Range Report

I finally had a chance to make it out for a much needed trip to the range last weekend. I wanted to sight in the new Ruger American Predator .308 my home defense AR and get some practice time with my handguns. For the most part I accomplished my goals although not quite in the way I had hoped. First, a lesson learned.

Test Your Gear

I say this all the time and try and live by it as much as possible but received a refresher in the lesson this weekend. Working with my home defense AR, the one that sits in the safe next to my desk all day was one of my top two priorities. I had used a laser bore sight on it to set up the red dot optic a month or so ago but had not had a chance to verify the zero on the range. I bore sight rifles all the time but never have I been this far off. At only 25 yards, the point of impact was almost two feet off to the right! Within my house I don’t have many shooting angles at this distance but the point still remains that had I needed this rifle in the last few weeks I would have been in real trouble…to say the least.

I typically have a light mounted on all my home defense weapons, both pistols and rifles. I have had a habit of removing them when I go to the range. Doing so make it easier to pack them into their cases for travel and I feel kid of silly with a light on my gun in the bright sunlight of an open range. Most of the lights mount straight onto the picatinny rail but this new rifle has MLOK attachments on and I used the MLOK to attack a small rail and then mounted the light  to the rail.  Three shots into the range session the rail piece dropped off the rifle. Either the MLOK wasn’t properly secured (likely since this is my first experience with it) or the mounting hardware is flawed. I won’t know until I make it back out to the range and test it…again.

In the meantime I am a little wary of using this rifle for self-defense.

Other Observations

I purchased a “lead sled’ from Caldwell to make sighting in rifles easier (and cheaper but consuming less ammo). Maybe I am doing something wrong but so far I am not all that impressed. I don’t think it saved me more than a couple of rounds in the whole process. I can do just as well with sandbags…

On the other hand I am pretty dawn happy with the little Ruger .308 bolt gun. It took me about four rounds to get it dialed in at the twenty five yard line and then I was able to put two rounds into the same hole in the bullseye. Even at only 25 yards that’s pretty good shooting for me (I am not much of a rifleman).

I prefer to work a bit more methodically and go from 25 to 50 to 100 yards when sighting in a new rifle but the 50 yard line was under construction so I went straight out to 100.Using the lead sled I was all over the paper. It appeared to be more of a pattern than a group. Finally I dropped the lead sled and went with plan old sandbags. I still wasn’t getting a consistent grouping but at least the pattern tightened up. The four shots 2 inches down and one to the left were all off sandbags. I adjusted the scope a bit and put the last one in the bullseye. It was a hot day and getting hotter and my blood sugar was starting to tank so at that point I called it a day with the Ruger.

As I said, my initial observations on the Ruger American Predator in .308 are pretty good. From what I can tell this rifle is probably more accurate than I am. It is lightweight, about 6 lbs without the scope, and handy with an 18 inch barrel and an overall length of 38 inches. So, it should be an easy gun to drag through the brush but still more than accurate enough to reach out from a stand well beyond my typical shooting distances.

Being so light the 150 grain rounds I was using and will probably hunt with pack a punch and my shoulder was complaining a bit the next day. I also tested a 180 grain rounds and I could feel the difference in recoil. Shooting one or two when the adrenaline is pumping shouldn’t be an issue but a long range day would be a bit of a challenge. This is definitely a fun gun to shoot though I wouldn’t hand it off to Wonderful Wife or my grandson.

Next, I walked over to the pistol range for a few minutes.

One of the nicest things about carrying a revolver is the reloads (on speed strips) are very thin and light. One bad thing is that they are so thin and light I have, on occasion, forgotten them in a pocket and they ended up going through the washer. While I would not rely on them for self-defense I was curious if these rounds would still fire…yes, they all fired with no issue.

Unfortunately, my shooting was not as reliable as the ammunition. Using two different revolvers I was consistently shooting to the right by almost six inches. I tried changing my grip and changing the positioning of my finger on the trigger all to no avail. As I mentioned it was getting pretty hot and my blood sugar was getting a bit low so I didn’t spend any more time trying to fix the problem and packed my stuff and headed out.

All in all, it was a productive and much needed trip to the range. Now, to get back out there…

God bless!

What Did You Prep This Week?

Walk With God/Fitness/Health

This was not a particularly good week. In fact, it was a pretty bad week in terms of what is most important to me. I only spent time in serious prayer twice this week and my efforts to get in better shape were about the same, not much activity. My energy levels have been very low this week but I don’t know if that is the cause or the effect.

Towards the end of the week this started ot turn around for me, a little. Hopefully, this will carry over into next week.

Self Defense/Hunting

I did make it to the range this week, finally. I’ll post a report a bit later in the week.

I bought quite a bit of ammo this week including .308 and 5.56 to replace most of what I shot on the range as well as more .38 Special self-defense ammo.

I also purchased a new optic for my self-defense AR. Once I have a chance to test it out I will write a post on it.

Supplies/Gear

Bought another first aid kit. I probably won’t use the kit itself but will use some of the components to top off my supplies and the kits I carry.

I have been meaning to purchase a safe for my car to store my firearm in when I enter non-permissive environments. It has been a worry for some time that if my car was broken into I would be arming a criminal and I finally did something about it. In fact, I purchased two car safes and installed one in my car and one in Wonderful Wife’s care too.

Finances

Nothing accomplished financially this week either.

That’s it for me. That’s what I prepped this week. How about you? What did you Prep this week?

God Bless

The Tactical Hunter Project (Part 4: Accuracy and Ammo)

Now that the rifle was completed I needed to find self-defense and hunting ammunition to feed it. For both applications I wanted a round that was accurate out to 100 yards and would expand reliably. Although I might be willing to stock up on cheaper ammunition for SHTF or practice rounds I was also willing to pay a little extra for premium rounds for hunting and self-defense rounds. A quick search showed a bit of a downside for selecting this caliber; there wasn’t a very good selection of hunting ammo.

Hornady had a round listed on their web site but finding it (at the time) proved to be an impossible task. Winchester had the Hog Hunter Special for $24.99 per box of 20. TulAmmo had offerings in 154 grain soft points as well as 122 grain hollow points. Brown Bear (Barnaul) had a 125 grain soft point that seemed to be reasonably priced and fairly easy to find online. So, I bought a couple boxes of each and headed to the range.

Ammo evaluated:

TulAmmo 154 grain soft points

TulAmmo 122 grain hollow points

Brown Bear 125 grain soft points

Winchester Hog Special 123 Grain “Power-Points”

The TulAmmo didn’t make the cut. It was inconsistent and not nearly as accurate as I would want it to be for hunting.

Three shot group to verify my results

The 122 grain hollow point was suspect in terms of its effectiveness as a hunting round and the accuracy left even more to be desired. It was the least accurate ammo tested with a four to five inch spread in even the best groups. Based on this ammo I was really worried that this project would fail.

The TulAmmo 154 grain soft points were my favorites going into the testing. Reasonably priced and fairly easily found I also liked the idea of the heavier soft pointed bullet. The accuracy wasn’t bad but the bullet drop and inconsistency concerned me.

154 grain rounds dropped 8-10 inches

The Winchester Hog Special 123 Grain “Power-Point” were my ace in the hole but at $24.99 for a box of 20 it was a very expensive card. The printed specs claimed 2365 fps at the muzzle. That would calculate out to be around 1527 ft/lbs of energy which was pretty good and I figured American-made ammo would be pretty accurate and consistent.

Even with my shooting, instead of the ringer I brought along to verify my testing, I was able to see 2 inch groups at 100 yards. Any flyers were my fault not a problem with the rifle or the ammunition.

The Brown Bear 125 grain soft points were brought along as a it of a lark. I really didn’t expect anything better than I have seen from the TulAmmo. Both are made in Russia and everyone knows Russian quality control, right? Boy was I wrong. These rounds have a claimed velocity of 2445 fps which translates into around 1659 ft/lbs of muzzle energy according to my calculations. The manufacturer (distributor actually) only claims 1633 ft/lbs. Still the best energy numbers of the bunch. The big question would be the accuracy and consistency. Just to make sure of the results I was seeing, I called in my “ringer” to shoot a three shot group. Because of time restraints we used the same target as we did for the 122 grain TulAmmo.

Three shots, two holes less than a one inch grouping

At 100 yards with three shots he was able to group them within less than an inch and two of the shots went through the same hole. The Brown Bear ammunition had the best numbers, the best accuracy and was very consistent. At a little over $7.00 for a box of 20 there were not exactly a bargain but they were pretty close. The only question, how would they perform against something a bit tougher than paper.

Between time, weather and other factors it took me almost two years to get an answer to that question. I’ll only make you wait a week.

Next week we’ll take a look at the effectiveness of this round for hunting.

God bless

 

A few side notes:

Prvi Partizan (PPU) makes a 123 grain round nose soft point in 7.62×39. It is brass-cased and boxer primed so it can be reloaded and can be used on ranges that don’t allow steel-cased ammunition. I tested this round in a separate test session several months after I tested the other ammunition. It performed very well at the time in terms of accuracy and consistency. The claimed specifications looked good (2640 fps and 1659 ft/lbs of muzzle energy). The price was OK at around $11.00 per box of 20 but as I mentioned the cases could be reloaded. During that range session I was basically feeding each round by hand as I had run out of the house without any magazines. I was concerned about how these rounds would feed since they are significantly shorter in overall length that the specs for the caliber call for and the bullets were round nosed instead of pointed. Sure enough, once I started feeding them from a magazine the accuracy went out the window and I experienced jams about every three or four rounds. The jams weren’t in the rifle but in the magazine itself. The rounds were so short that they would move around under recoil and jam up. I also discovered that the long gap and to the feed ranp and rounded nose resulted in the bullets deforming against the ramp and/or chamber mouth. Bullets with big gouges in the nose don’t fly as straight even over relatively short distances. I have recently discovered that they offer a pointed version of this round as well. I may try it in the future.

Reloads – I have yet to find a bullet/powder combination in any reference book that can give me the performance of either the Winchester or Brown Bear loads. I am not sure that the loss of several hundred fps and energy is balanced by the higher quality bullets I can buy and use.  

Recoil magazine performed a pretty comprehensive set of tests using a CZ-527 bolt-action rifle chambered in 7.62×39. Their focus was more geared towards the self defense side of things but the results, although more comprehensive in every way, were similar to what I was seeing with my AR. To see their results click here

What Did You Prep This Week?

Walk With God

My walk with God is not as strong as it was last week but it is still going well. I was able to give back a little by helping a man in need a little north of here. He’s been through some seriously trying times over the last few years that have left his body weak but his faith is still strong. A local company re-roofed his home for free and we helped pull out some of the drywall and insulation that had been damaged by the years of water leaks. Another crew will be in later to replace it all. We also helped clean up his yard. Removing the years of built up leaves and trash that he had not been able to take care of himself. We were also able to catch up on some charitable donations that I had committed to but have fallen behind on.

My daily Bible study and prayer is still going well this week and I am learning a lot from both.

On the down side, I got sidetracked working on something and missed our Wednesday night bible study.

Self Defense/Hunting

I bought myself a Ruger American Predator bolt action rifle in .308 Winchester this week. I have been eyeing that rifle for several months now and when I saw it on sale I broke down and bought it. It has a fairly short (18 inch), threaded barrel should the hearing protection act pass), and an integrated picatinny rail. The calibers and rifles I own and use are fine out to maybe 150 yards. This rifle will allow me extend that and start practicing and hunting out well past 200 yards. I also bought a quality set of rings to mount the scope on it. I can’t wait to get it out to the range to start sighting it in.

To mount the scope I purchased a torque screwdriver set. I have always “winged it” on tightening certain screws to spec, especially on scopes and scope mounts. No more! I can do it up “right and proper now.”

With all the sales on AR parts I picked up a lower parts kit and three lower receivers. I may start another pistol build before long. I also plan to build an AR for each of my grand kids. They are too small for them now but one day they will be big enough and old enough and then they will have one…built by their Papa.

Several weeks ago I ordered a number of collets for the RCBS bullet puller die. After several weeks on back order the .22 caliber collet finally came in. This gives me a collet for each of the calibers I reload.

Supplies

Also on sale was a nice 700 lumen flashlight. I have a couple of these lights and they are awesome.

Finances

We placed an online order for gold. This is the first time I have purchased something like that online so it will be interesting to see how well it works.

Fitness

I have done pretty well exercising this week. I did miss one day but I was still able to increase the number of reps I do each day. I still want to get Wonderful Wife to start exercising as well. But with the number of hours she’s working that still hasn’t happened.

Other

Last week we bought a Ring doorbell to provide a little extra security at the front door. It wasn’t working as we would have expected so after a call with their support staff they sent out a Ring chime to help extend our wireless network and improve performance of the video and audio. I have it installed but haven’e had a chance to test it out.

We also called to set up some time to check out a few pieces of land that look like good spots for hunting, camping and, eventually, retirement. Looking at the weather forecast this will probably have to be postponed.

That’s it for me. That’s what I prepped this week. How about you? What did you Prep this week?

God Bless

The Tactical Hunter Project (Part 3: Why Not An AK?)

In the last installment I outlined my solution to the Tactical Hunter Project; an AR in 7.62×39. Some would ask, why not skip the challenges of an AR in this caliber and go with the tactical rifle designed around this cartridge, the AK?

Good question.

Nyet! AK is fine!
Nyet! AK is fine!

First, one of the primary goals of this project was to be a do everything rifle. I needed to be able to use if for self-defense and hunting. I needed to be able to quickly and easily reconfigure it for each of these roles as well as the variations within each role. For self-defense I would want a red dot optic and a powerful white light. For hunting out of a blind I would need a magnified optic. At night I would need to attach a green light (green doesn’t seem to disturb the hogs nearly as much as a white light). The ability to mount a camera would be cool for hunting but not a requirement. At some point, when I can afford them, I might even want to be able to attach night vision optics. For stalking through thick brush I would need to be able to strip the rifle down to its lightest possible configuration. This doable with the AK but it is a piece of cake with the AR.

Weight, was the second factor in this. following pig trails through heavy brush is tough work of an old guy like me. Keep in mind that most of the brush around here comes with some sort of anti-personnel defenses like thorns, stickers, poisons, ticks…these go unnoticed by thick skinned feral hogs but are tough on thin skinned humans. Even an extra pound or two of weight on the rifle adds up when climbing/walking/crawling over/through/under this mess. This is another advantage for the AR.

The third, and probably the most important area of concern, with the AK platform is accuracy. Yes, there are AKs that are very accurate but let’s be honest most suffer from some degree of sloppy manufacture/assembly.

Can a buy an AK that is more accurate? Sure, but it will add to the cost. Lighter weight AK? Sure, but it will cost. More attachment options? Sure, but again it will cost. I was able to build the AR for this project for somewhere around $500. An AK with the required accuracy and features would run closer to $1,500 at the time. Today the price of the AR would be a bit less than what I paid a couple of years ago. The AK would be a lot less but still up around $900.

I really like AKs. My initial reaction was to start with that as the platform of choice and I could have done it but it would have cost more to accomplish the same thing.

That is why I didn’t go with an AK.

God Bless

The Tactical Hunter Project (Part 2: My Solution)

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Initial configuration of the Tactical Hunter

The 7.62×39 caliber seemed to be the best choice for this project based on the cost, availability of ammunition and the ballistics of the round. It wasn’t a perfect choice by a long shot. For example, I would have like a more powerful cartridge, something actually on par with the venerable .30-30 it would be replacing. It has been explained to me on several occasions engineering isn’t a matter of making perfect choices it is about making the right set of compromises to meet the desired objective. I am no engineer but the basic concept still applies.

At the time I started building this rifle it was almost blasphemy to build an AR in 7.62×39 and every “expert” out there said it would never be a reliable rifle. Nevertheless, I still thought it was worth a shot.

The lower receiver was pretty easy and simple. A Spike’s Tactical lower I had laying around and standard parts kit from somewhere cheap. The handguard came with the lower parts kit. I did have a MagPul stock laying around so that was an immediate upgrade.

The upper is also a run of the mill Aero Precision I picked up on sale. Same for the handguard; it was light and it was on sale. The bolt carrier is also a standard AR component but that’s where things started to get a little more complicated. The barrel was not that tough to find, it just took some patience. However, every 7.62×39 Ar barrel I have ever seen has a pretty heavy profile. Despite the feather light handguard, this would be no lightweight as far as AR’s go.

The bolt itself has to be stronger as does the firing pin and extractor since most of the inexpensive ammunition for 7.62×39 is generally steel-cased and Berdan primed that is made in former Soviet-bloc countries and this ammo can be pretty tough on those parts. I spent quite a while scouring the InterWebz for all the right pieces. I never did find them available at the same time and for reasonable prices until Radical Firearms released their uppers and BCGs in this caliber. As soon as these were available I was standing at their front door waiting for them to open.

The next big bugaboo for AR pattern rifles in this caliber was magazine selection. As many horror stories as I had heard around firing pins, extractors and bolts there were twice as many around magazines. After a little research I decided to go with ASC magazines. The ten rounders I generally use for hunting and target practice were fairly easy to find and reasonably priced. Thirty rounds magazines for self-defense were a tougher find. I did finally find a 30 round (28 actually) magazine from ASC and then picked up another from D&H Tactical. For the most part all have been reliable. All have issue when fully loaded so I “download” them by one or two rounds.

IMG_4551
Large capacity ASC magazine in the Tactical Hunter

To save weight and allow for close quarters use I chose a lower power optic. In this case a Vortex 2×7 Crossfire II mounted in an Aero Preceision Ultralight mount. The scope was on sale for a good price and I have been extremely impressed with it. It is very clear and does a good job in low light conditions. My son has a similar optic from Nikon that is pretty comparable but mine was literally 1/3 the price.

Other than upgrading to a MagPul grip and nicer MagPul stock (they came off another AR I re-purposed for my wife) the only other thing I added was a (MagPul again) sling. The sling allows for user in either a single point or two point configuration. While stalking through heavy brush the single point configuration is great. The sling carries most of the weight while keeping the gun readily accessible. For longer hikes the two point options makes it easy to carry across my back. I learned the hard way to make use of the quick detach option for hunting in stands or blinds. I mostly hunt feral hogs which means most of my hunting is at night and Old Man Murphy almost guarantees that, in the dark, a sling will get wrapped around or underneath something when you can’t see it. At least one pig got away as I tried to untangle the sling in the dark.

While I did give up some power going from the trusty old .30-30 WCF to the 7.62×39 the Ar platform brought some real advantages over my old Marlin 336. The weight was about the same and the Marlin 336 was not heavy. If I could have found a lighter profile barrel the AR would have had a slight but significant edge. The rails made swapping optics easy and meant I didn’t have to re-zero each time. Truth be told though the 2×7 from Vortex proved versatile enough that I never really needed to. Adding lights, or a camera, or just about any accessory was also a breeze so I could switch within minutes from a nighttime to daytime hunting configuration. With up to 28 rounds of 7.62×39 on tap it was potent self-defense weapon or feral hog eliminator. But how accurate would it be?

That’s the question for Part 3!

God Bless

The Tactical Hunter Project (Part 1: The Challenge)

A little bit of a disclaimer, this project got started several years ago. At that point in time there were few, if any, companies building AR pattern rifles for hunting. A few folks, mostly hog hunters, were doing it but it was definitely the exception rather than the rule. Today, everyone from Ruger to Savage to traditional AR manufacturers like DPMS are building and marketing AR pattern rifles for hunting. From starting off ahead of the curve, I ended up way behind it. Nevertheless I have finally completed this effort and wanted to share my journey.

Like all good projects this one started out around the campfire…

I spend a fair amount of time (although not as much as I should) practicing with my home defense rifle. I spend another good chunk of time (although not as much as I should) practicing with my hunting rifle. My home defense rifle of choice is an AR. I could do an entire post (and probably should) on why I chose this platform but for hunting I have always used a lever-action. The campfire discussion posed the question, wouldn’t if be cool if I could use the same rifle for both hunting and self-defense? By combining them, it would effectively double the amount of practice for hunting and home defense without spending any more time money at the range.

The idea was amazingly simple, a single rifle that could serve as a hunting rifle and home defense gun. That way all the practice at the range for deer and hog hunting would translate directly into more proficiency for home defense. It would mean one caliber for both functions, simplifying ammunition supply. Plus, military-style rifles are built tough and can take being knocked around in the woods and you don’t have to worry about marring the fine wood or pretty finish.

From a hunting perspective, the rifle would need to be able to quickly and easily to transition between a brush gun and scoped rifle for 100-150 yard shots. It needed to be relatively light weight. It would need to have enough “stopping power” for humane kills on deer-sized game and the ammo needed to be readily available.

For a home defense perspective, it would still need to be light weight. It should be able to hold a reasonable amount of ammunition. While “stopping power” was still a requirement, I live in a suburban area and over-penetration is a major concern. Ammunition availability was still a concern as was cost. If I were to be able to stock a reasonable number of rounds on hand it would need to be relatively inexpensive.

As much as I love my leverguns, an AR pattern rifle seemed like the best choice for this project.

I like the ergonomics. It’s a breeze to add accessories like lights (pretty much a necessity when hunting hogs at night) and optics can be customized and swapped as easily as can be. The only concern was the caliber.

Yes, I know many people hunt both hogs and deer with 5.56/.223. And yes, it is legal to hunt with around here (although it isn’t in many states). Plus the whitetails in this part of Texas are rather small compared with some other parts of the country. However, I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to a clean humane kill and I don’t feel comfortable with a borderline round. Not a problem, the AR can come in many different calibers including the (dun, dun, duh!) 300 Blackout.

It seems like every gun rag and website has been busy selling this round as the ammo equivalent of Marilyn Monroe. It’s generally pitched as a semi-auto .30-30 and an excellent hunting round, within certain distance limits. Based on my research, I have a few issues with this round. It’s not a distance thing. If you’re taking a shot of more than 150 or 200 yards in the pine forests around where I live you’re probably doing something wrong.

Here’s the deal, numbers don’t lie. While the .30-30 and the 300 blackout are both .30 caliber rounds that’s about where the comparison ends. The 300 blackout delivers significantly less energy at shorter distances than the .30-30 (1377 vs. 1902). It is also expensive and hard to find (this was especially true two years ago when I started this project). Before the 300 Blackout fanboys get all worked up and send me hate mail I think it is a very good round for what it was designed for. It just didn’t match up to the criteria I had.

Other popular rounds for the AR had similar chanllenges (for my needs). The 6.5 Grendel is equally scarce around here. The 6.8 SPC seems to be relatively easy to find and not too expensive but it still isn’t a round I could stock in quantity and use for both defense and hunting.

The AR-10 would be fantastic for hunting but not so much for home-defense. Both the price and weight penalties are pretty high as well.

Then I hit me like a bad shot of vodka…how about the 7.62×39?

Ballistics-wise the 7.62×39 slots in between the .300 Blackout and the 6.8 rounds, not quite as potent as I would like but within the ranges I would be shooting, not bad. Ammo is dirt cheap and plentiful although quality hunting ammo isn’t quite that cheap nor easy to find. From a self-defense perspective, over penetration could be an issue but with hollow point ammo that would be less of an issue than with many full blown rifle rounds.

With that decision made I set about building a 7.62×39 AR.

I’ll share more on that in (Part 2).

God bless