Holiday Buyer's Guide
Hand-picked Gear and Precision Shooting Components
December is here, and the stores are gearing up for the biggest shopping season of the year. We know that many of you shooters are looking for new reloading gear and components for your "next year's gun." Both to whet your collective appetites and make the gear-shopping process easier, in this GEAR BUYERS GUIDE, AccurateShooter.com's editors have selected some of the best products for precision shooters. Items range in price from $1.99 (stocking stuffer anyone?) to a well over a thousand dollars. Some of the products are brand new, others are "old favorites" tested and proven on the fields of competition. For each product you'll find candid commentary, and tips for finding the best prices.
Every one of the products shown here is owned, used and endorsed by one or more of the guys who write and test for this site. Each selection is a top-quality piece of gear you can purchase with confidence. All the products represent excellent value within their class. Whenever possible, we've listed the lowest advertised "street price". In some cases we list "MSRP", but trust us, if you buy from the right source, recommended in the text, you'll enjoy significant savings over MSRP.
|Gifts $1 to $10|
Sinclair Load Block
MT X-treme 50BMG
Surveyors' Tape. You should always watch the wind when you shoot. Inexpensive, Day-Glo Surveyors' Tape, attached to a stake or target frame, makes a great wind indicator. It will flutter even in mild breezes, alerting you to both angle and velocity shifts. This should be part of every range kit. Don't leave home without it.
Dewey Crocogator. The Crocogator tool, with knurled "teeth" at both ends, is simple, inexpensive, and compact. Yet nothing zips though primer-pocket gunk faster or better. Unlike some cutter-tipped primer pocket tools, the Crocogator removes the carbon quick and easy without shaving brass. One end is sized for large primer pockets, the other for small.
Sinclair 'Poly' Loading Block. We've tried wood and injection-molded loading trays, and we like Sinclair's white polyethylene loading blocks the best. They fit BR, .308, and 6.5-284 cases very well, with chamfered holes sized for the particular case you reload. The blocks are heavy enough to be stable on the bench, and the "dishwasher-friendly" material is easy to clean. A superior product at a fair price.
50 BMG Solvent. There are scores of copper-fighting bore cleaners on the market. None eliminate copper fouling better or faster than Montana X-treme's 50 BMG. This is strong stuff. 2004 1000-yard Shooter of the Year Bill Shehane says it is the best copper solvent he's ever tried, and, even during barrel break-in, it knocks the copper down in just "one or two trips down the bore". While we still prefer Wipe-Out foam for regular after-match barrel cleaning, when you need copper out in a hurry, grab some 50 BMG.
|Gifts $11 to $25|
Wipe-Out Foam Bore Cleaner. You NEED this stuff. Trust us it works and it will save you countless hours of labor. Used with the optional Accelerator, it will get your barrel squeaky clean with about 40 minutes of dwell time (and no brushing). We normally let it sit about three hours then patch out. It works best it you send 2-3 wet patches through the bore (to get out loose carbon) before you apply the foam. Insert your bore guide and squirt it in from the muzzle, or you can apply through the breech-end with plastic tubing.
Shotgunner Folding Muffs. Tapered foam earplugs, of 29dB NRR or better, offer the most effective noise protection. However, when you can't wear plugs, or if you want to "double-up" for added noise reduction, Peltor's "ShotGunner" folding muffs (21dB NRR) are great. The lower half is thinner, so they don't interfere with a cheek weld. These muffs fold up very compactly for storage in your range kit, using a clever double hinge. (Folded, they're about the size of a softball). Everyone should have a pair of these, which cost just $15 or so at major retailers.
VibraShine Power Trickler. The latest digital scales, such as Denver Instrument's MXX-123, are capable of greater precision than you can achieve with ANY powder measure. You'll need to trickle the last few kernels of powder to get the full benefits of a super-precise scale. The VibraShine unit makes trickling fast and easy. The drop tube is long enough to reach the center of even wide-footprint scales. Click HERE for a full test by Danny Reever.
Lapua 6BR Ammo. Lapua's 6BR loaded ammo, in 77gr, 90gr, and 105 grain versions, is quite probably the most accurate factory-loaded ammunition availalble in any caliber. This stuff shot in the 2s and low 3s in our 6BRs with .272" no-turn necks. In our most recent tests, the 105gr factory ammo shot better at 100 yards than the editor's handloads with Varget and 105gr Scenars. If you have a no-turn 6BR, you should definitely try this stuff. We still have a few boxes of the 105gr ammo left. Price is $50 for two boxes (40 rounds) delivered to the 48 states. Email Mailbox@6mmBr.com.
|Gifts $26 to $50|
Burris SigZee Rings
RCBS APS Tool
Forster Ultra Seater
KMW Pod-Loc. The Pod-Loc device, invented by Terry Cross, is a "must-have" accessory for anyone using a Harris swivel-model (S-series) bipod. This accessory transforms a Harris Swivel into a superbly-adjustable, easy to use platform for prone target-shooting or varminting. The Pod-Loc cures the one major flaw of Harris Swivel bipods--the tensioning system. It is very difficult to dial out all "bipod flop" using the standard Harris tensioning nut. With a Pod-Loc, flop is history; with one hand, you can lock the bipod rock-solid, and just as easily release all tension any time you want. Bottom line, if you shoot off a bipod more than a few times a year, you need a Pod-Loc. You can purchase direct from KMW, or Lock, Stock and Barrel (item KMW875, $22.85).
RCBS APS Hand Priming Tool. We love this tool and use it for all our precision rifle rounds. No more primer tubes! No more upside down primers or primers dropped on the floor. And no more potential contamination--your fingers never touch the individual primers. The convenient strips let you sort different primer brands by color coding. The tool has plenty of leverage, so you can seat primers nice and hard, but there is still good, positive feel. The unit is speedy--much faster than any single-cup hand priming tool. A unique universal shell-holding head works with any cartridge you load--no more shellholders to fiddle with or misplace. The RCBS APS tool costs $38 from major vendors. Read these Reviews by RCBS tool owners and be convinced.
Burris Signature Zee Rings. Burris Signature Rings are neither expensive nor fancy. But the thing is they just plain work. Available in dual dovetail, standard, or Zee (for Weaver rails) models, Signature rings are proof that an innovative design can deliver superior performance. At the heart of the system are matched polymer inserts. These allow rock-solid mounting of your scope without stresses or marks. Since the inserts are self-aligning, no lapping is required. Long-range shooters will like the fact that you can combine +10 (rear) and -10 (front) inserts to preload up to +20 MOA of elevation when mounting your scope. That's enough added "up" that you can shoot out to 1000 yards without a pricey angled scope rail. New for 2006, Burris will introduce Medium and High versions of the 30mm Signature Zees. Currently, those with 30mm scope tubes are limited to "Extra High" Signature Zee sets.
Forster "Ultra" Seating Die. The Forster Ultra Seating Die produces benchrest quality ammo with very low run-out. In fact, with the exceptions of the index marks, which are a little hard to read, it works every bit as well as the much more expensive Redding Competition Seater. We found that the sliding sleeve in the Forster Die was a near-perfect match for Lapua Brass. The "feel" of the micrometer top was very good, and a movement of one index mark did produce precisely .001" change in seating depth, measured off the ogive. Overall this is a superb factory die at a very competitive price.
|Gifts $51 to $100|
42Khz Ultrasonic Machine
K&M Arbor Press
Wilson SS Micrometer Seater
Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine. Jason Baney, our 1000-yard Editor, was curious whether ultrasonic methods could clean cartridge brass INSIDE and out. After much testing with a variety of different solutions, he achieved outstanding results. Using a 42 Khz, 1.4 pint-capacity machine purchased from eBay for about $65, Jason was able to restore very old brass with caked-on carbon deposits to pristine condition. The insides got so clean one can see shiny reflections. Jason says, among the many machines on the market, get one at least as big as the one shown here. Click HERE for test results.
K&M Arbor Press. There are many arbor presses on the market, and most of them are very well made. After all, fundamentally, an Arbor Press is a very simple device--just a shaft that applies downward force. But all arbor presses are NOT the same. With its optional seating force gauge, the K&M arbor is unique. On the end of the K&M's ram is a Belleville washer stack. This acts like a spring, compressing as the bullet encounters resistance in the case neck. The amount of compression is measured by a dial indicator linked to the ram. With this ingenious set-up, you can see a visible readout of seating force as you press the bullet into the case neck. This helps you produce more consistent ammo. And we've seen the results on the target. Rounds with smooth readouts definitely grouped better than rounds that showed big spikes on the force gauge. For a great deal on the K&M arbor, contact James Phillips at Reloader's Nest. The basic unit costs $70, while the full rig with Force Gauge linkage and Dial Indicator costs $120.
Wilson SS Micrometer Seater. We've tried a half-dozen seating dies for the 6BR cartridge and the Wilson is the best off-the shelf unit you can buy. It delivered the lowest bullet run-out, and most consistent cartridge OAL numbers with bullets seated. The index marks correlate very well with actual .001" steps in seating depth. Once you understand how the micrometer tension screw works, we could set the dial so it stayed in place but was still easy to adjust. Fit with Lapua 6BR brass couldn't be better--in fact the fit is SO good you can get a vacuum lock when removing the case. If this happens, use a heavy paper clip or small piece of flat wood under the extractor groove to pop the case out.
|Gifts $101 to $200|
Wilson Ultimate Trimmer
Canon A80 4.0 MegPx Camera
Forster Co-Ax Press
Sinclair-Wilson Ultimate Trimmer. The "Ultimate Trimmer" lives up to its name. It is easy to use, precise, and most importantly, repeatable. Brass trimmers are sold by all the major reloading companies. For the most part they all do a decent job. The Forster cuts nice and sharp and it holds cases very securely with its collet/pilot system. However, adjusting the Forster is tedious and time-consuming. You have to fiddle with set screws and slide a locking ring back and forth. That gets old fast. With the Sinclair unit, by contrast, just slide a piece of brass in the case holder, dial in your trim length with the micrometer, and start cranking. And don't be put off by the price of case holders--these actually cost less than some pilot sets required for other units. Editor Kory Hamzeh recently tested the Ultimate Trimmer and was impressed. He noted: "the micrometer shows absolute length and not relative. So you can switch between different cartridges very quickly and maintain .001" accuracy. Plus, the unit can be calibrated to cope with different cutters and cutter wear."
Canon A80 Powershot. Digital cameras are incredibly useful for precision shooters. Use them to photograph your targets for later analysis. Photograph your firearms and tools for insurance records. Using zoom and close-focus, a digital camera lets you see features of your brass and bullets invisible to the naked eye. We picked a Canon for our BUYERS GUIDE because we've had great success with our little A80. Many of the pictures on this site were taken with that inexpensive Canon. Despite its low cost, the A80 has many sophisticated features we really appreciate. These include: 1) Automatic color temperature balance (corrects for flash or flourescent lighting); 2) Selectable auto-focus (very useful when working with close-ups of very small parts); 3) Built-in saturation filter (more vivid colors); 4) Adjustable EV values (lets you deliberately over- or under-expose for effect); and 5) Very, very good computer interface software. To download pictures from the camera, just turn it on and plug it into the computer. The image capture program launches automatically. Couldn't be easier. While we normally shoot at 1024x768 (1 megapixel) resolution, the A80 offers 4 megapixels max resolution. This is a heck of a camera for just $160.00.
Forster Co-Ax Press. A unique design, the Forster is a superb single-stage press that produces very straight ammo with low run-out. It uses an open-jaw system, which mounts dies quickly, with none of the thread slop found in conventional threaded presses. We've also used an RCBS Turret press for quite some time. It is very convenient, but frankly, the Co-Ax does a much better job for heavy case-forming duties. When expanding 6BR necks for example, the Co-Ax's superior rigidity (and mechanical advantage) handled the job much better. You don't get the slight head-flex you see even in the best turret presses. One Co-Ax user had this to say: "I have one and love it. I have several reasons for choosing this one: spent primers are captured and can't fall on the floor. No need to change shell holders for common calibers. Dies, once set, can be removed and replaced in seconds. You're not limited to the available spots on a turret press. [And it is the] first press-mounted priming system that gave me good feel when seating primers." Best Price on the Co-Ax ($185.99) was at MidwayUSA, item 265719.
|Gifts $201 to $300|
Oehler 35 Chronograph
Kestrel 4000 Weather Tracker
Shilen SS Select Match
Oehler Model 35 Chronograph. Over the last few months, your editor has had a number of lengthy conversations with Ken Oehler. He very patiently explained many of the technical differences between an Oehler chronograph and other designs on the market, then let me draw my own conclusions. First point, the 3-screen Oehlers have a proof channel which essentially gives you TWO readings for every shot. Second point, the Oehler uses a precisely situated light source with a focusing lens. Other units have no lens and the light source may be slightly blocked or shaded by the housing. That results in a light beam that gets "wide and fuzzy" and is easily washed out by bright sunlight. Third point, Oehlers use much longer sensor spacing than other chrons. Ken explained how longer spacing reduces the margin of error in speed calculation. If you're still not convinced, this website has received considerable evidence of large unit to unit variation among the "fold-in-half" units. That's not saying your particular machine is inaccurate. But we've seen speed variations up to 60 fps with the same make and model of "fold-in-half" chronos. Variation between one Oehler and the next is a small fraction of that. Contrary to popular belief, Oehler's are not super-expensive. The three-screen model 35 costs $225--quite affordable considering the quality. The model 35P, with a built-in printer, is $345. If you're serious about precision shooting, an Oehler should be at the top of your "buy list". Think of all the time you could be wasting playing around with a different brand that can't handle bright sunlight or kicks out numbers that may be off by 60 fps or more.
Shilen Select Match Barrel. Shilen remains one of the world's premier barrel-makers. Check the equipment list at the Super Shoot or WBC, and you'll see plenty of top shooters using Shilens. If you're looking for a true custom barrel from a top-flight maker at a great price, a Shilen Select Match from the BarrelMan is hard to beat for value. You can pay more than $240 but you won't necessarily get a better-shooting barrel.
Kestrel 4000 Weather Tracker. Kestrel makes a variety of wind monitors, starting as low as $79.00. The 4000, Kestrel's top-of-the-line unit, monitors barometric pressure, altitude, density altitude, temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind chill, dew point, wet bulb, and heat index. No other hand-held unit measures so many environmental conditions as easily and accurately. Importantly, the 4000 provides density-altitude, something very important to pilots and likewise long-range shooters. The less expensive Kestrels don't offer density-altitude capability, nor do they have the storage and charting functions of the 4000 model. If you are looking for the best product of its type, ask Santa for a Kestrel 4000.
Denver Instrument MXX-123 Scale. The new MXX-123 scale, for the first time, offers a truly precise weight-measuring system within the budget of many serious reloaders. A Chargemaster 1500 digital dispenser, in good tune, is good to roughly 0.2 grains ES. The MXX-123 is good to two-hundredths of a grain! James Phillips recently received an MXX-123 for testing and evaluation. Starting with charges measured to the kernel with his $750 TR-603D lab scale, he then cross-checked them on the MXX-123. He reports that EVERY charge was "dead on" with the MXX-123, matching the TR-603's numbers. He concluded that, with a stick powder like Varget, the MXX-123 can deliver single-kernel accuracy. The MXX-123 also comes with check weights. He weighed these on the TR-603D and reports they were "right on the money." As for drift, using check weights, James saw negligible zero drift over a four-hour time-line. Bottom line--this is a great unit that delivers on its claims. It offers practical precision that would cost you $700 or more just a few yeards ago. We have to hand it to Denver Instrument for coming up with a fantastic product at an attractive price.
|Gifts $301 to $600|
Sightron 36X Scope
McMillan Edge Stock
Leica 1200 Laser RangeFinder
Sightron 36X. For the money, the Sightron 36x is hard to beat in a high-magnification, fixed-power, target scope. Glass seems, on average, a bit better than the Weavers. The Sightron's tracking is very reliable. A Sightron sits on top of AccurateShooter.com's latest project rifle, and many top "point-blank" BR shooters are turning to Sightrons after experiencing instable zeros and POI shift with much more costly side-focus target scopes. For great deals on Sightrons, contact James Phillips at Reloader's Nest.
McMillan Edge. The Edge was revolutionary when it was released, and it still remains one of the most effective designs for short-range benchrest. The unique "I-beam" design, combined with optional carbon fiber reinforcement provides exceptional rigidity in a very light-weight design. LV shooters find the Edge saves enough ounces to permit them to run the heavier target scopes and still make weight. When we selected a stock for our rimfire project gun, the Edge was our first choice because it tracks well and the low weight kept us under 10.5 pounds "all up" even with a heavy contour barrel. McMillan offers highly-accurate CNC inletting for all popular actions.
Leica 1200 RangeFinder. Yes, the $850 Swarovski 1500 will reach out farther, and the new Nikon is attractively priced, but when you look at overall "bang for the buck", the Leica 1200 is still our first choice in rangefinders. The glass is high quality--much better than you'll find in cheaper units. With the Leica's red LED readout, it's easy to see your ranges, even in low-light conditions. This unit has proven to be very durable in the field. For the best deals on the Leica, check the big online camera stores or contact James Phillips at Reloader's Nest. Unfortunately the price of these units has gone up over $100 since this time last year, but it's still quite a bit cheaper than the Swarovski.
|Gifts $601 to $1000|
Leupold 8-25x50 LRT Scope
Barnard 'P' Action with Trigger
Leupold 8-25x50 LRT. Leupold's lineup of Long-Range Target (LRT) scopes got the most votes in our Target Scope Readers' Poll. These are popular scopes for good reason. LRTs weigh less, yet provide more vertical elevation than competitive big zooms. The 8.5-25X offers plenty of power for long-range varminting and competition, while the 6.5-20x offers similar engineering and glass quality--at a lower cost. Leupold's warranty service is the best in the industry. LRTs give you good color rendition and contrast, when some other scopes can look pale and washed-out. Now and then we'll see an LRT with canted reticles but that is easily fixed. And, if you ever need more power from your LRT, Premier Reticles can boost the 8-25x LRT up to 50 power--enough to see 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards.
Barnard Action. Long-popular with Palma and full-bore shooters, the Barnard 'P' action is a strong, all-steel unit that comes complete with an excellent trigger. The Barnard is competition-ready out of the box, no "blue-printing" required. All Barnard actions feature triple locking lugs, high-strength Sako-style extractor, and 1/16" diameter firing pin as standard. Get a stock with a V-block installed and you have a bolt-in solution requiring no gunsmithing other than barrel-fitting. With a long bolt handle providing good leverage, the tri-lug bolt opens easily, and it closes VERY smoothly with lock-up as solid as a bank vault.
|Gifts Over $1000 (Big Bucks)|
BAT 'MB' Stainless Action
$1150.00 (Varies with features)
NightForce 12-42x56 Benchrest Scope
BAT Stainless Action. Shown is a BAT 'MB' RBLP on Mark Schronce's 6BRX in a Richard's Custom Rifles F-Class stock. Any top gunsmith will tell you that BAT makes some of the finest actions around. BAT's machining is second to none. The 'MB' model features an integrated recoil lug, plus an extra inch of metal forward of the locking lugs. That gives you more bedding surface and a little extra weight to balance out heavy barrels. The action is suited for everything from a PPC to a 6.5-284, and is offered in single or dual-port configurations, with or without ejector. With any BAT action, the customer can specify a round or multi-flat profile.
Nightforce BR Scope. This powerful 12-42X optic is the first choice of top long-range Benchrest and F-Class shooters. It offers 1/8-MOA clicks (vs. 1/4-MOA for the NF NXS), for precise aiming at long distances. Tracking is rock-solid and repeatable, and optical resolution and brightness is "best in class". Contact Bill Shehane for competitive prices on Nightforce scopes. Ask for his "Christmas Special".
|Sky's the Limit|
Speedy BRX with Engraved Viper Action, Leupold Comp 40X, and Loh Titanium Rest ($5000+)
S.G.& Y. Custom. Here is Speedy's personal "Ultimate PPC". If you've been very, very good, maybe Santa will bring you one of these beauties. The engraved action has some special internal mods for enhanced smoothness and long-term durability. The rest was custom-made from Titanium. There are only a couple in existence. Price for the whole package with scope? Well, if you have to ask, you can't afford it. But you can get a Stiller Viper (without engraving) for $950 and a Robertson Composites BRX stock starts at $350 before options.
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|Enjoy your shopping.|
Remember, you only live once and "He who dies with the most toys wins."
All the folks here at AccurateShooter.com wish you and yours
a Happy Holiday and a prosperous New Year.