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By John Howard on 2/11/2016 10:43 AM

Pistol vs. SBRDid you know the concept of “pistol” versions of “carbines” and “rifles” goes back more than a generation? So this whole Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) vs. rifle caliber pistol argument goes back a lot further than most people realize. The first pistol versions of the AR-15 were around in the early 1990s but the concept goes back even further. A pistol version of the M1 Carbine, the Universal Firearms “Enforcer” was out in the 1960s. 

Despite the challenge of shooting such firearms without a stock, their popularity has boomed in recent years.  You can purchase pistol length ARs, AKs, HKs, FALs, M1 Carbines - the list goes on and on.  Most tactical rifle platforms are offered by some manufacturer in a pistol version featuring sub-16” barrel and no stock. Which begs the question, which is better today, the SBR version of a gun or the “pistol” version? I have both, and can bring some clarity to this question.

By Erik Alexander on 2/4/2016 9:24 AM
Precision rifle with US Optics AcademyI wake up on the third day of training with a sense of pride and accomplishment. The previous day went by so fast and the memory of seeing the steel swing at hundreds of yards away energizes me now. Tyler and his staff are ready to test us. Their mischievous grins resemble the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Priceless!

The focus today is estimating our range, practicing hold overs and testing our skills under timed pressure. Today’s technology cheats the estimation with range finders, but it is beneficial to have a backup plan in the event the range finder fails. Tyler provides a simple formula using the target’s height and/or width. To test us, Tyler’s team shuffles the steel plates at varying distances on the 1000 meter range. Guessing the the distance without using the scope reticles as a guide for the formula isn’t going to work. 

By Erik Alexander on 2/2/2016 5:54 AM
Precision Rifle 1 US Optics AcademyDay two’s classroom session opens my eyes to many new ways to approach medium to long range hunting.  For most hunters, deer and wild boar hunting is generally done within 100 yards.  At times, and depending on one’s geographical location, it can stretch as far as 400 yards or more.  With that in mind, I eagerly take notes as Tyler discusses “External Ballistics”. This is the science of the bullet’s motion and action in flight from the instant it leaves the muzzle until it impacts the target.  This stuff matters as we shoot further. Learning the effect of gravity and drag on a projectile, about shooting at a moving target and how to use my environment to estimate a wind correction are all things I can apply when hunting. This class is already paying off!
By Erik Alexander on 1/31/2016 7:18 PM
US Optics Academy ReviewFor some time I buried the thought of trying my hand at long range shooting. Like a lot of shooters and hunters it seemed like the next logical step in my shooting and hunting experience, but with a busy schedule and lacking any kind rifle that would be up to the task I didn’t try too hard to make it happen. With this latent desire in the back of my mind I get a phone call that drives that thought forward to all I can think about. Special Hunting Weapons and Tactics™ (SHWAT™) has a media invitation to attend the U.S. Optics Long Range Precision Rifle 1 Course at the Altair Training Solutions facility in Naples, FL. It’s just a few hours from my home. As part of my SHWAT™ invite, I’ll be issued a Desert Tech SRS A-1 along with 300 Win Mag DRT Ammo and a U.S. Optics LR-17 riflescope. The opportunity is nothing short of brilliant, but admittedly I’m somewhat apprehensive. I’ve always been an AR guy, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll soon discover that running and gunning with an AR is the polar opposite to precision rifle shooting…
By Jonathan Owen on 1/27/2016 1:54 PM

SHOT Show 2016I spent all of last week in Las Vegas. Normally, I’d rather be in the mountains somewhere, or chasing wild hogs across Texas wheat fields. But last week was the annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoors Trade Show, aka, SHOT Show. Or just SHOT. 64,000 people showed up this year to see what’s new, what’s hot, what’s recycled… The fact of the matter is that no one can take it all in and I’m not going to write a review on something I saw for ten minutes at SHOT. Instead I submit my high altitude overview of my impressions to you here. In depth stories around these things are in the works for 2016.

By Jonathan Owen on 1/18/2016 8:00 AM

X95 TAVORPreviously available only to select law enforcement and video gamers, the commercial Tavor X95 from IWI launched today here at SHOT Show 2016! Like short rifles, compact platforms? Dislike NFA tax stamps and rules? Then you probably are primed for a bullpup rifle, and the X95 Tavor is arguable the latest and greatest entry to that class. I ran a full auto thirteen inch barreled version at the 2015 Bullpup Shoot, and with this announcement of a civilian X95 release I can say it’s my new favorite.

This is big news, keep reading for the full details!

By Jonathan Owen on 1/14/2016 1:45 PM

Timney 2 stage trigger reviewA year ago Timney two stage triggers were as conceivable as Han Solo’s son killing him in the new Star Wars movie. Both happened. Odds makers in Vegas might have placed longer odds on Timney two stage triggers. For seventy years Timney has been committed to producing outstanding single stage triggers for a broad variety of guns. I used Timney triggers before I was part of the industry, and I toured the Timney factory a couple of years ago. They had robots making trigger parts, but there was no two stage trigger talk then. But today, after a year of research, development, external beta testing and production tests, Timney announced two stage AR-15 and Remington 700 triggers. Historically, I’ve preferred single stage triggers, probably because that’s what I learned to shoot with.  But now that I’ve had the opportunity to install and use some Timney two stage triggers I’m rethinking my old expectations. Keep reading, and you might just join me in that.

By Kelsy Gonzales on 1/12/2016 10:54 PM

Snowy Wyoming HuntThe weather in North Central Wyoming can tend to be fairly austere in November, and this last one was no exception. As most deer hunters know though, colder weather typically means more favorable deer hunting conditions. My hunting partner and I had planned a combo hunt for Mule deer starting the 10th and on the 15th we would switch to Whitetail. The weather for both hunting regions would hover in the negatives for the duration of both hunts. Would that hold you back? 

By Jonathan Owen on 1/7/2016 11:03 AM

White issues new gun rulesWith this week’s announcement of Executive Orders from the White House on guns, many in our shooting and hunting community have experienced dismay, outrage and other strong emotions. Full disclosure – I may have dabbled in a bit of that myself. Reality check: The only surprise in this is positive: More people have more access to more NFA items than ever before. What follows is shared with permission and is the best piece I’ve seen giving context to where we are and how we got there when it comes to the changes in what is looks like to own and acquire NFA items like silencers, short barreled rifles (SBRs), etc.

By Jonathan Owen on 1/3/2016 11:34 PM

Gearhead Works FLEx Swivel for Tavor

It’s such a simple part, the FLEx Swivel from Gearhead Works. Every Tavor owner needs one. I’m grateful to have had more time on a IWI Tavor than most people. At the moment, I have two, a 5.56 version and 9mm. I’ve shot Tavors suppressed, full auto, indoors, outdoors and hunting. I’ve upgraded numerous parts and the Gearhead Works FLEx Swivel is one I’m completely sold on. 

Why? Keep reading and I'll tell you.

By Jonathan Owen on 12/29/2015 10:12 AM

IR Defense IR Patrol

Just one year ago we announced the roll out of the IR Patrol by IR Defense. It looked promising, and a year later I have to say this is not only my current favorite night hunting tool, but it gets my “Best Tactical Hunting Innovation of 2015” award. I’ve tested this unit on multiple occasions and have successfully hunted with it. After market options make it even better. The IR Patrol is the single most versatile piece of night hunting equipment I've ever seen. It's a thermal monocular you can hang from a lanyard, mount to a tripod or helmet; it can also be your weapon sight. And the IR Patrol is in a form factor in a league of it's own. That's the start. Read on for the reasons why I picked this optic as the Best Tactical Hunting Innovation of 2015.

By Jonathan Owen on 12/21/2015 11:31 AM

Intelliscope Pro Plus Seek Thermal cameraThe first time I saw the Inteliscope mount in person I felt it came up short. I had one on hand, it was plastic and I just didn't get a good vibe. I liked the idea of it, I just wasn't crazy about the implementation. The same thing was true of Seek Thermal device, but I didn't have one in person. Well, all that may be changing. I just got off the phone with David Rogers at Inteliscope and it appears the Inteliscope PRO+ Rifle Mount with Seek Thermal’s CompactXR could have something to offer that's worth investigating. 

By Jonathan Owen on 12/14/2015 9:47 PM

Scenarios: You’ve yet to figure out what to give the shooter, hunter and/or adventurer. Or, I just described you and you might want to pass along hints to your favorite procrastinators. We know you get a million promotions going into the holiday season so we waited until the push daily BUY THIS RIGHT NOW messages subsided a bit. These are personal picks from the SHWAT™ team. Let’s start with over the top package. Here we go…!

By Jonathan Owen on 12/10/2015 10:51 AM

.458 SOCOM buildThe first time I saw a .458 SOCOM years ago I couldn’t imagine why someone would want one. A heavy recoiling AR-15 with limited magazine capacity – what’s the point? Now I laugh at myself and consider my former opinion Exhibit A: Lack of Vision! Well that changed, and now I’ve built a custom over-the-top .458 SOCOM rifle where every single primary component was carefully chosen by yours truly to create an epic big bore AR-15. And as good as the parts are, there’s no doubt that the whole is greater than the sum of parts. 

I'll walk you through my component choices for this build and how I settled on each one. You may find some ideas you want to use, or you may simply enjoy this read and the pics for the work of art this .458 SOCOM became. Either way, you'll be glad you read this!

By Jonathan Owen on 12/7/2015 10:30 AM

Mega-Arms Wedge Lock in KeyModMega Arms is an aptly named company. They've been cranking out a lot AR-15 parts for years and their roots as a company go back to the 19th century. Mega just announced a couple of new AR-15 rails: AR-15 Wedge Lock in KeyMod and a redesigned MATEN MKM 308 upper and rail combo. Let's take a quick look.

By Jonathan Owen on 12/4/2015 10:32 AM

Troop 300 Blackout by Gorilla AmmoWe all know 300 Blackout is a great round, but can be kind of pricey for the good stuff. Through their new Troop line, Gorilla Ammunition is changing that. I wasn't the first to buy into the 300 Blackout hype. I wanted to because I'm hypnotically drawn to cool new things, but I'm also cautious about believing everything thrown at me. I hunted with 300 Blackout subsonic and wasn't impressed. Neither were the pigs. That changed when I ran Gorilla's 208 grain A-MAX loads on pigs. I've since shot subsonic and supersonic groups measuring less than an inch at 100 yards using Gorilla loads. There's more to this story, keep reading.

By Jonathan Owen on 11/30/2015 11:11 AM

How to upgrade your Tavor with Manticore Arms partsNothing may be more American than customizing your rifle, even if the rifle you’re upgrading your favorite Israeli bred IWI Tavor. I’d seen pictures of customized Tavor SARs around the web but had no idea how easy it was to upgrade one until I got my hands on a pile of parts from Manticore Arms. As of this writing, just to see how far it could go I’ve never even cleaned my Tavor, much less disassembled it properly. I had no way to know how effortless it would be to customize. I’ve swapped my trigger pack out and that should have been a clue. Here’s a spoiler: swapping to the all metal Manticore Arms safety levers is simpler than upgrading an AR15 selector - by a lot. So I made a video. Watch and you’ll see a cool gun become even cooler, and you might just be surprised at how simple and quick these upgrades are to implement.

By John Howard on 11/25/2015 9:59 AM

VZ58 Review and Upgrade

You know that awkward feeling of being greeted by someone who thinks they know who you are when in fact they are mistaken? That might be the story of the VZ58 here in America. So knowing the VZ58 like I do I wanted to introduce you and show you how to bring this often mis-identified gem up to speed. The VZ58 backstory here is intriguing. I, too, was once oblivious to it. Growing up during the Cold War cemented my love for the military arms of that era. This is particularly true of Communist Block arms that were mysterious and rare-to-unobtainable during my youth. The AK pattern rifles imported in quantity during the late 80s and early 90s provided my first opportunity to start collecting communist block guns. For many years I believed that the ubiquitous Kalashnikov was the only arm used as the standard rifle of the European Soviet elements. It was only later on that I became aware that this was a major oversight. The Czechs were not building just another AK variant. For that matter, the VZ58 isn't even remotely and AK rifle, but who knew?

By Erik Alexander on 11/18/2015 5:54 AM

Indiana Deer HuntOpening day for Indiana deer season hadn't gone like I'd envisioned it. Our hunting party had lost a deer, the weather wasn't what I'd expected - you'll want to read part one of this Indiana deer hunt story to see what we were dealing with that day. Sunday was warmer - 30 degrees in the morning, warming to 37 with a prediction of snow for late afternoon . I was hunting the ladder stand by the creek bottom that has historically been a great spot to see deer crossing the creek bed. I did see two coyotes in the early morning, but I didn’t have a clear shot. The day was uneventful until just after 2:30PM. I spotted a deer approximately fifty yards to my right but lost sight of it. Trees hid the deer’s movement. I waited impatiently and scanned the woods for any sign. I grunted my Nature’s Voice Deer Grunter a few times to see if curiosity would get the deer to move. Nothing…

By Erik Alexander on 11/15/2015 9:26 PM
Indiana deer huntDeer hunting in the Hoosier state has been a father and son tradition for me since 2008. I shot my first deer that year, a 10pt buck. It feels like yesterday and I’m amazed at how far I’ve come as a hunter and student of the gun. First experiences in the field are moments of both emotion and education. This is what drives hunters to do what they do. Last year’s Indiana deer hunt was no exception. A major cold front drove temperatures to 25 degrees below normal and blanketed the state with snow. The bitter cold changed the game plan and tested me physically and mentally. It had a major impact on deer behavior and gear performance. A Miami resident, I was not equipped for the weather and it was painfully obvious. In the end, patience, determination and a bit of luck would affect the outcome on the last hour of the last day in Indiana.

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