Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Simple and useful High Point Carbine mods

Armed Defender Videos has posted several videos on the High Point carbine lately. This one is great if you are thinking about buying one (useful and fun for a low price) or already have one.

Many people talk smack about High Point but simple and low cost is not always bad (ever hear of the AK-47?) These rifles are a nice addition to your collection for all these reasons:

  • Available in 9mm .40 and .45 calibers
  • Carbine length barrel makes 100yd combat effectiveness possible
  • Excellent for home defense- short footprint and better accuracy than a handgun
  • Inexpensive, Durable and fun to shoot

Budget Korean Glock Mags: Initial impressions

Finally I got curious and decided to order a $10 “American Tactical” Korean-made knockoff Glock magazine. Maybe it would work out perfect as a practice mag for the range. Let’s see how the experience was- first off, here is how the mag arrived- well packed in a sealed paper pouch:

 

Opening the pouch I found this little gem- which according to the website should be compatible with G22 and G23 Gen4s. It has steel insides and the proper number of holes in the back, although not as tightly aligned with the openings in the steel as most factory mags. The edges are a little blocky and sharp compared to the factory mags.

 

Loading the mag was a chore- it took some finesse to get 13 rounds loaded. I let it sit a few days and tried again but still couldn’t get 15 rounds in. Not a big deal for my intended purpose- I typically practice shorter splits with more frequent mag changes. On to the range test!

The first time I inserted the mag it felt sticky- it tripped the mag release but when I pressed the release the mag didn’t drop out freely like every factory mag I’ve ever owned. That’s annoying- removing a little material from the right edges would probably fix it right up. Of course that’s assuming you own some finishing stones or a serious set of metal files. The big question- how does it hold up through a series of drills?

The actual operation of the magazine was the biggest disappointment. The first time I pulled it from my mag holster and loaded the Korean mag my slide jammed up. The mag actually slid up and seated so high that it blocked the slide from releasing. And it won’t release without assistance. Once I wiggled the mag into place it fed without problems- but it was going to be finicky to make the mag work. This isn’t even a typical malfunction to get me extra tap-rack reps.

The issue with the mag sliding into the action was too much for me- don’t buy these!! After this experience I really appreciate the fit and finish of the factory mags. My advice: spend the extra $15-20 and get mags for your Glock that will perform exactly like your carry mags.

5 actually useful AR upgrades

After trashing Gun Digest's suggestions for 'sure-fire' AR accoutrements the least I could do is offer up my list for someone else to trash. So here are the kR-15 top 5 AR accessories/upgrades. Remember that my criteria here are performance and usability.

Iron Sights

As mentioned previously I this space, iron sights seldom let you down. They never run out of battery and good ones won't break if your rifle takes a tumble. If you learn how to properly operate your rifle you should be able to use iron sights effectively up to at least 300 yds. Gun Digest also mentions this but presumes that everyone will have an optic- I contend that optics are not necessary for every user.

Trigger Upgrade

Upgrading your trigger to a 3 or 4# is the biggest accuracy improvement you can make to your AR. The trigger is the last human input to a weapon system before it fires- it's where you either hold the gun on the point of aim or jerk it off target. The drop-in assemblies are super easy to install- I prefer Timney but there are other options out there.

Aftermarket Stock

The two things I look for in a stock are minimal weight and solid, repeatable cheek weld. Adjustable length is a nice feature but whether it's useful depends on how your body fits your rifle. There are countless options for stocks so try a few out at your LGS. A good cheek weld will improve your accuracy because it helps you take the same sight picture every time you shoulder the rifle.

Pistol Grip with Backstrap

A recent trend in pistol grips is to offer interchangeable backstraps. These provide options for an optimal fit into almost every size hand. Why is this important? It relates back to improving recoil control and trigger press- if the grip is properly sized to your hand it will be easier to maintain a straight rearward press of the bang switch.

Extended Bolt Catch Release

There are differing schools of thought on a extended bolt catch- some people view it as a potential training scar because if the SHTF you may end up using someone else's rifle that doesn't have one of these. And that could cost you precious seconds…or not. I can't live my life off this scenario– it is incredibly unlikely at this point in time. The benefits of having all the rifle controls accessible from my control hand outweigh the risks of reaching for it on doomsday and not having one there. There are many options out there for these (start with Magpul or Troy if you're stumped) – shop around and find one you like.

And there you have it- no cheese graters, cappuccino makers, key rings or emergency life rafts. Just 5 upgrades that add up to utility and improved accuracy for your AR-15.

 

Trijicon RMR – less than perfect

Last weekend I took my rifle out and my RMR was fully washed out- darkly shaded firing line and very bright outdoor range and I couldn't see the triangle downrange- it only showed up if I looked at the shaded ground or covered the sight. I suppose that's what they make iron sights for but it was disappointing.

At this point I'm not sold on the RMR as a primary optic- the dual illumination sometimes is affected by bright overhead lights and now by the shade on a bright day. What's the point of having no battery in your optic if it only illuminates part of the time? It may be the amber reticle but regardless the RMR can't hang with the Aimpoint T1 Micro. I like the 1:00 mount option shown in this video – maybe that will be the best use for my RMR. Also note that they filmed this on an overcast day…

Failure with my Carry Gun: this is why I practice

As mentioned in yesterday's post, practice with your carry ammo and carry mag at least once a year. Don't wing it- I mean real DGU practice. Draw from concealed and fire at a target 7 yards away. The goal is to be able to draw from concealed, aim and fire in one second. I tried this with my Walther PPS last weekend and was horrified to experience 2 FTFs (Failure to Feed) in 7 rounds of .40 S&W 165 gr Winchester PDX1.
This is a great reason to practice- sometmes you identify serious flaws in your personal defense plan. Now I know that something is wrong with my carry rig (using practice mags and practice ammo I have had zero failures for about 1800 rounds). Time to isolate the problem quickly and get certain that this equipment failure is resolved.

The two most likely possibilities for this problem are: bad mag or bad ammo. I swapped my carry mag for the spare (never the training mag) and now the one that jammed up can be used for training and hopefully will help me identify the problem- obviously if the mag causes a FTF with my practice ammo I will know what's wrong.

Today I fired 21 practice rounds through the mag hat participated in the FTFs last weekend with zero failures (the streak continues!). For now the mag seems to be ok… so what about the ammo?

I discovered an interesting difference between the PDX1 ammo and my practice loads: the PDX1 ammo is actually much shorter (1.119″ avg OAL) than my practice ammo (always between 1.125-1.135″ OAL). Some firearms have tighter toerance than others- I suspect this Walther falls into the 'tighter tolerance' category.

Resolution: try longer ammo. I found some Hornaday Critical Duty ammo that had about half the rounds masuring at 1.130 – which is my target OAL for practice loads. Luckily there are a few spares in the box so I can test my theory… if there are failures I will report them.

Update:

After experimentation at the range the Hornaday Critcial Duty ammo fed flawlessly through the PPS- regardless of OAL. The PDX1 ammo has a more jagged edge to the projectiles while the Critical Duty is more rounded and consistent- that could also be hanging up the rounds in the magazine.

I'm going to avoid the PDX1 rounds from now on. And keep testing every 8-12 months.

How often do you test your Carry Pistol?

Most police departments fire their duty ammo every year and replace it with factory new ammo. It's a good idea to do this for your concealed carry weapon too- you don't want to press the trigger and hear *CLICK* at a critical moment, do you?

It is important to have two types of mags and ammo- one designated training set and one designated carry set. Training mags get tossed around at the range, run lots of cheap, dirty training ammo and it's OK if they get beaten up. They should be marked or painted to make it impossible to confuse them with carry mags.

The logic behind this is that you keep the gear you depend on to defend yourself pristine. Feed lips on mags can get bent when mags hit any hard surface just so- including the ground. If this or other damage happens the mag may be good for training but will be more prone to an occasional malfunction than one that has never been dropped. Why take an unnecessary risk by using equipment that is more likely to fail?

If you clean your gun after some range time and load it back up with carry ammo afterward (such as Hornaday Critical Duty ammo, projectile pictured above) many would suggest firing your carry ammo once every 12 months. This stems from concern that solvents will penetrate the primer pocket and render the primer itself inert. That has the potential to be an urban legend though- instead think of it as practice. You may run across problems right under your nose by practicing with your carry rig. Tomorrow I will give the lowdown on my own scary equipment failure, analysis and response.

 

Better Ban These Now – for the sake of the children

If we could save the life of just one child by banning these weapons of war from our streets wouldn't it be worth it?

This video is pretty amusing- and MattV2099 brings it home with his Standard 30 t shirt at the end. I hope Bloomberg, Feinstein and co. get a look at this so they can start new legislation- the video is about as grounded in reality as her entire perception of the world.

 

American Defense Co-witness Mount

American Defense Manufacturing really went the extra mile to make things right for my co-witness project with my Trijicon RMR. The QD riser mount they sent didn't line up with my sight plane but after I contacted them to explain the situation they offered to make a new mount to the specs I sent. They actually ran about 25 of these risers (new size on the box was “mid”) so if you want one I suggest specifying that size with your order.
The new mount is now installed and as you can see below is aligning with my Troy iron sights for a perfect absolute cowitness. Make the jump to see the sight picture with the rear sight folded down (which is how I will typically run my rifle).
The RMR is a great optic- it has a slight magnification which my LGS (local gun store) didn't like but I find it easy to focus on. Likewise many question the 12moa triangle base but as you can see it doesn't overwhelm the view.
The dual-illuminated option is great because the holographic triangle never needs batteries. Indoors the washout factor has been minimal indoors- I can't wait to see how it handles in daylight.

It’s almost ready…

This is a photo of the new Co-Witness riser mount for my Trijicon RMR. American Defense Mfg sent me a photo to show that it's getting close. The mount is partially complete here- the top needs some further machining, the coating and assembly of their awesome quick-detach latch.
The latch clamps onto the rail like a vise but unlike any other QD latch I have used it opens with almost no effort thanks to the release- its far superior to the Aimpoint T1 micro QD system. In a few more days the riser will look like this:
American Defense really went the extra mile here- after I ran into a height problem trying to co-witness and I explained my effort to diagnose the problem they made me a new mount to my own specification. This is a great product backed by good people- they offer a wide range of QD mounts and are worth a serious look if you want to maximize use of bipods, lights, optics, pretty much anything you want to hang on that picatinny rail.

 

Do you really need a bipod?

I bought a low-end UTG bipod for my rifle and have used it quite a bit. The 6″ legs work ok in some scenarios- (they were outstanding when setting up on a gravel pile and pretty much any soft surface is well-suited to a bipod)..but at the bench at my local range it's too tall. I frequently end up adding a wood block to my chair to get my body as tall as the gun when I use my bipod.

Of course that's for 5.56, 300 BLK, and other small arms calibers- where its easy to 'lean into' the bipod to minimize bounce. With something a little larger like a bolt action .308 with a free floated barrel and a very cheap, flexible (and lightweight, don't care if you scratch it…) stock a new problem emerges when you're on a solid surface like a shooting bench: bipod bounce. The combination of tall bipod, flexible stock and larger caliber was resulting in a wild bounce that left me staring downrange pretty far off target. There has to be a better way. In fact there are several:

Bags

A popular method for resolving this is to use shooting bags. It makes sense- nice sandbags you can use to make a solid and low rest for your rifle. Many recommend using a bag under the forearm and a bag under the stock.

This isn't a bad approach- it certainy promotes the support hand-under-the stock technique that I am quickly growing to like. Still I am not thrilled about adding another 20-40 lbs of weight to my range gear. Also what about a situation where you probably don't have bags with you (uh, like hunting?) – what are you supposed to do at that point? The answer is pretty simple and turns out to be useful pretty much everywhere:

Backpack

Yep- a plain old backpack. This is tribal knowledge- my father learned this from a Gunsite instructor and passed it along to me. Internal or no frame is best- and its typically nice to have something soft in the pack to help with his purpose. Jump is a non-factor when using a backpack as a rest off a bench. This is a smart and fast method to deploy for a shot and it can be used virtually anywhere- even on a soft surface.

  • Lay the pack down with the long side facing down (You can stand your pack upright for a kneeling shot). Simply hit the pack with your arm to create an indentation.
  • Lay the rifle forearm down into the indentation- slide it forward up to the trigger guard if you can. This will reduce your chances of pulling the muzzle back too far- muzzle blast is not friendly to backpacks or their contents.
  • Place your support hand under the stock of the rifle. You may find that placing the stock between your thumb and first finger is the most effective hold.
  • The support hand now can control the elevation of your rifle. Left-Right should be controlled by the 'cradle' you created and slid the rifle into.