Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Babies Fatter from Cow Milk Formula?

Babies fed standard cow milk formula may grow fatter than those fed hypo-allergenic formula, according to a recent study.

The study, published this week in the journal Pediatrics by researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, followed a blind clinical trial of 64 newborns. Infants were randomly assigned to two groups, one of which was fed traditional cow milk formula  (the most common type), while the other was fed hypo-allergenic formula. After 7 months, the weight of babies in the first group averaged two pounds over that of babies in the second group. Both formulas have the same amount of calories, and weight differences could not be attributed to length differences.This early difference in weight may predispose infants fed cow milk formula to obesity: "Numerous studies have shown that rapid rates of growth during first year are linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome [and] mortality" says Julie Mannella, Ph.D., principal author of the study.

Most common baby formulas, such as Similac or Enfamil, are based on cow milk. Hypo-allergenic (protein hydrolysate) formulas, such as Nutramigen or Alimentum, are also based on cow milk, but the proteins in the formula have been processed to be less likely to generate allergic reactions. Babies fed formula typically gain more weight than breastfed babies, although weight gain for babies fed hypo-allergenic formula in the study was similar to that of breastfed babies. Hypo-allergenic formula is significantly more expensive than regular formula. Medical authorities strongly recommend breastfeeding as a preferable alternative to formula feeding.

Should you switch to hypo-allergenic formula? The sample size in the study was small, and the cause of the discrepancy in weight gain was not clear. The principal investigator, Julie Manella, when asked, believes that is would be premature to switch on the basis of the study alone. However, suspicion of lactose intolerance would be a good reason to switch despite the price difference.

Research for the study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Want to read more about it? Try WebMD, CalorieLab, msnbc.com, TIME Healthland, Reuters, Doctors' Lounge, US News and World Report/ Healthday , CBC News, AOL Health, eMaxHealth,  or the Los Angeles Times.

Study Abstract in Pediatrics

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cartridge Selection Guide FAQs

Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 22: Cartridge Selection FAQs

How did ConsumerPla.net determine cartridge availability in the ammunition survey? 

We selected two reputable online ammunition retailers, with good inventory - Midway USA, with a broad inventory, and Wholesale Hunter, with less breadth but good prices. We counted the number of SKUs ("stock keeping units" - they represent how many different items are available in a given category) available in stock with each retailer for each cartridge in our list.

Every cartridge that did not have at least 3 SKUs in each retailer we marked "SP" for SPotty availability. Every cartridge that did not have at least 10 SKUs in stock between the two retailers we marked "LO" for LOw availability. A cartridge with low or spotty availability may not be easy to find when you need it, and shows some disaffection from shooters.

More information about our ammunition survey process is available here.

How did you determine cartridge price in the ammunition survey? 

We averaged the lowest 3 prices for each of the two online retailers we used (less than three if there were less than three SKUs available), then we averaged across the two retailers. We followed up by checking our pricing information against three large brick and mortar stores: Cabela's, Midwest Shooters Supply, and Gander Mountain. We found that our calculated prices were in general reflecting well the low-end prices that we found found among these stores. Of course, premium ammunition pricing (such as high quality hunting ammunition, or target grade ammunition) we found to be higher - we expected that, given the process we used to drive cartridge price.

More information about our ammunition survey process is available here.

What do LO and SP mean in the charts?  

LO means Low availability, and SP means Spotty availability. Either indicates that a cartridge may not always be easy to find when you need it. In general, although not always, we found LO or SP cartridges to be more expensive than cartridges with good availability.

How did you determine existing chambering availability in the rifle chambering survey?

Gunbroker is the eBay of firearms, an auction site dedicated to firearms. It has the broadest set of firearms listings in existence. It is used for new and for used firearms. It is the best representation we know of for the overall firearms market in the US. It is not perfect because there is some bias for new chamberings, as many stores offer new chamberings on line on Gunbroker. At the same time, there is strong presence of used firearms as well, and we feel that Gunbroker is an imperfect but reasonable proxy for the market as a whole.

For each cartridge, we searched for rifles available on Gunbroker in this cartridge, and counted how many we found. We often had to use more than one search for a given cartridge, and made sure to take out hits that were common between our searches for the same cartridge, so as to avoid multiple-counting.

More information about our existing chamberings survey process is available here.

How did you determine new rifle chambering availability in the rifle chambering survey?

New rifle chambering availability was the hardest metric to find. The idea behind new rifle chambering availability is that it gives you a better way to evaluate what shooters like to use today, vs. what they might have liked 20 or 50 years ago (which is captured by the used firearms market or the existing cartridge availability survey).We first tried to aggregate all the chamberings that were available among the top four or five online firearms retailers. It was a very time intensive process, and we quickly found out that practically all of them were equally represented on the inventory of Bud's gun shop, a well known online firearms dealer with an online inventory that is easy to search. This finding greatly simplified our new rifle chambering survey, and we ended up using Bud's as a proxy to the new rifle chambering market.

More information about our new chamberings survey process is available here.

What is the difference between existing and new rifle chamberings? Why did you use both?

Existing rifle chamberings include all the chamberings that have been available in the past, and that can now be found on the used rifle market, AND all of the new chamberings available right now from firearms manufacturers. Existing rifle chamberings capture the widest picture of the existing rifle market. It is also a trailing metric to the new rifle chamberings, as new rifle chamberings are closer to what people buy today, whereas the used rifle market also considers what people were buying yesterday (or 50 years ago).

If we want to look at what cartridges will be available 10 to 15 years down the road (i.e. in the assumed period of time when you will be using a rifle that you purchase today), it is important to look at new rifle chamberings, as they are more reflective of the present state of the market, and more able to predict what rounds will be common 10 to 15 years down the road.

We investigated the correlation between ammunition availability, existing rifle chamberings, and new rifle chamberings here. We found out, as expected, that there was a good correlation between existing rifle chamberings and ammunition availability, and a less good correlation between new rifle chamberings and ammunition availability. There is a good likelihood that we would find a good correlation between new rifle chamberings today and ammunition availability 10 years or 15 years from today.

Why didn't you include every single cartridge in existence in your list?

There are approximately another fifty or so additional commonly mentioned cartridges, and many more wildcats (i.e. unusual cartridges with no commercial production). Putting too many cartridges on our charts would make them unreadable. We reviewed the most popular cartridges and went down the list. We stopped at a level which we felt was relevant to a reasonable number of people. The least common cartridges among our list, such as the 257 Roberts or the 470 Nitro Express are not common, and we feel that we went "low enough" on the availability list. The ones we neglected to include are less common, and are probably safe to ignore, since we are looking to find cost effective cartridges with wide availability. If you feel we left out cartridges that are common enough to be considered, let us know. If we agree with you, we will add them to the list.

Will I find a cartridge that you rate available at my neighborhood country store? 

You have a good chance to find our recommended cartridges in your neighborhood country stores, although no certainty. The most common cartridges are 223 Remington, 22LR, 308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 300 Win Mag, 7mm Rem Mag, 270 Winchester, 243 Winchester, and  7.62x39 Soviet. These are the cartridges that you are most likely to find in a country store.

Can I find cheaper than the prices you listed for ammunition?

You can certainly find cheaper than the prices indicated. We wanted our price to be indicative of "real" brick and mortar prices, so we did not pick the lowest priced online retailers (these typically specialize on very common cartridges only), and we averaged the 6 lowest prices for available SKUs, making sure by our very process that the price listed for our cartridges would be higher than the lowest we had found.

However, if the brick and mortar stores we visited are any indication,  the price you will find at your local brick and mortar store should not, in general, be very far from our price index.

What criteria did you use for cartridge recommendations?

As we explained in our introduction post to this cartridge selection guide: "Our purpose in this guide is to focus on cost, on present availability, and on future availability, and to issue recommendations based on these criteria." We did look at other attributes of a cartridge, in particular when we made recommendations for specific purposes - but the primary criteria were price, present availability, and future availability.

Our primary audience is that of new, inexperienced or infrequent shooters - although we do feel that our data is valuable to all shooters. There are many sites focused on experienced shooters - their criteria are different from ours. Our recommendations are data-driven and do not take our likings or impressions into account. In general, we neglected differences of 100-200fps in velocity, or 100-200ft.lbs of energy, which are often what cartridge selection is based on for experienced shooters, who already know what they want and like.

I am a reloader. Should I follow your recommended picks?

If you are reloading, the economics of shooting are structurally different to you, and availability and pricing to you are measured differently. Our present guide focuses on out-of-the-box ammunition, and does not apply to you, although our conclusions could be relevant to some of your criteria in making cartridge choices.

Should I only buy rifles chambered in the cartridges you rated best?

If you are an experienced shooter, you already know what works for you, and are looking for incremental improvements. For that, you might need to look at cartridges which are not widely available, expensive when purchased commercially (as opposed to reloaded), or simply unavailable commercially if you are planning to load your own. Our data is useful to you, but not primordial in making your decision.

On the other hand, if you are a new or inexperienced shooter, then you would be better off picking cartridges that we recommend. You will be guaranteed a popular cartridge pick, with easy to find and cost effective ammunition, a good choice in rifles, and, likely, an easier time selling your rifle used if/when you decide to upgrade in the future.

Why should I follow your recommendations?
Our recommendations are based on hard data, which so far has been unavailable anywhere, on line or off line, and which is difficult to derive on your own. You should feel free to ignore our recommendations and draw your own, using common sense and your own personal criteria. We suggest, however, that you carefully look at the data we accumulated here, and use it efficiently in your purchase decision.

Our Centerfire Rifle Selection Guide is scheduled for later this winter... So come back soon!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: Best Rifle Cartridges for 2011

Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 21: Picking The Best Rifle Cartridges for 2011

It is now time for us to issue final recommendations for the best rifles cartridges to pick for 2011, specifically when looking at pricing and availability: which are the most cost effective and available cartridges in each category?

In order to have a good look at how these cartridges compare, we selected cartridges that got picked as best in kind in the ammunition survey and in the chamberings survey, and superposed their pricing and availability for ammunition and their availability as chamberings.

Recommendations by Cartridges Categories
  • Most cost effective overall cartridge: 22LR
The 22LR led the ammunition survey for affordability, at $1.50 per box of 20, and the second most cost effective cartridge, the 22WMR, is almost three times as expensive to shoot. The chambering availability of the 22LR is, if anything, even better than it was, with many new offerings available. The 22LR has no rival as a training and plinking cartridge.

  • Best rimfire varmint cartridge: 17HMR
The 17HMR and the 22WMR both are inherently superior to the 22LR in almost every way except cost (they are close to three times as expensive to shoot), with the 17HMR getting the advantage on range and accuracy. As The 17HMR continues to expand while the 22WMR is stable, we give the preference to the 17HMR, despite a slight 15% advantage to the 22WMR in cost.

  • Most cost-effective centerfire cartridge: 223 Remington (5.56mm NATO)
The 7.62x69 Soviet is actually the most cost effective centerfire cartridge in existence ($7 per box vs. $10 for the 223), but the great difference in chambering availability with the 223, the dramatic drop in new chambering availability for the 7.62x39,  and the inherent superiority of the 223 cartridge in both range and accuracy give the 223 the edge. The 7.62x39 is is a poor range cartridge, and is not a good hunting cartridge.

  • Best varmint cartridge: 223 Remington
The 223 is the #1 cartridge in existence by availability, and the #1 existing chambering on Gunbroker (although not among new chamberings). It is significantly more cost effective than other varmint cartridges, by approximately 100% - at $10 per box, it costs half to shoot. It has an excellent reputation for accuracy. While the 204 Ruger and the excellent 22-250 have an edge on range, it is not enough to take away the crown from the 223.

  • Best 6mm medium game cartridges: 243, 25-06
The 243 and the 25-06, both flat shooting cartridges, are at opposite ends of the 6mm spread. The 25-06 is a necked-down 30-06 cartridge, large, powerful, noisy, with a lot of recoil for a 6mm (but not that much overall). The 243, on the other hand, is comparatively soft shooting, silent, yet still accurate. The 243 is sufficient for deer, but does not range any higher, while the 25-06 may be used for larger game if the circumstances are right: range, position, good bullet placement. The 243, with excellent availability and reasonable pricing at $23, is enjoying rapid expansion, while the 25-06, a bit more expensive at $26, still sees some growth.

  • Best 7mm medium game cartridges below .30: 270 Winchester, 7mm-08, 7mm Remington Magnum
The 7mm cartridges are already the realm of the all around rifle. The 7mm-08 and the 7mm Remington Magnum use the same bullets (.284), while the 270 uses slightly smaller diameter (.277). All three cartridges shoot very flat. They are all derivatives: the 270 is a necked-down 30-06, the 7mm-08 a necked-down 308, and the 7mm Rem Mag a necked down 338 Winchester Magnum. The 270, Jack O'Connor's favorite, with significant although not outrageous recoil,  has killed every kind of game in North America. It is very popular, gaining in popularity, and cost effective to shoot at $18 per box. The 7mm-08, the softest shooting cartridge of the lot, can be used by most shooters without recoil becoming a problem, and has a bit less range than the other two. It can take big North American game if the circumstances are right in placement and range, and is the more costly of the three, at $32 per box. The 7mm Remington Magnum, priced between the other two at $27 per box, is the hardest shooting of the lot, and has the reputation, rightfully so, of shooting as flat as the 270 and as hard as the 30-06. All three cartridges are outstanding choices for different shooter profiles.

  • Best .30 caliber cartridges: 308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 300 Winchester Magnum
The 308 and 30-06 are long time rivals, and end up being very close to each other in performance, and equal in cost at $19 per box. The 308 has slightly softer recoil and can be used in slightly shorter/ lighter rifles, while the 30-06 a touch more range (about 25 yards) and punch at the cost of 20% more recoil, a difference that is not negligible. The 300 Winchester Magnum, another long range cartridge, has more power, a higher price at $25 per box, slightly more range than both (about as much as the 7mm Rem Mag) but a lot more recoil. Where the 308 is within the limits of acceptable recoil, the 30-06 is at the edge of being too punishing for a long session at the range and may induce flinching, and the 300 Winchester Magnum is clearly in significant pain territory. All three can take any North American game, and are excellent cartridges for what they are designed to do. 

  • Best Medium Bore cartridge: 338 Win Mag
The American Medium Bores are a troubled category, with very few successful cartridges. In fact, of all of them, only one shows any life along with significant controversy. The 338 Winchester Magnum shows good availability and growing popularity. However, it is a very expensive cartridge ($55 per box), and its performance may not always justify its price. For a heavy price in recoil (20% more than the 300 Win Mag), it has shorter range than the 300 Win Mag, approximately matches the 300 Win Mag's kinetic energy and killing power at 200 yards and beyond, and shows significantly less velocity. It is only at short range that the 338 Win Mag shows itself to be significantly superior to the 300 Win Mag, a property which has led to its use in Alaska as a protection and bear rifle. However, after the first few years of adoption, a significant number of professional guides switched back to the 375 H&H, following some concerns about ultimate killing power. The 338 Win Mag is the best choice among medium bores, but, in the end, its performance may not  be sufficiently superior to the 300 Win Mag to justify the extra cost and recoil. Depending upon your needs, you may be better off sticking to the 300 Win Mag or switching to the 375 H&H.

  • Best Big Bore cartridges: 375 H&H Magnum, 45-70 Government
Compared to the medium bores, the big bores shows a surprising amount of life, probably due to the relative popularity of Alaskan hunts and African safaris. The 45-70 can take North American game of any size within 150 to 200 yards when shot from a modern lever rifle. While the 45-70 remains the leader among all big bores, it remains barely ahead of the 375 H&H (often considered a medium bore) in new chamberings, while enjoying a solid 3-1 lead in the market as a whole. This shows a very significant progress for the 375 H&H, which is clearly the most versatile of the two, enjoying a 100 yard range advantage on the 45-70. The 375 H&H can take any game anywhere, including Africa. Other big bore cartridges, while weak compared to the two leaders, largely maintain their popularity and do not show the total collapse seen in the medium bore market.

Recommendations by purpose

  • Most cost effective training and plinking: 22LR 
  • Most cost effective centerfire training and plinking: 223 Remington
  • Best long range varmint hunting: 204 Ruger, 22-250
The 223 is an excellent, accurate varmint cartridge, but both the 204 Ruger ($19 per box) and the 22-250 ($22 per box), the best wildcat of all times, have a significant edge in trajectory. Both cartridges are very available, and new chamberings and growing fast, an amazing record for the 204 Ruger given how recently it was introduced (2004). The 204 Ruger and the 22-250 shoot equally flat ( a touch flatter/ longer for the 204 Ruger, but not for reloaders). The 204 Ruger does not heat up as much during a long shooting session, while the 22-250 carries a bigger bullet and retains more energy within 500 yards. The 204 Ruger is best on small varmints while the 22-250 excels with larger ones.

  • Best low recoil deer hunting: 243, 25-06, 7mm-08
The 243 has significantly less recoil than other deer sized cartridges, about 11 ft.lbs vs. 13.5 for the 25-06 and the 7mm-08, and 17 for the 270 Winchester. It is also the most cost effective choice, at $26 per box, vs. $29 for the 25-06 and $32 for the 7mm-08. The 7mm-08 ranges highest in potential game size, able to take elk, moose or caribou if the circumstances are favorable (range, position, bullet placement), followed by the 25-06, the 243 being last in that regard.

  • Best all around US hunting: 270, 308, 30-06, 7mm Remington Magnum
The Top Four have been at the top of the world for close to a half century now, and nothing has dethroned them,. The 270 and the 7mm Rem Magnum have the advantage on trajectory and range, while the 30-06 and the 7mm Rem Mag have the advantage in energy and killing power. While none of these cartridges have soft recoil, the 308 has the least recoil, followed by the 270. The 7mm Rem Mag costs 50% more to shoot than the other three.

  • Best large US game hunting: 300 Winchester Magnum
The 300 Win Mag is definitely above the pain threshold, but provides substantively more power than the all around cartridges, while being much less painful than the medium and big bores.

  • Best all around low recoil rifle cartridge: 7mm-08
The Top Four are outstanding cartridges, but they all have substantial recoil. The next most versatile cartridge after the Top Four is the 7mm-08, an outstanding cartridge with power and range along with softer recoil, approximately 20% less than the 308 Winchester. Shooters should use the 7mm-08 with CXP3 game only if the right conditions exist with respect to range and bullet placement.

  • Best long range all around cartridge: 7mm Remington Magnum
The trajectory of the 270 with the punch of the 30-06:-)

  • Best dangerous US game hunting: 45-70 Government
There is nothing in North America that the 45-70 in a new rifle chambering (old ones cannot handle as much pressure) cannot take down at 100 yards.

  • Best dangerous African game hunting: 375 H&H Magnum
The 375 H&H Magnum can take any game anywhere in the world.

Next we review cartridge selection FAQs... So come back soon!

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Ammunition and Chamberings Surveys: Combined Availability

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 20: Combined Ammunition and Chamberings Distribution

    Over the past few weeks, we presented our survey of rifles cartridge availability and its findings, then did the same with our survey of available and new chamberings. We drew independent conclusions from each survey, assuming, in general, that cartridge availability and rifle chambering availability were related. It is time for us to put this assumption to the test: how do cartridge availability, rifles availability, and new chambering availability relate to each other?

    To evaluate graphically how they trend with respect to each other, the best way for us to do this is to normalize the availability of each cartridge, rifle chambering, and new rifle chambering, so that we are only dealing with percentages across the whole market, rather than absolute numbers. The following chart displays what the data looks like, when viewed as percentages.

    For each cartridge, the chart displays, in green, the % of ammunition SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit, i.e. the specific combination of brand and type of ammunition that uniqeuly identifies the item) available for this cartridge as a % of all cartridge SKUs available, in red the % of new chamberings available at Bud's as a % of all rifle chamberings available at Bud's, and, in blue, the % of rifles chambered in the cartridge available on Gunbroker, as a percentage of all the rifles available.

    If we review this chart, we quickly realize that:
    • ammunition availability and rifle availability for that cartridge generally trend together
    • ammunition availability and new chambering availability generally trend together, but not as well
    • ammunition availability appear to trail Gunbroker rifle availability, which, itself, trails Bud's new chambering availability (we can find this out by looking at new or newly popular cartridges, and by old fashioned or obsoleted cartridges)
    This interpretation makes sense: it often takes a long time for ammunition providers to take on a new cartridge, and a specific type of ammunition tends to remain available for a long time, past the peak of popularity of the cartridge. We figure that the green bars (ammunition availability) are most closely tied to the popularity of a cartridge  10 to 15 years ago, while the blue bars (availability of a rifle chambering on Gunbroker) are most closely related to the cartridge popularity over the past 5 years, and the red bars (availability of a new rifle chambering at Bud's) are more closely tied to a cartridge popularity in the next 10 to 15 years. We should note that here is potential for some fashion/fad bias in the red bars, when manufacturers push some specific cartridges with little popularity by misunderstanding the market's favor.

    In this light, we can draw a few specific conclusions:
    • Available now, gaining in popularity: 17HMR, 204 Ruger, 22-250, 243, 25-06, 270 Win, 270 WSM, 7mm-08
    • Available now, stable in popularity: 22LR, 22WMR, 7mm Rem Mag, 30-06 Springfield, 300 Win Mag, 300 WSM, 338 Win Mag, 375 H&H, 45-70 Gov
    • Available now, dropping in popularity: 223, 30-30, 308 Win, 7.62x39 Soviet
    • Not very available, stable: 22 Hornet, 257 Wby Mag, 7mm WSM, 280 Rem, 300 Wby Mag, 444 Marlin, 458 Win Mag
    • Not very available, dropping even further: 220 Swift, 222 Remington, 6mm Rem, 257 Roberts, 6.5x55 Swede, 260 Rem, 264 Win Mag, 6.8mm SPC, 7x57 Mauser, 7mm Wby Mag, 30 carbine, 300 H&H Mag, 300 Rem Ultra Mag, 8x57, 338 Federal, 340 Wby Mag, 35 Whelen, 358 Win, 9.3x62, 375 Ruger, 405 Win, 416 Rigby, 450 Marlin, 458 Lott, 460 Wby Magnum, 470 Nitro Express
    Some of the cartridges that show poor availability and are dropping further out carry great names and/ or are very sensible - we regret seeing them fall out of favor. Among them we count the 220 Swift (we think it has a slight edge over the 22-250), the versatile 257 Roberts, the 6.5x55 Swede -  easy on the shoulder with some excellent sectional density,  the 6.8mm SPC - excellent accuracy in a very compact, efficient and cost effective.cartridge, and the 7x57 (7mm Mauser).

    Next we come out with overall recommendations... So come back soon!

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Available Big Bore Calibers

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 19: Available Big Bore Cartridge Chamberings

    Surprisingly, the big bore category shows more life than the medium bores. The two outstanding leaders in the category are the venerable 45-70 Government, introduced in 1873, and the only slightly less respectable 375 H&H Magnum, introduced in 1912 by Holland & Holland, as part of the Nitro Express family. While the 45-70's popularity remains stable, the 375 H&H is seeing a boom in new chamberings, along with, at a much lower level of availability, several other cartridges in the category.

    Among the others, many cartridges see more new chambering introductions, although none to a level where availability becomes good enough for us to recommend them. The 458 Winchester Magnum leads the pack with 11 new chamberings available at Bud's, followed by the Marlin 444 with 10, the expensive 416 Rigby with 9, and the 405 Winchester with 8. The attractive 375 Ruger, the 450 Marlin, the legendary 458 Lott, the "ultimate" 460 Weatherby Magnum (there is a larger Weatherby caliber though...), and the powerful 470 Nitro Express do not see significant new chambering activity.

    Most available bog bores: 45-70 Government, 375 H&H Magnum
    Most available big bore for US game: 45-70 Government
    Most available big bore for any game: 375 H&H Magnum 

    Next we summarize our conclusions across all chamberings... So come back soon!

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Available Medium Bore Calibers

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 18: Available Medium Bore Cartridge Chamberings

    The medium bore cartridges, in the US, are a category on the verge of disappearing. Of all of them,
    only the 338 Winchester Magnum shows significant new chamberings and active dynamics, even growth. The others appear to be going away, with zero to five new chamberings available for the 8x57 (8mm Mauser), 338 Federal, 340 Weatherby Magnum, 35 Whelen, 358 Winchester, and 9.3x62. While few chamberings are expected for the European 8x57 and 9.3x62 and for the classy but never popular 35 Whelen, we are disappointed to see such disaffection for the sensible 338 Federal, the very punchy 340 Weatherby Magnum, and the powerful 358 Winchester.

    • Recommended medium bore chambering: 338 Winchester Magnum

    Next we analyze available chamberings for big bore rifles... So come back soon!

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Available .30 Calibers

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 17: Available .30 Caliber Cartridge Chamberings

     The .30 caliber category, traditionally the most popular of all categories, is seeing some significant changes. While it remains overall very popular as a whole, it seems to see some erosion of popularity at the expense of the medium game rifle category, possibly because of recoil becoming of more significant aspect of firearms purchases.

    Among the category, the 308 and the 30-06 remain the clear leaders, although they are now rivaled in overall popularity by other chamberings from different categories, such as the 243 and the 270, and, of course, by the perennial 223 and 22LR. Surprisingly following them is the punchy 300 Winchester Magnum, with a true spike in new chamberings, showing astounding growth.

    Shockingly, the 30-30 and the 7.62x39 Soviet appear to face a quasi-total collapse of new chamberings, down to respectively 14 and 8, a level so low that they cannot make it among our recommendations, despite their past popularity.

    Among the other chamberings in the category, the 300 WSM sees surprising life with increased popularity, as does, at a lower level, the 300 Weatherby Magnum, the most powerful of all 300s (with the exception of the 30-378). Neither of them show enough availability to make it into our recommendations. The 30 carbine, 300 H&H Magnum, and 300 Remington Ultra Mag are practically extinct.

    • Most available .30 caliber chamberings: 308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 300 Win Mag

    Next we analyze chambering availability for medium bore rifles... So come back soon!

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Available Medium Game Calibers

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 15: Available Medium Game Cartridge Chamberings

    The medium game share of the global rifle market is the most complex, and seems to show some expansion (as discussed in our analysis of chambering distribution by category), at the expense of centerfire varmint rifles and 30 calibers.

    There are few significant changes in the category. The 243 remains the most popular chambering in the category, and is becoming the rival of the great .30s in overall popularity. The excellent 270 Winchester shows astonishing strength, and is near to rivaling the 243 in new chambering popularity. What in interesting breakthrough for a cartridge that celebrated its 85th birthday this year! While it has always been a common cartridge, we are not sure to which cause we should attribute this new-found increase in popularity for the 270. Whatever the reason, we feel that the cartridge deserves this attention, with its very flat trajectory, its ability to take down good size game, and its deserved reputation for accuracy.

    The next most common cartridge, stable in popularity, is the well-known 7mm Remington Magnum, the most popular of the magnum cartridges, also deservedly so, as it combines the punch of the 30-06 (and its significant recoil) to the flat trajectory of the 270 - some consider it the ultimate long range cartridge. Following is the efficient 7mm-08, a cartridge that seems to become more popular every year, and which shows signs to gain further in the next few years, with a relatively increased amount of new chamberings. The 7mm-08 is an excellent cartridge, with low recoil, and the ability to take almost any North American game at a reasonable distance with good bullet placement. Behind the 7mm-08, and last of the truly popular medium game cartridge, with find the hot shooting 25-06, still popular and very available.

    The next tier of cartridges sees decent stable availability from the 270 WSM, the 7mm WSM, and the 280 Remington, none of which are significantly growing in share. The surprise in new chambering growth is the 257 Weatherby Magnum, way behind all the others, yet most available of all Weatherbys, with 21 new chamberings available at Bud's. We find the 257 Weatherby the best of all Weatherbys, with excellent punch, superb trajectory, yet without the fearsome recoil that has made Weatherby cartridges enemies of shoulders and corneas worldwide. While it is an excellent cartridge to the experienced and discerning shooter, the 257 Weatherby Magnum's overall low availability, however, does not allow us to make it a general recommendation.

    The other cartridges in the category display little activity if any, sometimes to our great disappointment. The 6mm Remington, the 257 Roberts, the fine 6.5x55 Swede with excellent sectional density,  the 260 Remington, the 264 Winchester Magnum, the new 6.8mm SPC, the 7x57 Mauser of military fame, and the 7mm Weatherby Magnum all show few signs of life. While we regret seeing such excellent cartridges as the 257 Robert, the 6.5x55 and the 7x57 Mauser languish, particular regret goes towards the condition of the 6.8mm SPC, a extraordinarily efficient cartridge with a very small case (equivalent to the 223), outstanding accuracy, and capability way beyond its size - we would like to see this cartridge much more successful than it is today.

    • Most available medium game chamberings: 223, 270, 7mm Rem Mag, 7mm-08, 25-06
    • Best low recoil medium game chamberings with high availability: 243, 7mm-08
    • Best all purpose medium game chamberings with high availability: 270, 7mmRem Mag, 7mm-08

    Next we analyze availability for .30 caliber rifle chamberings... So come back soon!

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Daily Aspirin Lowers Death Risk From Cancer

    Daily long term use of aspirin significantly lowers the risk of death from a variety of cancers, according to a new study. This effect is stronger when use has been for longer periods of time, increases with age, and is independent of gender and dose.

    The study, published yesterday by researchers from Oxford University in the prestigious British journal The Lancet, aggregated the results of eight randomized clinical trials (the highest level of proof), gathering over 25,000 subjects who were followed from between 5 years and 20 years after trial inception. Subjects who had taken aspirin showed a lower risk of overall cancer death by 21%, compared to members of the control group. Risk of lung cancer death went down by 30%, esophageal cancer by 60%, colorectal cancer by 40%, prostate cancer by 10%, and gastrointestinal cancer by 35%. 

    The protective effect depended upon the length of daily use and upon the type of cancer. It started at 5 years for oesophageal, pancreatic, brain, and lung cancer, but needed 10 years for colorectal and stomach cancer, and 15 years for prostate cancer. The protective effect increased with duration of use. After 5 years of use, risk of death from any kind of cancer had decreased by 34%. The protective effect was shown to extend up to 20 years after trial inception, when risk of death for solid cancers was lower by 20%, and for gastrointestinal cancer by 35%. The effect was independent of dose, although most trials used low doses around 75mg -baby aspirin dose in the UK, vs 81mg in the US.

    The authors of the study had already published a first article in the same journal in October, showing very significant effect for low daily doses of aspirin on the prevention of colon cancer. This additional study greatly generalizes the first one. This is the first time that prevention has been proven to work against cancer. This study, and the one that precedes it, are particularly compelling because they consist in randomized clinical trials, which are the gold standard of proof for statistical causality evaluation.

    Some experts, however, caution the public not to put too much into the present study at this stage, and point out two primary limitations. The eight trials used by the study were not looking at cancer, but at heart disease and stroke prevention, and it is only through post hoc (i.e. after the fact) analysis that data processing showed the effect on cancer. There is danger in post hoc analysis because the study was not designed to specifically prove effect on cancer, and other factors may have influenced the results. “If you suddenly go back 20 years later and look at the data, it’s tempting to say the result is because of the drug,” says Dr. Derek Raghavan, chairman of the Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Another weakness of the study is that the subject sample is mostly composed of men.

    Should  you start taking daily doses of aspirin? Some experts advise against it at this stage, because of potential dangers resulting from aspirin use, which include hemorrhagic stroke and gastrointestinal bleeding.  "Until these [further] analyses have been done, I think it's very premature to try and advise people. There's a reason statisticians say 'beware the post-hoc analysis,' "says Dr. Raghavan. "There's really no reason for people to rush off to the doctor and say 'Should I be on aspirin?'" "I definitely think we wouldn't want to make any treatment decisions based on this study," says Dr. Raymond DuBois, provost of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.

    While the authors of the study did not recommend a change in patients guidelines, the main author, Dr. Peter Rothwell, did mention that medical guidelines "may be updated on the back of these results."  It is interesting to note that Dr. Rothwell, who is 46, decided to start using daily aspirin himself after seeing early study results: "It was looking as though there was something going on, and I thought it was a sufficiently large benefit to be worth doing something about." He adds:"the increased risk of bleeding is about 1 in 1,000 per year, while the decreased risk of cancer is 2,3, or 4 per 1,000 per year." Dr. Rothwell suggested that a daily aspirin regimen is "worth thinking about" if you have a family history of early cancer, that the sensible time to start would be around age 45, and that the regimen should continue for 25 to 30 years, then stop, as bleeding risk goes up very significantly around age 75.  Dr. Peter Elwood of the University of Cardiff, concurs: "There's a small risk of any of us having a gastric bleed... But when you inspect the data…you find that the mortality from the bleed is not increased. In other words, aspirin seems to be increasing the less-serious bleeds." Dr. Ed Kim, lung cancer expert at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, says that he will "strongly consider" taking daily aspirin himself, but that he would not automatically recommend this regimen to a patient without discussing the risks along with the benefits. 

    What to do in front of seemingly contradictory advice? We find this study very significant. If you are middle-aged and in good health, we advise you to take the first opportunity to talk to your family doctor and discuss a daily aspirin regimen.

    Want to read more about it? Try CNN, NYTimes, Associated Press, Cancer Research UK, WebMD,
    CBS News, ecancermedicalscience, ACSH, Cleveland Plain Dealer, NPR, TIME, New Scientist, HealthDay/ Business Week, Discover, or the BBC.           

    Available Varmint Calibers

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 15: Available Varmint Cartridge Chamberings

     The global share of centerfire varmint calibers among the whole rifle market seems to be shrinking slightly, as discussed our discussion of Chambering Distribution by Categories. Within the centerfire varmint category, we also seem to see some significant change in dynamics. While the steady and popular 223 remains a leader among chamberings, the number of chamberings for 22-250 seems to be exploding, almost rivaling the 223. In parallel, the very new 204 Ruger, introduced very recently (204, by Hornady and Ruger) seems to be growing very fast, with 85 new chamberings available in stock at Bud's. Other chamberings in the category show little life, with the 22 Hornet having a small renaissance in new chamberings. The 220 Swift and the 222 Remington, while showing appealing characteristics, simply are not present enough on either the existing market or among new chamberings to justify a recommendation.
    • Most available centerfire varmint chamberings: 223, 22-250
    • Upcoming centerfire varmint newcomer: 204 Ruger
    Next we discuss the expanding category of medium game rifle chamberings... So come back soon!

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Available Rimfire Calibers

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 14: Available Rimfire Cartridge Chamberings

    The availbaility of rimfire chamberings remains stable overall.  The 22LR and the 17HMR clearly show strong dynamics, with impressive presence both on the rifle marketing and among new chamberings. It is possible that we might be starting to see slow erosion of the 22 WMR popularity, where new chamberings are slightly weaker  than existing rifle sales against the 17HMR and the 22LR.

    Next we discuss centerfire varmint rifles... So come back soon!

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Rifle Calibers Distribution

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 13: Chamberings Distribution Across Categories

    Recently we reviewed rifle chamberings availability across all rifles on sale (on Gunbroker, the largest online rifle auction site) and for new chamberings only (looking at Bud's, an online gun shop with a very broad searchable rifle inventory). When we compare how chamberings are distributed across cartridge categories, between available rifles for sale on Gunbroker, and new chamberings at Bud's, we find that new chamberings significantly favor medium game (going from 21% to 38%) rifles against .30 caliber rifles (34% going to 25%) and varmint rifles (23% going to 18%), everything else being roughly the same. We originally thought that this might be a significant preference shift by hunters.

    After discussing this possible trend with multiple large scale dealers, we know feel that some of this trend - although not all- is an artifact of the way we count. When looking at Gunbroker (existing chamberings), we count every rifle for sale. When looking at Bud's (new chamberings), we only count different chamberings or SKUs. However, chamberings in popular calibers, such as most .30 caliber cartridges, sell more than other chamberings, resulting in more actual sales for the same number of chamberings. We believe that some of the effect we see between medium game cartridges and .30 caliber rifles is due to this bias effect - but it is improbable that it is totally due to it. On the other hand, it is not possible to explain the extension of medium game rifles against varmint rifles in the same way, because the distribution of popular to unpopular chamberings is roughly the same between the two.

    After analysis, we believe that there is a shift to medium game rifles from varmint rifles and .30 caliber rifles, although its actual effect on .30 caliber rifles is probably less marked in reality than in our data.

    Next we discuss chamberings for rimfire rifles... So come back soon!

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    New Rifle Chamberings Availability Survey

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 12: Rifle Chamberings Availability Survey

    What are the best rifle calibers to choose when you look at the criteria of ammunition availability and cost to shoot?  Yesterday, we looked at the availability of rifle chamberings for cartridge types across the market, by studying rifle availability on Gunbroker. This should correlate well with ammunition availability today. But what about 10 or 15 years from now - is there a way for us to find out what ammunition is likely to be available then?

    In fact, we should be able to make a good guess at what ammunition availability should be 10 to 15 years from now, if we look at new rifle availability only. Indeed, the availability of new rifle chamberings should be a leading indicator of what ammunition will be available for today's rifles 10 to 15 years down the road, because it takes ammunition manufacturers a while to follow up. When looking at the differences between the global rifle market, as indicated by Gunbroker, with new rifle chamberings only, we should also be able to identify trends that will indicate to us which rounds are gaining or losing in popularity.

    New Rifle Chamberings availability

    Bud's Gun Shop is one the the largest firearms retailers on the net. More importantly, it allows the user to search for firearms by cartridge type, and gives a count of the number of results. It also separates new rifles (the very large majority of offerings) from used rifles (a very, very small minority). We expect that the chambering distribution at Bud's Gun Shop, after eliminating used rifles, should correlate tightly with what ammunition will be available 10 to 15 years down the road.

    We should note a significant difference with Gunbroker counting. Where Gunbroker counts the number of available rifles on the market, Bud's counts the number of available chamberings. Therefore, Bud's probably under-counts the most popular calibers, where there are more chamberings AND people buy more of these chamberings. As an example, if the Winchester 70 Stainless Featherweight is chambered in 243, 270, 270 WSM, 308, 30-06 and 300 WSM, and if they are all available at Bud's, that would represent 6 chamberings with equal weight, yet we expect that more 243s, 270s, 308s, and 30-06s would be sold than 270s WSM or 300s WSM. Another possible source of statistical weakness is possible bias by Bud's management in making rifles available for sale. Despite these weaknesses, we still expect the statistics from Bud's to give us a leading indication on what cartridge availability should look like in the medium term future.

    The picture we see at Bud's is different from Gunbroker in interesting ways. The original top chamberings identified on Gunbroker (223, 22LR, 308 and 30-06) remain high, but this time the top scorer is the 22LR, indicating a shift towards the use of more rimfire vs. centerfire, probably linked to the progressively higher cost of ammunition in the past 10 years.

    Right alongside the top four, instead of significantly behind them, we find 243 (actual #2 scorer, even with the 308 and before the 30-06 and the 223) and 270 Winchester (right behind the 30-06 and 223) - clearly these two cartridges are gaining in popularity. Then, following fairly closely, are the 22-250, 300 Win Mag, 7mm Rem Mag, 7mm-08, 17HMR and finally the 204 Ruger, rounding up the top Twelve.

    The differences in the two lists (all chamberings vs. new chamberings) are interesting in the shifts that they augur. The 243 and 270 are clearly on the upswing, along with the 22-250, the surprising 300 Win Mag, the sensible 7mm-08, and the almost brand new 204 Ruger, whose popularity is growing impressively fast (it was introduced in 2004). On the other hand, the 25-06 slips out of the top Twelve, and the 7.62x39 Soviet along with the old 30-30 take a dramatic tumble, with hardly any new chamberings.

    Next we discuss changes in the distribution of chamberings across rifle categories... So come back soon!

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Existing Rifle Chamberings Availability Survey

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 11: Existing Rifle Chamberings Availability Survey

    What are the best rifle calibers to own, if you want to make sure that the caliber you choose has and will have good cartridge availability in the future?

    Last we directly investigated the availability and pricing on ammunition per cartridge, and came to definite conclusions. But there is a different way to approach the problem: rather than looking at it from the point of view of ammunition availability, we can look at it from the point of view of rifle chambering availability.  The assumption, which we figure to be true, is that rifle availability should correlate strongly with ammunition availability.

    Rifle chambering popularity: the big picture

    Gunbroker is the largest online firearms auction site available today. It represents a good approximation of today's rifle market, and combines used and new rifles. The user can search for title and content keywords. Searching on Gunbroker for rifles with specific cartridge chamberings gives us a very good picture of today's global rifle chambering availability.

    In this study, we searched, among modern firearms, for every chambering which we felt had some popularity. We researched the same list of rounds as that used for our ammunition availability survey.For each one, we counted the number of hits in the rifle category. While some cartridges/ calibers are easy to search for on Gunbroker, others, with multiple names or common abbreviations, require more work to gather the actual availability data, in order to make sure that we are not under-counting them. For those cartridges, we had to subtract hits where keywords were common to multiple search strings, so that we would not end up double counting them. The following chart shows, in numbers of rifle (used or new) for sale, the availability of rifle chamberings on Gunbroker.

    At one glance, we can get a good feeling for what chamberings (and therefore, ammunition) are popular - and what are not... The striking characteristic of the existing market is the remarkable dominance of 4 cartridges: 223 way ahead of all, followed by, roughly equal, 22LR, 308 and 30-06. Significantly behind the top 4, we find, at high levels of availability, 243, 22-250 (a surprise for us to see it placing so high), the old and reliable 30-30, followed by the 7mm Rem Mag, 17HMR (which shows remarkable speed of adoption for a cartridge introduced in 2002), 270 Win, 7.62x39 Soviet and 7mm-08.  We will analyze separately the different segments of the rifle market.

    Next we discuss the distribution of new rifle chamberings only... So come back soon!

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Logitech Wave K350 Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard Review: Cool Gear

    Logitech Wireless Wave  K350 Keyboard: the convenience of a wireless keyboard is hard to pass on today. At the same time, all of us who spend a lot of time on our computers would like to use a keyboard with good ergonomic design, which will delay if not prevent the onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a common type of Repetitive Stress Injury ("RSI") among computer users. Unfortunately, few keyboards, and even fewer ergonomic or wireless keyboards, get very good user feedback: there is too much individual fit required. The Logitech Wave K350 keyboard, however, is somewhat of an exception, and succeeds at many of its key success factors, and its user feedback shows it. User feedback is what we quote in our reviews at ConsumerPla.net.

    The Wave K350 keyboard is the heir to the original and well received Wave keyboard. It has a slight wave form across the keypad, which results in approximately 10 degrees of angle in the orientation of the left-hand vs. right-hand keys.  The height if the different keys is different too, and the keys in the middle of the keyboard span are higher than those in the edges, making it easier for the hands to twist up a little bit to reach the keys that are in the middle of both hands' reach. These two features result in less, and more natural, motion for the user's hand while typing. There is a generous gel palm rest across the front of the keyboard. A large number of function and programmable keys are added to the back and the left edge of the keyboard, while a regular numbers' pad is positioned on the right. Four arrow keys can be found between the alphanumeric keyboard and the numbers' pad, along with the usual Home/End/Delete/PageUp/PageDown keys.

    The keyboard comes with a truly diminutive USB dongle, a configuration DVD (you can also download what you need, that's what we did), an additional USB cable to relocate the dongle for wireless connectivity reasons if needed (a nice touch, although we did not find it was needed for any of our office set-ups at ConsumerPla.net) and the usual warranty papers. Wireless for the keyboard (and other Logitech devices working with the same transmitter/ dongle) uses standard 2.4GHz technology, which provides more performance than first generation devices.

    Build quality
    The K350 appears well built, with significant heft, and shows good looks to boot: "well built, with a classy rich look", "very nice looking keyboard", "high quality of manufacture", "Very good build quality","Logitech has made a fine, quality product in this one","I really like this keyboard. It is well built.","Comfortable and well constructed","High quality design","solid build quality"

    Wireless Connectivity
    The plague of wireless keyboards is poor wireless connectivity, but the Wave operates well in wireless mode for almost all users: "never has missed a key press", "no problems with loss of connection", "I was concerned at first about the reach the absolutely tiny usb dongle supplied with the keyboard would have, but I'm typing a good 10 feet from where it's plugged in and everything works perfectly. Zero delay","mine is plugged into the back of my laptop dock in the bottom slot with zero line-of-sight to the mouse and keyboard.. yet they function perfectly","very responsive... no lag at all. ","solid wireless connection, no lags or misses ", "no key response lag or another other issues that seem to plague some wireless keyboard."

    A small percentage of users, however, does have trouble with connectivity: "it randomly loses connection", "it says 2.4 ghz wireless is supposed to give you 30 ft of connectivity, but there should be a disclaimer about that. I have my receiver plugged into the back of my computer, located under my desk (not enclosed). About 10 feet away from the computer, I already experience some lag and decreased signal strength","wireless reception isn't flawless: if I don't type for a while, the keyboard doesn't react immediately to the first keypush. It is almost as if the keyboard is waking up after a period of inactivity","at first I plugged the receiver into the back of my modem and was finding it dropped the reaction time of the mouse and keyboard a little but, but I have a USB extension port on my desk, so I plugged the receiver into it; works flawlessly now","I have it only about 1 foot away from the receiver that is plugged into my USB hub now. Most of the time it's ok BUT then there are times when it just fails to respond at all." Negative feedback on wireless connectivity, however, represents a very small percentage of users, significantly lower than other wireless keyboards we have investigated.

    Battery power
    Wireless keyboards are battery-powered. The length of the battery charge is a frequent source of complaints. Not for the Wave K350 though: "battery seems to last forever", "long battery life","to my surprise, after several months, it still shows fully charged batteries. I was cynical about the claimed battery life. I never turn the PC or keyboard off. Apparently Logitech's claim about long battery life is not an exaggeration."

    Reviewers are pleased with how easy the K350 is to set up, a task that is not always easy with wireless keyboards: "plug the tiny USB adapter into your computer, and it is instantly set", "set up was as simple as inserting the unifying receiver and making sure the keyboard's batteries made contact", "Logitech software to pair the keyboard to my already existing adapter was easy to use and worked the first time", "Simple simple simple installation","Good documentation and online help", "it took less than 5 minutes to download and install. So far, I have not found that program to be bloated with unnecessary features and settings like so many other supposedly required hardware applications","easy installation."

    The K350 gets rave reviews about its ergonomics. It is worth reading some of this feedback: "I find the ergonomic design very comfortable", 'the ergonomic shape is perfect - not ridiculously spaced out like the Microsoft one, but not flat like a cheap keyboard",  "so comfortable and easy to use", "it is ergonomic (that wave design really fits my hand nice)", "I wanted something with a curve to it - but not one of those awful split allegedly ergonomic keyboards. This fit the bill perfectly", "comfortable. The wave shape and the slightly upturned keys make it easy to type for an extended period. Additionally, the wrist rest here is slightly padded and very comfortable as well", "the ergonomics isn't overkill", "I like the slight wave design and wrist rest is very comfortable", "as for the comfort of the layout, I've never had better"," It is amazingly comfortable, reducing strain on your hands.","the Wave shape of the keyboard also helps relive stress on your wrists as well","contoured curved key design is amazing for comfort","I was looking for a good comfortable keyboard, and this is the best one Ive found.","This one is ergonomic which is great. Unlike some Ergo ones I have tried this one has just a slight angle which is much more comfortable","the slight curve design is a great compromise between standard keyboards and ergonomic keyboards. It feels comfortable and natural to me, and I've been typing on ergonomic keyboards for years. It also works well for my wife, who is more used to using standard and laptop keyboards. ","it feels like my fingers are taking a vacation when I switch from any other keyboard to this one. This Software Developers says, this keyboard rocks","I like the wave layout of the keyboard","love the wave design, fast and comfortable","my wrists and arms are never in stress due to the great ergonomics","excellent and comfortable keyboard."

    It should be clear, though, that the Wave is not a extreme ergonomic keyboard. The feedback clearly shows that it works well for average users who are not deeply affected by RSI. But the curve of the keyboard and the height differences in the keys are not as pronounced as in those true ergonomic keyboards such as the Goldtouch or the Kinesis, which are typically used by people with significant RSI issues.

    Some RSI users actually rate the K350 high: "I have nerve damage starting from my neck down to my fingers. The comfort in this keyboard is much better then the curved Microsoft keyboard. I have small hands so the split keyboards never worked for me. This keyboard is a great blend of ergonomics and comfort. But if you have pain in the wrists, arms or neck and need a solid, ergonomic, comfortable keyboard then this is your best choice", "I looked hard at getting a Goldtouch Go!, Kinesis Freestyle, and MS Ergonomic 4000. I tried the 4000 out at BB. The keys were hard to push and the build quality wasn't there. I could see that all the complaints about the hard-to-push spacebar and other keys were spot on. The ergonomic split design is great, but what's the point if your hands hurt from having to exert too much pressure to push a key? ... Also, reviewers mention that ...[The Go! and Freestyle] keyboards are relatively fragile and tend to break over time, requiring constant replacement.. I thought this [K350] was a better decision than going with the Go! or the Freestyle, for my needs."

    However, to other users, it is clear that the K350 represents a compromise between ergonomics for RSI and standard look-and-feel. It is probably reasonable to say that the K350 is an excellent choice for the general population and for some with slight RSI issues, but that those with deep RSI issues might want to look further into more specialized keyboards: "great compromise of ergonomics and price","the padded wrist wrist is comfortable to me but would potentially get in the way if you use a pull out keyboard drawer.", "I don't think the wave design makes a big difference on the wrist strain, but it does conform to differing length of your fingers better. If you want the maximum ergonomics benefits, then I would get the kind where the keyboard is split into two sections." "wave design isn't as ergonomic as a split keyboard, but it's not bad and feels comfortable. The gel palmrest is high quality and comfortable"

    Feel/ Keys
    A good keyboard needs to be good to type on. The K350 scores extremely high with the very large majority of its users, who rave about the comfortable feel and the silence of the action: "key action to be light and butter smooth", "keys are in the right place & easy to type error-free", "The typing is silent and very enjoyable", "the key are very quick and responsive. I just have to press the and they click (a nice, quiet sound) into life",  "excellent key touch: slightly firm, positive feedback, and keys solidly in place", "It has a nice feel when I'm typing", "there is a 'soft' quality to the keys, which I really like and as a result, typing is quiet (great for taking notes while on the phone).", "quiet. The keys don't make much sound, so the folks in the cubes around me aren't bothered by my typing","the feel of the keys is solid and the bounce-back is perfectly tuned,"Everything feels natural and keys have a good, solid feel to them"," The key strokes are smooth--though full keystrokes--I prefer a slightly smaller keystroke but that is preference. There is a nice soft feel at the end of the stroke. There are three elevation options--I like the middle one and that is nice to have the options between flat and fully elevated","I also found that I was able to type 10-15% faster than a standard keyboard. Every single button feels great, going to replace every keyboard I have with this","the Logitech keyboard feels like the perfect device for typing.","keys are full-sized and relatively easy to push","keys are pretty quiet"," the keys are easy to reach and locate even in low light","so easy to type with. Keys are just right, slightly on a curve but not too much that you have to get used to them and not much pressure is needed on the keys","super quiet."

    A small minority of users has issues with the keys, finding them slightly narrow, too mushy or too stiff, or, in general, not suited to speed typing: "the keyboard was just not comfortable to type on. Compared to more standard keyboards, the keys are significantly narrower and taller. I often found myself accidentally hitting keys adjacent to the ones I intended to press. Other reviewers have mentioned the "squishy" feel of the keys","feel nice but types so slow","compared to my other Logitech keyboard, the keys are a little stiffer and I have to apply a little more pressure to get keys depressed."," like nearly all keyboards now-a-days, a tiny bit mushy","keys feel slightly mushy (at least compared to Thinkpad keyboards). They could use more "springiness" and be even easier to push. Maybe I need to break in this keyboard." This negative feedback affects a small percentage of all reviews.

    Wireless Transmitter
    The wireless transmitter is a surprisingly small USB plug-in card: "it uses unifying, the usb receiver is super tiny", "USB connector is super small and very powerful", "unifying receiver is tiny and convenient","tiniest receiver ever."

    Single transmitter for several wireless devices
    Logitech introduced the Unifying concept approximately two years ago. Compatible wireless devices may all use the same wireless dongle, freeing extra USB ports for other uses:  "uses the universal feature from Logitech, so it shares the same nano-dongle as my mouse, thus using only a single USB for both", "unifying software works perfectly - two devices using one USB receiver","unifying receiver options--especially with a unifying mouse can really minimize desktop clutter","the unifying wireless receiver is very nice","Paired with my Logictech Anywhere mouse I use the unifying receiver and use only 1 USB port. Love that!","look for the word Unifying with Logitech products","unifying USB receiver allows me to use both my mouse and keyboard with a single USB wireless receiver - great!"

    The K350 comes with a large number of programmable keys and functions, and surprisingly easy to use set-up software."all sorts of programmable keys on the top, which I use all the time","very easy to customize the keyboard to your liking", "very programmable. There are a large number of programmable keys, many pre-programmed, that allow you to customize the keyboard to the way you work. One button push and I've got my development environment up and loading!",  "Programmable keys and additional software a plus", "easy to program keys to do what you want", "programming options are great.","I was skeptical over its being easy-to-use. Wow, was I wrong ... after installation I was able to use it immediately and it's sooo easy","keyboard is extremely customizable." Very few users report programming glitches: "not all the pre-programmed keys work for every computer. Don't know why, but the pre-programmed key for the battery status and web search just seem to do nothing. Word, Excel, zoom, and audio keys all work perfectly though. No big deal, as they're re-programmable, but odd, none the less."

    Layouts for keyboards, in general, do not have a single absolute standard to follow. As a result, all keyboards always find a small number of users for whom layout is not optimal, or simply not what they expect. We feel that the K350 layout could have benefited from being a little more standard in its positioning of function and optional keys. While most people like the K350 layout, some have complaints about areas where the keyboard could have been more standard or slightly differently laid out:  "the function buttons are nice", "it's very smooth, and has all the custom buttons you could ask for... ", "simplified layout with less buttons", "the keyboard shape and key arrangement is very comfortable and easy to adapt to in a short amount of time", "I would have preferred more separation between the left and right halves of the keyboard....until I got used of it, I kept hitting the G instead the H key and vice versa....not a problem after I got used of it", "only problem for the keyboard is the keys could be a little bit bigger", "Keyboard spacing may be issue for some people with smaller hands. Graphics on up and down arrow keys just wrong. Delete home and end - key placement not as comfortable as older designs","the function keys along the top have a different feel to them",""PgUp, PgDn, Home, End, Ins, Del" key cluster is in a non-standard configuration which renders it pretty useless if, like me, you use these keys in your daily work."", "A little hard to get used to the layout, especially if you use the function keys a lot."

    Missing NumLock/ Caps Lock indicator
    More than a few users would like to see a visual indicator to verify whether NumLock and Caps Lock are on or off. For a wireless keyboard, the issue is difficult to resolve, since a light will directly impact battery life for the keyboard: "in order for you to see that if caps-lock or num-lock are on, or to use the neat buttons on the sides (play music, etc) you need to have a program running in the background. The actual keyboard itself works well without this (just start typing to see if you are in caps-lock), but it is frustrating that you should require another memory-chugging program in the back just to do things that are advertised in the keyboard","my only complaint is that there is not indicator light when the cap-lock or num-lock is on","I do wish it had lighted symbols to let you know if caps lock is on or num lock is activated. That makes it more of a pain when putting in passwords."

    Less functionality for the Mac
    Logitech shows the K350 are Mac-compatible, and it can indeed function on a Mac - but beware the fact that some programming functionality will not be available, particularly for programming keys: "I've read in some google searching, that this keyboard wouldn't completely work with a Mac. I took the risk and can't regret it. It's an awesome keyboard for my MacBook Pro. Good keys size and positioning, very efficient cushion base, apparently very well constructed and beautiful (and it has some minor Mac keyboard icons on ALT and Windows keys","only available for Windows XP, Vista, and 7","this DOES work with mac","as some pointed, you cannot use the Logitech software to configure the extra keys with user defined actions on the Mac OS X, but a lot of them works without any software or extra driver. Just plug the (very tiny) usb receiver and you'll get the "Next", "Prev", "Play/Pause", "Stop", "Vol Up", "Vol Down", "Mute" and "Turn Off" buttons working. The ones that should be dead are the "Settings App", "Photo App", "Music App", "Media Center", "Calculator", "Zoom Up", "Zoom Down" and "Switch App."

    Large size
    The primary con for this keyboard is its size, not unduly large (about the same size as the Microsoft Comfort keyboard), but still large enough for some to complain about it: "it's large and a little on the heavy side, 19 x 10 inches, so it can hog desk space and is not easy tossed aside", "big - because of the wave shape and extra programmable keys, as well as the wrist rest, this keyboard is very large. If you're putting it on a keyboard tray, measure first.", "on the larger side, with the attached padding and miscellaneous buttons","the keyboard is loaded with programmable convenience keys, resulting in a large footprint. I use 3 or 4 of these keys so the volume of them is overkill for me; maybe not the case for other users. With fewer convenience keys the footprint could be reduced","this keyboard is big! Bigger than it really need be"," It's very large compared to the Mac keyboard, so make sure you have space for it and look at the measurements."

    Lack of backlighting
    Wireless keyboard have a hard time with backlighting, since they are typically battery powered. Several users requested backlighting on the K350:  "the only thing I wish for is backlit keys in a wireless keyboard."

    The K350 is one of those rare products with an outstanding customer satisfaction index. These are some of the conclusions drawn by its users: "Overall, if I needed to buy another keyboard today, I'd buy another one of these", "surprisingly excellent product","this is a keeper for me, and I am picky on my keyboards","it's comfortable, convenient, and customizable, which are really the only things you need when looking for a keyboard. ","in the 23 year I have used computers, this is far and away the best keyboard I have ever used","Everything I wanted and needed in a keyboard. Easy to use, ergonomic and a well designed","very easy to connect, works perfect, is very comfortable, the quality is fine", "overall, I think this is a wonderful keyboard, and one of the best out there","it's easily the best keyboard I've owned."

    Better than the anecdotal evidence provided by these great user reviews, the K350 shows excellent feedback statistics, with 84% positive reviews and a likely error of up to 6% ( 125 positive reviews over 148 total, across Amazon, Newegg, TigerDirect and the Logitech home site). Wireless ergonomic keyboards are notorious for the poor statistical reviews, in particular around ergonomics and wireless connectivity. The K350 scores extremely well, at the very top of its category. In fact, we have recently adopted it as one of our standard office keyboards at ConsumerPla.net.

    We recommend the Logitech Wave K350 wireless ergonomic keyboard to any user without significant, established RSI issues, with the understanding that, based on your personal dimensions and usage patterns, it may or may not be a perfect fit, but that it is statistically likely to work well with you.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Ammunition Survey: Best Rifle Cartridges Overall

    Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 10: Ammunition Survey Recommendations

    In the past sections, after reviewing the general results of the ammunition survey, we analyzed them in detail by categories. The above chart displays all the cartridges that were mentioned in section conclusions, whether or not they were recommended. We can now summarize our findings across all categories.

    Recommendations: most affordable and available calibers
    • 22LR is, by far, the cheapest caliber overall, and the best choice for the most frequently used rifle at the range: it is a clear winner for trainer caliber. 
    • In the rimfire category, the 22LR leads the 17HMR and the 22 WMR. The 17HMR and 22WMR, better options for small varmint hunting, are approximately three times more expensive to shoot, but still significantly cheaper than any centerfire option.
    • Across all centerfire calibers, the 7.62x39 Soviet is the cheapest, in all senses of the word. For centerfire practice, we recommend the next most inexpensive cartridge, the 223 Remington, which, while a bit more expensive, is much more accurate and versatile.
    • Among varmint calibers, the 223 Remington is over 50% cheaper to shoot than its alternatives.
    • In 6mm caliber, the 243, a very popular cartridge, is the most economical to shoot. It also provides little recoil and fine long range accuracy. The 257 Roberts and the 6.5x55, both with great reputation and ability, more versatile than the .243, do not make the cut on availability and affordability grounds.
    • Among the 7mm calibers below .30, the 270 Winchester is the least expensive to shoot, and the 7mm Remington Magnum, more expensive, also carries more punch, as much range, and more recoil. The 7mm-08, although pricier, is an excellent alternative for shooters looking for low recoil.
    • Among the popular .30 caliber rounds, the most available and cost effective are the 30-30, the 308 and the 30-06; the 7.62x39 is a special case, inherited from Eastern block military weapons, large but short and imprecise, made for injuring men rather than practicing marksmanship or killing game, and not well suited to regular hunting or range applications except for its low cost. The 300 Winchester Magnum is the best option among the 300s.
    • Of the medium bores, the 338 Winchester Magnum is the only choice for availability, but, surprisingly, shows very high cost in the category.
    • Among the large bores, the only rounds with good availability are the 45-70 Government (great in brush and for any game in the US) and the 375 H&H Magnum, a cartridge with a long African and European history, the smallest of the large bores but also the most successful - the first truly universal cartridge able to be able to tackle any game on the planet.

    Recommendations by purpose, to optimize cost of ownership and availability
    • Training, plinking: 22LR
    • Centerfire shooting practice: 223 Remington ( the 7.62x39 is slighter cheaper to shoot, but we find the 223 Remington much more versatile)
    • Small varmint hunting: 22WMR, 17HMR
    • Varmint hunting: 223 Remington
    • Deer hunting, low recoil: 243 (least expensive), 25-06, 7mm-08 (more expensive)
    • Deer hunting, brush: 30-30 Winchester
    • Deer hunting, any recoil: 270 Winchester, 308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 7mm Remington Magnum
    • All around US hunting: 30-06 Springfield, 308 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum
    • All around US hunting, low recoil: 7mm-08 (more expensive)
    • Large US game: 300 Winchester Magnum (the 338 Win Mag is more than double its cost)
    • Dangerous game: 375 H&H Magnum, 45-70 Government
    • African big game: 375 H&H Magnum
    These recommendations are specifically made with cost of ownership and availability as primary criteria, and are based on the ammunition survey. We can also look at the availability of rifle chamberings,  and derive similar conclusions from them. The next few sections will review our survey of rifle chamberings, along with our survey analysis.

      Monday, November 22, 2010

      Cost Effective Big Bore Cartridges

      Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 9: Big Bore Cartridges

      The big bore cartridges, like the medium bores, count very few rounds with significant availability, making a selection of obvious winners easy.

      Among the "African" big bores suited to any game worldwide, the clear winner is the 375 H&H Magnum (often classified as a medium bore), with broad general availability and a wide selection of SKUs to choose from. We were expecting to find good availability for the popular 416 Rigby, the 458 Lott, the 458 Winchester Magnum, and possibly the new 375 Ruger. None of them can be recommended on the basis of availability, in particular with the 375 Ruger being very difficult to find and with very few options. Of the other three, the 458 Winchester Magnum has the most availability, with a smaller number of choices, and presents a high price of $88 per box. The 458 Lott also counts fewer SKUs to choose from (too little to recommend), with spotty availability to boot, and a more reasonable price of $64. The 416 Rigby of African fame has still  fewer choices, with spotty availability as well. It price of $126 per box gives one severe sticker choice, only surpassed by the astronomical amount of $136 for the "ultimate" 460 Weatherby Magnum.

      The big surprise of the African big bores is the 470 Nitro Express, fairly available with good selection, for a hefty but not unexpected price of $88 per box, almost double that of the 375 H&H Magnum. Of course, this is not a round that one would expect to find in a small country store in the middle of the US.

      Among "American" big bores, the traditional 45-70 Government, ever popular, gathers the crown, with a box price of $47 (about the same as the 375 H&H) and broad cartridge availability. We were expecting to see some reasonable availability for the 444 Marlin. While its price, as that of the 450 Marlin, positively surprised us at $30, its availability is spotty, and there is little cartridge choice. The 45-70 is an excellent brush cartridge, but, despite its size and weight, does not provide the range or the power of the African-capable 375 H&H. As usual, this does not mean that you cannot take African game with it - it simply means that other cartridges are better suited to take very large, thick skinned, dangerous game of African size, in particular beyond 150 yards.

      • Best African/ overall big bore: 375 H&H
      • Best big bore for US game: 45-70 Government
      • More African/ overall big bore options: 470 Nitro Express, 458 Winchester Magnum (fewer choices, high price: we endorse neither of them)

      Friday, November 19, 2010

      Cost Effective Medium Bore Cartridges

      Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 8: Medium Bore Cartridges

      The medium bores constitute one of the weakest categories, with their own share of contradictions and surprises. There is only one truly available cartridge in that batch, the excellent but heavy recoiling 338 Winchester Magnum, with an expensive cost of $55 per box. Every other medium bore cartridge was flagged for spotty or low availability - that was our first surprise. In particular, we were expecting to see reasonable availability from the 338 Federal - we were disappointed. Our second surprise was that the second most available cartridge (albeit still spotty) in the category was the largely unknown (in the US) 9.3x62.

      Despite the 338 Win Mag's excellent availability, its cost of $55 per box was actually one of the highest in the category, while practically all other cartridges in the category were significantly cheaper: this was the third surprise of the category. The most cost effective round was the traditional 8x57, at $36 per box, followed by the 338 Federal and the unpopular but very good 9.3x62, both at $42 per box. The 338 Win Mag is actually the most expensive cartridge that we are recommending across all rifle rounds.

      All cartridges in the medium bore category deserve some interest. The 8x57 and 9.3x62, both European cartridges, have a lot of history and are sensible cartridges. In fact, the 9.3x62 can take CXP4 African game. The 35 Whelen and the 358 Winchester are US cartridges linked to some of the big characters of US hunting history - and represent solid hunting cartridges to boot, large enough to go after any CXP3 game. The 338 Federal, also a US cartridge, is an effective medium bore cartridge, good for 250 to 300 yards (depending upon the bullet and load), and with significantly lower recoil than the 338 Win Mag. As for the 340 Weatherby Mag, it is an outstanding medium bore Magnum with heavy punch, long range, and even heavier recoil. We like all of these cartridges, to varying degrees, but we cannot recommend them on the basis of availability.

      It is worth noting that the 375 H&H Magnum is often - although not always -  binned with the medium bores. We decided that, primarily because of recoil and of CXP4 capability, it really belonged with the big bores as far as we were concerned.

      • Best, although expensive, medium bore cartridge: 338 Win Mag
      • There is no second among the medium bores

      Next we review big bore cartridges... So come back soon!