Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gear Review: Hawkeye Custom Cheek Rests


Lining up properly for your shot is one of the most important steps in rifle shooting. Proper eye relief needs to be maintained and you need a proper cheek weld to do so. For a couple years I have used a makeshift cheek rest on my Remington .270 and this year I needed an upgrade. Including my homemade build, I tried three types out with very different results. While this is a comparison of what I tried and tested, I am sharing this as a full review of the Hawkeye Custom Cheek Rests. 

My homemade cheek rest didn't fare so well. You can barely see it!



 
When I inherited my .270 from my uncle, I added a new scope with high rings. While the stock has a built-in cheek rest, I needed one that would elevate my head a bit more for proper alignment. I had some extra foam table edge protectors, so I cut a piece to length and slid an Allen buttstock bullet holder over the top. This cob job worked for a couple years, but it certainly wasn't the best solution. It really needed some duct tape to keep things in place. This year it all fell apart and wouldn't stay put. I needed a better option.

The Voodoo Tactical cheek rest kit. This didn't work well at all.


 
I searched online and checked out many different options. My first choice was to save some money and purchase the Voodoo Tactical Buttstock Cheek Rest with Ammo Carrier Case on Amazon for around $15.00. Reviews were decent and a few tips and tricks made it sound like this would work well. I installed it and ran into issues right away. There was Velcro everywhere that wouldn't cinch down correctly. It was bulky and awkward, and it was really high. I removed some of the foam inside the unit, Velcroed everything back together and tested it. The cheek weld worked, but the front of the rest would not cinch up tight enough. I had options like tucking the Velcro strap in the back, or simply cutting it off. No matter what I tried, I was not satisfied, so I sent it back for a refund.

The Hawkeye Custom Cheek Rests with the 60mm bolt kit.

 
After more research and deciding I needed to suck it up and find something worthwhile, I found family-owned Hawkeye Custom Cheek Rests. I emailed them and explained my situation and asked them what they would recommend. Their website allows you to choose Kydex cheek rests in three different thicknesses; Elite - .125", Operator - .080", and Standard - .060" mil thickness. Austin recommended that I try one in the Operator and one in Elite. I knew that in order to utilize one of the Hawkeye cheek rests that I would need to drill into my stock to mount it properly. Honestly, that didn't bother me with a synthetic stock. I chose the Operator in gun metal gray, and black for the Elite. After my order, I had them in two days (and they were shipped from the East Coast). Super fast turnaround.

Inside the box you get:
  • (1) Kydex Cheek Rest .080" (Gunmetal)
  • (2) 60mm low profile black bolts (black)
  • (2) Knurled steel thumb knobs (black)
  • Neoprene Washers
  • Installation Instructions
Measure twice, drill once. I took great care in lining up the holes.

 
I read the installation instructions twice, measured twice, and followed the recommendation to use masking tape as a guide. I made my marks, did my drilling and followed exactly what the directions stated. I used smaller drill bits at first and worked my way up. The major issue I had was the fact that my synthetic stock has a built-in cheek rest. I opted to try the .080" rest and it conformed perfectly. The .125" was far too thick and, as stated on the website, would not bend well. I got the cheek rest set exactly where I needed it, tested it out and I was in business. I am very happy with the Hawkeye Custom Cheek Rest!


The Operator retails for $33.99 and the Elite retails for $38.99. I think the Elite would work well for a uniform stock, but for those with odd shaped stocks or just want a solid cheek rest, the Hawkeye Custom Cheek Rests in .080" work the best. I have not tested the .060", but it only comes in black and I wanted a different color. I highly recommend these guys for great customer service and also offering a great solution in the cheek rest category.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Product Review: Lyman GEN6 Compact Touch Screen Powder System

Reloading the old fashioned way is precise, but with the technology that has come out in recent years you can reload much faster and have it be as precise as ever. When my reloading mentor, Bill Gardner, and I spoke with Lyman Products at SHOT Show 2017, they gave us a solid rundown of their products and product improvements. It was impressive and with me getting back into reloading, they wanted me to see how great their products really are. The number one question I had was on powder dispensers, especially the Lyman GEN6 ™ Compact Touch Screen Powder System. I was invited to try the unit and give an honest review.

When the GEN6 Compact Touch Screen Powder System arrived I was like a kid on Christmas. My experience with powder dispensers had been limited to strictly manual use, which has been very time consuming. Using an electronic dispenser was going to be new and exciting! My first impressions were that it is lightweight, takes up little bench space, and was easy to assemble. It comes with a weight to calibrate the system, a brush for loose powder, powder pan, and a cord with interchangeable heads for use in other countries. Pretty cool to see that.

Assembling was easy, but I did have some trouble with the first unit (detailed below).

Using Unit #1


The GEN6 Compact Touch Screen Powder System was easy to set up and assemble. It only took us a few minutes and after we waited the three minute warm up, we were ready to calibrate and start dispensing powder. We calibrated exactly as the manual stated and then began setting up loads for my 300 WM. It took us a while to get the calibration to work for us. We kept having issues with it reading an incorrect number (see image above that should read 771.0). We calibrated and set the zero. We used another digital scale to verify the weight. The other scale read the correct weight.

The Lyman website states the GEN6 is accurate to one tenth grain. I set it for 57.5 grains of powder and when it dispensed the readout was 57.6 consistently. This was within specs, but it would never hit 57.5 on the nose. Thinking that it might be kicking out a little extra, we inserted the restrictor attachment into the dispensing tube. We again calibrated the GEN6 and then also calibrated the other electronic scale to verify weight. Calibration was right on for the other, but not the GEN6. It took some time again. We then set the unit to dispense 57.5  with the same results coming out at 57.6. We poured that powder into the pan on the other scale and it came up 57.2 grains. I was getting frustrated and confused.


We calibrated the GEN6 again (third time) and set it to dispense 57.5 grains again. The screen read 57.6 a few times and then 57.7 a few times. Each time we verified weight on the other scale and it was consistently 2-4 tenths lower than what was on the GEN6 screen.

After calibrating a fourth time, we tested out a different power for a different caliber and load. We ran into the same results again. Two tenths lower across the board. I contacted Lyman with my results and concerns as to the dispensing. Lyman was great and shipped out a new unit right away. Tech support reported they replaced the seals and cleaned the unit to working order. Kudos to Lyman for getting after the issue right away, but mainly for sending a new unit without question.

Using Unit #2



Once the new unit arrived, we again followed the directions as in the manual, calibrated and again set up loads for my 300 WM.  We calibrated this unit right away to 771.1 grains and it was within spec and was excellent this time around (I verified it on the other scale). When it came time to set some loads, I programmed in 57.5 grains and the scale dispensed exactly 57.5 grains each and every time (also verified on the other scale). I was very happy now. I reloaded 80 rounds, in very little time, with the new GEN6 and it worked like a dream. This is one stellar unit!

The only issues I had with the second unit was the touch screen. I had a difficult time having the proper setting turn on/off with the touch of my finger. Even Bill had to get his finger in the exact right place. It was a bit frustrating at times, but once set there were no issues.


Cleanup was very easy with the side powder chute and brush. Simply put the correct powder keg under the chute, open it and watch the powder empty back into the container. I was actually surprised at how easy this was. The small brush was great for sweeping up the loose powder. I did find a few grains of powder inside the machine after I thought it was clean, so be 100% you have all of the loose powder out before attempting to reload with another.

It stores easily and can be used with different powders. We tried it with ball powder and grain rifle powder. Just be sure it's completely cleaned out and then calibrate it for the new powder. Also remember that the auto dispense feature is awesome, but can drive you nuts when you forget to turn it off. I made that mistake one time! Okay, two times!


Overall, I think the Lyman GEN6 Compact Touch Screen Powder System is an awesome powder dispensing system. I would love to see the touch screen a bit more sensitive and easier to set, but it is a great machine. I have seen it listed from $189.99 - $299.99. Average price is around $230.00. Coming from someone who has reloaded by hand for much of his life, for near perfect precision powder dispensing, I think this machine like this is worth the money and I would recommend it to any reloader.

I received the Lyman GEN6 Compact Touch Screen Powder System for free from Lyman Products in consideration for review publication. All opinions are strictly my own.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bass Pro Shops Adds Al Quackenbush to Local Pro Staff


It's an honor and a privilege to announce that I have been selected to the Bass Pro Shops Local Pro Staff in Rancho Cucamonga, CA for 2017! For many years, I have been giving seminars and shown up in store at Bass Pro to help other hunters become more successful. My expertise is in hunting big game, so that is what I will focus on. I do hunt small game, but my love is for hunting big game. I will be joining a solid team with decades of hunting and fishing experience. 

Does this mean I will only talk hunting? Not a all! If you want to hear about a certain topic, talk hunting gear, or even try to figure out California regulations and get advice, I'll talk about any and all. I simply want to help you all become better hunters. Why not meet at Bass Pro to do it?

I'll be offering seminars on a regular basis and that is where I could use your help. What do YOU all want to learn about? I can talk about the same things over and over, but I really want to be sure I am covering the topics that you want to learn about. 

I am thrilled to be representing Bass Pro Shops in 2017!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bass Pro Shops Seminar Recap: Scouting and Optics


Sharing information regarding hunting in California is something that give hunters more tools in which to be successful in the field. This past Saturday, I gave a seminar at Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga, CA on Scouting and Optics in Southern California. I focused on SoCal because California is such a large state that different techniques can be used depending on where you hunt. I won't cover everything I talked about (you'll have to attend a seminar to get the full impact), but I'll give you the short version.

The majority of the seminar was focused on utilizing binoculars with a minimum of a 10x42 power mounted to a tripod. I don't think everyone in SoCal really needs a spotting scope if they plan to simply hunt the foothills. They are handy, no doubt, but two eyes on a subject are better than one.

I covered different binoculars for hunters on a budget and why using the Pursuit X1 binoculars from BPS mounted to a tripod was better than some high-end binos being handheld over time. Hand holding them is great for short approaches, but for long-term scouting,  mounting them to a tripod allows you to focus on the movement on the hillside and not the movement caused by your hands shaking.

We briefly discussed scouting with trail cameras, what ones to buy, and how to set them up properly. 

When it comes to scouting, like many other hunters, I recommend using a grid pattern. Imagine a grid covering the area you want to glass and then take a square at a time to focus on. Look it over for at least five minutes before moving to another square. If there are two of you this can work even better. 

Overall, I think the seminar was a success. I enjoyed the questions, the participation, and meeting the attendees after. You guys were great to talk with! I wish you all the best success this year with your scouting. I look forward to getting some stories of your scouting trips and your hunts. Good luck out there!

Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 California Hunting Licenses and Drawing Tag Applications


Just a reminder that 2017 hunting licenses and drawing tag applications will be available beginning April 15, 2017. Hunters may purchase licenses and apply for tags online by clicking on ‘Online License Sales and Service’, or at any license agent or CDFW license sales office. The deadline for applying for the 2017 big game drawing is June 2, 2017.

Specific Hunting Tag info can be found here:

https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Hunting/Big-Game