Signs of the Zodiac

Those who know the Corinium range and me, are probably aware of my personal choice and liking for the range of titanium moderators produced by Simon Lawrence of Lawrence Precision in Nottingham, as well as for Blaser rifles and Swarovski scopes, all chosen for their build quality and faultless performance. Over the last couple of years I have extensively used and sold original Lawrence Precision Nexus models, both compact and standard versions as well as the more slender Aurora model and have supplied every variant that Simon manufactures across his entire range save for his most recent model, the Zodiac. During that time, the original .30 cal Nexus I bought has had well over 10,000 rounds through it and has performed flawlessly throughout and still sees over 200 rounds through it almost every week, both on the .308 range rifle and my own .30-06 and I seriously doubt whether there is a moderator anywhere in the country that has had the abuse that this one has seen in such a short space of time and not only has it survived but still performs as new and looks almost as good as the day I took delivery of it, not bad for the abuse it has taken which often includes rapid fire volleys making the barrel and mod far too hot to touch!

Now, as always, when setting up in the shooting industry, whether it be as a firearms dealer, a training provider, a professional stalker or a moderator manufacturer there will always be detractors – people who just like to see others fail, whether it be for jealousy, sheer bloody mindedness or personal reasons. The internet is full of disparaging remarks for nearly every product, often from people with little or poor knowledge of most of what they are writing about. A classic example of this is the often discussed subject of moderators (sound suppressors). As an exercise in futility try googling “Lightest, cheapest, shortest, quietest moderator” and settle down for one of the longest and largely most pointless days of your life. When a client comes to the range to discuss moderators, I lay the cards on the table – after much searching I now only deal with titanium, why? It’s light, it’s short, it’s tough and it’s quiet enough for the job in hand and above all I only offer quality goods and services that I am comfortable to endorse. Titanium is not a cheap material, ask AirBus, BA Systems or NASA! Without getting into the “best” moderator debate, I simply ask each customer what the most important feature is for their needs, and almost without fail the answer is, “I’d like a compact design that’s light, lasts forever, is really quiet and costs bugger all!”  Well let me shatter some more illusions, I’m not aware that The Holy Grail has ever been found as yet but we are not too far from the perfect moderator! Ok, so a reputable gun dealer will recommend a certain make, usually his own particular favourite, often based around making the highest margin, and in all fairness that’s about all he can do because he knows that the ideal doesn’t exist based on the criteria already laid down and above all else he wants to make a sale.

So, where is this all leading? A few weeks ago Simon Lawrence gave me a call to tell me that his latest moderator was now ready for a thorough testing, he’d given me a brief inkling a while ago saying he was working on something to silence the nay-sayers for good! We discussed various testing options and methods including decibel meters which seemed the obvious benchmark but as we found, the correct decibel meter for measuring rifle shot noise reduction isn’t easy to get hold of at short notice and as we further discovered there isn’t much wrong with the “mark one” human ear because after all that’s what most people judge a moderator with, and we were about to have 3 very discerning set’s of the “mark one ear” to test with!

Last Friday Simon drove down from Nottingham to watch me run a series of tests on various offerings including his new Nexus, an Eclipse (formerly his quietest moderator and largest in the range), and his latest offering, the Zodiac (based on the T8 beating Eclipse, but now with even more baffles inside). This time, Simon had really thrown himself to the lions as he’d also invited one of the owners of a Stalking Forum, Alex – the same forum with thousands of discerning shooters, a few purporting to be very knowledgeable on moderators and also from where he appears to attract both a large number of enviable endorsements as well as quite a few unwarranted criticisms from a small proportion of non Lawrence Precision moderator owners. Alex attended to witness the test for himself. The conditions were far from ideal with strong intermittent winds and rain showers but at least we were shooting from a covered firing point and had a number of popular moderators other than the Lawrence Precision range to play about with, including an ASE Utra Jet Z, a Northstar from the same manufacturer as well as some of Simon’s earlier offerings such as my original 2 year old Nexus (10,00 rounds plus to date) – I should add that ASE UTRA publish their decibel reduction levels online for all to see, whereas Simon has never made any claims whatsoever as to the effective levels of sound suppression due to the variables involved.

What followed was enlightening to say the least!

Simon had brought with him a standard decibel meter which was bought at the last minute to try and give a fair assessment of all findings, I’ve seen them before at the range with people trying to prove to themselves how effective their moderators are and sadly they are largely a waste of time as it proved on this occasion – the bang/boom needs to be recorded in a different way completely, and gives consistently inaccurate results at best with these type of meters so it was agreed by all 3 of us to use our ears and vote. We started with the mild steel Jet Z, one of the more popular and quietest mods for the lower to mid end of the market and at around £300 not cheap either. The rifle was my usual Blaser R8 in 308 with a 20″ barrel. Before I put the jet Z on the rifle I banged it on the table first and wasn’t surprised to see corrosion and carbon deposits falling out of the mod, not great for a two year old £300 piece of kit that’s had no more than 200 rounds through it – it did however perform as expected – I used one like it myself before I switched to the much lighter Titanium. Next was the North star, again heavy for its size, and whilst not as noticeably quiet as the Jet Z, was perfectly fit for purpose and being a little more compact and affordable than the Jet Z still has mass market appeal for lower to mid end budgets. Then came my original 2 year old Nexus, which as some people who have handled my rifle know is built for quality and perfect balance first and foremost, sound attenuation being third or fourth on my list of requirements, and as expected gave better perceived noise reduction than the Northstar and almost but not quite as quiet as the Jet Z (the new Nexus now comes with extra baffles to equal the attenuation of the jet Z whilst being around 40% lighter). The Nexus was also much lighter than the Northstar whilst being similar in width and in the same class as both Jet Z and Northstar.

Then it was time for the big guns, the new Nexus, Eclipse and the Zodiac. To cut a long story short, the new Nexus is designed to be an improvement on the old one, the new Eclipse has also been improved over the old one (borne out by Alex who brought one of Simons original Eclipses to the test) – then came the new Zodiac. Throughout the test we had all been wearing ear defenders, some people do and some don’t – spending the amount of time behind a rifle that I do, I’m never without them, however, out of curiosity after a couple of shots with the Zodiac we all removed them! What followed was a revelation! Several shots later we all unanimously agreed that the Zodiac knocked everything into a cocked hat by a full mile, whilst being lighter than the jet Z by around 30%, and was very shootable without ear defenders, even in the confines of the range shelter which was a first for me having tried almost every other moderator commercially available! Just for interest we took shots with the Jet Z and the Northstar offerings and only the newer Eclipse and Zodiac were completely comfortable to shoot without ear defenders in the shooting shelter- obviously a number of moderators didn’t even make the test, some aluminium offerings, a T8 reflex, a Wildcat and other brands – the reason being we wanted to test titanium against the most popular moderators with a published reduction – don’t get me wrong, the other brands have their place in the market but I don’t see them as serious contenders in terms of quality or in most cases weight, size, performance or longevity.

There are obviously those who will see me as biased, as I use the product myself, but I did buy them, I chose them to do a demanding and specific job which they do relentlessly and reliably day in and day out, not only on the range but in the field. The final test was for Alex, his short barreled 30-06 with a spicy home load, obviously it passed with flying colours and his own Eclipse is going back to Simon to be updated to the newer specification internals shortly. In summary, we found the new Nexus to equal the jet Z for attenuation, whilst being around half the weight and retaining its slender profile and balance. The Eclipse was designed to better the T8 in weight, attenuation, size and longevity whilst the Zodiac put all else to shame. In terms of noise suppression, muzzle flip and recoil reduction both the Eclipse and Zodiac wiped the floor with the competition whilst retaining their short and compact profile and although the widest of the Lawrence Precision range they are still smaller and narrower than the T8 and the wildcat so still look the part! I am in no doubt that the Zodiac is by far the quietest moderator commercially available whilst being around 30% lighter than even a mid range Jet Z let alone the much larger and heavier T8 or wildcat! Will I be having one? The barrel goes away next week for fitting! Any downsides? Just the usual which, as usual will delight the nay sayers – the cost is still the same – but as I’ve said a thousand times, if you want the best then you will have to pay for it and when that cost comes with a personal service and lifetime warranty to boot in the long term long it does make them excellent value for money and Simon assures me that whilst the Zodiac and Eclipse rightly hold top place in the moderator market he won’t be resting on his Laurels – perfection is seldom achieved and moderator development is always progressing and Simon fully intends to keep up his own product development to maintain his current position.

 

 

 

 

In Summary

 

 

Weight  – lightest first

Nexus –  390 grams

Eclipse – 420 grams

Zodiac – 460 grams

Ase Jet Z – 570 grams

Ase Northstar – 700 grams

 

Noise attenuation – quietest first

Zodiac

Eclipse         

Ase jet Z (published 28-32 db reduction)  Nexus (Similar)

Ase Northstar (published 25-26 db)

 

Size – largest first

Northstar, Eclipse, Zodiac (all similar)

Nexus & Ase Jet Z (similar)

 

Within the next few days the new Zodiac will be on the range and as always will be available for demo alongside other offerings of Simons, please feel free to give us a call to demo one of these fantastic moderators.

 

Safe Shooting.

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