Monday, July 16, 2018

Takes a lick'n and keeps on tick'n

    And who says caustic blue isn't durable ?

Gradous In-Line Action Wrench

In-line action wrenches are common, just about every Gun-Smithing supply business carries them as do most action makers for their particular action. Being a Neanderthal in many procedural operations I have used the same exterior yoke design action wrench since the early 80's to install and remove the barrel during the rifles construction. I never rust blued a barrel attached to the action for fear of oil or grease leaking out of the barrel shank joint and contaminating the process from the start. Which then carried over into caustic emersion bluing as I wanted the threads inside the receiver as well as on the thread extension of the barrel blued as well. Since I don't Cerakote or Hydrocote the barrel doesn't need to be attached during the final surface application.

During the reassembly process one slip of the older style yoke or loosing my grip on the large Allen wrench to snug up or loosen the yoke and all will not be fine in the land of Echols. When a rifle is put together for the last time the phone is unplugged, the door locked and nobody and I mean nobody gets inside during that time period.

Why it took me so long to convert to an in-line wrench is just pointless to try and explain, there is just no excuse. Not long ago I picked up one for a particular project that would then be included with the rifle when shipped to the client. A second one followed suite and now there are a few more on the way to cover all the other bolt race way and lug height variations I might need.

I purchased these in-line wrench's and the others from Gradous Rifles (

Both examples I've used were well machined with just the right amount of clearance once slid into the action. A standard socket wrench allows you to torque the action onto the threads to what ever your heart desires. No more dancing with the devil as you install your old style yoke over that nicely blued receiver. You should find the cost per unit just North of $ 70.00. 

I plan to retire my older yoke style wrench for basically one of kind situations unless Gradous starts to stock ZAP Blanks on the shelves for just those occasions. 

A good tool and at a great price. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Test Driving The Woodleigh Hydro Bullet

This post is shallow, I clearly admit it. Hardly anything resembling accumulated data with only 6 shots fired from a 375 H&H I had recently completed. Nothing exhaustive, and no reams of targets to offer up anything empirical. But the introductory results are impressive and if they are indicative of the Woodleigh Hydro accuracy potential I will be trying more of them. From what I've read other's are seeing the same results. Most of the reviews of this bullet are coming for Australia which is understandable as it was conceived in OZ. I have used conventional Woodleigh softs and solids for a very long time. The woodleigh FMJ's having been the favorite for many of the heavy caliber rifles I have assembled. So when the Hydro first appeared I watched from the sidelines with interest.

I had noticed only recently that Federal had been loading and now MIGHT discontinue loading this projectile for their line. So few places to really use a specialized projectile here in the states. One can understand if the bean counters at Federal had tallied up the sales then pulled this load off the line when the sales showed no promise. I tried to buy a box of this Federal load to shoot in this 375 but could not find a retailer or dealer that still had them in stock. I finally called Huntington's and Fred sent me a box of bullets to hand load.

It was a very small box to, containing only 20 Hydro's. The price was steep, but few jewels are ever inexpensive. For the sake of science I sat down at my loading and started sizing some cases.

Comparing the length of a 300gr Hydro to a 300gr TSX you will find the Hydro is slightly longer. Case capacity comes into play with many mono bullets. Fortunately this rifle shot extremely well with H-4895 when under the TSX so I decided to try the Hydro with the same powder ? This particular powder charge came right up to the base of the Hydro. Perfect !

                                                                                    Typical 3 shot group fired with the 300gr TSX

As I was still doing the final load development for this 375 and I was hopeful these 2 Hydro's loads would show some promise. Having shot thousands of Woodleigh's for decades I settled in behind the rifle with a certain amount of confidence.

I noted the 1st point of impact, slid back into position and sent the 2nd bullet down range. When I recovered from recoil and looked through the S&B I did a double take. Hmmm! then confirmed the impact with my spotting scope. It could it have been a fluke? so I sent the 3rd round down range.

Looking again through the ocular lens I started feeling all warm and clammy. I decided to walk down and mark the target. My, my lets see if I can do that again, and I did.

This 2nd group was fired with 1 more grain of powder with the same results. So what this tells me is that I will be trying these Hydros again and soon. It was evident to me that the bullets original meplat design would reliably feed even before the nose cap had been engineered. The current capped version fed just as well as or better than any Spitzer soft point I'd run through the gun as it was being built.

If you read the fine print on the Woodleigh website the Hydro was designed to perform as both a hybrid Soft Point and Solid that penetrates into next Wednesday. Maybe they said it in a more scientific and eloquent way but that seems to be the idea. If you can get by using one bullet to cover Impala, Sable, Eland, Buffalo, Hippo and Ele's on the same hunt I can see the benefits big time. Is it a Cat bullet?????? well maybe not in the traditional sense but !!!!!! Is it the one bullet answer ? for some perhaps it is.

More will be ordered, more will be shot, notes and an opinion will evolve, so far my limited exposure to the Hydro has left me with a good impression.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sack It And Pack It It's Well Worth The Effort

The next time you'r getting set to fly to a hunting destination you might want to consider how you pack some of your duffel. Until you've used a couple different sized stuff sacks or your day pack as a rifle rest you just haven't been living right. Crammed with socks, underwear or any other clothing items you now have all that is necessary to confidently confirm the zero on your rifle when you land at your destination.

We've all seen the drill when you're asked to check the zero on your rifle and ushered down to the river bed or similar location. Some camps are equipped with pretty nice shooting benches, some even have a mechanical front and rear bag rest. In the amount of hunting I have done that required flight to these destinations I have encountered these amenities only twice. One of these was during the latter part of last May. The other time was in the early 90's

Consider yourself lucky if there is at least be table top, the hood of a truck, or sizable flat topped rock that will allow you to kneel behind it and use you pack and stuff sacks as a rest. Sometimes it's just a dry river bed or a tree to lean against. In the case of the latter two you had better been shooting your rifle on your local range prone, over your pack and wrapped up in your sling long before you're wheels up and heading off on that hunt of a lifetime. As this should give you a rational idea of what you can expect from YOU in regard the type of accuracy you should expect to confirm your point of impact under those more realistic field conditions. What a novel concept !

Again if there's a shooting bench complete with a rest when you arrive, lucky you. But what if the rest itself is fairly high and the seat fairly low and you stand 5' 2" flat footed ? I could go on and on about the variables but you do need to check that zero. I tend to believe that when a rifle is placed in the baggage hold, taken to 35,000 ft then subjected to -25 temps within that hold for up to 16 hours that the dissimilar materials that make up the erectors system in any scope can very possibly and probably move, i.e shift your point of impact while in transit, call me skeptic if you want.

Hopefully over the years you've laid in several stuff sacks in a variety of sizes. The one covering your sleeping bag is a perfect example. Others of smaller diameter will be relegated to rain gear, gloves and hats any combination of kit.

One stuffed sack should give you the approximate height of the for-end rest you use at home. My rest allows the fore-end to bottom out on the sand bag approximately 6-1/2" above flat surface of a bench top typically. A sleeping bag in a stuff sack often times is about that diameter.

Or a combination of 2 bags can serve the same purpose and allow more height latitude on site. As will cradling the fore-end in your palm which is what you'd want to be doing with any heavy caliber.

The average height of my rear rest is approximately 4" at the leading edge and bottom of the bunny ears. Once again find and fill a stuff sack to meet that need before you get on the plane.

Then we have the issue of targets. In some camps your target might be a cardboard food box, maybe stump with an empty bean can sitting on it, perhaps a paper plate with a hand drawn sharpie center or my all time favorite a blaze hacked into a tree with a panga.

If you like shooting at Orange dots, no problem, how about diamond shapes or squares ? Let me ask you just how heavy are two of your favorite targets images placed in your duffle? While we're at it also toss in 8 push pins to anchor the target to that wet wooden back stop or cardboard box if you're lucky enough to have these. With the increasing use of come-up turrets it would be nice to confirm where your Zero point of impact should land on the target by marking a target ahead of time. Note the target on the left and the bullet holes cutting that line.

If you determined and packed these stuff sacks at home then your sight in session with your guide will be pretty seamless with very little drama. So what if you have to make a scope correction, ammo at this stage is cheap, always remember the cargo hold ?

Minimal shots fired with reasonably controlled conditions and we're ready to roll, no guessing in the heat of the moment.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Just Over The Fence

The Utah Youth Turkey was upon us before we had time to blink this year. This would be the last year Lexi could hunt for three days without any adult competition in the woods. I began scouting a few days ahead of time and had a good idea of where I wanted to start. While scouting the National Forest I did locate a flock of birds on a contiguous piece of private property but unfortunately this property has always been off limits. Out of habit I did note the birds movements and thought I knew where they'd head to roost that evening. Maybe I could call one under the fence if the conditions were right ? Somebody else's turkey always taste better.

Lexi and I planned an afternoon hunt and by 3pm we were set up in the forest and soon called in our first hen. Over to our left and across another fence line two gobblers were trying their damnedest to call us down the hill in their direction. I imagined the pair of toms had a pile of hens in tow and weren't about to come any closer than they already were. These birds were also on private land so we had little option other than to call and hope. With an hour of daylight left before dark we picked up and moved slowly down the ridge line glassing the basins and ridges for birds in the National Forest hoping to see some going to roost then make a plan for early the next morning.

On our decent off the last spur ridge we spotted the same flock of birds I'd seen the night before and seeing the two gobblers Lexi asked why we weren't hunting them? I made her aware that they were on someones else's property and that the landowners family typically had tags and we were probably out of luck. She looked over towards these birds a few more times as we dropped into the valley but never said anything. As we had to drive past the land owners house on our way home I thought "what the hell it never hurts to ask" and slowly came to stop at the edge of the lawn. We both went to the door to ask for any possible access and within 5 minutes to my astonishment Lexi had permission to hunt the next day before she went to go to work.

    Spend 4 hours in any turkey woods and a lot can happen, things were looking up.

Once home I pulled up Goggle Earth to better assess the property, and selected a lone stand of willow trees to set up in. This small grove was between two larger tracks of trees and in the middle of an alfalfa field. " Dawn patrol at 4 am kid" all I heard as she headed up the stairs at 10pm was "got it dad".

By 4:45am we were walking down a gentle slope towards the willow grove. A full moon was still standing guard as we slipped under a couple fences and crossed some open ground trying to look like a pair raccoons coming home from a night on the town. Our approach to the willow trees felt pretty stealthy and we quickly and quietly began to set up, Lexi pushing aside ground litter, arranging some dead limbs into a make shift frame and rigging up the camo netting to break up our outline. I positioned 3 decoys 25 steps from the hide, looked at the front and sides of our lash-up to make sure we had adequate cover and called it good. It was as quiet as a tomb as moon slipped behind the ridge line when we finally got settled in. Lexi softly eased and locked the Federal Heavy 7 into the breech of her Model 12 and leaned the barrel onto the cross brace. The ruse was set and it was now time for patience.

Fifteen to twenty minutes went by before the first tom sent a soft gobble into the gloom followed shortly by a gobble from his wing man. It sounded as if the birds were sitting on a limb about 125 yards to our right. The oncoming daylight was getting brighter with every minute.  I felt Lexi shiver ever so slightly against my knee each time the birds opened up, I grinned to myself as I'm sure she wasn't cold. This particular scenario was pretty familiar and I knew what ever was going to happen would take place very quickly this morning. I stayed silent until we had legal shooting light then yelped softly. Branches rattled and shook as the two toms took to the air and glided down the hill to land 150 yards below us. Once on the ground the toms began to gobble softly looking uphill towards us. I purred and cut a few notes and both birds started slowly up the hill. Then I heard the other birds still on limbs uphill and behind us. What happened next is something I haven't experienced in a very long time.

Another bird launched off a limb and out of the corner of my right eye I saw it inbound, gear down and watched him glide to a rolling stop 16 steps in front of us. The red head and beard put him in immediate danger. No need to see a fan or hear him gobble, hard to hide the facts at that range. The gobblers down the hill opened up again and then the sound of flapping wings and shaking leaves filled the air behind us, within seconds it literally began raining turkeys.

Hens began landing in front us, to the left and to the right of us one after another. Some gliding in gracefully in shallow curves others careening in on crazy angles correcting flaps and breaking hard in flight when they saw they'd overshot the landing zone. Within 20 or 30 seconds we had a pile turkeys  in our laps, some only yards away. Had we not been tucked under the crown of the willow tree some may have even landed on us. Heads up and on alert trying to size up their decision as to where they'd pitched in, the group in mass took stock of their surroundings. The jake was looking intently towards the decoys contemplating his next move. A few hens began to purr and cackle, one hen eyed us suspiciously so close I could have touched her with a short broom.

When the jake first hit the ground I whispered to Lexi if she could see his beard ? I got a very faint nod. It was now her call. Wait for the other jake and the two year old tom to walk uphill or make it happen right now out in front. She must have decided that a young tender tom in the deeks is better than a longer bearded tom down the slope.

I heard the safety slide into the fire position. I shivered a little now and knew for sure it wasn't the cool morning air. The hen in our laps began to feed towards the jake and the flock began to yelp and cluck in earnest. That's when I noticed the muzzle of the 20 gauge moving at a snails pace toward the jake just beyond our boot laces. I slowly moved only my eyes looking for that one bird that would send out an alarm putt and fold our tent but they all kept feeding and calling.

The jake was still mesmerized by the deeks when the hammer fell on his head, he kicked once or twice and that was that. The sound of the shot was so startling to the rest of the flock they just stood transfixed for a second or two trying to work out what had just happened. When their vision cleared some began to putt and quickly trotted over a rise to our left while others took wing and glided into the woods below us.

Lexi and I just sat there in silence for a minute or two when I softly said "nice shot, you think he was close enough ?" she looked around at me and her eyes where the size of coffee cups. She ejected the spent shell, slid the safety on then got to her feet. "Its a good thing that doesn't happen every day" I said "or I'd be to scared to go outside on a regular basis". "No kidding dad, that was just amazing" and it was amazing how it all came together.

Lexi cleared the gun and admired the jake as we sat in the new alfalfa for awhile. She finally validated and tagged the bird as I gathered up our kit and returned the base of the willow to its original condition. Soon we were cutting back across the fields towards the truck discussing how the morning had unfolded, the size of the flock and the sound and sight of having that many birds in our laps. When the Dodge came into view she changed the subject to breakfast and what she thought it might need to be that morning. I even think my stomach began to rumble.

                                                                                     This apple hasn't fallen to far from the tree.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Desert Jewel

Last fall Bob returned once again to hunt desert Mule Deer in old Mexico. He's done it for years and years and this time he pulled a scary rabbit out of the hat. I'm not sure of the details and haven't a clue as to where it all happened. I do know he used one of his favorite Legend 300 Weatherby's which have served him around the globe time and time again.

Hunting  big desert Mule Deer has been a passion of Bob's for a very long time and he's always been just a second to late as a buck like this evaporated into the greasewood and cactus.  This time it all came together, what a toad.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Can someone one tell me why ?

Be advised, as I am about to rant, again.

Can someone tell me why we really need objective and ocular lens housings the size of Coke bottles? What purpose does a throw lever have on scopes designed for hunting big game, especially dangerous game ? I have mentioned these ever encroaching anomalies in earlier post. Let me start out by saying I'm not picking on a singular manufacture as this is becoming a shared trend in the industry. What do you really need on a big game hunting rifle ? We're told bigger is better, brighter is nicer, lit is chic.


Lets look at a possible scenario that I can see happening 9000 miles from my bench top.

You liked the looks of the Z8 when you first picked it up. It came with all the bells and whistles you'd read about, so it naturally followed you home. Fortunately the rifle it was going on was set up with High 30mm rings. Granted it still required some alteration to the already low mounted bolt handle to clear that overly robust ocular lens but that's what gunsmiths are for.  A little grinding a little welding some body and fender work and we're fixed up.

We now fast forward to late October in the middle of the Zambezi Valley.

Despite your best intentions you've just stuffed a shot and smacked a dandy buffalo right in the tummy. The scope had been set between 6X or maybe 8X when you pulled the trigger but the sun was in your eyes, the shooting sticks may have slipped just as the sear broke or maybe you rushed the shot. Regardless the bull is now running for the river. Excuses be damned its now time to hitch up your girdle and try to clean up your mess.

All spring and summer you shot round after round and the new scope worked fantastic, with its excellent clarity, superb color rendition, ample eye relief, it adjusted fine when required and your groups never looked better thanks to that boosted power.

Six hours later you're hot and dry, the water bottles were emptied three hours ago and your bathed in sweat from keeping pace with the team. The bulls tracks are still sprinkled with drops of green and red as he heads deeper into the valley.

Then suddenly the trackers pull together, fingers point into a Mopane thicket just ahead as they begin to back peddle out of the way. In a whisper the PH ask if your ready as the time has now come.

You do a quick mental assessment to make sure your wits are all in a tow as this wasn't supposed to happen quite so fast. Then you notice you need to turn your scope down to 1X, it's the first time you've ever done that since you bought it.

Cautiously the two of you enter the trees. The old bull is sick and mad when he rises to his feet and you fire quickly somewhere into his front end. Juiced by your own adrenalin you reach for the bolt to hit him again.

And that's when the melons fall off the cart. There is now no way you can now operate that bolt rapidly as you no longer have any room between the throw lever and the bolt knob.

In your haste most of your right hand looses all purchase with the bolt knob and then slips completely off the knob leaving you with a fist full of air. What the f--k ? The simplest of tasks turns into the four finger shuffle in an unfamiliar and unexpected moment of panic.  The PH stands ready and covers the stunned but still very mobile bull. As you continue to fumble with bolt the bull gathers himself again and comes with intent. The PH now sends a bullet into his skull to settle the issue.

You couldn't, as you're still out of the game, muzzle to the sky looking at the bolt wondering whether to push it forward or to the rear in the confusion. Far fetched ???? please don't insult me.

You have to wonder why those in the optical industry never thought of this potential situation. Another great design formulated in a Solidworks without any of the designers having ever set foot into the woods behind the plant with one of their creations mounted on a rifle. Boggles the mind doesn't it.

So for grins lets look at a few numbers, These specs I've taken off two new Swaro Z8's that are currently in my shop. The rubber change power ring has a whopping OD of 1.840 compared to a scopes from not all that long ago that measured 1.600 such as the Leupold 1.5-5x20mm. Now even variants of this battle tested DG design have been enlarged to 1.700

By comparison the Schmidt and Bender Summit has an ocular bell that measures 1.675 + or - and the S&B  3-12x42mm Klassick is slightly larger at 1.690. I use to think these were overly large, not anymore.

Then we have the throw lever. Have we really become so weak that we actually need this mechanical aid ? Come on people. The throw lever on the Z8 extends another .225 off the side of the scope, and it's on the wrong side for right handed shooters wanting to utilize the lowest power. Hello !!!!!!!

Another useless add-on that arrived with this brand new Z8 2-16x50mm is the ocular flip open lens covers. This door handle sticks out another .308 from the anodized body of the ocular lens housing.  Hello !!!!!!!!

To mount this scope as received with ample clearance that allowed you to actually utilize these widgets you'd have to add enough additional height in your rings that you'll need a step ladder to rest your cheek on.

About that time you'd run out of vertical elevation and require a tapered MOA set of rings that would place your eye piece even higher yet. What's so ridicules is these add-ons have zero, nothing, nada to do with the optics.

Despite the scope being physically bloated the optics of the Z8 are fantastic, so whats with the extra crap ? couldn't they try and leave well enough alone ? Apparently not.

The requirements of the big game scope mounted on a sporting weight hunting rifle are pretty simple.

You actually need is ample clearance between the objective bell and barrel as well as the ocular bell housing and bolt handle to operate said bolt under any and all situations.

Ideally the scope should be mounted as low as reasonalby possible for quick target acquisition and rapid bolt manipulation. In this regard size really does matter.

The scope needs to be reliable, rugged and as light as possible on any heavy caliber rifle

Lastly filtered down to its simplest form a scope is an aiming devise and nothing more. It is not the Hubble's little brother.

What is the optical industry as a whole thinking ????  Me, I'm at a loss to come up with an answer