The authors of Tactical, Practical, and Fantastical have to thank Mr. Andrew Craig of Canadian Reload Radio fame for this review of Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Auto Charge. Hornady and The Korth Group were kind enough to provide TPF-Online with this product for reviewing and Mr. Craig gladly provided us with his viewpoint and writing style for this dispenser. We hope the readers of TPF-Online enjoy this review:
When it comes to reloading there is only a single step that is as big and as important as getting the powder charge right.There are many ways to do this, but few that roll it all into one easy step. Hornady recognized there was a need for a more economical solution to weighing and dispensing powder, and introduced their own version of an automated powder dispenser a few years ago. I finally received the opportunity to sit down with one recently, and, the results were both interesting and impressive.
Out of the box the Auto Charge includes the integrated scale/dispenser, powder silo, universal power adapter, two check weights (10 & 50 grams), flash pan, and a long thin brush for dusting out powder. Included with the manual is a comprehensive quick-start guide that allows for getting the Auto Charge up and running in a matter of minutes. If you do choose to jump right in with the quick-start guide, be sure to read both sides completely, as, the instructions for calibrating the scale are quite specific, and need to be followed in order to get under way quickly.
The Auto Charge has a powder silo large enough to hold 1lb of powder. The guide recommends at a minimum that the silo be filled to the top of the base of the unit, in order to ensure there is enough powder in the hopper to dispense accurately. I had a small amount of Varget that just managed to fill the hopper to the top of the base as indicated, and after following the calibration instructions, quickly began to dispense 42.0 grain powder charges.
Dispensing powder was as easy as entering the charge weight into the keypad, and pressing “enter” in order to set the machine to the desired charge. All that was necessary then was to press “dispense”, and the machine took care of the rest. The Hornady Auto Charge is essentially a digital scale combined with a powder trickler. The powder tube is internally threaded, and angled downwards slightly, so that as it turns, powder is scooped up and moved along the length of the tube, subsequently falling into the flash pan below. As the dispensed powder reaches the desired charge weight, the Auto Charge slows down and enters into “trickle mode”, where it pulses a fraction of a rotation at a time in order to drop the desired charge weight one or two kernels at a time.
There are three different speed settings for dispensing powder, slow, normal, and fast. Depending on the type and quantity of powder being dispensed, there is an ideal setting. I found that the bulkier powders were able to be dispensed on the fastest setting, whereas your finer, ball type powders tended to prefer the normal. Really fine powders, such as those used for shotgun or handgun really didn’t dispense well, or, required the machine to be set on the slowest setting, which meant a significant increase in time between charges. This really has to do with how the machine operates. During dispensing, there are in fact two speeds. An initial, high volume rate of dispensing, which varies based on the selected speed, and then a final trickling speed, which is more of a pulse. Depending on which speed you choose, the trickling mode will kick in sooner or later, so as to allow for as much powder as possible to be dropped into the pan before the final trickle to the desired charge weight.
For testing purposes, I used both Varget, and Ramshot TAC. The Varget was able to be dispensed at the fastest rate, as, it is a bulkier extruded powder. It had a tendency to remain in the trickling tube and only drop one or two kernels at a time during the trickling mode, allowing for a very fast dispensing time, with minimal overcharge errors. The Ramshot TAC on the other hand is a much finer, ball type powder. It was far more likely to cascade out of the tube, resulting in the machine having to be run on the normal speed setting. I found on average that the dispensing time for 43 grains of both Varget and TAC to be 20-30 seconds. As I mentioned, the Auto Charge will result in an overcharge error if it’s run on too fast of a setting. I found that Varget only returned an overcharge error 1 in 10 times on the fastest setting, which meant having to re-dispense the charge. TAC resulted in an overcharge error almost every time on the fast setting, but had no issues when set to the normal speed setting.
Once you’ve settled on a desired charge weight, and dispensing speed, you have the option of running the Auto Charge in either a manual, or automatic mode. Manual simply means that you have to press dispense each time, whereas, on the automatic mode, all you need to do is press dispense, and start dumping powder charges into your waiting cases. Each time you place the empty flash pan onto the scale, the Auto Charge will dispense the next charge as soon as the weight reaches zero. I found that with the machine set to its fastest setting, in combination with Varget, I was able to keep up an almost constant pace of charging cases, with only a short wait between dumping powder into the case and waiting for the next charge to be dispensed.
I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Auto Charge worked. It’s a nice clean, simple unit, and was very easy to operate. I found that its ideal use is for load development, where you might have a number of different charge weights that you want to try. It is equally suited to regular reloading duties as well, however, a standard powder measure is still faster, and capable of dispensing most powders within the same accuracy range. What’s nice about the Auto Charge however is that you know every single time just how much your charge weights, and that there’s no potential for a mix-up, or double charge. Additionally, the Auto Charge can dispense close to a pound of powder, and not need topping up in order to maintain its accuracy. Having a scale built right in ensures you get the exact same, consistent charge weight.
Hornady is a very much renowned reloading manufacturer based out of Grand Island, Nebraska, and Korth Group are a Canadian importer and distributor of many manufacturers and brands such as Hornady. Again, thanks to Andrew Craig for his submission on the Hornady Lock-N-Load Auto Charge powder dispenser. The product as reviewed has an MSRP of $317.21 USD. This and other Hornady products can be found in a variety of brick and mortar shops across Canada as well as online venues such as Grouse River (which has both!). TPF’s standard clause still applies to our readers to determine if this piece of equipment is Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical for themselves.
The authors of Tactical, Practical, and Fantastical have to thank Mr. Andrew Craig of Canadian Reload Radio fame for this review of one of the few Canadian designed rifle scopes available on the market. Scorpion Optics was kind enough to provide TPF-Online with one of their scopes for reviewing and Mr. Craig gladly provided us with his expertise on optics. We hope the readers of TPF-Online enjoy this review:
Scorpion Optics Venom Hi-Grade 6-24 x 50mm Rifle Scope
Scorpion Optics has a complete line of hunting and sporting optics with a full range of magnification options. The model provided for review was a Scorpion Venom Hi-Grade 6-24x50mm long range rifle-scope with a one-piece 30mm tube.
Statistics indicated for this particular optic:
6-24 Power range
50mm Objective lens
Side focus adjustable from 15 yards to infinity
One-piece aluminum tube construction
30mm One-Piece Main Tube
Fully-Multi coated lenses
Trajectory Compensating Reticle
1/8 MOA windage & elevation adjustments
>50 MOA adjustment range
For this review, the rifle-scope was mounted to a Robinson Armament XCR-M, a semi-automatic, non-restricted, rifle chambered in .308 Winchester. This particular rifle has a picatinny rail running the full length of the monolithic upper which allows for a wide range of mounting positions and optic styles and designs. A set of extra high Weaver Tactical rings were required due to the space requirements of the optic’s 50mm objective lens. With these rings there was just enough room for the scope’s objective bell to clear the rail.
Initial sight-in was done at 25 yards, with the point of impact being approximately 4 inches low and to the left. Windage was adjusted by simply looking through the optic and turning the adjustment dial until the cross-hair was inline with the initial shot. The adjustments dials are graduated in 1/8 MOA, which means one click moves the point of impact 1/8″ left or right at 100 yards. This allows for a very fine level of adjustment, which can be of benefit for a very accurate varmint rifle. Adjustment knobs are of the finger click type, and yield both a firm and audible click when being turned. The turrets indicate which direction they must be turned in order to adjust the point of impact, but, are not re-settable to zero once adjusted.
At 100 yards, the optic was dialed up to its maximum power of 24X. Power adjustment was very smooth and quick, made easy by an oversized tab on the adjustment ring. The Venom line of optics from Scorpion have fully multi-coated lens surfaces, which is a key feature in maximizing the amount of light gathered and transmitted to the eye. This, coupled with the 50mm objective lens results in a very bright image, with it darkening only slightly at the highest magnification setting. When fired at 100 yards, elevation only needed to be adjusted a minor amount, and it should be noted that windage remained spot-on from being set at 25 yards, and after making adjustments to the elevation at 100.
This optic includes a side focus dial for parallax correction at different distances. The Scorpion 6-24×50 is capable of being adjusted down to 15 yards. Most optics with this feature have a low-end limit of 50 yards, which usually limits their use to outdoor settings where there is more room to shoot. Having the ability to focus down to 15 yards means that this optic can be used at much shorter distances, such as an indoor range where one might wish to practice at a closer distance. The side focus adjustment is very firm, requiring a fair bit of effort to turn. This level of friction ensures that it wont turn if rubbed up against a shoulder while being carried with a sling. There was a slight bit of backlash noticeable when fine adjustments were being made to the focus, but, this did not take away from the rifle scope’s ability to be focused at any distance desired.
As a standard feature, the Scorpion Venom 6-24×50 includes an etched-glass “TCR” reticle. TCR stands for Trajectory Compensating Reticle, and includes hold-overs for distances out to 500 yards. When zeroed at 100 yards, and employed at 200 yards using just the TCR reticle, I had no difficulty hitting the 8 inch metal swinger shot after shot. When using the TCR for your rifle, be sure to verify where your rifle hits at the different distances, as, this type of reticle is of a one-size-fits-all variety. This is common, and you should find that your specific load will be within an inch or two of the hold overs at each distance.
Some final things to consider with this rifle-scope include a stated mass of 860 grams (30 oz), and an overall length of 400 mm (15 in). This is no small rifle scope, and will be ideally suited towards a long range varmint rifle where a bipod, shooting stick, or other stabilizing method is to be used. The model provided for review came in a smooth matte black finish, but on Scorpion Optic’s website, there are options that indicate it is also available in a silver finish. Eye relief is a short 75-81mm, however I found there to be plenty of room behind the eyepiece when shooting, and had no issues positioning my head for a clear image.
All said and done, the Scorpion 6-24x50mm Venom rifle scope provides the user with everything as promised. Features that stood out when using the optic included a very smooth, fast power adjustment, making it possible to change power on the fly without having to look up from the rifle scope. The TCR reticle makes it very versatile for a number of different ranges, and being capable of focusing down to 15 yards means that this optic can fill a larger variety of roles for the target or varmint shooter.
Scorpion Optics is based out of Manitoba and fields a variety of firearm and bow accessories such as the Venom HG 6-24 x 50mm rifle scope. Again, thanks to Andrew Craig for his submission on the Scorpion Optics Venom HG 6-24 x 50mm rifle scope. For the readers notes, the rifle scope as reviewed has an MSRP of $599.99 CDN which is an impressive price point for a high magnification, large objective lens rifle scope. Scorpion Optics can be found in a variety of brick and mortar shops across Canada as well as online venues such as Outfitter’s Supply Online. As always it is up to our readers to determine if this piece of equipment is Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical for themselves.
The authors of Tactical, Practical, and Fantastical have to thank Mr. Bryan Bolivar for this review of the Blue Force Gear – Vickers Combat Application Sling. We hope the readers of TPF-Online enjoy this review:
Blue Force Gear – Vickers Combat Application Sling (VCAS)
The Vickers Combat Application Sling is designed and marketed toward police, military and civilian shooters using modern, ergonomic long arms such as the AR-15 and other similar platforms. The sling is intended to provide a secure means to carry a rifle across the front of the user’s body in a hands free condition, allowing other tasks to be completed without needing to constantly hold onto the firearm.
The particular model of rifle sling chosen for this review is padded with polymer hardware. Non-padded versions are available for lower cost. Also aluminum hardware is available in both padded and non-padded versions.
It should be noted that VCAS sling comes without attachment hardware. Those in the picture above were purchased specifically for use with the reviewer’s rifle. Attachment points and methods on modern, ergonomic competitive sporting rifles vary and the user free to select what works best for them and their equipment. If the user does not want or need a quick release method of attachment, they can simply loop the straps at the ends of the sling through available fixed attachment points that are common on these rifles and attach the sling this way with no extra hardware needed. This means the purchaser is not stuck paying for attachment hardware that they won’t use.
Initial examination of the sling shows that it constructed of heavy 1 ¼ inch nylon webbing. The polymer hardware is relatively thick and is of durable construction. Obviously the aluminum hardware would be even stronger but after discussing with a college who has military experience, the polymer would likely be preferred to reduce sound when the hardware comes in contact with the rifle and other gear. Not that important to the civilian shooter but if polymer hardware is good enough for the military; it is good enough for me.
The sling has three points of adjustment to suit the rifle and user. The upper most section, attached to the rear of the rifle as well as the middle section are designed as “fixed” adjustments. These are set by the user and are not quickly adjustable.
The front section contains a quick adjustment pull handle (shown above) that allows the user to quickly lengthen (and re-shorten) the sling as needed. Following provided directions, the upper and middle sections are to be adjusted to set the overall length of the sling with the front section in the “closed” position. This allows the rifle to be securely hung across the length of the user’s torso. The front section can then be opened to allow for easier weapon manipulation such as switching to the weak side shoulder. This also facilitates moving to the prone position while maintaining the muzzle in a safe, down range direction. The adjustment method is unique in that once the position of the front section is set, it stays in place and does not move on its own. Other quick adjust slings that I have tried have proven to “have a mind of their own” when it comes to quick adjustments and simply won’t stay set.
The VCAS in “action”
Initial testing of the sling was conducted at a local rifle range and frankly my first impressions were not favorable. The sling limited rifle manipulation, magazine changes, safely adopting a prone position and utilizing a pistol with the rifle slung. For the latter point, the sling rifle hung very high with the butt resting in front of the shooters shoulder. This made extending the arms for proper pistol shooting difficult.
Further trials showed that I simply had the sling adjusted too tightly. Once the middle section was adjusted to provide more overall length the sling performed very well. Leaving sufficient slack in the sling allowed for interference free reloads and no longer obstructed pistol shooting as the rifle hung below the shooters shoulder.
Recently the VACS was “fielded” in completion at an Ontario Rifle Association Close Quarters Battle (CQB) match. Frankly, it worked flawlessly. Walking around the range with a slung rifle was effortless and left two hands free for organizational tasks such as scoring, patching of targets and even a bit of range tear down. Magazine changes were not impeded and neither was pistol shooting. Walking around the range with a 20 inch barreled AR did not result in any banged shins, knees or other anatomical regions. The quick adjust front section allowed easy adoption of the prone position while keeping the muzzle pointed directly down range.
A note about use of this and other two point slings. The selected attachment points at the front and rear of the rifle were generally on the side closest to the shooter. This allows the tension of the sling to hold the rifle flat against the body. Attachment at more conventional bottom of rifle points would tend to cause the rifle to tip over when slung and perhaps end up with the rifle hanging in an upside down orientation.
Further, the sling was wrapped over the strong side shoulder and under the weak side one, so that when the rifle is left to hang, it does so in a generally muzzle down direction so that bystanders are not swept by the muzzle.
Other uses of the VCAS
While targeted at modern style semi-automatic long arms, the VCAS would be an effective for hunting arms as well. By establishing attachment points on the side of the rifle, any style can be slung in the same fashion. For hunters negotiating think brush and climbing difficult terrain, this sling configuration will allow two hands to remain free while walking and maintain the rifle in an easy to reach position should game appear suddenly and a quick reaction is the difference between meat in the freezer and a tale of one that got away.
Further, by changing the method of adjustment, the quick adjust front section could be set such that tightening it “locks” the rifle to the shooters body, keeping it even more tightly secured to the shooters chest and or enabling it to be switch to lay across the hunters back and locked when “out of the way carry” is needed.
Retailing at $62.99 at One Shot Tactical Supply, the Blue Force Gear VCAS padded sling is not going to be the lowest cost option for a two point sling, but it is a quality piece of kit that does what it intends and does it well. The non-padded version retails for $52.99 while the option of aluminum hardware adds $20.00 to the cost of either version. The quick adjust front portion sets the VCAS apart from many other offerings and is a very useful feature. Based on the overall quality of the slings construction I am sure this piece of kit is going to last for years to come.
As the reviewer I purchased this sling with my own cash as a means to try it out after hearing lots of hype. I figured I can always sell it for a small loss if I didn’t like it. Well, this particular VCAS sling is NOT for sale. I think that sums up my impression of this sling most effectively.
Again, thanks to Bryan Bolivar for his submission on the BFG – VCAS. For the readers notes, One Shot Tactical Supply is located in Trenton, Ontario and also has an online presence. As always it is up to our readers to determine if this piece of equipment is Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical for themselves.