Have you ever thought that maybe there is such a thing as too many guns? or too many barrels in some of our cases? Well if you did, you’re in the wrong place my friend. With so many terrible things going on in the world today, I like to embrace every new opportunity to shoot something. And since I have a good friend who is part mad-scientist part gunsmith, I get the opportunity almost as often as most see Bloomberg for president ads. Watch the video at the end of this article
Once again Eric at ES Tactical has made me another barrel for my Desert Tech MDR, and this one is chambered in the new cartridge from Winchester, the 350 Legend.
I’m no ballistician, nor does Winchester give me any kind of compensation, so I’ll just use their words and description of the 350 Legend. The Legend was specifically built as a hunting cartridge, a straight-walled hunting cartridge with a specific reason. Some state agencies only allow straight-walled cartridges for hunting big game, I assume this is because of the dangers of shooting beyond your line of sight in a semi-populous area. Winchester markets the Legend as the fastest straight-walled cartridge available, there are several factory loads with muzzle velocities over 2400 feet per second. They claim this gives the 350 Legend more speed than a 450 Bushmaster, more penetration than a 243, all while carrying more energy than common rounds like the 30-30 or 223.
Now that I’ve given the Winchester speech, I’ll tell you about the MDR conversion kit from ES Tactical. The multi-caliber MDR (or MDRX is the new model) is easily changed from one caliber to the next, the 350 Legend is the latest option from ES Tactical. The Legend uses the 223 Remington bolt, and magwell, but it has a Legend specific magazine due to its straight-walled design. The barrel I received from ES Tactical is eighteen inches long, it was threaded 5/8-24 to fit my suppressor, and fluted to save weight and impress the ladies. The barrel drops into my MDR chassis like any other, and after a quick gas valve adjustment, it was running smoothly.
I fired a couple different loads from both Winchester and Federal. The Winchester white box was their 145 grain fmj, while it shot just fine, it failed to impress me as far as accuracy and function. It even popped one primer out of a case which made me suspicious. The Federal Premium 180 grain Power Shock performed much better, both for function as well as accuracy. The 350 Legend was everything a deer hunter would need inside the suggested 250 yards it is recommended for, I found hitting jug sized targets boringly easy from the standing position, even at the 250-yard line. This may in part be due to the MDR’s bullpup balance, and the quality of barrel and trigger.
For those who are still in the dark about the MDR(X), you really should do yourself a favor and check it out, it is multi-caliber, completely ambidextrous, and its bullpup configuration gives it an extremely compact chassis while carrying big options for both distance and accuracy. If your interested, you can read more about it here or there.
The 350 Legend does not like the 223 Remington ejection chute on the MDR, though they share the same case head, the lack of a bottleneck on the Legend causes a bind in the chute causing jams. The 308 sized chute won’t hold the case, so it’s no-go as well. That’s fine, just as with my 450 Bushmaster, I leave the chute off and let it throw the spent cases to the side. I did pay close attention to where they were landing though, as I intend on reloading them, and the MDR throws them pretty far.
Both the 450BM and the 350L would be great for those of you who are forced by government caveat to hunt with them, for me, I guess it would depend on whether I wanted to hunt supersonic or subsonic. Either way, I don’t think you could go wrong.
If I had a rifle for every time I fell in love with an idea, the world would lay quietly in a torpid slumber beneath a blanket of heaped weapons strewn beyond the horizon. I was blessed with a vivid imagination since childhood. My mind is in a perpetual cycle of finding project ideas, digesting them mentally until my brain has either built the whole thing and tested its flaws, or until the same has been exhausted to the smoldering dumpster where ideas die. If it weren’t for the occasional successful brainstorm that ends with a nifty new project, I might lose my mind. This is a story about one of those.
I have long wished for a slow and heavy cartridge that could readily be used for subsonic launching of big, heavy bullets that will go a very long distance. There were many possible suspects; big bore cartridges, the Whisper family, and many others. I had long wished for a 510 Whisper, but my suppressor inventory ventured only to the .46 mark. Making the 510 and similar cartridges inapplicable. The next best thing for a diet of heavy and slow would then be something in the .45 realm.
But even then, .451 or .458? Why not both?
The .458 bore has a much larger and heavier selection of bullets, and they are easily swaged down to .451. Which makes a perfect fit for the 450 Bushmaster. The 450 enjoys quality brass from Hornady, making reloading a snap. And using mild charges for subsonic velocities would keep the brass life high. The straight walls of the cartridge would hopefully last to be reloaded again and again.
The beauty of my main rifle, the Desert Tech SRS A1 Covert, is its multi-caliber role. I have a pile of barrels accumulating for it in my safe, so starting this 450 project was as simple as a barrel, some dies, and some powder and bullets.
The sixteen and a half-inch barrel was made by ES Tactical, crowned and threaded for my SilencerCo Hybrid. It didn’t take long to start falling in love with this basically large pistol.
I found that the factory Hornady Black 450 Bushmaster ammunition was a good place to start. At 100 yards it was printing groups just under two inches, I was hoping for better so I tried my hand at reloading. A set of dies for the BM isn’t as easy to come by as other calibers, all I could find were Hornady and another set from Lee Precision. I opted for the Lee set, which I still don’t regret. The four die set has allowed me to load quite a bit of very precise ammunition.
Seeing as how my objective was to eventually reach a heavy subsonic load, I went ahead and ordered Lee’s .458 to .451 swage die. That way I could take advantage of the larger and heavier selection of bullets in the 458 family. I wasted no time in doing so, some of the first reloads I tried were Hornady 350 grain round nose bullets swaged down to 451. They did pretty well, but I wanted bigger, so I purchased a box of 405-grain lead bullets that had been made for the 45-70. The lead slipped easily through my swage die, and in no time they were 451’s.
I tried a couple different powders, but as usual, when it comes to subsonic shooting, IMR Trailboss powder was the ticket I needed. I was blown away with the consistency of the results, I was seeing velocities more consistent than anything I had loaded prior. Not only single digits but SD numbers in the 1-4 fps range. I was praying that this would translate into extremely accurate ammunition, it wasn’t bad but not as good as I’d hoped. Accuracy still averaged around 1-1.5 MOA at 100 yards, good enough to hit most targets of mine at the ranges we expected.
My excitement about this whole Bushmaster project was tripled when Mad Scientist/Gunsmith Eric Smith built me a second barrel, this time for my Desert Tech MDR. The MDR is a semi-automatic bullpup, it brings accuracy and multi-caliber universality to a compact and quality package. I couldn’t wait to try my same loads in the MDR, I figured it likely wouldn’t cycle the action but I wanted to try anyway.
The accuracy was almost the same from the MDR as from my SRS A1, but as I feared it would only cycle the faster supersonic ammunition. I am currently working on an alteration to make it cycle, if it works out, it may be the coolest thing ever.
The goal, of course, was to use this project for some very quiet hunting. Sneaking into bow range of animals is exciting enough, but the ability for movie quiet rifle shots with one MOA accuracy made it even more exciting.
This past season we were able to put it into use, and the results were exactly as I had hoped. We had eyes on a small group of mule deer that we could predict movements with some regularity, so a good hide was fashioned that would give a view of them with no more than 120 or so yards max range. As it turns out, a young buck made his way across the opening one dusky evening, and he wandered around the 60-yard line.
The hushed report of the Bushmaster made every ear in the group perk up, but only one of them jumped. He jumped from the impact of the bullet, which hit him right above his right elbow, and passed through him exiting almost exactly opposite. He ran for about 20 yards where he toppled over and kicked on the ground for a short time.
Internal inspection of the buck showed perfect damage to his lungs, the bullet passed through both lungs rupturing many vital passages along the way. His lungs quickly filled with blood, causing what most of us would call a near-perfect kill. Another positive result was very minimal meat damage, the lower velocity didn’t seem to cause all the bloody mess that supersonic bullets tend to do. It was more reminiscent of an arrow wound.
With experiences like this and all the other advantages that it brings, this will likely not be the last time we use the 450 Bushmaster for a hunt. While the purpose I have described here today may not be orthodox, it shows you what can be done with a little imagination and firepower.
The good folks at Patriot Valley Arms helped get me started down this road, what seems like a very long time ago. Good people and good products are the norm for PVA.
I was given the opportunity to test drive PVA’s new 6.5 line of solid hunting bullets. Hunting is my bread and butter, so I was excited to put these lathe turned solids into action.
The 123 grain Cayuga bullets are turned from solid copper bar stock, using the same alloy of copper that jacketed bullets use. Turning them on a CNC lathe gives precise control to bullet geometry, it is this precision cut construction that gives the Cayuga its uniformity.
The bullets are solid copper, with a hollow point cut into the tip. They have a tapered boat-tail, and a driving band around the middle. The gentle taper of the ogive makes these bullets very generous when it comes to seating depth sensitivity.
I cautiously loaded these bullets into some 6.5 Creedmoor brass from Petersen, with a goodly charge of H4350, and took them to the range. Initial groups were easily sub MOA, and with little adjustments, I had them shooting around half an inch.
It was time to hit the track on this test drive, a Rocky Mountain Elk hunt. Some might think that a 6.5 Creedmoor is a bit light for elk, which it may be. But I’d hunted with similar setups plenty of times in the past, so I wasn’t worried.
The first engagement we had with an elk took place at 475 yards, a young cow stood quartering away. The bullet hit her at the top of the left side rib-cage, on a slightly down angle. It passed through the ribs, passed through her lungs leaving quite a mess, and exited the front of her chest just to the right of her neck. She dropped immediately, and slid down the snowy slope. Damage was exactly what I expected to see from such an acute injury. Broken bones, spalling through tissue, leaving mayhem in organs which could no longer sustain life.
The second Cayuga fired at a big game animal was a mature cow elk, chewing away at the brush bark on a cold winter storm blown mountain. She was 520 yards away this time, completely unaware of the heated copper cutlass headed her way. It again impacted in the ribs and shoulder, breaking both the shoulder blade, several ribs, as well as one of her vertebrae as it passed by. She instantly dropped, and bled out as quickly as one would expect.
The damage done on both animals was very proportionate to the size of the expanded Cayuga, unfortunately both of them blew right through the animals so I was unable to see their final dimensions. Never the less they did a perfect job, and I couldn’t have asked for more.
If you are in need of an all copper hunting bullet, or if you want a hunting bullet with an extremely high ballistic coefficient, then give these Cayuga bullets a good look. When the shots count the most, send something that brings it all.
I often talk about how we are living in the best times of precision rifling, part of that is because of technology, and also due in part to the thriving market of suppliers bringing great new products to us.
Patriot Valley Arms is one of those manufacturers, pushing the envelope and innovating products for shooters, And today I’d like to discuss their Jet Blast muzzle brakes.
Muzzle brake technology has changed significantly even since I started paying attention, I remember the first muzzle brake I ever had installed. Back then there was a simple purpose, reducing recoil. Radial porting around the whole barrel that blew dust all over, made it even louder than it was before, but it did tame the recoil. We have come quite a ways since then.
The Jet Blast Muzzle brake comes in a three port design, with baffles directed to the sides and back. The Jet 4 brakes have an additional port for a total of four, giving additional braking force. Both three and four port brakes are available with an up to 6.5mm bore, or an up to .308 bore, this gives most shooters a close enough option for their rifle. They are also available finished in stainless, or nitrided black.
One of the handiest features of the Jet brakes is the built in timing apparatus. There is a counter threaded jam nut built right into the back of the brake, which allows you to time the brake easily and quickly. With nothing more than a cresent wrench or something similar, you can set the brake and snug it up. And just as quickly you can pull it off and switch it to another rifle to enjoy its braking qualities there as well.
The curious design of the Jet Blast brakes, creates an interesting pressure flow. I’m certainly no engineer, but the seeming delay of pressure wave created by the brake is just enough to get the shooter through the shot. What I mean by that, is that after the shot, and impact, you feel almost like a delayed cyclone of air passing by you. This must be by design, to give the shooter less antagonizing from muzzle gasses. The loud report from brakes seems to be lessened from the shooters perspective, which is a very nice added value.
If you find yourself in the market for recoil reduction, do yourself a favor and check into Patriot Valley Arms and their Jet Blast brakes. Excellent recoil mitigation, easy install, all for a reasonable price (starting at 135$). Tell em I sent ya. -CBM
I have long enjoyed an affair with precision rifles, and one of them in particular. I fell in love with the Desert Tech SRS many years ago now, it has been through several generations since, and the latest generation is the SRS A2.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SRS family, it is a detachable box magazine-fed, bolt action bullpup, with the added advantage of being a multi-caliber rifle. A bullpup means that the rifle’s action is behind the trigger, and against the shoulder. This design has been tried many times over the years, in order to shorten the overall length and portability of the rifle. The SRS has all of the advantages a bullpup was designed to bring to the table, as well as the quality and a stellar record of performance sought by both law enforcement, military, and devoted precision shooters. And the icing on the cake is the multi-caliber capability.
The SRS A2 follows the long celebrated A1 model, from which it evolved. The SRS features an all-aluminum receiver, that is sandwiched between two polymer skins that comprise the pistol-grip, and magazine well. The receiver is split down the middle, and has four clamping screws down the side, together these features allow one of the SRS’s strongest assets. All SRS barrels have a shank at the breach that fits very snuggly into the receiver and is then clamped in via those four screws. Barrels are slid into the chassis from the front and seated against a steel feed ramp that doubles as an index point. The unique barrel clamping system also allows the SRS to return to zero, guaranteed every time you install each barrel, it will return to shoot the same point of impact every time. Bolts are slid into the breach by easily removing the recoil pad from the back, I say bolts because with differing cartridges you may require at least a couple of them. Anything from 223 Remington all the way up to 375XC, most options from the factory are your well-known bestsellers such as 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Win, and 338 Lapua Magnum. The SRS has a large following with a multitude of aftermarket barrel manufacturers, allowing users to customize these factory-built rifles in whatever caliber they desire.
The evolution of this precision bullpup has brought several advantages to the system. One of the first notable differences of the new rifle is the M-Lok handguard, the more popular mounting system replaced the pic rail design from prior generations. The next most obvious change is the rifle’s weight, the A2 was put on a healthy diet. This new revision has the rifle weighing 2.1 pounds less than its predecessor, through various cuts and shaving material where possible.
The trigger also received an upgrade, a new design they call a “field match” trigger. This new trigger is adjustable from 1.5 to 7 pounds.
The SRS A1 featured a built-in retractable monopod in the bottom of the butt-pad, many users found this monopod to be a very valuable tool because of its quick deployment, and both coarse and fine adjustments. The A2 model was designed to be lighter, and the monopod was then made optional equipment instead of standard. That also helped lower the overall weight of the rifle.
The new M-Lok handguard is also interchangeable. The A1 handguard was difficult to swap between different length handguards, and it required a proprietary tool from Desert Tech. The new SRS A2 handguard is user-replaceable using only a Hex Key wrench, this allows users to easily swap between the standard length (longer) handguard, and the shorter length (Covert) handguard. Desert Tech sells the separate handguards as a kit for end-users to install, so they can enjoy the benefits of either configuration.
In addition to the new rifle chassis, Desert Tech will be releasing a few new calibers specifically marketed towards big game hunters. These newer barrels are chambered in popular cartridges such as 300 RUM, 300WM, and 7MM Rem Mag with more to come. A lighter contour barrel also helps lower the overall weight of the rifle. With a lighter rifle, the SRS is now even more appealing to those of us that would like to hunt with it, so these new offerings are a welcome development.
What’s the same:
The SRS A2 being a direct descendant of the A1 means that it inherited some of its best traits. The barrel mounting system is the same, which means that the barrel collection most SRS owners enjoy, can be used in the new A2 chassis as well. Bolts, barrels and magazines are also interchangeable between the two rifle chassis. This is a very welcome feature to SRS aficionados, as barrel kits can cost anywhere from 800 up to 2000 dollars.
The barrel clamping procedure remains the same, there is a barrel lock on one side of the receiver and four clamping screws on the other. The barrel lock rotates 360 degrees, but has a detent on the lock and unlocked positions. After installing the barrel in the chassis, the barrel lock is rotated to the lock position which rotates a cam to hold the barrel in place. The four clamping screws are then torqued down to 80-inch pounds.
The A2 maintains both standard length and Covert models as was the A1, the Covert model allows for using shorter barrels like the very popular sixteen-inch 308 Winchester. The longer standard handguard, allows for further forward bipod mounting, as well as clip on night/thermal optics.
The adjustable comb height adjustment stays the same, as does the spacer system to adjust the length of pull. These features are easy to adjust and allow you to fit the rifle to you.
On the Range:
Being quite familiar with the SRS platform, I found almost everything about it to be very recognizable. All the same functions I was used to, I tried several of my older conversion kits in it with great success. One thing I didn’t miss at all was the weight, the couple pounds lost make the rifle noticeably lighter. And the new hunting profile barrels are lighter than I was used to, making the whole kit seem more friendly to hiking hunters.
Desert Tech claims the A2 to be even more accurate than its precedent platform, this was a claim I wanted to see for myself. The SRS has always been a very accurate rifle in my experience, half MOA groups are expected and even guaranteed by Desert Tech when using match grade ammunition. The accuracy guarantee for the A1 SRS was half MOA, I was surprised to find that the A2 did not come with a better guarantee according to Desert Tech’s 36% better accuracy claim for the A2.
Shooting the SRS A2
I shot several different barrels in the A2 while at the range, among them were 6.5Creedmoor, 308 Winchester, 300 Remington Ultra Magnum, and 300 Winchester magnum. The new hunting calibers were all the lighter contour, this made the felt recoil a little more aggressive than I was used to, but with muzzle brakes installed the recoil was very manageable. Accuracy was everything I expected it to be from the SRS platform, typical groups were half MOA. Ammunition types gave wildly varying results, some of them did not even shoot MOA, while others easily shot sub half MOA. I can’t say for sure if the lighter barrel contour had anything to do with it because when they had the right ammo they just shot great.
My fourteen-year-old son also shot the rifle a bit and carried it around, he too seemed pleasantly surprised by the rifle’s easy handling and modest recoil. As usual, the rifle shot better when the sound suppressor was installed. The Desert Tech suppressor mounts directly to the muzzle brake and provides hearing safe shooting with enhanced accuracy. Another moment the bullpup platform shines is when a suppressor is installed, the SRS A2 with a suppressor mounted is still shorter than comparable rifles without one.
Whether shooting inside a 100-yard underground tunnel or shooting 1200 yards across a breezy mountain ridge, the SRS A2 tackled targets with great ease.
The only problems I found with the SRS A2 were not so much problems as they were questions. Previous generations of SRS rifles had fully adjustable triggers that were serviceable in the field with a simple Allen wrench. The new trigger requires disassembly of the chassis to complete the adjustment. While an infrequent necessity, it is still an unwelcome one.
The SRS A2 is a pleasant breath of fresh air that I didn’t even know I needed. It appears Desert Tech has listened to consumers and delivered a better bullpup, my A1 wont be going anywhere soon, but it definitely needs an A2 to go with it.