Learning More About Outlaw Soaps
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Now I work with a bunch of California womenfolk called Chic Execs Public Relations and their deal is to tell me about interesting stuff so’s I can write about it. Awhile back they told be about some outfit out Nevada way that makes smelly soaps and other niceties that are meant for men. That’s right – men. Now, I never heard of such a thing, What in tarnation would a feller be thinking if he was wanting to lather all up with fine smelling soap or even more confounding – lotion? These people sounded like snake oil salesmen to me – or worse – varmints. Anyway, them gals over at ChicExecs ain’t done me wrong yet and said they’d make it so I could ask this Nevada crew some questions. To kinda find out for myself what they was all about. My suspicions were placated and I’m willin to try some of that fancy-smellin stuff and write about it soon. They claim I’ll smell good and not like some dude from back east. We’ll see about that. Anyway, I do appreciate these folks answerin some questions to help put my mind at ease. Oh – this outfit goes by the moniker of Outlaw Soaps. Still sounds a might suspicious to me ~DesertRat

1. OK, I’ve been doing this for decades and I don’t get intrigued much anymore. I’m intrigued! How on earth did you get into this business?

I was working a desk job, but at heart, I’m definitely a desert rat. The open sky, the crunch of gravel under my boots, having a steaming hot cup of coffee outside on a bracingly cold morning, the scent of sagebrush in the hot air… that’s my preferred state. So when we realized that we could make soap (and cologne and lotion and all that other stuff) that smelled like literally anything, we started with our favorite thing.

And it turned out that smelling the desert even when sitting at a desk job… well, it definitely isn’t the same as being in the desert, but it’s better than just sitting at a desk. (Now, we live outside of Reno, and that’s our everyday scent)

Lust in the Dust is specifically inspired by my love of the Mojave, but Fire in the Hole and Blazing Saddles are also inspired by our times in the desert.

Once we started making this stuff and selling it, we realized a lot of other people would prefer to smell like sagebrush and leather than lavender and peony. You know what I mean, right?

2. What came first? The soaps?

The scents came first. The soaps were just a low-cost, relatively easy-to-make way to deliver the scents. We started this whole business because I found a bar of soap that smelled like our honeymoon, so soaps seemed like the natural starting point, but really, it’s always been about the scents.

3. You’ve got soaps, cologne, lotions and a bunch of different scents. Do you feel it is more important to add scents, or products, or both?

What we’ve found — and definitely experienced ourselves — is that once people find the scent that works for them, they want that on everything. So, for example, Blazing Saddles smells like leather, gunpowder, sandalwood, and sagebrush. I think of it as the scent of Clint Eastwood walking into town in A Fistful of Dollars. If that’s your scent, then you don’t just want your shower to smell like that, you want your car, your home, your body, your sheets… It’s an everything thing.

Kind of like your soundtrack, but in scent.

So for now, we’re making sure that we have our most unique scents pretty well represented across every aspect of life.

And we’ve found that, of our Magnificent Seven scents, there’s really something that almost anyone can find as their scent soundtrack.

4. Can a business like yours have too many offerings?

Definitely. We worry about it. People get confused and aren’t sure which scent is the right one for them, or if you have one product that’s just an outlier, and everyone asks for it but no one buys it, then what are you keeping all that inventory around for? There’s a risk of over-expansion, and we’re really small, so we have to pick and choose.

For example, people ask for beard oils in their favorite scents, and we did have a beard oil for a while, but it just didn’t do too well… It was super stuff, but a lot of companies make beard oils, so it’s not like people with beards are out there desperately hunting for beard oil. So we have to decide, “Is this going to help us attract more customers who wouldn’t have bought from us? Or is this going to serve current customers only? And if it’s mostly our current customers, how many of our current customers have beards? How many people are going to be delighted by this?” And as we get more Outlaws in our gang, more people will be interested in our beard oil, but we have to wait until that time comes.

As more people discover us, though, that of course opens us up for more experimentation. 🙂

5. What has been your biggest challenge so far, getting the products developed and to market?

Honestly, inventory. We have had a really hard time keeping up with demand. But we recently moved to Reno, so we’ve hired a lot more people (yes, in this economy… it’s something we’re very proud of that we’ve been making jobs when unemployment is so high, and we have our customers to thank for it!), and so our inventory challenges are hopefully resolving themselves soon!

6. What has been your biggest surprise so far?

Our customers ….. I mean, I knew from the beginning that anyone who wanted to smell like campfire and leather and the high desert would be really cool people, but WHOA our customers our amazing. Many of them are in the military (or are veterans), first responders, medical professionals, police officers (yes, even the police force is heavily infiltrated with Outlaws!), truck drivers… I’d say most of our customers are in the service of our country in some way or another, and all of them are life enthusiasts, getting out there and seeing the world (I follow people on Instagram …. I see it).

And it’s a real honor to be in the presence of such awesome people, providing something that makes them feel most like themselves at their best. I knew that would feel good, but honestly, I didn’t know how good.

Our connection with our customers is absolutely the most surprising and rewarding thing, and we see it every day. On this past Saturday, one customer wrote:

“I have a precious memory thanks to this lotion. Last year about this time, I went to see my oldest sister for the last time. She didn’t know me at first but the second morning I went to see her, she took my hand and held it close to her face for a moment and then her face lit up and she said she smelled cinnamon and I told her it was my lotion and she said I’d have to bring her some of it next time I came. We were able to have a fairly clear conversation for awhile. The next day i brought the lotion and shared it with her. She thanked me by name and it was such a precious moment. Thank you for your wonderful products, most especially the Calamity Jane lotion. Oh, and my sister’s name was Jane. ” – Vicki

I mean, I can’t even tell you how incredible that feels.

People have told us that our scents have even helped them recover from PTSD. One group from the Air Force scent us this Certificate of Appreciation. It’s just not possible to articulate how much that means to us.

A close second – biggest surprise would have to be how rewarding it is to be able to provide employment to people. We have an incredible team of dependable, hard-working, amazing folks from all walks of life and all experiences. And to be able to provide a steady job with a safe place to work is very rewarding. I am surprised by how rewarding it is.

7. Companies are making custom, individualized scents now. Some say there is a science to scents. Do you think certain scents work better with certain individuals or personalities, or heck – should we just pick the one we like best?

Scent is such a personal thing. If you can’t find anything that works for you, absolutely find the right one. It should make you feel like the superhero of your own movie, so no matter whether you’re standing in line at the DMV or stopping a kidnapping, you smell like the person you want to be.

That said, custom scents are expensive, and having that scent across your life is even more expensive… we have been testing scents since 2013, and found these seven are perfect for our customers:

Blazing Saddles – The scent of leather, gunpowder, sandalwood, and sagebrush
Fire in the Hole – Explosively awesome campfire, gunpowder, sagebrush, and whiskey
The Gambler – A warm, complex scent of bourbon, sweet tobacco, and leather
Calamity Jane – Spicy and sweet: clove, orange, ginger, cinnamon, and whiskey
Lust in the Dust – Heat rising in the desert, sagebrush, sandalwood, and campfire
Mountain Hideout – A wild scent of the damp forest after a soft rain
Home on the Range – The fresh, comforting scent of ripe blackberries, fresh laundry, and cut grass

I’d say try whichever sounds most like your favorite thing, and try it. If it’s not what you wanted, we have a 100% satisfaction guarantee and we’ll replace it with something you think might work better (or refund your order).

8. Where do you see your company five years from now?

These are complex and uncertain times, so seeing the future is really hard. We try to be of service how we can, and go day-by-day.

Ultimately, as hokey as this sounds, we want to be a company that helps people be their best every day, and we want to do that everywhere we can, whether that’s in grocery stores or truck stops or hardware stores or the Military Exchange… We believe in our product and our company, and how it helps people.

9. For readers who have never heard of your products, what would you like them to know about your products and/or company?

Outlaw is a company unlike any other… we make products with unique scents and natural ingredients, using ethical production methods (cruelty free, low-waste production, fair wages and benefits for employees), and are committed to US manufacturing. My husband Russell and I founded this business in 2013 because we believe that if you smell the things that remind you of who you are at your best, you’ll be that person. And it’s true.

We have a happiness guarantee, so if you don’t love what you ordered, that’s no problem at all. We’ll replace it or refund your order.

10. Looking at your website, it (and your products) appear deliberately fun. Is that who you guys are, or is that a marketing strategy?

Yes, this is who we are! I know some companies have a carefully crafted marketing strategy to sound fun, but this is who we are every day. Russ and I are just a couple of goofballs who love Westerns (I started making a movie guide, if you’re interested: Movie Guide and love the outdoors.

This business has been built on all of us being ourselves (not just me and Russ, but all our employees, as well as our customers, and anyone we work with). Even the vendor who provides our military, first responder, teacher, and trucker discounts told us that he remembered us because I stood out as a fun and friendly customer (I was really flattered).

I don’t think we’d be able to keep up a ruse like this for 7 years. I mean, that’d be a loooonnnnnng con, speaking as an Outlaw…

When people say they love our marketing, I always wish we could hang out so they could see what we’re like … because it’s not marketing, it’s just us. And yeah, there are a lot of challenging days (especially recently), but I write about those things, too: Outlaw Blog and then one customer had such an inspiring response that I wrote about it the following day: Be Your Best

Being ourselves gives us the opportunity to have real conversations with our customers and vendors, and sure, that’s good for our business, but it’s also part of the fiber of who we are. We wouldn’t be able to do it any other way.

I think this is part of having integrity, which is something we try to do in every aspect of our business, whether we’re working with vendors or customers or each other. It’s not easy, and we’re not always perfect, but we do the best we can, which is all anyone can do, right?

Thank you for interviewing us! We’re so glad to be here! ~ Danielle

I’m much obliged to Miss Danielle for ponyin up and answering my inquiries. I’m thinkin she’s a fun little filly to be around. Smart as a whip to I suspect. I’ve agreed to try some of these sundries to let you know how I like em. I reckon in the next week or two I’ll be needin a bath, so that will be an optimimum opportunity to try some of this new fangled smelly stuff. Maybe if the missus dont like it, I’ll have to check with Maybelline down at the saloon. She seems a might more amenable to my activities than the missus does most of the time anyway. Stay tuned. ~DesertRat

Shooting the CVA Cascade
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It’s funny – I hadn’t yet shot the popular 6.5 Creedmoor until this spring. Now I’ve shot three different models, including the brand new Cascade from CVA. For the purposes of this test we topped the rifle with an X3 Conquer from Riton Optics. This new offering from CVA comes in a number of popular calibers. The MSRP of the rifle I shot was $657.95

“The CASCADE™ is CVA’s first ever bolt-action centerfire rifle. Long the leader in both muzzle-loading rifles and single-shot centerfires, CVA has applied it’s nearly 50 years of experience into making what we feel to be the best bolt-action on the market at $600 or below.

The CASCADE’s 4140 carbon steel barrel is finished in a rich, matte blue or available in Cerakote® Flat Dark Earth. The series features a threaded muzzle, making it ready for a brake or suppressor whenever you are. The bolt design incorporates a 70° throw for smooth and fast operation, plus generous scope clearance. The two-position safety is conveniently located for natural and instantaneous operation. And loading is a breeze with its four-round, flush-fit, detachable magazine (extra magazines available from CVA).”

Here are the specs and some other info from the CVA website:

42.5” Overall Length
6.85 lbs. Total Weight
Threaded muzzle 5/8 x 24
70° Bolt throw
Two-position safety
Flush fit, detachable magazine
Synthetic stock with fiber-glass reinforcement in either charcoal gray or Veil Wideland™
SoftTouch finish on stock
Adjustable length of pull
Dual front swivel studs
Compatible with all mounts built for the Savage® 110 AccuTrigger™ models
4140 Barrel finished in Blued or FDE Cerakote™
Lifetime Warranty*
14 Day Money Back Guarantee
MOA Guarantee

So cutting to the chase. The rifle shot well, and was on par with rifles in similar price ranges from other manufacturers. Where this rifle out-competes other manufacturers is it just looks cool. This is a sharp-looking rifle. From the stock in Veil Wideland camo, to the bronze cerakoted barrel, it is a nice-looking rifle.I liked the trigger on this rifle – pretty smooth, especially at this price point. The barrel is threaded which is nice if you want to add a brake or suppressor. Bolt tolerance is what you might expect for a rifle in this price range, maybe a little tighter than most. It functioned nicely with no feeding issues.

The rifle shot MOA out of the box using Match ammo from Hornady. This was with no fiddling. Just checking zero on the scope and getting rounds on paper.

Oddly, the barrel isn’t fluted which seems almost standard these days. That being said, it didn’t seem to affect performance. An afternoon at the range is pretty warm temps didn’t expose any performance issues indicative of an overly warm barrel. I love the stock. Not only does it look great but it is made of a good material that isn’t as mushy as Hogue, but isn’t hard plastic.The rifle felt a little heavier than the actual weight, but I had a pretty big scope on it so that was probably the main factor. The stock comes with a spacer so it can be adjusted to fit smaller shooters. The bolt release was functional and nicely located. One nice feature of the rifle is two studs on the forestock which allow for a sling and a bipod.

So overall, I liked this rifle. It shot well and functioned well. I hate to call a product “average” but none of the features, functions or components were the worst of comparable products, but nor were they the best. They were middle-of-the-pack, and that means “good”. This rifle’s strength is in its appearance – it is a nice, nice-looking rifle that you won’t be afraid to take into the field. It will hold up well. It doesn’t come with a scope and you can certainly find combo packages that are a similar or slightly lower price point. All in all, if you bought this rifle, you’d be getting a nice rifle that shoots well. It would be a personal choice as to if you wanted to pay a little extra for a rifle that looks so damned cool!

Sparky Sparkes Talks About Joker’s Wild Outdoors
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If you’ve been coming to my site for more than a couple of years, you’ll know that I talked with Sparky Sparkes from M2D Camo a LOT. I first met Sparky when he came out with M2D Camo – a great pattern that works in any environment. I last had a good check-in with Sparky almost 2 years ago exactly. I thought I should touch base with him again. Sparky has consolidated a bunch of his activities all on one site – Joker’s Wild Outdoors. In particular, I thought it would be interesting to chat with Sparky about his hunting properties and guided hunts which you can check out at M2D Camo Properties. Thanks again to Sparky for taking some time out of his crazy busy schedule to answer some questions for my readers! ~Desert Rat

1. You have properties now in Idaho, Washington and Indiana. How did you get stated in outfitting hunts?

I have had the Idaho properties now for over 13 years. Specializing in Elk, killing 60-75 a year both cows and bulls. We also kill plenty of Whitetail deer, some antelope (not enough), bears and the occasional moose. In Washington, we have been chasing turkeys for about 15 years now and are fortunate in that we can hunt Merriams and Rios both in our area. We also have WT deer hunts in Washington. Indiana, I picked up because it is a great mid-western state with the potential for BIG bucks. To shoot 160-plus class bucks you have to hunt where they exist. I also recently picked up a new lease of 6000-plus acres in Western Kansas with WT deer, Mule Deer, Pheasants, Turkeys and Waterfowl. 2020 will be a trial year in Kansas but I already know the land and expect good things from it.

2. Are all the tags over the counter or are some of them draw?

Every state is different, and every animal is different. Idaho rifle bull elk is a draw, rifle antelope is draw. Archery elk is OTC, Archery antelope is draw but guaranteed. Deer are over the counter for archery and rifle. Moose is draw. Bears are OTC. In Washington, turkeys and deer are over the counter, no draw. Indiana is over the counter for WT Deer and turkeys. Kansas is a draw for Deer only.

3. Of all your hunts, which one do you feel is the best value?

I think our Idaho elk hunts are one of the best in the US especially for archery elk. Elk every day and potential for 350+ bulls on an OTC tag is rare. Our Idaho deer hunts are almost guaranteed rifle deer for good, respectable bucks. Our Idaho ranch is 90-100% rifle success on most animals depending on the client’s ability. It’s very hard in today’s world to have such high success rate. All our hunts are respectable, reasonable and we work our asses off to be successful. We’re also very honest about what we offer and what you can expect to shoot. We do not oversell anything.

4. Which hunt is the most under-rated?

Cow elk in my opinion along with our Idaho deer hunts are the most underrated. The cow elk is about 98% shot opportunity and they are delicious. It is the same hunt as hunting a bull elk but 1/3 the price with the same experience. Our WT deer are so plentiful that you are 100% shot opportunity so that makes it a great hunt, but because it is Idaho people don’t think of it as a great WT deer state.

5. For someone going on their first guided hunt, which one of your hunts do you recommend?

This is a tough question as it really depends on what that person wants to hunt. If you want a bear, a guided hunt is the right way to go. If you want a deer, a lot of guys can learn on their own. Elk I feel is a must to do a guided hunt if you have never hunted them. They are not easy, and they can take years to harvest. The average archery elk hunter shoots an elk once every 8 years. That is a long time to hunt to kill one elk. I say go on a guided hunt every other year, or every 3 years and increase your odds drastically as long as you hire a good, reputable guide that will put you on the animals. Too many bad outfitters are out there, selling promises and failing the clients. I hear a lot of horror stories and I hope there was a better way for people to avoid that. I wish more people would do a lot more research when booking guided hunts, even with me.

6. You’re becoming quite a celebrity – do you make an appearance at each of the hunts?

I am just your average guy that has made a good business in the hunting industry. I am no better than the guy hunting with me. I enjoy taking people and getting them their first of anything. I do not need accolades and am definitely no celebrity. I am just a hard-working, fun guy that loves to do things right and be successful and possibly enjoy a drink or two.

7. Talk about food, lodging, etc. at your hunts – what can we expect?

On our fully-guided hunts you will stay in a nice cabin with all the normal luxuries of life – showers, TV, beds, etc. As I was a firefighter for 20 years the food is usually pretty good. We do not skimp on food and we serve high-end food. It is usually rib-eyes, brisket, salmon, shrimp, tacos, ribs and more. We mix things up and cook to please if we have allergies or people who don’t like certain things, but you will not go home hungry. We also enjoy some spirits in the evening while telling lies.

8. How do you select your guides?

Finding a guide is not easy as it takes more than just a hunter. They have to know how to hunt many species, be friendly, courteous and know how to read their clients. They also have to be thick-skinned because I expect perfection and hard work and can be a real asshole. It’s not always easy to put up with or work for me, that is for sure.

9. Of all the hunts you offer, which one is your favorite?

I enjoy most all of our hunts but the experience that you receive on a fully guided archery elk hunt is a lot of fun. You are so close to the majestic animals, calling them to you, playing games with them, and seeing inexperienced hunters or new elk hunters have that close encounter is special. Especially when they do everything right and put an arrow in any elk.

10. You hunt a ton – what’s on your bucket list?

I have been very fortunate over the years and have harvested many spectacular animals. I actually enjoy watching others harvest more than myself anymore, but I still enjoy a great hunt with good friends. I would rather spend a week in camp with good friends hunting and being unsuccessful than going on some special hunt and killing something just for me. Hunting is about time in the field together; too many have forgotten that. Someday I will check off a few things that I would like to harvest like a brown bear, mountain lion ( have hunted 7 times never killed one, my nemesis), and also – Africa is on the list, hopefully a lion.

Thanks again to Sparky – an all-around great guy. I really hope to make it up to hunt with him one of these days. He’s got a bunch of stuff going on.

You can learn more about his TV Show here: Livin The Dream

He offers some of the best pricing around on a number of hunting products. You can shop online here: BUY Hunting Gear I have sent several people to him to buy Vortex optics – he has the lowest prices I have found.

And of course – you can learn more about his camo here: M2D Camo

Finally – if you want to look at his hunts in Idaho, Washington, Indiana or Kansas – visit him here: Guided Hunts

A Review – Boost Oxygen – Goodness In A Can
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I can always count on the ladies at Chic Execs PR to send me cool things to review and this time was no exception. They sent along the Press Release for Boost Oxygen and easked if I’d be interestedin reviewing some of their products. Well – yeah! It looked interesting and I thought it might be of interest to my audience. A big shout out to Katie and Andrea for getting some product in my hand to try!

From their release:

In normal conditions, the air we breathe contains around 21% oxygen. That’s also not taking into account any pollution in the air. Boost Oxygen is 95% PURE Aviator’s Breathing Oxygen. Now, think about how much regular air your breath when you’re exercising or doing any strenuous activity. Every cell in your body is designed to burn oxygen–it’s the basic fuel for cell metabolism. Cut back on oxygen and all of those cellular processes become sluggish…you start to feel fatigued or short of breath. Less oxygen equates to cells losing the energy they need to repair DNA. Your immune system begins to weaken.

Using supplemental oxygen has a positive impact on one’s health-related quality of life. Not only does it improve sleep and lift your mood, it also increases mental alertness and stamina. Boost Oxygen is safe for all ages, and also supports altitude acclimation and migraines. Imagine how much your body could benefit from Boost Oxygen?

Boost Oxygen comes in natural and three aromatherapy fragrances – pink grapefruit, peppermint and menthol. They are all-natural, completely safe for inhalation and water soluble. Aromatherapy is the art and science of using naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit – doesn’t that sound refreshing??

So, admittedly – I was a little skeptical. Of course, understanding the benefits of oxygen is a no brainer (hey, I watch TV!) I just wasn’t sure that sticking it in a can and sucking it in would make that much of a difference!

So, full disclosure – I didn’t try the Boost Oxygen after a killer workout, or at some crazy elevation on a mountainside. I did use it a couple of times when I came in all tuckered out from yard work, a few times when I was feeling tired and worn out and a few other times like I just felt like I needed a boost. It works! It definitely gives you a boost – you feel more clear-headed, more awake, just more “bright”. You’re not jittery like caffeine, it’s just a nice feeling. If you visit their site, you can see several different uses of supplemental oxygen, including altitude, recovery and performance.

The product that really made an impression on me was the Think Tank – supplemental oxygen infused with Rosemary. I used to have a co-worker that loved rosemary and always seemed to have some fresh sprigs on her desk. From the site:

Rosemary aroma has been independently studied and found to increase short term memory up to 75%. How? There are compounds in Rosemary oil that help with memory retention: 1,8-cineole found naturally in Rosemary aroma causes an increase in the activity of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

This is nothing new – scholars in ancient Greece were known to wear wreaths of rosemary around their brow to improve recall while taking exams. Shakespeare’s Ophelia petitions Hamlet with, “There’s Rosemary- that’s for remembrance, pray you love, remember.”

Rosemary aroma is being increasingly researched and implemented with both the young and old, and its use as an all-natural, safe and drug-free cognitive supporter is becoming more accepted and widespread globally.

Now I know why she was always sniffing rosemary. A couple of huffs of this product not only gives you a lift (as described above) but it does increase your focus and clarity. I’ve used it at work several times when I felt I was getting bogged down in mind-numbing, tedious projects. I have tried it when suffering writers’ block or slogging my way through tasks that required some focus.

You can buy these products online at the Boost Oxygen STORE or you can also buy them at Big 5 Sporting Goods or other retailers nation wide.

The price point on these products is really very reasonable also. For example, a small can of the Think Tank (about 100 puffs) will run you right around 10 bucks. A can of the Boost will run you less than 15 dollars and will get you about 150 inhalations.

I’m sold on this product and its’ effectiveness. I’ll be buying more of the Think Tank and I’m really wanting to try some of the other Aromatherapy scents – Pink Grapefruit, Menthol, and Menthol. I’llalso keep one of the little cans in my backpack during hunting season to help with those hikes up and down Arizona canyons.

You can learn more here:

Meet the CEO and Founder of Flip Rocks – Anthony Graffeo
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I’d really like to thank Anthony Graffeo, the CEO and Founder of Flip Rocks – Extreme Flip Flops for taking some time out to answer some interview questions. He also sent me a pair of these cool flip flops to review, so watch for a review in the coming weeks! ~DesertRat

1. FlipFlops – how in the world did you get into that business?

I am an Avid fisherman and also an entrepreneur. I saw a need based on my own experiences outdoors. The “light bulb moment” happened when I was fishing on the salmon river in August with my son. We were wet wading it a fast moving river wearing regular FlipFlops slipping all over when I thought “why don’t they make a cleated FlipFlop?” The rest is history.

2. Talk a little about your background

I am a problem solver, house flipper, landlord, tech salesman, publisher, husband with 4 kids. Own multiple businesses, and I love the outdoors.

3. How many people work at your company?

Currently there are three of us and we are global with distribution is Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Macau.

4. How long have you been in business?

Four years but selling for only two

5. What was the most surprising thing you encountered, developing your products and getting them to market?

We never expected so many challenges from China stealing our logo and registering it there to tariffs and red tape. I thought it would be much easier. It has been the hardest thing I ever did, launching this company.

6. Talk a little about diversification – do you focus on improving or changing existing products or is it better to consider whole new product lines?

We truly have the only footwear in the world that is able to be transformed in so many ways. Nothing on the market even comes close. Our GripToeNite gripping pads can also be swapped out amongst all of our products so the same pads will fit the boot or the sandal or the FlipFlops. They are also customizable in many ways and super comfortable.

7. I see you’re a fisherman – what’s your favorite thing to fish? What’s still on your bucket list?

Favorite fish hands down is salmon, or trout in a river on a fly rod. On the bucket list is fly fishing for tarpon

8. For my readers – what would you like them to know about your products and company?

We are a family company and we stand behind our product- we originally invented them for ourselves due to a need. I personally talk to our customers when they call and give them extras all the time, free. We are not a corporate company but are super-personal.

I’d really like to thank Anthony for the product samples, and the interview. I can’t wait to get these shoes out into the water!

From their website:

FlipRocks flip flops have been created with a unique patented gripping system to traverse a number of different applications. Each GripToeNite gripping pad can be attached to the FlipRocks flip flop creating different extreme traction applications. With the purchase of your FlipRocks flip flops, you can collect all three GripToeNite grips specifically designed for fishing, hiking and kayaking. Coupled with a molded toe guard and our unique four wheel drive strap system you’re ready to hit the trails or the water with confidence.

GripToeNite Gripping System: specially formulated Injection-molded removable grips that are designed specifically for each respective application to maximize traction, stability and comfort.

A Review – The Mossberg Patriot in 6.5 Creedmoor
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It’s odd – the 6.5 Creedmoor craze has been going on for a couple of years at least, and it wasn’t until the past couple of weeks that I was able to shoot it. I shot a few different models so I got a full dose of 6.5 Creedmoor at my most recent range day. What a nice round – I see why it is so popular.

In this review I will discuss the Mossberg Patriot Combo with a walnut stock and a Vortex Scope.

Out of the box, this is a pretty rifle. I’m still a sucker for wood stocks and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s pretty for sure, but not so pretty you’ll be nervous about taking it afield. The barrel and bolt are both fluted. I like fluting – it has a “look cool” factor and a practical purpose. On a barrel it provides more surface area to aid cooling and rigidity, on a bolt it helps remove some weight. This is a really nice looking rifle.

The trigger on this rifle is very nice. Travel seems a little shorter than some other models I have shot, but it is ultra smooth and breaks nicely. Very well done for sure.

The Vortex scope is OK. Full disclosure, I was on Vortex’ Field Staff for a number of years and a tried and true Vortex guy. They still make a great product but compared to some other manufacturers this Crossfire scope was just “OK”. Still a good value when paired up as a package, but experienced shooters would likely look at upgrading, eventually.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is a delightful round to shoot. It is flat-shooting, great ballistics and has mild recoil. I think now that the industry has tinkered with hunting loads for a year or two, it is a great all-round hunting round, likely suitable for all but the largest big game.

As purchased, here are the specs on this rifle:


Caliber 6.5 CREEDMOOR
Capacity 5+1
Barrel Type Fluted
Barrel Length 22″
Sight/Base Weaver Style Bases
Scope Vortex Crossfire II – 3-9x40mm
Twist 1:8
LOP Type Fixed
LOP 13.75″
Barrel Finish Matte Blued
Stock Finish Walnut
Weight 8 lbs
Length 42.25″

The Patriot’s button-rifled fluted barrels are free-floated and have a recessed crown for maximum accuracy. At 22” in length, the barrels are long enough to achieve full-velocity from every caliber, yet short enough for quick handling in the densest woods. The Patriot’s attractive spiral fluted bolts feature an ergonomic bolt angle and knurled bolt handle offering plenty of grip providing for quick follow-up shots and enhanced shooter comfort. Its box-magazine-fed action makes loading and unloading a snap.

MSRP per the website is $707 but shopping around online you can find this combo for right around $500. You can find it for even less if you go with the composite stock.

This rifle shot MOA after we made sure the scope was zeroed. It shoulders nicely. Mechanically it operated well. Tolerances are what you would expect for rifles in this price range but I would say the finishes are of a higher quality than you might expect in t his price range. Mossberg did a nice job with this rifle. You can learn more and see all of the options here: Mossberg Patriot

All in all, for $500 bucks or so, you get a nice rifle and scope package that has a traditional look and feel, shooting a modern new cartridge. Of course they have lots of other calibers available also. With no upgrades, you are shooting MOA out of the box. Well done, Mossberg!

Checking In With Mike Slinkard From HECS
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Almost three years ago, I did an interview with Mike Slinkard, the President of HECS Stealthscreen. A week or two ago I was watching his show on the Pursuit Channel and thought it might be cool to check in with him. As always, I’d like to thank Mike for taking time to answer my questions. It was great to catch up! ~DesertRat

1. You were kind enough to be interviewed by me 3 years ago. What big things have happened since then?

We have been very busy! Besides continuing to substantially grow the hunting business, we have also entered into more categories where HECS technology can make a difference in people’s lives.

We launched the HECS wildlife company in 2018 and a lot of our focus recently has been on that project. HECS Wildlife is focused on wildlife photographers, birdwatchers, animal handlers, researchers, veterinarians, and really any general animal/wildlife enthusiast who wants to get closer, be safer, and have a more natural minimally invasive interaction with animals. We are learning more about how extreme low frequency electromagnetic fields effect animals all the time and by blocking these fields using HECS technology people are getting closer and staying safer around all kinds of animals and wildlife. We are seeing HECS used more and more in scientific testing and even some veterinary clinics to keep the patient’s more calm.

HECS is also popping up in some other interesting places! Our Aquatic technology has been featured on many of the popular “Shark Week” programs on the Discovery Channel, and was also featured on History Channels mini-series “Face the Beast” last summer. HECS is also extremely blessed to have Animals Planets Forrest Galante on our team of experts. Forrest stars in the huge hit series “Extinct or Alive” on Animals Planet and he has used HECS technology to help him actually find several species that were previously thought to be extinct. Forrest is a biologist by degree and plays a major research and marketing role for HECS Wildlife

Our HECS Aquatic line was previously administered by a licensee however in 2019 we have rescinded that license and we are currently in process of redeveloping that entire product line. Look for a much improved HECS Aquatic product line in 2012!

2. Is this technology improving or has it remained relatively constant?

HECS technology itself has stayed pretty consistent in the fact that we still use a highly electrically conductive grid of carbon yarn woven into the specific grid pattern and conductivity to attenuate the human electrical output. We have however made some major improvements to our basic camo hunting suit for 2020. We have adjusted the cut to a much more comfortable action cut style and have added a super comfortable 1 ½” wide elastic waistband to the pants.

We also introduced a limited run of our new HECS wildlife Sarai gear consisting of a shirt and pant outerwear combination. We think we made a very nice product but on this first run we wanted to give our customers a chance to comment on what they like and possibly dislike and then use those suggestions to finalize the features of the broader line. For this help we are offering this gear at a very reasonable introductory price. We feel like real customer input is the best way to help insure that future HECS products will have all the features people want.

3. What is the most astounding customer testimonial you have received?

We get hundreds of awesome testimonials each year but some really stand out as true testaments to the effectiveness of HECS technology. One that comes to mind was the video and testimonial from Jonah Stout of Tennessee a couple of years ago. Jonah was turkey hunting when he had a jake come into his set up. Since he was hoping for an older bird Jonah decided to crawl out to the bird and literally got to within 2 feet of the bird. Even then it never ran but rather just moved off slowly. By blocking his electrical output (which birds see visually) with his HECS suit the bird saw him clearly yet never saw him as a living being and so to the bird he was not a threat. We now regularly get videos of other who are doing the same.

There are many other awesome testimonials that we have received over the years and I never get tired of seeing them. One thing that always amazes me is that we almost never get a negative email or comment from someone who has actually used the HECS system. I have been involved with several other products in my career but never one that has such an astonishing customer satisfaction rate. Once people actually try the technology that all it takes!

4. What does the future hold for HECS? More of the same formula that made you successful, or diversification?

As most people know we launched HECS in the hunting industry back in 2010. This was mainly because our CEO Scott Eastman and I had devoted our professional lives to the hunting industry. The HECS discovery was actually made in the hunting woods as well so launching it there just made sense. We always realized however that HECS technology had many applications that were unrelated to hunting. While we will never stop improving HECS hunting gear, we are making some major moves into other areas where HECS technology will help improve experiences.

We are very excited about the future of both HECS Wildlife and HECS Aquatic and we will be focusing a lot of our effort going forward in these two sectors. We feel that HECS wildlife is potentially the most wide reaching of all the HECS entities. We are focusing in the short term on birdwatching and wildlife photography as these activities have many of the technical elements of hunting and we see it as the “low hanging fruit” for this entity however there is also major potential in other areas as well.

We are finding that most animals both wild and domestic will react in a calmer manner and sometimes even a bit of confusion to a person who is not emitting strong EMR fields. This has great implications for anyone who desires to get in close to animals without adding undo stress on them. Preliminary results with several veterinarians has shown calmer and easier to work with animals in the clinic. Also people who are venturing into wild areas for hiking, camping or other recreation will be a little safer and less detectable if they encounter a wild animal and will also have less impact on the environment and the animals that live there. We have even seen evidence of reduced dog aggression to people wearing HECS technology so we can envision a garment line for delivery personnel or anyone who regularly encounters canines and needs a passive technology that will help reduce those dangerous encounters.

In fact the ability to stay less detectable by dogs is one of the main reasons some US special forces utilize HECS technology in their covert missions. Oh and yes, We do have the HECS tactical entity that serves our military and police markets with both terrestrial and aquatic gear. Dealing with military and government agencies is never fast or easy but we are making progress. It is a very cool feeling knowing that your technology is actually helping out the ones that keep us safe!

As noted above, HECS Aquatic is another exciting area we are moving forward in as well. Up until mid-2019 HECS aquatic was being managed by a licensee. Unfortunately the licensee was not seeing the overall vision or meeting the goals of the company and so HECS decided to rescinded the licenses and redevelop the entire product line to better fit the market and the application. This is quite an extensive process, however we plan to have that HECS Aquatic products on the market to recreational swimmers, snorkelers and divers in early 2021.

All in all HECS is quickly moving forward in all areas and we are excited to see our technology helping ever more people in all walks of life to have a better more enjoyable experience with animals, birds, and fish.

5. Even today, there are lots of skeptics. What do you say to them?

Yes we do still have our skeptics but the interesting thing about them is that 99.8% of them have no actual experience with the technology. The internet is especially full of “experts” that are quick to criticize our technology. But this has been the case since we first launched the product back in 2010. We have been called “snake oil salesmen” and much worse for the past decade however to this day we almost never get a negative comment from someone who has actually used the product in the field.

One great example of this is our annual pilgrimage to the National Wild Turkey convention in Nashville every February. We have been there since 2014 and sold several thousand HECS suits to the attendees. To date we have not received even one complaint from a customer about how the technology works in the turkey woods. Now we even take our cameras to that show so we can film some of the incredible testimonials we get from our customers there for use on our TV show Hunting with HECS which airs on the Pursuit channel. The NWTF is a show that we look forward to every year but we hear the same thing at all of the outdoor shows we attend. HECS simply works and I can tell you for certain that if it didn’t we wouldn’t still be doing over 30 outdoor retail shows a year!

6. What is the most exciting personal experience you have had with HECS gear?

Over the years I have had so many great animals encounters where HECS played a significant role it is difficult to pick. As a bowhunter getting close is always the first and most important goal and with HECS I find myself at sub 10 yards of wild game on a very regular basis. I have stalked mule deer in wide open fields and got close enough for an archery shot on many occasions and several times been inches from wild elk. On one occasion we actually had a cow elk stick her head completely inside our ground blind then just moved away calmly (the deadly combination of HECS and Ozonics was at play that day) .

Probably the most exciting (and nervous) experience was with my daughter Kaitlyn in Colorado a few years ago. We encountered an enormous cinnamon colored black bear that was aggressively chasing other bears out of his favorite acorn patch. Neither of us had a bear tag but Kaitlyn decided to stalk the bruin anyway just to see how close she could get. I was on the camera filming but I really never expected her to get to within 8 yards of the feeding bear. When that bear raised his head with Kaitlyn so close my heart was in my throat but he never had a clue she was there even though she was standing up in plain sight. The bear slowly walked past her at less than 5 yards and then walked over to the next tree and began gorging on more acorns. Kaitlyn slipped back out and the bear never knew we were ever there.

In retrospect I never should have let me daughter even try that and my wife is still not too happy about it but thanks to HECS technology Kaitlyn got the close up experience of a lifetime and I was able to capture it on film for all to see.

7. When it comes to the skeptics, do they get you down? Do you just ignore the chatter or are you even more driven to demonstrate the product’s effectiveness?

Back when we first started and only a select few people had ever used HECS, the skeptics were really brutal and I will admit it got to me a bit. In all honesty I couldn’t really blame them however as we were making some pretty bold claims for that time and most hunters didn’t even know that they emitted EMR let alone that an animal might pick up on it. Some of the comments were nasty and personal but since we had tested the technology thoroughly I knew that we had something very special. I always believed that if you have a product that truly works the skeptics would eventually have to accept it. To a large extent that is exactly what has happened with HECS. As our company matures and the technology gets accepted in more and more places the skeptics are getting fewer and fewer. Now I just consider them to be the uninformed and I truly hope that they will give HECS a try so they too can see the HECS advantage for themselves.

8. Between manufacturing, marketing and selling/shipping product, what is the biggest challenge for your company?

Nowadays the biggest recurring challenge is keeping enough inventory to satisfy the ever growing market. The textile industry in general deals with very long lead times but our fabrics are also very specialized and much more time consuming and expensive to produce. We must forecast our expected need plus try to figure out the growth in demand at least 8 to 9 months in advance. This has been very challenging and while we hit close most of the time there are certainly some items that become out of stock much sooner that we project. We are getting better every year however but due to the growth curve we are experiencing it is still good advice for customers to buy their HECS gear early before the rush seasons hit to insure availability.

9. You’re a hunter – what’s left on your bucket list?

I have been extremely fortunate in my life to have traveled around the world shooting arrows either at the target range back when I shot professionally or more recently at a wide variation of big game animals. I have hunted 30 states here in the USA, been to Africa 3 times (and heading back in July) to New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and Alaska. I have taken 45 elk, all 3 moose species and around 20 African species and the majority of other north American game species using archery gear.

The one big “Bucket list” animal for me is the giant brown bears of Kodiak and the Alaskan peninsula. To me these monsters are the ultimate bowhunting challenge! They are huge and formidable animals that require close shots and a perfect shot angle. Top that off with a very real danger aspect and that makes for a adrenaline rush that will be hard to beat!

I actually had a premiere hunt on the Alaskan Peninsula scheduled this May with one of the best archery bear guides in the region- Preston Cavner of Cavner and Julian Outfitters. Unfortunately I have been fighting a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder for the past year and had to have my 2nd surgery in December. This put me out for being able to pull the kind of bow weight required for those big guys this year but fortunately I was able to reschedule that hunt for May of 2022. This area only allows spring hunting for brown bears every other year so this is the earliest we could get it. Also this specific area is well known to have some of the biggest brown bears on the planet! I am really looking forward to that adventure and to putting HECS technology to yet another test!

If you are interested in learning more, you can visit HECS Online

You can follow them on FACEBOOK

Reviewing Hemp Sport Creme From Bluebird Botanicals
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Again, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank NisonCo and the cool folks at Bluebird Botanicals for connecting with me, providing some education and also some products to review. If you’re like me, I had some real questions about CBD products. Raquel from NisonCo and Mike from Bluebird Botanicals were kind enough to facilitate an FAQ interview which you can read here: Answers about CBD products. Bluebird sent me some samples of their product Hemp Sport Lotion to try and I’m glad they did! ~DesertRat

Photo credit ProjectCBD.org

So you may have read my other CBD product review on a product from Moon Mother – which was also a great product. I was excited to try the Hemp Sport product from Bluebird Botanicals.

So, cutting to the chase – this stuff works great. Again, I am astounded with how quickly it works. The lotion absorbs nicely, no greasiness at all. This product has slight warming and cooling effects also. By no means like IcyHot but you can feel it very subtly. It worked great with “regular” aches and pains, stiff necks and other middle-aged ailments. My wife uses a wheelchair and was having significant hip pain recently, and a good application of the product at bedtime made her feel better for sure. She’s also an amputee and suffers from significant phantom pain periodically. We tried the product on her during a recent episode and although it wasn’t a silver bullet by any means (not that we expected it to be), she did feel it gave her some relief, even for that. The product smells interesting – not perfumey by any means – more earthy. It doesn’t smell bad – just interesting.

From their website:

A specially-formulated CBD cream for those with active lifestyles. Made with hemp extract, ginger, arnica, mint, jojoba, and coconut oil. Vegan, non-GMO, and cruelty-free. Clinically tested and proven safe for skin.

Our CBD lotion is available in three convenient sizes: trial-sized (100mg cannabinoids per 0.5 fl oz pouch), travel-sized (700 mg cannabinoids per 3.4 fl oz tube) and full-sized (1,250 cannabinoids per 6 fl oz tube).

You can purchase the product ONLINE. A 3.4 oz tube is going to cost you right around 40 bucks. Don’t let the price scare you – you don’t need very much, and its effectiveness makes the cost worth it. If you suffer from aches, pains, and muscle soreness as a result of your outdoor recreation, I would definitely recommend this product!

Desert Rat Chats With Canadian Outdoor Celebrity Amanda Lynn Mayhew
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I love doing interviews, and I especially love interviewing young women hunters and anglers who serve as role models not just for women, but for all of us. If you enjoy this article, check out my interview with the beautiful outdoor woman Charr Cee from CC Tactics or the amazing Laura Francese. If so inclined you could even check out my virtual chats with up-and-comer Ruby Korenoksi or young fishing phenom Cricket Coates. Finally,particularly if you love offshore fishing, you really have to check out the social media sensation Darcizzle! I am very grateful to Amanda Lynn for taking the time to answer a few questions for my readers. ~DesertRat

1. You were raised in a hunting and fishing family in northern Ontario. Did you make a conscious decision to turn this into a career or did it just evolve?

I was raised in the remote town of Manitouwadge, Ontario, Canada and from as early back as I can remember we fished and hunted. I certainly did not make a conscious decision I actually always wanted to be an architect or something of creative nature, so it was just an evolution of my path in life.

2. What’s your favorite thing to hunt? What’s still on your bucket list?

I have many favorites but the top three are: Black Bears, they are unpredictable and curious and I love learning about them, Moose, as it is an all-time hunting heritage event in our family with my Grandfather being a moose guide, it is almost mandatory! In all, I have moose hunted solo, with my son and dad and now in a gang and it is truly a heartwarming hunt. Three would be grouse, you can go alone or you can take a group of 5 of which I do on the Take Me Hunting Outreach Programs and you can learn so much from each hunt and from each other. You can make it stealthy or straight-up fun. I don’t have anything on my bucket list as of yet.

3. Favorite thing to fish? What’s on your fishing bucket list?

Fishing for Northern Walleye is definitely a no-brainer, taking your pack and walking into a lake that hasn’t been visited in years and just soaking up the peacefulness. my parents love fishing and always went together. Bucket list fishing is East coast sharks!

4. On your website you talk about being a role model, particularly for the younger generation. How much does being a role model play a part in all of your activities?

When I am doing anything I think always on ‘who is watching’, ‘who will see it’, etc, so I take that into consideration with the words, actions and even sometimes outfits I choose. I always told myself no matter what I will never take a photo I can’t show my Dad. I practice safety, body awareness, language, and fun in everything I do. The younger generation floods me at the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show and to be honest, they are my favorite guests, they want to soak up all your information, they want to share all their experiences with you from the last year. This year we even included a few of the returning youth into some episodes and photo shoots.

5. I love all the elements of your business model – particularly the marketing aspect. (I dabble in outdoor marketing but not nearly with the same level of success!). Are there other areas of the industry (or other industries, I suppose) that you want to get into, or have you found the success formula you are comfortable with?

Well, my background is marketing and my love is hunting and firearms, it’s easy when you do what you love – so I think I have it covered I would love to create a spot for everyone to come under one roof to learn, stay, play and eat. The Just Hunt Lodge – STAY, PLAY AND LEARN. All my outreach programs under one area. That is my dream.

6. I love your passion for causes. What are some causes that you are fiery about, and why?

Well I have Graves Disease and it has been a struggle my entire life and back when there was no internet I had to struggle alone wondering if anyone else in the world felt like me so I started finding others in the same predicament with a different ailment so I decided to help. I created events, like Ride for Progeria, and Snowmobile Ride for Multiple Sclerosis, etc to bring awareness to these people’s lives and ailments. I am fiery about any of them that affect anyone. I have asthma – so the Lung Association, my son has congenital heart disease (open heart surgery at 11 months old) so the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, etc. Mental Illness is a fiery topic as well, I have fought with bullying my entire life and to watch how the world has changed and to see even more people need the support in mental illness than before, and not just soldiers dealing with PTSD, I was diagnosed with PTSD August 27 2017 when my mom passed away and now that I think back I would guarantee she had the same thing. It is important in life to assist where you can, when you can. No one should have to struggle alone.

7. The number of hunters are dwindling, as society changes there is more and more anti-hunting sentiment, and social media can create an environment where hunters and anglers can bicker, mock and disrespect others. In your view, what is the biggest challenge facing hunters and anglers in regards to the future?

Actually the numbers are increasing, with my Take Me Hunting Outreach Programs I introduce at minimum ten new hunters each year, who then teach others. In the future, the anti-hunters will be getting their hunting licenses due to this time in our lives to be able to find self-sustainability, but that is just my opinion, based on the hundreds of emails and messages I have from anti-hunters who want to learn to hunt now.

8. For my readers – what is the best way for them to find you?

On the web: justhunt.ca www.amandalynnmayhew.com

Follow her on Instagram: @amandalynnmayhew

On Twitter: @amandalynmayhew

On Facebook: Amanda Lynn Mayhew

9. When are you coming to Arizona?

When I’m invited!

Check it out:

I can tell just over email that Amanda is the kind of lady our industry needs and also, and one that I would love to hunt with. I’m gonna try to get her down to Arizona – I think a combo Javelina and Coues Deer hunt may be just the ticket for that cool Canadian gal! Thanks again for your time Amanda – I really appreciate it!! ~DesertRat

Shooting the Howa Gamepro Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor
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Recently I was lucky to have the opportunity to shoot a brand new Howa Gamepro in 6.5 Creedmor, right out of the box.

From Howa’s website:

.223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem, .308 Win, .25-06 Rem, .270 Win, .30-06 SPRG, 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag

22″ & 24″ Standard Barrel

Nikko Stirling Gamepro 3.5-10×44 Scope

Available in short action, long action and magnum calibers.

Howa 1500 barreled action

20”, 22” & 24” standard, magnum & heavy barrel options

Blued barrel & action

One-piece base & rings

Hogue® pillar-bedded Overmolded™ stock & recoil pad

Forged, one-piece bolt w/ two locking lugs

Two-stage HACT trigger

Three-position safety

Sling swivel studs

Out of the box, the fit and finish on this rifle were adequate – about what you might expect for a rifle in this price range. The rifle shoulders nicely, although I found it to be slightly heavy on the fore stock. The Hogue stocks are nice – rugged, well-designed and able to get knocked around a bit due to that unique rubbery material. This rifle comes equipped with a threaded barrel – a nice feature as many people are adding suppressors or muzzle brakes these days. This model was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor which, believe it or not, I hadn’t fired before. What a nice round – I can see why it is so popular.

The trigger travel was a bit long for me but definitely shootable – it was by no means sloppy or distracting. The rifle comes with a Nikko Stirling Gamepro Scope Package (3.5-10 x 44) which was quite clear, easy to use, and had a nice reticle.

Out of the box, with little effort, this rifle easily shot MOA. I am sure with some practice and fiddling and tweaking; or maybe some handloads, this is a 1/2 MOA gun as advertised. The gun performed well on the bench, using Match ammo from Hornady. The stock is great, easy to align and grip. Recoil was negligible. The bolt wasn’t precision fit by any stretch but again – adequate for the price point. The rifle fed nicely, the bolt locked solidly, and no malfunctions.

Shopping around online, this rifle and scope package retails for around $500. Based on the look and performance of this rifle, that is a super value for the price point. This would be a great basic rifle package for a new hunter, but an experienced shooter would appreciate it as well. If you’re looking for a solid, reliable rifle with some nice features, ready to shoot MOA out of the box, you should seriously consider the Howa Gamepro.