Category Archives: Product review

Products and equipment

Short Action Black Magic

Am I the only one who was surprised by the rapid and exhaustive penetration of the 300 Blackout into the shooting world? I mean, I’d like to think that I had a grasp on what the hip kids shot. At first glance it didn’t even seem worthy of a second look. Sure, if your an AR guy and wanna spend a lot of time and money going movie quiet, then great, this slug’s for you. But what did it do for a guy with a serious precision rifle infatuation? Time would soon tell…
The guy that built my first custom rifle back around the turn of the century, was the first to mention it to me. He called it a Whisper, which is basically the same thing. I disregarded it as gun room talk, you know, two guys pretending to know a lot by saying things the other guy hopefully doesn’t know about?

Years later, as the blackout continued to gain market share, I found myself asking why people were building 300blk bolt guns. I had long since tailored my own sub sonic 308win loads, and to my simple mind, it didn’t make sense. A 30 caliber bullet going 1000FPS doesn’t care who pushed it there. And since the .308 had the added benefit of shooting bullets almost three times that velocity, it seemed silly to leave money on the table with the little blackout. Unless of course you were running an AR15 platform.

Fast forward to the era of my Desert Tech SRS, a rifle that most of you know dominates my trigger time. The compact and accurate SRS fit my needs like no other rifle can, and its ability to swap barrels has literally left thousands of gun collections collecting nothing but dust. I can run an abundance of calibers, both factory and custom, almost anything a guy can dream up from short action to long.

One of the last barriers in this overabundance of options for the SRS, was broken by Short Action Customs LLC a few years ago. Mark began a project that would eventually become a complete 223 conversion kit for the SRS. And before he could even sell the first one, the black plague was inquiring if he would also make a 300blk conversion kit as well.
Perhaps it was my skepticism of the blackout, that influenced his decision, or perhaps my mediocre street cred’s. But whatever the reason, Mark sent me a 300blk conversion kit to test out. A 16 inch 300blk barrel that would mate right up to the .223 bolt I already had, and a billet aluminum magazine with some slightly different cuts to it.
Testing loads
I am a sucker for load development, it’s like an attention deficit disorder. Regardless of what I’m doing, if there are empty cases on my bench, my mind wanders, considering what powder’s, what bullet’s, and the circumstances of their arranged marriage. I wasted no time getting deep into the black magic of loading this mysterious little cartridge.

Any writing about the 300blk would be incomplete without discussing its true purpose. As hinted by its name, the blackout is built around stealth. When loaded with heavy for caliber bullets, at sub sonic speeds, its sound signature is comparable to a pellet gun. The bullet is launched just below the speed of sound (a speed that varies depending on atmospheric characteristics) which in my neck of the dark woods is around 1000 fps. The slow speed of the bullet allows it to travel through the air without breaking the sound barrier, and the accompanying loud crack that some of us are familiar with. When a suppressor is added to the rifle, the report caused by rapidly escaping gasses, is also withdrawn. All that is left, is the sound of that gas escaping from the muzzle, resulting in a nearly unnoticed hiss.

In order to realize this secretive squall, quick burning pistol powders in small amounts are used. I had chosen the Hornady 195 BTHP, for many reasons but the most important one was that I was showing a large surplus in nothing else. After trying a few different loads, I found one that worked quite well. Using a mere 5 grains of Hi Skor 700X, the 195’s were hushing along just shy of the speed of sound. 700X may not be the ideal powder for the blackout I know, but when you have fifteen pounds of it, you have to find a way to make it useful. The small case of the blackout yielded more consistent velocities than .308win based sub sonic loads.

In no time at all, I found myself chuckling at the range. The incredibly quiet blackout was refreshing, and to my surprise it was pretty easy to get it to shoot well. I found myself calling cease fires, just so everybody could not hear the shot, followed by the distant metallic ping. Even my sub sonic loads had SD numbers in the low teens. With practically no load development, I was shooting near sub MOA 5 shot groups. And the supersonic loads (150gr Hornady BTSP’s) shot at almost 2000fps were even better (all accuracy testing was done at 100yds). The recoil, or lack of it was extremely satisfying, I could many times see my own bullets flying in the air on their way to the target. Like every other Short Action Customs, LLC barrel that I own, this one shoots with meticulous repetition. The accuracy, recoil, and cheap plinking fun that I have had with this little kit has certainly changed my perspective on the blackout.
100 yard 5 shot sub sonic groups, the top impact on both groups was 1st shot

With a covert ability to engage targets with the utmost concealment, this conversion kit would be perfectly suited for removing varmints from the barnyard. I suppose that LE and Military could use it for the same thing if they needed to quietly escalate something. At the same time, when loaded supersonic with lighter bullets, the blackout would also make a good short range plinking/hunting cartridge for game such as deer or hogs.

The 300blk conversion kit is a completely turn-key system, like any other conversion kit for the SRS. You simply drop the barrel in, torque it down, and swap either the bolt or bolt head depending on the configuration you have. The 10 round magazine fits right into the magwell like any other DT magazine. My kit came threaded for a suppressor, I assume they all will be unless ordered otherwise. But shooting this conversion kit un-suppressed would be silly in my opinion, as its entire enterprise is based on silence. I did experience a significant cold bore shift, whether this is a blackout thing, or a sub sonic thing, I dont know. But it is something to keep in mind for sure, when those hits have to count.
I used both a 308 suppressor, and a 338 suppressor on the little blackout, I didn’t notice any significant difference between them. But since the SRS is prone to multiple calibers, if I had to pick, I’d go with the 338. I wonder if a shorter barrel, would help lower SD numbers even further. A 10 inch blackout seems like it would be perfect, if it didn’t put my Covert on some NFA black list.

For those of you who are familiar with the 300blackout, you probably have experienced the same silly grin when you hear bullets thumping targets, as birds chirp nearby. For those of you who haven’t yet fallen under the spell, it shouldn’t take much.

I wont speculate as to when the complete blackout conversion kits will be available to order, but I believe the good people at Short Action Customs are working hard to get them ready. If you are interested a blackout conversion kit, shoot Mark an email at: mark@shortactioncustoms.com
(Dont call him and waste time because there are a lot of fine rifles being cranked out of that shop every day, and I dont need you slowing him down 😀 ) Visit http://shortactioncustoms.com/ for more information. photo credit: Ben Hetland
-CBM

Yankee Hill Machine Turbo 5.56

It was SHOT Show 2017 And I found myself wandering through the many booths, filled with eye candy and toys. Being a dedicated poser, I knew I had to find something to upgrade my humble arsenal in the upcoming year. With all the places I could have found that something, who would of thought it would have only been steps away.

The Yankee Hill Machine booth is ripe with all kinds of black little goodies. Everything from AR15 parts, suppressors, to complete rifles. My first visit to the NFA club came via YHM, the first suppressor I bought was a YHM Phantom. My experience with it has always been a good one, which has led me to take a peek at some of their new products.

The new YHM Turbo 5.56 caught my eye, since I didn’t have a 5.56 can and I was in desperate need of a reason to build a host. Much to my favor, the Desert Tech MDR beat me to it, and made a perfect host for the Turbo. Click Here If you’d like to know more about the MDR.

The Turbo was made to fill a void in the rapidly expanding suppressor market. It’s stainless steel construction and design keep the cost down, opening ownership to a whole new crowd. It uses an inconel blast baffle, and a QD muzzle brake. With a size, price, and weight advantage it stands to leave much of the competition holding their forms at the door. The street price is under 500$, which is well below average when compared to other brands.
YHM has often been considered a economic choice in sound suppression, but I wanted to see if it would stand up to the cans I was used to.
The QD ratcheting teeth on the Turbo

The 1/2-28 threaded brake that comes with the Turbo, I found it very effective as a brake, and very quick to attach the Turbo to.

I tested the Turbo on two different guns, the aforementioned MDR, and also on a 10.5 inch AR15 pistol. Both guns ran perfect with the Turbo installed, there was a noticeable abundance of gas exiting the receivers of both rifles. That was no surprise to anyone, a host firearm with an adjustable gas system would easily take care of that. The excess gas coming into the receiver, did cause a little bit of extra crud build up in the rifles. But again, that is hard to avoid without cutting back on the gas volume.

Both myself and my brother were impressed with how quiet the Turbo made both of these rifles, well into the range of safe for ears. At least for my deaf ears anyways.
I wanted to see if the suppressor affected the rifle in other ways, so I fired a few groups with the Turbo installed. I was very impressed as the Turbo almost seemed to enhance accuracy, or maybe it was just the increased weight and stability. Either way, the Turbo made no harmful effect to accuracy, as the rifle shot proverbial “lights out”.

Turbo 556 Specifications:
Weight:………………………….13.5oz
Diameter:………………………1.562”
Length:…………………………….6.5”
Construction:…………………17-4 Ph SS / Inconel
Mount:…………………………..Q.D. Muzzle Brake
Decibel Rating:……………….134 dB

Rapid fire, on and off, gun to gun, the Turbo seemed to keep up with whatever we needed it to. The only problem I had at all with the can seemed to be self inflicted. I may Have overtightened it at one point, which caused the brake to come off with it one time. Requiring some excess work to get it apart, but that was my fault.
My initial impressions of this suppressor is that Yankee Hill knocked it out of the park. If you are in the market for a QD 556 can that won’t leave you broke, I don’t think you could go wrong with the Turbo 556.

-CBM

Sig Sauer Electro Optics Oscar 3

I am a sucker for optical doodads, and usually anything that is heavy and comes in a small package. That said, I’ve never been a huge proponent of large or bulky spotting equipment. Sure, there are advantages to them, but for the kind of shooting I usually do and am involved in, they are a bit more than necessary. Most times, another rifle scope of similar magnification and quality will do, especially if it is mounted to someone else’s rifle, who can tell what I’m doing wrong.
I do have a small field spotter, it works very well for what I need, and it has a handy reticle for making corrective calls a “breeze”. Other than that, the scope on my rifle, and a good rangefinder, I have never felt much of a need for more. Once again I was forced to challenge my own prejudice regarding equipment, when a friend handed me a small package with the instructions to “try it out”.

As I opened up the box which I had been told contained a spotting scope from Sig Sauer Electro-Optics,I thought for sure that I had the wrong package. But further investigation revealed it was indeed a spotter, just a more compact one than I had expected. It was the new Oscar 3, which is a handheld 10-20X image stabilizing scope.
Perhaps some of you are thinking the same as I did, “what good is a handheld spotter at 20X?” but having been surprised by Sig Sauer on more than one occasion, I decided to save my judgement until after a good field testing. I took it straight to the roof, and began scanning the neighborhood for hostile looking deviants. Like many other quality optics, the view and resolution through the Oscar were very clean, and bright. The warm sunshine that bathed the neighborhood made for crystal clear recognition of tiny minutia on a wide variety of prospective targets. There was of course, one pending issue. The problem that I had first imagined the second I heard “20X handheld spotter” and that of course was the inability for a wobbly twerp like me to hold still long enough to do any good while spotting. Even with my best efforts, it was difficult to hold still enough to read license plates at the end of the street, I could see the characters, and almost tell what they were. But the shaking caused by the slightest breeze, or perhaps even the beating of my heart, made it just barely beyond the grasp of my eyes.

The time had come to test the core function of this handy little scope, I reached with my index finger across the top of the Oscar, and engaged the stabilization function. I was amazed as the auto induced jitters quickly disappeared, and the picture I had struggled to see just a second earlier, suddenly became a floating image. A clear image, centered between my eye and the object that reflected it. No longer did I have to concentrate on holding still, instead I could focus my attention on interpreting the images. The license plates that I couldn’t read, were now steady and clean, not only could I read the plate numbers, but the state identified on it.

I had quickly become less skeptical about this little scope, and couldn’t wait to get it into a real field shooting position to see what it can really do. Easily operated, the Oscar has an adjustable zoom from 10-20X on the ocular end, and the focus is done by turning the objective end of the scope. The switch on top of the unit turns on the stabilization.
Fast forward a few days, and I found myself surrounded by hundreds of miles of Utah’s west desert. Myself and a few friends had made our way up the steep edge of a rocky ridge, overlooking a seemingly unending sage brush flat. Our quarry that day was any number of jackrabbits who called the sagebrush home. We had already spotted several, and knew they were out there, hiding among the brush. Their color matching almost perfectly the plants and ground that they inhabited. So many times one would spot a rabbit, and until it moved, you could never be sure what exactly it was.

It was time to put the Oscar to work, laying down in tumbleweeds and rocks to look through my rifle scope was just too cumbersome, at least to spot the rabbits. My rangefinder was handy, but with only 8X, it made target investigation a little tedious. The Oscar’s ability to zoom in to as much as 20X, and its image stabilization would be perfect for picking out the slightest movement. The quick nature of engaging rabbits made for some challenging transitions from a spotting to a shooting position. But one after another, we found the jackrabbits, sneaking about through the brush. Some of them were quite close, others were as far as three or four hundred yards away. The fate of the former was quite “dispersed” no thanks to my SRS, who has grown quite a taste for large rodents.
As the rabbit population either “aired out”, or burrowed furiously out of sight, and I sat there picking the rocks and tumbleweed stickers from my elbows, I continued to test the Oscar. Taking pictures of a nearby cattle herd through it, as well as scanning the surrounding area. The only gripe if any I might have about this little scope, is that when engaged, if you look really hard at some things, you can almost see a “boiling” impression. An effect I assume must come from whatever tech Sig uses to stabilize the image, I didn’t find it to be a detrimental factor, nor did it impede my ability to spot my targets.

I’ve taken the Oscar from the hot dry desert, and its mirage laden plains, to the snow covered tops of the rocky mountain’s peaks. The Oscar 3 from Sig Sauer has certainly proven itself to be very valuable in my opinion. I think I would even trade a good set of binoculars for it. As a hunter, I think it would be a very valuable tool to inspect potential targets. And also as a hunter, I can greatly appreciate the compact size and weight it comes in. Giving me an on the go kind of spotter, quick to deploy and keep tabs on a moving target. All while providing an outstanding image with which to judge by.
I wonder if, even with the image stabilization, would it be worth it to add a coarse reticle to the Oscar. To provide corrective calls and range/size estimations. I suppose that would be a question for the engineers at Sig.
As for me, I plan on keeping this little handful of help as close as possible, for as long as I can. It has already proved to be a valuable tool to keep in my pack, and I intend on using it thoroughly as this season comes in.
-CBM

6.5 Creedmoor

It’s no secret that I am a fan boy for the Desert Tech Stealth Recon Scout, I have spent the last few years getting intimately familiar with its virtues. I have had the chance to use the SRS in many different applications, including hunts of all kinds, as well as competitive, and long range shooting. Today I am writing about one of the many reasons why the SRS system, with its seemingly unlimited options has replaced every other rifle in my safe.

I jumped onto the 6.5/.264 bandwagon a couple years ago, it was a 26” 260 Remington that sealed my opinion of the .264 bore. That original barrel has around 3000 rounds on it, and the bullets it has fired have crossed untold miles of cold mountain canyons, and hot desert plains.
The 6.5 lineup has grown over the years, too many to mention here, but the bulk of the work is done by the 260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and the 6.5X47 Lapua. We could debate for days (and we often do) about which one of the three is best, and why. But today, I have chosen to focus on the 6.5 Creedmoor.

I jumped onto the 6.5/.264 bandwagon a couple years ago, it was a 26” 260 Remington that sealed my opinion of the .264 bore. That original barrel has around 3000 rounds on it, and the bullets it has fired have crossed untold miles of cold mountain canyons, and hot desert plains.
The 6.5 lineup has grown over the years, too many to mention here, but the bulk of the work is done by the 260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and the 6.5X47 Lapua. We could debate for days (and we often do) about which one of the three is best, and why. But today, I have chosen to focus on the 6.5 Creedmoor.

I appreciate the aesthetics of properly manufactured ammunition, and the Creedmoor loaded by Desert Tech Munitionsis a perfect example. Clean and smooth edges, the discoloration of annealed brass, and a uniform presentation that gives a consumer confidence. Looks certainly are not everything when it comes to ammo, so I wasted no time getting to my shooting position.

It was a cool and breezy evening, a snow storm was inbound, threatening to soak my target, my SRS, and of course me. None the less I hiked with purpose to the spot I go to when time is short.
A quick shot of the rangefinder confirmed my one hundred yards to the target, I found a comfortable position with a good solid rest.
The barrel I was using to test this ammunition was virgin, I had only finished its assembly an hour or so before I left work. So a zero had to be achieved before any accuracy testing could be done.
I opened the first box, and loaded ten rounds.

My first shot landed about 1.5 inches low, I measured with my reticle, and made a corrective adjustment. The next 8-9 shots went into one ragged hole, and but for one shot that I knew was bad when it broke, it was as good as anything I’d ever shot previously. That is of course not saying much, as I’m terrible at shooting groups. But even for me, it seemed quite easy to stack shots on top of each other. I continued to shoot five shot groups one after another, I was more than happy with the patterns that this ammo made, through this brand new barrel. I’m very interested to see how it does after its broken in.

After shooting a few boxes of ammo at 100yds, I called it a day. The snowy weather was making it hard to see anything, and the wind was starting to get worse. So I retreated back down the mountain trail, suspending my testing temporarily for a better day.

As soon as permissible, I made my way back up into the mountains. A few days had passed, and the blue sky stretched as far as I could see across the valley. I made my way up the winding mountain road, my ATV laden with a days’ worth of gear, snacks, and snow. As I climbed higher and higher, the snow got deeper. But silence and solitude was the reward. When I finally found the spot I wanted to shoot from, I had gained nearly 3,000 feet more than my first outing with the Creedmoor. Nothing but a light breeze and sunshine at that altitude.

Again I setup my target at 100 yards, and did a quick zero test. I was pleased to see that my cold bore shot was exactly on my point of aim, and the several shots that followed were right on top of it. Happy that nothing had changed since my last outing, I decided to push the Creedmoor out a bit further. I started at 642 yards, I wasn’t about to walk that far in the deep snow. Instead, I found a small cube shaped rock on a small exposed piece of dirt across a long draw. I estimated the rock to be two or three inches in width, a reasonable sized target for that range. So I set to getting the wind and elevation for the shot. I wanted to see how close the come ups listed on the box were to actual , so I made an estimation from the data printed there, and made a wind call. I loaded the magazine as I went over everything in my head, then settled in behind the rifle. I focused on my trigger pull, and broke the shot, the impact was right at the base of the small stone. I made a small correction hold, and sent three more shots at the rock. All of them found their mark, smashing the rock, and sending its pieces rolling into the snow below.
I repeated the process at 860 yards, and again at 970. I was very impressed with the accuracy, shot after shot was right where I had aimed. And when it wasn’t, I knew it before the rifle had finished recoiling.

Obviously, I am a bit biased in most of my opinions here. But I can certainly say without any bias, this is the most accurate factory ammunition I have ever shot. Consistency is king in this game, and I cant wait to keep stacking shots in the black with this Creedmoor.
-CBM

 

 

Accu-Tac LR-10 Bipod

Every now and then, I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to try a new piece of equipment. Its a strange place to be, when you have what you think is a perfect fit, and then have to try something different.
That was the case this weekend, when I put the Accu-Tac LR-10 bipod on my SRS Covert. I usually run either a Harris for compact lightweight, or an Atlas 5H for position building perfection. Today my purpose was to give the Accu-Tac a shot, and see how it measured up.
My initial impression when I picked it up, was a bit skeptical. It looked like it was built to be stout, but it also had a bit of a different style to it. Being the complete poser that I am, I pay very close attention to aesthetics. I wasn’t too sure how to feel about the LR-10.
I wasted no time, and quickly put the bipod into use, trying various positions. Like any new piece of gear, it took a second to get used to . But I quickly found myself liking the simplistic operation one would hope to find in two legs attached to a rifle. The QD attachment was smooth and easily adjustable, making installation simple.

Being used to the Atlas and Harris, the LR-10 was an easy shoe in. The few controls on this bipod were quite simple and obvious as to their function. The bipod world has many different options when it comes to leg extending, and I am still undecided about legs springing in, or out. This bipod is of the former, retracting its legs with the simple push of a levered cam. So easy to push in, I was concerned it might be easily pressed by accident causing a loss of sight picture in a heated moment. But to my surprise, the angled cut of the lever uses the weight of the rifle, to create quite a resistance. Making it a deliberate action required to adjust the leg length. Conveniently, when the rifle is not on its legs, all functions of the bipod are very smooth, and require little force. The legs are easily folded by simply pulling them away from the rifle, and positioning them, both front and rear 45 degree angles, as well as the standard 90.

The feet of the bipod screw in, making it easy to change out for spikes vs. rubber.
The extension length of the legs did leave me wanting a bit more. I was surprised they didn’t come out further, considering the size of the un-extended portion.
The pivot point, at the center hub of the bipod has a captured rotation, allowing plenty of cant for uneven terrain, but not allowing the rifle to tip over. A “T” shaped thumb screw is located in the hang down position between the legs. The screw applies pressure to a small brass shoe, that applies a braking force against the shaft on which the bipod cants. The braking force can be adjusted from slight resistance, to completely locked up. While robust in most places, the pivot point of this bipod appears to be the weakest link on this device. I think it would do fine on most rifles, but I would be a bit concerned putting it on heavy recoiling rifles (.33+). I am no engineer, but it does seem to me that a slightly larger shaft could benefit the LR-10.

My impression of shooting with the Accu-Tac was very positive, it was very sturdy. The wide stance, and stout construction made my rifle feel very steady. The quick lockup of the cant feature was easily done with my thumb from the firing position, locking the rifle firmly into place. Setting up position was also quick. By simply rocking the rifle to one side, and pulling down on the downhill leg, followed by a quick leveling, and you are ready to engage. Even under hard bolt manipulation I found it quite easy to keep the rifle on target, and not loose sight picture.
The LR-10 also proved quite stable when shooting from improvised positions, allowing me to really lean into the rifle.

With as many good bipods as there are out there, and as much as some of them cost, I would want to get the best I could for the money. While I dont think I would trade my Atlas 5H in for this LR-10, I do think it is a good product overall. And at almost half the price of the Atlas, the LR-10 is definitely an appealing option for HD bipods. For the average guy who wants a solid rest without spending a huge portion of his earnings, I think this bipod would serve you well. But if you are a tier 1 poser, you may have to step up your gear queer appropriating to a higher level.
-CBM