Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bushnell First Strike Tactical Red Dot Reflex Sight Review

Bushnell First Strike Tactical Red Dot Reflex Sight Review

Reflex sights have been a huge hit in every area of shooting from military, sporting, and hunting on every type of firearm.  The main advantages are that they offer a HUGE field of view less obstructed sight picture compared to a red dot sight or optic and usually weigh less than a couple ounces. 

Initially the first marginally tough reflex sights were thought to be just for fair weather shooters, but now have proven themselves extremely durable in the most adverse of military and hunting applications. Bushnell has now introduced its answer to the reflex sight market with the Bushnell First Strike.

If you read my articles you know that I am of a fan of Bushnell optics and the First Strike does not disappoint with a fit, finish, and feel that is typical high quality. Bushnell has finished the sight with a black mil-spec finish to protect from corrosion which looks perfectly at home on my Barnes Precision Machine AR-15.  The First Strike is available in both this standard version and a First Strike HiRise AR co-witness version that includes the required riser. That version was not available when I ordered mine, however it in this case I simply used a standard 1/2" Yankee Hill Machine riser to mount the First Strike for a perfect co-witness.

One of the most noticeable features on the First Strike is the near total absence of buttons or dials with the exception of the windage and elevation adjustments and zeroing locks. There is no on/off switch or button, no higher or lower dot intensity button. The First Strike automatically adjusts the dot intensity in any light condition from bright sun all the way down to an auto off setting of total blackout once the hood is slipped on. 

Functionally, I really like this setup in a moderately priced reflex sight because it takes just one more thing off the table that you need to worry about in a hunting, sporting, or tactical situation.  Opponents to auto brightness will cite a rare situation where you are shooting from total darkness into bright light. In this situation it is typical for auto-brightness red dots to measure the dark ambient room light and end up delivering a very light red dot which will wash out on sunlit targets.  

Bushnell has addressed this issue by mounting the light sensor to a forward target looking position which now measures and adjusts the red dot based on the target’s surrounding brightness versus just ambient surrounding light. The First Strike's 5 MOA sized dot definately increased in intensity standing in a dark room transitioning between indoor dark and outdoor brightly lit targets.

It used to be in the ancient days of red dots that if you left your sight on overnight, you could expect to replace the batteries in the morning.  Today most quality red dots have run times in the tens of thousands of hours.  According to the customer service person at Bushnell, the First Strike sight should deliver around 50,000 hours of run-time based on normal light varying conditions; meaning it will not run 50,000 hours at full brightness, but would run longer if you were a permanent cave dweller. I would pack two extra CR2 backup batteries and know that your First Strike could deliver light for a couple decades in the worst situation.

Personally I love this whole tens of thousands of hours run-time thing becuase that means that on a tactically focused firearm such as my Barnes Precision Machine BPM-15, I can just leave the thing on even without the auto-off dust cover attached. If I need it, I can grab the rifle and go without having to worry about buttons to push. For all practical purposes, it is always on and I would imagine that if stored in something like my Liberty safe, the First Strike would effectively turn itself off just as it would with the dust cover.

The dust cover is a convenient add on which will keep the sight cleaner in dirty and dusty enviornments, however the smooth cover needs needs some texture or a loop or something to be able to pop the cover off more quickly. 

The First Strike is waterproof, fog proof, shock proof and features multi-coated optics for clarity and glare free glass. At some point down the road, maybe 5-8 years from now, you will need to replace the battery.  Like almost every reflex sight on the market, the battery swap will require you to unscrew the sight from the base which in some cases will require re-zeroing.  Bushnell claims it will hold zero, however my experience with this type of design is that it sometimes does.

Because of the co-witness setup, zeroing was simple with my BPM-15 and I simply adjusted the First Strike to match my existing zero. This greatly reduced the need to go through the painful ordeal of zeroing at the range.  When mounted to the Ruger 22/45, zeroing took a bit more time, but I finally had everything nicely zeroed at 25 yards. Once you have your zero, the First Strike features lock downs for both friction adjusted windage and elevation to prevent any shifting from shock.  I had no issue with any zero shifts during testing with the locks appropriately turned down.

The First Strike was also tested on my Ruger 22/45 which is specifically designed for use with an optic. When mounted with to the pistol, I would have liked to have an adjustable dot to bring the intensity up a bit as I find that  a bit brighter red dot helps me index the pistol on target a bit quicker.  This is a personal issue, but a minor complaint which I find with any auto-adjusting reflex sight. One both the 22/45 and BPM-15, the sight performed outstanding.

I like everyone these days am looking for a deal and this is specifically where the Bushnell First Strike excels.  For similar features, you get a Bushnell quality reflex sight for around $150 out on the street.  Compare this to other options on the market and the First Strike is about $50-$100 less than competing models.  

Reflex sights offer shooters a huge field of view compared to tube style red dots. Yes those tube style red dots do deliver a more robust design, however for most shooters the reflex design offers a faster shooting design with an exponentially larger field of view, almost completely void of obstructions with the exception of that little red dot. The First Strike will take some excessive levels of abuse, but does not have the armoring to take getting blown up or harsh abuse, but most for those that want the lightest possible red dot sight option with a more open sight picture, the reflex design is the perfect option.

I am excited over this new breed of relfex sights which deliver robust duribility, water and shock proof designes and only add about two ounces to your rifle or pistol all while delivering 5+ year runtimes.  It appears Bushnell has done a phenominal job again with a feature laden optic at a class leading price point.

Finish: Matte
Length (in / mm): 2 / 52
Reticle: Red Dot
Mounting Length (in / mm): 2 / 50
Field of View (ft@100 yds. / m@100 m): Unlimited
Adj Range in@100yds/ m@100m: 90 / 2.3
Weight (oz. / g): 2.1 / 61
Eye Relief (in / mm): Unlimited
Battery: 1 - CR2 (included)
Brightness: Auto-brightness and auto off with storage hood


Shop the complete selection of optics at 

Bushnell Optics

LED Lenser F1 Light Review

LED Lenser F1 Light Review

Occasionally I run across a product such as the Leatherman Rebar which resets what is the standard for features packed into size is and is so good that I just want to start and complete the article in giant bold print reading "This product is so awesome you should just go buy one now". The LED Lenser F1 light is that unbelievably good which I am stunned more people are not raving about.

Last year I reviewed a few of the outstandingly bright LED Lenser lights including my all time favorite the LED Lenser M1 light. What had me all oohing and ahhing over the light was that it produced a stunning brilliant light of over 150 lumens with just one CR123 battery. This meant that I had the same level light in a tiny little package 3.9" package as most tactical lights and in addition I had the ability to focus that light from a flood to a spot light with the flick of a thumb. The F1 is the M1’s rougher tougher and more tactically focused 3.6” brother that hits a record breaking 400 Lumen output on only one CR123 battery. The best part is that the new F1 is priced around $57 on the street.

Mrs Pandemic is famous for stealing all my best equipment. If she likes it it becomes part of her carry or tactical kit and I am left to look for a replacement. In this case, she absconded with my LED Lenser M1 because she liked the size and output. I bitched and whined enough that after drooling all over the LED Lenser light at the SHOT show, I picked one up and ladies and gentlemen, Mrs Pandemic will have to pry this F1 out of my cold dead hands.

How could a hard core tactical light guy fall for a new “none tactical” brand?  The German Engineered LED Lenser lights deliver unique features including one of the most brilliant bright white lights, focus-able beams, higher than average light output, and exceptionally long-run times.

LED Lenser has several advantages over other lights including AFS (Advanced Focus System) and SLT (Smart Light Technology) on some lights, super premium LEDs, gold plated circuits, aerospace grade aluminum and anodizing, and a perfect optically correct lens and machined bezel.

Every manufacturer is working to optimize light efficiency all while maximizing light output, however a great reflector and LED, which most companies are focused on, will only get you so far.  Operational efficiency on the LED Lenser is increased not only because of top end reflectors, but due to smarter gold plated circuitry and higher grade LEDs which enable LED Lenser to deliver higher output and longer run times than many competitors.

After much feedback from buyers begging for tougher line of tactical lights, LED Lenser has introduced the F1. As much as I liked the durable M1 model, it was not a light that would take sustained tactical level abuse. The F1 has a much thicker body with even thicker reinforcement at key stress points. A well designed and removable pocket clip was added along with an integrated lanyard slot in the tailcap. The F1 does away with the AFS focusable beam to drop the length a bit and nixes the somewhat complex SLT - Smart Light Technology in favor of a touch or click ON 100% 400 lumen power, double tap 15% power 60 lumen battery saver mode, and a triple tap full power strobe mode. Though I appreciated the flexibility of the SLT features, it is too complex for a tactical light. 

The F1 also has better water resistance than the M1. The F1 is a full IPX8 rated which means it will handle permanent immersion in water versus being just splash resistant like the M1. Part of this additional waterproofing is due to the rubberized tailcap momentary/click switch which is partially shielded from damage by an extended tailcap designwith an integrated no roll design screw on tailcap. I found the design worked well while also protecting the switch from being accidentally switched on and could be used to stand on end for use as a lantern of sorts.

LED Lenser retained the mil-spec Type III hard anodizing and internal gold plated electronics which automatically regulate power, but have now added a temperature sensor as well to prevent light overheating. Although the interchangeable stainless or black glass break rings are a nice feature to change the look from more casual to tactical, I am pretty sure everyone will just install the black glass break ring. These pointed bezel rings protect the lens from damage but can be used both as a glass breaker or a striking/scraping tool to the face in tactical situations.

And now I present the glorious 400 Lumen output. It is amazingly bright... well actually it is a world record output in this size light. The LED Lenser F1 is powered by only one single CR123 battery and it all runs for 2 hours in full blast mode and a little over 3.5 hours in the 15% 60 lumen output mode. Compare this with any light and the efficiency of the F1 is running circles around all other tactical lights. Think of it this way, a German designed $57 flashlight can outshine all other lights and run twice as long with a battery in the light plus a carried spare. If you were lost in the woods or wandering a dark building which would you rather have.

Unlike any tactical light I have purchased, LED Lenser lights are are packaged in a presentation level box in a black and red theme. I know its a little thing, however it is a nice touch if you are considering it as a very thoughtful potentially life saving gift.

This is an outstanding light... just outstanding. I am all about not carrying giant and bulky kit with me when you have options like this available. The stunning 400 Lumen output of this little powerhouse light is amazing considering its size, however as a common sense preparedness type, it is the miserly power consumption which has my attention.  

Using this light, I deliver higher output all will burning through my non-renewable stash of CR123 batteries at half the rate which means that same pile of CR123 batteries will allow me to generate light twice as long as any other user with any other light. The F1 is a bomb proof design perfect for concealed carry shooters that can hide out in any pocket or purse and delivers record setting output and efficiency twice the competition. "This product is so awesome you should just go buy one now".

LED Lenser

Light My Fire Swedish Fireknife Review

Light My Fire Swedish Fireknife Review

I am often asked how big a survival knife should someone have and I generally attempt to steer people into the 3.5"-6" range. I can say from experience that those that recommend carrying a huge mega survival knife as their only knife have not spent significant time outside as "outdoorsman".  In reality, some of the top survivalist in the world recommend a relatively short 3.5”-4” knife. Many of these same top survivalist carry a Mora brand knife which is a simple and light knife with a blade size and shape similar to your average long kitchen paring knife. These folks know that it is not the big tree chopping tasks that get you to the next day of survival, but the little things that require some detail cutting that only a small light knife can perform.

Light My Fire is a well regarded outdoor product manufacturer who produces everything from a titanium spork to miniature tealight lanterns, but recently added a rather interesting survival knife to its line.  The Swedish Fireknife, by Light My Fire is a joint collaboration with the renowned knife manufacturer Mora mentioned above. Mora has been making knives for over 120 years and it well regarded as producing razor sharp knives which have stood the test of time.

The intent of the Swedish Fireknife was simply to combine the outstanding blade of a Mora knife in an affordable format which integrated Light My Fire's Swedish Scout Firesteel to provide an all around base for a survival kit.  The result is an extremely sharp and durable general purpose survival knife that can do everything from start fires to clean game all for under $30.

As would be expected in a bright safety orange knife street priced at $29.99, the intent of this knife was not to deliver a stunning looking knife, but one which could deliver the utility for not a lot of money. The result is that the sheath, handle and ferrocerium rod handle are all injection molded polypropylene.... not fancy but it works.  The majority of the expense was clearly dedicated to the flexible and durable blade made of Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel with a Scandinavian grind.

To improve grip on the Swedish Firesteel Knife they integrated a high friction TPE rubber handle. Tipping the handle is Light My Fire's Swedish Firesteel Scout  which keys and clicks into the end of the handle for safe keeping. I found this storage position perfect and did not have any issues with it interfering in any way or coming loose during my testing all while being simple to remove to light my test fires.  Per my previous review of the Light My Fire Scout firesteel, there were no surprises and the firesteel performed exactly like my Scout. Of note the Swedish Firesteel Scout available either separately or integrated into the knife will deliver approximately 3,000 strikes, works wet or dry at any altitude and produces a shower of 5400 degree sparks.

I always say that the sheath makes or breaks a great knife and this simple injection molded drop sheath is a timelessly functional design with a few updates.  The belt clip can be unclipped from the closed position so that you do not need to remove your belt to attach or remove the sheath. The knife securely locks into the sheath for right handed only carry and there is a drain hole and lanyard attachment at the tip of the sheath. 

The knife performed amazingly well, actually incredibly well, however I am sure Mora would not put their name on a junk knife. Having handled Mora knives, the higher end models do have improved blade geometry and better steel, however the blade and geometry of this blade did everything I asked it to do. With the polypropylene handle, I was able to get away with light battoning of the blade. This does not mean I put the beatdown on the knife, but I was able to use the extremely sharp blade to work my way through a 3" cottonwood which proved that the knife is easily capable of hard survival duty if required. This Mora designed blade sailed through my kitchen dinner prep test and the whole chicken breakdown test. It sounds simple, however breaking down a chicken will show the flaws quickly of a knife that cannot perform simple and delicate tasks and as you would expect the Mora cruised through the test.

Although a more durable full tang knife would be my preference, however sometimes simple is the best solution to a complex problem such as survival. In this case I almost feel compelled to buy a case of these and make up simple little survival kits for friends and family as they delivered everything you need in a survival knife. If you want to play Rambo or fight a zombie horde, this probably is not your knife, however if you are looking for a real survival knife the Light My Fire Swedish Fireknife is a solid option. 

For a street price of $29.99 the Swedish Firesteel Knife is a great deal for the quality of steel blade that comes on this knife, now considering it also includes an integrated $12 Swedish Firesteel, this is a screaming great deal for a simple survival knife that will deliver 95% of everything you could need in a survival situation.

Mora of Sweden blade of Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel.
Scandinavian grind.
Polypropylene sheath with clip.
High-friction, TPE rubber handle.
An original Swedish FireSteel® Scout, with approximately 3,000 strikes, twist locks into the handle for lighting campfires, gas stoves, and barbecues.
Swedish FireSteel firestarter works equally well when wet, performs at all altitudes, and produces a 3,000°C (5,400°F) spark.
Dimensions (in sheath): 8.7" x 1.8" x 1.2" (22 cm x 4.5 cm x 3 cm)
Knife Length: 8.5" (21.5 cm)
Blade Length: 3.75" (10 cm)
Weight (w/ sheath): 3.4 oz. (94 g)

Industrial Revolution - Light My Fire

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ruger 22/45 Lite Rimfire .22 Pistol Review

Ruger 22/45 Lite Rimfire .22 Pistol Review

I am probably the last writer on earth to review the Ruger 22/45 Lite Rimfire .22 pistol, however I wanted to take a bit more time with this pistol to really understand the benefits beyond "its newer and lighter."

The progressive refinement of the Ruger Mark I, II, and III line of .22 semi-automatic pistols have been staples of the Ruger portfolio since their introduction and without question the most popular .22LR semi-auto pistols in history. 

A few years ago, Ruger answered the requests for a 1911 style grip with the 22/45 models featuring a restyled polymer lower receiver modeled after the 1911 all married to the tried and true Mark III upper receiver. In later 2012, Ruger again offered a few new options to the 22/45 line including a few tactical threaded barrel models and this ultralight aluminum sleeved and tensioned barrel "Lite" model for the lightest 22/45 ever.
Ruger is one of my favorite production manufacturers of all time simply because their products work and all brutally tough. I already have a few Mark II/III versions but previous have never really warmed up to the 1911 style grip. The promise of Ruger's new Lite model had me intrigued enough to pick one of the early releases up from my gun dealer.  As will all initial vs current production in the Ruger line, the initial limited edition golden anodized finished model pictured here has now become a standard black anodized finish which if I am honest, I tend to like the black finish a bit better after seeing it at the 2013 Shot Show.

From a fit and finish perspective, the 22/45 Lite features the same high quality as any other Ruger 22/45 models with the exception that it features an aluminum sleeved and tensioned barrel with a stainless steel liner.  This is where the feel comes into play. The pistol is light, freaky light which may for some shooters be too light.  The 22.45 Lite is 23oz vs the 43 ounces of an
equivalent Mark III with steel barrel and steel receivers; definitely a huge weight savings.  I certainly have a number of lightweight aluminum sleeved barrels for 10/22s, however in this 22/45 format the feel is more of a toy than mentally what you expect the 22/45 Lite to weight. On the other hand this extraordinary light weight makes for a perfect gun to throw in your pack or carry all day long.

Like the rest of the Ruger 22/45 line, the Lite model accepts the 22/45 magazines, but not the standard Mark II/III magazines without modification to the bottom of the grip.  I may show this grip modification with another Ruger 22/45 I now own. As you would guess, the magazine bodies and feed angles are the same, it is just the base plates on the magazines that are different between the 22/45 and Mark III models.

As you would expect, sharing the same upper as the Mark III models, the 22/45 Lite model's controls are all in the familiar positions as the updated Mark III models but feel more positionally correct due to the 22/45 lower receiver.  In fact you could swap out a Mark III lower with the new 22/45 Lite upper.

The main attraction of the 22/45 Lite is the lightweight aluminum sleeved barrel with a threaded muzzle.  Everyone has been screaming for factory threaded muzzle models from Ruger to attach suppressors and muzzle brakes so Ruger assured standard 1/2"x28 threads tipped the muzzle all protected by a spring washer and knurled thread protector.  The 4" barrel was selected due to customer demand simply because a 4" pistol barrel is considered optimal to assure even high velocity .22LR rounds remain subsonic which in turn means potentially less noise with or without the addition of a
suppressor. The 4" barrel has also been especially popular with hunters who want a smaller more compact trail gun for all day carry.

The barrel itself is similar to Tactical Solutions PacLite barrel line. Ruger decided it was time it offered its version with a tensioned stainless barrel liner and aluminum outer sleeve and upper receiver. In theory a tensioned barrel will deliver higher accuracy and the aluminum sleeve will aid in heat dissipation to further increase accuracy.  Of note, the Lite's barrel is pre-tensioned and non-adjustable, so you cannot "tune" the barrel yourself. Tensioned barrels basically apply tension or lightly stretch the barrel at each end of the barrel to increase barrel strength, reduce harmonics, and in the end increase accuracy.

Although the barrel angled serrations are cool looking and drop a tiny little bit of weight, they are confusing mentally. You head tells you those are cocking serrations and no matter how many times embarrassment sets in when we attempted to charge the pistol, the grip feel and look of those serrations tell your head you can charge the gun with them. I laughed at my buddy after he did it, they he laughed at me... this cool feature gave both of us quite a laugh during testing.

The 22/45 Lite comes packaged with two magazines and lock and features target adjustable sights, 1911 style grip panels, and thumb actuated magazine release. On my first two Mark III pistols, originally I loathed the chamber indicator which only seemed to deliver jams, double feeds, and failures to eject, however based on my testing I believe Ruger has worked through these problems from the initial first generation Mark III release. 

Any now I jump on my soap box. The magazine safety now standard on every Mark III and 22/45 including this Lite model has to be the single dumbest idea on the planet. The original conceptual theory was designed for law enforcement who like to carry a round in the chamber and could protect them from being shot with their own gun if the magazine release was hit during the gun take away. Personally I don't buy it. If you have that much dexterity in a hand to hand fight  tumbling on the ground then you should have control of you gun. Mag releases are hard enough to hit perfectly under regular stress with out a ton of practice. If you are that much of an idiot to disregard every other imaginable safety precaution then you should not be handling guns. If anything, I believe guns with a bunch of extra automatic safeties breeds complacency and in the end causes unsafe situations because people just assume the gun is automatically safe.  The other main issue for me is that if I have a gun that will not fire if the magazine is ajar or missing, it becomes a gun which may not deliver at least one round when I need it to simply because the magazine button has been accidentally pressed. Yes, this occurred while testing and made me miss a perfectly good shot on a destructive varmint that had every right to die.
Unfortunately the varmint was far quicker than my tap and rack. For this reason, I have actually removed this safety on my other Mark III pistols. Search Youtube, there are a number of videos which show this relatively simple process step by step. One of the easiest ways to remove the safety is to just install a Volquartsen Mark II hammer which effectively removed the safety disconnect. Rants aside the magazine safety is not a deal killer because it is easily enough removed, however I think it is a dumb idea in the first place.

Generally Ruger .22 semi auto pistols all require a fair amount of break in before they start humming along; generally a couple thousand rounds. I was surprised and pleased with the 22/45 Lite that we only had a couple issues in the first 500 rounds of Winchester M-22 and 555 bulk ammo.  After than it zipped along like any of my other Ruger rimfire pistols.

From an accuracy perspective the Ruger 22/45 seemed to be about the same as any of my other Mark III pistols and not substantially more or less
accurate. The pistol powered with my Winchester 555 and M-22 ammo delivered regular 1" groups at 25-yards off of sand bags with open sights. This is very good accuracy from my perspective which is plenty accurate for a pistol with this intent. Comparatively my Ruger Mark III pistols carry 5.5" and 6.7" slab-sided target barrel, so similar open sight accuracy from a 4" barrel version of the same gun seemed pretty impressive.

Generally with less weight comes less offhand shooting stability and this was the case with the Lite model. Shots I could make with my heavy models weighting in at twice the weight were far easier than with the Lite model. There is a trade off for weight and off-hand stability is the trade.  Unlike the Tactical Solutions upper barrel unit, the Ruger Lite model does not have a match or enhanced match chamber which means although similar looking to the Tac Sol PakLite barrel, it will not deliver the same 1/2" at 25 yard accuracy. I have personally shot a few of the PacLite equipped Ruger Mark III pistols and they can indeed deliver substantially better accuracy that what I was able to produce with this 22/45 Lite model. All that noted, keep in mind that you would have about $200-$300 more invested in a pistol with the Tactical Solution upgrade than with the factory Lite model which I am not sure is worth is for a trail pistol or just for a host pistol for a suppressor.

The magazine safety aside, the Ruger 22/45 does deliver everything we as consumers asked Ruger to deliver. A super light 22/45 1911 grip style format which allows us to do some low cost practice with a 1911
analog in cheap to shoot .22LR caliber. Ruger added a lightweight threaded barrel and all for a street price around $450. A get little piece of kit that it a great option over going the custom route.

Catalog Number: P45MK3ALRPFL
Model Number:   3903
Caliber:               22 LR
Material:              Aluminum
Finish:                 Black Anodize
Front Sight:         Fixed
Rear Sight:         Adjustable
Barrel Length:     4.40"
Capacity:            10
Length:               8.50"
Height:                5.50"
Width:                1.00"     
Weight:              23.00 oz.
Grip Panels:      Replaceable Black Laminate
Grip Frame:       Zytel® Polymer
Twist:                 1:16" RH
Grooves:             6
MA Approved & Certified:     No
CA Approved:     No
Barrel Style:        Threaded
Suggested Retail:     $499.00


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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lee Loader Review - How To Do Basic Level Survival Reloading

Lee Loader Review - How To Do Basic Level Survival Reloading

For those that are just getting started with reloading, a “round” of ammunition is composed of the case, typically called “brass” and usually made of reloadable brass, an appropriately sized and powered replaceable centerfire primer, the powder, and the bullet. The whole process of a detonating round is simple; the hammer in the gun hits the firing pin, which hits the primer which detonates a small explosion which ignites the powder. In turn the burning of the powder builds pressure inside the round in the chamber and pushes the bullet down the barrel.

Technically in a survival situation, the only thing required to reload a round is to just knock the primer out of the case, replace with a new primer, add powder, and seat a new projectile however additional steps deliver a higher quality, more accurate and consistent round.  There are various levels of reloading ammunition from very very basic to high volume, all of which do the exact same generally accepted steps of knocking out the primer, resizing the brass case, inserting a new primer, flaring the case to accept a bullet, adding powder, seating a bullet, and crimping the case to finish the round.  To do these steps correctly and safely we typically a recipe for the proper powder and bullet weight. steel forming dies, punches, some rather unique and interesting looking tools dedicated to reloading, and a fair amount of pressure applied via a reloading press.  Obviously someone figured out that you did not need to do one function at a time and the reloading progressive machine was created which mounts all the dies/stations on a turret and then will auto-feed cases, primers, and bullets so that all you need is a strong arm to pull a lever to produce a finished round.

Progressive Reloading machines can deliver a finished round every couple seconds. A single stage press does one function at a time in a more labor intensive, but more controlled fashion at a production rate of around two rounds a minute. In most cases the really super serious target shooters handload with high precision single stage presses for more control. The high volume shooters, as you would guess, favor the faster high volume Progressive reloaders.  The Lee Loader is basically a brilliantly redesigned pocket sized single-stage press which can produce stunningly accurate and consistent rounds, but at a fairly slow pace.

For basic survival level reloading the $30 Lee Loader is the only practical option for a packable pocket sized reloader and is available in a broad array of mainstream calibers. I of course choose my favorite survival caliber of the .38 Special/.357 Magnum to test out the Lee Loader’s abilities as a long-term bug out bag solution should I be driven away from my full sized reloading machines. The Lee Loader is also a cool reloading option for tailgate load development at the range and will allow you to develop just the right powder and projectile recipe; such as two loads I am re-developing with two OOO buckshot balls in a .38 Special case and  three OOO buckshot balls in a .357 case.

I have espoused many times my belief that the .38 Special/.357 Magnum round is “the” ultimate survival cartridge. The main reason is its flexibility. Let’s say in a survival situation, you stumble on a cache of 9mm, .40 S&W, and .380ACP rounds but need .38 Special round. The .38 Special and .357 round can accept any small or magnum handgun primer salvaged from nearly any handgun cartridge and if tested cautiously, can reuse nearly any reclaimed powder. So you can just knock out the primer and harvest the powder from those found rounds. 

At that point all you need is a lightweight Lee mold and you can re-cast any reclaimed lead and you have the ability to complete a round from salvage. No other round offers this flexibility. The flexibility is due to the longer length of the case which gives a lot of options on what powders it can use. Additionally the manual cycling non-semiauto rifles and pistols the round is shot from are not picky about delivering that perfect powerfactor window that will assure perfect cycling of a semi-automatic action. Heck, the size of the case even allows you to power your rounds with black powder packed in if needed. The size of the bullet also is a bit more miserly to cast a bullet vs the next best option of the .44 Magnum.  For these reasons, I wanted to have a .38 Special/.357 Magnum Lee Loader to toss into my SHTF bug out bag to feed my Ruger 77/357, Henry Big Boy, and my revolvers.

Lee has made a name for itself as a quality reloading tool company who delivers big on value. Where many other company’s base reloading progressive reloaders start at over $500-$1000, Lee’s is less than $200. Not only do they offer “the” value option for progressive reloaders, Lee also offers some unique reloading tools that no other manufacturers offer including a hand press and this pocket sized $30 Lee Loader.

From the outside, the Lee Loader is packaged with the looks of any of Lee’s red cased dies, but with everything you need in that little package to knock out the primer, resize the brass case, insert a new primer, flare the case to accept a bullet, add powder, seat a bullet, and crimp the case. It is all there in a durable all steel parkerized and chromed steel tool set which should last a lifetime or two of use.

How the Lee Loader works is a bit brilliant with several double sided tools. A main hard chromed double-ended sizer/crimper, a double sided de-primer/shell holder, combined priming base/flat base\bullet seater, a flaring tool, de-priming punch, priming/knockout rod, and powder scoop. Because the only difference between .38 special and .357 is case length, by just adjusting the bullet seating depth on the bullet seater and taking a little care not to over crimp the longer cased .357 rounds, the .38 Special Lee Loader can be used for both calibers. By combining and flipping the dual sided tools, you can accomplish the entire reloading process with a limited number of dies and tools.

Even though I am an experience reloader, my first round was like working through one of those tortuous story problems from my school days. The perfectly clear step-by-step illustrations helped me understand when to flip this and knock that out and put me into a pace where I could easily load two rounds per minute in a pretty efficient manner. I will agreed 120 rounds an hour is not burning it up, however I would rather have a slow reloading method I can take with me than a high speed reloader back at home. The way I look at it, in a survival situation you have nothing but time, so it will give you something to do.

Here is the process in detail of reloading a round with a Lee Loader.

Of note, making a round is like making a cake. You cannot just toss whatever amount of powder in the case and top it with whatever bullet weight and type you want and expect everything to go well. Most retailers sell what is in essence a recipe books for reloading with tried and tested recipes showing recommended minimum and maximum loads with this specific powder and this or that specific bullet. Disastrous consequences could occur if you just wing it.

I have standardized on a cast 158 grain semi-wadcutter based on a Lee casting mold and Hodgdon Clays powder which I can also use for 9mm, .38 Special and 12 Gauge loads.  There are literally a hundred powders that could be used, however being familiar with the Clays charge for a .38 special round is smart because it represents the lightest grained load of any pistol powder from my research and will give you a starting point for load development with mystery powders. Start at a low power and build up the charges safely. Obviously is a survival situation this testing situation may not be ideal and could potentially create an unsafe environment.

With the insanity that is the current political environment, everyone is now considering reloading and the Lee Loader is actually the lowest cost reloading option to start reloading on any tailgate, stump, rock, or work table. At a paltry $30, I think everyone should have one in each caliber firearm they own.

In the same situation that I would rather have my toolbox of tools versus a Leatherman if I was going to build something, I would rather have a nice big progressive reloading machine for high volume reloading than the Lee Loader. Thought slow, the Lee Loader does give you some great options in a package no other loader can match.

For me, the Lee Loader will see a use as I am goofing around with load development at the range  versus dragging out an entire loading press just to test a couple rounds. The loader will also be used for throwing together a couple extremely low velocity “gallery” rounds when needed for for pest removal around the house all without screwing up all my powder measure settings on my larger reloader. Most importantly with just the addition of a bullet mold and a Leatherman, the Lee Loader gives me the ability to scavenge nearly any pistol round to create round for my gun and that is what I call being prepared.

Lee Loader
Delivers de-priming, resizing the brass case, inserting a new primer, flaring the case to accept a bullet, adding powder, seating a bullet, and crimping the case to finish the round.

- Lee Loader
- Pictorial Instruction Manual
- Recipe card for some basic .38 Special Loads


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Lee Precision

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bushnell Elite LRS 5-15x40 Scope Review

Bushnell Elite LRS 5-15x40 Scope Review

Among top tier optics affordable to the masses, the Bushnell Tactical Elite line is one of the most popular optics for military and law enforcement due to the superb clarity and bulletproof features which assure you can make the shot under any condition.  Within the Bushnell Tactical Elite line the fixed 10X and variable 5-15X versions are by far the least expensive, priced at less than half of any other scope in the line and deliver $1000+ optic quality for half to a third less money.

For my transformation of a Mosin Nagant into a long range target rifle, I knew after the upgrades that the rifle would deliver on accuracy out to 500 yards.  The problem is I needed a crystal clear optic to see targets at those ranges, however I wanted to limit the budget a bit. 

 In this case I was planning for the $200 Fixed power 10X Bushnell Tactical Elite Mil-Dot scope, however due to backorders, I ended up with the 5-15X version instead.  The $419 street priced Bushnell Elite LRS 5-15x40 scope was the perfect choice in hindsight offering both flexible variable power and the clarity required to make those longer range shots.

Of course the Bushnell Elite Tactical line is top notch quality and a matt finish to decrease reflective signatures and is packed with all the Rainguard, nitrogen purged, fog free, and 98% light transmission features you expect from Bushnell’s Elite optic line. Other features included are the resettable zero-able target turrets with .1 Mil click values and an extended detachable sunshade. 

With the Bushnell 5-15X LRS Tactical Elite 40mm Mil-Dot Scope bolted up to the Mosin Nagant Rock Solid Industries mount, I was greeted by my familiar Mil-Dot reticle and super clear optics.  

This clarity allowed me to deliver consistent 1.25” 100-yard groups with surplus ammo and sub-1” groups with the Hornady 7.62x54R Custom Ammo, but more importantly it provided the clarity at the extended ranges to still allow me to deliver 3” groups at 300 yards and 6”-7” groups at 500 yards. 

At these distances an adjustable objective is critical to be able to focus the scope properly and further reduce parallax error and the Tactical Elite 5-15 provides enough adjustment to for 15 yard+ shots.

The Tactical Elite 5-15 is an exceptional Mil-Dot optic for those that like the Mil-based optical ranging and shooting system. Generally I use  several smartphone applications which deliver Mil-Dot shooting solutions based on range and environmentals, so this system makes sense for me as it does for much of the military snipers and many of the law enforcement snipers.

This quality of scope is an investment in both accuracy and as a long term hunting tool. Of course the 5-15X range does not compare to 6X, 7X, and 8X variable magnification ranges we are seeing on Bushnell’s $1000 Elite Tactical optics, but this is a good thing for this optic. I applaud Bushnell for taking a step back from a cost perspective and offering a 3X magnification range from 5-15x which is far less expensive and drives the price down considerably on an outstanding optic in this premium optic.  

Even at the value offered in Bushnell’s Elite Tactical line, not all of us can lay down $800+ for an optic.  With that in mind I think this 5-15X Elite Tactical Bushnell scope is the best buy for the money if you are looking for a military/law enforcement quality Mil-Dot optic for your tactical or target rifle or perhaps for your very own 3” @ 300 yard cold war surplus tack driver.

Second focal plane
RainGuard HD
Fully multi-coated optics
1" Forged aluminum alloy one-piece tube
.1 Mil Click Value
3" sunshade
Front parallax adjustment
Power / Obj Lens:                 5-15x 40mm
Finish:                           Matte
Length (in / mm):                 14 / 356
Reticle:                          Mil-Dot
Mounting Length (in / mm):         6.02 / 153
Field of View (ft@100 yds. / m@100 m): 21/6.3@5x / 7/2.1@15x
Adj Range in@100yds/ m@100m:      40 / 1.02
Weight (oz. / g):                 21 / 595
Exit Pupil (mm):                  8 / 2.7
Eye Relief (in / mm):             3.5 / 89
Click Value in@100 yds / mm@100m: .25 / 7
Street Price $419


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Mosin Nagant Transforming a Legend