A Better Mousetrap? (Conclusion)
(Regardless of the mousetrap used, sluicing is history reborn.)
In this post I'll finish up my "dueling sluice boxes" comparison using the Keene Engineering A52 Sluice and the Bazooka Prospector 48" Gold Trap Sluice as the main boxes in question. I know you're getting tired of hearing this, but I have no axe to grind with either company nor am I being paid for my opinions. Having said this, you can bet your ass that I'll probably be taken to task because someone on either end doesn't like my comparisons. Know what? I could care less so let's get going.
3. Ease of Set Up
Again, sluice boxes of any size (whether built in your garage or workshop or purchased from a manufacturer) require some fussing and fidgeting to set up properly with adequate water flow. It's just a fact of small-scale mining life. You old salts and saltettes out there undoubtedly can get a sluice box set up and operating with relative ease, but for those greenhorns and newbies out there setting a box up can be a trial of sorts. OK, I think the Bazooka 48" Gold Trap Sluice and the Keene A52 are pretty much neck-and-neck in the set-up category. Each of these units is relatively easy to set up and each requires a bit of bracing with rocks so they don't float away on you. So this comparison is essentially a tie.
Rating: (with five being the highest factor) 4.0 to 4.5
(Bazooka 48" Prospector instruction sheet.)
4. Feeder Tray/Header Box
Bazooka, like Keene, hit it right in their overall box design. All the Bazookas employ a flared header or feed tray which greatly expedites the movement of material into and through the box. In fact, the Bazooka Prospector, unlike the Keene A52 which employs an even-width chute, is designed like a "V," with the wider part of the box at the header end and the narrower end where the gold collection chamber is. I assume the idea here is to "funnel" the goodies directly to the gold collection chamber area.
(The Bazooka comes in five sizes...note the prices for each.)
The dimensions of the Bazooka Prospector are consistent with those of the Keene A52, with minor differences. The Prospector's dimensions make it very portable and, at the same time, are consistent with handling the demands of running large amounts of material. So, the Prospector is good to go in this regard. I guess my main issue here is not so much the Prospector's dimensions as much as it has to do with how those dimensions are arrayed or designed.
Rating: 4.0 to 4.5
6. Gold Trapping Ability
OK, this is the comparison factor that's probably going to generate a certain amount of debate or controversy. Along with the company itself, many small-scale gold miners swear on their Grandpappy's grave that the Bazooka's unique design makes it far superior to traditional sluice box designs. I don't know if "far superior" is the right descriptor but there's little doubt that the Bazooka series of gold trap sluices is extremely good at capturing and holding very fine gold. The Keene A52 is no slouch in this area as well, but it's been my personal experience over the course of 35 years that the Keene can lose a bit of fine gold during normal operations. This may not be the box's fault but mine (i.e., operator difficulties once again). Regardless of this fact, I have to give a slight edge in overall gold-trapping ability to the Bazooka.
Rating: 4.5 to 5.0
(Bazooka at work.)
7. Ease of Clean Up
There's no doubt that the Bazooka 48" Prospector wins this category. When you want to clean up the Bazooka all you have to do is grab the box, tilt it at an angle, and dunk the gold collection trap (lower end of box) into a five-gallon bucket of water and move it up and down a few times to clear the chamber of gold and gold concentrates. That's a sight easier than going through the steps required to clean out a Keene A52, although not by much, truth be told. Still, the Bazooka's clean up ease is a definite asset that any small-scale guy or gal should consider when carrying a portable box into the field.
(An A52 at work.)
Pluses and Minuses
OK, you can see that the Bazooka 48" Prospector has some distinct advantages over the older, more traditionally designed Keene A52. However, the long-term durability of the Prospector's ABA plastic construction is worrisome to me. I've had my aluminum (all metal) Keene A52 for 35 years now and it has taken a pretty good beating over that course of time. Sure it's a bit dented and scratched, but it can still take anything you can throw at it. Reader and small-scale gold miner Ross C. agrees with me on the Bazooka Prospector in this regard. Ross had this to say:
"Probably right on durability and I worry about leaving it in my hot trunk, but I think you should have compared the smallest Bazooka Gold Trap because of the different flowthrough potential (sadly, I have the bigger one too...way too big for me and takes too much water to power)."
Ross raises a couple of issues here that need some addressing. As I told him myself, Ross brought up the issue of potential warping or heat damage to the Prospector's ABS plastic body if left in a hot car trunk or? I hadn't thought of this issue arising at all or how great its likelihood might be. The other factor Ross raises here is the additional or stronger water flow the Bazooka requires. I've heard this from other small-scale miners as well. So as you can see, there are pluses and minuses to be considered in terms of which sluice box is "better." If you're still sitting on the fence in this regard, here's a link to a couple of YouTube videos:
This video shows the all-metal Keene A52 in use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OR1MlXneFo
In this video, a smaller Bazooka Gold Trap sluice box is compared to a traditional. all-metal type with riffles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ1xk4Td_bc
(A better mousetrap?)
So what about me? Am I gonna put my Keene A52 out to pasture after three and a half decades of solid service in favor of that newer mousetrap, the Bazooka Gold Trap? Probably not. But there's no doubt that the Bazooka Prospector 48" box (and the entire series of Bazooka boxes, for that matter) offers a unique design that may prove just the ticket for many small-scale miners.
Remember, beauty (and efficiency) is in the eye of the beholder.
Best to all.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org