Product Reviews

Latest outdoor product reviews

COAST HL8R Lumen Rechargeable Headlamp

By: Mary & Dr. Jim Clary

With the advent of LED technology, the variety of headlamps available to the sportsman has literally exploded. They come in all sizes, luminosity and prices. You can find them priced from as low as $20 to over $250 (which is a bit extreme in our opinion). That brings us to the question, which one of the dozens available should you select?

We put together the criteria that we feel are essential for a headlamp that is suitable for hunters, campers and hikers:

1: Eliminate from consideration those cheapies that you find at the checkout lines of the big box sporting goods stores. They are more suited as toys for your kids than as units that you might be depending upon with your life.

2: The unit must use conventional AA or AAA batteries. The reasoning behind that is availability. A lot of units use CR123A, CR2032 or CR2016 batteries which are not only expensive but difficult to find in a lot of locations around the country.

3: The unit must have a minimum output of 200 lumens, and preferably having the ability to focus out to 100 yards.

4: The unit must be tough enough to survive the impact of a fall, being stuffed into the bottom of a backpack or dropped into the back of a truck.

5: Finally, it would be nice if the unit has more than a 60 day or one year warranty. When you look at all of these criteria, the majority of the units drop out.

The HL8R utilizes a rechargeable battery pack as well as a 4 AA battery pack. At full luminosity of 800 lumens it yields a runtime of 1 hour 45 minutes and a beam distance of 214 meters. The low setting produces a luminosity of 90 lumens with a runtime of 8.5 hours and a beam distance of 70 meters. These values have been tested and rated to ANSI/FL1 standards.


The body and battery compartment of the HL8R is constructed from the same high strength polymer that is used in the frames of many semi-automatic pistols. The unit carries the Coast Lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship and is IPX4 rated for water resistance and drops on hard surfaces of one meter. That being said, you aren't going to break this unit unless you decide to use it as a hammer.

The additional specifications for the HL8 are:
• Pure Beam Focusing Optic – packs two beams into one with no halos or hot spots
• Twist focus – to transition between spot and flood beams by rotating the head
• Hinged beam – up, down or straight ahead
• Batteries: 1 lithium- ion battery or 4 x AA alkaline batteries (included)
• Removable battery pack with 3-foot (91.5 cm) extension cord
• 4 hardhat clips
• Adjustable elastic straps
• Easy to operate side light output control dial
• Hinged beam adjustment to position light where you need it
• AC/DC adapters with USB cord included – pack can be charged on or off the headlamp
• Weight: ~12 oz. (including batteries)
With an MSRP of $125, it costs a bit more than comparable units, but you get so much more for your money that is worth the cost. Coast includes clips for the head straps to attach them to hardhats, should you need the HL8R in your job. And, the capability of removing the battery pack from the unit and clipping to your belt is an extra bonus.

As we said in the beginning of this review, the only thing that some folks might not like about the HL8R is the weight when compared to the 6-8 ounce weight of other units. However, when you consider all of the features in the Coast, the lighter units pale in comparison. We will take the Coast HL8R with us on all of our future expeditions into the wilderness with complete confidence that it will not fail to perform.

Henry's Brass Frame 410 Bore Shotgun

By Mary & Dr. Jim Clary

Henry Repeating Arms was founded in 1996 by Louis Imperato and his son, Anthony. Their first model, the H001 in 22 LR, was shipped in 1997 and has become a classic and staple of the company. We bought one as soon as possible and still use it today, over 20 years later...... it has never failed to load and still shoots accurately.

The Henry motto back then was “Made in America and Priced Right”. Well, they have lived up to that motto and in response to so many companies shipping jobs overseas, they initiated a new motto: “Made in America or Not Made At All”. In this day and age of imports, that is important to us, and it should also be to our readers.

From the original Henry 22 LR, the line has expanded over the years to include the Big Boys and Long Rangers in a variety of big bore pistol and rifle calibers. The number of variants is too numerous to list them all here, so one needs to head to the Henry website to check them out.

Then not long ago, Henry decided to introduce a lever action shotgun. Some folks wondered if such a gun would sell, after all, the famous Winchester 1897/1901 lever action shotguns, were discontinued around 1920. So, the question remained for the market-place to answer: Is there a niche for a high-quality lever action shotgun in the world today? In our opinion, and a lot of other folks, the answer is YES.

With that in mind, we asked Henry to send us their new side-loading brass framed H024-410 shotgun. One might legitimately ask why a 410 bore? The answer to that question is easy. First, for bunny and small bird hunting, the 410 is great (it does take some skill). Second, it is ideal for folks who are sensitive to the recoil from larger bore shotguns. And finally, it does make a fine “home defense” piece that anyone in the family can comfortably use. We will address the home defense aspect shortly.

The side-loading Henry combines their standard removable tube magazine for safe unloading and a side loading gate to keep the magazine topped off with up to five 2-1/2” .410 shells. The gun incorporates the standard Henry rifle sights, their fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear and ivory bead front sight. Together, they provide a very accurate line-of-sight aim for consistent results.

The barrel of this Henry resembles a “standard” Henry barrel. In other words, it is not the thin barrel found on a typical shotgun. The barrel is cylinder bore choked, which translates into an open bore from chamber to muzzle. We had some doubts about how the Henry would perform with home defense loads; however, our tests quickly put those to rest.

For home defense loads, we selected the Winchester PDX1 that incorporates three plated discs which measure 0.40” x 0.24”, and weight 70 grains each (3=210 grains) backed up by 12 plated BBs with a muzzle velocity of 750 f.p.s. In addition to the Winchester PDX1 rounds we tested the Federal Personal Defense rounds with four 000 buckshot and a velocity of 850 f.p.s.

The targets were set up at 20 yards, a bit farther than most home defense situations would dictate, but we wanted to determine how well the cylinder bore barrel held the loads together. The targets below speak for themselves.

These are very impressive groups. In our opinion, more than adequate for home defense. However, as good as the targets look, they do not simulate actual damage. For that we went to Steve, The Kentucky Patriot, who tests his rounds with packages of pork ribs. Now, please don't laugh.... uncooked pork is tough by itself and when you include the ribs, you have a good idea of the damage these rounds can inflict. We believe that Steve's tests are more realistic than ballistic gel. As such, go to his YouTube channel, The Kentucky Patriot (https://youtu.be/OjhoJ1TcJfc) and you will be impressed with these rounds.


This Henry shotgun performed superbly in the field. It never failed to chamber a round or eject an empty hull. It is both beautiful and reliable. One cannot ask for more.

The specifications are:
Model Number H024-410
Action Type Lever Action Shotgun
Caliber .410 Bore
Chamber Size 2 l/2” shells only
Capacity 6 Rounds
Barrel Length 19.8”
Barrel Type Round Blued Steel
Rate of Twist: Smooth / No Choke
Overall Length 38.1”
Weight 7.09 lbs
Receiver Finish Polished Brass
Rear Sight Fully adjustable Semi-buckhorn w/ Diamond Insert
Front Sight Ramp w/ 0.62” Ivory Bead
Scopeability Drilled and Tapped
Scope Mount Type Weaver 63B
Stock Material American Walnut
Buttplate/Pad Brass
Length of Pull 14”
Safety Transfer Bar
Best Uses Pest control, target, hunting, bird shot, personal defense
Embellishments Swivel Studs

NOW for more good news. For those folks who prefer a more modern looking rifle/shotgun, Henry introduced the X Model H018-410 with a blued steel receiver and synthetic stock. It comes equipped with a screw in Invector choke, large loop lever, M-Lok, Picatinny rail and fiber optic front bead.

We are really looking forward to shooting this shotgun as it has tremendous potential.
ARE YOU READY?

CRKT's Limited Edition Hirin™

By: Mary & Dr. Jim Clary

Over the past few years we have reviewed a lot of knives. Most were fairly acceptable and some were outstanding. However, the Hirin™ is truly a one-of-a-kind knife that deserves a place in your collection, if you can still get it. We say that, because it is a limited edition knife with only 250 being produced. Again, CRKT has found a designer who produced a true work of art. But, why is this blade so special?

For starters, the blade is made from the just about the toughest steel on the planet, Böhler M390. There are several reasons why this steel is the best. Rather than paraphrase, we will quote from KnivesandTools.com, a premier site on knife quality:

“Böhler M390 is one of the most popular and best performing types of steel on the market, Böhler developed it to be used in moulds for the injection moulding industry. When you look at the Böhler datasheet you can still see that it is listed as the primary purpose. The fact that it is also great for use in knives is considered to be an alternative purpose.”

“For these moulds the steel also needs to be extremely wear and tear resistant. If you want to be able to take the same shape from one mould approx. 10.000 times, it shouldn't wear out between casting it the first or the 10.000th time. That is why these moulds are made from top-quality types of steel.”

“As such, a knife made from M390 steel will retain its sharpness for a very long time. This means you don't have to sharpen your knife as often. Not only great because sharpening your knife takes time, but also because it means your knife will last longer.”

After reading the above, one can imagine that M390 is very, very expensive steel. That is one factor contributing to the cost of the Hirin™. The second factor involved in the pricing is the handle. It is pure Titanium.... not plated, solid two-tone 6AL4V Titanium. And just about everyone knows that is very pricey.

So, we have two very expensive parts of a knife that is destined to become a true collector's item. Who would design and build such a knife? How about Dew Hara, the son of one of Japans most famous knife designers.

“Dew Hara of Seki, Japan was a web developer and spent much of his childhood enthralled with Japanese anime. But his family’s knife-designing roots run deep and—following the footsteps of his world-famous father Koji Hara—Dew entered the world of knife design. Channeling his varied background, Dew dreamt up the Hirin™, a daring design that features perfectly balanced cutouts in the spear point blade and handle.”

The Hirin™ truly represents a combination of Japanese perfection with modern components. This folder features the IKBS™ system designed by Ikoma and Lala for smooth action. This folder is truly awesome. Jim keeps it on his desk and at least once a week, he takes it out of the leather cloth that it ships with and “plays” with it.

The specifications of the Hirin™ are:
Blade Length: 3.39” (86.11mm)
Blade Edge: Plain
Blade Steel: Bohler M390
Blade Finish: Satin
Blade Thickness: 0.12” (3.05 mm)
Overall Length: 8.69” (220.68 mm)
Closed Length: 5.26” (133.53 mm)
Weight: 5.90 oz (167.26 g)
Handle: 6AL4V Titanium
Style: Folding knife with liner lock and IKBS system
Country of Mfg: Italy

As we said earlier, this blade is not cheap. The MSRP is $250 and in our opinion, worth every penny. If you want one, you need to hurry, as they are only making 500.

Caldwell HYDROSLED Shooting Rest

Virtually every shooter on the planet, hunters, plinkers and competitive, are aware that Caldwell makes a variety of shooting rests for every need and situation. As such, it was difficult to see how they could come up with yet another one to fill an “open niche”. Well, they did with the HYDROSLED Shooting Rest. The retention strap on the front eliminates muzzle jump in the rest. Filling the reservoir effectively increases the rifle's weight, thereby reducing the felt recoil.

Due to its cost, the HYDROSLED will not be for everyone, given its MSRP of $329. That is beyond the budget of the average weekend shooter or fall hunter. The HYDROSLED is designed for shooters that are using big bore guns that have enough recoil to damage the nervous system if you shoot too many rounds at a single outing. With a filled reservoir, the felt recoil is projected to be reduced by 95%. The figures below illustrate the estimated reduction in felt recoil with a fully loaded hydrosled reservoir.

Cartridge Rifle Weight Recoil Energy Felt Recoil with HYDROSLED
7mm Rem Ultra Mag
160 gr bullet @ 3200 fps 8.5 lbs 29.4 ft pounds 1.47 ft. pounds

300 Weatherby Mag
180 gr bullet @ 3240 fps 9.0 lbs 31.6 ft pounds 1.58 ft. pounds

30-378 Weatherby Mag
180 gr bullet @ 3412 fps 9.0 lbs 39.4 ft pounds 1.97 ft. pounds

338 Winchester Mag
200 gr bullet @ 3000 fps 8.5 lbs 33.3 ft pounds 1.67 ft. pounds

416 Rigby
400 gr bullet @ 2400 fps 10 lbs 58.1 ft. pounds 2.91 ft. pounds

458 Winchester Mag
500 gr bullet @ 2090 fps 10 lbs 56.8 ft. pounds 2.84 ft. pounds

The projected results of felt recoil when using the HYDROSLED are pretty impressive. Being a skeptic, we estimate that with the SLED filled to half capacity, the recoil is comparable to that of a 243 Winchester, in the range of 8 – 10 ft. pounds, very acceptable.

The advantages of the HYDROSLED are that the need for heavy bags is eliminated as the reservoir accommodates all the weight necessary to reduce recoil. Additionally, the rack and pinion elevation ram permits precise adjustments, along with fine windage adjustment knobs. And, just in case that you wish to use the HYDROSLED with other firearms, it is compatible with nearly all rifles and shotguns. That includes lever action rifles and AR platform rifles with detachable magazines.

The only disadvantage we found was that the elevation adjustments were not adequate for ranges beyond 100 yards. To accommodate longer ranges we had to prop up the front of the HYDROSLED with a 2” sheet of wood. After that, it worked just fine.

This Caldwell unit is an amazing piece of equipment. While it is not for everyone, if you get one, you will like it because it delivers as described.

Real Avid Bore Boss® for AR15

Over the past few years, a new breed of firearms owners have emerged. It is difficult to pin point an exact time, whether it was when the AR platform rifles were introduced or with the advent of the polymer frame pistols; but, this new breed of owners are highly motivated to learn all of the finer points of how their weapons operate AND to be able to perform many of the tasks previously left to gunsmiths themselves.

With that demand for knowledge came a demand for better, higher quality and easier tools with which to DIY their firearms. That is where the folks at REAL AVID came into the picture. They tapped into the knowledge and experience of professional gunsmiths, armorers and builders across the world, adding to the mix law enforcement and military personnel to produce professional grade products for you and me. ALL of their equipment/tools are designed and tested in their laboratories and on the range before they are produced for the public. That is why we consider REAL AVID products among the best that can be obtained ….. anywhere. And NO, we are not paid for our opinions nor are we employees of REAL AVID. We just believe that their tools are well built, easy to use and priced right. That makes them a winner in our view.

With the above being said, we decided to take a look at their Gun Boss for the AR15 platforms. Now, everyone has an excess of gun cleaning tools. Cleaning rods of all sizes and lengths, patches of every size and enough brushes/jags to swab an army arsenal. But, very few of us have a single kit that is designed specifically for the AR15 which is small enough to easily fit into your range bag. The Gun Boss is just such a kit.

If you take another look at the picture at the head of this review you will see what we mean. The star chamber cleaning pads are ideal for cleaning the bore or adding lubricant to keep the bolt functioning properly. And the star chamber brush is unique in the industry. Add into the mix the required picks, jags and punch for the take down tool and you have an almost complete package. All that was needed was the six piece sections of a 33” cleaning rod with a rotating seventh section, T-handle and a convenient carrying case to produce a complete package that every AR shooter should have.

With an MSRP of $29.99, it is a real bargain. If you have an AR-platform rifle, you really need to consider picking up one of these kits... you will never regret it.

COAST XP11R Turbo Flashlight

We have reviewed and tested a lot of flashlights over the years, ranging in power from 500 to 1,000 lumens. Most were pretty good lights, although some were better than others from a durability point of view. Some of them used conventional AA, C or D cell batteries, while others used Lithium ion rechargeable batteries.
When we received the new COAST XP11-R, our first thoughts were, "another flashlight, it will probably be like all the rest." Well, we were wrong, absolutely dead wrong. This light stands apart from all of the other flashlights we have tested and reviewed.
This light comes with the newest ZITHION-X™ rechargeable battery and is compatible with either COAST Extreme Performance alkaline batteries or other brand-name battery types. This provides one with the cost savings of a rechargeable with the option of reverting to conventional alkaline batteries in an emergency. And, there is a battery-life indicator to keep you apprised of when the light needs recharging.
Another unique feature of the XP11 is its one-handed beam control. The slide focus system permits you to transition from spot to flood beam with the push/pull of one hand. That kind of responsive-beam control allows you to operate this light with one hand keeping the other hand free.
However, the most impressive feature of this flashlight is the turbo feature. In its standard high beam mode the XP11-R delivers a beam of 1,000 lumens, but switching to the turbo mode and you get 2,100 lumens. There are no halos or hot-spots with edge-to-edge clarity. That is truly amazing for a hand-held light of its size. As such, you have a power boost for critical situations when needed.
As you check out the detailed specifications of the XP11-R, we are convinced that you will decide that it is worth buying, especially at the MSRP of $69.99. That is a real bargain.
• Beam Distance (high) - 508 ft / 155 m
Light Output - 1000 Lumens
Runtime - 5 hours

• Beam Distance (low) - 137 ft / 42 m
Light Output - 75 Lumens
Runtime - 37 hours

• Beam Distance (medium) - 288 ft / 88 m
Light Output - 330 Lumens
Runtime - 7 hours 15 minutes

• Beam Distance (turbo) - 721 ft / 220 m
Light Output - 2100 Lumens

Our only complaint, and it really isn't much, is that when you turn it on it goes from medium mode to high and then low. It would have made more sense to us to start out in the low mode, then medium, followed by the high and then the Turbo. But, we are picky and will get used to the current settings. Again, this is one flashlight that puts all others to shame.

Real Avid Level Right™ Pro

Mounting a new scope on a rifle is never much fun. After you get the eye relief distance set you then work on about leveling the reticle. Therein lies the source of many scope problems. Most shooters believe that sighting in the scope on range is the hardest part of mounting a scope.... not even close.

Getting the reticle level is the critical part. If the reticle is not level, then any and all adjustments made when shooting will be off. In other words, your accuracy goes to heck in a hand basket. And, the farther away you are from your target, the worse the deviations become.

Most of us have used the small levels on the turret covers and in the action to level our scopes. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. More often they result in a slight cant which is devastating to accuracy. Jim owns and has used just about every leveling tool on the market, and after he is finished, he hands me the rifle and I readjust the scope to level the reticle by eye. I have often wondered why he even bothers with the levels as they just never seem to get it right. To save a lot of time and effort, he could just hand me the rifle and let me adjust the scope. Of course, the reticle wouldn't be perfect, but the cant would be unnoticeable to most folks and satisfactory for normal hunting distances........ BUT, not for target shooting. Such has been our situation over the years. Sound familiar?

The reason that the use of levels is frequently wrong is that the turrets on most scopes
are rarely perfectly aligned with the reticle. It is a function of the manufacturing process. Thus, even if your turret is level to your gun, the reticle may not be. This translates into a slight cant, often unnoticeable to the eye... but, critical for accuracy beyond 200 yards.

OK, so you don't shoot anything beyond 200 yards, but wouldn't it be nice if when you “dialed in” at closer ranges that the scope functioned exactly as it was built to?

That is why, after some considerable trial and error, that the folks at Real Avid developed the Level Right™ Pro system. This system eliminates the cant in scope mounting by ensuring that the reticle is level with the bore. In four easy steps, your scope is perfectly mounted with a level reticle, perfect for hunting at any range or target shooting.

Rather than paraphrase the steps, we will quote them exactly from the instruction manual.

1. In one easy step, use Level-Right Pro to level the gun and square the scope to the barrel. Then lock it down.
2. Level and lock down Precision Alignment Grid behind the stock and turn on Reticle Light to project the reticle onto the grid.
3. With all components level and locked down, rotate scope tube within loosened rings to align the projected reticle with the Precision Alignment Grid.
4. Tighten ring screws while observing projected reticle on Precision Alignment Grid. Make sure the reticle remains level throughout the process.

The kit includes the following:
1. Precision Alignment Grid
2. Faceplate with Scope Saddle
3. Picatinny Top Rail Mount
4. Standard Barrel Mount
5. Mini-Tripod
6. Rechargeable Light Projector with USB Recharging Cable
The MSRP of the Level Right™ Pro is $69.99. This system works every time. With it, there is no reason or excuse for canted, non-level, reticles which result in missed targets. This is one tool that Jim is keeping.