Hunting And Gathering – Meat Eater Style

I finally made it grocery shopping today (yesterday by the time you read this) and I discovered something very odd. Cheap hamburger meat was $5 a pound. On the other hand nice, untrimmed brisket was only $1.99 a pound. A little work in the kitchen with a good knife and a cheap grinder and we have some great ground beef at a great price.

Breakfast sausage was $4 a pound but nice pork roasts were only $1.29 a pound. Guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow (today by the time you read this). So, a little seasoning and the same set of tools and a little more work and we’ll be putting some sausage in the freezer.

I also made it over to my son in law’s place and knocked the rust off my bow skills. We also made sure it is properly dialed in. Now I just need to get my gear together and pick up a case for the bow to prevent damage during the trip. T-minus 10 days and counting to (hopefully) adding some nice, free range venison to the freezer. My oldest grandson will also be going for his first deer that weekend. I am even more hopeful that he will be successful and that I am there for the event.

Take care and God bless.

The Lever Gun Has Had Its Day

The lever gun has had its day, and a hell of a day it was. But the present and the future belong to the bolt-action and the AR.

-David E Petzal, Field and Stream (link)

Well, I am not sure where ol’ David lives but it sure isn’t around here.

He is correct about some things. The increased interest in long range precision shooting tends to move people away from lever actioned rifles. The bolt gun tends to be a better platform for that particular sport. He is also correct that the AR platform is now incredibly popular and a new “wonder cartridge” is released every few years which tends to keep them selling. So, the days of a deer rifle in every pickup truck and every deer rifle being a lever action from either Marlin or Winchester are gone. That’s true as well.

However…

It doesn’t take the incredible popularity or success Henry has had in recent years. with their lever actions. Typically you don’t see new models and new chamberings being released as often as Henry does in a platform that is dead.

Remlin sales are probably still suffering these days but that has more to do with their quality control and production issues than the the demise of lever action rifles. By the way, a quick check of the biggest sporting goods store in my area has the Marlin 336 as a top seller.

Winchester may have sent production to Miroku in Japan but I sure don’t see their prices falling or spare inventory sitting on the shelves. And we won’t even go into the replica manufacturers like Rossi, Uberti, etc. who also seem to be doing quick well selling this deceased platform.

Now let’s take a look over at the used firearm market. JM manufactured Marlins, especially pistol caliber carbines, sure do seem to be hold their value pretty well. I have seen worn out old Marlins and Glenfieds going for the same price as brand new bolt guns. Finding a pistol caliber carbine, especially chambered in .38/.357 for less that eight or nine hundred dollars. Go ahead. Try.

In the leftist occupied sections of the country there is a renewed interest in lever action rifles, especially in pistol calibers, as self-defense weapons. Because ARs are essentially banned in many of these locales.

Folks, these are not the signs of the end of the lever action rifle. It is a sign of a writer out of touch with the real world.

Take care and God bless.

Weapons Systems: SIG BDX

It looks like the technology of shooting is taking another step forward.

SigSauer released this video on their new BDX (Ballistic Data Xchange) system. The video teaser leaves is pretty light on the details but basically they are adding Bluetooth technology to their lineup of rangefinders and rifle scopes. This will allow the devices to communicate with each other and with the app on a smart phone to provide shooting solutions based on distance, angle and weather conditions. The rifle scopes appear to have an illuminated reticle incorporated that provides the appropriate aim point based on the data collected from the other devices.

The techno-geek in my thinks this is pretty darn cool. Hunting and shooting are my escape from that world…

Take care and God bless/

Range Report: Ruger American Rimfire

As I mentioned in the last What Did You Prep This Month(ish) post, I picked up a Ruger American Rimfire chambered in .22 Long Rifle. This is a rimfire version of the Ruger American Predator in .308 that is my primary hunting rifle and the Ruger American Ranch in 7.62 Commie that is a fun rifle to shoot and could easily serve for hunting as well. The stock and trigger are the same between all three rifles. The action for the rimfire is (obviously) scaled down a bit but, for the most part, these rifles are almost interchangeable and time spent practicing with one translates directly to the other two.

This is one of the reasons I picked up this little guy. Even though 7.62 Commie is pretty cheap, .22 Long Rifle is still much cheaper. I can send 100 rounds of .22 downrange for the cost of 20 7.62×39 rounds and probably 250 rounds for the cost of 20 .308 Winchester rounds. The other reason is that there are times I may want to hunt smaller game. Squirrels and rabbits are not only plentiful but fairly tasty when properly prepared. This gives me a nice option for adding food to the pot or freezer. Plus .22 is much quieter than most centerfire rounds and that might just come in handy one day.

Three Ruger Americans (top to bottom) American Predator in .308, American Rimfire and Ranch in 7.62×39

To keep the little Ruger rimfire as consistent with its bigger brothers I topped it with the rimfire version of the Vortex Crossfire II 2×7 I use on the other rifles. Mounting the scope required removing the rear peep sight that came installed on the gun. Which was pretty straightforward once I located my punch set (can’t find anything in the house these days). I will also add a sling at some point to make it more convenient for hunting.

I was able to sight the little Ruger in pretty quickly. In less that 10 shots I was zeroed at 25 yards. It took about the same to make sure it was on at 50 yards. That’s about as far out as I care to take it so I spent the next 90 or so rounds just getting a feel for the rifle and what it can do.

As I mentioned before, the rifle is more accurate than I am. At the 25 yard line I could chew a hole into the bullseye all day. Say 35 or 40 rounds into about an inch or so. At 50 yards my groups opened up a little and this is where I will probably spend a lot of time with this little rifle to improve my accuracy. I tested it out to 100 yards and once I worked out the hold over I was doing surprisingly well by my standards. Hitting the steel target at 200 yards was an exercise in futility. I am sure that in the right hands the rifle is capable but mine are not the right hands. To be honest I have no idea if I hit the steel or not. I doubt a lowly .22 hitting steel at that distance on an active range could even be heard.

A pretty good group (for me)

Between the fact that this is a .22 and the contour of the barrel, I could send quite a few rounds downrange pretty quickly without heating up the barrel to any noticeable degree. Which means I can maintain a much higher rate of fire without affecting accuracy in any way. I can be more efficient with my practice time that way but, to be honest, I have to resist a tendency to just bang away at the target instead of taking my time with each shot.

The trigger on the American Rimfire is the same Ruger Marksman Adjustable™ trigger as on the centerfire rifles. It is crisp and light (remember it is adjustable if you want it lighter) that has me spoiled as far as rifle triggers go. The MilSpec triggers on my ARs that I used to love so much feel heavy and gritty now. One thins I have noticed is that there is a good bit of variability between these triggers from Ruger. The 7.62 Commie and the rimfire triggers are noticeably better than the one on my .308 Winchester. Even after adjusting the trigger on the .308 it doesn’t feel quite as nice as the other two. It seems a bit heavier and seems to stick a little on occasion. I wouldn’t think there should be that much variability between the same triggers. Maybe the trigger in the .308 is a lemon. If it is it is still nicer than pretty much any other trigger on any other rifle I own.

I love the weight and balance of these rifles. While it doesn’t make much of a difference at the range the lightweight and shorter barrels make them much easier in the woods. Even in the winter months the woods around this part of Texas are filled with vines and scrub that wants to grab, scratch and trip you up. Lugging a heavy rifle or a long barreled rifled through the local brush is a lot like work and not all that fun. These handy little rifles make it a little less so.

The one thing about the Ruger American Rimfire than annoyed me (sort of) was the sound of the firing pin. I wear noise cancelling headphones when shooting so the loud noises like the actual rifle shots are blocked. Noises at no hearing damaging levels are not so I can carry on a conversation while wearing them. I can also hear a clear “ping” everytime I pull the trigger on this little rifle. It is probably the same volume as a centerfire rounds hitting a steel target at 200 yards so not very loud but somewhat annoying.

Seriously, that’s my biggest complaint about this rifle.

The rifle cost me $235 including taxes, shipping and FFL fees. The scope and rings were close to another $100 on top of that. Depending on your financial situation this may be cheap or it may be expensive. For me it is a reasonable price for this piece of equipment and I am very pleased with it.

Take care and God bless!

Marlin 1894 .38/.357 Is Back!

Maybe the most exciting news out of the 2018 SHOT Show (for me) was the Marlin 1894 CST. This is a new edition of the classic Marlin lever action chambered in .38 Special/.357 Magnum that sports a 16.5 inch threaded barrel, black finished wood furniture, XS ghost ring sights, big loop lever and a a brushed stainless finish.

1894 CST

While I think this particular model is extremely cool the real reason I am so excited is that it signifies a return to manufacture of the 1894 in the .38/.357 cartridge. Since the Remington takeover (ruination?) of Marlin the pistol caliber carbines have been nearly as hard to find as honest politicians and carbines chambered in .38/.357 have been even more rare than that. Hopefully, this means a return to production for all the models in this line.

For around $300 less than the $1154 MSRP of the CST I would probably buy the plain Jane 1894C with the longer (20 inch) barrel.

Traditional 1894C

What it lacks in “tacticool,” if that can ever be applied to a lever gun, of the CST you get an extra four rounds of capacity and the $300 savings can go into better sights and more ammo. Now if I were to find a particularly good deal on the CST…that might be a different story.

God Bless

Range Report: Annual Hunting Trip

Last weekend was our annual “guys weekend” hunting trip to North Texas and I wanted to share a few thoughts and observations…

The Good

The Ruger American Predator in .308 is a great rifle (for me).

The rifle is nice an light. Unlike some other rifles I have used, carrying it through the woods, mud and brush all day on was no problem. No wrist or shoulder pain like I have had carrying some other rifles. The “Claw” sling from Quake did a great job keeping the rifle in place so I didn’t have to worry and hold it in place all day.

Little rifle, little piggy and a big round…

Accuracy, as long as I did my part, was dead on and the Vortex Crossfire II 2×7 scope was perfect for both the the tighter shooting needs on a stalk through thick brush as well as longer ranges from a stand in an open field.

The first pig I took was in an open field but I had to stalk through some heavy brush to get to the field. The light weight and short length of the rifle made it much easier to make it close enough to take the shot without making enough noise to spook the pigs. We happened upon a small group of pigs while tagging along with my grandson and his dad while they were squirrel hunting. The light weight means I didn’t leave it back at camp and again the small size made it easier to sneak through the brush for an easier shot. The power of the .308 put the piggy down even with a less than stellar shot on my part. The third hog was across an open field from an elevated stand. The stationary, elevated position allowed for an easy and clean head shot even over the longer distance.

The steaks.

There is very little that can top a perfectly seasoned 16 ounce ribeye cooked over an oak fire with potatoes and onions on the side…

Fellowship with my son, grand son and son-in-law.

Father and son spending time together in nature

It was a great time and we were able to spend some quality time together without TV, Internet, iPads or any of the other distractions of modern life to interrupt. My grandson got to learn more about hunting and cleaning animals. He know where his meat comes from and what goes into killing and preparing it. He spent a lot of time practicing with his new .22 and is getting pretty good with it. I have a standing offer to him that if he can hit a soda can at 50 yards with open sights in five shots or less I’ll give him $20. He almost took it from me this trip.

The Bad

Nikon scopes with exposed turret adjustments.

My son was adjusting the green light mounted on his AR and the light mount twisted on his scope turning the elevation turret an unknown number of clicks. I may be missing something but turret adjustments should not be exposed like that on a rifle, especially one that is used outside of the controlled space of a range. We were able to re-zero the next day but that burned hunting time and ammo.

Forgetful old men.

Between the repairs to the house, work, the holidays and everything else we have going on this old man forgot several things this weekend…including ammo for his rifle. If you’re going hunting, remember to bring ammo. It was thirty plus miles to town for ammo which also ate into our hunting time although we did find a good burger place.

New boots.

Most of my shoes were lost in the flood including the boots I wear when hunting. I picked up a new pair just in time for the trip but didn’t have time to break them in. No blusters, but not very comfy either. The right one also squeaked when I walked making it tough to stalk quietly.

The Ugly

Diseased Pigs

The hog I shot on the last night, from the stand, looked good in the scope and under the green hog light but once we retrieved her we knew something was wrong. A pig that size should have weighed in around 150 to 175 but I doubt she even made 100 pounds. Even in the dark we could see her ribs. No idea what was wrong with her but we took no risks and disposed of the carcass without bothering to get the little meat she had on her. On the good side maybe whatever she was suffering from won’t be passed along to any other hogs or deer.

God bless

What Did You Prep This Week?

Walk With God

No church or Sunday school this week. We were attending the birth of a wonderful blessing from God; a new grand baby. Wednesday night bible study did not happen either as I was tied up at work and with stuff for the house. Prayer time was OK. I will be out of town next weekend on a hunting trip to north Texas so I will miss again next week too.

Self Defense/Hunting

Made another trip back to the range and burned through around a hundred rounds of .308 in the Ruger American Predator. My groups at 25 and 50 yards are spot on and pretty tightly grouped. The jump to 100 yards though turns that group into a pattern (3-4 inches). I am not sure what the issue is but I am pretty sure it is me and not the rifle. I think I may be cranking the magnification up too high (7x on a 2×7) and that is causing me issues. On the last few shots of the day I left the magnification all the way down and although the groups didn’t tighten up much I was able to acquire the target and shoot more quickly. The sight picture is much more stable so there is less desire to jerk the trigger. It could also be related to the scope height.

I also tested several brands of ammunition both full metal jacket (FMJ) practice rounds and hunting rounds and they all performed about the same. Which is a good thing. The Federal Fusion 180 grain rounds consistently hit higher than the other rounds tested (all 145-150 grain) and ididn’t group any better than the less expensive rounds. So, I will be sticking with the cheaper stuff although they have a lighter option as well and I may try that at some point.

The range I went too goes out to around 330 yards and I was pleasantly surprised that I could hit the 220 yard steel target almost at will and the 330 yard target at least half the time. Prior to this trip have only made one shot at that kind of distance before. A 200 yard shot on a deer with a loaner rifle that was sighted to be dead on at that distance so I was pretty happy about that.

I was also able to pick up a ton of brass in .308 (mostly my own) and 5.56 as well as a few odds and ends that I can reload as well.

I purchased another set of low rings. The scope rings on the .308 are mids and the lows on the 7.62×39 seem to fit me better and allow a better cheek weld. I will swap those once I get back from my hunting trip this coming weekend.

Supplies/Gear

Restocked the first aid kid in my EDC bag. We’ve had a lot of little cuts and scrapes to deal with of late. I am being very careful with even small scratches picked up around the house due to the flooding.

Finances

We are having to drain down the savings to continue making repairs. Although this is why we saved (a rainy day) it’s still tough seeing the balances we worked so hard to build up getting smaller.

Fitness/Health

I NEED TO FOCUS HERE!

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

Take care and God Bless

Range Report

As the weather starts to cool off a little along the Texas Gulf Coast the outdoor rifle ranges are starting to get pretty busy. A lot of guys are getting ready for deer season and the rest are just taking advantage of those rare times when you can get outside without suffering heatstroke. Although I probably won’t make it out to bag any deer this year, we will still probably make our annual hunting trip to north Texas to bag a few hogs. It looks like that will be in January or February again this year but it is never too early to start getting ready, especially when you will be carrying a new rifle into the fields.

The Ruger American Predator in .308 Winchester will be my “go to” rifle this year and last time out I ran into a bit of an issue. Ruger, by design or oversight, didn’t use any thread locker on the scope rail and under recoil from the .308 the screws backed out leaving my scope on less that solid footing and my shots were all over the paper.

With the rail re-attached (with a generous application of thread locker on each screw) I wanted to see how she would do.

A few shots at 50 yards showed I was at least on paper so then it was time to head to the 100 yard line (100-125 yards is about the outside distance for me when hunting). I was having some issues with consistency at first which had be rechecking the scope rail but after a bit I was able to settle down and she should be about zeroed in. 

I spent quite a bit of time practicing with the Ruger American Ranch Rifle in 7.62×39. To be honest I really prefer the “short .30 caliber” to the .308 as the recoil is significantly less and the ammo is cheaper. Which was the plan after all, since other than caliber and color the rifles are identical.

One of the things I wanted to do was test some ammo other than the Brown Bear and see what the difference would be in reliability, point of impact and the groupings. My AR in 7.62×39 is very sensitive to different ammunition brands and types. There can be several inches difference in point of impact at 100 yards and significant differences in the accuracy of each round with that rifle and I wanted to see if that was still the case with the Ruger.

I tested super cheap TulAmmo, my standard Brown Bear, Fiocchi brass cased ammo, Hornady 7.62X39 123 gr SST® Steel Case and some reloads. The little Ruger hand no issues feeding or firing any of them. Picky, it is not and it was very consistent too. There was very little, if any, difference in the point of impact regardless of the ammo. The group did tend to spread out with the cheap TulAmmo resulting in groupings of around 2-3 inches instead of the 1-2 inches I could get with the other types of ammunition. I continue to be impressed with this little rifle.

Since the Ruger has no issues with the brass cased Fiocchi or my reloads that means I can use it at indoor rifle ranges as well which opens up a lot more of the year for practicing with a rifle. As much as I love shooting, outdoor ranges when it is almost 100 degrees outside with almost 100% humidity are a lot less enjoyable than sitting in air conditioned comfort…

I can’t wait to make it out into the field with one (or the other) in a few months time and back to the range sooner than that.

God bless

Range Report: Ruger American Bolt Action Rifles

OK, first off, I was a bad boy…

A Very bad boy…

We’re not sure how we are going to cover all the costs of repairing our home and replacing the stuff we lost in the flood and I bought a new rifle. I could not resist the temptation and I purchased a Ruger American Rifle Ranch Model in 7.62×39 (Darn It Ruger, Why Now?). Then I broke down and ordered a Vortex 2×7 scope for it along with a set of rings. Oh, and I also ordered two extra magazines and they should be in shortly…

My New Rifle

Yes, I feel a little guilty about buying a new rifle…

However, I do plan on selling another rifle I have had for a while and that should cover the cost of the rifle, scope and magazines. There might even be a little left over.

First, a quick refresher on this rifle. Bolt action rifle based on the budget “American” series of rifles from Ruger. The Ranch variants all sport short, medium weight barrels. The barrels are cold hammer forged and threaded for suppressors or the muzzle device of choice. The 7.62×39 feed from standard Ruger Mini-30 magazines. These rifles also come with a scope rail already installed and the actions are set in lightweight polymer stocks.

How do I like it?

Well, let’s start with the bad.

The action on the 7.62×39 is nowhere near as smooth as on its .308 counterpart. I don’t know if this is a function of feeding from a magazine designed for a semi-auto or if it is because I bought one of the first ones manufactured or what. I will say that as more rounds went down range the action did get much smoother but still not up to the standards of its bigger brother.

I also had some feeding issues. There were times that the rounds didn’t feed properly. That could have been operator error as I tend to tilt bolt action rifles a bit when cycling the action. It was definitely operator error when it failed to feed an entire magazine of ammo, each one jamming up before it entered the chamber. That was because there was already a round in the chamber…Doh!

The action seems to work best when worked quickly and with some force (you are chambering a Russian designed round after all).

I tested a couple of rounds of dirt cheap TulAmmo and it seemed to feed and run fine but I would need to run more rounds through the rifle to really determine how well it works in the little Ruger. I didn’t test any American made ammunition either although I am sure it will work fine. I sent almost 100 rounds of Brown Bear (Barnaul) 123 Grain soft point down range today and there were no issues with feeding or extraction.

This is a good thing because I like this ammunition. It seems to be very consistent, accurate and reliable. In side by side testing it has been just as reliable and accurate as American made ammunition but with significantly more punch. The manufacturer loads this round close to the maximum specifications for the cartridge. Plus it runs less than a quarter of the price of American manufactured 7.62×39 ammunition!

How about accuracy?

First five round grouping

I used a laser boresight to “get me on paper” before my trip to the range so I wasn’t expecting much from my few first shots. I started out at the 25 yards line to get started and to my surprise the fist shot was on the upper edge of the bullseye. Thinking it was a fluke I dropped four more shots into the target and ended up with a single ragged hole. I am not a great shot with rifles and, to be honest, this was one of the best groups I have ever shot at this distance.

Next up 50 yards:

4 Shots, 50 Yards

Again, this little rifle was right on target.

How about 100 yards?

Six shots, 100 Yards

Again, I am not a great rifle shooter and 100 yards is a long shot for me but again this rifle helped my put together on of the best groups I have ever shot at that distance. So, yeah, I think the accuracy is there.

All in all I like this rifle. The action could be smoother but I can live with that. The accuracy is there, It is lightweight, around six pounds including the scope. Since it uses the same magazines as the Mini-30 I have the option of 5, 10 or 20 rounds magazines and although they are not as cheap as AR or AK magazines they aren’t super expensive either. It would be a fine rifle for hunting deer or pigs, especially in the East Texas Piney Woods where shots would rarely be more than 100 yards and would more likely be less than half that. At around $400 it could serve as a truck gun for whatever needs a medicinal dose of lead applied around the property.

For me, this rifle will probably spend most of its life at the range. It is essentially identical to the Ruger American Predator I plan to hunt with this year but the ammo costs are a fraction of what .308 costs. It’s already topped with the same scope as I have on the .308 and the trigger is identical. So this will be my go to practice rifle allowing me to get a lot more range time at a lower cost.

So about that Ruger American Predator…

I did a quick range report on this rifle back in June (link). The action is very smooth and at 25 yards I was able to do pretty well but at longer distance I was really having trouble with it. My groups were a bit more like patterns, although still better then the Marlin 336 I used to hunt with. To be honest I was getting pretty frustrated with it once I moved over to the 100 yard line.

After a fair amount of frustration, I noticed that there was a tiny bit of play in the scope. Upon further investigation I finally discovered that the scope rail (attached at the factory by Ruger) was loose. I didn’t have the tools with me needed to remove the scope at the range so I packed it away after only about 10 or 12 rounds.

Once I got it home and took the scope off I found that all four screws holding the scope rail to the rifle had backed out. It didn’t appear that any sort of thread locker had been applied at the factory and the screws had backed out under recoil (which is pretty stout in such a light rifle). Needless to say they are now secured by Loctite now and I doubt they will back out again and I can’t wait to check the accuracy now that the scope is mounted solidly.

That’s it for this little range report.

God bless.