Huntng for Shooting Accessories
Who came first, the shooter or the hunter? In my experience they arrived about the same time. The BB gun I carried as a kid while tramping Michigan pheasant fields with my father was the same one I used for plinking soda cans. When a bolt-action 20-gauge Mossberg finally found its way under the Christmas tree, it was a short step to a reloading machine because shells were a buck a box (a bit stiff for a grocery-store sacker earning 50 cents an hour). Besides hunting small game, my friends and I made plenty of trips to the local skeet and trap range. There also was Charlie Oliver’s garbage dump, where the starlings were thick as flies. Now was that hunting or shooting . . . ?
Let’s fast-forward a half-century to some great stuff for today’s shooters. Naturally, I’ll start with a new reloader.
MEC Auto-Mate for 9000 and 8567 Grabber Series Reloaders
Some of today’s best shotshell reloaders are made by Mayville Engineering Company (MEC), which has built more than 2 million reloaders since 1956. MEC makes a slew of models and still services older types, including the 600 Jr. and Versamec machines made before 1982. MEC pioneered high-speed, high-volume reloading by incorporating de-priming and brass resizing into one step, along with automatic shell advance and finished shell ejection. Newer models like the 8567 Grabber and 9000 series allow progressive shotshell reloading: You keep adding empties to Station One and wad collars to Station Three, and the machine does the rest with every up-and-down pull of the handle. With a modern MEC machine you can load 12 to 16 boxes per hour, thanks to these and other advances, including automatic primer feeding and cycle charging.
The 8567N Grabber, for example, manually moves shells through 12 operations at six stations to produce a finished round with every stroke of the handle. All 9000-series units automatically advance shells to the next station and kick them out when the final crimp is made. The 9000HN features a hydraulic system with foot pedal to free up hands.
The Auto-Mate turns any 9000- or 8567 Grabber-series unit into an electrically operated factory. Simply feed hulls and wads and hit the two control buttons, and the machine does the rest. By itself, the Auto-Mate sells for $579, or you can buy the new 9000E for $1,056 in 12 and 20 gauge or for $1,107 in 16 and 28 gauge as well as .410. (These are Website prices; your local dealer or favorite mail-order catalog may have them for less.) Unlike MEC single-stage reloaders, however, die sets are not available in the progressive models. Translation: You must buy a new reloader for each gauge.
MEC makes many accessories, including a Links Kit ($49) that lets you use the same Auto-Mate on separate models of its progressive reloaders. I was unable to test the Auto-Mate for this review, but watching the company’s 32-minute demonstration video made the complex look surprisingly simple.You can see the video on the company’s Website.
Mayville Engineering Co., Inc., 800-797-4632; www.mecreloaders.com.
Shooting Carts from Rugged Gear
In the business of manufacturing ATV and SUV gun racks and carriers since 1994, Rugged Gear began making portable shooting carts about 10 years ago. Cowboy action shooters love them, and they are growing in popularity at gun clubs and ranges everywhere. If you want to shoot different bores or simply want to move guns from station to station, a muzzles-up shooting cart can help you do it securely (read: safely). What the South Dakota company initially introduced as a basic two-gun model has evolved into three-, four- and now six-gun carts in both standard and deluxe styles.
Appearing at first glance to be a baby stroller, the shooting cart is actually a well-apportioned technical transport. Three bicycle-style tires attach and detach (for collapsible, easy storage) with the push of a button. The front wheel swivels for cornering and locks tightly for negotiating rough terrain. Rear wheels come with parking brakes, and an adjustable handle allows shooters of all sizes to push the cart. The four-gun model ($369.99) is available in navy or green and features a matching accessory bag that attaches to the cart front via thumbscrews. You can stack your double guns closed or open. Buttstocks fit securely into sculpted holders, and barrels snug tightly to a patented gear-hook system with adjustable holders of aluminum channel layered with neoprene. Velcro straps prevent barrel marring. The cart rear has three upper storage pockets for loose shells and three lower pockets with flaps for other gear. Storage space under the buttstock holders will accommodate 18 boxes of 12-gauge shells. Extras include a black protective cover, a spent-shell bag that detaches, a shooter’s towel and a six-can beverage cooler. The deluxe model ($439.99) adds leather trim to the 1,000-denier Cordura fabric and soft covers on the barrel holders. The company logo is embroidered on front.
Rugged Gear’s newest product is the 4-Gun to 6-Gun Conversion Kit ($91.95). It’s a two-gun extension that attaches to the 4-gun model through a simple floor mount with four bolts and wing nuts on the cart front. Attach two more barrel-mount hooks and a single bolt/wing nut on the shaft, and you’re ready to take your small arsenal with you.
Check the Website for special prices on overstocked items and limited-edition colors. You also can locate a dealer there.
Rugged Gear, 800- 734-4331; www.ruggedgear.com.
Filson Dry-Finish Tin Cloth Shooting Jacket
I’m no fan of Filson’s waxed Tin Cloth apparel, which I find too stiff and heavy, but I give the company’s dry-finish Tin Cloth clothing an enthusiastic two thumbs up. The new Dry Finish Tin Cloth Shooting Jacket in 100-percent cotton has the soft feel of stonewashed denim. Everything else is right about this jacket too, from the action-back design with adjustable snap tabs to the inner storm cuffs of knitted fabric that also help the shooter swing through without effort. To explain: Fabric on the back is gusseted to present a yoke-like look and to “give” when the shooter follows through. The gusset runs full-length on both sides except for the final six inches, where it splits to create a “tail.” Just above this tail are the snap tabs to tighten or loosen the fabric for that just-right feel. To my mind, this jacket is cut so full (it covers pants pockets) that it might more accurately be called a coat. The split-tail design, incidentally, adds comfort when sitting. And the storm cuffs prevent sleeves from riding up during the gun mount and shooting.
A lot of thought went into the design. Shooting patches left and right have interior pockets to receive Limbsaver recoil pads. Deep cargo pockets sport drain holes and are double gusseted. Because the pockets are split, this feature helps separate the two compartments. Keep gloves or empties on one side and live shells on the other. A generous protective flap cleverly snaps to the inside or outside to provide quick access to contents or to prevent their loss. The chocolate-colored moleskin collar is an eye-catching contrast to the dark-tan jacket. On cold days turn up the collar and snap it closed. Adjustable cuffs and a hidden front zipper are other nice touches. So are the handwarmer pockets behind the cargo pockets. I was going to carp about the lack of an inside security pocket over the left breast but, voila!, it’s there—a bit lower, next to the cargo pocket. Overall, this unlined jacket is a range winner. Price: $245. Sizes: Small through XXL.
C.C. Filson Co., 800-624-0201; www.filson.com.
Galco Four Box Shell Carrier
If you’re in the market for a shell-box tote and want a great product that is more affordable, consider the new Canvas and Leather Four Box Carrier from Galco Gunleather. It is similar in quality and appearance to other Galco gun slips and shooting bags I have reviewed in the past. Made from strong and durable khaki cotton twill, the carrier sports rich brown leather carrying handles and trim. You often can tell the quality of leather/canvas products by the stitching; the seams on this tote are piped and bound for reinforcement. In other words, sewn leather trim covers the canvas edge to give it strength and prevent fraying. The carrier, which has a water-resistant nylon lining, is ideal for a round of 100 clays or a live-pigeon shoot or for taking afield for doves or driven birds. Price: $69.95. (Note: Like me, if you drool over warm-chestnut leather, know that a four-box model in Latigo—leather from range-toughened Western cattle—is available for $174.95. Stress points on the all-leather model are hand-stitched for added strength.)
Galco International, 800-874-2526; www.galcogunleather.com.
Field Box by Pinnell Custom Leather
What Gucci is to women’s purses, Pinnell Custom Leather is to shooting accessories. Since 1974 the Virginia company has hand-fashioned top-quality leather belts, bags and accessories for sportsmen, athletes, equestrians and business people. Photo samples are available through the company’s Website, but Pinnell has no printed catalog. “That’s because the choices are unlimited,” said owner Chuck Pinnell. “Everything we make is custom-ordered to specification. We do take photos of every product, though, and can provide samples upon request.”
A double-shotgun sleeve in elephant skin and a field speed bag in reptile leather are unique product examples. Pinnell said he imports leathers from throughout the world. From supple Italian calf leather to stiff Kentucky bridle leather, he also makes shooting accessories from elephant, hippo, lizard, frog, ostrich, Nile River crocodile, stingray and American alligator hides. Recently, the small company (there are seven workers) designed a belt-knife sheath from beaver tail for Sarah Palin. Many clients ship Pinnell the hides from their African trophies, and he turns them into one-of-a-kind works of art.
When I asked Pinnell to send a sample product for review, he supplied a field box in black, vegetable-tanned bridle leather. In a word, it is gorgeous. From solid-brass fasteners to intricate stitching throughout, the piece contains 129 separate components and required 45 man-hours to create. “Box” is accurate, because the rigid sidewalls are not supple as in a typical shooting bag. The field box weighs a hefty 8 pounds and holds 10 boxes of shells, thanks to its roomy interior: 12" (l) x 6" (w) x 9" (d), or about 650 cubic inches. Expandable side pockets each contain another 82 cubic inches of space for shooting glasses, gloves, choke tubes and other paraphernalia.
Quality comfort touches abound: Carrying handles are rolled leather, and the shoulder harness is padded and features leather protectors that slide over adjustment buckles to prevent scratching gunstocks. There is a personalized brass nameplate on the hinged cover and a small leather business-card tag on the detachable shoulder strap. Price: $1,600.
This tough, durable shooting box is not only exceptional in appearance, but it also has a smooth hand, thanks to its “hand-stuffed leather” (impregnated with hand-rubbed wax), giving it a warm patina like antique furniture. Enough! In short, I am loath to ship it back.
Pinnell Custom Leather, 434-823-9800; www.pinnellcustomleather.com.
- By: Tom Huggler