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New Products, New Skills At FTW Ranch

By Randy Gibbs, Associate Editor

I recently had the privilege to attend a writers’ summit at FTW Ranch in Barksdale, Texas.

The event was hosted by Remington Arms, Swarovski Optik and Hornady Ammuntion to introduce new products for the coming year. FTW was the perfect venue for this unveiling because writers used the products while honing shooting skills under the expert tutelage of the FTW instructors.

THE RANCH

Established in 2006, FTW Ranch has rapidly become one of the most prestigious training and hunting destinations in Texas. Located three hours outside of San Antonio, FTW Ranch encompasses 12,000 acres of canyons, mountains and wooded draws that replicate virtually any terrain that might be found anywhere in the world. In addition to comprehensive training courses that run the gamut from first-time hunters to safari live-fire training, if you want to be a better and more humane hunter, FTW has a program for you.

The writers were enrolled in what was a two-day Sportsman’s All-Weather All-Terrain Marksmanship (SAAM) program. The instructors were former Navy Seal or Marine Corps snipers, and believe me when I tell you, these guys know their stuff. They are not the stereotypical “smack you in the back of the head” drill instructors. These guys genuinely want everyone to be better shooters and take the time to help you get more out of your range time and correct bad habits you might not have even known you had. Speaking for myself, I know I am a much better and much more confident shooter than when I first arrived.

REMINGTON 700 ALPHA 1

Remington Arms CEO Ken D’Arcy said the debut of the new Remington Alpha 1 line of rifles was also the re-birth of Remington Arms. Having been bought and sold over the years, Remington Arms is finally back in private investor hands after the breakup of the Remington Outdoor Company conglomerate. The new owners and D’Arcy wanted to return Remington to its former standing in the firearms industry. To that end, they began reversing the cost-cutting measures imposed by other owners and went back to the processes that made Remington synonymous with quality. He said their new offering, the 700 Alpha 1, is the first new product that reflects that new corporate philosophy.

Remington’s 700 Alpha 1 encompasses Remington’s past and future. With a design nod to the classic 700, the 700 A1 is a standard bolt-action that takes advantage of new manufacturing processes and 21st century materials.

Let’s start with the bolt. Featuring a one-piece body and a fluted bolt, it is based on the popular fat bolt design. The 700 A1 bolt also boasts a thread on bolt handle, new extractor design and toolless firing pin disassembly. The extractor is captured by means of a dovetail that it slides into.

The full round receiver upgrades include a longer magazine well and larger ejection port, improved primary extraction cam surface and an external bolt stop/release. The barrel is placed in an AG composite fiber stock and is fluted and threaded for muzzle brake or suppressor. The 700 A1 will also come stock with a Timney Elite Hunter trigger with a straight trigger set at 3 pounds.

We were able to use the 700 A1 in both 6.5mm Creedmoor and the new 7mm PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) from Hornady. Barrels had an 8:1 twist for both calibers. More on the ammo later. The evaluation rifles had literally been shipped to FTW directly from the Remington R&D facility. The staff at FTW worked with the Remington folks and had the dope cards for all of the rifles ready when we arrived on site. Writers were split into two groups. On the first day, my group was shooting the 6.5CM and Group 2 were shooting the 7 PRC.

Let me say here that the FTW course is pretty intense. Rifles are sighted-in at 100 yards and then the fun begins. From prone position, we engaged targets at 200, 300, 400 and ultimately 500 yards. We each started with 100 rounds of ammunition and by the end of the day we had shot every bit of it.

After getting our bearings on the individual ranges, the drills began. We were instructed to shoot a first target at a designated range and then within a 10 count, engage a target at a different range (for example, shoot the 400-yard target, then move to the 200-yard target and adjust the scope as the instructor is counting down from 10). Sounds simple enough, but when you add in moving from left to right or close to far while shifting your position, it becomes a bit more challenging.

The 6.5CM functioned flawlessly. Extraction and ejection were smooth, and the longer magazine well made reloading much easier in the prone position. Shooting the larger bore and longer barreled rifles in 7mm Hornady the next day was much the same, with the exception of longer ranges and more difficult speed drills. My personal best was 1,000 yards. However, others in our group were pretty accurate out to the 1,800-yard mark.

Through it all, the 700 A1 performed admirably. In fact, I preferred the 7mm version over the 6.5CM. In my opinion, the Remington 700 A1 is a great introduction to the “New Remington” Ken D’Arcy alluded to in his introductory speech.

The MSRP for the 700 Alpha 1 is expected to be in the $2,000 range for the base rifle.

SWAROVSKI ATC, STC COMPACT SPOTTING SCOPES

Swarovski provided the scopes for the test rifles. They were the Z8i 3.5-28×50 and the Z8i 2-16×50, both with the optional Swarovski BTF turret. Both scopes performed beautifully and the range markings on the turret made adjusting from one target to another much easier during the speed drills. Eye pieces were easy to adjust when I needed a wider field of view and the crosshairs were easy to pick up, even in blowing dust conditions.

But the real story for Swarovski at this event was the introduction of their ATC and STC compact spotting scopes. Designed to pare down the weight needed to carry a spotting scope in the field, the ATC and STC spotting scopes are perfect for long-range sheep or mountain hunters who need to see farther and carry less. Weighing-in at under 35 ounces, the new Swarovski compact spotting scopes feature a removable half shell that allows use with or without a tripod. The STC measures 11.2 inches and the ATC comes in at 10.2 inches. Both offer 17-40 magnification. SWAROVISION technology provides excellent color density and provides ultra-clear imaging. The new scopes are also compatible with Swarovski’s Variable Phone Adapter, AR-S adapter ring for X spotting scopes as well as Swarovski’s window mount. Both are available in green or orange.

MSRP is $2,610.

HORNADY 7MM PRC

Hornady’s debut product for this writer’s summit was the new 7mm PRC round.

Designed to be a more efficient 7mm magnum cartridge, the PRC uses a shorter and wider case and bullets seated farther out in the neck of the cartridge case to take full advantage of the higher velocities and make the bullet more stable in flight.

While the complete ballistic information was not available at press time, the ammo we were using certainly seemed to do the job. Recoil was stout but not punishing. The loads used on the course were Hornady ELD Match, with 180-grain bullets. Hornady anticipates rolling out the 7mm PRC in all its ammunition lines eventually. By the time this issue of SAFARI Magazine is in your hands, Hornady should have all available loads and ballistics available at Hornady.com. Remington will initially make their 700 A1 available in 7mm PRC, and it wouldn’t be a surprise that other manufacturers will soon follow suit.

KRYPTEK

Embodying the slogan, “From Battlefield To Back Country,” Kryptek founders discovered their shared passion for extreme hunting while serving together in Northern Iraq. It was there they realized that the camo netting used since WW II was the most effective passive concealment measure on the battlefield. They took that idea and pattern and used it as the basis for their Kryptek camo systems.

Kryptek debuted their new Obskura pattern during the writer’s summit. They provided a hot weather Rugby short sleeve and a Sonora hooded shirt, both in Obskura transitional color. The Transitional color is designed to blend with numerous environments. The shirts were perfect for the hot August Texas temps. The fabric wicked away moisture and kept us shooters cool and dry. The Kryptek shirts are perfect for a stand-alone shirt or in combination with other gear as a base layer. I was impressed with the Sonora hooded shirt particularly. Living in the Sonoran Desert, it seemed counter intuitive to wear a long-sleeved hooded shirt in our 100-plus temperature, but the long sleeves and the hood proved to be effective sun protection without being too hot. You can see their gear at kryptek.com.

All in all, the FTW Summit was an eye-opening experience. It was an opportunity to see and use new products coming on the market, and the training at FTW was a revelation.