Testing Guns & Gear at the 2017 A*B Arms Range Day

posted on July 21, 2017

Events that feature long-range shooting can often turn quite interesting. The weather may decide it’s not going to cooperate, steel targets won’t stay upright, scopes that had previously been perfectly zeroed suddenly wander, target stands blow over; there’s any number of things that can go sideways when you’re not on an indoor range with elements tightly controlled. The American Built Arms (A*B Arms) range day, however, was not one of those events—everything went about as well as it could.

To start, it was held at Panthera Training in Old Fields, WV. The facility spans an impressive 750 acres, and has driving courses, long-range options, 360-degree ranges, shoothouses and numerous other options available for instruction. Courses were laid out at the 1,000-yard range, a 300-yard range and the shoothouse—and we also got a taste of the driving course both on- and off-road. The 1,000 yard range was shot from a 60-foot-tall tower, which was surprisingly spacious and comfortable.

We started the event at the 1,000 yard range (actually, it started with a briefing where we met the principals of Panthera and the attending exhibitors, but the fun part started on the range), with exhibitors present in the shade of the tower: Propper, offering tactical apparel and gear; CTRL Eyewear, ballistic-rated shooting glasses that literally darken at the push of a button; Battle Horse Knives, some really sweet-looking fixed-blade offerings and Man-Pack with its line of upscale off-body gear. Expect a closer look at all of this gear later on our website.

Up on the tower we had three shooting postions: An A*B Arms Mod.X rifle system in .223 Rem. with a Dead Air suppressor and a Zeiss scope, with an Oakwood Controls target at 600 yards; another A*B Arms Mod.X rifle system in .308 Win. with an Advanced Armament Corp suppressor and an Oakwood Controls target at 800 yards and a second A*B Arms Mod.X rifle system in .308 Win. on a steel plate at 750 yards. As with previous experiences shooting suppressed rifles, while it did bring the report of both .223 Rem. and .308 Win. down to less-than-painful levels, hearing protection was still required. The unsuppressed .308 Win. rifle sounded downright uncivilized next to the two quieted variants.

The Oakwood Controls systems is ingenious; we described it in our After Action Report from last year’s event. In a nutshell, it identifies impacts on the silhouette target (and misses for a pre-scanned area around the target with accuracy of 5 mm or less) and transmits that information to a laptop computer at the shooting position. Despite being 600 to 800 yards away from the target, we had immediate notification of our shooting prowess (or lack thereof) right on the screen. The hardest part of the whole system is keeping your eye on target through the five-round string and not “prairie-dogging” and looking at the screen before finished (I will neither confirm nor deny a quick “side eye” at the screen…)

Interesting side note: The .308 Win. shot at the 750-yard steel plate was rather difficult to detect, as a rather sizeable plate with considerable heft barely moves when hit with a 175-grain bullet. Not only that, but we were far enough away that the (usually) audible ping was not discernible with hearing protection on. Perhaps our elevation made hearing the report more difficult, as well. In any case, spotting for others shooting at the steel meant looking for the tiniest of wobbles on the corners of the plate to see movement when hit. Misses were more evident as dirt and dust were kicked up.

Gorilla Ammunition supplied match-quality .223 Rem. and .308 Win. ammo for the event, and no malfunctions of any sort were experienced or noted during our time on the shooting deck.

After a break for lunch (followed by some driving instruction immediately afterwards; I highly recommend spacing “food” and “roar around a track at top speed only to go into a J-turn” for those with delicate constitutions, by the way) we visited one of the 300 yard ranges for closer work on steel and some time with the A*B Arms/Keystone Sporting Arms collaborative effort, the Keystone PT Precision Trainer. An informal wager was proffered using a Mod.X in .223 Rem.: Fastest time to get five consecutive hits on a steel resetting popper at 100 yards. While it sounds pretty easy, adding a time constraint and a moving target make getting your time under 10 seconds a little difficult…

The Keystone PT Precision Trainer proved to be an insane amount of fun. It was astonishingly accurate—there was a 6-inch bell on the back of the 300 yard berm that was rang repeatedly using the little .22—and ran like a top despite the vagaries of rimfire ammunition. We’re big fans of having a .22 LR version of your gear available for inexpensive practice, and the PT Precision Trainer makes a great stand-in for your long-range precision rig. Just don’t blame us if you run through a chunk of your .22 stash.

All in all, it’s hard to beat a beautiful (albeit hot) day on the range testing your skill at ranges outside your normal comfort zone. It’s even better when you get to use top-notch gear at a truly impressive facility


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