Digital Night Vision vs. Thermal

We finally got opportunity to go hog hunting a few days ago and test out the Photon RT Digital Night Vision (DNV) scope I bought myself for my birthday (along with an AR-10). I also had the opportunity to try out a Thermal scope from ATN that belonged to a buddy of my son in law. I learned a lot and thought I would share my observations.

The first part of the evening I was sitting in a blind about 30 yards from a feeder. I didn’t see any hogs but I had a chance to play with the DNV scope “in the wild” so to speak. DNV works on the same principle as a digital camera but using a wavelength of light that is invisible to most animals including hogs and humans. You are not looking through a glass optic. Instead you are looking at a small screen built into the scope. To ensure that there is enough light, in the right wavelength these scopes use an infrared illuminator (think of it an a flashlight that emits light we can’t see). This is basically like hunting with a light except that the pigs can’t see it and it has many of the same drawbacks as a flashlight in the dark. The light reflects back off of things like brush or even grass. If there is something like that between you and the hogs you won’t see them. For example, I could see the fence and the brush growing along the fence line clearly but I was just as blind past that as I would have been without the DNV scope. So, even though the feeder was only 30 yards away I couldn’t see it. I was aware that this was a potential issue but I discounted it when making the purchase.

Later in the evening we moved out into some open fields looking for hogs (none showed up at my blind) and that is where the other challenge with DNV comes into play. I was constantly having to adjust the beam intensity and focus the optic depending on how far away the hogs were. Scanning the field for them was tough. If I knew where they were I could, eventually get everything worked out but it took a little bit. If I was just hunting over a feeder and in a clear field it would be a non-issue but in the brush or open fields where they might be anywhere is was a tough.

What finally convinced me that this was not the equipment I wanted to use long term happened in one of the first fields we hunted. I was able to scope the pig and see him very clearly. More clearly than with the thermal scope. I was just about to take a shot when Moose’s buddy stopped me. What I didn’t see was a whole herd of cows about 50-75 yards behind the pig…that could have been an expensive mistake. Landowners are OK with people getting rid of pigs that tear up their property and kill calves but to drop a cow because you didn’t see it would NOT make them happy. Worse yet, what if that was another hunter or someone else on the other end of the field?

Don’t take this the wrong way. DNV is significantly less expensive than thermal and a viable option within its limitations. It would be great on our annual hunt in North Texas for example because we can shoot from known distances over feeders from elevated blinds that provide a clear field of view. Perfect scenario for DNV.

With the thermal scope we were using we could see everything from rabbits on up to cows scattered throughout the fields. We couldn’t see them as clearly as with the DNV but we could see them well enough to distinguish between them easily and clearly enough to take accurate shots.

The other advantage of the thermal was after the shot. With the DNV a dropped pig could disappear into the grass or brush making it a chore to find. With the thermal we were still able to spot them for quite a time until they cooled to ambient temperature.

Based on my experience that night, I returned by DNV scope to the store where I bought it and got my money back. I will wait and save until I can afford a thermal…maybe.

We really don’t hunt enough to justify the $1500-2000 price tag of a good thermal scope. The ability to hunt small game like rabbits would be nice but still not enough to justify the cost. There is one other intriguing use, some folks use thermal scopes during the day as well. Game may be well camouflaged to the naked eye but not much hides their heat signature which can really help for an old hunter whose eyes are starting to go south on him.

Will I buy a thermal scope? Maybe.

For now it is back to green lights and my new buddy’s thermal.

Take care and God bless.

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SRC-308 Modifications

One of the best (and worst) aspects of the AR platform is the ease of making modifications and the huge number of accessories out there. Being a “basic” model the SRC-308 comes from the factory with a very basic set of features. I think the guys at Windham figure that whoever buys the rifle is going to customize it so start with the absolute basics. I am no exception and I am not eve sure this particular rifle made it out to the range before I started making modifications to it.

Stock SRC-308

So, what have I changed and why?

Butt Stock

The basic milspec AR stock leaves a lot to be desired. It’s hard to get a good cheek weld, it rattles and there is no recoil absorption whatsoever. The lack of of a recoil pad is a non-issue in 5.56/.223 but on a .308 I would really like a bit of a rubber between me and the recoil.

(Odd side note: I don’t mind the heavy recoil of an ultralight .357 magnum or a .44 magnum but rifle recoil does bother me. Weird, I know)

Hogue Overmolded Stock

The one thing I did like about the included butt stock was that it had a built in sling loop.

I replaced it with the Hogue OverMolded Collapsible Buttstock. It offers a nice cheek weld, and a but of recoil padding at the rear. It doesn’t lock into place but there is an internal liner that keeps it from sliding around or rattling. It works well and was cheaper than an equivalent Magpul stock.

Hand Guard

The circular A2 style hand guard on the SRC had to go. The diameter is huge for those of us with little sausage fingers and there was no way to mount a rail or a

Magpul MOE Handguard

light or any other accessories to it.

I went with a standard Magpul MOE hand guard. I have them on several of my a couple of my other rifles and they work fine. They are not my favorite but it does what I need it to do at a reasonable cost.

Rail Section

One of the things I wanted in a hand guard was the ability to mount a light or a small section of rail. The MLok slot on the MOE and a small bit of MLok attached rail allowed just that. Now I have the option of mounting a light. I have several high powered white lights I can now mount, if need be. I have a green light for night hunting if the digital night vision doesn’t work as well as I hope or if there is a reason I can’t use it. I can also mount a second IR illuminator should I want a different wavelength of IR, a more powerful illuminator or just a second as a backup.

Muzzle Device

KVP Linear Compensator

In many cases I will be hunting with another person beside me. When shooting at a group of scattering hogs on the run it takes a lot of concentration and care to keep muzzles pointed in a safe direction. With a muzzle device that ejects hot gases upwards and/or to the side you can easily run into a situation where the gases can also pose a risk (at minimum a comfort risk). No one wants the blast of hot gases off a .308 in the face or to be deafened by the sound. So, I replaced the old birdcage with a linear compensator from Kaw Valley Precision. That way all hot gases head towards the hogs instead of towards a buddy or upwards into the line of sight of a scope that uses light in the infrared (heat) wavelengths.

Sling

The rifle came with a basic nylon sling but I went ahead and upgraded to the Magpul RLS sling. It has a little wider strap so it will not dig into my shoulder as badly. It also similar to a 1917 or Rhodesian sling in that there is a loop within the loop that can be used to help brace and stabilize the rifle while shooting from an unsupported position. This is a non-issue when hunting from a fixed position in blind or stand but a lot of our hunting is on foot, stalking through heavy brush and along trails. There is not always a convenient tree branch to help stabilize the shot and this style sling will really help accuracy in those situations.

Magazines

The SRC-308 came with a single Magpul 20 round magazine. I have picked up another of those as well as a 10 round magazine. For whatever reason 5 and 10 rounds AR-10 magazines are hard to find at a reasonable price right now. I will keep my eye out for a couple more as they are lighter and don’t stick out of the rifle as far (to catch brush and briars). We will see how it goes but I don’t foresee many times when I will need more than 5 or 10 rounds for hunting. Even with a suppressor, the hogs start to scatter pretty quickly after the first one goes down.

That’s all I have changed so far and all I plan to change at this point.

Take care and God bless.

Range Report: Windham SRC-308/Sightmark Photon RT

I thought we were going to be able to hunt last weekend with the new hog setup I just bought, a Windham SRC-308 topped with a Sightmark Photon RT digital night vision scope. Since the matching Sightmark quick detach (QD) rings were still in transit so I scrounged a 30mm cantilever mount I had laying around and mounted it up. I was able to get the setup out to the range and (mostly) get it sighted in after forgetting to properly tighten the scope base. Well, our trip got cancelled due to weather which gave me time to do a proper job.

Outdoor Legacy Gear sent a koozie and sticker along with the order

The QD rings came in and I took my time and mounted the scope properly making sure everything was properly tightened up (sort of). The hex headed screws are an odd size and not on the bits in any of my tool kits quite fit. Fortunately, Sightmark included properly sized allen wrenches in with the rings. It worked well enough but I prefer to use a torque wrench to make sure and without the proper bits that wasn’t possible.

The mounts definitely seem sturdy and when locked onto the picatinny rail there is no play or movement in the scope. I am a lot less worried about recoil damaging the scope with these two sturdy rings anchoring the scope instead of the single cantilever mount.

I had a very short window of time to sight in the rifle after work. The rain was on the way in and I had to work fast. Fortunately I was the only idiot willing to risk the weather so I had the range to myself. I could call a ceasefire anytime I wanted one.

25 Yards zero in one shot

I started out at the 25 yard line and the one shot zero feature was once again made it super easy and I was in good shape with only the advertised one shot.

50 yard zero took a couple extra shots

Moving out to the 50 yard line it wasn’t quite as easy but the challenges were my own and had nothing to do with the scope or rifle. It took three rounds to get on on target this time.

I had just enough time to put a sticker on the 50 yard target before the rain started but I still had another quick test I wanted to do. I wanted to try another brand of ammunition out to see how it would work in the rifle. I have been using Remington CoreLokt for quite some time but I wanted to test out the Winchester Power-Point Hog Special ammunition, both in 150 grain weights.

Yes, this is a three shot group…

Based on the three rounds I got to test before the sky really opened up it looks like this will be plenty accurate but we’ll have to wait and see how it performs on the hogs.

Why didn’t I take it out any further?

Two reasons.

-Number one, the sky opened up and there was not time.

-Number two, the property we will be hunting in the near future is pretty wooded and all the shots we would be able to take are right around 45-50 yards.

When I have a little more time I would like to test the rifle and scope out past 50 yards  but I will probably keep it zeroed at fifty since that is where most of our hog hunting will take place. I would also like to zero in the scope I am thinking about using for daytime hunts as well.

All in all the rifle shoots well and seems to be pretty darned accurate (probably more accurate than I am). The scope is a little grainy during the day and nowhere near as clear as an optical scope but within the limits of what I am trying to accomplish with it the clarity and magnification are fine.

I have not been able to take it out on a decent night and spot animals with it. the weather has not been cooperative and it has been foggy or rainy most of the last few weeks. I was able to take it out one night for some testing but the fog was extremely dense. I could see out to 30 yards or so without the IR illuminator turned on but as soon as I switched it on the reflection off the fog washed out the image. Hopefully, I will get a better idea of how it works in a hunting scenario this weekend. To be honest, that will be the “make or break it” test of this scope and hopefully I will be able to post some video of that soon.

Take care and God bless.

Yep, I Did It Again…

All this talk and effort towards saving money I go and do something stupid…

…again.

I went into one of the big sporting good stores with a buddy who was looking for a heavy barreled .308 for long distance shooting and walked out with a digital night vision scope and an AR-10 to mount it on. In fact we both ended up walking out with digital night vision scopes and AR-10s.

We really shouldn’t be allowed out together unsupervised.

We have been hunting hogs with green lights for several years and if you are careful and the hogs are not too skittish it works pretty well. I am hoping to get out into the fields soon so I can test it out and see how much better the DNV works (if it does).

I went with a Sightmark Photon RT 4.5 power scope.

Sightmark Photon RT

The AR is an SRC-308 from Windham Weaponry.

Windham Weaponry SRC-308 with Scope

I have been wanting to give night vision a try for a quite a while. Actually, I tried a low end monocular some time back but it was so bad it was almost useless. I have also been wanting and AR-10 for almost as long. I ordered a quick detach mount for the scope so I can swap it out with a standard optic if I want to hunt under a green light or during the day. If the AR-10 proves reliable and accurate enough it will become my new primary hunting rifle and I will use it for both day and night hunts of both hogs and deer.

WW SRC-308 with 1×6 scope

It is a pound and a half heavier than the Ruger American Predator I have been hunting with so it will get a little heavy for a full day of stalking through the East Texas brush and briars but maybe the exercise and weight loss over the last month or so will pay off and it won’t be too bad.

I was able to do a quick range session the other day. The recoil is not bad and it is actually a pretty pleasant gun to shoot. The scope has a flexible eye piece which helps hide the glow of the digital screen. Which is cool but I just can’t shake the feeling that I am about to get punched in the eye because my eye is too close to the scope.  The scope has a feature called one shot zero feature that is awesome. Simply take a shot with the reticle centered on the target and then go into the one menu and move the reticle over the spot where the bullet hit on the target and it is zeroed.

One shot zero (until it wasn’t)

It works great but after about four rounds my shots began walking to the right. I was pretty upset until I realized that the problem was my own fault. I had been adjusting the position of the scope on the rail and had not properly tightened the scope to the rail and it had worked loose.

I am hoping to get back out to the range one evening this week and zero it with the new scope base. I should be able todial in the optical scope as well. If I can get that done and the weather cooperates we should be able to get a good field test in the following weekend hunting hogs on a property a few hours north of here.

If those things happen I’ll be sure and type up a quick post.

Take care and God bless.

Hunting Season!

A few weeks ago we made a trip up to Oklahoma for a little deer hunting.The primary reason for the trip was for my oldest grandson to bag his first deer. Which he did:

Have I posted this before? I know I have…

I was able to get one morning hunt in that weekend as well and passed on a little year old (about) buck that hung out in front of my blind for fifteen minutes or so. I pretty much figured that was going to be it for my hunting season until we do our guys weekend/hog hunt in January.

Boy was I surprised when I got a text from my most favored son in law telling us that a coworker of his had some property that he wasn’t hunting and that Moose could hunt it all he wanted this season! We quickly set up some feeders, game cams and a blind. We cleared a few shooting lanes and made a path to get to the blind. We were out before dark on opening day. While gunshots were heard all around us we saw exactly nothing, except one really annoying squirrel.

To be honest I was a bit relieved as I had not had any time to verify that my rifle was still sighted in or to see where it would hit at the shorter distances that the thick brush on this place would allow for. We won’t have any shots over 50 yards at this place with 20 to 40 yards being the most likely distances we will be shooting.

Given the shorter distances I am tempted to switch to a lever action carbine in either .44 magnum or .30-30 however this whole work and family time thing has kept me from getting either of those rifles sighted in. I did take just enough time off at lunch one day last week to take the two Ruger Americans that I normally hunt with and verify they are still zeroed and test them out at shorter distances. At 50 yards I am dead on but inside 20 yards I will have to aim a bit high as I am hitting just about an inch low at 15 yards. The .308 took a few clicks of elevation added to the scope as it was hitting a bit low at 50 yards.

Ruger American Predator in .308 (50 yards). Hits in the lower left of the 9 ring was before a slight elevation adjustment

At this point I don’t know if I will stick with the .308 or go with the 7.62×39. Both are fine rifles and perfectly adequate calibers but I don’t really need the extra distance the .308 gives my and the 7.52×39 is a bit shorter, a bit lighter and has a good bit less recoil. I think I am slightly more accurate with it as well.

Ruger American Ranch in 7.62×39. Grouping down and to the left was at 2x magnification and the center ring hits were at 4x

I tested two different bullet weights on the .308 (150 and 180) and both impacted in the same spots at this range. For the 7.62 Commie I tested three different ammunition brands (Brown Bear Soft Points, Hornady SSTs and Federal Fusion) all in 123 or 125 grain weights and there was no noticeable difference in impact location. I have seen the effectiveness of the Fusion on a critter before and I was very impressed with how well it did so I am leaning towards that round in the Ruger American Predator.

We plan to be back in the woods tomorrow morning (I am typing this up on Friday) and hope to see a deer. We are already seeing hogs on the cameras so even after deer season ends we can still continue to harvest game from this property. It has been a while since we had a place we could hunt like this and I am super excited.

Take care and God bless.

Whew, What A Week!

It’s been a real roller coaster ride the last week or so. Saturday before last we had the whole family over to celebrate three birthdays, an anniversary and to announce my newest grand baby (due in February) to the rest of the family. Sunday was Sunday School, church and a Sunday School class pot luck. It was a short but crazy busy work week. We had a family friend pass away and we still made our planned hunting trip to Oklahoma.

Whew!

Wonderful Wife and my middle daughter made the trip down to visit our friend’s wife on Wednesday. They spent the day with her and the family doing what they could and helping out. When the family made the decision for a traditional Muslim funeral the girls made the call that the Oklahoma trip was back on. They will have a memorial for his non-Muslim friends to attend at a later date.

The trip to Oklahoma was long but worth every numb-butted mile. We were able to reconnect with some folks we haven’t seen in a few years, made it to a fall festival at Robber’s Cave, play around on a an ATV and made it out to hunt a couple times in between.

The most amazing part of the weekend was Friday morning. My son in law, my oldest grandson and I all headed out to a deer blind in the drizzling rain well before sunrise. It was my grandson’s first time deer hunting. We all sat together hoping that he would get an opportunity. It was close to ten o’clock when we decided to pack it in (the little guy showed amazing patience).

We were headed to the ATV when my son in law spotted a small buck moving our way. We hurried back to the blind and quickly got set up all over again. After thirty or forty minutes the little buck still hadn’t made an appearance so we figured he took a different trail and started to pack up again. Which is, of course, when he decided to walk right into the clearing we were set up on and with the deer only about twenty-five yards away we started setting up again.

We managed to get set up again (third time that morning) without spooking Mr. Deer or hurting one another (much). I managed to find the business end of a broad head in the scramble and was bleeding all over myself and the camera. It wasn’t a serious cut or deep but it bled like crazy. I was so excited for my little guy I didn’t even notice the cut until I saw blood on the camera (and everything else I touched). The fact that the drizzle had turned into a downpour probably helped mask any noise.

Moose, my son in law, did a great job coaching the boy and Mr. Deer did his part by coming in another few yards. My little guy did his part too placing the arrow nearly perfectly.

While the downpour help hide our activity from the deer it made tracking it almost impossible. After an hour and a half we were soaked and cold to the bone and grudgingly headed back to the cabin. Once there Moose asked for help from the friends we were visiting and they headed back out into the cold rain. After another three hours they called it quits again. Heading back to the vehicles they walked through the same clearing where our blind was set up and there it was. After all that searching Mr. Deer was down just 50 yards from the blind and about thirty yards from where he was hit. He had doubled back on us and we never saw him do so.

Little Man and his first buck

Whew!

What an effort from a loving dad and a friend of the family. It was all worth it and an amazing experience for all involved.

Oh yeah, I got a hunt in Sunday morning and passed on a small six point buck. The few does I saw were a little to skittish to come within bow range. But that’s ok. Being out in a blind as “the forest wakes up” was a wonderful experience that I never seem to tire of. One that recharges my batteries and renews my faith like few other experiences I’ve had.

So much has happened in the last week it is amazing.

All I can say in whew…

…and thank you Lord!

Take care and God bless.

Note: Please excuse any errors in this post. It was written on my cell phone while riding back from Oklahoma. As this is posted I’ll be flying to Dallas for a customer meeting. Back to the grind…

Change Of Plans: No Hammer This Weekend

I purchased the Smith & Wesson Model 69 (The Hammer) the other day to be by sidearm when hunting and engaging in other outdoor activities where I might encounter a serious threat from the wildlife. Unfortunately, life, the universe and poor planning on my part have put me in a position where The Hammer will stay home for my fist hunt of the season.

With my current workload (personal, business and spiritual) I did not have enough time to order the ammo I want to use. Few local gun stores carry .44 Magnum and almost none carry .44 Special. I could get a decent .44 Magnum load but no shot shells locally. So it would have to be an Internet purchase and there is no time left for that. Even worse I haven’t found a good carry holster for this monster locally so that will have to be an internet purchase as well and, again, no time.

Instead of The Hammer, my Smith & Wesson 340 will get the call. I already have shot shells in .38 caliber on hand and .357 Magnum is a bit more common down here so I was able to grab a box of 158 grain soft-points that ought to suffice against all but the biggest and most determined critters. I also carry this revolver regularly and have several holsters that work quite well already.

This weekend’s hunting carry

We are heading out after deer and the area we will be hunting does not have anywhere near the feral hog population that we have down here in Texas. We will not be near any alligator infested waterways either. On the other hand, there is a slightly higher likelihood of encountering black bears in the area and we will be bow hunting so I won’t have a long gun with me. All in all, I have no doubt that the .357 Magnum should be just fine. It is significantly lighter and easier to conceal for travel through populated areas. I was just hoping to be able to bring The Hammer along.

Take care and God bless.