2018 BigJimFish Review blog Grayboe, MPA, Kelbly, Sightron, Athlon.

BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#1
What this thread is:

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

Links to my 2018 product reviews

Grayboe Ridgeback composite stock for 700 platform rifles

Kelbly's Atlas tactical custom rifle including sub sections for:
- Krieger Barrels
- Kelbly's Atlas Tactical action
- Lapua, Copper Creek, Desert Tech, Hornady match, and Federal Gold Medal loaded ammo

Mesa Precision Arms Crux Ti custom rifle including sub sections for:
- McMillan Composite Stocks
- Titanium vs. Steel in Actions
- Mesa Precision Arms Crux Ti Action
- TriggerTech Triggers including Diamond and Primary
- Proof Carbon wrapped barrels
- Federal Gold Medal, Desert Tech, Copper Creek, and Hornady match loaded ammo

Bix'n Andy TacSport and TacSport Pro 700 compatible triggers

Sightron SIIISS624x50LRFFP/MH sub $1k ffp long range scope

Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50mm sub $1k ffp long range scope


Sub $1k long range optics reviews:

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


Grayboe stock and the rifles that sprouted from it:

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


What reviewing a custom rifle really means:

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


Speaking of builds here are the build sheets:

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

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


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

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



Original first blog post:

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

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

Grayboe is a little sparse on the tech specs on the site so I will drop some measurements I did here and many more with he real review (which will be a shiny front page thing).

Some tech specs I measured:

Weight: 58.3oz (3.64lbs) This is basically exactly what a McMillan A5 adjustable fiberglass stock averages

recoil lug slot thickness: .3565"

recoil lug slot depth: .5455"

recoil lug slot width: 1.34"

barrel channel width at stock front end: 1.034"

Width of forend: 2.524"

Inlet: M5, Grayboe sells a Mesa Precision arms one but you can use any. DBM is not included with stock.

It has a bubble level in the stock

LOP (with included parts and stock rem trigger): 12.5" - 13.885" with 5x .277" spacers for adjustment

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

Anyhow, I wanted to get a little info out there before I wrote up the whole review since I expect that will be a good while in the making.

Here are the pics:

Unboxing
2018 2 23 unboxing 1080.jpg


What's included
2018 2 23 overview 1080.jpg


Action inletting overview
2018 2 23 action section 1080.jpg


Action inletting detail
2018 2 23 inlet and level detail 1080.jpg


Cheek piece detail
2018 2 23 cheek detail one 1080.jpg


There are aluminum pillars molded in.
2018 2 23 pillar maybe 1080.jpg
 
Last edited:

spife7980

Full Member
Feb 10, 2017
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#2
Now that adjustable cheek piece is interesting to me, easy to make and keep costs down but looks like it should be adequately solid. Interesting.
 
Feb 14, 2017
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Utah
#3
Thanks for the review and I’m looking forward to see what you do with it. I’ve been considering one of these for my next build and very thankful for you detailed review.
 
Sep 17, 2013
311
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#5
Looks great!

Just one question: what is the shortest LOP achievable with just the pad, no spacers?

Thanks
-Brian
 

BigJimFish

Full Member
Jul 24, 2011
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#7
Now that adjustable cheek piece is interesting to me, easy to make and keep costs down but looks like it should be adequately solid. Interesting.
Yes, when I first saw pictures of the prototype your thoughts were very similar to mine. The prototype version actually didn't have the metal guide rod and so was entirely dependent on the friciton generated by the thumb screw to keep it secure as the channel is not a tight enough fit to offer total restriction on the range of motion of the cheek piece. I expect there was some small degree of rotation possible in this design as the friciton would not have been enough to keep the piece from being able to rotate one way or the other to the extent the channel allowed. With the guide rod that has been added the design locks down with no movement at all. The design indeed looks very inexpensive to manufacture and is quite solid. Really, that is the idea behind the Grayboe stock in general.

Looks great!

Just one question: what is the shortest LOP achievable with just the pad, no spacers?

Thanks
-Brian
The shortest LOP with the included recoil pad and a common curved (as apposed to fancy adjustable shoe) trigger is 12.5". Included are 5 spacers of .277" thickness (presumably you could use more) so you can get to 13.885" using the included parts. I'll add this data to the specs in the first post as well.
 

BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#8
The Mesa Precision Arms bottom metal arrived yesterday so I figured I would update my progress on that review as well as the others that have sprouted from it.

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

2018 4 5 bottom metal bottom.jpg
2018 4 5 bottom metal side.jpg

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

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

The second rifle review will be a 6.5CM ultralight hunting rig built by Mesa Precision arms. This will be based on their Crux line and include their new Titanium action, their bottom metal, a Proof carbon wrapped barrel, a McMillan Edge carbon stock, and Trigger Tech trigger. I will also use the Sightron SIII on this with the Bobro mount. Prime and Copper Creek ammo will also be represented along with the Lapua (if they have their 6.5CM loaded ammo ready by that time) and possibly Desert Tech and Hornady.
 
Likes: manki77

Xander3Zero

Just a normal dude.
Aug 10, 2017
480
144
43
Rhode Island
#10
Sounds like you will have some fun new rifles to play with for sure!

I am running the MPA bottom metal as well, and also find the fit and finish to be excellent. It started in a Grayboe Renegade, and now it sits in my McM A5, fitting both very nicely with no gaps.
 
Feb 18, 2012
110
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28
Middle Tennessee
#11
I’ve got a Grayboe Renegade with mpa bottom metal and it serves me just fine. Fit and finish excellent and the barreled action that sits in it shoot great. I’ve been considering trying out a ridgeback. Look forward to seeing how the full review goes.
 

BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#13
Looks pretty good so far. Are you going to paint the stock?
I'm not sure. I picked the FDE simply because I prefer lighter colors as they don't get so hot they burn you in the sun. I really haven't decided if I want to do some sponge paint cammo on it it later, to just leave it tan, or do something else. I'll see how it all looks with the action bedded in it and then decide.

Sounds like you will have some fun new rifles to play with for sure!
Right on. I think it is going to be a fun summer.
 

5RWill

Optics Fiend
Oct 15, 2009
4,420
568
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27
Mississippi
#14
Tag looking forward to your results Jim. Mainly curious to see how it shoots just dropping the barreled action on the inlet and running with it. I always entertained the idea that bedding was a necessity with a traditional fiberglass stock. Though it seems that's becoming increasingly false.
 

JKFlyfish

New Hide Member
Apr 7, 2018
33
21
8
Georgia
#15
I am thinking hard about buying the Ridgeback or Renegade with a McMillan style saddle cheek piece. I am looking forward to seeing how the Ridgeback shoots for you. Thanks for posting.
 

Mcswan47

New Hide Member
Apr 13, 2018
2
0
1
#16
Today I got one of the new Grayboe Ridgeback stocks in for a review this year and I figured that I would share a few picks, dimensions, and generally what I plan to do. I'll even try to be brief though it may just kill me to do so.

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

Grayboe is a little sparse on the tech specs on the site so I will drop some measurements I did here and many more with he real review (which will be a shiny front page thing).

Some tech specs I measured:

Weight: 58.3oz (3.64lbs) This is basically exactly what a McMillan A5 adjustable fiberglass stock averages

recoil lug slot thickness: .3565"

recoil lug slot depth: .5455"

recoil lug slot width: 1.34"

barrel channel width at stock front end: 1.034"

Inlet: M5, Grayboe sells a Mesa Precision arms one but you can use any. DBM is not included with stock.

It has a bubble level in the stock

LOP (with included parts and stock rem trigger): 12.5" - 13.885" with 5x .277" spacers for adjustment

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

Anyhow, I wanted to get a little info out there before I wrote up the whole review since I expect that will be a good while in the making.

Here are the pics:
I
Unboxing
View attachment 6877331


What's included
View attachment 6877333
I have a ridgeback on order. What is the width of goren

Action inletting overview
View attachment 6877334


Action inletting detail
View attachment 6877337


Cheek piece detail
View attachment 6877338


There are aluminum pillars molded in.
View attachment 6877339
 

Mcswan47

New Hide Member
Apr 13, 2018
2
0
1
#17
I have a ridgeback on order. Grayboe vague on specs. What is the width of forend please. I’m an Aussie. Stocks have been exported to Australia by grayboe so hope my order arrives soon. F class shooter in 6.5 creedmoor
 

BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#20
Update on the reviews :

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

copper creek unboxing 600.jpg

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

lapua unboxing 600.jpg

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

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

I also mentioned last time that the Sightron SIII SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH scope arrived for review later this year and would also see some time on these rifles. Here is a nice unboxing pic of that

Sigtron SIII unboxing 1080.jpg
 

BigJimFish

Full Member
Jul 24, 2011
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#22
Update 4-19-2018

3 kelblys 1080.jpg
Kelbly Golden Girl rifle, NYX rifle, and the new .223 I am testing.


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

2018 4 17 nice day for shooting.jpg
This is what you like to shoot in right?


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

2018 4 17 lapua first groups final.jpg
Not bad groups for a blizzard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

desert tech unboxing 600.jpg
Desert tech ammo unboxing.
 

BigJimFish

Full Member
Jul 24, 2011
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#23
Update 4-29-2018


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


bedding comp.jpg

Step by step bedding of the Grayboe Ridgeback stock


For those interested, the grip is made of an oven hardening polymer clay available at any craft store for around $10. It is secured to the stock with machine screws threaded into brass 10x32 injection molding inserts that are embedded in the stock with the epoxy bedding compound while I am bedding the stock. In this way I can make a new grip for around $10 and change it out easily. Most stocks offer garbage trigger hand position and way too much trigger reach. This one is no different in that respect but Grayboe's material is very easy to change that with.
 
Likes: TorF

BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#24
First off, I have finished writing the Grayboe stock review and it should be posted soon. I will link to it with a post in this thread when I have it up.


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


2018 5 12 lapua tight groups.jpg
A few tight groups from the Kelbly .223 shooting Lapua factory 69gr GB544


Lastly, I spoke with the guys from Mesa Precision Arms this week about that 6.5CM Titanium and carbon build. The McMillan stock for it arrived recently and the rifle should be completed soon.
 
Likes: gunlove

BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#26
Update 6 1 2018



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

midas teaser bigjimfish.jpg
Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm just out of the box.


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


bix n andy tacsport pro open labled BigJimFish 2.jpg
Bix N Andy Tacsport pro prototype labeled for clarification.

Lastly, I got the shipping notice for the Mesa Precision Arms Crux 6.5 CM rifle today so it should be in sometime next week. I'll get some pics up of that as soon as possible.
 
Likes: D_TROS

BigJimFish

Full Member
Jul 24, 2011
583
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Columbus, OH
#28
Update 6 8 2018


2018 6 8 bigjimfish mpa profile 1920.jpg
Mesa Precision Arms Crux in McMillan adjustable carbon Game Warden stock.



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


2018 6 8 bigjimfish mpa unboxing 1920.jpg
Mesa Precision Arms Crux in 6.5CM Unboxing.



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



2018 6 8 bigjimfish mpa bedding 1920.jpg
Mesa Precision Arms Crux bedding



2018 6 8 bigjimfish mpa bolt 1920.jpg
New Mesa Precision Arms titanium action and bolt.

I'm very excited to go out and shoot the new beauty.
 

koshkin

Dark Lord Of Optics
Feb 22, 2006
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#29
That is a very pretty rifle, Jim!

How are you getting along with the scopes? I am pretty familiar with Ares BTR and with the Sightron, but I never tested Midas TAC and the new Nikon. I did look at the Nikon briefly and best I can tell it is a re-incarnation of the Gen 1 PST 6-24x50 (same OEM and all that). I wonder if it is straight re-labeling or if they improved anything.

ILya
 
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BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#30
That is a very pretty rifle, Jim!

How are you getting along with the scopes? I am pretty familiar with Ares BTR and with the Sightron, but I never tested Midas TAC and the new Nikon. I did look at the Nikon briefly and best I can tell it is a re-incarnation of the Gen 1 PST 6-24x50 (same OEM and all that). I wonder if it is straight re-labeling or if they improved anything.

ILya
Thanks ILya,

I have been using the Sightron a bit now on the Kelbly review. It has a pretty fine reticle and the optics seem very good so it is working quite well for that. I have not yet done the adjustment of reticle cant test (on any of the scops) but I do suspect that the reticle in the Sightron has significant cant just from the look and feel holding it.

As for the Midas TAC, I got it about a week and a half ago but haven't had it at the range yet or spent any time really examining it optically. So I don't have an opinion yet.

The Ares and the Nikon are not yet here. This to just be a case of the companies having sent them all off to retailers and waiting for the next shipment to send one my way.
 
Jul 7, 2005
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Western Kansas
#32
I'm interested in your impressions & experience with the Athlon Midas TAC & Ares, as well as the Nikon FX 1000. I'm one of the 'little guys', at the bottom of Athlon's food chain of dealers - one man gunsmith shop, rural setting - so don't move a lot of product for them. I do have their Cronus 4.5-29x56 scopes on three of my precision 40X/XB & V-22 22RF repeaters and one on a BH TL2-SA 6 Dasher. Also have three of the Ares 4.5-27x50 mil scopes on custom rifles in 223AI, 6RAT, & 6x47 Lapua. Spread out over that many different rifles, I don't get a ton of shooting with any one of the CF rifles, but have done tall target & box/tracking tests with all three of the 22RF/Cronus rigs, with excellent results. If that makes it sound like I'm heavily biased in favor of Athlon's products, so be it. But I also own three Big Horn SA rifles with Kahles K624i AMRs, one BH LA in 6.5x55AI with a Bushnell 3.5-21x50 ERS, and a couple of customs in 284 & 280AI with Weaver's 6-30x56 mounted. I'm also a long-time user & fan of Sightron's SIII series, with several 6-24x50s & a couple of 8-32x56 scopes still in use - can't tolerate the lack of a zero stop for PRS-style shooting, but still like them enough to use 'em for other applications.

So yes, I'd feel good about hearing positive experiences with the Athlons, but am mostly interested in hearing from someone with a good deal of experience, but no real bias. My own experience with the Cronus & Ares lines gives me no reason at this point in time to have lack of confidence in selling those scopes to friends & customers, and Athlon does have a very good CS reputation. But I don't want to be selling scopes to anyone - friend or not - if they're not going to be happy with the product. I'm also looking forward to reading reviews of the new Ares ETR 34mm scopes - have a few of them on order; hope to get a shipping notice from Athlon before long.
 

BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#33
Update 6 23 2018



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



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



2018 6 12 bigjimfish 700yd kelbly over top.jpg
Kelbly's Atlas Tactical .223 @ 675 yds



2018 6 23 mpa rayners 700.jpg
Mesa Precision Arms Crux 6.5cm @ 675 yds



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

I don't have any more updates on the scopes at the moment except that the Nikon Black and Athlon Ares are still backordered.
 

BigJimFish

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#34
Update 7-9-2018



2017 7 8 rayners 100 yd testing 720.jpg
A nice day of 100 yd factory ammo testing in the Mesa Precision Arms Crux



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



2018 7 3 fed gm65crd1 crop.jpg
The Mesa Precision Arms Crux goes sub .5" with 140gr FGGM factory ammo.



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





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



2018 7 5 sightron reticle target 1920.jpg
Mechanical testing on the SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH.



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

BigJimFish

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#35
Update 7-25-2018

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

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

2018 7 25 midas reticle scale.jpg
Calibration testing the Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm with APRS2 FFP Mil
 

BigJimFish

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#36
Update 8-3-2018



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


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


- The Crux titanium action which may be purchased alone.

- General differences between titanium and steel in action manufacture.

- The McMillan adjustable Game Warden stock in Edge Carbon and composite stocks generally.

- The TriggerTech Primary trigger as well as their technology in general .

- Proof Carbon barrels.

- The ammo used, Desert Tech, Copper Creek, Federal gold medal, and Hornady match.

2018 8 3 mesa crux hunting look.jpg
The Mesa Precision Arms Crux with a more hunting style optic look with Bobro LabX vertical split rings and the Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH
 

BigJimFish

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#37
Update 8-25-2018

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

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

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

2018 8 25 pros and diamond arrive.jpg
TriggerTech Diamond and Bix'n Andy Tacsport Pro's arrive for some testing.

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

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

2018 8 25 behind v block.jpg
Optical comparison testing for the sub $1k ffp mil/mil precision optics series.
 
Apr 22, 2017
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#38
Great write up BigJimFish!

Kelbly's just sent me the new Black Bear Tactical to do a review on, so hopefully it's as comprehensive as yours has been so far. Look forward to getting the word out about the new flagship tactical action from them. Great company, and even better people.

Garrison
 

BigJimFish

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#39
Great write up BigJimFish!

Kelbly's just sent me the new Black Bear Tactical to do a review on, so hopefully it's as comprehensive as yours has been so far. Look forward to getting the word out about the new flagship tactical action from them. Great company, and even better people.

Garrison
Thanks, you're going to enjoy that Black Bear. It is beastly stiff and buttery smooth (that's what she said.) The Kelby guys are first rate. Make sure to let me know when you write up your review. I would love to take a look.
 
Apr 22, 2017
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#40
BigJimFish,

The review/build thread has already been started (Kelbly's Black Bear Tactical in the bolt gun section) , and you're 100% right, I'm in love with the Black Bear. Just got the stock inletted, I'm chambering another barrel, and hopefully the stars line up and Ill be able to complete the rifle by this weekend. Gonna be shooting it at a match down at Arena in Blakely, GA on the 13/14 of Oct. Lol super condensed timeline but it's 1000% worth it.

How are you liking the Crux? I've been batting the idea back and forth on whether to buy a new sheep hunting rig, or just sucking it up and building my own...
 

BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#41
How are you liking the Crux? I've been batting the idea back and forth on whether to buy a new sheep hunting rig, or just sucking it up and building my own...
I am very happy with the Crux. The extreme light weight initially had me worried as to whether or not I would be able to get the sort of accuracy out of it that I wanted. It is much lighter than I have gone before and much of this was concern as to whether or not I would be able to absorb the recoil in a manner consistent enough to group tightly. In the end, I did not have any issues. It performed very well with two of the ammo's I tested it with. I think the Crux would make an excellent sheep gun and I expect that the 6.5CM that I had mine chambered in would be a good caliber. There is a discount code at the end of the Crux review if you end up deciding on one. The action is available on it's own as well if you decide to do the build yourself.
 

BigJimFish

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#42
Update 10-4-2018



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

2018 9 1 tacsport pro vs tacsport.jpg

All of the testing is done for the three sub $1k long range mil/mil ffp rifle scopes. These are the:

Sightron SIIISS624X50LRFFP/MH

Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm

Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50 FFP IR Mil

The review of the Sightron III is written and will be posted after the Bix'n Andy TacSport pro has had a bit of time at first billing. All three scopes performed quite admirably meaning that there are now some real functional options for long range shooting at less than $1k.



I have updated the first post in this thread to include a table of contents for this years reviews as well as the several mini-reviews included within each custom rifle review. We are coming down to the end of the year now and only the three sub $1k reviews are left.
 

BigJimFish

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Jul 24, 2011
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#43
Update 11-5-2018


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

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


2018 9 8 mesa close up profile 1920.jpg
 
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BigJimFish

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#44
Update 12-4-2018

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

2018 11 12 ares midas mesa kelbly 1080.jpg
Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50mm on Mesa Precison Arms Crux next to Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm on a Kelbly’s Atlas Tactical
 

koshkin

Dark Lord Of Optics
Feb 22, 2006
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www.opticsthoughts.com
#45
Update 12-4-2018

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

View attachment 6980640
Athlon Ares BTR 4.5-27x50mm on Mesa Precison Arms Crux next to Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x50mm on a Kelbly’s Atlas Tactical
Those are some nice looking rifles. Are you coming to SHOT next month?

ILya
 

fiveshotdot

The Mechanic
Aug 10, 2010
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Missouri
#46
Well written review (as usual) Great job! Looking forward to your Midas TAC review. It's one of my new favorite offerings from Athlon. Keep up the good work.
 

BigJimFish

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#47
Those are some nice looking rifles. Are you coming to SHOT next month?

ILya
Thanks ILya and fiveshotdot. I am enjoying these nice custom rifles. They are quite a step up from the 5R I have been using for years. I will be at ShotShow this year. I have your number so we should be able to arrange to meet again this year.
 
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