April 11, 2011

MDT TAC 21 First Impressions

If you'll recall my posting from the BC Sportsman's Show, I mentioned in it the MDT TAC 21 chassis system for the Remington 700 rifle. Since then I've acquired a sample for review. It arrived recently and before fitting a rifle to it, I gave it a close inspection. The news is all good, because from machine work to finishing the build quality looks great. All the pieces fit together beautifully and it accepted an AR-15 buttstock and pistol grip exactly as claimed. This is the TAC 21 with those two pieces (which are not part of the kit) installed.

The only rifle in my possession at the moment which fits the TAC 21 is an SPS slim barrel model in 204 Ruger. I set about installing it and found it took me 40 minutes. Again, everything fit perfectly. Later in this post I've got photos of the assembled rifle with dead animals (because this thing is meant to be used, so I took it hunting).
 As I waited for my first available day to field test this rig, I got a few phone calls from farmers complaining of too many coyotes. Talk about good timing! So, when my day off finally arrived I had a plan laid out.

The TAC 21 wasn't even sighted in at this point, so I threw a second rifle in the truck and pulled out before dawn. My first stop was a farmer who operates near the local rifle range. I figured I could help him out with the second rifle, then hit the range, sight in the TAC 21 and finish the day with it.

Legal shooting light found me sitting under a spruce tree overlooking a large pasture and sounding like an injured rabbit. Five minutes into my ruse, a pale coyote came out of the trees over my right shoulder. Since I'm right handed I had to make a big shift to get on target, but even at 50 yards he didn't spook and when the crosshairs settled on him, I dropped him into the snow.

From what the farmer had told me, there were plenty of yotes here, so I kept calling. He was right; five minutes after the first one, three more popped out of the trees on the other side of the pasture. Two of them acted spooked and contented themselves with circling out into the open to try and catch my scent. The third one was hungrier. He came at me, finally stopping on a rise 75 yards away. He got the same as coyote one, which caused the others to shift into warp speed to get away. I kept calling, but nothing else showed.

I checked in with the hired hand and by the time I got done there, the range was open. Sighting in the TAC 21 was quick and boring. Once I was on paper, it took three two-shot groups to hit center, and then I fired five, just to confirm. Everything was sub-MOA, which is how this rifle shoots...good to go.

With the TAC-21 now operational, my first stop was another farmer who was having problems. However, a check of his dead pile showed nothing fresh, but he had two dead calves he was dropping on it this afternoon. I told him I'd be back tomorrow morning at dawn and moved on.

Second stop was a hilltop overlooking a cattle feeding operation. I haven't been out this way for a month so I needed to catch up on what this rancher was doing and where the cattle were. The two-mile-view told me what I needed to know but also revealed four coyotes heading for a stack of round bales just north of the cattle. Perfect. But it did require a four mile drive to get there, a check with the land owner ("Kill 'em all," he said) and an approach through the cows. In the end, the yotes busted me and I got one shot at a 300 yard runner. Missed...Rats.

With plenty of other places to check, I hit a nearby pasture and did some calling. With my back against a big tree and the sun warming up the world, things were pretty comfortable. A coyote in the crosshairs would have been more comfortable but nothing showed. However, while calling I started to notice gophers running all over the snow. I didn't even know there were gophers in this pasture; but then I realized I've never been here except in the dead of winter. There were gophers everywhere!

You know what they say about making lemonade if all you've got is lemons; so with no coyotes willing to show up, I christened the TAC 21 on gophers. This, in a pasture with over a foot of snow on the ground. I was launching Berger 35 gr hollow points at 3700 fps, so a lot of the gophers ended up as red mist on white snow, like the one pictured below, whose other half was a good twenty yards away:

A ridge faced me at 165 yards and a few gophers scampered across it. I targeted them with the TAC 21 and got better photo material as a result. At that further distance, the bullets slowed enough to not give the kind of violent expansion shown above. These Bergers are fairly tough bullets, which makes them ideal for coyotes because they will penetrate deeper. But on gophers at 165 yards, all you get is a wound that looks like a rimfire hollow point has been at work. At least it leaves me something to photograph...

I had twenty-eight rounds of ammo with me, which would normally be good for days of hunting and a truckload of coyotes. However, with gophers on the menu, the ammo was all gone in 45 minutes and I had to go home.

I spent the evening reloading and hit the dead pile at dawn. Not even a magpie, let alone a coyote. I couldn't believe it, but the view was great and I can't think of many better things to do than hold an accurate rifle and watch a beautiful sunrise over a pile of dead cows. I know, I'm a hopeless romantic.

Calving in this country is going strong and as long as farmers are having coyote trouble I'll continue to work the with TAC 21 to make things safe for beef cattle. This unit will be the subject of a full review article and I'll let you know when it's done and where it will be published as soon as I have that available. In the interim watch for more action with it here. Especially once the snow finally disappears and the gophers really come out. By then I'll have this thing set up as a precision rifle system, which is what it really is. Setting it up as a calling rifle, is certainly fun, but not the most effective use of its capabilities.

So far, the TAC 21 gets an "A" in Coyote School. You can check out the manufacturer's website at http://www.mdttac.com/


p.s.: More hunts with the TAC21 are here: http://coyoteschool.blogspot.com/2011/11/magpies-decoys-and-coyotes.html and  here: http://coyoteschool.blogspot.com/2011/11/zombie-coyotes.html

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