Who doesn’t love a good cartridge debate? Whether its sitting around a campfire in the cold autumn woods or typing furiously back and forth on internet forums, we seem to revel in the pros and cons of different approaches to hunting. I’ve sat through several of these types of debates, and have prepared some thoughts for today’s topic; Is a .223 Remington suitable for hunting deer?
The .223 Remington
The 223 has been around for a long time now, and it has seen use in nearly every shooting application people can find. The small case Remington shoots .224 caliber bullets typically in weights between 40 and 75 grains. Though recent bullet developments have broadened that spectrum to include bullets as large as 90 grains as well. Many rifles chambered in .223 Remington feature a 1-9 twist which allows for shooting most bullets that fit in the traditional 40 to 69 grain category. While many of the newer rifles chambered thus utilize faster twists like a 1-8 or 1-7 twist barrel, which allows to shoot seventy-five and eighty grain bullets. The more specialized eighty-plus grain bullets likely need a 1-6.5 twist in order to stabilize the long and heavy for caliber bullets.
The .223 has enjoyed a great deal of attention in the varmint, predator, and small game hunting circles, shooting the typical 50-55 grain bullets it achieves fantastic velocities in the neighborhood of 3200 to 3400 fps depending on load. As bullet weight increases, the velocity decreases generally speaking. But the larger and more efficient bullets often carry their energy better, and further. These heavier bullets are ideal for shooting further, and delivering higher energy on target. (remember that, we’ll come back to it later)
Perhaps the oldest and most celebrated hobby of American’s is that of pursuing deer to feed their families. Every year we all prepare with excitement for the annual event, even as I type this there is dried deer blood on the backs of my hand from earlier this morning. The smaller members of the deer family typically pursued by American hunters consist almost entirely of the two most prolific species found in North America; the Mule deer, and the Whitetail deer. Even a large deer of either species can be handily put down if enough energy is put in the right place, countless deer have been killed by a diminutive .22LR to the head. (though I wouldn’t recommend it)
Deer are typically targeted in their vital organs which are mainly the heart, lungs, and liver as a distant third. Deer are certainly not bulletproof, even the meatiest and ‘big-boned’ of deer can be penetrated by modern bullets fired at reasonable velocities. The bone structure surrounding their vital organs can either be perforated by powerful bullet impacts, or circumvented by cunning shot placement. Continue Reading Here…
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.
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.
But if you are a stamp collector like many of us are, you can also get the SBR conversion kit for the MDRX. The 11.5 inch barreled Micron conversion kit makes any MDRX into one of the shortest and compact rifles available. All these conversion kits make the MDRX an extremely adaptable rifle, to whatever mission specific purpose you need.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just when I thought I was up to my ear’s in MDR, Eric Smith from ES Tactical found it expedient to dump another huge helping of MDR in my lap. It wouldn’t take long to figure out which way this would go.
As a guy with too many irons in the fire already, I took the 6.5 Creedmoor barrel with a grain of salt (I know you all feel my pain). Had it not been for my stellar experience with Eric’s work, I might have even backburnered this project. But instead, I took the first opportunity to stab my MDR with this latest addition to the pile.
Ive shot the MDR quite a bit, some might even say more than anyone else. The MDR is a multi caliber bullpup rifle. The rifle was first available in 308, it will soon be available to the public in 223. But for those of you that already have the gun, you can wet your multi caliber whistle without waiting by ordering a 6.5 Creedmoor from ES Tactical. I shot quite a bit of 308 in the beginning, and I loved having so much power in such a little package. With the 308 barrel installed, the MDR can put down a serious amount of hate and anger. But it is still quite capable of MOA accuracy, and at distance as well. Just a short while ago, the 223/556 conversion was made available to me. In the short time I spent with it, I became very enamored. The minimal recoil, and outstanding accuracy made the compact MDR even more desirable, you can read more about that here.
So you can imagine my excitement when the option came to try out the Creedmoor in my beloved little rifle. The Creedmoor offers the same accuracy as the other cartridge options, but less recoil than the 308, and a better envelope for distance as well.
I couldn’t resist the appeal, so I hurried up to my local shooting hole, and warmed up my trigger finger. Upon arrival I ran a few magazines of 223 through the rifle, just to get my trigger finger into shape, then set to swap the rifle over to the Creedmoor.
The MDR as seen with 223rem barrel (installed with YHM Turbo) Sixteen inch 308win, and the ES Tactical eighteen inch 6.5CM barrel
Since the 6.5 and the 308 share the same boltface, magazine, and a few other parts, there is only a need for a barrel assembly should your rifle be a 308. Since my rifle was currently a 223, I had to swap bolts, remove the magwell block and switch the magazine catch. To see how the MDR is converted from one caliber to another click here
It took a few minutes, and I was ready to make some noise. Except I wouldn’t. I hate shooting without the proper muzzle accoutrements, so I attached one of my favorite suppressors, the Silencerco Hybrid. The barrel assembly from ES Tactical came with a six position gas key, allowing for refined tuning of the rifle. I found it quite unnecessary to figet with, as the rifle functioned flawlessly, it consumed and expelled everything I fed it.
The accuracy results from this fine selection varied slightly, the DTM, and Hornady gave the best results. Both of them printed groups that were mostly hole, and little paper. The Prime and Gold Medal were not too far behind, it is my guess that the Berger and Norma 130 grain bullets used may perhaps be a bit more finicky with seating depth. Which may explain the larger patterns. DTM shown in blue, Hornady in red, Federal in yellow, and Prime in green
As you can see in the groups the stringing is horizontal on the better ones, it seemed to follow the heating of the barrel. The first three or four shots in each group were either touching or stacked. It was usually the fourth, fifth or sixth shot that were the outliers (I may have lost count a few times, I was enjoying myself😌). The lesser groups didnt seem to have any particular pattern. I only ran a chronograph on the DTM 140 grain ammunition, the average over a couple magzines worth of ammo showed 2610fps. I was quite pleased with the velocity from this 18 inch barrel, with a MV like that, coupled with MOA or better accuracy, this thing would be very useful for anything inside 1000 yards.
Being as familiar as I am with the platform, I have gotten used to it’s quirks and folleys. This familiarity has helped me avoid some of the little things that cause malfunctions, so it didn’t surprise me at all that I experienced no failures. I did note that the brass was coming out pretty dirty but otherwise fine, I suppose I could have dialed down the gas pressure a little after all.
The thread protector, threads, and crown of the ES Tactical 6.5Creedmoor barrel
In total, I shot probably 80 or so rounds (not counting the 223 appetizer). It was smooth shooting, the recoil was very mild, and with the suppressor mounted up, I could shoot all day. This setup would be awesome for a threegun carbine, it’d also make the perfect truck gun, or patrol rifle. So many possibilities, I doubt it will be long before the next flavor MDR comes along.
Should you find youself in need of a Creed for your MDR, give Eric a call over at ES Tactical, and dont forget he cuts awesozme barrels for your SRS, or just about anything else you might want too.
There has been lots of excitement surrounding the Desert Tech MDR lately. With some rifles shipping since late last year, and many more about to drop, the hype has reached its peak. The Micro Dynamic Rifle brings Desert Tech’s multi caliber capability to a an auto loading rifle. All of the rifles that have been delivered to customer so far have been 7.62 rifles, but I got a lucky chance to get an up close look at some of the first 5.56 rifles. After a few hours of shooting it, I decided to write a little more about it.
The MDR is a bullpup rifle, and currently there are 7.62 and 5.56 conversions available for it. I have spent extensive time with the 7.62 versions of the rifle, and have found it to be a very fun rifle. The function of the rifle is very intuitive, the controls may take a moment to get used to but are otherwise very friendly. In my experience, the controls wear in with use, and only get better. The initial feel is that the mag release is stiff, and the trigger can be a bit scratchy. But with some range time, both of those issues go away, and the trigger is quite nice. I dont even think about the mag release anymore, it is smooth and easy to operate.
The MDR has big shoes to fill. As many of you are aware, Desert Tech makes some of the best precision rifles available today. And having sired the MDR, Desert Tech is expected to bring the same quality and presentation its other rifles are famous for. Quality triggers, better accuracy than the competition, all in a multi-caliber rifle shorter than its peers.
Having had plenty of trigger time with the 7.62 version of the MDR, I was very excited to try out the smaller conversion in 223/556. I was actually lucky enough to assemble the rifle from scratch. Or at least, from a small pile of parts. Click here to see assembly.
After some humbling experiences, I was happy to see the gun work like it had been built by the pros. It took very minimal tuning to get the rifle running just like a swiss watch. It was time to take it out into the wild, and get it hot.
Coldboremiracle Junior feeling out the MDR
The 5.56 MDR was a dream to shoot, comparing it to the 7.62 version of the rifle, which has significantly more bark. Recoil was negligible, a smooth and solid impulse. The ejections system pumped the hot brass out forward and to my right, making nice little piles. The rifle manages almost like a pistol, it is very easy to keep on target even during sustained firing. I used the gas block mounted Desert Tech Reflex Optic for much of the shooting. But it didn’t take long for the marksman in me to come out, so I switched over to a Kahles 312i for some accuracy testing. After all, only accurate guns are interesting, at least to me.
I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try out my new Yankee Hill Machine Turbo 556 suppressor. The MDR was a perfect host for it, and its uncivilized to shoot unsuppressed. You can read more about the Turbo here.
I was shooting some 55 grain ball ammo for the majority of the trip. This same ammo usually prints groups in the one inch category with my other custom 223 rifles, and in the MDR it was about the same. Five shots was probably just under an inch at 100 yards. I also wanted to try one of my pet AR loads for long range, which included a Hornady 75 grain BTHP and some RL-15.
After getting the rifle sighted in, I was quite impressed with the MDR’s accuracy. This was the first group I shot after zeroing the rifle, its only three shots but clearly shows the rifle’s potential. The MDR clearly likes this load with the Hornady’s, so I may have to revisit with more ammo , and more range.
The rifle functioned great through the three or four hundred rounds that I put through it. There were only a couple issues that I quickly resolved, a spring that is part of the ejection system had not been installed properly. I cant blame anyone but myself there, and after I corrected the problem it was flawless.
I tried out several different magazines in the rifle. First I had to try the classic GI metal magazines that surely litter ever gun room across the country. The mags fit perfectly, fed like a million bucks, and even dropped clear with no need for assistance. I also had a couple Brownells Gi clone magazines. I bought them a few years ago on sale, as far as I can tell they did a great job cloning the old magazines but with new coatings and Brownells quality. In addition to those two types, I also tried out some standard Magpul Pmags, in both 20 round, and 30 round configurations. I am happy to report that all of them worked great, no feeding issues at all. That should come as good news to all those prospective MDR owners who already have a broad magazine inventory.
Another big concern to those interested in the MDR is the adjustable gas system. The rifle I build had a three position gas selector, though I understand that a selector with more settings (five or six) will soon be available for all MDR rifles. That said, this rifle worked great with the standard three position gas selector. I ran it on adverse for the first hundred or so rounds, to help break it in. I then changed it over to normal, and then to the suppressed setting when I attached the suppressor. I can see where a gas valve with more choices would be helpful, as even on the suppressed setting there was enough gas exiting the receiver that I could smell it. But honestly it wasn’t a big deal to me, I kept shooting along without any concern. If you shoot in an enclosed or indoor range, I could see it maybe becoming an issue. But easily resolved with a lower gas setting.
I also decided to see how the gun would run without the ejection chute installed, I have seen and been asked many times how it works. For me it isn’t a big issue, since in my experience most ejection issues/jams in the MDR are not related to the chute. But I can understand why some would want to know, so I gave it a try. With the chute removed, the gun ejected brass directly out and to the rear, about to my four or five o’clock. It occasionally would throw one to the three o’clock, but it didn’t seem to care, as it continued to chew through the rounds. Speaking of chewing, the 556 conversion on the MDR seems to be fairly mild on the brass. I assume it is because of the larger extractor to rim ratio, as well a smaller gas volume and recoil impulse.
My overall impression with the 556 MDR was one of pure enjoyment. Perhaps Im just used to shooting the 762 version, and other heavier recoiling rifles, but I just couldn’t stop pulling the trigger on this gun. The accuracy makes this rifle at the top of my wish list, and I intend on getting some more time behind it soon. Perhaps a coyote hunt or some other adventure. I will be getting one as soon as conditions permit, and probably a 6.5Creedmoor barrel to go with it for more serious work such as distance.
For those of you waiting for the 556 MDR, hang in there if you can, it is worth it.
For many years now, a new rifle platform has been thriving both here in the free world, and in the competition, military, and law enforcement communities. A stand alone and one of a kind weapon that in the author’s opinion, has near perfected a design that shooters have long sought after.
The company is Desert Tech, (formerly Desert Tactical Arms)of Salt Lake City Utah, and the rifle is the Stealth Recon Scout (SRS). My love affair with this system began several years ago, at the end of a dirt road in the foothills below Montana’s Bear tooth Mountains. A friend of mine introduced me to a rifle I had seen and heard of before, but whose unconventional looks and impressive price tag had driven it far from my psyche.
That all changed in a moment, as soon I put this extremely compact and precise instrument to use. The metallic snap of the bolt locking into battery, and the crisp break of the trigger just felt perfect against my cheek weld. Before I left Montana, I had set my mind to own one of these beauties, even should it cost me my modest gun collection. Not quite a year later, I stood in a local gun shop, filling out the transfer paperwork. It was love at first sight.
I wasted no time familiarizing myself with Mark Gordon at Short Action Customs (SAC) in Wellington, Ohio, who in a short time had already built quite a reputation in aftermarket DT barrels as well as a quality builder of rifles in general. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SRS, it is a detachable box magazine fed, bolt action bull pup, with the added advantage of being a switch barrel rifle. A bull pup of course meaning 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 overall length, and portability of the rifle. The SRS as I mentioned earlier has all of the advantages a bull pup was designed to bring to the table, as well as the quality and prestige of a very high end weapon. And the icing on the cake is the switch barrel capability. Allowing the shooter in as short as a minute, to go from a short action 308 family cartridge, to something like a 300WM or even the .338LM, and thanks to Mark and his ingenuity, SRS owners will soon be able to shoot .223 family cartridges as well.
One of the reasons this rifle is so quickly gaining fame, is the capabilities, accuracy, quality, and utility it gives to its user. It is much shorter than its competitors, even when wearing a suppressor, the SRS also delivers consistent accuracy, regardless of caliber. And its wide array of barrel possibilities, both from DT and aftermarket companies like SAC are top of the line. I have found the rifle to be very useful in competition, practical shooting, and hunting. One of the most common lines you will hear from SRS owners is that since they started shooting it, the rest of their guns gather dust in the safe.
The topic of this article is to discuss this newly developed prototype .223 from SAC, I could go on for pages about the features and adventures of the rifle itself. But, this new conversion kit (as barrel, bolt, and magazine are called) deserves all my attention here.
Mark and I first made contact when I purchased a barrel from him shortly after I became a DT owner, and luckily he approached me about testing one of these new kits when they were ready. The added advantages that a .223 barrel would afford me were very appealing to say the least. Having a very inexpensive cartridge like the .223 in my barrel collection would make great for training and plinking purposes, and at my average density altitude here, the .223 is no slouch. Making it a shoe in for all my varmint hunting adventures. Surely I am not the only DT owner to consider all these tantalizing new opportunities Mark’s venture would bring, and I’m sure they will start lining up as soon as production begins, which at this writing, could be as soon as June 2015.
I’ll move forward under the assumption that the reader is at least rudimentarily familiar with the SRS, in the interest of time. There is much to discuss. For those of you interested, there is a companion YouTube video to this article that can be found here:
When I first opened the freshly packed box from Ohio, my impression was typical to Mark’s customers. Even the packaging shows attention to detail, and required a clever approach to unwrap and remove each piece of the kit. . It was like Christmas again, inside was a 22” Bartlein, 7.7 twist barrel, threaded with a break installed and timed. I continued opening and found the bolt, and the magazine, both proprietary from SAC. The magazine was as stout as anyone could hope, I felt like I could hitch it in the end of an axe handle and split firewood should the need arise. Built from billet aluminum, it fills the size of the original DT magazine, even though it only uses a small portion of that space for its payload. Two halves held together by machine screws, with a nylon follower. And I was happy to see as I eagerly stuffed it full of cartridges, that it has room stacked for ten. Not just ten standard .223 rounds, but my long range load using 80gr Sierra Match Kings seated much longer than standard loads (2.515coal). My attention then turned to the bolt, at first glance it seemed the same as any other DT bolt. But I soon noticed a significant difference. Normal DT bolts have two sets of three bolt lugs, this new design of Mark’s had only one set of bolt lugs. I then returned to the barrel, and sure enough, the barrel extension was different as well, made to accept only three lugs. So part of Mark’s solution to chambering such a petite round in an action made to handle up to 338LM, was to shorten the distance traveled from feed lips, into battery. By removing the second (stacked) layer of bolt lugs bringing the front of the bolt and the rear face of the barrel closer, sooner. All of which required manufacturing a new barrel extension and matching bolt head.
This was one of the newer style DT bolts, with the interchangeable bolt head. I assume that production conversion kits will have an option of purchasing just the bolt head, or a complete bolt. Depending on a customer’s needs. Much work has been put into this small bolt head. To fit ejector and extractor into it, and still accommodate for all the other functions it does must have been some feat. We went through several revisions of the bolt-head in order to ensure perfect function. With the bolt also came a new bolt stop plug, to shorten the bolt’s rear travel to the shorter length of the .223. This makes for a short and smooth stroke, making rapid shooting faster even than before.
The whole kit just screamed “shoot me”, and like a badger with a fresh can of Spam, I descended into my cave to fit this new system to its host.
As I slid the new barrel into the chassis, its weight was manifest when it bottomed out perfectly in its keyed bore. I installed the barrel as I do any other, bolt and magazine followed. The shortness of the newly married combination was very impressive, I had yet to install my suppressor on the system just to test for balance and handling. It was heavy, heavy as any other barrel I own. But with a similar contour and such a small bore, I guess that should have been expected. (My next .223 barrel will either be fluted, or a lighter profile) This could also be considered a good thing, if one intends on using the barrel as a trainer, since it maintains the rifle’s weight and handling. As I worked the new bolt, and tested its operation, I was reminded why this rifle is such a joy to shoot. The SAC .223 conversion was just as smooth and crisp as every other bolt/barrel combination I had used. I could hardly wait to get it to the range.
I am a glutton for punishment, and a reclusive one at that, so my first trip to shoot the SAC kit was not to the local rifle range, but to my favorite field shooting spot, high above the city in the mountains above my home. It was there, on a sunny and dry fall day, at about 5500ASL that I broke paper. I had brought along a box of some Federal factory loaded ammo, as well as some hand loads I had very high hopes for. I started at 75yds, only to re-zero my rifle. Each barrel can have a slightly different zero from another, in my experience it’s usually not far (+/- 1MIL in any direction). In this case, the SAC .223 barrel was .4MIL lower than my regular zero. The good news is, it’s always the same with each barrel, no need to re-zero every time you switch barrels. I have since had it in and out many times, and it is always exactly zeroed when I install it. Within two or three shots, I had the new barrel zeroed. I ran half a dozen handloads over the chronograph, and was very happy to see 2880fps as an average. My load being 23.5gr of ARcomp under an 80gr SMK seated at 2.515”. In typical SAC fashion, the barrel shot much tighter than I can hold. I am terrible at shooting groups, but when I manage to hold properly, this thing easily put five Match Kings though a 3/8 inch hole. All the squirrel’s and magpies within earshot must have questioned my sanity as I chuckled like Yogi Bear while shoving more rounds into the magazine. But they know me, and know when to stay the hell out of sight, so my reputation maintained its place at the top of the food chain. Never satisfied with a hundred yards, I decided to push the limits of this new kit. And with the west side of the Rocky Mountains at my disposal, I had plenty of room to do it. I hit all my usual targets, ranging from three hundred out to nine hundred and fifty yards. The beauty was, this load/barrel shot way better than my ballistic computer had projected. And at nine hundred and fifty yards, I was a whole MIL high. I dropped it down to 7.4MIL and pummeled a target measuring roughly 18″h by 10″w for about six rounds. It was a beautiful feeling to have such accuracy and power from such an inexpensive cartridge. I was so excited to get home and share my results with Mark, I almost left without all my gear, but I quickly gathered it up, and continued my Yogi Bear chuckle all the way back down the trail to the truck.
I’ve been back to the mountains, and out to the desert, I’ve put over five hundred rounds through it already, and I can say with conviction, I LOVE this 223. I have always been a big fan of the cartridge, but it only gets better in the DT chassis. I have used it to plunder several dogtowns, many vermin, and even managed to take the first big game ever with a .223 SRS, a Wyoming Pronghorn all handily, and with a sense of confidence that’s unexplainable. I’ve stretched it out to 1035yds so far, and as long as conditions are calm, I think I’ll push it a little farther.
All in all, this prototype gets about a 9.5 out of 10 from the coldbore panel of judge, it fits into a niche that has needed a resident for some time. With almost no felt recoil, it is a fun way to train, a cheap way to practice, an efficient way to hunt, and a particularly humiliating way to smoke your buddies in a match. If I was to change anything about it, it would only be this; a lighter barrel, either in contour or fluted. Both of which should not be a problem as SAC thrives on customizing their customer’s request’s.
I am very far from being done with this kit, I see a long future filled with stacked pelts and shiny steel targets. For the many of you one rifle Desert Tech guys who have been wishing for a 223 for your counterpart, the day will soon come, and Short Action Customs will bring it to you.