Seeing What You Can’t See, or, How I Learned to Love Thermal Vision

Here's the FLIR view of the brand new Smith & Wesson M&P Pro Series CORE with compensated barrel. As you can see, it's was just fired.

Here’s the FLIR view of the brand new Smith & Wesson M&P Pro Series CORE with compensated barrel. As you can see, it’s was just fired.

If you really want to be able to see, sometimes you have to use a lens that you can’t see through.

I recently toured one of FLIR’s manufacturing facilities and got quite the education on how to see things you can’t really see. While FLIR makes a wide variety of sensing gear, not just infrared products, they’re most commonly known for commercial and military products that help folks see things not normally visible to the human eye. By using lenses made from exotic materials like Germanium and Zinc Selenide and adding a touch of sensing and computer image enhancement technology, FLIR products are able to present the user with a picture of the environment based on relative heat signatures, or infrared.

The hardest thing to get my head around was the fact that visible light is irrelevant to infrared imaging. You can’t see through the lenses at all, which is kind of freaky when you think about it, especially since they’re called lenses. As visible light has no effect on the infrared image, FLIR products are equally useful in daylight, darkness, and obscured visible conditions.

Everything has a temperature signature, even if that signature is a lack of temperature. Objects that do not “generate” heat still have a signature as they absorb and release heat based on environmental conditions. Every material reacts differently and even minute variances in material shape or thickness result in different relative heat levels. The result of all this is that a FLIR device can create a very accurate picture of your surroundings – regardless of ambient light conditions.

Unlike light-amplification technology like standard night vision, it’s difficult to camouflage an object from FLIR. One notable exception is glass. Infrared does not travel well through that medium, so objects behind glass are essentially invisible. For now.

I’ve been experimenting with two different pieces of FLIR gear: the FLIR Scout Handheld Night Vision Camera and the FLIR One iPhone camera.

The FLIR Scout (left) and FLIR One iPhone camera (right)

The FLIR Scout (left) and FLIR One iPhone camera (right)

The FLIR Scout is a great product for people who enjoy outdoor activities like hunting, camping, hiking and critter watching. As we’ll see, it has a variety of other interesting uses. A monocular, hand-held device, it offers different modes of heat map display including InstAlert options that highlight the hottest objects in bright red.

The FLIR One is a hardware and software combination that turns your iPhone into an infrared-enabled camera. The case contains a rechargeable battery and two cameras: one IR and the other optical. The software combines input from the two cameras to generate a representation of what it sees based on infrared signature and whatever it can detect optically.

Rather than talk about features, let’s take a look at some of the uses I found for these two products.

Spot game

The FLIR Scout base model I tested is capable of spotting a man-sized target at distances up to 350 yards. I believe it. During my informal tinkering, I spotted the doe shown here at a distance of 80+ yards and she was bedded down in a brushy area – completely invisible to the naked eye. This photo was taken in the dark but would have looked the same if taken in broad daylight.

A bedded-down doe at a range of about 80 yards.

A bedded-down doe at a range of about 80 yards.

The InstAlert feature of the FLIR Scout has four intensity modes. If you crank up the sensitivity, as in the photo above, you’ll see “warmer” spots on other objects besides living things. You can easily see moving animals at distances up to a couple hundred yards.

Measure temperature of an object without having to touch it

Jeff doesn’t know this yet, but I’m using him as an example of how the FLIR One can remotely measure the temperature of an object in addition to generating an infrared image representation. As you can see, Jeff has warmed his shirt up to 74.9 degrees by working diligently on his laptop. I’m not implying that I treat Jeff as an object…

I felt compelled to measure the temperature of this inanimate object...

I felt compelled to measure the temperature of this object…

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

I Dig the .357 Sig

A classic example of a great .357 Sig cartridge - Speer's 125 grain Gold Dot.

A classic example of a great .357 Sig cartridge – Speer’s 125 grain Gold Dot.

I dig the .357 Sig.

In fact, I dig it so much, I feel like I’m on a one-man campaign to help boost it into the shooting mainstream. One of the biggest gripes people have about the .357 Sig cartridge is the cost, but that becomes a non-issue as more people start to use it. Volume begets cheapness – the more they make, the lower the cost. Whatever your position on the caliber wars, you have to admit that 9mm is making a resurgence as a great defensive caliber, and hey, .357 is a 9mm on steroids, right?

What is the .357 Sig?

One of my favorite .357 Sig launching platforms - the Sig Sauer P229.

One of my favorite .357 Sig launching platforms – the Sig Sauer P229.

Some folks refer to this cartridge as a necked-down .40 Smith & Wesson. Conceptually, that’s kinda true, but there are technical differences. The cartridge base is the same dimension and the main part of the case body is the same diameter, but the .357 Sig case is not made from a .40 S&W case. The projectile is the same as a 9mm at .355 inches diameter.

Because of these similarities to the .40 S&W, you can often just swap barrels to change your pistol from .40 S&W to .357 Sig or vice versa. Magazines are generally compatible between the two calibers as well. Always check with your particular handgun manufacturer first before embarking on caliber changes.

If you want to understand the benefit of .357 Sig, just think this. It’s got the magazine capacity of a .40 S&W in any given gun, and it has a 200 to 400 foot per second velocity advantage over 9mm, depending on the load. While .357 Sig can’t match the specs of those uber-macho 158 grain .357 Magnum loads, it does compare favorably with 125 grain .357 Magnum.

One other thing to note. The .357 Sig is a bottleneck-shaped cartridge. This provides another hidden advantage – feeding is exceptionally reliable. With any of the four .357 Sig pistols I currently have (Sig P226, Sig P229, Glock 32 and Glock 31), I can limp wrist like Pee Wee Herman and the guns will still cycle properly.

Ballistic Science

Earlier I mentioned that .357 Sig approaches .357 Magnum territory, but from a semi-automatic pistol. It’s close. Real close. To see how close, I went out to the range and clocked a slew of them using a Shooting Crony Beta Master chronograph placed 15 feet down range. Here’s what I found.

.357 Sig velocity measured 15 feet from the muzzle.

.357 Sig velocity measured 15 feet from the muzzle.

Of all the loads I tested, average velocity was 1,363 feet per second, and that includes those fat and (relatively) slow 180 grain hard cast cruisers from Doubletap Ammunition.

Read the rest at AmmoLand!

 

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SilencerCo’s Osprey Is One Cool Bird

The SilencerCo Osprey is a smokin' hot bird! Yeah, baby, yeah!

The SilencerCo Osprey is a smokin’ hot bird! Yeah, baby, yeah!

At risk of being exposed as a “B” grade cable TV junkie, I have to admit I enjoy seeing my favorite pistol suppressor on AMC’s The Walking Dead. If you’re a watcher of that particular serial carnage, you might have noticed that lead character Rick Grimes has one interesting looking silencer on his gun. That would be a SilencerCo Osprey. It’s easy to spot because it’s shaped a little bit like a smashed Twinkie. It’s not round like all those nifty silencers 007 used back when Bond movies were awesome. One could make the case that it’s reminiscent of saggy underarms you see on old folks – the bulk of the suppressor is hanging down below the bone, so to speak. Just to be clear though, the Osprey is a lot sexier!

A caliber smorgasboard: A 45 Osprey on a Glock 31 (.357 Sig) using a Lone Wolf .40 S&W threaded barrel.

A caliber smorgasbord: A 45 Osprey on a Glock 31 (.357 Sig) using a Lone Wolf .40 S&W threaded barrel.

When you screw the Osprey on to the barrel, it may end up like this. No worries, that's what the clutch lever is for.

When you screw the Osprey on to the barrel, it may end up like this. No worries, that’s what the clutch lever is for.

There’s a  good reason for the unusual shape. To suppress a gunshot, you have to control and slow down more gas than Piers Morgan ejects in an entire hour, and you have to do it in pico-seconds. Or maybe micro or milliseconds. No matter, you have to control the hot gasses quickly, and to do that, you need a certain amount of volume in the suppressor itself. The natural solution to creating volume is to make the tube bigger around, but if you do that, then the large tube blocks your front sights. Come to think of it, and the SilencerCo folks did, why not stray from that whole round tube concept and create more volume under the barrel and less on top of the barrel, thereby increasing visibility for the shooter? After all, people who know, know it’s good to see what you’re shooting at.

So that’s the reason that the SilencerCo Osprey is shaped like a squashed Twinkie. By the way, the Osprey has 30% more internal volume than a cylindrical suppressor of identical length.

There is a catch, however. When you screw that suppressor onto the barrel, how do you know that when it’s tight, it will line up properly so that the chubby part is on the bottom? The technical term for that particular engineering problem is “indexing.” Indexing is just a fancy word for “lining everything up, so it doesn’t look weird.” Here’s how SilencerCo solved the indexing problem.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

Aimpoint’s New Micro T-2 Red Dot Optic

The Aimpoint Micro T-2 (right) improves on the already solid Micro H-1 and T-1 designs.

The Aimpoint Micro T-2 (right) improves on the already solid Micro H-1 and T-1 designs.

We’re a people of excess. Not that excess is bad in general, but there are situations where too much can be a bad thing.

Optics comes to mind. Almost without fail, we shooters go “all in” when it comes to magnified optics. Even though most of us will be shooting at ranges of 100 yards and less (usually much less), we tend to crank up the power on rifle optics. Gimme that 12-42x monster scope so I can precisely target the “Y” on the back side of a Bayer aspirin, will ya?

The flip-up scope caps are excellent. They won't fall off and are transparent so it's not necessary to open them.

The flip-up scope caps are excellent. They won’t fall off and are transparent so it’s not necessary to open them.

While that sounds good on paper, too much power can be detrimental. Try shooting a high magnification scope from a standing position, and you’ll see what I mean. While your gun is wobbling the same amount as with low magnification, the perceived swings and movements will make you seasick and actually lower your odds of hitting your target. It’s hard to achieve a steady hold with too much magnification.

While it may seem counterintuitive, most people, with some fundamental training and practice, can hit a target out to 400 yards using iron sights. That’s right, just ask any Project Appleseed instructor.

When it comes to my “regular use” and home defense AR rifles, I equip them with zero magnification red dot optics. Why? There are a few benefits. As we discussed, you can hit accurately out to several hundred yards if you want to without magnification. Your field of view through the optics is much, much larger than with a magnified optic. There are no parallax issues that require perfect alignment of your head to the optic for repeatable accuracy. You can (and should) shoot with both eyes open. Red dots work well in low light. They’re fast. Really, really fast. They’re far easier to use than multiple-part iron sights – just put the dot on the target and shoot.

My personal choice for MSR red dot optics is Aimpoint. I’ve used the Aimpoint Micro H-1 and Aimpoint PRO on a number of rifles and couldn’t be happier with those choices. One of the things I like best is the “always on” capability. Battery management is so good that a set of batteries lasts 75% of forever. This means you can leave it on, all the time, and not worry about running out of juice when you need it most. Many models will run at average power level for five years continuously. If you want to be crazy-prepared for the worst, set yourself a reminder to change batteries every two or three years and you’ll never have to worry. It’s a great benefit for a home defense rifle where you don’t want to think about turning switches on and off should you hear a bump in the night.

Recently I got my hot little hands on a brand new model – the Aimpoint Micro T-2. Let’s check it out.

Aimpoint Micro T-2

The Micro T-2 represents the next generation of the Micro T-1, which is the sibling of the Micro H-1. The only real difference between the H-1 and T-1 models is night vision compatibility.

 

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

A Beautiful Beretta: The New 692 Sporting B-Fast Over/Under Shotgun

The Beretta 692 Sporting with B-Fast Adjustable comb.

The Beretta 692 Sporting with B-Fast Adjustable comb.

On this, the 3rd day of October 1526. [To] Master Bartolomeo Beretta of the Brescian territory of Gardone for 185 arquebus barrels [made] for Our House of the Arsenal [given] 296 ducati.

The 692 Sporting is a classic "Sovrapposto" - a beauty and a beast.

The 692 Sporting is a classic “Sovrapposto” – a beauty and a beast.

So begins the history of the world’s oldest gun maker – Beretta. By the way, in 1526, 296 ducati was a lot of Benjamins. While it’s pretty hard to make an inflation-adjusted comparison, we know that Leonardo Da Vinci’s apprentices were paid 1/10th of a ducat per day, about 36 ducats a year, so Beretta’s first order for gun parts was about eight years pay for a hard working artist-inventor-mason-painter worker. We also know that Leonardo had about 600 ducats in his checking account in 1499, so if Beretta had been founded a few years earlier, he could have paid cash for 185 arquebus barrels, leaving plenty in the bank for a healthy ammo stockpile.

Italy’s Trompia Valley, home of Gardone, is flush with the right materials for gun making. Iron ore deposits abound and heavy forests provided the wood to stoke smelteries and smithies. Back in the day, barrel making was a bit different. Craftsmen pounded iron plates around a mandrel, overlapping them along a longitudinal seam. By mashing the snot out of the joints, they created solid barrel blanks, which were then shaped to final dimensions.

Beretta 692 Sporting-6

While early history of Beretta shows an emphasis on military arms, it was Guiseppe Beretta who stepped on the gas to ramp up production of sporting arms. In the 1850s, only 250 to 300 guns were produced annually. By the 1880s, that number exploded to almost 8,000 per annum.

This one features adjustable ejection -a nice touch.

This one features adjustable ejection -a nice touch.

Many early shotguns featured side by side barrel configuration, mainly because it was easier to produce a strong locking mechanism and figure out how to “light” each barrel. By the 1930s, engineers finally got really comfortable with good sidekick designs and over / under shotguns took off. One Beretta story relates company inventor, Tullio Marengoni, demonstrating the strength of his new over / under cross bolt lock to the Berettas by securing the barrel and receiver to the stock with rope – and firing the gun himself. The gun held together, and the design was adopted.

Enter one of the latest Italian shotguns – the Beretta 692 Sporting. Since we’re talking Italian here, we’ll describe it as a “Sovrapposto” meaning over and under barrel configuration.

The newest iteration of the 692 Sporting line fills a gap in the Beretta product line for trap shooters wanting a high-quality gun without spending in the five digit range. At the top end is the DT-11 family – fantastic shotguns and the choice of plenty of Olympian shooters. But the DT-11 comes at a price point out of reach of many non-sponsored shooters. Moving into the two to five thousand price range, there was not a new production gun optimized for trap until now. The 692 Sporting line has been out for a while, but not with an adjustable comb and long barrels. It’s been the same with the recent Silver Pigeon line – fantastic guns for sporting clays and skeet, but none optimized for the trap field. Semi-automatics like the 391 series have been a viable option, but many shooters prefer the feel and convenience of break action shotguns for trap sports.

This particular 692 Sporting model is not off the press – literally. Our sample gun, shown here, is the first one of its type to hit US shores. It’s got the B-Fast comb system for near-infinite adjustment and extra long barrels (32-inch) preferred by many trap shooters. Just to be clear, this is not a dedicated trap gun – it’s well suited for skeet and sporting clays. It just offers features that make it suitable for trap as well.

Let’s take a closer look.

Barrels

The 692 features a wide, tapered rib that's mounted low on the top barrel.

The 692 features a wide, tapered rib that’s mounted low on the top barrel.

Borrowing from that high-end DT-11 line we mentioned earlier, the 692 Sporting model also uses “Steelium” barrel technology. Steelium is a fancy marketing name that, quite frankly, sounds a little goofy to me, but that’s neither here nor there. Here’s what it means.

Now producing over 500,000 gun barrels of various types each year, Beretta knows a thing or two about how to optimize a shotgun barrel. The biggest deal on this one, outside of uniformity, longevity and over/under alignment, is the forcing cone. That’s the conical section at the breach end that helps gently transition the shot load into the standard barrel diameter. By making this transition more gradual, you get a couple of benefits. First, the shot doesn’t get as mashed up. Lead pellets tend to stay round and uniform, and as a result, fly in a tighter and more consistent pattern. Second, the “shock” of the pellets leaving the shell and forcing their way into the muzzle is mellowed and drawn out over a longer period of time. While the overall recoil energy is still the same, the impact of the shooter is smoother and more spread out. This not only helps improve felt recoil, but also muzzle rise, encouraging a faster transition to a second shot.

To put the forcing cone improvements into mathematical perspective, a standard forcing cone has an overall length of about 65 millimeters. The Steelium PRO cone is a whopping 360 millimeters in length. That’s quite a difference that contributes to the gentle shooting and excellent patterns.

Note the low rib mount.

Note the low rib mount.

The chambers are cut for 3-inch shells should you want to hunt with your 692 Sporting. While we’re talking about chambers, the ejection system is adjustable with included tools.

The 692 Sporting features a wide rib that tapers in towards to the muzzle. I measured the rib just forward of the receiver at .39 inches wide. At the front bead, the rib narrows to .318 inches. A single white bead is mounted at the muzzle and there is no center bead or hole for one. This is fine with me as too much stuff on the rib is a distraction that pulls attention away from the target and back to the beads.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

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Alien Gear’s IWB / OWB Modular Holster: The Cloak Tuck 2.0

This Cloak Tuck 2.0 model came configured as an IWB but included an OWB panel too (left)

This Cloak Tuck 2.0 model came configured as an IWB but included an OWB panel too (left)

In the holster market, newcomers are companies in the business for only a few decades. So I suppose Alien Gear, having been around just under two years, is a certified spring chicken.

The company has grown faster than the congressional benefits plan, and the reasons why must include the comfort and flexibility of their holster designs. I recently received an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 2.0 IWB holster for a Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm equipped with a Crimson Trace Laserguard LG-489. The company also included the OWB panel, which allows this holster to be converted to a leather-backed outside the waistband model, but more on that later.

Modularity

The IWB Cloak Tuck 2.0 in use with standard belt clips.

The IWB Cloak Tuck 2.0 in use with standard belt clips.

To understand the rest of the description of Alien Gear holsters, you have to understand the modular design. Simply put, think of the concept as two interchangeable parts: the back panel and the holster shell. Backings are available in different materials and choice of inside or outside the waistband designs. Holster shells attach to the backings with four T nuts and are interchangeable with any backing.

The idea is, that like a good pair of leather upper boots that you can re-sole over time, you can use the backing you prefer, and swap out holster shells when you switch to a different gun.

With any given gun, you can also swap out backings. For example, this evaluation holster came to me configured as an inside the waistband model. However, also in the box was an outside the waistband backing. For OWB holsters, Alien Gear uses a leather panel equipped with four T nuts in the same pattern as the OWB designs, so the IWB gun shell can be attached in a similar fashion. Leather loops are attached to the backing for belt attachment.

The last function that the modular design handles is retention strength.The plastic gun shell screws to the backing through four rubber washers. Tightening or loosening the entire shell sets the level of friction retention you want.

Construction

The 2.0 model has a neoprene backing for moisture resistance and comfort.

The 2.0 model has a neoprene backing for moisture resistance and comfort.

The difference between the Cloak Tuck 2.0 and original Cloak Tuck models is the material used for the large back panel. The original Cloak Tuck uses a leather panel, while the new 2.0 version utilizes neoprene with a synthetic surface on the outside. The idea behind the new neoprene backing is that the entire backing will better shape to your body and create a waterproof barrier between the gun and your body.

The gun shell itself is molded from thick Kydex. The lower edges that surround the muzzle area are rounded part way over the muzzle area of the gun. This nice extra touch prevents sharp edges from your front sight, barrel or slide from wearing holes into your clothes. I also noticed that the company takes the extra time to polish all edges of the Kydex shell so there are no sharp or abrasive surfaces.

Attachment Options

Right to left: Standard belt clips, leather snap loop, C clip and J clip.

Right to left: Standard belt clips, leather snap loop, C clip and J clip.

The Alien Gear IWB holster comes with standard Kydex clips that loop over the top of the belt and catch the bottom of the belt. They’re tuckable and very secure, but you will see the front section of the clip lying on top of the belt.

If you want more concealment, Alien Gear offers a variety of optional clips:

C clips are also tuckable, but only hook on to the top and bottom of the belt, so only small nubs are visible at the top and bottom of the belt. It’s doubtful that anyone would notice them, especially if you’re wearing a black colored belt.

J clips hook on the bottom of the belt only. They even more discreet than the C clips, and quite a bit easier to mount on your belt.

Leather snap loops also offer touchable security, but you’ll see the leather strap on the front of the belt. On the plus side, the snaps allow you to take the holster on and off without threading your belt through the loops.

Other clip options include metal and brown colored clips to better match belt colors.

Holster Insurance

You gotta love the service attitude of most companies in the shooting industry, and Alien Gear is no different. When you buy an Alien Gear, you’ve got three levels of “holster insurance.”

You’ve got 30 days to break it in. If you decide you don’t like it, they’ll buy it back from you. Holsters definitely have a break in period as they shape to the gun, your body shape, and your movements. Most holsters will not be all that comfortable until you wear them a while, so I’m glad to see the Alien Gear folks give you some trial time.

The modular design of these holsters means that the gun pocket and back panel are independent parts. You can break in the body section and swap out the portion that holds your gun. Alien Gear will let you trade in the plastic shell portion for a different gun shape. If you upgrade from a .32 to a .45 or downgrade from a Desert Eagle to a Ruger LCP, you’re covered.

A lifetime warranty backs it all up. If you ever have a problem, give them a call to get it straightened out.

Closing Thoughts

While I’ve read about Alien Gear holsters and seen the catchy ads, I was still pleasantly surprised at the attention to detail in construction.

The modular features are interesting. Swapping out the back would certainly be feasible if, for example, you normally carried inside the waistband and wanted to do a quick conversation to OWB for a class or competition. It’s not something I would want to do daily, but for occasional use, it would make sense given that it only takes a few minutes to do the swap. The ability to trade gun pockets for no charge is also a nice feature for those wanting to upgrade to a different carry gun.

Check ‘em out to see what they’ve got for your carry gun.

More about holsters for concealed carry

If you want to learn a whole lot more about concealed carry holsters, methods of carry and pros and cons of different holster designs, check out our Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters book!

A Spiffy Upgrade for the Ruger 10/22

In about ten minutes, you can replace the standard Ruger 10/22 trigger and magazine release with an upgraded model.

In about ten minutes, you can replace the standard Ruger 10/22 trigger and magazine release with an upgraded model.

I love the Ruger 10/22 rifle. It’s a sweet handling little semi-automatic that you’ll enjoy whether young or old, experienced shooter or not. It qualifies as one of those guns you’ll use your whole life, then pass down to the next generation.

I have to qualify just a bit as there is one part I don’t really care for. That’s the magazine release. The Ruger 10/22 comes standard with a 10-round rotary magazine that fits completely inside of the stock. You can get larger magazines of course, but part of what makes the 10/22 special is its 10-round capacity with no extra bulk. It’s the standard magazine release lever that just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s a non-traditional curved lever, in front of the trigger guard, that you push forward to drop the magazine from the rifle. I find it somewhat awkward and non-intuitive.

One of the neat things about the Ruger 10/22 is that it’s been so popular, that companies have developed all sorts of aftermarket accessories and upgrades. For example, you can replace that standard magazine release lever. Better yet, you can get a modular unit that upgrades the trigger and improves magazine release.

I’ve got a standard Ruger 10/22 Carbine that’s itching for some custom work, so I decided to upgrade the trigger and magazine release with a Timney Triggers Ruger 10/22 replacement trigger set. This is a drop-in replacement for the entire action, so trigger, hammer, springs and magazine release assembly are all new. The magazine release is a lever that wraps around the bottom of the trigger guard all the way to the back. You operate it with a quick flick downward with your middle finger. It’s fast and positive.

How to Replace the Trigger and Magazine Release on the Ruger 10/22

Installation is easy. All you need is a flat head screwdriver and something to punch out the trigger housing pins. I used a Real Avid Gun Tool for the whole operation. In fact, I did this upgrade at the range so I could test before and after performance under identical conditions.

Before you do anything, remove the magazine. Now make double sure that the chamber is empty. Put any nearby ammo elsewhere so there is no risk of inadvertently loading the gun. Now double check once more to make sure the gun is completely unloaded!

Timney Trigger Ruger 10-22-3 Loosen the screw in the bottom of the stock, just in front of the receiver. It will come all the way out. Now you can lift the barrel up and remove the barrel and receiver from the stock.
Timney Trigger Ruger 10-22-5 Completely remove the receiver from the stock. The entire trigger assembly is held in place with two punch pins. Oh, one more thing. See that big hole in the upper right of the receiver in this photo? That’s for a large bolt-stop pin. It likes to slip out, so make sure you don’t lose it.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Leupold’s 300 Blackout Offering: The Mark 4 MR/T 1.5-5x20mm

There’s a reason there are so few 300 Blackout optics on the market. It’s kinda hard to design a single reticle to handle the exceptionally broad range of ballistic performance of that cartridge while keeping the reticle clean and simple.

The turrets are calibrated for 1/2 minute of angle adjustment per click.

The turrets are calibrated for 1/2 minute of angle adjustment per click.

Let’s take a look at exactly what I mean by “broad range of ballistic performance.” For purposes of the trajectories shown in the table below, let’s assume a zero yard zero, and we’ll use two common and “representative” projectiles and “standard” velocities. For the supersonic load, we’ll show the flight path of a Barnes TAC-TX 110 grain bullet. I’ll assume a velocity of 2,500 feet per second. For the subsonic load, we’ll use the classic 220 grain Sierra Matchking and assume a traveling speed of 1,050 feet per second.

The purpose of the “zero yard zero” is to compare the absolute, unadjusted flight paths of the two rounds. Basically, we’re looking at shooting each round exactly parallel to the ground to see how it falls over distance.

300 AAC Blackout Trajectory

As you can see, the brick, I mean subsonic round, falls at about four times the rate of the supersonic. That’s a lot to account for. From an optics perspective, the most feasible plan is to design a reticle for the supersonic round and figure out a couple of realistic hold points for a short range trajectories of the subsonic round.

The Leupold offering is more of a scope tinkerer’s dream. With variable magnification and lots of fine lines in the reticle, you can get it to do whatever you want, out to very long ranges.

Leupold Mark 4 MR/T 1.5-5x20mm

The Leupold Mark 4 is a variable scope with the 300 AAC Blackout specific reticle in the first focal plane. This means that the reticle will grow and shrink as you adjust magnification. At low magnification levels, the inverted horseshoe acts like a red dot, especially with illumination on a high level. At higher magnification levels, you have a finely granulated reticle that provides moving target lead information, range estimation tools and holdover points for supersonic and subsonic loads.

The optic itself is all Leupold. It’s solid and all movements operate like clockwork. Flip up scope caps are provided that mount with rubber friction cups. Unlike others on the market, these stay in place until you want to take them off. The magnification dial is stays in place but is easy to rotate with one hand while keeping a firing grip on the rifle. The windage and elevation dials offer quiet, smooth and positive click adjustments, with each click representing ½ Minute of Angle (MOA) or ½ inch at 100 yards. One nice touch for windage and elevation adjustments is an engraved directional indicator that is visible from the back, telling you which way to twist to the dials to move point of impact up, down, left or right.

Subsonic on the left, supersonic on the right.

Subsonic on the left, supersonic on the right.

Let’s talk about the reticle for a minute. It’s engineered to show hold points for both supersonic and subsonic 300 AAC Blackout loads. Leupold’s approach is to split the reticle horizontally – the right side of center shows supersonic information while the left indicates subsonic. Just in case you forget, there is small and subtle hare engraved in the lower right and a tortoise on the lower left.

The supersonic (right side) markings indicate hold points from 100 to 900 yards with marks at each 100 yard increment. Each horizontal indicator bar is sized to represent an 18 inch wide target at the respective yardage length. For example, if the 400 yard hash mark appears to be the same width as an object you know to be about 18 inches wide, then that object is 400 yards down range. It’s a quick and easy ranging system.

On the subsonic (left) side, there are hash marks from 100 to 400 yards with a line at each 100 yard increment in that range. There is not a 50 yard indicator per se, but between the center dot and bottom of the inverted horseshoe, you can do a quick test to find short range impact points for your chosen subsonic load.

One other reticle feature to note. On either side of the center dot are horizontal lines with hash mark indicators that correspond to hold points to lead targets moving at 5, 10 and 15 miles per hour respectively.

To make the distance hold points work for supersonic and subsonic loads, just zero the optic using supersonic (110 or 125 grain) projectile at 100 yards.

The reticle is illuminated with the inverted horseshoe and center dot lighting up in red. A left side knob offers seven different light levels for low light or daylight conditions. One handy feature is that between each intensity setting on the dial is an “off” position. You don’t have to spin the dial all the way back to zero each time you turn illumination on or off. Just keep is one click from your most commonly used setting, give it a click in either direction and you’re good to go.

Leupold Mark 4 MRT 300 Blackout-5

Closing thoughts

The Leupold optic offers precision at longer range. While the markings are a bit optimistic (400 yards for a subsonic 300 Blackout is quite a lob), I guess that’s no different than the speedometer on your Caddy going up to 160 miles per hour. You can lower magnification and turn on the illumination for quick close range performance, but I think this optic really shines when you are engaging targets out past 100 yards. The glass is crystal clear as you would expect from Leupold, and with the finely graduated reticle you’ll be able to account for distance very precisely.

You can find it at Optics Planet.

FNH Makes A Competition Shotgun? The FNH SC-1 Competition Over/Under

As you can see by its appearance, the FNH SC-1 is built for competition.

As you can see by its appearance, the FNH SC-1 is built for competition.

FN. It’s a little confusing if you’ve been around a while. Is FN the same as Browning? What’s Herstal? What’s FNH? Is that different than Fabrique Nationale? Should John Browning win a Nobel Prize? Are Belgian waffles all they’re cracked up to be?

Let’s answer these questions with a simple history review. In 1889 Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre (FN) was formed for the sole purpose of building 150,000 Mauser rifles for the Belgian Government. A few years later, in 1897, FN’s sales manager traveled to the United States to learn more about bicycle manufacture. We don’t know exactly why, or whether or not he wore those tight biking shorts, but on that trip, biker-student Hart Berg met John Moses Browning, may he rest in peace. That chance encounter kicked off a long and prosperous partnership where FN manufactured many of Browning’s designs including the Browning Auto-5 shotgun, Browning Automatic Rifle and the Hi-Power, which was partly designed by John Browning. John Browning did FN such a solid that when he died of a heart attack in 1926, they stuck his body in the FN board room for visitation. Ewww. I know corporate boardroom meetings are boring, but at least they don’t (usually) include dead people.

Yes, FNH does make a competition shotgun.

Yes, FNH does make a competition shotgun.

Consistent with its military heritage, FN made military rifles, refurbished millions more after the big WWII kerfluffle and then went on to make the FN FAL starting in 1947.

In 1970, Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre officially changed its name to FN Herstal. Just because. Later in the 1970’s, FN acquired controlling interest in Browning, hence some of that confusion between the companies. Now having an insatiable appetite for American gun companies, FN next bought the U.S. Repeating Arms Company, including the license to manufacture Winchester-brand firearms.

Since that time, FN has manufactured gajillions of military rifles including the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M-16, M4/M4A1, MK46, MK48 and M240L machine guns, and the MK19 grenade launcher.

As to the name stuff, FN Herstal begat it’s own parent, The Herstal Group. FN Herstal then begat FN America, who begat FN Manufacturing and FNH USA. And so on and so forth. Got it?

Anyway, it all nets out to this. You might think of FN as a tactical arms company and not one to beget a competition clays shotgun. But remember the brief history lesson: one of FN’s first products was the Browning A5 autoloader shotgun, right? Since that time, FN has produced the FN SLP Standard auto-loading shotgun and the FN P-12 pump action shotgun.

But we’re here to talk about the FN SC-1 Competition shotgun, so let’s get to it.

What is it?

This SC-1 came with five Invector Plus choke tubes.

This SC-1 came with five Invector Plus choke tubes.

The FNH SC-1 Over/Under is, you guessed it, a double-barrel shotgun. It’s designed expressly for clays competition, although there is nothing about it that would discourage other uses. Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to hunt ducks or close geese with it. Why close geese? As a competition gun, it’s got a 2 ¾ inch chamber. Besides, using 3 or 3 ½-inch shells in a competition gun is kind of silly, and you’d only put yourself at a disadvantage. You certainly don’t need the extra power to break clays and the extra recoil would hurt your second shots, not to mention giving you a tremendous flinch as the competition wears on. Remember, unlike hunting, almost any clay target sport will involve hundreds of shots per day. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really into shooting a hundred or so 3 ½ inch turkey loads in one sitting – I have enough pain in my life.

Also giving a nod to its competition design goals, you’ll find ported barrels and easy to configure chokes. One of the two models also features an adjustable comb.

That’s the quick introduction, now let’s talk about the details.

Specifications of the FN SC-1

  • Overall Length: 46.38 inches with extended chokes
  • 30-inch ported and back-bored barrels
  • Invector-Plus choke threads
  • 12-gauge
  • 2 ¾-inch chambers
  • 10mm ventilated top rib
  • Fiber optic front sight with white mid-bead
  • Laminated wood stock
  • Adjustable or fixed comb models
  • Adjustable, recoil activated single-stage trigger
  • Tang safety and barrel selector switch
  • Weight: 8.2 pounds (empty)
  • 5.5 to 7.7 lb. trigger weight

MSRP (Adjustable comb models): $2,449.00
MSRP (Fixed comb models): $2,149.00

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

Four Outstanding AR Optics for Less Than $400

If you splurge on a 1968 Shelby Mustang GT500-KR, you’re not going to fill the crank case with reclaimed Crisco just to save a few bucks. A similar principle applies to optics. Even with AR-15 prices falling faster than BlockBuster Video’s stock price, you’re still probably going to spend north of $600 on a rifle. Don’t cheat yourself by purchasing an optic not qualified for the task. Cheap optics can give you headaches from fogging, poor light transmission and inconsistent adjustment performance. Most frustrating of all are those times you can’t seem to zero your rifle, not matter what, until you find out the reticle in your scope is moving all over the place with recoil. Remember, friends don’t let friends buy those cheap no-name optics you see at gun shows.

Fortunately, you do’t have to spend more than the cost of your rifle on a quality optic. Here are some of my picks for high-quality optics that you can buy for less than $400 – usually a lot less.

Weaver Kaspa-Z Zombie Scope

Before you start with the hate mail over including a Zombie scope, hear me out. Besides, the dead could rise one day. Check out the audience on the Judge Judy Show, and you’ll see what I mean. Anyhow, my contacts at ATK pulled me aside some months ago and said “Do you want to know what one of our best value scopes is?” Being completely supportive of saving money, I asked to hear the story – and got the full pitch, along with an evaluation sample of the Weaver Kaspa-Z Zombie optic. If you’re not into the whole Zombie thing, that’s OK, as the markings on the scope are subtle. Most of the Zombie cosmetics are in the form of optional stickers.

You won't see a lot of Zombie features on this Weaver Kaspa-Z, but you will get a great deal on a general purpose AR optic.

You won’t see a lot of Zombie features on this Weaver Kaspa-Z, but you will get a great deal on a general purpose AR optic.

Here’s why it’s on this list. Built on a 30mm tube, it gathers plenty of light. With a 16 ounce weight, it’s sturdy enough to use as an impact weapon. The 1.5-6x zoom gives you fast, close range capability as well as precision out to the effective range of a 5.56mm round. The real beauty of this particular scope is the Z-Cirt reticle. It’s brilliant. Variable illumination (green of course) makes it easy to see in low light. The posts and hash marks are pre-mapped to known distances with a wide variety of .223 and 5.56 ammunition and serve double duty as range estimation tools. For example, the solid center dot corresponds to a Zombie’s head at 100 yards and the surrounding parentheses indicate the same target size at 100 yards. The first horizontal hash mark indicates 20 inches (average shoulder width) at 400 yards. With all the ranging and ballistic drop compensation functionality, this reticle is still fast at short to intermediate distances.

MSRP is $299.95, but you can find one on the street for about $199.

Nikon M-223 1-4×20 BDC 600

The Nikon M-223 1-4x20 with BDC-600 reticle.

The Nikon M-223 1-4×20 with BDC-600 reticle.

The M-223 is a one-inch tube model with pure 1x to 4x magnification – plenty for realistic .223 / 5.56mm ranges unless your usage is small varmint hunting at the outer limits of ballistic performance. Turrets adjust in ½ MOA increments with a total adjustment range of 100 MOA. Parallax is fixed at 100 yards, so any potential effect is negligible. Eye relief is generous at four inches, which makes placement on an MSR receiver easy – especially with Nikon’s aggressively cantilevered scope mounts or rings. Both one-piece and two-piece cantilever mounting options are available.

The reticle is developed specifically for 55 grain .223 Remington / 5.56mm NATO cartridges and offers hold points from 100 to 600 yards in 50 yard increments. If you shoot heavier projectiles like 77 grain, you’ll have to establish your own hold point distances out past a couple hundred yards.

MSRP is $299.95, but you can find this one for about $280. Check out other options in the Nikon AR family as you can find great deals on fixed power and higher magnification optics.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

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