Sunday, December 11, 2016

Eley Subsonic Hollow 22LR Ammunition Test and Review

Eley Subsonic Hollow is a low-noise small game hunting round from the good folks over in the UK.  As with all Eley ammunition, it sells at a small premium here in the US with a box of 50 running about $10 to $12 at current retail prices.  For the premium price, you get Eley's legendary accuracy and quality control.  Subsonic Hollow features a 40 grain hollow point bullet that has been lubricated with a firm hydrocarbon compound for reliable function in all types of rifles.

I tested Subsonic Hollow in two different rifles.  Scoped with 18.5 inch barrel for accuracy testing.  For gel testing, I used the Ruger 10/22 and also a rifle with a shorter barrel and suppressor.  

Overall test results were very good through the Ruger 10/22.  Accuracy was outstanding and the ammunition functioned reliably.  Gel test results yielded nicely mushroomed hollow point bullets that had impacted the gel block at approximately 915 feet per second.

With the shorter barrel and suppressor, velocities dropped below 900 feet per second and our recovered test rounds showed deformation with incomplete expansion.  From this limited testing, it appears that a velocity of 900 feet per second is needed for the bullet to fully expand in the gel media we used for testing.

Direct link to video on YouTube

My Thoughts:
The most unique thing to come out of this test was actually hearing the bullet strike the gel for the very first time.  Usually the sound is masked by the report of the rifle, but with the addition of the suppressor and subsonic velocity I could clearly hear the smack as bullet impacted gel.

My personal preference is to hunt small game with an ultra-light rifle with 16.5 inch barrel and iron sights.  I like the challenge of stalking or still hunting vs. taking longer shots with a scoped rifle.  I'll need to do some follow up testing with the additional barrel length and verify 25 yard velocities are above 900 feet per second with the 16.5 inch barrel.  If they are, I would certainly add Subsonic Hollow to my short list of low-noise hunting loads.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Eley Contact Subsonic Semi Auto Ammunition Test

Eley....ammunition supplier of Olympic and World Champions also makes ammunition for the rest of us that hunt, shoot for recreation, and maybe even do a little competition shooting on the weekends.  Contact is one of the most recent Eley products to hit the US market.  This subsonic load was purpose built specifically for reliable function in semi-auto firearms at subsonic velocities.  The ammunition is manufactured by Eley in Birmingham, England and imported by Eley USA.

Contact features a heavier than standard 42 grain round nose bullet that has been coated in a special wax to minimize bullet lube buildup in semi-auto magazines and actions. Contact is a premium priced target load that can currently be found for about 16 cents per round.

For my evaluation, I performed accuracy and velocity testing at 25 yards using a basic Ruger 10/22 rifle with 3-9 power scope.  Gel testing was done at 25 yards with the Ruger 10/22 and also another semi-auto rifle with a short barrel and suppressor.

Direct link to video on YouTube

My Thoughts

Eley Contact hit all the marks I was looking for with accuracy, subsonic velocity in multiple barrel lengths, and 100% reliable function with two different semi-auto rifles. From a practical use perspective, I would consider Contact for small game hunting, varmint, and pest control where deep penetration is desired.  I would also consider using contact for rimfire silhouette competition.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Walker's Razor X Is On The Cutting Edge of Hearing Protection

Hearing is something many people take for granted and probably don't spend much time thinking about until their ability to hear starts to decline. Eva Shockey, spokesperson for Walker's, explains how hearing damage accumulates over time and even small caliber firearm reports can contribute to hearing damage and subsequent hearing loss. The video is short (45 seconds) and very much to the point.  I encourage you to watch it.      

I've had more than my fair share of hearing problems throughout my life. As a child I was prone to ear infections and ended up as a teenager with a perforated eardrum and significant hearing loss in one ear. As an adult, I went through two surgical procedures to improve my hearing. My hearing did improve, but it will never be as good as someone that didn't have issues with their ears as a child. Because of all this, I have always been very sensitive about protecting my hearing. I've always used hearing protection around power tools, while mowing the lawn, and most importantly when using firearms.

I've been a ear plugs and ear muffs person since the time I started recreational shooting. Doubling down on my hearing protection just seemed like a good idea. If ear plugs are good and ear muffs are good, then the two used together should be even better. My audiologist agreed.  Unfortunately, it can can be a challenge to find ear muffs that can be worn while shooting shotguns and rifles.  I usually have to ditch the muffs when shooting long guns.

Over the last few weeks, I have the chance to test out the Razor X hearing protection system from Walker's.  The Razor X combines high noise reduction rated ear plugs (31dB) with digital ear buds that block out damaging loud noises while enhancing/amplifying non-harmful sounds.  The system is worn around the neck with the ear buds tethered to the neckband via retractable cables.  The Razor X has a MSRP of $119.99, but can be found for less than $100 from many on-line retailers.

The Razor X system is powered by an internal rechargeable battery that provides up to 8 hours of run time on a single charge.  Walker's includes a wall outlet charging block and micro USB charging cable with the Razor X.  A carry pouch and 5 sets of foam ear plugs in assorted sizes are also included with the system.  At time of publication, pricing and availability of replacement foam ear plugs was not available.

Everything included in the Razor kit

Prior to using the Razor X, I was using disposable foam ear plugs in conjunction with active electronic ear muffs.  This combination worked well for blocking out harmful noises and the active muffs could be volume adjusted to amplify bullet strikes on steel plates or casual conversation on the range.  This worked for pistol shooting, but I found that I couldn't use the muffs while shooting rifles so the advantage of active amplification of steel target hits was lost.  The over the head muffs were also annoying to wear in the summer heat.

With the Razor X, I had a solution that would work for both rifle and pistol shooting. The system blocked out the loud sounds like foam ear plugs, but could also enhance non-harmful sounds such as bullet strikes on steel targets and casual range conversation. The Razor X works on both indoor and outdoor shooting ranges and has a generous amount of volume adjustment. I can certainly see myself using the Razor X while hunting to enhance the sound of game movement in my surrounding area.

Charging port with LED indicator light

I range tested the Razor X several times during the evaluation period.  I used both the indoor and outdoor range settings in conjunction with the volume levels to custom tailor the best settings for my needs.  There were enough adjustments to meet my needs without being overly complex to operate. It's important to note that the Razor X always provides passive hearing protection, of up to 31dB, as long as the plugs are in your ears. Even when the electronics are switched off. Using the longest and largest foam plugs, that are comfortable for the user, provides the highest level of passive hearing protection. Turning the Razor X on allows for active enhancement of quiet sounds while blocking or cancelling enhancement of loud and damaging sounds.

Razor allows me to get a proper cheek weld.  Muffs get in the way.
My final Razor X evaluation was done at a Steel Challenge match with multiple competitors shooting both rimfire and centerfire firearms.  I competed with both pistol and rifle during the match and wore the Razor X exclusively.  As the hours passed, I really started to appreciate that I wasn't wearing ear muffs and getting the usual case of sweaty ears caused by the vinyl covered foam ear cups.  Also I wasn't experiencing any discomfort where the muff ear cups press on the temple tips of my shooting glasses.  I was cooler and more comfortable.  For that alone Razor X was a winner.  When it was my turn to shoot, I could clearly hear all range commands, the timer, and every bullet strike on the steel plates.  For me, the Razor X is a prefect fit with my competition hearing protection needs.

No sweaty ears with the Razor.  Muffs get very hot in the Summer.
Protecting our eyes and ears are critically important parts of safely enjoying any firearm related activity.  Our senses of sight and hearing are priceless and irreplaceable once they are gone.  The Razor X allows me to protect my hearing without interfering with the stock of my rifle or my choice of eye protection.  It also allows me to stay cooler and more comfortable while I enjoy my shooting activities.  As a newly introduced product, it might cost a little more than a set of active ear muffs, but I think the additional cost is more than justified. Eva Shockey, I promise and swear to never go afield in pursuit of game without my Walker's Razor X hearing protection system. #Protectitorloseit

The Razor folds for compact storage and travel.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Competitor Profile - The Chamberlain Family

Photo Credit:  Oleg Volk VolkStudio
We are the Chamberlain family and we love to shoot rimfire. A very good friend of ours, Steve Lee, (whose kids are into shooting as well) had been trying to get us to start Rimfire and we let Austin go after years of asking!  That's all it took!  He was hooked and not long after that, we were all hooked!

We went out and bought Austin a stock 22 rifle and a stock 22 pistol.  He began shooting local matches and we noticed that everyone we met was very friendly and helpful.  Steve talked to us about a company called Tandemkross, that might be a potential sponsor for Austin.  They were wonderful!!  They sponsored him and not long after that they picked up our girls, too. 
The girls shared a rifle and pistol for a while, and we would upgrade them with parts from sponsors and the prize table.   It is amazing that the sponsors donate these awesome prizes to the matches and we are truly appreciative of that!   We get parts to upgrade the guns from Tandemkross and other sponsors the kids have.

Now we have started shooting USPSA, along with rimfire, and we love it as well.   We travel to matches with our friends that we have met through this sport.  One of the best things about shooting, is the amazing people you meet.

My name is Dustin Chamberlain;  my wife, Amy Chamberlain;  Austin, 16;  Hailey, 15; and Mylee, 12.  We have been shooting for about a year now and we are planning to continue for quite some time.  It is such an unique sport, like no other.  We love traveling together and  the memories we are making with our kids.

We have done very well with several trophies won throughout the year.  We have been very impressed with the safety and responsibility that the kids have been taught.  We all feel very confident handling our guns and I love that our kids can clear jams in their guns like a pro! We even make family time to clean our guns together. This has been a great thing for our family to share and we have made life long friends in the process.  We look forward to this year and we hope to shoot many matches with our "shooting family".

Austin, how would you describe yourself?  I am a fun-loving kid. I love going to the range and having fun with all my friends. I love to learn new things and try new things and every day I go to the range, I see it as a day to learn. I love the shooting sports more than any sport I have ever competed in. I will talk to just about anyone too. I am not shy at all. I will talk to everyone at the range and have made a lot of friends.
Do you have any other hobbies?  I do a few academic activities for my school like Quiz Bowl and a few Math Competitions.  I also run cross-country as part of my high school team. Is there any advice you would like to give new competitors just starting out with Rimfire Challenge? Do not try to go fast right off the bat, work on your accuracy at first. Speed will come later. Is there anyone that you would like to thank or recognize? I would like to thank all of my sponsors because without them, I would not be able to do all that I get to. Also I thank my parents for letting me do what I do because I love it so much. And thanks to Steve Lee for helping me along the way and showing me the ropes and everything.

Hailey, how would you describe yourself?  I'm a freshman in high school.  I play varsity basketball, volleyball, and softball.  I love to go outside and shoot with my family and friends.  I also have a dog named Gunner that I play fetch and do tricks with.  I try to go fishing and hunting with my Dad whenever I can.
Do you have any other hobbies?  I play school basketball, volleyball and softball.Is there any advice you would like to give new competitors just starting out with Rimfire Challenge? It starts out rough, you just have to keep practicing and wanting to get better. Is there anyone that you would like to thank or recognize? I would like to thank my parents for setting me up with all this gear and everything they do.  Steve Lee for introducing us to the sport and his coaching.  Also, I would like to thank my sponsors. They are the reason I get to do what I do.

Mylee, what do you enjoy most about rimfire competition? I love to shoot competitively because everybody is so friendly and they will cheer you on.  I always love to travel with my family and to meet new people.  I love to see my "shooting family" at the matches and I get so excited seeing what place I will finish in.
Do you have any other hobbies?  I play basketball and volleyball.  I also enjoy camping and shopping.
Is there any advice you would like to give new competitors just starting out with Rimfire Challenge? Don't get nervous.
Is there anyone that you would like to thank or recognize? I would like to thank Steve Lee, all the other competitors, my family, and my sponsors.

Comments from the Editor
I would like to thank the Chamberlains for agreeing to be part of this series.  I've seen them at various matches I have attended, but have never had the chance to spend any time talking with them.  I did spend over an hour on the phone with Dustin talking through the premise of this Competitor Profile. I think we spent 5 minutes talking about the article, and the rest of the time talking about the people we met and positive experiences we've had as participants in the Rimfire Challenge competition series.

One of the things I have always appreciated about Rimfire Challenge matches is the family-friendly supportive nature of the events, and most of the competitors that compete in them.  The Chamberlains thoughts mirror my own in many ways.  It's very rare to find a competitive, but still friendly atmosphere. I think that friendly and supportive environment will help the NSSF Rimfire Challenge competition series grow and flourish in the coming years.  All because there are families like the Chamberlains who choose to participate.

Are you planning to attend any Rimfire Challenge matches this season?  If so, say hello to the Chamberlains.  They would love to meet you.

The Chamberlains won several awards the 2016 Texas State Lonestar Challenge match last weekend.
You can LIKE the Chamberlains on their Facebook pages to follow their competition accomplishments in the current Rimfire Challenge season.  As you can see above, they all did very well at the recently held 2016 Texas State Rimfire Challenge match.

Austin - Austin Chamberlain Iron Man Competition Shooter

Hailey - Hailey Chamberlain Competetive Shooter

Mylee - Mylee Moo Moo Chamberlain

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Epic Journey to Build a Rimfire Challenge Limited Class Rifle

When I travel to attend NSSF Rimfire Challenge events it usually involves a significant investment in travel time and related travel expenses. Sure it's great to catch up with old friends, meet new people, and engage in some good old fashioned competition, but the actual trigger time you get at these events is very limited. Setting personal goals for 2016 to attend more Rimfire Challenge events and improve my performance, I decided to build a Limited class rifle and pistol this winter so I could compete in both classes if the shoot organizers allowed me to do so.  I called this my travel once and shoot twice project.

I started my build with some general ideas of things I would like to include on my rifle.  The first requirement was fiber optic sights.  A FO front sight was a must have and also having a FO rear sight would be even better.  The stock had to be adjustable for length of pull and comb height.  I wasn't trying to build the lightest rifle possible, but a lighter rifle would be preferable to a heavier rifle. Finally, I wanted to limit the out of pocket expense to build the rifle by using as many previously acquired components as possible.  I'm not sure about you, but the older I get the more stuff I seem to acquire.  I made fun of my Dad for that when I was young.  I guess this is my payback.

All builds start somewhere and I started with a stripped 10/22 receiver that I scavenged from a generally disappointing Ruger SR-22 Rifle purchased several years ago for Rimfire Challenge events.  I considered reusing the factory bolt and charging handle, but decided against it after polishing on the bolt for a few hours and still marveling at how rough it looked.  Ultimately, I discovered Tactical Innovations while shopping for bolt buffers and decided to give their extra large charging handle and match grade bolt assembly a try.

I previously reviewed ATIs Ruger Charger AR-22 Stock System and liked it.  I picked up their AR-22 TactLite Stock System for 10/22 rifles with the intention of swapping out the shorter Charger handguard for the rifle handguard.  I really liked the fully adjustable stock on the AR-22 TactLite Stock.  The full length picatinny top rail would be a great place to mount the picatinny rail mounted fiber optic sights I finally found available from an airsoft supply house in China. If anyone cares, there is a huge opportunity for someone to make picatinny rail mounted fiber optic sights for rifles.

The barrel installed on the SR-22 receiver was an all steel mid-weight barrel with a seemingly unremovable flash suppressor.  It was replaced with a Tactical Solutions X-Ring barrel.  I also upgraded to the TacSol Performance V-block. While I was ordering these parts from TandemKross, I included their Shock Block bolt buffer, Twister titanium takedown knob, Eagle's Talon extractor, and a Gunsmither Bolt Bar and Extractor Tool.

The green Volquartsen TG2000 replacement trigger housing for 10/22 was something I had on hand. If I remember correctly, it was one of the blemished housings that Volquartsen would occasionally post on a large auction site.  Regardless, it has all the things you want in a match trigger like auto bolt release and extended magazine release.  It also has a crisp 2 pound pull weight.  I really like these trigger assemblies.

The first trip out to the range proved that I had assembled the rifle correctly.  It functioned perfectly, but I could tell the sights were going to be a problem.  Flipped up, the sights are traditional adjustable back up iron sights.  Flipped down, they become fiber optic sights that offered no adjustment.  After trying a few different placements on the rail, I was still 4 inches high and 3 inches left.  I made another range trip and tried various offset risers between the rail and sights, but finally threw in the towel and declared failure.  My limited rifle was a complete bust.

Brian Lawson mentions the Knoxx Axiom stock from Blackhawk! frequently.  This ultra-light stock is a drop in replacement stock for 10/22 rifles.  Before totally giving up on my project, I thought I would give the stock a try.  In place of open sights, I could use the receiver mounted Ruger scope base with a See-All Open Sight and still qualify as Limited class.  Getting this stock was a turning point in the project.

Dropping the barreled action into the new Axiom stock, I was out on the range again with the See-All Open Sight mounted.  I also swapped out the Axiom adjustable stock with the ATI TactLite stock for the adjustable comb feature.  I immediately fell in love with this 4 pound rifle and decided it was my new Open class rifle.  I added a Rimfire Rifle compensator from Allchin Gun Parts and a TandemKross Advantage Charging Handle with picatinny scope base topped off with my Burris FastFire III 8 MOA.

This put me all the way back to square one on the Limited rifle project, but I was much smarter now. I knew exactly what I wanted the rifle to look like and where I needed to go to get all the parts for the second rifle. The only different thing I would need for the new build was a receiver. I decided to try the Elite22 Flat Top Receiver from Tactical Innovations along with the same match bolt and extra large charging handle used in the previous build.

Giving up on front and rear fiber optic sights, I opted again for a Tactical Solutions X-Ring barrel with open sights.  The front sight does come equipped with a fiber optic insert.  The second Volquartsen TG2000 was originally installed in the SR-22 rifle so it was re-purposed for this build.

After a week, I had received all the parts necessary to build the second rifle.  The build came together quickly and I soon had a Limited rifle that weighed in at just under 3.5 pounds.  I've had it out to the range twice for extended practice sessions and it runs like a dream.

It was a long strange trip, but I ultimately ended up exactly where I wanted to go with my Limited rifle build.  Along the way, I found a new Open rifle that I'm very happy with.  Both rifles share many similar components so switching between them should be stress-free.

What I learned from this build process is that I should keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.  I could have given up on the build process many times, but I kept at it and tapped into the collective wisdom of other shooters for their ideas and advice.  I'm really looking forward to using these rifles for the upcoming season.  I'm sure I will see some of you on the firing line.

The Advantage Charging Handle from TandemKross serves two purposes.  It
provides a stable base for optics and allows for left side charging handle operation.
Using similar components on both rifles makes it easy to switch between
 Limited and Open classes.
This simple tool makes 10/22 bolt and extractor removal and replacement a breeze.
Use it once and you will wonder why you didn't get one years ago.  It's awesome. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Walther PPK/S 22LR - A New Twist For an Iconic Handgun

One of the more interesting trends I've observed across the firearms industry is the proliferation of .22LR firearms modeled after some of the most iconic firearms of modern times.  Walther Arms is an industry leader in this area producing licensed 22LR versions of classic Colt, Heckler & Koch, and even UZI firearms.  Walther even clones their own iconic PPK design with a .22LR PPK/S.

The Walther PPK/S 22LR is a very close replication of its 380 Auto predecessor. Walther closely maintains the size and weight of the original PPK while introducing a few changes on the original design.  For all but the most devout PPK enthusiast, the PPK/S 22LR would appear to be an exactly copy of the 380 Auto PPK.

True to the original PPK design, the trigger system in the PPK/S 22 is a double action / single action trigger.  The first shot can be fired in double action where pulling the trigger both cocks and releases the hammer, or the hammer can be manually cocked and the trigger operated in single action mode.  Unfortunately, the double action trigger pull exceeds 17 pounds.  The single action trigger pull is slightly more than 6 pounds.  The double action trigger pull is about 4 pounds heavier than the PPK 380 Auto.  I can only assume the additional trigger pull weight is due to a heavier hammer spring needed to reliably ignite rimfire cartridges, or possibly to slow down the slide velocity as the handgun cycles.  I didn't use the double action trigger pull very much during the review video below.  It will take an additional investment of practice time before I can shoot consistently accurate double action first shots.

The fit and finish of the pistol is very good.  Only a very thin patch of finish missing at the top edge
of  the ejection port disqualified the pistol from an excellent rating.   The frame and slide material is listed by Walther as Zinc Diecast. This is a departure from the 380 PPK which has a steel frame and slide.  The black plastic grips fit well and provide a good gripping surface without being overly aggressive on your hands.

Walther uses a drift adjustable rear sight and a pinned plastic front sight atop the glare reducing wave cut top  rail.  The front and rear sights are entirely black, but do provide a clear sight picture.  Taller and shorter front sights are included with the PPK/S so the shooter can fine tune the point of impact by swapping out the front sight for the taller or shorter sight.  The sights worked very well for me, but I will probably slide the rear sight a smidgen to the right to compensate for my tendency to shoot left with this specific PPK/S.  The medium height front sight seems to be working well for me so no change is necessary.

The PPK design is unique in its use of an articulated trigger guard to lock the slide to the frame.  Pulling down on the trigger guard allows the slide to retract fully and be lifted from the rear of the frame.  With the trigger guard in its normal locked location, the upper most portion of the trigger guard functions as both a recoil lug and buffer.  In the picture to the left you can see the top of the trigger guard has a small cylindrical polymer recoil buffer installed.  I believe this buffer absorbs the shock when the slide contacts the recoil lug and hopefully eliminates slide and frame battering.  Several thousand more rounds will be needed to verify if the system works to protect the diecast zinc frame and slide from cracking.

The slide mounted safety lever is easily manipulated with the thumb of a right-handed shooter.  The safety also acts as a decocking lever.  Activating the safety lowers the hammer if it's cocked.  Cocked and locked carry is not an option with this pistol.  The magazine release is located high on the frame, but was easy operated after training myself to reach up higher than normal to activate it.  The PPK/S design uses an internal slide lock that is activated by the magazine follower.  Removing the magazine allows the operator to close the slide.  Closing the slide with the safety activated also returns the hammer to the lowered position.

The PPK/S 22 barrel is steel from breech face to muzzle.  The barrel is fixed to the frame and should not be removed for normal cleaning and maintenance.  The tiny feed ramp has been highly polished to aid in feeding rounds from the stainless steel magazines.  In another departure from the PPK 380, the barrel is threaded to accommodate a variety of muzzle attached devices if the owner chooses to do so.  A thread protector is factory installed on the pistol. Walther provides a correctly sized wrench to remove the thread protector from the barrel.

On the range, the PPK/S 22LR was a joy to shoot.  I experienced zero malfunctions with feeding, firing, and extraction across several hundred rounds of slow and fast fire.  I tried limited quantities of many different bullet weights and velocities, but ended up using Remington 36 grain HP Golden Bullet bulk pack ammunition for most of my range time because this PPK/S ran so well with that specific load.  Recoil and muzzle rise were very tame which facilitated fast and accurate shooting with just a minimum time investment in practicing with the handgun.

Shooting from a bench and rested position, I tested the PPK/S with several loads for 10 yard accuracy and velocity measured 10 feet from the muzzle.  The pistol showed a preference for match grade standard velocity ammunition which delivered the smallest groups.  High velocity and bulk pack ammunition opened the groups up a bit, but the pistol delivered groups ranging from .72 to 2.14 inches with the seven tested loads. Over half the groups were less than 1.5 inches.  Velocity was what I expected it would be with the 3.3 inch barrel.

The video below summarizes my range experiences.

Direct Link to Video On YouTube

I found the PPK/S to be a really fun gun to shoot. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with it on the range.  Sure I would like it better if the double action trigger pull wasn't 17.5 pounds and the frame and slide were aluminum or steel, but I'm willing to roll the dice with Walther and their Legendary Limited Lifetime Warranty.  If it breaks, Walther has my back.

One more thing to consider before I wrap up the review.  Tipping the scales at 24.4 ounces fully loaded, the PPK/S 22LR makes a handy travel companion.  While significantly larger, I would consider the PPK/S as an alternative to the Beretta Bobcat or similar sized semi-autos chambered for 22LR.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Burris FastFire Red Dot Optic Buyer's Guide

Burris currently produces both the FastFire III (left) and FastFire II (right)  While similar, there are some very important differences other than retail price. 

Burris FastFire Series Website

When it comes to red dot optics, we are fortunate to be spoiled for choice.  Using Midway USA as an example, searching for "red dot sight" returns 254 unique options from 32 different manufacturers.  An enterprising industry writer could probably make a career out of specializing in reviews of red dot sights.  I'm not that guy.  While I've used red dot sights from a limited number of manufacturers, I like the FastFire sights from Burris the most.

At their core, all red dot sights function similarly.  A beam of light is projected onto a glass lens and becomes the aiming point of the firearm the sight is mounted on.  Think of the red dot as the front sight and your dominant shooting eye being the rear sight. Looking through the glass lens, the shooter simply superimposes the red dot on the target and fires the firearm.  Quality red dot sights will allow for sufficient windage and elevation adjustment needed to zero the firearm at a desired distance.

In my experience the Burris FastFire sights are rugged, light-weight, waterproof, and do everything I expect a red dot sight to do.  Across the industry red dot sights range in price from about $20 to $1200.  The FastFire series falls within the bottom quarter of that price range with the FastFire II and FastFire III selling for $209 and $249 respectively.  I would like to point out that the prices mentioned include the picatinny/weaver mount, but more on that later.  Having purchased and used both the FastFire II and FastFire III, this article will highlight the major differences for those trying to decide between the two.

Abbreviation Alert - MOA stands for minute of angle.  In laymans language, MOA is a description of angular measurement that can also represent area subtended (covered) by a red dot at 100 yards.  1 MOA is approximately 1 inch at 100 yards.  A 4 MOA red dot will cover 4 inches of target area at 100 yards.  At 200 yards, the 4 MOA dot will cover 8 inches of target area.

Dot Size - The FastFire II has a 4 MOA dot.  The FastFire III is available in two models. The first has a 3 MOA dot and the other an 8 MOA dot.  For long range precision shooting, a smaller dot is preferable because it subtends (covers) less area down range than a larger dot.  For speed shooting, I prefer the larger dot since I find it easier to see when bringing the sight to eye level.  In all cases, the dot is crisp and well defined on any FastFire sight I've ever used.

The 8 MOA and 4 MOA dots are shown for comparison.  Photographing the dots was a challenge.  I captured the dots clearly, but the camera bleached out most of the red color from the dots.  Trust me, the dots are indeed red. 
Activation Switch and Modes of Operation - The activation switch on the FastFire II is a simple toggle on/off switch.  Dot brightness is controlled by the front mounted light sensor.  It's a simple system that works well for most.  I'm sure there are some people out there that may want more brightness than the sensor allows, but this system offers no additional options.

The FastFire III activation switch is a rubber covered pressure switch that cycles through 4 modes of operation.  The first push turns on the sight in automatic mode with brightness controlled by the front mounted sensor.  The second, third, and fourth button pushes cycle through three preprogrammed brightness settings ranging from highest brightness to medium brightness and finally lowest brightness.  One final fifth button push turns off the sight.

Protective plastic covers are included with FastFire sights.  Both covers allow access to the FastFire activation switch.  The FastFire II cover provides only protection.  The FastFire III cover protects, but also features clear lenses on the front and rear of the cover which allows use of the sight with the cover in place.  The extended top length also provides sun shade for extremely bright conditions.
I had the chance to do an impromptu survey of FastFire III sight users at the NSSF Rimfire Challenge World Championships last Fall.  Their experiences echoed my own feelings about the new expanded operations mode menu found on the FastFire III.  We all missed the simplicity of the FastFire II on/off switch.  We all liked the option to bypass automatic brightness adjustment for the brightest possible dot when shooting at targets positioned between us and a bright sun rising directly behind the targets.  We all disliked having to cycle through the remaining programs and take a little extra time to be sure the sight was really off, and not still on at the lowest brightness setting, before putting away our firearms.  As competitive shooters, I think we would all be happier using a three position toggle switch with brightest, automatic brightness, and off positions.

The small dot centered in the front housing under the lens is the ambient light sensor.  You can see it was moved down on the Fastfire III.  I assume this was done to accommodate the top loading battery.
Battery Life and Battery Changes - Burris doesn't publish any information on battery life.  I change the battery in my FastFire sights each Spring before starting a new shooting season.  I have never had to change a battery because it was dead.  Maybe that means I don't practice enough, or maybe that means I do a good job shutting off the sight when I'm not using it.  It could also mean that the FastFire system is very efficient and uses little battery power.

Battery changes are much easier with the FastFire III.  The FastFire III has a battery access door positioned on the top of the sight housing.  This makes battery changes a breeze.  The FastFire II battery is changed from the underside of the sight housing and requires removing the sight from the base.  While not overly difficult, there is always a small amount of doubt that the sight zero remains exactly the same as before removing the sight from the base.  In my case, I feel compelled to verify the sight is still regulated before I trust it.  

For some, this is the most important difference between the Fastfire III and Fastfire II.  Accessing the battery on the Fastfire II required the user to remove the sight from the mounting plate to change the battery from the underside of the sight.  The Fastfire III has a battery access door located on the top of the sight so the battery can be changed without removing the sight from the base.
Windage and Elevation Changes - Windage and elevation changes are greatly simplified on the FastFire III as compared with the FastFire II.  Burris eliminated the LOCK screws and integrated the scale disk into the windage and elevation adjustment screws found on the FastFire III.  If you have ever zeroed a telescopic sight, you will be familiar with the process required to zero the FastFire III.  The zeroing process for the Fastfire II isn't overly difficult, but it can be time consuming if you forget to bring the scale disk out to the range.

Windage and elevation adjustment pots are found in the same locations on both FastFire models.  The FastFire III eliminates the adjustment locking screws and adds positive feedback "click" adjustments.  A vertical white stripe has also been added to the rear of the FastFire III to enhance ocular alignment.
Along with all the changes mentioned above, it's important to mention what didn't change.  Burris continues to offer firearm specific mounting plates for a variety of firearms.  As I understand it, both the FastFire II and III use the same mounting plates. Upgrading from a FastFire II to a FastFire III could be as easy as removing the old sight and replacing it with the new sight since the mounting plate doesn't change.

A variety of mounting bases are available for specific makes and models of firearms at an additional charge.  I'm perfectly satisfied with the picatinny/weaver quick detachable mount Burris offers as a package with the Fastfire sights.  Buying the mount and sight together is also the lowest price option.  The attachment thumbscrews can be tightened or loosened with a coin.
The FastFire II and III packaging, with included accessories, is nearly identical between the two models.  Burris includes all the tools necessary to mount and zero your FastFire. I believe they also include the battery, but I immediately replace the factory supplied battery for a fresh one just for peace of mind.

Speaking of batteries....the FastFire II and III use different sizes of lithium coin cell batteries.  Before you go plunk down a wad of cash for spare batteries at a specialty or drug store, you might want to check Amazon or Midway USA.  They seem to have the best prices.

I'll close this out with two other bits of goodness.  Would you like a FastFire III for "free"? Now through April 1st 2016, Burris is giving away a FastFire III sight as a factory rebate when you purchase any of their Prism sights.  I'm so tempted since the Prism sight can be purchased for $350 and you get another $250 value FastFire III sight for "free".  Also, this last change snuck up on me when I wasn't looking.  All the Burris optics are now covered by a Forever Warranty.  See the Burris website for details on the program.  It's pretty awesome.    

As I was preparing this article I discovered that Burris has changed from a 12 Month Limited Warranty, to their new Forever Warranty.  This warranty applies to every Burris optic and has incredibly liberal terms.  Bravo Burris! 
After a full season using a pair of 8 MOA FastFire III sights on my competition pistol and rifle, I'm very satisfied with their performance.  I've discussed the good things and the not so good things introduced with the FastFire III versus the FastFire II.  Overall, I think the FastFire III is the better sight for speed shooting competition.  Please don't feel bad for the FastFire II featured in this article.  It's about to start a second life as a reflex sight on a shotgun.

Friday, February 19, 2016

TANDEMKROSS "Victory" Trigger for Buck Mark

New from TANDEMKROSS is their flat-faced "Victory" Trigger for Browning Buck Mark firearms.

The "Victory" Trigger is a drop in replacement for the stock Browning curved trigger.

Crafted from aircraft grade aluminum, the skeletonized trigger is lightweight and durable.

The "Victory" trigger is available with a textured or smooth trigger face.

When designing the trigger, TANDEMKROSS eliminated the need for pre-travel adjustment.  The trigger includes an overtravel adjustment screw and wrench for fine tuning the trigger travel.

The "Victory" Trigger has a retail price of $34.99 and is currently available from TANDEMKROSS through their webstore along with their other Browning Buck Mark parts and accessories.

I've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this trigger since October 2015 when I saw a prototype 3D printed trigger on display at the NSSF Rimfire Challenge World shoot.

I own a Buck Mark Plus Stainless UDX and would love to use it as my Limited Class pistol.  While I like the crispness of the factory trigger, I find the trigger reach to be a bit short and the trigger too thin.  When I shoot the Buck Mark at speed, I can feel the pad of my trigger finger slide across the trigger face until it ends up in the distal joint crease.  That's not a good situation for accurate speed shooting.  I have high hopes that the "Victory" trigger will give me a repeatable trigger stroke for every shot.

The TANDEMKROSS "Victory" Trigger for Buck Mark joins their growing assortment of Buck Mark enhancement parts and accessories.  The entire line of Browning Buck Mark parts and accessories can be found on the TANDEMKROSS website