Thursday, May 9, 2019

Airforce Airguns - Is PCP Worth the Cost?

Airforce Airguns - Is PCP Worth the Cost?

A few years ago I wrote a few reviews on the Airforce Airguns and loved the features Airforce’s PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic) line delivered, but what about from a start-up cost and long term perspective? Initially most shooters new to the premium side of airguns may be a little sticker shocked at both the initial price of any of the premium PCP guns and also all the required initial support equipment. I can assure shooters, the cost, accuracy, and convenience is worth it if you are an avid backyard, hunter, and airgun shooter.

QUICK REFILLS - With the the more typical springer (spring or gas spring piston) airguns, the shooters cocks the gun, drops in a pellet, shoots, and repeat the process. On PCP airguns, the gun is either filled with a special high pressure hand pump (which is a workout) or a quick scuba tank refill (about 2 seconds of stress free reflection on life), generally a lot of shots can be taken between refills and the shooter can just keep feeding pellets and shooting before going back for a refil. Shooting a PCP airgun like the Airforce lineup becomes more like just continually feeding a single shot firearm and less like a trip to the gym with enough arm movements from cocking to signal most aircraft. In a hunting situation, PCP airgun follow up shots are far more stealthy, faster and generally wildly more accurate. 

MULTISHOT - What I have enjoyed most is that I can shoot for fifty or so full power shots between refills, walk over to my scuba tank ($15 for a refill at my local scuba shop), connect the line, and in a few seconds I am ready to reshoot at full power. If I really am not that particular on power levels and just plinking or junk bird/rodent shooting, I can continue to shoot for a few hundred shots before refilling. The convenience of the refill with the scuba tank is really amazingly. For the larger calibers such as .25 to .50 pellets, more frequent refills are required to deliver appropriate power levels.

POWER FLEXIBILITY - The other big benefit is the adjustability of the pressure levels via Airforce’s on airgun power wheel which goes from neighbor friendly backyard shooting noise levels on setting 0 to power levels that are typically far outside the abilities of springer guns at level 10+. The on-board air cylinder can be charged to maximum for a lot of power and high number of shots or lower power levels if quieter shooting is prefered. The on-board power setting can also further tune that pressure as well. The versatility in power is one of the benefits of Pre-Charged Pneumatic airguns and one of my favorite capabilities. The TalonSS with a 1000 PSI charge on lowest setting is a bit quieter than you average Daisy Red Ryder BB gun while still delivering a enough pop from a .22 caliber pellet to drop rodents and junk birds within the confines of most yards. With a full power 3000 PSI charge, both guns have more than enough power for consistent 50-yard accuracy and the TalonSS delivers upwards of 25 ft/lbs of muzzle energy and the TalonP can deliver a whopping 55+ ft/lbs. These models are not even Airforce’s big bore high power hunting models which can deliver upwards of 500-ft/lbs of energy

ACCURACY - Many will argue that there are a host of super accurate airguns on the market, but the Airforce guns equipped with Lothar Walther barrels are just phenomenally accurate beyond what anyone would imagine. Single hole 25-yard groups are common and aspirin sized groups at 50-yards are typical once you find the ammo that works well for your selected power level. My favorite pellets for the TalonSS are .22 Predator PolyMag 16.0 gr and for the TalonP JSB Match Domed Diabolo Exact King .25 Cal, 25.39 Gr pellets. Though I have been a pellet gun shooter for over 40-years, I have never had as much fun with the precision shots I am able to deliver with either of these guns. 

COST VS FUNCTIONALITY VS QUALITY - The Base Airforce TalonSS (Suppressed) models are priced just under $700 and the TalonP (Suppressed) just under $500. Add in optics, mounts, universal fill adapter for a scuba tank and a scuba tank and the first time shooter has invested over $1200 in the initial setup. Airforce also has kits available which include everything except the air tank for just under $1000.

The initial setup of any PCP rifle will be more than spring piston but the above advantages deliver something a spring piston gun cannot. With that noted, nearly every PCP airgun I have handled and shot has been at the high end of quality and workmanship and the Airforce models have lead the pack in the US on quality since introduction. My blue anodized TalonSS is one of my prized guns. The other point is that these are not “just airguns”, because to safely handle, meter, and deliver pressures up to 3000 PSI, they have to be extremely high precision. The customer service also has to be exceptional and with the small problems I have experienced, Airforce has delivered great support.

This cost tier may not be for every shooter, however the Airforce airguns has been on the marketing since 1994 and provend both their exceptional quality and high reliability for a lifetime of use with very little maintenance or replacement parts. There is a payback model if you are trying to justify this in your head and for your wallet, but you have to look at the cost of similar accuracy delivering .22LR Rimfire round like Lapua Center-X which can exceed 20-cents a round. That payback model is 20-cents per .22LR round X 20 shots per day X 200 days a year shooting = about a two year payback for displacing .22LR shooting. I personally look at the investment from a perspective that I am able to shoot in my backyard any time I want without disturbing neighbors which is delivering me more time shooting.


I will on occasion pull out my pump and spring airguns typically to just recheck zeros, however once you start to shoot PCP airguns, you never want to go back. The power range adjustability, insane accuracy, quality, convenience, quick shooting, and zero recoil have all made my TalonSS and TalonP my go to airguns.

I initially purchase both the TalonSS and Talon P in the kits that included optics and fill accessories. The Condor and many other Airforce models are more powerful, however both of these models features suppressors which does make them quieter. The TalonSS being incredible quiet. There are a few modifications I have made along the way. Generally I shoot on a very low #3 power setting on my TalonSS with frequent 1000 PSI charges. This delivers a shot which is more than enough to drop junk birds and rodents in the backyard that is about as loud as a quit cough and the sound of the click on the trigger. The Airforce optics included in the kits are really very good but huge. I upgraded to a bit more clarity to Nikon Prostaff, EFR Target Rimfire 3-9 variable scope. I lost the multi-color reticle, and some power that the Airforce optics delivered, but I drastically decreased the overall optic size while drastically improving clarity and increased field of view across the magnification range.

No way around it, TalonP is freaking loud even with the integrated suppressor. With that pop comes a ton of power (55+ ft/lbs) that will match and potentially beat a .25ACP handgun round. I typically just leave this at power level #10 with a 2500 PSI charge with a 25-yard zero for larger nuisance rodents we have in our area. A single snap of the TalonP’s report is loud but not enough to get lights to start turning on in the neighborhood and is more than accurate and powerful to get the job done on the first shot. I added an option TalonP tank stock to give me a bit more comfort behind the scope. I found the original optic mounts a little high for the size of the TalonP and remounted the Airforce Optic with Nikon Medium Rimfire rings. A lower power optic was considered, however due to the precision accuracy, the original 3-9 power Airforce optic was retained.

On both guns I added a home-made 10-round adhesive back foam pellet holder on the left side of the gun. If there was one thing I would love to have is an auto feeder for the Airforce guns. This simple foam add on at least puts 10-rounds right at my fingertips for fast follow up shots and is an effective and secure pellet holder that I crafted from spare ½-inch foam.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Affordable Precision Riton RT-S MOD 7 5-25X56IR & Savage 110 Tactical 6.5 Creedmore Review

Affordable Precision Riton RT-S MOD 7 5-25X56IR & Savage 110 Tactical 6.5 Creedmore Review

Having owned several $3000-$5000 precision rifles, the quest for accuracy can be expensive. The goal of this build was a rig with fine precise accuracy with a price tag most shooters could afford. At full MSRP this complete ready to shoot setup is under $1800 including gun, optic, rings, and magazine and easily delivers sub-.5-inch 100-yard groups all day long. 

A very long time ago, I had an amazing long range shooter tell me that the secret to great long range shooting on a budget was to spend all your money on the optic, because if you could not see the target, your certainly would not hit it. He went on to note that what seperates good optics from great optics is the clarity at 500-1000 yards where lesser optics drastically fall off delivering detail at that distance. This is a perfect case in point where a great affordable very accurate Savage rifle is paired with a high tier Riton optic in an affordable solution that allows a reasonably prices option to jump into precision shooting. Savage does not offer this as a combo, but everything can be easily dropped in the cart at Cheaper Than Dirt.

Riton was founded in 2013 by Law Enforcement and Military Veteran, Brady Speth, and his wife, Carrie Speth with the simple goal of delivering quality and affordability to the optics industry with customer service as the biggest focus.

According to Brady Speth CEO Riton - “There are certainly great optics companies making great optics, but our frustration was that the optics industry as a whole really was not delivering the value, quality, and service without a big hefty price tag attached. The optics technology is already out there and is just getting better and better every year as we can see even in the quality even camera phones are able to produce, but prices are really not dropping in hunting sporting and military optics and we started to ask why.”

When you consider that nearly every optics company in the world from budget to premier optics all source from the same small number of manufacturers in Japan and China such as Nikkor for glass and assembly. The term “quality” has been extremely subjective and really comes down to quality control processes commitments of the company, marketing, and the profit the company is willing to make. “We just felt the higher-tier optics prices were really over inflated and saw an opportunity to deliver a premium tier optic at a mid-tier price point” noted Speth.

Riton optics designs the optics in Tucson AZ and leverage overseas manufacturing relationships where they can assure complete quality control. All Riton optics are Dry Nitrogen Purged and Sealed, feature premium Riton HD Glass, Riton (Multi-coated) Performance Coating, and rugged 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum, CNC machined one piece tubes, Type III Hard Coat Anodized construction and quality control tested by Riton’s certified technician in Tucson, AZ. 

Handling the $1100 MSRP Riton RT-S MOD 7 5-25X56IR reviewed here, the 34mm tubed optic has the feel and durable heft of optics in the $1300-$1800 tier. This did not feel like just another $500 or $800 optic attempting to imitate the look of a $1500 optic without the specs to back it up. The optic is amazingly clear throughout the entire magnification range without any visible edge distortion, turret adjustments are consistent and defined and lockable with reference indicators, and the MRAD version delivered shots consistently after calibrating my ballistic calculator to this rifle and optic. The optics passed a simple box test and precisely returned to zero. For a sub $1000 optic the glass is phenomenally clear with a rugged durable construction what will certainly last a lifetime. The illumination is tuned for low light use and was appropriately dimmable at night and still visible if needed during daylight.

The intent of this build was to allow the $769 MSRP Savage 110 Tactical 6.5 Creedmore to achieve its precision potential which is well documented as a sub-MOA capable rifle with many shooters achieving sub-.3-inch 100-yard groups. The Savage 110 format is well known to be incredibly accurate and the 6.5 Creedmore adds to the precision with what many describe as an accuracy “cheater” round. The Creedmore rounds were designed to optimal accuracy and they certainly have proven themselves from nearly every gun chambering them. The Savage 110 in 6.5 CM delivered impressive sub-.5-inch groups for me 100-yard groups only a dozen rounds out of the box, however it was the the ability for me to easily hold 5-inch 500-yard groups which was due to the brilliantly clear Riton RT-S Mod 7 5-25x56IR. 

The optic was mounted simply with an available set of 34mm Tactical 6-screen Weaver rings which I believe were the weakest link and could be improved upon with a set of high quality precision Seekins or APA rings. My experience is that investment in precision matched rings will mechanically deliver a jump in accuracy and prevent failures in the field. I do also feel the Savage really could use a picatinny rail for a more substantial bipod attachment, however it certainly performed well without that feature for me.

The Savage and Riton both performed amazing for such an affordable precision rifle rig. Notably the Savage 110 is very well appointed considering its price. Savage’s “Accu” Stock, Trigger, and Fit systems all work very well. Savage also includes some nice out of the box features on this 110 Tactical like 10-round AICS Magpul compatible magazine well, tactical bolt knob, 20-MOA EGW rail, and is threaded for suppressor attachment. I easily attached my APD Suppressor which has shown to be one of my more accuracy improving .308 suppressors while delivering a more pleasant shooting experience. This Riton Savage setup an excellent combo for the shooter that want premium tier precision without sacrificing a house payment to do it.

Dry Argon Purged and Sealed
Utilizing Argon gas, the optic is purged and sealed to ensure superior performance in all weather conditions for the life of the optic.

Precision Quality Assurance
Every Riton product goes through a rigorous quality control process by a certified technician in Tucson, AZ. Each product you receive has undergone a thorough dual inspection process, being tested and inspected twice prior to making it to you.

Riton Advanced Turret System
The Riton Advanced Turret System incorporates push/pull locking turrets, as well as windage and elevation reference indicators for repeatable tracking and accuracy.

Riton HD/ED Glass
The Riton High Density (HD)/Extra Dispersion (ED) glass delivers 99.5% light transmission with extra low dispersion for an enhanced color spectrum. This high quality HD/ED glass provides optimal clarity and an improved sight picture.

Riton Performance Coating
Incorporating proprietary fully multi-coated lenses, all Riton optics feature low light enhancement, full wide band, anti-scratch and anti-reflective coatings for increased light transmission and overall lens performance.

Riton Rugged Construction
The Riton Rugged Construction incorporates the application of 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum, CNC machined one piece tubes, and Type III Hard Coat Anodize.

Unlimited Lifetime Warranty
Gone are the days of two or three month optics repairs and harsh warranty requirements that are typical in the optics industry. Riton notes they have the industry’s best warranty on all of our products with an Unlimited Lifetime Warranty requiring no proof of purchase or registration. If you have an issue with a Riton optic, you send it back to Riton with an Warranty Claim Form and they replace it for you with a brand new product. You will not receive any repair or refurbished products from Riton and they are committed to sending out replacement product within 48 business hours.

Advanced Turret System with Push-Pull Locking/Zero Reset Turrets
Aircraft Grade Aluminum
100% Waterproof
Fog proof
Shockproof (tested up to 1200 G’s)
1/4 MOA or 1/10 MRAD Quick Windage and Elevation Adjustment
Fast-Focus Eyepiece
Assembled in EP-Level Clean Room
Magnification: 5-25
Parallax Adjustment: Side, 10-infinity yards
Tube Diameter: 34mm
Objective Lens Diameter: 56mm
Focal Lens Position: First Focal Plane
Lens Coating: Fully Multi-Coated, Full Wide Band, Waterproof Coated, Low Light Enhancement
Reticle: Riton Illuminated Mil-Dot Reticle
Field of View at 100 yds: 22.5ft @ 5x – 4.5ft @ 25x
Material: 6061-T6 Aircraft Grade Aluminum
Weight: 37oz/1049g
Length: 15.5in/393mm
Eye Relief: 3.9in/100mm
Exit Pupil: 12mm @ 5x - 2.3mm @ 25m
Click Value at 100 yds/mm: 1/4in/6.3mm – 0.1 MRAD
Adjustment Range: 73 MOA or 20 MRAD
Mounting Length: 6.7in/170mm
MSRP: $1099

SPECS - 110 Tactical Desert - 6.5mm and 6mm Creedmore
AccuFit system lets shooters quickly adjust comb height and length-of-pull
User-adjustable AccuTrigger
AccuStock rail system secures the action three-dimensionally along its entire length
Detachable 10-round Magpul AICS magazine
Threaded heavy barrel with end cap
20 MOA EGW rail
Synthetic stock
Soft grip fore-end and pistol grip surfaces
Model 110 design and ergonomics
Tactical oversized bolt handle
MSRP $769.00
Action Bolt
Barrel Color Black
Barrel Finish Matte
Barrel Length 24"
Barrel Type BA
Bolt Release Type Side
Caliber 6.5 CREEDMOOR
Magazine Capacity 10 Rounds
Hand Right
Length of Pull In 12.75"-13.75"
Magazine Detachable Box Magazine
Overall Length 45.5"-46.5"
Rate of Twist 8
Receiver Color Black
Receiver Finish Matte
Receiver Material Carbon Steel
Type Centerfire
Stock Color Flat Dark Earth
Stock Finish Matte
Stock Material Synthetic
Stock Type Law Enforcement Beavertail
Threaded Barrel Yes
Weight Lb 8.87

Sunday, April 28, 2019

BMW R80RT Badlands Cafe Racer Project Part 2

BMW R80RT Badlands Cafe Racer Project Part 2

In Part 1 of the MajorPandemic BMW R80RT Badlands Cafe Racer Project the background of the project was covered on why I choose the BMW R80 Airhead. Take a look at the previous Part 1 article here. In this article I will cover the interim status of the project, cost and the specific upgrades.

The Before Picture
The overall strategy for converting any groovy older bike to a sleek badass cafe racer is to strip off the bodywork, remove all the unneeded parts, swap out old giant subframe for a short cafe racer subframe and seat, add on clip-ons, billet rearset, update the electrics, and finish it all off with some pretty high-tier billet goodies. Add in inspection of all the seals, a new set of tires, swap out all the fluids and filters, some fresh powder-coat and paint, and some shock upgrades. 

Weight Reduction - As each discarded part was weight after pulling from the bike including all wiring and large parts including battery. The net result of this conversion was a 150-lb weight reduction over the original 517-lb weight. With the new Vonzeti subframe and seat and other net new components 32-lbs were added back, however it still remains just under 400-lbs. Honestly the bike feels feathery compared to its original mass and is significantly quicker. Although it only has 50HP and 43 ft/lbs of torque it feels quick after all the weight reduction.

Tires - Knobby Continental TKC 80s - $200 set. I love the look and also love the concept that the TKC 80 tire has no limits and still handles great on the road. The tire has proven itself globally as an all terrain on and off road tire even at 80+ MPH highway speeds and was perfect for my Major Pandemic Badlands Cafe Racer concept. They look awesome but was so difficult to install that I had to take them to garage to get them on. 

Tubes - Michelin Ultra Heavy Duty MX Tubes - $70 set. The 1983 R80 was not designed for a tubeless setup and I replaced these as they did look like they were pretty aged. Here I went wrong according to me local shop and should have just purchased standard tubes. They noted that I really get nothing other then some potential balancing issues problems. Unfortunately these things will probably last another twenty years.

Clymer Manual - $40 Clymer Manual was expensive, but the most important tool you can purchase when working on any bike. For the most part, these older carbureted bikes are both simple and frustrating at times with most issues caused by either rushing or overthinking the issue.

Motogadget m-Unit Blue (Bluetooth Enabled) $379 - As builder, if you are going to this level of care with a build then a complete Motogadget m-unit electrical system upgrade is smart to improve reliability & looks while increasing features to a very modern level in the process. It does requires a full rewire of the bike, but the wiring is world more simple than anything OEM. Really unless you are some type of self inflicting sadist, one of the m-Unit models are the way to go and the m-Unit Blue is so features rich I have no idea why they even sell any other models. The features are just too vast to list here to list. See my other article here on wiring a Motogadget m-Unit.

Motogadget M-Blaze Disk Bar End LED Indicators - At $223 for a set, these are extraordinarily expensive, but I will say are worth every penny. They are just freaking cool and disappear visually into the handlebar ends. I would totally buy these again.

Motogadget Multi Conductor Cable $18 & m-Unit Cable Kit $78 - Hands down this was some of the best money spent on the wiring. All this Motogadget wire coincidently matches up perfectly to all the listed Motogadget color code wiring diagrams. I would not wire again without these particular kits. The Multi Conductor Cable is a tiny little 3/16-inch bundle of nine tiny wires that the can be used to run the input controls on the m-Unit… and hide all the wiring with ease.

Revival Cycles LED Supernova Brake and Turn Signals - $30

Bikemaster 7” Headlight and Bucket - $80. Technically, I only needed the headlight bucket, but for the price it was the same price including the light as the other similar headlight bucket shell. I sold the headlight for $20 on ebay.

EMGO Universal Polished Aluminum Side Mount Headlight Mount Brackets - $36 - These supposedly do not fit 36mm stanchion tubes, however by mix and matching the included shims a workable tight fit is achieved. They are not super great quality, but they look great and do the job.

HogWorkz LED 7" Halomaker Headlight For Harley 1994-2019 - $270 This is crazy bright and the halo LED light delivers an amazing look like few other lights. 

Antigravity Small Case 8-Cell 240CA Lithium Ion Battery - $180 To further clean up looks, most builders opt for a tiny Antigravity lithium battery pack. These tiny battery replacements are about 1/10th the weight of OEM batteries and less than ¼ the size all while being easy to tuck out of sight. Upgrading to lithium batteries also has a cascading requirement to upgrade the rectifier so the new Lithium battery does not get overcharged. These old bikes are money pits, so be prepared.

Drag Specialties Battery Clear Cable - $33 - I wanted a clear 12V- main ground wire so it would disappear a bit visually. It did the job and looks good.

Custom 48” 12V+ Power Cable - This had not been received yet for this article. Expected price $40.

Waterproof Bussmann CB285-40 Surface-Mount 40-Amp Circuit Breaker - $28 The Circuit Breaker was added inline instead of a main fuse. For the record, I freaking love this circuit breaker especially through the wiring process. Instead of the numerous times of unscrewing or disconnecting the battery, I can just punch the breaker button and I am electrically safe to play around with wiring. When I am done, I just flip the breaker back on and I am ready to roll, plus on the road a blow fuse will never happen. I made a custom aluminum mount for it to sit in an accessible under the tank.

Antigravity Micro-Start XP-1 / XP-3 Battery Harness Kit - $19. I already own an Antigravity XP-1 Microstart, so it makes sense to add in the hardwired kit in case I do need a jump. I carry the XP-1 on every trip to keep my cell phone charged, however you never know when you might need a jump. 

Vonzeti Seat & Subframe - $453 After a month of agonizing over a myriad of upgrades, styles, and looks, the start of any cafe project is getting the seat and rear subframe right. I decided on a Vonzeti cafe racer T92 subframe, T67 seat, and seat base to deliver the cafe racer look. Vonzeti products are very highly regarded, all handmade with options for various seat fabrics, cowl colors, and are also available in completely custom subframe designs. I choose the T92 subframe and T67 seat but upgraded to a synthetic microsuede with a custom square sewn seat pattern. Vonzeti also sells a matching flat metal seat base which allows an otherwise rounded hollow seat cowl house ugly electronics out of eyesight under the seat and allowed the Antigravity battery, some wiring and the license plate lights to be hidden away. Vonzeti is based in England and will ship anywhere to most countries around the world. About two months after ordering, I had my custom made order in hand and it is gorgeous.

Horn - The dual OEM horns were tossed in favor of a single Denali Soundbomb Mini Horn $30 which is OMG freaking loud and still hides under the tank.

Revival Cycles Universal Under Tank Ignition 2-Position High Security Switch - $30 - Lets face it, thieves have gotten more bold and a lot smarter since the low security keys were made in 1983 for this original bike. This Revival Cycles 2-position High Security 7-pin round key ignition switch is not something thieves will be able to pick with a hair pin. I mounted this inside the engine casing, so you need to partially disassemble the bike to even get to it. 

Motogadget m-Grips - $35 - There are a lot of grips on the market, but I really like the clean premium look and grid pattern on these soft rubber grips. Motogadget does offer aluminum versions of these exact grips as well, however I knew whatever grip selected had to fit over the Demon Heat grip heaters I selected and still transmit some heat. Really happy with the quality and how these look. 

Motogadget m-Rear Bar End Mirror - $260 Set. Again the Motogadget accessories are not cheap, however they are amazing premium quality. These mount around the outside end of the handlebars and a perfect complement to the m-Grips, and m-Blaze LED indicators. They did take a bit of adjustment, however once set, they are everything I could possibly need for a peek behind.

Symtec Heat Demon Heated Grips - $54 - These were hard wired from the AUX2 output of the m-Unit Blue with a custom mount hidden just under the left side of the tank. Even if I forget and leave them on, the m-Unit turns of all the Aux 2 power after the ignition powers off. The High/Low/Off switch is easy to work with my left gloved hand and initiates an amazing night hot grips for cooler weather riding - even cool summer evenings they are really nice. I could ride on a wooden seat before I would give these up. 

Revival Cycles Rick’s Combo Regulator Rectifier - $129. The best electrical charging upgrade a vintage bike builder can do. This solved basically all my charging issues and still gives me enough power to run my heated grips. 

Oshmo for Motogadget /5 /6 /7 BMW Billet Triple Clamp - $299. 
Oshmo is not the fastest, but he almost always picks up the phone and delivers jewelry quality parts. Due to variety of specs, these parts are milled and finished in small batches … kinda like bourbon. This is an aluminum upper (top) triple clamp machined from 6061 Aluminum Billet has an inboard clamping feature that captures and clamps the stanchion tubes. The outer round contour follows the BMW factory profile for Airhead vintage look while the rugged design and clamping feature makes for a super rigid steering reinforcement component. 

Oshmo Rear Set Foot Controls - $369 - These are again amazing quality and look stunning. The only issue I had was that on the later BMW R series there is a brass bushing which is sweated into a mount on the frame. The Oshmo mount, unknowingly requires drilling out and removal of this brass bushing for installation. The rear brake switch also requires some relocation as well. 

Motogadget MST Tiny Speedster Speedometer - $277. Like all other Motogadget accessories this is a thing of beauty. Despite the tiny sub-2-inch size, the MST features high beam, oil pressure, neutral, and indicator lights, precision stepper motor speedometer, digital speedometer, mileage, trip, time and many other features. The only thing it lacks is a tachometer.

Bob’s BMW Repro Valve Covers - $120 - Not installed yet, but I have them ready for install. I wanted that older style peanut valve cover and for $120, it is hard not to opt for these newly precision manufacturers versions instead of used vintage parts for the same price. My plan is to mirror polish these.

Bob’s BMW - Exhaust Nuts - $60 - The old versions were in pretty good shape but had taken a few rock hits and I wanted these parts to look as new as possible. 

Monza Billet Fuel Cap - $184 - No vintage cafe racer project is complete without a vintage looking Monza style billet fuel cap. 

Exhaust - The net of the exhaust upgrades was a huge weight savings and an aggressive throaty sound with a look that screams MajorPandemic Badlands Cafe Racer. The Exhaust wraps are a project yet to come in Part 3.

19.5" "Mini" Norton Commando Style Muffler - $160
8" Stainless Steel Tie Wraps - $32
DEi Black Titanium Fiberglass Exhaust/Header Wrap - $79.95

Apex Cycles Master Cylinder Billet Brake Reservoir Cover - $20 - Probably the least expensive upgrade on the bike, but it really brings a bit of silver to the hand controls. The $2 master cylinder o-ring was also replaced at the same time. 

Misc Parts & Tools - $300 is probably a generous amount for all the zip-ties, wire split loom, degreaser, heat shrink, Chinese LEDs for license plate illumination, connectors, crimpers, and misc bolts and nuts purchased for the project.

Paint/Wrap & Finishing Touches - The next steps after all the components were fitted and needed mounting tabs were added, removing any extra OEM factory tabs were ground off to clean up the frame, the frame will get powder coated… but not for a while. In the case of this old BMW’s which has a few areas which have been brush painted over the years, powder coat will be a substantial upgrade to the finish. In an effort to keep my marriage intact, I elected to removed the seat and tank, wrap the engine with plastic wrap, did a light sand, and I touched up the frame with a quality semi-gloss black spray can finish. Not ideal, but it cleaned up the look of the frame enough that I did not swear every time I walked up to it. Eventually the bike will get a powdercoat, but for now… I ride. For the fender, seat cowl and tank, I also elected to shortcut the finish with a wrap. I saw a demo at the SEMA trade show on vinyl wraps and I have been wanted to try this ever since. Yes, apparently vinyl wrap deliver an amazing look even for the DIY’er. I used the VViVID Electric Blue Carbon wrap, 3M Silver and Black and after a dozen hours of Youtube how-to videos, I managed to work through this DIY wrap install with the help of a buddy. Although the pictures do not show it, I have added on new BMW badges on the tank.

Final Total for Upgrades - Just under $4500
Cost of the Bike - $1900
Stripped parts sold on eBay - ($600)
Net total on project $5800

Still To Do in Part 3
Polish all the appropriate billet pieces
Deep engine detail clean
Replace all the brake pads
Replace brake lines with some new awesome looking braided line
Brake line flush
Spark plug wire replacement and potentially coil replacement
Finish a few of the wire loom run.

Still To Do in Part 4
Bare Frame strip and powder coat
Full bearing replacement on frame and rims

Monday, March 11, 2019

Reigning Survival Knife Champ Fallkniven F1, F1 Pro COS Steel Review

Reigning Survival Knife Champ Fallkniven F1, F1 Pro COS Steel Review

I have espoused the amazing virtues of the Fallkniven line enough over the years… really, enough already you should buy the best survival knife in the industry. Specifically, I would recommend the legendary F1 model. It is after all, probably the single most specifically recommended survival knife ever and for good reason. The knife was designed over eight years of harsh research and development in Sweden’s subarctic all to assure Fallkniven designed the best survival knives possible for the military. 

The handles are Kraton and the sheaths are made from Thermorun, both materials which were the only materials other than leather to survive the extreme cold without cracking for failing. Though not the prettiest sheath in the world, it was specifically designed to remain functional and allow removal of the knife even when frozen with ice. The spine is specifically a sharp 90-degrees to assure a shower of sparks flies from your firesteel. The blade grind and steels were specially selected, tested and tweaked and eventually laminated for extra toughness. The result is a knife designed from every perspective to be the best survival knife in the world… and it is.

Fallkniven decided not to just sit on their heels and let the cash flow into their accounts, but continued to push the envelope and several of those pushes were based on feedback from customers. The F1-CoS and F1Pro-Cos are both examples of a company listening to customer feedback. The F1 models are available in laminated steel construction in your choice of VG-10, CoS and the 3G super steel. People everywhere love the $140’ish VG-10 models, but yearning for some of the more premium steels, Fallkniven offered a very premium 3G $240 version that literally out-cut any production knife I have ever tested. Customers loved the 3G version but wanted something a bit less expensive and considerably easier to sharpen, thus the CoS steel F1 version which is admittedly a giant leap of performance over the already extremely good VG-10 F1 version. Customers also wanted a thicker more ruggedized version that added some heft to the knife and the Fallkniven F1Pro version was introduced as well.

The F1-3G steel will still out cut
the COS version 

Any of the F1s will change how you view a survival knife forever. I am a rabid Fallkniven fan and I am not the only one - Google it and you will find most outdoor folks are enamored to some degree with Fallkniven and the F1. Even the wildly entertaining uber picky Dutch DBK Youtube dudes are in love with these knives for good reason. The F1 is everything you need without the bulk at 3.8oz, a 3.8” blade and slim handle it was developed to be the ultimate lightweight knife option for survivalist. The size, shape, handle, sheath, steel, and edge grind are all optimized for survival and bushcraft. For a street price of under $150 of the VG10 F1 model, everyone serious about outdoor survival should own a F1 survival knife. 

Fallkniven made the F1 better with the introduction of a F1 model featuring 3G supersteel for a street price around $260, but that price was a bit out of reach for most people. After the resounding success of their F1 Pro and S1 Pro knives with laminated COS steel they now offer the F1 in $200 laminated COS. 3G is technically a super steel and higher tech and potentially sharper, however COS is proving itself to one of the best overall compromise premium steels on the market for a survival knife, and easier to sharpen, while being a bit more abuse tolerant than the 3G steel.

One of the things I really like about Fallkniven is that they take a really awesome design and enhance it by swapping out the steel or introduce limited edition versions to try out a new steel. This was exactly the strategy they did with the 3G super steel and later the COS premium steel. 

Even with a well refined and tested F1 design, steel is a huge factor in the performance of the knife. Though I am focused on reviewing the COS steel, I do not want anyone to get the idea that older Fallkniven F1 VG-10 is not awesome and it is now somehow inferior. The VG-10 steel is a spectacular steel used in many of the most expensive premium kitchen cutlery knives. It has proven itself corrosive resistant, very tough, and takes a razor sharp edge pretty easily with medium effort.

If you are knife novice and are not well versed in using whetstones then COS and definitely 3G are not steels that would be recommended until sharpening skills are more advanced. Chances are you are going to get really frustrated attempting to sharpen a much less forgiving premium or super steel back to the factory hair shaving sharpness. Sharpening these super hard steels is a task that typically requires diamond or ceramic whetstones, polishing strop and dry stropping to get the most out of the edge. Yes, you can just use the Fallkniven combo diamond and ceramic sharpeners, however the sharpness potential COS and 3G steel knives can achieve is well beyond the abilities of that simple but effective $30 sharpener.

Steel                         Laminant Steel         Rockwell HRC     Sharpening
3G**                          VG2–SGPS–VG2            62                      Hard
Laminated CoS**      420J2–CoS–420J2 
         60                      Medium
Laminated VG10**    420J2–VG10–420J2        59                      Medium
BG-42                        N/A                                   61-62                 Hard
ATS-34                       N/A                                  60-61                   Med-Hard
CPM S30V                 N/A                                  58-60                   Med-Hard
Cold Steel Carbon V  N/A                                  59                        Easy
AUS 8                        N/A                                  57-58                   Easy
AUS 6A                      N/A                                  55-57                   Easy
1095 - Esee                N/A                                 55-57                   Easy
** Fallkniven

When we look at the Rockwell hardness in the table shown, there does not seem like a huge hardness difference, between the three steels, but the how they each hold and edge is exponentially different. If we un-scientifically generalize and say that VG-10 can cut twice as long as a good hard 1095 knife, then COS can cut about four times longer than 1095 and 3G about six times longer. The key is not necessarily just the hardness, it is the elemental composition of each steel including carbon content. Different elements provide different qualities which is another article completely.

In the end, special steel equals special sharpening attention, skill, and time to get the most from that super awesome steel. The more abuse you want to push on the knife, generally the softer and less expensive the steel you want. There are reasons they makes axes and chisels out of forgiving high carbon steel - it is easy to get back in shape after abuse and relatively cheap. Everything with knife steel is a compromise - awesome edge holding steel comes at the cost of harder to sharpen and… a higher price.
The PLX COS folder, F1 COS, F1 Pro COS, S1 Pro COS
Note the beefier Pro model sheaths 

The well loved Fallkniven F1-VG10 is one of those happy compromise steels that sits in the middle between the super steels like 3G and standard 1095 carbon steel - it sharpens with medium effort and skill, takes a beating, holds an edge a very long time, and edge touch ups are fairly easy with most ceramic sharpeners. COS is a lot like that from a sharpening perspective, but it can get a lot sharper and stay that way much longer. 3G is just harder to sharpen altogether, but holds an edge longer. The high cobalt and carbon based CoS steel really is pretty amazing stuff and especially in the F1 profile. If you are an experienced knife person and know how to sharpen then the COS is well worth the upgrade charge.

Really there is not a lot to review here on the F1 with COS because it is identical to the F1-VG10 and the F1-3G model. The COS F1 model just carries forward all that awesomeness in a steel which is more forgiving than the 3G when it comes to sharpening but with an edge that holds up longer than the VG-10 model. 
F1 Left vs F1 Pro Right 

Let’s say we were on a one year world tour and needed a survival knife, I would go for the COS steel with a DS4 diamond/ceramic stone and an improvised strope since the 3G can be a bit finicky to get sharp to a COS beating level with those minimal sharpening tools. On a one week trip, I would grab the Fallkniven F1 3G model since it is unlikely the blade will need any sharpening at all during that length of trip. If you are on a budget the VG10 model will work just fine, but will require more tough ups.

The F1 Pro model is basically everything the F1 ever has been giving up nothing, but with more stout construction. Fallkniven beefed up the thickness by about 12% and the overall weight by just over 20%. The cutting edge profile is still very similar to the F1, but the F1 Pro has a taller overall blade. The F1 Pro also adds a stainless finger guard which reportedly is now welded to the tang. Another addition is a larger thicker version of the standard sheath. I really do not thing any more robust is needed, however in theory the F1 Pro is thicker and tough so I guess the sheath should be also.
The interesting thing is that the F1 Pro can be had just a bit less than the F1 3G model which just makes me happy. If you don’t mind the extra weight, my money would go for the F1 Pro over the F1 3G steel 90% of the time. That extra weight does help with snap cuts on saplings and also splitting wood battoning and also screams, the heft seems to scream “I never break this in a million years.” From a cutting perspective, the thicker f! Pro seems to give up nothing because apparently Fallkniven is infusing Swedish magic in the knife. It is fairly mind blowing that this thick of a knife can cut as well as it does.

I am not paid by Fallkniven nor a stockholder, but I sincerely believe that if you are taking any other knife into the wild, you are just playing with toys or sentimentally just not taking advantage of modern metallurgy and knife design technology. If you need a survival knife, a hunting knife, an outdoor trail knife, a camp knife, a fire making knife, and a bushcraft knife that you can stake your life on… the F1 still reigns supreme.

Fallkniven F1z/3G
Total length: 210 mm (8.3")
Blade length: 97 mm (3.8")
Blade thickness: 4.5 mm (0.18"), tapered
Tang: Broad, protruding
Weight (knife): 150 g (6oz)
Steel: 3G
Blade hardness: 62 HRC
Handle: Thermorun
Sheath: Zytel sheath

Fallkniven F1z/CoS
Total length: 210 mm (8.3")
Blade length: 97 mm (3.8")
Blade thickness: 4.5 mm (0.18"), tapered
Tang: Broad, protruding
Weight (knife): 150 g (6oz)
Steel: COS
Blade hardness: 60 HRC
Handle: Thermorun
Sheath: Zytel sheath

Fallkniven F1Pro-10
Steel Lam. CoS
Hardness (HRC) 60
Edge Convex
Tang Protruding broad tang
Handle material Thermorun
Sheath Zytel
Weight, knife only (g) 182
Blade length (mm) 100
Blade thickness (mm) 5
Total length (mm) 217
Finger guard Stainless Steel


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

10 Years of Reviews - An Industry Perspective

Have fun asking Ruger for this
Limited Edition Mirror Polished SP101 9mm
10 Years and 650 Articles of Reviews - An Industry Perspective

2019 represents my official tenth year writing with over 650 published shooting industry articles. I was writing for another market for a decade before that, but the firearms and shooting sports industry has been a hoot and insanely entertaining. This writing thing that I do is thankfully not my real job and am not solely dependent on it to make a living. Over the years I started with just a few articles and it was Ruger’s Ken Jorgenson who first reached out to me and said “I love your articles, would you like to write for Ruger as an official writer?” He recommended me to a few other companies and that started snowballed into this whole journey. Today my reach includes writing for Shooting Sports Retailer, Tactical Retailer, Taylormade Media, All Outdoor Magazine, and recently I was also asked to start writing for Hunting Retailer, Predator Extreme magazines as well.  All that and I still have people wonder why I am not all about making Youtube videos full time for a lousy $5K a year in Adsense revenue. It is an interesting industry.

For me it has the equivalent of sitting on the top of a fortress with a cold beer and my binoculars watching everything happen during the zombie apocalypse. There have been some sad, happy and downright hilarious moments.

During that time I have seen pretty much everything from the good guys, the bad, and the grey area most people live in.  I have seen married industry guys “rent” hookers, drugs being done at SHOT, been called by suppliers A, B, and C asking if I knew anything about buyer D going out of business and stiffing them for millions of dollars. I have seen starry eyed me-too manufacturers spring up one year only to be dead broke and mentally crushed the next. There have been sex scandals involving coaches with their under age professional shooters, embezzlement, illegal overseas sales of firearms labeled as farm equipment (twice), and a whole boatload of grey-market and black-market skimming, theft, and embezzlement that occurring during the great firearm and ammo shortage. There is also two ladies fighting about who gets the pot of gold from a polymer gun empire. Here I am on the sidelines eating and throwing popcorn like I am having a night at the movies.

There have been some really great innovative ideas brought to the market including affordable precision rifles, amazing electro-optics, match grade triggers for everyone, and a shocking amount of innovation around our beloved AR format. Some of those truly amazing innovations for me include Proof Research Carbon Fiber barrels, SB Tactical Braces, anything from IWI, Hiperfire Triggers, the evolution of the piston guns thanks to PWS, along with dry feet and clothes thanks to really high tech fabrics. Other accessories I can not longer live without include the MagLula and MagPump loaders, affordable rangefinders, electronic game calls, shooting tripods, AR pistols and pistol caliber carbines.  There are also those sweet wonderful areas that have just continued to evolve like the 10/22 custom rifle market which now allows pretty much anyone to print sub-.5” 50-yard groups with thanks to Feddersen, Kidd, Volquartsen, Timney, and Magnum Research delivering amazing parts and rifles.

In that same time my contacts and industry executives have bounced from one company to another with the speed of a ping pong match. Sometimes it has delivered great things and other times people have just walked away from this crazy industry shaking their heads swearing.

About five years ago we really started to also see a trend with more and more women entering the sport than ever before. Girls and gals have thankfully been in the front line of competitive shooting, hunting, and media which has continued to draw in a the other 50% of the American public. Targeting to the female buyer has also moved the strategy of the yearly SHOT show from an indoor strip club to a real industry trade show like no other.

With the largest buying group since the Baby Boomers, the shooting industry either has a huge opportunity to resurge the shooting sports or the Millennials may be the last generation of gun owners. Talking to many knife retailers, Millennials are now buying knives at a record pace and that is a statistical indicator of future tactical firearms sales. These new buyers are both male and female and they are buying much differently than buyers in the past all based on a purchase behavior around the experience of using the product.

There are also the so-called “D-Grade” Youtube and TV celebrities of the firearms industry which no one really knows unless they are uber-into the firearms industry. There is the Miculek family of celebrity shooters who all seem like the nicest people on the face of the planet… and then there are others which do things like scream “do you know who I am” in the middle of the Ruger booth at SHOT show 2017. There is the beefcake and bimbos competitive shooter boom where anyone with a body worthy of branded spandex was gifted a professional advertiser funded sponsorship and 10,000 rounds a years of ammo to learn how to shoot. Meanwhile there have been some amazing shooters mature and grow up in the industry while doing the really hard work with the support of family and friends like Nate Staskiewicz. I personally sponsored Nate for years and he was invited to be part of the coveted competitive Army Marksmanship team after graduation - that was truly my honor to be a sponsor on his right shoulder all those years.

The last two years for me have been really telling with economist predicting a downturn. The only way for many in the firearms industry to survive by targeting the female and millennial aged shooters.  Without a significant political threat to our 2nd amendment freedoms, the next four years are going to be rough. The AR/MSR business is going to get even tougher with an estimated 1000+ companies manufacturing AR components up from just 29 in 2000. The market is not that big and all the big publicly traded and private companies like Ruger, Glock, Sig, S&W, Vista, and Mossberg are flooding product into the market this year just to keep sales numbers remotely close to previous years. I just bought a Shockwave 12-gauge for $250 which normally sells for $350 on sale, so don’t tell me product dumping is not happening.
Yeah I know, Barrett does not offer
stripped un-anodized lower.
But yet here one... actually I have three

This was an awkward year at SHOT show. Typically we see the little guys bringing the big innovation leaps to the market, but now SB Tactical is now not so small and neither is KAK/Shockwave. The large companies like Ruger, Mossberg and Sig are delivering real innovation on product customers actually want to buy. Companies like Brownells which have traditionally been distributing retailers are now also in the firearms and firearm parts game with innovative guns like Brownells Retro series of AR15s and competitively outselling the big box retailers. According to many other distributors, they are pushing hard for more distributor exclusive products that can retail margin and differentiation. Meanwhile conglomerates like Cerberus Capital Management (Remington) and Vista Outdoor are buying and selling companies at a shocking rate that is sure to destabilize a few of these brands.

The firearms industry is a wacky business run a “unique” cadre of people which it could not survive without. My friends… here is to another interesting ten years with the goal of passing the 1000 article mark. Cheers!

If you are starting a build start shopping at who has been a great partner of over the years.