I ruffled some feathers a few days ago with my updated take on the infamous and never ending caliber vs capacity debate. The best thing about that is that the feather ruffling led to some animated, but very insightful, exchanges that challenged my opinion. A few of these made me realize that my current opinion was very narrow minded.

At the risk (or benefit depending on perspective) of ruffling even more feathers, I want to expand a bit on my current opinion and what the discussions made me realize.

First and foremost, context matters and by context I’m talking about the application (or the mission). That context drives weapon system selection. The system is made up of many parts. It includes the weapon (and platform), the cartridge, the accessories, the supplementary gear, the carry method, and the shooter (including their skills). Another variable that can’t be ignored are the resources available in order to make adjustments or improvements to the weapons system.

I mention the weapon system because the shooter’s familiarity with it and skill level plays the largest role with what I consider to be the most important factors when it comes to shooting in general: accuracy and speed. In every application I can imagine, everything ultimately comes down to putting as many projectiles in the right places to accomplish the task at hand in the shortest time span possible. The two ways to reduce the time span are reducing split times (time between accurate shots fired) and reducing reloading time. The latter underscores the importance of capacity in a fairly obvious manner. The former is a bit more nuanced so I’ll talk a bit more about that first.

Before diving into it, I’m going to narrow the discussion by focusing on pistols. I’m doing this for the sake of brevity and also because the caliber vs capacity debate tends to me most prevalent to carry pistols intended for self defense. With that out of the way, let’s talk about split time reduction.

In my opinion, the most obvious factor when it comes to split times is skill. Folks with a highly developed level of skill can shoot accurately faster than folks with a lower level of skill given the same weapon system (including the same cartridge). It’s for this reason that I placed a strong emphasis on selecting a weapon with the lowest learning curve in the previous post. One very insightful conversation about that post helped me realize my bias towards a modern striker fired pistol (because it offered the simplest operating system) was short sighted and that I glossed over the importance of gun fit.

Proper gun fitment is extremely important and can’t be overstated. When a gun doesn’t fit a shooter properly, the shooter has to compensate in order to overcome deficiencies in the interface between the hands and the gun. In some cases with enough training and practice, a shooter can develop enough skill to shoot a bad fitting gun well. However, the improper fitment limits the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately at faster rates. I personally learned this less while attending a Carry the Day Texas Tactical Pistol/Rifle Class a while back. The difference in accurate shooting speed I experienced after switching to a gun with a good fit was night and day. While my experience is anecdotal, experienced pistol shooters and instructors tend to agree that proper fit is very important and can become a limiting factor for folks who are attempting to reach higher levels of skills.

In terms of operating system (or manual of arms), I suspect my bias towards modern striker fired pistols comes from my current skill level. While I do shoot competitively and I’m constantly working at getting better, I compete with what I carry. Which happens to be a modern striker fired pistol, which I haven’t found to be a limiting factor in my quest to develop a higher level of skill. That said, I failed to take into account that top competitive pistol shooters tend to use either CZ or 2011 style pistols as their race guns in the fastest competitive divisions. Both of those styles use slightly more complex operating systems, but tend to have much better triggers than striker fired pistols. Combining that observation with my previous statement of “I also don’t know a single armed self defense professional that wouldn’t suggest a modern striker fired semi automatic pistol” and some of the insights gained from conversations regarding the previous post, I’ve changed my opinion again and accept the possibility that at a certain point along the skill development journey to accurately shoot faster trading in the simpler striker fired pistol for the slightly more complex CZ or 2011 style pistol might be worth it. I strongly believe that holds true for competitive applications and should be considered for defensive carry applications.

I still believe that lower recoil is important to split time reduction. In my opinion, this simply comes down to how much effort or work is required to recover from the flip induced by the recoil and shoot again accurately. Less effort means faster recovery and faster accurate shooting. Lower recoil can be achieved two ways. The first is using a larger or heavier pistol. The second is opting for a smaller cartridge. As I’ve stated in the past, the cartridge has to be large and powerful enough to penetrate deep enough to perforate vital organs in order to achieve physical incapacitation and there is no evidence (such as the evidence presented in Greg Ellifritz’s study) suggesting that larger and more powerful pistol cartridges provide any meaningful benefit.

What about reducing reloading time? In my mind, the most obvious answer to this is using the largest capacity magazines available. However, I also think this solution is a bit naive. While I can’t deny that more bangs between reloads reduces reloading time, we can’t ignore that good hits reduce reloading time. In fact, good hits reduce overall engagement duration which includes reloading time.

From a competitive perspective, depending on the stage, after a bad hit (or miss) a competitor will have to choose between taking a follow up shot or taking the penalty in order to achieve the highest score possible on a stage. Taking additional follow up (or make up) shots means more shots fired on a stage and therefore might result in an additional reload that could have been avoided and therefore increasing the time spent reloading during the stage.

From a self defense perspective, after a bad hit (or miss) a defender may have to take an additional shot in order to physiologically incapacitate a target unless the target changes their mind (a psychological stop). In this context, reducing time between good hits also reduces the duration of the defensive encounter and reduces the number of shots required to end the encounter. A lower number shots yields a lower number of reloads needed during the encounter and therefore less time spent reloading during the encounter.

Thinking about it that way, it seems to me that the same factors that reduce split times also indirectly reduce overall reloading time as well. For that reason, I prioritize gun fit, operating system, and lowest recoiling effective cartridge over magazine size.

That might sound like I’m choosing caliber over capacity. However, remember that this debate is usually had when talking about variants of the same gun and the decision process is a bit more nuanced than picking the gun with the largest caliber or the the gun with the largest capacity. For example, let’s consider that I’m selecting between a VP40 (chambered for .40 S&W with a 13+1 capacity), a VP9 (chambered for 9mm with a 15/17+1 capacity), a Glock 19 (chambered for 9mm with a 15/17/19/24/31/33+1 capacity), or a Glock 23 (chambered for .40 S&W with a 13/15/15/16/22+1 capacity). Using this example, I’m going to start by picking the guns with the best fit. For me that would be the VP40 and the VP9. Next, I’m going to pick the guns with the best operating system matched to my skill level. With this example, the VP40 and the VP9 still make the cut since they have the same striker fired operating system. Next, I’m going to pick the gun and cartridge combination with the lowest recoil. That leaves me with the VP9. Finally, I’m going to opt for the 17 round magazines. So in essence, I’m ending up with the best fitting gun chambered for the smallest effective cartridge with the largest capacity it is available in.

So what do I take away from all of this? The more I learn, the stronger my opinion is that capacity trumps caliber when it comes to defensive pistols. However, I also hold the opinion that capacity shouldn’t take precedence over weapon selection and more importantly weapon fitment. Slower hits are always preferable to fast misses (or what I like to call “bad hits” since that projectile comes to rest somewhere). Faster good hits are preferable to slower good hits.

Capacity Over Caliber

Two years ago, I published my opinion on the infamous pistol caliber vs capacity debate and recently shared that post again on Twitter while mentioning that my opinion has evolved since then. Several folks were curious as to how my opinion has changed and I find myself sharing my updated opinion.

As I was gathering my thoughts on how to approach it, it became more apparent that my position has become cemented in valuing capacity over caliber. Perhaps the most notable part of the evolution is that I no longer think it’s a personal decision as much as it’s about selecting the optimal tool for the application. That’s not to say personal preference doesn’t come into play at all, but rather personal preference is negligible. Quite frankly, I’m not sure it’s a versus debate anymore. Let me explain.

This debate is generally had in the context of self defense weapons. More often than not, the context specifically pertains to defensive pistols and defense against would be criminals.

With that in mind, let’s consider weapon selection. I don’t know any armed self defense professional that wouldn’t suggest a defensive rifle (a defensive carbine to be more specific) as the best choice for a defensive weapon because it provides arguably the best balance of defensive capability and learning curve. A shotgun might also be suggested to folks who are unable to own a carbine legally due to local regulations. However, neither of those weapons are commonly discussed in the caliber vs capacity debate. I suspect the reason for that is because neither of these platforms lends themselves to the portability and conceal-ability requirements needed to be carried regularly by an armed self defender. So that leaves us with talking about pistols.

When it comes to pistols and weapon selection, I also don’t know a single armed self defense professional that wouldn’t suggest a modern striker fired semi automatic pistol. More specifically, the largest pistol that fits the defender and can be carried effectively. This suggestion sometimes sparks a debate with folks who have a preference for and carry a single action 1911 which generally has half the capacity of a modern striker fired duty sized pistol. A subset of these folks will attempt to remove personal preference from the debate by bringing up familiarity and capability with the weapon. While that is a very good point and I regularly encourage folks to become intimately familiar with their weapon, it doesn’t change the fact that those platforms are more complicated in the sense that they require additional steps in order to bring the weapon into the fight and safely returning it to the holster when the fight is over. Sure one can train enough to be proficient with the platform to where those extra steps are deeply ingrained and become second nature, but the extra steps remain nonetheless. I’m often met with attempts at a gotcha along the lines of “but a hammer fired double action single action like a Beretta or single action only 2011 has equivalent capacity”. That’s cool. I’m not in this debate to win it, I’m in it to identify the right tool for the right job with the largest capacity and the easiest learning curve. Hopefully, that point will become more apparent as this post progresses.

Those gotcha attempts are usually what turns the debate in the caliber vs capacity debate that sometimes ends with broken friendships. I’m joking about the broken friendships, but these debates can get heated.

Okay, that brings me to caliber selection and why I don’t think it should be up for debate. Greg Ellifritz has gone to great lengths to gather and analyze gunfight data in order to shed some light on the “handgun stopping power” with real world evidence. While the work has been criticized for the choice of statistical methods used, the evidence is very compelling to support the idea that when it comes to handguns the only thing that really matters is shot placement. Caliber size is irrelevant as long as the cartridge selected has sufficient penetrating power to penetrate the vital organs that will yield physical incapacitation.

One might be thinking, so if caliber is largely irrelevant then one’s preference is irrelevant and one should be free to opt for their favorite caliber. In my opinion, that ignores one’s ability with a cartridge. While I agree that shot placement is everything when it comes to physical incapacitation, gunfights are often decided by the first shot landing in the right place and that may not be the first shot fired. Okay, so then one should pick the cartridge they are most proficient with given the weapon choice? That’s the way I used to think.

I still think that opting to carry a weapon with the cartridge one is most proficient with is the best choice for a given day and a great place to start. I think there is a lot of value in developing proficiency with the cartridge with the lowest recoil that gets the job done. This idea got into my head as I spent more time shooting competitively and learning about the power factor concept. I’m not going to explain the power factor concept in this post, but I mention it in case anyone wants to go look it up and learn more about it. Within the context of this conversation, the key point is that less recoil translates into less recoil management one had to employ in order to take a follow up shot and that translates into less time between shots. To me this is very important because it means that with practice and training, one should be able to put more holes in the right places faster in a defensive situation. If one buys into what I’m thinking, then that means that 9mm, having the lowest power factor out of the other popular modern defensive pistol cartridges, provides the most potential for fast accurate hits. Given the same gun, opting for 9mm naturally yields the largest capacity.

CaliberWeightVelocityPower Factor
9mm124 gr1150 fps142
40 S&W180 gr1010 fps181
45 ACP230 gr890 fps204

Which brings us back full circle to my current opinion, caliber vs capacity shouldn’t be a debate and often I find that it’s not a debate if we can agree on a simple premise. That premise is that when it comes to self defense the simplest tool capable of doing the job with the easiest learning curve is the optimal choice. From that premise, all roads yield caliber size in favor of capacity when the tools are objectively evaluated for selection. So with that and as much as I enjoy my current defensive carry gun, I am open to developing proficiency with a simpler gun and cartridge with less recoil that is effective in it’s task and eventually replacing the current carry gun with it.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting folks go out to buy a new 9mm modern striker fired pistol if they don’t have one this very instant. I’m also not suggesting folks immediately stop carrying their 1911s and strap on that dusty Glock 19 that has been sitting in the safe but haven’t developed proficiency with. However, I think it’s worthwhile to detach emotion and put aside personal preference while evaluating whether one is carrying the best tool for the job and if they have the right skill level to be able to carry that tool confidently. If the result of that analysis is no, then I do think it’s worthwhile to start saving some money so that one can go pick up a 9mm modern striker fired pistol and start developing proficiency with it as soon as it’s reasonable to do so.

When talking about red dot sights, I often mention that as much as I think the Trijicon RMR Type 2 Adjustable LED Reflex Sight is a great optic I still think there are better red dot optic options for carbines and rifles. The natural question that follows at that point in the conversation is what red dot optics do I consider to be better options for carbines and rifles? One answer to that query is the Aimpoint Micro T-2 Red Dot Reflex Sight.

The Micro T-2 is part of Aimpoint Micro series of red dot reflex optics. The T-2 is marketed as the battle proven red dot of the series that stands apart from the others in the series due to its compatibility with night vision devices (NVD) and a few other features and specifications that will be covered in this review. That said folks might also consider looking into the H-2 series which forgoes the NVD brightness settings and is marketed for hunting and competitive applications. Lastly, I’ll mention the S-1 which was designed specifically for use with shotguns. The H-2 and the S-1 will not be covered any further in this review.

The T-2 is offered in four different variations which are all the exact same red dot sight with a different mounting option. The mounting options are:

  • No mount,
  • standard mount (attaches to MIL-STD-1913, a.k.a. Picatinny, rails),
  • B&T lever release mount and 30mm scope ring (also interfaces with Picatinny rails),
  • and AR-15 ready version which includes an LRP mount & spacer.

This review will focus on the AR-15 ready version with the LRP mount & spacer.

The optic is an enclosed reflex sight. This means the electronics are completely enclosed within hard-anodized aluminum alloy housing and the recessed front and rear lenses that provide an 18mm parallax free aperture with no magnification. The lenses have great clarity and have been coated internally with reflective coatings designed to improve the visibility of the 2 MOA (minute of angle) red dot and anti-reflex coating externally to improve NVD compatibility while reducing optical signature. That’s a fancy way of saying the optic is clear, the red dot is easy to see, and it’s designed to be rugged and durable.

The sight includes front and rear protective flip-up lens covers. The front cover is solid black, but the rear is transparent. This allows the dot to be used in emergency situations without having to uncover the lenses thanks to the power of binocular vision when the sight is used with both eyes open. There really isn’t much more to say about the lenses. They stay closed, but are easy to open. There is a tactile snap that provides confirmation when the covers are closed.

The brightness intensity dial is the large round dial found on the right hand side of the optic. The size and texture around the dial make it easy to grab and adjust even when wearing gloves. The dial provides 12 different brightness settings and an off position. The first position is the off position. That is followed by four night vision compatible settings which are followed by 8 daylight settings. The dial provides silent tactile confirmation as each setting position is reached. The brightness intensity dial also houses the CR2032 battery which can last for over 5 years of constant operation with an intensity setting of 8 or less.

The elevation and windage adjustment turrets are found on the top and right side of the optic respectively just in front of the rear lens. Both turrets are covered by protective caps which, much like capped turrets on rifle scopes, prevent unintentional adjustments after the zero has been set. The turrets provide 1/2 MOA adjustments per click.

The AR-15 ready variant includes an LRP mount and spacer. LRP stands for “lever release picatinny”. In other words it’s a quick release mount that is controlled by a single lever. It works well. The included spacer is designed to raise the optical axis to 39mm (or 1.54″). This height allows the T-2 to co-witness with traditional iron sights.

As I mentioned, the T-2 is marketed as a battle proven optic. With that in mind, let me highlight some of the pertinent specifications one in the market for a battle proven optic might be concerned with. The operating temperature range for this optic is from -49ºF to 160ºF. The sight is also submersible to 80 feet (25 meters). The sight is fairly light weight at 3oz (84g), but that doesn’t include the weight of the spacer and mount.

Functionally, this optic has been amazing. It’s small and light. The dot is very easy to pick up and use.

I started off this review by mentioning I think this red dot is a better option for a rifle than the Trijicon RMR. So I’ll start closing this review out with a little explanation about that opinion. I personally like the additional protection provided by enclosed red dot design in addition to the capped turrets and protective lens caps. These are things that I look for in a rifle scope as these rifles tend to get banged around a lot more than a carry pistol as they are transported and used in the field. I also personally like finer grained elevation and windage adjustments on a rifle because a rifle tends to be used to engage targets at longer distances than pistols. In comparing the T-2 to the RMR, all of these things are present. That’s not to say the RMR isn’t rugged or that it’s an inferior optic, I just hold the opinion that I think the RMR is better suited for use with pistols whereas the T-2 is better suited for use with a carbine. Both are very rugged and high quality optics.

With all that said, I personally believe the Aimpoint Micro T-2 Red Dot Reflex Sight is an excellent choice for a duty or home defense carbine. It might be a bit much for competitive, hunting, or recreational applications unless those applications include the use of NVDs.

In the last post of this building a quality survival kit on a budget series, we continued exploring the 10 C’s plus one concept and added some communications to the survival kit. At this point, the survival kit contains items to help combat all of the most common threats. As such, we have started adding some utility to it. We have also introduced a few options for cutting tools, combustion, cordage, containers, cover, compass, candle, casualty care, combat, and communications. While it would seem logical that this post would look at “calories”, the next and final category of the 10 C’s plus one, this series already covered it back in part 5. As such, this will likely be the final post in the series. It’s been a good run, but we have covered just about everything that I can think of.

So instead of covering another topic, let’s do a little review and figure out where to go from here.

This series first started by taking a look at a prioritized list of threats to our survival and recognized that we can only survive for:

  • three minutes without air (or in icy waters),
  • three hours without shelter,
  • three days without water,
  • three weeks without food.

While these four threats are always present, they are extremely important to keep in mind when deciding what to add and remove from any survival kit, get home bag, bug out bag, or packing list for any outdoor activity. This is because the longer one finds themselves out in the elements and away from the safety of home we find ourselves at an increasing likelihood of finding ourselves in a situation where proper skills and equipment is necessary to avoid succumbing to those threats. In fact, every single item added to the survival kit as a part of the 10 C’s plus one was an item that increased our survival resilience in an emergency situation when combined with the appropriate skills.

For review and in terms of utility, I like to refer to a concept coined as the 10 C’s plus one. They are:

  • Cutting (tools)
  • Combustion
  • Cordage
  • Container
  • Cover
  • Compass (maps)
  • Candle (lighting)
  • Casualty care
  • Combat
  • Communications
  • Calories

Let’s review what’s gone into the survival kit.

SeriesItemNotes
Part 1MTM ammo canThe container for the survival kit.
Also, a 10 C’s plus one container.
Provides resilience against lack of water.
Part 2Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pak with QuikClotA casualty care item.
Provides resilience against lack of air (due to injury)
Part 3S.O.L. Emergency BivvyA cover item.
Provides resilience against lack of shelter.
Part 4Sawyer Mini Water Filtration SystemAnother container item.
Provides resilience against lack of water.
Part 5Cliff Bars,
a pouch of freeze dried camping food,
or spare cash
A calorie item.
Provides resilience against lack of food.
Part 6Morakniv Companion,
Gerber Dime,
or Victorinox Tinker Swiss Army Knife
A cutting tool item.
Can also serve as a combat item.
Provides resilience against lack of shelter.
Provides resilience against lack of food.
Can provide resilience against lack of air as a combat item.
Part 7WetFire Tinder packets,
a FireSteel rod with a striker,
matches,
and lighter
Four combustion items.
Provides resilience against lack of shelter.
Provides resilience against lack of water.
Provides resilience against lack of food.
Part 8Paracord
and duct tape
Two cordage items.
Can also serve as casualty care items.
Provides resilience against lack of shelter.
Can provide resilience against lack of air as casualty care items.
Part 9Nalgene Oasis water bottle,
standard GI style stainless steel canteen cup,
or Potable Aqua water purification tables
Additional container items.
Provides resilience against lack of water.
Can provide resilience against lack of food.
Part 10Boonie hat
or work gloves
Additional cover items.
Provides resilience against lack of shelter.
Part 11Eyeskey compass
and local area maps
Two compass items.
Provides resilience against all threats indirectly.
Part 12Streamlight MicroStream,
glow sticks,
candles,
or road flares
Candle items.
Provides resilience against all threats indirectly.
Part 130.5 size First Aid Kit
and personal cleansing wipes
Additional casualty care items.
Provides resilience against lack of air.
Part 14Small hatchetAdditional cutting tool.
Can also serve as a combat item.
Provides resilience against lack of shelter.
Provides resilience against lack of food.
Can provide resilience against lack of air as a combat item.
Part 15Emergency hand crank self powered radio
and Rite in the Rain all weather notebook
Two communication items.
Provides resilience against all threats indirectly.

From a what’s missing perspective, the kit doesn’t have any dedicated combat items. This is one area that should be addressed by folks who do not regularly carry weapons for armed defense purposes as discussed in part 14 of the series. Other than that, the kit seems fairly complete to me. Sure some items could be added to provide redundancies, but that comes at the cost of extra weight which requires consideration depending on the kits intended purpose. Some folks might suggest upgrading some items later down the road since this project did present a budgetary constraint and I don’t see anything wrong with that suggestion.

That said, in terms of equipment, I would suggest replacing the ammo can with a small pack that is easier to travel on foot with and frees up hands like a small sling pack. I personally like the 5.11 Rush Moab 6 bag. However, that bag exceeds the $25 per month budget of this project and some folks will prefer a less tactical bag. The bag itself isn’t important. The point is to make it easier to keep the contents of the kit together while maximizing mobility.

Looking beyond the gear, it’s important to develop the skills to use the gear effectively should the need arise. It’s also important to test the gear to ensure we have made the best choices. An easy way to do this is to take the gear on a camping trip and attempt to complete the trip with just the gear in the kit. Now, I’m not suggesting purposefully putting ourselves at peril. The camping trip can be done in one’s backyard. It can even be done indoors if need be. Or it can be a typical camping trip with all the typical accouterments nearby. The point is to have everything we need to be safe and comfortable should the survival kit and our skills begin to fail when testing out the kit. This type of functional testing will inform what skills need development and what equipment changes are needed.

Whether it’s for emergency preparedness or for recreational activities, I do hope this series has given readers some things to think about and things to consider as they build their own kits to fit their needs.

I guess one could say that I already wrote a micro review on the Trijicon RMR Type 2 which was contained within my review of the optics ready Heckler & Koch VP9. Regardless, I figured it would be worth revisiting it now after having used it quite a bit over the past year and a half.

I previously mentioned the Trijicon RMR Type 2 is available in three different illumination models each of which comes with various color, dot size, and mounting options for a total of 97 choices. That still holds true as of writing this post. The RMR variant that I’ve been using and is my reference for this review is an adjustable LED RMR with a 3.25 MOA dot and no mount included.

Out of the box, the RMR includes the following:

  • The box which is actually a pretty nice hard case that is way too large for the RMR, but also includes:
  • two long mounting screws (which won’t work with the Glock MOS system),
  • an allen wrench,
  • a user manual,
  • a sticker,
  • some other marketing materials I didn’t pay attention to,
  • and the RMR itself.

There isn’t a lot of real estate to cover on the RMR, but let’s start from the front which begins with the multi-coated lens. The lens is not magnified and I’ve heard several reviewers claim that some folks consider the window to be on the small side. In my opinion, the “small” window is a feature that makes it a great candidate for a pistol mounted red dot sight. While a larger window might make it easier for folks new to red dot sights to find the dot, I’ve found no problems with finding the dot after spending a little time behind this sight and getting familiar with it.

Another claim that I’ve heard is that some folks don’t like the slightly blue tint of the lens. I’m not sure where the complaint stems from. While there is an ever so slight tint, I haven’t found it distracting and honestly hardly notice it regardless of whether or not tint is present in the eye wear I’m using.

Another thing worth noting is the distinct patented shape of the frame that houses the lens. Trijicon claims the shape absorbs impacts and divers stresses away from the lens to increase durability. This claim has been confirmed by Aaron Cowan from Sage Dynamics as a result of the testing he has conducted for his miniaturized red dot systems for duty handgun use white paper (available as PDF from the Sage Dynamics home page). His testing approach includes a shoulder height drop test directly on the lens housing onto a hard surface. The RMR is one of few red dot sights which has not suffered a broken lens from the drop tests making it one of the most durable red dot sights in the market today.

On the sides of the housing, one will find the brightness adjustment buttons. The button on the left hand side of the housing increases the brightness while the button on the right hand side decreases the brightness. This RMR has eight (8) brightness levels and an automatic brightness setting which can be engaged by pressing both adjustment buttons simultaneously for less than 3 seconds. Pressing and holding both buttons simultaneously for more than three seconds will power the RMR off. Pressing either one of the adjustment buttons will power the RMR on if it was currently turned off. One thing that I noticed, that I did not find mentioned in the manual, is that the RMR will return to automatic brightness mode after being in manual brightness setting mode for some time. I’m uncertain what that duration is, but figured it was worth mentioning as folks who prefer a manual setting will find themselves adjusting the brightness setting on a daily basis.

Moving past the adjustment buttons one will find the battery compartment on the bottom of the RMR. Changing the battery is the primary complaint I’ve encountered regarding the RMR since changing the battery requires dismounting and remounting the red dot sight. Personally, I haven’t found this to be an issue given the outstanding battery life of the RMR which is about four years of continual use at brightness setting 4, however that life can be reduced to only 25 days if the RMR is constantly set at the brightest setting. I think the complaint likely stems from folks, like me, who reconfirm zero after remounting the sight after a battery change. While I’ve only changed the battery once, not because it was dead, but because I prefer to proactively replace batteries on optics on an annual basis, I found that the RMR held zero after having been remounted. That finding is likely anecdotal and coincidental, as such I will continue to reconfirm zero after a battery change and don’t suggest folks to alter their approach based on this singular experience.

Next up we have the LED which is reflected off the lens to provide the red dot used for aiming. The RMR is available in three different MOA dot sizes: 1, 3.25, and 6.5. As I mentioned I opted for the 3.25 MOA dot. While my experience with different dot sizes is limited to the 3.25 MOA dot of the RMR and a 2 MOA dot from a different red dot sight, I’ve picked up some additional insight from the Red Dot Essentials training course I attended and various reading material (like the white paper from Sage Dynamics). From what I’ve gathered, smaller dots provide a finer point of aim which can be used to achieve greater shooting precision as target distances increase, however that comes at a cost as smaller dots appear to move more in the window making it more difficult to “steady” the point of aim. On the other hand, larger dots reduce the appearance of dot movement in the window making it easier to “steady” the point of aim, however because the larger dot will cover more of the target as distance limits the achievable shooting precision.

That brings us to the elevation and windage adjustment dials. The elevation dial is found on the top side of the RMR while the windage dial is found on the right side. Both dials are adjusted in 1 MOA increments. I found the tactile clicks to be subtle, but they are present nonetheless. In terms of optics, 1 MOA adjustment increments are rather coarse. In my opinion, the coarse adjustments are fine for use on pistols since target engagements are most likely to occur at short distances. However, I prefer small adjustment increments for red dot sights that will be mounted on a rifle since target engagements with a rifle are likely to occur at further distances. I’m not saying the RMR should not be mounted on a rifle because of this, in fact many people do. It’s just something folks who are considering acquiring an RMR with the intent to mount it on a rifle should keep in mind.

Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with how the RMR has performed on a pistol. The battery life has been excellent and zero has been retained perfectly even after its been used to aim a few thousand shots. Given it’s features and demonstrated durability, I think the RMR is a fantastic red dot sight and one that I think folks who are looking to mount a red dot sight on an everyday carry defensive pistol or duty pistol should strongly consider.

The Bang Cycle

When folks first get into guns and learn to shoot, the process of firing a shot is usually broken down into three distinct steps: aim, press trigger, and bang. This is a simple and effective way to get started. However, this simplified three step process falls short in a lot of ways and can actually result in some bad habits that may need to be broken as a person gets better at shooting. This is especially true when a person wants to improve their defensive shooting skills.

To begin exploring this, let’s put the three step process in the context of a self defense situation and add a draw step to start with and a holster step to finish with. That would make the process look like the following diagram.

The biggest problem with this process is that it assumes only a single shot will be needed to end a defensive encounter, which is rarely the case. So let me redraw this and a decision box. to create a cycle that allows for additional follow up shots which may be required to end such an encounter.

This is a vast improvement because we now have a cycle that allows us to employ follow up shots to end a defensive encounter. However, there is one big problem with this. According to defensive gun use research, data indicates that more often than not a defensive encounter is ended when a defender brings a gun to bear but without taking a shot. That means the aggressor is likely to change their mind after a gun is drawn. With this in mind, firing a shot at a target that is no longer aggressive could land the defender in a heap of legal trouble. Let me make another adjustment.

In a sense, this flow and cycle will work for a defensive counter. Let’s summarize it. A threat is present that results in a defender drawing their gun. Now that the defensive gun is in play we have to make a decision, to shoot or not to shoot. If the aggressor changed their mind and there is no longer a threat present, then the defender can put away the gun. If the aggressor is still posing a threat, then the bang cycle is executed and shot is fired. We are back to a decision point, to shoot again or not to shoot again.

Perfect right? Not quite. While the process is adequate it is far from optimized. So let me offer another improvement.

There is a small but significant difference in this iteration of the cycle. That is when the decision to shoot or not to shoot takes place and that is after a sight picture has been established. This might seem trivial, but this process allows one to shave fractions of a second between making the decision and taking a shot. Let’s walk through it. A threat is present that results in a defender drawing their gun and aiming. At this point no shot has been fired and we can take a minute to make the decision while already having a good sight picture. If the aggressor is dissuaded and the threat no longer persists, then the gun can be put away. If the threat is still present, then the modified cycle continues as the trigger is pressed, the gun goes bang, and the defender establishes another sight picture before making the decision to or not to shoot again. This results in always establishing one more sight picture than triggers pressed and the decision to shoot always happening after a sight picture is established, but before the trigger is pressed.

Now it’s perfect right? I don’t know about perfect but it is optimized. Even so, it is missing a bit of detail that will be important for folks who want to be able to shoot faster. Let me expand on this diagram one more time.

This version of the bang cycle includes a few additional details that in my opinion further improve the bang cycle by explicitly pointing out when finer grained trigger manipulations should occur in order to reduce the time it takes to complete the cycle. I think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve placed the step to begin taking up the trigger slack before the decision to shoot is made, which some folks will point out, it contradicts the third rule of gun safety (only put your finger on the trigger when you are ready to shoot). While I can understand that sentiment, I’d argue that the decision to shoot was actually made when the gun was drawn and we are now working towards making the decision to interrupt the shooting process and not continue shooting. Again, this version of the cycle is in my opinion the optimal version in detail. It also requires a high level of trigger manipulation skill and being able to call on it while under stress in order to avoid the “taking up trigger slack” becoming the “press trigger” step unintentionally.

Another thing to point out is that these cycle diagrams also make the assumption there is only a single target and does not include transitions. Not to mention all of the other decisions our brains have to make while processing information from the encounter which is dynamic in nature. That said, I think the last version of the bang cycle diagram does provide a much better description which can be used to develop better skills in comparison to the basic three step process that folks most often learn when they begin learning to shoot.

When it comes to riflescopes, I can’t deny I’m a Vortex Optics fan and turn to them first to see if they have something that can fulfill my needs because more often than not they can. Well, I was in the market again for a low powered variable optic (LPVO) and predictably I turned to Vortex to see what they had to offer. Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile might be wondering how I found myself in the market again for yet another LPVO after recently replacing the Burris Fullfield TAC30 Tactical Kit on the home defense rifle with a Vortex Strike Eagle and that’s fair. As such, I’ll start this review with a little context.

As mentioned in the Vortex Strike Eagle review, I’ve been spending more and more time behind high end scopes. Even though the Strike Eagle is still hands down my favorite value priced LPVO, the time behind those higher end scopes got me wondering if I could find something better that I could put on a rifle that my life (and the life of my family members) might depend on. Those thoughts combined with several conversations with folks who know way more about fighting with a rifle and the optics they use put me on a quest to find the absolute best LPVO I could personally afford to put on a defensive rifle. That journey ended with the Vortex Optics Razor HD Gen III 1-10×24 FFP riflescope.

Now the box this scope came was huge and provided a beautiful presentation that I could have probably done without. Don’t get me wrong, it was really nice and I’m certain some folks might appreciate it after spending the money required to acquire one of these scopes. However, I can live without a fancy box and presentation because I’m simple and care more about the optic that will be going on the rifle more than I do about packaging. Regardless, the contents of the box were perfect. In the box, one will find:

  • A sunshade,
  • a lens cloth,
  • a CR2032 battery (to power the illuminated reticle),
  • a throw lever,
  • a L-TEC tool,
  • the scope itself,
  • a scope manual,
  • and a reticle manual.

It’s a really nice package and it includes pretty much the majority of things most folks will want for their scope. A bubble level accessory might be the exception to that, but that’s me nitpicking given the price point of this riflescope.

Let’s talk about this scope from front to back; more specifically from the objective assembly to the ocular assembly.

The objective assembly houses a 24mm object lens which is the characteristically stereotypical size of the objective lens for an LPVO. Perhaps an optics engineer can shine some more light on this, but there is nothing exciting to talk about as far as I can tell except maybe that the assembly is attached to a 34mm scope tube.

The 34mm tube size is interesting because it deviates from the typical 30mm tube size that is used for the vast majority of LPVOs (and riflescopes in general). Larger tubes are a double edged sword because they tend to provide better durability and a wider turret adjustment range. However, those benefits usually come at the cost of more weight and usually a larger sticker price. The Razor Gen III is no exception to either the benefits or the drawbacks which I’ll get to shortly.

Following the tube we find the first focal lens which in the case of the Razor Gen III is etched with a reticle, hence the first focal plane (or FFP) designation on this scope. As of writing, this scope is available in two variants with two different reticles. The MOA variant offers the EBR-9 MOA reticle which seems to be an advanced bullet drop compensation (BDC) style reticle that I don’t have any experience with and haven’t really looked into. The MRAD variant (the one I opted for and got my hands on) offers the EBR-9 MRAD reticle which I’ve reviewed before and think it is a fantastic technical reticle. I personally think it’s important to recognize that the two variants offer different style reticles as this was a key deciding factor on which variant to purchase for me.

The partially illuminated EBR-9 (MRAD) reticle at 10x magnification

I’m certain some folks will end up asking which reticle or variant is better. This answer isn’t black and white. Individual preference for MOA vs MRAD adjustments come into play alongside BDC versus technical reticle preferences. In my humble opinion, the MOA variant with the BDC style reticle is better suited for folks who prefer matching ranges and wind speed to a reference point for longer shots and are okay with taking a shot with a coarser point of aim. Whereas, the MRAD variant with the technical reticle is better suited for folks that prefer referencing DOPE (data on previous engagements) or calculating a shooting solution before taking a more precise and surgical shot. My preference is for the later and why I opted for the MRAD variant with the technical reticle.

This brings us to the turrets. The turrets are low capped. Normally, I would take issue with this since I prefer exposed turrets on most riflescopes with a technical reticle. However, I think the low capped turrets on this LPVO are fine unless planning to engage targets with a cartridge at distances requiring elevation or windage holdovers that exceed the subtensions of the reference dots available on the reticles available on the LVPO variants. While it is possible to uncap the turrets and dial in adjustments for even longer range applications, I don’t see that option as being a great option for applications beyond recreational shooting. I hold this opinion because even though the turrets can be re-indexed using the included L-TEC tool, the scope does not include a zero stop feature which I think is essential for using exposed turrets when it comes to defensive or competitive applications. Regardless, this wasn’t a show stopper for me since my intent was to mount this LPVO on a AR-15 carbine intended for home defense applications.

In all other respects the turrets are magnificent. The texture around the turret dial is excellent for confidently manipulating the turret without having to worry about the hand slipping. The 0.1 MRAD (or 1/4 MOA) adjustments clicks are tactile and definitive which leaves essentially zero doubt as to whether or not one actually felt an adjustment click. The motion between clicks is exceptionally smooth which also helps eliminate adjustment click doubt. The maximum elevation and windage adjustment ranges are both 30 MRAD (or 120 MOA) which is plenty.

The reticle’s illumination is controlled using the illumination knob to the left of the elevation turret. The CR2032 battery is housed within the knob. The knob locks in place to prevent accidental illumination adjustments. It must be pulled out in order to be unlocked. The knob provides for 11 different brightness levels with an off position between each level. Like the turrets, the illumination knob has very smooth movement between brightness and off positions while also providing tactile feed back as each position is engaged.

As we continue moving towards the ocular housing we find the magnification ring. The movement of the ring is very smooth. It offers just enough resistance to minimize unintentional adjustments, but not so much resistance that one has to wrestle with it to make adjustments. The included throw level makes those adjustments a breeze.

I do have a small complaint regarding the throw lever. Not the actual throw lever itself, but rather an issue with the installation instructions. While the step-by-step installation instructions are thorough, they can be challenging to follow by somebody who isn’t familiar with the anatomy of the throw lever or isn’t mechanically inclined. For example, step three instructs to apply one drop of lubricant to the ball of the ring. That might make sense to somebody familiar with the throw lever or some body with a mechanical background or inclination, but to a layman it can sound completely foreign. In my opinion, including more pictures with the instructions or a reference diagram to point out exactly where the ball of the ring is located along with other parts of the ring referenced in the instructions would be a good improvement.

Arriving at the ocular housing, we find the ocular lens and focus ring. Unsurprisingly, the focus ring is well implemented. The ring has sufficient texture to allow adjustment without slipping of the hand. The resistance of the focus ring is heavy which, in my opinion, is a good thing because eye focus is a “set once and forget about it” kind of thing. Additional focus adjustments, especially unintentional ones, are not a welcome thing when running the rifle.

At 1x magnification the illuminated reticle looks like a red dot sight.

Clarity and eye strain. It should be obvious that I think the Razor HD Gen III is well built and seems to have just about all the bells and whistles one expects from higher end LPVO. One thing I haven’t mentioned is what it’s like to spend time looking through this scope. It’s important to note that the experience behind a scope is a bit subjective depending on one’s own experience with higher end scopes. That said I will tell you that the glass on this LPVO doesn’t disappoint. The Razor HD glass is superb and is in line with my time behind other Vortex products that use this glass (like the Vortex Optics Razor HD LH 3-15×42). The glass has amazing light transmission and excellent edge to edge clarity. I haven’t noticed any eye strain even after spending several hours using the scope.

The eye relief of 3.6 inches is a bit shorter, as expected due to the nature of first focal plane (FFP) scopes, than what is found on other second focal plane (SFP) LPVOs. It’s important to be aware of this as it implies one should take additional care when mounting the scope to be sure the distance between the ocular lens and the eye is properly adjusted.

A fellow reader asked me to compare this LPVO to the Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24. Since I haven’t spent time behind the Gen II or the Gen II-E, I can’t provide an experience comparison. That said there are a few specification comparisons that are worthwhile to note. These are enumerated in the table below.

SecificationGen IIIGen II-EGen II
Max Magnification10x6x6x
Eye Relief3.6″4″4″
Tube Size34 mm30 mm30 mm
Adjustment Graduation .1 MRAD (1/4 MOA).2 MRAD (1/2 MOA).2 MRAD (1/2 MOA)
Max Elevation/Windage Adjustment30 MRAD (120 MOA)43 MRAD (150 MOA)43 MRAD (150 MOA)
Weight21.5 oz21.5 oz25.2 oz
Focal PlaneFirstSecondSecond

Summarizing the comparison, the Gen III provides more magnification and finer grained turret adjustments over the Gen II-E and the Gen II. The larger tube size of the Gen III suggests it may be more durable and rugged than the Gen II-E and the Gen II while also being lighter than the Gen II. However, the Gen III gives up some eye relief and turret adjustment ranges. Lastly and arguably most importantly, the first focal plane reticle of the Gen III allows the shooter to make full use of the reticle features regardless of the current magnification setting which is a vast usability improvement over the Gen II-E and the Gen II.

In closing, I firmly believe the Razor HD Gen III 1-10×24 FFP riflescope is currently the best LPVO in the market today and is perfect for an AR-15 rifle intended for serious defensive or competitive use. I understand a street price of $2000 is likely to give some folks pause. However, I think the price is very fair considering the caliber and capability of this particular scope. While it isn’t inexpensive, scopes of similar quality and build tend to have even higher price points.

Over the better part of the last decade, I’ve had the privilege to share my opinions on handguns with folks who were considering their first gun or trying to figure out how to get started with carrying a handgun. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started having those conversations, but I can say the frequency of those conversations has significantly increased since I started this blog. At any rate, recent conversations got me doing a bit of reflection on the topic. While spending some time rereading some older blog posts on the topic and even some old email exchanges, I started noticing a few patterns that I figured would be worth mentioning and sharing.

Pretty much every single conversation on this topic touches on three different aspects: comfort, concealment, and capability. I’m going to start referring to these aspects as the 3 C’s cause that’s a lot easier to type. While these aspects come up, each conversation tends to focus on one of these. The focus of the conversation seemed to be because of an individual’s priorities and preferences, or because the individual wanted to improve upon one of these aspects.

Before exploring further, I’m going to take a minute and attempt to define these aspects in the context of this discussion. Comfort and concealment are pretty straight forward. Comfort refers to how much or how little physical discomfort a person experiences while carrying a handgun throughout the day. Concealment refers to how well a handgun is concealed. Capability on the other hand is a bit overloaded, but can be summarized as an individual’s self defense capability. The reason I say capability is overloaded is because it has several significant sub aspects that play a critical role including how easy the handgun is to shoot, the handgun’s capacity (including extra magazines), how easy the weapon is to draw, how safely secured the firearm is, and so on. I suppose it could be my bias towards optimizing capability when it comes to what I carry that makes me point out these sub aspects and neglect to mention I could think of a few sub aspects of comfort and concealment with a bit of additional effort, but I think that will be self evident as this discussion continues.

Okay, cool. We have established the 3 C’s. So what? Well, here is the thing. Optimizing one of the C’s generally means compromising with the other two. It’s a simple concept, but the implications are fairly profound. Let’s explore that.

I’ve already mentioned my tendency to optimize for capability. To me that means, being able to carry the VP9 equipped with an RMR in a full kydex holster with a couple of extra magazines. This is the handgun I am most proficient with that offers the largest capacity compared to the other handguns I have access to. To be clear, I haven’t completely thrown out comfort and concealment. In fact, I’ve even made some concessions when it comes to capability in order to achieve the minimum comfort and concealment levels I want. For example, while I would prefer to carry the VP9 with a weapon light attached, I haven’t found an IWB (inside the waistband) holster that supports a weapon mounted light and conceals well enough in my opinion. At the same time, I’ve made some compromises in my carry method for the sake of comfort. In terms of capability, I find that my draw is faster and more consistent when my IWB holster is positioned over my appendix versus my strong side. At the same time, given my body size and shape, I have yet to find a comfortable way to employ the appendix carry method and as such carry on my strong side.

I hope that by sharing my preferences and reasoning behind how I carry illustrates how the 3 C’s come into play and how compromises are made as the dial on one of the 3 C’s is turned.

I completely understand that some folks prioritize some of the 3 C’s differently. As such, I’m going to explore what implications those different optimizations may mean.

Comfort is very important for some folks and there are several ways one can optimize comfort. For example, one could opt for off-body carry as this is arguably the most comfortable carry method while allowing for a very high level of concealment. However, this approach makes some enormous compromises when it comes to capability even though it may not be apparent to some folks at first glance. While off-body carry does allow a person to comfortably conceal a larger firearm and therefore create the illusion of having a high degree of capability, it creates challenges when it comes to drawing the firearm and getting into action quickly. It also creates a retention problem in the sense that one has to be hyper vigilant in terms of retaining the object the firearm is secured in. In fact, I could argue this actually compromises comfort when it comes to certain activities such as making use of lavatory. Regardless, the retention and draw issues are, in my opinion, far too risky to consider off-body carry as an option.

Limiting carry options to on person methods, optimizing for comfort generally implies either carrying a smaller and lighter handgun or opting to open carry. The former compromises capability while the latter compromises concealment. The recent market growth in small framed high capacity pistols seems to support my opinion that the majority of folks prefer not to open carry. While some of these guns, like the Sig Sauer P365, the Springfield Armory Hellcat, and the Smith & Wesson M&P Plus, are quite shoot-able given their small size and modestly high capacity, they still require more recoil management and don’t quite have the same capacity than their duty sized counterparts.

My intention is not to convince folks who value comfort above the other two C’s to re-prioritize. I simply want folks who prioritize comfort to be aware of what that implies.

Concealment can also be the top priority. Optimizing for concealment generally implies either carrying a smaller and lighter handgun, opting for a different carry method, tolerating additional discomfort, or a combination of any of these. However, the compromises made for the sake of concealment are more context dependent than the compromises made for the sake of the other C’s. What do I mean by this? When tweaking the concealment dial (or simply attempting to maintain the current setting), the discussion or thought process generally involves the concept of dressing around the gun. Not to mention consideration must be given to one’s personal style, build, the permissiveness of the environment, and the day’s activities. In certain situations, we can dress around the gun. In other situations, it simply isn’t an option. Remember concealment isn’t just about keeping the firearm out of sight, it’s also about not standing out like a sore thumb and essentially advertising the “concealed” firearm to the world. In other words, don’t be that person wearing the heavy winter coat to conceal the hand cannon in the OWB (outside the waistband) holster at the beach in the middle of summer when everyone else is essentially half naked.

So that’s it. Those are the 3 C’s of carrying a handgun. As simple as they are, the way they interact is complex and, in my opinion, why it’s a constant topic of discussion for folks who are new to carrying a handgun and also for folks who have been carrying a handgun for a long time.

In the last post of this building a quality survival kit on a budget series, we continued exploring the 10 C’s plus one concept and added some casualty care to the survival kit. At this point, the survival kit contains items to help combat all of the most common threats. As such, we have started adding some utility to it. We have also introduced a few options for cutting tools, combustion, cordage, containers, cover, compass, candle, casualty care, and combat. Now it’s time to look at the next category of the 10 C’s plus one, which happens to be “communitactions”, to figure out what to add next to the kit.

For review and in terms of utility, I like to refer to a concept coined as the 10 C’s plus one. They are:

  • Cutting (tools)
  • Combustion
  • Cordage
  • Container
  • Cover
  • Compass (maps)
  • Candle (lighting)
  • Casualty care
  • Combat
  • Communications
  • Calories

The concept of communications in this context refers to the tools required to effectively send or receive information to or from one or more sources.

To be quite frank, I’ve been dreading this topic in this series for some time because I’ve been uncertain what to suggest. Part of me wants to simply suggest picking up a Baofeng UV-5R two way radio and be done with it. It is an amazingly low priced (right around $25 on sale), fairly reliable, and well featured radio. As such, it is an extremely popular option among many survival and preparedness minded folks. However, it does present some challenges since it’s not exactly user friendly and does require learning a bit about radio communications and obtaining proper licenses in order to use it legally per FCC regulations. The other reason that I’m hesitant to go this route is that it is limited as a one way radio which can be used to listen in on local emergency frequencies assuming local emergency services aren’t using encrypted communications and we know what they are unless he happen to have other friends and family members who have another radio, know how to use it, are in range, and are listening for friendly communications. There simply is a lot more to it than spending $25 on a two way radio and tossing it in a kit.

So what other options do we have?

There is some value in a one way radio. Even more so if that one way radio can complement and support some of the other items and capabilities in the survival kit. As such, I’m going to suggest this emergency hand crank self powered radio from RunningSnail. The radio can receive weather broadcasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as listen in on AM/FM radio frequencies which can be useful when the power goes out during severe weather. Additionally, it can serve as a power bank for smartphones or another light source. On sale these can be picked for about $15 and are regularly priced around $25.

While the term communications is commonly associated with radio when it comes to survival situations, it’s important to remember the basic definition – the ability and tools needed to send or receive information to or from one or more sources. The one way radio ticks the box when it comes to receiving information. It can also help power smart phones which I assume most of us usually have on our persons and ticks both send and receive capabilities. Even so, I like having some good old fashioned pen (or pencil) and paper in the survival kit. I’m partial to the Rite in the Rain all weather notebooks (which can be picked up for around $7) because the paper won’t fall apart during wet weather. Pair that with No. 2 pencil (that can be sharpened with the cutting tools in the kit) and a ballpoint pen and we now have the ability to record information and leave notes if need be.

That’s this month’s suggestion. An inexpensive emergency radio, a notebook, a pencil, and a pen. All of which can be picked up with a little effort to find good sale prices for under the $25 monthly budget constraint of this project. If one happens to have few extra bucks, consider picking a small light weight signal mirror for the kit as well.

Deer Rifle for Under $1000

I was recently asked what I would suggest for a deer hunting rifle while adhering to a $1000 budget. While that’s not a tremendous amount of money when it comes to firearms, that budget can go a long way. For perspective, I picked up my first deer rifle for around $300 which came with a factory mounted scope. Anyway, the question got me thinking. If I had $1000 for a deer rifle, what would I get?

Before I answer that, I want to say that I fully expect for folks to disagree with me and offer alternatives. That’s fine. I encourage that. There are a lot of good value priced options that a new deer hunter can use to put food on the table. Also, my hunting experience has been limited to terrains where a good harvest opportunity might require a good shot at distances of up to 350 yards give or take a football field. As such that will heavily influence what I would get.

Let’s start with the rifle. I’m going to suggest an entry level bolt action rifle. Specifically, the Savage Arms AXIS II (which is also available in a left hand configuration). The MSRP for this rifle is $459, but one can realistically expect to find these going for about $300 to $350 street price. For a starter value priced rifle, I really like what Savage offers. The action on is solid. The AccuTrigger is, in my opinion, one of the better factory triggers available without getting into premium triggers found on higher end bolt actions. One could opt to save a few bucks and go with the original AXIS, but that would not include the AccuTrigger which is the main reason I think the AXIS II is a great option. Another good thing about this particular rifle is that variants are available for many popular deer hunting cartridges such as, but not limited to, 22-250 Remington, 243 Winchester, 25-07 Remington, 270 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 308 Winchster, 6.5mm Creedmoor, and 7mm-08 Remington.

For those with an even tighter budget, one could opt to spend an additional $80 and opt for the Savage Arms AXIS II XP. The XP includes a Bushnell Banner 3-9x40mm scope which is a very common size and magnification range. While I’m not a fan of budget scopes, I have to admit that they will get the job done. Unfortunately, the AXIS II XP is not available in a left hand configuration.

Assuming I went with the AXIS II and spent around $300 to $350 of the original budget, I’m still going to need a scope, rings, and base.

Let’s start with the base because it’s necessary and likely the lowest cost part. A base like a Leupold Rifleman 1-Piece Base will work just fine and set us back about $10. I tend to prefer higher end bases like the Mountain Tech Scope Rail from Warne Manufacturing, which would set us back about $60, because I think its a good investment for a higher quality foundation on which to attach quality optics. However, given we are working with a budget I can go either way here. Either way, we are looking at an additional $10 to $60 for the base which brings the total between $310 and $410.

Scope rings are something I also don’t like to skimp on, especially when attaching a high end scope to a rifle. I’m a big fan of the Precision Matched Riflescope (PMR) rings from Vortex Optics and they are what I rely on for mounting high quality scopes to my rifles. The PMR rings will set one back about $150. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the Pro Series rings from Vortex as well and wouldn’t object to these rings either. The Pro Series rings will set one back about $60. That means we are looking at an additional $60 to $150 for scope rings and that brings the running total between $370 and $560.

Based on the running total we have about $440 to $630 left to work with for a scope. I’m going to look at some options from Vortex Optics because I believe they make great scopes and their pricing results in a lot more scope for the same amount of money when compared to other rifle scope manufacturers. There are a lot of options I would consider in this range from Vortex. Here are some of them:

Out of those I would personally opt for one of the two Viper HS scopes as the Viper HS is a higher end product line than the others and keeps us well within the budget if we opt for the more budget friendly base and ring options. I firmly believe that spending more on a better scope will yield a better overall hunting experience. Furthermore, I find taking a $70 loss for a $210 base and ring upgrade later a much easier pill to swallow than taking a $200 loss for a $600 scope upgrade later. Also consider that going with the better scope, rings, and base brings the total spend to $1160 ($350 rifle + $60 base + $150 rings + $600 scope) which isn’t a ridiculous overage beyond the original $1000 budget.