Category Archives: Shooting hardware

Rifles and their parts

The Hornady 6mm ARC for the Desert Tech MDRX

It seems all too frequent nowadays for a new cartridge to jump to the front of every blog, magazine, and ad campaign.
Ammunition manufacturers are always looking for the next best thing to sell. I cant blame them, and I’d much prefer they spend all the money on R&D so the rest of us don’t have to.
At the top of the ammunition game is the big red H that we have all come to know quite well. Hornady has brought some extremely popular cartridges to market in the recent past, the PRC family comes to mind, as does the revered 6.5 Creedmoor.
The 6MM ARC
This year Hornady has again brought another impressive project to the shooting public, or at least legitimized an older one. The 6mm Advanced Rifle Cartridge (ARC) is that new product, and it looks to become as popular as it’s other red-tipped siblings.
The 6mm ARC is essentially a 6mm Grendel, but legitimized by Hornady’s production. It shares a few basic dimensions with the Grendel, but necked down to .243/6mm. It shoots heavy for caliber bullets in the 90-110 grain range, from a 7.5 twist barrel.
Hornady currently offers three different loads for the ARC, a 103 grain ELD-X in the Precision Hunter line, a 105 BTHP in the Black ammunition line, and a 108 grain ELD Match in their match ammunition line. In addition to these different ammunition lines, Hornady has also released loading dies, and components for loading the ARC.

Having seen many of these new cartridges come and go, I was cautiously optimistic for several reasons.
Just because it’s new doesn’t alway make it better, but I had long been considering a 6mm small frame AR cartridge like the Grendel or the 6mm Rat. The slightly larger bore of the 6mm gives a significant advantage over .224 caliber bullets, and if the velocity is there then you don’t have much to lose.
The MDRX

For those who dont already know, the MDRX is a multi-caliber ambidextrous bullpup rifle. Its closest peers are rifles like the Steyr AUG, the IWI X95 or T7, but the MDRX brings to the table a few more advantages. The MDRX will allow the use of both large and small frame cartridges, something the others will not do. Not only can the MDRX change between an assortment of calibers, but it can also be swapped in minutes with a single hex-key wrench. At the time of writing this, I have seven different barrels or conversion kits for my MDRX, they vary incredibly in their purpose and use. For cheap plinking, there is the traditional 223 (available in 16 or 20 inch barrels), for subsonic shooting there is the 16 inch 300Blk, for heavy thumping you can run the 308 Win (16 or 20 inch), and for distant shooting, you can run the 20 inch 6.5 Creedmoor. These four are available from the factory, I also have several custom barrels for my MDRX; the 450 Bushmaster brings devastating power to this tiny rifle. The 350 Legend is another that fits more of a niche hunting purpose, and today’s subject, the 6mm ARC is my latest addition to the collection. The 6 ARC brings inexpensive accuracy to the MDRX, it’s almost like a hybrid of my 223 barrel and 6.5 Creedmoor. It is inexpensive to load and shoot, has very negligible recoil, but shoots like a 6.5 Creedmoor as far as drop, and wind deflection. And the fact that it shoots so accurately makes this conversion kit perhaps my most favorite in the group, it rivals my SRS A1 as far as accuracy is concerned. Watch the video at the bottom of this article

So why the 6MM ARC?
Small frame autoloading rifles already have untold options when it comes to caliber, so what makes the ARC different? According to Hornady there are several reasons. The first one I’ll mention is performance, the ARC produces a similar if not superior ballistic curve than 308 Winchester. It maintains velocity and drop further than the 308 Win. It does this while showing off the second reason, efficiency. The ARC uses smaller, lighter cartridges with lighter powder charges to obtain this superior ballistic advantage. It also maintains a higher level of energy on target than it’s small frame competitors, the hundred-plus grain bullets carry a better energy load than your typical 69 to 90-grain bullets fired from AR’s. The overall load carried by a shooter or soldier is also less because of the ARC’s smaller size and weight when compared to larger cartridges like the 308. This reduction in weight, and powder charge also reduces the recoil felt by the shooter. This allows for rapid hit/miss confirmation and quick follow-up shots.

Accuracy
Of course, all this only matters if the ARC can shoot accurately. For me only accurate rifles are interesting, so I was happy to see how the ARC performed both on paper up close, and out at distance. The very first time I shot the 6 ARC at an actual range, I put three shots onto an IPSC target at 200 yards without even zeroing my scope.


After a little bit of research and some thought, I decided I would have an ARC of my own. Hornady shows a litany of manufacturers on their website that chamber rifles in the 6mm ARC, but I wanted to try something else.
My Desert Tech MDRX is a perfect candidate for a cartridge like the ARC, it is a multi-caliber platform that is easily adapted to large or small frame cartridges.
My good friend and talented gunsmith Eric at ES-Tactical got ahold of a quality 6mm barrel blank, and we set to working. The twenty-inch 7.5 twist barrel came from K&P, it was drilled, chambered, fluted, and threaded. With the appropriate barrel extension and gas block installed, all I needed was a bolt. The ARC uses a slightly larger bolt face than the 223, which took a little steady machining but worked perfectly. I also had to machine a little bit off of the 308 ejection chute clip in order to get it to firmly hold the smaller 6ARC cases.

The ARC runs at similar pressures to its peers, so I used the same gas settings as a 308 Winchester. And in a matter of a few minutes, the 6mm ARC roared to life.

Range trip
As I mentioned above, the first actual range trip for the ARC was impressive. The MDRX had been zeroed for my 223 barrel, but the POI was very close for the ARC. So close in fact, I shot 200, 450, and 550 yards without even zeroing the scope. Shooting standard size IPSC steel targets is not record breaking accuracy or anything, but it felt good right out of the gate.
Its fairly well known that the Grendel doesn’t like to feed well and doesn’t from 556 magazines, and the ARC shares that family trait. But I temporarily tried some P-mags until I got the proper magazines.  The 300BLK magazines worked better than 556 mags, but only if you loaded a few. I used a couple different magazines from Dura-Mag to avoid feeding issues. With these purpose-built magazines, you can load them up full, and have flawless function, like any other AR-type magazine.

ten and twenty round 6.5 Grendel magazines from Dura Mag worked flawlessly with the ARC

Recoil on the ARC is as Hornady suggested, minimal. Seeing your own hits on steel targets is easy at medium range, and even easier at long range.

A good five-shot group from the 6ARC at 100 yards

The accuracy of the ARC is superb, very likely due to the quality barrel and machining. But no doubt that the cartridges design also aids in keeping my groups together. Both factory Hornady match ammunition as well as my handloads performed well, producing groups that averaged around .5-.75 MOA and some of the best groups have been in the .3 to .4 MOA.
I was very impressed, it seemed to be the most consistent shooting barrel I have for this rifle. I was using my US Optics TS8X, which is significantly less magnification than I typically use when shooting groups. The RBR reticle is calibrated for 5.56 ammunition, but I figured it would be close with the 6 ARC. After shooting a few five-shot groups, I reached out to 300 yards across a canyon on a rock that was about ten inches wide. After hitting it over and over, I figured it was worth trying something further, but the only other target-sized rock I could find was at 960 yards. Not having a drop chart made yet, I did a little guestimating on my holdover. I was close, but shot over it with an 8 MRAD hold. So I dropped to 7 MRAD, and made a better windcall, and sent a second shot, which found my point of aim with nearly perfect precision. I was more than dazzled, as I continued to place shots on targets all over the mountain.

Loading the ARC
I’ve been handloading for many years, so loading the 6mm ARC was as simple as switching out some dies. The powder charges were pleasantly light, I used both CFE556 and BLC-2 for the ARC. Both performed well and provided good accuracy and consistency over CCI BR4 primers. I followed the load data that Hornady has available on their website, around 28 grains of powder was where I settled. The Hornady 105 grain BTHP was the bulk of my loading fodder, it is not too expensive, and performs very well. We have since used the ARC in a deadly encounter with some Wyoming antelope.

Conclusion
I’m usually slow to jump on new trends, it took me some time to pickup even the 6.5 Creedmoor. But this little cartridge has definitely piqued my interest, so much in fact I haven’t used any other barrels in my MDR since I got this one. Its accurate, smooth shooting, easy to spot hits and misses. And it hits targets pretty hard even at some significant distances, the only drawback I can even come up with is that I need to keep close tabs on the brass. Its a little more hard to come by than the average case, so I gotta keep an eye on them.


This awesome little cartridge is staying right close to me, we’ll be taking it hunting this fall for sure. And I don’t think it will be going away soon.
New things aren’t always better, but in the case of the 6MM ARC, I think Hornady has hit a 10X.

-CBM

Watch the viedo to see the 6 ARC MDRX in action

The Canik TP9 Elite Combat 9mm Pistol

Good friends can often be the catalyst we need to try something new. Whether it be a new activity, or way of thinking, some of our best practices are simply learned from the good people we surround ourselves with.
Im a rifle junkie, always have been. But due to the good influence of friends, I have been exposed to all kinds of additional shooting enterprises. One of them being IDPA style pistol shooting, which if you haven’t tried, you should.

Having tried it a few times, mostly as an informal competition between friends, I was immediately hooked. Steel targets, and fast reloads just seem like the best kind of practice for having a good time. But I needed a good pistol for it, being a rifle junkie, my pistol inventory was very superficial and necessity based (CCW). So I began the search for something that fit the bill.

What do we have here?
It was SHOT Show 2018 that I first noticed Canik USA firearms, they are imported by Century Arms from Turkey. My initial impression was they looked great, and I wanted to run a few mags thru one, but much time would pass before I would. A friend let me handle one, and I immediately fell in love again. It was the TP9 Elite Combat model, which draws on several aftermarket parts from Salient Arms International (SAI). The TP9 EC uses a fluted threaded barrel, trigger, +3 floor-plate, and flared mag-well from SAI. The styling and custom look only enhance the graceful lines of the TP9. The Canik is a striker fired 9mm, with double stack magazines. I purchased the pistol as a kit from Century, which included a host of additional goodies. Two magazines, one of which had the SAI +3 floor-plate boosting its capacity to 17+1. Two different grip back-straps to choose from to better fit your hand. A polymer holster to fit the pistol to your gun-belt. It also comes with the slide pre-cut for sighting devices, the kit included a Vortex Optics Viper red dot, and with several other baseplates, I believe you can mount others as well. The threaded SAI barrel is suppressor ready, though one complaint I had was the thread protector was so tight I nearly damaged the pistol trying to get it off. For that I know no excuse.
The EC also has a chamber indicator on the top of the slide, when a round is chambered, the red indicator is clearly visible. The chamber indicator is also tactile, you can feel it either in the dark, or while looking towards your next engagement. Also on top of the slide is the fiber optic sight (rear sights removed to install the Viper red dot). The fiber optics are interchangeable with others included in the kit.


Several other things are included in the hard-case, trigger lock, tools for assembly and cleaning, as well as different mag release height options you can customize.
I wasted no time, and literally within minutes of delivery, I was pumping magazines through the TP9.

The Vortex Viper was easy to mount, and zero. I was amazed at how accurate the gun was, I wasn’t shooting particularly far, but once zeroed, I could put a whole magazine thru a less than two inch hole at 10 yards. And if I can hold steady enough, whatever you put the red dot on within 30-40 yds, gets hit.
The trigger overall is pretty good, though I was a little bit let down, as mine wasn’t as good as the ones I had felt prior to purchase. The take-up has a bit of stickiness to it that I didn’t feel on other guns. The break and reset however is clean and very crisp. I have taken it apart several times to see if I can clean up the trigger pull, We’ll see if any of that helps.
The EC also comes with an oversized mag release, which I found to be very good for dropping the magazine. And despite its prominence, never caused an undesired mag drop.
Underneath the muzzle there is a pretty standard accessory rail, perfect for mounting lights, lasers, etc.
The magazines themselves are manufactured by Mec-gar, a well known manufacturer of great aftermarket magazines. There are several different models available including an 18 round and a 32 round stick mag.
The holster is about what you would expect from a manufacturer, nice enough to use, but leaving you wanting more. It’s serviceable, but I dont care for the release. Instead of pressure to the side releasing the pistol, you curl your trigger finger in the same action as you would to pull the trigger. This seems a little unsafe, in that once clear of the holster, if your finger continues the curling motion, it could find the trigger before your on target. This is probably just a training issue, but I didn’t care for it none the less.

Shooting the TP9
I mentioned the accuracy of the TP9,I’ll add that the functionality has also been almost perfect. I say almost perfect because I have had a couple malfunctions, nothing a tap, rack, bang wouldn’t fix. And more than likely due to the low budget ammunition I was shooting at the time.
Even so, with the cheap ammo I find it very easy to hit what I’m aiming at.
The flared mag-well made mag changes easy to feel into place, though I wish the flared part had at least two points of contact. As it sits, the mag-well flare is attached by a single screw at the rear, not a huge deal, but it has caused me to re-engineer it in my head.
I bought the gun with the plan of using the red dot on it, though I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I figured if I didn’t, I could just run the iron sights on it and sell the Vortex. But as it turns out, I really enjoy shooting with the red dot. So much in fact that Im considering doing the same to another pistol I love and shoot quite a bit, my Taurus TX22. One thing that I absolutely love, is the way this Canik feels in my hand. It’s a perfect fit with the larger grip back-strap, and it points so nicely and naturally. The way it draws from the holster and lines up perfectly for the shot gives me some undeserved confidence.

Conclusion
It may sound like I’m ragging a bit on the TP9 Elite Combat, but to be honest I really do like it. I’ve never been much of a gun snob, so when it comes to minor issues I tend to look right thru them. I love shooting the TP9, and intend on becoming much better with it, might even take a few classes or training courses to save myself the embarrassment in public.
I think despite the little issues I’ve brought up, the gun is a great option. I may get another holster for it, and I will definitely be getting a bunch more magazines, and ammo.
-CBM

The CZ Scorpion my way

Like many of you, I grew up swooning over guns I saw in the movies. And one of the iconic weapons from all those great eighties movies, was the Heckler & Koch MP5 of one variant or another. The short and rapid stroke of these old roller guns, together with their sexy physique made them the envy of anybody with an eye for firearms. Who would have thought that years later, when the time came to shoot one, I’d feel a little let down.

But this story is about a CZ Scorpion you might be thinking? Indeed it is. Your average gun owner cant afford the real MP5’s, and have to settle for clones, or something else entirely. I find myself in the latter group, and this is my “something else” story.

A co-worker showed up to the office one day, and like we do at my work, when you bring a gun to work, you damn sure go around and show it to everybody else. The gun he brought was the aforementioned CZ Scorpion Evo S1, configured as a pistol, with the short barrel and everything. In short order he had changed out the feature-less rear end, and installed an arm brace. For those that are unaware, the arm-brace is essentially a legal loop-hole around the SBR Tax. For those unfamiliar with the SBR Tax, its part of the National Firearms Act (NFA) that requires certain firearm configurations to be registered and taxed by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms/Explosives (BATFE). And those of us who are familiar with the ATF have been robbed, infringed upon, and inconvenienced enough for all the rest of the gun community that aren’t familiar with them. Gratuitous, stupid, and superfluous are words that come to mind when reading through ATF regulations. The SBR/arm brace debacle is a perfect example of that.
The CZ Scorpion is a 9mm blowback operated pistol. But when a stock, and other accessories like suppressors and larger magazines are added, the Scorpion comes very close to feeling like a valid replacement for the MP5 I always dreamed about as a kid.

I immediately swore an oath to myself that the Scorpion would one day be mine. With disposable income well beyond my reach, I set to finding deals, and discounts. And it wasn’t too long before I found just what I was looking for, and for a decent price.
They even had the SB Tactical arm-brace in stock that I wanted, the collapsable PDW Style. I was off to a great start, but there was much more I wanted to do. The pistol grip of the Scorpion is widely believed to be too steep and angle, and is a bit uncomfortable. So I replaced it with one from Magpul, the pistol grip is mounted on a dovetail, which gives the user the opportunity to adjust it closer or further from the trigger. A nice feature for sure.
Another frequent complaint for the Scorpion is the right side safety selector digs into the trigger finger when firing.

The good folks at Gear Head Works made a fantastic reverse safety option, that shifts the selector above the finger instead of into it.
I wasn’t quite done with Magpul yet, I also bought a few 35 round P-mags for the Scorpion, as well as their magazine release which extends a bit further, and adds a paddle release to the end.

I was getting very close, all that was left I thought was a Midwest Industries 11.5” handguard, it should cover most of my SilencerCo Octane suppressor. It was close, so after running it like that for a couple months, I took an axe to my little Scorpion (actually a lathe) and cut the barrel back another 1.75 inches and re-threaded the muzzle 1/2-28. This allowed the suppressor to poke out just enough to get my fingers on it and tighten it.

One of the great benefits in my eyes to the Cz Scorpion, and pistol caliber carbines in general, is getting my kids on the firing line. The small size of the Scorpion, and its collapsible arm brace/stock make a perfect companion for even my 11 year old to shoot with comfort and confidence.

With all my alterations and additions finally in place, the Scorpion felt like what I wanted it to be. Which leads me back the beginning of our story. I told you I felt a little let down by the MP5, and I’ll tell you why. After shooting my Scorpion for several months now, getting used to the function and features, I was again given the chance to shoot an MP5SD, Which of course I jumped at. But to be perfectly honest, there were a few things I wished the MP5 had. For example a bolt lock-back on empty, and a pic rail.

I guess I should clarify, I LOVE the MP5, its beauty and performance are nearly untouchable. The beauty runs deep with its impressive and reliable mechanics inside as well.
But for all that, I think if my Scorpion was setup as a full auto like the HK was, I might like it just a bit more. This of course after the alterations, and making the gun fit me just the way I wanted it. I know there is a lot of you out there cringing, and shouting heresy over the crowd, but its true. Rest assured however, if ever I get the chance to own the OG HK, I will jump at the chance.
I love everything about this handy little “pistol”. It is compact, but packs quite a load of ammo, and despite being a pistol, it is still quite useful at distances out to nearly 100 yards. The Trijicon MRO is a perfect option to keep sight picture simple and quick to bring on target. While not a true long gun, the CZ Scorpion is an excellent weapon to have handy in my vehicle, bedside, or anywhere your CCW might not be quite enough. The controllability, and high capacity, make it a a good defense weapon. While the compactness and profile make it easy to take almost everywhere.
It may be sometime until I can run around wielding dual sub machine guns, but until then, the CZ Scorpion will be following me everywhere.
-CBM

Suppressed Weapon Systems MISB 308Win for the SRS

I swore off shooting unsuppressed long ago, and I only do it occasionally by choice. The suppressor bug bit me hard many years ago, and I have never vanquished its effects. With that in mind, I am always thinking about better ways to hush the noise of my favorite pastime. Who would have thought that an idea I had depreciated would turn my jaded eye.

One of my most favorite rifles of all time, is my old Desert Tech SRS A1. I have run countless barrels through it, I currently have somewhere between ten and fifteen barrels of assorted different calibers. Factory, custom, and even a few specialty barrels. Even with all those options, I still love my old 16” 308 Winchester Covert barrel. The calm and consistent performance of the 308 is like an old friend, so when I got the opportunity to try yet another great 308 Winchester option for my favorite rifle, I jumped at it.

Suppressed Weapon Systems has been in the suppression business for some time. They specialize in the integration of suppression technology directly into the firearm, instead of making the suppressor just a muzzle device. Their MISB (Monolithic Integrally Suppressed Barrel) is available for many different firearms, including my dearest SRS. The modularity of the SRS family of rifles makes it ideal to pair with technology like the MISB, and with a durable cartridge like the 308, it would last for some time.

I’ve often tinkered with the idea of an integrally suppressed barrel for my SRS, but I was always worried about spending the money on an NFA item that would get burnt out and need to be replaced. A valid concern I had always thought, but the MISB is constructed in such a way that the tube can easily be removed and installed on a new barrel/baffle stack. So with my main concern assuaged, I dove in with both feet.

The Suppressed Weapon Systems MISB for the SRS is manufactured from a Bartlein Barrel blank, well known for great quality and precise shooting. The muzzle is cut at a determined length, in my barrel’s case, around sixteen inches. But the remainder of the barrel blank is then cut into the suppressor baffles. The length of the barrel to the breach of the muzzle is fluted, and drilled, I assume to decrease weight but also to add an expansion chamber for venting high pressure gas.

The outer tube of the MISB is a good fit, but not entirely tight, this was a bit of a concern for me at first but I later learned it was necessary to free-float the barrel. Having the outer tube captured and tightened with the barrel would add stress and torque to the overall structure. The tube is sealed at both ends with what appears to be Viton high temp fluoroelastomer O-rings. The muzzle end of the MISB has a threaded cap also sealed with the O-ring, it is knurled and has cuts for torquing it into place with a tool. Its an impressive example of machining design and ingenuity.

I couldn’t wait to get the barrel mounted in my rifle chassis, and test its performance. As soon as I got home with it, I hurried to my basement man-cave and installed it into my SRS. I found the fit to be a bit snug, perhaps more-so than any other barrel I’ve tried. Its easy to get a burr on the shank of SRS barrels, one must be careful. But that was not the case with the MISB, it was simply just a bit tight. Perhaps a slightly smaller diameter would help, but I found it to be consistent, so it was a minor inconvenience. It was the same when I mounted it in my SRS A2.

Once mounted, I headed for the hills to get the rifle zeroed with this new barrel. As usual, it was an easy process. Most SRS chassis will change POI with a different barrel, but it is rarely off by more than a few inches. So a quick re-zero on my scope was easy, and in no time I was using the rifle to shoot steel at 710 yards.
SWS guarantees sub MOA accuracy for three shots with their MISB system, but suggests that 1/2 to 3/4 MOA is expected more often than not. I found my barrel to be consistent with that.

The suppression quality of the barrel was on par with what I expected. The first round pop was significant, but quickly forgotten with successive shots. The slender barrel looks very handsome in my A1 with the longer handguard. A few inches longer than a standard twenty-two inch barrel which pokes just out of the handguard. When mounted in my Covert A2, it was a few inches longer than the standard Covert sixteen-inch barrel when fitted with the DTSS Suppressor.

Conclusion
I think the SWS barrel offers a great option for those looking for a slender and inconspicuous barrel to keep things quiet. At $2200 for a barrel, it is no small investment. But it’s also not much different than a good barrel fitted with a suppressor would cost you, and SRS owners are gluttons for dropping coin on good barrels. And the fact that you can reuse the tube on a new barrel blank having no interaction with the Federal agency everyone loves to hate makes it even more appealing. I look forward to using it even more in the future.
-CBM

The 257 Blackjack

You may have read my piece on the 25 Creedmoor from a while back, if you haven’t then make sure you go read it after this. In that article about the 25 Creedmoor, I detailed how my nascency in precision rifle shooting began with a twenty-five caliber rifle, and that I had returned again to the quarter-bore. There’s more to that story, however.
One of the main reasons I quit shooting that old twenty-five 0’six, was because there was never a good bullet selection for it. The biggest bullets available were one hundred twenty grain, and they were hardly long-range bullets, with ballistic coefficients not much better than anything else designed in the sixties. That was all about to change, and change for the better. I couldn’t have known how far down the quarter-bore hole I was going to fall when I first made contact with Blackjack Bullets.

The 257 Blackjack next to its larger parent, the 6.5 SAUM

That first conversation I had was with Miles Johnson, the brains behind Blackjack Bullets. Like me he had often hungered for a better bullet for twenty-five caliber cartridges, but he had the intellect and drive to do something about it. Miles is a smooth-talking guy, with very unequivocal purpose in conversation. The kind of guy you could sit around a fire with a bottle of whiskey and watch the stars, and before you know it he might be talking so deep about drag and aerodynamics that you have to start reading the bottle to find words you understand.
Our initial contact began my twenty-five Creedmoor project, Miles’ company Blackjack Bullets was producing the 131 Grain Ace bullet, and I intended to make it the crown jewel of the project. Which has been an extremely superior performer for me lo these short two years, it leaves its six-point-five cousin in the dust. But Blackjack had been working all along on something even more threatening and treacherous, it was their own cartridge that was purpose-designed to make the 131 Ace sing a tune that nobody could touch. That project was the Two-fifty-seven Blackjack, a short action magnum cartridge based on the SAUM case. It would fit in short action rifles, feed from AI patterned magazines, and push the Ace beyond thirty-two-hundred feet per second. It falls somewhere between the old 25WSSM and the 25SAUM wildcat.

The 131 Ace has an advertised G7 BC of .330, my personal experience and testing led me to believe that number is a tad conservative and that the number is more like .340. With an immaculate profile like that, the Ace when launched at these speeds is as flat as most available cartridges you can get, and it cheats the wind from its deviant influence.
Since the twenty-five Creedmoor had been such an outstanding success, I decided that I must indeed have the two-fifty-seven Blackjack as well, I figured it would be an amazing Rocky Mountain hunting rifle. So as soon as Miles had a reamer, we got started on the project.

The Pit Boss. Sporting a 24 inch Proof Research carbon wrapped barrel, and a YHM suppressor adorns the muzzle.

With weight in mind, I decided I would spend the extra cheddar and get a Proof Research carbon fiber barrel with a 7.5 twist. My 25 Creedmoor is a 7 twist, but with the much faster Blackjack I needed a slightly less agressive twist. It was matched to a lightweight carbon fiber stock from Iota Outdoors. Both would be connected with a simple Remington 700 short action. I swapped the factory trigger for a superior one from Trigger Tech, this has been a pretty standard practice for me. On top I mounted my US Optics TS 20X, which I think is perfect comapnion for this lightweight but long range hunting rifle. That said, I have a USO Foundation 25X on the way that might go for a ride on the Blackjack as well.

Trigger and magwell detail, all a perfect fit.

Next, it was time to start load development. Which requires making brass from something else, the easiest seemed to be Hornady 6.5 4S cases, they were cut, sized, annealed, then cut again, sized again, turned, and annealed. The finished product is a beautiful fat and short little case, it looks like the X47 after an all you can eat 24 hr buffet.
Mine is only the third rifle chambered in the Two-Fifty-Seven Blackjack so load data was based entirely from what Blackjack bullets had tried in theirs. I tried several different powders, including H4350, H4831SC, but I ended up getting the best velocity with Alliant RL 26. With 56 grains of powder, I was getting just shy of 3300 feet per second. Fireforming these fat little cases gave some slight variation in velocity, but that didn’t surprise me. I did quite a bit of testing with loads back and forth, which is a tedious process with such a limited supply of brass in which I was so heavily invested. Magnum primers seemed to give the cartridge too much of a pressure spike, and excessive wear to the cases, so I backed down to just a Large Rifle primer, which significantly softened the blow. This change still gave me adequate velocity, but also saved my brass from being ruined prematurely, and eased in extraction from the chamber. The Ace likes to run right around 3200FPS from the Blackjack, and that’s just fine with me.

A typical group from the 257 Blackjack, including a true coldbore shot (left) and four followup shots.

With no shortage of space here in the Rockies, I decided to get the Blackjack out to some significant ranges. I wanted to see how well my projections panned out, and see how close the trajectory lined up with my ballistic computer Trasol. My first distance conquered was 1025, this after confirming a fairly rough zero in the dirt at 150 yards. From there I dialed the indicated 5.3 MRAD, and closed the bolt. One of my favorite things about shooting that far, is the nice delay you have to get a good clear sight picture to watch the impact. The first impact was a touch low, so I corrected the .2 and fired again, making perfect elevation on impact. I then shot it at 1250 yards where it was slightly ahead of the predicted dope, and I had to dial back down half a MIl to get on target. I then stretched it out to just a few hundred feet shy of a mile, and 12.8 MRAD was just the ticket for that range. For the naysayers, that is two MIL’s ahead of the 220 grain 300 RUM I was testing a few months back. And at 1600 yards, the Blackjack is 300FPS faster than the RUM, and only 60 pounds of energy less than the RUM. These are of course estimations made by my ballistic calculator, but they appear to be spot on based on the data I’ve shot to within a reasonable margin of error.

Shooting these 25 caliber heaters through this carbon wrapped barrel can heat it up quick. This rifle was purpose-built to be a hunting rifle, so barrel heat is of little concern. Rare is the occasion that I shoot more than a couple shots, so the weight savings are far more valuable to me in a hunting rifle.

The recoil on the Blackjack is not bad at all, but for a short action I would call it sharp. Obviously, there is going to be some kick from something this spicy, but its certainly not bad, I would compare it to a heavy 308 load, keeping in mind the eleven-pound rifle weight.

One of the many concerns I am hearing from people about this project is the old “barrel burner” comment.
Yep, its gonna get roasted. If it gets to 1200 rounds I’ll consider myself lucky, and then I’ll get another barrel cut and threaded and screw it on in too. That is if I haven’t found something even sharper than the Blackjack by then.
Another concern I have heard from many is about feeding. Short and fat cartridges tend to have feeding issues, especially with steep shoulders like the Blackjack. But to my gratification, I have yet to have a single malfunction. It smoothly feeds from an old beater AICS magazine, which will hold seven of these handsome dandies. Whether the first, or last round from the mag, these hop right into the chamber without any hangups. And single feeding is no problem either, if you just toss them in with a bit of forward motion, so they clear the blunt breach of the barrel, the bolt closes smoothly.

Bolt knob detail. The 257 Blackjack was initially to be called the 257 Pit Boss, I decided to honor the original name by memorializing it here.

A wildcat cartridge is an adventure wrapped in hundred dollar bills, but it is not without its fun and excitement. I am not even close to being done with the 257 Blackjack, hunting season is just around the corner, and I fully intend on putting the Blackjack’s talents to work. With both deer and elk to harvest this fall and winter, the downrange energy, and resistance to wind, this lightweight but potent little rifle is a perfect candidate for these rugged Rocky Mountains that have become my winter range. With any luck, brass will be commercially available within the next few months from at least one reputable manufacturer. Reamers and dies will also soon be available from Blackjack Bullets website, so it may not be too long before this little cartridge is made an honest one.

The Pit Boss has since received its scope upgrade, the US Optics F25X

In the meantime, I will continue to prepare and practice for the hunting season waiting for the next best thing. Miles may have some mad scientist things going on at the Blackjack Lab somewhere in the hills of Oklahoma. The best news of all perhaps is that big names like Berger and Hornady are following the lead, coming out with better bullets for the quarter bore fans like myself. So the future of the 257 Blackjack, as well as my 25 Creedmoor, and any fast twist 25 caliber cartridge will be bright and long-lived.

Donald Trump Junior stretching the 257 Blackjack out to 1230 yards

-CBM