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Shooting Gear

  • November 18, 2013

    A Super Spotter: The Nightforce TS-82

    By David E. Petzal

    I've been testing optical gear on a more or less regular basis since 1985, and one of the things I've observed is that the difference in image quality between one instrument and another is usually pretty subtle, and sometimes there is none. Not so here. The Nightforce TS-82 XTreme HIDEF makes other spotting scopes look like someone poured vegetable soup on the lenses. Its optics smite you as David smote Goliath.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 10, 2013

    Non-Toxic Shot: Bismuth is Back

    By Phil Bourjaily

    Bismuth, the first non-toxic alternative to steel shot, is back.  With the price of tungsten ammo going from expensive to “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” prices, that’s good news, at least for those who can pay $2-$3 per shell for shotgun ammo. Bismuth pellets are actually a bismuth-tin alloy that is almost as dense as lead. It’s brittle, rather than hard, so it doesn’t damage gun barrels and it reacts to choke about the way lead did. Bismuth is a good choice for those who hunt waterfowl with older guns and nice doubles that can’t tolerate steel.

    [ Read Full Post ]

  • October 2, 2013

    Say Goodbye

    By David E. Petzal

    Some time this coming week I will have to part company with the chronograph that I’ve used since 1985. It’s called a Pro Tach, and was made, I believe, by a company called Competition Electronics, which is still very much in business and making chronographs, albeit far more advanced ones.

    The Pro Tach was simplicity itself. It ran on a 9V battery, had an on/off switch, and when you shot over its two sensing gates it told you how fast the bullet was going. That was all it did. It would not give you the weather, or the mean velocity variation between shots, or the number of votes by which Hillary Clinton will carry New York State in 2016. [ Read Full Post ]

  • July 25, 2013

    Optics Review: Two New Meopta Scopes With New 4C Reticle

    By David E. Petzal

    Meopta's MeoStar R1 3x-12x RD night scope.

    I was very slow to pick up on the excellence of Meopta scopes. This is because the name “Meopta” lacks resonance; it’s rather like the names that are hung on imported automobiles these days. The company is located in the Czech Republic, but being European is no excuse. Zeiss and Leica are the names of actual people, and ring with Teutonic authority. Swarovski is the name of an actual Austrian, but loses points because it’s unpronounceable to most Americans. (If you’d like to amuse yourself sometime, go to a gun store in the South that carries the brand and listen to people try to say it. Be advised, however, that laughing at them may get you a nice punch in the face.) I think Meopta needs a good Anglo-Saxon name like Weaver or Redfield or Burris or Bushnell. Who cares if the company is Czech? It’s all one world, ain’t it? [ Read Full Post ]

  • July 9, 2013

    Best Rifle Scope: Vortex Razor HD GEN II 1–6x24mm


    By Tom McIntyre

    $1,899 ( This year saw a slew (I believe that is the proper technical term) of excellent riflescopes ranging in price from above $2,000 down to just under $200. But somehow I just kept coming back to the new Vortex Razor Gen II. The scope is made from 30mm one-piece aircraft-aluminum tubing and fitted with high-density extra-low-dispersion glass -elements fully multi-coated to retard -reflected light, as well as a scratch- and dust-resistant exterior. [ Read Full Post ]

  • July 9, 2013

    Best Scope Rings: Weaver Grand Slam


    By Slaton L. White

    $32.50; ( Support hardware for riflescopes is a basic but vital component of accuracy. That’s why Weaver completely retooled the grand slam line of scope rings. The new solid-steel rings have a four-hole cross-lock design that employs torx screws to clamp down on the scope tube as surely as the jaws of death. [ Read Full Post ]

  • July 9, 2013

    Best Bipod: Champion Pivot Traverse


    By Slaton L. White

    ( Over the years, I’ve shot off a variety of shooting sticks—some good, some truly bad. Here’s a better way. This adjustable bipod enables you to horizontally track a moving animal without having to shift your shooting position. [ Read Full Post ]

  • May 3, 2013

    On the Level: A Simple Method For Aligning Vertical Crosshairs

    By David E. Petzal

    I’d guess that of all the scoped rifles I’ve handled, probably ninety percent have the crosshairs out of vertical alignment. The reason is that when you look through the scope you have your head canted, and when the vertical crosshair looks straight to your crooked head, it ain’t. Crooked scopes cause you to cant the rifle, which causes the bullet to fly to the right or the left of the axis of the bore, which means you’re going to miss right or left when you shoot at 250 yards or more.

    Over the years I’ve seen various gadgets that purport to enable you to mount the damned scope straight. A couple of days ago, however, I learned about a way to do the job that is sublime in its simplicity and requires only a carpenter’s spirit level. Here’s how it works: [ Read Full Post ]

  • September 28, 2012

    3-D Gun Printing: People Already Making Their Own AR Lowers

    By Phil Bourjaily

    Last year I blogged about 3-D printing and the possibility that someday soon we could print firearms parts and, possibly, whole guns. That future is arriving: people have already printed plastic AR 15 lowers.*

    Defense Distributed, a group that hosts the Wiki Weapon project, is trying to make a whole, functional, printable gun. Their goal is modest: a .22 pistol that will fire at least one shot. Think of it like World War II’s “Liberator Pistol” for the 21st century. They then intend to make the information and plan available anywhere so anyone with a hobby grade 3-D printer can make a public domain pistol. [ Read Full Post ]

  • May 8, 2012

    Good Gun Book: 'Shooter's Bible Guide to Optics'

    By David E. Petzal

    Optics, like everything else in our world, are in a state of turmoil. On the one hand, you can now pay close to $4,000 for a riflescope or a spotting scope and $3,000 plus for a binocular, while on the other hand there are riflescopes and spotting scopes selling for $400 and $300 that are better than anything you could buy at any price 20 years ago. Yet on the third hand we now have optical devices that did not even exist 20 years ago, such as laser rangefinders, range-compensating scopes, and good red-dot sights.

    And if you’re to spend your money on any of this gear, you will quickly become confused, and your confusion can take on ugly notes of fear and panic. “What is one to do?”, you will bellow, and your dog will wet the carpet in terror. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 10, 2012

    Hearing Loss: Only You Can Prevent Brain Rot

    By David E. Petzal

    In order to have some hope of conducting business with mankind in general, I wear hearing aids, but not very often, since I’m indifferent to what most people say, and I find that being able to hear all the little noises I had forgotten existed is annoying. But there is a problem with this. The first is that my hearing aids have memory, and when I go in for a checkup the audiologist plugs them into a laptop and they show how little I wear them.

    This, the audiologist explained, is not wise. According to a study done at the University of Pennsylvania last year, “… declines in hearing ability may accelerate atrophy in auditory areas of the brain and increase the listening effort necessary for older adults to successfully comprehend speech.” [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 6, 2012

    March Madness: Remington Model 700 is the F&S All-Purpose Whitetail Rifle Champ

    By Dave Hurteau

    Well I don’t think any of us can pretend to be surprised. (If we did a shotgun tourney, the 870 would surely win, too.) But getting here was fun, and in the end it came down to mystique vs. legendary accuracy. [ Read Full Post ]

  • March 21, 2012

    Retirement Age: The Progress of Modern Optics

    By David E. Petzal

    At any given time I’m likely to be shooting loaner rifles, and so I keep eight or so scopes on hand to mount on these guns. Some of the scopes have been around for 15 years or more, and I keep using them because they work. The other day, however, I was shooting with one that had been around a long time, and on the other rifle I was using I had a brand-new Meopta MeoStar. When I switched from the rifle with the Meopta to the one with the old scope it was as though I had suddenly developed glaucoma. Everything went dim and muddy. 

    Often, when this happens, it’s because the lenses have acquired a coating of what looks like dried oxtail soup, topped by a layer of dust. You clean them off and they’re fine. But the lenses on this old scope were clean. What was at work? New scopes are so much better than those from only a decade ago that they make them look...disadvantaged. Optical progress, which used to proceed at a measured and stately course, now moves at the same breakneck speed as everything else. [ Read Full Post ]

  • February 28, 2012

    Meopta: A Reality Czech on Scope Values

    By David E. Petzal

    As many of you requested, I walked the hallowed (and semi-ventilated) halls of the 2012 SHOT Show with your requests for inexpensive stuff ringing in my ears, instead of just the usual ringing. Riflescope-wise, the standout is Meopta, which I originally thought was an Asian firm, but turns out to be Czech. Meopta has been around for over 70 years and makes rifle scopes, spotting scopes, and binoculars. I’ve used only the rifle scopes, of which there are two lines. MeoStar (pictured here) is the more expensive, made and assembled in the Czech Republic, while MeoPro scopes have their components made abroad and assembled here. Cabela’s sells both MeoPro instruments and its own Euro brand, which is made by Meopta.

    The first time I used a Meopta rifle scope I guessed its price was $300 higher than what it actually cost. Think of it this way: A MeoStar that goes for $650 is a $1,000 scope on which you’re getting a $350 discount. A MeoPro scope that sells for $450 is a $750 scope, ditto ditto. Don’t let the modest prices fool you; these are very, very high-grade instruments. [ Read Full Post ]