Category Archives: Product review

Products and equipment

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

Field Optics Research Carbon Fiber Tripods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arca Rail mounting solutions are available in various configurations

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

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

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

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


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

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

Graham Brothers Rifleworks MARC Sport Chassis for the Remington 700

Precision Rifles are just my cup of tea, and watching the technology around them progress over the years has been exciting. While they are still relevant, and in many cases beautiful, traditional and wooden rifle stocks are being overtaken by modern chassis systems.

A chassis system essentially serves the same purpose as a rifle stock, but the difference between them is quite stark. Stocks are generally made of wood or a synthetic material like glass filled nylon. Rifle chassis are almost uniformly manufactured from non-organic materials, such as aluminum, plastics, and more and more often from cutting edge composites like carbon fiber.

Rifle chassis bring modularity, customizable options, and other modern conveniences to the user’s rifle. As well as providing one of the most important foundations for precise shooting, a rigid and firm structure from which successive shots can be launched with meticulous control. Naturally, modular rifles like the AR-15 have been gleaned over, and some of their best features have been merged into precision rifle chassis.

And that brings us to the current subject, the Yankee Hill Machine MARC Sport  Rifle Chassis is one of the latest to join my fold. Yankee Hill has long manufactured AR-15’s and their components, so it seemed a natural progression to build the similar parts of a precision rifle chassis.
YHM has a new division specifically geared towards the precision rifle market, suitably named Graham Brothers Rifleworks, I look forward to see what else they bring to the shooting bench.

The Remington Model 700 has long enjoyed a position as the one to use for custom rifle builds. As such, most rifle chassis are built to accept the 700’s footprint and its many clones, the MARC Sport is no different. Other footprints such as Savage Long and Short actions are also available as well. And I wouldn’t expect it to end there, surely others like Howa, Tikka, and other popular models will follow.

The MARC Sport comes as just the heart of the chassis, it uses an AR-15 style buffer tube in the back. The simple reasoning behind this is that you can easily attach any buttstock made for the AR-15 family of rifles. The modular design allows the end user to configure the chassis to their liking, an ownership feature that many gun enthusiasts are quick to take advantage of. The chassis also uses AR-15 patterned pistol grips, so you can pick and choose from the bountiful variety of grips to fit your hand and shooting needs.

The handguard of the MARC Sport is similar to an AR-15 freefloat handguard, obviously it attaches differently, but it shares familiar features. The handguard has MLOK slots on all eight facets, this allows the user to add accessories such as bipod mounts, cartridge quivers, support bags, or tripod interfaces, all great accesories for competition shooting.

The handguard attaches via four screws along the center of the chassis, steel thread inserts assure durable strength over time. It also features QD sling cups at the front and rear of the handguard tube. The chassis also has a series of threaded mounting holes along the bottom of the fore-grip area, to attach likely a tripod mount, or the available YHM Arca Swiss rail.

The chassis accepts AICS pattern magazines, I have tried several different manufacturers magazines and they all work perfectly. One suggestion I would give YHM would be perhaps a slightly longer mag release bar, or a wider one. Either option would give the user a better purchase when trying to strip a magazine from it. And if you twisted my arm for another complaint, it might be that the handguard is a little too intrusive in the objective area of the scope. This didn’t allow me to install the sunshade on my scope, not a huge deal, but one you may want to know about.
The MARC Sport chassis will accept both right or left handed actions, it comes with a small adapter plate that uses a screw to hold it in place. The plate is mounted over the unused bolt handle recess on either the right or left side.

The MARC Sport shown with optional Arca Swiss rail, mounted on the tripod.

In the very rear of the chassis is the buffer tube adapter, there are two different options when purchasing the MARC Sport. These are to accept the different types of buffer tubes and the buttstocks that go with them.

My little 16 inch 260 Remington was a perfect fit, the aftermarket trigger also had no issue fitting into the chassis

The chassis is built intuitively, a thumbshelf comfortably bedded in the right place. A comfortable contoured grip area under the center of gravity for carrying, and rounded edges in all the right places. And it comes with screws of the appropriate length to mount your Remington barreled action.

I used one of the many Magpul buttstocks available, mainly because I had them. It was very convenient to have the collapsable buttstock, it made the overall rifle more compact and easy to store. But with so many great options out there, you can surely find one to fit your needs.

The MARC Sport chassis system is a perfect addition for a good rifle. Most of us love to customize our guns and this chassis allows you to do it at a great price without giving up any quality. It does exactly what a rifle chassis should do, it gives the rifle a solid platform, that the user can adjust and customize to fit his skill level and needs. It has rekindled my love with my custom Remington’s, I have another one finishing up at the gunsmith now, and it too will soon be paired up to the MARC Sport chassis for a little match shooting.

-CBM

Elornis Industry Back Pack/Drag Bag

I frequently get the chance to check out some cool new gear, and this is about just such a thing. Elornis Industry is a manufacturer in the Czech Republic, they make steel targets, hardware, textiles, Kydex, and many other great products for shooters. I managed to get my hands on one of their BackPack/ Drag Bag‘s, and I was very impressed.
The bag is a smaller one, for carbines and bullpups like my SRS. It serves as either a simple soft case for transporting your rifle to the range, or as a backpack to carry the rifle and accessories all over creation. It also works as a traditional snipers drag bag, to tow a marksman’s kit safely.

First I must say, the quality of Elornis Industry products is second to none. Quality materials, stitched firmly with good quality fasteners present a top notch case. The extra large zippers used in the case are smooth and strong, almost feels like you could zip a finger up in them.

The backpack straps are well padded, and adjust to fit the user. They also can be stowed inside the pack if not used as a backpack, as can the waist belt and chest strap.

There are additional storage compartments both inside and outside the case. Allowing for gear organization, there are even different colored zipper tabs to help distinguish. Inside the case, there are three zippered pouches made of mesh. On the back outside of the pack there are also three pouches accessed by opening the three way zipper.

The rifle compartment itself has a soft interior lining, a couple straps can be added to help support and stabilize the rifle inside.

The pack also has a built in rainfly that deploys from the top. It fits over the pack with a small bungee around its circumference to keep it tight.

Other handy little things like well positioned handles for carrying, velcro strip for adding patches (you know the ones, so that everybody at the range knows your blood type), these features round this pack out as just a great bag. I think it is ideal for a full day deployment for something like a shooting match, or a day chasing rock chucks in the Rockies.

If Elornis Industry makes all their products like they did this one, then I need to order more of them. Definitely intuitive products built for shooters by shooters.

-CBM

Watch the video here