Saturday, July 29, 2017

Thoughts from the Range

Derrick B (5 min.)

          Between work and weekend family obligations, today is the first time in several weeks that I was able to get out and do some shooting, and try some products I've purchased over the last few months.

        In preparation for the trip, I spent part of my Friday evening loading a couple hundred rounds of 9 mm. (I already had the cases prepped, including primers in place, so it went quickly). The load I was using, if you are curious, was Hornady 115 grain HAP over 5.0 grains of Unique. Unique is primarily intended as a shotgun powder, but can be used for handguns loads; and I've even come across blog and forum posts where people of have claimed to have used it for rifle loads. My experience with Unique is that it is good for short cases (such as those for most semi-auto loads), but can be inconsistent where there is a lot of empty case space, such as .38 Special. Unique also has a reputation for being a "dirty" powder--there can be a lot of powder residue--although I see that the manufacturer, Alliant, is advertising that it has a cleaner burning version. I've used it a long time (decades) for 9 mm with good success, and haven't seen any real reason to change to something else.

       Two of my sons and I went out this morning. Being south-west Idaho in summer, the weather was clear, sunny, and hot--even early in the day. All of this is magnified out on the desert.

       I had several goals with this morning's venture. First of all, I wanted to sight in a Burris AR-332 I had purchased for my AR. I had previously bore sighted it using a laser bore sighter, but while generally good enough to get it on paper at short distances, you still have to finish up at the range. The AR-332 is Burris's 3X prism scope. It has an integrated mount, which attaches to a Picatinny rail. It also has its own accessory rails for mounting a small reflex sight as a backup or supplemental sighting system.  Because the AR-332 uses a prism system, it is much shorter than standard scopes--just slightly over 5 inches without the sunshade or flip up covers. However, I recommend using the sunshade.

       The model I have uses Burris's Ballistic CQ reticle. This has a large "doughnut" with a smaller crosshair inside it. It also incorporated a bullet drop compensator (BDC) which is claimed to correct for drop out to 600 yards. The reticle can be illuminated in either green or red, with 5 brightness sightings for each color. I've played around with this scope in different types of lighting and found that, during the daylight, you typically don't need to illuminate the reticle. The lowest red setting is more than bright enough (at least with a fresh battery) for dim light. Using it today, under noon-day sun, the highest green setting was almost too bright. However, it was very useful: one of the targets I used was black, and I was having problems finding the unlit reticle on that target. Illuminating it on green made it easy to pick up the target.

       In retrospect, I probably should have purchased Burris's 5x version of this scope. Three power is still useful for close in work, but not quite enough power for longer ranges. I expect that had I gone with the higher power, I would have been complaining that it was too much magnification for close quarters. Four power (4x) has long been considered a good, all round magnification for hunting, and I am surprised the Burris didn't offer this scope in that power. Nevertheless, 3x is useful for those of us with old eyes trying to hit things at a hundred yards.

       Sighting in is the same as other scopes, so I won't bore you with that process. I had forgot to pack my sighting scope with me, so it involved some walking to the target to verify where I was hitting. Needless to say, although I had boresighted the scope, it was about 10 inches high at 100 yards. I pulled the target back to 25 yards to deal with this, and finished off the process. And this was yet another opportunity to try out my DIY target stand made with sections of PVC, with which I am still very pleased.

        My second goal was to try out new sights on my Glock. As more than one person has noted, the standard factory Glock sights are not the greatest. They work, but that is about all that can be said about them; and I've heard enough complaints of the plastic sights suddenly breaking or coming off the slide that I knew that I would have to eventually replace them. However, I debated for a long time on what to get for replacements. I finally decided on Ameriglo's Glock Spartan Operator sights. These are well constructed steel sights with tritium inserts: one in the front sight, and two on the rear. The front sight, around the tritium insert, is a bright orange, which shows up very well in daylight. The rear sight is plain black. The result is that, in bright light, you have a bright orange front sight framed by a black rear sight which allows quick pickup of the front sight blade. In dim light or the dark you have a standard three-dot arrangement, of course. I thought that these sights would work very well, and they did.

       Third, I wanted to try out an Osprey FL-OSP-230 Tactical Light. I had picked it up near the end of the last day of a recent gun show, and was able to purchase it for $35 since the seller was at that point offering fire sale prices to get rid of stock. The flashlight is advertised as being 230 lumen light, and, having played around with it in dim light and in the dark, I do not doubt it. It slides onto the tactical rail of a handgun, using a quick release system that uses a spring to push a lever up into the rail slot to lock it in place. To remove, you just pull down on the tabs (compressing the spring) and push forward. It fits snugly, with no noticeable movement and literally only takes a couple seconds to install or remove. The light is switched on using a slide switch that is pushed from right to left to turn on the light, and left to right to turn it off. At first, I was skeptical of this as a system, but if you are holding the pistol with both hands, it is actually easy to actuate the switch: your trigger finger (on the right) can be used to push the switch to on, and the thumb of your left hand will easily reach the switch on the other side to turn it off. Of course, my concern today was not to test the light, per se, but its durability. We put about 150 rounds through my Glock (the rest of my handloads went through my R51), and the light still worked, which is a passing grade in my book.

       Finally, although I had taken it out previously to sight in the scope, I wanted to put a few more rounds down range with a Savage Mk II FV-SR. I may write an in depth review later, but I can say that it is, overall, a nice little .22 rifle. American Rifleman did a nice write up, if you want a more detailed review of the rifle. Basically, though, the Mk II FV-SR is a bolt action .22 rifle sporting a 16-inch fluted barrel that is threaded on the end for a sound suppressor. There is a factory installed Picatinny rail sope mount with no provision for iron sights (I put a 3-9x Cabela's .22 rifle scope on mine). The rifle is also fitted with Savage's Accu-trigger, which makes for a nice trigger pull and smooth let off. The bolt has an over sized bolt knob and a very smooth action when cycling the bolt. It uses a detachable box magazine: the rifle comes with a 5-round version, but 10-round magazines are available. The stock is a drop comb plastic stock with two sling attachments.

        As other reviewers have noted, it is strange that Savage put a drop comb stock on a rifle that is intended to use a scope. The result is that you can't get a good cheek weld. Time will tell, I guess, whether this will be an issue for me. Boyds sells replacement stocks for the MK II, and I may go that route myself, although the particular model I have sports the Troy Landry gator camo stock and I really like the camo pattern.

       Today I was using standard velocity 40 grain CCI. Accuracy was pretty good, although I was only shooting at 25 yards. Nevertheless, with the exception of a couple of flyers, I could get groups as small as 1/2 inch, which would translate, in theory, to 1 inch at 50 yards. The American Rifleman review cited to above reported groups under 1/2 inch at 50 yards with some types of ammunition (using a lead sled), and the video I linked to above also reported very small groups, so I will have to experiment with different loads to figure out what is best.

(Update 7/30/2017: corrected a few typos)

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