Category Archives: Product review

Products and equipment

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.

-CBM

Sig Sauer Tango Series Electro Optic

When a company like Sig Sauer jumps into the optics market, paying attention is a must. I was more than happy to get my hands on a couple specimens early on, and I was very happy with my purchase.
The Sig Sauer Tango line of optics is marketed towards precision shooters, long-range shooters, and hunters, as well as tactical marksmen in the LE/MIL community. I’ve been exposed to quite a few good optics in that realm, so I wanted to see how Sig stacked up.

For the purpose of this article, I will be comparing two of the Tango series of riflescopes. One is the Tango 4 which is a 4-16X44, the other is a Tango 6 5-30X56. The comparison will simply be an evaluation as these scopes are peers of different levels and price points.

The Tango 6 seen on my Desert Tech MDR 6.5 Creedmoor

Features
For starters, let’s look at the features they share, then we will look at them individually.
All Tango series scopes feature Sig’s HDX coated lenses for optimal light transfer, waterproofing, Lock-Down turrets, and one free laser-etched turret that is matched to your custom load data and atmospheric conditions.
Both the T4 and T6 are Front Focal Plane (FFP) optics, which means the reticle is placed after the magnifier inside the scope. This means the reticle will grow and shrink with the magnification setting. I prefer this configuration as it makes reticle usage more uniform, regardless of the power ring setting.
Both scopes are available with the MRAD/Moa milling reticle, or the Mrad/Moa DEV-L reticle, for those that prefer one system over the other.
The T4 and T6 also have the available MOTAC™ (Motion Activated Illumination) that initiates when motion is detected and shuts off when motionless.

The differences between the two scope are probably where most people are going to make a choice. The T4 is a 4X scope, and the T6 is a 6X, the T6 allows a wider choice of magnification from 5X all the way up to 30X. The T6 also has a larger diameter tube, it’s 34MM tube allows the T6 a greater internal adjustment range. To this larger tube is owed the 12 MRAD (30 MOA) per revolution of the turret. The slightly smaller T4 has a 10 MRAD (25 MOA) of adjustment per revolution of the turret. The 4X magnification on the T4 also gives it a shorter magnification range of 4-14, depending on your application these two different ranges of adjustment could make your choice for you.

The Tango 4 mounted to my Tikka T3 25 Creedmoor

The T6 that I purchased, also features Sig’s Level-Plex anti-cant system. It is a digital system that uses internal sensors to tell you when the scope is level or not. When engaged (by pushing the outer end of the parallax turret) there are two small illuminated arrows visible through the reticle. You simply adjust the cant of your rifle following the indicators, and when the rifle is level the indicators go dark, showing that the rifle is level. It is a simple and very quick to use system.

On the Range

Turret and other control detail on the Tango 6

Shooting the Tango 4 and 6 made me like them even more. The overall clarity of both scopes was very good, and the bright images made target acquisition and spotting hits and misses a piece of cake. Whether in the bright midday sun or in the waning light of evening, I found the scopes presented more than a satisfactory image.
I did find that for shooting groups that I really appreciated the 30 power magnification of the T6, and the DEV-L reticle provided very precise measurements for both corrections and wind holds. The simpler MRAD Milling reticle in the T4 was also very useful for those who might want a reticle that isn’t so busy. And the lower magnification of the T4 made it a great option for my hunting rifle. Lighter, smaller, and easier to quickly bring onto target.
The process of zeroing the scopes, and setting the zero stop was simple, quick, and effective. In no time I had them zeroed, and was dialing them up and down for distant shots. The Level-Plex system on the T6 proved to be very handy in the field, a simple push of a button engages it, and I never had to take my eye off the target. And it turns itself off after a few minutes. I also like the locking turrets on the scopes, raising them unlocks the turret for smooth rotation, and once set, you can push them back down to lock them in place and avoid accidental adjustments.
If I had to say I didn’t like anything about the scopes, it would probably be regarding the sliding up and down of the turret. I have no basis to prove this theory other than feel, but it seems that when the turret is raised it is not as firmly supported. It feels as if you were to knock it against something hard in the up/unlocked position it could be easily broken. Again, I have no evidence to prove that, it is just a simple observation. To be fair it feels rock-solid when it is down in the locked position.
Perhaps the only other gripe I have is likely a simple defect that is easily repaired. The two fiber optic illuminators that indicate the setting on the power ring seemed to be poorly mounted on my T6. One of them came out and was lost, not a big deal, but something worth noting. I usually don’t focus too hard on the actual setting of the magnification ring anyways, I just adjust it till it looks right to my eye, and shoot.

Conclusion

I think that both of these Sig Sauer optics are fantastic scopes, they definitely come in at two different price points so you can pick one the one that best fits your budget. The T4 at its $719.99 MSRP is a great competitor for the sub $1000 FFP Milling reticle scope market, I think it would compete very well against any scope in that group. The larger and much more expensive T6 MSRP $3,119.99 (as tested) is in another group altogether. I would say pending a few more hard trips into the rugged mountains, and it surviving the beating therein, I would put it against any scope in the 2k to 3k dollar range. The quality is there for sure, the only concern I have yet is with durability over time, but so far I have no reason to think it won’t
clear that hurdle as well. It is quite clear that the engineers at Sig Sauer Electro-Optics took great care in every little feature, whether it is the griping surfaces of adjustment knobs, or something as simple as aesthetic angles and accessories. And with an unlimited lifetime warranty, you can confidently put one of these scopes to work today.

-CBM

Patriot Valley Arms Jet Blast Muzzle Brakes

I often talk about how we are living in the best times of precision rifling, part of that is because of technology, and also due in part to the thriving market of suppliers bringing great new products to us.

Patriot Valley Arms is one of those manufacturers, pushing the envelope and innovating products for shooters, And today I’d like to discuss their Jet Blast muzzle brakes.

Muzzle brake technology has changed significantly even since I started paying attention, I remember the first muzzle brake I ever had installed. Back then there was a simple purpose, reducing recoil. Radial porting around the whole barrel that blew dust all over, made it even louder than it was before, but it did tame the recoil. We have come quite a ways since then.

The Jet Blast Muzzle brake comes in a three port design, with baffles directed to the sides and back. The Jet 4 brakes have an additional port for a total of four, giving additional braking force. Both three and four port brakes are available with an up to 6.5mm bore, or an up to .308 bore, this gives most shooters a close enough option for their rifle. They are also available finished in stainless, or nitrided black.

One of the handiest features of the Jet brakes is the built in timing apparatus. There is a counter threaded jam nut built right into the back of the brake, which allows you to time the brake easily and quickly. With nothing more than a cresent wrench or something similar, you can set the brake and snug it up. And just as quickly you can pull it off and switch it to another rifle to enjoy its braking qualities there as well.


The curious design of the Jet Blast brakes, creates an interesting pressure flow. I’m certainly no engineer, but the seeming delay of pressure wave created by the brake is just enough to get the shooter through the shot. What I mean by that, is that after the shot, and impact, you feel almost like a delayed cyclone of air passing by you. This must be by design, to give the shooter less antagonizing from muzzle gasses. The loud report from brakes seems to be lessened from the shooters perspective, which is a very nice added value.

If you find yourself in the market for recoil reduction, do yourself a favor and check into Patriot Valley Arms and their Jet Blast brakes. Excellent recoil mitigation, easy install, all for a reasonable price (starting at 135$). Tell em I sent ya.
-CBM

Nikon Monarch 82ED-A Fieldscope

I do a fair amount of glassing on average, not just for hunting but also for target shooting. The Rocky Mountains tower over my home to the east and the animals I hunt are tantalizingly close. I found it necessary to get a good spotting scope, a good multi-purpose scope that would suit both my hunting and target shooting needs. Is it possible for one scope to do everything? I’d like to think I found one that can.

Features
The Nikon Sport Optics Monarch Fieldscope boasts an 82MM objective lens, which gathers every detail of the landscape before it. The image is reflected through a coated prism in the aluminum body of the scope. There is a focus ring around the body that allows the user a tactile touch to finesse the image into perfect clarity. At the rear of the scope, you find the angled eyepiece, and that is where the magic happens.

The quick-release of the eyepiece allows you to use any of the available eyepieces from Nikon. There is a 20-60 power option, a 30-60 power option, or my favorite, the 30 power option with either the FX Mrad reticle or the FX MOA reticle. The same reticle I use in my riflescope is now in my spotting scope, giving me the ability to call misses and judge distances with exactness.

Having two eyepieces would be a bit superfluous, but it sure is luxurious to be able to zoom in to sixty power and inspect a nice buck. Then swap over to a thirty power eyepiece with a reticle so I can measure his spread if that’s what you want. I love the 20-60 zoom eyepiece, but my shooting style would find the reticle more useful than the extra power.
The fixed thirty power eyepiece does have a focus ring around it, this focuses the reticle against the target giving the user the best possible image to call shots, measure adjustments, as well as range targets.

The angled eyepiece is complemented by a rotating body, giving you several angle options. There is a set screw on the side that allows the scope body to rotate 360 degrees, offsetting the angle to whatever suits you. The body has a spring detent to hold the scope every 90 degrees during the rotation.
The scope also has the extendable shade around the objective. I like shades for two reasons, one is obvious, keeping direct sunlight from coming into your view while glassing. The other is to keep dirty hands and fingers away from the lenses.

The Monarch Fieldscope also came with a nice bikini-style soft cover that zips over the scope body. It also has soft plastic lens covers to protect the glass which goes on under the snap over lens covers, to double up on your protection.
It also comes with a shoulder strap should you want to carry it that way, though I think I am more comfortable carrying it in my pack. The only gripe I might have with the cover is that it limits your ability to rotate the scope body, its not much of a gripe as I feel I won’t use that feature very often.

The FX MRAD reticle is a very good companion to the Monarch Fieldscope. Some reticles can get pretty busy, leaving some observers feeling a little cluttered. The FX MRAD reticle is a perfect mix of simplicity and subtensions, it has both whole, halves, and .2’s all represented on all four posts. Whole MIL’s are only numbered on the evens to simplify, and there is even a small one MIL square in the lower right quadrant that has .1’s both vertical and horizontally.

The FX MRAD reticle as seen through the Monarch Fieldscope

In The Field
Taking the Monarch Fieldscope into the Rocky Mountains was a long-awaited venture for me. I couldn’t wait to see how my favorite varmints looked through this scope, and to see how well it would function as my main spotter.
A couple of my very good friends came along with their rifles, and we took shots from six hundred yards all the way out to fourteen hundred yards. The Monarch performed my every expectation, allowing me to see all the little details of hits, misses, and all the trace as well. I glassed across miles of canyons and shady draws, and pictures just don’t do it justice. As my friend crossed over a ridge spine some three miles away, the light was just right as I watched him stop to look at flowers, and even pick one. Clarity is absolutely top-notch with this scope, I cant wait to take it on a mature bull Elk hunt this fall.

Conclusion
I’ve used many high-end spotting scopes from most of the big names, and to be fair, I have loved every one of them. They all have a few things that I like, and a few that perhaps I would change. The Monarch Fieldscope is right up there with most all of them, the image quality is outstanding, and with it’s multiple eyepiece offerings it leaves many scopes of significantly higher price far less desireable to at least this frequent user.

I can’t imagine what it would cost to build a scope like this out of carbon fiber or something similar, but reducing the weight of it seems like one of the only things I could change to make it even better. But until they do, I will be transfixed behind this eyepiece, enjoying the view.

CBM

The Desert Tech SRS A2

I have long enjoyed an affair with precision rifles, and one of them in particular. I fell in love with the Desert Tech SRS many years ago now, it has been through several generations since, and the latest generation is the SRS A2.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SRS family, it is a detachable box magazine-fed, bolt action bullpup, with the added advantage of being a multi-caliber rifle. A bullpup means that the rifle’s action is behind the trigger, and against the shoulder. This design has been tried many times over the years, in order to shorten the overall length and portability of the rifle. The SRS has all of the advantages a bullpup was designed to bring to the table, as well as the quality and a stellar record of performance sought by both law enforcement, military, and devoted precision shooters. And the icing on the cake is the multi-caliber capability.

The SRS A2 follows the long celebrated A1 model, from which it evolved. The SRS features an all-aluminum receiver, that is sandwiched between two polymer skins that comprise the pistol-grip, and magazine well. The receiver is split down the middle, and has four clamping screws down the side, together these features allow one of the SRS’s strongest assets. All SRS barrels have a shank at the breach that fits very snuggly into the receiver and is then clamped in via those four screws. Barrels are slid into the chassis from the front and seated against a steel feed ramp that doubles as an index point. The unique barrel clamping system also allows the SRS to return to zero, guaranteed every time you install each barrel, it will return to shoot the same point of impact every time. Bolts are slid into the breach by easily removing the recoil pad from the back, I say bolts because with differing cartridges you may require at least a couple of them. Anything from 223 Remington all the way up to 375XC, most options from the factory are your well-known bestsellers such as 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win, and 338 Lapua Magnum. The SRS has a large following with a multitude of aftermarket barrel manufacturers, allowing users to customize these factory-built rifles in whatever caliber they desire.

What’s New:

The evolution of this precision bullpup has brought several advantages to the system. One of the first notable differences of the new rifle is the M-Lok handguard, the more popular mounting system replaced the pic rail design from prior generations. The next most obvious change is the rifle’s weight, the A2 was put on a healthy diet. This new revision has the rifle weighing 2.1 pounds less than its predecessor, through various cuts and shaving material where possible.
The trigger also received an upgrade, a new design they call a “field match” trigger. This new trigger is adjustable from 1.5 to 7 pounds.

The SRS A1 featured a built-in retractable monopod in the bottom of the butt-pad, many users found this monopod to be a very valuable tool because of its quick deployment, and both coarse and fine adjustments. The A2 model was designed to be lighter, and the monopod was then made optional equipment instead of standard. That also helped lower the overall weight of the rifle.

The new M-Lok handguard is also interchangeable. The A1 handguard was difficult to swap between different length handguards, and it required a proprietary tool from Desert Tech. The new SRS A2 handguard is user-replaceable using only a Hex Key wrench, this allows users to easily swap between the standard length (longer) handguard, and the shorter length (Covert) handguard. Desert Tech sells the separate handguards as a kit for end-users to install, so they can enjoy the benefits of either configuration.

In addition to the new rifle chassis, Desert Tech will be releasing a few new calibers specifically marketed towards big game hunters. These newer barrels are chambered in popular cartridges such as 300 RUM, 300WM, and 7MM Rem Mag with more to come. A lighter contour barrel also helps lower the overall weight of the rifle. With a lighter rifle, the SRS is now even more appealing to those of us that would like to hunt with it, so these new offerings are a welcome development.

What’s the same:

The SRS A2 being a direct descendant of the A1 means that it inherited some of its best traits. The barrel mounting system is the same, which means that the barrel collection most SRS owners enjoy, can be used in the new A2 chassis as well. Bolts, barrels and magazines are also interchangeable between the two rifle chassis. This is a very welcome feature to SRS aficionados, as barrel kits can cost anywhere from 800 up to 2000 dollars.

The barrel clamping procedure remains the same, there is a barrel lock on one side of the receiver and four clamping screws on the other. The barrel lock rotates 360 degrees, but has a detent on the lock and unlocked positions. After installing the barrel in the chassis, the barrel lock is rotated to the lock position which rotates a cam to hold the barrel in place. The four clamping screws are then torqued down to 80-inch pounds.

The SRS A2 Covert with my 18” 6.5 Creedmoor

The A2 maintains both standard length and Covert models as was the A1, the Covert model allows for using shorter barrels like the very popular sixteen-inch 308 Winchester. The longer standard handguard, allows for further forward bipod mounting, as well as clip on night/thermal optics.

The adjustable comb height adjustment stays the same, as does the spacer system to adjust the length of pull. These features are easy to adjust and allow you to fit the rifle to you.

On the Range:

Being quite familiar with the SRS platform, I found almost everything about it to be very recognizable. All the same functions I was used to, I tried several of my older conversion kits in it with great success. One thing I didn’t miss at all was the weight, the couple pounds lost make the rifle noticeably lighter. And the new hunting profile barrels are lighter than I was used to, making the whole kit seem more friendly to hiking hunters.

Clockwise: The new Field Match Trigger, fluted bolt body, M-Lok handguard with QD sling receivers, handguard mounting screws.

Desert Tech claims the A2 to be even more accurate than its precedent platform, this was a claim I wanted to see for myself. The SRS has always been a very accurate rifle in my experience, half MOA groups are expected and even guaranteed by Desert Tech when using match grade ammunition.  The accuracy guarantee for the A1 SRS was half MOA, I was surprised to find that the A2 did not come with a better guarantee according to Desert Tech’s 36% better accuracy claim for the A2.

Shooting the SRS A2

I shot several different barrels in the A2 while at the range, among them were 6.5Creedmoor, 308 Winchester, 300 Remington Ultra Magnum, and 300 Winchester magnum.  The new hunting calibers were all the lighter contour, this made the felt recoil a little more aggressive than I was used to, but with muzzle brakes installed the recoil was very manageable. Accuracy was everything I expected it to be from the SRS platform,  typical groups were half MOA. Ammunition types gave wildly varying results, some of them did not even shoot MOA, while others easily shot sub half MOA.  I can’t say for sure if the lighter barrel contour had anything to do with it because when they had the right ammo they just shot great.

A typical five shot group from the SRS A2

My fourteen-year-old son also shot the rifle a bit and carried it around, he too seemed pleasantly surprised by the rifle’s easy handling and modest recoil.  As usual, the rifle shot better when the sound suppressor was installed. The Desert Tech suppressor mounts directly to the muzzle brake and provides hearing safe shooting with enhanced accuracy. Another moment the bullpup platform shines is when a suppressor is installed, the SRS A2 with a suppressor mounted is still shorter than comparable rifles without one.

Whether shooting inside a 100-yard underground tunnel or shooting 1200 yards across a breezy mountain ridge, the SRS A2 tackled targets with great ease.

Detractors

The only problems I found with the SRS A2 were not so much problems as they were questions. Previous generations of SRS rifles had fully adjustable triggers that were serviceable in the field with a simple Allen wrench. The new trigger requires disassembly of the chassis to complete the adjustment. While an infrequent necessity, it is still an unwelcome one.

Final Thoughts

The SRS A2 is a pleasant breath of fresh air that I didn’t even know I needed. It appears Desert Tech has listened to consumers and delivered a better bullpup, my A1 wont be going anywhere soon, but it definitely needs an A2 to go with it.

-CBM