I am passionate about serious, first-hand, empirical research. I also believe every industry needs a 100% independent voice, so I’ve taken a strong position that I won’t take money from manufacturers. Many have reached out to me and asked if they could advertise on the website or even sponsor me as a competitor, but I’ve declined every one of those offers so that my readers can trust my content isn’t influenced by some hidden alliance.
I love doing “field tests,” which are a little different than “lab tests.” In my view, “field tests” are done in the field and they try to take a more practical approach to testing, while still trying to control for factors that could potentially skew the results – or minimize those as much as is reasonably possible.
For example, many people claim that you can’t quantify optical clarity because everyone’s eyes are different, so you just have to look through the scope or binoculars yourself. Well, that sure isn’t helpful. Not everyone has access to all of the different brands of optics they might consider buying. So I’ve done both a scope test and binocular test where I placed an eye exam chart at distance and then asked multiple people of different ages and backgrounds to read the smallest letters they could make out through each optic. While it may be true that each person’s eyes are different, I averaged the optical performance results over several people so it was representative of what you might experience. That is the type of pragmatic approach I take so that I can provide new and actionable insight to my fellow shooters.
I personally invested hundreds of hours on each of these projects and funded them all out-of-pocket. However, before I started any of them I collaborated with multiple industry pros to determine the best way to perform the tests. I’m grateful for all the conversation and valuable input that I’ve received from some of the most respected people in the shooting industry.
At the end of the day, my goal for all of this research is to equip fellow long-range shooters with as much hard data as I could reasonably gather, so they could make an informed buying decision for their application. Some of the research has even been helpful for manufacturers to see which designs perform best in various aspects, which has pushed the industry forward.
Some of these studies have been republished in magazines and books, used in training materials for the US Army Marksmanship Unit, referenced by military research labs, and used by multiple special forces groups in the U.S. and several allied counties. These are clearly not your weekend blogger project. It is serious, original, empirical research.
Here is the list of major field test research projects that I’ve done so far:
This is an in-depth field test on the ranging capability and optical performance of several popular ranging binoculars. The results are based on over 10,000 data points collected from the field over 3 months of testing.
Based on 400+ hours of research, this epic field test compares 18 of the top rifle scopes in the $1500+ price range in a very objective and data-driven way. It quantifies optical quality, mechanical performance, and many other aspects. Nothing like this has ever been done before.
Many shooters have an uncomfortable relationship with math and aren’t impressed with fancy formulas. However, statistics and probability are insanely applicable when it comes to rifles and long-range shooting in particular. I literally spent months crafting this 3-part series of articles specifically with the math-averse shooter in mind. I invested all that time because I strongly believe that understanding just a few basics can help us gain actionable insight, make better decisions, and put more rounds on target.
The basic idea of my barrel field test was to see how new composite barrel designs like carbon fiber barrels and the StraightJacket Barrel System from Teledyne Tech compare with traditional match-grade steel barrels. One hot topic when it comes to these modern barrel designs is “What happens as they start to heat up?” Will the point of impact shift as the barrel warms up over an extended string of fire? Will precision degrade, causing your groups to open up? Furthermore, it’s common to hear sweeping statements made like “carbon fiber is ten times stiffer than steel.” Is that true? How are carbon fiber barrels different from various manufacturers?
I included a few different contours of steel barrels, and even some fluted barrels, to try to quantify the pros and cons of the various options. Does a heavy contour hold its zero better, and if so by how much? Does fluting help a barrel cool faster?
With these questions in mind, I gathered up a pile of 10 barrels, chambered them all in 6.5 Creedmoor, and fired 2,000+ rounds in search of the answers.
This is one of the most in-depth ammo tests ever conducted. I tested every type of factory ammo that is marketed as “match” or “target” grade, including multiple types of ammo from Berger, Hornady, Federal Premium, Copper Creek, Barnes, PRIME, Black Hills, Norma, Sig, Nosler Winchester, and Remington. I fired 40 rounds of each brand from two different rifles and measured the velocity of every shot with 3 LabRadar Dopplar radars and fired 8 five-shot groups for record from a rock-solid Benchrest position. I collected all the live-fire data and then analyzed the data and calculated hit probability from 400 to 1,200 yards for each type of ammo and ranked them by performance and value.