Category Archives: Product review

Products and equipment

Vortex Optics Fury Range-finding Binoculars

I’ve said it before, I am a huge geek for optics and everything that goes with them. Something about quality and the edge that good optics give you gets me giddy.

Anybody who shoots at any significant distance should be familiar with laser rangefinders, otherwise I take their claims as what they are; hopeful aspirations.

It didn’t take me long to realize the need for a rangefinder in my shooting, and I didn’t want a substandard one. I bought my first rangefinder many years ago, it was a Leica. Over the years I have come to appreciate a good rangefinder, that Leica taught me a lot. It is absolutely necessary to make good shots at distance, and I’ve been lucky to have hands on quite a few of them. One of the first things I noticed when playing with LRF’s was that many of them were at best 80% of what they are rated for. And many of them lower than that. Ive come to find that a good LRF will actually go beyond its rated limits, in good conditions. With optics and rangefinders especially, you do get what you pay for.
With so many new and exciting things hitting the market recently, I was excited to get the chance to try out a new prodcuct from Vortex Optics
The brand new Fury Binocular from Vortex incorporates a 1600 yard laser rangefinder into a 10X42 armored binocular.

I’ve never had a rangefinding bino before, I’d mostly used just a plain rangefinder. I never felt much like carrying multiple optics into the field, nor could I afford it, but with the technological advancements we enjoy today there is no reason to. The Fury gives you high a quality ten power binocular, with clear and bright images. And ontop of that, it also serves as a 1600 yard rangefinder. For a hunter, I think it is the best of both worlds. Especially since you dont want to be carrying anything extra with you, unforgiving mountains are not the place to carry extra weight.

The Fury, like most modern rangefinders, allows you to select yards or meters. It also has a slope indicator that allows users to select line of sight distance (LOS) or use a corrected angular compensated distance (HCD).

The display on the Fury has a circle reticle for aiming at your target. Up and to the right of that, is the angle display, shown in degrees. The distance is shown below the reticle, and just off to the left there is a battery level indicator.

I have taken the Fury out many times now, used it in many different settings and places. One of the first times I tried it right out of the box, I managed to hit 1780yds with it. That was a building, and I didnt expect it to hit a deer at that distance. But its good to know that it can reach those kind of distances, even though in the real world of my shooting habits, it wont need to go that far. For me, I think being able to range the animals I hunt in the conditions and places where they live is the overall determining factor for performance. And in those places and conditions, the Fury seems to shine. Like this:

Hitting trees and rocks at thirteen, fourteen or fifteen hundred yards proved to be pretty easy. In the bright daylight of the sun, or in the angled afternoon light of the evening.

Hitting an animal at that distance would be hard, not necessarily because of the rangefinder, but because you cant hold still enough without a tripod. I find myself aiming for the nearest tree or rock in those scenarios anyways.

The beam divergence on the Fury, or the size of the laser beam for lack of a better explanation, is 1.6X.07MRAD. That isn’t bad considering the price-point of the Fury, there are a few better, but surely there are worse. Again I look back to the purpose of the Fury, at least in my case. It wont be often when I am looking at a deer, elk, or any other target that is standing on the horizon some thousand or more yards away, with nothing near it that I cant sink that laser into. So while a tighter beam dispersion might be better in some situations, I think this one will do just fine for my purposes. And I think it will do for most other’s as well, I assume I am not the only person who lases the target multiple times when targeting. Particularly when distances are extended, and critical to making the shot.
At 31 oz the Fury is very comparable to its competitors, it doesn’t feel heavy to me, which oddly enough seems like a bad thing. I know I’m crazy, but for some reason I like to feel the weight that usually accompanies quality. But I certainly wont hold that against the Fury.

The Fury comes with a nice shoulder strapped carrying case, it has a double shoulder harness, and it is secured with a a small hook and elastic strap to close it. I liked it, but honestly the Fury might be a little big/heavy for the case design. It also comes with your standard lens covers, as seen in the above picture. I feel for optics companies when it comes to lens covers, it can be a difficult subject. You can either go with cheap and easy option, knowing that users will likely upgrade to something more to their liking. Or you can invest in some very nice covers for them, and then risk people not liking them and wanting something else anyways. I found that the soft rubber options provided with the Fury are perfectly serviceable, and they are easily removed if not to your liking.
Both barrels of the Fury have a focus ring, the right barrel adjustment is to focus the display, and the left barrel adjustment is for equalizing the focus between the users eyes. I may have gotten a a mismatched set at the factory. Eyes that is, it has always been a challenge for me to get any pair of binoculars to stay in focus for me, probably due to the difference in my eyes. I noticed this problem slightly when using the Fury, but I am quite sure it is my eyes relaxing between uses.
The Fury has adjustable eye cups, with four different depth settings. The cups were easily adjusted to fit my eyes, with or without glasses. It also made it easy to adjust to fit the relief on my phone, so that I could get all these spectacular images 😜
The battery compartment on the Fury is located on the bottom, nice and out of the way. From this angle you can also see the two adjustment rings for focusing the unit.
For many years I have been using some great rangefinders, Leica as I mentioned, Swarovski, Sig Sauer Electro-Optics, among others. While the price of good rangefinders has come down, my budget for shooting accessories has mantained its place on the leger. But I felt the Fury was well worth the splurge, and my money was well spent with Vortex, as it usually is. I still have never had to use their famous no BS warranty, but it’s always nice to know it is there. Look for the Fury in upcoming stories and pictures, I dont see it going away anytime soon.

-CBM


ES Tactical 6.5Creedmoor Barrel for the MDR

Just when I thought I was up to my ear’s in MDR, Eric Smith from ES Tactical found it expedient to dump another huge helping of MDR in my lap. It wouldn’t take long to figure out which way this would go.

As a guy with too many irons in the fire already, I took the 6.5 Creedmoor barrel with a grain of salt (I know you all feel my pain). Had it not been for my stellar experience with Eric’s work, I might have even backburnered this project. But instead, I took the first opportunity to stab my MDR with this latest addition to the pile.

Ive shot the MDR quite a bit, some might even say more than anyone else. The MDR is a multi caliber bullpup rifle. The rifle was first available in 308, it will soon be available to the public in 223. But for those of you that already have the gun, you can wet your multi caliber whistle without waiting by ordering a 6.5 Creedmoor from ES Tactical. I shot quite a bit of 308 in the beginning, and I loved having so much power in such a little package. With the 308 barrel installed, the MDR can put down a serious amount of hate and anger. But it is still quite capable of MOA accuracy, and at distance as well. Just a short while ago, the 223/556 conversion was made available to me. In the short time I spent with it, I became very enamored. The minimal recoil, and outstanding accuracy made the compact MDR even more desirable, you can read more about that here.

So you can imagine my excitement when the option came to try out the Creedmoor in my beloved little rifle. The Creedmoor offers the same accuracy as the other cartridge options, but less recoil than the 308, and a better envelope for distance as well.

I couldn’t resist the appeal, so I hurried up to my local shooting hole, and warmed up my trigger finger. Upon arrival I ran a few magazines of 223 through the rifle, just to get my trigger finger into shape, then set to swap the rifle over to the Creedmoor.


The MDR as seen with 223rem barrel (installed with YHM Turbo) Sixteen inch 308win, and the ES Tactical eighteen inch 6.5CM barrel

Since the 6.5 and the 308 share the same boltface, magazine, and a few other parts, there is only a need for a barrel assembly should your rifle be a 308. Since my rifle was currently a 223, I had to swap bolts, remove the magwell block and switch the magazine catch.
To see how the MDR is converted from one caliber to another click here

It took a few minutes, and I was ready to make some noise. Except I wouldn’t. I hate shooting without the proper muzzle accoutrements, so I attached one of my favorite suppressors, the Silencerco Hybrid. The barrel assembly from ES Tactical came with a six position gas key, allowing for refined tuning of the rifle. I found it quite unnecessary to figet with, as the rifle functioned flawlessly, it consumed and expelled everything I fed it.

Speaking of diet, I tried a few different things. I started out with Desert Tech munitions 140 grain match, I have always had good luck with it, and today was no exception. I also tried some of the more popular brands, such as Hornady 120 Grain Match As well as the gold standard Federal Gold Medal Match 130 grain And the very popular Prime 130 Grain Match

The accuracy results from this fine selection varied slightly, the DTM, and Hornady gave the best results. Both of them printed groups that were mostly hole, and little paper. The Prime and Gold Medal were not too far behind, it is my guess that the Berger and Norma 130 grain bullets used may perhaps be a bit more finicky with seating depth. Which may explain the larger patterns. DTM shown in blue, Hornady in red, Federal in yellow, and Prime in green

As you can see in the groups the stringing is horizontal on the better ones, it seemed to follow the heating of the barrel. The first three or four shots in each group were either touching or stacked. It was usually the fourth, fifth or sixth shot that were the outliers (I may have lost count a few times, I was enjoying myself😌). The lesser groups didnt seem to have any particular pattern. I only ran a chronograph on the DTM 140 grain ammunition, the average over a couple magzines worth of ammo showed 2610fps. I was quite pleased with the velocity from this 18 inch barrel, with a MV like that, coupled with MOA or better accuracy, this thing would be very useful for anything inside 1000 yards.

Being as familiar as I am with the platform, I have gotten used to it’s quirks and folleys. This familiarity has helped me avoid some of the little things that cause malfunctions, so it didn’t surprise me at all that I experienced no failures. I did note that the brass was coming out pretty dirty but otherwise fine, I suppose I could have dialed down the gas pressure a little after all.

The thread protector, threads, and crown of the ES Tactical 6.5Creedmoor barrel

In total, I shot probably 80 or so rounds (not counting the 223 appetizer). It was smooth shooting, the recoil was very mild, and with the suppressor mounted up, I could shoot all day. This setup would be awesome for a threegun carbine, it’d also make the perfect truck gun, or patrol rifle. So many possibilities, I doubt it will be long before the next flavor MDR comes along.

Should you find youself in need of a Creed for your MDR, give Eric a call over at ES Tactical, and dont forget he cuts awesozme barrels for your SRS, or just about anything else you might want too.

-CBM

Here is the video:

The Desert Tech MDR in 5.56

There has been lots of excitement surrounding the Desert Tech MDR lately. With some rifles shipping since late last year, and many more about to drop, the hype has reached its peak. The Micro Dynamic Rifle  brings Desert Tech’s multi caliber capability to a an auto loading rifle. All of the rifles that have been delivered to customer so far have been 7.62 rifles, but I got a lucky chance to get an up close look at some of the first 5.56 rifles. After a few hours of shooting it, I decided to write a little more about it.

The MDR is a bullpup rifle, and currently there are 7.62 and 5.56 conversions available for it. I have spent extensive time with the 7.62 versions of the rifle, and have found it to be a very fun rifle. The function of the rifle is very intuitive, the controls may take a moment to get used to but are otherwise very friendly. In my experience, the controls wear in with use, and only get better. The initial feel is that the mag release is stiff, and the trigger can be a bit scratchy. But with some range time, both of those issues go away, and the trigger is quite nice. I dont even think about the mag release anymore, it is smooth and easy to operate.

The MDR has big shoes to fill. As many of you are aware, Desert Tech makes some of the best precision rifles available today. And having sired the MDR, Desert Tech is expected to bring the same quality and presentation its other rifles are famous for. Quality triggers, better accuracy than the competition, all in a multi-caliber rifle shorter than its peers.

Having had plenty of trigger time with the 7.62 version of the MDR, I was very excited to try out the smaller conversion in 223/556. I was actually lucky enough to assemble the rifle from scratch. Or at least, from a small pile of parts. Click here to see assembly.

After some humbling experiences, I was happy to see the gun work like it had been built by the pros. It took very minimal tuning to get the rifle running just like a swiss watch. It was time to take it out into the wild, and get it hot.

 

Coldboremiracle Junior feeling out the MDR

The 5.56 MDR was a dream to shoot, comparing it to the 7.62 version of the rifle, which has significantly more bark. Recoil was negligible, a smooth and solid impulse. The ejections system pumped the hot brass out forward and to my right, making nice little piles. The rifle manages almost like a pistol, it is very easy to keep on target even during sustained firing. I used the gas block mounted Desert Tech Reflex Optic for much of the shooting. But it didn’t take long for the marksman in me to come out, so I switched over to a Kahles 312i for some accuracy testing. After all, only accurate guns are interesting, at least to me.

I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try out my new Yankee Hill Machine Turbo 556 suppressor. The MDR was a perfect host for it, and its uncivilized to shoot unsuppressed. You can read more about the Turbo here.

I was shooting some 55 grain ball ammo for the majority of the trip. This same ammo usually prints groups in the one inch category with my other custom 223 rifles, and in the MDR it was about the same. Five shots was probably just under an inch at 100 yards. I also wanted to try one of my pet AR loads for long range, which included a Hornady 75 grain BTHP and some RL-15.

After getting the rifle sighted in, I was quite impressed with the MDR’s accuracy. This was the first group I shot after zeroing the rifle, its only three shots but clearly shows the rifle’s potential.  The MDR clearly likes this load with the Hornady’s, so I may have to revisit with more ammo , and more range.

The rifle functioned great through the three or four hundred rounds that I put through it. There were only a couple issues that I quickly resolved, a spring that is part of the ejection system had not been installed properly. I cant blame anyone but myself there, and after I corrected the problem it was flawless.

I tried out several different magazines in the rifle. First I had to try the classic GI metal magazines that surely litter ever gun room across the country. The mags fit perfectly, fed like a million bucks, and even dropped clear with no need for assistance. I also had a couple Brownells Gi clone magazines. I bought them a few years ago on sale, as far as I can tell they did a great job cloning the old magazines but with new coatings and Brownells quality. In addition to those two types, I also tried out some standard Magpul Pmags, in both 20 round, and 30 round configurations. I am happy to report that all of them worked great, no feeding issues at all. That should come as good news to all those prospective MDR owners who already have a broad magazine inventory.

Another big concern to those interested in the MDR is the adjustable gas system. The rifle I build had a three position gas selector, though I understand that a selector with more settings (five or six) will soon be available for all MDR rifles. That said, this rifle worked great with the standard three position gas selector. I ran it on adverse for the first hundred or so rounds, to help break it in. I then changed it over to normal, and then to the suppressed setting when I attached the suppressor. I can see where a gas valve with more choices would be helpful, as even on the suppressed setting there was enough gas exiting the receiver that I could smell it. But honestly it wasn’t a big deal to me, I kept shooting along without any concern. If you shoot in an enclosed or indoor range, I could see it maybe becoming an issue. But easily resolved with a lower gas setting.

I also decided to see how the gun would run without the ejection chute installed, I have seen and been asked many times how it works. For me it isn’t a big issue, since in my experience most ejection issues/jams in the MDR are not related to the chute. But I can understand why some would want to know, so I gave it a try. With the chute removed, the gun ejected brass directly out and to the rear, about to my four or five o’clock. It occasionally would throw one to the three o’clock, but it didn’t seem to care, as it continued to chew through the rounds. Speaking of chewing, the 556 conversion on the MDR seems to be fairly mild on the brass. I assume it is because of the larger extractor to rim ratio, as well a smaller gas volume and recoil impulse.

My overall impression with the 556 MDR was one of pure enjoyment. Perhaps Im just used to shooting the 762 version, and other heavier recoiling rifles, but I just couldn’t stop pulling the trigger on this gun. The accuracy makes this rifle at the top of my wish list, and I intend on getting some more time behind it soon. Perhaps a coyote hunt or some other adventure. I will be getting one as soon as conditions permit, and probably a 6.5Creedmoor barrel to go with it for more serious work such as distance.

For those of you waiting for the 556 MDR, hang in there if you can, it is worth it.

-CBM

Oh Wait! there’s a Video too:

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