The Athlon Cronus BTR – Exceeding Expectations


A month or so ago I was looking to buy a new scope but with some custom guns on order etc. I didn’t want another Alpha-Priced purchase so close to Christmas. Ideally, I was looking for something that fell between the price points of the Vortex PST II and the Vortex Razor II ( which, in Canada, means somewhere between C$1500 and C$3500 ) and like everyone else out there I wanted the features and glass to be nearer the latter than the former !

I had read quite a lot about Athlon on US forums and people seemed very impressed – particularly so by their top-of-the-line Cronus BTR – and I figured that this ‘Made in Japan’ 4.5-29×56 scope in Mils would work just nicely for me.

Athlon is distributed in Canada by Scott Gaalaas at Red Star Target in Alberta which gave me confidence.  While I’ve not met him in person, Scott is known in the shooting community as a real shooter who actually uses the products he sells and who offers top-notch service to customers whether they are buying a scope or a bunch of paper targets.  How much better to deal with a genuine gun guy than it is to deal with a salesman who will happily bullshit about anything just to make a sale.

Priced in Canada at around the C$2700 mark ( US MSRP is US$2159) the Cronus BTR is in a tough market segment as the price point is comparable to the lower end Nightforce, the Steiner T5Xi and the Bushnell Elite 4.5-30 each of which scopes have strong followings.

Athlon pride themselves on customer service and back their product with a Vortex-like “no questions” warranty ( more on this later! )

My Cronus BTR arrived from Red Star Target securely packed in a box with a sunshade ( an extra cost ) a cleaning cloth and an owners manual that is properly written in a version of the English language understandable by all but the chronically unschooled.  Also included were some stickers and ( a freebie from Red Star – thanks Scott !) a nice T-Shirt which, sadly, my wife has purloined for a sleeping shirt.  Oddly though – especially in a $2K plus item – there were no scope caps at all. Come on Athlon, even Bushnell include some scope caps.


First off I will admit to being a bit old-fashioned and so I equate a nice heft to a product with quality and the Cronus BTR feels suitably weighty without being too heavy.  Actually it weighs 35.8 ounces which is positively a featherweight compared to my Vortex Razor II’s.    The finish was nice and even and upon close examination  the whole scope had that hard to describe quality feel to it.

For the tech spec junkies all the data re: this scope can be found here:

I chose the mil/mil version of the Cronus BTR with the illuminated APRS FFP reticle which is a Christmas Tree-style reticle without being so terribly “busy” like some are.  Overall, I like it – it is a good balance.

After examining the scope and doing the obligatory spinning the turrets that we all do I mounted the scope on my test mule and headed out to do some glassing and shooting.


I have to say that I was ( I am ) very impressed with the glass on the Cronus which is  very bright and clear with no discernible CA. Optically the Cronus BTR really gives up nothing to my Razor II’s and – of the scopes I own – is only (slightly) bettered by my USO ER 5-25×60, ( a bit more) by my NF ATACR’s 5-25×56 and 7-35×56 and (quite clearly) by my S+B PM II’s but each of these are scopes that cost a LOT more money than what I paid for the Athlon.  Compared to scopes in a more comparable price range I found the Cronus glass to be a bit better that my Steiner T5Xi and quite superior to my Bushnell DMR and DMR II’s.  Of course – usual disclaimer – these are side-by-sides using my eyes not yours but I very much doubt that any Cronus BTR buyer is going to complain about this Japanese glass !

Since we are looking at a reasonably expensive scope I will be a bit picky about one thing – the sunshade doesn’t match the scope body.  Yes, this is a minor quibble ( and one that is shared by my NF ATACR as it happens ) but cosmetics are important and to some they are very important.


Of course, glass is only one part of the package – honestly, if glass was the only important thing we would all simply buy S+B PMII’s and be done with it – but in using the Cronus BTR on my test mule I found nothing not to like.  As follows:

  • Magnification – an excellent and useable range and the mag ring moves with just the right amount of pressure ( and it has a high spot like a built-in mini throw lever )
  • DSC_0543
  • Turret markings – easy to read for my aging eyes.
  • Clicks – audible and a nice feel.  Not too close together ( unlike my S+B for example ).
  • Side focus – a little stiff to operate but easy to get into focus.
  • Illumination – honestly, a feature I don’t really use but the Cronus BTR has 11 settings with a convenient off between each one.

Overall, I would like the turrets to be a little flatter ( and fatter ) and I don’t like them quite as much as my ATACR’s or Razor II’s but this is a very, very subjective thing and, by way of contrast, I happen to like the Cronus BTR turrets than those on the PST II, Burris XTR and, quite frankly, my USO ER and S+B PM II.

One thing that some may not like is that the turrets on the Cronus BTR don’t lock into place – I used to really like that feature but I’ve gone away from it now as I find sometimes when using my Razor II that I’ve forgotten they were locked – grrr.  Likewise, the capped windage on my NF ATACR’s is ( at least to me ) a solution in search of a problem but YMMV so if these are important features to you … well, the Cronus BTR doesn’t have them.  It does however have one feature which I – and many others – think really important – zero stop.  This is where I found out how good the Athlon warranty is…


The Cronus BTR Zero Stop (ZS) is accessed simply by removing the cap and then three small screws can be loosened to set the stop.  Mmmm, somehow during this simple process one or all of the three couldn’t be loosened and so I couldn’t operate the ZS – a call to Scott was followed by a call from Jason at Athlon who, after I described the problem, immediately sent a new scope out to Scott and onward to me.  Sweet, simply handled – and my return postage was covered !   This ‘problem’  – which may have even been my fault forgetting my clockwise from counter-clockwise – was absolutely a non-issue and I was looked after perfectly.  This gives me immense comfort that Athlon is serious about after sales servicing of customers.

Overall, I find the Cronus BTR to be an excellent package that scores very highly on the “Value Per Dollar Spent” scale and it feels very much like a scope that performs at top-tier level without the top-tier price.

The Cronus BTR – A Value That Is Not Out Of Place Amongst Much More Expensive Glass









Muzzle Brakes – Canadian Made Insite Arms ‘Heathen’ vs. Others


Like many – probably more than care to admit – I am not a fan of recoil.  Though I learned to shoot on a Lee-Enfield .303 in the days before muzzle breaks were even invented and I accept it is a fact of physics, recoil nevertheless – at least for me – is detrimental to down range accuracy. I’ve also observed that recoil also has the potential to induce the dreaded flinch in newer shooters which is an affliction that, like the ‘yips’ in golf, once acquired is hard to break.

If I lived in the USA  I would probably fit suppressors which reduce recoil and moderate sound )  to many of my rifles but in Canada and in the name of ‘public safety’ our political masters have decreed that all sound moderation devices are a threat to national security or some such other nonsense and so, even unlike such gun-unfriendly places as the UK, suppressors are a prohibited item which means that I double up on hearing protection and fit brakes to nearly all my rifles.  In fact a check shows that outside of milsurp collection only my F-Class match rifles and a M40A1 clone remain un-braked.

Over the  years I have tried a number of brakes and I’ve found that generally I have a preference for those easily removed for cleaning rater than the gunsmith installed ones and so when Insite Arms of Alberta were building my new custom in 6xc I asked that they install one of their user-removable ‘Heathen’ brakes.

My 6xc with Heathen Brake DSC_0315

I hadn’t used the Heathen before and I was very impressed with it from the very first shot so I thought I would drag out some comparable rifles with other brakes to conduct some tests side by side.

Now is the time to say that I don’t have any science background nor do I possess any scientific measuring tools.  If you like that kind of stuff them my friend Cal Zant at the Precision Rifle Blog is your man – Cal wrote a brilliant analysis of brakes and his article can be found here:

For the two or three readers left following this article I figure that a brake has to do a few things well:  it has to manage felt recoil; it cannot be so loud as to be painful; it should allow for the shooter to stay on target for follow up shots and it ought not to create a cloud of dust to put a sandstorm to shame.  It was against these benchmarks that I measured the brakes I own – on that note, I own all the brakes and rifles referred to in this article and no person or company has loaned or paid me anything to do this. ( I wish they would – I like free stuff ! )

Choosing the rifles – I wanted to keep the test as much apples to apples as possible so I chose rifles chambered in the 6mm and 6.5 mm category.  This decision meant that a couple of brakes were not included since they are on rifles of harder hitting calibres so the older style PGW brake pictured below on the left and the beastie on the right were not included as they sit on a .308 and .338 Lapua Magnum respectively whereas the one in the middle made the cut ( sits on a .260 Rem ).

Other Brakes Not TestedDSC_0309

Likewise some gunsmith installed brakes didn’t make the cut like the ARTS gill brake pictured at left below.


What remained from the culling were four brakes on four comparable rifles:

  • Heathen brake from Insite Arms on a Surgeon 591 custom in 6xc;
  • Benchmark/Centershot Muscle Brake on Rem 700 custom in .260;
  • Little Bastard brake from American Precision Arms on a Surgeon 591 custom in 6.5-47L; and
  • PGW brake from PGWDTI on PGW ‘Coyote’ in .260


I did the shooting on a dry day off the prone with bipod and rear bag and on a dusty road with some grass, sand and pebbles to be kicked up.  I shot each rifle with the brake and then again without and compared felt recoil, noise, my ability to stay focussed on target and dust signature.  I made notes after each round of shooting and those notes formed my observations below.


The PGW brakeDSC_0352 I love PGW stuff and clearly I’m a fan of their rifles and the PGW brakes have  worked well for me on the older Coyote in .308 and the Timberwolf in 338 Lapua.  Personally I prefer the aesthetics of the older PGW brakes but the newer ones which follow the style used on the Timberwolf certainly look ‘beefy’ and tough and many users will like that look.  Easy to remove and reinstall, I figured the PGW brake to cut recoil in half.  It did increase sound but not uncomfortably and the rifle remained nicely on target though there wasn’t a big difference as this ( like the others ) are heavy rifles and they don’t move much.  It seemed to produce a bit more blast / dust signature than the others but not by a lot and certainly not to the point of being a problem.

It is worth noting that unlike some competitor rifles, all PGW rifles come standard with brakes.

APA Little BastardDSC_0350

The APA Little Bastard scored really well on Cal Zant’s tests – it was after reading his article that I chose this brake for installation on my Chou Brothers Custom 6.5-47L build -and mine also works well but, though it fits using a locking nut, mine actually came loose over the winter and needed to be Loctite refitted.  I’ve heard others have had similar problems with these brakes so I’d recommend Loctite from the beginning.  Probably the best in reduction of felt recoil this recoil reduction comes at a price – it is LOUD !  Yep, really LOUD.  If you shoot at a public range be prepared for some looks and, spoiler alert, they won’t be looks of admiration.  Good ability to stay on target and seemed a bit better than the PGW when it came to dust disturbance.


I like the looks of this brake a lot and have another one on a 7mm ( they come in 6.5 or 30 caliber so, remember, a 7mm will require a boring out if the 6.5 is purchased ).  The easiest to install and remove as only one bolt is required to be loosened and snugged up.  Cuts recoil down by roughly half and only seems to increase noise a bit.  Good tracking and dust disturbance results.

The Heathen BrakeDSC_0325

Seemingly similar in design to the APA Little Bastard, I was worried it would be equally loud but – pleasingly – it is not so.  It cuts recoil in half just like the APA but without the crushing noise increase – if I knew the first thing about engineering I could offer an explanation but alas my schooling in Tort, Contract and such things is of no help to me in explaining the mysteries of why one brake is too loud and another is more moderate.  I am also pleased to say that unlike my APA this one hasn’t shown any sign of coming loose even though I tried it and its aluminum brother ( more on that below ) without Loctite.

Installing and uninstalling like the APA with a locking nut there the Heathen has the Insite Arms logo on top and the caliber number on a flat spot on the bottom.  These markings  usefully help alignment as well as provide information (caliber) and some aesthetically pleasing brand identifier.

Insite Logo on the top of the HeathenDSC_0440

Of course the 6xc test rifle is heavy and the 6xc is a soft cartridge but the Heathen does help with follow up shots and staying on target and the dust signature also was good.  Overall, I am impressed with the Heathen – Canadian made, it comes with nice packaging and proper, easy to read instructions (to compare, the Benchmark comes in a plastic bag).

On the advice of Insite ( who did promise me an exchange if I did not like it ) I ordered the new aluminum version of the Heathen to replace the APA.  I’m pleased to say that it works just like the steel one on my 6xc and looks the same except maybe it is shinier.  It is certainly lighter for those for whom rifle weight is an issue.  I have to say I like it and it has replaced the APA so maybe my ears ( and my neighbours ) like it too.

Replacing the APA – The all-aluminum Heathen in 6.5DSC_0441


In conclusion I say that if you – like me – prefer a rifle to wear a brake to cut down on recoil and also you are looking for something that you can use at the range without everyone wishing you would go home then I recommend the Heathen be on your short-list of choices.  Available from Insite Arms at :

Reviewed – Insite Arms 6XC Custom Build


Last year I commissioned the build of a Surgeon in 6.5-47 from well known Canadian builders Chou Bros Precision and wrote a detailed review which can be found here:  and while I love this rifle its coloring really is best suited to the Winter and since I actually do have a Summer – albeit a short one – a rifle colored for Summer conditions seemed entirely in order.  For this build I chose to engage the services of another well-known Canadian outfit: Insite Arms out of Lloydminster Alberta who self-describe as follows “We are a small rifle shop. We build each rifle 1 at a time. We guarantee that the rifle we build for you will be one of the most precise, consistent and therefore accurate rifles you own. A quality precision rifle is a large investment and we understand uncompromising expectations” and who can be found online at:

One interesting factoid about the folks at Insite Arms is that they have been helped and trained by the very well-respected US Gunsmith Mr. Robert Gradous whose rifles are amongst the most sought after South of the border.

The Very Winter Colored 6.5-47L


The 6XC – Much More Suited For Summer  


Unlike many gunsmiths in Canada who and for any number of likely good reasons require the buyer to accumulate all the components him or her self, Insite are happy to be your “one stop shop” and they keep an excellent selection of parts and materials on hand from which a potential buyer may choose to have a rifle built from. I was totally happy to take full advantage of Insite having a supply of parts in stock and simply asked them to use the parts I wanted and build me a rifle – so very smooth and something that US readers, likely unused to the difficulties Canadians face in regard to sourcing components for a rifle build, may not readily appreciate !

I chose this rifle to be made in 6XC partly because I have pretty much most calibers from .223 to .338L but more importantly because of its reputation as an inherently accurate round for the paper punching that this rifle will be used for.  The 6XC is as many will know a David Tubbs design and has the ballistics of a .243 but does so with less powder and therefore has a much longer barrel life.  So, soft shooting with good ballistics and a ready supply of excellent projectiles – what more can a person ask for.

For this particular rifle I wished to stick with three of my favorite ingredients for a custom gun   – I wanted to use the Surgeon 591 action, the McMillan A5 stock and the simple-but-reliable Timney 510 trigger but – on the recommendation of Insite who had seen great results out of a number of their other builds – I allowed myself to be persuaded to try a new barrel maker; Hawk Hills and, as we will see later, I couldn’t be happier.

I really do like the Surgeon action – in many ways Surgeon have “built a better mousetrap” and have improved upon my favorite factory action the time-tested Remington 700.  In particular, the Surgeon has a machined-in recoil lug and an integral 20 MOA rail.  Additionally, it is clear from cycling the action that Surgeon have tighter machining tolerances – overall, like I said, a better mousetrap.

Heart of a Rifle – A Good Action

DSC_0319While most of my custom rifles use the Badger DBM with one using a PTG and one using a Seekins this time around I chose this time to use Surgeon bottom metal – partly for looks, partly for consistency with the action and partly because it is an ambidextrous release and a funneled magwell.  Originally designed by Terry Cross it is clearly a quality piece of equipment and so far I like it – a lot.

Surgeon Bottom MetalDSC_0323

As far as a stock was concerned, I will readily admit to being a real fan of the McMillan stocks – for me they are amongst the very best of the traditional type stocks and while many people like the Manners stocks (and I’m sure they are very good) since I’ve never been disappointed with a McMillan I see no reason to change.  I wanted a pattern that would complement the Urban Spectre pattern on my 6.5-47L “Winter Rifle” and so I chose for this rifle the Woodland Spectre and, yes, Insite Arms had it in stock !  A real nice looking camo that looks the way I envisioned it to look.

Woodland Spectre – Perfect for a Summer Look DSC_0315


As mentioned, it was upon the recommendation of Insite that I chose Hawk Hills as a barrel supplier and my only ask was that the profile be M40 as that is my favorite look for a barrel on a rifle where weight isn’t a consideration.  At this juncture I should say that Insite were really excellent in checking in with me as a customer on issues like weight and expressed concern that if this were for a PRS rig I may have gone too heavy.  Of course this rifle is for lying down on my belly and I couldn’t care if the thing weighs 50 lbs but the service and checking -in were really most appreciated.  (Note, finished the rifle weighs 21 lbs with the Vortex Razor II ).  I decided to add a brake even though such a thing on a soft cartridge isn’t at all necessary and I chose to use the Insite manufactured ‘Heathen’ brake.  This brake – which will be the subject of a separate article – is excellent and works as well as the APA Little Bastard without the crushing noise level !

Insite Arms – Heathen Brake.DSC_0325

At the end of the day the fit and finish of the rifle I had built by Insite was simply impeccable – and I’m very picky about such things – with no flaw at all to be found but as nice as a rifle looks the real test is accuracy and in this regard the folks at Insite have built a real tack driver: test fired before it arrived it produced a one ragged hole at 100 meters for fifteen (yes, fifteen) shots and when I took it out it has consistently shot into the .3’s at my load development distance of 200 meters.  Seriously, this is an excellent shooting rifle.

Test GroupDSC_0334

Load Development


To say I’m pleased with the work Insite Arms did in putting together this rifle would be an understatement – they were excellent to work with an have produced for me exactly what I wanted in a very acceptable timeframe (Feb- Jun) and within the budget they quoted.  I would strongly recommend anyone interested in having a real tack driver built consult with Insite Arms – you will not be disappointed.


Reviewed: The new Bushnell DMR II – outstanding value.


Back in April of 2015 I reviewed the earlier generation of this scope and that review can be found here:×50-dmr-riflescope/

At the time I wrote the previous review I was a ‘solidly SFP MOA’ scope man and yet I was very impressed with Bushnell’s tactical FFP offering – well, fast forward two and a bit years and now (June 2017)  all my scopes are FFP Mil/Mil and besides owning such high-end offerings as S+B Pmii, NF ATACR and Razor 2 in that configuration I also own a few of the Bushnell Tactical 3.5-21×50 scopes with both of the G2 and Trmr2 reticles so I was more than keen to get my hands on the new generation of Bushnell Tactical – the DMR II with G3 reticle.

My good friend Omer at Precision Optics ( formerly PlainSight Solutions) out of Quesnel BC is not only an authorized Bushnell dealer but always has a good supply of optics in stock and so I’d had a chance to look through and handle the DMT II a few months back.  When Omer called me to let me know the new DMR II was subject to a recent Bushnell 25% mail in rebate program I went equipped with credit card in hand to relive him of one ( ending up with more ! ) of these – already excellent value – optics.

The DMR II comes well packaged and includes a 2″ sunshade and bikini-style scope caps as well as a useful instruction booklet and the warranty cards etc.

Nicely Packaged.



So what is different from the DMR to the DMR II ?  Well, let’s start by addressing what is the same – same quality one-piece aluminum 34mm tube, same 3.5-21 magnification range, same stubby overall look and the weight feels the same ( though on the Bushnell website while the grams are the same at 920 the company does say that the DMRII is an ounce and change heavier ??) but, regardless, if there is a small difference in weight it won’t be felt when the scope is mounted on a rifle.

Where the difference is really apparent between these scopes is in turret height – the new DMRII is possessed of shorter turrets and while the older model didn’t have turrets that were overly tall I think shorter to be better.  The other difference is that the new Gen scope comes with a neat little lever that allows for easier manipulation of the magnification ring – Bushnell calls this lever the “ThrowHammer” and I assume someone was paid to come up with that name – myself I will stick to the word ‘lever’.

Under the hood, the big improvement is that the new DMRII has  zero stop which is very useful and Bushnell have, mercifully , done away with the T-Loc elevation turret but (small annoyance to me ) has retained the T-Loc on the windage turret .  The other big improvement is that the new models have 10 mils of adjustment per turret turn versus the 5 on the older models.  Interestingly ( according to the Bushnell website ) total elevation has moved up to 30 mils from the previous 29 mils.

The new DMRII comes with a choice of reticles – the new G3 or Horus H-59 – and mine have the new G3 which is a smidge wider than the G2 ( to allow for the illumination option available on the DMR II i ) but really and no matter what you read online the new G3 is not ‘thick’ and even at max magnification it really will not obscure targets.  With really useful hash marks to allow for quick target acquisition and adjustment without being ‘busy’ the G3 is likely to be a favorite for many precision shooters.  ON the subject of ‘busy’ reticles, I was a tad disappointed to see the Trmr2 discontinued but I’m likely in a minority here.

Mounted up on a test mule I found the DMR II very easy to get behind with good eye relief.  Easy to zero and with an uncomplicated Zero-Stop mechanism I was ready to do some shooting.

Zero Stop System.


For the testing of this scope I took along a rifle wearing the previous generation DMR ad well as one wearing the new NF ATACR 7-35 which is of course a much (much) more expensive scope.

With the much more expensive NF ATACR 7-35.


Shooting in a variety of conditions and in differing lights I found the new DMRII to have a cleaner picture than the previous model – new glass coating perhaps ? and while it wasn’t as good as the NF ATACR it was really, very good. No chromatic aberration and a nice sharp image even as light faded.

Though the DMR II has twice the number of clicks per revolution as the previous model they are not too close together so as to over-dial and they have a precise tactile feel to them.  I liked the old turrets just fine but the new ones are, I think, even better – they feel like they belong on a real quality scope and in this area the Bushnell gives up nothing at all to the vastly more expensive Nightforce.

Really good turrets.


The addition of the little lever ( OK, ThrowHammer) is actually a nice touch and makes magnification changes nice and easy as the Bushnell mag rings are actually quite tight – especially the shooters hands are at all wet.

A handy lever for mag changes.



Overall, I found this new DMR II to be a real quality piece of glass and I say that not as someone who has just moved from the $299 Walmart special but as someone who regularly shoots with some nice optics.  Honestly, in every regard these DMRII’s are good scopes.

Would not be out of place even amongst much more expensive offerings.


When the recent 25% rebate was on these DMRII scopes were by far the best value in optics around but at something like the regular price of  CAN $1900 the DMRII is still an absolutely excellent value.

You can’t just buy one of them !


Reviewed – Kahles 624i. How does it stack up against the PRS top scope duo ?


Last year I set out on a mission to sell off my SFP MOA scopes and re-equip all my tactical style bolt guns with scopes that were FFP and MIl/Mil.  This was a slow (and expensive) process but one which was a lot of fun and because I bought (and tried even more) some good and some great scopes, I sure learned a lot.

Other than S&B, of which I have been a fan for a long time ( I use 12-50 SFP Pmii’s on my F-Open and T/TR F-Class rifles) I didn’t really set out to buy any particular brand of scopes but, as it happens, I now have FFP S&B PMii’s, Vortex Razor II HD’s and the newest NF ATACR scopes but what I didn’t have was a Kahles and it seemed somehow that it would be ideal if I could have at least one each of the three most popular scopes in the US PRS game.


Like most shooters who appreciate good equipment, I knew that the Kahles had a reputation as being a premium optic.   I hadn’t had an opportunity to handle or look through one but, fortunately for me, my good friend Omer at Precision Optics in Quesnel BC is an authorized Kahles dealer and was able to let me play with the scope before purchase and, having satisfied myself that indeed this was a piece of equipment that I wanted on one of my rifles,  gave me a very good deal when it came time to part with the cash.

The scope I chose was the 624i with left hand windage – Kahles bills itself as a riflescope pioneer and the idea of a scope with left hand windage strikes me as pretty pioneering.  All the technical details about this scope can be found on the Kahles website here:

In keeping with the way that Europeans seem to package up and present their offering the Kahles comes in a fairly plain box that while a little better than S+B doesn’t begin to compare to the way Vortex of NF present their top end scopes.



Packaging is just that I suppose and after all what we are buying is not the box but what is inside the box which brings me to …


Huuummmm, well what you see is what you get and what you don’t see are any scope covers or a sunshade of any sort!  You do get a ‘scope coat’ but in the field that is of limited use  – a bit disappointing really when one considers that (in Canada) there is very little change out of C$4000 when all is said and done.

Moving on, the overall feel of the scope is of quality – the finish is beautiful and the way the turrets and mag ring moves just exuded quality.  Really, this feels like the riflescope equivalent of a Rolex watch.


What of course sets this scope apart from the usual is that – as you can clearly see in the photo above – the windage dial is on the left side of the 34mm tube and the parallax adjustment is on the elevation turret.  This arrangement is clearly designed for a right handed shooter so that she or he does not have to break firing position and while I could see mistakes being made early on ( and, in fact, a number of times I did make a windage adjustment when wanting to fine tune parallax ) it is one of those things that if you practice or train enough you will get used to.


The mag range of this scope is – as name suggests – is 6-24x and the scope is of course FFP.  While I’d have liked a bit more top end magnification, the 24x is enough for pretty much any application other than maybe F-Class and the glass is so clear that the image quality at all settings is simply excellent and very ‘S+B- ish’  which isn’t so surprising really as, after all,  one would expect a premier Austrian offering to closely resemble a premier German offering.

The turrets have a scalloped contour and the elevation turret has a little red button on the top of  which pops up to indicate second rev which is handy and works just like the one on the Vortex Razor II which pops out of the side.  The Kahles turrets really do feel good and, it is worth saying again, a real sense of quality permeates this scope.

Silly as though it sounds when describing a 34mm tubed scope that is gigantic by the standards of 10 years ago the reality is that this Kahles is really quite svelte and certainly won’t feel over large on any heavy barreled rifle.  To illustrate the point, I perched my Kahles on top of the undisputed heavyweight of scopes the Vortex HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 – they say a picture is worth a thousand words


Rounding out the features of the Kahles 624i are features that nearly all high-end (and many tier two or three) scopes now have as standard – zero-stop and illumination. In the case of the Kahles both work perfectly and are easy to use – so long, of course, as the user remembers that the illumination dial is where one usually finds the windage control !

As good as this scope is I’ve saved its best feature for last and that is the reticle.  I had thought that the EBR2-C reticle found on the Vortex Razor HD Gen II was my favorite until I used the reticle that is available with the Kahles – the SKMR3.


Simply put, while reticle choice has a LOT to do with personal preference this reticle has everything I want in a reticle and more.  Your mileage may vary but I suspect that part of the reason for the Kahles popularity is right here with the SKMR 3.

So, how does the Kahles stack up in the filed against the Vortex Razor II and the NF ATACR ?


Compared to the Razor while the Kahles gives up a bit of magnification it is only 24x vs. 27 x and the glass in the Kahles is really very special ( of course the Razor is absolutely no slouch in the glass department either ).  Turrets feel nicer – to me – in the Kahles and the SKMR3 is the only reticle that beats EBR2-C.  Zero-stop in the Razor can’t be beat though and, yes I hate to go on about tis again, I can see times when the lack of a sunshade will make some shots harder to make with the Kahles.


While in the US the Razor is significantly cheaper than the Kahles the same isn’t true in Canada where Vortex Canada charge customers (and offer no veteran or LEO pricing) pretty much the same for the Razor II as Kahles dealers charge for the Kahles 624i so – at least in Canada – there is no price advantage.  Vortex warranty sells a lot of scopes but the Kahles limited lifetime is also a pretty strong backup if anything does go wrong.

When comparing the Kahles to my NF ATACR, the Kahles is giving up a lot in the magnification range 24x vs. the 35x top end on my ATACR F1 7-35×56 and the only areas where the Kahles is clearly superior to the ATACR is in price (the 7-35 in Canada is around C$5K after tax)  and in reticle choice where the SKMR 3 is significantly superior to the reticle choices available in the NF.


Overall, the Kahles is clearly a top of the line riflescope and it performed flawlessly in the field.  Excellent glass, very nice turrets ( when you get used to the placement of the windage ! ) and a real quality feel is combined with a superb reticle all at a not unreasonable price point.


Guest Post – Survival Gun Logistics

The following is a guest post regarding an interesting subject – survival guns.  Written and submitted by Mr. Douglas Brooks.  Enjoy

Survival Gun Logistics

This post is about a topic that is neglected by most of the firearms community. That is because most people buy a gun and then only fire a box of ammo through it once or twice a year. These guys will never need spare parts because they are barely breaking their guns in. MSG readers are training regularly and planning for the long haul, however, so a discussion of survival gun logistics is in order.

Logistics is the study of supply chains. Lifecycle Logistics is the study of a product and the supply chains that support it during its useful life. A good example of lifecycle logistics is the automobile industry.

When you buy a car, the original manufacturer agrees to maintain it for a period. Once the warranty expires you will have to work on it yourself or take it to a shop. Since oil and fuel types are standardized, it is easy to find these items just about anywhere. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) will still produce parts and have them available for a period of years after your model is no longer made.

Aftermarket companies produce parts too and compete with the OEM to drive down the cost. Because of the system, we have in place it is not uncommon to see cars on the road that have been in service for 15-20 years and many hundreds of thousands of miles.

Here is how you put the same system in place for your firearms.


Part of your logistics planning needs to include ammunition. A common belief in the survival community is that if you choose common calibers, then they will always be available during a disaster. That belief was proved false during the 2008-2009 ammo shortage. During that time ammunition prices soared, and common calibers were on backorder for months.

Common calibers still have a distinct advantage. However, that should make them primary in your survival planning. That advantage is that they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find in bulk now. This allows you to do two things. First is to train regularly. An important part of preparedness is training regularly with your equipment. The second is that they will allow you to stock up affordable before a crisis.

Common calibers in the U.S. include .22LR, 9x19mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 12 gauge, 5.56x45mm, and 7.62x51mm. These calibers are widely used by law enforcement and the military so bulk pricing deals can be had, and suitable defensive loads are easy to come by. Eastern Bloc calibers like 7.62x39mm and 7.62x54R are commonly available as well and could be reasonable choices also. Understand though that the quality of Eastern Bloc ammunition varies and some of it is corrosive. They are not as well supported by the commercial ammunition manufacturers either which limits the availability of suitable hunting and defense loads. Educate yourself and plan accordingly.

Spare Parts

Nothing lasts forever. All machines require regular maintenance including guns. This means you’ll want to purchase guns that have good parts support. This will allow you to do some or all of your maintenance yourself at home. It will also allow you to lay up a supply of spare parts to keep on hand for hard times.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers see making spare parts available a liability. They don’t want to be sued when somebody puts a gun together wrong and then gets hurt. This is especially the case in the working gun category although it applies to some defensive guns as well.

Certain guns are particularly easy to keep running due to parts support. They include but are not limited to the Ruger 10/22, Glock handguns (any model), AR-15 rifles in 5.56mm, and Remington 870 shotguns. These guns have both good OEM and aftermarket support and have remained popular for a long period. Guns like these make ideal choices for your survival battery.

It needs to be said that the quality of parts, and guns for that matter, vary widely and need to be considered carefully. The best case study in this issue is the AR-15 rifle. The patents have expired on this design and its popularity has caused dozens of makers to get into the AR-15 business. Many, if not most, of these companies, are cutting corners by making their parts with cheaper methods, inferior materials, and no quality control. This contributes to the AR-15s reputation for poor reliability. Rifles made to government specifications are very reliable and make an excellent choice for a defensive rifle.

For a few dollars more, make sure you buy guns and spare parts that are built to a standard.


I will only touch on this briefly as it is a huge topic. The key takes away here is that certain models of guns have noticeably better accessory support. Choosing these popular models means it will be easier to get magazines, scope mounts, weapon lights, etc. Usually, guns that have been in long-term use by the sporting or military/law enforcement communities will have good accessory support.

The Bottom Line

When making a choice between gun A, that is unique and cool and gun B that is boring but has tons of ammo, parts, and accessories for it I choose gun B every time. It doesn’t matter how good something is if you can’t maintain it or can’t afford to train with it. Consider these issues carefully when planning your survival gun battery and chose wisely.

This post is written by Douglas Brooks. He is the founder of . He was enthusiastic about hunting from the first shot. He is also Rifle optic guru.

Comparative Review – NF ATACR F1 7-35×56 vs Vortex Razor HD II 4.5-27×56 vs S+B PMii 5-25×56


The arrival of a new custom rifle provided the perfect excuse to invest ( I like that word – it makes the pain of purchase seem so very much more bearable ) in some new glass. At long last and for all shooting applications other than F-Class, I have finally  “seen the light” and therefore knew that my new scope would be a FFP with 34mm tube, a nice reticle and Mil/Mil turrets and so……. the buying was about to begin.

Initially, my choice of new glass was a done deal and if all had gone according to plan you wouldn’t be reading this article.  Before the new rifle was even built I’d decided  that I was simply going to add another Vortex Razor II HD 4.5-27×56 to my collection but, silly me, I actually wanted a bit of a deal this time around – nothing outrageous, just a bit of sugar to sweeten things up.  I figured a few percentage points discount would be doable but it wasn’t to be the case… even though I have previously bought two of these excellent scopes at full retail, when I approached Vortex Canada about whether they would consider a small “LEO discount” for a serving LE, a ‘threepee buyer’ and a part-time writer/blogger I was politely, but quite clearly, told that Vortex doesn’t do any deals for Canadian LE – fair enough.  I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an American company, Vortex, values US law enforcement (for whom they do offer a substantial discount) more than their Canadian brothers and sisters. Of course it is entirely their prerogative about whether or not to offer mil or LE discounts and no doubt many consumers would likely agree with them.  Vortex’s response to my inquiry did disappoint me though and gave me  ’cause to pause’ which then prompted me to start looking around at other options but, hey, great marketing company that they are Vortex sent me a ball cap and a T-Shirt for asking the question and here I am writing a review of a scope I likely wouldn’t have otherwise bought so, at the end of the day, it all worked out.

That Nightforce Wasn’t Supposed To Be There …………dsc_0202

Back to the drawing board and now in ‘search mode’ rather than ‘buying mode’, I considered a number of other brands of glass.  Two otherwise excellent scopes were quickly discounted: March (who have no Canadian support) and the Canadian-made Tangent Theta whose makers have, in my opinion, simply priced themselves out of contention. I ended up thinking long and hard about three particular brands: a Khales, another S+B or a NF ATACR.  I love S+B scopes and consider the PMii to be the “Gold Standard” against which all other scopes should be measured when it comes to pure glass but the rest of the scope is somewhat dated.  The Khales scopes in FFP have excellent reticles and very nice glass but they max out at 24x and I wanted a bit more top-end magnification ( maybe I was still thinking of my Vortex Razor 2’s  which have a 27x max) and then that the little filing cabinet in the back of the head opened up and I remembered reading that the newest Nightforce F1 ATACR was now available with a max magnification of 35x.   I like Nightforce ( who doesn’t ?) and I own their NXS, BR and Competition scopes so why not take a look at the NXS’ big brother the NF ATACR ?  The big question was could one be found in Canada ?

7-35 and Mil/Mildsc_0176

Calls to a NF distributor in Eastern Canada quickly informed me that I was actually going to spend more money on the new ATACR than I would if I had purchased a third Razor II because, while the NF ATACR 5-25×56 F1 is in the same ballpark as the Vortex, the new 7-35 ATACR F1 has a Canadian MAP that is substantially higher.  Furthermore, the newness of this scope meant there were only a few available in Canada but fortunately my good friend (and authorized Nightforce dealer) Omer Hrbinic at Plainsightsolutions in BC ( had one of the few NF ATACR 7-35×56 scopes that had made it into Canada and so it was from Omer that I made my purchase.  Yes, I spent more money than I would if I’d stuck with a Vortex but I did get a price break off the NF MAP and sometimes, whether it be a rifle, a scope or a new truck, feeling like you got a deal makes all the difference to whether  you, as a consumer, make a purchase or not.

So,what do I think of my new glass and how does it compare to some other quality scopes I own and use?  Of course the words “what do I think” are important as the opinions I have are exactly that – subjective opinions – and where I may say Brand X turrets are the best another user may say that it is the turrets of Brand Y that are better.  But before we get into what I think let us look at some specs for the new Nightforce which can be found on the Nightforce website at:×56-f1

Besides the obvious maximum 35x magnification some of the specifications highlights that stuck me were the 27.3 mils (100 MOA) of elevation, parallax down to 10m and, while not exactly svelte, the weight still under 40 oz.  In my view these are all good numbers.

I’ve  covered the unboxing of high-end scopes in other reviews but a quick synopsis is this: our German friends (S+B) give you a brilliant scope in what is almost a plain white box, Vortex goes all out and your new Razor 2 is beautifully packaged and Nightforce falls somewhere in between these two – it isn’t the spectacular job of packaging like Vortex but it is much improved over what our friends in Europe provide.  I’m pleased to report that at least with respect to the ATACR models, Nightforce have now included real, useful, scope caps and they are the very best – Armament Technologies’ Tenebraex covers which I like to use on all my top-tier glass and while pricey are well worth the money.  Well done Nightforce !

The choice of rings and bases is entirely personal and in this review the reader will note that scopes get switched around a bit to prevent ‘rife bias’ interfering with what I really think of a scope. Sometimes the new NF sits in a SPHUR mount while on other occasions it rests in NF rings.  I think every reader of an article like this understands that rings and bases are not the places one wants to make economies so I won’t belabor this point.

NF ATACR Mounted on Surgeon 591dsc_0174

Mounted on a Remington AICS Combodsc_0200

At this level of glass I find writing about a scope in isolation isn’t too helpful as, quite frankly, they are all very good and there are no really bad choices so I like to do some real time comparisons and therefore it was time to lay out some rifles and glass.

No Bad Choicesdsc_0189


In addition to my Razor II’s I added a S+B and the ATACR’s little brother the NXS to the mix and I spent a lot of time just glassing various objects in all sorts of light.  I made observations in the cold, bright and clear days thru to when it was actually snowing and from morning, thru mid-day and to late in the day when dusk turned to darkness. I tried to keep most glassing done at what I figured was a fair magnification of up to 20x so that I didn’t end up allowing simple magnification of an object to inform my brain that the glass in question was better.

I made a particular point of glassing at various distances and at a wide variety of things – trees, targets, animals and pretty much anything that interested me and a lot of this viewing was done without the distraction of actual shooting.  One of the things I spent a lot of time looking at was an optical chart I have pinned to my workshop door – simply reading the typed data in all light conditions. Some may not choose to assess glass this way but I think this is an excellent way to compare glass over time.

Optical Charts and Targets – A Good Way To Assess GlassDSC_0267

This assessment of glass clarity is exactly that – a way of me looking at lots of objects and scenes in varying weather and lighting conditions and figuring out which I considered the clearest/sharpest/brightest with the best color trueness.  I find that with scopes of this quality and regardless of manufacturers claims to the contrary, there really is not a lot of difference between one scope and the next but there were some things that were clear pretty early on:

1. the NF NXS with a 30mm tube was outclassed and was retired early – this was not surprising but to make sure it was not that particular scope, I used rifles wearing a Sightron Siii and wearing a Leupold Mk4 and the results were the same.  Conclusion – the NF ATACR, the S+B Pmii and the Vortex Raor HD II are, really, in a higher tier than the NXS and comparable scopes.

2. In good lighting conditions I found it super tough to make a decision between the ATACR and the Vortex and while most times I felt the ATACR had the edge I just could not be certain.  The S+B’s ( I used a PMii 5-25×56 and a 12-50×60 ) we to my eyes slightly brighter overall but, again, this is a very close game.

So close was this glass comparison that  it wasn’t until looking at the optical chart late one afternoon when it was actually snowing that I finally decided that the ATACR had ever so slightly better glass than the Vortex.  My final assessment of glass clarity is as follows: S+B, NF ATACR and Vortex Razor HD II.

Of course glass is far from everything and so the next thing I assessed was the reticles.  My S+B’s have the P4F, the Vortex’s have the EBR 2-c and the new NF ATACR has the Mil-R.  While reticle choice is based on intended application (and a lot of personal preference) I do feel that NF should work on providing a reticle that is more like the Vortex EBR 2-c or (even better) the excellent SKMR 3 offered by Khales.  When shooting for groups on 25x I thought that while the Mil-R worked fine and, to be entirely fair, it is growing on me  that it lags behind the Vortex as a target reticle.  My assessment of reticles is as follows: Vortex, NF ATACR and S+B.

Other than the usefulness and clarity of what is contained within the scope tube the other thing that users want to know about is how the turrets work and how they feel.  Obviously each of the scopes I own pass box tests and track properly otherwise they would be returned for warranty so a lot of what remains comes down to feel and use in the field.

NF ATACR 7-35×56 F1dsc_0167

Vortex Razor HD II 4.5x27x56dsc_0218

S+B PMii 5-25×56


The turrets of each of the three scopes work really well but there are some standouts for each – the color change rev indicator on S+B, the Zero Stop (ZS) function on the Vortex and, simple as it sounds, the large lettering on the NF each have their appeal to me.  The locking caps on the Vortex is an appeal to many and it initially really impressed me  but I find in cold weather they are hard to use and have recently been a very minor irritation as, on occasion, I forgot they were locked when going to use them.

Easy To Read Markings on the NF – Important To Medsc_0159

One thing that was raised on a Canadian website was a criticism that Nightforce have chosen to use a 12 mil per rev system rather than a base 10 system.  I asked Nightforce why they chose a 12 mil per rev and the answer was:

“The 12 Mils per turn came about from various end user requests to get more travel per revolution, which ultimately reduced the number of revolutions needed for extended range shooting.  We decided to incorporate the adjustment for commercial models as we found benefit while testing it ourselves, in being able to take most high performance rifle cartridges to 1200 yards or beyond, all within a single revolution of the adjustment.

Also, the 12 Mils per revolution works out to be 120 clicks per revolution.. This provided 30 MOA per revolution, allowing more capability for MOA shooters as well as some parts commonality for ease of manufacturing purposes.
So there you have it – I understand the criticism of those who say NF should, like Vortex, use a base 10 system but I think this issue is overblown and it simply isn’t a problem for me and I feel in good company as I note that the S+B engineers and, for reference, those at Khales don’t consider it a problem either.
Turret feel and how the ‘clicks’ feel is of course totally subjective but to me I like them in the following order: Razor II by a smidge followed by ATACR and then S+B whose clicks even though I have used them a lot still sometimes feel too close together for me.
One of the things that I see NF still using and, to me it is annoying, is a process that means the entire ocular turns when the mag ring is turned.  I consider this a demerit and puts NF back of the pack in this regard.  Time for a change NF.
Magnification Rings – Vortex Betters NF Here


The illumination feature on a scope is something that I rarely use – I simply don’t shoot when light is so poor  – but it is a feature that many other shooters find relevant to their shooting.  I do think illumination controls should be easily accessible, not take up tube space so as to impede scope mounting and should be easy to switch on an off.  Both of the ATACR and the Vortex achieve these illumination requirements while the S+B ( being of an older design) houses the illumination controls in a third turret which, in turn, limits the space available for mounting.  I personally like the one touch button on the NF and the dual (red-green) color choice and so I place it above the Vortex with the S+B rounding out the three.

NF ATACR Illumination – One-Touch Under the NF Trademark


Back of the Illumination Pack – the Third Turreted S+B


So, in the final analysis it is for me pretty much of a wash between NF ATACR and Vortex when it comes to the feel and usefulness of the turrets – initially I preferred the Vortex then I really dug the NF but at the end of the piece I am going to cal it a tie. Of course all my scopes track properly and I find it amusing when people report tracking errors as a scope that does not track accurately is broken which leads to the next issue – warranty.

Each scope is well-warrantied and I’ve never heard of a Canadian user being let down by either of NF or S+B but the warranty is what often sells Vortex ( especially the lower models ) and their warranty can’t be beat.  Put simply – if it breaks Vortex will look after you.  I’m sure none of the other top makers would leave a customer hanging but the bullet-proof warranty of Vortex reassures many people ( me included ).

Of course one would rather not have to use a warranty and while each of the scopes here are well-regarded as being reliable and robust it is the NF range that has a reputation for being incredibly tough.  I don’t torture test stuff I buy, but if industry reputation means anything then the NF may well move to the top of a consumers wish list.

One of the things that the ATACR really has of course over the Razor II and the S+B is that the top-end magnification goes up to 35x.  Usually if shooting at much above 25x I’d likely be shooting a F-Class match at KD and using a very high magnification SFP scope but it is nice to have that bit extra in a FFP scope and I would expect to see this trend towards higher magnification FFP scopes continue.

In the bulk or weight department the NF has an edge over the Vortex (but not of course the S+B ) is in weight – many people trying to save weight get a bit hung up on this though to be honest I can’t tell the difference on my rifles as they are all pretty heavy and so a few ounces is negligible but if it is important to you then note the specs.

As I said at the beginning I bought the NF ATACR F1 because I was a bit put out about the response from Vortex re price discounting for LE  but I’m pleased I spent the extra money on the NF as it is a nice scope with excellent glass and where I shoot the extra magnification can be really useful.  In conclusion, my ratings of my scopes which I own and are not loaners are:

  • Glass – S+B- NF – Vortex
  • Reticles – Vortex – NF – S+B
  • Turrets – Vortex and NF tied – S+B
  • Weight – S+B -NF -Vortex
  • Fit & Finish – All equal
  • Warranty – Vortex
  • Price High to Low – NF- Vortex -S+B

So – perhaps the ideal scope would have S+B level glass with Vortex level reticles and turrets that are the equal to the Vortex or NF with perhaps…….left side windage ????  Mmmm,  my next review might give me just that – stay tuned for my thoughts on the Khales 624i with SKMR3 reticle:








Custom 6.5x47L Precision Rifle Build


I own a number of tactical-style precision bolt guns from high-end manufacturers like PGWDTI and SAKO and I also own some excellent custom rifles built by some well-known Canadian shops.  Like many  of us who are – dare I say it – “addicted” to the sport of precision / tactical / long range rifle shooting, I’ve long wished to have that ‘ultimate build’ rifle; that one rifle that was built without any compromises being made, using the best of components and assembled by people who are known for the quality of their work.  This article is basically the story of that journey – a trail that goes from an idea in my head through to the taking delivery of the rifle and to putting rounds down range.

My journey towards having my rifle built actually started with the building of another rifle – a new custom F-Class (F/TR) rifle  – which was built by Chou Brothers Precision out of Ontario, Canada which is a business owned and operated by Will and Kevin Chou who are not only builders of very fine rifles but are World-Class shooters themselves. Readers interested in  F-Class can see that build here :

I was so pleased with every aspect of my F/TR rifle that I asked Messers Chou if they would assemble for me a tactical-type precision rifle. In keeping with the outstanding customer service ethos that infuses their business Will and Kevin confirmed that they would be happy to accept such a commission and so the hunt began for components.

When searching for components and visualizing a build I recommend that shooters figure out what they are likely going to use the rifle for – obviously little is to be gained by building a 20 lbs. rifle if one is planning on using it on a sheep hunt but more nuanced than that somewhat silly example is consideration of whether you are going to be a prone or offhand shooter, mobile or not, shooting off bipod, front rest or improvised etc. etc.  I decided that this rifle would be used in the prone position and shot off a bipod with rear bag; with strings of shots being fired from a fixed position mobility would not be an issue and, while  convenience dictates that most of my shooting is done within 500m, I have access to distances in excess of 1000m.

Caliber (or calibre for my UK friends) selection is usually determined by the application the shooter has in mind and what other chamberings a shooter already has.  I have precision rifles in a variety of calibers from .223 to 338 Lapua but the 6.5 caliber is one that I am particularly fond of – great bullet selection, decent barrel life, 1000 meter plus capability and moderate recoil makes the 6.5 hard to beat.  The question was “what 6.5?”  I already own a .260 Remington and my reading led me to consider the relatively new 6.5-47 Lapua which was introduced in 2005.  This cartridge has good brass availability (Lapua), long brass life, is easy on barrels and is one of the more popular cartridges on the very competitive Precision Rifle Series (PRS) in the USA.  As an added bonus the 6.5-47L is thought to be easy to load for and not at all finicky or temperamental so that settled it – my new rifle was to be in 6.5-47 Lapua.

The literal and metaphorical heart of any rifle is the receiver and while I really like the Barnard actions for my single-shot competition guns I prefer other makes for my mag fed repeaters.  While a trued Remington 700 can be an excellent, and cost effective, choice I determined in the case of this build to use a custom action and while other brands can be considered contenders the choice for me came down to either of a Defiance or a Surgeon; both are excellent receivers and, like as in the case of caliber, are especially popular on the US PRS circuit.  I’d previously  had a very nice rifle made using a Defiance which I found to be super smooth but the integral rail of the Surgeon and the reputation of Surgeon actions for reliability in all climates and conditions tipped the scale – especially as I am a year around shooter and temperature can vary from -30 C to + 30 C.  Really though there is no bad choice here and a future build may well see me revert to using Defiance.


While I have commonly used Krieger barrels for my builds I have also used Broughton, Shilen and Rock Creek and while some may disagree my sense of it is that all of the premium makers produce a good product and, regardless of the maker, sometimes one barrel will be a stand-out and the chances of a dud are pretty darn remote.  So with these thoughts re barrels in mind I went with a barrel that the Chou Bros had in stock which was a 1:8 twist Bartlein  – single point cut style of course as are all Bartlein barrels – and, since weight is not an issue for me with this rifle, I chose a M40 profile.


Though not at all necessary with a rifle chambered in 6.5, I nevertheless decided I wanted a muzzle break and my reasoning was threefold:  I usually shoot alone on my own land and so noise isn’t an issue; a break allows me to spot my shots easier and, lastly,  I simply like the look of a brake-equipped rifle barrel.  At this point I must inform readers in more enlightened countries ( including many with much stricter gun laws ) that suppressors are prohibited in Canada so the idea of running a can – as nice as that may be – simply isn’t an option for me.

In the marketplace of today there is quite a wide choice of muzzle brakes and a shooter may easily find him or herself somewhat overwhelmed.  Fortunately a very good test was done by Cal Zant of the Precision Rifle Blog who analyzed over 20 different brakes and so I allowed Cal’s work to guide me and went with the APA Little Bastard brake that performed very well in Cal’s tests regarding recoil reduction, ground signature and staying on target and was also easily available in Canada.  Two downsides to the Little Bastard are that it is really loud ( shooting on own property is likely not an issue but going to the range ….mmmm, you may be less than popular ) and feedback from other shooters is that it can work loose – easily remedied by judicious application of appropriate threadlocker of course.  The post that summarizes the PRB test can be found here:


With the barreled action sorted out the next big decision often faced is Chassis or Stock ?  I have both and there are merits / demerits no matter what you choose.  I have a particular fondness for the chassis systems from Accuracy International (AICS) and Cadex and have used others as well but, at heart, I am a bit of a traditionalist and have always liked the McMillian stocks and, in particular, the A5.  There are others of course – the Manners comes to mind – but selection in Canada isn’t what it is in the US and a I was reluctant to try something new on this build so I stuck to what I knew and what I liked; McMillian A5 with three way adjustable butt-plate, integral thumb-wheel adjustable cheekpiece and, up front of the sling swivel, a Seekins 3″ rail for mounting my bipod of choice.  I ordered the stock to be colored in “Urban Spectre” which is a fairly new molded-in camo from McMillian.


I am very happy with the stock coloring as well as the overall quality, fit and finish etc. but there was a long wait for delivery – I ordered in April 2016 and it didn’t arrive until November.  Had I gone with a slightly different stock that was in inventory somewhere the build time would have been significantly shorter but, like I wrote at the outset, I didn’t wish to compromise on this build only to end up thinking “Mmm, that’s nice but I wish….”

I had determined from the outset to use AICS mags; in my opinion they are the best aftermarket magazines one can use and are bettered only by the Accuracy International double stack and the Sako TRG magazines. Trying to save a few bucks by the use of magazines made by Accurate Mag or MDT is, in my view, a false economy.  Having decided to use AICS mags the search was on for suitable bottom metal and while I’ve previously used a variety of makes I was drawn on this occasion to the bottom metal offered by Seekins Precision who offer AICS compatible gear that is ambidextrous and whose trigger guard – while not overly pretty – is large enough to use with heavy winter gloves – where I live that’s pretty important.  A link to this particular item is here:

Of course a rifle won’t work too well without a trigger and this is one component where I expect people to criticize my selection. I opted to use the simple and inexpensive Timney 510.  I decided upon this trigger as I have it on a number of other rifles and I like the way it feels and have found it super reliable in all weather.  I have a Jewell, Barnard and Trigger Tech on other rifles and while the Jewell in particular is more fine none feel as nice to me as does the Timney.  Canadian readers may note that I was an early proponent of the Canadian-made Trigger Tech and may wonder why I didn’t choose that trigger and the answer is that over time I have found them to loose consistency which is unfortunate but I need to have confidence that my trigger will work and work the same every time all the time.

Since this rifle will be shot from the prone with the use of a rear bag the selection of a suitable bipod is very important and bipods are pieces of equipment that I’ve reviewed endlessly. While there is nothing wrong with the ubiquitous Harris it is bettered by the Atlas and significantly bettered by the LRA bipod.  Regardless of what you read on the Internet (and certainly from those with a vested interest is selling stuff) trust me on this: the LRA is the best tactical type bipod available – period.


The last piece of the shooting system boils down to the choice of glass – over the past year I have been engaged in a process of upgrading my scopes from SFP MOA/MOA to FFP MIL/MIL  – and so I have a number of quite new and very nice scopes to hand.  Initially and as can be see in the pictures that accompany this article I mounted the latest NF ATACR F1 in 7-35×56 using a SPHUR 34mm mount.  This scope – which it would be an understatement to describe as really rather nice – will be the subject of my next review during which I will compare it to the classic S+B Pmii 5-25×56 and the current favorite amongst PRS shooters; the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56.


Of course anyone reading this story would – I suppose – like to know how the rifle shoots.  Well, with the components used and the assembly undertaken by people like ChouBros Precision it would be simply shocking were the rifle to be found to be in any way inaccurate.  I am still playing with some load development but the rifle is now printing a trial load of virgin Lapua brass, 42g H4350 and 123g Lapua Scenars consistently in the .4’s at 200m which is my preferred load development range. This shooting has been done prone in the snow in -12 and -16 deg C with a cold and getting colder shooter so I am very pleased with the results.  It is simply a  joy to fire this heavy (19.2 lbs as pictured) gun – there is of course zero recoil – and everything looks and feels just about perfect to me.

Obviously a huge thanks must go to Will and Kevin Chou who have done such a nice job on building this rifle for me and whose attention to detail and outstanding customer service simply cannot be bettered.  I would also like to mention the following Canadian suppliers and retailers who made this project a success:  Hirsch Precision (stock), RPS International (Action, bottom metal and trigger) Prophet River Firearms (brake) PGWDTI (LRA bipod) and, of course, my good friend Omer at Plainsight Solutions for the great deal on the NF ATACR.