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Sights & Sounds: Gun Notes Returns

Announced in October 2023 print edition, the longstanding column once home to Elmer Keith and Craig Boddington returns! Gun Notes will employ thorough test standards and relate the results for practical application.

Sights & Sounds: Gun Notes Returns

Elmer Keith began writing the "Gun Notes" column in 1961. (Guns & Ammo photo)

Elmer Keith joined Guns & Ammo’s staff for the November 1961 issue. Smith & Wesson’s historian Roy Jinks succinctly described Keith as “the father of big-bore handgunning,” helping to develop the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and Model 29. His influence shaped the industry until his death on Valentine’s Day 1984, leaving a legacy that’s admired throughout the industry.

Craig Boddington, a former editor of Keith, revived “Gun Notes” in 2001 and authored it until 2015. After thorough examination of reader feedback, and in the interest of advancing the magazine while honoring the past, “Gun Notes” returns to G&A with Executive Editor Joe Kurtenbach as its third author. Following service with the U.S. Army, and nine years on the editorial staff for “American Rifleman,” Kurtenbach joined G&A in 2020. His experience and shooting interests span every subject. From its start, Keith’s column, “Gun Notes,” appeared monthly as a potpourri of aphorisms, industry news, range tests and field reports. In that spirit, Kurtenbach will continue that legacy for this audience. — E. Poole

Trijicon RMR HD

Champion Ranch in the hill country of Texas played host as Trijicon unveiled the RMR HD ($849, trijicon.com), a next-gen offering for tough-duty, hard-use customers, including the military, law enforcement and prepared citizens. It may be more useful to think of this product as a ruggedized version of Trijicon’s SRO ($771), the brand’s competition-oriented pistol sight. Like the SRO, the RMR HD is characterized by a large lens, forward-extended housing and top-loading CR2032 battery compartment. It also offers new electronics including a front-facing light sensor for automatic illumination adjustments, large side buttons, and the ability to switch between a dot reticle or a segmented ­circle-and-dot array.

Trijicon RMR HD
Trijicon RMR HD (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

The RMR HD retains Trijicon’s RMR/SRO mounting footprint and features the familiar impact-resistant shape and 7075 T-6 forged aluminum housing of the RMR. It’s also rated for extreme environmental conditions and waterproof to 20 meters. 

Trijicon integrated a new central index ridge onto the housing above the lens. In a pinch, it can be used to roughly align the gun for effective fire. In Texas, I pushed speed and accuracy while testing the optic using just the ridge, simulating a dead battery or obstructed lens. I effectively hit targets beyond 15 yards without slowing my pace. Of course, using the red-dot reticle improved accuracy, but it’s a confidence-boosting enhancement.

Two days of training is a far cry from a lifetime of service, even with intentional abuse thrown in. For extended testing, I received a production sample that I’ve mounted to a Shadow Systems XR920. I favor the dot-only reticle and have been impressed with the unit’s auto-brightness capability. Previous attempts at this tech left me lukewarm. The dot often seemed to lag behind changing conditions or otherwise miss the mark for ideal brightness. Trijicon got it right. The forward-looking sensor considers the lighting near the target — not just at the shooter’s position — and operates within a user-selected range to ensure the reticle is never too bright or dim. The feature can also be turned off.

The RMR HD is a bigger optic than the original, for those considering discreet carry. It offers some nice quality-of-life improvements and a generous window to see the target and environment through. So far, I’ve got 1,100 rounds logged at the range without issue. Given the hard-won reputation of both Trijicon and its RMR series, durability and performance in harsh conditions is as near a “sure thing” as can be found within the optics industry.

Also launched was the enclosed-emitter Ruggedized Closed Reflex, or “RCR” ($849). It’s a red dot that adheres to the RMR footprint and is distinct for its use of capstan-style screws. It, too, performed well in Texas, but production samples were not available at the time of this note. [Update: Check out our full video review of the RMR HD and RCR]

Stuck Suppressor?

Testing a Silencer Central Banish 30 Gold ($1,699, silencercentral.com), I replaced an AR’s flash hider with the included ½x28 muzzlebrake/mount. Still test-fitting the unit — meaning no threadlock was applied — I was distracted by another project. Later, I returned to finalize fitment and realized that I had a problem: The suppressor came off the gun and took the muzzlebrake with it. That joker was stuck hard.

After a few rudimentary attempts to dislodge the components, I wised up and called Silencer Central. My problem was “titanium galling,” meaning the threads between the adapter and suppressor had seized in a circumstance sometimes referred to as “cold welding.” It’s enough of an issue that a running design change was already implemented to various components, but that was cold comfort with my new can in a bind.

Silencer Central Banish 30 Gold
Silencer Central Banish 30 Gold (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

Thankfully, Silencer Central had a solution that involved using the baffle removal tool adapter, also included with the Banish 30 Gold. First, I used a permanent threadlock solution — Loctite Red 271 — to affix the adapter to the muzzlebrake as if it was a barrel. Unlike a barrel, though, the adapter has flats to facilitate using a wrench. After the threadlock was set, the assembly got a few firm knocks on my garage’s concrete floor. The service tech said that controlled impacts would not harm the suppressor’s parts, though it was critical to breaking the weld. He was right. With the can in a vise, I then used a wrench and, sure enough, the adapter and muzzlebrake came out together.

Unwilling to leave the job half done, I cruised the internet for a cure to permanent threadlock that didn’t require setting off my smoke detectors, and it delivered. I sprayed the seam with Brakleen a few times during the following 24 hours and the solution saturated the threads, successfully destabilizing the locking compound. The individual parts were separated and undamaged.

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In case my efforts failed, Silencer Central assured me they could repair or replace the product. Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to call support. The best companies are ready to help solve the problem or find a way to make things right.

Of Africa & Ammo Bans

“Think of him like a steel drum on legs. Best to put a hole through both sides.” That was solid advice from Uys Schickerling, my Namibian professional hunter (PH). We raced on foot to get ahead of a flighty zebra herd. His description was accurate; a wild Burchell’s stallion is astonishingly large and round in the midsection.

I’ll admit to a few moments of personal crisis as we jogged through Kalahari red sand in pursuit of the quintessential African game animal. On one hand, I had two kids under five at the time, both of whom would eagerly remind me that zebras are adorable striped horses, and likely related to unicorns. On the other hand, as my pragmatic PH encouraged through labored breaths, “The schnitzel would be delicious.”

There’s no arguing the merits of beaten, breaded and pan-fried game meat. All the better when accompanied by a South African red wine. A Stellenbosch cabernet sauvignon suits me. Sorry kids.

The Burchell’s size and structure demands serious penetration for a clean harvest. On this adventure, I had one of my favorite rifles: A Bergara Premier Stalker in 6.5 Creedmoor. The beauty shoots both Hornady’s 143-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter and 120-grain GMX (now “CX”) Superformance loads to the same point of impact at 100 yards. Having dope for both cartridges allowed me to pick the best bullet for a given shot or target.

Hornady GMX
Hornady 120-gr. GMX recovered after 36 inches of penetration in a wildebeest. (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

For big-boned and big-bodied critters, monolithic copper-alloy bullets offer big medicine. Their ability to retain weight translates to reliably effective penetration. 

After an exhilerating scamper, Schickerling and I outpaced the herd. Lying prone over the crest of a dune, one shot from the Bergara was all that was needed. The stallion was down with two neat holes: One through the shoulder and another between the far-side ribs. The small-but-mighty GMX, again, proved its mettle.

I related this story because the topic of non-lead hunting ammunition continues to make news. Some state and federal authorities seek to restrict the use of lead products in parks and reserves. Most recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Administration proposed a new rule, to take effect in 2026, banning lead-based ammo and fishing tackle in seven East Coast national wildlife refuge areas, including Chincoteague and Wallops Island in my home state of Virginia.

I won’t comment on the specific rule or the motivations behind it. The fact is, a lot can change in three years. I will say, I’m not for regulations that come between hunters and their harvest of fair-chase venison schnitzel. It just seems un-American.

For good or ill, we can’t be surprised when rulemaking bodies attempt to exercise authority. “Governments,” as the kids say, “are going to government.” Given the chance to pursue game in an ammo-restricted locale, I’d still be grateful for the opportunity to fill the freezer. I’d also sleep easy knowing so many effective non-lead projectiles are at my disposal.

In the United States, we have the freedom to speak our minds, write our representatives, cast our votes and sue the pants off officials who cross the line. No one wins every round, but its imperative — no matter your political bent — to keep fighting your corner.

Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W GEN 2

Many will remember the need for “dinner plate” accuracy when heading for the whitetail woods, or zeroing the rifle 2 inches high at 100 yards for big country. A lot of game was brought to bag with these rustic ideas of precision. Now, more elegant solutions are prevalent. Scope turrets are custom engraved to reflect load and location data. Ballistic apps, fed equipment and environmental information, return precise windage and elevation adjustments. A prerequisite for modern aiming aids, though, is an accurate range-to-target measurement.

Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W
Leupold RX-1400i TBR/W (Photo by Joe Kurtenbach)

As with any sporting optic, you can spend as much as your budget will bear for a rangefinder. Leupold’s second-generation RX-1400i ($200, leupold.com) seems to offer impressive stats at an everyman price. The unit pairs a 5x21mm monocular with a digital laser rangefinder rated for reflective targets out to 1,400 yards, trees to 1,200 and deer to 900. While suburban northern Virginia doesn’t readily offer the scenic vistas of the West, a few minutes’ drive had me on a hill staring down a powerline cut. From there, I used the RX-1400i to range a large metal pole at 1,356 yards and the treeline beyond at 1,378. I didn’t see any deer loitering near the 1,000-yard line, but I did range a dog at 723.

Under the summer sun, I wished the red LED display was a little brighter, but my increasingly sweaty hands found purchase thanks to the unit’s updated ergonomics and textured, rubberized touchpoints. Despite its modest price point, I think most hunters and shooters would be well served by the little Leupold.




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