Category Archives: Shooting hardware

Rifles and their parts

The Desert Tech MDRX

Advancing technologies have made every part of the firearm and shooting industry better, with new materials, better production equipment, and a growing competitive market all driving forward it is no wonder that so many new and exciting products are available today. Desert Tech has been pushing those limits since its inception in 2007, and this year they have released another great product that follows the Desert Tech adage Tomorrow’s Weapons.

The MDRX is the next generation rifle from Desert Tech, it builds on the already popular MDR rifle they released in 2016. The MDRX is a short-stroke piston operated semi-automatic bullpup, for those who don’t know already, a bullpup is a rifle configured such that the action, magazine, and firing mechanics are all located behind the trigger. The purpose of this design gives the MDRX a shorter overall length than conventional rifles of the same barrel length. When you add in the other additional features of the MDRX the difference becomes even more apparent.

Features
All Desert Tech rifles are designed with modularity in mind, and as such, they are all available as multi-caliber chassis and barrel combinations. The MDRX shares that same heritage, as it stands at the moment it is available in four different calibers from the factory; 223 Wylde, 308 Win, 300 BLK, and 6.5CM. All four of these barrel conversion kits can be interchanged in the same chassis, making the MDRX one of the few modern sporting rifles to accept both large and small frame calibers. All this from an SBR sized weapon without the stamp.
Being a semi-auto bullpup adds some challenges when it comes to universality, these challenges were overcome with ingenuity. The MDRX is completely ambidextrous, all of its controls are mirrored on both sides of the rifle for both right and left-handed shooters. In addition to the ambi controls, the rifle has a forward ejecting system that sends spent brass casing forward away from the shooter. Previous bullpup designs eject brass to the right side, which in a bullpup is a bad thing if you are left-handed. The MDRX can be fired from the right or left side with no concern of catching hot brass to your face. And if you are a dedicated left-hand shooter, you can swap ejection from forward right to forward left in just a few seconds.
The MDRX comes standard with a compensator made by Desert Tech called The Ratchet, the compensators are caliber specific to provide the best performance in recoil reduction and to stop muzzle rise.
One of the major challenges with bullpups is creating a good clean trigger pull, this is due to the linkage required to connect trigger shoe to the sear pack. This is another challenge that was overcome with design ingenuity, and the resulting trigger feel of the MDRX is widely accepted as great. Of the many people who have pulled the trigger on an MDRX, the common consensus is that it is a good trigger, not just for a bullpup, but a good trigger period.
The MDRX has a six-position adjustable gas valve allowing the operator to tune the rifle to whatever ammunition they might use, as well as use the rifle with a suppressor and a lower gas setting.
The MDRX’s aluminum/polymer chassis construction features full-length upper Picatinny rail, M-LOK slots for accessories and flush-mounted QD sling cups on the rear of the receiver. It is also designed to accept most AR-15 style magazines, and for large frame calibers, it uses SR-25 pattern mags. The rifle ships with caliber appropriate P-mags from Magpul.
The various caliber conversions for the MDRX feature popular twist rates, and standard barrel thread for adding muzzle accouterments. There are also both sixteen-inch, and twenty-inch barrels available in several of the assorted calibers, giving shooters different performance options. And with different barrel lengths, there are two different handguard lengths to go along.
The ambidextrous charging handles of the MDRX are non-reciprocating, they are normally locked to the front in a spring-loaded detent. They can also be locked to the rear by pulling them back and up, the release is as simple as slapping either of the handles down, and the bolt carrier closes into battery. The gun locks open upon firing the last shot from the magazine, the bolt release is centrally located right behind the magwell. This allows for very quick reloads by simply extending the thumb when seating a fresh magazine, thus closing the bolt on a fresh round. This actually can make reloading faster than most AR-style rifles due to fewer steps in the reload process.
The forward ejection system is perhaps the most curious of all the MDRX’s features. The open-faced bolt extracts the spent case and carries it to the rear, as the carrier travels it engages the ejector with a dovetail lug on either side. The momentum of the carrier then pulls the scissor-like ejector out, and it swipes across the open bolt face pushing the spent case off and into the ejection chute opposite. There it is retained by a spring-loaded pawl until the bolt carrier again travels forward where a protruding lug pushes the spent case forward and out the ejection chute. It’s a very interesting system, the only flaw I found with it is that when unloading an unspent cartridge from the rifle, it does require a firm stroke of the charging handles to get the cartridge seated firmly in the ejection chute. This is not so much a flaw as much as it is a training practice needed to be followed. The ejection system is designed to be used on either side of the rifle, both the ejector and chute can be swapped from one side to the other in seconds.

The MDRX SE utilizes a standard side ejection system

Also new for 2020 is a new side ejecting MDRX, for those who prefer a simpler, more traditional ejection pattern. The side eject is available in. 223 Wylde only, and can also be swapped from right to left side ejection. There is also the added benefit of a lighter overall weight, and a less expensive price tag.

On the Range
With several barrels in hand, I took the MDRX into my mountain hide to test its function. I started out shooting with the sixteen-inch 308 Win barrel, and loaded with Fiocchi 150 Grain FMJ ammunition at one hundred yards. After zeroing the sights, I fired a few five-shot groups, which ended up being around two MOA in size.
I continued firing the rifle at several additional targets to see how it ran. I found the recoil to be much softer than the previous similar rifles I had shot, this surely had much to do with the Ratchet compensator. The trigger was very clean and crisp, the reset is quite audible, I attribute that to the highly conductive poly receiver who’s hollow construction makes a very resonant chamber. I fired several additional groups using additional ammunition types as well, American Eagle XM80 as well as some 168 Grain match ammo from both Hornady and Federal. The match grade ammo certainly provided better groups, they averaged right around one MOA.

The MDRX seen with 20 inch 6.5CM barrel and longer handguard

So with several hundred rounds through the rifle, and a respectable shooting and zeroed rifle, I figured it was time to test the metamorphosis of this multi-caliber gifted rifle. The barrel is removed from the MDRX using a five-millimeter hex wrench, the rifle comes with one, but I prefer to use the suggested eighty-inch-pound torque limiter. After removing the handguard via two loosened screws and one take-down pin, the barrel is released by loosening the two barrel clamp screws by about one turn, and then disengaging the barrel lock 180 degrees to allow the barrel to slide out the front of the chassis. The bolt must be locked open to the rear to complete this operation. I then installed the twenty-inch 6.5 Creedmoor barrel, seating it firmly towards the breach. The process is then reversed, turning the barrel lock 180 degrees, and then torquing the two barrel clamp screws to 80 inch-pounds with a torque limiter. Followed by re-installing the handguard, which I had swapped out for the longer one. The rifle had just transformed from a sixteen-inch 308 Winchester into a twenty-inch 6.5 Creedmoor, and I was excited to see the increased performance. The point of impact would not be the same from one barrel to the next, but it was on paper at one-hundred yards, so it only took some minor corrections.
The 6.5 Creedmoor shot very well, with 140 Grain ammunition from both Hornady and Desert Tech, the groups averaged much better, in the sub to half MOA realm. With this kind of accuracy, I couldn’t wait to take the MDRX out to more significant distances.

For several hours the rifle neatly piled up brass right in front of my shooting mat, the rifle never malfunctioned, and just kept eating magazine after magazine of ammunition. I also fired some S&B 140 grain ammo through the rifle without any problems, I would have liked to try some lighter loads like a 120 grain, but I didn’t get the chance.

A typical 5 shot group from the MDRX 223 Wylde 40 Grain Fiocchi (100 Yards)

The rifle is easily swapped to smaller caliber barrels as well, the 223 Wylde and 300 Blackout do require a little more though.
A change of the bolt, a magwell spacer, and a swap of the ejection chute are required in addition to the barrel change.
The 223 Wylde shot just as good as the 6.5 Creedmoor, sub MOA groups were easy when shooting good ammo.

The great performance of the MDRX was hard to deny, it is a very compact rifle, with incredible reach, and good accuracy. Desert Tech has upped the game with this rifle, and they stand behind all their rifles with a lifetime warranty. It would be a great rifle whether you are hiding in a tree stand, need a behind the seat truck gun, or anywhere you’d need heavy firepower in a compact package. Its larger calibers are certainly useful for big game hunting and some distant shooting, while the smaller calibers are great for quick target shooting in a 3-gun style competition or varmint hunting. The MDRX carries a higher than average price tag, but that is because it brings so much more to the table. The multicaliber option alone actually saves money by consolidating your training, and less money spent on optics and accessories. You literally could do almost every American shooting activity with this one rifle. Whether it is a home defense rifle or a suppressed ranch rifle, the MDRX is a do-all rifle if ever there was one.

-CBM

A 350 Legend for the MDR

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.

The MDR with its barrel and optic collection is a do everything rifle

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.

350 Legend cartridges featuring Winchester’s 145 grain FMJ

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.

The 18 inch 350 Legend barrel outside the MDR chassis

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.

-CBM

450 Bushmaster, Slow and Steady Wins the Race

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.

450 Bushmaster cartridges loaded with Hornady 350 grain round nose bullets, these bullets were .458 until I swedged them down to .452 for the Bushmaster

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.

Subsonic loads for the Bushmaster used 405-grain lead solids, these were made to shoot in the 45-70, but after running them through the Lee sizing die, they ran perfectly through my Bushmaster

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.

This young buck hoped to escape from the Bushmaster, but a perfect shot through both lungs shortened his run to a 20-yard dash before he toppled

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.

-CBM

PVA Cayuga Solid Copper Hunting Bullets

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.

The 123 Grain Cayuga loaded into Petersen brass

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 elk to fall to the Cayuga, hit at 475 yards

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 Cayuga plowed through these ribs leaving a clear path of destruction
These lungs stood no chance, ripped open by the passing bullet

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.

Entrance wound on the second elk, after passing through the shoulder blade
Again the lungs were damaged beyond function, both animals quickly succumbed to their injuries

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.

-CBM

Patriot Valley Arms Jet Blast Muzzle Brakes

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