CategoriesGun Reviews

Metal Versus Polymer: What’s Best for Handguns?

In the great debate of what materials handguns should be made from, there tends to be quite a divide between those who prefer polymer and those who want all-metal guns. The truth is that one isn’t necessarily 100% better than the other. That’s because guns are purpose-driven tools, and the material your handgun is made from is going to depend on your personal needs, skills, and usage. If you can’t decide whether to go with an all-metal handgun or a polymer pistol, we’re here to help. These are the pros and cons of metal versus polymer handguns, along with a few tips on how to choose the right material for your next handgun.

The Polymer Pistol

The Glock is probably the best-known polymer frame pistol on the market. (Photo credit: Rifle Gear)

The most popular handgun made from polymer is the Glock. It’s been around for decades and has a reputation for being durable, reliable, and accurate. Glocks are also priced at levels that tend to be way more affordable for the average shooter than many guns, so it’s really no surprise they’re well-loved. They’re also highly customizable and even though Glock improved their triggers a bit with the Gen 5, the trigger of the Glock is still typically the first part to go.

You might be thinking polymer pistols are entirely polymer, but they aren’t. The slides remain steel, it’s the frame that’s polymer. It’s important to understand that even within the realm of polymers there are multiple proprietary plastics and types. Just like metals, all plastics and polymers aren’t alike. A gun made from one plastic might be far more durable than another that can be damaged easily.

There are a lot of pros to polymer, including:

  • Lighter weight.
  • Can be easily molded to specific angles and shapes.
  • More cost effective.
  • Customizable.
  • Simple to texture grip as desired.
  • Resistant to the elements.
  • Won’t rust.
  • Can be dyed various colors.
  • Has better flex than metal.
  • Generally easier to mount a red dot sight.

Cons of polymer pistols:

  • Sometimes poorly balanced.
  • Could be crushed or cracked more easily than many metals.
  • Not as appealing, aesthetically.
  • A lighter weight means it doesn’t reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise as effectively.
  • Heat corrosion can be an issue.
  • The longevity of frame life isn’t as extensive as metal frame handguns.

The Metal Handgun

wilson combat 1911
The 1911 platform is usually what people think of first when considering metal-frame handguns. (Photo credit: Wilson Combat)

In this context, metal handguns have a metal frame and slide. When most people think about metal handguns they tend to picture 1911s, but in reality there are far more all-metal models than only the 1911. For example, the Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Metal is, as its name suggests, solid metal. Standard M&P pistols are polymer, but Smith & Wesson recognized the need for a metal option as well. Many gun owners prefer the solid feel of metal frames and also enjoy the fact that the heavier material translates to mitigated felt recoil and muzzle rise. Of course, there are many variations on metal handguns.

Metal handguns might be made from stainless steel or could be manufactured from an aluminum alloy. There are even frames made from a variety of metals such as copper, zinc, tin, and tungsten. The possibilities are practically endless. Metal frame handguns with grip panels might have wooden, plastic, ivory, or other materials used for the grips. Some metal handguns have frame inserts rather than grip panels, and those are typically polymer.

Quite a few pros exist to using metal frame handguns:

  • Longevity is usually impressive (it can literally be centuries).
  • The heavier weight of some metals creates better balance with the bulk of the barrel and slide.
  • Greater overall weight means less felt recoil and muzzle rise, which can mean greater accuracy.
  • Classic aesthetic appeal.
  • Durable and resistant to wear and tear.
  • Not affected as much by extreme heat (for example, unlikely to deform).

Cons of metal handguns include:

  • Heavier weight can be harder for some shooters to hold up and aim properly.
  • If it’s aluminum rather than steel, there’s no bonus of added weight.
  • Might be prone to cracking at stress points.
  • Could rust or become tarnished.
  • Higher cost.
  • Fewer customization options.
  • Harder to add weapon-mounted light if it wasn’t manufactured with an integral accessory rail (accessory rails are less common on metal handguns than on polymer).
a glock and a 1911 pistol
So, which is better? Plastic or metal? (Photo credit: Nathan Young via Reddit)

Are polymer handguns better than metal handguns?

When it comes down to it, there are pros and cons to both types of handguns. And even if you think you’ve decided what material you like, you’re going to discover that the specifics of the frame depend on the manufacturer’s materials. Before you even begin considering whether to get a polymer or metal handgun, you should stop and consider what you need the gun to do. Once you have that figured out, it would be wise to handle both polymer and metal handguns to find out what feels better in your hands. Of course, price is going to be a factor, too. Polymer guns are simply more affordable than well-made metal guns.

Generally speaking, the advantages of polymer frames outweigh the pros of a metal frame if you’re in the market for a self-defense handgun. This is especially true if you’re looking for a pistol you can carry on-body comfortably. Cutting ounces and having a polymer frame against your skin can be far more comfortable than the bulk and chill of metal. However, if you want a large-bore handgun, a hunting handgun, or just like the classics, metal is worth checking out. Remember, steel and aluminum are not the same thing. Make sure you know what type of metal a handgun is made from (just like you should do your homework and find out how durable a polymer frame from a specific manufacturer really is).

glock and 1911
How do you choose? Why not get one of each? (Photo credit: Gritr sports)

Ideally, everyone would have at least one polymer and one metal handgun. Versatility and options are great things. When it comes right down to it, you’re going to have a personal opinion and preference for one over the other, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be familiar with both. Limiting yourself to only metal handguns or only polymer pistols is no way to become a well-rounded shooter. That, and it’s smart to leave your gun biases behind. The impressive versatility of polymer cannot be denied just as the longevity and weight advantages of metal handguns are obvious.

Times are constantly changing thanks to advances in technology. After all, today we have polymer frame 1911s and metal frame models that were traditionally polymer. Who knows what the future might hold for gun owners?

Tell us what your personal gun preferences are in the comment section, and don’t forget to mention why.

The post Metal Versus Polymer: What’s Best for Handguns? appeared first on The Mag Life.

CategoriesGun Reviews

Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA Flashlight: What’s Not To Love?

Streamlight has been in the illumination game for quite some time. They offer a variety of lights, including lights for everyday carry (EDC), tactical lights, weapon-mounted lights, and headlamps. You name it, they’ve got a light to help you do it. And they’re among the most economical lights, balancing out economy and durability. I’ve used their products for years and they’ve held up wonderfully in the elements and under hard use. Today we’ll be taking a look at the Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA handheld light.

Power Source Options 

This light allows to use a few different power sources. We can pop in a CR123 lithium battery, which will give us the brightest performance and the longest run time. On the high setting, we’ll enjoy 350 lumens for a run time of 1.5 hours. The low setting will be 40 lumens for 14 hours. The strobe will work for 3.5 hours.

With a AA alkaline battery, the High setting is 150 lumens for one hour, 20 minutes. Low gets us 40 lumens for 7.5 hours. The strobe will work for 3.5 hours.

If we use a AA lithium battery, we get 150 lumens for 4.25 hours. The Low setting is 40 lumens for 14 hours. So using a lithium AA battery is superior in performance to the alkaline variety.

I really love the flexibility of the different batteries that can be run in this light, as it gives me choices. Most often, I just run AA alkaline batteries that are leftovers from other devices; they’re mostly expended in powering other gadgets, but in an LED light such as this, they still have plenty of life left. Granted, the light is not usually performing at its brightest, but for most of my needs, it works well enough.

AA-type batteries are among the most available in our supply chain, so the fact that the light uses easy-to-find batteries is a huge plus in my book. On the other hand, if I want to step up the performance with the CR123 batteries, I can.

Even better, grab a set of SureFire rechargeable CR123 batteries with the charger and you’re set for a long time with this light. The charger set with two included rechargeable batteries is not expensive at all. Pop one in the light and have the other as a spare, and you’re good for quite a few hours of run time with this light. And when it’s time to recharge, you don’t have to buy new batteries.

The Streamlight ProTac is a great fit in the hand. It’s short and light, so it easily fits into a pocket until it’s needed. I use this light several times per day. Note the Coyote Brown finish and the flat portions around the bezel, which keeps the light from rolling on smooth surfaces. (Photo: Jim Davis)

I’ve been carrying this light daily for over a year now. It’s my most common go-to light at the moment. The prevalence of AA batteries plays a huge role in that. However, there are a few other features that really make me love this light as well, and we’ll get into those.

Streamlight ProTac Specs

The ProTac 1L-1AA’s length is 4.25 inches (10.8 centimeters), so it fits very comfortably into my pocket. It’s there when I need it, yet is not obtrusive or in the way. Weight is a whopping 2.8 ounces (79.38 grams), making it incredibly lightweight. Again, this lends to it being a real pleasure to carry.

The housing is made from anodized machined aircraft-grade aluminum, so it’s very sturdy. I won’t be breaking this light anytime soon; in fact, it’s taken everything I can throw at it and laughed it off.

The color is a pleasing Coyote Brown, which gives the light an overall cool look. In fact, the machining that’s involved with this light makes its architecture interesting. If you like “tacti-cool” gadgets, you may find this one to be appealing.

Flat areas machined into the bezel/head make this one anti-roll, so if you set it down, it’s not likely to get away from you.

The glass lens is impact resistant, and I’ve not had any issues in that department with this light.

The light is a C4 LED variety and is rated for 50,000 hours of use.

The ProTac Tail Switch

The area around the tail switch is raised, so that the switch is recessed and surrounded by a metal, scalloped area. This is nice because it protects the switch from accidentally being activated.

The switch itself is like most others in the industry, in that it is rubber-coated. For the Momentary On function, just push the switch part of the way in. It will turn the light off when you release pressure. Incidentally, the first push of the switch gets the High setting on the light.

ProTac tail switch.
The tail switch offers Momentary-On as well as Constant-On lighting and is easy to operate. It is also recessed slightly into the light. (Photo: Jim Davis)

Push the switch all the way in so that it clicks, and we get Constant On (this works for whichever setting the light is on at the time).

A second push of the switch brings us to the Strobe function.

Push it a third time, and we get the Low setting.

It’s simple enough and it works very well. If you desire to lock out the light so that it won’t go on, just twist the tail cap counterclockwise and it will be locked out.

There are three different programs that the user can program the light for: High / Strobe / Low (factory default, which is what I use), High Only, and Low/High.

The ProTac Clip

The ProTac features an outstanding clip! It can be carried bezel up or down, your choice, because it is reversible. As well, it can be attached to other gear, such as the visor of a hat. Because it is light weight, clipping it onto your cap won’t be an imposition, and you’ll enjoy hands-free operation.

The clip is plenty durable and will give years of service.

Protac with clip visible.
The clip allows bezel up or down carry. It can also be clipped to the brim of a hat, allowing hands-free operation. (Photo: Jim Davis)

What can you use the Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA for?

In my estimation, this light falls under a few different categories of possible uses.

Use it as an EDC light!

It can simply be used for Everyday Carry, which is one of my main uses for it. Calling the dogs in from the yard at night is one of the main tasks that I use it for. Searching for a myriad of assorted junk in the house is the next most frequent use. Honestly, I used my light probably a half-dozen times on a low-use day, and often more than that. I can’t imagine being without a flashlight.

Tactical / Law Enforcement

Certainly, if we’re dealing with or hunting bad guys, this light would be an excellent tool. It’s bright enough to blind people. The functions of the tail switch (Constant On, Temporary On) certainly are mandatory for tactical use. The fact that we can program it to the brightest setting as the first selection is also mandatory for dealing with the dark side of the force.

Search & Rescue

The various brightness settings, power source versatility, sturdy construction, and long run times definitely lend themselves well to Search & Rescue (SAR) applications.


Aside from illuminating and blinding bad guys who might try to harm us, there is another use for the ProTac as part of a defensive carry package. And that is as a striking instrument.

ProTac in hand.
The thumb automatically goes to the tail switch for operation. The bezel of the Streamlight ProTac is great for defensive strikes against attackers. (Photo: Jim Davis)

The tail cap and bezel would be useful when held in the fist to strike attackers. It would certainly be better than using one’s empty fist, generating far more power. The durability of this light would definitely stand up to the rigors of close combat.

And if you’re heading into areas where you’re not allowed to have a firearm or knife, a flashlight might be your next best alternative. A striking tool is far better than nothing. I’ve never been barred entry into a secured venue while carrying my flashlight. While there’s a first time for everything, it’s not likely to raise any alarms.

In Summation

To sum it all up, this light is good enough that I’ve been carrying it daily. In fact, with this light, I’d say the light adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

I’m in love with the various power source options. If I’m planning on a very long outing, I can throw a few spare batteries into my pocket or carry bag and have hours upon hours of operation. And AA batteries are about the most available batteries in existence, so if I need to stop by a convenience store or grocery store to grab some, it’s no big deal.

Author's daily carry package.
The Streamlight ProTac is part of my daily carry package. Other items include a Glock 43X, Hornady ammo, a spare magazine, and a Spyderco Paramilitary 2 folding knife. (Photo: Jim Davis)

The light can blind attackers or bludgeon them (user’s choice) effectively. The beam is versatile, in that it has a very bright hot spot that reaches out, and yet has a wide flood for illuminating threats or objects that are in the periphery. Streamlight got the beam just right!

On top of it all, Streamlight is a very responsive company should you ever need to contact them. They offer a limited lifetime warranty on all of their equipment, and they stand behind the products.

As I write this, the Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA is available from GunMag Warehouse for $41.99. What are you waiting for??? It’s a stellar deal for a great price.

Actually, as I type those words, I’m now thinking to myself…I could actually use another one of these lights! You can never have too many, you know!

The post Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA Flashlight: What’s Not To Love? appeared first on The Mag Life.

CategoriesGun Reviews

The Diamondback AR-15: A Quality Budget Gun?

Have you heard of Diamondback rifles before? The first time I ever saw one in a gun store, my buddy told me to stay away from them because they were cheapy. Back then quality on an AR-15 was either good or bad. After that first time, I started noticing them on shelves a little more. I was still reluctant to try one because of the constant rumors regarding quality control. The price is what always made them stand out to me.

The Diamondback DB15 is a great quality rifle at an entry-level price. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

An AR-15 that didn’t cost as much as a car was appealing. As time went on, other brands started to pop up that were in the same price range. The “quality” rifles also continued to go up until they reached a breaking point for me. Some of the name-brand AR-15s were three times the money as a budget gun.

Time has changed a lot of things in our country and one of them is technology. With that technology, companies producing budget-priced firearms can use the same computer-controlled machines to make mil-spec parts for guns. This caused a shake-up in the gun world and now, the line between good quality and bad is not as easy to distinguish. So where does Diamondback fall into this blurry line of quality vs budget gun? Let’s dive into the company and the rifle to see what we come up with.

Who is Diamondback?

The Florida company known today for producing a budget-friendly AR-15 didn’t start by making rifles. Their first firearm was a .380 pistol, but that’s not how they started either. The company started back in 1989 when they were producing custom airboats in a small shop. They were successful and grew into a larger company that upgraded to CNC machines in 2009.

It was after this that the company realized they had all the equipment needed to produce firearms. They started making a compact .380 handgun (DB380) that sold for a fraction of what other handguns sold for. While they still produce handguns today, they are more well-known for their AR-15 platforms. Just like their handguns, Diamondback offers some AR-15 platforms that sell for an appealing price.

Magpul CTR stock in FDE color.
The Diamondback DB15 is a mil-spec AR-15 rifle that shoots great and offers a lot of quality for the price. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

Just like their handguns, they are often the cheapest option on the shelf. You can find the DB380 for under $300 and an AR-15 for under $700. 00. That doesn’t make them the cheapest guns on the market, but they are not far behind. Over the years, the Florida company has started producing a higher-end line of weapons that includes custom AR-15 builder’s kits and complete guns in multiple rifle calibers.

How does the quality compare to the price?

After my buddy told me to be careful buying a Diamondback, others told me the same thing. This was of course back when they were just hitting the market. After a few years, I didn’t really hear any more complaints except from those same people who referenced issues with the first product launch.

When I went diving further into the quality debate, I found something interesting. Diamondbacks guns, especially their AR-15s, were getting good reviews. You will always have haters for any product, so you must weed those out. But in general, I couldn’t find a specific problem or issue that was reoccurring. That was enough for me to take it a step further and see for myself.

Shooting the Diamondback DB-15 on the range.
Me and my buddies have been shooting this Diamondback for over a year and there has not been a single malfunction. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

I found my Diamondback DB15 in a gun store for $650.00. There were two other brands that were cheaper than this, so it wasn’t the lowest price. But it had a great look to it and the finish was better than the other two with a lower price tag. The AR-15 rifle I picked up is chambered in 5.56 NATO and has a 16” barrel. The finish is FDE with a standard Magpul grip. This is a complete mil-spec rifle so every part on it is interchangeable with other AR-15 parts. The first thing I did was take it to the range and start dumping ammo.

I shot some Winchester target ammo and a few other FMJ boxed ammo before using some Hornady and Fort Scott hunting ammunition. I shot some random bullets I found in a box that were so old I couldn’t tell what brand it was anymore. I did not have a single issue with the rifle.

Where does the DB15 rifle fit in?

After shooting the Diamondback AR-15 for more than a year, I have yet to have any issues with it. At some point, I installed a compensator and replaced the mil-spec stock with an FDE Magpul stock. For a while, I’ve had a TruGlo LPVO on it and this thing is accurate. It shoots sub-MOA (under 1” groups at 100 yards) as long as it has good ammo.

With the cheapest target ammo, I found it opens up to about 2” which is still not bad. While I have shot a lot out of this rifle and haven’t experienced any issues, I also have not tried to break it either. I haven’t tried to overheat the barrel to see how it stood up or thrown it off a cliff to see if it would shoot afterward.

Shooting the Diamondback DB15.
The DB15 rifle by Diamondback is a great gun for the price. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

Would it hold up to the high-end big dogs like Daniel Defense, Wilson Combat, or LWRC? Maybe not. But unless you are taking it to WW3, I’m not sure it would matter. I wouldn’t say this rifle would rival high-end guns, but for the price, it’s hard to beat. As I said earlier, there are cheaper guns out there, but the Diamondback AR-15 is still a decent price. For quality, I would place it much higher on the scale. With those two combined, it’s a good deal.


The building I work in is about 14 years old. When it was first built, people started referring to it as the “new building.” Now that it is 14 years old, we have AC problems, cracks in the concrete, and a few roof leaks. It’s not new anymore, but people still call it that because it was new when they first saw it. I have a feeling this is what happened when Diamondback first started producing handguns. Someone saw something they didn’t like and complained about it. The next guy heard the complaint and any time the name Diamondback would come up, he remembered his first impression of them.

The reality, however, is that Diamondback is a US company that produces all its own parts, and the materials are all outsourced from within the US. It is an American gun company that makes quality guns for a good price. If you are buying your first AR-15 or looking for an additional one that doesn’t cost a ton of money, the Diamondback AR-15 is a good option. They have plenty of new models, calibers, and colors to choose from and they will work when you need them to.

The post The Diamondback AR-15: A Quality Budget Gun? appeared first on The Mag Life.

CategoriesGun Reviews

Sig Romeo MSR: The Best Budget Red Dot?

Sig Sauer has the name recognition of a qualified pistol maker, but the company has been making an entire family of red dot optics since 2015. The Sig Romeo MSR is their least expensive option and among the least expensive red dots overall. If you are new to red dots or looking for a budget option, the MSR is a likely candidate. But is it a good product worthy of the Sig name or is it rotten in disguise? Follow along as we delve into the features, sight-in procedure, shooting characteristics, and reliability of the Sig MSR.

Is the Sig Romeo MSR a dependable optic? Let’s find out!


The Sig Romeo MSR, or Modern Sporting Rifle, is an entry-level red dot marketed toward AR platform rifles. If you want lots of buttons and a wicked mounting setup, one of the higher priced options in the Romeo family is going to be the winner for you. The MSR has a more pedestrian look, and it regularly sells for under $120.

I first became familiar with red dots as a young hunter in the early 2000s. I had never seen one in a local store but there were a number of them available for order through print catalogs. Although I am aging myself here, I did try a few at the time and came away unimpressed. They tended to be simple, with windage and elevation adjustments and a knob to turn the sight on or off. It was not a big culture shock when switching from a rifle scope, but the ones I tried simply did not hold up.

I immediately got that simplistic impression of the Sig MSR when I received it. There is a windage dial to adjust the dot from left to right and an elevation dial to adjust it up or down. A knurled knob over the top of the sight houses the battery and is used to activate the 2 MOA dot. Some versions of the MSR have the option of a red or green dot. This one has a red dot only.

The Sig Romeo MSR adjustment knob taken off to show the battery.
The brightness adjustment turret also doubles as the battery compartment. The top can be removed using a quarter or a wing of the sight adjustment wrench.

But aside from these similarities, the MSR is lightyears ahead of those old dots. The housing, adjustment dials, and activation knob are all made of 6061 T-6 aluminum. The only plastic I could see are the two flip-up optic covers that protect the lenses on both sides of the sight. You may not ever need to flip them up as the center is transparent and you can see through with ease. It is a 1x20mm optic, the tube is 20mm in diameter and there is no inherent magnification, only the dot.

The Sig Romeo MSR display box, optic, and tool.
The Sig Romeo MSR comes with a sight adjustment tool, a lens cleaning cloth, and an instruction manual.

The MSR is fixed into an aluminum mount and is ready to install on any Picatinny rail-equipped rifle or shotgun. The height of this mount is sufficient to allow the user to deploy backup iron sights, should the optic go down. The box includes a lens cleaner, manual, and spanner wrench. The wrench has a Torx end to tighten the mount and a flat end to make adjustments to the windage and elevation dials.

A view of the right side of the Sig optic.
A view of the windage adjustment turret on the right side.

Dialing It In

The brightness adjustment turret has two blank settings, the first denotes that the optic is completely turned off. From there, the turret can be turned clockwise to N1 and N2. These settings are for use with night-vision goggles and the dot cannot be seen with the naked eye. Turning the turret further shows the dot with an increased brightness from levels 1-10. One turn past # 10 shuts the optic off in second blank setting. A quick counter-clockwise turn brings back the dot at full brightness. Continuing the turn lowers the brightness.

The turret is aggressively knurled and easy to grip, but it is somewhat stiff to move back and forth. While this is a benefit to prevent the brightness from changing when you do not want it to, it can be tricky to get to the right brightness in a hurry. I simply leave the optic off on the second blank position and flick the turret to # 10 if I am in a hurry.

Zeroing the Sig Romeo MSR is not unlike an old rifle scope. There is an elevation turret behind the brightness knob and an elevation turret on the right side. These turrets control the up / down and left / right movements of the dot in your field of view. On some riflescopes, these elements are fully finger adjustable. But the MSR cannot be adjusted on the fly, nor can it be accidentally adjusted.  My test rifle, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15, uses an MBUS rear-peep sight and an A2 fixed front sight. Using the included tool, I adjusted the turrets so that the dot was indexed just over my front sight. For every audible click in windage or elevation, an adjustment of 1 MOA is made. I could readily see the dot move as I clicked over to where I wanted the dot to be.

Sig Romeo MSR, box of ammunition, and paper target.
My initial 100-yard sight-in group was not far off the mark.

From a bench rest, I fired five rounds of .223 Remington PMC Bronze from a distance of 25 yards to get on paper. With a few extra clicks, I was perfectly zeroed with a group measuring one-half of an inch. I then set out another target at 100 yards to make final adjustments for my preferred distance. My initial group was a few inches low and right, but measured only 1¾ inches. From the same rifle, I can generally get that kind of result with iron sights — at 50 yards. Clicking left and up, I got the Sig MSR fully zeroed in under 20 rounds.

Terril takes aim from the prone position with an AR-15
Preparing to shoot at the 300-yard 1/2 steel torso.

Shooting Characteristics of the Sig Romeo MSR

While the sight-in procedure might be boring to document, it is an educational experience. The brightness settings need to be understood and that knowledge has to be tailored to your vision, your targets, and how much sunlight you are apt to deal with on the firing line.

Sig optic, top vew on a rifle
The top of the MSR is where the brightness adjustment knob and the elevation turret are located.

I initially sighted in using four-inch dot targets. At 25 yards, the optic set at setting #10, popped easily in the bright sunlight. But it also flared large over the target. At 100 yards using the same targets, the dot was even more prominent. I backed off the brightness and the ambient sunlight washed out more of the dot. The benefit is that the dot appears smaller than it actually is. I could comfortably see and pinpoint the dot onto target when using setting # 7. This setting worked just as well when dark clouds loomed overhead. I worked my way out to a 1/2 sized steel silhouette at 300 yards. I was rewarded with a delayed thud most of the time, but the dot was more than covering the head, which I used as an aiming point to drop rounds into the chest portion of the target.

A look through the Sig MSR with the optic on.
Setting #7 was particularly useful.

While I ultimately found my preferred setting, it will differ from person to person. I have a failing right eye that cannot visually see settings #1-4, but a good left eye that can. In near-complete darkness, I found setting # 9 and 10 to be so bright that it flares much of the lens. If employed at close distances, the Sig Romeo MSR at maximum brightness is quick to deploy and use, but the flare can disrupt the view of the target more than in daylight.

In terms of accuracy and speed, the MSR helped me get better groups at distance faster than with iron sights. Instead of aligning front sight with rear sight and keeping them even, all one has to do is find the dot, keep a good cheek weld to the stock, and squeeze the trigger. I shot my Sig MSR-equipped AR side by side with a Mossberg MVP rifle in the same caliber. The Mossberg wore an excellent Leupold 1.5-4x30mm rifle scope and the difference in group size between the two rifles was neck and neck. However, it was easier to see my shots through the scope. With the MSR, it might be tricky to see impacts on target, whether it’s on paper or an animal.


From an early age, I was taught to baby my optics. A damaged or bumped optic in the field could mean missing an animal and not having meat for the freezer. Worse, it could mean a bad hit. My testing of the Sig MSR was certainly not a torture test, but a novice red-dotter’s take on a novice red-dot. With that said, my Smith & Wesson M&P has been wearing the Sig MSR for two months. It has survived two falls onto limestone gravel and a dozen accidental bumps working around vehicles and a small rifle safe. Some of that was intentional, some of that was not. The MSR held zero and took no damage.  That is much better than I can say for most red dots and riflescopes that were kicking around 20 years ago. My primary concern was the reliability of the battery.

I never liked the idea of relying on a battery to aim and fire my rifle. Surely, electronics are reliable, but what if you run out of juice just as you need it most? The Sig MSR runs on a single 1632 watch battery and has an advertised battery life of 20,000 hours — or 833 days. To me, that seems like a lot, but it is on the light end as far as modern red dots are concerned. For some extra green, you can get a red dot with a small solar panel and shake-awake technology that can double the MSR’s battery life.

I once asked our own Travis Pike, a connoisseur of red-dot and holographic sights, his opinion of the MSR. He opined that his own optic took a beating, hold zero, but ate up batteries. Jason Mosher concurred, adding that the brightness turret is stiff to turn. The only truth I could not confirm is on battery life. In my infinitive ignorance, I accidentally kept the optic on from Day 1 on N2, thinking it was off. I realized my error, but on hearing battery life complaints, I turned up the brightness and left it on. Two months on, it was still bright when I decided to give it a rest. Although shake-awake technology can offer some forgiveness if you are prone to leaving optics on, two months is more than enough time for most of us to realize a mistake.

Parting Shots

The Sig Romeo MSR is a quality optic at a bargain price. Its all-metal construction and few controls make it a durable, but easy-to-understand piece of equipment. While the MSR is at home on tactical rifles with iron sights, it is equally useful on more budget-friendly options that come optics-ready. The price is certainly right if you are looking to get into the game quickly. But if you simply like to keep it simple, the MSR is not a bad option. Additional light settings and exotic mounting systems increase the cost for a benefit that can be marginal for some. Like a dinner of steak and potatoes, the Sig Romeo MSR dispenses with the niceties for the essentials that will not only satisfy but will get the job done as well.

The post Sig Romeo MSR: The Best Budget Red Dot? appeared first on The Mag Life.

CategoriesGun Reviews

ETS CAM Loader for 9mm and .40 S&W: You Need One

You’ll learn to hate loading mags if you shoot enough, especially at the range. If you are renting range time, you waste precious minutes loading mags, and you pay for those minutes. Hell, half the reason I own so many magazines is so I can load them, compete, and call it a day. A much cheaper option than another $45 Sig magazine is the ETS CAM Loader. The ETS CAM Loader is universalist for 9mm and .40 S&W magazines. (.357 Sig, too, if anyone is still shooting that.) 

The ETS CAM makes loading mags so much easier.

ETS makes one for .45 ACP and .380 ACP too. While I have guns of both those calibers, I don’t shoot either often so I opted for a more common option. I’ve used the rifle loader a ton and absolutely love it so I decided to give the handgun mag loader a try.

I’ve been shooting some competitive matches lately, and I really like to keep my mags loaded throughout the match. I don’t want to be that guy holding everything back. I also hate having sore thumbs. I even bring extra mags, but I can’t help but compulsively load. With that in mind, the CAM loaders seem to aim to make life easier, and I enjoy things that make life easier. 

What is The ETS CAM Loader? 

The CAM loader is a two-piece system that is different than similar options from Maglula. This system has you load your magazine in the bottom, gather rounds in what’s essentially a fixed stripper clip, and then use a plunger to load the mags. It’s simple and very similar to the rifle option in that regard. 

ETS CAM, gun and ammo
The ETS CAM makes loading easy

I mentioned it’s universalist because it’s not truly universal. While it will work on the majority of magazines, the ETS website gives a warning that it doesn’t work for 2011 mags, Taurus G3 and PT709, Walther CCP mags, and Sig P938 magazines. In theory, it’s mostly universal. Oddly the Taurus G3 maths as Sig P226 / 229 / 224 patterned, so maybe P224 mags won’t work either? 

How It Works 

The general idea is pretty clever. You insert your magazine into the bottom of the speed loader. It accepts most mags, and it locks them in place with a series of friction clasps. 

ETS cam prepping to load
Just slide it over the rows of ammo

The rod where the rounds sit have a slot to hold the cartridges by the rim. When you pop a box of ammo open, the rims are likely facing up in a foam or plastic holder. You can run the slot over the rims of the round as they sit in the foam or plastic container, and the CAM Loader picks them up. 

Ammo on ETS CAM loader rod
It picks the ammo up for you

This makes it super quick to load the loader and to get your mags loaded. Once the stick is loaded, place the plunger on top of the rod and press the cartridges downward and into the magazine. The motions to get the magazine loaded don’t take much effort, and you can load magazines extremely quickly. It’s much faster than a Maglula, although not as universal. 

Does the ETS CAM Loader work well? 

That’s the golden question, right? It mostly works really well. There are some tricks and tips to make it work reliably with nearly any ammo type and magazine. When you mix a modern double-stack magazine with brass-cased ammo, then it works without much issue. Things can get tricky when you get to cheaper ammo and wonkier magazines. Single-stack mags load really easily, but the newer hybrid style P365, Hellcat, and other micro-compact mags can be a bit trickier. 

pushing ammo in
Just give it a push.

The P365 12 and 15-round magazines were really easy to load. The shorter 10-round magazines were quite difficult to load properly with the CAM Loader. Also, loading steel-cased ammo into any mag is a little trickier than brass cased. I do have a few fixes for these small problems with the CAM loader. 

First, ensure the CAM Loader is lubricated. It does come pre-lubed, but I added a little extra, and this made loading all magazines easier. When I loaded steel ammo, this drastically improved my ability to load magazines. I advise loading five to seven rounds at a time with steel-cased ammo and 10 rounds at a time with brass-cased ammo. 

Additionally, make sure the magazines are properly inserted. It’s really easy to think the magazine is fully inserted. Give it a nice nudge to be sure. This turned out to be the problem I had with the P365 10-round magazine. 

Getting Loaded Up 

Once it’s working and you understand how it works, the ETS CAM loader works wonderfully. It’s a very capable tool that makes loading makes magazines extremely easy. The amount of pressure required varies depending on how many rounds you are attempting to load at once. ETS claims that the magazine loader is designed for even petite shooters. 

The ETS cam and magazine
And bam, the magazine is (partially) loaded

That is true if you acknowledge that loading 10 rounds takes a lot of pressure, but loading five does not. If you load five at a time, then yes, anyone can use it. When you get up to 10 rounds, it admittedly gets tougher to load, but still not difficult. If loading 10 feels too much, then try just five. 

The ETS CAM loader has been a godsend to me. I grab it every time I have to load pistol mags. It makes loading 33-round Glock mags much quicker. It’s small enough to toss in my range bag, and it’s ultimately a very convenient add-on for any shooting but is especially handy for high-volume days. 

My only real complaint is that I wish the plunger had a lanyard to attach it to the main body of the loader. This way, I don’t lose the plunger in the depth of my range bag as I dig and search. 

Once the ammo is on the rod, pop the plunger on and you’re ready to go.

Load ‘Em Up 

I had no problems loading JHPs in traditional brass cases or nickel-plated cases, and I admittedly only loaded 9mm guns. I tested the CAM with Glock, P320, P365, 1911, CZ 75, and Arex Delta mags, and they all worked with various ammo types with the tricks listed above. Keep it lubed, and unsurprisingly, higher-quality ammo loads easier. 

The ETS CAM Loader is a great tool with a few quirks. If you can get past them, it’s a very handy and quick way to get your mags loaded without sacrificing your thumbs. 

The post ETS CAM Loader for 9mm and .40 S&W: You Need One appeared first on The Mag Life.

CategoriesGun Reviews

A Classic Marlin 336: .30-30 Goodness

When Marlin closed their doors, it was huge news in the shooting community. It was a sad day. In September 2020, though, Ruger purchased the Marlin company and began to resurrect it from the ashes. All of this drama made a huge splash. Currently, Ruger is manufacturing a number of Marlin lever actions, and they seem to be doing a splendid job of it. They’re even bringing back the Marlin 336 now!

While everyone is buzzing about Ruger’s venture producing new Marlins, the aim of this article is to take a look at the older, classic Marlin 336. We’ll be taking a look at the roots of the old Marlins.

History of the Marlin 336

Marlin’s Model 1893 rifle was produced from 1893 to 1936. In 1936, some minor changes occurred, and the Model 1893 became the Model 36. Both of these rifles featured side ejection, unlike their major competition, the Winchester Model 94 (1894).

Marlin’s Model 336 was introduced in 1948, replacing the Model 36. To say that the Marlin 336 is popular is an understatement; more than six million have been produced. That makes it not only one of the most popular rifles in the United States but in the entire world.

The 336 has been offered in barrel lengths ranging from 16 to 24 inches. Over the years, it was offered in a wide array of calibers. These include: .30-30 Winchester, .35 Remington, .32-40 WCF, .32 Special, .338 Marlin Express, .356 Winchester, .375 Winchester, .38-55 Winchester, .44 Magnum, .444, .410, and others. By far, the .30-30 is the most popular and prevalent.

It seems that the majority of grip stocks on the Model 336 have been the curved pistol grip, but the one for our article has a straight stock.


The Marlin 336 has a round bolt that contributes to both strength and extremely smooth and fast-operating action.

Beginning in 1956, the receivers were drilled and tapped for easy mounting of telescopic sights. An offset hammer spur was also included to make it easier to cock the hammer when a scope is mounted.

This is a huge reason why the Marlin 336 has a distinct advantage over the Winchester Model 94 (1894); the Winchester ejects its empty casings from the top of the receiver. That makes mounting a scope on the Winchester next to impossible; the empty casings cannot properly eject because they hit the scope that is located directly above the ejection port.

The Marlin 336 ejects the empty cases from a side ejection port, which allows the mounting of a scope on the top of the receiver. From 1956 until current times, the receivers are drilled and tapped, making it easy to mount a scope on the rifle. (Photo: Jim Davis)

In the 20-inch barrel version, the rifle is 38.5 inches long and weighs approximately seven pounds. The under-barrel, tubular magazine holds six rounds, plus one in the chamber. Feeding is via a side loading gate, so the magazine can be topped up as the shooter fires, should he or she desire.

Unlike other lever actions, the Marlin 336 is easy to take apart, requiring only a screwdriver. The bolt can be removed quickly, allowing the barrel to be cleaned from the breech end, rather than the bore. Cleaning a rifle from the bore can cause damage to the bore/crown area, which affects accuracy. The 336 avoids that.

The fit and finish on the older Marlins have always been excellent, and the subject of this article is no exception. Despite having weathered countless hunting seasons, it’s still in fine shape. As mentioned, this particular 336 was made in 1973, confirmed by its serial number. The wood stock still has a nice finish, though it has many little dings here and there — little scars from its many outings in the field.

It nimbly jumps to the shoulder and it’s easy to get a proper, fast cheek weld on the stock. With the 20-inch barrel, it balances so well.

The Lever Action Tradition

Being Eastern PA whitetail hunters, we were not at all unique in choosing .30-30 lever actions as our deer rifles. In fact, when I was a kid (back when the earth was cooling and the sun was still 60 watts), the vast majority of people whom we knew used the venerable .30-30 for hunting. I’ve often joked that it’s “standard issue” for PA deer hunters.

Marlin 336 in the woods.
The 336 is perfectly at home in the woods, especially for short-range shots. (Photo: Jim Davis)

The truth is that, when we’re out in the woods, the majority of shots we’d be able to take advantage of occur within 100 yards. And among those, a good percentage more are in the 20-50 yard range. For such hunting, the .30-30 lever gun is absolute perfection.

.30-30 Cartridge

The .30-30 cartridge was born in 1895 and was one of the first cartridges to use smokeless powder. The roughly 2,000 feet per second muzzle velocity was considered pretty zippy for the time period. Teddy Roosevelt was a big fan of the old “Thutty-Thutty.”

Most of the rounds available are in the 150 to 170-grain weight class, which are well suited for taking deer. The heavier rounds are even effective on black bear, some of which inhabit the region.

Although I can’t find official statistics on it, I’ve often heard that the .30-30 has taken more deer and other game than any other round in history. And when you look at how long it’s been around, and how many people use it, it would be difficult to refute that argument. Think about it…over six million Marlin 336 rifles have been produced, along with 7.5 million Winchester Model 94s. Not all of these have been in .30-30, but a huge percentage of them have been. That’s a lot of .30-30 rifles floating around out there.

Marlin 336, Buck Ranger, and ammo.
The .30-30 round is likely the most popular chambering for the Marlin 336. Here we see Federal and Hornady rounds with a 336. The knife is Buck’s Model 113 Ranger. (Photo: Jim Davis)

I’ll take a minute to underscore my point here. Consider all the very high-velocity, flat-shooting rounds that are available these days. They’re way too numerous to list in their entirety, but a few are the various 7mms, including the Magnums. The .243, .270, .280, .30-06, the .300 Magnum…the list goes on and on. And yet, people can’t get enough of the .30-30 lever action rifle.

Don’t believe me? Try finding one on the shelves these days. I dare you. Especially Marlins, since Marlin had closed up shop. Prices have risen well above $1,000, and frequently, well above $2,000, depending on where you’re looking. Despite many better long-range options, the .30-30 is selling like brownies at a group meeting.

Around my locality, any gun shop that sells ammunition will have .30-30 Winchester ammo on hand. That availability means a lot.

Why is the lever action so popular?

Why the popularity? As best I can figure, it’s two-fold:

  • Tradition.
  • Re-Discovery.

I’ll explain. Tradition, because our fathers and their fathers (and their fathers) used them for over a century to hunt with. The lever action is the quintessential “Cowboy Gun” seen in so many Spaghetti Westerns from our childhood. Even today, people love a good Western movie. There’s just something about using a rifle designed in the 1800s, with a cartridge to match, to hunt with today. Many of us just think it’s a neat idea. And it works just as well today (better, in fact, given the advances in powder and bullet technology, not to mention optics) as it did way back when.

As for Re-Discovery, we tend to repeat trends. We “re-discover” something that was right in front of us. Re-inventing the wheel, if you will. Look at the lever action carbine courses popping up around the country. We’ve come back to our roots, in that people are realizing all over again, how handy the lever action is at hunting and defense. It’s short, relatively light, handy and maneuverable, and powerful enough to get the job done.

Aiming around cover.
Light and highly maneuverable, the lever gun is gaining popularity not only in hunting but also for defensive use. (Photo: Jason Stimmel)

Yes, there are some lever actions that now employ rail systems, are all black, and have scopes, lasers, red dots, sound suppressors, and all manner of gadgetry bolted onto their frame, nearly making them crew-served weapons. If that’s your twist, by all means, have at it. But there’s just something about that lever action that keeps drawing us back. The action can be run fairly quickly. With a side loading gate, they can be loaded quickly enough, too. Most .30-30s hold six rounds, with the pistol caliber iterations holding a lot more than that, usually.

The old lever gun looks much less threatening than most semi-autos, as well, which equates to fewer people being terrified at the sight of it. And possibly fewer legal issues, should we be forced to defend ourselves with one.

No wonder it’s such a popular truck gun. And goodness knows how many people have one by the bedside or propped behind the door, “just in case.”

Back To Yester Year

While newly produced rifles bear wonderful fit and finish and are every bit as effective as the older rifles, there’s just something about the older production rifles (not just Marlin, but most manufacturers) that is special. They’re just not made this way anymore. When you hold an older rifle, it has a special feel to it, a certain quality. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they’re just…different. Perhaps other readers feel the same way when hefting an older firearm. They’re definitely from an era of days gone past.

The particular Model 336 for this article was the rifle that my dad used for years when we hunted white-tail deer in the woods of Eastern Pennsylvania.

Marlin 336 perched on a downed tree.
This Marlin lever gun is no stranger to the woods, having gone through many hunting seasons in Pennsylvania. (Photo: Jim Davis)

It has seen some extreme weather. I recall one year when we were out in freezing rain on a mountaintop while deer hunting. It was so cold that the rain was freezing on everything, including us and our rifles! Occasionally, we had to crack open the actions on our lever guns to keep the parts moving so that they wouldn’t freeze solid.

That might be the coldest I’ve ever been in my life. My toes and fingers stung something fierce! We pressed on, though, and we saw the biggest buck of our lives. This deer’s rack was enormous, extending out to the sides and up above his head like nothing we’d ever seen. He was pretty far off and before we could get in position for a shot, another hunter spooked him off. For years afterward, we spoke in awed whispers about that buck!

Certainly, there are many memories attached to this rifle. Cold fall mornings when the leaves crunched underfoot as though they were protesting the frigid temperatures and the frost that covered the ground. Or the many opening days of hunting season, most of which seemed to be fraught with rain and/or sleet. Hours spent trying to silently stalk along woodland paths in the dark, avoiding the crunching, dry leaves and twigs that snapped, which would alert the deer that we were coming.

Fond memories of days gone past, spent with my dad in the woods. Those days are gone now, and so is my dad. This rifle that he carried is a tangible reminder of those times. It’s funny how an item can bring back memories like that. When I look at this Marlin 336, I don’t just see the rifle — I see all of those memories flooding back like a huge collage in my mind.

Mostly, though, I see my dad and it reminds me of how much I miss him.

The post A Classic Marlin 336: .30-30 Goodness appeared first on The Mag Life.

CategoriesGun Reviews

Federal Fusion .30-30: My New Go-To Lever Action Ammo

I’ve been on a lever action kick lately. And by lately, I mean the past year or so. 

Why lever actions? I’ll answer that question with another one: Why not? They do so many things well. They’re short, light, fast to operate, and great for close-in work. They pack a wallop, too, depending upon the caliber in question.

Marlin’s Model 336 lever action is a staple with many hunters. The Fusion ammunition complements it well, as does the Tom Krein fixed-blade Mini Bowie. It’s a nice hunting package! (Photo: Jim Davis)

Just like any other firearm, a lever gun needs good ammunition. One of the shining advantages of the .30-30, which is an eminently popular lever-action cartridge, is its availability. Where I come from, every gun shop will be guaranteed to have at least a couple of boxes of .30-30 ammo available.

The .30-30

What’s so great about the .30-30? Here’s a quick history lesson.

It made its debut in 1895 and was one of the very first cartridges to use smokeless powder. The first rifle that it was chambered for was a lever action (specifically, the Winchester 94, designed by John Browning). At the time, its nearly 2,000 feet per second velocity firing a 160-grain bullet was considered to be screaming velocity.

Despite being so old (128 years, as of this writing), the .30-30 Winchester is still enduring. Why? Because it works. And when you have something old that still works as well as the day it was invented, it holds a huge amount of attraction.

It’s true that many other cartridges invented since the .30-30 surpass it in performance. They can shoot farther and faster. However, there’s something classic and nostalgic about the .30-30, and within 200 yards, it still harvests deer and other game in style, and using a classic lever gun to do it adds icing to the cake.

There’s something about picking up a rifle that has been in use for decades (some for a hundred years or more) and using it the way it has been used for all those years. It keeps us connected to our ancestors, and people enjoy that.

Federal Fusion

Federal Ammunition opened its doors on April 27, 1922. 101 years ago! Since then, they’ve been a major player in the ammunition industry. They offer ammunition for every conceivable use, from hunting to target shooting, duty ammunition, and Premium ammunition. My agency issued us Federal Premium ammunition for our sniper teams, and it was of the utmost highest quality. I still use it to this day.

Federal Fusion is an entire line of hunting ammunition initially designed for hunting Whitetail Deer (the largest demographic of hunted game animals in North America).

Federal Fusion .30-30 ammunition.
The Federal Fusion line, introduced in 2005, comes in several calibers, including the .30-30 Winchester. These 170-grain rounds hit with authority. (Photo: Jim Davis)

Launched in 2005, the Fusion line of ammunition features bullets with a lead alloy core that is “precision-plated with a uniform thickness of copper, then formed to final shape.”

During the process, the lead core is immersed in a bath of copper and the jackets are applied, finished, and shaped. The thickness, taper, and dimensions are precision controlled.

But before that jacket is applied, the lead alloy cores go through several steps to ensure that they reliably expand upon impact. A star-shaped punch is driven into the nose of the core, which creates a hollow point with ridges. After that, the core is run into a die and the hollow point is closed as the profile arrives at its final shape.

The jacket is bonded to the core, so when the bullet impacts, the internal hollow point opens up without fragments of lead peeling off, which allows the projectile to retain its weight. Retained weight is a good thing because it helps drive the projectile deep into the game, where it hits vital organs and causes the most damage while expanding.

The Fusion line of bullets also has a boat-tail design, which helps them slip through the air more aerodynamically.

Because of the very precise bonding process, the Fusion line exhibits excellent accuracy. We all know that consistency is the friend of accuracy, and here, Federal has combined the two very effectively. Normally, the type of accuracy exhibited by bullets of this type comes with a significantly higher price tag, but not so with Federal. I have to mention that this isn’t advertising hype; I’ve priced this ammunition, and it is typically less expensive than many other brands of hunting ammunition. It’s the real deal.

Expanded Uses

Initially, the Fusion line was intended for Whitetail deer. Over the years, though, it was discovered that the line works wonderfully on other game animals. Western hunters began using Fusion on Mule Deer and Elk. It comes in many other calibers aside from .30-30, although for the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on the Fusion .30-30 170-grain Soft Nose.

It does come in many calibers, though, including .30-06, .223 Remington, .308, .300 Blackout, 6.5 Creedmoor, and several others, including pistol calibers.

At the Range

Up until the time that my editor asked me to give the Fusion line a try, I hadn’t used it, not knowing much about it. Let’s face it, there are so many different manufacturers and types of ammunition these days, the choices are bewildering.

Marlin 336 and Federal Fusion at the range.
On the range, the Federal Fusion ammunition ran perfectly in the Marlin 336. (Photo: Jim Davis)

That particular day on the range, I was testing several other types of ammunition, a few of which were loads for the .30-30. It’s a 1973  Marlin 336 with a 20-inch barrel.

I grudgingly admit that my eyesight is not what it once used to be, and these days, the sights get a bit blurry for me. The buckhorn sights of the Marlin don’t help any; in fact, I much prefer aperture sights. But I went with what I had.

Upon firing the first three-shot group of the Federal Fusion .30-30 ammo at 50 yards, I was taken aback. Two of the hits were touching, and the third was a few inches down from those. The spread was obviously my fault, I had pulled a shot down. However, I knew immediately that this ammo is dramatically more accurate than any other .30-30 ammo I’ve used thus far.

A target group at the range shot with Federal Fusion .30-30 ammo from a lever gun
This is very accurate ammo, as advertised! The flyer is the author’s fault. They’re not kidding when they say their focus is on accuracy and performance. Photo: Jeremy Charles.

I’ll confess that, up to that point, I hadn’t read anything about the Fusion line, nor had I done any research. I just loaded up and hit the range. Afterward, I read about how Federal focuses on delivering extreme accuracy. Well, I can confirm that with my own findings. I shot some very nice groups with open sights that day; in fact, I shot more accurately than I normally do with the old lever gun. What a pleasing result!

Is Federal Fusion .30-30 any good?

Let me sum it up like this: This is my new go-to ammo for my lever gun. Why? First and foremost, the accuracy. If that were the only reason, that one would be good enough. But it’s not.

The performance is another aspect. I’ve seen photos of how it expands when hitting game, and it does its job very well. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that it would perform just as well in the defensive mode.

In the event I was to need to use this round against bear, I’d feel okay doing it. It’s 170 grains, so it’s on the heavier side and will penetrate adequately, I believe. It would also expand very nicely. And yes, I occasionally hunt where I might run into a bear, so it’s an honest concern. Mind you, I’m talking about black bear, not grizzlies.

The price is also a factor. While it’s not the cheapest ammo, it’s far from the most expensive either. The current price is $31.99 per box of 20 rounds.

Performance, accuracy, and price. It’s got a lot going for it. As I said, this is my new go-to ammo for the .30-30. This one gets two thumbs up, and if I had more thumbs, I’d throw those in as well.

The post Federal Fusion .30-30: My New Go-To Lever Action Ammo appeared first on The Mag Life.

CategoriesNew Gun Releases

DeSantis Expands Offerings for Uni-Tuk Kydex Holster

DeSantis Gunhide has expanded its line of Pegasus Kydex holsters to include a new batch of handguns. The Pegasus Kydex Uni-Tuk holster now has fits for certain Glock handguns.

The popular Pegasus Kydex holster line with the Uni-Tuk #206 holster is an Inside The Waistband (IWB) holster. It has been precision molded from Kydex for the front while maintaining a breathable synthetic back. Since the holster is created from molded Kydex, it is strong and durable, without being crazy heavy. In fact, it weighs less than half a pound meaning you won’t feel much beyond the weight of the carry weapon.

DeSantis Gunhide has announced it expanded the offerings for the Pegasus Kydex Uni-Tuk #206 holster to include more Glock pistol options. The molded Kydex front and synthetic back of the Uni-Tuk along with the adjustable fit measures of the holster make it a great option for those looking for a lightweight but solid holster. [Photo credit: DeSantis Gunhide]


The synthetic back of the holster gives the holster the comfort of the “breathable” platform while keeping the carry weapon secure. It allows for air movement between the skin of the user and the holster which helps keep the wearer cooler than traditional holsters, as implied by DeSantis.

The holster features the Uni-Tuk system that has multiple points of tensioning to ensure a customized fit for the wearer. Additionally, the Uni-Tuk #206 has DeSantis’s proprietary Tuckable 360 C Clip which is able to be adjusted for both height and cant with a full 360° of rotation. Also, the holster has DeSantis’ built-in Spur that acts like a claw and enhances concealment, according to the company.

The upgrade for the Uni-Tuk #206 means that it now can fit with Glock 19, 23, 32, 45, 19X, and 19 Gen 5 pistols with or without a red dot and TLR-7A. These models of pistols join an already impressive list of makes like Springfield Armory Hellcat OPS 3” and Hellcat 3”, Sig P365 line with P365 and XL models with the Romeo Zero optic, and most Smith & Wesson Shield models including the new Performance Center pistol.

DeSantis Gunhide has a long history of making solid holsters for municipal, state, and federal agencies along with the civilian markets. There is no doubt this upgraded Uni-Tuk holster will follow that path. With the American-made production, the holster is currently only available in black with right- or left-hand carry options. The Uni-Tuk #206 Pegasus Kydex holster from DeSantis Gunhide has an MSRP of $96.99 and is available now.

The post DeSantis Expands Offerings for Uni-Tuk Kydex Holster appeared first on The Mag Life.

CategoriesGun Reviews

Top 5 Magnum Cartridges: Big Booms

The words “magnum round” tend to conjure up visions of Dirty Harry and his 44 Magnum. And while 44 Magnum is certainly a useful and well-liked cartridge, there are quite a few other magnum cartridges worth knowing about (and potentially using). We’ve done the work for you narrowing down the options to the top 5 we prefer, but there are definitely a lot of others out there. This is a versatile list for hunters and defenders alike. Check out our list, then tell us what you think we missed in the comment section.

44 Magnum

The 44 Magnum is among the most popular magnum cartridges, and it’s understandable. (Photo credit: Federal Premium)

44 Magnum is far more than the round popularized by Clint Eastwood. At the time “Dirty Harry” was made, Clint Eastwood famously declared it the most powerful handgun in the world. In reality, there are some hotter rounds than what’s typically found in 44 Magnum, but it’s still a fantastic Magnum round. It’s been around since 1954 and its very existence is heavily credited to the late Elmer Keith (who had a lot to do with other magnums as well).

This is a magnum round that’s ideal for handgun hunting but is also found chambered in lever-action rifles, along with the occasional bolt-action. There’s a limit to the velocity you can get out of it by running it through a rifle rather than a handgun, of course, but there are a lot of pros to having a 44 Magnum rifle. On the self-defense side, it’s not as ideal, although it would certainly be effective. If you’re going to use a gun chambered in 44 Magnum you’ll get greater ballistic results with a longer barrel, but there are some snubby 44 Magnums on the market. Just be aware there will be some felt recoil.

500 Smith & Wesson Magnum

hornady 500 smith & wesson magnum
500 Smith & Wesson Magnum definitely has its uses. (Photo credit: Hornady)

A step up in size from the 44 Magnum is the 500 Smith & Wesson Magnum, which has a .500-inch diameter bullet (44 Magnum’s is .429 inches). Now, this is a newer magnum than many if not most others, having been designed in 2003. It was specifically created by Smith & Wesson to be an impressively powerful handgun cartridge, if not the most powerful. Technology is constantly advancing, after all. But if you want an awesome magnum revolver that beats most with no problem, it’s going to be 500 Smith & Wesson Magnum.

The SAAMI (Sports Ammunition and Arms Manufacturer’s Institute) maximum pressure for this cartridge is 60,000 psi. However, as with many larger bore offerings, the 500 Smith & Wesson Magnum is regularly loaded at a lower pressure. This is a speedy, hard-hitting cartridge that can push a 350-grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of more than 2000 feet per second and muzzle energy beyond 2800 foot-pounds. What’s it used for? Realistically, this is one geared toward magnum lovers who will either run it occasionally at the range or use it hunting. In hunting circles, it’s not extremely commonly used, but ever so often someone runs one on deer, elk, or other game animals.

357 Magnum

remington 357 magnum
The 357 Magnum is a valid magnum option for self-defense use. (Photo credit: Remington)

On the self-defense side, we have the 357 Magnum. This is another cartridge with an existence credited to the late Elmer Keith, and we are forever grateful for his fascination with pushing the limits of the ammo of his era. 357 Magnum was created in 1934, quickly entered production, and has maintained its hold as a popular magnum handgun round ever since. Revolvers chambered in 357 Magnum can also run the softer shooting 38 Special, but the reverse isn’t true. There are a lot of options out there for 357 Magnum self-defense guns, and they’re not only revolvers. Yes, there are semi-autos chambered in this magnum cartridge.

It’s true that the 357 Magnum enjoys most of its defensive ammo popularity among revolver fans, but it’s also accurate to say that favoritism is deserved. It provides greater velocity and energy than 38 Special, making it a more effective defensive option, and is also good enough for varmints and small game. Using the correct load is important, as with any caliber ammunition, but 357 Magnum is more versatile than many people realize. In fact, there are lever actions chambered in it that make excellent brush guns and truck guns.

41 Remington Magnum

barnes 41 remington magnum
The 41 Remington Magnum is an underrated magnum cartridge. (Photo credit: Barnes)

41 Remington Magnum is a bit of an unsung hero. For whatever reason it’s often ignored by magnum cartridge fans despite it being a capable option. In fact, there’s a 41 Special, it just doesn’t get much play. The 41 Remington Magnum was created by, you guessed it, Elmer Keith in collaboration with Skeeter Skelton and Bill Jordan. It has a .410-inch diameter bullet and is typically found in 240 grain and less, although there are some heavier loads. Of course, when you compare that to something like 9x19mm Parabellum, the difference is significant.

Although 41 Remington Magnum is usually a revolver chambering, there are lever actions available as well. Those levers are frequently used by deer hunters. This is a magnum cartridge that doesn’t produce quite the overwhelmingly impressive ballistics as many other magnums, but that also means the felt recoil and muzzle rise is less (which can be a huge plus). It’s fairly common today to see this cartridge used by cowboy action shooters but it does make an occasional appearance elsewhere. Don’t underestimate its usefulness.

327 Federal Magnum

327 federal mag
The 327 Federal Magnum is a great defensive cartridge. (Photo credit: Federal Premium)

This is the newest magnum cartridge on this list. It was designed in 2007 by Federal Premium, hence its name, and it remains in production even though it didn’t quite take off like the ammo maker probably hoped it would. The idea behind its creation was to at least somewhat replicate the ballistics of the 357 Magnum, only with greater cylinder capacity. This one makes the list partly because it’s a magnum cartridge based on a magnum cartridge (no, not 357 Magnum, 32 H&R Magnum).

There are a number of revolvers offered in 327 Magnum with capacities typically of six or seven shots. There’s even a lever action, the Henry Big Boy Classic. 327 Federal Magnum is a reasonable option for defensive use and can also be used for varmint hunting. It’s seen by many as a niche cartridge, but it’s an interesting one. It also goes to show how the industry continues to try new things and make advances. Who knows what will be tried next?

Magnum handgun cartridges are great for self-defense, handgun hunting, and range use. There are too many fun magnums to list here. Do yourself a favor and do some digging on your own. You just might discover your next favorite round.

What’s your favorite magnum handgun cartridge? Tell us in the comments.

The post Top 5 Magnum Cartridges: Big Booms appeared first on The Mag Life.

CategoriesGun Reviews

Why a Tripod is an Essential Piece of Shooting Equipment

As many will remember, shooting sticks were the earlier way for hunters to have a quick and stable position in the woods to engage game. Now, we have tripods. However, tripods are no longer only used for shooting off of, nor are only hunters using them. Let’s take a look at how they can be used, the different types of tripods available, and methods for their use.

How can a tripod be used?

Whether you shoot with a precision rifle, take out your AR to intermediate distances, or want to help someone spot impacts with tripod-mounted binoculars, there are so many different accessories and types of tripods that they have become a necessary piece of equipment for any gun toter.

Tripods assist with glassing.

When using binoculars or a spotting scope, you’ll need a stable position to see what you want to see, like impacts, misses, and environmental factors. You may also want to look through your binos from a standing or a seated position if you’ll be glassing for a long period of time. A tripod allows both a stable and an adjustable position.

Shooting Matches: If you are shooting any type of match you will want to have binoculars to find your targets before shooting, spot for others, and see the environmetals on the range. This goes for precision-rifle type matches and even multi-gun matches as targets are getting further and further when it comes to ARs with LPVO or red dot platform matches.

Having binoculars during precision rifle matches is a must. Each individual shooter should have their own pair so that they can find their targets before getting on the gun and so that they can watch the environment. (Photo: NRL)

Range Officer: If you are a range officer at matches you will need binoculars or a spotting scope to call impacts or misses. A tripod will offer stability for your optic.

Hunting: Stable platforms for binoculars are huge in hunting as you don’t want shakiness when trying to find camouflaged animals. Having a tripod that serves as both a glassing and shooting platform is an easy decision in needed hunting equipment.

Shooting Classes: At firearms classes such as LPVO, AK, and precision rifle courses the class may want you to shoot at distance. They may only provide enough tripods and binoculars for a couple of people including the instructors. Having a tripod in the back of your truck will only help you be an asset to the class and help your training.

hunter sitting on spotting scope
This hunter is able to get into a comfortable sitting position and look through his spotting scope to find animals. Different tripods have different angles of legs. Photo: Maven Optics

A tripod can be used as a shooting platform.

Tripods can also serve as a platform to shoot off of. There are many benefits of having this at your disposal.

Added height: Some tripods such as the Vortex Radian go from eight inches of height all the way to 67 inches. This gives you a lot of height that aids in seeing over grass and getting a better picture of your targets, as mirages can be heavier when you are closer to the ground.

No bipod: Some of your firearms may not have a bipod, thus making it pretty impossible to shoot in the modified prone position on the ground. While backpacks may suffice as a platform to shoot off of due to no bipod, a stable tripod is a much better option.

Greater stability over a bipod: Three legs are better than two. While having a bipod is a great way to stabilize your firearm, a tripod will take that stability a step further.

shooter on rocks using a tripod to shoot off of
During a Max Ordinate class on tripod skills, this shooter chose to use a tripod instead of resting his firearm on a bipod or rock. The terrain was very uneven and a tripod got him off of that terrain. He is also clipped into the tripod. (Photo: MaxOrdinate)

Hunting: Having a foldable tripod on a hunt allows for a stable shooting position off the side of a mountain or in an open field.

Field Matches: A tripod is actually a necessity when it comes to precision rifle field matches such as Competition Dynamics Steel Safari or National Rifle League Hunter. These matches will put you in awkward positions. You will need height and a stable platform to look for targets and shoot off of. A bipod won’t cut it.

Note: If you do intend to shoot off of your tripod, make sure it is strong enough to handle the weight of your firearm.

Methods for Shooting Off of a Tripod

Clipping in: Clipping into the tripod basically means that you are attaching your firearm to the tripod, instead of just resting it on the tripod. To do this there are attachments such as a hog saddle that attaches to the tripod and clamps around your entire rail. Or depending on the type of rail you have, there are accessories that clamp onto the bottom of your rail by the turn of a throw lever. The tripod will now be holding the firearm with little to no movement. This takes a little more time to set up but it is very stable.

a rifle clipped into a tripod in the low position
Due to having ARCA on the bottom of this Magpul Pro 700 Chassis, I was able to clip into this Vortex Ridgeview tripod. Also, notice that the legs are angled so low that I could get into a prone position with the gun still mounted on the tripod. I can move the gun side to side by using the pan and tilt lever.

Tac Table and Shooting Bag: The other way to shoot off of a tripod is to use a tac table and shooting bag. This essentially creates a platform with more surface area on top of the tripod head. A tac table is a small table that clamps into your tripod head with the appropriate accessory. Place a shooting bag on top and now you have a solid platform to shoot off that is pretty quick to deploy.

shooting off of a tripod and a tac table and bag
Using a tac table and a bag are an easy way to use your tripod to shoot off of. This method ensures that you don’t need any attachments on your firearm to mate to the tripod. You simply need a tac table that is on your tripod, and a bag like this armageddon gear gamechanger.

Mounting Other Tools on a Tripod

Some people use tripods for something totally different — the mounting of tools. A lab radar is one of the more popular things to go on top of a tripod. A lab radar measures the velocity of your bullet. It usually needs to be close to the muzzle and on a stable platform. Just put it on top of a tall tripod, and it can be moved toward the table on which the firearm that you want to chronograph is sitting.

A Kestrel is another type of tool that many shooters like to mount to their tripod as it reads the speed of the wind. Putting it on a moveable tripod head allows you to point the kestrel toward the angle that you will be shooting, thus getting an accurate wind speed and direction.

Some also like to mount both their rangefinder and their binoculars on a single plate on the tripod such as a MUB plate. The MUB plate can mount anything that has the same interface such as Picatinny, Manfrotto, or outdoorsman attachment accessories.

Types of Tripods

Now let’s talk about some differences between tripods. The type of tripod will usually be conducive to what you use it for.

The Material and Strength

Carbon Fiber tripods are very popular right now as they are light but still very strong and durable. Within carbon fiber tripods there are both lighter and heavier types of tripods. A lighter tripod will be better for mounting lighter items on top such as binoculars or a spotting scope. Tripods on the heavier side will allow for heavier guns to have a stable shooting platform. You never want to throw a heavy gun onto a super light or skinny tripod. It can topple under the weight of the gun. To find out the rating of the tripod look at load rate” or “max load in the specifications of the specific tripod.

The Legs

Different tripods also have different leg adjustments. This usually means two things. One, what angles can the legs get to? Can the tripod legs angle out enough to allow for sitting positions all the way to standing? Also, how many sections are there to the legs? Some like two-section pulls, which means that there are two sections of each leg, and each section can be individually tightened. Many appreciate the quickness of getting the tripod deployed. There are also three or four sections of legs on tripods. Some like three sections because it allows for more adjustability in height, meaning it can get really short but also very tall.

When looking at the legs of your intended tripod, ensure that each angle position locks strongly and that each leg section tightens. If these sections don’t tighten well the tripod will collapse under weight.

The Head

The head of the tripod is a very important piece. It allows you to adjust the position of what you place on the tripod. There are a few different types such as a ball head or a pan head.

A ball head is exactly as it sounds, a ball spinning around on your tripod. This ball has three different tensioning knobs on it. These knobs control which way the ball can move, forward or back, side to side, and how much tension is on the ball. Some like to have enough tension so that the ball doesn’t fall, but not too much that it won’t move by hand as you are moving your binoculars. If you are shooting off of it, you will want it all the way cranked down on each knob.

A pan and tilt head allows for side-to-side and forward-backward adjustment. This is usually done with a simple tensioning handle. These are usually a little less expensive and have less fine adjustment but are much easier to use.

You are free to mix and match between companies when it comes to the tripod and the ball head.

RRS types of ballheads
These ball heads from Really Right Stuff (RRS) have different load ratings and adjustments. Notice the one on the far left and its multiple knobs. These knobs allow for fine adjustments of the head for easier movements of binoculars and firearms. These heads will clamp onto ARCA accessories. (Photo: RRS)

Whether your interests are in multi-gun matches, hunting, precision rifle field matches, or helping out at firearms classes, tripods are a great investment. One tripod can serve multiple purposes no matter where your interests lie.

The post Why a Tripod is an Essential Piece of Shooting Equipment appeared first on The Mag Life.

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