Apr
04

Bridger #1.5 Coilspring

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Today’s trapper is faced with so many choices when it comes to terminal gear that sometimes I wonder how in the world anyone decides exactly what to buy and use. Never before have we been blessed with such a vast array of modern, humane and highly effective traps to work with.

In my view there are no “poor” traps or “junk” traps offered to the public from mass manufacture. There are low-priced brands of traps that offer the bare essentials for least purchase cost, some mid-price brands that offer excellent value for cost and some high-price brands that offer every possible feature known to man. It’s not than any are better or worse, per se… it is more about the myriad choices offering each trapper the features = price that fits a particular need.

I’m in the process of gearing up for some rather extensive traplines in the coming years ahead. That means buying traps by the 10, 20 and 40-dozen lots at a time. At the same time I have reduced most of my menagerie of traps accumulated thru the years like most other trappers tend to do. It’s not that they aren’t effective or don’t work… it’s simply because I want no more than one or two specific models per use for the sake of speed and efficiency. When I reach for traps, I want to handle the same ones over and over and over again.

Between foothold and bodygrip traps for muskrats, mink, canines and beaver… I’ve got a long ways to go before fully overstocked across the board. But I’ve got a good start on things, and I started with my all-purpose footholds first :)

I spent a lot of time pouring thru every make & model trap available on the market today, narrowing down my own choices by need versus cost.

First & foremost, my own specific needs.

Land trapping here in my area means lots of people, lots of hunters all season, lots of recreational hikers and walkers accompanied by their dogs. Much of my canine work, probably 50% or more historically happens on public Wildlife Management Areas. These are multiple use lands that are shared for many purposes by many users. I have every right to be there with as much trap as our regulations legally permit. But is that the smart thing to do?

If someone’s dog gets hung up in a #1.5 coilspring trap, they are easy to release. That type of trap is not very intimidating to most people. Public perception is very different when the same incident happens with a #3 coil all laminated, base-plated and tricked out. To you and me that looks like a fine piece of machinery. To a lot of common people with no bias against trapping, that looks like a proverbial bear trap.

So I need to be extra-considerate of who is using the same lands I am during canine trapping season. I can be fully within my rights, but if something happens on private land that upsets the landowner and his wife, my permission to trap can be easily rescinded forever. Yours can, too.

I also want most/all of my foothold traps to server double-duty in the water during muskrat season… especially in the spring. There’s an excellent chance I’ll be running 200 – 300 float sets with two traps apiece somewhere west of here in the spring 2013. That means 400 to 600 foothold traps just to man those floats alone. We’re talking fifty-dozen pieces of steel. I darn sure want to make sure my gear is versatile as possible!

**

When it’s all said & done, a lot of different traps would serve my needs. So I settled on a brand & style that suits me best all around. The Bridger #1.5 coilspring will be my primary foothold trap for canines, muskrats and mink. Here’s why…

Features: I want a solid, well-built trap that won’t come apart at the seams when a big coyote tests the connection. More importantly, I want a dense, “chunky” trap that will send every muskrat straight to the bottom without ability to ascend and swim around or reach dry land with bracelet on. The Bridger line is all of that. Heavy frames and jaws along with machine-link chain creates a very dense trap. Strong and weighty. Just what I want for all uses.

The paws-i-trip style pan with nightlatch is also a big plus. No sideways pan wobble, no guessing when the trigger dog is “just right” tension before it dry fires in your hand. Easy to adjust in any lighting conditions… simply listen for the click and you know it’s perfectly set to go.

Rectangular pans are my preference for water trapping. I want the biggest target zone possible for muskrats and mink passing thru. By the same token, that’s a bonus on land lines for fox & coyotes imo. Too big a pan might result in toe catches. Too small a pan might result in no catches when paws land on the trigger-dog post and trap never fires. Which by the way tends to be more of an issue when it comes to post-type pan mounts rather than paws-i-trip style pan mounts.

Strength and ease of setting by hand are critical, too. When running water lines, I might very well set – reset – reset 100+ footholds per day. That can get very hand fatiguing by day’s end. A former injury to my right thumb at the joint left it less than 100% functional when healed. It definitely needed reconstructive surgery, I didn’t go that route and now work with a less than perfect thumb.

So cracking open a ton of traps by hand can flare up some old injury pains if straining with steel. I find the Bridger #1.5 coils a breeze to set by hand… even easier than my former go-to water traps, the #2 square-jaw coilsprings.

I like to have all my foothold traps lay perfectly flat when set, and the Bridger #1.5 coil does that. I also like to run my pans level to if not slightly above the jawline. That’s easily adjusted with these traps. Less chance of debris clogging beneath the pan to get clean snaps on land. Water animals tend to push down on the first firm object their foot touches when transitioning from swimming to walking on land.

So a somewhat higher pan than the textbook concept of “below jawline” is what actual experience has taught me works best.

Overall, the Bridger line of traps today is owned and managed by a family of lifelong trappers who know what works and what doesn’t in the field, in the mud. That factor alone is enough to grab my attention and steer it towards a product. Hard to beat something that is tested and tweaked by veterans of any profession in the actual field of use.

Nothing in life is perfect… contrary to what your spouse may say :)

The Bridger #1.5 coil has a couple of shortcomings, too. First one being a side-frame anchored chain versus center-swiveled from the base. Not a problem for muskrats or mink, they are found on the bottom of whatever flow you are trapping, every time.

When it comes to canines on land, side-swivel chains equal movement of the paw between jaws and grip sliding to the far side of trap against its spring lever. If a thick-legged animal like coyotes pul from a side-anchored chain, they can actually depress that opposite spring lever and weaken the trap’s grip on that side.

In addition to that, the Bridger #1.5 closes tight in the middle of its jaws but leaves slight gaps on either side along the levers. One could easily cure that by grinding the inside jaw surfaces until they close with tight tolerance flush across. Not a big issue for me, considering my dryland trapping will be minimal compared to water trapping for these specific traps.

If I gear them up for long lines on land, I’d merely cut the factory chain swivel at its frame, switch the anchor to mid-frame on bottom and add a mid-chain crunch-proof swivel there. A quick touch of the grinder on jaw faces wouldn’t hurt, either way. Other than that, these traps are good to go for dryland fox or waterlines for muskrat, mink and coon on drowners.

**

Like we said in the beginning: there are no perfect traps for everyone alike. Choice of terminal gear is very individual specific. For me, a modest-size foothold on lands where human traffic concerns is one factor. A solid, chunky foothold that sends muskrats straight to the bottom and keeps them there is another. Unit cost is a third factor when it comes to buying several hundred at a time.

For sure I’ll have need for some #2 coils on private ground during winter canine work. I also have need for some #1 guard type traps in shallow water muskrat situations. But the bulk of my foothold traps inventory will be the Bridger #1.5 coils going forward. The massive buildup has already begun :)

Furever
Austin

 

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Categories : Product Review

Comments

  1. Dale says:

    This is a good looking trap… and the price is too.

    • aptrapper says:

      I agree… the Cavens have done an excellent job managing their lines of traps. The bodygrips are off the hook for their price class. Trappers today are really spoiled with so many excellent traps to work with across all makes & models. It surely was not like that when I got started: your choice was victor or blake & lamb. Take your pick :)

  2. Teal says:

    Austin,

    Do you think there is a “lock up” issue with the bridger 1.5 coil? I have run some in the past, pre-MTP buying them, and they seemed fine. Have heard guys have too many coon pull free. Have you heard this?

    Also, with your thumb the way it is why not run 1.5 longs on floats? I do realize that you want a trap that does double duty, but by the sounds of it you are not running huge #’s of dryland sets. If this is the case you would be able to buy all the 1.5longs you wanted and still afford several dozen dryland type traps.

    I too am going to be running large #’s of floats to the west 200 and some colonies. Plan was to go out there this spring but the early thaw in the midwest wrecked havok on my work schedule, family obligations also got in the way.

    Anyhow, I was having a difficult time deciding what to run on said floats. My hands too are a consideration, #1.5 longs, #1.5 jumps, #1.5 coils, #2 coils. I have them all and tried them all here in Wisconsin in an area that has a march 15 close. My preference is the 1.5 long, by far the easiest on my hands, sank the rats straight to the bottom with very few misses. The 1.5 cs sat on the float slightly better but was much tougher on my hands.

    Anyhow, just curious and happy trapping.

    • aptrapper says:

      Hey Teal :)

      I like the #1.5 longs on floats very much… in open water, they are easiest to set and excellent rat traps. However, a lot of my foothold sets for rats include feedbeds and toilets on banks that lead to medium depths or deep water. I found too many rats would swim around with the lighter #1.5 longs and even the old #2 square-jaw coils which are both rather light frames. The “chunky” coils like old #1.5 montgomery, #1.5 northwoods and new #1.5 bridgers were never anywhere but straight to the bottom.

      Appears to me that muskrats caught on shore probably flip into the water first reaction, but swim their way back to dry land at times with the lighter traps. Heavier traps sink them like anchors… exactly the quick dispatch results I’m looking for. Matter of fact, quite a few rats were dead in six inches of water or less. If they cannot get on dry land and fluff their coats, they expire in the water. Either way, no losses.

      Lastly, rats tend to slide their front foot catches to the opposite end of #1.5 longs from spring side. I never want any movement inside the jaws of a trap… want the catch held firmly and securely. There is no movement when a strong coilspring fires off and grips the hold.

      On floats in open water, #1.5 longs are excellent. But floats are a minimal part of my overall use, so the nod went in the direction it did for me :)

  3. Dale says:

    I noticed in the top pic how you have your tag attached, seems the coons always chew on them, to the point they are destroyed. I now roll the tag up on the spring bar without the tag fasteners and they stay. Some don’t fit by the springs, these I roll up on the chain. I’m sure that I’m not the first to do this but after years of pulling 110′s out and looking like a barrel of monkeys I knocked the chains off and then the light went off with trap tags:) I hardly ever set a 110 anymore for rats, I now use the bigger traps…… A good idea I got from a book that really opened my eyes to the bigger steel…. I wonder if the author of that book realizes how he revolutionized my rat trapping;)

    • aptrapper says:

      Oh Dale, you can’t believe everything you read. That guy was probably just some “internet trapper” trying to get rich off book sales rather than make it happen out there in the mud and ice!

      • Dale says:

        LOL! Internet trapper?:) Quoting the part that turned on the light bulb… “If there were one single factor to add muskrat catches to most trapper’s season without changing anything else I’d have to say the liberal use of #220s in place of #110s at most locations would be the greatest”… That right there paid for that book many times over (even when rats sold for 2 bucks) 220s went on trips in the otter sled with 110s mixed in to fill in areas to allow maximum use of the 220s.

        • aptrapper says:

          now that quote rings a faint bell in my mewmory. sounds familiar… let me see… let me see if I recall…

  4. Kelly says:

    Be real careful where you set this trap. There is a design flaw with the jaws that allow lots of coon to get out of this trap. Been talked about for several years and Cavens are going to fix it but not until all the existing stock is sold. I bought 30 dozen 5 years ago, had them all laminated and used them that fall. About 3 weeks into the season pulled them all and went to using pinch pan victors. Just had too many sprung/empty traps at bottom of slide wire. Didn’t have time to figure out what what going on till end of season.

    Had a couple coon left to skin so took one, placed its foot as far in a set Bridger 1.5 as possible, stood on the chain with left foot, grabbed coon by hind foot with right hand and raised up the coon and foot came right out of the trap. Then got to looking around and was able to stick a screwdriver in between jaws and with a sideways motion able to open jaws.

    The design flaw is the tapered ramp that the jaw levers closes on. This taper goes above where the levers ends when trap is fully closed. Really easy to open jaws when this ramp creates leverage to depress the spring lever. Take a look at your Victor, B&L, Sleepy Creek and Duke coils to see the difference. All of these have a flat surface that the spring lever locks on-the Bridger does not. This was talked about on Trapperman quite extensively a couple years ago. Even someone had a video showing what happens with this trap and how to fix it.

    Oh, by the way, I sold all 30 dozen of those traps and bough more pinch pan victors and have never looked back. If they ever get this design flaw fixed I would consider buying them again because every thing else with this trap is well made but if it won’t hold the coon that trip the pan what use is it?

    • aptrapper says:

      Kelly, excellent advice and I thank you for taking the time to share that with us all. For me personally, these traps will be muskrat-mink only with limited use in the fll season and extensive use in the spring season. I’ve read where the Duke #1.5 coil is a go-to trap for many of the real big numbers coon men out west. I can see where they do lock up tight and their jaw surface design is favorable for gripping slippery, tapered coon paws.

      In my case it came down to weight of trap, pan selection, factory chain options, etc. No doubt there are lots of makes & models that would work, and if I were gearing up for coon with footers it’d either be a different #1.5 coil or most any brand #11 longspring.

      Tight Chains :)

      • Kelly says:

        That is what I bought those traps for-mink/rats-but in Iowa I can not avoid catching coon. They are a heavy well built trap-like the pan/night latch dog setup although I think the pan could be larger(it is smaller the the pinch pan victor) for the jawspread. Also like the straight link chain and extra swivels.

        If you can limit your catches strictly to mink/muskrats they should be a good trap. That said the time I used them I didn’t catch/hold? very many mink in them. Am not sure but feel several mink pulled out of them too-those that I held were down to the toes/wrist joint-not up high on the leg like they should have been. Of course we have a larger mink here than you have.

        Just an FYI for you because it was the pits putting all that work into 30 dozen traps just to sell them 6 months later because they have this design flaw in their jaws. I would never feel safe with them for fox or land trapping.

        • aptrapper says:

          My experience in the field only stretches across three weeks total. I caught maybe 40ish rats and one male mink in those specific traps but all were very secure holds, quickly drowned and nil signs of struggle above waterline. In most locations the vegetation was so crisp, I had to look close at the trap bed to make sure it was still there. Other trap types held rats as usual, but the site vegetation was mowed down and shredded. That obviously shows the catch was not dispatched by drowning near as quickly.

          I had heard about that design flaw in the past, which is akin to the old low-lever Montgomerys back in the 1990s. Pretty much same story when it comes to leverage power and twist = escape from such designs. For me personally this will be a go-to muskrat trap on toilets, feedbeds and floats… which are pretty much my only use for footers on rats. Again, thank you for the heads-up and actual field experience on your end. We really appreciate the education in here!

          Tight Chains
          Austin

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