There was a clever commercial many years back where a guy with a chocolate bar accidentally collides with a guy carrying a jar of peanut butter. The peanut butter spilled all over the chocolate and voilà—a new taste sensation was born.
This kind of dynamic pairing occurred recently in the shooting world, but it was no accident. It was carefully planned and executed by the Yamaha ATV Marketing department and the training staff at Gunsite Academy.
Yamaha assembled a group of ATV writers and gun writers at Gunsite to introduce the company’s newest Tactical ATVs. Ruger supplied all hands with the new generation of modern sporting rifles and defensive handguns. Gunsite provided an abbreviated training class in both weapons, after which the writers rode out on Yamaha’s ATVs and conquered the world, or at least that part of the world on Gunsite property that had recently been invaded by evil steel popper targets.
It was a marvelous three days in which our ATV-mounted tactical horde proved victorious and restored safety to the Arizona populace!
It’s possible I’ve overstated our exploits, but sometimes one gets carried away in moments of great excitement. And that excitement began the first morning when we saw the line of Yamaha’s new tactical all-black Grizzlies and Vikings outside the Gunsite classroom.
For those not familiar with Yamaha’s line of 4-wheel ATVs, the Grizzly is a utility vehicle that seats one person and steers by means of handlebars much like those on a motorcycle.
The Viking looks like a miniaturized military vehicle on steroids. It seats three persons side-by-side. It has a steering wheel much like a normal car, but to paraphrase the introduction to the original Star Trek TV series, the Viking goes “where no car has gone before!”
I’d been on hunts where Yamaha ATVs were put to work and was favorably impressed with their performances as off-road work horses, but the new tactical Yamaha ATVs bring a level of elegance and some performance upgrades to the party.
The two vehicles share several basic characteristics. The liquid-cooled 4-stroke 686cc engines will take you and all your gear wherever a rational human being would want to go and will do it in almost any kind of weather.
The fuel injection insures an easy start in cold temperatures and smooth running at any elevation. A push button allows the driver to instantly select either 2-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive with limited slip, or locked in 4-wheel drive. I truly appreciated the 4-wheel hydraulic disc brakes on both vehicles because my off-road driving skills sometimes make stopping quickly more important than anything.
The fully automatic transmissions and power steering greatly simplified driving both ATVs in the rough Arizona terrain. The digital instrument panels in both rigs go far beyond what I expected, giving the driver all the data one normally gets in a car. The Viking even has a 12-volt accessory outlet and cup holders for a travel mug of coffee on those early morning outings. And yes, I have spilled my coffee more than once, even with a lid on.
Both vehicles have electric starters: the Grizzly starts by pushing a button, while you simply turn the ignition key to fire up the Viking. Except for when you leave the pavement, driving the Viking is like driving a car.
And leaving the pavement behind is what ATVs are all about. Over the last decade or so, I’ve noticed that ranch hands seem to be using ATVs much more than horses for daily chores. I’m not saying ATVs can go places where a horse can’t, but given the amount of time I’ve spent with both ATVs and horses in hunting camps, the edge for hauling gear and tools goes to ATVs.
GRIZZLY AND VIKING SPECS
In terms of capacity, the Grizzly carries 100 pounds on the front rack and slightly less than 200 pounds on the rear rack. The Viking has a dump bed with a release latch on both sides and is rated for a 600-pound load. In addition, the Viking tows 1,500 pounds, while the Grizzly can tow slightly over 1,300 pounds. Throw in one to three human beings, depending on which rig you’re driving, and the mechanized pony wins.
Ground clearance is a major issue off-road in rough country, and while the two Yamaha ATVs are vastly different in shape and size, both have roughly 12 inches of ground clearance.
The Grizzly is a much smaller unit, with dimensions of 81.3×46.5×48.8 inches and a wet weight of 648 pounds. The wet weight includes 5.3 gallons of gas under the seat, where there is an additional liquid storage capacity of 4.8 liters. (Maybe a Yamaha engineer felt guilty about not having drink holders on the Grizzly.) The wheel base is 49.2 inches and the turning radius is 126 inches.
The larger Viking carries three people side by side and has a roof. You will appreciate both these features if you get lonely or it rains. The Viking’s wet weight is 1,342 pounds with a gas tank that holds 9.7 gallons. Its wheel base is 84.1 inches, and it has a turning radius of 177.56 inches. To clinch the impression that you’re in a car and not an ATV, the Viking has seat belts for all three passengers, a parking brake, and hi-lo headlight beams.
Sitting in the plush, padded Viking seats, you won’t know you’re in an ATV until you bounce over the first rock. On early morning hunts, lucky hunters might actually get in a nap in one of the Viking’s passenger seats.
The accessories are really what define Yamaha’s new tactical line of ATVs, and that begins with the classy black paint job. There’s an old adage that nothing shows dust and dirt like a black vehicle. That may be true about dust, but having been in different weather conditions with various colored ATVs, I can state that mud doesn’t favor or highlight any particular color. You just have to get the hose and go to work.
The good news is that when the mud was gone, those black Grizzlies and Vikings were once again more beautiful and spectacular than any ATVs I’ve ever seen.
Going beyond the beauty factor, you need to make some important equipment choices regarding accessories. And since we’re talking tactical, let’s start with how you’ll stow and carry your guns.
Yamaha offers a soft black nylon double-capacity gun case that attaches behind the driver and passengers. This case has two compartments inside with openings at each end, allowing access to the guns from either side of the vehicle. The case is internally padded and can be tightly fastened to the vehicle roll bar so the guns do not bounce around when the ATV goes off-road.
At the Gunsite event, we used Ruger SR-762™ Autoloading Rifles. With a collapsible black synthetic stock, weight of 8.6 pounds, and magazine capacity of 20 rounds, the .308 piston-driven SR-762 is a powerful piece of survival gear suitable for both offensive and defensive use.
We also used Ruger SR45™ Centerfire Pistols. Holsters and double magazine carriers were furnished by Blade-Tech. No one lost, dropped or fumbled their handguns while riding their ATVs and ridding the range of evil. Dust accumulated while riding was easily wiped off the Kydex gear.
After sighting in and receiving some training on one of the Gunsite square ranges, writers mounted up and headed off to clear a ravine of hostile steel targets.
To dispel the myth that gun writers are supplied only with hand-picked guns for sponsored events, let me acknowledge that we had problems with both rifles and pistols on Day One. A number of malfunctions with the .45 pistols were instantly field diagnosed by our intrepid band as being magazine related.
When Ruger tore the guns down at the factory that evening, they did find several magazines whose lips were not properly spaced. In addition, they found a couple of pistols with extractors that were not to spec. When these issues were addressed and parts replaced for the second day’s shooting, the pistols ran fine.
Likewise on Day One, the SR-762s had problems with a few of the guns failing to extract/eject and locking the action up solid. These only occurred with some steel-case ammo that had been brought to the range. Conventional brass cases worked through the guns with no issues.
On a post-event range visit with a couple of the rifles and accompanied by Gunsite owner Buz Mills and Ruger Product Manager Brandon Trevino, we learned it wasn’t all steel-case ammo causing the problems, but rather one lot number. Other lots of steel cases, along with different brands of conventional brass cases, operated flawlessly. We were told later by the manufacturer that the guilty lot of ammo had been pulled.
Yamaha has rubber-lined “V” clamps that can be mounted on the front luggage rack of the Grizzlies. Although still exposed to the elements, rifles can be placed inside a soft case and the case clamped firmly in place on the rack.
At Gunsite and on previous hunts, I’ve had no incidents of rifles suddenly departing their vehicles in rough country. If the rifle is not inside a case, the clamps should be positioned so they do not make contact with the gun’s optics.
For engaging bad guys in Arizona’s more open terrain, the powerful .308 cartridges and full-size .45-caliber duty pistols are excellent choices.
Yamaha added an event where we used Garmin’s Tactical Training GPS Watch to locate and engage steel targets at locations known to us by virtue of superior field intelligence, i.e., the Gunsite instructors placed them in safe shooting spots.
The Garmins did a good job of locating the bad guys, but unfortunately their electronics couldn’t keep up with the speed of the Yamaha ATVs as our novice drivers raced and giggled across the Arizona terrain. About the time the GPS told us we were almost on the targets, we had already passed them. Hey, working with new gear is always a learning process.
All in all, it was a marvelously fun and informative three days. It seems appropriate to comment on lessons learned, particularly given the amount of ink devoted lately to the importance of tactical readiness.
While there have been volumes written in the last few years about every possible tactical product that should be in your bug-out bag, the missing ingredient has been the actual bug-out buggy that will carry you and your wonderful gear out of harm’s way to safety.
Yamaha has filled that niche with the tactical models of their go-anywhere ATVs, specifically the three-seat Viking and the “catch me if you can” Grizzly.
Regardless of whether you think bug-out bags are filled with toys or serious survival gear, a ride in one of the Yamaha rigs will have you rewriting your Christmas list with a new #1.