HIGH-DESERT SHOOTOUT

DESERT TECH AND NIKON TEAM UP FOR A GHOST TOWN LONG-DIS­TANCE SHOOTOUT.

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Ire­cently got the op­por­tu­nity to travel to Utah to take part in a me­dia event put on by Nikon Sport Op­tics and Desert Tech. I made con­tact with Eric from Che­va­lier Ad­ver­tis­ing, who took care of the de­tails to get me from North Carolina to Salt Lake City, Utah.

I wasn’t quite sure what to ex­pect—I had seen a Desert Tech Ri­fle one of my friends owned, and I own a Nikon scope for one of my MSRs. Both have good rep­u­ta­tions, so I looked for­ward to test­ing their equip­ment.

THE LINKUP

Upon ar­riv­ing at Salt Lake City Air­port, I was able to link up with Eric rather quickly, and the rest of the party was al­ready wait­ing for me to ar­rive.

Our first stop was Desert Tech head­quar­ters. If not for the sign iden­ti­fy­ing the build­ing, it didn’t strike me as a firearm man­u­fac­tur­ing lo­ca­tion. It looks like all of­fice build­ings do—re­cep­tion area, of­fices and em­ploy­ees mov­ing about or on their phones.

We met Dustin, Desert Tech’s event man­ager. Af­ter in­tro­duc­tions, he gave us a quick tour of the fa­cil­i­ties. As we en­tered the pro­duc­tion floor, Dustin walked us through the var­i­ous ar­eas of de­sign, test­ing and putting it all to­gether into a fin­ished prod­uct.

As a bonus, we got to put our hands on the new Mi­cro Dy­namic Ri­fle, or MDR. We also got a chance for a lit­tle hands-on with the Stealth Re­con Scout (SRS)—both the A1 and the Covert— as well as the Hard Tar­get In­ter­dic­tion (HTI) ri­fle. My first im­pres­sions were fa­vor­able, but I was hold­ing off full judg­ment un­til we ac­tu­ally got to fire them. We fin­ished the tour (un­for­tu­nately, we were not given a free sam­ple to take home ... although the MDR is small enough to have fit un­der my shirt!).

ON THE ROAD

We loaded up the van and headed south along I-15 to­ward Price, Utah, and our ac­com­mo­da­tions. High­way 6 pro­vided a scenic drive down to Price, and the wind­ing road and high-desert ter­rain re­minded of my early days in Afghanistan. No Tal­iban here, though; just the oc­ca­sional dor­mant oil rig sit­ting qui­etly in the desert.

The two-hour-plus drive went quickly and gave every­one a chance to get in­tro­duced. We ar­rived in Price, quickly dropped off our gear and headed out to the Desert Tech range for a re­con­noi­ter of the next day’s ac­tiv­i­ties and get the lay of the land.

GHOST TOWN

The range is lo­cated in Hi­awatha, just 15 miles or so from the ho­tel. At the gate, we were greeted by a ragged-look­ing al­paca that kept an eye on us as if we were tres­passers.

Hi­awatha is a for­mer coal min­ing town that was built at the base of Gen­try Moun­tain. The town had been all but aban­doned in the late 1990s af­ter it was un­in­cor­po­rated.

As I stepped out of the van, I once again had that feel­ing of Afghanistan. The smell of goats, the high-desert ter­rain, dry heat and the al­ti­tude all brought back those fa­mil­iar smells and feel­ings any mil­i­tary vet­eran of Afghanistan would rec­og­nize. The town had an eerie feel­ing, like a cross be­tween Res­i­dent Evil and Mad Max—aban­doned build­ings, ve­hi­cles, three horned goats, and the look of a place every­one had left in a hurry, leav­ing be­hind things too big or dif­fi­cult to carry.

RANGE RE­CON

All that has turned out to be per­fect for the folks at Desert Tech. They had worked out a deal to use the town as a shoot­ing range for a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent types of train­ing. For our pur­poses, we were af­ter long-range shoot­ing, a chance to put the Desert Tech ri­fles through their paces and also to see if the new Nikon Black ri­fle­scopes, Monarch binoc­u­lars and rangefinders could also per­form at this level of shoot­ing.

With tar­gets set up in many of the aban­doned build­ings, it was dif­fi­cult to only do a re­con­noi­ter. I could tell that every­one wanted to get their hands on the ri­fles and start ring­ing some steel.

DESERT TECH HAS DE­VEL­OPED A FUN-TO-SHOOT, HIGHLY AC­CU­RATE RI­FLE IN A COM­PACT SIZE WITH­OUT SAC­RI­FIC­ING BAR­REL LENGTH.

As we fin­ished up the tour, we got just enough rain to bring out a rain­bow. We loaded back up and headed back to the ho­tel for the night.

I will have to ad­mit that it was a lit­tle tough to sleep that night. It had been awhile since I had shot at ex­treme long dis­tances, and I was look­ing for­ward to it. Morn­ing fi­nally came, and af­ter we grabbed a quick break­fast, we linked up with a a few more peo­ple for the event and headed to the range.

EQUIP­MENT IN­TRO­DUC­TION

Ar­riv­ing at the gate, our friendly guard, “Al­paca,” and his part­ner were wait­ing as we drove in. We moved our gear and other sup­plies for the day into what used to be the Hi­awatha gen­eral store—a two-story build­ing in dis­re­pair but still stand­ing solid.

The first floor was filled with left­over store cab­i­nets and a lot of tar­gets used by the Desert Tech train­ers on the cour­ses they run. There were rub­ber dum­mies, pep­per pop­pers and steel movers strewn about. (I was just a lit­tle bit jeal­ous.)

Once we set­tled in, we re­ceived a safety brief and an in­tro­duc­tion to the ri­fles from Desert Tech’s Jeff Wood and Ben Het­land. Both were ex­tremely knowl­edge­able and help­ful,

an­swer­ing the dozens of ques­tions we all had.

Jeff went through the pro­ce­dure to change out the cal­iber for the SRS-A1. In just over a minute, he had swapped out the .308 for a .338 La­pua. It’s not the first gun that can switch cal­ibers, but it is def­i­nitely one of the fastest.

In ad­di­tion, Jeff ex­plained that Desert Tech guar­an­tees the orig­i­nal bar­rel will re­turn to zero when switched back or the com­pany will fix or re­place it. That’s a pretty solid war­ranty.

THE RANGE IS HOT!

With the pre­lim­i­nar­ies over, it was time to put some rounds down­range. We started with the MDR to warm up on 100-yard tar­gets. The MDR was mounted with the Nikon Black Force 1000, a 1-4x24 ri­fle­scope de­signed for use with a mod­ern sport­ing ri­fle (MSR).

While the MDR was not the fo­cus of the event, it did not dis­ap­point at all. It is a smooth-fir­ing, easy-to-op­er­ate weapon. The bullpup de­sign shrinks the over­all length of the MDR to give it the feel of a short-bar­reled ri­fle (SBR). I had won­dered if the gun de­sign might have a neg­a­tive ef­fect be­cause the muz­zle blast was closer to my face, but that was a non-is­sue. It is a gun that is fun to fire and left me think­ing I should make some room in my safe for one, now that they are ship­ping. The .308 was easy to han­dle, and fol­low-up shots were easy to get back on tar­get.

FROM SEMI­AUTO TO BOLT-AC­TION

From the MDR, we moved on to the SRS-A1 (32-inch over­all length; 22-inch bar­rel) and the SRS Covert (27-inch over­all length; with a 16-inch bar­rel) for some more 200-yard fa­mil­iar­iza­tion.

Like the MDR, both SRS de­signs did not dis­ap­point. Even with the bolt be­ing far­ther to the rear than on tra­di­tional ri­fles, it was hardly no­tice­able af­ter the first cou­ple of rounds. The SRS-A1 was mounted with the Nikon BLACK X1000 4-16x50 with the MOA (1 MOA=1.047 inches at 100 yards) ret­i­cle. It also comes with an MRAD (mil­li­ra­dian=1/6400 of a de­gree in an­gu­lar mea­sure, or 3.6 inches at 100 yards), for those who like to cal­cu­late in mils. The clar­ity is in­cred­i­ble, and the easy tur­ret ad­just­ments made get­ting on tar­get quick and easy.

Af­ter every­one had got­ten fa­mil­iar with the SRS-A1 and Covert,

NIKON HAS DE­VEL­OPED A WIN­NER IN A PRICE THAT WON’T BREAK THE BANK; YET, IT STILL PER­FORMS ABOVE ITS WEIGHT CLASS.

we moved to a new build­ing to start us­ing some more-dif­fi­cult tar­gets. Be­cause of the ri­fles we were us­ing and the op­tics on them, 200 yards wasn’t much of a chal­lenge.

TIME TO UP THE ANTE

We packed up and moved down the street to a house with a view of the back of Gen­try Moun­tain. Tar­gets were ar­rayed from 400 yards out to a whop­ping 1,800-plus yards.

We con­tin­ued with the SRS-Covert in .308 (16-inch bar­rel; 1:8-inch twist; 27-inch over­all length) mounted with the Nikon BLACK X1000 6-24x50 with the MOA ret­i­cle. The MOA ret­i­cle has ¼ MOA ad­just­ments per click and 12 MOA per revo­lu­tion.

We started with warm-up shots at 400 yards and worked our way out to 800 yards with both the SRS-Covert and the SRS-A1. The SRS-A1 (26-inch bar­rel; 1:11-inch twist; 37-inch over­all length) was topped off with the Nikon BLACK X1000 6-24x50 MRAD ret­i­cle. The MRAD was 1 mil ad­just­ment per click and 5 MRAD per revo­lu­tion of the tur­ret.

BREAK­ING OUT THE BIG GUNS

Once we were fin­ished at the 800 yards, we moved to a shoot­ing po­si­tion out­side the house. As the last of the group got into po­si­tion to bang some steel at nearly 900 yards, Jeff and Ben broke out the “big gun,” so to speak.

The HTI looks sim­i­lar to the SRS-A, ex­cept for the size and a mean-look­ing muz­zle brake. In .375 Chey­tac, the HTI has the look and feel of a solidly built, long-range pre­ci­sion ri­fle. With a 29-inch bar­rel and a 1:10.5-inch twist, the over­all length was still only 45 inches.

I couldn’t wait un­til my turn to get to fire this ri­fle. We started with shots at 1,235 yards (al­most ¾ of a mile), fir­ing at a 24inch cir­cle of steel. A cou­ple of warm-up shots to set the dope for the op­tics and, one af­ter an­other, we stepped up for a turn.

I have shot .375 H&H in the past and have to say it was not a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. While in the mil­i­tary, I had also shot the Bar­rett .50-cal­iber. While it is fun to shoot, I also found it not to be en­tirely en­joy­able. I lo­cated the tar­get, ad­justed my shoot­ing po­si­tions and pressed lightly on the fully ad­justable, 2-pound trig­ger.

Jeff, who was on the spot­ting scope, called a hit be­fore the round im­pacted the steel. The trace of the bul­let was eas­ily vis­i­ble on its way to the tar­get; and a few sec­onds later, the fa­mil­iar sound of ring­ing steel could be heard. I was more than 1,200 yards away— and I had hit my tar­get. The re­coil was neg­li­gi­ble, thanks to the Desert Tech muz­zle brake. The HTI is a fun gun to shoot in this cal­iber.

The Nikon Black X1000 6-24x50 on top is well suited for lon­grange shoot­ing. It is clear and easy to ad­just, but we were close to be­ing out of ad­just­ment for this ex­treme range af­ter a 500-yard zero. Even so, a hit is a hit, and the com­bi­na­tion of Desert Tech’s HTI and the Nikon Black made it ap­pear easy.

EX­TREME LONG DIS­TANCE

Once fin­ished at 1,200 yards, we fo­cused on the next tar­get, a 3x3-foot steel square at 1,835 yards from our po­si­tion. We were out of ad­just­ment, but the ret­i­cle pat­tern on the Nikon made holdover fairly easy on ad­just­ments.

With a holdover of just 4 MOA down from cen­ter and 3 MOA for wind, we were hit­ting the tar­get in no time. Flight time of the bul­let was more than 5 sec­onds while the bul­let slowed from a muz­zle ve­loc­ity of 3,000 fps to just over 1,600 fps at im­pact—still su­per­sonic well be­yond a mile.

LEAV­ING AN IM­PRES­SION

As a U.S. Army Spe­cial Forces vet­eran with more than 20 years of ser­vice, I would have to say that not much in the way of guns or op­tics seems to overly im­press me. As a weapons

I

NCO on a de­tach­ment, I spent my time with firearms of ev­ery type, era and de­sign; and, for the most part, there hasn’t been much in the way of in­no­va­tion for quite a while.

That be­ing said, the ri­fles of Desert Tech are im­pres­sive. It’s great to see that some­one fi­nally worked to make an im­prove­ment on what is out there and strayed from the cookie-cut­ter de­sign seen by ev­ery MSR on the mar­ket. Desert Tech has de­vel­oped a fun-to-shoot, highly ac­cu­rate ri­fle in a com­pact size with­out sac­ri­fic­ing bar­rel length. While it isn’t cheap, it isn’t built cheap ei­ther.

I was equally im­pressed with the Nikon Black se­ries scopes. I own other scopes that are as good (and maybe some are bet­ter), but I paid sub­stan­tially more for each of them with­out sub­stan­tially in­creas­ing the qual­ity or ca­pa­bil­ity over the Nikons used dur­ing this event. Nikon has de­vel­oped a win­ner in a price that won’t break the bank; yet, it still per­forms above its weight class.

This was def­i­nitely a fun ex­pe­ri­ence. It was a chance to meet some fel­low long-range en­thu­si­asts, speak with in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als and gain some valu­able insight. I’m now a bullpup fan—or, at least a Desert Tech fan—and Nikon has opened my eyes to value-priced op­tics for every­one, from en­try level to the hard-core shooter.

While I didn’t see any ghosts in Hi­awatha, it’s likely that all the gun­fire chased them away! As we de­parted, we waved good­bye to the al­pacas guard­ing the gate. Hope­fully, they didn’t mind the noise we made dur­ing our time in their town. GW

CON­TACT IN­FOR­MA­TION NIKON NikonS­portOp­tics.com

DESERT TECH De­sertTech.com

KESTREL KestrelMeters.com

The SRS-A1 Covert shown with all avail­able con­ver­sion kits (left to right): .308 Win., 22-inch bar­rel; .308 Win., 26-inch bar­rel; .260 Rem., 26-inch bar­rel; 6.5 Creedmoor, 26inch bar­rel; 6.5x47 La­pua, 26-inch bar­rel; 7mm WSM, 26-inch bar­rel; .300 Win....

The Desert Tech SRS-A1 Covert 16-inch .308 with the 18-inch .338 con­ver­sion kit (Photo: Desert Tech)

The au­thor had plenty to smile about af­ter a solid hit on an 1,835-yard tar­get. (Photo: Ben Het­land)

The au­thor fires the Mi­cro Dy­namic Ri­fle from Desert Tech, out­fit­ted with the Nikon Black Force 1000 1-4x24 scope and sup­pres­sor from AMTAC Sniper-762, an over-bar­rel sup­pres­sor.

The man­u­fac­tur­ing floor at Desert Tech (Photo: Desert Tech)

Desert Tech SRS-A1 Covert 16-inch bar­rel in com­par­i­son to the H&K MP5 (Photo: Desert Tech) Shoot­ing from one build­ing to an­other dur­ing the Desert Tech/ Nikon me­dia event (Photo: Ben Het­land)

Tom Rader from TheFirear­mBlog. com fires the SRS-A1 Covert from one of the aban­doned build­ings in Hi­awatha, Utah, while Desert Tech’s Jeff Wood watches the tar­get for im­pact. (Photo: Desert Tech)

The sub-assem­bly of the Desert Tech bolt-ac­tion ri­fle (Photo: Desert Tech)

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