Product Review: Vortex Diamondback Spotting Scope

Product Review: Vortex Diamondback Spotting Scope

vortex_2

Advantages: Great optics, ruggedly built, low price
Disadvantages: Some cloudiness in the optics
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I got this scope to replace the ancient Bushnell I inherited from my father in law. 10 years as a commercial photographer taught me what to look for in a a piece of glass, and this scope offers excellent results at a price that won’t break the bank.

vortex_1

The controls are logically placed and have everything you want in a serious spotting scope such as a rotating tripod mount for bench or prone use and a sensitive, easy to use focusing knob. The scope is rugged built and comes with a convenient soft carry case that also doubles as a thermal cover (a nice touch)..

The Vortex Diamondback scope is easy to use in the field or on the bench and transmits colors and details to the eye cleanly with little optical aberrations such as color shifting or fringing, but there is a general cloudiness in the lens. Is there a difference in clarity at higher powers between this scope and something costing five or ten times as much? Yes. Are those other scopes five or ten times clearer and easier to see through? Oh heck no.

If you have to have the very best and are willing to spend for it, go for it and get a $2000+ scope. If you want a spotting scope to do the job day in, day out, this is the scope for you.

Reloading Is An Analog Process In A Digital World

Reloading is an analog process in a digital world

reloading_bench

I agree 100% with The Gun Noob:

Ammo. The thorn in our side. The achilles heel of the firearm industry. It doesn’t matter what guns we have, if we don’t have ammo we can’t feed them. The problem is, as of late, ammo has been harder to find and a bit more expensive than we’ve been used to in the past. Things are getting better, but they’re not great.

I reload to save money and to keep shooting when ammo supplies are low. That’s my (very) basic Lee Classic Turret setup up there, and I’m looking to upgrade it to a progressive press of some kind in the near future. One thing I’m learning in the process of buying a new press is that reloading is stuck in the past, probably somewhere around 1961.

As it stands now, reloading at home reminds me of where home photo processing was twenty years ago: It’s an old-fashioned process that relies as much on intuition and trial and error as it does charts and numbers. I had a darkroom at home when I was taking pictures for a living, and developing photos and making prints at home involved a soul-searchng personal journey of film, developers, paper and print developers that all came together in the darkroom by means of an Arkane Majickal Ritual of dodging, burning, flashing and washing using chemicals that could (literally) melt the flesh off your fingers if used wrong.

beseler_23ciiAll that has been washed away with the advent of digital photography. Home darkrooms (or darkrooms of any kind) have been replaced with a computer and Photoshop. Even in my old studio, where I spent weeks at a time in the darkroom cranking out prints, the venerable old Omega D2 and trays are gone, replaced with a server room.

As Michael Bane talked about on his podcast a week or so ago, there’s a convergence happening in firearms world: the adaptability of the AR, just-in-time manufacturing, 3-D printing, 80% lowers and shift towards a “maker” culture are driving a revolution in firearms ownership.

All those changes in how we create and enjoy guns means squat, however, if we can’t shoot the guns we’re making. Thousands and thousands of new gun owners means  millions and millions of rounds of ammunition is needed, and ammo manufacturers are (rightfully) leery of investing money in new capacity if this ammo shortage we’re experiencing is just a temporary thing. Reloading at home could add flexibility to the supply chain, but because of the complexity of finding the right mix of powder, dies, primers and press, the barrier to entry is high, limiting the enthusiasm and growth of the home reloading market.

Ammo manufacturers can’t keep up with demand, and reloading at home is stuck in the past. Whoever cracks the code and brings the benefits of distributed production and just-in-time manufacturing will create a new market for gun owners. I’ve got my own ideas how to do that, but I need to talk with some more knowledgable people first (and get some NDA’s signed) before I can say anymore.

Stay tuned.

Prepper Fest AZ Observations And Opinions

Prepper Fest AZ Observations and Opinions

Its been a spring full of expos and shows for Exurban Doug.  The latest event I attended was the Prepper Fest AZ Expo, which was held last weekend at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.  I had a chance to check out the exhibitors to see what was new and exciting in the preparation realm.  Here are some of my thoughts on the event.

The Good

There were some noteworthy exhibitors that bear mentioning.  Alan Korwin from Gunlaws.com was there, who is one of the authorities on gun laws in the USA.  If you own firearms, consider purchasing one of his books on gun laws in your state.

Joel Ho from Mobilesec Solutions was there with his Starfish Defender line of EMP shields.  These mesh Faraday enclosures allow you to operate electronic devices while being protected from EMP.  Another helpful feature of these shields is it prevents your NSA mobile tracking device cell phone from being triangulated via RF signals.  Go to his website to find out more but this was perhaps the most fascinating product from the show.

ProtectmyPapers had their flash drive on display as well.  This is a credit-card sized device with a memory chip on a hinge that flips out so it can be attached to a computer.  It includes all the software necessary to securely store important data on the card.  The data is encrypted too, making it more secure from hacking.

Then there was the Biffy Bag™.  The best way to describe it is a portable toilet in a pouch, it is simply brilliant!  This can really come in handy during camping trips, hunting trips, vacations, hikes, and other outdoor adventures.  It can also be helpful in a disaster situation where both water and sanitation are in short supply.  Great product in my opinion.

iTAK Medical was there with their line of medical kits.  These are designed for traumatic injuries from gunshots and other penetrating wounds.  They have two kits for under $100 and are an Arizona-based company too.  I plan to pick one up for my range bag in the coming weeks, it could be a life-saver.

The Bad

This event was at the Fairgrounds, which is a lousy facility in a very sketchy part of town.  The whole area saw its best days over thirty years ago and as an expo venue it is marginal at best.  There are better locations out there that would draw more people and present a better face for the preparedness movement.

Also, the level of professionalism by the various exhibitors varied a great deal.  Some looked and dressed the part of a business, some looked like hobbyists, while others looked like wacky survivalists.  For preparation to become more mainstream, exhibitors need to present themselves in a professional manner to be taken seriously by Middle America.  Preparation is serious business, exhibitors need to treat it that way and not as an excuse to act like amateurs.

Some of the products I have my doubts about too.  When a lady told me “wait until my husband gets done talking with that guy.  He builds these in his garage and can answer all your questions about them…” it did not fill me with confidence.  If I am buying a product, I want to know there is more than just one guy standing behind it in case I need support.

I also noticed several exhibitors selling “off the grid” land for bug-out situations.  I’m not convinced that bugging out of town (with hundreds of thousands of others) is the best idea in most situations.  The money spent on land could be more effectively used on a multitude of preparations around the house for situations that are likely to happen (ex. power outages).  Fear and paranoia are being used to sell expensive things most people aren’t going to be able to use in an emergency, which I find disturbing.

The Ugly

There was a lot more camo-clad attendees at this expo than the recent gun shows that I attended.  Hey, I like my Woodland pattern BDUs too but I don’t normally wear them while I am out and about.  I think doing so reinforces a negative stereotype of a prepper;  that of a militant, somewhat paranoid person who is obsessed with doomsday.  Wearing camo doesn’t help make preppers seem reasonable and normal to our neighbors.

There were a lot of fat and out of shape people at the expo too.  While this reflects American society as a whole, it shows that many preppers are emphasizing gear and tools over self-discipline and fitness.  Emergencies test the body’s ability to respond under stress, which is why the military subjects its personnel to physical and mental stress to prepare them for duty.  Civilian preppers need to concentrate more on fitness and overall wellness in order to be ready for the unexpected.

Another thing that bothered me was the use of the term “sheeple” by some of the exhibitors.  Using this term does not help because of its use by conspiracy theorists and political extremists.  When I hear that word, I get the impression that the person using it is attempting to assert superiority over others.  This kind of arrogance and self-righteousness is unbecoming and does not belong within the prepper community.

The Cray-Cray

The anti-GMO folks were at this event doing their best to whip up opposition to science and modern farming.  Here again, well-meaning but misinformed people are doing damage by parroting misinformation about a complex subject they simply don’t understand.  If these people knew more about agriculture, they wouldn’t be protesting.

Yes, there was actually a chemtrail booth at the expo too.  I just shook my head and refused to accept one of the DVDs they were giving away.  Chemtrail believers are akin to those who fell for the whole crop circle hoax, they won’t believe the evidence when it is presented to them.  I don’t get this particular conspiracy, I am simply baffled by it and regard it as a waste of time.

Unfortunately, the Ronulans haven’t gone away either.  The cause they are pushing for now is ending the Federal Reserve, which echos what the John Birch Society has been calling for.  They weren’t vocal, just present and focusing on the Fed for now.  That said, there is an element of paranoid, libertarianism within the preparation community.

I’ll have some additional observations regarding this event over at Smart Suburban Survival, stop on by for other preparation-related posts when you have a chance.

Product Review: Inteliscope IPhone Adapter

Product Review: Inteliscope iPhone Adapter

inteliscope iphone review Advantages: Shows off what’s possible with everyday electronic devices
Disadvantages: Limited by the iPhone’s screen
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I’ve been been writing for a while now about how the revolution in personal electronics will affect firearms development, and now we’re seeing products like Tracking Point and Colt’s SWORD system change how we think about small arms.

But those are systems that cost thousands of dollars and are of marginal use to civilians: What’s out there for people like us who don’t wear MOLLE straps to work each day?

Inteliscope

The Inteliscope on top of my CavArms AR-15

The Inteliscope iPhone Scope is one of those options, and it uses features already on your smartphone such as an inclinometer, camera and far more computing power than my first computer to do (in theory) a lot of what Tracking Point and other systems do for thousands of dollars more.

rifle_typesThe first thing I noticed about the Inteliscope system was how nicely-packaged it was. Apple owners are used to a first-class experience when opening up new stuff, and the Inteliscope does not dissapppoint. Setup on the top of my competition AR-15 was easy, and downloading the app from the iTunes was simple and free.

ammo_typesI took rifle to range to sight it in, and decided to set it up for shooting .22LR through my AR before I set it up to shoot .223, because I’m cheap, that’s why. The mount was easy to install on my gun and once my phone was locked onto the it, nothing moved, it was VERY sold. Setting up the scope for zeroing caused a brief moment of panic as I’d forgotten where that screen was on the included app. The app includes a screen where rifle and ammo data can be entered for the built-in ballistic computer, and setting up the Inteliscope was for the most part easy and logical. However, a a one-page instruction manual would help smooth the process for dunderheads like me. I also like the fact you can remove items from the display screen such as GPS info and the inclinometer, but I’d like an option to customize it further and remove the optional light switch and timer button as well. One thing on the screen that I really liked was the option to include local wind and weather data. Knowing at a glance where the prevailing wind was coming from and how strong it was could be a big hand in making longer-distance shots.

actual_screenThe sighting-in process began to highlight some of the limitations of this device. Because the Inteliscope uses the iPhone’s 5x digital zoom, the details of the target 25 yards away were very blurry and I couldn’t get a good sighting group no matter how hard I tried. The image to the right shows the problem: The app was willing, but alas, the display on my iPhone 4S was weak. I set up five targets to shoot with my .22 to test out how the Inteliscope handles target transitions, and the results were disappointing.

I spent much more time hunting for the plates with the Inteliscope than I do with my 1x red dot. The Inteliscope just didn’t resolve the low-contrast between the plates and the dirt berm well enough for me to shoot quickly and accurately (although it’s really cool to FINALLY have true “gun camera” footage from my AR…) The bright sunlight of a clear Arizona morning was also too much for the scope, and I couldn’t get a good view of the screen unless I shaded it with the brim of my cap. I also noticed that this gizmo uses a lot of battery power: My iphone went from 95% to 25% charged in just an hour of use.

Bottom Line – Inteliscope iPhone Review

I’ll admit that I really loved the idea of this product and I want it to succeed, and the people at Inteliscope deserve praise for raising the bar on what electronics can do in conjunction with firearms. What I’ve learned throughout this review is that this product shows a lot of potential and is a fun little toy to play around with, but it needs some improvements in order to deal with the limits of the iPhone’s digital zoom and poor screen performance in daylight before it can be used in competition or on a defensive firearm. Options for a sunscreen and an optical zoom adapter would go a long way to improve this gadget’s utility and make it a serious alternative to a conventional red dot or optical scope.

Gun Camera.

Gun Camera.

gun_cameraOver on the Downrange TV forums, there’s the usual complaints about the lack of “game changing” guns rolled out at SHOT. I think there are two reasons for this.

The first is, quite obviously, that gun companies don’t NEED to change the game. They are making money hand over fist to fulfill a record demand for their products. One of the dudes from Four Guys Guns said it best at Range Day this year, “The guns we’re seeing this year are the guns we would have seen last year but didn’t because of the political mood of the nation”, and I think he’s right. Why roll out new product if you can’t keep your current product on the shelf?

The second reason why we’re not seeing real innovation in guns is that they are a mature market, and mature markets tend to float along unchanged until a major upheaval occurs.

A corollary…

I was a pro photog for 10 years, right before the age of digital. I saw a lot of cameras come out with new bells, windows and programming modes, but the basic operation of the camera (film roll, shutter, film advance, aperture, mirror) was pretty much the same between, say, and RB67 and and FM2. The reason for this was because all cameras back then were, in essence, a mechanical object. Yes, they had electronically-timed shutters and multiple program modes, but they functioned thru gears and sprockets.

Then came digital, and all of that changed.

We’ve not seen an electronics revolution in firearms just yet. We see things like the Tracking Point and other gizmos that remind me of the “still video” cameras of the late 80’s, so a change is coming, but nothing’s revolutionized the consumer and “pro” industries like digital photography did to the camera business. 

And for those people who grouse about the unreliability of electronics, consider this: If your car was made this century, it probably relies more on electronics to run things than it does mechanics. Yes, engine still works on pistons, the transmission on gears and the brakes on calipers, but all of that is now controlled by a computer, and if that goes, none of it works. 

But you still get into your car and drive at 65 (-ish) on the freeway and don’t worry about the electronics failing. So why worry about the same technology in your gun? 

Just a thought.

Speaking Of SHOT And New Guns…

Speaking of SHOT and new guns…

logo_CZ-USAWhen is CZ going to realize there’s a huge CCW market here in the states and come out with a smaller, lighter gun suitable for CCW? Don’t get me wrong, I loves me my P07, but it’s just not as comfortable to wear day-in, day-out as my Shield. 

What would I want from CZ for a CCW gun? 

  • Skinny. Because CZ’s put their rails on the inside, they tend to be a bit thicker than comparable guns. Maybe a single-stack would be a good idea, if not, stack and a half like the Shield.
  • 9mm. Duh.
  • The Omega Trigger*. SA/DA or single action with a safety. Great idea, darn good trigger. 
  • 10+1 capacity. Because IDPA. 
  • Polymer, because as much as I love my CZ75, it’s just not an option for daily carry for me.
  • Overall dimensions in the Glock 19 range. 

Ok CZ, now go build this. 

* The Omega Trigger would make a GREAT name for a movie on the SyFy channel

So Sig Is Dropping Something Big On Us At SHOT

So Sig is dropping something big on us at SHOT

SIG-Sauer-new-gun 

Richard Johnson is thinking it’s a semi-auto scattergun, but I’m thinking it’s time for Sig to enter the 21st century and come out with a polymer striker-fired gun, maybe with interchangeable grip panels, maybe not. Response to the P250 has been whelming, at best: Maybe Sig will improve it with a better, lighter trigger in time for SHOT?

What say you? What do you think “Something big” is?

Update: Nailed it! Wow, what a guess!

First Impression: Kel-Tec PMR-30 Part 2 Of 2

First Impression: Kel-Tec PMR-30 Part 2 of 2

In Part 1, I talked about how much fun the Kel-Tec PMR30 is to shoot. In Part Two, we’ll talk about what’s it’s useful for. This gun is more than just a toy, it has some serious tasks to perform.

1. It would make an excellent self-defense gun for someone who’s recoil-adverse.

The PMR30 has 31 rounds to accomplish the task of making a dent in an attacker, and it’s light and easy to carry even with a full mag. The .22 Magnum is no slouch when it comes to defensive usages: Like the .380 ACP in my P3AT, .22 magnum is considered a sub-optimal defensive round (and it is), but load it up with 31 Speer Gold Dots, and you’ll have a gun that can throw a lot of lead downrange in a short amount of time.

How much? Let’s compare the firepower of a bunch of commonly-used defensive pistols. I’m not concerned with 9mm vs. .45 in this test, all I want to do is measure the amount of energy and lead a given firearm can toss into a target without having to reload. My formula for firepower is simple: (Energy In ft/lbs at muzzle x Total Capacity)/100. Let’s see what we get when we run some common carry guns through that formula.

Gun

Ft/Lbs at Muzzle

Capacity

Firepower* 

P3AT

190

7

13.3

Smith and Wesson Shield

341

8

27.3

Glock 26

341

11

37.5

1911 Govt

616

8

49.3

Glock 19

341

16

54.6

M+P Compact .40

507

11

55.8

CZ P07

341

17

58.0

HK45

616

11

67.8

Kel-Tec PMR30

99

31

30.7

* ( Energy In ft/lbs at muzzle x Capacity)/100

So according to this table, the PMR30 isn’t too shabby as a personal defense firearm, and I wouldn’t feel outgunned walking around with it on my hip. Speaking of which…

2. It would make a great Trail Gun 

You know, the gun to carry with you when you’re hiking, just in case some two or four legged predators show up. The PMR30 is REALLY light. even when fully loaded, so it won’t weigh you down on the road, but it’s .22 magnum is enough to discourage all but the most ursine of potential threats. And if a rabbit pops up along the way, the PMR can harvest you some hasenpfreffer fixin’s. 

Rmr 30 Carbine3. It would make a great Bug Out Gun

Team up the PMR30 with it’s big brother, the RMR30 carbine (when and if that gun is ever put on sale to the public, that is), and add in a Ruger Gunsite Scout rifle, and you have a package that handle just about anything life may throw at you and has rounds o’plenty on hand, yet still weighs less that 15lbs altogether. The PMR is for bad-breath-distance encounters, the RMR is for stuff out to 100 yards or in a vehicle, and the Scout Rifle is when you need to reach out and touch someone beyond 300 yards or drop something bigger than somedood, a task very few AR15’s are up to. 

Kel-Tec’s got another winner on their hands with the PMR30. It’s on a gun you want to buy to run in a practical pistol match, nor is it a barbecue gun to show off to your friends. It’s just a simple, easy to shoot, FUN to shoot little pistol that creates it’s own niche within the gun community. 

Update: Got a chance over the weekend to shoot the closest competitor to the PMR30, the FN 5.7. More on that later in the week.

First Impression: Kel-Tec PMR-30 (Part 1 Of 2)

First Impression: Kel-Tec PMR-30 (Part 1 of 2)

Fun gun!

So awhile back I wrote,

I got in a little trigger time with my brother over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, just us, a few friends and a variety of guns, the great oudoors and I realized something on the way back.

I don’t like shooting for shooting’s sake anymore.

I like to go the range, and I like to shoot, but if I go to the range these days, it’s practice for a specific skill or skills that I need to improve, and not just shooting to go shoot.

Since I wrote that almost two year ago, I’ve worked on my draw and my reloads and my long-range shooting and my shotgun skills and I’m getting into hunting various sorts of critters..

…but I’ve not really shot for fun for quite some time now.

And then I shot the Kel-Tec PMR30.

At first glance, it’s lightweight .22 magnum semi-automatic with a huge magazine capacity. I mean, sure, nothing else is like it out there right now, but how different can it REALLY be?

Different enough to make me fall in love with the love of shooting again.

Let me explain.

The first thing I noticed when I took the PMR-30 out of its case is how light it is: At 14 ounces, it’s lighter than my subcompact 9mm Shield, at 1.3 inches wide, not much thicker and with a 4.5 pound pull and a good reset, it’s also got a better trigger out of the box than my Shield.

And then I took it to the range, and the fun REALLY began.

Because of its low weight, light recoil, good trigger, the PMR-30 is just a flat out joy to shoot. Add in the loud bark of .22 magnum and excellent (although non-adjustable) fibre-optic sights, and you’ve got the perfect range-day gun. Because of the need to fit in the long and thin .22 magnum ammunition, the grip is a little weird, it kinda has a triangular cross-section. Not hard to hold, just different from most semi-autos, and the magazine is in the heel of the butt like the old Lugers and P-08’s. Not a big deal, because let’s face it, with 30 rounds in each mag, it’s a while before you’ll swap it out for a new one.

The PMR-30 is accurate… enough. It’s not the last word in tack-driver semiautos, but it did turn in 1 inch groups at 25 feet off a rest. However, with 30 rounds in the magazine, you won’t care, you’ll just be blazing away at your target with a big stupid grin on your face.

In Part 2 on Monday, we’ll talk about some of the more serious uses for this fun little gun.

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