Tag Archives: Accessories

What were the worthwhile SHOT week debuts?

Glorious SHOT week. Every year the depth and breadth of new product announcements gets a little bit bigger. Drinking from the firehose of flagship product debuts can be nearly as overwhelming as walking the endless SHOT show floor. There are so many shiny things to catch your attention it’s easy to miss a few along the way. So here you go- the kR-15 list of notabke new products for SHOT 2014

ATN X-Sight Day/Night Riflescopes

This optic looks awesome- switch from daylight to infrared on the same scope. HD video out, smartphone remote viewing app and more- for less than $700 retail. They are offering 3-9 and 5-12 power models to start but these will be hot items.

 Tri-Star Cobra Marine Shotgun

Stainless steel to repel corrosion, spring-loaded forearm that claims to speed cycling (I’d like to try head to head with a Remington 870 or Mossy 500 to validate this one-but it sounds good), picatinny rail and more for $360 retail . 

TacSol 300 BLK upper receiver


Tactical Solutions makes some awesome kit. Their aluminum barrels and receivers are accurate, attractive and well designed. It’s about time they tossed their proverbial hat into the BLK caliber. At $1100 retail it’s pricy just like all their stuff but if it is intriguing- the upper is ready to rock, includes a BCG and features a free-float handguard, barrel shroud that covers either your own suppressor or the tacticool fake suppressor that comes with it. They hint that the fake suppressor is required to attain a 16″ barrel length– not a big deal but be advised.

Tac-Con 3MR Fire Control Group

I remain on the fence for this one but it’s getting lots of smiley reviews from initial testers. It is basically the bump-fire concept encapsulated into a drop-in fire control group that includes a giggle switch for the rapid fire mode. The thing I like most about this is the 3rd selector position. From initial reviews it seems that the rapid fire mode shrinks the trigger reset to about 1/16″ and has a 2.5lb pull. At the end of the day bump fire isn’t accurate so is it useful? Maybe not but full auto isn’t accurate either and people seem to enjoy it- try to find a video of someone using the giggle switch where they aren’t smiling if you don’t believe me.

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.

 

ACOG Reticle Comparison

This first-person view of the different ACOG Reticles is better than any photo I've seen before. The chevron of death is still more visible than the doughnut of death if you ask me.

Magpul BAD lever in action

Popular opinion on the Magpul BAD (Battery Assist Device) lever is a mixed bag:

 

  • Critics claim that the lever can interfere with bolt hold-open and also that teaching yourself to use one could be a problem if you end up using a different rifle that doesn't have a BAD.
  • Proponents like the fact that this device moves all the rifle controls to the control hand. The paddle control is now accessible on the right side of the weapon.

My personal experience is that the lever is a major upgrade to the AR-15 platform. My control hand can operate the entire rifle and bolt locking and release is far more intuitive – after just a short amount of trigger time using it becomes natural. Check out this video demonstrating the speed the BAD Lever adds to reloads:

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.

 

American Defense Manufacturing: troubleshooting my co-witness

After my recent post covering research and decisions on setting up a co-witness sighting system I ran into a problem. When I tried to achieve a co-witness view through my Trijicon RMR (on an American Defense Mfg riser) it looked like this:

Where is the front sight? Why is the amber triangle so low in the RMR? This sight picture is way to low to be a lower 1/3, much less an absolute co-witness.

I talked with the armorer at my LGS (local gun store) and we covered a bunch of diagnostic questions. Specifically:

  • Is the upper a continuous rail from upper receiver to end of handguard? <yes>
  • Was the upper factory assembled or built at home <factory assembled>
  • Are you holding the gun properly?
  • Your nose should be touching the charging handle when you acquire a sight picture. That is the method I was using.
  • Are the sights standard height?
    • I used Troy Battlesights- fixed front sight and flip-up rear. Both are standard height. Troy does make micro sights now that are not a standard height- don't use these for a co-witness because they are very short.

    We ruled out all those common causes of a problem like this. What's left? The actual co-witness riser mount appears to be too high.

    To be certain the armorer grabbed an Aimpoint T1 and put it on the rail next to the RMR. The mount heights were indeed different. Next he removed the RMR and looked through the aimpoint. Sure enough there was the front sight – centered in the reticle as expected for a co-witness.

    I got in touch with the folks at ADM (American Defense Manufacturing) to explain the situation. They were very easy to work with and after hearing a recap of the troubleshooting they made my day. ADM has offered to build me a new mount to my specification. I measured up the mount and the sight plane and asked them to take about .250 off the existing design.

    I hope to have the new mount back in hand in about 2 weeks. American Defense really went the distance to make this right– I am now a customer for life and suggest you give them a hard look if you're looking for any mounts, rails, etc. Although if you're looking for an RMR co-witness riser you might want to specify that you want the low one…

     

    Must-Have Gear part 2: tricking out your Glock

    I made a few tweaks to my G22C lately that have had a significant positive impact. Some of these were amazingly inexpensive and simple to install- not a single spring got away from me, unlike the first time I've done pretty much anything past field stripping on an AR.

    Let's start with the expensive upgrade- Meprolight TRU-DOT night sights.

    I realize that Meprolight doesn't recommend using a tritium front sight in the 22C since the sight is really close to the compensator ports but I'm going to risk it because the factory sight was fouling up after 80-100 target rounds. Meprolight features a thick white outline around the tritium lamps to keep the dots visible in bright light where traditional tritium sights become hard to see. About 200 rounds in so far so good- the front sight remains highly visible in various light conditions at local indoor ranges.

    Changing from the Glock dot and bracket to the larger Meprolight 3-Dots wasn't as easy as I expected it to be. I shot low with them for a couple weeks and had to focus my point of aim so the center of the front dot was aligned with the top of the target. After a few hundred practice reps I made a discovery: when I relaxed my vision enough to really look through my gun at the target using both eyes the front dot just floated in my field of vision.

    I could still see the rear sight but it was like the frame around my sight picture. Until that point all 3 dots from front and rear sights were what I was focused on at first. Suddenly aiming became simple- put the dot on the target and be sure to use both eyes.

    Cost: $85 installed at my LGS (local gun store)

    Extended mag release

    Compared to the factory release it doesn't look like much but the extended mag release solves a major problem with pre-gen4 factory releases (Glock ships all Gen4 models with an extended release as standard issue): sometimes I can hit the mag release just fine but too often my thumb doesn't reach the button and I have to adjust my grip to drop a mag. Thats a deal-breaker if I ever want to give my squad a run for their money in any competition and even worse if the SHTF and I end up needing to reload or clear a malfunction in a defensive situation the last thing you want is a struggle to drop the mag.
    You can spend anywhere from $5-$30 for an aftermarket extended mag release- I have no complaints about my oem simple version. However if you like even more button you can get something like the one pictured above. One thing to consider is that if you carry your Glock concealed – especially IWB- the extended release may add an edge that catches your clothing. One option is to remove some material from the button to shorten the protrusion of the extended button. Another option is to switch to holstered concealed carry – it has many advantages 🙂

    Installation is a snap- this video shows how easy it is to change the release out — and it's a 5 minute job the first time you try. Unless you have freakish gigantic hands there is no good reason not to perform this upgrade if you shoot your Glock on a regular basis.

    Cost: $5.17 from Amazon – up to $30 if you get fancy.

    Tuff1 Grip

    I mentioned it before but it's worth another plug for Tuff1 slip-on grips. I used to swear by Pachmyer but the Tuff1 is the perfect compliment to the slick polymer of a Gen3 or older Glock pistol. It gives the grip a little feedback from the cushion it provides- a huge difference as I scale back my strong hand grip to that 40% range of pressure.

    Cost: $17

     

    Lower 1/3 vs. Absolute Co-witness

    Not too long ago I discussed my decision to set up an absolute co-witness sight configuration on my BLK SBR project. As I learn more about the options it seemed like a good idea to also e plain the good and bad regarding the lower 1/3 configuration. Why bring it up now?
    The lower 1/3 co-wit may not appear useful at first glance but there are many reasons why it is a pretty good idea. The theory behind the lower 1/3 is that your sight aperture is less cluttered and that gives the operator more vision. Look at the diagram below:
    In the center portion of the diagram you can see how the red dot floating above the iron sights. Now imagine three or more threats in view. Keeping an eye on every threat and engaging becomes easier using the center option- there is less clutter obscuring those independent threats as you engage. This may not seem like a huge difference but in competition and in life-threatening defensive situations (think home invasion with multiple bad guys) this can make a life-saving difference.
    Apparently I'm not alone- LaRue Tactical ( who has the most awesome tag line: 'Made in the dead center of Texas' – which is also where they are) is considered a leader in co-wit riser mounts. They offer a lower 1/3 option for almost every reflex sight– look at their optic combos for an example. However they don't offer an absolute co-wit riser for every optic. I ended up with an American Defense riser for my Trijicon relfex sight but I can tell you that it's much easier to find the lower 1/3 option out there.
    One more reason why the lower 1/3 may be the place I end up at for my preferred system- Trainers like, Costa in Magpul Dynamics, tell you to aim low in CQB (as in base of front sight post low) to effectively use iron sights. The left side of the diagram above shows how you can end up with the same results by setting up the rear sight (set it high- like a 5 yd zero) on your cowitness to produce this effect. For more on what that simplifies check out this article on holdover and holdunder. That article makes home defense zero for long range and short range complex because his approach to sighting systems requires the operator to adjust for a short or long shot. The lower 1/3 cowitness makes it simple: dot or dot+irons.
    There are lots of reasons to use both options- I prefer simple, no nonsense sight pictures. Using both eyes effectively may be enough to not need that 2/3 aperture view free of the clutter of a rear sight. Also I don't plan to use the rear sight all the time- that's why I got a flip-up. On the other hand using a lower 1/3 I get two ranges and one includes the absolute view- compelling, isn't it?
    Anyway the answer to which is better lies out on a course of fire… For me anyhow. Also a 100yd shot in a home defense situation is unlikely for me at this point in time, so I should train like I will fight. Watch this space for updates as I learn the pros and cons firsthand.