Monday, April 30, 2012

STOEGER COACH GUN SUPREME SHOTGUN REVIEW

STOEGER COACH GUN SUPREME SHOTGUN REVIEW

Since 1923 Stoeger has been associated with fine firearms for the hunter, sporting shooter and even for defense.  Firearm diversity includes a variety of calibers and gauges: double barrel over & unders, side-by-sides, semi-autos, and pump-actions; as well as auto-loading defense and sporting pistols.

With a name like Stoeger you would expect it to be a brand which originated overseas, however it actually began in 1923 in New York City (cough .. back when NYC had common sense gun laws that promoted business).  Austrian immigrant Alexander Stoeger issued a price list noting he was the “sole authorized importer for the United States and Canada of the genuine Mauser and Luger Arms and Ammunition.” Obviously both were hot sellers and Stoger grew with a variety of imported and developed products until the 1990s when Sako purchased the company.  In 2000, Sako was in turn acquired by Beretta Holding and Stoeger was placed under the current ownership of Benelli USA.
Personally I had never heard of the Stoeger brand until the blitz of marketing around the Double Barrel Coach Guns a couple years ago with the boom of cowboy action shooting.  This short barreled shotgun rose to popularity back in cowboy times via the Well Fargo stagecoaches where a handy short double barrel shotgun could deter or address unwanted coach visitors.  With that need, the coach gun was actually produced by Wells Fargo as standard issue firearm at one point, but was followed in production by a number of other companies. Today, people are in love with the idea of the coach gun from a defensive perspective however it was the cowboy action shooting scene which made the Stoeger Coach Gun a sales phenomenon.

Recently, I finally put my shoulder behind a Stoeger Coach Gun as a potential extended-term survival gun, because a double barrel 12 gauge like the Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme is potentially a near perfect all purpose survival gun.

FIT & FEEL
Stoeger has made its name with good quality products at a much lower than average price point. Every Coach Gun Supreme sports an AA-grade gloss walnut stock and beaver tail fore-end, extensive cut checkering in a border-point pattern, and is fitted with a soft rubber recoil pad which is appreciated considering the recoil.

The Stoeger Coach Gun are not considered “collector quality” arms, but what I would term as standard to mid field grade in fit and finish. Let’s face it, double barrel shotguns have always been some of the most expensive guns on the planet and even most field grade guns are easily over $1000-$2000.  Those in their right mind will not take a beauty of a double barrel to a cowboy action shoot and it would not look the part anyway.  Stoeger has taken a different direction than its parent companies with good quality at rock bottom price ranges of $400-$450 depending on the Stoeger Standard or Supreme Coach Gun series.

Now that I have set the stage and intent correctly for the Stoeger line, you will find the Supreme Coach Gun I picked up very well appointed with a weather resistant stainless receiver and polished nickel barrel finished inside and out. Blued and combo blued/stainless version are also available, however for a survival and preparedness gun the nickel coating and stainless construction makes for a very durable gun.

The polished nickel 12 gauge Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme has good fit and finish throughout. The Supreme version ups the fit, wood, and lacquer finish quality from the rougher finish on the standard line.  The standard coach gun line looks the part for the cowboy action shooters, the Supreme line looks like the shotgun the rich cowboys carrier. Does it have the seamless transition fit and finish of an entry $2000 Benelli or Beretta? No, but it would be unreasonable to assume it would for 25% of the price.  The Stoeger line does offer a nice looking and feeling grade of gun which you will not be embarrassed holding, which works as reliably as any other side by side.

From a feel perspective the Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme’s short 20” barrel delivers a short and quick handling at 6.5lbs shotgun. This this is about 8” and a 1lb lighter than a standard double barrel and definitely the direction needed for a survival based firearm.

FEATURES
The Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme packs a number of features into this versatile shotgun which are similar to other shotguns including 2-3/4” and 3” shell capacity, automatic tang mounted safety and barrel brake latch and screw-in improved cylinder and modified choke tubes for versatility beyond just being a cowboy action and defensive gun. Beyond that the gun breaks down quickly just like any other double barrel shotgun.  Remove the handguard by flipping the guard latch, and break the action and the barrel separates from the receiver. For long barreled skeet and hunting guns this is a handy feature, but on the Stoeger the short 20” barrel and broken down action becomes a stowable little survival gun.

Because of the shorter size, the Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme would make an excellent home defense thunder stick loaded with OO buckshot, however it is not the quietest of options and ear protection would be highly advised.

FUNCTIONS
Nothing is for free and that 8” shorter length and 1lb lighter weight does have a trade off; the 12 gauge Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme kicks like a mule. As a guy who once shoot skeet and trap, I can manage recoil and for a short survival and durable hunting and small game gun used for a couple shots here and there, the recoil is the compromise you make for the lightweight and packable size. That said I would not want to run defensive drills with this gun for an afternoon without a thick Limbsaver cushion on the stock or reduced loads... those cowboy action guys are a tough bunch.

The really good news is that despite the shorter length, the removable chokes did provide nice patterns similar to what I would expect from a full length shotgun.  The Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme comes with screw-in IC (Improved Cyclinder) and M (Modified) chokes which proved efficiently flexible for seasonal game and junk bird hunting as well as  testing defensive rounds.  Add a couple extra full and modified chokes and you have an all purpose upland goose and short range deer gun.  

Though the double triggers take a little getting used to, they do provide flexibility for touching off the left or right barrel depending on the shot and choke required. This is probably one of the single biggest advantages of a double barrel and double triggers for the survivalist.  If you slip up on a rabbit at 15 yards you don’t need to hit him with the full choke barrel... you have options. The other option is if you have purchased a drop in caliber conversion adapters.  I own a couple 12 Gauge caliber adapters including a couple in .22LR, .357, and .9mm. Others are available for converting 12 gauge to .44 Mag, 410, 16, and 20 gauge. Put a .pistol round in one chamber and 12 gauge shell in the other and you have a gun with a lot of options and a load of survival utility.


After months of shooting, I have yet to successfully launch both barrels simultaneously.  “Giving the targets both barrels”, always sounds like a full auto machine gun with only two rounds - “Ba-bam” due to the front trigger being a bit lighter than the rear.  Those mis-timed events in itself were punishing endeavors, so I cannot imagine the pain of accomplishing my goal of both barrels going off together.

I understand the safety concern of the automatic safety however it was a little counter-intuitive for running, gunning, and reloading defensive or cowboy action shooting. I found myself dropping in two shells, closing the action and pulling the trigger only to remember the safety automatically engages each time the action is opened. Training and practice would have to engrain a safety disengagement as part of a reload.

From a survival perspective 2-3/4” BB and 00 buckshot are good options for a lot of critters if you state’s game laws allow.  000 (.36”) buckshot is a handy size if you also carry a .357/.38 as you can use these balls to make rounds for those guns.  Most enjoyable to shoot were #6 “light” field or skeet loads which did a great job on junk birds out to about 40 yards.

FINAL THOUGHTS
For cowboy action shooters this is an automatic purchase as the 12 Gauge Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme is the quintessential stagecoach gun.  It is fast handling and at distances under 35-40 yards it works just dandy on defensive and critter based targets with buckshot. Visiting the local skeet and trap ranges proved that the Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme is not just a novelty and that “I still got it”.  Pretty impressive when you regularly start smoking clays out of a short barrel shotgun.

OK, the Stoeger Coach gun is a shooter, and performs about as well as a full sized version, so what do you give it besides 8” and 1lb?  Control and smoothness.  The short and light gun delivers fairly punishing recoil with full weight defensive rounds and slugs are painful however “light” field loads take the guns recoil back to a typical 12 gauge level. Many clays and bird hunters prefer longer barrels and one reason it that they are smoother and point more naturally.  The Coach gun can tend to be a little too quick on target and I had to concentrate to not overtake clays, however on rabbits and squirrels it works perfectly.
The Coach Gun Supreme shotgun is also a gun which you will not fear scratching through briars in search of that rabbit or deer, surviving drops during a cowboy action shoot because you fumbled the reload and dropped the gun, or will survive the muzzle scratches from standing up in the corner of the garage while you work ready for shots of opportunities at junk birds invading your property.  It is the perfect price and grade of a gun that will get used and abused hard, and heavy all for a great price.

In a survival situation, I would rather have the Coach Gun over a full length shotgun despite the recoil.  One of those reasons it that a 1lb less weight can equate to more food or other supplies that can be carried and that quicker pointing could save my life in a defensive situation.  This is an outstanding little shotgun which has all the features of a great survival gun, it is chambered in 12 gauge, the most popular cartridge of its firearms class, is short and maneuverable in tight quarters, is lightweight can be broken down quickly and easily for storage or transport, and with a nickel barrel it is less sensitive to handmade or even corrosive black powder powered loads. Despite not knowing who Stoeger was a couple years ago, I am a believer in the versatility of this handy little shotgun.

SPECS

  • COACH GUN SUPREME
  • Model: 31481
  • Barrel Length: 20”
  • Finish Grade: AA-Grade
  • Gauge: 12
  • Shell Length: 2-3/4” AND 3”
  • Chokes: Screw-in
  • Weight: 6.5 lbs.
  • Trigger: Double
  • Chokes:  IC & M
  • Type of Sights:  Brass Bead
  • Overall Length:  36-1/2”
  • Length of Pull:  14-1/2”
  • Drop at Comb: 1-1/2”
  • Drop at Heel: 2-1/2”
  • MSRP: $499
SOURCES
Stoeger USA
www.stoegerindustries.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DoubleStar Ace AR15 Review with Custom Engraving Review

DoubleStar Ace AR15 Review with Custom Engraving Review The MajorPandemic.com Morse Code Transmitter

DoubleStar was showing off on their Zombie themed AR lower receivers at SHOT show (Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade) at the beginning of the year but lost in that Zombie themed AR was the message that DoubleStar can deliver truly one of a kind custom ARs for any need. DoubleStar offers a number of standard laser engravings on their AR lower receivers for a $12 upcharge, but I then asked the question if they could work with any custom artwork and the answer was sure “for a one time $50 setup charge”.... done.
The result is the custom one of a kind laser engraved MajorPandemic.com Morse Code Transmitter typically good for thirty character messages or more depending on the magazine used. If you have your own clean vectored Adobe Illustrator logo (.ai format), you can supply that to DoubleStar to be laser etched into a DoubleStar lower receiver. Just note that they charge $50/hour to clean up the logos if it is not clean or you do not supply it in that format.

With a mischievous chuckle, the justification I gave myself for yet another AR was that everyone needs the ability to reliably communicate. Having a Morse Code transmitter (with a 30 round Troy Battlemag) and encoding cheat sheet handy seemed like a great idea for someone with a preparedness mindset.

ABOUT J&T DISTRIBUTING, DOUBLESTAR, & ACE STOCKS
J&T Distributing was founded over 30 years ago as a distributor specializing in AR related products.  If you are an AR retailer you know J&T as a major supplier of all things AR, however they recognized that there was need to also supply the consumer side as well. DoubleStar was started in 2000 to complement the 30 year-old parent company with a business to consumer/government/export facing division which focused on serving customers with innovative products around the AR15 and full auto NFA Class 3 M16 platform.
Since DoubleStar’s inception, it has developed a longstanding reputation for building high quality ARs in the law enforcement, military and civilian communities.  What I was fascinated with was the massive abilities consolidated under the J&T Distributing family which includes DoubleStar and now, the newly acquired, Ace Stocks.  
Now under one roof, the J&T business family delivers pretty much everything you could want from industry leading manufacturers like Ace Stock, Magpul, Troy, YHM and PRI and everything in between.  DoubleStar also offers their own line of high quality AR15 products which begin with the AR15 rifles and rifle kits and expand to a long list of DoubleStar’s own AR15 upgrades, barrels, sights, and parts.  

As a military and law enforcement supplier, DoubleStar is not just slapping together a standard menu of AR15 rifles. In fact, the majority of their business is delivering configuration specific hard use defensive rifles based on their wide array of available upgrades. This allows you as a customer to give them a call and customize a rifle the way you want it all from one company.  Their newest customization option is of course the Laser Engraving.  



Supply them with a high resolution vectored .ai Adobe Illustrator format black and white image and they will customize your AR15 lower with that logo on the right hand ejection door side.  Want more custom laser engraving on the other side, DoubleStar can do that as well for an additional charge.  The setup fees are one time assuming you do not change the logo and after that all the engravings with your logo are just a $12 upcharge.  

Since the question has come up from friends already, yes you can use my shown MajorPandemic.com Morse Code Transmitter logo on file at DoubleStar logo on your next DoubleStar AR15 lower receiver. I have cleared it with DoubleStar and since I picked up the $50 setup charge it will only be a $12 receiver customization upcharge for you.  

ABOUT THE 30 CHARACTER MAJORPANDEMIC.COM MORSE CODE TRANSMITTER
To be honest, I was in the mood for another AR and this time I wanted a beast that I could hammer through a door with. While weight was not a concern, a mid-length heavy barreled 5.56 chamber was a requirement.  Also on my have to have list was an upgraded grip and forend as well as an Ace Stock.  For DoubleStar this was an every day build, but for me it demonstrated how integrated the J&T Distributing, DoubleStar, and Ace Stock divisions are.

DOUBLESTAR’S AR15 CUSTOM LOWER RECEIVER WITH INTERNALS - For the base of the build, I choose the DoubleStar Lower Receiver with Internals and grip for $199.99 + $50 for the custom laser engraving setup.  Working in a graphics program I created high resolution versions of the shown laser etching until I found one I liked after printing out a scaled versions and holding cut outs up to another AR15 lower.  Low tech proofing but it worked and after I found what I liked, I sent it over to DoubleStar via email.  They converted the image to a laser engraving on a receiver with their new service and then shipped the custom 
DoubleStar AR15 lower to my specified local FFL dealer for my pick up and FFL paperwork.

The DoubleStar AR15 lower itself is complete minus the rear take-down pin, spring, detent and stock however the J&T kit also purchased provided another set of complete internals and stock kit to harvest from.  Technically I purchased nearly an entire extra parts kit, however those parts were gobbled up quickly for another build.  Generally the industry pretty much all use a standard DPMS parts kit and trigger however DoubleStar’s builds and kits include very high quality  parts kits with improved trigger and upgraded springs.  I own two ARs with DoubleStar AR internals and in my opinion it is probably the best stock AR combat trigger any company offers without going to an upgraded ALG or Geissele trigger upgrade.  Sure, buying a stripped DoubleStar lower and then installing a DPMS parts kit is less expensive however, I just think the extra $25 is worth it for a substantially improved trigger.

J&T DISTRIBUTING AR KITS - J&T has been well known for offering a variety of customizable kits.  For my kit, I started with a 16" Mid-Length Flattop AR15 Kit -$539.99 -ARK572 and upgraded the kit to include an Magpul MOE Grip $23.98 and forend $25, DoubleStar’s own DSC Flip Up Rear Sight $99 and a three pack of the new Troy Battle Mags $42.99.

J&T’s standard AR kits include a forged flat-top upper receiver with T-marked picatinny rails, phosphated AR15 bolt and carrier group, DoubleStar charging handle. My Mid-Length version came with a 1:9 twist heavy non-chrome lined barrel with standard A2 flash-hider and standard fixed front gas block sight.  
The chrome lining is great if you plan on completely abusing your AR, but this one will most likely never see a drop of rain as a home defense and sporting gun so I saved a few bucks. My kit arrived with upper completely assembled with my Magpul MOE stock attached and ready to pin on the my custom receiver.

ACE SOCOM STOCK - Since my Mega Arms lightweight build, which featured a Ultralight Ace Stock, I have been in love with the features of AR15 Ace stocks.  They are extraordinarily strong, absolutely rock solid and completely rattle free all while being very comfortable to shoot from. 
For this build I wanted adjustability because on occasion I will slip on my US Palm Defender Body armor when answering the knock of uninvited visitors.  The Ace Socom Stock I choose  provides 8.5”-10.5” of stock length.  The buttstock rubber pad can be attached or removed based on your stock length requirements.  Those who regularly wear body armor will probably like the stock without the pad to take advantage of the checkered grip on the back and bottom which interfaces very well with body armor.
The Ace Socom stock is the most rock solid adjustable AR15 stock I have ever handled and also provides numerous sling mount points. Adjustment is simple via a side bottom which locks the stock in position like a bank vault.  My Ace Socom Stock also came with a single point sling mount back-plate.  This was a surprise bonus as I could not find anything in the literature that this is included, but it was a nice upgrade if it is now standard.

FIT, FEEL & FUNCTION
If you have read my site, you know I own and have reviewed all the main AR manufacturers,  many of the custom manufacturers, and have painstakingly pieced together a few of my own builds.  In total, I think somewhere around twenty plus ARs have moved through my hands and I can say that the J&T, DoubleStar, and Ace Stock family is doing it right at a premium level.  
The assembled upper was well made and with top quality parts throughout, notably the trigger is the best stock trigger you will likely find. The Ace Stocks are superb in quality fit and finish and the engraving was factory perfect as if it was a standard item in their inventory.

There are a bunch of flip-up sight options on the market now, however very few metal options are under $100 like the DoubleStar model.  This is a solid backup combat sight that flips up with the thumb and locks in an upright position.  The peep is heavily shielded from impact and the windage settings lock in place and cannot be inadvertently moved.

Functionally I have had zero problems with any ammo feeding or firing in the last three months of testing.  Everyone expects a round count test, however I frankly have lost track... I know I am way over the 1000 round mark at this point with only a couple bolt wipe downs and one relube. A BoreSnake was pulled through after each of the first 50 rounds and then about every other magazine after that during the first couple hundred rounds as a break in procedure.  
I later topped this build with my Eotech 512 and clipped on a Black Rain Ordnance single point sling. A rail and Insight Tactical light were also added to this beefy substantial feeling AR.

ACCURACY
Part of the driving force of this rifle was for a 1:9 twist barrel which would eat the inexpensive 55Gr rounds that the 1:7 twist barrel’ed ARs I have do not shoot as well.  This of course is not a big issue at homestead defense ranges, but I wanted a barrel which would deliver 55gr rounds more accurately. This heavy barrel does a wonderful job with those light inexpensive rounds as well as with some top end ammo for varminting and defense.  With a Hi-Lux CMR 1-4X scope I was plenty happy with how this rifle performed off the bench.

Best 3-round groups with a Hi-Lux CMR 1-4X Scope 100 Yards

  • Hornady TAP 55gr .223 - .72
  • Hornady Superformance 5.56 Nato 55Gr GMX - .79”
  • Hornady Varmit Express .223 66Gr V-MAX Moly - .89
  • Zombie Max .223 55Gr Z-MAX - .9
  • Herters (CCI steel case private branded for Cabelas) - 55Gr FMJ - 1.1”
FINAL THOUGHTS
In my head there is a rolling and evolving list of what is the best stock rifle of those that I have seen, shot, handled and reviewed and DoubleStar is right there at the top.  The DoubleStar, J&T, and Ace Stock family is definitely manufacturing top quality rifles and assembling them as if someone’s life will depend on its function.  

The fit of the components was excellent, but it was the little touches like the upgraded parts and trigger group which I think deliver a bit more value than many competing AR manufacturers. My flavor of beefy build may or may not be your favorite, however that is the cool thing, with DoubleStar you have options instead of being forced into one a standard build.  You can order it your way.
And of course nothing says “your way” better than your own personalized laser engraving.  Does it improve functionality? No, but it does put a smile on my face, every time I pick up the rifle. For me that was worth the setup fee because you never know when you may need to send a sternly worded universally understood Morse Code message to someone... and I can never remember “..-.   ..-” as a response.

SPECS & BUILD COST

  • DoubleStar  - Lower Receiver with Internals - $199.99 + $50 Custom Laser Engraving
  • Ace Stock - Ace M4 SOCOM Stock G4 Assembly, Standard - $216.99
  • J&T Distributing - 16" Mid-Length Flattop AR15 Kit -$539.99 -ARK572 + Magpul MOE Grip $23.98 and Forend $25
  • J&T Distributing - DSC Flip Up Rear Sight - $99.99 - - DS401
  • J&T Distributing - Troy Industries Battle Mag, 3 Pack - $42.99 - TI557
AS TESTED

  • Weight 7.4lbs (Excluding Mags, Eotech 512 and sling)
  • Total Build Cost $1,199 (Including all upgrades and three magazines)
Barrel:
  • 16” Chrome Moly Vanadium w/ M4 Feed Ramps, Heavy Barrel Profile
  • 1x9 Twist
  • A2 Flash Hider
  • Manganese Phosphated
  • Phosphated under Front Sight Base
  • Taper Pins on A2 Front Sight Base
  • Threaded Muzzle
  • Mid Length Gas system
  • 5.56 X 45 mm
Bolt And Carrier:
  • Phosphated 8620 Steel Carrier Assembly
  • Heat Treated and Plated
  • Mil-Spec
  • Chrome Lined Carrier Interior
  • Carrier Key - chrome lined, attached with Grade 8 Screws
  • Properly Staked & Sealed Gas Key
Furniture:
  • Mid-Length & Standard Hand Grip [I upgraded to Magpul MOE Kit]
  • Aluminum Delta Ring
Upper Receiver:
  • Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
  • A3 Flat Top With M4 Feed Ramps
  • Hard Coat Anodized
  • Mil-Spec
  • Ejection Port Cover and Round Forward Assist
  • Right Hand Ejection
  • Bore's surface is coated with dry film lube, over the anodized surface
Lower Receiver:
  • Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
  • Hard Coat Anodized
  • Mil-Spec
  • Aluminum Trigger-guard
  • Semi-Auto
  • Aluminum Magazine Catch Button
  • Premium Parts & Trigger Kit

SOURCES
Ace Stocks
http://riflestocks.com

Double Star
http://www.star15.com/

J&T Distributing
http://jtdistributing.net