Friday, December 7, 2018

Target Sports Prime Ammo Club Review

This is another long development post I've been working on all year.  Back in 2017, I learned about the Target Sports USA Prime Ammo Club.  The Prime Ammo program allows you to pay an up front membership fee of $95 for the year and purchase ammunition at a reduced price with free shipping for a 12 month period.  I was familiar with Target Sports from previous orders placed with them so this new program caught my attention.    

I'm generally reluctant to purchase memberships that require me to spend money now for the privilege of spending more money later.  The membership benefits have to be compelling and offer a significant perception of value to get serious consideration from me.  In my case, I tend to buy one or two boxes of several different loads many times per year when I'm working on gun reviews.  If the Prime Ammo membership could save me money on ammo, that would reduce my out of pocket expense to produce a review.  I decided to take a chance on it.

Target Sports lists 4 main benefits of Prime Ammo membership on their website.  That seems like a good way to review my membership after nearly 12 months have passed.   

Buy ammunition at wholesale level...You will be able to buy ammo at our cost all year long and save
This might be true.  I'm not sure of the exact margins in the ammunition industry so I really can't comment on if you are indeed buying at Target Sports invoice cost from the manufacturer.  What I can confirm is that with a Prime Ammo membership, you will pay 8 percent less per item versus buying the same item without a membership.  Let's walk through an example.

Federal HST 9mm 124 grain +P being sold for $29.99 to any customer visiting the website will cost $27.59 for Prime Ammo members.  That's a straight 8% discount on every ammunition item.  In this specific example that's a savings of $2.40.  What I really liked was the discount applies to ALL items.  Even the items put on special for non Prime members.  The discounts can really add up.

  • Free Shipping on ALL orders...You will receive free shipping on all ammunition orders all the time 
This is true.  No hidden fees or charges.  Order a box of 50 22LR it ships free.  Place an order for 5 mixed boxes of 40 S&W, 22LR, 9mm, 7.62x39, and 25 Auto and it still ships free.  I had 11 orders shipped to me during me this year without a single problem caused by improper packing or ammunition damaged in transit.  Order processing and shipping speed was a bit of a concern in the early months, but it has continued to improve over the last 12 months.  Let's look at my last order in detail.

-  Order placed Sunday 11/18 at 5pm
-  Order delivered Saturday 11/24 12:43pm
All orders placed this year were delivered by FedEx.  I think that's great because FedEx delivers on Saturdays and that might mean you can use your ammo on Sunday versus having to wait from Friday to Monday for the next delivery from UPS.  I also generally like the delivery folks and package handling care of FedEx over their competition in our area. 

  • Exclusive ammo deals...Members only email notifications on a monthly basis for members only
I had forgotten about this member benefit until writing up this review.  I get weekly email notification from Target Sports with special sale pricing, but nothing specific for Prime Ammo members.  That said, the same sale items in the weekly email blasts are discounted an additional 8% for Prime Ammo members.  I can't really say if this is true or false, but I'm leaning toward this was a benefit that didn't get implemented in 2018.

  • One low annual fee... If you order ammo online three to fives times per year, the PAM pays for itself!
With so many variables involved here, I really can't tell you if this will be true or false in your specific circumstances.  Let's stick with examples and see how it works out.  Let's say we want to order 5 boxes of Hornady Critical Defense 9mm.  We'll use Midway USA and Target Sports as our two competing examples.

 - Midway ammo total $87.95 + $11.39 shipping = $99.34 total delivered cost.
 - Target Sports ammo total $80.45 + Free shipping = $80.45 total delivered cost.
Single order cost savings ammo plus shipping = $18.89

How much you buy per order, from whom, and how far you live from the shipper all factor into the final delivered price you pay for ammo.  As shipping prices continue to increase, the value of the free shipping component of the Prime Ammo membership should also increase.  If you've previously ordered ammo, you should have a pretty good idea of shipping fees to your area of the country and be able to estimate how many orders you will need to place before covering your up front membership cost.  

The unexpected benefit I received about 8 months after joining was this gift package containing an assortment of ammunition in calibers I had previously ordered.  I'm sure there are occasions when packaging gets damaged in the warehouse.  It appears that Target Sports would rather give away the ammunition than try to sell it as damaged packaging or partial boxes.  Total value estimated at about $33.00 and delivered free.  

As I previously mentioned, it's been almost a year since I started my Prime Ammo membership.  In the next few weeks I'll need to decide if I will continue for another year, or allow my membership to lapse.  The overall experience has been very positive for me so chances are pretty good that I'll renew again for at least another year.  Selection has been good, prices have been declining, and order processing/shipping speed continues to improve.  The only real risk I see to pre-paying for another year is if there happens to be another run on ammo and availability dries up.  That's just a risk I'll have to take and hope that doesn't happen.

I'll wrap this up with a photo of the Target Sports Team that arrived in my email just before Thanksgiving with holiday greetings and their thanks for my membership.  

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Knife For All Seasons - My Year In Blades

The genesis of this post started during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales of 2017.  At the time, one of the big knife retailers was offering a free Kershaw Shuffle with a purchase of $75.  I had no interest in spending another $75+ on a knife at the time to get the free Shuffle, but that knife caught my eye.  That lead me to Ebay and ultimately the purchase of the newer model Kershaw Shuffle II.  When it arrived, I made a conscious decision that I would carry that knife every day until I lost it.

I've acquired a few knives over the years.  Some have stories about why I bought them, and others do not.  I rarely carry a knife with me for the ever-present fear of losing it.  The Shuffle II presented me with the opportunity to try my luck daily carrying a knife in a low risk fashion.  If I lost it, I was out less than $20.  I decided to take the risk....and a funny thing happened.  3 months later I hadn't lost the knife.  Flush with new enthusiasm, I dug into my treasure trove and picked a new knife for the next three months.  9 months later, I had daily carried 4 different knives for three months each.  This post documents that story. 

I'm not a knife snob. I have no opinion on the virtues and vices of various types of blade steel. I'm not particularly interested in knowing if a knife is sharp enough to shave my arm, or if it can cut newspaper to ribbons.  I didn't even know what jimping was until I watched my first YouTube knife review.  I buy knives based on how they look, or after reading the experiences and recommendations of people I trust.  I'm not particularly loyal to any brand.  I've never bothered to change the pocket clip location on any knife I've purchased.  Preferring to carry it the way it was set up at the factory.  Don't even try to have the tip up or tip down carry argument with me.

All knives discussed in this post were purchased by me at the prevailing market price at the time of purchase.  I've listed MSRP for each knife, but I'll tell you I paid significantly less by shopping for deals, and not being in a big rush to buy.

Quarter 1 - Kershaw Shuffle II  MSRP $31.49

The Kershaw Shuffle II was purchased new for less than $20.  My eye is drawn to tanto and reverse tanto blades.  I'm not sure why, but the shape has always been appealing to me versus other blade shapes.  I was also drinking quite a few different IPAs last year that came in bottles with pry-off caps.  The bottle opener was a plus.  The Shuffle II also includes a screwdriver/scraper.  It was by far the knife that offered the most features and functions.  After a little use it opened easily and locked up tight with no discernible blade wiggle.  If I hadn't decided to switch knives at the end of 3 months, I would still be carrying this knife every day.  I think it's an incredible value for the price.

Quarter 2 - Benchmade 2550 Mini Reflex  MSRP $Discontinued

I bought this knife for one reason.  Jack Bauer used this knife in an early episode of the 24 TV series.  I was living abroad when 24 first aired so I was a few seasons behind when I eventually started watching.  I'd always wanted an auto-opening knife. Even though they weren't legal to carry at the time of purchase, you could still legally purchase and own one in my state.  That was always confusing to me.  I could legally carry any concealed carry handgun of my choice, but an automatic opening knife was not legal to carry.  Luckily, our state enacted subsequent changes to our carry regulations for both knives and firearms that made it perfectly legal to carry auto-opening knives.

For quarter 2 I carried the Mini-Reflex.  Once the cool factor wore off, it wasn't much different than carrying any other knife.  It did have a learning curve to remember to deactivate and activate the blade lock safety after each use.  The smooth operating push button must be activated to both open and close the knife.  It also required two hands, or one hand and a leg, to fold the knife after use due to the spring pressure required to automatically open the blade.  The blade locks up tight when opened with no side play.  This is another knife I would be very happy to carry every day as long as I didn't leave our state and end up in another state with different knife regulations.  Now is a great time to remind you all to check your own local laws before purchasing and carrying knives.

Quarter 3 - Benchmade 940  MSRP  $215

If there is a story behind the purchase of this knife, I've completely forgotten about it.  I believe this was one of those pure impulse purchases that will often lead to a bad case of buyer's remorse down the road.  In this particular case, no buyer's remorse on my part.  Having previously mentioned my nearly fetish-like attraction to tanto and reverse tanto blades, it's pretty easy to see why I thought this Osborne designed folder was too pretty to pass up.  Initially, I thought this knife might be a little too large for every day carry.  Also, I wasn't crazy about the purple spine running down the back of the knife.  Other than that, I was very pleased with my purchase.

The 940 series knives feature the Axis lock system.  Again, a little bit of a learning curve getting used to the system, but once acclimated I really appreciated keeping my thumb out of harms way when closing a knife equipped with this system.  My concerns that the 940 might be a little large for daily pocket carry were unfounded.  It quickly taught me that size doesn't matter as much with the pocket carry of knives as it does with pocket carried handguns.  For the third quarter in a row, I decided I would be very happy to carry this knife on a daily basis.  Time marched on and 90 days had passed.

Quarter 4 - Chris Reeves Small Sebenza 21 MSRP $375

You know those people that buy themselves a Rolex watch on a major milestone birthday?  I'm not one of those people, but I have been known to buy myself something nice to celebrate another trip around the sun, or 50.  I purchased this knife several years ago when I was really into things made of titanium and wanted to experience the Chris Reeve mystique for myself.  Those that own Sebenzas seem to think the world of them.  I thought long and hard about going for the large or small Sebenza and ultimately decided on the small.

No learning curve with this knife.  Push it open with your thumb and the automatic frame lock activates with a satisfying snap letting you know it's good to go.  Almost 90 days into my Reeves experience and the knife is still as stiff to open as it was when I first took it out of the box several years ago.  It appears to be a knife that will break in over a lifetime of service.  A tanto blade was available, but I decided to try the insingo blade and have been very happy with it.  This is the first knife I've ever had with a lanyard.  A Sebenza staple, I found it handy and annoying at the same time.  If I ever send the Sebenza back for service, I think I'll have them remove the lanyard.  This was certainly another knife I would be very happy carrying every day.

Things Learned

I started to call this section lessons learned, but it didn't really fit.  After a year of daily knife carry I learned that I'm not a very demanding knife user.  I did find it handy to always have a knife on hand, but it's not like I took up whittling or some other knife intensive hobby.  Any of these 4 knives were up to any challenge I presented.

Size and weight of the knives really didn't matter as much as I thought it would when starting out a year ago.  Even the largest knives in weight, width, and length were unnoticed clipped to my right pocket.  The only issue I ever had was squeezing through tight spaces and having the pocket clip drag on something.  Like when squeezing between your car and a stack of boxes and the clip drags on your fender.  Ask me how I know.

In the look and feel department, I liked the black finished blades over the satin stainless blades.  I really liked the 940 Osborne blade shape and Axis lock feature.  I appreciated the convenience of the automatic opening Mini Reflex.  I curtailed consumption of IPAs in March so while the bottle opener was handy, it was no longer a desired feature.  With all this new knowledge, the only thing I could do was seek out my ultimate knife that I would carry for all of 2019.

My search brought me back to Benchmade and the 9555 Auto Rift.  While looking at various websites at different models and available options, I accidentally landed on the Benchmade Shot Show 2018 Limited Rift.  While it lacks the automatic opening of the Auto Rift, it had the most beautiful black and blue carbon fiber and G10 scales I had ever seen.  Boom....done deal.  Benchmade collectors, the value of your NIB 2018 Shot Show knife just went up because I'll be using this one.

Benchmade 2018 Shot Show Limited Edition 950 Rift  MSRP  $315

So that's my story.  I hope you enjoyed our trip down Cutlery Lane.  All good stories need supporting characters and I'll close this out with two other knives that ride with me daily.

The Kershaw Cinder is the handiest keychain knife I've ever had.  The stout, but tiny liner locked blade has been up to any task I've put it on.  Added bonus of on board bottle opener if needed.  A great buy for MSRP  $11.54.

The Smith and Wesson 911 First Response Emergency Tool has been discontinued/replaced by a new model in the 12+ years I've owned it.  Hopefully, I'll never need it.  If I do, I know the serrated blade will cut through a seat belt like butter.  It's razor sharp and can be used as a prying tool if needed.  A spring-loaded tungsten carbide glass breaker rounds out the package.