Saturday, December 27, 2014

TalonP - preliminary field notes.

Got a chance to tote the new hunting airgun on a quick hike today, representing its first real field trip.  The purpose of the hike was not hunting, and no shots were fired, but I'll still document a couple of useful notes here nonetheless.

Sling.  A good sling is going to be essentially necessary, but which one is still up in the air.  What I'm most familiar and competent with is the magnificent Ching Sling for rifles, but it may be that a variation on the Giles sling is the way to go.  (I'm still learning the -fu of both hunting airguns and carbines in general, and each of these seems to be distinctly different than with full-house rifles.)  With a gloriously short carbine like this, the concept of "wearing" the gun seems distinctly possible, whereas you are always "carrying" a rifle, even when slung for walking.  If it turns out that you can get a really solid shooting lockup with a Giles sling, its carry flexibility would seem to rank it above the Ching Sling for this application.  But if you can't...well, airgun hunting is all about precision, and the TalonP is known for being a tack-driver, and I know how much more precise I can be with a good shooting sling...  I will have to cogitate on this more.

Short.  I wanted short, and I got it.  Carried in the cradle position on either side, you really notice how little muzzle there is past the elbow.  I got plenty of chances to switch sides as the trail wrapped around itself (we were a column of 6, and I mostly trailed caboose), and "the short" does rather assert itself.  With this gun there are several possible means of hand-carry, including by the forend (unusual balance, but not necessarily bad), by the glass' ocular bell with the fingers through the frame-top window (well-balanced, but a bit strange to have the fingers right on the bolt handle), and of course simply carried by the pistol grip, pointed down (very secure in one sense, but different than you're used to with all that weight forward).  In general it's easy to tote, but the dimensions are different enough from a traditional rifle that I always had to think for just a second about how to set it down when necessary.  (Keep in mind that Dad is often the one who totes the drinks and snacks, and who in the rear notices when a little person inadvertently walks out of her stretch-over-soles ice studs.  I got quite a lot of set-down, pick-up practice over the course of little over a mile.)

Optic.  Stipulating that it's big and heavy, this Leapers is a very nice glass.  I took a few looks through it at various safe backstops in various light, both at low and high magnification.  Light transmission is really excellent, with that 44mm objective and 30mm tube.  The illuminated reticle options are kinda nice, if you have the time to use them.  The lens caps are easily accessible as mounted.

I will still have to see how it looks when tracking a real game animal, but somewhat to my surprise thus far, I simply do not notice the increased field of view when sighting--at any magnification.  This has been stated as the real raison d'etre of the Leapers unit, but it may be that field of view is simply a lesser concern with a longer eye relief, true binocular tracking, and the technique of a good field mount.  Again, the jury is still at least a bit out, but I think I can now say with increasing confidence that any  functional improvement (over a traditional "scout scope" like the Leupold M8 2.5x) is minimal, and probably does not outweigh the weight and size disadvantage, for fidelity to the scout concept.  (The light-gathering, on the other hand, for a dedicated hunting arm, yet might.)

Low-light shots at home.  We arrived back at home after the hike as light was truly running out, and I decided to take a couple of shots off the porch at the steel rimfire spinners, using the lowest illumination level on the reticle.  At 10m, the speed was nearly at the snapshot level--I was impressed.  And just to test it out, I thought I'd try engaging my 25yd "through-the-trees" spinner, using the first holdover dot on the mil-dot reticle (as it is currently zeroed), using a lovely new flashlight from the in-laws.  Held alongside the forearm, I mounted the gun, hit the light switch, and got a very satisfying clank right off the bat.  The light's rating says 960 lumens, and based on this experiment I believe it--wow!  A good way to end the excursion.  (Incidentally, the three shots took me from a full 3000psi down to about 2700.)

I do notice the limitations of the single-shot mechanism.  The potential for fumbling, in the cold with gloves, is not a trivial consideration.  The .25 caliber pellets are far easier to manipulate than the bitty little .177s, but they're tiny compared to any centerfire firearm cartridge, and you do need to seat properly.  I'll want to put some more thought into this as well.

Top hat.  I noticed that the air tank had started to loosen during the walk (I hadn't checked it since first bolt-up) and took the time to locate not just that wrench, but the tiny little one that secures the top hat.  Everything is now nice and tight, and ready for some serious testing.  Some day, I may mess with actually adjusting the top hat, but I expect I've got a good while in front of me just trying out the power wheel, and I might as well get the top hat screwed down to stay put while I do it!  :-)

Next up:  actual velocity testing with the power wheel, and accuracy testing with a few different pellets.  And of course a little more thought behind sling and field practices.

Very well then!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Functional chronography at last?

The replacement chronograph arrived from Battenfeld Technologies, and today I got to set it up and try it out.  By which I mean "conduct a very rudimentary test";  this was no sort of dedicated session.

However, I'm encouraged at the results.  I had the deck stacked up for it to fail.  To wit:
  • Today is the winter solstice, at just about 60 degrees north latitude.  It wasn't fully overcast, but certainly cloudy.  I shot at 3pm, one hour before sunset.  This is not what you'd call "ideal light".  (Temp was 27F and humidity was 64%, for my own documentation.)
  • I had the standard screen shades on the unit.  (When they sent me the replacement, they actually sent me the "deluxe" kit, which includes a pair of infrared skyscreen shades intended to improve performance in diffuse light.  I now have that option, but I tried it without first.)
  • I tested with the tiniest projectile I will ever shoot over the screens--an 8-grain .177" diabolo pellet.  (Even Airsoft BBs are bigger than this.)

The test string was 18 shots (the capacity of my "pellet pen" loader/seater).  I did record two errors on shots 4 and 5, but suddenly I had an odd hunch that maybe I should cause the pellet to pass lower, closer to the screens.  I tried this and the error, and the "fix", seems to be repeatable.  Interesting.  I'll be curious to see if I get the same effect when I pass a 31-grain .25" diabolo pellet over the unit, or if maybe that tiny little 8-grain pill is just that much harder to pick up that you have to "help" it a bit with proximity.  Or, maybe this is where the IR lights start to become valuable.  More testing, of course!

Still...every time I put a pellet low over the screens (call it the bottom 1/4 of the presented trapezoid, rather than the middle half), even in minimal, flat light and using the standard screens, I got a read.  And the simple interface and export options (this chrony is notable for interfacing with a smartphone) seem quite promising.

All of which makes me pretty happy.  Here soon I'll try to wring it out more thoroughly at the house (using .177" pellets in the Bronco, Airsoft BBs in the gas 1911, and .25" pellets in the AirForce TalonP), both to learn more about those guns themselves, and also to get ready for range testing when the now-completed 03 Springfield arrives. 

I'll keep fingers crossed that this is going to work out the way I'm envisioning it.  And in that vein, today was a much better start than the first time!  :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gunsmoke project imminence.

Another teaser post. 

I got a call today from Rich Wyatt at Gunsmoke.  The 03 Springfield project is now complete, which on one hand is plain gonna hurt, as I am "freshly unemployed" at the moment, and this turned out to be a full-house custom rifle (a six-year story for another time)...but that is the end of the bad news.  I'm so excited about this piece I can hardly stand it, and if it's going to cost me, I intend to get full enjoyment and utility out of it.  :-)

Now, here's the teaser part:  Rich was calling in part to ask my permission to use the gun in an episode of Gunsmoke's YouTube series.  It's got a couple of features on it that you just don't find on a lot of 03 Springfields--even "Springfield Scout" iterations like this one is--and he thought it might be worth recording.

So, it may yet be just a little bit more before I actually get the gun back.  (Since it's been over six years since I commissioned the work, there's really no worries there.)  And I suspect it may well be worth it anyway, to have the rifle featured by someone who really understands all the -fu I was after with this project.  (He taught it to me, after all:  it may have been Jeff Cooper who first taught me what I needed to know about Scout rifles over the course of a lot of years, but it was Rich--and fellow master instructor Tom Russell--who was there on the line for my four hundred rounds of in-person school once I got a Steyr Scout of my own.)

I'll be sure to post back here once the episode airs, and...yeah, I'll probably be squee-ing about the gun too, once it arrives. 

Now, to acquire a supply of stripper clips, which thanks to the forward glass, this 03 can still make use of!  :-)