DIY 12V NiMh Rechargeable Trail Camera Battery Pack

12v AA battery setup for trail cameras

Some of the supplies to start using NiMh AA rechargeable batteries with my Browning trail cameras.

 

Berger bullet case for 12v battery pack


A Berger VLD bullet box works great for making a case to enclose the ten NiMh AA 12V battery pack.

 

Berger bullet case painted for 12v aa battery pack

MY DIY rechargeable 12 Volt external battery pack ready for use. I placed the batteries inside of a plastic baggie and then use the foam that comes with the bullets to pad the extra space inside of the box.

 

Black Decker For Tool Box


The Berger bullet boxes work good but I have since found that Black & Decker ForTools boxes work even better. These boxes have a metal clip on the back that makes it a breeze to just clip the battery pack to the strap that is holding the trail camera.

 

Trail Camera Battery boxes for 12v NiMh batteries

A few Black & Decker ForTools cases painted up green. The cases are ready to put in my Alps Crossfire X Pack to take to the woods to put on my trail cameras.

 

Browning trail camera with DIY 12v AA battery pack

I just drill a hole on the rim of the door closure for the cord to thread out, a little spray paint and the Black & Decker ForTools boxes work great for holding the 12v NiMh battery pack.

For the past couple years I have been keeping six or more trail cameras out year round. I love watching the critters the cameras are able to catch in images and video.

Recently I picked up a new Browning Recon Force (BTC-7FHD) that takes full HD video and a 2015 version of the Strike Force camera I really like. In the first couple of days of testing the cameras I realized that the batteries were getting drained a little faster than my older Browning trail cameras. It's makes sense that recording larger files of higher quality video would drain the batteries a little quicker.

Combine the fact that I have been feeding multiple cameras hundreds of batteries through the years and the higher battery consuming newer models, I setout to find a solution that would not only provide rechargeable batteries but also provide greater longevity of the batteries before they stopped operating the camera in the field.

I have found that when you have cattle coming into the same spring that the elk and deer love, several hundred videos can easily be recorded in a week. With 32 GB SDHD cards I can get hundreds of videos but sometimes the alkaline AA batteries in the camera get drained out before the SD card is full.

The Browning trail cameras themselves are designed to run with 1.5 Volt AA batteries. The problem with just putting rechargeable NiMh batteries into the camera is that NiMh batteries are only 1.2 Volts. With an eight battery trail camera and this would create only 9.6 Volts instead of 12 Volts. I have heard of people running their cameras with only 9.6 volts put this makes me a little weary that it wouldn't have the juice to operate the LED flash at night and just not perform very well.

A nice feature to all Browning trail cameras is the ability to plug in an external 12V power source. I have used the Browning external battery packs that run on eight 1.5V AA batteries to make 12 Volts of juice. With this in mind the gears have been a churning in my head. What if I had a external battery pack that had ten 1.2V NIMH batteries for a 12V total pack? Hmm...

Here's what I came up with: Because each battery pack will have ten batteries I found a charger that holds ten batteries so I can recharge the AA batteries in groups of ten to match the battery packs. I purchased some "2.1 x 5.5mm DC Power Pigtail Male" plugs, and tracked down some hard to find battery cases that hold ten AA batteries.

For protective case to place the battery packs inside I am trying out reusing empty Berger bullet cases. I just drilled a hole for the power cord to go through and two holes in the back/bottom of the case to thread parachute cord through to use to attach the pack to a tree.

I used some sand paper to roughen the outside surface of the plastic bullet box and then spray painted the box earthy green. Because the box isn't water tight I am placing the battery pack inside of a zip lock bag then placing this inside of the bullet box. I also use the cut foam that comes in the bullet box to cushion the bullets to fill in and cushion the battery pack.

I have been testing this DIY 12V rechargeable battery pack and to looks like it is going to work great. I'm thinking this will eventually really save me in the battery expenses and I believe these packs should really out perform using alkaline batteries as there will be two additional batteries with the NiMh AAs and NIMH batteries maintain a very strong voltage over the life of the charge. On the other hand alkaline batteries start loosing voltage the minute you start using them. I am also thinking this battery pack will work really well in cold temperatures.

One downside to NiMh batteries is that I have heard somewhere that they loose their charge in hot temperatures, I think above 90 degrees or so. I will have to see if I can find more info on this.

I think I am really going to like this NiMh battery system! Now I just need some more Berger Bullet cases to make several more battery packs... I might have to find some other cases to use until I burn through some more Berger bullets.

Since I first tried the Berger Bullet cases I have found a better case to use for the battery packs. The cases are Black & Decker ForTools cases that are designed to clip to your belt and hold screws and other small parts and tools. I found some of these cases at Ace Hardware. With a little paint and a hole drilled through the edge of where the door closes these cases work great.

Here's some of the first video I have got from the new full HD Browning Recon Force BTC-7FHD trail camera. This camera takes a little more juice to operate and my DIY battery packs should work great at making sure the camera has plenty of power before I return to check it again.

Extreme Cow Elk Hunt - Hunting with a Model 1885 High Wall 300 Win Mag

Dallen cow elk hunting with Pack Wheel game cart

Dallen hiking with an Alps Commander frame pack carrying a 26XL Pack Wheel. All ready to haul an elk off the mountain.

 

270 WSM Winchester Model 1885 cow elk hunting

Someone looks a little tired. Maybe you should stop being a teenager who thinks he doesn't need to go to bed at night and get to bed before midnight Mr. Dallen. ;)

Dallen was also carrying a Model 1885, my 270 WSM setup with 150 Gr Berger VLDs.

 

Model 1885 300 Win Mag Cow elk hunting

My 300 Win Mag Model 1885 High Wall with Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50.

 

Browning Neoprene Rifle Jacket in Snow


Browning's Neoprene Rifle Jacket protecting my Model 1885. This rifle jacket is awesome for keeping snow and other debris out of the barrel and off the scope lenses. I love being able to just lay my rifle down on most anything and it doesn't get scratched.

Goofy antler bull elk

Too bad this wasn't a cow. Dallen could have easily taken this goofy antlered bull had it been a cow.

 

Alaska Guide Creations Bino Pack Model 1885 300 Win Mag hunting cow elk

Trying out a Alaska Guide Creations bino pack for the first time that a good friend of mine sent me a for Christmas this year. It's a nice bino pack. The pack just lacked a pouch to fit my large range finder. I sewed a fleece pouch that hangs on the side of the bino pack to hold my large Bushnell Elite 1500 range finder.

 

Model 1885 300 Win Mag shooting from Cliff

This is where I shot the cow elk from with my 300 Win Mag Model 1885.

 

300 Win Mag empty shell on cliff

The empty 300 Win Mag case from the first 645 yard shot across the canyon.

 

Dead cow elk across canyon

One cow down and the two others didn't move. I wanted to shoot the cow on the right but she was blocked by way to many limbs.

 

Cow elk bedded

As it would be I was able to get within 200 yards of the cow and calf in a spot where I could have taken a shot. If I knew I could have made it this close without them taking off and known that I could have seen them I would have opted to move in closer.

 

Hiking with 26 XL Pack Wheel

To hike back off the mountain we assemble our Pack Wheel carts and put all of our gear except our rifles on the Pack Wheel to wheel back off the mountain.

 

26 XL Pack Wheel with Cow Elk

26 inch wheel X-Large handle Pack Wheel with my cow elk in January of 2015.
 

Pack Wheel Panniers on Cow Elk

Getting ready to start boning out the elk. All of the meat will go in these two rolled up canvas Pack Wheel panniers.

 

Frosted Beard elk hunting

I think it was a little cold this morning. My short beard was fully frosted like a flocked Christmas tree.

 

This year Dallen and I each drew late season cow elk tags. For this hunt I was looking forward to trying out a new load in a new rifle. Most especially in a "Big Bore" cartridge for me, a 300 Win Mag. I have always been a fan of low recoiling smaller bored calibers. Back in the day my first high powered rifle was chambered in 25-06 Rem. I have since really taken a liking to the 243 WSSM and the 270 WSM cartridges.

My new 1885 in 300 Win Mag delivered in December and I have worked as fast as I could to get it scoped with 20 MOA of scope adjustment built into the bases and rings. When I saw that Winchester was doing a small run of 300 Win Mags in the Model 1885 I jumped on the opportunity to get one. I really like 1885 rifles and this rifle would jump me into the 30 caliber bullets for the first time.

The past couple of years I have been really taking a liking to the technical aspects of stretching the distance of my shooting. I have been shooting at Spirit Ridge rifle golf range at steel targets out to 1200 yards with my 243 WSSM and 270 WSM rifles and have really enjoyed it.

Until the last four or so years I have always liked a cartridge and bullet that provided a long max point blank range. In other words I like a really fast flat shooting bullet where I could sight it in 2.5 inches high at 100 yards and be near dead on at 300 yards. This being accomplished with traditional duplex rifle scopes. Setup this way I could hold dead on a 7 inch target and hit it from zero to around 350 yards. I also didn't have to worry about having a range finder. I could judge that the distance was within 350 yards and just pull up and shoot.

I have of lately been changing my philosophy on my bullet choice and scopes. On most of my rifles I have been getting adjustable target turret style of scopes. I have been switching to heavier, high ballistic coefficient bullets and using Strelok Pro ballistic calculator on my phone to calculate the shot. I now no longer worry about the bullet drop or velocity that much. I work to get an accurate load and then let Strelok Pro tell me what to dial for the shot.

With all this said about higher BC bullets and target turrets I was ready to jump into the 30 caliber realm with my own flare... a Model 1885. Model 1885s aren't your typical long range rifle that long range shooter shoot today. Bolt actions rule in this category however I find some features of the 1885 more to my personal liking.

A couple for trips to the range and the reloading bench and I was able to get a 208 Gr Hornady A-Max shooting sub MOA within a couple weeks in December. Not shooting as perfectly as I would like but good enough to take to the field after a cow elk.

Selfie cow elk hunting
Here's a selfie of us at three plus miles up the mountain.

Dallen and my first trip out was on January 1st. And what a cold morning it was. It was well below zero and the moisture from my breath was freezing on my beard making it look like a flocked Christmas Tree. It was cold. We were prepared with our Browning technical clothing. What a change from the cotton denim jeans of my youth. I like having the better clothing choices we now have.

I knew it was going to be tough to find some elk. The day before we went to glass the ridges way up the canyon from the road with my spotting scope and we were not able to find any sign of elk in the traditional areas they like to winter in along the ridge lines.

We had several vehicles of hiking hunters and some horse hunters in the area when we went in early in the morning on the 1st. With the lack of elk there was also going to be a lot of pressure from hunters. All of the hiking hunters usually only hike in a mile or two and the horse hunters will ride all the way to the back of the property at about 4 miles in. We came each carrying a Pack Wheel collapsed on our packs prepared to haul two elk out from as far in as we decided to hike.

We decided to head to one of my favorite locations about three miles in to watch a finger canyon the elk like to cross. As we approached this canyon we spotted a young bull with a goofy left antler but no cows. Once to the area I wanted to be in we setup and glassed around the main canyon and only could spot other hunters. After glassing for a while Dallen spotted two cows and a bull moving across the canyon above us over a 1000 yards away.

We took off trying to catch up to the two cows but they were headed out of dodge and we never caught up with them. I'm guessing most likely moving out because of other hunters bumping them. So much for our first trip out. We weren't the only ones that didn't get an elk. Other than us practicing on some rocks this was the only shooting we heard in the area all day.

I was able to dial up a 612 yard shot with the assistance of Strelok Pro and my Galaxy S4 phone and drill a rock. It's nice to verify a load will shoot where you are expecting it to.

It was nice on the way out to assemble the Pack Wheel carts and strap all of our gear on them for the 3 1/2 mile hike out. It would have been better to have two cow elk on the carts but maybe next time. The downhill is always the hardest on my knees and I enjoy having a solid disc brake to help hold back the stress on my knees while hiking downhill.

Two days later Dallen and I were out again trying another area. We hiked all around in the area finding no sign at all of any elk other than a really smart lone calf that somehow gave us the slip. With pickens slim this year I was going to have Dallen take the calf if it hadn't of slipped out of the draw without us seeing it.

A week later I was back out looking for elk. This Saturday I was going solo. Dallen had a long week of Basketball games and late night homework so I let him sleep in. A right handed player that loves to go left, at 6'4" and 240 lbs he's got some moves. I just love his footwork. Here's a spin move from a few weeks back.

This time out there were five large horse trailers and nine vehicles in the parking lot. There was going to be a lot of people in the canyon.

On the way in I was passed by a group of horse hunters. I knew that I would hike well past where the hikers would go, especially because it had warmed up during the past week and all the southern facing draws were bare of snow. Hiking hunters usually have sleds and sleds don't work so well on bare ground.

As I made the turn off from the main trail I could see fresh horse tracks going on the trail in front of me. Dang it! It wasn't long before I spotted four cows feeding on a point above me... but how long would they stay there? Do the horse hunters see them? Well it didn't take long before I saw the elk pick their heads up and trot over the ridge. A few minutes later I watched the horses go over the ridge possibly after the elk if they even saw them. Oh well.

Even with the horses pushing the elk out of the area I decided to hang out in the area to see what would happen. I hiked up to a really good vantage point and spent a few hours glassing around the canyon. I did hear two shots in the very top of the main canyon but didn't see any elk.

As it got noon I decided to head back off the mountain. I hiked back around from looking in one draw to the draw I hiked up and there they were, three elk across the canyon at 650 yards. Two were bedded in the maples and one was standing a little ways off. The two bedded was clearly a cow and a calf and the lone elk looked larger than the calf. It looked like a yearling cow from my best judgment.

I studied the location and my options. The large cow was bedded in to heavy of cover to thread a bullet into. The "yearling" eventually bedded out mostly in the open. There was a limb or two blocking it but not a lot. If I tried to get closer they would easily see me coming. If I moved from my current position the heavy trees would block my sight of the elk... based on this and the lack of seeing any elk I decided to take the shot from where I was at 645 yards.

I took my time and setup my rifle to shoot from a cliff. Strelok Pro gave me 12 MOA to dial my Vortex Viper PST scope and I sent a 208 A-Max across the canyon... Whop! Unfortunately the shot hit a little further back than it should have.... did I can't the rifle? Did it deflect off a branch? Who knows. I quickly resolved the situation by sending a perfect follow-up heart shot. Whop! Boy these bullets make a loud whop on impact. No questioning if you hit the critter with these bullets.

With the elk down I worked my way around the canyon in full view of the cow and calf still bedded right where they were. As it would be I was able to get within 200 yards of the cow and calf in a spot where I could have taken a shot. If I knew I could have made it this close without them taking off and known that I could have seen them I would have opted to move in closer. Oh well. I got the elk any way.

A few pics and a boned out elk and off the mountain I zipped with all my gear and the boned out elk on my 26 XL Pack Wheel. I would say that I was just about four miles in. The elk was on the shady side of the canyon in almost 2 feet of snow. It took me an hour to slowly work my way through the heavy deep snow for 400 yards or so. The next 3 1/2 miles only took me 1:15 as I was on bare ground and packed snow on the trail so I was crusing along.

The next couple of weeks Dallen and I never made it back out after his cow. Believe it or not Dallen isn't quite as gung-ho to work so hard to get an antlerless elk. Not quite sure why getting up extra early, hiking in four miles spending all day hunting until after dark to not see a cow elk wouldn't be the most fun way to spend your Saturday?!? I'm going to have to set him straight. ;) I know he'd of been a lot more motivated to do an extreme bull elk hunt but not for a cow elk.

I seems that some years I really have to work to get a cow and this is the furthest I have ever had to go to get a cow. Almost feels like extreme cow elk hunting. Really glad I have a Pack Wheel so that I can get in where the elk are then get them back off the mountain by myself.

Re-Tweeking the 208 A-Max 300 Win Mag Load
After this hunt I went back to the reloading bench and tweeked the 208 A-Max load. I am a lot more confident in the load. It is more accurate and faster than the load I used on this hunt. You can check out the load on my 300 Win Mag hand load page.

Model 1885 High Wall - Bases, Rings, Triggers Etc.

 

Winchester Model 1885 in 300 Win. Mag.

My Model 1885 in 300 Win Mag at the range testing 208 A-Max hand loads.

 

Winchester Model 1885 with Talley Base and Rings

This is a good base and ring combo for the Model 1885. It's a Talley system built for Winchester. The draw back with this system is that there is no way to achieve any MOA in the mount. I also recommend lapping your rings once you have this base secured on the rifle.

 

3/4 inch spacer to add length of pull to my Model 1885

Being a tall lengthy guy I always have to add about 3/4" extra length of pull to my rifles to keep the scope off my face when firing the rifle.

I often just cut a piece of oak to fit, oversize two holes through the spacer, and then get longer screws to extend through the recoil pad and spacer.

I hide the ugly, not so perfectly sized spacer with a neoprene stock cover with shell holder.

 

Model 1885 with Weaver bases, Burris Signature Zee Rings and Vortex Viper PST

This shows the rear Weaver base with the Burris Signature Zee Ring. You can see the plastic inserts between the metal ring and scope tube. On this rear ring I have the 10+ spacer on the top and the 10- spacer on the bottom.

 

Leveling scope on Model 1885 High Wall Vortex Level

To help with the really long shots I have installed a Vortex bubble level to help me keep from canting the rifle.

To get everything aligned I use a couple of magnetic levels with perpendicular levels and snap them to the side of the receiver. I then place a picture hanging level on top of the scope cap. Once I have it all level I tighten up the rings and lock the Vortex level in place.

I could probably just use one level on the receiver but I like having the two to make extra sure I have it all lined up.

 

Neoprene Shell holder on Model 1885

I like having a neoprene shell holder that has a flap that can velcro over the shells protecting them from the elements.

I like having shells right on the stock for a quick follow-up shot if necessary.

I have taken double coyotes with a Model 1885 rifle within seconds by having extra shells handy.

 

Model 1885 Velcro lever shut

I have a velcro tie around the stock with one loop over the lever. This keeps the lever from catching on my pack straps and opening the action while I'm out hunting. If I need to cycle the action I am just a second or two from pulling the velcro off the lever.

 

Model 1885 with Picatinny Riser Rail

I tried to get a picatinny rail on the Model 1885. The problem I ran into is that, with the Weaver bases, there was a 42 MOA drop from the rear base to the front base. In this photo I only screwed down the rear Weaver base and then just clamped the front Weaver base into the riser rail to show the height difference from the front to rear on this Model 1885.

 

Model 1885 with picatinny rail

All looks well with this Lion Gears 12 slot riser rail clamped on the Weaver base but if I tightened this down solid the aluminum rail would flex and put torque on the scope. See the photo above this photo that shows the height difference between the front and rear Weaver bases.

Another issue with this system is that even with low Weaver rings I would be mounting the scope approximately 3/8 inch higher than I would like. I would probably need to add something to the comb to keep my shooting form comfortable.

 

Model 1885 Chronograph of 300 Win Mag with 208 A-Max

Here is a sample photo of the chronograph of a 208 A-Max hand load I am working on in my 300 Win Mag Model 1885.

I'm still tweaking this load and will post load data when I have it.

 

Model 1885 Shearing primers

The Model 1885 likes to extrude the primer back into the firing pin hole then the falling block shears it off. The shells on the left are from my Model 1885 rifles showing the sheared primers while the shells on the right are from my X-Bolt and A-Bolt rifles with normal looking primer indents.

With my Model 1885 in 300 Win Mag I have not had any issue with the extruded primer. The primer indention looks perfectly normal.

To prevent the primer from being sheared off and gumming up the firing pin just dry fire the rifle immediately after you fire the rifle and before you open the action. Doing so will indent the primer again and prevent it from being sheared off when you open the action. Remember to practice safe shooting skills with your muzzle control when you dry fire the rifle.

 

215 Berger Hybrid three shot group Model 1885 300 Win Mag

Here's my first 215 Gr Berger load with my 300 Win Mag. At 0.6 inches this isn't too bad at 100 yards for a first load. I love Berger bullets. I shot this group a couple weeks after I took a cow elk with my 300 Win Mag Model 1885 using a 208 A-Max.

I'm thinking this is going to be my favorite bullet for this rifle.

 

1885 ring alignment

With the Talley base and rings on this Model 1885 the rings are just a little out of alignment.

 

1885 lapped talley rings

After about an hour of lapping I was able to get the rings in near perfect alignment.

I have been getting into long range shooting and have had great success with my two Model 1885s, in 270 WSM and the other in 243 WSSM. You can check out some long range action with these rifles shooting steel plates at the following links.

In 2014 Winchester brought back some of the WSM rifles in the Model 1885 and did a small run of 45 rifles chambered in 300 Win Mag. Being a guy who prefers smaller bores I have never owned a rifle chambered in anything larger than 270 WSM. To achieve better performance at really long ranges I figured that a 30 caliber was in need. With the Model 1885 being produced in both 300 WSM and 300 Win Mag in 2014 I compared the two cartridge's benefits and in the end opted for the 300 Win Mag. If I was going to get a bolt action rifle the advantages of a shorter action and the non-belted 300 WSM cartridge would probably sway me to go with a X-Bolt. However in the single shot Model 1885 the action length is the same. I can overcome the belted cartridge issues by setting my sizing die to just barely bump the shoulder so that the shell will seat up against the shoulder in the chamber giving better alignment with the bore. Also the 300 Win Mag easily gets greater velocities over the 300 WSM in hand loads. So I ordered one of the 45 rifles that would be made in 300 Win. Mag.

What draws me to the Model 1885? I've always been really found of octagon barrels. My first firearm was a octagon Marlin 39a lever action 22 rifle. I like that the Model 1885 has a extra long 28 inch barrel. Longer barrels mean greater velocity and with no action length to speak of I get a rifle with the overall length being roughly the same as a bolt action rifle with a 24 inch barrel. With 1885's there are no magazine restrictions for the overall length of the cartridge. For instance in my new 300 Win Mag I have found that the 208 A-Max shoots best out touching the lands in the barrel for a cartridge overall length (COAL) of 3.571 inches, a length well beyond the 3.34 specified as the max for this cartridge. There is also something really cool about hunting with a single shot. And how cool is it that this is John M. Browning's first firearm that he designed and sold? Really cool.

Over the years I have been mounting different scopes and using different bases and rings on my Model 1885 rifles. It has often been a challenge to find a mount that you would like to use. Here's what I have learned about this great rifle and what has worked best to mount my rifle scopes.

Scope Mounts
One of the challenges with the Model 1885 is mounting scopes. The rifle is drilled and tapped on the flat area of the barrel right about four inches in front of the receiver. It is also drilled and tapped on top of the rounded receiver. As I have learned the taper on the barrel isn't exactly the same from one rifle to the next. Basically to get the octagon barrel it is just ground out until it "looks right" is how it has been described to me. I'm sure that it is a little more sophisticated than this but in the end no two tapers are exactly the same so with a base mounted on the taper of the barrel it presents a problem in getting the rings to align.

I have tried a few different base and ring combinations in my 85s throughout the years. One system I like is a one piece blued steel base that Talley makes for Winchester. I did find that the set screws for the rear of the base to be a little too long on both of the bases I have and I had to get shorter screws to get the base locked down tight in the rear. The screws for the front of the base are a little to short to securely hold the base making it vulnerable to stripping the threads when you torque the screws. The base is designed such that it should work on most Model 1885 High Wall rifles even with the inconsistencies with the barrel tapers. With the base being made from a hefty piece of solid steel it doesn't flex much across the two mounting points and put torque on the scope however there can be a little miss alignment of the rings so it is always best to lap the rings when the base is secured and the rings attached. This is a good system for the 1885 however for my new 300 Win Mag that doesn't shoot as flat as my 270 WSM I wanted to have some MOA built into the mount so that I could have enough elevation adjustment in the scope to shoot to 1200 yards and possibly beyond.

I personally think Winchester should design the Model 1885 just slightly different so that better scope mounting options would be available. I think that the barrel should continue full bull barrel round for a couple of inches before the octagon tapering starts. I then think that the barrel should be drilled and tapped in two locations and not drilled and tapped on the receiver. Winchester could drill and tap the barrel with the same spacing as the TC Encore and many base options would immediately be available to mount a scope with 20 MOA.

So with my new 300 Win Mag rifle I set out to find the best solution to get 20 MOA out of the bases and rings. For starters I really like the 20 MOA EGW picatinny rails I have on my X-Bolt and A-Bolt rifles. I had hoped that I could find some way to get a picatinny rail to work. I studied the specs on rails and bases galore. I found that I could mount Weaver #29 and #11 bases to the rifle. I then found that I could clamp on a 1/2 inch AR riser rail across the two bases. The span between the slots in the Weaver bases is right at four inches. To get a riser rail to clamp across the bases I needed one with cross bolts that were 10 slots apart. The Lion Gears 12 slot 1/2 inch riser rail was the best option I could find, although it wasn't a 20 MOA riser. At the inexpensive price of the Lion Gears riser I ordered one just to test the system to see if it would work. Well it works perfect... almost. I found that their is a huge height difference between the two bases (39 MOA to be exact, more on how I found that out later). I found that if I clamped the rail onto the bases it would cause the aluminum rail to flex because the two bases are on different levels and if I had a scope mounted it would put a lot of torque on the scope so this idea was shelved.

I fell back to my second option to mount the scope. I used the Weaver #29 and #11 bases with High Burris Signature Zee Weaver Rings. The Signature versions of Burris' rings have plastic inserts that not only self align to keep any pinching of the rings into the scope tube, but there are also 10+ and 10- inserts that can be used to add or subtract MOA.

To start I mounted a Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50 using the Zero MOA inserts. This on a normal rifle would place the scope with Zero MOA. On my first trip to the range I found that I had 39 MOA and my scope was about 7 MOA short of getting the scope zeroed at 100 yards. I then used the 10 plus and minus inserts to lift the scope up in the front and drop it in the rear. So I placed a 10 plus insert on the bottom of the front ring and a 10 minus on the top of the front ring. I then did the opposite in the rear, a 10 plus on the top and a 10 minus on the bottom. In theory this should raise it up around 20 MOA and on the next trip to the range I found that is exactly what it did. I now have right at 20 MOA built into the elevation of the scope mount.

 

Triggers and Lock Time
I found on a forum some help with the trigger. The advise clearly worked however in my excitement I didn't take the time to find a scale to measure the difference. What I did was dry fire the rifle 10 times while applying pressure to the back of the hammer. This helped smooth out any roughness on the sear. I also learned that the trigger pull is lighter when the hammer is cocked without using the lever. So I cycle the action with the lever then lower the hammer and then cock the hammer with my thumb before firing it. I can noticeably tell the difference in the trigger after doing the dry fires and always cocking the hammer with my thumb.

Below is table showing the trigger pull weights of my High Wall rifles. One of the things that the averaged numbers don't show is that after I did the ten dry fire technique the trigger pulls were more consistent and varied less. It is interesting that on my 300 Win Mag I get a full half pound lighter trigger pull by decocking the hammer then pulling the hammer back to cock it again before I pull the trigger. Then on the 270 WSM it is right at a quarter of a pound lighter and the 243 WSSM is only slightly lighter. I have been annoyed with the trigger pull on the 243 WSSM rifle so I am going to have a Gunsmith lighten it up for me, down to around two and a half pounds.

Update March 24, 2015

I had Denny's Gun Repair in Plain City, Utah do a little trigger work on my 243 WSSM trigger. I know he replaced a spring and maybe some other adjustments. Anyhow the trigger is nice and light now, right at one and three quarter pounds. With this being my primary varmint rifle I was wanting a light trigger. I have one now. Thanks Denny!

Trigger pulls from the center of the trigger arch with a Wheeler trigger pull gauge.
My 1885 High Wall Rifles Decock hammer then re-cock Cocked from cycling action
270 WSM 2.83 lbs 2.98lbs
270 WSM (after doing 10 dry fire technique) 2.73 lbs 2.96 lbs
243 WSSM 3.25 lbs 3.42 lbs
243 WSSM (after doing 10 dry fire technique) 3.23 lbs 3.29 lbs
243 WSSM (after spring replacement and work done by Denny's Gun Repair) 1.75 lbs 1.83 lbs
300 Win Mag (after doing 10 dry fire technique) 2.46 lbs 3.04 lbs

Obviously you can also lighten the trigger with the little set screw that is right behind the trigger. Just tighten the set screw tighter to lighten the trigger pull. My rifles have been set from the factory near the bottom already so the little I have tightened them hasn't offered a lot of adjustability but has lightened them some.

The lock time on the 1885 is the greatest drawback to the rifle. It just takes a lot of time for that hammer to fall all the way to fire the cartridge after the trigger breaks. Any slight movement of the rifle during this window of time can really hinder accuracy. The lighter and smoother you can get the trigger the better off you'll be in lessoning any movement during this window of time. 1885 rifles always get a bad rap for their trigger and lock time however I have always had great bolt action comparable accuracy in my 1885 rifles with the factory triggers.

WSM and WSSM Primer Shearing
One thing that I have found with the 1885 and my 270 WSM and 243 WSSM is that the primers extrude back into the firing pin hole upon firing the rifle. Then the falling block shears off the extruded brass when I open the action. Every so often I will get a miss fire because the built up brass in the firing pin hole prevents the firing pin from striking the primer hard enough. What I like to do to prevent this is to dry fire the rifle every so often and then open the action and blow down the barrel with an air compressor or with my mouth in the field, blowing out the small pieces of brass that get thrown into the barrel and chamber upon dry firing the rifle.

The primer shearing happens on all of my loads both factory and hand loads and I have heard that all the 1885s in WSM have the same issue. Now on my new 300 Win Mag I have had no issues at all with this happening. I'm guessing it has to do with the pressure curve of the higher pressure WSM and WSSM cartridges. I also think that the rebounding hammer allows for the extrusion to happen where it isn't a striker system like found on a bolt action rifle.  I'm not really sure but I know the pressures are not too high. Shells in my X-Bolt or A-Bolt rifles show normal primer indentions.

Butt Stock Shapes
The straight butt stock looks cool however functionally I would really prefer a traditional pistol grip style stock. Obviously a pistol grip stock is more comfortable to shoot. I find that I actually place my fingers along the lever using it as a pistol grip when I shoot. A pistol grip would be more comfortable however it is not the main reason I would like a pistol grip. The main reason is that while hunting, with the rifle slung over my shoulder the lever catches on the pack shoulder straps and my clothes causing the action to open, often dropping out the cartridge or worse, cocking the hammer while leaving the cartridge in the chamber. A pistol grip would contour right behind the lever making the lever less exposed to catching on everything. To solve this problem for the time being I wrap a velcro strap around the stock and over the lever. I can cock the hammer and take the shot. For a follow-up shot I have to spend an extra few seconds to pull the velcro so that I can open the action.

I have debated shaping a piece of wood to attach to the bottom of the stock to create a pistol grip. I may add one to my rifles in the future or purchase an aftermarket stock. For now the velcro trick is working just fine.

I have the 208 A-Max shooting sub MOA. I still want to tweak the load when I have some more time but it's shooting good enough to take it on a cow elk hunt. Once I have the 208 Gr Hornady A-Max load tweaked a little more and I will have an awesome long range rifle.

View my 300 Win Mag hand loads for my Model 1885 High Wall.

First Time Out Hunting With 300 Win Mag
I took the rifle out to hunt cow elk in January of 2015. Here's a video of a shot taken to verify the trajectory of the 208 A-Max. With no cow elk in the area I tested my new new 300 Win Mag Winchester Model 1885 High Wall shooting a 208 A-Max load on a rock at 612 yards. The shot was uphill considerably so I calculated(educated guessed, but have since learned I can calculate the shot angle with Strelok Pro using the camera in my phone) the horizontal distance of 590 yards for the shot and plugged in the data into Strelok Pro on my Galaxy S4 phone. The shot appears to hit a couple inches low so another 1/4 MOA was needed or I wasn't completely steady off my shooting sticks. :)

2014-2015 Mule Deer Photos

With the mule deer rut is in full swing I've got my FujiFilm HS50exr camera out trying to get a few photos of the mule deer in the area. Unfortunately my camera is developing a small white spot on two of the lenses that contact each other internally. This lens issue happenned to my HS20exr and now my HS50exr. I love the cameras but I guess I'll just have to think of them as disposable cameras that will last me about a year and a half.

I will continue to add photos to this post as I take them this fall and winter.

View last year's photos of mule deer from 2013-14.

HS50exr Photo of 4 point Mule Deer

HS50exr Photo of 4 point Mule Deer

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer with broken antler in grass

HS50exr Photo of 3x4 and doe on skyline

HS50exr Photo of 3x4 and doe on skyline

HS50exr Photo of 3x4 and doe on skyline

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer bedded on ridge

HS50exr Photo of 3x4 and doe bedded on skyline

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer bedded on skyline

HS50exr Photo of Four Point Mule Deer bedded on skyline

HS50exr Photo of Mule Deer buck and doe

HS50exr Photo of Mule Deer buck and doe

 

2014 Utah General Rifle Deer Hunt - Dallen Gets a Nice Four Point Buck

Dallen with his 2014 mule deer

Hunters with Pack Wheel Hiking Carts

Headed out with our Pack Wheels hiking/game carts the day before the Utah deer season opener.

 

Dallen hunting with neoprene rifle jacket

Dallen hunting with my X-Bolt, 270 WSM nicely protected in a Browning neoprene gun jacket.

 

Dallen sneaking past a 3 point buck

Dallen found it quite entertaining to be sneaking past this 3 point buck without it knowing we where there.

 

4x2 mule deer bedded

This large 2 point buck actually has two small forks on one side. Guess it's a 4x2 buck then. We watched him for a few hours hoping a larger buck was with him.

 

4 point mule deer dead on cliff

View from where Dallen shot his buck with the zoom cranked up on the camera.

 

Dallen with 4 point mule deer and Alps Pathfinder pack

Dallen with his 2014 mule deer and Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder pack.

 

Browning Escalade Knife Model 662 with mule deer

I love my Browning Escalade knife. It is the best knife I have ever used asside from my custom knife Russ Kommer made for me which is just a little larger than this knife. I love small bladed, deep bellied, fixed blade skinners. This is a small knife that you can bone out a deer really fast with.

 

Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 Spotting Scope on Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder

Hauling around my lightweight spotting scope, a Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 on a Ultrec Carbon Fiber Tripod with my Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder pack.

After eating tag soup during the muzzleloader season and Dallen's rifle elk hunt not ending the way we would have liked, we were itching to find a good buck for Dallen.

Dallen really wanted to try and find the large 3x4 buck that out smarted me during the muzzleloader season. I couldn't blame him. It was a nice buck and I would really like to have Dallen get him.

The day before the opener we got dropped of by my brother and started our five and a half mile trek in to where we needed to be to hunt for this buck. As always the Pack Wheel carts made the hike a breeze. After we passed a group of backpack hunters on the way in we both laughed to ourselves at how easy it was for us as we watched them struggling from carrying in all their gear on their backs.

We did have a little issue with the 26 inch tire on Dallen's Pack Wheel. We have both of our Pack Wheel tires setup tubeless and Dallen had a thorn or something go through his tire and it was leaking rather fast. The Stans sealant wasn't sealing it up very quickly. I had a tube and patch kit with us as an emergency but preferred not to use it unless it was a last resort. We were able to pump the tire up every half hour or so on the way in and then hung the tire in a tree with the hole on the bottom. It leaked some fluid and eventually sealed pretty good, well enough to get back off the mountain. I think it was just low on Stans sealant as I hadn't added any in a good three months and have been using this Pack Wheel on a lot of off trail trips. I'll make sure to keep the fluid maintained better on future adventures.

Where I found the large 3x4 buck during the muzzleloader season was about 6 miles in, in an area that we knew we would be competing with horse hunters. There was a horse camp a couple hundred yards from where we camped Friday evening so as daylight approached on the opener we weren't sure how much competition there with be. As it worked out we had the canyon to ourselves. This was nice. We spotted 14 deer in the canyon and 6 bucks but not the large 3x4 we were after. There was one four point but he wasn't very large so Dallen wasn't interested in him.

After watching the canyon until around midday I dropped my Alps Pathfinder pack and looped way around the backside of the canyon and down then I brushed up the canyon hoping to bump deer back towards Dallen. Something was wrong with this picture when I was a kid I was a brusher for my dad as he sat on the ridge and  now I'm brushing for my own kids. Hmm... something's not right with this picture. Anyhow, it took me a good two hours to brush the canyon and I only got out a fawn that came within 20 yards of Dallen. We had watched six deer down in the canyon earlier so I must have somehow walked right past most of them.

For the afternoon we slipped into another canyon we hoped no one had been in yet. Jackpot! Just as we were entering the canyon I am watching to the right where the deer like to bed and unbeknownst to me Dallen was watching a small 3x4 out feeding right below us. Luckily Dallen pointed out the deer before I spooked it. We watched this buck and also found a large two point (4x2 with small forks on one side) bedded in the canyon. We sat on them for a couple hours hoping that a larger buck was bedded with them that would get up to feed come evening. Well evening came and a big one never showed up. Darn it!

Being good boys we packed it up and hiked off the mountain with our Pack Wheels in the dark so that we could attend church on Sunday.

Back to school and work on Monday. Dallen however was really itching to get a deer so we both played hooky on Friday. Instead of going all the way back in where we were for the opener we decided to go to a closer but rougher area to hunt. It is a really steep climb in and out of this area. I killed a good buck in 2003 in the area, a bull elk in 2010 and Dallen killed a bull in 2012 in this area.

In the dark Friday morning we were working our way down the canyon. As we approached the first finger draw we paused to let it get light enough before proceeding so as not to spook any deer out before we could see to shoot. As it got light enough to shoot we peaked around the ridge and sure enough right below us was a three point feeding.

We watched the three point for a few minutes and then re-charted our course sneaking past him so that he wouldn't bust down the canyon scaring everything out before we could get there. Dallen thought it was pretty funny to be so close to the deer without the buck knowing it.

As we worked our way down the canyon we spotted a buck about a 1000 yards away. My new Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope made it crystal clear that it was just another three point and not worth going after. We also spotted a lot of other does and fawns in the area and a few moose but no big bucks.

Working our way along a ridgeline we would look off one side then the other. Then at 87 yards two bucks jumped out and stopped on a small cliff. Dallen was behind me, took to steps to get around me and boom. The larger of the two bucks dropped like a sack of tatters. Not a twitch. The 150 Gr Accubond Long Range out of my 270 WSM X-Bolt just crushed him with a high shoulder shot angling down to the lower shoulder on the opposite side.

The bullet stopped against the hide on the opposite shoulder. The lungs where destroyed along with the backbone. The recovered bullet weighed 58.2 grains. I was very pleased with the performance of this bullet. This could be my go to mule deer bullet, it works well on deer at close range, yet has plenty of energy and expansion to cleanly take deer out to 1000 yards. Not that I would shot at a deer at 1000 yards but the bullet has the potential.

What a cool experience to have Dallen just pull up and shot the deer without any coaching. I was actually trying to get my camera ready to take some photos of the bucks right when Dallen dropped the hammer. Dallen has really matured as a hunter and has really impressed me with his marksmanship skills and hunting abilities. I'll take a little credit for spending time at the reloading bench and getting the rifles setup to shoot well. He has the green light from Dad out to 600 yards. Given the right conditions Dallen is great at making the shot. This comes form experience and he is getting pretty darn experienced at a young age.

After a few photos it was time to bone out the deer. I had Dallen do a lot of the work this time. My Browning Escalade knife worked awesome at boning out the deer. I love deep bellied skinning knives with a short blade and this knife is sweet.

We decided to cape out the buck to give to our taxidermist in case he needs a cape for someone else.

After getting it all boned out we put half of the meat into each of our Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder packs. I really like how versatile this pack is. I do think a Alps Outdoorz Traverse EPS pack would be an even better option for this style of hunting. Once home the meat weighed in right at 60 pounds. There probably was a good 5 pounds of meat we lost in the front shoulders from the bullet.

Dallen has now taken three, 4 point bucks and one 3 point in the six years he has hunted deer. That's not too bad. Actually the one year he had swine flu and was only able to get out for a few hours that season so I don't know if that season should count. He has done really good considering all of his deer have been taken on public land in Northern Utah, in a very heavily hunted unit.

Nice job Dallen!

Dallen admiring his 2014 mule deer

Browning neoprene rifle jacket

Dallen admiring his 2014 mule deer.

 

I purchased this Browning neoprene rifle jacket this past year and have just loved it. It's just like a neoprene scope cover except it is for the whole rifle. The scope and rifle are protected. It snaps off just as fast as a scope cover. I no longer have to tape the end of my barrel or have a scope cover. When it rains or snows the rifle is covered. I really like it when it comes to sitting the rifle down. I can lay the rifle on any surface and not worry about scratching the rifle or scope.

 

Dallen hunting on skyline

3x4 mule deer feeding

Man that camo looks good. I love RealTree Max-1 camouflage.

 

Dallen spotted this 3x4 buck feeding 200 yards below us on opening day.

 

Dallen packing mule deer alps pathfinder pack

Dallen packing mule deer with Alps Pathfinder pack

Packing mule deer X-Bolt and Alps Pathfinder pack

Hiking down to dead mule deer buck

My X-Bolt 270 WSM with Vortex Viper 4-16x50 HS LR rifle scope. Packing out the buck in a Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder pack.

 

Dallen hiking down to his buck.

 

Dallen with the caped head and mule deer rack

Crossbill

Dallen's buck caped out in a meat bag ready to haul out.

 

A female Red Crossbill was hanging around watching us on the pack out.

 

Dallen's 2014 mule deer buck

Recovered 150 Gr Accubond Long Range 270 WSM

Dallen and me with his 2014 mule deer.

 

Here's the recovered 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range bullet reduced to 58.2 grains. It was resting against the hide on the opposite shoulder.

 

Cool sunny grass photo

Packing out mule deer buck with Alps Pathfinder pack

I thought this made a pretty cool photo of the grass in the sun with a dark shadowed canyon below.

 

Dallen packing out his mule deer buck.

 

 

Subcategories

  • Big Game Hunting

    Journal entries from hunting mule deer, elk and whitetail deer.  You'll find hunts with 243 WSSM and 270 WSM rifles to muzzleloader and archery hunts.

  • General Hunting and Shooting

    Journal entries covering general information related to hunting and shooting. Many of these journal entries are from shooting on the rifle or archery range. There are also entries related to my experiences with the 243 WSSM, rifles, optics and other equipment and products I use.

  • Varmint Hunting

    Journal entries from hunting coyotes, rock chucks, prairie dogs and the like with 243 WSSM and 223 Rem. rifles.

  • Backpacking and Camping

    Backpacking, Pack Wheel camping and other camping adventures.

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