Category Archives: Product review

Products and equipment

A 350 Legend for the MDR

Have you ever thought that maybe there is such a thing as too many guns? or too many barrels in some of our cases? Well if you did, you’re in the wrong place my friend. With so many terrible things going on in the world today, I like to embrace every new opportunity to shoot something. And since I have a good friend who is part mad-scientist part gunsmith, I get the opportunity almost as often as most see Bloomberg for president ads.
Watch the video at the end of this article
Once again Eric at ES Tactical has made me another barrel for my Desert Tech MDR, and this one is chambered in the new cartridge from Winchester, the 350 Legend.

The MDR with its barrel and optic collection is a do everything rifle

I’m no ballistician, nor does Winchester give me any kind of compensation, so I’ll just use their words and description of the 350 Legend. The Legend was specifically built as a hunting cartridge, a straight-walled hunting cartridge with a specific reason. Some state agencies only allow straight-walled cartridges for hunting big game, I assume this is because of the dangers of shooting beyond your line of sight in a semi-populous area. Winchester markets the Legend as the fastest straight-walled cartridge available, there are several factory loads with muzzle velocities over 2400 feet per second. They claim this gives the 350 Legend more speed than a 450 Bushmaster, more penetration than a 243, all while carrying more energy than common rounds like the 30-30 or 223.

350 Legend cartridges featuring Winchester’s 145 grain FMJ

Now that I’ve given the Winchester speech, I’ll tell you about the MDR conversion kit from ES Tactical. The multi-caliber MDR (or MDRX is the new model) is easily changed from one caliber to the next, the 350 Legend is the latest option from ES Tactical. The Legend uses the 223 Remington bolt, and magwell, but it has a Legend specific magazine due to its straight-walled design. The barrel I received from ES Tactical is eighteen inches long, it was threaded 5/8-24 to fit my suppressor, and fluted to save weight and impress the ladies. The barrel drops into my MDR chassis like any other, and after a quick gas valve adjustment, it was running smoothly.
I fired a couple different loads from both Winchester and Federal. The Winchester white box was their 145 grain fmj, while it shot just fine, it failed to impress me as far as accuracy and function. It even popped one primer out of a case which made me suspicious. The Federal Premium 180 grain Power Shock performed much better, both for function as well as accuracy. The 350 Legend was everything a deer hunter would need inside the suggested 250 yards it is recommended for, I found hitting jug sized targets boringly easy from the standing position, even at the 250-yard line. This may in part be due to the MDR’s bullpup balance, and the quality of barrel and trigger.

The 18 inch 350 Legend barrel outside the MDR chassis

For those who are still in the dark about the MDR(X), you really should do yourself a favor and check it out, it is multi-caliber, completely ambidextrous, and its bullpup configuration gives it an extremely compact chassis while carrying big options for both distance and accuracy. If your interested, you can read more about it here or there.
The 350 Legend does not like the 223 Remington ejection chute on the MDR, though they share the same case head, the lack of a bottleneck on the Legend causes a bind in the chute causing jams. The 308 sized chute won’t hold the case, so it’s no-go as well. That’s fine, just as with my 450 Bushmaster, I leave the chute off and let it throw the spent cases to the side. I did pay close attention to where they were landing though, as I intend on reloading them, and the MDR throws them pretty far.

Both the 450BM and the 350L would be great for those of you who are forced by government caveat to hunt with them, for me, I guess it would depend on whether I wanted to hunt supersonic or subsonic. Either way, I don’t think you could go wrong.


Riton Optics RT-S Mod 7 4-32X56

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

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

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

The PSR reticle in the Riton Mod 7

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

Turret details and throw lever on the Mod 7

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Leapers UTG OTB Bipod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Optics TS-20X Rifle Scope

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

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

The USO TS20 mounted on my Desert Tech SRS A2

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

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

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

US Optics has always helped me put food on the table

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

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

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

The TS20 mounted on my all carbon 257 Blackjack

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

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

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

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

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


PVA Cayuga Solid Copper Hunting Bullets

The good folks at Patriot Valley Arms helped get me started down this road, what seems like a very long time ago. Good people and good products are the norm for PVA.

The 123 Grain Cayuga loaded into Petersen brass

I was given the opportunity to test drive PVA’s new 6.5 line of solid hunting bullets. Hunting is my bread and butter, so I was excited to put these lathe turned solids into action.

The 123 grain Cayuga bullets are turned from solid copper bar stock, using the same alloy of copper that jacketed bullets use. Turning them on a CNC lathe gives precise control to bullet geometry, it is this precision cut construction that gives the Cayuga its uniformity.

The bullets are solid copper, with a hollow point cut into the tip. They have a tapered boat-tail, and a driving band around the middle. The gentle taper of the ogive makes these bullets very generous when it comes to seating depth sensitivity.

I cautiously loaded these bullets into some 6.5 Creedmoor brass from Petersen, with a goodly charge of H4350, and took them to the range. Initial groups were easily sub MOA, and with little adjustments, I had them shooting around half an inch.

It was time to hit the track on this test drive, a Rocky Mountain Elk hunt. Some might think that a 6.5 Creedmoor is a bit light for elk, which it may be. But I’d hunted with similar setups plenty of times in the past, so I wasn’t worried.

The first elk to fall to the Cayuga, hit at 475 yards

The first engagement we had with an elk took place at 475 yards, a young cow stood quartering away. The bullet hit her at the top of the left side rib-cage, on a slightly down angle. It passed through the ribs, passed through her lungs leaving quite a mess, and exited the front of her chest just to the right of her neck. She dropped immediately, and slid down the snowy slope. Damage was exactly what I expected to see from such an acute injury. Broken bones, spalling through tissue, leaving mayhem in organs which could no longer sustain life.

The Cayuga plowed through these ribs leaving a clear path of destruction
These lungs stood no chance, ripped open by the passing bullet

The second Cayuga fired at a big game animal was a mature cow elk, chewing away at the brush bark on a cold winter storm blown mountain. She was 520 yards away this time, completely unaware of the heated copper cutlass headed her way. It again impacted in the ribs and shoulder, breaking both the shoulder blade, several ribs, as well as one of her vertebrae as it passed by. She instantly dropped, and bled out as quickly as one would expect.

Entrance wound on the second elk, after passing through the shoulder blade
Again the lungs were damaged beyond function, both animals quickly succumbed to their injuries

The damage done on both animals was very proportionate to the size of the expanded Cayuga, unfortunately both of them blew right through the animals so I was unable to see their final dimensions. Never the less they did a perfect job, and I couldn’t have asked for more.

If you are in need of an all copper hunting bullet, or if you want a hunting bullet with an extremely high ballistic coefficient, then give these Cayuga bullets a good look. When the shots count the most, send something that brings it all.