Monday, July 21, 2014

Knife vs Hatchet-- Which is the King of Chopping?


Rocky Mountain Bushcraft pits a popular knife against a popular hatchet to decide an age old question-- which tool is the better chopper?

For years, arguments have raged on internet forums over which tool is a better chopper -  hatchet or large survival knife? Public perception has been that large survival knives are superior to hatchets. This is due to a few questionable Youtube videos that have been floating around the internet for the past 10 years, which show hatchets being outmatched by large survival knives. Were the videos correct? Is a big knife really a better chopper than a hatchet? Find out as we pit one against another in a one-on-one chop-off  to settle this question once and for all.......


The Contenders

For the test, we assembled two popular edged tools -- an Ontario RTAK II 10.5" survival knife, and an Estwing 12" Sportsman's Hatchet.

Ontario RTAK II Survival Knife


To represent large survival knives, I chose Ontario Knife Company's popular RTAK II Survival Knife. Sporting a behemoth 10.5" long carbon steel blade, the RTAK II is nearly as big as a machete, yet well balanced for its size.

Originally developed in the late 1990s by Jeff Randall of Randall's Adventure Training (RAT), the RTAK was designed to be a more efficient jungle survival tool than either a regular machete, or a shorter, thicker survival knife. The RTAK's 3/16" thick, full tang blade is light enough to swing to clear foliage, yet thick and strong enough to baton large pieces of wood.


To handle the harsh demands of wilderness environments, Ontario constructed the RTAK II from tough 5160 carbon steel, which has earned a great reputation for use in high-stress applications such as axes and larger survival blades. 5160 is also the steel of choice for Council Tool's popular Velvicut line (check out our Dec. 2011 review here). To prevent rust in damp conditions, Ontario coats the RTAK's 5160 blade with a mil-spec phosphate finish.


The RTAK's nearly indestructible canvas micarta handle scales provide an excellent match for the 5160 steel. They are highly comfortable and provide a slip-free grip even in wet conditions.

The sheath is constructed from heavy, durable nylon, and is reinforced with a plastic insert to prevent the blade from cutting through. The front of the sheath has an extra pocket which can be used to store a micro-survival kit, multi-tool, or your favorite folder. There is also a leg lanyard to keep it firmly attached to your thigh.


If you're a big blade fan, the RTAK II is an excellent choice for carrying on backcountry excursions, plus, it's 100% made in Ontario, New York, USA. For more info visit Ontario's site at http://ontarioknife.com/fixed-blades/rtak-ii-detail.html

Estwing 12" Sportsman's Hatchet


Representing the hatchet side of the equation is Estwing's classic 12" Sportman's Hatchet. With a history going all the way back to 1923, the Estwing is a respected workhorse in American edged tools. This time-tested hatchet hangs in the garages of millions of homes, having chopped kindling for countless campfires, wood stoves, and fireplaces since before the Great Depression.

The Sportsman's Hatchet's strength lies in it's simplicity-- constructed from a drop-forged billet of medium carbon steel, the Estwing is literally built as tough as a nail. Normally, this one-piece steel construction would make for a very unbalanced hatchet. Not so with the Estwing. The Sportsman's Hatchet is well balanced, with even weight distribution between its head and leather stacked handle.

Leather-Stacked Handle

The Sportsman's Hatchet's leather-stacked handle is built as tough in its own right as is its billet of forged steel. To construct the handle, a powerful hydraulic press is used to compress a stack of leather rings together onto the raw steel handle. The rings are then held firmly in place by riveting a steel cap on the end:


The leather is then dipped in varnish for long term durability. The result is a handle that is comfortable, durable and able to absorb shock from the impact of chopping.

Edge Profile

The 12" Sportsman's Hatchet has an excellent factory edge profile. It is thin and convex, making it a top-notch chopper and fine carver. To give you a better idea, check out the Sportsman's edge profile next to a Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet, the gold standard in factory-produced hatchet edge profiles:


Size Comparison

The 12" Sportsman Hatchet, left, next to its bigger brother the Estwing 14" Sportsman's Hatchet, shown on the right:

Size comparison next to a Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet:


The Sportsman's Hatchet comes with a simple, yet functional leather belt sheath:



With a street price of under $40, indestructible drop-forged construction, excellent factory edge profile, good balance, comfortable handle, functional sheath, and surprisingly good fine carving and chopping ability, the 12" Sportsman's Hatchet is one of the best survival bangs for the buck on the market. For more info visit http://www.estwing.com/axes_outdoor.php

Weigh-in!

The RTAK comes in with a 2.9 ounce weight advantage over the Estwing. Though the knife is slightly heavier, these two are still close enough in weight to make it a fair match.

Ontario RTAK II- 22.4 Ounces

Estwing Sportsman's Hatchet-19.5 ounces:

The Chop-Off!

The test was simple-- using a standard v-notch chopping technique, I chopped 10 times with each tool into a small, dead Lodgepole Pine tree. To ensure consistency, each was sharpened to hair-shaving sharpness before chopping. Both edges had their original, factory profiles, and no modifications of any kind were made.




and the winner is.......HATCHET!


CONCLUSION

Even with a 3 ounce weight advantage, the big knife still got trounced by the hatchet. A thicker-bladed survival knife would have certainly chopped better than the RTAK, but it would have had to be much heavier than the Estwing in order to match or outperform it.

Why did the hatchet trounce the big knife in such dramatic fashion? It's simply a matter of physics. Hatchets concentrate their weight in a small area, giving them a more powerful chopping blow than a knife. Knives distribute their weight over a broader, less focused area. Any hatchet with a sharp edge and proper edge profile will out chop a knife of equal weight due to this difference.

Does this mean that a hatchet is a superior survival tool in the woods? Not necessarily. Large survival knives have their own distinct advantages in the wilderness. Which tool you pick ultimately comes down to experience and personal preference. One thing is certain though, when it comes to pure chopping power, hatchets are clearly the undisputed "king."

Friday, July 11, 2014

REVIEW: Chiappa Double Badger Folding .22 Magnum/410 Shotgun



Last year, Italian-based manufacturer Chiappa Firearms released a new over and under rifle/shotgun combo called the "Double Badger." What makes the Double Badger unique is that it folds in half for easy transport inside of a backpack, the trunk of a vehicle, or the tight space of a small aircraft. The Double Badger comes configured in either .22 Magnum Rifle/410 Shotgun or .22LR Rifle/410 Shotgun.


I've been wanting to try out the Double Badger ever since I first saw it at SHOT Show 2013. The Double Badger is the first 22 Rifle/410 Shotgun folding combo since the demise of the Springfield M6 Scout. The M6 was the civilian version of the Airforce's original M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon, and was discontinued by Springfield in 2008.

The Airforce M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon (photo credit: Imgur.com)

The M6 AirCrew Weapon, chambered in 22 Hornet/410, was meant to allow downed pilots to forage for food while awaiting rescue in the wilderness. The Air Force decided to go with a rifle/shotgun combo because it allows a wider variety of game to be harvested than a single-barreled rifle.

Within 25 yards the 410 is effective on birds or other small game. The 22 Hornet is powerful enough for larger game such as antelope or small deer at up to 50 yards. This flexibility is what made the M6 extremely versatile, yet still lightweight.

Original scan of M6 Aircrew Weapon manual, showing maximum effective range for each cartridge (photo credit: www.milesfortis.com):

FEATURES

As mentioned, the Double Badger is unique because it folds in half for easy storage. This is accomplished by pulling down on the rear of the trigger guard and then folding the gun in half: 

(click to enlarge)
Photo credit: Monica Tymcio/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft 

The folded Double Badger is small enough to fit inside my tiny Kelty Daypack:


You also fold the Double Badger to load and unload it:


The Double Badger includes a manual extractor, which tends to be more reliable than an ejector system.

Internal hammers and double triggers give the Double Badger an advantage, if one of the firing mechanisms fails, you still have another barrel that functions.


The Double Badger comes with a Williams high-visibility fiber-optic front bead sight, and an adjustable high-visibility ghost-ring rear sight:

 

The Double Badger is equipped with sling swivels:



The Double Badger weighs in at 5 pounds 12 ounces:

This is on the heavy side for a survival rifle, and is due to the Double Badger's Walnut stock. The Walnut stock is very nice, and it makes the Double Badger feel more balanced when holding it, but for a survival gun, weight (or lack of) is king. Out of curiosity, I decided to compare it to the weight of Rossi's popular Youth 22LR/410 "Matched Pair" Combo Gun:


The Rossi weighed in at 5 pounds 4 ounces. This makes the Double Badger's weight more reasonable by comparison, especially considering that the Rossi is a smaller youth model with a synthetic stock, but the Double Badger could still benefit from a reduction in weight. With a synthetic stock, my guess is that it would weigh a pound to a pound and half less. 

22 Magnum Rifle/410 Shotgun Barrel


The Double Badger is an over and under .22 rifle/410 shotgun, and is available with either a .22 Long Rifle or .22 Magnum barrel. The .22 barrel sits over top of the 410 barrel.

The 410 barrel has a fixed Improved Cylinder Choke and is chambered for either 2.5" or 3" shells. It will safely shoot slugs, buckshot, or birdshot. Both the rifle and shotgun barrels are 19" in length.

For this review, I chose the .22 Magnum model, because it is closest to the original M6 Aircrew Weapon's 22 Hornet/410 Configuration.

From left to right: 22 Hornet, 22 Magnum, 22 Long Rifle


22 Magnum vs 22 Long Rifle for Survival

Although the .22 Magnum is less powerful than the 22 Hornet, when shot from a rifle barrel, it is roughly 2 1/2 times more powerful than the .22 Long Rifle, having roughly the same energy as a 9mm Pistol Round. This increase in power comes in a package that weighs just a fraction more than the Long Rifle, yet gives the Magnum the ability to take larger, tougher game such as turkey, geese, or even small deer in a survival situation.

To illustrate this power increase, I tested Winchester's full metal jacket Super-X .22 Magnum 40 grain round against a 7" pine log from the Double Badger. The full metal jacket 22 Magnum round was able to blast completely through it. That is some serious penetration from a small rimfire round.

The downside of this increased power is that within 50 yards, standard Magnum hollow point ammunition is too powerful for small game such as squirrel and rabbit, destroying much of the edible meat.

There are three ways around this limitation. One is to carry lower powered ammunition such as .22 WRF (Winchester Rimfire). Winchester Rimfire has roughly the same energy as a .22 Long Rifle high velocity round, yet is safe to shoot in any .22 Magnum rifle. Another is to use a 22LR to 22 Magnum Adapter so you can shoot 22LR ammo. The third option is to carry Full Metal Jacket 22 Magnum loads, which are less destructive than hollow point ammunition.

The downside to .22 Long Rifle Adapters and .22 WRF ammunition is that they are not as accurate as shooting 22 Magnum loads. However, they are accurate enough for small game targets within 20-25 yards (check out the accuracy results in the field testing section). Full Metal Jacket .22 Magnum rounds don't have these accuracy limitations, so they are better for 25 yard+ shots without worrying about destroying too much edible meat.

A mix of .22 Magnum Hollow Points, .22 Magnum Full Metal Jackets, and either .22 WFR ammo or a .22 Long Rifle Adapter along with some .22LR rounds would give you a nicely rounded, highly flexible selection of ammo for wilderness survival purposes in the Double Badger's .22 Magnum barrel.

FIELD TESTING!

I wanted to field test the Double Badger with the M6 Aircrew Weapon in mind-- 25 yards for the 410, and up to 50 yards for 22 Magnum. Open sights only.

Photo credit: Monica Tymcio/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft 

The first task was to get the Double Badger sighted in. From the factory, the rear sight was off a bit, as both barrels shot several inches to the left of where the sights were aimed. As shown in the photo below, I had to adjust the rear sight right by a good margin to shoot to point of aim. Once I got it adjusted, I used medium Loctite threadlocker to keep it in place, and the Double Badger shot true to aim with both barrels for the rest of field test.

(click to enlarge)

22 Magnum Testing

For the 22 Magnum tests, I wanted to find out how accurate the Double Badger would be shooting at close range and at 50 yards. Per my earlier discussion about the problem with using hollow points at less than 50 yards on small game, I wanted to test full metal jacket rounds at squirrel targets at close range. I also wanted to see what kind of accuracy I could get at 50 Yards using standard hollow point hunting ammo. I figured if it was accurate in both of these tests, the Double Badger would have the kind of well-rounded accuracy needed in a survival situation.

 15 Yards, kneeling position- CCI Maxi-Mag Total Metal Jacket 40 grain:

15 Yards, kneeling position- Winchester Super-X Full Metal Jacket 40gr:

50 yards seated position, using my knee as a rest. After testing several different kinds of FMJ and hollow point ammo, the Double Badger seemed to get maximum accuracy from Remington's 40 grain Hollow Point ammunition. This was two 3-shot groups clustered close together. The group in the bulls-eye was made after making a final adjustment to the rear sight:



.22 Winchester Rimfire (WFR) Testing

15 Yards (45 Feet) freestanding. These did not hit to the same point of aim as the .22 Magnum ammo, but still grouped tightly at this distance:


25 Yards (75 Feet) freestanding. I changed my point of aim to compensate this time. The group opened up quite a bit, but was still reasonably adequate for most small game hunting.


45 Yards using a tree branch as a rest. With a bit of practice, I could probably keep all the .22 WRF rounds in the target, but at this distance, the Magnum rounds are far superior in accuracy.
 

MCA Sports 22 Long Rifle to 22 Magnum Adapter

 15 Yards freestanding using Remington 36 Grain Hollow Point Golden Bullets:


25 Yards freestanding using CCI 40 grain Velocitors. As you can see in the photo below, at 25 yards, the groups start to really open up, and it becomes difficult to hit small targets with any consistency. Up to 20 yards, however, the adapter performed well, and would be great for taking small game without destroying edible meat as you would with a Magnum round. For shots past 20 yards, I'd use .22 WRF or a .22 Magnum Full Metal Jacket round, but this is certainly a great option either way.


410 Shotgun Testing

20 Yard Birdshot Pattern testing

Remington 2.5" 410 #6 Game Load, 20 Yards:

Winchester 2.5" 410 #6 Game Load, 20 Yards:


Estate 2.5" #7.5 Shot, a high value\low cost shotgun ammo made by Federal, 20 Yards:

3" Birdshot Shells

Surprisingly, larger 3" #6 loads didn't pattern as well in the Double Badger at 20 yards.  

Winchester Super-X 3" 410 #6 Shot, 20 Yards

 Federal GameShok 3" 410 #6 Shot, 20 Yards

The Double Badger did however like 3" Federal Game-Shok 11/16th ounce using #7.5 Shot:

Winchester Super-X 3" 11/16 ounce #4 shot also patterned well out of the Double Badger. A simple adjustment of the aiming point would have put a nice pattern of shot into the target.


25 Yard Testing

At 25 yards, the 2.5" shell patterns begin to really thin out, which is no surprise. Most 410 shotguns reach their pattern limitations at this distance. This is where the larger 3" shells really start to dominate over their smaller 2.5" counterparts due to their higher shot count.

Winchester 2.5" 410 #6 Game Load, 25 Yards:

Remington 2.5" 410 #6 Game Load, 25 Yards:

Estate 2.5" #7.5 Shot, 25 Yards:

3" Birdshot Shells

Remington 3" 410 #5 Shot, 25 Yards:

The Remington 3" #5 shell definitely performed well at 25 yards, but Winchester's 3" #4 Shot, and Federal's 3" 7.5 Shot seemed to put consistently more lead into the targets at this distance. The Federal #7.5 Shot load in particular was outstanding, and would be a great all-purpose bird and small game round in the Double Badger.



Champion Turkey Target pattern at 25 yards using Winchester's 3" High Brass #6 ammo, a popular 410 turkey hunting load:

The Double Badger would have definitely been effective at this range:

45 yards!

After playing around with Winchester's 3" #4 Birdshot load, I found that it consistently patterned farther than any other load in this test, including the #7.5 loads. I decided to test its limits by seeing at how far a distance I could still hit a large squirrel/small rabbit sized target. I was amazed to find that I could repeatedly hit one of these targets at 45 yards. As shown in the photo below, the pattern is thin, but 6 pellets still struck their mark:


At this distance, an average person with limited marksmanship experience would have difficultly hitting a target this size with a rifle barrel using open sights. The same person laying the bead of the Double Badger's 410 barrel with this type of load would have a much greater likelihood of bagging a survival meal. This is the reason many experts consider shotguns, even as small as the 410, to be superior survival weapons for people with limited range time/marksmanship skills.

Slugs/Buckshot

Federal 3" #4 Buckshot

Federal 3" #4 Buckshot, 15 Yards, freestanding:

Winchester 3" 000 Buckshot

Packing a whopping 1,000 foot pounds of energy (as much same energy as a 44 Magnum round), Winchester's 3" 410 000 Buckshot shell slings out 5 individual 000 buckshot at the speed of sound, giving it enough knock-down power to make it a viable round for dangerous animal defense.

15 Yards freestanding (NOTE: the mark without the hole is where the wad hit the target and bounced off):


25 Yards Freestanding. The pattern is still tight enough at this distance to take a deer:

Slug Testing

The Brenneke Silver Slug is the most powerful 410 slug on the market, and also one of the most accurate. This makes it an excellent choice for use in wilderness survival applications. The Silver Slug packs the energy of a 41 Magnum handgun, and according to this article, will out-penetrate a 10mm handgun round.

50 Yards with open sights shooting from a kneeling position:

I was pleasantly surprised to see this kind of accuracy out of a smoothbore shotgun barrel:

TRIGGER/EXTRACTION

The Double Badger's 410 Shotgun trigger was light and crisp, with no creep. The 22 Magnum trigger was fairly light, but did have some creep in it. Overall, I'd say the triggers are above average as far as feel and pull weight are concerned. As far as extraction goes, all 410 shells came out easily. The 22 Magnum shells needed a slight effort to pull out the emptys, though nothing terrible.


CONCLUSION

So what is my impression of the Double Badger after spending 6 months in the field with it? Outstanding. After putting a 1000+ rounds of mixed ammunition through it without a hitch, and seeing how effective it was shooting a variety of rifle and shotgun ammunition, I'm happy to report that the Double Badger turned out to be a very competent wilderness gun.

Due to its weight, it won't be replacing the ultra-light Springfield M6 rifle any time soon. However, the Double Badger just might be what fans of the defunct but highly popular Savage Model 24 22/410 Camper's Companion have been looking for. Fans of the Camper's Companion should feel right at home with the Double Badger, since both guns weigh virtually the same (5.75lbs), have wooden stocks, and have a similar barrel arrangement and overall length. Where the Double Badger improves upon the Camper's Companion however, is that it has an easier to use double trigger system, high visibility sights, and the ability to fold in half with just the squeeze of a lever.

Of course, it will take many years to see if the Double Badger has the long term durability of the Savage, but considering the amount of rounds I fired without any issues, I'd say the Double Badger is off to a very promising start.


Improvements? Yes. The Double Badger could really benefit from a synthetic stock to trim some of its weight (are you listening Choate Stocks?). The Double Badger is also screaming for a soft case to keep it protected while carrying it folded out in the field. Also, maybe my test gun was a fluke, but based on my experience with having to adjust the rear sight to get the gun to shoot to point of aim, I'd like to see better a factory sight-in test before the Double Badger is shipped.

On a side note, the Double Badger is able to shoot both barrels at the same time. Shooting both barrels of the Double Badger isn't quite like shooting both barrels of a 12 Gauge Double Barrel Shotgun, but try shooting a 3" 000 Magnum Buckshot and a 22 Magnum out of this relatively light gun at the same time, and it will give you a serious grin!

Even shooting the barrels one at a time, the Double Badger was truly a fun gun to use throughout testing. It was especially fun to shoot the 410 barrel right after dusk, when targets were more difficult to see. The high visibility sights made it a cinch to consistently blast small soup cans into the air at 25 yards even in the waning light.


I think what makes the Double Badger such a great wilderness gun is its flexibility. With it's 22 Magnum barrel, and shooting a combination of Magnum rounds mixed with lower powered ammo such as .22 Winchester Rimfire or using a .22 Long Rifle Adapter, you have the potential to take the smallest of game all the way up to turkeys and more.

With the 410, loaded with Brenneke slugs, the Double Badger could serve as a big game hunting rifle out to 50 yards. With 3" 000 Buckshot, you could defend against dangerous predators. Loaded with birdshot, the Double Badger could be used to bag birds out to 25 yards, and small game all the way out to 45 yards using larger #4 Birdshot.

This awesome flexibility is what makes the Double Badger shine, and would make it a great survival weapon to carry on ATVs, pack horses, 4x4s, and bush planes, where its extra weight wouldn't make a significant difference. With a street price of between $300 and $350, I would buy this gun for the shotgun alone. The rifle barrel is just a bonus.

4 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)