Tag Archives: deserttech

The Desert Tech MDR in 5.56

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.

-CBM

Oh Wait! there’s a Video too:

Short Action Black Magic

Am I the only one who was surprised by the rapid and exhaustive penetration of the 300 Blackout into the shooting world? I mean, I’d like to think that I had a grasp on what the hip kids shot. At first glance it didn’t even seem worthy of a second look. Sure, if your an AR guy and wanna spend a lot of time and money going movie quiet, then great, this slug’s for you. But what did it do for a guy with a serious precision rifle infatuation? Time would soon tell…
The guy that built my first custom rifle back around the turn of the century, was the first to mention it to me. He called it a Whisper, which is basically the same thing. I disregarded it as gun room talk, you know, two guys pretending to know a lot by saying things the other guy hopefully doesn’t know about?

Years later, as the blackout continued to gain market share, I found myself asking why people were building 300blk bolt guns. I had long since tailored my own sub sonic 308win loads, and to my simple mind, it didn’t make sense. A 30 caliber bullet going 1000FPS doesn’t care who pushed it there. And since the .308 had the added benefit of shooting bullets almost three times that velocity, it seemed silly to leave money on the table with the little blackout. Unless of course you were running an AR15 platform.

Fast forward to the era of my Desert Tech SRS, a rifle that most of you know dominates my trigger time. The compact and accurate SRS fit my needs like no other rifle can, and its ability to swap barrels has literally left thousands of gun collections collecting nothing but dust. I can run an abundance of calibers, both factory and custom, almost anything a guy can dream up from short action to long.

One of the last barriers in this overabundance of options for the SRS, was broken by Short Action Customs LLC a few years ago. Mark began a project that would eventually become a complete 223 conversion kit for the SRS. And before he could even sell the first one, the black plague was inquiring if he would also make a 300blk conversion kit as well.
Perhaps it was my skepticism of the blackout, that influenced his decision, or perhaps my mediocre street cred’s. But whatever the reason, Mark sent me a 300blk conversion kit to test out. A 16 inch 300blk barrel that would mate right up to the .223 bolt I already had, and a billet aluminum magazine with some slightly different cuts to it.
Testing loads
I am a sucker for load development, it’s like an attention deficit disorder. Regardless of what I’m doing, if there are empty cases on my bench, my mind wanders, considering what powder’s, what bullet’s, and the circumstances of their arranged marriage. I wasted no time getting deep into the black magic of loading this mysterious little cartridge.

Any writing about the 300blk would be incomplete without discussing its true purpose. As hinted by its name, the blackout is built around stealth. When loaded with heavy for caliber bullets, at sub sonic speeds, its sound signature is comparable to a pellet gun. The bullet is launched just below the speed of sound (a speed that varies depending on atmospheric characteristics) which in my neck of the dark woods is around 1000 fps. The slow speed of the bullet allows it to travel through the air without breaking the sound barrier, and the accompanying loud crack that some of us are familiar with. When a suppressor is added to the rifle, the report caused by rapidly escaping gasses, is also withdrawn. All that is left, is the sound of that gas escaping from the muzzle, resulting in a nearly unnoticed hiss.

In order to realize this secretive squall, quick burning pistol powders in small amounts are used. I had chosen the Hornady 195 BTHP, for many reasons but the most important one was that I was showing a large surplus in nothing else. After trying a few different loads, I found one that worked quite well. Using a mere 5 grains of Hi Skor 700X, the 195’s were hushing along just shy of the speed of sound. 700X may not be the ideal powder for the blackout I know, but when you have fifteen pounds of it, you have to find a way to make it useful. The small case of the blackout yielded more consistent velocities than .308win based sub sonic loads.

In no time at all, I found myself chuckling at the range. The incredibly quiet blackout was refreshing, and to my surprise it was pretty easy to get it to shoot well. I found myself calling cease fires, just so everybody could not hear the shot, followed by the distant metallic ping. Even my sub sonic loads had SD numbers in the low teens. With practically no load development, I was shooting near sub MOA 5 shot groups. And the supersonic loads (150gr Hornady BTSP’s) shot at almost 2000fps were even better (all accuracy testing was done at 100yds). The recoil, or lack of it was extremely satisfying, I could many times see my own bullets flying in the air on their way to the target. Like every other Short Action Customs, LLC barrel that I own, this one shoots with meticulous repetition. The accuracy, recoil, and cheap plinking fun that I have had with this little kit has certainly changed my perspective on the blackout.
100 yard 5 shot sub sonic groups, the top impact on both groups was 1st shot

With a covert ability to engage targets with the utmost concealment, this conversion kit would be perfectly suited for removing varmints from the barnyard. I suppose that LE and Military could use it for the same thing if they needed to quietly escalate something. At the same time, when loaded supersonic with lighter bullets, the blackout would also make a good short range plinking/hunting cartridge for game such as deer or hogs.

The 300blk conversion kit is a completely turn-key system, like any other conversion kit for the SRS. You simply drop the barrel in, torque it down, and swap either the bolt or bolt head depending on the configuration you have. The 10 round magazine fits right into the magwell like any other DT magazine. My kit came threaded for a suppressor, I assume they all will be unless ordered otherwise. But shooting this conversion kit un-suppressed would be silly in my opinion, as its entire enterprise is based on silence. I did experience a significant cold bore shift, whether this is a blackout thing, or a sub sonic thing, I dont know. But it is something to keep in mind for sure, when those hits have to count.
I used both a 308 suppressor, and a 338 suppressor on the little blackout, I didn’t notice any significant difference between them. But since the SRS is prone to multiple calibers, if I had to pick, I’d go with the 338. I wonder if a shorter barrel, would help lower SD numbers even further. A 10 inch blackout seems like it would be perfect, if it didn’t put my Covert on some NFA black list.

For those of you who are familiar with the 300blackout, you probably have experienced the same silly grin when you hear bullets thumping targets, as birds chirp nearby. For those of you who haven’t yet fallen under the spell, it shouldn’t take much.

I wont speculate as to when the complete blackout conversion kits will be available to order, but I believe the good people at Short Action Customs are working hard to get them ready. If you are interested a blackout conversion kit, shoot Mark an email at: mark@shortactioncustoms.com
(Dont call him and waste time because there are a lot of fine rifles being cranked out of that shop every day, and I dont need you slowing him down 😀 ) Visit http://shortactioncustoms.com/ for more information. photo credit: Ben Hetland
-CBM

6.5 Creedmoor

It’s no secret that I am a fan boy for the Desert Tech Stealth Recon Scout, I have spent the last few years getting intimately familiar with its virtues. I have had the chance to use the SRS in many different applications, including hunts of all kinds, as well as competitive, and long range shooting. Today I am writing about one of the many reasons why the SRS system, with its seemingly unlimited options has replaced every other rifle in my safe.

I jumped onto the 6.5/.264 bandwagon a couple years ago, it was a 26” 260 Remington that sealed my opinion of the .264 bore. That original barrel has around 3000 rounds on it, and the bullets it has fired have crossed untold miles of cold mountain canyons, and hot desert plains.
The 6.5 lineup has grown over the years, too many to mention here, but the bulk of the work is done by the 260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and the 6.5X47 Lapua. We could debate for days (and we often do) about which one of the three is best, and why. But today, I have chosen to focus on the 6.5 Creedmoor.

I jumped onto the 6.5/.264 bandwagon a couple years ago, it was a 26” 260 Remington that sealed my opinion of the .264 bore. That original barrel has around 3000 rounds on it, and the bullets it has fired have crossed untold miles of cold mountain canyons, and hot desert plains.
The 6.5 lineup has grown over the years, too many to mention here, but the bulk of the work is done by the 260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and the 6.5X47 Lapua. We could debate for days (and we often do) about which one of the three is best, and why. But today, I have chosen to focus on the 6.5 Creedmoor.

I appreciate the aesthetics of properly manufactured ammunition, and the Creedmoor loaded by Desert Tech Munitionsis a perfect example. Clean and smooth edges, the discoloration of annealed brass, and a uniform presentation that gives a consumer confidence. Looks certainly are not everything when it comes to ammo, so I wasted no time getting to my shooting position.

It was a cool and breezy evening, a snow storm was inbound, threatening to soak my target, my SRS, and of course me. None the less I hiked with purpose to the spot I go to when time is short.
A quick shot of the rangefinder confirmed my one hundred yards to the target, I found a comfortable position with a good solid rest.
The barrel I was using to test this ammunition was virgin, I had only finished its assembly an hour or so before I left work. So a zero had to be achieved before any accuracy testing could be done.
I opened the first box, and loaded ten rounds.

My first shot landed about 1.5 inches low, I measured with my reticle, and made a corrective adjustment. The next 8-9 shots went into one ragged hole, and but for one shot that I knew was bad when it broke, it was as good as anything I’d ever shot previously. That is of course not saying much, as I’m terrible at shooting groups. But even for me, it seemed quite easy to stack shots on top of each other. I continued to shoot five shot groups one after another, I was more than happy with the patterns that this ammo made, through this brand new barrel. I’m very interested to see how it does after its broken in.

After shooting a few boxes of ammo at 100yds, I called it a day. The snowy weather was making it hard to see anything, and the wind was starting to get worse. So I retreated back down the mountain trail, suspending my testing temporarily for a better day.

As soon as permissible, I made my way back up into the mountains. A few days had passed, and the blue sky stretched as far as I could see across the valley. I made my way up the winding mountain road, my ATV laden with a days’ worth of gear, snacks, and snow. As I climbed higher and higher, the snow got deeper. But silence and solitude was the reward. When I finally found the spot I wanted to shoot from, I had gained nearly 3,000 feet more than my first outing with the Creedmoor. Nothing but a light breeze and sunshine at that altitude.

Again I setup my target at 100 yards, and did a quick zero test. I was pleased to see that my cold bore shot was exactly on my point of aim, and the several shots that followed were right on top of it. Happy that nothing had changed since my last outing, I decided to push the Creedmoor out a bit further. I started at 642 yards, I wasn’t about to walk that far in the deep snow. Instead, I found a small cube shaped rock on a small exposed piece of dirt across a long draw. I estimated the rock to be two or three inches in width, a reasonable sized target for that range. So I set to getting the wind and elevation for the shot. I wanted to see how close the come ups listed on the box were to actual , so I made an estimation from the data printed there, and made a wind call. I loaded the magazine as I went over everything in my head, then settled in behind the rifle. I focused on my trigger pull, and broke the shot, the impact was right at the base of the small stone. I made a small correction hold, and sent three more shots at the rock. All of them found their mark, smashing the rock, and sending its pieces rolling into the snow below.
I repeated the process at 860 yards, and again at 970. I was very impressed with the accuracy, shot after shot was right where I had aimed. And when it wasn’t, I knew it before the rifle had finished recoiling.

Obviously, I am a bit biased in most of my opinions here. But I can certainly say without any bias, this is the most accurate factory ammunition I have ever shot. Consistency is king in this game, and I cant wait to keep stacking shots in the black with this Creedmoor.
-CBM

 

 

Butt it Fits?

Many of you are aware of my deep and committed love for my Desert Tech SRS A1 Covert. For many years now I have been terrorizing the hills and peaks of these Rocky Mountains with the surplus of barrel options it gives me. For so long, I thought that there was no way it could possibly get any better. To put it very simple, I was wrong.
I have always loved my SRS, from the first time I shot one, till at least yesterday when I shot it last. The ergonomics of the rifle seemed to fit me perfectly, and operating it became second nature in no time. The benefits offered by this rifle fit my shooting style, its short and compact. Great for packing around, but its also extremely accurate, which is helpful for trigger jerkers like me. Add to that the ability to change untold numbers of barrel combinations makes it the only rifle I’ll ever need. I only say that because though I still have a few other nice rifles, they have barely left the safe since the SRS came home, and even when they do, it’s to let someone borrow it.

So it may come as a surprise to you, as it did to me, that my humble little SRS could be easily upgraded. That is when the brilliantly creative fellows over at Short Action Customs, LLC come in. Mark and I met long ago when I first got my SRS, he was destined to sire several Bartlein’s for me and my rifle. At the moment, I have a 7SAUM, a 300Blackout, and a 223 Remington all built by Short Action Customs. Three of my favorite barrels, all because they are extremely accurate, and repeatable enough to give me the confidence to take a cold bore shot on an elk at 970 yards.
Mark and the guys have been busy making Ohio and the world a better place, and my SRS has benefited directly. Dan Calala of Short Action Customs and the proprietor of Desert Tech Solutions contacted me some time ago about an idea he had to make the SRS even better than it already was. After I got over the initial shock of blaspheme, I tuned into Dan’s soothing voice, and I thought surely there was some good reasoning behind his idea.
All these years I had thought that my SRS had fit me perfectly, well I come to find out that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t very picky. Now I may be the kind of guy to walk two miles with a rock in his shoe, but it never occurred to me that I wasn’t picky about my rifles. At least not until Dan sent me his invention.
When the package showed up, I was impressed by what was inside. It was a fully adjustable recoil pad for the SRS. I had always thought the standard recoil pad fit me just fine, that’s not to say it wasn’t comfortable, but this new one began to grow on me before it was even installed.

Dan had fashioned a piece of aluminium that is attached to one of the Desert Tech recoil pad spacers. An XLR recoil pad was attached to the back of it, its broad and soft texture was very appealing, and I couldn’t wait to get it on my gun.
It snapped right on, as though it was just another Desert Tech part, and after a few minutes playing with it, I soon found out just how convenient this thing was going to be. The recoil pad has a row of threaded screw holes drilled down its center axis, and screwed into the holes was a short aluminum dowel.

Recoil pad can be raised or lowered by moving the aluminum dowel up or down (red). The cant of the recoil pad is adjusted by loosening the side 5mm screw (blue)


The same tool used by SRS owners to change barrels can be used to adjust and disassemble the recoil pad.

Machine screws are threaded through the dowel, and into the front side of the recoil pad. The row of screw holes bored from top to bottom allows the user to adjust the height of the recoil pad. The aluminum dowel is received into the back of the recoil pad spacer, where there is a reciprocating bore for the dowel pin. This allows the entire recoil pad to be canted 360 degrees by the user by simply loosening one 5mm hex bolt on the right side of the spacer, the same screw is used to disassemble the unit.

It literally took me a couple minutes to get the recoil pad perfectly fit to my shoulder, and it was only then that I realized that the standard SRS recoil pad wasn’t as comfy as I had previously thought. This became more and more evident as I took the rifle out for a quick hike up my canyon.

The new adjustable recoil pad was also a bit “stickier” than the standard one, this helps keep the rifle in place when running the bolt in awkward positions. And it’s new angle, slightly canted, made the rifle more comfortable than ever. Best of all, it made it much faster to get settled in properly on the rifle.

I found that my level of comfort on the rifle was much better, particularly when shooting the larger calibers like 338LM. But it helped across the board as far as making the rifle become and extension of me.

Its been a great season of shooting with this new product, it has enhanced somewhat my shooting ability, and made it even more pleasant than before. If I had to say something negative about it, I guess it would be the added weight that it brings to the rifle. I haven’t actually weighed it, but it feels about like a pound. For me this isn’t a big issue, my gun is a pig, and always has been. So whats an additional half pound here or there.
I hunt quite a bit, and the added comfort and stability of this part has given me a little more edge in my game. After a whole season of chasing everything from squirrels to elk, you wont see me changing back anytime soon.
-CBM

SAC Conversion Kit for the Desert Tech SRS

Short Action Customs 223Rem Conversion for the Desert Tech SRS

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.
223
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.

Check out their website here:Short Action Customs