Benjamin David

Benjamin David is an avid outdoorsman with a wide range of experience hunting and fishing. He brings his knowledge and wisdom from hunting in a variety of environments, to Sportsman's Magazine, and is a major contributor of content. Leave Ben a comment or question, and he'll do his best to reply.

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.

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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Turkey Vests for Turkey Hunting

| February 24, 2021
Concealement for a turkey hunt
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.

Watch a few YouTube videos to get psyched for the spring turkey season, and you’ll think every hunter needs a turkey vest and decoys for turkey hunting. There are two camps of turkey hunters, those who use turkey vests, and those that don’t. In the interest of full disclosure, I happen to be in the latter group, and have never used a turkey vest.

It’s my personal opinion that the main factors for successful turkey hunting are scouting, concealment, calls, and equipment. Whether you use a turkey vest or a backpack won’t matter, unless you can dial in the turkey hunting fundamentals.

Turkey Scouting

It doesn’t matter how much gear you drag into the field, or how good you are at calling turkeys, if you are in the wrong spot. More important than a preference for a turkey vest over a backpack, or visa versa, is knowing you are in an area where there are turkeys. Don’t wait until opening day to find a big tom. Spend time, especially on public lands ahead of the season, to find where turkeys are at and where they roost. Give yourself some options, and the further off the beaten path the better.

Concealment

Turkeys have incredible vision. They can see about three times better than humans, and with eyes on the sides of their head, they have a 270 degree view of the world. If you are going to get the drop on a turkey, you need to be concealed. I treat turkey hunting like waterfowl hunting. Blend in, don’t move, and don’t shine. Wear camo, a ghillie suit, or brush yourself in with natural vegetation. You want to break up your outlines, and disappear.

Turkey Calls and Turkey Calling

It doesn’t matter whether or not you use a pot call, box call, or mouth calls. You will need to call to locate turkeys, as well as get them to commit. If you don’t use a turkey decoy, you’ll need to call a turkey, in order to get it to come looking for you. If you do use a turkey decoy, you’ll still need to entice a turkey to come into range of the decoy.

Equipment

The equipment I am mainly referring to is in regard to your method of take. Whether you use a shotgun, bow, or even an air rifle, your familiarity, skill and readiness with your weapon are more important than whether you used a backpack or turkey vest to get to your turkey hunting spot.

Turkey Vest or No Turkey Vest

When you have everything else nailed down, and can successfully hunt turkeys, that’s when a turkey vest might matter. Only after you can harvest turkeys should you start worrying about comfort items and accessories that may or may not make you a better hunter. Most hunters use packs for just about everything else, and will take a pack into the field, because it gets the job done.

A turkey vest on the other hand, might offer additional comforts and niceties that a pack won’t. A turkey vest can make storage and access to turkey hunting specific gear easier. Easily accessing calls, binoculars, or ammo with less movement can improve your stealth, or just make it easier to pack up and move for a run and gun style hunt.
Turkey hunting vests also typically add the benefit of a built in padded seat, and depending on model, it may even have a little bit of back support or padding. You can easily strap a pad to your pack, or stuff one inside of it, but a turkey hunting vest offers convenience.

I’m still not a turkey vest convert, but you might be. I personally just don’t like having too much species specific, or specialty hunt gear that I can’t use across a wider range of hunts I do throughout the year. For example, I get dual use out of my layout waterfowl blind, when I use it for predator hunting, I may even use it for turkeys. I use a VooDoo Tactical Merced Hydration Pack, or a larger pack like the Eberlestock Gunrunner Pack for just about everything I do. It may be my past experiences in alpine climbing and mountaineering that drives my attitude, but I am a bit of a minimalist. I rarely carry more than a couple mouth calls, ammo, optics, hunting license, emergency layers, a kill kit, energy bar, and water.

If I were to start using a turkey vest, and perhaps some day I will, I’d probably consider something with back support, like the ALPS OutdoorZ Grand Slam Turkey Vest, or a lighter weight and more affordable option, like the Knight & Hale Run N Gun Turkey Vest. They have very different price points, but both have very good ratings and reviews across most of the major retailers, and gear review websites.

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Binoculars vs. Spotting Scopes

| February 22, 2021
Glassing a Nice Bull Elk
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 hunting or shooting this year, and are wondering if a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope is the best investment for you, then you are in the right spot. Most hunting requires lots of scouting and glassing, but that can be in one area, or a larger area that requires a lot of travel, whereas target shooting is a little more stationary. Your intended use, magnification, field of view, portability, and weight will determine whats best for you! We’ll help you evaluate the pros and cons of each, and provide a few great recommendations.

 

Binoculars

Vortex 10 42 Binoculars

Vortex 10×42 Binoculars

  • Pros
  • Portable
  • Less Eye Strain
  • Cost
  • Lightweight
  • Wider Field of View
  • Cons
  • Lower Magnification
  • Smaller Objective Lens

A good pair of binoculars are easy to carry, durable, not too heavy, have magnification appropriate for the type of hunting you will be doing, have an appropriate field of view, fog resistance, are aberration free, have clear glass, and fit into your budget.

If you plan on using your binoculars while squirrel hunting, you won’t need the same magnification as you would while hunting mountain goats. Glassing goats at 800 or 1000 yards, from ridge to ridge, is a much different requirement than spotting squirrels in tree tops at 150 to 200 yards.

With greater magnification, you may be able to see every hair on a squirrel’s hind, but it’s just not necessary. Greater magnification, a larger field of view, and a much more expensive price tag, won’t help bag more squirrels, than a more appropriate pair of binos would. Similarly, an under-powered pair of binoculars won’t help you determine points on a mule deer at 400 to 500 yards, nor will it help count the annuli on a bighorn sheep high up above a scree field.

The best binoculars aren’t necessarily the ones with the greatest magnification, the steepest price tag, or even the best glass. The best pair of binoculars are the pair that you will get the most use out of, are appropriate for the hunting you do, and will help you be successful on your hunts.

There are a lot of great options when it comes to binoculars. It’s my opinion that some of the greater values are being offered by some of the younger companies to join the industry. Maven started offering clean simple optics, direct to consumer in 2014, and Vortex has been at it since the late 80’s. Both companies offer a wide range of products, at different tiers of performance and price points, and both companies back their products with lifetime warranties.

Binoculars We Recommend

 

Spotting Scopes

Vortex Razor HD 27 60 85 Angled Spotting Scope

Glassing through a Vortex Razor HD 27-60×85 Angled Spotting Scope.

  • Pros
  • Greater Magnification
  • Larger Objective Lens
  • Cons
  • Narrower Field of View
  • Large Size
  • More Weight
  • Tripod Requirement
  • Cost

Spotting scopes offer high power magnification and an outstanding picture. They are offered in a variety of sizes and form factors, but are larger than binoculars, aren’t as portable, and are almost always intended to be used with a tripod. What you get in magnification, clarity and size, you will pay for. The price point for a good spotting scope typically exceeds the price point for a good pair of binoculars.

If you are a target shooter, and need optics to see target paper at 1000 or more yards, a spotting scope is a great choice. If you are planning on doing an unsupported hunt in the backcountry, a spotting scope and tripod may not be something you want to pack in.

Hiring a packing service to get in and out of a base camp, is a situation where a spotting scope may be more appropriate. Glassing high country ridges for your quarry, without having to lug optics very far from a camp, makes good use of the higher power magnification of a spotting scope. However, once you venture away from camp, you’ll want more portable optics, and a pair of binoculars makes good sense.

Some states have done an incredible job providing hunting opportunities and road access to remote places. Hunting in those states may mean a lot of driving on dirt roads, and a lot of glassing from a stationary point. Spotting distant game while glassing from the roadside is more easily and comfortably done from a chair, looking through a spotting scope, than it is holding binoculars up to one’s face for hours.

Spotting Scopes We Recommend

 

So which option is best for you?

Binoculars, in almost all normal hunting situations, will be much more portable and versatile than a spotting scope. If you don’t have any optics, and intend to hunt, start with a high quality pair of binoculars. A good pair of binos will serve you well for decades. Start with a good level of magnification, and you will never have regrets. If you need optics for the range, a spotting scope may serve you better.

A few other things to consider, beyond size and magnification, when considering binoculars or a spotting scope, are eye strain and logistics. Binoculars utilize both eyes, and are less strain on the eyes than focusing for long periods of time through the single lens of a spotting scope.

Logistically speaking, pretending the moon had herds of Elk, it wouldn’t matter if you had an Elk tag and could see them with a telescope. Even with SpaceX’s latest endeavors it’s impractical and improbable to think you’d get to the moon within shooting distance. Likewise, just because you can see a distant critter with a spotting scope, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get close enough to pursue that animal and take a shot. In that situation it doesn’t matter how powerful the magnification is on your optics.

You can add a tripod to your binoculars! A tripod mount for binoculars, will make long hours of glassing more comfortable, without adding too much more to what you need to lug around. You still won’t have the magnification of a spotting scope, but the trade off for comfortability and image stability seems well worth it. Checkout these tripod mounts.

While we did specifically mention Vortex and Maven as great companies, offering great optics and affordable price points. That doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the plethora of other options from companies like Swarovski and Zeiss, offering mainly premium options at premium prices, or companies like Leupold, Bushnell, and Nikon that offer a vast range of products at an equally vast range of prices.

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Benelli Montefeltro

| February 21, 2021
Benelli Montefeltro Muzzle
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.
Action | Semi-Automatic Inertia Driven
Gauges | 12, 20
Barrel Length | 26 inches or 28 inches
Overall Length
Chokes | 3 Crio screw-in choke tubes (IC, M, F)
Rib | Low-profile vent rib
Sights | Red Fiber Optic Front Sight
Stock | Satin Walnut
Length of Pull | 14 ⅜ inches
Sling | None. No Swivel Studs
Capacity | 4 + 1
Loads | 2-¾ - 3 inch
Weight | 7.1 lbs

See it at Bass Pro

The Benelli Montefeltro is one of the best shotguns on the market today. It uses the absolutely bullet proof Benelli inertia system, to manage recoil and cycle shells flawlessly, even in some of the worst huntng conditions.

I have used a 12 gauge Benelli Montefeltro with a 28 inch barrel, almost exclusively for over 5 years. During multiple upland bird, rabbit, turkey, and waterfowl seasons, and thousands of rounds fired, the Montefeltro operates just as well as the first day I shot it. The Montefeltro is well balanced, swings well, shoulders well, and adorns a nice satin walnut forend and stock. The cast and drop are also adjustable with the use of a shim kit.

In the field, the Montefeltro patterns well. The included Crio chokes(IC, M & F) provide options for busting clays, or dropping flushing pheasants and quail, and the modified Crio choke patterns just fine for waterfowl.

It doesn’t only function flawlessly, it has held up to ice, rain, snow, alkaline water, and desert grime, and short of a few nicks and scratches, it still looks perfect. After every cleaning, the inside of the Benelli Crio treated barrel returned to the mirror finish it had when it left the factory. Benelli nailed a smooth and durable finish with their cryogenic treatment.

Benelli Montefeltro Inertia System

The Benelli Montefeltro uses the almost flawless Benelli Inertia System.

The Benelli Montefeltro is not a budget shotgun in a world full of very good, sub $700 semi-automatic shotguns, but it is a great value at the $999 MSRP.

Is It Perfect?

I’ve extolled the greatness of the Montefeltro, not because the inertia system was made in heaven and gifted to man from the firearm gods, but because its earned my praise. All praises delivered, I do have two minor criticisms. The Benelli Montefeltro is an incredible shotgun with a thousand dollar price tag and worth the price, but it is also a thousand dollar shotgun without a method to mount a sling or optic.

Fortunately, in addition to great aftermarket chokes, like the Carlson's waterfowl 3 choke set, there are aftermarket sling mounts and optic mount options. If you are looking for a great shotgun with classic styling and a hot rod of an action, then you can’t go wrong with the Benelli Montefeltro. If you are going to be more focused on waterfowl, 3 1/2″ magnum loads, 3 gun, or maybe some tacticool options, then consider the Benelli Super Black Eagle. The Benelli Super Black Eagle also uses the Benelli inertia driven action, but can take more aftermarket customization, like magazine extension tubes. You really can’t go wrong with either option.

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Samick Sage Takedown Recurve

| February 14, 2021
Samick Sage Recurve Bow Hunting
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.
Accessories | Threaded brass bushing for attaching a, stabilizer, sight, quiver, reel, camera mount.
Limbs | Fiberglass Laminated Maple
Bowstring | 14 strand Dacron
Draw Weight | 25 lbs. to 60 lbs.
Draw Length | 28 inches
Height | 62 inches
Price | $99

The Samick Sage Takedown is a recurve bow that is suitable for hunting a large range of game animals, or just practicing on a target.

The Samick Sage is a takedown bow, so its limbs are removable. The limbs are attached using large knurled thumb bolts that need no tools, and are offered in draw weights from 25 lbs. – 60 lbs. Since its a takedown, its possible to have 2 sets of limbs, a lighter weight draw for practicing without burning yourself out, and a heavier set for hunting.

There are actually two Samick Sage recurve bows in my home. My wife uses a 25 lb. setup, whereas I use a 45 lb. setup. The Samick Sage, with a 45 lb. draw, meets the minimum draw of 40 lb. that many hunters agree is the minimum for deer and even elk. Lighter draw weights are perfectly suitable for small game, and even turkeys.

If you are interested in getting a great entry level recurve bow, the Samick Sage is a perfect option. It’s very affordable, and a great bargain at the price point. Maybe the recurve becomes a step toward a more complex compound bow. Or maybe its just an affordable way to find out if you even like archery.

A recurve bow is also a great way to extend or introduce hunting seasons, and hunting opportunities. A lot of states have archery only seasons for a ton of game animals and birds. From quail and cottontail, to turkeys, ptarmigan, deer, and bears, a recurve bow will give you more time to hunt, what are often less pressured animals.

The stealth nature of a recurve bow may also open some doors, and provide opportunities where a shotgun or rifle can’t be used.

I can specifically think of turkey hunting in Northern California as a good example. I have a friend with property where he can legally hunt turkeys with a shotgun, but gets pressure from neighbors when he does. Instead of telling the neighbors to pound sand, he lets friends hunt turkeys on his property with a bow, because its discrete.

So whether you want the opportunity to hunt during archery seasons, or just want a fun and affordable bow, consider a Samick Sage Takedown. Thanks to modern ecommerce, you don’t have to take my word for it, because its the #1 Best Seller in Archery Recurve Bows on Amazon

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Tactacam 5.0

| February 13, 2021
The Tactacam 5.0
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.

The Tactacam 5.0 makes recording and sharing hunts easy.  I’ve used GoPro clones and phone scope mounts, with mixed success for years.  Awful apps, poor battery life, a lack of durability, difficulties swapping cameras and mounts to different firearms, all took their toll. I simply didn’t have the desire to record hunts anymore.

Fast forward a few years of wishing I could share my experiences with ease, and I started looking at cameras again. After comparing features, prices and customer reviews of both the 3rd Gen Shotkam and the Tactacam 5.0, I decided to spend my cash on a Tactacam 5.0.

I specifically grabbed a package deal for $349. The package deal included the Tactacam 5.0, an under barrel mount for a shotgun, and a 64gb SD card. I also added a Tactacam FTS to my order, so that I could film through my scope.

Tactacam 5.0 in Package

Low Light | Auto Adjust
Auto Focus | Yes
Zoom | 8x
Resolution | 4k-30fps|1080-120fps|720-240fps
Microphone | 0-100db
Battery Indicator | Yes
Slow Motion Recording | Yes
Battery Life | 2.5 hrs
Outer Shell | Soft Touch Composite
Weatherproof | Yes
HDMI/TV Hookup | Yes
Wi-Fi | Yes
Tactacam App Compatible | Yes
Remote Sync | Yes
FTS Compatible | Yes
Includes | Battery, Charger +Cable, Manual, Decal

The Tactacam 5.0 arrived well packaged, and the instruction manual was informational with quality images. I charged the Tactacam 5.0, downloaded the smart app to my phone, and synced the camera. The process was incredibly easy. I mounted the Tactacam to my 12 gauge shotgun, and used it in the field in frigid conditions, with the default recording settings, the next day.

I bought the Tactacam 5.0 toward the end of the California waterfowl season, so I didn’t capture a ton of video. I also didn’t have a lot of time in the field to play with settings, before I had an issue with the Tactacam.

Battery Issues and Customer Support

Unfortunately, before I could get a few more hunts recorded, the Tactacam 5.0 stopped powering up. The battery had died. I contacted Tactacam, and the support was great. We validated that the battery had failed, and they said a new battery would be sent out. Unfortunately, the new battery was nowhere to be seen for weeks, so I purchased a spare battery, and recorded one more waterfowl hunt.

I reached out to customer support, and let them know I never received the replacement battery. They apologized, and a new order for a battery was placed. Within 24 hours I received a shipping notification, and a new battery arrived at my home address within 3 days.

I had intended to buy a spare battery anyway, so outside of the hunts I was not able to record, it wasn’t a big issue. Sure there was a minor hiccup with support, but I would still consider Tactacam’s support good, if not great.

Final Thoughts

I’m very pleased with the Tactacam 5.0, it has already seen a lot of extreme weather, and continues to perform well. I am looking forward to adjusting filming settings, maybe increasing the frame rate for slow motion recordings, and would definitely recommend the Tactacam 5.0 over the other options on the market.

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5 Best Bolt Action Rifles Under $700

| February 12, 2021
Bolt Action With a Vortex Scope
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.

Bolt action rifles are the classic, if not quintessential, firearm platform for hunting. They are simple, reliable, inherently accurate by design, and even elegant compared to recoil or gas operated semi-automatic rifles.

For many years, manufacturers raced to produce accurate rifles as cheap as possible. They’ve made it possible to buy an accurate bolt action rifle for under $500, and even as cheap as $350 dollars.

However, many manufacturers still recognize there is a market for slightly more expensive rifles with greater performance, features, and quality. Those are the rifles we’ve focused on. We’ve selected 5 of the best, optics ready, bolt action rifle options under $700, in 2021.

Any of the bolt action rifles on this list will be a great hunting rifle for the 2021 season, and something anybody would be happy to own.

Tikka T3X Lite Black

Tikka T3X Lite

The Tikka T3X Lite is a perfect, lightweight bolt action rifle for backcountry hunts.

Weight | 6.4 to 6.5 lbs
Barrel Length | 22.4 inches
O.A.L | 42.6 inches
Caliber | Both Short and Long Action Cartridges
Magazine | Polymer Detachable Magazine
Sights | None, Optics Ready
Trigger | Adjustable
Stock |
Price | $678

See it at Cabelas
Tikka has built a reputation with the Tikka T3X Lite, for producing accurate, lightweight, hassle free rifles, ideal for backcountry hunts. The Finnish Tikkakoski factory, now a subsidiary of Sako, manufactured firearm parts, before it ever produced its own rifle. The result is their ability to consistently produce accurate rifles with noticeably smooth actions, and a high finish quality, at an affordable price.

Tikka may not have done anything truly revolutionary, but their experience as well as design and manufacturing differences between Tikka and other manufacturers, sets them apart.

A conical taper to the 180 degree bolt lugs, smooths the operation of their actions, and Tikka triggers are crisp, with little to no creep or overtravel.

While I may not understand the almost cultish following they’ve developed, they have certainly earned a very positive reputation for an affordable rifle, any hunter would be proud to own.
See it at Cabelas

Remington 700 SPS

Remington 700 SPS

The Remington 700, trusted by the US Military and US Marine Corps, is a time tested, reliable bolt action rifle.

Weight | 7.25 to 7.6 lbs
Barrel Length | 24 inches to 26 inches
O.A.L | 44.5 inches to 46.5 inches
Caliber | Both Short and Long Action Cartridges
Magazine | Internal w/floorplate
Sights | None, Drilled & Tapped
Trigger | Adjustable
Stock | Synthetic Polymer
Price | $689

See it at Sportsmans
See it at Cabelas
The Remington 700 is a reliable, time tested platform. Variants based on the Remington 700 have been used by the US military and US Marine Corps because of its strong action, good trigger, customizability, and inherent accuracy

Standard variants are offered in a wide range of calibers, all of which utilize an internal magazine. There are many modifications, and aftermarket parts available for the Remington 700. While it would at cost, a lot can be achieved with aftermarket model 700 parts, before having to do any real gunsmithing. Trigger parts and groups, gunstocks, as well as magazine well conversions, are all normal and readily available for the 700.

In its stock form, the Remington 700 is a well manufactured firearm, its reliable, has a good trigger, and is accurate. The stock does have a bit of a cheap feel to it, and she’s a little bit of a heifer, but the 700 is great rifle. If customizability is the goal, its an ideal platform that can be used for day one, but its also a more common receiver to buy and do a custom build on.
See it at Sportsmans
See it at Cabelas

Bergara B-14 Hunter

Bergara B-14 Hunter

Highly-efficient manufacturing allowed the Spanish to produce the incredible Bergara B-14 Hunter for a very affordable price.

Weight | 7.1 to 7.3 lbs
Barrel Length | 22 inches to 24 inches
O.A.L | 42.5 inches to 44.5 inches
Caliber | Both Short and Long Action Cartridges
Magazine | Fixed Optional Detachable Box Mag
Sights | None, Drilled & Tapped (fits Remington 700 style rings and bases)
Trigger | ~ 3 lbs
Stock | Fiber Reinforced Polymer
Price | $699

See it at Sportsmans
See it at Cabelas
The Bergara B-14 Hunter is manufactured by the Spanish with highly-efficient and innovative manufacturing processes that allow them to produce the high quality rifle at an affordable cost.

Unlike the super cheap plastics used on other budget rifles, Bergara molded a synthetic stock made of glass fiber reinforced polymer and steel pillars for a solid bedding and a better floated barrel. The stock is more rigid than others, and quality higher than other rifles in the price range.

The rifle is offered in both short action variants with a 22 inch barrel, and long action variants with a 24 inch barrel. The Bergara B-14 has already developed a reputation for out of the box accuracy with factory ammunition.
See it at Sportsmans
See it at Cabelas

Savage 110

Savage 110 Hunter

The Savage 110 Hunter, is a great offering from Savage. Known for out of the box accuracy and the 1 MOA guarantee.

Weight | 7.15 lbs to 7.35 lbs
Barrel Length | 22 inches to 24 inches
O.A.L | 43.75 inches to 44.7 inches
Caliber | Both Short and Long Action Cartridges
Magazine | Detachable Box Magazine
Sights | None, Drilled & Tapped
Trigger | Adjustable AccuTrigger
Stock | Adjustable L.O.P.
Price | $639

See it at Sportsmans
See it at Cabelas
The Savage 110 is the stable workhorse of the Savage firearms bolt action family. It predates the Savage Axis, and does not cut corners for savings. Savage is known for out of the box accuracy, and a 1 MOA guarantee, due in large part to the quality and performance of the Savage 110.

The Savage 110 features an AccuFit stock that has an adjustable length of pull, and comb height. The trigger is an adjustable AccuTrigger, that is user adjustable for a crisp release with no creep.

The AccuFit stock is a nice addition to the 110, but like many synthetic stocks, has a slightly flimsy feel, especially at the forend of the stock.

Fortunately, if you are a devout lover of wood furniture, Savage offers a wooden version of the AccuFit stock, but it will add about $300 to the price tag.

Savage also offers female hunters a female tailored variant of the 110, called the 11/111 lady hunter. The 11 and 111 designate a short vs long action. A shorter barrel, different length of pull and comb height, and some other minor weight savings, help make the Savage 110 an easier to use rifle for female shooters.
See it at Sportsmans
See it at Cabelas

Howa Hogue Rifle

Howa Hogue

The Howa Hogue is a Howa 1500 action combined with a Hogue OverMolded stock, offering many PRC chamberings.

Weight | 7.8 to 9 lbs
Barrel Length | 22 inches to 24 inches
O.A.L | 43.5 inches to 44.25 inches
Caliber | Both Short and Long Action Cartridges
Magazine | Internal
Sights | None
Trigger | Two Stage HACT
Stock | Hogue OverMolded Synthetic
Price | $479 to $619

See it at Sportsmans
Howa has built a reputation for making affordable, smooth operating, and accurate firearms. Out of the box, the Howa is a sub MOA rifle with an obvious attention to quality, and durability.

Howa is a Japanese heavy manufacturing company with a history of manufacturing heavy equipment, as well as rifles for other brands. They manufactured Arisaka rifles during War War II, as well as firearms for both Sako and Weatherby. The Weatherby Vanguard, manufactured by Howa, is essentially a Howa 1500 with a different stock, and steeper price tag.

The Howa Hogue is a Howa 1500 action, whos design is based on a Sako action, combined with a Hogue OverMolded stock. The Hogue OverMolded stock is ergonomic and what you would expect from an aftermarket Hogue stock.

Howa rifles incorporate a proprietary HACT(Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger), which is an adjustable 2 stage trigger designed to eliminate both creep and overtravel. However, if there is anywhere that Howa has an opportunity to improve, it’s in the trigger.

With some caliber options weighing as much as 9 pounds, the Howa Hogue isn’t the lightest rifle, and probably not what I would choose to carry into the backcountry, but it is an incredible value for a very well manufactured rifle, with no quality control issues..

The Howa Hogue, with its many magnum and precision rifle cartridge offerings, is equally suited for the range as it is in the field hunting elk.

  • Pros
  • Lots Of Precision Rifle Cartridge Offerings
  • Ergonomic Stock
  • Cons
  • A Little Heavy

See it at Sportsmans

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Crosman 1322 18″ Barrel

| February 11, 2021
Custom Crosman 1322
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.

I did a complete tear down of my Crosman 1322, so I could rebarrel it with an an 18 inch Barrel, achieve more power and greater precision. Before the teardown and rebarrel, I was able to get the Crosman 1322 to shoot 14.3 grain pellets at 615 feet per second with the stock 10.25″ barrel. Thats 12 foot pounds of energy. I achieved that performance by adding a steel breech, increasing airflow through ports, increasing the valve volume, and polishing internals.

The steel breech and larger air volume allow the 1322 to be pumped in excess of the recommended 10 pumps for the stock plastic breech. With the stock 10.25 inch barrel, the 1322 was wasting a lot of air. There was an obvious opportunity to squeeze out more performance by utilizing the air being wasted.

After the first round of mods the 1322 required more pumps to pressurize a larger volume of air to the same pressure. With a couple more pumps I was able to achieve the same performance. With additional pumps, I was able to achieve a lot more performance. The report from the barrel became louder as a diminishing return on the pumps became obvious. After 16 pumps the chronograph didn’t show any increase in velocity, the muzzle blast just got louder.

My assumption was that the louder muzzle blast was due to wasted air, and the increase in loudness meant I could build much more air pressure than was being used. The wasted air could be used to accelerate a pellet even more with a longer barrel. So I purchased an 18 inch Barrel | Steel Breech Kit | Flat Top Piston | Barrel Band

The teardown was a good opportunity to add a more rigid barrel band, meant for a Crosman 2289, without dropping a ton of cash on an alloy one. I also used the tear down opportunity to recondition seals, clean and lubricate, and swap stock hardware for hardware that uses hex keys.

I also fabricated a suppressor to reduce muzzle report, and fixed it to the new barrel. I still need to get the 1322 back on a chronograph, but penetration tests on pine boards showed an obvious improvement with the longer barrel. With the 18″ barrel and previously done mods, the 1322 shooting a 14.3 grain domed pellet, deeply penetrated a 3/4″ pine board, and are almost exited.

The 1322 is a good air gun in its stock state. With a few mods its a great gun. With a longer barrel and an improved valve, its and impressive air gun, and devastating on a lot of small game. Short of stepping up to a PCP, or a much larger and heavier springer, you probably can’t find a better platform to squeeze this kind of performance out of.

You may be wondering, why would someone buy a Crosman 1322 for $65, a steel breech for $45, a flat top piston and valve for $65, a 18 inch barrel for $32, and a barrel band for $15, when they can buy an entry level PCP. My all up cost, with a DIY valve job, drill bits, grinding bits, and hardware, is about $160. Buying a flat top piston would make the 1322 a $200 pump air gun. Great budget PCP options like the Diana Stormrider II, or Beeman Chief II are about $190 and an HPA pump can be purchased for as little as $50.

The 1322 provides weight, size, and practicality benefits over more powerful and larger air guns. My 1322 is a backcountry gun, that I can easily fit into a backpack. Scoped, with a steel breech, longer barrel, and suppressor, it weighs in at 3 lbs. 6.8 ounces.

Compare that weight to the Diana Stormrider at 5.0 lbs un-scoped, or the Beeman Chief at 6.8 lbs. un-scoped. Both of those are sub $200 PCPs that will put out 100-200 more fps than my 1322, but would require carrying a pump in addition to a heavy gun. Pump air guns are the ‘survival’ or ‘SHTF’ option, of air guns so to speak. They don’t rely on C02 performing properly at different temperatures and elevations, and don’t require a heavy external pump, they also weigh in at a 1/3 of the weight of air guns that provide comparable performance.

When I want to plink or small game hunt, I use the Crosman 1322, Beeman Chief II, Diana Stormrider II, or a Ruger 10/22. When I hike into the back country I take the 10/22 or a 1322 depending on weight requirements, and how discrete I want to be. It’s just not practical to carry a heavy PCP, when a more capable .22lr rifle weighs less, or a much lighter more compact 1322 is nearly as capable as a PCP, but less of a burden to carry.

If you are new to the hunting world, its easy enough to get a hunting license. And if you want to start with small game, without having to buy a real firearm and ammo, an air gun is a great option. I’ve used mine to harvest many rabbits, squirrels, doves, and grouse, as well as dispatch quite a few pests.

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