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Relentless Knives Perpetual Edge™ Fillet Knife

Filleting Fish

I’ve been cutting up fish one way or another for most of my life, the fishing bug bit me as far back as I can remember. And like many parts of the outdoor lifestyle, it took some time for me to figure out the proper way to do things.

Catching and cutting up fish has since become second nature, and a great filleting knife has long been my companion. But today I want to show you something new, the Perpetual Edge fillet knife from Relentless Knives.

The Perpetual Edge

The technology behind the Relentless knives edge is borrowed from nature, the idea taken from the sharp bite of the beaver.

The edge of the Perpetual Edge blade has two sides, like most blades. The one side however uses a carbide/crushed diamond surface, which makes that side of the knife particularly hard. The rest of the blade is made from titanium, which is much softer.

Much like the self sharpening teeth of the beaver, the softer side of the blade wears before the carbide side, which causes a natural wear pattern that thins the angle of the cutting edge. Keeping it sharper than it would be if both sides of the cutting edge wore at the same rate.

Sucker for sharp edges

I am a sucker for sharp knives, just ask my wife how up-tight I get when my good knife edges get too close to something hard. I keep a knife sharpener in my pocket and in my office, the soothing therapy of smoothing and polishing knives to a mirror shine is a favorite pastime.

I am constantly checking and correcting the cutting edge of my pocket knives, hunting knives, and fillet knife. Because I can’t stand the idea of a knife not being razor sharp, there are few things more satisfying than a clean cut.

Field Testing Relentless Knives Perpetual Edge

I wanted to see how the sharpness of the perpetual edge stood up to some modest filleting work. Rainbow Trout is a far cry from saltwater fish, but unfortunately thats what I have at the moment. I wish I would have had this knife to fillet the dozens of Red Drum and Sheepsheads I caught on my last trip to the gulf. Filleting and preparing all that fish for a large crew would have been easy work with this knife.

The model shown here today is the seven-inch curved blade model. They also make a six-inch, and nine-inch curved blade models. There are also two straight blade models in lengths of eight and ten-inches.

Check out the full line of Relentless Knives

The seven-inch model should easily handle most of the fish I typically fillet, which besides trout might include lots of striped bass, sunfish, Walleye, Channel cats, and the occasional salt water fish like those mentioned above, and the occasional mackerel if I’m lucky.

But today we are just filleting freshwater Rainbows, as that’s what I have for the frying pan. I must say that before I even got to feeling the edge of this knife, the handle had already caught me. The texturing of the grip area is so sticky and course to your hand, I don’t think any amount of fish slime could cause it to slip.

I sliced through the skin towards the bones behind the head, the narrow tip of the knife made for some very tactical maneuvering and slicing to avoid wasting the tender meat. I could easily finesse the sharp tip around in the tight spaces behind the collars, and as you might imagine, the blade zipped through the bones.

The sharp edge perfectly sliced the flesh away from the bones, taking off whatever it touched. And cutting the meat away from the skin was just as smooth.

After cutting up a half a dozen fish, I was quite pleased with the performance, but c’mon, a bunch of soft trout is hardly enough to dull a good knife right? I think the only choice I have to truly test this edge is to go catch a dozen Yellow Tail Mud Tarpon out of the marsh near my house, and run them through.

The thick scaly carp that live there are full of tough bones, and scales as thick as fingernails sometimes. That would really be a good test of how long this edge stays sharp, and if it truly does sharpen as it cuts like its manufacturer suggests.

I’ll have to update you all on the performance thereafter, and as this knife ages I will update this article with some additional developments.

Pros & Cons

The knife is certainly sharp, as are most blades when they come from the factory, I polished it up a little bit to enhance its slice. The design of the blade leaves the carbide side of the edge flat, so there is no ground angle to the edge. The ground angle is only on the opposing side of the blade, where you do any sharpening if needed.

I did find that the knife doesn’t cut straight because of this uneven profile on the cutting edge, it sort of slices to one side like you might imagine. This of course is not a big deal, and something you will simply adapt to as you continue cutting through fish after fish.

The sheath of the knife if you care about using it, is strong and will protect the edge of your knife. Though I wish it had a slightly better way of securing it to the handle.

Final Thoughts

I can’t wait to get my hands on more fish, and see how this edge holds up. I often use my fillet knives for boning out deer and elk as well, so it might show up on my butcher table as well this fall.

It’s not uncommon for me to cut through a pile of a couple dozen Stripers, and turn them into a clean pile of scale-free fillets that eventually turn into fresh made fish tacos. I am sure the sharp edge of this Relentless Knife will make short work of them when the time comes.

-CBM

Ruger M77 Overhaul: Turning 50 aint so bad

Introduction

Everybody loves a good comeback story, and today I’ve got a good one for you. Many great things came from the American 1970’s, no I’m not talking about the Carter administration but as a product of the 70’s myself I can assure you there was some good stuff back in the day.

Shortly before I met my father, a committed hunter and shooting enthusiast, he purchased one of the many guns he managed to collect during early life. It was a Ruger M77 Mark 1 chambered in the popular at the time 220 Swift.
I remember as a youth fawning over Dad’s guns, thinking they must be the coolest thing ever, and nothing got me more excited than when Dad would take me shooting.

My Father, he also grew up hunting these same mountains with Grandpa

The Ruger M77

Sturm Ruger introduced the model 77 in the late 1960’s, so by the time today’s subject was manufactured years later they surely had it dialed in. The original MKI used a tang mounted safety, and like many other rifle actions it borrowed a great deal from the Mauser model 98 . The M77 uses a claw extractor and a two-lug bolt, fed by an internal box magazine. To this day even modern M77’s utilizes the original angled action screw that pulls the action down and back into the stock, this curious design has been arguably beneficial as well as irritating for owners and gunsmiths alike.
Modern M77’s, which come with the MKII designation use a bolt shroud mounted safety vs. the original tang mounted one. A plethora of different models of M77 have been made over the years, in too many calibers to list here. Rest assured if you want an M77 in a specific caliber, they probably made it at one time. The rifle we are talking about today came with a twenty-six inch heavy barrel featuring a one in fourteen-inch twist, it was blued with a glossy finish and a traditional walnut stock.

 

History

My father is a man of few shots, sort of a quality over quantity kind of marksman. During the many outings where I accompanied my Dad, I don’t remember him ever firing many shots, sometimes only a single shot was ever fired. But that was enough to bring home the venison at our house.

My siblings and I enjoying one of Dad’s deer, thats me in the middle

The 220 Swift is nearly a hundred years old already, it was a very popular cartridge a generation ago. It gained fame as one of the fastest cartridges around, and it is still a very fast cartridge today. This rifle shoots the same .224 caliber bullets you will find in a .223 Remington, but it shoots them MUCH faster. Shooting Hornady 55 grain hollow-points yielded velocities near 3900 FPS, and the Hornady 75 Grain ELDM leaves the muzzle at 3400 fps. Both of these loads seemed quite mild, with room for additional speed.

the claw extractor of the M77

I remember a specific occurrence, when as a young man I learned exactly why Dad shot sparingly, and at the same time I learned a LOT about why he chose the Swift.
It was a rabbit hunt in the dry deserts of Utah, where we would push the brushy draws hoping to drive a rabbit or two up the other side in hopes of claiming one. As a youth, it was my responsibility to push through the worst of the terrain to give others a shot. As one of the many jackrabbits ran up the hillside in front of me, I followed him through the brush with my sights. As he cleared the top of the hill before me, I was beginning to press the trigger when the rabbit suddenly disappeared. In its place there was a cloud of hair drifting on the dry breeze.

In the distance I heard the report of a rifle that surely wasn’t a rimfire, I turned and saw Dad standing way back on the other end of the draw still looking through the Leupold 3.5-10 scope mounted on the Swift. As I neared the spot where the rabbit disappeared, I was immediately educated on several things; first was the impressive performance of the Swift and its exemplary demonstration of the destructive power of rifle rounds, as well as the entire anatomy of the jackrabbit scattered across the weeds.
That was at least thirty something years ago, and that old Swift became legendary in our family. But with that speed it also has an appetite for barrels, and more recently its blistering speed has consumed its accuracy with bore erosion.

Few things have ever escaped the Swift, before or after the overhaul

A New Life

There was no way that I was going to let this gun that I had idolized my whole life disappear into inaccurate mediocrity. I made a plan to overhaul the old Ruger and build it into a “Super Swift”.

Dad doesn’t get out as often, and varmint hunting seems as appealing as ever, so turning his Swift into an even better version of itself would be ideal.


I started with the barrel, a replacement match grade blank from K&P was ordered. To be finished at the same 26-inches but this time with a 1-8 twist, a significantly aggressive twist rate for a cartridge like this. For this I sent it to my good friend Eric at ES-Tactical. My plan was to still shoot the 50-55 grain bullets at Mach 3+, but also have the ability to shoot the Hornady 75 grain ELDM bullets for things that are out there a ways.

refinished bottom-metal and floorplate

The new barrel would be threaded for suppressors because this isn’t 1974 anymore, and the old walnut stock would also be swapped out for something that better fit in with the rest of our guns.

For that I looked to Boyds Gunstocks, and selected a model had Dad would like. The At One model with adjustable butt and cheek-riser, and a vertical style grip. The new heavy barrel of the rifle would require opening the barrel channel somewhat to make enough room to float it, but despite being a 50-year-old design, the fit was perfect. To ensure consistency I glass-bedded the recoil lug area of the action into the stock, after which it fit so well you almost didn’t need screws.

While I had it apart, I completely disassembled the action and bead blasted the old finish off, in preparation for fresh Cerakote. While the trigger was apart, I stone polished the mating surfaces to improve the trigger which was already good, but now feels incredible. The stock featured dual front sling studs for bipod mounting, as well as a QD cup at the rear to add a QD sling swivel.

One thing some might call a drawback to the M77 is the scope mounting options. I don’t mind the Ruger scope ring design and mount, but you are limited to using what is offered. Lucky for me I found a set of Leupold high rings in 34mm to mount the US Optics FDN17X scope to the old MKI, which would make an excellent match to the rifle. The beautiful tungsten Cerakote match made the whole thing look sharp. Now it was time to get the legendary Swift back out where it belonged, scattering varmints across the countryside.

If you like this rebuild, you’ll also like Rebuilding a Hunter

Swift Vengeance

With the completely rebuilt rifle in hand, as well as some fresh 75 grain handloads, my father, brother and I headed into the high Rockies to put it to the test. Not only did the rifle shoot the 75-grain bullet very well, but it still craved the twenty-year-old hand-loaded 52 grain Match Kings I loaded once upon a time.

220 Swift shown next to a 223 Remington

With the rifle zeroed, and after installing a Yankee Hill Machine Nitro N20 suppressor, it was time to exact the Swift vengeance it is so famous for.
We hunt Marmots all spring and summer long, and today would be an exceptional day of chuckin’. The blistering speed of the Swift had returned with incredible accuracy, allowing surgical pinpoint accuracy. We were all stunned at how fast the bullets arrived at their furry little targets, and I can’t help but think that the aggressive 1-8 twist also greatly increases the rotational energy of the bullets making them even more explosive than before.

Continue reading here

 

Find your own Ruger rifle here

Conclusion

After renovating this old rifle, I am quite confident in the upgrades, and this rifle will surely continue terrorizing varmints for the next generation. The match-grade barrel produces incredible accuracy, the new twist allows for a much broader selection of bullets to be used. And threaded for a suppressor will make doubling and tripling up on coyotes a possibility.

The new stock, besides being incredibly handsome, offers a great deal of modularity. Its polymer parts are in all the right places to avoid scratching the wood on the landscape.

The new scope vastly increases the rifles potential for shooting long-range. We’ve already shot it beyond 1100 yards, something near impossible with standard 220 Swift rifles. The further distance capability is also enhanced by the improved trigger.

The M77 with its new look and Cole -TAC suppressor cover

If you have an old Ruger M77 laying around, don’t be afraid to dive deep into a custom like this. Despite the fifty-year-old design, they still make a great rifle. I’m glad this project turned out to be such a fantastic result, that even eclipses the legendary performance it had before.

The unbelievable power of the 220 Swift shooting 75 gr ELDM’s

If your old M77 has passed its prime, do yourself a favor and breathe some new life into it. They could be a great performer for you as they are, or serve as the base of your next project that may become its own legendary family heirloom.

-CBM

Me, Dad, Brad, and Spence. You can see the action in Major League Chuckers 9

Hunting with kids: more effort with more rewards

Kids and Hunting

My son started coming hunting with me as soon as he could walk, he would toddle along behind me always excited for whatever it was we were going to do. I took every opportunity to bring him along, though sometimes the days  events were too rough to bring a small child. This was a lesson I learned myself as a youngster, but I was determined to make sure I pushed the endeavour as long as it stayed fun for him. My Ridley is a legal adult now, and I often wonder if I could go back in time, would I have done it the same way.

My Ridley on one of his first deer hunts.

A Father’s Guidance

I grew up under the watchful eye of my father, himself quite a dedicated hunter. I often speak of how my dad was also raised hunting these same dry desert mountains of Utah, so it should come as no surprise that as far back as I can remember I wanted to hunt. So many of my most memorable childhood experiences were related to the times that I was able to tag along with my dad or my grandfathers. You can read more about those Memories right here.

A shot of my dad from the early 80’s

That was a different time I suppose, different rules and more hunting options that were much easier to participate in. My dad is a bowhunter, while he’s shot plenty of animals with a rifle I think in his heart he truly enjoys the thrill of the ancient art of archery.

I’ve been on a few bowhunts in my lifetime, and looking back I can better understand why I never got to go as a child. Sneaking into archery range of a Mule deer is hard enough when you have the wind, concealment and noise working against you. I can’t imagine trying to put the sneak on one with a child by your side.

the freedom to roam and explore are the currency of boyhood, let him spend it often

My Experience with Kids

As a young man, I too was bitten by the bug carrying the archery pathogen, and spent countless hours preparing myself for an eventual bowhunting trip. Unfortunately I grew out of it by the time I had reached the age to go, that and the fact that teenage girls existed greatly reduced my dedication to the sport.

Ridley packing around his first rifle, the Cricket EX17hmr

Many years later I would find myself longing for hunting memories that never were. So when my lifelong dream of becoming a father was realized, I made a mindful decision that my own son would never want for the chance to join a hunting adventure. In fact I hoped that conversely he might someday look back, and wish he’d taken the opportunity more often.

One of the many adventures involving my son, also happened to involve my dad. It was well over a decade ago, and my father and I were situated along the spine of a steep ridge in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. One side of the ridge was a traditional slope that had a trail we had come in on ATV’s that morning, the opposite side of the ridge was as steep a hill as you can imagine. It was littered with thick brush and deadfall, and dropped for over a mile into a thick wooded forest below.

I consider my kids lucky, I sure hope they do too

We were after Mule deer bucks that morning, and I had learned the pattern of them crossing this ridge spine over the years. Dad and I had spread out several hundred yards across the ridge to better cover potential bucks crossing over. Ridley was probably four or five years old at the time, and he sat near me quietly munching snacks and watching the sunrise. We’d spent the morning softly answering his many questions about trees and squirrels and every other thing that caught his curious eyes.

As we sat there in near silence, I heard a noise that immediately captured my own curiosity. It sounded like sticks breaking and the occasional rustle, I closely paid attention to the sound, and told Ridley to do the same. It would come and go, but I knew that something was moving up the steep drop off below us. As minutes passed, I continued to listen.

After a few minutes I knew action was at hand and I motioned to my dad to come toward me, in anticipation of something stepping out. As dad made his way towards me, my son in a whisper asked me if he could walk over to the fourwheeler to get something. Sensing his pocket to snack ratio reaching critical, I told him he could go as long as he stayed quiet and in sight.

Once again I heard noise coming from the drop off, and this time it was much closer. My heart nearly stopped when I heard the familiar chirp of an elk from below. Now, I had said we were deer hunting but it just so happened that my father also carried a cow elk tag in his pocket that was still good. I immediately started making frantic hand motions for him to hurry to me, he had clearly understood the message, all but the frantic and hurry parts.

a shot from years long passed

As he made it to me I told him what had been happening just over the edge of the ridge. We sat there quietly listening to rustling brush, and the occasional elk chirp. Ridley was quietly refilling his pockets with goldfish from the backpack on my fourwheeler as dad and I watched carefully for the sign of an elk coming through the trees.

Like they often do, the elk made their way so close to us under cover that we were quite surprised when they emerged. Barely sixty-yards or so away, two cows came up through some aspen trees. It was quite obvious that they knew nothing of our presence.

As dad lifted his rifle I remember thinking to myself; that’s it, we’re gonna have elk for dinner. As the front elk cleared the second one, I knew that dad was probably starting to press the trigger.  That’s when things went south…

Perhaps fifty yards away in a different direction, my son continued his supply mission. I was of course looking at the elk, so I can only imagine what it was like from his little guy perspective when he too spotted the elk standing on the edge of the treeline. Forgetting all the counsel I’d given him that morning, he saw the elk and in the most excited voice he shouted out: “Dad there’s two elk!”. I can just imagine his big brown eyes wide open, spitting bits of goldfish as he belted out his discovery.

I’ll spare you the rest of the story, and the rest of that hunt for that matter, it was uneventful after that morning. I remember hurrying over to the fourwheeler to him, his face lit up with excitement. I remember a sense of calm that came over me, and despite my internal rage of missing an easy opportunity, I calmly explained to him the consequences of him breaking silence. I distinctly remember wanting to make sure not to chastise him, and sour the experience of hunting for him.

Dad and me were both a bit sour though, we’d been so close.

No Regrets

I’ve never regretted taking Ridley along, not that day nor any other. He learned his lesson about keeping quiet, and that was his very first experience with elk, but it would not be his last.

My 12yo Ridley with his first elk, you can read that story here

We’ve been on so many hunts together since, and my daughter too has come along with us. She has an elk tag of her own this year. I think back to all the times where I had to carry extra snacks, make fires to keep kids warm, and hold chubby little hands as we descended a sketchy trail. And there is no amount of venison, or bones on the wall that would mean more to me than the adventures we have shared together.

I can guarantee that the elk we didn’t get that day isn’t the only animal lost because I had one of my kids along, but the experience is far more valuable to me. I don’t blame my dad for not taking me hunting more when I was younger, but someday when I’m long gone I hope my kids will remember all the adventures we made, and smile. And more importantly I hope it serves as inspiration for them to raise the next generation of adventure seekers.

Kids cant see the magic of hunting if you dont bring ’em

-CBM 

Ridley with his buck from last season

The 338 Lapua Magnum: a legend in its time

Introduction

In the world of long-range shooting there are many legendary cartridges, the reasons behind the legend differ but they all share a mystical status among shooters. One of those cartridges is the 338 Lapua Magnum, and today we will take a hard look at the Lapua and what makes it so sought after.

Often it’s a particular story or mission that highlights a particular cartridge, or the firearm it is most famous for; like the 308 Winchester in the M24, or the Mk 13 SOCOM rifle chambered in the 300 Winchester Magnum. But as stories are told, and reputations made, the shooting public is keen to appreciate a good performer, and before long it becomes a legend.

The PGW Timberwolf is a popular sniper rifle chambered in 338LM

As technology improves, it takes less and less time for products to improve and be implemented. The 338 Lapua Magnum (LM) has been around a relatively short time compared to most others, and yet it is incredibly famous for its prolific use as a sniper cartridge. Even video gamers who’ve never held a real firearm in their life know that if you are going to get a sniper rifle, get the 338.

Lapua Products

The 338LM is based off of the .416 Rigby case with some additional improvements to safely operate at higher pressures.

What sets it apart?

The mighty 338 Lapua Magnum has many things going for it, and probably the most notable is its power. With a .33 caliber bore, larger bullets can be fired than typical .30 caliber sniper cartridges like the 300WM or 308Win. Not only are they bigger bullets but they are heavier and carry their energy for much further, which are both good traits for long-range accuracy and lethality.

The accuracy of the 338LM is no joke

But the mighty Lapua also offers accuracy with its power. With quality components and an adequate rifle, the .338LM is easily capable of shooting 1/2 MOA or better. For many of the years it has been commercially available, it has been offered in many of the best sniper rifles ever produced like; the Accuracy International AXSR, the Desert Tech SRS M2, and the Barrett MRAD (Mk22).  And more recently it has been offered in more affordable rifles from manufacturers like Ruger and Savage.

The Ruger RPR in 338LM has lowered the entry price for shooting the big Lapua

I’ve been shooting the 338 for a few years now in various of these different platforms, and despite not lusting after the Lapua like many, I cannot oppose its impressive performance. And today I’ll take you down a thirty-three caliber rabbit hole.

33 and Me

I’ve been shooting the Desert Tech SRS for over a decade now, and the rifle was built for the 338. I’ve made some impressive shots with it over the years, surprising even myself. That’s not meant to be boasting, I’ll explain.

The significant power of the Lapua can be a lot to handle, and for those of us accustomed to shooting short action cartridges the recoil and muzzle blast from the 338 can be “unwelcome”. And yet nearly every time I shoot the 338 for accuracy, I find myself so pleased with the accuracy that I ask myself why I dont shoot it more.

The 338 gets such an impressive bark from the 100’ish (give or take) grains of powder that it runs on. These large powder charges push 250-300 grain bullets up to over 2500 feet per second, which is where all that power comes from. Loading the Lapua can lower the cost of ammunition like most others, but it still hurts to watch a pound of Retumbo disappear so fast.

Loading the 338LM can be very rewarding

It is an easy cartridge to load for, and handloaders will find everything about it to be familiar all but for volumes and prices perhaps. Components are not as hard to find as they once were, even American Eagle is making 338 Lapua cases now. Though I greatly prefer the higher quality ones from Lapua, Petersen, and RUAG. If you are going to shoot this this thing you may as well do it right to maximise the performance.

A handful of a few of the worlds best 338LM rifles at a recent military trial I attended

Seeing as I am no sniper, the majority of my experience shooting the 338 has been in recreation, hunting, and a little bit of military demonstration. The same attributes that make it a good long-range sniper cartridge also make it an excellent long-range hunting cartridge. And we have used it over and over for outstanding downrange performance on large Rocky Mountain game like Elk and Moose.

We have used the big Lapua to take down many large Rocky Mountain animals like elk and moose

The significant power of the 338LM makes it an easy choice for hunting big animals or any animal that is far away. Sure it is more than necessary for many animals, but they certainly aren’t going to get up and ask you about it.

Bullets and barrel twists

The big Lapua works best when shooting 250 grain or larger bullets, not that it wont do well with smaller bullets just that you aren’t getting the full performance. Most of the factory ammunition I am familiar with is usually using a 250 or 300 grain match bullet, and they are typically either Sierra Match Kings or Lapua Scenar bullets. Of course there are others from companies like Hornady and Berger, the .338 caliber enjoys a great selection of bullets so you’ll always have something to choose from. Technological advances haven’t skipped over the .338 either, you can get some extremely high performing lathe turned solid bullets in .338 as well from companies like Warner Tool and Cutting Edge. These monolithic solids are lighter than typical lead cored bullets, and come with a much higher ballistic coefficient. These two qualities allow them to be fired faster and fly better than traditional bullets, but it certainly comes at a cost.

It’s important when configuring your rifle to ensure you have enough barrel twist to stabilize the bullets you plan on shooting. Modern projectile development seems to be favoring faster barrel twists, particularly as we continue to discover the value of added gyroscopic energy from faster twists. These are part of the reason I recommend a faster twist barrel than has been traditionally used, regardless of caliber. The common 1-10 twist you see in many 338LM will work, though I prefer something a little faster like a 1-9.5 or 1-9 twist.
Most .338LM rifles utilize full length barrels around 26-inches long, some are longer, and few are shorter. Getting the most out of your .338 typically means taking it to the highest velocity possible, and longer barrels are the way to achieve that. I have had some experience shooting shorter barrels however, some would argue too short. And yet even with barrels as short as 18-inches, the .338LM is still impressive and very useful.

Deserving of a Legend?

So does the mighty .338 Lapua deserve the Legendary status? I would argue that it certainly does.

Continue Reading here

As far as commercially available cartridges that can produce results like the Lapua, few others rival it. You can go almost anywhere in the world, and if someone is shooting great distances, they probably have a .338 LM.

The accuracy of the cartridge is as good as any, and it carries over 1,000 pounds of energy to targets as far as a mile away. All this can be done with either the finest sniper rifles available today, or with an affordable rifle you can buy on Guns.com.

If you have an itch to try the fantastic .338 Lapua Magnum, my recommendation would be to scratch that itch. Just keep in mind the costs and attributes we’ve outlined here today and get a legend of your own.

-CBM

Elk Hunting: Double down in deep snow

I have lived most of my life here at the feet of the Rocky Mountains, and I’ve been lucky to enjoy much of what this beautiful landscape offers. This winter (22-23) has been one to remember, not only because of a welcome change in weather patterns but also because of the circle of life that is affected by it.

As a child and teenager, I remember epic snowstorms that would pile ice deep around our yard. So deep in fact that my siblings and I would burrow around through the piles of snow that Dad would stack up while cleaning off the driveway. But those distant memories have faded now, partly because snow like that has been scarce for nearly as long as I’ve had children. This year the snow came back, pummeling our mountains time and again with an ever deeper snow pack. So deep in fact that many of the herds of animals that often winter in the canyons around this valley have been driven right into town, even causing serious traffic delays on interstates.

As a hunter, I was excited to see how this welcome return to normal snow-pack would improve the hunting situation in the state. Surely the heavy snow-pack will help fill our water bodies back up, but what about the herd of elk that I chase every winter here in the mountains above my home?
The early snow had fallen, and had begun to push the animals down in elevation and much closer to the canyons and draws where I wait for them every November. This year myself and a good friend we’ll call Dustin both had antlerless elk tags. I’m torn by the premise of these tags, I have little faith that my state’s wildlife agency has anything other than budgets in mind when it comes to them. I suppose the purpose is to keep the number of elk from getting too out of hand, and perhaps the light hunting pressure on the herds keeps them just far enough out of suburbia to prevent unwanted interactions. In my experience from watching many other hunters with the same tag, I think it is a fairly low success for most. Our experience however has been one of great success, due mainly to the fact that we live close enough to watch the mountain every day, keeping tabs on when they arrive and where they go every year. The fact that every year we return, to pattern their habits also adds a great deal of experience that improves to our success.

Can you spot all five bulls?

With the return of heavy snows, Dustin and I spent weeks watching elk, calculating when the right time would be and where we could intersect with them. For those who have never taken elk, I’ll explain why. Elk can be very large animals, getting a whole elk off of a mountain in four or five feet of snow can be very taxing on your hunting energy.

A picture from a past hunt, in these conditions it can get dicy quick

Rather than overexerting ourselves and pushing everything to our limits, we prefer to tactfully engage with our prey. Waiting for the right time and place can greatly reduce the effort needed to extract our prize. I prefer to get them out whole, to reduce lost meat, so that is always my first choice.

After watching several bulls for weeks, I was starting to get worried that their cows had perhaps had gone another way this year. And our season was quickly coming to an end, with less than a week left I was becoming more desperate.
Luckily, Dustin was also looking, and he had a bit more luck on his side of the mountain. I walked into my office on a Friday morning, only to get a text from him that he’d spotted some cows, and they were definitely doable. I gathered my things and jumped back in my truck to head towards Dustin, knowing that I would at minimum be able to help him get one out should he shoot one and potentially shoot another myself.
Before I could get there Dustin already had put one down, taking a mature young cow from a group that numbered around a dozen. The rest of them made their way over the ridge into the next drainage. After showing up, I helped him get his cow the rest of the way back down to the trail. Despite being his first elk ever, Dustin already understood the how and when to shoot an elk. Ensuring it was all downhill to our destination, and with minimal obstacles allowing two guys to get her down without further assistance.

After a surprisingly easy extraction, we decided to see if we could find the others since it was still before noon. We knew the direction the herd had gone, so we decided we’d go that direction to see if we could find them, or another group of elk. This time of year, elk typically don’t go far even after having been shot at.

Dustin and Benson

We found ourselves looking up into another drainage, hoping that there were more elk hiding within it. The plan we agreed upon was to hike up to a small saddle that would give us better perspective of the area, and with any luck we’d get a shot from there.

Of course the sunshine was quickly covered up by menacing clouds as they began to drop snow on us and the temperature began to drop. Still uncommitted to making a full effort to the bowl above us, we chose to take the easiest path which was a game trail that worked around a south facing ridge with less snow-pack. We worked around the edge of the bowl until we had to directly cross over a hilltop through some trees. Our approach had unbeknownst to us presented us with a near perfect scenario, as we skylined over the hilltop our silhouettes were obscured in the treeline. It was at that point I picked out the shape of three elk, laying in the snow a mere 250 yards away.

Just before the shot was fired

We quickly got into position to make a shot, the deep snow making a perfectly comfortable and stable shooting position. I laid my gun across my backpack to get the right angle on the unsuspecting elk. One of the three must have noticed the goings on, and stood up to get a better look at us. The other two lay next to each other, perfectly aligned.
I told Dustin I was going to shoot the standing animal, and we waited for her to present a perfect broadside shot. As usual, I carried my Desert Tech SRS M2 that day. But this time I had installed my 7mm Short Action Ultra Magnum barrel, something I hadn’t hunted with for several years. I’d taken another elk and a deer with it some years prior, but today it was chambered with something new. I was shooting the 151 grain Cayuga solid bullets from Patriot Valley Arms. The SRS M2 and the 7SAUM have been incredibly consistent and deadly for me, so as I closed the bolt looking at these elk I knew we were about to embark on a lot of work.

As the young cow turned giving me a good broadside shot, I put my finger to the trigger and began to press. The snow slightly obscured the view through my Steiner scope, but I still had every confidence as the trigger broke. The incredibly fast bullet impacted the elk before we even heard the shot go off, but it echoed across the canyon, muffled by the dense and snow-filled air.
The elk immediately reacted, lurching forward into a sprint across the top of the ridge. I watched as she ran, favoring her right shoulder. The stiff leg she clearly didn’t want to use bounced as she hurried over the hill in what could only be described as a fast hobble. The other two elk followed her after leaping to their feet.
Much like times before, despite not seeing the elk after they crossed the hilltop, I had a warm feeling knowing that the 7SAUM does not take prisoners.

We hiked across the draw and found their bedded imprints in the snow, and easily found the ungainly tracks in the snow with the crimson confirmation that I had indeed hit the mark. We followed the tracks and blood which at first seemed less than ideal, but the closer we got to the downed elk, the blood trail became extremely evident. Surprisingly we never saw the other two elk again, but we laid hands on our prize for the second time that day. The Cayuga had hit the mark perfectly, breaking the right shoulder, passing through the lungs then exiting just in front of the left shoulder.

Clockwise from top left: Blood trail, bullet impact, broken shoulder, and pulverized lungs
I’ve lost count of how many elk we’ve shot with the Desert Tech SRS

I had to go against my own preferences, as the lay of the land would certainly not allow us to drag her our whole. We decided to cut her up, and pack out in pieces with the help of some friends who were quick to respond.

For the next couple hours, Dustin and I went to work reducing the animal to carryable portions. My dog Benson eagerly lent his assistance and attention while trying to stay warm.

Once again I stand here in my kitchen with freshly packaged meat neatly wrapped and ready to freeze. The venison we take every year fills our freezer and helps sustain the clean and healthy meals for our families. As I look out the window at the deep and cold snow in the mountains around us, I can’t help but feel thankful for the bounty we’ve been given. And thankful for friends with whom I can share the experience of thriving survival, and with whom I can share the delicious cuts of meat.

-CBM

I process all my own meat, with Outdoor Edge knives

Putting Together a Battle Belt

Who needs a gun-belt?

Depending on your profession, you might call it a battle belt, gun belt, or some other belt variation. Today we are going into the detail of putting a gun belt together, something I recently finished.
As I navigated through all the different options, I figured this might be something others would do, so I documented the process in the hopes of saving you time and money.

Shooting has become part of my profession. While you may or may not need a gun belt for your daily work, I hope that by the time I’m done sharing my experience, you will have a good idea of how you would do it yourself.
Unless you do any professional soldiering, law enforcement, or security, a gun belt will likely be recreational for the most part. It will likely be another part of your equipment when shooting at the range or in competitive events like two or three-gun matches.

I am by no means a competition pistol shooter, but I do enjoy practicing the skill. A proper gun belt is extremely useful for becoming proficient in shooting pistols and any kind of tactical discipline.

WHY USE A BATTLE BELT?

Battle belts are designed to help carry the weight and force of waist-bound shooting equipment. Not only do they carry the weight, but they also help distribute it with a degree of comfort.
A good belt also helps keep vital and life-saving equipment where you want it to be. Besides just your pistol, battle belts also have room for extra ammunition, knives, and other tools you may need depending on the task before you.
A good belt is customizable to fit the accessories and tools you need in the places that best fit your practice. With practice and time, you will likely change and adjust it until it perfectly fits your needs.

FIRST THING: THE ALL-IMPORTANT PISTOL & HOLSTER

Find a quality holster that properly fits your pistol. There are many good options from companies like Safariland or Blackhawk.

Remember, these are not CCW holsters; they are for retaining your pistol under heavy movement and activity.
Good retention holsters are not exactly cheap, nor are they particularly compact. But they are well worth their cost and come in various styles and retention designs to keep your pistol safely at your side.

SELECT A BELT

There are a great many good choices to be had for a gun belt. Safariland and Blackhawk make belts for their holsters, but there are plenty of others like Blue Force Gear or Crye Precision.

With so many options, you may want to handle a couple before choosing one. After looking around, I decided to go with a 1.75-inch belt from the guys at Lead Devil.

There are two-layered and single-layered belts. I went with a two layered belt. They work by using a velcro under the belt that goes through your belt loops on your pants. The outer belt then attaches outside your belt loops by velcro to the inner belt and buckle in the front. It is a very robust system.

The outer belt has molle loops around the circumference to install whatever accessories or gear to the belt and the inner belt keeps your pants up and serves as a foundation for the load-bearing outer belt.

When selecting a belt, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on measuring yourself. A proper fit is vital to both function and comfort. Remember the size of your belt when selecting accessories. You can’t put 1.5-inch accessories on a 1.75-inch belt. The belt should fit fairly snug to keep your pistol and other gear from flopping around as you move.

Note: wearing a gun belt properly may be all the inspiration you need to get in better shape. They fit and work better when your “middle area” is trimmed.

Continue reading here

WHAT GOES ON MY GUN BELT?

battle belt setup belt position

HOLSTER

Obviously, the first priority should be your holster. Find a comfortable position on your belt that fits your draw location and attach the holster, either threading the belt through it or using the molle attachments.

I found it took some time to ensure I had my holster placed properly.

My pistol is a Sig Sauer P320 X5 Legion, and I bought the Safariland 7304RDS holster for it. The holster accepts both the pistol and the Surefire X300 weapon light in front, but after using the holster for a few days, I realized I needed a lower ride height.

I added a Safariland Cantable belt loop that added a few inches of drop, and I also added to it the Safariland Quick Locking System that allows the holster to detach from its base. I’ve come to find this very convenient.

The whole pistol and holster are easily removed from the belt. This also allows you to swap multiple holsters for different firearms to and from your belt. I adjusted the thigh strap that came with my holster for a better fit and to keep the holster as secure as possible.

Believe it or not, I actually wore the belt like this eight hours a day for over a month, making little adjustments here and there until I felt I had a perfect fit. I was constantly drawing my pistol to see what would make a smoother draw and holstering.

MAGAZINE POUCHES

battle belt setup belt magazine storage

A good battle belt will surely carry extra magazines for your pistol. I bought a couple of different options to try. The first was a pair of Tacos from High Speed Gear. I liked them, but I ended up swapping them out for a one-piece double mag pouch from Esstac. The HSG Tacos seemed to have more catch points and were easier to snag on things during movement. The Esstac pouches were smoother and had a nice exterior.

Position your mag pouches where they best fit your draw. This is another reason I like the Lead Devil belt. The molle allowed robust attachment of my accessories without sacrificing velcro engagement with the inner belt. Reducing the velcro engagement between the belt layers reduces the rigidity of the whole system and induces flopping.

If you incorporate a rifle mag pouch or two on your belt, you can attach it the same way via molle in whatever position you see fit. I run my rifle mags on my plate carrier, so I didn’t add any to my gun belt.

SHARP EDGES

battle belt setup belt pocket knife storage

Many guys put knives on their gun belts, whether for cutting tasks or when they run outta magazines. I actually run two knives on my belt; the main one is a Cold Steel Mini Tac.

The second one is just a cheap Gerber folder hooked into the molle behind my holster for things like digging sardines out of the can. I like the idea of having both options, one blade is kept in pristine razor sharp condition while the other is a day to day cutter.

Both are kept in convenient locations on the belt for quick and easy access, they also attach to the molle of the Lead Devil outer belt.

FLASHLIGHT

Besides the X300 on my pistol, I also keep a good flashlight on my belt. The Cloud Defensive MCH 2.0 Micro goes in a small 5.11 carry pouch behind my right kidney. I don’t often shoot in the dark, but if I need to, I sure want to have the tools to see what I’m shooting.

TOURNIQUET

battle belt setup tourniquet

A tourniquet is a must-have if you do any shooting. We’ve all seen how fast things can get ugly. Plate carriers and battle belts are often kitted out with tourniquets; the main reason is that they are typically used by folks who shoot and may get shot at.

Having a tourniquet immediately available can be the difference between life and death. Many professional soldiers getting shot at have multiple TQs on their kit, and they have them close.

I have one in my IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) on my plate carrier, and I keep another one attached to my gun belt just in front of my holster. This way, it is very close should I need to use it on myself or some other unfortunate person.

It’s kept neat and tucked away by a 5.11 TQ pouch.

DROP POUCH

Drop pouches are also a common accessory to run on gun belts. They are typically used as a catch-all for things you need out of your hands quickly but don’t want to lose. Empty magazines, batteries, or Twinkie wrappers can all get tossed in to be policed later.

I personally don’t run a drop pouch on my belt because I have one on my plate carrier. The one I have is a roll-up velcro type to stay out of the way until you need it.

TETHER

Lastly, I have a 550 cord braided tether on my left side. It has a snap hook convenient for gloves, keys, or anything else you want to keep handy. It also can be unwoven and used as cordage in an emergency.

battle belt cord braided tether

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

DOES A BATTLE BELT GO THROUGH BELT LOOPS?

Some battle belts go through belt loops, and others go outside the belt loops. I prefer the two-layered outside-the-belt loop type with an inner strap that goes through the belt loops.

HOW TIGHT SHOULD A BATTLE BELT BE?

A belt should be tight enough to keep your equipment secure and close without being uncomfortably tight. The better shape you are in, the more comfortable they seem to fit. I do find that the wider belt seems more comfortable for guys like me who are a little round in the middle.

HOW MUCH WEIGHT DOES A BATTLE BELT HOLD?

That can depend on how you set it up. Some belts come wide, and with padded load-bearing surfaces, a good belt is undoubtedly strong enough that you could be picked up by it.

CONCLUSION

If you’re a gear queer like me, you will likely enjoy the process of putting all this together. I hope what I have done has shed some light or given you ideas for your own belt build.

I would strongly recommend doing what I did if you can; for the better part of two months, I wore my gun belt every day to work. This allowed me to make adjustments for comfort and practical use, adjusting the angle of my holster, and so on. The familiarity I gained from wearing the belt for such a long time made me very comfortable using the system at the range.

Don’t be afraid to try different belt accessories to find the one that fits your needs best, and if you have any questions about the subject, feel free to drop them in the comment section.

Make sure you share your battle belt build with us when you finish it, and share this with your gun buddies!

-CBM

Lever guns and revolvers: Perfect Pairs

Gun owners chose their firearms depending on many differing criteria. Size, looks, caliber and so on can all be the deciding reasons why someone selects one model over another. Today I wanted to go over a subject that will help narrow some of the selections and make it easier to pick out your next firearm, or pair of firearms.

Consistency
I have several firearms chambered in the same cartridge, if you are reading this you probably are in the same boat. Having multiple firearms chambered in the same cartridge simplifies a few things for gun owners. The most obvious way that occurs is through uniformity, instead of buying ammunition for each individual firearm, you can buy for two or more guns. If you have an AR-type rifle for defense training, and a bolt action varmint gun both chambered in 223 Remington its easy to feed them both from the same box.
Today I want to specifically take that thesis out of your gun room, and into the wide open spaces where your guns are likely to be used.

Paired Up
Identically chambered guns can simplify things when in the field. If you are a cowboy, or perhaps just a modern rancher you might find yourself frequently armed with both a pistol for short work, and a rifle for more significant things. Having a pistol on your hip is a valuable tool for many of us, but it’s often not enough in big open country. Having a rifle or carbine on your horse or ATV in case a pesky coyote should give you an opportunity can be a lifesaver.
If both of these firearms are chambered in the same cartridge it will simplify and speed up your daily loadout. A .357 Magnum chambered revolver is more than enough for pistol range shots, and a handy little lever-action rifle chambered in .357 as well is certainly enough for dispatching the occasional errant coyote.

Ammo was courtesy of GunMag Warehouse

A handy little pistol like the Ruger LCR .357 magnum is easily carried and less intrusive for someone with work on their mind. And to go with it, a short and quickly fired lever gun like the Marlin 1894 gives more range and power for things that are beyond pistol distances. The two of them together make a great pair, giving you options without complicating things with multiple cartridges, magazines and such. Both firearms could also easily shoot .38 Special ammo, to further lighten the load for someone with a job to do.

A Bigger Set
Perhaps you don’t live in flat Texas ranch country though, and maybe you have bigger worries than two and four legged coyotes. Suppose you live in the cold north, where bears and wolves roam as freely as you and I. For such an outpost, I think I’d be a little more comfortable with something a bit more stout than a .357.

Keeping the theme of our first pair, I would feel much better with something like a .44 Magnum. The heavy hitting Magnum loads carry more energy should you need to defend yourself, or if you happen to get the opportunity to take a game animal unexpectedly. I love the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan for this role, its short, robust and carries enough power to kill just about anything. It’s also comfortable as far as big revolvers go, which is a must if its a firearm you intend on having on you at all times.
As a companion for the Redhawk, I chose the Winchester 1894 Saddle carbine chambered in the same 44 Magnum. The short and quickly pointed rifle is easily brought along on most any activity where you’d want a rifle. Its easily kept in a vehicle or stashed on an ATV, whether you are guiding a river fishing trip or cutting firewood the little rifle can provide an extra measure of security. As with the .357, the .44 magnum can be downloaded, or even shot with .44 Special loads for increased economy. Continue Reading Here…

Minute of Angle: what is it? and how to use MOA

If you spend any time in the precision rifle shooting world, it won’t be long before someone mentions MOA. We’re going to dive into a full guide on minute of angle.

Introduction
Some people call it weaponized math, which I like. But MOA is a shortened acronym used to describe a Minute Of Angle.

A minute of angle is an angular measurement similar to a degree. We know that there are 360 degrees in a circle, and we can use a compass to pan a certain amount of degrees right or left, just like when you learned orienteering in boy scouts as a kid.

A Minute Of Angle (MOA) is 1/60th of a degree, so it’s just a finer scale of measuring an angle offset. An MOA can be cut up into sixty seconds of angle, but that is getting so fine we probably don’t need to go into it.
As an angular measurement, shooters use the fine-scale to adjust their sights. In the same way pilots use degrees to adjust their flightpath, we use MOA to adjust the flight of our projectiles. I’ve been playing in that realm for a few decades now, so I’ll do my best to explain this dangerous math as best I can.

What Does MOA Mean?
As I mentioned, MOA stands in for the mouthful; Minute Of Angle. There are several other ways that shooters measure shooting corrections and deviations, the more popular being MRAD (abbreviation for Milliradian) and IPHY (Inch Per Hundred Yards). But let’s not muddy the water and stick to our subject, MOA.

MOA and Target Distance
As an angular measurement, the size of a minute of angle gets bigger as it gets farther away from you.

Imagine it like a very long orange traffic cone. When you look through the hole at the small end, it may only be one inch in diameter. But the same cone at the big end, maybe ten or more inches wide, the angle of that increase IS an MOA.

So keeping with our example, if the small end of the cone was two inches in diameter, then to maintain the same angle at the other end, it would have to be twenty inches in diameter.

Back in the old days, before laser rangefinders, people with less hair than me would use these mathematical calculations to estimate distance. If you know an average male is about six feet tall, you can use an MOA scale built into your riflescope reticle to measure how many MOA tall he is and reverse the math to figure out roughly how far away he is.
Once you know your target’s distance, you can use the exact same measuring scale to correct for the drop of your bullet at that distance. Now you might understand why they call it weaponized math.

Accuracy Measurement
MOA is the most common method of measuring or stating the accuracy potential of a rifle. If your rifle shoots five shots at one hundred yards that measure one-inch center to center, then you can call that group a 1 MOA pattern. If your group measures 1.5 inches, you could call it a 1.5 MOA pattern.

As I mentioned before, an MOA is an angular measurement that increases with distance. One MOA at one hundred yards is about an inch, but it measures over ten inches at one thousand yards.
To be precise, one MOA is not one inch. One MOA is actually 1.047 inches at one hundred yards. And 10.47 inches at one thousand yards, but until you are shooting well enough to notice a ½ inch difference in your groups at one thousand yards, you can just work with the inch measurement.

How to Use Minute of Angle While Shooting
As soon as a bullet leaves the muzzle of a rifle, it begins to drop due to gravity and aerodynamic resistance. The further away the bullet travels, the more it drops, which requires corrective action to “hold over” the target high enough to hit it. But how much should I hold over, you might ask?

Long-range rifle scopes have corrective mechanisms to adjust for that drop. It is accomplished by either holding over the target using the same MOA scale you used to measure this guy, or you can use the turret of the scope to dial the corrective angular adjustment. Continue reading here