First Gear | .25-45 Sharps/Lone Wolf/OptiSightUSA

posted on August 21, 2016
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Allison Earnest
The 87-grain is our all-around favorite, but 70-grain speedsters and 100-grain round nose are available too. Photo courtesy of Sharps Rifle Company.

.25-45 Sharps MSR

As autumn rolls around, we can’t help but think of glorious days—past and future—abroad in America’s matchless fields and woods. For many, it won’t be mere recreation, but serious game-getting to stock the family freezer with healthy, natural protein. 

MSRs (Modern Sporting Rifles) have been playing a larger and larger part in this tradition in the last decade or so. The reasons are manifold: Moderate weight, extremely versatile sighting options and low recoil constitute just a few, and all cater as though tailor-made to relatively new arrivals in the golden autumn landscape—women. Part and parcel of the pleasures of the hunt for smaller-statured shooters are appropriate tools, and that brings us to the .25-45 Sharps from the Sharps Rifle Company of Glenrock, Wyo. 

In its original caliber—.308 Winchester—AR/MSR rifles were perfectly adequate for hunting. But as predominantly fielded for civilian use more than 50 years ago (remember, the ”AR” designation models were never military rifles), the .223 Remington cartridge was—and in many locales still is—considered on the light side for harvesting mid-sized or larger game.

As we said here and in America’s 1st Freedom magazine, the .25-45 Sharps cartridge is a great way to get that easy-shooting MSR into your hunting. Based on the .257 series of bullets mostly popularized by Ned Roberts in the 1920s and ’30s, the Sharps version brings improved energies and trajectories to your MSR with only the swap of your upper. Your existing magazines and bolt/bolt carrier will give great service, and handloaders can form cases from .223 brass. 

The folks at SRC offer multiple conversion options for your existing MSR starting at $309, and complete rifles beginning at $1,199. Most of these (and all assembled rifles and uppers) include Sharps’ superb Balanced Bolt Carrier and Relia-bolt, an extreme duty, high lubricity pairing that’s a built-in upgrade for your .223/5.56 shooting as well (same bolt face size, remember).   

With only 10 percent more recoil but 40 percent more energy, the .25-45 deserves a look as you plan your autumn expeditions. We’re sure dialing in ours. 

Visit Sharps Rifle Company at

Dr. Kraft's data suggests target alignment is 200 ms, faster with Blackbirds. Photo by A1F staff.

Blackbird Sights/OptiSightUSA

A literal prototype landed on our desk recently, and provisional results are impressive enough that we’re giving you a First Gear heads up. You’re not likely to get a chance to peer over—or better yet shoot­—a set of OptiSight USA “Blackbirds” for a while yet, so we’re spilling what we’ve been able to gather. 

The set currently resident on a G19 reached us by way of Timothy Kraft, avid shooter and PhD Professor of Vision Sciences and Neurobiology at the University of Alabama (Birmingham). The good doctor, not to put too fine a point on it, has something here. His explanation, we’re sure, will be clearer than ours: "The way a traditional gun sight works is all very disconnected. In order to get a good shot off, you have to visually scan the gap between the front post and rear sight on the left and equalize that to the gap on the right, then align all that with the center of the target. It is too much for the eye and brain to process."

So far so good: Just look at our targets—especially when we’re trying to go fast—and you’ll see ample proof of Kraft’s assertion. The fix is embodied in the Blackbird sight picture. A precise, cut out half-triangle replaces the rear notch, and is paired with a triangular front blade to align target, sights/bore, and eye. At this point, that neurobiology bit in Kraft’s title comes into play: “The triangular shape…allows the brain to visualize concentric triangles (and) focus the shooter’s attention on the exact target bulls-eye.”

Your wait should not be long: Blackbird production is “up”. Photo by Joe Gabriel.

This is by no means the end of the nifty technology in the Blackbird sights. The name itself is jointly inspired by the material from which they’re 3D printed (titanium) and perhaps the largest scale (85 percent of the structure) and most dramatic employment of the metal ever—Clarence “Kelly” Johnson and Lockheed Corporation’s incomparable A-12/YF-12A/SR-71 Mach 3+ “Blackbird” aircraft. So they’re very light and very tough, too. 

We just recently received the sights so our tests have been extremely modest. But even this small sample leaves us thinking the advantages are quite plain, and especially pronounced when shooting on the move. As we said, our prototypes are for a Glock, but we know 1911 versions are in the offing too, for both Novak and BMCS cuts. 

Now, the bad news: The Patridge paradigm isn’t yielding easily, and a little scratching around on the web quickly reveals Dr. Kraft’s science/technology isn’t available quiiiiite yet. What we can promise is that when the OptiSightUSA/Blackbirds do launch, you’ll find the particulars in First Gear at Mach speed. 

May not look like much, but we keep extras around. Photo courtesy of Lone Wolf Distributers.

Lone Wolf Replacement Glock Extractor

Ours is often a business of getting little things right, if only because the even medium-sized problems have disproportionately bad results. Truly big problems are generally so glaring as to be avoidable altogether, but such avoidance always depends on observation—a great habit for a shooter, but with many broader applications as well.

Hence we were a trifle steamed when we noticed our Glock MOS dot sights getting beat up on the right side by ejecting brass. Most cases would clear as expected, but about 20 percent got kicked out at about 1:30 or 2 o-clock position, rather than the 4 o’clock position we expected, all due to an offending rebound off our beautiful sights. “Not Cool,” as Mr. Gru would say. 

As we often do with serious nuts ‘n bolts, our go-to guy is Gary Kimball, past-master at most things firearms, and especially for a wide variety of semi-auto pistol issues. The replay went something like this: “Yeah. That doesn’t seem to happen on every gun, but when it does, it’s annoying. Sooner or later, those cases will hit the lens too. That won’t work.” Tune the ejector? “Helps, sometimes,” he said. Change the load? “Depends.” Tune the extractor … you get the idea. 

Finally—we think, to stop our pestering—he surrendered (with unfailing good grace) the crucial morsel: “But what seems to fix about 95 percent of these right off is the substitution of that Lone Wolf extractor. 

Not that we’re surprised—as this, this and this might indicate, our track record with Lone Wolf gear is mighty good. So we take it as a cue to simply shut our pie hole and provide the link to the good folks in Priest River, Idaho: Lone Wolf Extractor LCI 9mm

(P.S. We’ve tested this as a simple replacement when OEM was unavailable, and they work juuuuuuust fine there, too.) 

Visit Lone Wolf Distributors at



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