Saturday, January 11, 2020

Review - Ruger American Rifle Predator in 223

Training guns . . . they are a part of every learning process.  For the last little while – past 4 years or so – I’ve been working on becoming a better precision shooter.  When I say those words what I mean is that I can put a solid group (precision) where I want them to go (accuracy).  I’ve discussed that process in an earlier post you can read HERE.  

My rifle of choice for Precision Rifle Shooting is the Ruger Precision Rifle in .308.  Match grade ammunition runs around $1.50 per round so each 50-100 round practice trip runs from $75 to $150 with store bought ammunition.  Obviously reloading enters the picture here . . . but until I’m satisfied with my efforts . . . shooting with quality ammunition is expensive.

Enter . . . Training Rifles.

My first choice here is the Ruger Precision Rifle in .22 Long Rifle.  This is a dream to shoot and reasonable good match ammunition is available for about $75 for 500 rounds.  A significant difference.  I’ve chatted about this rifle and my search for good ammunition on my blog as well.  On a 50 yard range I can frequently shoot 1 MOA and below.  This allows me to work on all the fundamentals without spending a crap ton on ammunition.  That said, there is something said for working with a rifle that also allows some work on recoil mitigation and that will reliably reach out to 100 yards or more.  

Enter the .223.

I have a backup rifle for my Patrol Rifle that I take to coursework in case my primary takes a crap.  So, I put a moderately priced Nikon Prostaff 5 scope on it, upgraded the trigger, added a bipod and a couple 10-round magazines and presto-change-o . . . training rifle!   MMMmmmm . . . not so much.  As you can see, even with higher quality Frontier .223 with match grade bullets, my groups just plain sucked.  So . . . time to look for a “real” rifle.

I had a couple requirements.  It couldn’t break the bank.  I’m sure for a couple grand I could find a hell of a shooter . . . but . . . “couple grand”.  That said, I wanted a rifle that could consistently shoot a 1 MOA group at 100 yards.  That is the length of the range I have full access to and where I spend most of my time working on foundational shooting.  Let the internet search begin!  While I found a number of rifles that met my requirements, I finally settled on the Ruger American Rifle – Predator in .223.  To be honest, the deciding factor was that there was one in stock at a local Sheels store for $469 . . . and I could pick it up at lunch time.  But, after the first 100 rounds or so I gotta say I’m pretty darn happy with the purchase.

I picked up my son, had a quick lunch and headed to Sheels to claim my rifle.  After the usual paperwork (in Iowa carry permits expedite things to the point I could walk out with my rifle at the time of purchase) I dropped him at his house and headed back home and to my office.  Here I quickly transferred the scope to the Predator mounting it with a pair of Leupold scope rings.  As a reminder, make sure the bottom of the rings are pushed forward in the notch of the rail before you torque them down to the recommended levels.  And, leave the top rings loose until you get the eye relief how you want it before you torque the top of the ring screws down to the recommended levels as well.  I did not lap the rings, I’ll see how things go long term.  Honestly, I was just plain impatient to hit the range to see how this fellow shot.  I did a function check, ran a few patches through the bore and grabbed a couple boxes of PMC 55gr ball ammunition.  By the time I got to the range I had an hour and a half of daylight left.  The good news . . . it was 57 degrees . . . on January 9th . . . at 4PM in the afternoon!!!  

I typically start with a 10-yard 50/200 zero with a .223 round.  I removed the bolt, bagged the rifle and did a quick bore sight adjustment on the scope.  At that distance the round will impact about 2 inches below your POI.  That complete, I put a couple rounds through it to confirm.  It was spot on.  I just had time to put 25 rounds down range at 50 yards to confirm zero.  You can see the results on the 5 targets.  The smallest group was .50 . . . the largest was 1.375.  The average was .95 over 5 targets.   I was fine with this for first shots . . . and . . . it was nearly dark.  The 100-yard range would have to wait until another day.

The 100-yard day came the following day, January 10th.  The day was a bit more “seasonal”, reaching a high of 29 degrees.  But otherwise it was a very nice day for shooting.  Before getting to the range I hit the local gun store for some better-quality ammunition – Frontier 5.56 loaded with a Hornady 75gr BTHP match bullet.  

Given that the Frontier was a bit pricier, I thought I’d wring out the PMC 55gr ball ammunition as well as the Frontier with the 75gr BTHP match bullet.  So I hung two zeroing targets and two targets to shoot for both accuracy and precision.  As you can see from the zeroing targets (with the rotated 3 ½-inch squares) its performance was poor and that followed through to the 5 separate 3 inch targets.  Accuracy was crap as was precision.  I was praying that this was NOT a sign of things to come with the Frontier ammunition.

As you can see the first zero group was high and right.  I dialed down and left and shot a second group on target #1 – much better.  I then shot a final group on target #2 – I was happy with that measuring around .5” in height and 1.25” in width.  On to the 25- round evaluation.  As you can see from the 5 targets, accuracy and precision was MUCH better with an average group size of 1.175.  I gotta say I was much happier with the performance of the Frontier ammunition and it would seem I have exactly what I was looking for – a .223 rifle that is consistently capable of a 1 MOA group at 100 yards.  I’m pretty darn early in this “relationship” but after my first focused range trip, I’m encouraged with the performance of this $469 rifle.

Some over all thoughts.  The value of the purchase is exceptional.   It’s a well-made firearm, has a heavier barrel and I saw no real loss of performance while attempting to run a total of 100 rounds through it in a couple hours. The stock has a nice “feel” to it and provides for an easy and firm grip.  The butt plate is fairly soft and provides for quite a bit of recoil mitigation – not that there is much recoil to begin with. I will be adding a riser pad to the comb of the stock to help with consistent placement of the rifle to my cheek.  For this trip I simply laid a couple leather gloves over the comb to act as a riser.  As an aside – I had 7 failure to fire rounds with the Frontier ammunition.  The failed rounds have been passed on to the supplier but, that number of failures over 50 rounds is disappointing.  While the bolt was a bit stiff at the beginning it smoothed out considerably over the range trip.  I suspect that will continue to improve.  The trigger broke right at 3 pounds and seemed consistent over the range trip.  This matches with both the 22LR and the .308 precision rifles from Ruger allowing a consistent trigger press across the three platforms.

All in all, I’m more than happy with my purchase of the Ruger American Rifle – Predator in .223.  If you are looking for a good training rifle that doesn't blow a hole in your wallet, I would suggest you t ake a look at the Predator.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Training - 2020 - 1000 Rounds

We’ve had this discussion before.  But, given the recent events at the church in Texas, the shooting and knifing of Jews in NYC, the direct threats of Iran after we eliminated the worlds single most dangerous terrorist . . . I thought a gentle reminder might help.  First let’s set the table . . .



It’s a simple binary choice . . .

DIE . . . or . . . FIGHT . . .


Dramatic??  I don’t think so.  Watch the video of the Texas church or the two shooters entering the Jewish grocery.  The violence was direct, overwhelming . . . and fatal.  In the case of Texas it ended in 6 seconds after three members of a church security team acted to stop the shooter.  Two died, as did the shooter . . . in 6 seconds.

In the grocery attack, the shooters killed 2 officers, 3 civilians.  There were no “good guys with guns” (because “New York” and “only the police need guns”), just law enforcement.  The standoff lasted hours.

Notice a difference??  How things can go when you arm to defend yourself and when you bet your life on “dial 911”?  

My point is not to argue the fine points of these two events.  If you read this blog, I assume you have some level of dedication to carrying a defensive firearm.  In my not so humble opinion – this is your best bet to insure you and your family go home, each and every evening, safely.  And, that should a bad guy pop up, you can quickly and decisively handle that situation.

While there are many elements to this – from clothing to education – let’s focus on the foundation, Marksmanship, Gun Handling and Mindset.  If you can’t hit what you’re aiming at, if you can run your gun, if you can keep you head in the game under stress . . . you have a problem.

This post is NOT about acquiring your skillset initially.  That process is a simple process of time, money and willingness.  Take GOOD coursework – annually.  Make sure it includes range time that instructs and teaches.  Typical courses run 1 to 3 days and cost $200 to $1500, not including your travel and somewhere between 500 and 1,000 rounds.  If you have not taken one of these courses – the story you are telling yourself about your skills and abilities is simply a lie.  Please, set time and money aside and schedule a course for this year.

What this post IS about is what you need to do to maintain your skillset.  Just maintain . . . if you want to evaluate and grow your skills pick a set of coursework for the coming year that will focus on what you want to work on.  Myself for example – in March I’m taking a one-day Precision Rifle shooting course working on all the foundational stuff as well as spotting and wind calls.  Also in March I’m taking an Instructor Development course for handgun to get a POST Certified LE instructor certification as well as a course on the development of Force on Force coursework.  Finally, in May I’m taking a 3-day traveling Gunsite course for tactical shotgun.  That comes to 48 hours of instruction I am TAKING.  For instructors I find this type of annual schedule is imperative.  If we’re not growing individually as an instructor – how can we expect our students to?

But, on top of this is at least one monthly trip to the range where I set aside 100 rounds to maintain what I am learning and what I consider necessary skills as a defensive shooter.  I’ll miss 2 months because of family or weather or illness or . . . just plane “I don’t wanna go today!!”.  But, the other 10 months I’ll be out there working.  So, let’s talk about that, specifically . . . a day on the range with 100 rounds getting “good work done!”

For you – start today and place that order for 1,000 rounds for your EDC handgun or your home defense handgun.  My vendor of choice is and my preferred manufacturers are PMC, Blazer and Magtech.  I’ve had excellent service from Luckygunner and these manufacturers have not disappointed me for my range ammo.

Next – what do I shoot at??  Well, there’s all types of targets that I’ve used in the past – from 8-1/2 x 11 pieces of paper to steel.  I’ve settled on the LE Targets SWAT SEB training target.  You can buy 100 targets for around $35 which will give you 10 targets per trip – that should be plenty for the year.

There are other advantages to this target as well.  It’s obvious that the shape is human – and not a pie plate.  That allows you to become familiar with shot placement.  What does it take to make a headshot?  Can you quickly discern between a number, shape, center mass or pelvic girdle?  It is one of the elements in the mix to move you practice from just making holes on paper to preparing to meet a lethal threat.

What distances should you work at?  My recommendation is 5, 7, 10, 15 and 25.  Manage your magazines and ammunition so you use 3 or more magazines, perform magazine changes and – if you want – mix in some dummy ammunition to force you to manage malfunctions.  Fire 10 rounds at each distance.  Your course of fire would look like this . . .

“UP” command – 2 rounds high center mass box.

“Head” command – 1 round in the ocular cavity.

“1 or 2 or . . . 6” command – 1 round in the numbered shape.

“Square or Circle or Triangle” command – 1 round in each shape.

This is not the order of the course of fire but rather that commands given.  The commands should be mixed providing multiple engagements from each distance.

Once you’ve sent your 10 rounds down range from 5 yards, move back to 7 and repeat.  Do this process for 10 rounds at each distance until you’ve fired you first 50 rounds.  At the 25 yard line focus on just the high center mass box, you’re looking for an effective shot and, frankly, under stress most shooters will be good to hit the shooter at all, let alone a precision shot like a head shot.

Then, change out the target and repeat it again but this time starting at the 25-yard line and moving forward.  

Each engagement should begin from your everyday carry configuration taking into account the weather.  If it’s cold, you’ll have extra clothing to contend with.  Raining??  Same thing.  Warm and sunny . . . count yourself lucky.  

Finally, score your targets.  Any round touching the outline of the proper shape counts.  You’re looking for a minimum score of 80%.  I suspect most will find the 25-yard shots very challenging – keep working on them.  Remember to have solid fundamentals – stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, push out to your biomechanical stop, a smooth trigger press.  I’d love to say I’m a wizard to 25 yards – I’m not, it takes real work.  Put the time in.

So how do you run through this course of fire?  The easiest is with a shooting partner.  Have them call out the commands.  It’s easier if they write down each string of fire for each distance.  However, should you be sans shooting partner, there’s also the recording feature of your phone.  Record an entire 50 round string of fire allowing about 15 seconds per shot to accommodate your draw and your holstering after your shot.  Tell yourself when it’s time to move as well.  You may have to pause to accommodate the loading of magazines . . . or simply buy a couple more to smooth out the process.

Finally, after you’ve recorded the 50-round course of fire, plug in some earbuds, cover them with your ear-pro and do your thing.

This type of range trip typically takes about 2 hours for me.  This process is also adaptable to most indoor ranges as well with the exception that the engagement begins at the High Compressed Ready.  What you miss here you can work on at home using dryfire.

Which, BTW, should also be part of your mix.  If you spend a couple 15 minute sessions each day working with your draw, drive out and engagement of a threat it will pay great dividends in your range work as well as at a time where you are forced to engage a real threat.

One other caveat here . . . this type of work needs to be done with each firearm you depend on to defend your and your family’s life.  For me, that’s simply a Glock 17 that I carry every day – even as I type this post.  But, if you roll between a Glock, 1911, revolver . . . they you need to speed 1,000 rounds per platform.  Which is why I have a single platform . . . I’m relatively cheap!!

That said, I do also have an AR carbine in 5.56 for home defense.  And, I spend the same amount of work, with the same amount or rounds per month on that platform as well.  I do change the distances and spend 30 rounds at 15 yards and 20 rounds at 50 with high center mass engagements only at that distance.  I zero my “Patrol Rifle” at 50 yards which provides a very serviceable range of 50-200 yards should I find the need to reach out a bit farther.  The only HUGE caution is that as distances grow, the imminent threat that is presented diminishes quickly – remember that!

So, there you go . . . your homework assignment for the year.  100 rounds of good work once a month.

See you at the range!