Leapers UTG OTB Bipod

Sometimes I forget how long I’ve been around this business of shooting. There was a time when I couldn’t wait to visit the gun shows, and believe it or not I even bought some of the stamped garbage they sell there. There was a time where I even picked up one of those garbage bipods that clamp to your barrel, looks almost like a WWII machine gun bipod? You know the one. Thank goodness times have changed, my tastes have matured, but they still sell all that garbage.

The reason I bring it up is, just as we mature and grow, so too can manufacturers. Leapers UTG is not a new name to me, I have heard it and seen it a million times over the years. I never bought anything from them, but I had always associated the brand with inexpensive gear I considered not worthy of my time. As the years have passed, I paid them no attention, until I was recently given the chance to try one of their bipods. My historical perception almost instantly biased me against the idea, I was quite sure I wasn’t going to like it. But when it finally arrived in my hands, my bias began to dissipate just as quickly as it had risen.

The bipod is quickly detached if needed, while the mounting block remains fixed

The UTG Over the Bore Bipod is as its name suggests mounted above the bore. It uses a mounting block that clamps to the 12 o’clock rail of your rifle, the bipod has a spike that is received into the block. The bipod cants on the spike allowing the rifle to be leveled on uneven terrain, the spike is also mounted on a horizontal hinge, which allows the rifle to pan left and right. In the mounting block itself, there is a small tension knob, which tightens like a clutch around the bipod spike to tension the cant of the bipod to your liking.

The mounting of the Over Bore Bipod did not interfere with sights

My initial impression of the bipod was that it looked like a strong and buxom piece of kit, the weight made me confident that it was well built. But I was also initially concerned that the cant and pan of the bipod wouldn’t be sufficient for my anything but flat world. As it happens, I was quite happy with the panning radius of the bipod, I was able to pan left and right enough to have to move my body position. I figured that if I can pan enough to have to move my body position, then it’s no big deal to reposition the rifle in the process. The cant, while sufficient was not quite as much as I would have liked. Though this may be directly related to the rifle it is mounted on. The diameter of the barrel/handguard is the limiting factor with this bipod, so the thicker your setup, the less cant you will have before the bipod legs stop against the rifle.

From above, you can see the pivot point allowing the rifle to pan left and right
Up close detail of the OTB Bipod features, notice tension knob on the side of the mounting block, pivot hinge, and oversize leg-locking buttons.

The legs of the bipod are one of its greatest strengths, the pivot of each leg is very robust, and the large lock release on the outer edge of each pivot is easy to feel and press whether or not you are looking at it. The legs fold both forward and backward with several locking points allowing more stowing options, as well as shooting positions. The legs extend with a pull, and have notches every half-inch or so to lock them at height. The legs are spring retracted when the leg-lock is depressed, these controls are easy and intuitive.

One of my biggest fears when I saw the bipod initially was that it would be too bulky to stow when walking around. Most bipods add bulk to the front bottom end of the rifle handguards, when affixed they reduce the space you have to grip when shooting from the offhand position. This is something most of us either get over, or get used to. When I saw the size of the UTG bipod, I thought for sure this thing will be a significant hindrance while trying to maneuver. Again, to my surprise, the UTG bipod when stowed to the front or rear was completely out of my way and allowed unmolested use of the entire handguard. And with the ability to quickly remove it by simply depressing the release on the mounting block, it can easily be stowed elsewhere if you wish.

The UTG OTB Bipod as seen mounted to the Desert Tech HTI 50BMG

Shooting with the UTG bipod was also more pleasant than I had anticipated, with both the pan and cant features providing more radius than I expected. Shooting the rifle with the bipod folded up and stowed was also no issue. Almost every fear I had about this bipod going in was a non-issue, all but one. The only problem I could honestly give about this bipod is its weight, it is not a light bipod. I have several others that weigh very similar, and they are certainly in another class, but cost two to four times as much money too.

The UTG bipod is built well enough I would consider using it on very heavy rifles, and even on lighter built rifles provided I didn’t have to pack them very far. I think this bipod would be perfect for range shooting, prairie dog shooting or any other activity where the weight wouldn’t cause an issue. I love the way my rifle hangs from the bipod, it naturally wants to rest level, and it never wants to topple over, which is an issue I’ve had with many other bipods. With a street price under $150 its no surprise it has five-star reviews from Amazon and Optics Planet.

So, while I’m not going to ditch my Harris and Atlas bipods anytime soon, as they all have their use, this UTG bipod will definitely stay in my collection.
-CBM

US Optics TS-20X Rifle Scope

Im a sucker for scopes, you might say I have a weak spot for them. I have used most of the very best scopes, and Ive also used many that weren’t worth straining my eye to focus through them. Part of my affliction is due to being spoiled for some time now, and I blame US Optics for it, at least partially. I have had several of them over the years, and they have earned their keep in my safe.

US Optics has a history for robust builds, with nail driving strength. They have seen many changes over the years, and we could argue surely over the pros and cons. But for me, only one thing matters, whats on-top of my rifle, and how does it perform.

The USO TS20 mounted on my Desert Tech SRS A2

As a riflescope addict, I was interested when US Optics launched their Tactical Sporting line of scopes, the TS Series. Like any true addict I rested not until I had the TS 20 in my hands. It was love at first sight.

My initial impression of the TS 20 was its weight, it seemed light for a USO. This new TS line was clearly a more economical series of scopes, so I expected a simpler construction. Lightweight, and a very clear and clean image were both very welcome features. The JVCR reticle was new to me, and well received. I prefer the newer “Christmas tree” style milling reticles, and I found the JVCR to be very handy to use. The offset two tenth windage holds made perfect sense when hurriedly making a wind call. And like most good reticles, even numbering to keep track of your holds. With as many as ten mils to hold over, and five wide for windage, it makes a perfect companion for todays ultra-flat shooting rifles.

Another feature that impressed me very quickly was the focus/parallax adjustment, which is adjustable down to ten yards. At first I didn’t think it was a big deal, but when I dialed the scope down to 2.5X, I realized that this scope could almost be used like a red-dot. If I ever had any up close shooting to do such as approaching a wounded animal, I could simply turn on the illumination, and mark the target with the red cross and pull the trigger. This to me seemed like a very handy feature for a scope I would surely use while hunting. And yet with the max power of 20X from the scope, there are few things I would not be able to shoot at inside my distance envelope.

US Optics has always helped me put food on the table

The turrets of the TS20 are ten MIL per revolution, that for me is a minimum. Long gone are the days of five MIL per turn scopes, that was so 2010. The clicks are clean, and you can both feel and hear them as you turn the turret. The TS20 has an interesting zero-stop feature, but it requires you to limit the rotation to one turn only. Not a big deal for many things, but since I like to live on the edge, I decided to pull any stops and run it wide open. One complaint if you’ll allow it, the turret housing isn’t numbered to help you keep track of what revolution you are on. Bit of a pet peeve of mine, but not a deal breaker by any stretch. The tension of the turrets, power ring, and focus knob were all just right, not too hard to turn, but stiff enough to avoid accidental movement while packing it around.
I already mentioned the parallax/focus adjustment, but just next to it on the left side of the scope, is the rheostat to adjust the illumination on the JVCR reticle. It’s your standard 1-10 clicks with an off position in between each setting. 10 is bright enough to use as a red-dot in dim daylight, and 1 is dim enough to use with night-vision and thermals.

A downed animal, as seen at 500yds through the TS20 and thermal. Notice JVCR reticle detail

With 24 useable MILS of elevation from its 34mm tube, the TS20 is a very useful long range tool. The rifle it currently commands only needs 5MRAD of elevation to get to a thousand yards. But even if you are shooting a 308 you wont have a problem getting way out there. But with it’s super low power setting, and 28 ounce weight, it is a good option for a long-range hunting rifle as well.

The TS20 mounted on my all carbon 257 Blackjack

In the field the TS20 performed exactly like every other USO I’ve ever fielded. Click values were consistent, and lined up with my known ballistic data. I keep coming back to it so forgive me, but I love the high and low range of this scope. I never thought I would want a 2X precision rifle optic, but I sure am glad I have one now. In the field was the best place to see the value.
I am not huge on high magnification, I rarely use my scopes above 20X. So the TS20 is right in the middle of where I want all my X’s. Even at max power the image is still clear, and the reticle is very useful. Even so, I usually find my power ring somewhere between 10 and 15. It is at those medium settings that I find the optical magnification and reticle proportions to be ideal, both for targeting, and making corrections.

The USO TS20 played well with everything, especially this clip-on thermal

I mounted the TS20 on three different rifles, first on my Desert Tech SRS A2, and then on my MDR. Regardless of which caliber I was shooting I had every confidence that the TS would keep up. Whether it was hunting varmints on the foothills around my home, or chasing big game like mule deer or elk through these big Rocky Mountains. I’ve never had to worry about my US Optics scopes while traipsing through the brush, and no amount of bumps, drops, or bouncing around in the bed of a truck has ever knocked them out of zero. The heavy recoil from my 300 Remington Ultra Mag didn’t phase the scope, and neither did the repetitive cycling of my 450 Bushmaster MDR, it just kept on ticking.

This young buck couldn’t escape into the dusk, not from this combo. 450BM/MDR/TS20

The Tactical Sporting Series of scopes from US Optics looks like it has a bright future. The scopes are well made, and fit a price point that opens the door to a less expensive market than historically available to those wanting US Optics products. The premium Foundation Series remains the flagship of US Optics quality, I may need to get one of those too, but for now I will enjoy the view from this little TS20.

-CBM

Tips for better marksmanship

Marksmanship is all about hitting your target, in this piece I’d like to discuss the foundational points of good rifle marksmanship. If you can get these basics together, the rest comes down to simple practice and experience. It’s not just about equipment either, you can only buy your way into marksmanship to a degree. You will also have to work on your skills, and maybe even get some training by professionals.

Two different but very comparable rifles, TOP: is a Remington 700 6.5Creedmoor in a Graham Brothers Rifleworks chassis. BOTTOM: A Tikka T3 in 25 Creedmoor mounted in a KRG Bravo chassis.

-The right platform
With so many great rifles being manufactured today, the right platform could come from almost anywhere. The right platform is a rifle that fits you the shooter, and has the requisite features and accuracy for your intended purpose.
Be it for hunting, target, or competition, it is important to have the proper length of pull, cheek weld, etc. so that you can handle and control it accurately. The rifle should be configured to give you proper sight alignment so you can get a proper sight picture as well.
The right platform might be up-gradable for aftermarket accessories, this is something to keep in mind when you are shopping for your next gun. Obviously, for accurate shooting you want a rifle with a good barrel, that will shoot accurately. Accuracy is typically measured in group sizes (or patterns) at a given distance, the smaller the pattern of your shots, the more consistent you and the rifle are at aiming them.
The length, caliber, and weight of the rifle depend on your activities. If you will be shooting from standing, you may want a light-weight rifle, same if you plan on carrying the rifle through the mountains on a hunt. Whereas if you plan on competition shooting like benchrest, a heavier gun may be an advantage.

The right platform is one that is comfortable, shoots accurately, and allows you to aim and focus on the target and especially your job as the triggerman.
Which leads us to the next point.

TriggerTech is one of many aftermarket trigger manufacturers that make outstanding triggers. Seen here is a flat-shoe Diamond, my preferred trigger.

-A good trigger
Most quality rifles sold today have a decent trigger available. Even if it doesn’t come with one, there is likely an aftermarket manufacturer that offers an improved replacement option.
A good trigger is one that breaks clean, and consistently. A good marksman isn’t surprised by the break of the trigger, it is a deliberate movement at precisely the right time. For that you need a trigger that is predictable.
Whether it is a single stage, two stage, a light or a heavier trigger, your ability to trip the sear without affecting the positioning of the rifle is what will make you a better shot.
You want to be able to pull the trigger without it affecting your sight picture. This sometimes just requires additional practice, other times, a better trigger is needed. Dry firing is a good practice that will get you familiar with your trigger and when it breaks.

Whether you replace your trigger, adjust it to a more comfortable setting, or learn to use the trigger as is, make sure you are well practiced and familiar with how it feels, and when it breaks.

-Ammunition
A rifle is no better than the ammunition it is fed, so ammunition is of particular importance.
Some rifles are pickier than others, and some are downright fussy. Not all munitions are equal, and even the same ammunition can vary from lot to lot. Some people forego this issue by handloading all their own ammo, while others stick to specific lines or brands.
The most important thing to keep in mind if you are shooting for better marksmanship is; consistency is accuracy. The only reason accurate shooters can hit their targets is by using equipment that produces consistent performance. Ammunition is key to this.
When selecting ammunition for your rifle, I like to start with two or three options. You can choose more obviously to get a better idea of what your gun likes, but the key comes after you find what ammo you and your gun shoot best.
Practice makes perfect right? Practice using the same ammunition you intend to hunt or compete with. And its probably a good idea to stock up on said ammunition so that in a pinch, you aren’t forced to use something else.

Choose the best shooting ammunition that fits the application and budget, and then stick to it. Both you and your rifle will become accustomed to it, and like riding your bike it will become second nature. You will know what to expect from your shots, how they perform in the wind, at distance, on animals, etc.

-A Good Rifle Sight
A very large portion of modern rifles use optical sights, such as telescopic sights, or Red Dot’s, and some still use the traditional iron sights. Whichever of the type you intend on using will need more of the consistency I have already spoken about.
Iron sights are mostly used for shorter distance shooting such as pistols and carbines. These sights while much simpler and less costly than optical sights, still require precision to be effective to a marksman.

All types of sights require precise adjustments, repeat-ability, and hold their position once set.
A cheap scope may not hold zero, and the internals could shift under recoil or other force. Open sights that are not secured properly could flex or even come off. Either scenario is not going to allow you to make your best shot, so it is paramount to ensure that you have the best possible option.
Optics in my experience are particularly beholden to the old adage “you get what you pay for”. While there are many new and less expensive options available today, make sure that you get something that will do the job you need it to do. Whether that is to hold a zero on a heavy magnum, or repeatable elevation adjustments on a long-range scope.
Don’t skimp on the scope is a motto I learned long ago, a good scope often costs two to three times the rifle it is destined for. And take the time to learn the proper way to use it.

Whatever sight you put on your rifle, should be the best you can afford to use. It should be installed properly with robust mounts that are adequate for the recoil and duty, and much like the rifle, it should fit you. With proper eye relief and focus for your eyes.


-Training
All the right equipment won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to properly use them. From the very basics of shooting such as eye dominance, breathing control, and a good clean trigger pull, you need to make sure you are not creating a problem in your shooting routine.
A good rifle needs to be “driven” properly, the way it is held without inducing torque or other uneven forces that can cause it to recoil differently from shot to shot. And recoil management that will keep you on target for followup shots should also be a part of it.
Trigger control using the pad of your finger vs. the joint, breathing properly to induce the least amount of movement as the trigger is broken.
Learning the proper use of your scope perhaps, adjusting for come ups or estimating wind values and their requisite holds.
It always amazes me how much better people can do after some very simple instruction from a professional, it could be as easy as a few tips and some constructive criticism. It is well worth your time to get this kind of help, a lot of competitive circles even employ after-event workshops or clinics to help marksmen learn about what they did wrong.
The most satisfying part of all is when you gain the confidence that you can hit what you choose to hit when your rifle is fully understood and is simply an extension of you. The shooting sports industry offers many different training opportunities that can help you better your skills, and employ them in your quest for marksmanship.

Apply yourself to learn those basics of marksmanship, and make sure your equipment fits both you and the task at hand, you’ll soon find yourself making better shots. Keep practicing and learn from every shot whether hit or a miss.

_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

The 2019 Late Season for Elk

Video at the bottom of article

Every winter, after the cold snow starts to build up in these Rocky Mountains, I get a bit of fever going. Not the kind of fever that normally comes with the cold season, this fever is far more profound. Its a fever born not from germs or microorganisms, but rather comes from my DNA. Like many of you I was born to hunt, and the knowledge that hunting season is around the corner fills me with excitement and a feverish desire to get after it. The late-season elk hunts in our state of Utah give a much-needed extension to this natural high, and its one we all seek out ever year. This year was certainly no exception.

My herd of elk is a small one, it consists mainly of cows and their offspring. There is usually a few yearling cows, and spikes as well, and even more infrequent are the occasional mature bulls that follow them onto the winter range. Every year they come back the same pass they did the year before, and miles away, hunched behind a spotting scope gnawing on a cheese stick you will find me. Usually, I have all my gear ready by the time they show up, and this year it was only a matter of hours before we were on them.

Both friends and family participate in this yearly ritual, and today it was me and a good friend who we’ll call “Russ”. We had seen part of the herd heading in the right direction the evening before, and this morning we returned to our glassing post to see if they were still there. I say the right direction meaning a place where we knew we could get a downed elk out without extreme difficulty, we made our way towards the small group as they fed through the snow.

A cold cloudy day for all of us

At seven thousand feet the air is thin and cold, and the fifteen to twenty mile an hour winds were not making it any better. We continued our stalk through the cold wind, knowing at least that it would cover both our sound and scent. We closed the distance to five hundred and twenty yards, any closer we would lose them with the rise of the hill. So we planted ourselves and set up our equipment, Russ was shooting a custom-built .260 Remington Ackley improved, on the end he had a Delta P Design 6.5 suppressor, and a Bushnell Elite Tactical scope mounted on top. In the magazine were a handful of Hornady 140 grain ELD-m handloads. Russ pushed his rifle up a snowy embankment pointing towards the elk herd, and I slid up to another spot, with my Desert Tech SRS A2 sitting in the saddle of my Precision Rifle Solutions tripod. I had been using the twenty-four inch 6.5 Creedmoor barrel in my rifle, and had very recently installed a new optic, the Riton Optics RT-S Mod 7 4-32 riflescope. I was shooting a new experimental lathe-turned solid bullet from Patriot Valley Arms, it is a 123 grain copper solid hollow point. Both of our rifles were shooting very close ballistic patterns, in fact, at the five-hundred and twenty yards we both dialed 2.2 MRAD of elevation, and with the wind blowing at a slight angle, we both held about .2 MRAD left wind. A wind call we would later rejoice over.

As we lay there freezing in the snow, we had to wait for a good shot. The low angle against the ridge made interference from brush and branches an issue, so we waited as the wind carried snow over our rifles and faces. The plan was to execute a command fire, both of us shooting in near unison to hit both animals before the rifle report ever reached them. Sounds easy enough, unless your trigger finger is freezing into a stiff hook while you wait. After a few long and shivery moments, we had two cows that offered us an acceptable shot. After loudly whispering back and forth about who was shooting at what, we counted down, fingers on triggers. In my mind, I decided it would be better to just shoot upon hearing the report of Russ’ rifle, so that’s what I did.
I was already pressing the trigger shoe on my SRS when I heard the rip of his 260 go off, so I finished my pull and sent the second round uphill towards the unsuspecting elk. Russ’ bullet found its mark perfectly, hitting just behind the left shoulder. She immediately lurched forward from the startling impact, while a few yards behind her, the second cow chewed bark from some of the brush. She may have seen the other cow leap forward, but it was too late. My bullet also impacted just behind her shoulder passing through her lungs and tapping her vertebrae as it passed by. This impact dropped her in her tracks, and she rolled down the steep and slippery slope. The first cow had just made it perhaps forty or fifty yards, both of us still trained on her with our rifles. And we watched as she stumbled, and tipped over, leaving a bright red blood trail through the pure white snow. It was over so fast, and yet my trigger finger was nearly frozen. I stowed it between my cheek and gum for a few minutes to bring back sensation.

Fresh lung blood blown across the brush

We stood up in the breeze and watched as the remainder of the small herd slowly worked away from us. High fives were exchanged, and even a hug from the excitement. The work, however, had just begun, I doubted we would be getting too much aid in our elk extraction. So we left everything we wouldn’t need and carried only the bare essentials like knives, warm clothes, some rope and a few snacks. The steep mountain and snow-covered ground made the going slow, but an hour or so later, we stood over one of the two elk. After investigating her injuries and condition, we triangulated the other elk’s location based off the tracks leaving the first. The other cow lay exactly where expected, and left us a good trail to find her with.

As we began the decent with our two prizes, the morning had given way to a beautiful and sunny midday. We took our time, rolling and sliding these two ladies down the hill, taking breaks as needed.

As the afternoon went on however the clouds came back in, and threatened to freeze over the whole mountain. As we sat reposed in the snow, I watched as Russ’ dark pants steamed in the sunlight. But as the clouds came over us, it was like an icy blanket, and we both watched as the steam from his pants quickly turned to frost before our eyes. It was time to move.

After another four or so hours, we made it back to the truck, where we were met by other good friends who helped load our prize. An incredible blessing to have good friends to help after such a labor intensive day.

We have shot several other elk this winter, the most common factor is good friends and solid relationships. Elk hunting seems to forge relationships between like minded hunters, the intensity of labor, and overwhelming obstacles seem to sort fair-weather friends from what I consider to be the finest group of dear friends. I consider myself lucky to have them.

-CBM