COLT REALTREE ANACONDA .44 Rem Magnum

In 1996,  Colt came out with what is now a very rare variant of the most excellent Anaconda revolver.    The Anaconda being a larger framed ( for 44mag) version of the  Python .357 magnum  revolver.  This limited edition was made in only 1,500 examples  supposedly and was  truly a “system”.

The gun came from the factory with the 8inch barrel,  a Redfield 5 star  pistol optic. rubber grips , base and rings, with the optic and gun finished in Real Tree camo. This was a collaboration between Colt and Realtree (Bill Jordan of Georgia), with design assistance from famed Wildlife Biologist, “Mr. Whitetail” Larry Weishuun.

Beyond the revolver and optic is also came with a colt  belt buckle, Zippo  colt  Anaconda lighter, original Team Colt Realtree heavy duty canvas carry bag and matching bandoleir holster.  It was and  is a heck of a nice kit.     The gun is  rare enough to not be well known even in the gun world.   In fact I have only seen two with my own eyes counting this one.

Even in picture you can see the camo finish is very nice and rare enough for my tastes, pleasing to the eye. And I am not a fan of commercial hunting camo patterns.

While I have this rare animal we will take a look at it in some detail.

The optic is a then top of the line 5 star redfield.  At that period of time,  Redfield was a well thought of and quality maker of weapons optics.  Now the company name is owned by Leupold and  of course that speaks for itself.  But at that time they were a competitor.

The scope of course came with the Redfield flip  up scope covers.

Above you can see the 2x-7x power ring.  The variable power in that  range is very useful for a hunting pistol in my opinion.  I find it is just enough and not too much.    It is clear and as durable as every other Redfield 5 star optic I have used  from that era.

The elevation and windage adjustments are vintage Redfield style.  They did give you some one of a positive adjustment and beat the Leupold friction plate  which I detest.

You can also see the scope rings that hold the optic one.  I  have seen some of these guns with matching camo rings. But I can not offer up any reason why some are, some aren’t beyond speculation.

The base and rings are very sturdy as anything holding a scope to a 44magnum handgun would need to be.

Now moving on to the gun.    First is a very nicely recessed target crowned muzzle.

You can see from the picture that the Anaconda did have the ability to  add iron sights to it though this example did not come with them that I am aware of. I have been told that colt did sell some of the guns without the optic but with irons instead.

Of course the Anaconda has all the inner workings you would recognize from all other colt anacondas and pythons.  Parts not finished in camo are a very nice durable flat matte black. This includes the hammer, trigger, cylinder release etc.

The action of the gun is smooth as glass.  I would also assume that the action on these editions were given some hand care before leaving the factory because it certainly feels like it.

The 8 inch barrel has the roll markings on the left side. Letting you know you have a Colt realtree Anaconda.

The accuracy of the gun is everything you would want it to be.  I am no big bore handgun game hunter so I can’t give much insight into that. I do know an accurate handgun when I see it though.  I don’t need to be Taffin to come to the conclusion either.

Not feeling a need to prove how manly i am or  put up with the recoil of a 44 mag while sitting on the bench concentrating for all I am worth for hours at a time, I used  .44special handloads of a  now deceased friend who was a real genius at casting his own lead bullets for handguns.

At this time these loads are the only  .44spl loads I have access to so i can’t show any other loads. If I get my hands on some more stuff  I will update this post or make a part 2.

I fired from a bench with bags and a rest for the first three groups. And I did cock the hammer for single action firing for accuracy. I am NO wheel gun guy and my short tiny little fingers will forever be incapable of the ability to fire a double action revolver with ease.  So sue me.

 

The last 5 rounds I had, I used for 100 yards.     Since it wasn’t enough to shoot a few warm up  groups and not enough for a full 6 shots I decided to shoot the gun sitting down with  crossed sticks.  I have seen hunting shows and magazine articles of pistol hunters firing from this way in the field so I decided to reproduce it.   I am not sure what is considered a long shot for big bore handgun hunting and I am too lazy to sift through millions of hunting forum opinion posts on what is long and too long and what ranges are ethical shots.  So I apologize if 100 yards is considered a joke for you handgun hunters  or if it is beyond what many feel comfortable taking a field shot on game. I am not hunting and paper rarely complains anyway.   If you are a  HG hunter, do chime in below and I will see what I can to satisfy the testing requirements for you fellows.

Above is the final 5 rounds fired sitting from crossed sticks.    I feel pretty good about it.   My palm would have covered the group.  I suppose it is even good enough for a head shot on a whitetail deer if one was dumb enough to do it.

You see the kind of accuracy one could expect from this fine bigbore  six-shooter.   I have really enjoyed it as the 44spl loads are soft and pleasant. And accurate.

I will try to  gather up a bigger variety of ammo and shoot it at any requested distances before it has to leave my hands. So if you want to see something post your wishes in the comments.

If you want one of these masterpieces, I can’t offer up an ideas of where to get one or really how much.  A quick  search has shown the examples with all the other goodies go for between 2,500 to 2,800. Maybe one could be had cheaper but that would also mean it is in rough shape.   The owner of this model has never told me the painful amount he gave for it.  However it was a “grail gun” for him and worth the price, As long as I have known him he had talked about wanting one.  He finally found  this one at a local shop and made sure he left home with it.    If  you are happy with the gun you bought the price is always worth it no matter what is was.

 

Federal Premium Gold Medal Match 73gr Berger Open Tip Match PART 1

I have been a handloader for over 20 years now and have used Berger bullets most of that time.   The high quality match Berger line has been something shooters not in the hand loading world rarely had experience with unless a  friend who handloads gave them ammo.   Like most advancements from the world of competition and precision handloading, the berger bullets in match rounds trickled down ( or up?) into factory ammo offerings.

With that in mind, the new Federal Gold Medal match  ammo using Berger bullets has been out a while now  and I finally got my hands on enough for testing.  Of course I could have loaded up some myself  but for non handloaders, It wouldn’t have been more than a passing interest.   Now with ammo from a major manufacturer famous for it’s match ammo in hand, It is time  take a look.

 

I shot the  Federal GGM 73 grain Berger loads in my usual manner. I used a precision AR15  as this type of rifle is what this load will most likely be shot from by the most amount of users.   The gun was fired from a bench rest using front  BR rest with bag and  rear sandbags. Optic was 10X leupold tactical model. The upper is the MK12MOD1 SPR with Douglas  1/7 twist.  The Bergers being their usual profile are of the length that  it is very likely they will  NOT stabilize in your 1/9 twist.  Another in a long list of reasons why no one should bother buying rifles with 1/9 twist barrels..   Trigger was the excellent SSA.

I fired comparison groups using the Federal Gold Medal Sierra 77gr HPBT bullet ,  Hornady 75 gr TAP and my own  77 Grain Sierra handloads so the readers can judge for themselves if the price increase for the Berger loads is worth it depending on the level of accuracy and long range performance they need.   One thing to keep in my.  This is part one of the test of the Berger loads and only at 100-150 yards at that.   Before making any decision about the berger loads, keep in mind that the VLD Berger bullets come into their own at longer ranges.

Above is the 100 yard group.  I did have to make  some scope adjusting from  my normal zero that is with 77gr bullet loadings. That is a 5 shot string as I marked it and while I did expect them to shoot well, I did not expect that level of accuracy on my first 5 shot string.

Below is the next 5 round stringer fired at 150 yards.   I wouldn’t expect much difference in group size from 100-150 yards with match quality ammo and this  ammo gave me no surprises.

I next cleaned the barrel so as to start the comparison loads off with the same conditions as I did with the Berger gold medal match.  Once done, I fired the older Federal Gold Medal 77rg Sierra HPBT  match ammo.  It is still  great stuff and is in no way something to consider obsolete or to snub in my opinion. I still love it and use it and will continue to think highly of it for as long as Federal makes it.

Next up is my own personal handloads.

Last up is the 75gr HPBT Hornady TAP/Match ammo. This is the ones that come in the black box with the black coated nickel cases.  Usually it shoots at least 1 MOA for me in my various guns.   It is pretty good stuff and it used to be a little cheaper than the federal and of course cheaper than Black hills MK 262.   It’s only a 4 round string because I  had to use a couple rounds to get zeroed and had no brought enough extra.  Oops.

So far I am really liking the Federal Gold Medal  73 gr  Berger loads.    In part 2 we will see how it does at 500 and beyond.

Optic of the week: Aimpoint T-1

“It is probably the perfect optic for the AR, isn’t it.” -Shawn.

I stumbled across an old email from 2013 where I told a friend that I thought the T-1 was the king of reflex optics.  Despite there being the newer T-2 and similar optics like the Trijicon MRO, I still stick to my statement.

What makes the Aimpoint Micro T-1 great is very small size, light weight (3 oz with out mount) and long battery life of up to 5 years.  That makes a combination that is hard to beat.

There isn’t much not to like about the T-1.  Now if you wanted to start a list of complaints the first would be cost.  After that is that the stock mount is low profile so you would need to either add a riser or use an aftermarket mount if you are attaching it to an AR15.  I prefer the Larue QD mounts for the T-1 but that does add to the price of the optic.

When people talk about the massive battery life of modern optics like the Aimpoints, they are referencing the possible battery life at about three quarters maximum brightness (a normal operating brightness).  When the T-1 is set to maximum brightness, this battery life is shortened to about 10 months.  But to put it in perspective, the Trijicon MRO also has a battery life of 5 years on setting 5 of 8, but only 25 days on the brightest setting.  Many older optics and cheap optics will only run for a few days.

The T-1 is available in 2 and 4 MOA models.

I have a hard time getting the reticle to show up well when I snap photos of them.

Here is a picture of a 2 MOA T-1 with the brightness on max so the dot would show up in the picture.  This one has an IO/Tango Down cover installed, and a KAC battery cover.

This is a 4 MOA T-1 on a Larue LT660 mount.  The dots show up clearly and bright in person, I don’t know how to get them to show up in pictures well.

Adjustments are 1/2 MOA.  Adjustments require a tool, which is provided as the cap for each adjustment.  Be careful as it would be easy to lose the adjustment caps.

Flipping the cap upside down allows you to use it as the adjustment tool.  It shows you which direction you need to turn for the adjustment.

Now I would say that the only real downside to the T-1 is cost.  But if you run it co-witnessed with fixed iron sights, the small window makes it a little harder to use.  You might want to consider a larger optic if you are running it with fixed iron sights.

It is normally recommended to go with the 2 MOA models.  You can turn up the brightness if you want a larger visible dot, and it is suppose to look better if you are using a magnifier.  I have a mix of 2 MOA and older 4 MOA models, and much to my surprise when I was using them size by with with a magnifier the 4 MOA dot was crisper under magnification.

For a long time I said I never saw an Aimpoint fail, but more recently I have.  Both cases were user error.  The first was an used T-1 I purchased where the previous owner cross threaded on an aftermarket KAC battery cap.  When they attempted to remove it they put a wrench on the stuck cap and turned the brightness adjuster past its stops.  I sent the optic back to Aimpoint and while it took a while, they repaired it and sent it back at no cost.  The second case was my fault, and a really simply error.  I have a KAC battery cover, and this cover has a space so you can put a second spare battery in it.  I didn’t have the second battery under this cap, so then under recoil the battery would pop out of place and my sight shut down.  Installing a second battery (as per the aftermarket cap requires) solved this issue.

I love how small and light the T-1 is.  When used you can sort of see around it when you keep both eyes open and it takes up much less space in the view than most other reflex sights.  I’ve bought all of mine used, as they are hard to screw up and and you can save a good bit of money getting it used.  The Micro T-1 is easy to use and I highly recommend it.

Optic of the week: Trijicon TA01NSN ACOG

The TA01NSN ACOG is a classic at this point.  A compact fixed 4x scope with a bullet drop chart calibrated for M855 out of a carbine barrel.  People assume it is calibrated for a 14.5 inch M4 barrel, but every time Trijicon has given numbers it sounds like the Bullet Drop Chart (BDC) was based around a 16 inch barrel.

The main thing that sets the TA01NSN ACOG apart from the majority of the other models of ACOGs are the iron sights mounted on it.

The iron sights on this ACOG are more for emergency use, for example should you manage to break the ACOG, or for use in heavy rain at close distances, etc.

The front sight is adjustable for windage, the rear sight is not adjustable.  This front sight also has a vial of Tritium in it allowing it to be seen at night.  In the past, there have been people who expressed a concern about this revealing their location.  If this is a concern to you, the sight can be removed, or simply taped over.

I’ve found some of the TA01NSN ACOG iron sights to shoot massively off left or right, so you will want to check it out before you rely on them.

Older ACOGs have 1/3 MOA adjustment that requires a tool like a coin to adjust.  Newer ACOGs have a 1/2 MOA capped turret that is tool less.

The adjustment caps on the TA01NSN are not tethered.  On some other models they are.  When I was zeroing this old ACOG, the O-ring used to seal the elevation knob broke apart.  I notice this O-ring is amber, while ever other O-ring on the ACOGs I own (and on the windage) are orange leading me to believe that this was a replacement done by the previous owner.  You can see the failed amber colored O-ring in the picture above.

I have seen the adjustment cap threads cross threaded or stripped from abuse.  While ACOG scopes are tough, nothing is impervious to user error. & abuse.

ACOG adjustments can be very annoying.  First, don’t try to turn the adjustments to the extremes, that can damage the scope.  Second is that the scope adjustments can hang.  The scope is compact due to a prism and the adjustments rely on the prism moving against a spring.  This means that sometimes when you dial in an adjustment the scope prism won’t actually mode until you smack the scope or fire a couple of shots.  Normally this would be considered very unacceptable in a scope, but in this case it is considered a quirk of the compact tough ACOG.

The center of the TA01NSN crosshair is meant to be zeroed for 100 meters.  Then each hash mark represent a 19 inch width (a mans shoulder width) at the distances of 200 to 500 meters.  The very top of the bottom thicker bar is the 600m mark.

The 4x magnification aids in locating and identifying targets.  When used on a rifle with a fixed front sight base the shadow of the base will appear in the field of view.  Personally I don’t think it seems as bad as it shows in the picture, but I know it really irritates some people.

I took this opportunity to try the Elcan Specter DR in 4x mode and the TA01NSN side by side.  For speed of acquiring a target, or moving from target to target I felt they were the same.  I would say the increased eye relief of the Elcan may make it a far better choice for a .308 or other higher recoiling rifle.  But for shooting 4x on a 5.56 I didn’t feel one offered any significant advantage over the other.

A last point, the ACOG scopes have tritium illumination.  There are some newer models that use batteries.  The idea behind the tritium is to provide battery free illumination of the reticle in low light situations.  I’ve found that often when it is dark enough to use the illumination, I can’t see the target.  Since the half life of Tritium is about 12 years, some of the older ACOGs got gotten very dim.  Trijicon will relamp a scope for a price, but it will likely be more cost effective to sell an old ACOG and just buy a new one.

I really love the old TA01NSN, but now variable 1-X scopes are taking over that nitch.  While the newer 1-X power scopes tend to be larger, heavier, and far less durable than the venerable ACOG, the capability they offer are leading more people to choose that over the ACOG.  If you are primarily expecting to identify and engage man sized targets at 100-600 meters the ACOG is hard to beat.  If you need the fastest speed for up close, or precision sub-MOA shooting, look elsewhere.