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Posted: 2/23/2018 5:39:14 PM EST
[Last Edit: BigJimFish]
What this thread is:
I figured that it was about time to change the name of this thread since it has really become something of a blog chronicling the reviews I am doing this summer. This is not something I have done in the past but, now that I have started it, I think that it has value as a way to keep me on schedule, keep the companies involved updated, and provide a place for you readers to discuss and comment on things. I'll update the thread from time to time with what is going on a well as eventually link to the completed reviews. You guys can comment, question, or sound off as you like.

Links to my 2018 product reviews
Grayboe Ridgeback composite stock for 700 platform rifles
Kelbly's Atlas tactical custom rifle including sub sections for:
- Krieger Barrels
- Kelbly's Atlas Tactical action
- Lapua, Copper Creek, Desert Tech, Hornady match, and Federal Gold Medal loaded ammo
Mesa Precision Arms Crux Ti custom rifle including sub sections for:
- McMillan Composite Stocks
- Titanium vs. Steel in Actions
- Mesa Precision Arms Crux Ti Action
- TriggerTech Triggers including Diamond and Primary
- Proof Carbon wrapped barrels
- Federal Gold Medal, Desert Tech, Copper Creek, and Hornady match loaded ammo
Bix'n Andy TacSport and TacSport Pro 700 compatible triggers
Sightron SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH sub $1k ffp long range scope
Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50mm sub $1k ffp long range scope
Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm sub $1k ffp long range scope

Sub $1k long range optics reviews:
I should also start with how the reviews happening this year got started. Although I did not go to Shot Show this year I still get all the press releases and such sent my way. This year I noticed both a lot of sub $1,000 ffp mil/mil scopes released and a price drop that put one that was previously well above that point below it. This all made me very interested in just what sort of scope you could now get at for this cost. $1,000 is a lot of money in most folks budgets but has not been a lot for a full featured precision rifle scope in the past. There have certainly been quality optics below that cost there just has not been much with the features necessary for the sort of long range shooting done on the PRS. I was curious if it could be done. I put some feelers out and Sightron as well as the guys from Athlon were interested. I also had the new Nikon Black on my list as well as something from Optisan and Hawke. I will put this stuff together at the end of the year but optics companies are (or ought to be) famously slow getting all their ducks lined up and so these reviews sort of got jumped in line when Grayboe called me up and asked me to write a review of their, at that time not yet released, Ridgeback stock.

Grayboe stock and the rifles that sprouted from it:

The Grayboe project was of interest to me for a variety of reasons. I had heard good things about the Grayboe project and was aware of it's lineage from Ryan McMillan. I have been in touch off and on for a number of years with McMillan and have a lot of respect for both the people and the product. They have always been very knowledgeable and helpful and have further shown a propensity for involvement in what you might call the experimental edge of competitive shooting sports. Grayboe is not part of the McMillan company but the lineage was admittedly a big part of why it interested me because cultures are memes that travel with people and cultures are what produces results. The stock also seemed like it might be an opportunity to step out from just dealing with optics to other aspects of shooting. I did not suspect it at the time but the Grayboe project proved to have other things attached to it. I had the option of putting my .308 5R in the stock for the review but thought that if I was going to go to all the work of bedding something in it for the review it might be a good opportunity to do that Kelbly custom rifle review I have been wanting to do for 8 years. I called them up and they were interested. I also called up Mesa Precision Arms, the company who was supplying the DBM bottom metal that Grayboe was using in order to get some bottom metal. They agreed to send me some bottom metal and also suggested a rife review of a lightweight rifle aimed at the hunting market called the Crux that they were doing with their soon to be released Titanium action. I looked them up they seemed to know what they are doing so I agreed. So one stock review had now grown into a stock and two rifles.

What reviewing a custom rifle really means:
Reviews of custom rifles are not like any other kinds of reviews though because what you are actually reviewing is not a single product but really an assemblage of products put together by the smith and then tested with a whole other assemblage of products. Triggers, stocks, barrels, ammunition, etc. are generally not made by the same company as the rifle. That is a lot of stuff and still leaves out the testing equipment. In choosing these components I seek to pick stuff that works well together, makes a rational and cohesive build, and is familiar to the smiths involved so that it is representative of what they are best at building. This is important, because there is not real way to separate one element for the system from the others in a way that isolates variables. It also means that there is exponentially more coordination necessary between all the parties involved.

Speaking of builds here are the build sheets:


Kelbly Rifle:
Caliber: .223 Rem
Action: Kelbly Atlas Tactical
Barrel: Krieger 1/7 twist 20" Sendero profile threaded 5/8x24 and capped
Stock: Grayboe Ridgeback bedded by me
Trigger: Prototype Bix'N Andy TacSport Pro (goes down to 4oz)
Bottom metal: Mesa Precision Arms DBM

Ammunition:
Lapua GB544 69gr Scenar L
Desert Tech Precision Varmint 55gr Hdy V-max
2x Copper creek load development pack stage 1 77gr Berger OTM

Mesa Precision Arms Rifle:
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
Action: MPA Titanium
Barrel: Proof 24" carbon wrapped. Proof Sendero contour (not the same, much thicker) threaded 5/8x24 and capped
Stock: McMillan Adj. Game Warden Carbon Edge Woodland Carbon Ambush
Trigger: Trigger Tech
Bottom metal: Mesa Precision Arms DBM

Ammuntion:
Lapua (their 6.5CM if it is far enough in development at that time)
Desert Tech DTM-65CM -140GR Premium match
2x Copper creek load development pack stage 1 140gr Hornady ELD-M

Original first blog post:
Today I got one of the new Grayboe Ridgeback stocks in for a review this year and I figured that I would share a few picks, dimensions, and generally what I plan to do. I'll even try to be brief though it may just kill me to do so.

Grayboe is, as most probably know, the company started by Ryan McMillan, son of McMillan CEO Kelly. The idea was to make a stock that did not require the 8 skilled man hours of labor of a hand lay up fiberglass composite stock method that McMillan stocks use but still use epoxy and fiberglass (rather than injection molded plastic) as the materials. The Grayboe company shared the McMillan location for a while and there was some confusion about it being a part of McMillan. Ryan and Kelly really have only themselves to blame for this as they did a lot of interviews about it together and blurred the lines a good bit in the beginning. I expect it is a tricky thing to both try to get a little piece of the name recognition of the established industry leader who you worked for many years and also differentiate yourself as an entirely independent entity. Anyhow, Grayboe now has it's own facility though I do not think that the confusion has been totally abated or maybe ever will be. Grayboe is not part of McMillan. That probably didn't help but I tried.

Grayboe is a little sparse on the tech specs on the site so I will drop some measurements I did here and many more with the real review (which will be a while off yet).

Some tech specs I measured:
Weight: 58.3oz (3.64lbs) This is basically exactly what a McMillan A5 adjustable fiberglass stock averages
recoil lug slot thickness: .3565"
recoil lug slot depth: .5455"
recoil lug slot width: 1.34"
barrel channel width at stock front end: 1.034"
Width of forend: 2.524"
Inlet: M5, Grayboe sells a Mesa Precision arms one but you can use any. DBM is not included with stock.
It has a bubble level in the stock
LOP (with included parts and stock rem trigger): 12.5" - 13.885" with 5x .277" spacers for adjustment

I have not totally decided all of what I am going to do with the review but I do know a few things. I am going to either use my Remington 5R barreled action or drop a new custom build I have been kicking around doing in it. I will start out just using the stock inletted as is but I may eventually bed it. Both of these options seem quite popular with users as Grayboe stocks are low enough in cost to appeal as a drop in option but also look to be high enough quality to warrant the full bedding treatment. Grayboe molds Aluminum pillars into the stock so these things are pretty darn easy to bed. I am told that these stocks are very easy to cut and machine so I will certainly test that at least with a detachable molded palm rest and perhaps with bedding as well. We will see where it goes. for now I can tell you that the unique cheek piece design is totally solid (it actually looks like they added a guide rod over early prototypes) and that it comes with a nicer than expected recoil pad.

Here are the pics:

Unboxing


What's included


Action inletting overview


Action inletting detail


Cheek piece detail


There are aluminum pillars molded in.
Link Posted: 2/24/2018 3:33:31 PM EST
[#1]
Interesting how much cheaper are they than the others?
Few things I see that I'm not so fond of
Link Posted: 2/25/2018 1:18:08 PM EST
[#2]
Not gonna lie, that looks like a cheap POS. I was thinking about that stock but think I may pass now.
Link Posted: 2/26/2018 7:54:47 PM EST
[#3]
Would it be possible to cerakote the stock since they only offer limited color options?
Link Posted: 2/27/2018 9:54:40 AM EST
[#4]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By BruceLeroy:
Not gonna lie, that looks like a cheap POS. I was thinking about that stock but think I may pass now.
View Quote
I don't see how other than the paint. Made of the same material as the mcmillans. They cut into one and it looked even more dense to me. Pillar bedded, adjustable cheek piece with m-lock system. Seems like a good deal to me. Im waiting for the left handed renegade.
Link Posted: 2/27/2018 10:03:10 AM EST
[Last Edit: m6z] [#5]
I looked into them.  $600 with the DBM isn't terrible, but at that price you're not too far off from Manners and with the Manners you're getting a true custom stock build to your specs.  IMO the KRG Bravo is a better product at a better price.

I ended up getting in on the Manners group buy this year.  Yeah, it'll be a couple hundred more bucks, but it'll be exactly what I wanted and it'll be lighter.
Link Posted: 3/1/2018 4:54:56 PM EST
[#6]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By BruceLeroy:
Not gonna lie, that looks like a cheap POS. I was thinking about that stock but think I may pass now.
View Quote View All Quotes
View All Quotes
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By BruceLeroy:
Not gonna lie, that looks like a cheap POS. I was thinking about that stock but think I may pass now.
Do you mean the little fiberglass hairs in the inlet area? The center section of the inlet (the part that is not actually going to contact anything) appears to be molded with the DBM area machined out. The interface between these two sections has some mold artifacts and such. The painting is also not as clean and even in the inletting area as on the outside.  I agree that this area does not appear as clean as an all machined out hand lay up fiberglass stock does but I don't think it functionally matters and nobody will see it with the rifle in it anyway. If you bed it, it won't even be there anymore and, with the pillars already in place, bedding one of these things will be pretty easy. I wouldn't be too turned off by the painting inside of the inletting. The parts of the inetting that actually match up with steel look good.

Originally Posted By manki77:
Would it be possible to cerakote the stock since they only offer limited color options?
My guess would be yes as cerakote is basically just a paint. However, the stock is already painted and some paints to do not go well over others so I will add this to my question sheet for Ryan.

Originally Posted By m6z:
I looked into them.  $600 with the DBM isn't terrible, but at that price you're not too far off from Manners and with the Manners you're getting a true custom stock build to your specs.  IMO the KRG Bravo is a better product at a better price.

I ended up getting in on the Manners group buy this year.  Yeah, it'll be a couple hundred more bucks, but it'll be exactly what I wanted and it'll be lighter.
The pricing landscape is pretty interesting now especially when compared to a few years ago:

-There are a few plastic and aluminum stocks like the KRG, McMillan Mc3, and Magpul ones starting around $300. These vary some in how much aluminum vs plastic they use and whether or not they call themselves a stock or chassis. I agree with you that the KRG bravo looks like a standout though I have not had one in hand so I could be totally off on that.

-Next, you have these Grayboe molded epoxy and fiberglass composite stocks. The Ridgeline one I am reviewing is the most expensive of these and also has the most adjustments as well as features (bubble level and M-loc system.) The best price on it I have found is through Red Hawk Rifles who has the Ridgeback + the Mesa Precision Arms bottom metal for $599.

-True Chassis systems should probably be put next in price though they are really all over the place both in regards to what they are and what they cost. Some are mostly plastic stocks with aluminum bedding blocks. Some are more or less just a bedding block that you bolt AR accessories on to. Others are full aluminum stocks with adjustment variety similar to an Anschutz 3 position stock.

-Lastly, you have traditional hand lay up fiberglass or carbon and epoxy resin composite stocks primarily from McMillan, Manners, and Kelbly's. It is somewhat difficult to price these in a way that is comparable to the above products since their base cost level product is not at the same level of drop in readiness. This is because it is mostly marketed to builders who are interested in the product at a lower level of completeness than many end users would be. You can get a McMillan A5 inletted with adjustments for $800 but this is without bottom metal or even pillars. The bottom metal is about $175 and the pillar bedding around $300. Prices on all this are a bit variable though as is the quality output. In any case, I think it is fair to say that this rout is about twice the cost of a Grayboe.

What I think will be interesting is how the market chooses to view the Grayboe product. Certainly, lots of folks are going to buy these things as drop ins and will probably compare them to polymer stocks with aluminum bedding blocks. The Grayboe is certainly drop in ready and does have molded in aluminum pillars so this makes sense. I have also seen quite a few custom builders doing bedded Grayboe stocks on custom builds and therefore comparing them to hand lay up fiberglass or carbon resin composite stocks. The Grayboe is a fiberglass and epoxy resin composite stock so, when bedded, this makes a lot of sense as it will have temperature stability and harmonic properties most similar to those. They are a very unique product that could easily be viewed as half, or twice, the price of competing products.
Link Posted: 3/2/2018 1:15:28 PM EST
[Last Edit: Hanovi] [#7]
Nope talking about the paint looks like shit it appears to have a gloss to it and don't care for the m-Loc front inserts and black adjustment knob for cheekpiece is way too big and bulky
Link Posted: 3/6/2018 10:22:34 PM EST
[#8]
I’ll throw this out there I picked one up and I own all manners and love them. I wanted to see one of these in the flesh so I purchased mine from red hawk. I had extra Badger DBM already so WTF why not. Arrived in three days, was boxed well and had all the accessories (including a low profile fastener) my initial thoughts were it felt cheap. I then started to inspect it compared to new 987.00 Manners Elite T2A. Well that’s so flipping light it felt cheap too. The mlock is a great idea for guys who will run illuminators or hog lights. The bottom Mlock was nice I used a Magpul Rail section and it just dropped in and I dropped my atlas on it. I immidiatly swapped out the qd fastener for the included low profile bolt. Ok so I do like the cheek riser it’s slimmer the. The manners and it’s jusy got a nice feel to it. I dropped my Remington 6.5x47 sendero profile in and to my utter surprise and amazement the stock fit awesome. The barrel free floated and the pillars are set perfect. The badger DBM set flush and it just looked good. I plan on shooting it unbedded for base line. Now some of the things I don’t like. First the cheek riser needs a relief to remove the bolt for maintenance and or placing in a case. The grip could be a little larger (I plan
On building up with Marine Tex and I think the comb could use a little more girth or width to it. Aver all its a very nice system at a excellent price point.

I was told by Ryan that the stock can be cerakoted and baked at regular temps. He told me they tested one at 450 for 2 hrs. The next thing that we all must grasp is that unlike the fiberglass stocks from MCM or Manneres these can be manipulated like no other. They can be cut on and epoxied back up weight added or taken out with a mill. I will post some pics of the stock after cerakote and palm build up.

So to wrap it up I think you 1000 vs 599 only you can be the real judge.

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Link Posted: 4/5/2018 9:29:15 PM EST
[Last Edit: BigJimFish] [#9]
The Mesa Precision Arms bottom metal arrived yesterday so I figured I would update my progress on that review as well as the others that have sprouted from it.

First off, here are some pics of the MPA bottom metal sitting in the Grayboe Ridgeback. The fit is excellent.





I should next update on how and what is going to be tested since a lot has happened. What was once a single stock review has become a stock and two rifle reviews. I'll lay out to you all the components involved since custom rifles are a Lego-esque undertaking.

The first rifle review will be a build in the Grayboe as I hopped. It will be a Kelbly Atlas Tactical action with a Krieger barrel installed by the Kelbly guys. The caliber will be .223 Rem and it will also feature a not yet released model Bix n Andy trigger. I will be testing this both unbedded and with an end user (me) bedding job. I am still lining up all the ammo for the review but Lapua Copper Creek and Desert Tech are looking to be the participants. I have a Sightron SIII scope in for review later this year that I will also use in a Bobro mount.

The second rifle review will be a 6.5CM ultralight hunting rig built by Mesa Precision arms. This will be based on their Crux line and include their new Titanium action, their bottom metal, a Proof carbon wrapped barrel, a McMillan Edge carbon stock, and Trigger Tech trigger. I will also use the Sightron SIII on this with the Bobro mount.
Link Posted: 4/6/2018 3:03:11 PM EST
[#10]
Looking forward to the Mesa Precision review.
Link Posted: 4/12/2018 3:59:36 AM EST
[#11]
Should be ordering my renegade by the end of the month.
Link Posted: 4/13/2018 8:04:51 AM EST
[#12]
I ordered a Ridgeback this week. I was originally going to try a Renegade for the pricetag but then they started teasing these. I'm all about having the features of a chassis but with the look and feel of a traditional stock. I'll have to modify it for a Proof sendero but it appears to be super easy to rework the barrel channel.
Link Posted: 4/16/2018 2:36:15 PM EST
[#13]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Thunderbolt882:
I ordered a Ridgeback this week. I was originally going to try a Renegade for the pricetag but then they started teasing these. I'm all about having the features of a chassis but with the look and feel of a traditional stock. I'll have to modify it for a Proof sendero but it appears to be super easy to rework the barrel channel.
View Quote
Why it is that proof calls that contour a sendero is really beyond me. It is my understanding that the contour they sell under the name light sendero is actually a sendero contour and that their sendero is significantly larger in diameter. This is unnecessarily confusing on their part and they really should refer to established, named, barrel contours by their proper names.

As for the barrel channel, I expect you will have no difficulty.
Link Posted: 4/16/2018 3:01:45 PM EST
[Last Edit: BigJimFish] [#14]
Update on the reviews:

The Kelbly rifle was finished today and I will pick that up tomorrow. I'm not sure if I'll shoot it or not tomorrow in the 40 degree whether. I probably will because, you know, shiny. The ammo is mostly here.


Here is the Copper Creek ammo. I thought it might be interesting to have them send me 2x of their load development kit instead of just ammo all loaded to the same spec. So what I have here is 10 rounds each of 5 different powder charges. That should provide a greater opportunity for a load that really fits the rifles well. The bullet is a 77gr Berger.


Here is the Lapua ammo very nicely packed. This is their GB544 ammo and is loaded with their own 69gr Scenar L bullet.

Desert Tech will also be supplying ammo for these reviews. Prime has decided against it and Hornady has proven less than easy to get a hold of. At the very least I will have Lapua, Copper Creek, and Desert Tech though I am still hoping for the Hornady as well.

I also mentioned last time that the Sightron SIII SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH scope arrived for review later this year and would also see some time on these rifles. Here is a nice unboxing pic of that
Link Posted: 4/19/2018 11:25:45 PM EST
[#15]

Kelbly Golden Girl rifle, NYX rifle, and the new .223 I am testing.

I mentioned a few days ago that I was picking up the Kelbly .223 for review and planning to shoot it despite less than ideal weather. Well, the weather certainly ended up less than ideal.


This is what you like to shoot in right?

Sitting there, in 31 degrees, with the snow driving horizontally across my field of fire, I starting thinking that I must be out of my mind. I was also thinking that between the cold, wind, and snow, this could make for some really lousy groups. What the heck though, I had the day off work, a new rifle, a box of ammo, and the benches would even have been covered if the snow would just condescend to descend some. If it all went to hell I could just pack it in early, tour the Kelbly factory, and be home early for dinner. It didn't exactly go to hell though. It actually went much better than I expected and I came away with a few thoughts:


Not bad groups for a blizzard

1) 30mph wind is no joke. Whether I tried to pick my timings (the first 3 groups) or move my aim point (the 4th group) the wind still spread everything quite a bit more horizontal than it moved vertical.

2) I wonder how much effect hitting big juicy snowflakes at 2,600fps has on a projectiles trajectory. Does it become a special snowflake itself?

3) This rifle is really going to bug hole. Two of these groups are half an inch in a blizzard, there is .25" vertical spread on most of these groups, and this is the first ammo I have even tried.

4) The first shot is the furthest on 3 of the 4 groups. I wonder if bedding the rifle will bring that in some and how much better weather will help.

5) I have got to get me a magnetospeed chrono like Ian's that I borrowed. It is so damn easy to use and it works in the snow. Mine does not work in the snow. I wish it wasn't so blasted expensive.

6) This Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH scope is working perfect for this. It has a pretty fine reticle even at 24x, the parallax isn't showing any lash, and the optics and tracking seem good so far.

7) This Lapua ammo looks like it is going to agree with this rifle well. I wonder how the velocity numbers will change in better conditions. It noticeably increases on shots where the round has been in the warm barrel longer. I also wonder if the SD on the velocities will tighten up some. 19.7 is not terrible but it is not world beating either.


Ian showing off one of the, now many, CNC machines.

After 4 groups I decided that outside of learning to shoot better in a blizzard, I had probably learned what I would from this session. I went in and took a little tour of the changes since the last time I walked around the Kelbly factory 8 years ago. They are probably somewhere around 6 times the production now that they were then. This basically translated into rooms that were once mostly empty being full of new equipment and virtually all the machines replaced with new, very high end, CNC mills, lathes, and a  Wire EDM machine. Really, the only part of the factory that looked similar was the composite stock making room. Though, even that has had to expand some especially with the Anschutz precision trainer orders.

What will be next for this rifle is that I am going to grind out the inletting a bit and bed it. I ordered the last of the stuff for that yesterday. Hopefully I will have that done in a few weeks and be ready to shoot it a lot more with all the ammo in good weather. The Desert Tech ammo came in Wednesday so I am ready to rock and roll on that front.


Desert tech ammo unboxing.
Link Posted: 4/29/2018 12:19:13 AM EST
[#16]
Update 4-29-2018

The stock bedding and grip add on are done. The Grayboe stock does machine very easily and the inletting process, which, involved grinding away the paint and some stock from a large area, did lead to some interesting insights on the stock construction. I should also note that the paint is quite resistant to chipping as the drill holes for the grip anchors did not chip out at all. It appears to be a very durable paint. The embedded aluminum pillars were very nice for easing the bedding process as the alignment of the barreled action in the barrel channel as well as the depth in the stock relative to the magazine system were therefore not subject to being messed up during the process. When an action is bedded with the pillars getting all of this alignment and spacing perfect can be tricky. The bedding compound I used is Acraglas. I have no opinions on it relative to alternatives as I used it on the first rifle I bedded and, being satisfied, have not changed since.


Step by step bedding of the Grayboe Ridgeback stock

For those interested, the grip is made of an oven hardening polymer clay available at any craft store for around $10. It is secured to the stock with machine screws threaded into brass 10x32 injection molding inserts that are embedded in the stock with the epoxy bedding compound while I am bedding the stock. In this way I can make a new grip for around $10 and change it out easily. Most stocks offer garbage trigger hand position and way too much trigger reach. This one is no different in that respect but Grayboe's material is very easy to change that with.
Link Posted: 5/13/2018 11:05:13 PM EST
[#17]
First off, I have finished writing the Grayboe stock review and it should be posted soon. I will link to it with a post in this thread when I have it up.

The Kelbly's rifle review is progressing well and I was able to have it out for another day of shooting this week. This time was the first time I had some reasonably good weather. It wasn't windless, but it was manageable. I was able to get quite a lot of testing that I have good confidence in done and I was able to go pretty low on a few of the groups. The couple below were with the 69gr factory Lapua. This ammo averaged under .5"@100yd for all groups fired on this day with good conditions. Next up should be doing some long range steel shooting with it. I have quite a bit of velocity data on all the ammunition tested and the rifle is zeroed and ready to go for that.


A few tight groups from the Kelbly .223 shooting Lapua factory 69gr GB544

Lastly, I spoke with the guys from Mesa Precision Arms this week about that 6.5CM Titanium and carbon build. The McMillan stock for it arrived recently and the rifle should be completed soon.
Link Posted: 5/18/2018 9:57:18 AM EST
[#18]
Where's the athlon?
Link Posted: 5/18/2018 10:46:29 AM EST
[#19]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Dsparil:
Where's the athlon?
View Quote
Funny you should mention that today. As of today the first of the Athlons should be in route. I also talked with Nikon yesterday about their Black series mil/mil scope and they are interested. So, the current lineup for the sub $1k mil/mil ffp scope reviews is:

Sightron SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH,
Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50 APRS2 FFP,
Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27X50 FFP IR MIL
Nikon BLACK FX1000 6-24x50SF Illuminated FX-MRAD

I'll be interspersing work on these optic reviews with the Kelbly and Mesa Precision Arms custom rifle reviews. The timetable for finishing each is therefore a little uncertain. I expect I will finish all by late October and that some will land between completion of the Kelbly, and MPA rifle reviews. You will also see at least some of these scopes in each rifle review. The Sightron, for instance, was used in the accuracy testing of the Kelbly.

I should lastly mention that the Grayboe stock review is finished and posted.
Link Posted: 6/1/2018 3:14:41 PM EST
[#20]
Update 6 1 2018

I have continued working with the scope companies on the sub $1k long range optics reviews later this year. The Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm with APRS2 FFP Mil arrived not long ago. Yet to arrive are an Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50 FFP IR Mil as well as a Nikon BLACK FX1000 6-24x50 MRAD. These and the previously mentioned Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH are what I currently expect to make up this series of reviews in the fall. You will see the scopes from time to time before that as I'll be using them some on the rifle reviews.


Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm just out of the box.

While playing with the Bix N Andy trigger in the Kelbly build I have found myself running down the rabbit hole regarding trigger design and theory. Their concept of using ball bearings to take the bulk of the down force from the topsear is very interesting and my testing is indicating that it works very well. The writing about this is now somewhere between a subsection and it's own review in length so I am not exactly sure where I am going to end up on that. For now I will tease you with a well labeled picture of the operating mechanism so that you can take a gander at the concept as well as the quality of the machining.


Bix N Andy Tacsport pro prototype labeled for clarification.

Today I put up the Grayboe Composite Stock review here on AR15.com

Lastly, I got the shipping notice for the Mesa Precision Arms Crux 6.5 CM rifle today so it should be in sometime next week. I'll get some pics up of that as soon as possible.
Link Posted: 6/8/2018 5:36:59 PM EST
[#21]
Update 6 8 2018


Mesa Precision Arms Crux in McMillan adjustable carbon Game Warden stock.

Today I picked up the Mesa Precision Arms Crux from the FFL. He was impressed, and I can see why. It arrived with the full custom cut foam Pelican box treatment. Opening that beastly case to see all that steel, carbon, and titanium all so nicely ordered is feels pretty good. The look of the visible carbon on the proof barrel and McMillan adjustable carbon Game Warden particularly set of the appearance adding depth to the visuals. It was a rainy and terrible day that has put me behind in business but I am smiling and I think it will be a few days before that wears off.


Mesa Precision Arms Crux in 6.5CM Unboxing.

Taking the rifle out, apart, and inspecting it I was just crossing my fingers that all would remain smiles and so far so good on that. The bedding in the very nice McMillan stock looks great, is nice and tight, and properly centered on the pillars. The inletting is also both clean and tight. The rifle feeds and ejects perfectly from the supplied AI AICS mag. Trigger break measures out at 1.89lbs. The action is MPA's new titanium model which they do not yet have on their website and it also has their M5 inlet DBM. I had MPA do a bead blast finish on the action as I basically don't like painted finishes such as Cerakote, titanium is a bit more limited than steel in what surface treatments can be done, and it is not like it's going to rust. The finish came out looking very nice, with no tool marks visible on the finished surfaces and clean machining lines on the unfinished surfaces. By adding the adjustable cheek I pushed the weight up just a little above what they are capable of doing but the whole rifle still tipped the scales at just 7.39 lbs. Not something you are going to mind carrying around all day. Probably the nicest touch is the Big Jim Fish that MPA machined into the rail with a nice little SnipersHide symbol in front of it. That was a very nice surprise for me and the red paint they rubbed into the machining set if off perfectly.


Mesa Precision Arms Crux bedding


New Mesa Precision Arms titanium action and bolt.

I'm very excited to go out and shoot the new beauty.
Link Posted: 6/23/2018 1:11:46 PM EST
[Last Edit: BigJimFish] [#22]
Update 6 23 2018

The first big update is that the Kelbly's rifle review is up.

Recently, my brother had a little break from med school at the start of summer and we got to have a fun range day that the very nice Rayner's facility in southern Ohio. We had fun shooting both the Kebly's review rifle and the upcoming Mesa Precision arms one at various distances out to 1k yds.


Kelbly's Atlas Tactical .223 @ 675 yds


Mesa Precision Arms Crux 6.5cm @ 675 yds

The next review that you will see should be a small one on Bix'n Andy TacSport ball triggers. This started as a little mini-sub section but I kept getting more interested and taking more pull data so it grew into a full review.

I don't have any more updates on the scopes at the moment except that the Nikon Black and Athlon Ares are still backordered.
Link Posted: 7/10/2018 3:39:12 PM EST
[#23]
Update 7-9-2018


A nice day of 100 yd factory ammo testing in the Mesa Precision Arms Crux

The Mesa Precision Arms Crux review testing is rolling along well now. In fact, it is mostly done. The rifle is shooting quite well and has proven to be sub .5" with Federal GMM 140gr SMK factory ammo. It is a pity that I made poor choices on my hold on the second group I fired because I added .2" to that group with the bad calls. One intends to lower group size by adjusting the aim point to conditions not increase it as I did.


The Mesa Precision Arms Crux goes sub .5" with 140gr FGGM factory ammo.

In addition to grouping quite well, the FGGM ammo also proved to have a velocity SD of only 13fps. That is very good performance on both counts, is frankly a bit better than I expected from Federal, and is realistically actually match grade. My brother and I have argued for years about the quality of FGGM ammo and he is very much enjoying his victory in that argument.

Some progress has also been made in the scope reviews. The Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH, which I have very much enjoyed using for the 100 yd testing of both the Kelbly and MPA rifles, preformed very well in the mechanical testing. It's reticle dimensions were spot on accurate, the reticle showed no cant, and was totally accurate to 4 mils. At adjustments greater than that it started to gain a little reading 4.9 mils at 5.0 mils traveled on the target and 12.4mils at it's adjustment limit with 12.7 mils traveled on the target. I suspect that this is exactly in spec and that the eventual deviation is due to complexities related to spherical lenses and linearly threaded adjustment screws. The 12.7 mils is from optical center so represents half of the total adjustment range which looks to be a little larger than the advertised 23.3mils. Unsurprisingly, the Sightron returned to zero fine. So far I am very pleased with this optic at it's price point.


Mechanical testing on the SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH.

It was the plan to also test out the Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm mechanically on the same day as the Sightron. Unfortunately, rain poured out of the clear sky to destroy the test target and make me very unhappy indeed. Since I have only one 3' x 8'  25mil test target left, and they are not made anymore. I'm having it laminated just in case and I should get back to testing later this week. If the weather wants to get me again it will have to hit the target with lightning to ruin my day next time.
Link Posted: 7/25/2018 10:54:53 PM EST
[#24]
Update 7-25-2018

The big news is that the Mesa Precision Arms Crux rifle review is finished and should be up in a week or so.

In scope news, I just recieved the Athlon Ares BTR yesterday. I will probably get to working some with that this weekend. I have done some mechanical and optical work on the Athlon Midas Tac now that I received my test target back from the laminators. The Midas reticle is spot on in size and the adjustments are also tracking right on. There is really nothing else you can say about that. No further news on the Nikon Black. Hopefully, it will get here by the end of this set of reviews.


Calibration testing the Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm with APRS2 FFP Mil
Link Posted: 8/3/2018 1:55:02 AM EST
[#25]
Update 8-3-2018

The Mesa Precision Arms Crux titanium and carbon 6.5CM rifle review is live.  We have included a coupon code in the summary good for a limited time on the Mesa Precision webstore.

In addition to discussing the Mesa Precision Arms ultralight Crux rifle, this review also discourses on:

- The Crux titanium action which may be purchased alone.
- General differences between titanium and steel in action manufacture.
- The McMillan adjustable Game Warden stock in Edge Carbon and composite stocks generally.
- The TriggerTech Primary trigger as well as their technology in general .
- Proof Carbon barrels.
- The ammo used, Desert Tech, Copper Creek, Federal gold medal, and Hornady match.


The Mesa Precision Arms Crux with a more hunting style optic look with Bobro LabX vertical split rings and the Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH
Link Posted: 8/29/2018 3:04:03 PM EST
[#26]
Update 8-25-2018

Over the last couple of weeks I have received the last few test samples for this years reviews.

As many of you know, during the process of reviewing the Kelbly's Atlas custom rifle and Mesa Precision Arms Crux custom rifle, I got a little sidetracked on the triggers. Each of these rifle makers uses, as it's preferred trigger, a unit featuring an new and unconventional technology. Kelbly's uses Bix'n Andy ball triggers that have balls to decrease force on the key pivot points. Mesa Precision Arms uses TriggerTech triggers which, in addition to a few other changes, interpose a roller between the sear surfaces to reduce friction. Though I was initially skeptical of both innovations, I have found that both perform in accordance with their manufacturers claims. It is probably not surprising then that these two brands have been growing quickly in popularity in the shooting sports. Even to the point that each is beginning to look pretty dominant in at least one discipline.

Last week, I received the last test samples from each trigger maker. This consists of a few Tacsport Pro production units from Bix'n Andy and a TriggerTech Diamond. I will be finishing up the testing on these and should have a Bix'n Andy review next week as well as some updates to the TriggerTech section of the Mesa Precision Arms rifle review. This will involve further testing of pull to pull variation as well as looking at topsear force.


TriggerTech Diamond and Bix'n Andy Tacsport Pro's arrive for some testing.

On the optics side of things, it looks like the 3 scopes I have in so far for the sub $1k precision optics series this year will be all for the year. The Nikon black will probably have to wait for next year as the testing on the others is half done, there are not many sunny months left, and Nikon is still backordered on the scopes.

As for the three scopes I have:
Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH
Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm
Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50 FFP IR Mil
they are looking better than I expected. Optically, they are all performing better than I expected at the price point. These three, together with the two legacy comparisons I have (Zeiss conquest 4.5-14x and Leupold Mk 6 3-18x), are closer in optical performance than any other large group of scopes I have ever compared to each other. Their mechanicals have also been solid so far with the Midas actually being indistinguishable from perfect in the tracking. I am really pleased that this much performance can now be had for a pretty moderate price. I expect that the first of these reviews should be done and up in a month and a half or so.


Optical comparison testing for the sub $1k ffp mil/mil precision optics series.
Link Posted: 8/31/2018 10:06:22 AM EST
[#27]
I am interested in your evaluation of the triggers.  Sometimes it is hard to get an honest evaluation because top shooters are sponsored by one or the other and of course they promote their brand.

My guess is one isn't noticeably different than the other in the hands of the casual shooter.
Link Posted: 9/7/2018 10:50:38 AM EST
[#28]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Ironmaker:
I am interested in your evaluation of the triggers.  Sometimes it is hard to get an honest evaluation because top shooters are sponsored by one or the other and of course they promote their brand.

My guess is one isn't noticeably different than the other in the hands of the casual shooter.
View Quote
My take on the TriggerTech is up in the Mesa precision arms review. I hope to have the Bix'n Andy review up this week.

As for feel, both are really excellent and I don't think I could discern one from the other aside for the different trigger shoes. Neither has any detectable creep and both feel very consistent pull to pull. Picking one over the other will more come down to the advantages each has with it's particular innovations. I expect that the TriggerTech will resist failure in a dirty environment better and generally function better when dirty. I believe the Bix'n Andy to have a faster lock time. The Bix'n Andy can also be purchased in a two stage. Keep in mind that I am comparing the TriggerTech Diamond to the TacSport or TacSport Pro here as these are the closest in pull weights. The less expensive TriggerTechs have the advantage of being much cheaper and still feel great but they are heavier in pull weight and a little less consistent in pull to pull variation though not to a point that I think problematic.
Link Posted: 10/4/2018 9:24:39 PM EST
[Last Edit: BigJimFish] [#29]
Update 10-4-2018

I have finished up the trigger testing and posted the review on the brand new Bix'n Andy TacSport pro trigger. I started testing this with a prototype back during the Kelbly Atlas rifle review. I have also updated the trigger section of the Mesa Precision arms Crux rifle review to include the information about the TriggerTech Diamond trigger which, I recently tested. Through the course of this trigger testing I tested a total of 15 separate triggers with special emphasis on the new concepts in trigger design utilized in the Bix'n Andy TacSport triggers and in the TriggerTech Primary and Diamond. I found both TriggerTech and Bix'n Andy's innovations to be improvements on traditional design concepts and also found both companies products to be well manufactured and desirable. Each company's innovations have a little different focus and benefit and so will appeal to a slightly different shooter. Check out both reviews too see what is new in trigger design. There are also some upcoming promos on the Bix'n Andy TacSport line. See the review for more details.

Bix'n Andy TacSport and new TacSport Pro

All of the testing is done for the three sub $1k long range mil/mil ffp rifle scopes. These are the:
Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH
Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm
Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50 FFP IR Mil
The review of the Sightron III is written and will be posted after the Bix'n Andy TacSport pro has had a bit of time at first billing. All three scopes performed quite admirably meaning that there are now some real functional options for long range shooting at less than $1k.

I have updated the first post in this thread to include a table of contents for this years reviews as well as the several mini-reviews included within each custom rifle review. We are coming down to the end of the year now and only the three sub $1k reviews are left.
Link Posted: 10/5/2018 9:55:57 AM EST
[#30]
In your review of the ridgeback you mention that you felt the cheek riser did not have enough travel. But I noticed that it seems like your scope is mounted really high off of the action. Do you think this problem would be alleviated if you made more of an effort to get the scope as low as possible?
Link Posted: 10/6/2018 12:32:25 PM EST
[#31]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Overclock79:
In your review of the ridgeback you mention that you felt the cheek riser did not have enough travel. But I noticed that it seems like your scope is mounted really high off of the action. Do you think this problem would be alleviated if you made more of an effort to get the scope as low as possible?
View Quote
In much of the testing I was using a Bobro dual lever mount that has a 1.5" above the rail centerline. With this configuration there is certainly more than 1/2" of distance between the objective bell and the barrel and this is not ideal for cheek weld. With a set of low rings any of the scopes I was using could easily be brought low enough for a solid cheek weld on this stock even with my, fairly high, cheek bones.

That being said, there are many reasons by people might opt to have a higher mount and still be desirous of a greater cheek piece movement to accommodate that. For instance, I share my primary long range scope, a Leupold Mark 6 3-18x between both AR platform rifles and bolt guns. It is much easier, and quicker, to simply keep it in a quick release 1.5" centerline mount than to remount it every time. I further find the more upright shooting posture resulting from the higher sight line more comfortable and the downside of trickier bore / sight line alignment is really rather moot when you are using a bubble level anyway. Many of my other adjustable cheek pieces have a full range of 1.5" whereas this one, on the Graboe Ridgeback, is only .75". As you have pointed out, many will not have an issue when mounting scopes as low as possible, in the traditional manner. However, others will have an issue fitting their particular configurations to the limited travel, and relatively low starting height, of this design.
Link Posted: 11/5/2018 4:41:12 PM EST
[#32]
Update 11-5-2018

The review of the Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH 6-24x mil/mil rifle scope is up. This is the first of 3 reviews of sub $1k high power mil/mil FFP rifle scope this year. I have been really impressed with how all of these scopes performed this year. This is really the first crop of scopes to come out with, what I consider, the features necessary for effective long range shooting at the sub $1k price point and they performed really well. The other two scopes, the Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm and Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50 FFP IR Mil reviews will be coming pretty soon as there is little time left in the year.

In other news, I just got all my Shot Show registration stuff squared away so you can expect me to do some reporting again from there this year. I expect some of that will be on Sightron's new simple, low cost, high function, zero stop system.


Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH 6-24x mil/mil rifle scope on Mesa Precision Arms Crux rifle
Link Posted: 12/4/2018 2:16:50 PM EST
[#33]
Update 12-4-2018

The review of the Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50mm is up and 2018 is winding down or, in my case, roaring by. This is going to be the last review I get up this year. As such, I put a little information in it about the Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50 as well in case you were trying to make a decision involving both scopes before Christmas.  Though the testing is done on the Midas, the review will probably be mid January 2019.


Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50mm on Mesa Precison Arms Crux next to Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm on a Kelbly’s Atlas Tactical
Link Posted: 1/18/2019 5:27:15 PM EST
[#34]
Update 1-18-2018

The Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm review is now up. This caps of the biggest review year I have done thus far. It has been a lot of fun putting these products though their paces this year.

As many of you know, Shot Show is next week. I'll be going again this year and have the BigJimFish Shot Show 2019 blog up now. I do the blog as a thread rather than an article so that you guys can comment and interact on it. I'll start out talking about the sort of things I am thinking about going into the show and update it as the show progresses with the new products that I find intriguing and thoughts I have as I go.
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