Vortex Crossfire II 2-7×32

| March 23, 2021
Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.
Reticle | Dead Hold BDC
Objective Lens Diameter | 32mm
Tube Size | 1 inch
Weight | 14.3 oz
Magnification | 2x-7x
MOA Adjustment | .25 MOA
Eye Relief | 3.9 Inches
Illumination | NA
Mount | None. Requires Picatinny Rings
Battery | NA
Battery Life | NA
Waterproof | Waterproof, and Fog Proof, Nitrogen Purged
Country of Origin | China
Warranty | Unlimited, Unconditional, Lifetime
Includes | Plastic Lens Cover, Microfiber Lens Cloth
Price | $179

Vortex Crossfire II – Initial Thoughts

The Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32 has been around for a few years now, and while it’s not new, it’s still an affordable and available rifle scope, that may still be perfect for you.

The Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32 came packaged nicely and securely in a Vortex Crossfire branded box. The packaging included a microfiber lens cloth, and a manual for the Crossfire II scope, as well as a manual for the Dead Hold BDC reticle.

Because the Crossfire line of scopes is third from the bottom tier of Vortex scopes, just above the Copperhead and Sonora lines of scopes, we weren’t sure what to expect. We knew, or at least had hoped, that Vortex would not sell a bad scope, but we were skeptical about what Vortex could offer in a scope with a $129 purchased price, and our hopes weren’t too high.

Right out of the box, we were pleasantly surprised by the Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32. It has the fit and finish you would expect from Vortex, but couldn’t imagine you could get at the price point. The scope feels durable, has a solid matte black finish, clear glass, a sharp second focal plane reticle, and the turrets can be adjusted without tools.

Nothing about the Crossfire II would have you think it is a budget scope. We chose the 2-7x version of the crossfire with a reticle that is not-illuminated, so we can’t speak to reticle illumination on the Crossfire series of scopes. However, we have used a Vortex Strike Eagle 1x6 for years, and it’s an awesome scope, with an awesome reticle.

Vortex Crossfire II on an AR-15

The Vortex Crossfire II 2-7×32 mounted onto an AR-15.

Vortex Crossfire II – Field Tests

We mounted the Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32 on an AR-15, chambered in 223 Wylde, with high profile quick detach rings by UTG. When the AR-15 isn’t being used product testing or predator hunting, the Crossfire II can quickly be removed and replaced by a Bushnell TRS-25.

Between the high profile rings, 3.9″ eye relief of the Crossfire II, and the ample mounting options of the AR-15 Picatinny rail, it was easy to achieve a comfortable cheek weld, and quickly get the reticle on targets.

To sight in the Crossfire II scope, we set up 3 Birchwood Casey 6 inch reactive targets. The targets were ranged at 25 yards, 50 yards, and 100 yards.

We took two shots at 25 yards to see where the point of impact was and then made appropriate adjustments. The turret caps on the Crossfire II are easy to remove by hand, and adjustments were also easy to make without tools. Each 1/4 MOA turret adjustment made an audible and tactile click. The tactile clicks could have felt stronger, or slightly less spongy, but they were easy enough to detect, and matched the MOA numbers on the turrets. So there was never any doubt about the adjustments that were made.

Vortex Crossfire II Turrets

The turrets on the Vortex Crossfire II, are marked for 1/4 MOA adjustments, and provide an audible and tactile click.

We took our third shot at 50 yards, made zero adjustments, and then finished zeroing at 100 yards. Sighting the Crossfire II was one of the easier sighting experiences we’ve had, largely due to the clear glass, sharp second focal plane reticle, and easy to adjust turrets, but also likely due to the low recoil generated by our AR-15 compensator and light predator rounds. We didn’t used a lead sled, although it would have been nice.

The scope held zero during the rest of our shooting, and made reaching out on targets very enjoyable for the rest of the afternoon.

Vortex Crossfire II – Critical Observations

Outside of a larger objective lens, which has more to do with cost than it does being a fault of the Crossfire II, we don’t have any real complaints about the Crossfire II. It’s hard to be critical and nit pick a scope that offers such great value and performance for the price point. Any improvements to the Crossfire II already exist in Vortex’s higher tier Diamondback, Viper, Eagle, and Razor lines of scopes.

Vortex Crossfire II – Conclusion

Its by no means a new product offering, but dollar for dollar, you’d be hard pressed to find a better scope for the same price. The Vortex Crossfire II is one of the best budget optics in the $100 to $150 range, backed by one of the industries best warranties. Under the $100 dollar mark, you may look at the popular UTG bug buster, but for another 20 dollar bill, you are unlikely to be disappointed with the better Crossfire II.

Vortex Crossfire II Dead Hold BDC

Vortex Crossfire II Dead Hold BDC reticle is clear and easy to use.

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Magpul Enhanced Trigger Guard

| March 20, 2021
AR15 Trigger Guard Comparison
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Stock AR-15 trigger guards suck, which is why we picked up a Magpul Enhanced Trigger Guard to improve our AR-15 rifle.

If you are new to the AR-15 platform, or haven’t experienced it yet, factory trigger guards create a sharp edge where the grip, lower, and trigger guard all come together. The gap exposes the sharp inner edges of the lower, and those edges rest on your middle finger. In the best case scenario, it’s just uncomfortable, but it can cut your bare finger or cause blistering through a glove.

Some AR-15 owners simply file down the sharp edges. Another option is a ‘gapper’. ‘Gappers’ are budget friendly, soft rubber plugs that fill the void and create a soft spot for the shooter’s middle finger. However, the gap could also just be looked at, as an opportunity to replace the trigger guard with a much better and more accommodating one.

Magpul Trigger Guard

Stock AR-15 trigger guard on the left. Magpul Enhnanced Trigger Guard on the right.

The better one we chose was the Magpul Enhanced Trigger Guard. It is like many enhanced trigger guards, in that it provides more clearance for thick gloves, but also fills the sharp AR gap.

The Magpul Enhanced Trigger Guard is just one of the ‘Must Have Accessories’ we talk about in our Anderson AR-15 Build Article, where we take a mix mash of mil-spec AR-15 parts, a few cool aftermarket parts, and set up a very functional, budget friendly AR-15 predator rifle, chambered in .223 Wylde.

Magpul Enhanced Trigger Guard

The Magpul Enhanced Trigger Guard next to a standard AR-15 trigger guard.

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380 vs 9mm

| March 19, 2021
Springfield XD 9mm pistol and ammo
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

We don’t enjoy cartridge debates, but we’ll address them, and today it’s the ‘380 vs 9mm, which one is better?’ debate. At Sportsman’s Magazine, we aren’t huge fanboys of any specific cartridges. We all have our favorites, but also generally believe there is a right cartridge or cartridges, for every specific use case. That critical thinking is how we’ll approach the 380 vs 9mmm comparison.

We’ll focus on power, magazine capacity, and control. Before we take a dive into cartridge characteristics, it’s worth answering some of the other commonly asked questions on the topic. “Can a 380 stop an attacker?”, “Can a 9mm stop an attacker?”, and “What has more stopping power .380 or 9mm?”. The answers are Yes, Yes, and 9mm, but that isn’t the end of the ‘debate’.

380 vs 9mm: Power

When it comes to a comparison of power, the 9mm is a clear winner. The 380 ACP produces an average of 190 to 220 foot pounds of energy with normal commercial ammo, excluding higher pressure rounds. The 9mm produces an average of 320 to 360 foot pounds of energy with normal commercial ammo, excluding higher pressure rounds.

There isn’t a whole lot to point out here, and it doesn’t take a genius to see whether the 380 or 9mm produces more power. Tests have also shown the 9mm has greater expansion and penetration than the 380 ACP. 9mm is the clear winner, when it comes to power.

380 vs 9mm: Magazine Capacity

The less powerful 380 auto uses what are essentially the same bullets as the 9mm, albeit lighter, and in a shorter case length. The magazine capacities are pretty much the same, but the shorter round means the magazine, receiver, and chamber of a 380 are also shorter, resulting in a lighter firearm. From a pure capacity perspective, it’s a draw between the 9mm and 380.

380 vs 9mm: Control

Even though 9mm pistols are usually a few ounces heavier than a 380 auto, the recoil is still significantly greater than a 380 auto. The NRA tested the 380 in the same weight pistol as a 9mm, and the results showed the 380 auto produced 94 percent less recoil. The greatly reduced recoil makes the 380 auto a clear winner in the control comparison.

380 vs 9mm: Conclusion

There are two obvious conclusions in the 380 vs 9mm debate, and it’s a firearm fairytale ending. Fanboys of each cartridge can be happy, or at least appeased.

The 9mm is a great round across the board. It has plenty of power, is very controllable compared to a 45 ACP or 357 Magnum, and has plenty of magazine capacity, making it a great all purpose choice. Albeit not the tiniest pistol, it’s commonly carried in a compact or subcompact form. For a multi-purpose, range, home defense, everyday carry pistol, the 9mm is better than the 380 auto.

However, the lack of power doesn’t mean the 380 auto wouldn’t stop an assailant. Enough people have died because of 22lr wounds, with half the energy of a 380, to affirm the fact that the 380 is a lethal cartridge. While the 380 auto isn’t as powerful as the 9mm, and its magazine capacity is essentially the same, they are typically a few ounces lighter and are more compact, because of the shorter, lower pressure rounds. The compact size and still legal power of a 380, makes it a great concealed carry, that is easy to control. For those that want a very compact and controllable concealed carry, and are content with the reduced power of the 380 cartridge, the 380 auto is a no brainer.

Before the fanboys, of either the 9mm or the 380 completely go off the rails, we will also acknowledge that we did not include specific things like ported barrels, custom high pressure loads, and lightweight composite firearms. It is possible to load a hot 380 auto for more power, and it is possible to reduce 9mm recoil by 30ish percent with ported barrels, but these are more of an exception than the standard.

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Bushnell TRS-25 Red Dot Sight

| March 15, 2021
Predator Hunting with Bushnell TRS 25
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.
Objective Lens Diameter | 25mm
Weight | 3.6 ounces
Magnification | 1x
MOA | 3
MOA Adjustment | .25 MOA
Illumination | 11 Levels. No NV Compatibility
Mount | None. Requires a picatinny riser mount or rail
Battery | CR2032
Battery Life | 3000+ hours
Waterproof | Waterproof, and Fog Proof, Nitrogen Purged
Country of Origin | China
Warranty | Lifetime
Price | $69

Initial Observations

The Bushnell TRS-25 red dot sight has a durable construction. It is shockproof, and waterproof with an IPX7 rating. Like many quality scopes, the TRS-25 is nitrogen purged to prevent fogging.

The TRS-25 is very lightweight, and mounts securely to Picatinny riser mounts or rails. Tolerances are very good, and the TRS-25 co-witnessed two sets of iron sights perfectly.

Windage and elevation turrets are covered by threaded caps that are sufficiently knurled, and are easy to remove by hand. However, actual adjustments need to be made with a coin or a standard screwdriver.

TRS-25 Turrets

The Bushnell TRS-25 windage and elevation turrets require a tool or coin to adjust.

Field Tests

We mounted the TRS-25 red dot sight with a UTG .83 inch riser mount for an absolute co-witness, on top of an AR-15, and took it to the range.

The glass is clear, and the lens coating prevents lens flare and glaring very well. The brightest setting was even visible, albeit barely, when aimed directly at a bright LED plant grow light. A test, if you like your retinas, we don’t recommend anybody else repeat.

The glass remained clear in all kinds of light levels, and did not fog when transitioning from indoor temperatures and humidity to 69% humidity outside in the snow at 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Repeated and fast target acquisition is easy with the clear glass and bright 3 MOA red dot, in just about any conditions.

The TRS-25 maintains zero after hundreds of rounds, and with a minimum battery life of 3000 hours, we’d venture to call it more reliable than a pair of ultra cheap BUIS. The Bushnell TRS-25 will probably live on our test AR-15 platform, when it’s not configured with greater magnification for predator hunting.

Critical Observations

The Bushnell TRS-25, does have some room for improvement. 3 MOA covers more of a target than a 2 MOA dot, and the larger 3 MOA red dot can seem grainy when focused on. The included rubber lens bikini cover would be better replaced by flip up lens caps. No auto on/off feature isn’t a big deal, but it would be nice to have the feature.

Windage and elevation adjustment turrets are nicer when they require no tools for adjustment, but after zeroing the dot sight, it doesn’t really matter.

 TRS-25 Looks Good

Besides being functional, The Bushnell TRS-25 just looks good on a long Picatinny rail.

Conclusion

All in all, the Bushnell TRS-25 is a no frills, well made, highly reliable red dot sight that is incredibly budget friendly, and offers great value.

Sure, it could have an auto on/off power feature, a 2 MOA dot versus a 3 MOA dot, as well as turrets that don’t require tools for adjustments, and flip up lens caps instead of a rubber bikini…

All things considered, the TRS-25 is an incredible value at $69. Any improvements made to it, would be icing on a cake. It’s no wonder, the TRS-25 has been a go to red dot for so many, over the years.

Bushnell also stands behind their products. Under their lifetime warranty, if Bushnell can’t repair an optic, they will replace it with a product of equal or better value.

We ran the TRS-25 red dot sight on an AR-15 with and without co-witnessed iron sights. For an absolute co-witness we used the UTG .83 inch 3 Slot Riser Mount, and highly recommend it.

Bushnell TRS 25 Dot Sight

Bushnell TRS 25 Dot Sight on .83″ UTG Riser

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Air Gun Optic Mounts

| March 11, 2021
Air Gun BUIS down
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

If you want to mount optics to your air gun with a dovetail, you’ll need the appropriate air gun optic mounts. Many air guns use a 3/8 inch dovetail, and while many companies are incorporating picatinny or weaver mounts on higher end air guns, it’s not the standard yet.

Mounting fixed sights to a Crosman 1322, 1377, or 2289 can be a little bit of a pain, or egregiously expensive. A Crosman LPA Rear Sight alone, is a $60 fixed sight. That is more than a stock Crosman 1322 air gun. Fortunately, there are better options, including some that allow you to mount high quality fixed or flip up sights meant for real firearms.

There are two routes you can take when it comes to mounting optics. You can mount a scope using scope rings designed with a 3/8 dovetail base, or you can mount an intermediate dovetail to picatinny/weaver rail adapter and mount standard picatinny/weaver options.

Option 1: Mount it Directly

While I’ve done this, and it helps to keep costs down, it is a little limiting. Other methods allow for more flexibility, but direct mounting works.
Buy a 1 inch Scope Ring with 3/8 inch Dovetail Base

Air Gun Optics

Flip up iron sights on a Crosman 1322 in an elevated position.

Option 2: Mount an Intermediate Dovetail to Picatinny Rail

Depending on your model of air gun you can use a one or two piece dovetail to picatinny rail adapter. The absolute best option is the 'Sniper' dovetail to Picatinny rail adapter. Its manufactured by Presma, and fits 9mm to 15mm dovetails. It’s very solid, will not move, and adds 3.9 inches of mountable picatinny rail. It’s a solid platform for adding compact flip up sights, like Feyachi flip up sights, or a Bushnell TRS-25 Red Dot Sight.
Buy a 'Sniper' dovetail to Picatinny rail adapter
Buy a Snap in dovetail to Picatinny adapter.

The Crosman 1322 shown below has $30 worth of optics attached to a $10 dovetail to picatinny adapter. Its a solid, lightweight backcountry set up, for less than the cost of a single rear Crosman LPA iron sight.
1322 Crosman with BUIS

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Feyachi Flip Up Sights

| March 11, 2021
Feyachi Flip Up Sights Elevated
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

We ordered Feyachi flip up sights off of amazon.com, because they are one of the cheapest backup sights on the market today, at $27.99. The sights came in a nice plastic case that included an Allen key, which was a pretty nice touch for sub thirty dollar backup sights, but are Feyachi flip up sights any good?

Type | Flip Up Sights BUIS
Range | CQB or Long Range
Dimensions | 35mm x 45mm (height) x 30mm
Weight | 1.5 oz (Front) 35mm x 40mm (height) x 27mm
Weight | 1.8 oz (Rear)
Color | Black Finish
Material | Aluminum
Mounting | Picatinny / Weaver Rails
Price | $27.99
  • Pros
  • Very Affordable
  • Decent Machining
  • Absolute Co-Witnesses with .83 inch riser
  • Mounts Tightly
  • Decent Finish
  • Cons
  • Play in the Upright Position
  • Lack of Confidence for Long Range Targets(du to play)
  • No Rail lugs, Just a Screw

 

Initial Thoughts

Straight out of the package, the Feyachi flip up sights look good. The sights seem to be machined well, and rotated up with gentle pressure. The push pin to unlock and rotate the sights back down functioned fine also.

We mounted the flip up sights to the picatinny rail on an AR-15. While they clamped to the rail securely, they rely on mounting pressure to prevent play. Unlike other more high-end iron sights, they do not have a lug to eliminate any possible movement.

When we mounted the Feyachi sights, they did absolutely co-witness with a Bushnell TRS-25 red dot sight, on a .83″ riser.

The Feyachi sights are a little crude. While they function, they are definitely cheap sights for very tight budgets or SHTF situations. In the elevated position, both the front and rear sight are able to wiggle 3/16” before the locking pin prevented further movement. The machining or parts tolerances must be fairly loose, or maybe thats just what should be expected from sub thirty dollar sights.

While the play might be acceptable for QCB, or close range plinking, hunting, and engagements, it’s not something to rely on for accuracy over 50 yards.

Feyachi Flip Up Sights Mounting ScrewsFeyachi Flip Up Rear Sight

Field Tests

The recoil on an AR-15, even with a fat comp compensator, was more than enough to wiggle the sights. We weren’t able to put thousands, or even just hundreds of rounds, through the AR-15 with the Feyachi sights on it. However, it seems unlikely that they will perfectly hold zero given their ability to move whilst in the upright position, and the obvious loose tolerances.

The Feyachi iron sight bases are also very square, and a little chunky. They are at least 1/8 of an inch wider, with rougher edges, than UTG Slim Sights. While it doesn’t matter so much up front, on the rear of an AR-15 platform, the wider rough features, like the Allen bolt head, occasionally snagged on a glove on the way to the charging handle latch.

Depending on how you rack your AR-15, you may want a latch extension anyway. But if you have to worry about snagging on the base of a flip up sight, you will really want to consider a latch extension.

Feyachi Flip Up Rear Sight Clearance

Conclusion

If you are on a tight budget, and looking for home defense or a SHTF BUIS, then the Feyachi flip up sights will work. Spending another $30 on a pair of UTG fixed sights would be a much better option.

Feyachi really should focus on machining and parts tolerances to make their flip up sights better. They have a little ways to go before we’d trust their sights for big game hunting or a home defense weapon.

The Feyachi flip up sights we used for testing, are going on a backcountry 1322 air gun, and will not live on an AR-15. They aren’t even close to being a candidate for replacing the Fixed UTG slim sights that currently live on our test AR-15 platform, but will suffice for close range air gun, or air soft gun.

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Beeman Chief II

| March 7, 2021
Beeman Chief II Field Test
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

We finally got our hands on the Beeman Chief II PCP air rifle in the .22 caliber. With no manufacturer or distributor relationships to speak of, we simply had to poke around and get a hold of one wherever it was in stock. Hopefully, we’ll also get a Diana Stormrider II in our hands for a side by side test, but for now we are happy to play with the Beeman Chief II, and share our thoughts.

Barrel Length | 21.5 inches
Overall Length | 39.0 inches
Weight | 6.8 lbs.
Action | Bolt
Magazine | 10 shot detachable
Sights | Fiber Optic Fixed
Safety | Lever
Stock | Hardwood
Velocity | 830 FPS
Shots Per Fill | 35 Max
Air Volume | 136 cc
Max Pressure | 2000psi

The air gun and air rifle world has seen huge leaps in the last few years. A few manufacturers started making names for themselves with some high FPE producing air rifles. PCPs started to receive a lot more competition, manufacturing consistency increased, and today manufacturers are producing more power, quality, and accuracy, at a lower price point.

With so many entry level PCP air rifles on the market, like the Beeman Chief II Benjamin Discovery, and Diana Stormrider, its hard to know which one is best to start with.

The Chief II is an updated version of the Chief I, adding a moderator to the barrel, and a 10 shot rotary magazine, but otherwise, it’s mostly the same.

Initial thoughts

Straight out of the box, the Chief II got a thorough inspection. The Beeman Chief II is nicely finished. The coatings on all the machined parts look good, sharp edges are sharp and round surfaces nicely rounded. The wood stock is also nicely finished, especially for a PCP that costs less than the stock on most real firearms. We were unsurprised by the similarity in design to parts on many other budget PCPs, but pleasantly surprised by the overall quality. Handling the rifle revealed a loose barrel band that needed to be tightened up with a hex key, but it was otherwise ready to be pressurized, and shot.

Beeman Chief II Overview

Beeman Chief II Overview

Field Tests

While we did shoot the Chief II with the stock fiber optic sights, we mounted a Simmons Truplex fixed 4x32mm scope for the rest of our testing.

We did not sight in the Beeman Chief II on a perfect day. Sure it would have been nice, but we played the hand we were dealt, which was a windy frigid day in the Eastern Sierra. Wind was blowing 5 to 10 mph from left to right, and 30 mph gusts were frequent. Shots were taken from a seated position, with minor shooting support provided by the back of a vehicle.

We set up target paper at 30 yards, and shot groups with 18.21 grain Barracuda Hunter pellets and Crosman Domed 14.3 grain pellets.

A windy day is awful for shooting groups, but also very realistic for how the Beeman Chief II will be used, hunting small game under similar high desert conditions.

The trigger on the Chief II takes some getting used to, but was consistent, and aside from one obvious pull left while shooting the 14.3 grain Domed Crosmans, the Chief II produced good groups for 30 yards under bad conditions.

Beeman Chief II Breech Brand and Trigger

Beeman Chief II Breech Brand and Trigger

The 14.3 grain Crosman Domed pellets produced a tighter group than the 18.21 grain Barracuda Hunters, they were also the second group to be shot. Aside from one obvious pull left, accuracy could have improved due to becoming more comfortable with the air rifle.

We didn’t measure out the groups. Given the windy conditions, it seemed silly. Perhaps we’ll repeat the test on a nicer day. You can look at the photos and judge for yourself.

Beeman Chief II 30 yard groups

Left Side: 5 shot group @ 30yds. with 18.21g Barracuda Hunter. Scope was adjusted after the two upper shots. Right Side: 5 shot group @ 30yds. with 14.3g Crosman Domed pellets.

The Beeman Chief II includes a degassing tool, and wrench to tune your rifles power setting.

Critical Observations

All we can say about the safety of the Beeman Chief II, is that it sucks. Given the many different types of safeties that could have been used, aside from maybe cost factors, it is hard to understand why Beeman went with the lever type. Its tucked up so close to the stock that it makes it cumbersome to move, and it feels gritty and spongy, versus having any sort of binary feel that very easily indicates a safe versus a ready to fire position.

The 10 round magazine is a nice feature on an entry level PCP. Repeated shots without manually loading each pellet is really nice. However, the magazine lacks rigidity and is a little finicky, but it works. Once you get the hang of loading the magazine, it’s much less of a pain in the ass, but it would be cool to see a design and material update.

The Beeman Chief II is an unregulated PCP. The shot strings get less consistent as the reservoir pressure decreases. You’ll get plenty of shots off before it becomes much of an issue. This of course, is not specific to the Beeman Chief. It’s not really a criticism, but something worth considering if you are in the market for a PCP. If its a huge issue for you, its possible to buy an aftermarket Mk9 regulator kit, but will add some cost.

Hunting and Plinking with the Beeman Chief II

Desert jackrabbit hunting with the Beeman Chief II is a workout. A more stationary hunt or plinking would be fine, but the Beeman Chief II is hefty. The weight is closer to a center fire rifle, and much heavier than a scoped Ruger 10/22. It really needs a sling mounted to it, so that its easier to tote around. While it has plenty of power, it’s still a sub 30 foot pound air gun, and has a much more arching trajectory than a 22 long rifle.

While accuracy was great, even at 100 yards, the holdover at 100 yards was about 14 inches, and at 70 yards it was between 2 and 3 inches. We still saw great bullet deformation at 100 yards, and calculated the energy at 100 yards with 14.3 grain pellets to be about 6.5 foot pounds.

Conclusion

For a sub two hundred dollar PCP, we got a lot more than we were honestly expecting. We weren’t just pleasantly surprised, we were genuinely impressed. Our minor gripes about the magazine, and a less than awesome safety, border on nitpicking.

The Beeman Chief II is a performer, and great value for money. It’s accurate, powerful, stabilizes a range of pellets and pellet weights, is easy to charge with a hand pump, and has more than enough shots per fill for a good small game session. With a few good hours behind the trigger, and a ton of fun. We can honestly, and without reservations, recommend the Beeman Chief II to anybody looking for an entry level PCP for plinking, small game, or pest control. Just plan on adding some Uncle Mike's Sling Mounts and a comfy sling.

If you end up purchasing any PCP air rifle, you’ll need a high pressure air pump. We’ve been using an affordable($49.99) High Pressure Hand Pump without issues, and can affirm it will get the job done.

Beeman Chief II Rotary Magazine

Beeman Chief II Rotary Magazine

Beeman Chief II Moderator and Front Sight

Beeman Chief II Moderator and Front Sight

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Shotgun Choke Basics

| March 1, 2021
Lots of Shotgun Chokes
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

If you are new to shotguns, gearing up for the spring turkey season, or are just trying to get a tighter shot pattern at greater distances, then you need to know the shotgun choke basics. The shotgun choke basics include: how a choke works, choke sizes, choke lengths, and porting.

How Shotgun Chokes Work

Shotgun chokes work by creating a tighter constriction, called a forcing cone, that concentrates shot into a tighter pattern. They vary in the size of the constriction, materials, and length of the forcing cone. Most importantly, some shotgun chokes have restrictions on shot size or type, specifically steel.

When you force a payload of shot through a small constriction, the shot needs to be malleable. If the steel shot cannot squeeze through the forcing cone of a choke, it will create a blockage, a massive spike in pressure, and the only way for that pressure to escape is by destroying and bulging the choke and barrel.

The best steel shot to use, is a properly annealed steel. Annealing makes the steel shot softer and more malleable. Other materials, like lead, tungsten, bismuth, copper, and alloys are more malleable, and chokes don’t typically restrict their usage.

Strength of materials, length of the forcing cone, and less aggressive constrictions allow choke manufacturers to produce chokes that don’t have size or steel restrictions. These are personally my favorite types of chokes, because I can use the same choke for different seasons and different shot types, without worrying about accidentally forgetting to swap a choke. Not all chokes are so steel friendly, so ALWAYS check to see if the choke you are considering, has any size or steel restrictions. The Carlson's Cremator series of chokes, have no such restrictions, and are great chokes.

A Trulock 20 Gauge Turkey Choke

A Trulock 20 Gauge Extended Turkey Choke for Huglu/CZ shotguns.

Choke Material and Finish

Chokes are made of various metal alloys that are hardened and treated for strength and wear resistance. 17-4 stainless steel seems to be the most typical steel used, probably due to cost, and heat treatability. Other materials like titanium are also used.

Chokes are treated or coated in everything from black nitride, to Cerakote and other polymer-ceramic coatings. Aside from potentially adding some protection from the elements, or making it easier to clean, the range of finishes don’t seem to do much if anything for the choke aside from improving aesthetics.

Knowledge on materials used to make a choke isn’t exactly something that needs to be known. However, it’s worth mentioning, because it’s informational and can help you avoid buying a choke because of some gimmicky new alloy or finish name.

So long as the choke you are using fits your shotgun properly, and is approved for the shot type you are using, the material the manufacturer chose to use shouldn’t matter. In fact many are durable enough that some manufacturers offer lifetime guarantees.

Choke Sizes

Chokes typically come in common constriction sizes. From the most open to the tightest constrictions, chokes are typically designated as cylinder, skeet, improved cylinder, light modified, modified, improved modified, light full, full, extra full, and turkey. A 12 gauge cylinder choke has no constriction, whereas an extra full choke has a .04 inch constriction.

Different manufacturers may offer variants to the standard choke offerings, and be slightly different in their constrictions, so always check to see what the level of constriction is on any choke before buying it. It may not be better or tighter than a factory choke you may already be using.

You may have seen chokes labeled as predator chokes, turkey chokes, waterfowl chokes, or skeet chokes. Choke size, and steel restrictions are the main reasons for specifying the chokes. Light Modified, Modified, Improved Modified, and Light Full chokes are typically waterfowl chokes that will generally shoot steel loads. The federal government requires lead free shot for waterfowl hunting, and the most typical shot is steel shot. Extra Full, Super Full, and any other extremely constricted variants are typically used for non-steel turkey and predator loads, while chokes that are less constricted than Light Modified are typically used for shooting clays.

Choke Lengths – Extended Chokes

Extended chokes can increase the length of the forcing cone, which compresses the shot over a longer tapered distance. The more gentle taper of an extended choke can improve patterns 5 to 20 percent.

Extended chokes also provide some protection to the end of your barrel, and make chokes easier to replace or remove from a barrel.

A Ported 12 Gauge Choke

A ported extended range 12 gauge waterfowl choke for the Benelli Montefeltro.

Ported Chokes

On an extended choke, the choke protrudes past the barrel, providing an opportunity to port the choke. Choke manufacturers claim ported chokes strip wads faster and improve patterns.

Some manufacturers also claim a minor reduction in recoil and muzzle flip, but 3rd party tests have been conducted on ported chokes, and while the jury is still out on any sort of recoil or muzzle flip reduction, patterns can improve 7 to 8 percent.

What manufacturers don’t advertise with ported chokes, is the increase in loudness. Porting does increase the muzzle report, and it is noticeable. Ideally, you wear quality hearing protection that doesn’t get in the way of your shooting, like Walker's Silencer Ear Buds, and loudness is a moot point. But if you don’t, you may wish you had.

Conclusion

If you are going to buy an aftermarket choke, you need to be sure of a few things. Proper fit, the amount of constriction, and whether or not it has any restrictions on shot type or size. Seriously consider an extended choke with ports, because together they can improve patterns by as much as 28 percent. A small improvement in shot pattern is a massive advantage in the field. Reducing the number of holes in your pattern, will help you drop birds with authority, and tighter patterns will help you extend your reach.

12 Gauge Chokes We Recommend:

Carlson's Cremator – Can be used with ALL lead, steel, Hevi-Shot, and Bismuth ammo.
MOJO Outdoors Fatal Shot Custom Predator – Can be used with all shot types.
Truglo Head Banger Turkey Choke – Not for steel shot.

20 Gauge Chokes We Recommend

Cremator Ported Chokes – Not for steel shot sizes larger than #2

Specialty Chokes

I didn’t touch on specialty chokes, because they are so task specific that they are outside the scope of a post on the “Basics” of chokes. However, in the interest of providing knowledge, they are worth a quick mention. The rifled choke is a highly specialized choke, typically used with specific slugs and ammo, designed to help spin and stabilize slugs. A breacher choke is used to breech doors in close combat and tactical situations. They are typically a very open choke, with teeth and ports, for close proximity use on an object. Neither have much function in the field for hunting most upland game, game birds, or waterfowl.

There are probably a couple specialty chokes I’ve forgotten to include, but they unlikely have an impact on choosing a typical shotgun choke for most normal applications. If I’ve missed something, or you think I should expand on a any specific point, let me know by leaving a comment.

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