Riflescope Review: Eotech Vudu 1-8×24 mm SFP

Vudu 1-8x24 mm SFP

Any discussion of light, its transmission and interpretation by the human brain can get technical, fast. Rather than venturing deep into that dark hole, here’s a look at the Eotech Vudu 1-8×24 mm SFP performance as it explores some less friendly optical arenas.

The human eye is best at detecting colors in the green spectrum. It’s built into our genes, a holdover from when we were the prey and spotting movement in the forest—even slight changes in tone—was critical to survival. Some companies tend to over-compensate by leaning their coatings so far into that color range that it surrenders contrast.

That’s not the case with the Vudu. Across 200 yards of fall bright, yellow grass, it easily distinguished between evergreen pines and the few holly leaves hiding within that thick and dark stand of trees. Oak branches and autumn leaves stood out extremely well. That ability didn’t diminish with magnification, on cloudy days, or at sunset and sunrise.

Rendition is ideally suited for target acquisition and identification—even at dawn and dusk. Color remained true at those times as well, leaning slightly toward those naturally occurring warmer colors of autumn.

The 24 mm objective lens, with XC HD full multi-coating, does a very good job collecting light. Visual inspection of it does not indicate any sort of color-compromising tint applied to the exterior glass.

Lighted Reticle

The performance is of little consequence if the reticle obscures an unduly large amount of real estate downrange or doesn’t hold true point of aim. I’m impressed with Eotech’s REV2 reticle.

Reticle discussions can get complicated, fast. Even expert opinions vary as to whether a wire reticle is inferior to an etched version. Rather than expanding on that in this article, here’s a series of interviews I did with some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry.

The REV2 reticle in this scope is located on the second focal plane of the riflescope, which means it does not change “size” as you alter magnification settings. It’s the traditional setup for American-made riflescopes, and the only drawback is the fact it does not lend itself to fast range estimation through the optic.

Its lighted red dot at the crosshair’s junction subtends only .5 MOA at 8 power. That’s a huge improvement over those commonly bulbous circles that surrender downrange precision in an effort to speed target acquisition.

The REV2 dot is brightness adjustable, and in testing plainly visible at all settings, even in broad daylight. A single, readily available CR2032 battery in a hidden compartment on the left side of the riflescope (under the Vudu name) provides power. An O-ring tightly seals the compartment.

To activate the dot, change brightness or turn it off, three rubberized pressure switches found at the 9-, 12- and 3-o’clock positions surrounding the battery compartment are depressed. The latter, toward the shooter, turns on the red dot or brightens it with each push until it reaches maximum setting. The scope then lets you know when its output is at maximum by blinking several times. Pushing the forwardmost button decreases brightness and the top switch, 12-o’clock, turns it on or off. At high output the battery lasts through roughly 500 hours of continuous use and to preserve power the unit shuts down after roughly two hours of non-use.

Unlike some of the lighted reticles on the market, this red dot doesn’t bleed into or overwhelm portions of the view at all. There were no reflections or spillover detected during testing and the reticle focus ring is at the back of the scope. 

Repeatability and Precision

Windage and elevation is adjustable in increments of .25 moa per click. To confirm of the accuracy and repeatability of the internal movements, the scope went on a pair of rifles—one chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and the other a .22 rimfire—then zeroed and a box walked on a target. The measurements were precise and repeatable in both tests, returning to the bullseye each cycle.

The turrets are low profile, measuring 1.2 inches in diameter and protruding just .700 inch from the main body. Caps protect each from inadvertent adjustment and modifying settings requires no tools. Simply rotate. Each click is firm, palpable and indeed moves point of aim by .25 moa reliably.

The primary (unlit) reticle is black and remains visible even when the red dot is off. Stadia lines at different elevation points provide holdovers for longer shots.

Distant or Close?

Three-gun stages routinely feature long-distance targets, followed by some so close enough finding them in a scope at high magnification is tough. A throw lever affixed to and protruding from the magnification ring provides a solution. Simply push left or right and field of view adjusts instantly.

It’s not standard equipment on most hunting riflescopes, but the Eotech Vudu 1-8×24 mm SFP comes with one. The owner decides whether the 1-inch long and .25-inch wide extension is mounted, or not. 

Hunters who find themselves in situations where their prey appear at unpredictable distances, fast, will appreciate the advantage it offers. A speed bump on the magnification ring makes dialing things up or down, fast and easy with gloved hands, regardless. Angular texturing improves purchase more for those inevitable poor weather we all encounter.  

Construction

The main body is one-piece T6 aircraft-grade aluminum and is 30 mm wide. Aluminum is also a complicated subject. My interview with materials experts explains the alloys in more detail.

The construction reflects an ability to take years of abuse afield, but the scope also comes backed by the Eotech Advantage Warrantee. “Should your Vudu rifle scope ever experience any defects in materials or workmanship,” it states, “we will repair or replace it, as determined by EOTECH, with a comparable product, free of charge (except for electronic components of an illuminated rifle scope…).” The electronics are covered for two years after the purchase date.

1951 Test

A United States Air Force 1951 resolution test chart at 50 yards was used to rate optical performance. The military retired it, but the descending-in-size pattern of bars allow inspection of lens rendition side to side and top to bottom with confidence.

It was a bright and sunny day when the black-and-white chart, printed on an 8 1/2×11-inch sheet of paper, was placed downrange. There was no blurring, even on the small patterns. Each were crystal clear at all magnification settings.

The edges of the field of view were slightly less tack sharp, regardless of power setting. There is no way it’s noticeable while hunting, where concentration focuses on the reticle’s crosshair. It’s barely detectable. In running nearly 100 optics through this procedure, none have passed with 100-percent flying colors—not even expensive camera lenses.

A light chromatic aberration was also visible, but oddly its effect was only evident when looking at bright white subjects. Nearly every lens shows some degree of this effect. In this case a thin and dim line of purple was bordering the right side of the target. It’s potentially disastrous in photography, but sportsmen have grown so accustomed to it that it’s rarely mentioned.

It never appeared next to foliage downrange, even white tree trunks. It was also undetectable near grass or when holding the riflescope toward the sky.

It’s of little or no consequence until looking at a bright white target and, even then, its diminished and translucent. The effect is exclusive to bright subjects with a sharply contrasting background.

Overall Impression of the Eotech Vudu 1-8×24 mm SFP

The Eotech Vudu 1-8×24 mm SFP is a winner. Top magnification of 8X may seem pale by comparison to some of the other riflescopes, but used properly it will connect at long-distance with precision.

It’s performance in low light is undeniably very good. At 1X, no magnification, taking those predators that appear up-close and personal unexpectedly is fast enough to border on intuitive. Add a red dot that somehow doesn’t bleed all over the sight picture and it’s worth a serious look if you’re looking for an optic that performs.

Manufacturer: Eotech

Model: Vudu 1-8×24 mm SFP

Main Tube: 30 mm

Objective Lens: 24 mm

Reticle: Fiber Optic Reticle REV2

Field of View at 100 Yards: 13.2 Feet at 8x, 105.8 Feet at 1x

Eye Relief: 2.95 to 4.02 Inches at 1x, 3.19 to 3.86 Inches at 8x

Overall Length: 10 3/4 Inches

Weight: 21.2 Ounces (with battery and throw lever0

Power Source: 1 CR 2032 Battery

Accessories: Lens Covers, Battery, Manual, Reticle Manual, Removable Throw Lever, Lens Cloth

MSRP: $1,399

—Written by Guy J. Sagi, crafting the words and images that capture the spirit of the outdoor sports and the beauty that surrounds them for magazines, websites and marketing materials for more than three decades.

Midland ER310 E+ Ready Weather Radio Review

The COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place orders are a painful reminder that you can never be too prepared. Our infrastructure—and lifesaving advice it provides through the Internet, cable and TV—remains remarkably intact, but there’s no guarantee the same will be true the next time, particularly if you live in an area prone to harsh weather, fires or other natural disasters.

Thankfully, when the lights go out and cell towers topple, Midland’s ER310 E+ Ready Weather Radio bridges the gap by wirelessly providing critical information in a battery powered, hand-cranked, solar manner.  It’s a great backup when other lines of communication go down. Shooting Illustrated ran a unit through testing and its performance was excellent.

All Hazards Radio

The radio’s critical function is the ability to monitor National Weather Service “All Hazards” warnings and notifications in real time. For those unfamiliar with the system, the government maintains a network of towers and transmitters across the nation and a computerized-sounding voice reads weather reports 24 hours a day. Reception is possible nearly anywhere in the country. There are seven different frequencies used and tuning into the clearest signal usually ensures the information is specific to your surrounding area.  

After 9/11 the system expanded. It now includes non-weather emergency information, when requested by federal, state or local authorities—chemical spills, nuclear power plant emergencies, AMBER alerts and even pandemic notifications.

To monitor “All Hazards” channels on this Midland radio you first turn it on by pressing the “band” button on the front panel once. Volume adjustment controls are at the right. If the radio is on the AM or FM broadcast channels press “band” again until WX appears in the LCD display. If there is no signal, touch either of the “tune” buttons and it toggles to all seven of the frequencies one at a time. During testing the antenna (which rotates, too) didn’t have to be extended, but it may need to be in some regions.

The information is lifesaving, but even if you live in tornado alley listening to a robotlike voice for 24 hours a day isn’t exactly entertaining. To ensure timely distribution of the critical alerts a tone precedes emergency notifications through the system. It wakes up properly equipped receivers that wait otherwise silently.

Midland’s ER310 E+ Ready Weather Radio has that feature. Press the WX Alert button on the front panel to start monitoring. Then confirm the letters “WX” are visible in the LCD display.  When an alert is issued the radio sounds an alarm and the flashlight blinks for a minute. Touch any button to silence before then.

The receiver’s sensitivity in the weather bands is worth noting. The broadcasts were crystal clear from nearby towers, better than dedicated handheld scanners with rubber ducky antennas attached.

Entertainment

AM and FM radio are accessed by depressing the “band” button until the preferred broadcast frequency is selected. Letters on the LCD display indicate choice so you can find your favorite tunes until the power comes back on.

Frequencies change by pressing up or down buttons on the front face. AM broadcasts were received solidly during testing and, as is the case with most receivers, the antenna needed to be extended for acceptable FM signal. The single front-facing speaker, obviously, is mono not stereo. This is an emergency backup, after all.

Pressing and holding the “band” button down for two seconds powers down the unit. Time of day remains visible even when the radio is off and is easily set.

Battery Power

Battery status is indicated in a small, three bar icon on the radio’s front LCD panel.The radio ships with a rechargeable 3.7-volt Li-ion call, and it needed charging when the test united arrived. That was four-hour fast through the USB connection. If you have a smart phone with an Android operating system, odds are good that cable will work. The radio comes with one, nonetheless.

A red light over the “band” button and LCD battery meter blink while taking a charge. Both stay on constantly when the process is complete.

The built-in solar panel atop the radio failed to add a single bar to charge status after four hours in direct sunlight. It’s a trickle charge, enough to keep things going, but not enough for reliable music after a lot of long overcast days.

Deploying and cranking a large lever that folds flat against the back of the radio rotates an internal dynamo that can also recharge the Li-ion battery. The company estimates one minute of cranking will yield enough power to run the radio for nine minutes. It worked much better than its sun-powered alternative.

Another backup is the ability to change from Li-ion power to six AA batteries (not provided). To do so you move a small switch next to the USB port after inserting the cells.

Oddly, the solar cell and hand crank would not generate any charge to the AA cells. That would have added an unusual versatility to the system with high-quality rechargeable NiMhs. It likely wouldn’t require much modification either, since those batteries are wired in such a way to produce 3.6 volts. 

Sharing, or Not

A separate USB port allows the radio’s battery to share energy with cell phones or other devices, an unusual advantage in an emergency. Collect enough solar power or crank, connect, and you can make that emergency call.

There’s also a headphone jack next to the USB connections, if you decide it’s best those young ears don’t hear yet another emergency alert.

Disasters happen, and the experts have some sound advice on how to prepare

Flashlight

A carry handle on one end is convenient, but the odds are good you’ll find more use for the LED flashlight on the other side of the radio. It’s activated by a pressure switch atop the unit. One press and operates on low power. Another and it yields a room-filling 1,400 lux. Hit it a third time and it taps out S.O.S.

Hold pressure on the button for two seconds and it activates an ultrasonic dog whistle to attract search and rescue canines.

The Midland ER310 E+ Ready Weather Radio is an ideal addition to anyone’s disaster “kit,” mainly because it can be used in nearly any emergency and eliminates the need for multiple items. Streamlining and reduced confusion are decided advantages, but the rechargeable system also reduces maintenance headaches and dead batteries that result from neglect.

That said, you might want to remove the Li-ion battery before storage. It runs the clock non-stop, radio on or off. Rather than let it discharge in your go bag, remove it, or keep and reinsert the red plastic tape it shipped with to accomplish the same task.  

Specs

Midland ER310 E+ Ready Weather Radio

Length: 8 inches

Height: 3.4 inches

Width: 2.4 inches

Weight: 16.53 ounces (Li-ion battery only)

Batteries: One 3.7-volt Li-ion (supplied), six AA (optional)

Energy Generation: Solar panel, hand-cranked dynamo

Accessories: USB recharging cord

MSRP: $69.99

Lewis Machine & Tool SLK8

Urban legend has it 3-gun match directors sprouted from Attila the Hun’s branch of Genghis Kahn’s family tree. It’s a sadistic breed that takes pleasure in pain. They pray for rain, and then insist on seeing video from the stage that required engaging steel at 200 yards—from the prone position in knee-deep mud. Long hours are invested in finding barricades more prickly than the desert Southwest’s jumping cactus. They have a direct hotline to Kentucky’s Kevlar clays company.

It makes for a great story line, but the tongue-in-cheek scuttlebutt is wrong. New shooters receive more help than they thought possible and nearly all describe their first experience as an addictive adrenaline rush. The only grain of truth to the rumor is how much delight match directors take in designing safe stages that test guns, gear and shooter every manner possible. Add the fact that there’s often more than one way to shoot each course of fire, and that imaginative, marksman’s version of a chess game has made 3-gun the fastest-growing shooting sport.   

In 3-Gun Nation’s club series, “Run what you brung” is an oft-heard phrase, one validated by the number of people who have fought their way onto the organization’s professional tour with stock guns from their safe. But, once a shooter gets serious about shaving seconds off his or her time (yes, there is a woman’s tour, too), gear takes on an all-new meaning. Springs fail, magazine feed lips bend, scope mounts break and sights disappear. The worst I’ve witnessed, first hand, was last year when a shooter’s AR-15 upper receiver suffered a catastrophic failure. Cartridges, springs, flames and various metal parts screamed from the hole once occupied by a magazine. Guns are run hard, and if you want to be competitive you don’t back off in adverse conditions.

Out of Place?

When Lewis Machine & Tool introduced its new SLK8 for 3-gun, some claimed it was a departure from the norm for the Milan, IL-based company.  Established in 1980, it designs, prototypes and manufactures small arms, their accessories and tooling components for the military, law enforcement and civilian markets.  In 2005, at a time when most shooters didn’t recognize its name, the firm issued a press release labeling itself “The Quiet Gun Maker.” Then it landed a contract with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence in 2009 to supply Britain’s sharpshooters in Afghanistan with its 7.62 NATO-chambered LM308MWS, and people took notice. While the U.S. retrofitted and reissued M14s for long-range, mountaintop engagements, the Brits purchased AR-10s built in the Colonies. The gun first saw combat in April 2010.

And when it comes to the aluminum used in AR construction, my interview with experts in the field explains a lot.

Frontline deployments are not firearm friendly—one of the main reasons the decision to stick with the time-proven M14 was a good one. Guns get dropped, barrels slammed against doors and optics banged. Add an occasional sandstorm, rain, snow, abuse, neglect, bugs, mud and blood and if the U.K. has already purchased more than 3,000 Lewis Machine & Tool rifles for the Sandbox, the rifle is terrorist-slaying reliable.

The sport of 3-gun isn’t the same 24/7, 365-days-a-year returning-fire marathon as a deployment, but the guns and gear take a beating. With an established track record in the hands of those who go in harm’s way, the company’s entry into the competition market seems a natural evolution, and the same virtue serves shooters well in regard to self-defense.

Monolith

The SLK8 has a monolithic upper machined from a solid aluminum forging. Handguards not integral with the receiver have been known to work their way loose or shift slightly. It might not result in a stoppage, but one bang on a door during an entry could alter point of aim on rail-mounted lasers or backup iron sights. Those hard knocks are reality in combat, inevitable in 3-gun and likely in self-defense—so Lewis Machine & Tool’s stable upper is a welcome advantage.

There are 18 1/2 inches of useable and unjointed rail space atop the receiver/handguard. Numbers on alternating grooves make it easier to index and reposition optics anchored there.

As shipped from the factory, the 6- and 9-O’clock positions on the handguard are smooth and do not have Picatinny rails mounted. However, low-profile and removable polymer covers protect threads underneath that can be used to install rails at desired positions, and there are 9 1/2 inches of fore-and-aft movement possible for anchoring on all sides.

At the 3-O’clock position a small, 1 3/8-inch rail (3 grooves) comes pre-installed at the front. Another textured polymer cover protects those unused threads toward that side’s receiver.

Lewis Machine & Tool provides four other sections of its rail with the gun, which allows shooters to customize their setup the moment they bring it home. They measure 1 3/8, 2 1/8, 3 and 3 3/4 inches. Six different-sized polymer inserts are also included, allowing the protection of unused handguard threads.

Overall, the octagonal-shaped handguard is sleek and fast. Its outside diameter measures 1.52 inch (from 3 to 9 O’clock)and the slight texturing on the polymer covers provides extra purchase, a welcome addition during sweaty range sessions. In testing, there was no perceptible heat, sans the 4 1/4 inches of barrel and flash hider exposed up front. The configuration lends itself to a popular 3-gun technique in which the support hand is far forward, and when the only support available is an ancient barricade, posing as a porcupine, you’ll appreciate the increased real estate.

Quick-detach swivel-mounting points are found at the front of the handguard at the 3-, 6- and 9-O’clock positions. Another is at the back, above the barrel-locking bolts on the left side.   

Floated

That, of course, leads to one of the carbine’s most unusual features. Lewis Machine & Tool was among of the first to develop fast-barrel swaps in its rifles—thanks in part to that massive MRP upper receiver—and it didn’t abandon the feature in this direct-gas-impingement, 5.56 NATO-chambered SLK8. It starts with full free floating.

Removal is crazy easy. The company even provides one of its new torque wrenches with the gun.

Let the rifle cool before you begin, make it safe and take out the bolt-carrier group. Loosen and remove the forward barrel-locking nut using the included T-30 Torx wrench. Then turn the second bolt—the one closest to the receiver—at least three full, counterclockwise rotations. Full removal is not necessary on this bolt.

The barrel and pinned gas block can then be slide out the front of the handguard, slowly. The gas tube remains, so be careful not to bang things around a lot.    

To reinstall, first make sure the gas tube is at the 12 O’clock position, then insert the barrel and attached gas block. Ensure it is solid in the receiver and gas assembly is correct. Tighten the front bolt to 140-inch pounds and do the same to the second bolt. The ease of this operation makes compatible chambering swaps fast and quick—6.8 SPC barrels, for example, are available from Lewis Machine & Tool in 18-, 16- and 12 1/2-inch versions.

The SLK8’s stock barrel has 5R rifling, a design that features slightly angular lands. Obermeyer Barrels developed this particular type of rifling, and lists its chief advantage as reduced powder fouling in the grooves. In addition, jacketed bullets exiting tubes with this feature engrave more accurately. The match-grade barrel has five grooves, with a right-hand twist of one rotation every 7.5 inches, ideal for 3-gun according to the company. The tested gun’s version had a stainless finish, but a flat-black option is also available from Lewis Machine & Tool.

Low Down

At the bottom end, the company’s Afghanistan-proven LM308MWS Defender lower receiver completes the carbine. Fire controls are ambidextrous, but the mag release is not. Other features are standard on most AR-15s; forward assist, dust cover and bolt-release.

Things work loose when guns are subjected to the rigors of competition, which makes the decision to go with the company’s LMP2400 trigger—a match-grade, non-adjustable, two-stage version—a wise move. In testing, resets were palpable and audible. Let off weight averaged 7 pounds with slight stacking. It’s great for competition or home-defense, but will take some time to get accustomed to if ringing steel at 350 yards is your thing.

At the rear is Lewis Machine & Tool’s SOPMOD buttstock. The company is the sole provider of these to the U.S. Special Ops Command, as well as the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force. Both sides of the six-position-adjustable stock have quick-detach swivel mounts. Dual, watertight front-facing battery compartments can hold up to four CR-123s each. The recoil pad made me scratch my head for a while, until I realized it was probably standard equipment on the 7.62 NATO version dispatched to the Sandbox. It’s not tacky enough hang up on gear, though.

The pistol grip is a company exclusive manufactured by Ergo Grips. It’s sticky, grooved at the front to anchor your finger and works well. The LMT logo is at the bottom of the unit.

Leftovers

The gun comes with the company’s LMP103T charging handle, and it was a welcome addition after mounting a trusted Leupold VX2 3-9×40 mm on it testing. I couldn’t get a good grip on the right side once the optic was aboard, but the tactical latch to the left was easy to grasp by simply rolling my finger down. 

A fairly standard A2 flash hider rides the barrel up front. On the test gun its flat black finish provided nice contrast with the barrel’s stainless finish. It’s probably not very functional for 3-gun shooters or home defense, but it does protect those threads nicely until you upgrade to a brake or suppressor. 

Lewis Machine & Tool also includes a lot of spare gear for the end user, and that’s a nice touch. The included sling, well, let’s just say it might not stick around long.

Give Me Three, Please

I chronographed each of the loads the first day with a metal magazine I grabbed off my desk. There were no failures to feed or stoppages of any kind. The bolt always held open on an empty chamber and the mag drops were effortlessly free and clear.

Accuracy testing the next day was a different story. I opened and used the company-provided magazine (also metal). The bolt held open when empty and drops were clean, but the third round in every reload stovepiped—always the third. I tapped, shook and cast an ancient gypsy juju spell, but the results were always the same with each  load, twice. So I reverted back to the other magazine to finish testing. The problems didn’t recur. Magazines fail, but not usually one just removed from its sealed packaging.  

There is some really good news. I had so many four-shot groups touching or going through pretty much the same hole it was hard to put the gun down. Unfortunately, there’s always that one wayward shot. The rifle preferred American Eagle’s budget-conscious 55-grain, .223 Rem. jacketed hollowpoint load. Average group size would trim down to slightly higher than 6/10th of an inch if the editors allowed me a golfing “gimme” every five shots. This SLK8 is capable of much more than I wrung out of it that day, and I’m confident precision shooters who take one home will quickly scoff at my group averages.

The handguard did a great job shielding my hands, and despite not cleaning during testing, groups did not widen appreciably. I ran through a few CQB drills and this rifle is nimble as expected. And all I can say is, what recoil? Follow-up shots were fast and almost intuitive.

Summing it Up

There was a time in 3-Gun when long barrels were thought requisite to connect with long-distance steel. However, most matches don’t have access to ranges with 300- or 400-yard bays, and even when they do they’re rarely used. As a result, many shooters are gravitating toward shorter barrels—the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and a few others now routinely use SBRs.   

The same kind of logic lends itself to self-defense situations. Long barrels are hard to swing around corners—they’re slow, easy to spot and even grab. Nimble, light and reliable carbines are the answer. You’re not going to be engaging bad guys a football field away, but you may be stopping an armed robber at 10 yards, while moving, shooting and taking cover.

The Lewis Machine & Tool SLK8 is pricey, but it’s got the kind of heritage you can trust. It tested extremely well, and whether you find yourself knee deep in muck on a muddy stage, or caught up in the wet work of neutralizing a half dozen home-invading druggies, it’s a rifle upon which you can rely. And that’s the most important attribute of any self-defense gun. Buy an extra Pmag, though, just in case.   

Lewis Machine & Tool SLK8 Shooting Results

Load                                                    Average Five-Shot Group

American Eagle 50-grain JHP                             .95

Federal Match 69-grain Sierra MatchKing    1.13

Hornady 55-grain VMAX                   1.21

Lewis Machine & Tool SLK8 Specs

Manufacturer: Lewis Machine & Tool

Action Type: Direct-gas-impingement, semi-automatic

Caliber: 5.56 NATO

Capacity: 30 rounds

Barrel Length: 16 inches

Rifling: 5 grooves, 1:7.5-inch RH twist

Sights: None, Picatinny rail for mounting optics

Trigger Pull Weight: 7 pounds

Buttstock: Polymer SOPMOD, six-position adjustable

Length: 32 7/8 inches (collapsed), 36 1/4 inches (extended)

Weight: 7.75 pounds

Accessories: Sling, rail segments, rubberized grip panels, two push-button swivels, sling, owner’s manual, torque wrench and Torx head

MSRP: $2,405

How Long Will Polymer Handguns Last

Story and photo by Guy J. Sagi

On Feb. 28, 1935, DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers made a discovery that forever altered the composition of everyday items. His Nylon 66 fibers were busy brushing teeth nationwide by 1938, although he committed suicide in 1937 and never witnessed his contribution’s contribution to dental hygiene. His masterpiece gained even more sex appeal in 1940, when the less-expensive alternative replaced silk in women’s stockings, giving budget-strapped gals the ability to bait sailors with polymer-coated gams. There are those who claim synthetic-framed guns aren’t even shore-leave alluring, but there’s no denying the lineage.

Nylon 66’s ability to mix with different compounds—each imparting a different characteristic or color—saw the substance pressed into deadly serious duty during World War II as tire reinforcement, rope, flak vests, parachutes and more. Then mystery brews evolved, and the derivatives today serve as car heat shields, permanently lubricated nylon bolts and much more.

More than 30 years ago the material was introduced in firearm frames. There’s still a lot of misinformation about the materials and quirks of synthetic guns, so I asked a few experts to share their knowledge.

Two Basic Brews

It all can be boiled down to two basic brews. DuPont holds the patent for Nylon 66 (Zytel). Nylon 6 (trade name Perlon, Capron and others) was developed in 1938 by a different process to avoid intellectual property infringement, but it still exhibits many of the same characteristics. There are significant differences, however. The latter melts at 428 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to 509 degrees. Nylon 66 weathers exposure to damaging sunlight better than the easier pigmented Nylon 6, but the latter loses color faster. The molecular structures may be widely known, but the secrecy surrounding Coca Cola’s original formula pales in comparison to the security surrounding the firearm industry’s polymer additives.

Even when everything else is equal, there are other variables manufacturers tailor for unique looks and performance. Final gloss changes when molded at a different heat, for example. Add a 30-percent glass-fiber filling and strength increases by up to 200 percent. Unfortunately, the resulting material is extremely abrasive, potentially wearing out factory molds prematurely and galling gunmetal—unless you’ve found the kind of secret sauce that works, it’ easy to understand the need for secrecy.

Polymer Wear-In?

Heat from the firearm being shot is another facet manufacturers must consider. “Polymer frames are manufactured under tremendous heat and pressure during the injection-mold process, and subsequent after-the-fact applied heat will cause minor resting of the material,” according to Dave Borges, CEO and co-founder of Polymer80—a producer of polymer AR-15 uppers and lowers. “In terms of a pistol frame, the tip of the barrel is where specific heat is applied, although the barrel is not touching the frame. This heat is predictable and therefore the injection mold is designed to manufacture the frame with the ultimate relaxation of the material in mind…It does not impact performance or accuracy.” It takes 500 to 1,000 rounds for a handgun’s polymer to “relax.”

Despite the challenges, Remington first introduced shooters to synthetics back in 1959 with the unimaginatively named Nylon 66 Autoloader. The stocks were made of Zytel and the rifles digested .22 rimfire. The last Nylon 66 was produced in 1985, with a total of 987,949 made. Heckler & Koch’s 1970 introduction of the polymer-framed, blowback-operated VP70 chambered in 9 mm really started the revolution. The reception was lukewarm, though, and sales limped along until production ended in 1989.
Meanwhile, Gaston Glock pressed his engineering knowledge into service in 1982 to create the recoil-operated Glock 17. It won an Austrian military 9 mm handgun contract, other countries followed suit and in 1986 “plastic guns” invaded America.

Keeping the Secret

Our efforts to uncover the recipe proved fruitless. Chad Dyer, marketing manager for Springfield Armory said, “The XD/XDM frames are a ‘filled’ polymer, but it is a proprietary process and composition.” Borges even apologetically begged off a photo request with, “Unfortunately, we can’t do that. Our producer keeps everything top secret and it would be a breach of contract to take pictures. Sorry…”

There were, however, discoveries. Some surmise color is a lifespan concern, but Dyer explained, “None of the color options we offer negatively affect the strength of the frame.” Borges issued a more blanket statement with, “Colorants don’t impact the longevity or rigidity.”

How Long Will Polymer Handguns Last

We still don’t precisely know, but all the experts agree prolonged exposure to UV radiation (usually sunlight) will degrade the frame after many years. For an instant disaster, however, Borges cautioned, “Acetone is the single most potent chemical that will nearly destroy any polymer components. While gunsmiths use it for cleaning metal components, you shouldn’t even get a drop of it near polymers.”

It may not have the same sex appeal as the world’s first nylons, but modern shooters should find a different kind of appeal in Dyer’s proclamation that, “The polymer frame will last virtually forever, including the rear frame rails on the XD/XDM line, as they are self-lubricating and virtually wear free. I have never seen the rear frame rails wear to an unserviceable condition,” he said.

Custom Holster Trends

Photo by Guy J. Sagi

When Galco Gunleather opened its doors in 1969, it was known as The Famous Jackass Leather Company, long before the arrival of today’s custom holster trends. The name changed, but that mule-stubbornness remained and helped the company survive and thrive through 46 years that weren’t always gun friendly.

To say the Phoenix, AZ-based company is flourishing today is understatement. “We’ve expanded twice in the last few years,” Galco Media and Public Relations Manager Mike Barham said. “In 2012, we completed an expansion of our manufacturing facility here in Phoenix, essentially doubling the size of our production floor, as well as expanding areas available for R&D and other departments. In 2014, we completed construction of a 26,000-square-foot distribution center adjacent to our manufacturing facility.” The firm employs 200.

New Kids on the Block

CrossBreed Holsters was born 10 years ago out of frustration with existing offerings. “After collecting his proverbial ‘box of holsters,’ Mark  [Craighead] decided to create a design of his own, incorporating the best features of other holsters and discarding the non-functional elements,” according to his wife, Carol Craighead, who took over the reins of the company after her husband’s death. “In doing so, Mark had handcrafted a new breed of holsters.” The company now employs 35 and boasts a catalog that includes 25 holsters in 325 configurations.

Nate Johnson co-founded of N82 (pronounced Nate Squared) Tactical only six years ago, but demand for the company’s 150 SKUs is so brisk that its nine employees moved into a 12,500-square-foot building in June of 2014. Part of the secret in thriving the custom holster trends, according to him, is offering something different. “Unfortunately, what we have seen is that many of the new IWB holster manufacturers are making the same holster that was developed years ago,” he said. “That’s why our holsters have gained so much popularity. We develop a completely different design than had ever been offered.”

Comfort Holsters has only been around two years, but company President Chris Tedder said demand for the six models it offers has increased every month and, “We’ve seen a five-fold increase over last year’s orders.” To keep up, “We’ve hired new staff almost every month this year.”

You’d be sorely mistaken if the staggering statistics convince you the days of timeless, custom leatherwork from a single craftsman are relics of the past. They’re alive and well, as evidenced by six-year-old Dragon Leatherworks. Dennis Badurina owns the company, and he’s married to only other employee. “A true mom-and-pop” firm, he modestly states. “We are a niche player in the market.”

His products are the kind of striking art it’s a shame to conceal, produced from exotic leather that includes Cape buffalo, python, ostrich and crocodile. You won’t find anything from Dragon Leatherworks in a big-box store, although it’s being picked up by more and more “Guntry Clubs,” as he calls them, including the Scottsdale (Arizona) Gun Club. He’s experienced a 20-percent increase in demand for his carry holsters in the last year.

Latest Custom Holster Trends

With the number of people who now hold permits to carry concealed at a record level—roughly 11 million—the marketplace has changed dramatically since Galco Gunleather opened its doors. “IWB holsters now outsell belt holsters, and everything else for us,” Barham said. “The KingTuk IWB, no question….has been our best-selling holster for about the last five years or so.”  

Craighead confirms the trend. “Inside the waistband continues to be the most popular and is our largest selling product,” she said. “Our most popular holsters continue to be the SuperTuck and the MiniTuck….they are the company’s flagship brands.”

“With smaller guns more popular than ever, people want smaller holsters,” Tedder notes. “We try to make every holster with the smallest footprint possible—even our dual-clip model.”

Badurina has seen an increase in demand for models easily converted for both inside and outside the waistband carry, although his lineup bucks the overall trend. “We’ve had greater growth in outside the waistband [sales],” he said. It’s understandable you don’t want to hide that kind of craftsmanship, all the time, anyway.

As for making the right decision when it’s time to buy, shop around, try it on, and ask someone who uses the holster regularly. Johnson’s final word of advice is a good one, though. “The only suggestion that I would make would be for customers—whether new to concealed carry or not—to do business with U.S. manufacturers who make high-quality products, stand behind their products and have a good reputation in the industry.”

 

Modern Hearing Protection for Shooters

The Greek tale “Odyssey” may be the first recorded mention of hearing protection—although it has nothing to do with firearms. Siren’s songs from a mythical island along the ship’s planned route had already drawn other sailors to certain death, and, as the story goes, the best way for the crew to avoid a similar fate was to fashion earplugs from beeswax. 

Most of us could have used that advice when we were dating in college, although campus beehives are hard to find and painful to raid. The first earplug patent was granted in 1864, according to the Acoustical Society of America, and a version connected by a headband followed in 1884. Military research started before World War I and progressed through World War II, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that a company dabbling in compounds to seal joints discovered the effectiveness of one of its “memory” foams.

Today, jars of foamies grace firing range counters across the globe. That closed-cell construction that conforms to ear canals is extremely effective at dampening potentially damaging noise, and the same is true of the modern polymer take with a valve that opens to allow sound’s entry. However, they make things coffin quiet and can generate pressure inside the ear.

Early Earmuffs

Early experiments in over the ear muffs affixed by a band across the head produced mixed results. Limited in material options, the only reliable mechanism available to seal out potentially damaging sound was for the band to squeeze the ear cups so tightly that faces puckered. The introduction of jet engines hastened research by the military, and water in the padding provided one of the first solutions.

The face cramps ended with modern polymers and foam, and sometime in the early 1980s, companies realized they could stuff electronics into the earpieces that literally shut off when they detected a loud noise. It was cutting-edge analog technology as mysterious as the 8-track and newfangled cassette. Unfortunately, even accomplished contortionists found it impossible to get a solid cheek weld on a rifle, and they acted like tiny little EZ Bake Ovens during hot and humid range sessions.

Modern Hearing Protection for Shooters

Then Walker’s Game Ear came up with an unusual hybrid. A pliable plug goes into the ear to provide protection, but it connects to a piece behind the ear that handled sound processing. The game changer was an instant success and some assumed there was little room for improvement.

They were wrong. In 2000 SportEAR introduced, “…the first in the [ear] canal, full 100-percent digital line,” according to Weston Harris, president of SportEAR and ProSounds. “Digital will process sounds far more accurately at 1 million sounds per second, and beyond,” he explained.

The company’s current digital lineup is frighteningly advanced. “We can fine tune the sound reproduction to give them exactly what they need,” he said. “And it can be reprogrammed along the way the match their personal audiogram.”

There’s another big difference between analog and digital sound processing. Rick Carlson, Customer Service and Product Training Manager for Etymotic, explained, “Protection from steady-state noise is provided by the use of wide-range compression. What this means to the end user is that when a blast occurs, it is still heard, only at a lower level. There is no sense of going off the air.”

Dynamic, tactical training is where that advantage shines. “Spatial orientation is a big deal,” said Harris. “It’s the ability to remain connected to your environment.” Carlson adds, “While it’s important to make sure your ears are adequately protected, you also want to make sure you maintain awareness of your environment.”

What’s next? Harris’ laundry list includes downloadable apps that allow shooters to fine tune and program their hearing protection from their smartphone and even Bluetooth compatibility. We’re not sure someone answering their phone—or that former college flame being able to punch a call through—on the firing line is really such a good idea, but you have to admit streaming heavy metal tunes while you shred silhouettes does have a certain ring.

A lot has changed since this was written. Here’s what the experts told me about the current technology in 2021.

Tactical Lighting Evolution

The creation of today’s nail-tough, high-performance tactical lights can really trace its roots back to the invention of the light bulb, or the ability to harness and conduct electrical current, but for modern shooters the journey best begins back in 1927, when Oleg Losev—a soviet inventor—produced the first LED. The concept remained largely ignored for decades, though, with scientists viewing it as an interesting anomaly with no practical use. Some dabbled with the phenomena, although it wasn’t until the early ’60s that an infrared version received a U.S. patent. Red, visible light versions followed, although even by 1968 the purchase price for a single LED was several hundred dollars.

Kel-Lite First in Tactical Lighting Evolution

The same year, far away from those squeaky sterile research labs, Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Donald Keller grew so tired of cheap, stamped-metal flashlights prone to breakage, that he introduced the Kel-Lite. It used the then-traditional incandescent bulb prone to burning out and breaking (problem partly solved later with the addition of halogen gas), but with a body built from 6061-T6 aluminum, in models long enough to hold up to seven D-cell batteries and a wide metal bulb housing, it worked double duty as a baton. The weather- and shock-resistant housing quickly made it the choice of first responders.

Keller left the company in 1972 and continued his design work for Maglite and Brinkmann, among others. About the time of his departure, though, a fledgling firm named Streamlight was hard at work creating a 25 million candlepower “torch” at NASA’s request, one capable of simulating the intensity of the sun in outer space, where there is no atmosphere to diminish intensity. The technology developed in the project soon found its way into the company’s 1 million-candlepower handheld units designed for military and law enforcement professionals.

Then Came Maglite

Significant competition for the two tactical light giants was scarce, until Maglite launched in 1979. Its first offerings were C- and D-celled, aluminum-bodied flashlights designed for first responders, with a twist. Turning the light housing on select models broadened or narrowed its beam.

The same year, Dr. John Matthews, a Cal Tech Phd., filed several patents for laser-aiming devices for firearms, and formed the company Laser Products. More than likely, he never envisioned how the company’s original mission would lead it to become the industry’s leader in lighting. The firm’s name officially changed to the more familiar SureFire in 2001.

Streamlight and Kel-Lite merged in 1983, and Maglite rolled out its first small, personal-sized flashlight the next year. “Terminator” hit movie theaters in 1984, and audience reaction to the handgun-mounted laser on the silver screen (produced by Laser Products) forever cemented the marriage of futuristic, high-end electronics and firearms into popular culture. The same year, LAPD used the company’s lasers on shotguns for security during the Olympics. Riding a wave of positive publicity, the firm developed the first fully integrated weaponlight for a shotgun in 1986, rolled out the Model 310 for 1911s the same year and by 1988 was offering the same tough technology in handheld units, with a tailcap switch.

Then the White LED

Battery sources continued to evolve, as well as the bulbs and their construction, but in 1994, the first blue LED was invented. With the right coatings it could produce white light and in 2003 CREE developed a “high output” blue LED. The cost was down significantly, and the tiny little diodes don’t seem to care about recoil.

The race was on, but the frontrunners were soon accompanied by others in the market. Many have come and gone, but ExtremeBeam, which was founded in 2009 with handheld, LED-driven tactical lights, has a thriving product line today. “We offer a full line of long-range, weapon-mountable flashlights,” said Eric Doi, the company’s director of marketing. “Our line focuses on extreme durability, as all parts are machined from solid bar-stock aluminum and are backed by a limited-lifetime warranty that includes destruction.”

Are there any standards for tactical flashlights today? I asked an expert in the field and his answers were surprising.

Doi has some advice whether you’re considering his company’s product line or another’s, even years from now. “The most important factors buyers should look for are durability, reliability, battery life, brightness and if it is weapon mountable,” he said. “Many tactical lights on the market right now are not made to take the recoil of a firearm.”

Today the power sources, like the CR123, last longer than ever before. Bear in mind, though, improper disposal or using counterfeits can have disastrous consequences. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a story with aircraft incidents as cited by the FAA.

The tactical lighting evolution, no doubt, will continue. It’s natural selection at its finest when new materials are harnessed to ensure the survival of tactical lights in conditions in which they fail or underperform. We’re pretty certain that’s not what Charles Darwin had in mind, but the firearm enthusiast in him would certainly approve.

Gun Safe Moisture

Buffalo and its suburbs escaped with few power outages after the area received more than 5 feet of snow in November of 2014, but Mother Nature’s wrath usually ends differently. In February of 2013, 650,000 homes and  businesses lost power after a nor’easter, and millions of homes went dark—some for weeks—after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

Losing power to your gun safe’s heating unit for an extended period can drench the contents in rust-causing moisture, regardless of perceived airtightness. Aside from opening the door and microscopic leaks, most high-quality units have a small, removable plug at the back to run an electric heating unit (or wire a light bulb) in which humidity invades. The bulb or element creates a slightly higher temperature, which in turn increases the interior air’s ability to hold water molecules in suspension, and maintains mild gunmetal warmth to prevent condensation.

The approach is effective—until the power goes out. An understanding of the dynamic begins with dew point, the temperature at which water vapor begins to condense. Its value increases with relative humidity and once the temperature of the safe’s contents reach that point in their cooling, “dew” collects on their surfaces. But, metals are efficient thermal conductors, so when a receiver at the bottom of the safe cools faster than the muzzle end atop (heat rises), it drains that warmth from its entire length.

Desiccants to avoid gun safe moisture

A different (or better yet for safe owners, concurrent) method of management is to remove humidity from the air by employing a desiccant. The options available to gun owners today are convenient, inexpensive and I put several to the test.

The exam began with an industrial version called Drierite. According to gun-owning company spokesman Joseph Hammond, “Much of it is used for keeping large liquid storage tanks free of moisture…Bio-diesel and ethanol storage are a growing market for us.” It sounds dangerous, but it is manufactured from gypsum—a naturally occurring mineral.

One ounce of No. 4 mesh (a measure of the material’s pebble size) went into a small, airtight container for 72 hours. Relative humidity dropped consistently to 10 percent—a reduction of roughly 40 points—through five cycles of the test. Water vapor locks into the material, so there is no watery mess. It recharges by baking two hours at 450 degrees. Hammond uses 2 pounds of No. 6 mesh in his gun safe, but warns, “I would not recommend sealing up your ’03 Springfield with 10 pounds of Drierite. The metal would never rust, but I’d say the stock would shrink and probably split pretty quickly.”

The Liberty Safe Mini-Canister has 40-grams of silica gel that turns pink when the moisture needs to be baked out. Cobalt chloride locked in the pebbles does that work and the small unit comes in an oven-safe metal canister. Its results were also extremely consistent, although not industrial grade. It dropped relative humidity into the 20s, even after five recharges (300 degrees for 3 hours).

Eva-Dry makes indicating desiccant canisters that are wireless, but simply plug into a wall outlet for renewing (12 to 15 hours). In identical testing, it was every bit as effective as the Mini-Canister, although the results were more methodical. It took nearly two weeks for the humidity to drop to the same level. An indicator window turns pink when it’s time to recharge and cost. The company co-owner regularly tosses a disposable version in his carry gun’s case when traveling to avoid rust.

The final word in our tests comes from Internet-recommended silica gel kitty litter. Despite an airtight package, it was ineffective (saturated) at first. After baking, humidity dropped with 40 grams of the stinky stuff, but it never reached that of other desiccant levels and effectiveness diminished with each recharging. So if you really want to protect your guns, buy a quality product—unless you have an incontinent cat.

Gun Apps For That

Once upon a time, cell phones only made calls, when you were in a city, and had a signal. The smart phone has changed all that, providing fingertip access to microprocessors, sensors and now, more than ever, firearm enthusiasts in multiple disciplines are discovering there are gun apps for that.   

Here are a few I’ve uncovered.

AmmoSeek

Courtesy of AmmoSeek

Still have a headache from that prolonged cartridge shortage? There are gun apps for that, sort of. AmmoSeek is a search engine that helps find ammunition, magazines, guns and reloading supplies at the best prices online. You can even filter by caliber, grains, type, brands and save searches to make things faster the next time someone snatches the last box of 5.56 NATO from your fingertips. It’ll remedy the cranial cramp’s cause, but for if another shortage sets in a visit your nearest drug store may be in order. 

 Dry Practice Drill

If you believe practice makes perfect, here’s your gun app for that. Brush up on your stoppage-clearing skills and handgun presentation speed while being timed. Hit the drill button, wait a few seconds for the audible “ready” warning and begin when you hear the start tone. A bell signals when the drill is complete and a “repeat” function allows you to loop over the same drill and improve your time. 

NRA News

Courtesy of NRA

Need NRA News on your portable device, including archives from the past five days? There are gun apps for that, but this one is the official version and includes ILA alerts and the NRA Blog. It also includes an NRA Near Me function that plots events, clubs, classes and tournaments close to you. It even allows you to quickly access each division’s Facebook page—I suggest you lurk on the publications page, Shooting Illustrated specifically, to keep up with my latest work, hint, hint. 

Shotgun Scorecard

Courtesy of Shotgun Scorecard

If clay’s your game, there are gun apps for that. This one’s a digital scorecard for your addiction, and you can compare past rounds to determine which firearm/ammo combo is working best. Scorecards included are five-stand, trap and skeet.  

Strelok. Ballistic Calculator

Courtesy of Strelok

This ballistic calculator has been around since 2001 and it is one of the most popular for devices today. Nearly every variable can be entered, and a number of reticles are available including Nightforce, Leupold, Burris, Nikon and many more. It’s like having a spotter in your phone, only he won’t stiff you on the bar tab. 

Weaphones Gun Sim

Courtesy of Weaphones

This app’s perfect when your wait is unduly long in the doctor’s office or it’s time to annoy a coworker. It allows you to put an arsenal on your phone and comes in several different flavors, including guns of World War II. Work the action, shoot your shotguns, semi-automatic rifles, pistols and sub-machine guns to your heart’s content, without worry about policing up all the brass once the proctologist is ready to see you.  

Where to Shoot

Looking for a range? The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s app will search its comprehensive directory of shooting ranges in Canada and the United States, and instantly provide the locations of those nearby. If you want a look at a few of the “new breed” of ranges, you might take a look here, too. 

RIP, GunBroker App

Courtesy of GunBroker

Once upon a time, if you were in the market for a new gun, or needed to sell, GunBroker had a gun app for that. It offered access the world’s largest online auction of firearms and accessories using a free app optimized for your phone or tablet. You could search for items, place them on your watch list, bid, buy, and even find an FFL for lawful transfer. Sellers could even set up custom alerts and find out when an item sold. Well, it’s no longer available. We’ll let this page from GunBroker explain.

Caring for Ammo at the Range Can Improve Long-Distance Performance

Photo courtesy of DoD/US Marine Corps

Canadian marksman Robert Furlong told the History Channel he laid his ammunition in the sun before he neutralized a machinegun-carrying Afghan insurgent at 1.5 miles in 2005. He said it was “an old sniper’s trick,” one designed to increase the .50 BMG’s velocity slightly as it left his McMillan TAC-50.

The storyline rivals football’s Immaculate Reception, but most experts agree it’s not the best approach for civilian shooters. “A phrase I commonly utilize is ‘Accuracy is derived from mechanical repeatability,’” said Dan Hanus, former USMC Precision Weapons Section supervisor at Quantico, VA, and current Custom Rifle Production Manager for Bergara. “What this means is if you can make the rifle, ammunition, weather and shooter or shooting device do the exact same thing every time, then the strike of the round will be in the same place every time. A realist knows it is impossible to control all of these variables, but by shooting an accurate rifle, using match ammunition, getting in a solid position, and practicing in all temperatures, a shooter definitely increase his chances of hitting his target.”

“I have seen shifts of impact, particularly in precision rifles,” Greg Jordan, a member of Team ArmaLite, said of the solar-heating effect. “Each occurrence was different, as it depended on the ammo used. I would say that shifts of 1 MOA are not out of the question for some ammo combinations.”

It can also cause stoppages, according to Hornady’s Neal B. Emery. “One thing to note is the composition of the powder itself—specifically if it is a single- or double-base powder,” he said. “Single-base powders contain nitrocellulose, while double-base powders also have nitroglycerin. While the added nitroglycerin can increase energy, it is much more temperature sensitive. Loads that may function fine at 75 degrees may cause your bolt to stick when you travel to Africa and hunt Cape buffalo in 115-degree heat—not a good combination!”

I placed Hornady 55-grain V-Max .223 Rem. loads in the sun to determine how much heating was possible. A cartridge on a black tactical bag in the sun regularly reached nearly 70 degrees higher than ambient temperature—hotter than an identical cartridge left in an enclosed, sunlit vehicle tested simultaneously.

Most of today’s powders minimize temperature-induced pressure fluctuations, though. “It is difficult to generalize about the ballistic response of ammunition at hot and cold temperatures, as each application responds slightly differently,” according to ATK engineer Paul Furrier. “At Federal we are fortunate to have strong relationships with the best propellant manufacturers in the world, so we choose powders for our premium ammunition that moderate the response at extreme temperatures and deliver consistent performance on target. In most applications we are able to keep pressure changes well below 10 percent at hot (+125°F) and cold (-40°F). Velocity change will typically be less than that, since it is generally not a linear response to pressure at extremes.”

Hanus warned that results from heat are unpredictable. One study done by Picatinny Arsenal in the 1930s found as ammunition heat increased, so did velocity. However, a subsequent study he was involved with in 2003 showed different results—thought to be partially a product of improved gunpowder.

Experienced marksmen take steps to avert migrating points-of-impact. “I try to keep my ammo out if direct sunlight when possible,” Jordan said. “I usually keep match ammo in an ammo case inside of another larger case, all of which is kept out of the sun.” Furrier admits he and other shooters at ATK often take advantage of a cooler’s insulating properties, regardless of season. “It makes sense to keep your ammunition supply out of temperature extremes before firing.”

Now that the dog days of summer are behind us, how do you maintain constant cartridge temperature in the winter? “Something our snipers and match shooters used to do is put their ammunition in their breast pocket,” Hanus said. “…[N]o matter how hot or cold it was on the range or in the field, the ammunition was always the same temperature.”

And if you’re ready to buy a new long-distance connection, but haven’t decided on the rifle’s chambering, here is advice from some of the industry’s foremost experts. Once that’s decided, though, here’s more on how to connect with that long-distance target.

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