telescoping legs, several locking positions, and a bowl top. The bowl top gives the user the ability to loosen the top of the tripod, and articulate the rifle (or scope, binos, etc.) to the angle needed.

Here you can see the Field Optics Gunpod FM-500B which clamps your rifle into a firm position atop the tripod.

Field Optics also sells a saddle-type gun vise that mounts on their tripods, so that any rifle (or anything for that matter) can be clamped into the top of the tripod. The clamp also features a pic rail clamp at the bottom of it, so that your rifle can be fixed firmly to the tripod with the quick turn of a screw. In addition to that, they make many different heads to go on the tripod for using Arca Swiss rails, cameras, spotting optics and more.

Another handy feature of the tripod is that the legs screw off, and can be used as a light-weight trekking pole, they even sell thread on handles to make it more convenient. With different ball heads and rifle interface options, there is no reason you can’t find an ideal setup for your needs.

Arca Rail mounting solutions are available in various configurations

The legs of the tripod are easily extended by turning the rubber gripped cap at the end of each segment. This is almost the best way of doing it, but certainly better than most. The large diameter of the legs make it easy to grab and wrap your hand around, and the whole unit is surprisingly lighter than you would expect after noting its size.
All three legs can articulate by unlocking them at the base of the head, there is a small sliding lock in the hinge itself that allows the legs to be lifted. They can come all the way up to make the tripod rest flat on the ground if needs be. The legs re-lock as you lower them back down at different angles.

Here you can see the ball head, and related controls. Tension clutches for every axis make it easy to hold your rifle in position.

I also got to try out one of their BT Precision Ground Tripod, a smaller tripod meant to work from the ground. It also features a bowl-top, and can use all of the same accessories and mounting solutions. The small and lightweight tripod makes it very stout, even heavy precision rifles will stay steady on this robust little unit.

I’ve used both models extensively in these rocky mountains, and have found them extremely handy. They were both well built and felt very sturdy when extended. My only complaint might be the size, despite being very light-weight they are still fairly large and more weight than one would want to carry if hunting back-country on foot. However, for competition shooting and all-around shooting, they leave almost nothing to be desired. Moving stage to stage they are easily folded up and carried, and they give the user all the stability of much more expensive units. With such a firm foundation to shoot from, the only excuse for a miss would be user error.


I certainly wouldn’t exclude them from hunting use though, if you hunt from ATV’s, horses or any other fashion that doesn’t require you to carry all your own gear, you would do very well to have one of these tripods under your hunting rifle.

The Field Optics Research series of tripods is a very affordable way to get into a professional-grade shooting tripod. Yes, there are nicer ones, and perhaps some with better features, but the price is also much higher. These tripods give an average everyday shooter a great option without having to take out a second mortgage. I can assure you there are many cheaper options out there as well, but as far as performance for the dollar, I’d put my rifle on top of a Field Optics Research any day.
CBM