Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Oct
4

American Bison Bag Rest

I recently had the opportunity to try out a new rifle rest bag for a few weeks from American Bison.

American Bison Large Front Bag Rest

American Bison Large Front Bag Rest

American Bison bags are made in the USA from top grain bison leather in a handsome two-tone configuration, and come in small, medium and large sizes. We’ll be looking at the large size bag today.

Did I say large? I meant HUGE.
The bottom of the bag measures 10″ x 6.5″, and when filled, the “ears” come up to about 8″ in height.

The American Bison Large bag measures 10x6.5x8

The American Bison Large bag measures 10x6.5x8

I filled this with fine sand, and it weighs at least 20 pounds. The bag was very easy to fill with the handy “EZ Pour” spout.

EZ-Pour spout makes for simple filling and emptying

EZ-Pour spout makes for simple filling and emptying

The suede top is very soft, and instills confidence when resting a high-dollar stock on it – there’s not a chance this soft suede is going to mar a thing.

Super-soft suede tops the American Bison bag

Super-soft suede tops the American Bison bag

The stitching on this bag is also exceptional. It’s nice and tight throughout, and you can tell that with a minimal amount of care, this bag is built tough, and is sure to last a lifetime.

Tight, even stitching throughout

Tight, even stitching throughout

The size, and subsequent weight, make shooting from this bag a dream. The anti-skid bottom helps create a very stable platform – between that and the weight, this rest didn’t budge on the table, even after several hundred rounds from an assortment of rifles.

Anti-skid bottom and lots of weight make this a VERY stable platform

Anti-skid bottom and lots of weight make this a VERY stable platform

Shooting prone with the Savage Model 10 Tactical on the American Bison bag

Shooting prone with the Savage Model 10 Tactical on the American Bison bag

Shooting an AR-15 from the bench

Shooting an AR-15 from the bench

If you need a good front rest bag, definitely consider this line of shooting rest bags from American Bison. They’re tough as nails, good-looking, made here in the states, and very reasonably priced.

Sep
5

Benchmaster Black Rifle Rest

The Big Brown Truck showed up last week with a new rifle rest from Benchmaster.

Benchmaster products are made in the USA, and that was my number one requirement for a new rest. Other requirements were versatility and stability, but also portability – I didn’t want something huge and heavy, like most pro-grade bench rests. And lastly, price was a bit of a factor – I had a $200 limit for a rest, and this came in nicely at 129.95 from Amazon.

This particular model is the Black Rifle Rest, dubbed so because it supports the rifle in a higher position than common rifle rests. This allows for the extra height required to support the magazines and pistol grips of AR-platform rifles.

Benchmaster Black Rifle Rest

Benchmaster Black Rifle Rest

Of course, it also works just fine with traditional rifles.

Benchmaster Black Rifle Rest with Savage MKII

Benchmaster Black Rifle Rest with Savage MKII

This rest is put together nicely. It is quite strong and sturdy, with three stout, adjustable feet on which it rests. There is plenty of elevation adjustment for the casual shooter in the form of a 3-position coarse and fine-tuning adjustment knob.

Coarse and Fine elevation adjustments

Coarse and Fine elevation adjustments

There is a handy bubble level built into the front rest. The included filled front bag is nice and wide, and will suit a wide variety of forearms.

Level built-in to front rest

Level built-in to front rest

The rifle buttstock is securely seated in the leather pouch at the rear of the rest. Not only does this help hold the rifle nice and steady, it also absorbs a fair amount of the rifle’s recoil.

Rear support

Rear support

The Benchmaster Black Rifle Rest has been working great so far for my applications. It fits in my XL range bag and it holds the rifles plenty steady. If I shoot some magnum calibers off of this rest, I’ll put a couple sandbags on top of the frame, but it works great as-is for .22 – .270.

At this price point, this is a tough rest to beat.

Aug
17

Varmint Build Is Finished

The upper from White Oak Armament came in today, along with a Geissele match trigger, so tonight I was able to complete the varmint AR-15 I’ve been wanting to build.

It all started with a good deal on a Rock River Arms lower, complete with a RRA parts kit, Ergo grip, and VLTOR buffer and tube. The VLTOR EMod buttstock I had on hand… I may swap this out later on for a Magpul PRS, but we’ll see how this works out first.

New custom varmint .223 build

New custom varmint .223 build

The Geissele 2-stage trigger came highly recommended, and after installing and adjusting it, I can certainly see why. The first stage is set to a smooth 2 pounds with a crisp 6oz second-stage pull. It took about an hour to install and fine-tune the trigger, but that was with a lot of first-time fumbling – now that I know what I’m doing, I’m sure I could do it again in about 15 minutes.

Geissele 2-stage match rifle trigger

Geissele 2-stage match rifle trigger

I went with a WOA upper for a number of reasons, but mainly due to their reputation for outstanding accuracy. I plan on shooting primarily 55 grain Hornady V-Max loads out of this rifle, and WOA’s John Holliger recommended a 1:12 twist. The stainless bull barrel is heavy, and this will not just be a bench gun, so we kept it on the short side at 18″ and added straight fluting that takes off about a pound of weight.

Service from WOA was excellent, and the turnaround on this order was right at 4 weeks.

18 inch stainless fluted barrel on the WOA upper

18 inch stainless fluted barrel on the WOA upper

Speaking of heavy, it’s topped off with a nice, heavy scope: a Nikon Monarch X 4-16×50. This is an amazing scope for the money (street price of around $900). I’ll do a full review of the scope later, but for now, suffice to say I compared this side-by-side with a Zeiss Conquest 4.5-14×44 and Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14×50, and I didn’t buy the Nikon because of the price.

I’m really looking forward to breaking this in next weekend… it should be a real tack-driver.

Jun
6

BSA “Sweet 22″ 6-18×40 Scope

It was finally time to get around to replacing the Redfield scope I had on my Savage Mark II BTVS in .22LR. The Redfield was a spare scope I had, and I mounted it on the Savage when I first brought it home, and I had no intention of keeping it dedicated to that rifle.

I looked at a number of possible scopes to put on the Savage. The MKII BTVS is an accurate rifle, and I wanted something that would complement its accuracy. My list of desired features was short but demanding:

  • High, variable magnification (at least 14x)
  • Clear glass
  • Adjustable objective
  • A BDC of some sort would be nice
  • Under $400

Unfortunately, the price spec ruled out contenders like Leupold and Zeiss. The Nikon Monarch was an option, but didn’t have a BDC for rimfire cartridges. I had heard a lot of good things about the BSA Sweet 22 6-18×40, so I thought I’d check one out.

BSA Sweet 22 6-18x40 on Savage Mark II BTVS

BSA Sweet 22 6-18x40 on Savage Mark II BTVS

I usually avoid Chinese glass like the plague, but I was really having a hard time finding exactly what I wanted, even at higher prices. The BSA had very good reviews, and was only $154 from SWFA. I was skeptical, but went ahead and ordered one.

I must admit, I was pretty impressed when the scope arrived. The scope was solid, the reticle was clean (I’ve seen too many cheap Asian scopes with fat or sloppy reticles), and it even had nice aluminum, fine-threaded lens covers and a sunshade. Instructions were very basic, but clear. The glass on this scope is fairly clear, on par with Simmons, or perhaps cheaper Nikons, like the pro-staff line.

The Sweet 22 scope has a bullet drop compensator built into the turret. Much like the Leupold Mark AR, you zero in the scope, then adjust the sleeve that encircles the turret to the correct mark. Unlike the Leupold, this BSA has triple markings on the elevation turret for 36, 38 and 40 grain 22lr rounds.

I mounted the scope on the Burris Xtreme rings I already had on the MKII, did a quick bore-sight and headed to the back yard.

Sweet 22 mounted on the Savage and ready to zero in.

Sweet 22 mounted on the Savage and ready to zero in.

According to the instructions, you zero at 100 yards, then adjust the sleeve on the turret to the 100 yard mark for your bullet weight, tighten it down and you’re done. After that, if you want to shoot at 50 yards, turn the turret to 50 and shoot. 300 yards? Turn it to 300 and you’re ready to go.

Now, that’s great in theory, but the BDC is calibrated to standard Remington loads. Most match 22LR cartridges are subsonic, so the BDC isn’t going to work for them.

Fortunately for me, I primarily shoot two types of ammo out of this rifle: Lapua Center-x, which is a 40 grain subsonic solid lead match bullet, and SK Hi-Velocity HP ammo. The Lapua Center-X has a slight edge in the accuracy department, but only at 50 yards or less.

So, just to see how the BDC would pan out, I zeroed at 100 yards with the SK, and adjusted the turret sleeve accordingly.

I then moved my target stand to 50 yards and turned the elevation turret to the 50 yard mark. It was close – an inch or so off. Since I rarely shoot at 100 yards, I re-zeroed at 50 yards and readjusted the turret sleeve to read “50″ in the 40 grain row. Then I shot a pretty nice 5-shot group.

5 shots of SK Hi-Velocity at 50 yards with Savage MKII BTVS

5 shots of SK Hi-Velocity at 50 yards with Savage MKII BTVS

Now that the scope was zeroed for the SK at 50 yards, I switched to the Lapua and went for a re-zero. This is where I lucked out: After I zeroed with the Lapua at 50 yards, the BDC marking in the 38 grain column on the turret was at exactly 100 yards. Then I shot a nice 10-shot group.

10 shots of Lapua Center-X at 50 yards

10 shots of Lapua Center-X at 50 yards

Pleased with that, I decided to play for a bit:

So now, if I want to shoot the SK at 50 yards, I turn the turret to the “50″ mark in the 40gr column. If I want to shoot the Lapua at 50 yards, I turn the turret to the “100″ mark in the 38gr column. This is not really what it was meant for, but then again, the BDC doesn’t really do a great job in its intended use. At least I’ll be able to put it to a good use with my special circumstances.

All in all, this isn’t a bad scope. The glass is decent, the reticle is clear, and the eye relief is reasonable. The BDC sorta-kinda works, but isn’t precise enough to rely on. It’s a lot of scope for $150, but if I were to do it all over again, I’d spend the extra money on a Nikon Monarch with a mil-dot reticle and forego the BDC.

Apr
21

Sig Sauer Sig556

This is the Sig 556. This fine combat rifle is chambered in 5.56mm NATO, which can fire both the military 5.56 and .223 ammunition.

Sig 556 Rifle

Sig 556 Rifle

The barrel has a twist rate of 1:7, which is good for stabilizing bullets from 55 grain up to 75 grain. The Sig 556 uses a gas piston system, which keeps internals much cleaner and is arguably more reliable than the direct impingement system of an AR-15.

The stock is collapsable and folding. The buttstock tube will accept any AR-15 stock built for a commercial tube, so I replaced the stock Sig buttstock with a Magpul CTR.

Sig 556 with folding and collapsable Magpul CTR buttstock

Sig 556 with folding and collapsable Magpul CTR buttstock

The front iron sight is stout and hooded. The rear is a flimsy popsicle-stick popup sight that is practically useless. The front sight mount is different from the AR-15, so you cannot use a standard AR rear BUIS. One must either use a Sig-specific rear BUIS, or replace the front sight with one that is compatible with AR-15 rears (like a Samson). I have a Samson folding front sight and a Matech AR-15 rear BUIS on order.

The Sig 556 has a stout hooded front sight

The Sig 556 has a stout hooded front sight

The intended use for this Sig 556 is close to mid-range combat, so I decided to go with a 1-4 power scope from Millet. I’ll do a separate review of the scope later – for now, let’s just say I’m very happy with my choice.

A Millett DMS 1-4x24 scope tops the Sig 556

A Millett DMS 1-4x24 scope tops the Sig 556

One of the best things about this rifle is its factory two-stage trigger. This is by far the best factory trigger I’ve ever seen on any AR-style rifle. The Sig 556 trigger is clean, crisp and light. It’s not as nice as some aftermarket triggers like Timney, but it is an excellent factory trigger.

Now, I’ve heard from many, many sources on the interwebs that the Sig 556 isn’t all that accurate, with reported groups of 2-4″ at 100 yards. While such groups are acceptable for a close-quarters combat rifle, I suspected that the shooters of these reported groups didn’t share my zest for accuracy.

So my quest begins…

I performed my standard barrel break-in procedure on this rifle. If you’d like the short version, it’s like this:

  • Clean
  • JB bore paste, Clean. (repeat)
  • Fire one shot, Clean (repeat 5 times)
  • Fire 3 shots, Clean (repeat 3 times)
  • Fire 5 shots, Clean

After the barrel was broken in, I fired two 10-shot groups of 55gr VMAX to get a rough zero on the scope and foul the barrel. I then switched to some 69gr Black Hills HPBT match ammo and fired a few:

Not too shabby!

I shot some 3-shot groups that were under 1/2″, but I still think this black rifle can get tighter. Next steps for this rifle will be more shooting and cleaning, accompanied by a run-through with Tubb’s Final Finish system.

Until next time, Happy Shooting.