Monday, March 11, 2013

Use Your 5.56 mm Ammo and AR Mags…In Mossberg’s Crossover Bolt Gun, a Hot Bolt Action Rifle

The first of Mossberg’s expanding lineup of MVPs (Mossberg Varmint Predator series) started appearing at the ranges early in 2012, with the Varmint 24-inch fluted HBAR wowing gun writers, prairie dog hunters and bench shooters with its style, grace and accuracy.

The MVP Predator is equipped with a “medium fluted bull barrel”, which can create somewhat vague connotations. To put some teeth into this title, I measured my Predator’s relatively thick mat black oxide coated carbon steel barrel at three critical points along its 18.5 inch length. She’s .75 inches at the muzzle, which features a recessed button rifling; .844 inches at the midpoint; and a full 1.00 inches thick where the barrel screws into the receiver. A six-pack of 6.5 inch long recessed flutes wrap around the barrel forward of the laminated sporter stock’s foregrip, to lessen muzzle weight and to increase surface area to promote faster cooling. The barrel is also totally free-floated in the laser-routed stock and pillar bedded via a pair of beefy hex bolts into the meat of the steel receiver. Translated, if you use a sling to steady your aimed shots, a bipod, or simply rest it on a sandbag before sending your rounds downrange, barrel harmonics and accuracy will be consistently the same throughout.

The heart of the MVP’s appeal rests in the user-adjustable Lightning Bolt Action (LBA) trigger that’s common to all family members. This unique consumer feature allows each operator to custom-tailor the trigger squeeze to his/her precise liking, something that is just not offered on many competitively priced bolt action rifles. To dial it in, merely loosen the barreled action from the laminated stock via the front and rear action screws and turn the trigger pull adjusting screw as needed…the pull can be set anywhere from two to seven pounds.

I set my trigger for 2.5 pounds, which worked best for my hand and shooting style. That’s pretty light…but the Mossberg engineers have insured that the light trigger will not be a potential hazard when you go afield (where the possibility exists that an owner might accidentally drop a loaded weapon). Their solution is a safety bar (similar to those Glock handguns) that protrudes from a groove in the center of the LBA’s trigger, and must be fully depressed to disengage the sear. Only then will the firing pin drop on a chambered cartridge.

The MVP’s safety is a simple on/off lever design located starboard (right) and aft (rear) of the bolt handle. Its operation is simplicity itself, with the lever to the rear indicating “safe” and the lever forward exposing a large visible red dot that indicates “fire.” You can only make the weapon “safe” if the striker is cocked and the LBA trigger will indicated a visible center safety bar when the weapon is cocked and potentially loaded.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The New (Shotgun) Renaissance

Benelli’s Super Vinci Blends Art and Engineering

There is little doubt that Leonardo da Vinci was one of the most brilliant minds in history, a true polymath, a master of anatomy, engineering, painting, writing and mathematics. Because of this impressive resume, any company that applies the name of Vinci to their product line invites immediate comparison with the lofty inventor and artist.

Benelli’s Super Vinci, like its counterpart the 3-inch-chambered Vinci, certainly defies traditional shotgun styling cues. Sharp, angular lines give the Super Vinci an avant-garde look, with a steeply angled pistol grip, a geometric trigger guard that flows into the receiver, a gradually narrowing finger groove on the fore end, and integrated sling studs.

Brad Fitzpatrick

Unlike most shotguns, which bear a clear distinction between the receiver, fore end, and barrel, the lines of the Super Vinci seem incongruous; the fore end and trigger guard are connected, and the top of the receiver is separated from the bottom of the receiver and the trigger guard. This gun displays unconventional styling cues, and traditionalists are likely to be put off at first by the modern aesthetic. In fact, the Super Vinci makes even the Benelli Super Black II seem slightly pedestrian, and it was once considered the model of edgy shotgun styling. However, the Super Vinci is a classic example of form following function. The gun handles extremely well and points naturally.

I had a chance to test the Super Vinci on Texas waterfowl with Joe Coogan, of Benelli and Tim Brandt, of Federal Premium Ammunition. We were hunting the secluded lakes of Matagorda Island, in the Gulf along the coast of Texas, joined by Chris Martin and his team from Bay Flats Lodge.

Just before shooting light, we had a flock of ducks (pintails, by our guide T.J. Christensen’s best estimate) drop down out of the darkness and settle with a splash at the far end of the decoys. It wasn’t long before the next group came piling into the decoys, a mixed group of gadwall and teal that locked up and fell from the sky into our spread.

 “Get ready,” T.J. said, holding a call on the edge of his mouth and watching until the ducks finally committed and dropped down just above the water.

“Take ‘em!”

I rose up alongside Tim Brandt and outdoor writer Bryce M. Towsley, and we started firing as the ducks neared the decoys. The first Black Cloud shell I fired put a gadwall down (at least I believe it was my shot). Soon afterwards more birds began appearing in large numbers, pouring into the decoys.

“Be ready for them,” T.J. said. He hunkered down in the blind and blew the nasally pintail whistle as a flock of birds appeared out of the blinding light of the rising sun. The birds committed to the decoys and locked up, dropping down out of the sky into our spread. When they were almost to the water T.J. shouted, “Pintails! Now! Take them now!”

I stood up and caught the white flash of a drake pintail wheeling in the sky, his white belly flashing against the blue sky. I shouldered the Super Vinci and pulled the bead ahead of the arching pintail’s bill, pressing the trigger and watching as the drake’s wings folded and he sailed down into the water.

Over the course of the morning I put almost a full box of Black Cloud FS Steel 1 1/4” through the Super Vinci, a potent load that proved excellent for Texas ducks. And, to my great relief, I wasn’t battered by the recoil. And although I can’t personally vouch for the recoil reduction figures put forth by the engineers at Benelli, I can certainly tell you that I’ve never gone through a box of heavy 3” loads with less discomfort.

Would Leonardo give the nod to his new namesake shotgun? I think so. After all, Leonardo was a fan of engineering and artistry, and the Super Vinci has plenty of both.

By Brad Fitzpatrick

Friday, March 1, 2013

Modern Loads for a Classic Cartridge

Handloading the .270 Winchester

Being nothing more than a .30-06 Springfield necked down to a 0.277”, the .270 is easy to load.

Story & Photos by James E. House

 I was not around when the .270 Winchester was introduced in 1925, but I became aware of it at an early age.

A well-to-do resident of the small town where I grew up had taken a serious hunting trip to Alaska and some of his trophies were displayed in a local store. That bear was huge but I think I was more impressed with his rifle and the cartridge it fired which were also on display. The rifle was a Winchester Model 70 and the cartridge was a .270 Winchester.

The .270 is still a very popular caliber. The reason is simple: it performs. With a 130-grain bullet having good sectional density and ballistic coefficient driven at over 3,000 ft/sec, the .270 is one of the best choices for medium game at rather long range. Even in comparison to some of the current magnums, the .270 gives up little in this regard.

The .270 is even more versatile with the development of newer high performance bullets. The 140- and 150-grain premium bullets such as the Swift A-Frame, Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, and Nosler Partition make the .270 even more suitable for use on game such as elk than was the case when the cartridge was introduced.


My .270 has not seen a lot of use in recent years. Therefore, I wanted to test it using a range of powders and bullets. To keep the project to a manageable size, I selected five bullets, the 90-grain Sierra hollow point, the 100-grain Hornady spitzer, the 110-grain Sierra spitzer, the 130-grain Sierra Spitzer, and the 150-grain Speer spitzer. Propellants employed were IMR 4064 and 4350, Alliant PowerPro 2000MR and Reloder 17, and Winchester 760. Winchester cases were trimmed to 2.530” and Winchester large rifle primers were used in all loads. Powder charges were weighed to the nearest tenth of a grain. Five cartridges were tested with each load, and they were fired at a target at a range of 100 yards to produce a five-shot group. Velocities were measured at 10 feet from the muzzle using a Competition Electronics ProChrono chronograph.

The load with the 90-grain Sierra hollow point and IMR 4064 gave a five shot group of just over an inch, but four of the shots gave a 0.64” cluster. The 100-grain Hornady driven by 55.0 grains of Reloder 17 gave a very nice group that measured only 0.83”, but four of the shots constituted a group of 0.45”. The four groups with hunting weight bullets averaged almost exactly 1.5” and these loads were not optimized in any way. I believe that with some experimenting and tweaking, even with those loads groups in the 1.2”-1.5” inch range would be obtainable.

The .270 Winchester is even more versatile today than it was half a century ago because of the wide range of bullets available now. Handloading is a way to exploit that versatility. My old Winchester 770 has always performed so well that I have never had the urge to get another .270 Winchester rifle.