FT Bullseye

   The Meprolight FT Bullseye sight is very non-standard. It utilizes a bit of smoke and mirrors, but works better than I expected. When I first saw the FT Bullseye, I immediately sent them a review request, and as you can tell, they sent one out. The FT bullseye is a fiber optic/Tritium sight, that doesn't require a front blade. 

  I mounted the FT Bullseye on a Kahr handgun. They of course make them for other makes of handguns also. Installation is pretty straight forward. Remove the old sight or sights. I left the stock front sight in as it doesn't have to be removed. Slide the new FT sight in, they recommend loctite 609, but not on the screws. Center it up, and tighten the torx screws with the supplied wrench.  

  When I first took the  FT Bullseye out shooting, my main goal was to see where it shot, and adjust accordingly. While doing the initial sighting in, I realized that the sight was really easy to use. Since it it a dot inside a circle, your eyes naturally want to center the dot. This is exactly how the FT sight works. If you don't have the circle dot lined up, your not on target. Also if it is not lined up, it will appear dim on part of the circle, or nothing at all. Very similar to a red dot sight in that aspect. If for some reason you can't see the sight, it has an outline like a standard channel and post sight. This also helped me with learning where to look for the circle dot, as it is on the same plane as normal pistol sights. 

  I did see a few quirks with the sight. Noticeably was the lack of windage adjustment. You can move the sight left or right, but since it is fixed on one plane, it does nothing for you. I ended up loosening the mounting screws and biasing the sight at a slight angle to get it to shoot point of aim with my chosen ammo. Next up is the size of the fake notch/post sight. Because of the integration of the fiber tubes and how it projects the circle dot, the size tends to cover up some of the targets. On 6" steel plates at 15 yards, I could only see the top 1/3 of the plate. You definitely want to shoot with both eyes open so that your mind superimposes the circle dot over the target. Last on the list, the FT Bullseye washes out when aiming at a brightly lit target while you are in a dimmer area. It gets even worse if you shine a bright light at the target, or aim it at a bright light. Standard tritium sights do this also, so it's not just these. The FT Bullseye does have the "fake" sight blades, as I call it. So when it washes out, you still have some sort of sight reference. 

  Even with the above mentioned quirks, this  sight does work well. I timed myself before and after installing the FT sight. This was low ready to firing 1 shot on a 7 yard and 15 yard target. I did this several times, 25 with each sight at each yardage. When I averaged both of them, they were close enough to not matter. Accuracy was on par for both at those distances also. One of the times when I had it at the range, I sprinkled some dirt on the sight to see how it worked. Even though the sight picture was dimmer, I didn't have any problems seeing it while dirty.    

Dirt on sight

Water drop on sight

   The FT Bullseye sight is a little larger than your standard rear sight. But since it is very squared off, you can rack the slide by using the sight without any problems. I also tried it in 3 different holsters and it didn't interfere with anything on them. 

  I really like the concept behind the FT Bullseye. Kind of like a red dot, but in a non-electronic package. The Mako group imports these for Meprolight. Check them out if your in the market for a new sight.  

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

Quick access day/night sight

Target Market:

Those wanting a combination Tritium / fiber optic sight

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Rapid target acquisition  
  • Fiber optic
  • Tritium  
  • Circle dot (reticle) 
  • No front sight needed

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

Green or Red

What others are saying?:

Harold on OpticsPlanet 2/5 stars

I have purchased two of these sights now. I put one of the sights on a Glock 19, and the other on a Glock 43. I then took the two handguns and a Glock 19 with traditional meprolight night sights to the range. After 500 rounds, I found the sights neither faster nor more accurate. I believe they may be able to be as accurate as traditional sights, but it will require more practice behind the sights. The problem seems to be that it takes a slightly different process to get the dot aligned in the circle. I found that shooting with both eyes open was also more difficult with the sights. I seemed to have something akin to parallax happening with both eyes open. With practice these sights will work, but unless you convert all of your handguns to this style of sight, you may have difficulty switching between styles. My choice will be traditional night sights.

Pablo on Amazon 4/5 stars

i got the green for my glock 43 because as my primary carry gun (in AZ - hot with minimal clothing) i wanted to minimize any protrusions, size, and weight while keeping the area in front of trigger guard empty for my supporting hand. so optical sights, flashlights, and lasers, although used on my other 3 pistols, were not an option for this purpose. it lines up well. i used a bore laser to get it close windage wise - it's not adjustable for elevation. at the indoor range the sight is not visible at all. since i had the front sight off i was using instinctive aiming over the top fairly well, but i would not trust myself to attempt a head shot on someone more than 15 feet away with these sights in dim light. i'm going to put the front sight back on my pistol, paint the white dot bright green, and see if that helps for indoors.

Link to other reviews:

The Truth About Guns Review

Price point:

MSRP = $199. 05

Retail = $169.88 at Amazon 

I need it now! Availability:

Mako Group or Amazon

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Intuitive to use
  • Easy installation
  • Bright in daylight  
  • Tritium  
  • No front sight needed
  • Same presentation as standard sights 

Cons: 

  • Washes out on white or lit backgrounds
  • No windage adjustments
  • Covers a large quantity of the target

Score: 6.5 Okay

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Chad’s Favorite Link: Staheli's Shooting Supplies (SX3)

FLIR One for Android

Written by: Rob Smith

  Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) cameras use special optics to display thermal images (i.e. meltdown videos). In recent years prices for non-military applications has steadily decreased to the point where we now have civilian systems which produce a very good image.

 

  Enter the FLIR Company and their FLIR One camera systems for Android and IOS devices. The FLIR One uses proprietary MSX technology to combine a regular and thermal image into one composite image. It does this in a compact unit which currently retails for about $200.

 

The Following items are included in the box:

  • Camera

  • Camera Cover

  • Lanyard

  • Two spacers (one for Galaxy S5 and another for other Android phones)

  • Two adapters, one reversible for IR selfies.

  • USB Charging cable

 

  When you purchase the camera download the FLIR One App from the IOS App Store or Google Play (you might need to approve access to your storage location). When you use the app you will be prompted to create an account for warranty registration and receive updates about the application.

  You can still download the app if you do not have the camera but the imaging portion of the app will not function.

  Once the app is downloaded, ensure that the phone and camera are charged, turn on the camera and insert it into the micro USB slot. The application will automatically start and you are ready to take IR pictures. To take a photo press the photo button from the app (not the camera photo button). You will see the app swipe the photo to the side, indicating the photo was taken and ready to take a new picture.

  At the top of the screen is the menu button which takes you to application menus. Next is the Spot Meter button (looks like crosshair) which will turn on a thermometer which can read temperatures from -4F to 248F. The flashlight icon will turn on a flashlight for use in low light situations. The stopwatch button activates 3 or 10 second timer (configurable by user). The battery level is for the FLIR One camera.

  The current version of the software allows the user to change from photo, time lapse and video modes by sliding the mode at the bottom of the viewing screen.

   Under the Settings menu you can chose from nine different color palettes (these are just a different way to view the IR images). You can also use the parallax menu to change the overlay of the two cameras (or superimpose one image next to the other).

This is a photo of my front door taken from inside of the house at 4:00pm (door faces west)

This is the same photo but with the nine different color palettes

Here are two pictured from my dryer, one in Iron and the other in Wheel (note the dryer vent signature through the wall).

  When I first started using the camera on my phone (Motorola Droid Turbo II) it would constantly lock up. I found moderate success by clearing the cache and restarting. To be fair my phone was not listed as an approved phone (downside of using non-standard iPhone platform).

NOTE - In June of 2017 FLIR upgraded (overhauled) the app and it seems to be working fine now.

  Two spacers are included with the camera and are designed to close the gap between the bottom of the phone and the top of the camera (if not using a case on your phone). Peel away the backing on the spacer to expose the glue which will allow you to attach the spacer to the camera. When I tested this on my phone there was still a little bit of a gap so I did not use them.

  Two offset adapters are also included which move the position of the camera relative to the phone. One of the adapters reverses the camera so you can take IR Selfies. The photos below show the two different adapters.

This adapter changes the offset of the camera (micro USB port is on the other side):

Note: the gap between the adapter and the phone is similar to the gap between the phone and the camera.

This adapter reverses the direction of the camera

  When taking pictures I have noticed that this camera setup is not sensitive enough to take images through glass. I was in my living room taking images of items on the porch and notices that the IR images contained reflection on the glass door of items from inside the house.

  Other reviews have indicated that the camera is not sensitive in low light situations. I have found this to be true. Using the flashlight button to activate the phone’s light provides a much clearer image. This is because the IR Camera is using both an IR and regular camera to take a composite image and the regular camera requires a moderate amount of light.

  The micro USB charging cable can charge the camera or cellphone (you cannot charge the phone by connecting the charging cable to the camera and the camera to the phone).

 

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

FLIR camera for your cell Phone

Target Market:

Anyone who wants a FLIR camera without spending a lot of money.

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Inexpensive way to take IR images.

  • FLIR MSX image software.

  • Can take pictures, video and time lapse video.

  • Has a countdown timer (3 or 10 seconds) when taking pictures

  • Nine different color palettes.

  • Can measure temperatures from -4F to 248F

  • Temperature can be displayed using the Spot Meter

  • Adapter can connect to your phone or tablet even if it is in a case.

  • FLIR One app is user friendly

 

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

You can get it in any color you want as long as you want black.

http://flir.com/flirone/

What others are saying?:

C|net https://www.cnet.com/products/flir-one/review/

The Good The Flir One's MSX tech mashes a regular and a thermal image together so you can see more than you would with a standalone raw thermal image.

The Bad While $250 is inexpensive when you consider the larger commercial thermal camera market, it still isn't a cheap mobile accessory. There aren't a ton of practical uses for the Flir One.

The Bottom Line Get the Flir One for its superior thermal imaging tech and overall ease of use, but be sure to consider specific, ongoing applications for this $250 accessory before you buy.

Price point:

MSRP = $199.99

Retail = $289.98 at Amazon

I need it now! Availability:

FLIR or Amazon

Our Rating:

FLIR One is a great gadget for your cell phone as well as a useful tool.

Pros:

  • Cost effective way to take thermal images.

  • Camera can be used on different phones.

  • Automatic IR calibration

  • Nine different palettes to view the images.

  • FLIR has created several how-to videos with suggestions for using the camera.

Cons:

  • Takes a lot of memory to run app and camera (seems to be better with the recent upgrade).

  • Camera is not sensitive enough to take images through glass or low light.

  • Camera has limited battery life (about 1 hour).

  • You have to be careful to avoid accidentally breaking the micro USB Connector.

  • Cannot use the camera to charge your phone.

  • Not for use in bad weather.

Score: 6.5 Okay

 

 

TandemKross Halo Charging handle

  If you have been around certain types of handguns, like the Ruger MK series, you know how hard they can be to cycle by hand. This brings us to the "Halo" charging ring by Tandemkross. The Halo is a nifty device that clamps on your existing charging handle/slide. Tandemkross sent me the Halo for review. It is one of the few made for the square style bolt on the earlier Ruger 22/45 and MKII's.

  When you first get the Halo, you notice that it is a real simple design. It is basically a squared off ring with a slot and a bolt. Simple yes, but more importantly is the function. Once I mounted it up, I immediately found it easier to cycle the bolt. All you have to do is put a finger inside the loop, and pull back, then let go, and your done. I had my whole family try it, and they all said it was way easier and more intuitive. I was also told it made the 22/45 look like a space gun.

  Of course I was also worried about adding weight to the bolt. After trying everything from sub-sonic to hyper-sonic .22lr shells, I put that thought to rest as everything functioned great! Now on the other hand, I was a little disappointed the the inside of the Halo ring was squared off. It digs into your joint a little when using it. If Tandemkross were to round the inside, it would be much more ergonomic. I wasn't the only person who thought this either. With the Halo installed, you can cycle the bolt the same way as before, if you want, but with the added benefit of the tabs sticking out farther than standard.

  Everything needed for the installation is included. Basically the screw and allen wrench. To install the Halo. Just slide it down over the cocking serrations/nubs. Install the screw, and tighten it down. I put some blue threadlocker on the screw, just in case. One thing to note, you can put the Halo on upside down. Yes, I did this, and it does still function fine. But put the writing so you can read it, and that is the correct way to install it.

  The Ruger series of pistols is not the only ones that Tandemkross makes the Halo for. Some of the others look a little different, but function the same. So if you are having a problem racking the slide, or know someone that is, you might want to look into the Halo series of charging handles. 

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

Easier to use charging handle

Target Market:

Shooters wanting a quicker, larger, and easier to use charging handle

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Pull Ring Design

  • Ease of use

  • Ambidextrous

  • Lightweight

  • Anodized

  • Made in U.S.A.

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

Black only, but available for other firearm models

What others are saying?:

Jon @tandemcross: 5/5 stars

Ruger 22/45 Lite Halo

This has to be one of the best upgrades for the Ruger 22/45. I got this for my wife because she has a hard time pulling back the bolt with her small hands. The halo ring makes it simple and easy for her to rack the bolt with just one finger. I also like how secure it is on the bolt, just a dab of blue loctite on the screw and its not going anywhere. Lastly, I believe the extra weight of the halo on the bolt helps cycle the gun better which is an added bonus. I would definitely recommend this upgrade for people who have trouble pulling back the bolt on their Ruger pistol easily.

Link to other reviews:

AmmoLand

Price point:

MSRP = $44.99

Retail = $42.99 at Brownells

I need it now! Availability:

TandemKross or Brownells

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Easy to use

  • Weight doesn't induce malfunctions

  • Model availability

  • Easy Installation

  • Made in U.S.A.

Cons:

  • Squared Off (Not Rounded)

  • Only available in black

Score: 8.0 Great

 

Chad’s Favorite Link:   AR15 Podcast

Stormrider Underlord Gear Belt

Written By: Zane M.

Probably the most overlooked part of everyday carry (EDC) gear is the belt.  You can't truly appreciate a good belt until you've worn a good one for any length of time.  About 8 months ago I began my quest for a new belt, as the old instructor belt I'd worn for years had seen better days, to say the least. There was one problem: I'm not a fan of the cobra buckle and cobra buckles are all the rage these days.  

  Enter Stormrider gear's underlord belt. The underlord is part of a belt system that uses an inner and outer belt. The outer is ideal for duty, training, and/or competition without the need for belt keepers. The inner belt, affectionately referred to as the underlord, makes an absolutely wonderful choice for a stand-alone belt for your EDC. 

  The belt has no buckle to speak of; instead it uses hook and loop to "lock" the end in place. The belt also sports loop (or the fuzzy side of the brand name Velcro) around the circumference of the belt. This is for use with the outer belt part of the system, called the overlord. This also works well with certain accessories that utilize hook and loop attachment points, such as mag carriers, medical kits, and of course moral patches. Stormrider gear offers belts without the loop, but for the same price and on recommendation from a trusted friend in the gun community, I saw no reason to forgo it. 

  The belt is stiff, as expected, and does support the weight of my EDC gear. I have carried in several different configurations during the last 6 months and regardless of how I carried, the belt supported each setup very well. I typically carry a Glock 17 and at least one spare magazine every day. For concealed carry the gun is kept in an appendix holster in the waistband with a spare magazine right next to it at about 11:00. For open carry, I use a duty type holster with active retention with a belt slide attachment (not a paddle) and belt slide duel mag carrier on the support side. I've also carried the same gun at about 3:30 in the waistband. The only time the belt ever became uncomfortable was during extended wear “hotspots” would develop right on my hip bones. It's worth mentioning that I have this issue with all thick webbing type belts and attribute this to my thin build.

  The belts are 1.5" in width and Stormrider gear boasts several color options on their website, to include the ever popular Kryptec patterns. I went with Kryptec Typhon and solid black loop. There is a sizing chart on their website and they warn "do not use your pant size.” 

  If you are someone who trains a lot with a full set up or needs the ability to quickly go from low profile CCW to full on duty rig (“kit up” for the tactical Timmy’s out there) the underlord is a perfect base to start with.  As long as you chose an outer belt that has hook attachment, you'll be good to go. 

  This belt is a great overall choice for the concealed carrier, as it is sturdy, comfortable, and very functional. The best part is, the underlord won't break the bank at sub $50. I've worn belts twice the cost of this and didn't gain much by way of comfort or usability. 

FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS - 8 KEY POINTS

CLAIM TO FAME:

Buckle-less design 

1" loop the entire circumference 

TARGET MARKET:

Concealed carry

Law enforcement/security personnel 

Anyone who needs a stiff, ridged belt 

FNBS (FEATURES & BENEFITS OF THIS PRODUCT):

Loop attachment points 

Very reasonably priced. 

Alternative to the cobra buckle (for those like me that aren't a fan) 

WHAT OTHER AESTHETIC OPTIONS OR FINISHES ARE AVAILABLE?

Base color:

Assassin black

Coyote brown

Foliage gray 

Ranger green 

Wolf gray 

Multicam

Kryptec highlander 

Kryptec typhon

Kryptec yeti

multicam black 

 

Loop colors:

Assassin black

Coyote brown

Foliage gray 

Ranger green 

Wolf gray 

Just brown

 What others are saying:

"I FORGOT I WAS WEARING IT!

 This belt is stout in construction but flexible enough that I forgot I had a belt on. When loaded up it feels like it distributes the weight well and resists bending outward very well. I can't wait to get the overlord to go with it. The buckle-less design is a huge comfort factor and is what lead me to give this belt a go. Was worth the wait!"

 -Review from storm rider gears website.

Price point:

 MSRP = $46.99 Add $3 for kryptec or multicam 

 Retail = $46.99

I need it now availability:

I was only able to find in on stormridergear.com

Lead time is 8 weeks at the time of writing

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Super stiff
  • Very comfortable 
  • Hook and loop fasteners
  • Very reasonably priced

Cons:

  • More difficult to sit down in the restroom than with a traditional belt buckle. 
  • Hotspots can build up on the hips (you probably know what I'm talking about. If you don't it's probably a non issue)
  • Looks odd with a shirt tucked in

 

Score: 8.0 Great

SKD Tactical PIG Full Dexterity Tactical Alpha Gloves

In addition to eye and ear protection, hand protection is a good idea that many shooters overlook. Shooting gloves are considered more of an optional layer of protection, because their construction can be stifling to the user's dexterity and sensitivity... two things an effective marksman requires. Gun owners who train more aggressive with their firearms know the necessity of a good pair of gloves. Racking slides, ripping magazines from pouches, and gripping hot surfaces will make short work of bare skin.

Although gloves help prevent cuts, scrapes and other hand injuries, they suffer from an inherent paradox. The more robust and protective they are, the less dexterity the afford the user. Don't believe me? Try pulling a trigger with some welding gloves on! What good is protective equipment if it slows you down? When it comes to a 'tactical' shooting glove design, the challenge is balancing protection with flexibility. This is exactly what SKD tactical set out to accomplish with the Pig Full Dexterity Tactical Alpha Gloves.

The Pig FDT Alpha Glove uses several distinct features that give the user comfort and flexibility at the right anatomical places. They focus attention at the points most utilized by pistol/rifle/shotgun shooters: the index finger pad, the other fingers, and the palms. Starting at the trigger fingers, a thin material called Clarino™ is used to increase sensitivity greatly, which obviously aids in applying and releasing trigger pressure.

Not only that, but a synthetic suede is used to make the index finger and thumb conductive for the use touch screens. This is a huge benefit for those who take photos with their smart devices, or use apps for ballistic calculation, recording range data, or just texting your mom. Normally with other gloves, you'd have to shed the glove to do any of that. #instragram #pewpew

PIG-2.jpg

As for the rest of the fingers, flexibility at the joints is crucial for a good grip, as well as manipulating fire controls, as well as working the action and reloading. Attention was given to every joint and knuckle so that flexibility and ventilation was noticeably present on each finger, at the points where you would need them most. This is where most gloves fall short because the construction is more rigid constrictive when you make a fist or try gripping anything.

The tips of the fingers also get a much needed upgrade! Most gloves have seams near the finger tips, which totally kills sensitivity and make minute tasks like picking up small objects or pressing buttons almost impossible. The FDT Alpha design has material wrapping-over the tips of fingers, which is more comfortable and spreads out impact pressure that would otherwise damage fingernails.

Enough about the fingers, because the palm is a critical area that doesn't get enough attention on the drawing board most the time. The FDT uses a single layer made up of multiple pieces. This allows for the freedom of natural creases and contours when gripping or making a fist, while the single layer ensures theres a tangible feel of what you are gripping. Thick gloves for shooting reminds me a lot like Ralphie's overwinterized brother in the Christmas Story...

The back of the gloves are thoughtful designed as well. The knuckles are covered in 1000D Stretch Ballistic Nylon, which help cut down on pressure at the seams when you make a fist and your knucks protrude outward. There is even an area of micro suede that is good for wiping boogers off your mustache. It happens to all of us, especially outdoors in the winter... no judgment, ladies. 

The cuff is shortened as well, which makes alot of sense for shooting a variety of guns with different grip angles. Your wrist maybe bent at a greater angle shooting one firearm, say a short barreled rifle, versus shooting a pistol like a 1911. The cuff is secured using a velcro-like hook and loop that is much more minimal and modern. SKD claims they used this stuff because is is less prone to catching onto fabrics and materials you don't want it to cling to.

The FDT Alpha Glove is certainly more custom tailored to the anatomy of the human hand, and thusly the sizing will seem a bit off then what you are used to. For instance, my hands typically fit best in a ___ size, whereas the FDT Alpha Gloves in ____ fit perfectly. Here is a sizing chart to help you choose the best size glove for your paws.

The gloves are supposed to feel tight at first. SKD says as long as they aren't uncomfortable when you make a fist and is snug when your hand is open, the sizing is correct. They do integrate a paracord loop on the cuff that is bar-tacked, to help with sliding into the glove like most shoes have also for your feet.

PIG-11.jpg

The biggest issue many folks have is the longevity of the glove. Due to the design considerations to increase comfort, dexterity, and flexibility, these gloves can wear out sooner than you would expect.  I bought my first pair in 2012, and after about 16-18 months they finally met their bitter end. SKD is totally aware, and tries to make it blatantly clear on the website with a disclaimer:

At the end of the day, the PIG FDT-Alpha Gloves are a consumable product that will provide the user with the best tactile dexterity available in a tactical glove, and should be worn to destruction, then discarded and replaced. The selection of super sensitive materials and extremely tight seams mean that these gloves will eventually wear out, and there are no warranties implied. Please try them on and inspect them thoroughly for fit and finish before removing from the hangtag, but be forewarned, you will not want to take them off.
— SKD Website, product page

At a sub $50 price point, SKD urges customers to wear their alpha gloves until their demise, and simply buy a new pair. Welcome to Marketing 101... convince customer to buy the product, use until failure, then replace and repeat. Realistically though, gloves are just as susceptible to wear as gun magazines as well as other clothing. $50 underwear will last as long as the $15 5-pack will. But that $50 pair will feel so good on your cheeks that you wear them more, wash them more, and thusly wear out faster. The same applies to gloves essentially. I bet SKD would see a higher repurchase rate if they offered 5-10% off to reordering customers with blown out gloves, just a thought.

PIG-6.jpg

So did I buy a second pair after my first ones got thrashed? Yes I did, because the compatibility with touch screens was a big enough selling point to me, as well as the increased dexterity that is needed for every task on the firing line. Plus I often get sweaty hands when wearing gloves, and the ventilation holes in both the palms and fingers help combat the moisture. Just don't expect these to keep you absolutely warm and dry in the winter months, because they are really designed to do one thing well... shoot!

Firearms Insider Reviews – 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame: So much sensitivity that you can wear these on your next date with PALMela HANDerson.

Target Market: Shooters of all types

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Conductive Thumb and Trigger Finger material for touch screen use
  • Single Layer Multi-Piece Palm
  • Isolated Trigger Finger uses Clarino™ material
  • Forschette material is ventilated for maximum sweat wicking
  • Low Profile Hook & Loop Closure
  • Flex Joints for enhanced flexibility
  • Dual Flex Joints on Trigger Finger
  • Bar-Tacked Para Cord Pull Loop
  • Micro Suede Nose Wipe
  • Ventilation holes in Palms and Fingers for more wicking
  • Isolated Edge Padding
  • Wrap-Over Finger Tips for finger nails protection
  • Stretch Ballistic Nylon 1000D Padded Knuckles

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black, Coyote, Ranger Green, Carbon Grey. Womens sizes also available!

What others are saying?:"I dig these gloves. They required a total of ZERO break-in time. Their fine, high-quality seams don't press into the tips of my fingers when I grasp my rifle, sidearm, or anything else (unlike my normal shooting gloves, which were originally intended for automotive work). They're supple enough to go unnoticed on my hands after just a few minutes, and their touchscreen sensitivity is flawless." -User Review

"I do a lot of work with pyrotechnics, av grip work, and of course training with firearms. These are by the best gloves I've owned. What sold me was the overlapping finger tips which aid in improved fine motor dexterity that eliminates having to remove the gloves while working. They were so comfortable that I would find any excuse to wear them. I truly put them to the test and they held up until I blew out the index finger on the right hand glove. I can't knock them for it. All sorts of fine motor skills with pyrotechnics and AV grip work that could not have been for seen by SKD. I'll definitely be ordering another pair." -User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: SKD Tactical

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Finger and Thumb work with touch screens on smart devices
  • Ventholes reduce sweating after prolonged use
  • Improved dexterity for tasks that otherwise require removing glove to do the job
  • Feels great in all hand positions
  • Single layer palm increases sensitivity

Cons:

  • Interior palm/finger material can be slippery on non-textured guns
  • Design causes expedited wear compared to other gloves (if you dont go thru shooting gloves every couples years, you aren't shooting enough!)
  • Single layer and ventholes work against you when wet and or cold
  • Made overseas

 

Score: 7.5 Good

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Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design

"Game Changer" .22lr Compensator from TandemKross

  Compensator's for small caliber handguns can seem pointless to some. After all, .22lr doesn't have much recoil. But, I tend to believe that all calibers benefit from reduced recoil and muzzle rise. I tend to think TandemKross feels the same way I do. After all, they did send me the Game Changer comp to review.

  I installed the Game Changer on my Ruger 22/45 MKII. The barrel had been previously threaded to the 1/2-28 that the compensator is designed for. So I installed the supplied O-ring that they use as a type of crush washer and seal. Then screwed the Game Changer on and aligned the top holes up.  There is some resistance once the O-ring starts getting pressure on it, but it isn't a lot. This compensator does not have bottom holes/vents. I prefer this to other styles that have vent holes all the way around the compensator. 

  So it is time to tell my experience with the Game Changer. I originally thought the name was a little boisterous, but then I shot it. This little compensator does a great job of reducing the recoil. Since it didn't have much to start with, it took it down to almost nothing! But that's not all, it also reduced the muzzle rise. On a side note. While at a steel challenge match, I was talking with a guy who had been using the Game Changer for a couple of years in rimfire open class. He told me it was his favorite comp. So I am not the only one that likes it. Also when shooting the comp, you can actually see the gases coming out the sides and top. I did not notice it being any louder than without it, but it is only a .22, so it is not like a large caliber with a compensator.

  The Game Changer is constructed out of anodized aluminum. It has 4 holes in the top and 4 slots on each side. TandemKross says it has large ports for easy cleaning, and yes, you can get in there to clean out the lead and powder junk. As usual, it has 1/2-28 threads, the standard for rimfires. But there is one thing I don't like about the comp. It has a 1" diameter, so it is larger than the 22/45's barrel, and would also be larger than a 10/22 bull barrel. It is just cosmetic, but it would be nice if it was the same diameter to give firearm a smooth look. At 1.75" long, it is not really long either. It will also fit just about any .22lr that has 1/2-28 threads.

  After shooting the Game Changer a bunch. I've concluded that it lives up to the name. So if you are looking for an "actual" compensator, not just a diffuser, go look at TandemKross. They pretty much are a one stop shop for anything .22lr, not just products for Ruger's. 

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

.22lr compensator to reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise

Target Market:

Shooters wanting less muzzle rise to get back on target faster

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Reduces Muzzle Rise

  • Large openings for ease of cleaning

  • Standard 1/2"x28 Threads

  • 1" Outside Diameter

  • 1.75" Long

  • Black Hardcoat Anodizing

  • Made in U.S.A.

  • Lifetime Guarantee

  • Fits: 
  • Ruger Mark III
  • Ruger Mark III 22/45
  • Ruger Mark III 22/45 LITE
  • Ruger Mark IV 22/45 Tactical
  • Ruger Mark IV 22/45 LITE
  • Ruger SR22
  • Ruger 10/22
  • Ruger 22 Charger pistol
  • Browning Buck Mark
  • GSG 1911-22
  • Savage Arms Mark II TRR-SR
  • Walther P22
  • SW22 Victory (2016)
  • Smith & Wesson M&P®22 Compact
  • Smith & Wesson M&P®15-22P pistol

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

Black, Branded (has TK Logo), Tandemized (#tandemized on side)

What others are saying?:

Keith @tandemkross.com: 3/5 stars

It's O.K.

Does help with speed of follow up shots. However leading causes accuracy to drop off rapidly.

Jason @E. Arthur Brown: 5/5 stars

Works great on my 22/45

Threaded on great, came down to the right amount of force to snug it on and sits flush with the ports lined up exactly straight up on the top. Definitely can hear the shots, almost louder than before. It seems to tame the already small recoil down even more.

Link to other reviews:

Spotter Up Review

Price point:

MSRP = $34.99

Retail = $34.99 at Brownells

I need it now! Availability:

TandemKross or Brownells

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Reduces recoil

  • Reduces muzzle rise

  • O-ring seal

  • Price

  • Made in USA

Cons:

  • Diameter Size

  • Only Available in Black

 

Score: 8.0 Great

 

Chad’s Favorite Link:   Axelson Tactical

Decibullz Custom Molded Percussive Shooting Ear Plugs

  As shooters, we all know that good hearing protection is needed. Usually opting for over the ear style. Or most likely, amplified earmuffs so you can still hear other people talking, while cutting out the harsh noise of the gun shot. Sometimes the earmuffs can lift off your head slightly and now you have lost the benefit of them. Well, Decibullz has come out with a percussive filter, custom molded in ear, earplug.

  Decibullz had made standard moldable earplugs for a while. But they recently introduced their new Percussive Filter ones. The percussive filter cuts out harmful noise, while allowing you to still hear relatively normally. Not quite like the amplified muffs we are use to. These do not require any batteries! Granted, they won't amplify sound, but they also don't lift up when pressed against a rifle stock. When I asked how much noise reduction they have, Decibullz said they have a Noise Reduction Rating of 32, so 32 NRR. But at normal levels like talking, it is rated at 10 NRR. So what does this mean for you? Well, it basically means that you can hear normal voices, but they are a little reduced in volume. But on the other side, they do a great job at cutting out loud volumes like gunshots.

  Probably one one the best features of the Decibullz percussive ear plugs, is they are custom moldable. When the earplugs first arrive, they are kind of bean shaped. Don't worry, this isn't how they are used, you must first mold them. To mold the earplugs to the shape of your ear, all it takes is hot water. First remove the filter and set it aside. Install the orange tip onto the plug. Then just boil some water on the stove. Once it is boiling, take it off the burner. Toss in one plug only, as they can stick together if you put both in at the same time. Wait 5 minutes, remove the plug with a spoon and let rest for 30 seconds. Install the filter. Now press the plug, filter, and orange tip into your ear, pressing to form it to your ear. Let sit in your ear for 5 more minutes. Now your done with that ear, do the same for the other plug. If you mess up, don't worry, because you can just do the process over again to remold it. One of the only problems with these being moldable in hot water is that they can unform in high heat environments, like a hot car in the summer. But if this happens, just remold them. Decibullz has a very good video on molding the different model of plugs on their website.

  After wearing these for some time now, I can honestly say they are great. So good that I ordered a set of the standard ones also. If your worried about fit, don't be, they are really comfortable, even for extended periods of time. The plugs also come with a plethora of tips to fit different size ear canals. Also included is a neat little carrying bag to store the plugs in. While using these I didn't have any problem hearing normal conversations, even if the were muted a small amount. When shooting rifles, they allowed me to get a much better cheek weld than I normally get with my electronic muffs. They also did an excellent job cutting noise from short barreled rifles and compensated rifles, and we know those can be loud. For right now they only come in black. The ones they supplied me with are orange, as you can see. I would expect them to be offered in the same colors as the rest of their product lines. The orange is actually nice because it is easier for range officials to see that you have your ear protection on. 

  I mentioned ordering a normal set, since the moldable part is the same, I'll talk about a different experience. These were for my wife. After molding them, she was not really getting any noise reduction. She tried the different size tips and the foam tips as recommended on the Decibullz website, but that didn't seem to help. If you pushed on them, they would work. We tried to remold them, and even though they fit a little better, the plugs did the same thing and didn't block noise. After reading some of the reviews on Amazon, we decided that that her ears are small and/or narrow. There seemed to just be too much plastic to mold and get a good fit in her ears. Since all of the Decibullz products are one size, you might want to be cautious if you have small ears. Maybe Decibullz will offer sizes some time in the future.

  On a side note. The plugs are hard, not soft or rubbery. But since they are molded to your ear, they are still comfortable. Installing them in your ear is self explanatory. I found that when removing them from my ear, it helped to pull your ear lobe out of the way and then kind of pop them out. That's how well they stay in. But if you don't want the percussive filters, and just want standard plugs, they do not come with the plug insert

  At first I was reluctant at how these Percussive filter plugs were going to work. I have used other brands that were said to do the same thing and didn't. But the Decibullz work! I am so glad that they sent me out a pair, because I know that I wouldn't have probably purchased them myself. Like I said before, I even purchased a non percussive set. If you don't like ear muffs, but want to hear sounds around you without loud noises damaging your hearing, these are the ticket. Go give Decibullz a look, They also make headphones that are custom moldable.

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

Custom molded noise cancelling earplugs

Target Market:

Shooters, hunters, or anyone around loud noises

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Custom molded  
  • Percussive filters
  • Remoldable
  • Work with other Decibullz products 
  • NRR of 32 db
  • NRR of 10 db under normal volumes  
  • Certified up to 166 db
  • Passive (no power needed)  

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

None as of now, only black, but the standard earplugs are available in Black, Blue, Orange, Pink, and Red

What others are saying?:

None found. Product is too new with the percussive filters

Link to other reviews:

Spotter Up

Wide Open Spaces

Price point:

MSRP = $74.99

Retail = $74.99 on Amazon

I need it now! Availability:

Amazon or Decibullz

Our Rating:

Pros: 

  • Easy to mold
  • Remoldable
  • Comes with lots of sizes and types of inserts
  • Super quiet
  • No batteries to go dead  
  • Ultra comfortable  

Cons:

  • Some reduction in normal sound
  • Can melt or deform under high heat (like a car dash) 
  • Don't come with standard plug inserts 
  • Don't work well for smaller ears

Score: 7.0 Good

 

Chad’s Favorite Link:  Axelson Tactical

Smoke Composites Carbon Fiber Buttstock

  As previously mentioned in the Smoke Composites foreend review, they are making some awesome carbon fiber parts. Carbon fiber seems to be taking the AR market by storm. Probably because of it's characteristics. Since they also sent me a buttstock for review, it's time to talk about it. 

  The buttstock Smoke Composites sent is their carbine length. It is a very minimalist style. The stock consists of a tube, a buttpad/plate, lightweight castle nut, and a carbon fiber endplate. Also to note is that this stock is their closed style. This means it has an attached support piece that goes from the bottom of the buttplate up to the stock. The support piece also has 2 small M-lok slots to attach items such as a QD sling mounts. I believe this is an option and the standard closed stock does not have these slots. Smoke Composites also offers the stock in an open profile, with no support piece. One advantage to having the closed style is that brush, barricades, etc., do not hang up on it like the open style could. I will note that besides being super light, this stock is strong. I even beat it on a concrete floor to simulate mortering the rifle. All it did was put a slight scuff mark on the buttplate. 

  I don't know how they do it, but the attention to detail on this stock is spectacular. The screw threads on the aluminum piece, that is installed in the receiver, are beautifully machined. Then pair that with the lightweight aluminum castle nut, which is also excellently machined, and you have a working piece of art. Smoke Composites also sent their carbon fiber end plate. It, by itself, weighs nothing. But I would like to see a bump or something on it to index into the receiver. The end plate does have the index for the buffer tube groove, but it wanted to move a little bit when torquing down the castle nut. The top of the aluminum section also has "Smoke Composites" laser etched on it. 

     Now that the stock has been explained, it's on to a few specs. When I weighed this thing, it came in at 4.9 ounces, with the castle nut and carbon fiber endplate! The open stock weighs a little bit less. The length of pull is 9.5", which I have discovered seems to be about on par for these style carbine stocks. It uses the standard carbine spring and buffer, which are not included. If you know anything about carbon fiber, I don't, it is made from 35-50 carbon fiber. If nothing else, the stock pattern looks really slick. A rubber buttpad can be had as an option, which would help with the buttplate not being so slick. One neat add on is the ability to order a custom length of pull for an extra $35.

  If you're in the market for carbon fiber AR part, do take a look at Smoke Composites. This stock is great for functional lightweight builds. It comes in various options and lengths. Plus you'll have the coolest looking rifle at the range. 

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

Lightweight carbon fiber minimalist stock for AR style rifles

Target Market:

Lightweight AR builders, 3-gunners, and anyone wanting a super light buttstock

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Lightweight at 4.9 ounces with castle nut and endplate, 4.6 ounces alone
  • 9.5" length of pull
  • 35-50 Carbon Fiber / 7075 Aluminum construction  
  • 1.11" outside diameter  
  • M-Lok compatible  
  • Closed shoulder plate
  • Uses standard carbine buffer and spring
  • Custom length of pull ($35 extra)  

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

Open style: short pull or rifle length

Closed style: short pull or rifle length with or without M-lok slots

What others are saying?:

Mike on Facebook: 5 stars

Ordered a stock from them, and let me tell you: It's absolutely a work of art in and of itself. Perfect in fit and finish, and there's nary a flaw to be found... It's crazy. On top of being ridiculously, almost impossibly lightweight, the stock is tough as hell. Easily the best, most well made piece of equipment I've ever had the pleasure of owning. Beyond the actual product quality, I got the thing within 4 days of ordering it - who could ask for anything better?

 Seriously: If you're on the fence about buying any of their stuff, don't be - it's too good to not get.

Link to other reviews:

None found

Price point:

MSRP = $221.00 as tested

Retail = $189-231

I need it now! Availability:

Smoke Composites 

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Super light at 4.9 ounces
  • M-Lok slots
  • Closed shoulder plate
  • Not your typical carbon fiber look
  • Nicely machined threads and castle nut
  • Strong
  • Great looking
  • Custom length available  

Cons:

  • Carbon fiber endplate has no index bump
  • Does not come with buffer or spring
  • Slick buttplate

Score: 8.5 Great

 

Chad’s Favorite Link: U.S Tactical Supply

 

Benchmade Griptilian

Like many red blooded American boys, I was big into pocket knives before growing old enough for the firearms bug to take hold. It's a fascination you never really grow out of I think. Over the years I've owned, broke and lost quite a few folding knives. It's because of this quick turnover that I've always been hesitant to invest in a nicer quality knife. My budget was typically the cheaper blades you'd get at Christmas or from a big box store for under $50. Usually a Gerber, or a Buck knife. 

Well finally I convinced myself to step up my EDC knife game. I bumped my budget up to the $100-$200 dollar range and was looking for a folder that had high quality steel that wouldn't need sharpening so often, and an easy opening mechanism. Obviously being in the gun and knife community for awhile, you hear impressions and recommendations from other folks. I kept hearing about the Griptilian and it's little brother the Mini Grip and how they were a great all purpose folder well suited for everyday carry and capable of handling some abuse.

The Griptilian is one of Benchmade's best sellers, and I figured I needed to pick one up myself. If purchasing from Benchmade's website, you can pick from all the customization options to design the knife exactly how you want, a lot like picking out a new car. Grip material, grip color, blade steel and finish, blade style, even custom engraving options. Of course, you're paying full price going thru the manufacturer's... but you get exactly the type of knife you want.

I went the more frugal option and bought my Griptilian at a gun show. I highly recommend this option for those who aren't too specific on their color options, and want to save more than a few bucks. The Griptilian has been out for quite a few years now, so being older its very easy to haggle with vendors and talk them down to a lower price, especially if A: you are buying more than one knife, and B: if its the last day/hours of the gun show and they are a little more desperate to move inventory. If you can afford to pay full price on the principle of supporting local small businesses, thats fantastic also. Just be aware that buying from a gun show booth, you are obviously limited by the stock on hand, so be prepared to compromise on handle color and other aesthetic options.

So I picked a black coated Tanto blade style 'Grip' with an OD green handle. I chose the Tanto because its design makes for a stronger tip, and I usually end up snapping tips on drop point and sheepsfoot style knives in desperation while doing a task with the wrong tool. Plus this is a knife I've added to my EDC gear (Que obligatory pocket dump instagram photo!) and a Tanto is a very capable defensive blade design.

 
IMG_5464.PNG
 

I didn't pick the Tanto for the express purpose of stabbing or shanking bad guys, although really the only benefits are its advantage in perforating tough materials like sheet metal, and skulls of course. As well as working well as a make-shift chisel when needed. When it comes to slicing jobs, drop points are more versatile because they have a belly.The Tanto design has two flat edges and zero “belly” to the blade, making tasks like slicing more difficult depending on the medium. Plus, drop-point style blades are MUCH easier to sharpen. Tantos have two angles to sharpen, and it takes some practice to perfect.

If I had to repurchase my 'Grip,' I would go for a traditional drop point instead. That said, I like the Mel Pardue design and the 154 chrome moly steel Benchmade uses, and it holds an edge pretty well compared to lesser knives. Most knife owners complain about their knifes getting dull, and its because they LET the edge get dull. These aren't lightsabers folks, and until adamantium becomes a real thing, all knifes will require sharpening as simple maintenance. With better quality steels, the more you let the edge dull, the harder it will be to return to that razor sharp edge. So if you use it regularly, you should maintain that edge regularly also.

Its the AXIS lock mechanism thats the shining feature of the Griptilian. The release itself is ambidextrous, and is raised for easy manipulation. The edges of the AXIS release are a bit sharp. I've heard of some users using an emery board or other buffing tools to knock down that edge so its not as aggressive. While it can be slid down from one side, pulling down on both sides of the release is more efficient. This is ironically because of the physical axis the release tilts on when you only apply downward pressure from one side. The travel distance needed to release the lock is actually pretty short, so it doesn't take much effort if you are wanting to 'flip' the blade out one handed with a flick of the wrist.

The blade can also be deployed using the thumb stud. The studs are sizable enough to wedge the tip of your thumb under and flick outward, without being obnoxiously protruding. If the traditional slow and safe way is more your speed, its easy to pivot out with your thumb on the stud, and then by pulling down on the release and closing the blade manually.

If you want to be fast and dangerous, there is the 'AXIS flick' method of opening the Griptilian by only using the inertia of a quick flick of wrist while holding down the AXIS lock release stud. This way will make you more friends around the water cooler, but is also a great way to cut yourself if you don't know what you are doing. Too much momentum might cause the blade to bounce if the AXIS stud is still being held down in the unlocked position. This goes for either opening or closing the blade (see end of video). Releasing the stud at the right time ensures the blade is held in the correct position. Just be warned this isn't the manufacturer's recommended operation, and you could be prematurely wearing your knife's internals prematurely by doing this too often.

The grip texture on the sides of the nylon handle is a bunch of pyramids in an area roughly about the 60% of the whole handle. There is also nylon jimping on the spine side and blade sides. The overall swell of the handle I found pretty ergonomic in the hand, and I wouldn't wish it bigger or smaller personally. There is a big difference in handle width and feel if you go with a G10 handle, as they are panels rather than a nylon housing. I do like the nylon because its closed in the rear to keep out pocket lint and other debris, but it can snap with enough force applied (don't run over it or land on it in your pocket).

The metal inserts inside the handle have jimping as well, on the back side and the front near the pivot point. This is ideal for stabbing tasks, as well as cutting like you would with an Exacto knife or carpet knife. I found them textured enough for a firm purchase, without being too abrasive for bare skin.

The clip on the Grip is reversible for left or right hand pocket carry. Either way it leaves the folded blade's tip pointing up. You can't flip the clip to reorient the tip (thank you, thank you). But it would be very awkward to pull from your pocket in any other direction. For self defense, the knife can still be drawn and deployed easily. While its not setup to catch on the pocket and deploy all fancy-like an Emerson Wave design, its still a solid action for reacting to a threat.

In my time period with the Griptilian, I was pretty surprised by its robust construction. You could get away with a fair amount of stabbing, prying and reckless twisting with this knife in the Tanto configuration. It does have it's limits, but so far I've been surprised how much abuse the Grip can withstand... unmentionable things that I wouldn't dare subject a lesser knife to do. So far the Griptilian has been a fantastic EDC knife and I would happily repurchase it again (but in hindsight, probably get a drop-point blade instead).

FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS

Claim to Fame: When it comes to all around functionality, you can't beat the Griptillian!

Target Market: EDC, Outdoor and Utility knife carriers

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Multiple shapes, sizes, grips and colors available

  • AXIS lock mechanism

  • Manual-opening action

  • Blade Steel is 154CM (58-61 HRC)

  • 3.45" Blade Length

  • 8.07" Open Length

  • 4.62" Closed Length

  • 0.115" Blade Thickness

  • 0.64" Handle Thickness

  • Drop-point Blade Style

  • Weighs 3.88oz. (Sheepsfoot: 3.79oz., Tanto: 3.89oz.)

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Satin or Coated Blade; Grips come in Nylon or G10, in Black, Olive Drab, Sand, Orange, and Gray.

What others are saying?:"I've had my Griptilian for over 6 years now and I have to say its the best knife I've ever owned. Its lasted a long time and through a ton of abuse during my many camping trips and time as an infantryman in the army. They have gotten a bit more expensive over the years but I would still buy a new one if mine ever decided to run away. I will say they are hard to keep sharp with typical sharpening techniques because the steel is so strong but with LifeSharp I never have to worry about my knife getting dull." - User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Benchmade, Amazon, Gun Show Knife Dealers

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • AXIS lock easy to open knife with one hand two different ways
  • Blade quality is very decent
  • Nylon pyramid grip texture is great even when wet
  • Nylon handle option has a closed shell design, keeping out lint and debris
  • LifeSharp Warranty Service
  • Coating on blades is strong and resists wear pretty well
  • Jimping for thumb and index finger placement is top notch

Cons:

  • When closing one handed, blade can bounce back open if too much momentum
  • Clip can only be oriented with 'blade tip up' carry

Score: 8.5 Great

 

Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design

American Speedloaders Nest Style Loader for Glock 9mm/40sw

If you shoot a semi automatic handgun, you should own more than one magazine for it. The saying goes: "one is none, two is one, three is two, and 12 is getting close to enough." Okay I just made that up, but the point is you can never have enough magazines for your firearm. After you've spent the month's grocery budget on mags, you'll soon realize that loading more than one or two mags consecutively starts to become a pain.

For a Glock owner, having a Speedloader that is faster than traditional loading can save time and the nerve endings in your fingers.

For a Glock owner, having a Speedloader that is faster than traditional loading can save time and the nerve endings in your fingers.

If your firearm has an ammo capacity over 10 rounds and the ability for extended capacities, you begrudgingly know the discomfort and tediousness of loading magazines. Mags with 15+ round capacities can be a pain to load, and the faster you try to speed up the process, typically the more painful it is on your thumbs. For those who go thru a lot of ammo fast like competition shooters or instructors, topping off mags becomes a routine annoyance. Of course, humans do what we do best... invent a tool to get the job done better.

Tools that assist in magazine loading are commonly called "Speedloaders" and have been around for quite some time. Usually they are 'cap style' loaders that go over the mag's opening and help push down the loaded cartridge(s), compressing the spring and making it easier to insert the next round under the feed lips. This process still involves the same amount of force and the use of both hands.  It just saves your thumbs and fingers from fatigue and saves you a few seconds per mag.

The rounds slide down a sloped ramp into the nest itself. If the whole assembly isn't vertical enough, the round could fall into the internals and jam up the loader all together.

Recently I just came across a new style of speedloader that caught my interest immediately. A company by the name of American Speedloaders LLC has patented 'Nest Style' design that literally flips the script. Instead of pressing a tool downward on the mags, you turn the mag upside down and insert it into the speedloader itself. This gives the user more leverage, making it easier to compress the mag's internal spring.

Pushing down picks up the round in the magazine. It doesn't require much force, even with the compressed spring of high capacity mags.

The operation is really easy. When you insert the mag into the nest loader, it sits in an elevated resting position. In the side of the loader there is a small chute that slides down through a port. Dropping a cartridge into that chute and down into the hole aligns it directly under the magazine feed lips on top of a raise platform. Simply pressing the magazine downward into the Speedloader picks the round up. The loader's springs push the magazine back up into the resting  position after the use releasing pressure. Thats it! 

Releasing pressure resets the loader, and its ready for the next round.

Releasing pressure resets the loader, and its ready for the next round.

This process can be done both with one hand, or two handed for a faster rate per bullet. Extended magazines like the 33rd 'happy stick' can be loaded easily under a minute. This method is simply a better mouse trap. I can literally load every magazine I own in one sitting with no fatigue build up. If you've got the ammo, you can top off all your mags in one quick sitting.

This nest style design from American Speedloaders is only compatible with two magazine types so far. The Glock 9/40 mags, and the FN Five Seven (5.7x28mm) mags. According to their website, at the time of writing this review they are working on more speedloaders for other magazine types. I'm assuming Glock 45 acp mags are on the whiteboard, as well as other popular firearm models like the Smith & Wesson M&P, Springfield XD-M, FNX, Colt SMG, and other pistol caliber guns with high capacity magazines available on the market. Obviously these are merely my own predictions.

The internal ramp feeds both 9mm or 40sw rounds into the magazine when its pressed down.

I don't foresee this kind of speedloader being adapted for smaller capacity magazines types like the 1911, single stack Glock mags likes the 42 and 43, and other mags with capacities of 10 and under, because they aren't all that difficult or slow to load. If you do own something along those lines and have a hard time loading mags...rest assured American Speedloaders has cap style loaders to suit your needs.

Obviously the speedloader works with all doublestack Glock magazines, even the ETS clear ones.

Not only do I own Glock pistols in 9mm and 40sw, but a couple carbines that runs on the same mags as well. There are dozens of pistol caliber carbines that utilize Glock mags like the Lone Wolf G9, Keltec Sub2000, Kriss Vector, JR Carbine, TWN Aero Survival Carbines, Quarter Circle Ten, and even more AR-15 style receivers. Carbines obviously make it easy to go thru larger mags faster, and loading them back up with this speedloader is almost as fast as unloading them downrange. Thats why I wouldn't be surprised if Colt SMG mags were being considered, as a fair amount of carbines and pistol caliber conversion kits use that magazine, and it's capacity warrants the need for assistance.

Here you can see a video of my loading Glock mags as fast and controllable as I can after some practice. If only I could rig this up with an automated reloaded press like a Dillan 650 and an Ammobot, but this is still very quick and extremely useful for an average shooter like myself. It works best when placed on a flat solid surface, but as long as its close to perpendicular so gravity can align the bullets properly inside the speedloader, it should work. If you don't have it vertical, or you don't fully let the nest rest by letting the mag come up, you could bump a round off the internal ramp and gum up the whole mechanism. (simply invert to dislodge jammed round).

Overall, I found this little gadget to be easily worth its asking price. Its easy to operate no matter your age or physical ability, and it is small enough to fit in a range bag or pistol case for range trips. I am anxious to see the next model of magazine that American Speedloader takes on. Heck, a 223/5.56 speedloader for STANAG rifle magazines would be very well received! *hint hint*

Firearms Insider Reviews – 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame: This changes everything. Load your entire magazine quicker and easier than ever before.

Target Market: Glock Pistol or Glock Mag Carbine owners

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Compatible with Glock 9mm and 40sw magazines
  • Simple to use
  • Compact and easy to bring to the range
  • Durable material
  • Patented design

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black only. Other calibers coming soon.

What others are saying?: "Received one of these loader for a gift. It really works great" - User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Lone Wolf Distributors or Amazon

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Loads quickly with little physical exertion
  • Makes topping off larger capacity magazines with stiffer spring resistance easier
  • Can be used one handed and two handed
  • Mouth is designed to only accept mag in proper orientation

Cons:

  • Must be perpendicular when loaded, or round can bind up mechanism
  • Compared to other cap style speed loaders, compatibility with only one magazine type is a downside

Score: 7.5 Good

 

Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design

RangeMaxx R2G CCW Tactical Range Bag

Range bags come in different shapes and sizes, and up until a year ago I had only been using an old tool bag. Pretty quickly I got tired of tossing everything into loose pockets, no room for the cleaning supplies, magazines and boxes of ammo. While you do have the incognito factor of a non-tactical bag that doesn't scream "I'm on my way to / coming back from the range," sometimes you need to use the right bag for the job.

The RangeMaxx R2G CCW Tactical Range Bag is one of the better bags I found for the price point. I've been putting it through the ringer for the better part of 4 years now, and so far its held up better than expectation. I'm pretty rough on my gear, and I've been less than kind to this bag on trips to the range and throwing it in the back of my truck in between.

Believe it or not, the most important place on a range bag is the bottom. If not reinforced or armored somehow, the bottom will wear out overtime. If you haul all your ammo and other heavy gear, the wear only increases. I myself am pretty rough on my bag, tossing it on the shooting bench or down on the concrete. So far after 3 years this bag's bottom has stood up to the abuse of a lined pickup bed, concrete, gravel and dirt.

One feature I don't see on many range bags is a viewing pocket for identification. This is great for ensuring you never forget your range membership card, or simply marking your bag as yours and avoid someone picking it up by mistake. I often keep business cards in the pocket, to spread to good word about the Gun & Gear Review Podcast.

The bag is split up into a main compartment with two permanent dividers and one removable partition, two side compartments that are designed specifically for pistol magazines and carbine magazines, and two end pouches on the other smaller sides. Of course each of the four sides and the top panel is covered in MOLLE webbing for the addition of more pouches and gear as you see fit. It even has a square of 'loop' material, so I can rock my favorite Patriot Patch Co. morale patch!

The zipper pulls are just cheap scraps of shoelace. I doubt replacing these with 550 paracord would have added much to the production cost of the bag, but honestly it doesn't cost much for me to replace them myself. The actual zippers themselves aren't what I would consider high quality zippers like YKK brand, so I consciously go easy on them. 

The pistol mag pouch side compartment has a built-in cleaning surface sewn into the inside of the flap... but its just a bright gray felt. If you use it while oiling or cleaning your guns, it will soak that crud up and then you'd be stuck with it. So I recommend only using it to set your super fancy safe queen down while at the range to avoid scratches or marring from the bench itself. The seven mag pouches are good for exactly what you'd think, or other items like multitools, chamber flags, and whatever else you need organized. There is a large pocket behind the row of pouches for loose storage, but that makes the wall holding the pouches flimsy... especially if you are toting loaded up mags. Also note.... extended capacity mags like the 33rd Glock happy sticks are too tall and won't allow for closing the zipper!

The opposite side compartment is designed to hold three AR-15, AK, or other similar sized carbine magazines. There is no "cleaning mat" on this side, and it also runs into the same problem with mags longer than the standard 30 round AR mag. The 40 round P-Mags will have to ride loose in the bottom of the pocket, or in the main compartment.

The center compartment can be as organized or chaotic as you want it to be. There is one center aisle with a flat box bottom thats great for ammo boxes, shooting bags, earmuffs, gloves and more. This bag also comes with a removable partition, but its pretty rubbish. I don't bother with it at all. On either side is a walled off pocket that is great for carrying paper targets (folded or small in size) as well as handguns, staplers, and data books for recording. I wouldn't consider this bag an optimal CCW bag, as it clearly broadcasts exactly what its contents will be: guns, gun accessories and or ammunition. However if you need to toss in a holstered pistol while transitioning from the range to your vehicle and back home, it works fine.

The stitching on the nylon webbing isn't anything to write home about, so don't expect military quality production here. Personally there isn't any pouches I would add externally to this bag because A: it would expand the footprint and be kind of chunky and B: pretty counter intuitive (things go in bags, not outside of bags). I suppose an admin pouch or a dedicated pouch for your staple gun would be practical. I wouldn't suggest attaching a holster to the outside of a rangebag, buts thats up to you. 

Overall, this rangebag has served my needs and has lived up to the $60 price tag, especially if you need to get rid of a Bass Pro Shops gift card and don't know what to use it on! In all honesty though, when (not if) this bag eventually kicks the bucket, I will spring for something with a nicer quality but similar features.

Firearms Insider Reviews – 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame: The RangeMaxx R2G CCW Tactical Range Bag is a highly functional range bag that carries handguns and shooting accessories for a day at the range.

Target Market: Pistol and/or Carbine Shooters

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Large zippered main compartment for carry ammo, shooting glasses, hearing protection, a gun cleaning kit, or tactical gear
  • Two large zippered side pockets feature magazine pouches; 1 side for AR-15 magazines, the other for pistol magazines.
  • Pistol mag pocket folds down to for gun cleaning and inspection
  • Two zippered end pockets
  • CCW universal holster
  • Exterior MOLLE webbing
  • Made of rugged 1,000D polyester
  • Heavy-duty zippers
  • Padded shoulder strap
  • Wide, web carry handles
  • 16"x10"x8"
  • Imported

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black only

What others are saying?:"Let's begin with the pros. The size of this bag makes it a perfect range bag for a day out to go shooting. The size makes it the easiest thing to pick up and go as I don't need to worry about lugging around a larger or heavier bag. Comfortably fits about 6-8 magazines.  The weight of this bag is pretty light even with a full load of magazines, loose brass, cellphone, range license, targets, small microfiber cloth and shooting glasses. If I want to, I can most definitely fit another handgun in there but I usually just carry the other ones separate but that's just me.This bag has a ton of velcro to hold everything securely so for some that could be a con but for me it makes it pretty simple to change things around as I see fit. The features this bag offers are just right for a day out and I am always excited to take it out with my ammo can.

Now for the cons. I do have to mention this as a con, although a small con, a con still. The Universal Pistol Holder is just a tad small for the more larger handguns and pistols. Now it does fit most but I would have liked to a see a little more snug fit for the handguns cause they feel and look a tad loose and I don't want that because the bag is a pack you carry on your shouldered because you are moving around and that also means your gear does as well and that is a con. Not something that is game breaking but it is to be mentioned because the pistol just sits a little long and sticks out, so for me, that makes it look a little tacky on the inside. Also, the price is a con. The price for this bag before tax is quite expensive, considering it literally has a tag that says, "Made in China." If it was made and manufactured in the US the price would be a little more justified. The quality overall is fine. I wouldn't say it's worth the expensive price tag considering its imported from China. On a scale of 1-5, 5 being the best and 1 being the worse, this bag is a solid 3.6 or 3.7.  Above average but not quite great but almost. I will definitely be bringing this bag with me everytime I go to the range, as I am always introducing new shooters and what to bring or not to bring when going out for some fun target shooting." Bass Pro User

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Bass Pro Shops

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Compartments offer plenty of space for organizing magazines, cleaning supplies, & other gear
  • Shoulder sling or carry handle
  • Enough room in main compartment's center for larger items like boxes of shotgun shells, rifle rest bags, earmuffs, etc.

Cons:

  • Internal partition doesn't secure with velcro or snaps so it comes out when retrieving items (I just threw it out)
  • Pistol-side "cleaning mat" is just cheap soft lining thats light colored and will show stains
  • Zipper pull stitching on top panel broke quickly
  • Zipper pulls are cheap shoelace string
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Score: 7.0 Good

Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design

Smoke Composites Carbon Fiber Handguard

   As many of you know, carbon fiber seems to be popping up everywhere. Smoke Composites is one of those companies. They recently started making carbon fiber parts for AR style rifles and pistols. Their history of making parts for the defense industry, has had a definite benefit for those of us looking for lightweight AR parts. I will take a look at their 12" handguard. 

  Smoke composites sent me one of the 12" M-Lok handguards to review. The first thing I noticed was how spectacular this handguard looked. It has a cool, non-symetrical, look to it. Not the standard grid pattern one would expect. I also noticed the quality put into the handguard. But then I picked it up, and wow, it is light. 

  Now it's on to the tech specs. When I said it was light, well, it weighs in at 7.3 ounces complete with all the hardware. It might not be the lightest, but accessories can easily be added by using the M-Lok slots, something other manufacturers don't offer in carbon fiber. Speaking of M-Lok, it uses the standard 5 slot M-Lok rails. The handguard has 4 M-Lok slots on each of the 8 45 degree sides. The slots aren't evenly spaced, they are grouped by 2's and then a space between the 2 groups. Also the slots on the top, bottom, and sides are more toward the front of the rifle. With the 45 degree ones set back slightly from the front of the rifle. Construction is from 35-50 carbon fiber and 7075 aluminum, so as far as I could tell, good stuff. At 1.88 inches outside diameter, it felt really good in the hand. I thought maybe the smooth carbon fiber would be hard to grip, but my hand seemed to kind of dig into the slots to provide grip. Smoke Composites forms a ring at the front of the handguard, I would guess to protect the front from getting chipped, it would be quite thin otherwise. The inside of the ring measured 1.53 inches, so some suppressors will fit inside the handguard. Don't worry about heat when doing this, the carbon fiber mitigates heat great! 

  Installation of the handguard is pretty straight forward. Make sure the firearm is unloaded and safe. Once you have removed your old parts, take the supplied barrel nut and tighten it over the barrel to normal specifications. Line up one of the threaded holes of the barrel nut, with the top of the receiver. Now put your low profile gas block and gas tube on. Then slide the handguard over the barrel nut. Loosely install the 6 supplied screws into the holes. Line the handguard up, and tighten down the screws. Now your done with the installation.

  When using the handguard, I found it worked nicely. The rifle swings fast, but also stops pretty well. If you are looking at getting this type of handguard, I would recommend getting a lightweight stock also because just the handguard alone might throw the balance of the rifle off. I did try this upper on a rifle with a standard M4 style stock and one with a Smoke Composites' stock. The M4 didn't seem to swing as well as the carbon fiber stock did, at least for me. One option I would have liked to have seen is the addition of some QD mount holes built into the handguard. I may drill some myself. When shooting fast, I did notice that the carbon fiber did an excellent job of not heating up.

  Smoke Composites is doing some awesome stuff with carbon fiber. This handguard is just one of them. Plus, if you want a custom length, they can do that also. I think these guys are going to be a company to keep an eye on. Great service, great products, and made in the United States of America!

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

Lightweight Carbon Fiber M-Lok handguard 

Target Market:

Lightweight AR builders, 3-gun, anyone wanting a superlight handguard for an AR style rifle

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Lightweight at 7.3 ounces complete for the 12" version 
  • 35-50 Carbon Fiber / 7075 Aluminum construction  
  • M-Lok slots
  • Rapid heat dissipation  
  • Custom lengths available ($75 extra) 
  • Thick ring at front of handguard
  • Easy installation 
  • 1.88" outer diameter 
  • 1.53" inside diameter
  • Made in U.S.A.

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

Also available in 7.25", 10", and 15.15"

What others are saying?:

Shawn on Facebook: 5 stars 

Had a minor issue with a handguard, contacted Smoke for advice-  They went above and beyond in getting me a replacement(which wasn't necessary, but they insisted). Phenomenal service! They really take pride in their work, it's obvious not only by their product, but their customer service.

Link to other reviews:

None found

Price point:

MSRP = $289.00 as tested

Retail = $249-299

I need it now! Availability:

Smoke Composites

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • 7.3 ounces
  • M-Lok slots
  • Easy install  
  • Large enough to fit over 1.5" diameter suppressors
  • Beautifully crafted
  • Not your typical carbon fiber look
  • Very strong
  • U.S.A. made

Cons:

  • Does not use standard AR barrel wrench for installation  
  • M-Lok rails, when mounted on the top,  sit higher than receiver
  • No QD mounts built in

Score: 8.0 Great

 

Chad’s Favorite Link: Axelson Tactical

 

Vortex Spitfire 3X Prism Scope

Lets be honest, the term "Poor Man's ACOG" gets thrown around WAY too much in the firearms industry. It still confounds me that an old military optic is still the golden measuring stick to which all fixed low power modern optics are measured against today. I blame video games like Call of Duty and others for introducing a whole generation to not only firearms, but optics as well. I don't mean that in a terribly bad way, as I can be lumped in with that bunch as well. The biggest hurdle preventing most rifle owners from purchasing one of America's most iconic battle rifle optics is its tremendous price tag. AR-15 owners often want a 3 or 4 power fixed optic with some sort of etched ballistic compensating reticle, without dropping a grand or more.

No one worth their salt in the industry will call the ACOG overpriced, but the stiff cost has given rise to many imitators and knock-offs over the years, that for lack of a better word... suck. If you just want to cosplay or throw together an airsoft rifle that looks like the real deal with a Chinese facsimile, go ahead. For those who are seeking a range/self defense worthy optic in the same category as the ACOG but at a much more affordable price, there are a few options available today that will definitely fit the bill.

Of course being a huge Vortex fan, I had to give the Spitfire a go. If you haven't already read my other reviews of Vortex optics (here and here) then let me reiterate that Vortex is kicking ass in "best bang for your buck" category. Their glass is on par with many of the top tier competitors, and their no B.S. VIP warranty means if you break it, you are not screwed. You basically get many of the features of more expensive scopes but at a more enticing price point. Thats more cash for ammo, training, or guns for that matter! 

Vortex's prism-based Spitfire line share a lot in common with ACOG scopes like the TA33, but at less than 50% the street price. Starting with the magnification and reticle, the Spitfire comes into two flavors: a 1x with a halo/dot reticle, and a 3x with a "EBR-556B" reticle with hold overs to cover 0-500 yards. The EBR-556B shares similarities with most ACOG reticles, giving a minimalist bullet drop compensation system while leaving a lot of uncluttered space in the remainder of the shooter's view. In my testing on an 16 in. AR-15 precision build as well as a TAR-21 Tavor Bullpup, the subtensions were consistent and very usable.

The feature of the Spitfire I found most favorable was the reticle that remains usable with or without illumination. Red dots are great, but ultimately depend on a battery to provide a point of aim. Hence the emphasis on cowitnessing back up iron sights as a failsafe against such an inevitable failure. With the Spitfire Prism optics however, you always have that black reticle on the glass. The red/green illumination is great in low light or no light scenarios, and the 5 brightness settings help with tuning that glowing reticle to your specific needs. But when that little 2032 battery expires, the ever present reticle will ensure you can keep shooting.

Speaking of illumination, that brings me to my next big point. Does the Spitfire have dual illumination like the ACOG? My short answer is no, it doesn't... and if thats something you want/need, shut up and fork out the $1,000 - $1,400 for an optic like the Trijicon ACOG or AccuPoint. Its as simple as that. If you want the same gear the big boys use in the military, buy the same gear. If you are a civilian owner of the AR-15, SCAR, a bullpup or other modular sporting rifle in 5.56x54mm who wants a fantastic 3x prism optic for the range as well as self defense and home/property defense, keep reading friend, we're in the same boat.

I'll admit, the dual illumination feature (using internal tritium vials or a light gathering fiber optic rod as a backup to battery power) is an attractive and distinctive feature of the ACOG that is great for our armed forces who perform many low light and night operations with their rifles. As a part of the average AR-15 owning civilian populous, I am satisfied with the trade-off that is spending under $500 and just carrying extra 2032 batteries as part of my essential gear.

The windage and elevation adjustment is pretty standard, with coin-slotted turrets with marked increments for tracking your rotations. What really shines, is the decent tension to the adjustment rotation and the actual "click" you can feel and hear. Tack on the tethered, knurled caps with integrated ledges incase you have no tools or lose change... and thats about everything you could ask for in the adjustment controls department. 

The Spitfire uses a base clamp with two cross bolts for mounting to picatinny rail. There is a mount riser between the base and the optic that contributes to the 40.4mm height off the rail. If you needed a shorter height, just unscrew the two mount screws, remove the mount riser, and install the shorter mount screws included in the box. This should give you  30mm height over the rail. I guess this would be handy if mounting to a non-AR-15 rifle with a different rail to comb height ratio... like a tavor with a taller aftermarket rail, an AK with a railed dust cover, etc. OR I had a bright idea: since the base clamp isn't quick detaching at all, you might use a scope riser like a Kinetic Development universal SIDELOK scope riser and convert your Spitfire to a QD mount, hoping the end result isn't too tall for your purpose. OR just buy a QD mount from American Defense MFG.

The factory height is about what is needed to cowitness with back up iron sights... but theres no way you can focus on the front sight through the prism lens. It just doesn't work that way. However, if you find you need a secondary way of aiming without magnification, the Spitfire has two offset rails on the top, one on each side. This way you could run a micro red dot like the Vortex Viper, Venom or other optics in that category. Then all you'd have to do is cant the rifle and lift your eye level to meet the auxiliary red dot optic.

Needless to say, the Spitfire is waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof (what Vortex product isn't?). The tube is sealed with an O-ring to prevent moisture, dust and debris from getting in, while keeping the nitrogen gas purging on the inside. These features make an optic suitable for actual use out in the elements, and I honestly don't buy any optics without them.

Did I mention the included scope caps? Well, I hate them. After awhile these style of caps get worn or stretched out, and the lens caps don't want to stay retained in the close position. I typically leave them in the box, and instead use a bikini style cover when in transport or storage.

Overall, the Spitfire 3x is an optic worthy of being mounted on your home defense / range AR-15. Its got all the features I would expect from a $300-400 prism scope, and the VIP warranty from Vortex really can't be beat. I mean, you could beat the optic to hell, but the manufacturer will just fix or replace it for you any how. My Spitfire pretty much rotates between my AR-15s and the IWI SAR-21 Tavor, and I've enjoyed the results on whatever it gets mounted on.

FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS

Claim to Fame:  Designed specifically for the AR platform, the 3x Spitfire™ combines an impressive array of high-performance features into a rugged, ultra-compact package.

Target Market: AR-15 (and other modular sporting rifles) owners

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Includes 2 picatinny offset rails

  • Includes 2 Flip Caps

  • T-15 Torx Wrench and 2mm Hex wrench included

  • Red/Greem Illumination with 5 levels of brightness intensity for each color

  • CR2032 battery life is 250 hours at max brightness and 3,000 hours at min. brightness

  • Multi-Coated with anti-reflective coatings to increase light transmission

  • Single-Piece Chassis

  • Waterproof, Fogproof, Shockproof

  • Hard Anodized Finish

  • Operating Temperature -22 degrees to +122 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Variable Mount Heights for lower 1/3 or absolute cowitness height (BUT WHY?)

  • Eye Relief is 2.8 inches

  • Field of View is 31.5 feet/100 yards

  • Adjustment Graduation of 1/2 MOA

  • 120 MOA Max Elevation Adjustment

  • 120 MOA Max Windage Adjustment

  • Parallax Setting preset to 100 yards

  • Length is 5.5 inches

  • Weight is 15.4*

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black Only. 1X Prism available

What others are saying?: "This is a really good optic. In fact, it is pretty much perfect. I like Red Dots because they are fast and allow a gun to be used when its dark out. The vortex has all the benefits of a red dot and all the benefits of a small fixed power scope. Most red dots, aren't magnified which means that if your vision isn't perfect it can be hard to hit small targets or targets that are farther away. Since I am a civilian and spend most of my shooting time on the range (not clearing houses in Afghanistan), I'll trade the little extra speed that comes with having a zero magnification red dot in exchange for being able to shoot more accurately. Because this is a low power scope you can see objects clearly at across the room distances (less than 10 feet isn't the greatest) and very clearly from 10 feet out to a few hundred yards. Of course you could buy a flip up magnifier for an eotech or aimpoint, but they cost twice as much, take up your entire rail, unbalance your rifle and are generally just bulky. Besides 3x seems to work fine at close range and distance so there is no need to switch back and forth.

As a red dot and a magnified scope the vortex is a perfect compromise. However, this setup isn't perfect if you want your back up iron sights to co-witness. First, the magnification is sufficiently high to mostly obscure the front sight to the point where it is barely visible, and 2nd, the eye relief on this scope isn't infinite, your eye must be no more than 2 inches or so away for the site to work properly... Because I'm pretty big, I had to remove the flip ups so that the scope could sit further back and be used more naturally. However, because of the etched reticle, having no backup irons is not at all problematic they way it would be on most red dots because if your battery dies or the lights stop working you can continue using your optic just as you would a normal scope... it doesn't disappear into oblivion.

I considered buying an ACOG, but simply couldn't justify the price. Furthermore, in many ways the vortex is actually better. The light is brighter because it uses batteries and there is no tritium that slowly dims until it dies out entirely in ten years or so requiring a costly replacement. Besides, you can buy 10 years worth of batteries for no more than 10 bucks. After all, the batteries are available everywhere and I stock them for a whole host of other equipment.

I also love the fact that I didn't have to mount the scope on a base... which is much more of a pain than most people realize. Another extremely positive feature of this scope is the picatinny rails. My AR is a basic model (no fancy hand guards)... So this scope provides a place for me to put a flashlight (just by attaching scope rings to it) and a laser (if needed) without crazy Frankenstein mounts. Finally with the life time warranty you really just can't go wrong. 1/4th the price of an ACOG with equal functionality." Amazon User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Brownells or Amazon

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Bright light transmission
  • Rock solid mount
  • Ambidextrous pic rail for offset micro red dot mounting
  • Lower Third and Absolute cowitness compatible (again, WHY?)
  • Decent
  • Lens caps

Cons:

  • No QD mount available
  • Reticle can be small/thin for older eyes
  • No custom reticle systems for non 5.56/223 calibers (Why not 300blk, 7.62x39, 6.5, 458 Socom)
  • Lens caps suck, will wear and loose retention over time with use

Score: 8.0 Great

 

Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design

Vortex VMX-3T Magnifier

For my testing, I paired the VMX-3T with a SparcAR and its predecessor, the Sparc II.

Now that I've reviewed one of my favorite red dot optics, I can discuss the value and merits of integrating a magnifier to your rifle's optic line up. I know what you're thinking, "This damn Vortex fanboy is trying to separate me from more of my hard earned money! Why not just get a 1-4x power scope?" Well, the answer is both yes and no.

Red dots are ideal for carbines and other rifles, but having a boost of magnification is super beneficial and worth the extra ounces. 

Yes, I think you should get yourself a magnifier to accompany your red dot optic. Red dots are great for multiple types of rifles, and are quick for fast and dirty work up close as well as adequate for slower fire at targets up to and beyond 100 yards. Its those times when you are taking longer shots that adding a 3x zoom is not only useful, but potentially essential. Is it faster to pivot a magnifier out of the way than it is to turn a magnification ring on a scope? Nope, they're about the same. The real difference is the 1x setting on most lower tier scopes aren't a true one power, meaning zero magnification. These scopes can cause optical distortion on their lowest setting, and can hinder efficient target acquisition at closer ranges. If you go out of your way to find a true 1x variable power scope, you'll being paying way more than $400.

The magnifier + red dot combo is especially at home on a rifle with a large flat top rail, like my SAR-21 Tavor Bullpup.

Its certainly acceptable to be satisfied with a red dot alone, and not feel the need to add a magnifier behind it. Just hear me out though. Target identification is a huge advantage to having a magnifier on board your rifle. If you are engaging a target (paper, steel, or flesh) you should be able to clearly see all aspects of the target. Giving yourself a little zoom can help in picking out holes in the target at the range, or more importantly in combat you can see greater details and attributes of your target, and what lies behind it. At 50 yards your eyes should have no problem gathering this critical information, but at 100 yards and beyond the naked human eye just isn't up to the task.  Adding 3x magnification isn't enough to cut field of view too drastically, but can be a well needed boost at those ranges. Plus, it can still be used in close quarters without wasting precious time trying to acquire the target.

Even at distances inside 50 yards, the magnified view (right) offers more detail than the naked red dot (left).  3x might not be as helpful at 100 yards, but its a hell of a difference than without magnification at all.

Vortex's magnifier is the VMX-3T, and just like their red dot optics, it boasts a super high quality and a lean price tag that is truly hard to beat. It costs the exact same as the Sparc II / AR, two optics it plays very nicely with.  It also works with the Strikefire, as well as other manufacturer's optics like EOtech holographic sights, AimPoint optics, etc. It will not work with any magnified optic that also requires eye relief, such as a Spitfire 4x Prism optic. (Oh trust me, I tried.)

The button release on the VMX-3T is easy to actuate even with gloved hands. Just grab the scope, press the button in with your thumb and pivot to the side.

The magnifier flips to the side to allow naked use of the red dot optic, as well as cowitnessed iron sights. Tavor owners just need to be sure to mount the magnifier forward enough the clear the picatinny rail integrated rear sight.

The integration of a mount is really paramount to a magnifier's usefulness on a rifle (pun intended). The ability to rotate or flip out of the way when the bare optic or iron sights are being used is the most iconic feature of a good magnifier. In fairness, I've used and compared a couple types of mounts on my rifles besides the VMX-3T. The EOtech G33 for instance, I got in a trade deal, and it came with an American Defense Swiveling mount. This swung the magnifier 180 degress on a horizontal axis. I found this to require more clearance and was slower to deploy, compared to the more common "flip" Y axis mounts. That, and any object that snagged the optic in the offset position with enough force could free the mount's detent lock. Usually the G33 comes with a standard "flip" style, but for comparison sake I wanted to illustrate which format of mount was better.

Ideally you should mount the magnifier as close to the red dot as possible, as long as is still freely actuates. For red dots with rear located controls like the SparcAR, this could be alittle tight for pressing the buttons with the magnifier in use. Still, I little to no issue even with gloved fingers.

The VMX-3T's mount has a push button release than ensures rock solid deployed and offset positions, and is easily pushable with the operator's thumb while grabbing the whole tube for flipping it out of the way quickly but also smoothly. If you are a left and desire to swap the mount so the magnifier flips to the right side of the receiver, it is doable... however the release button will be facing away from you and may become more cumbersome to operate. While I wish the mount attached to the host rail itself with a quick detach lever, the nature of the two position joint negates that desire. If I don't want to optic in my way, flip it to the side. If I need the "zoom zoom for the boom boom" then flip it inline with your optic. The only reason to ditch the optic completely from the rifle is weight savings, which is just shy of 12 ounces anyway. The extra weight added to your rifle is a small price to pay for a distinct advantage behind the trigger.

The magnifier should hover above most flip up iron sights available for the AR-15. This Griffin Armament M2 sight is the same height when collapsed as the Magpul BUIS rear sight, so both work in combination with the VMX-3T and whatever red dot you prefer.

As far as glass quality is concerned, I found the VMX-3T to be brighter by a noticeable margin. The eyebox on both VMX-3T and G33 magnifiers was almost identical in terms of eye relief distance. Both brands' adjustment turrets for azimuth centering were also on par. I did prefer that the VMX-3T could be adjusted with a coin or flatheaded tool on the fly, whereas the G33 required removal of caps before making an adjustment. I find that you don't typically need to tweak with the turrets more than once unless swapping optics entirely. Both also have an adjustable diopter for tuning the sharpness to your specific liking, but I did find the Vortex to be easier in finding that sweet spot of crisp lines and textures. The higher level of brightness and the drastically lower MSRP is really what struck the deal for me.

A flathead screwdriver, pocket knife, or a penny or dime can be used to zero the partnered red dot's reticle within the magnifier's view.

One more important feature of a magnifier is rail clearance. The VMX-3T's mount only takes up about 4 slots of picatinny rail, so you should have plenty of room to pair is with your favorite red dot optic on the top rail of an AR-15 receiver or other modern sporting rifle. Be aware though as it might not sit high enough to clear your favorite folding rear iron sight. Griffin Armament M2 clear, as does Midwest Industries and Magpul MBUS, so if you are running any one of those you'll be fine.

Yes thats right, you could still run vertical iron sights cowitnessed with your red dot optic should you need to, all while the magnifier is flipped to the offset position. Can you do that with your 1-4x scope without going out and buying a whole new set of offset iron sights? Hmm? On another note, it is possible to use the magnifier as a "field monocular" when in the offset position. Closing my dominant eye and using my left eye, I could look thru the VMX-3T without shifting my cheek weld much or adjusting my shooting position. So if you are at the range and want to use the magnifier in such a way to benefit your view of the target, feel free to do so!

I especially enjoy running a magnifier and red dot combo on SBRs, as the lighter weight of the short barrel balances out the added weight on the rail. Stretching out the range is a nice plus too.

If you already have a red dot, chances are I don't need to convince you how practical and useful it is. I would suggest you look into adding a magnifier to squeeze out more benefits and adaptability to your rifle's capabilities. Don't let steep price tags scare you either, because the VMX-3T is the quintessential "best bang for your buck" in the magnifier market right now. Plus, its hard to deny the potential for pure instagram gold.

FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS

Claim to Fame:  Vortex VMX - 3T Magnifier with Flip Mount. Simple. Fast. Effective

Target Market: Red Dot owners

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Fully Multi-Coated Lenses

  • Hard Anodized low-glare matte finish

  • Nitrogen Gas Purged

  • Waterproof, fogproof and shockproof

  • 3x Magnification

  • 2.2 inch Eye Relief

  • Field of View 38.2 feet/100 yards

  • 30 mm Tube Size

  • 4.3 inches long
     
  • Weighs 11.9 oz
  • Includes side flipping mount
  • Reversable mount
  • Multi-Height Mount System Includes a spacer shim that can be utilized to provide two different mounting heights: lower 1/3 co-witness (40 mm) & absolute co-witness (37 mm)

  • Compatible with Sparc II, Sparc AR, Strikefire, as well as other manufacturer's optics

  • Azimuth adjustable to center a zeroed reticle / red dot in magnifier view

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black Only

What others are saying?: "I recently purchased the Vortex VMX-3T 3X magnifier to go behind my Aimpoint PRO. The quality of the Vortex is great. It feels study and substantial. The glass gathers a lot of light, and is very clear. At 1/2 the price, or less, than that of the Aimpoint or Eotech 3X magnifier, the Vortex is a steal.The only thing that I changed with the Vortex was that I flipped the optic around so that it flipped over to the right side. Make sure you use blue Loctite on the mounting screws so that they won't loosen up, and you are good to go." Amazon User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Brownells or Amazon

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Brighter light transmission
  • Rock solid mount
  • Huge compatibility range in Vortex and other brands' optics
  • Lower Third and Absolute cowitness compatible
  • Uncapped turrets
  • Lens caps

Cons:

  • No QD mount available (is it needed, really?)
  • Ambidextrous configuration puts release button in awkward position

Score: 8.5 Great

 

 

Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design

RPS Tactical Adaptive Holster Review

Everyone has been there; the drawer or tupperware container full of holsters. You’ve tried numerous ones, and there is always some sort of issue with them. The holster is too bulky; the holster doesn’t have any flex to work with your body shape; it only allows for one method of carry or storage. RPS Tactical has addressed these issues. Located in Fairfield, Maine, RPS Tactical was started by a local LEO and his brother, with a focus on making holsters, belts & nylon gear along with many other custom items. I spent some time with Rob and his brother Nick and discussed the way they make their holsters, as well as the way they hand stitch their belts. Their attention to detail and commitment to quality is very apparent in the way they make their items and the final product they put out. They are also willing to work with the customer. When I wanted to get a holster made by them, they didn’t have the mold for my Steyr C9A1 (most people don’t) and they were willing to let me bring my firearm over for them to mold the holster. I know another individual who had a specific need and they worked with him to get the holster and belt exactly as he wanted it. With the owner of RPS Tactical being a law enforcement officer, they have a really good understanding of what goes into comfortable everyday carry of firearms and other gear.

I did a podcast with the guys at RPS and they made me the Adaptive Holster for my Steyr for me to evaluate. I spent almost 8 months carrying my Steyr with the Adaptive holster in the IWB and then the OWB configurations. I had long road trips in the car, range trips, working outside, going on walks with my wife and son & pretty much every single other everyday thing you do. The Adaptive holster is a kydex shell with a sturdy leather  backing. On the body side of the backing material is the soft side of industrial strength velcro. This allows for various mounting options if you purchase the corresponding velcro patches that can be affixed to any surface. For my body type, I found the OWB configuration worked better for me. I carried setup as IWB from June to about November, when I switched to the OWB configuration as the weather got colder and I could start wearing jackets. The IWB worked good, but with my body type I’ve found that IWB can be uncomfortable over extended periods of time. I am confident other people that don’t have issues with IWB carry will find the RPS Tactical Adaptive holster very comfortable.

 

During my time wearing the holster (and I am still wearing it to this day) i noticed no abnormal wear or any hardware backing out or failing on it. Everything was very sturdy, reholstering was very easily accomplished, and the trigger guard was suitably covered. The kydex is molded to your specific firearm, and the retention was fantastic.  As with most high quality holsters, the leather backing was cut to allow for a full grip on the firearm prior to drawing.

One thing I will also note is the soft side velcro backing. While it is there for the mounting options as we discussed before, it also makes for very comfortable carry if the holster is directly against your skin. I, like many people, do not enjoy having a tucked in shirt. I have used other holsters that have the large leather backing and oftentimes found that when they were against bare skin that there was a lot of perspiration and discomfort especially in the hot summer months. It seems like the soft velcro backing on the body side of the holster allows some air to get in between the backing and your skin, preventing any perspiration or discomfort from occurring. For those of you who like to wear a tucked in shirt, the IWB configuration is tuckable as well. There are other carry options for the adaptive holster as well, including a paddle mount or  purchasing the RPS Tactical Shoulder harness and using your existing holster as a shoulder holster.

If you are looking for a very high quality holster (or any other pieces of high quality gear) from a fantastic small business, look no further than RPS Tactical. Their commitment to their products long after it has left their shop is telling. I have had multiple people come back to me after I have steered them toward RPS Tactical for their holster needs and tell me that they were so happy to work with RPS. Rob and Nick were very attentive to their needs and oftentimes they ended up getting fitted out with belts and other items above and beyond what their original request was. That speaks volumes as to the character and dedication that the guys at RPS have to customer satisfaction. I was very happy to evaluate their holster, and would highly recommend their products to my friends and family, for both duty & EDC use.  

FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS - 8 KEY POINTS

CLAIM TO FAME:

Adaptive Holster System (Various Mounting Options)

TARGET MARKET:

Those wanting a high quality holster for everyday carry that can be utilized in a variety of ways.

FNBS (FEATURES & BENEFITS OF THIS PRODUCT):

  • Convertible between IWB & OWB

  • Tuckable during IWB carry

  • Soft side velcro backing against the body

  • Sturdy leather backing with cut to allow full grip of firearm before drawing.

WHAT OTHER AESTHETIC OPTIONS OR FINISHES ARE AVAILABLE?

Various color options/finishes including Kryptek, Carbon Fiber, Coyote Tan & more

LINK TO OTHER REVIEWS:

Tactical Toolbox Review

PRICE POINT:

$65.00 (various options may be extra)

I NEED IT NOW! AVAILABILITY:

RPS Tactical LLC

OUR RATING:

Vortex Sparc AR Red Dot

For a while, the Vortex Sparc was the reigning champ of sub $200 quality built red dot optics. For those who couldn't afford an Aimpoint at over twice the cost, the Sparc and the later Sparc II was either their first red dot purchase, or their first upgrade from a budget Chinese imitation model. Since then Vortex is still a leading brand in the optics world, and has updated the Sparc product line to specifically cater to the AR-15 and other modern sporting rifles with the Sparc AR.

The Sparc AR is specifically designed for the next generation of AR-15 rifles and other modern sporting rifles.

The Sparc AR is a simple but needed evolution of the Sparc II optic, which was a much needed enhancement of the Gen I Sparc. Improvements over the Sparc II are mostly superficial, as Vortex went for a much more streamlined profile. This included a transition from the CR2032 battery to a standard AAA battery. The 2032 battery being quarter sized required placement in a turret compartment as big as the tube itself. The new AAA battery is integrated into the base itself, which leaves the sides of the optic more compact and cleaner.  

The AAA battery compartment is built into the base, keeping the sight body as slim as possible.

The AAA battery has a life of 300 hours at the maximum brightness, and 5,000 hours at the minimum brightness... just like the Sparc II's CR2032. Also just like its predecessor, the Sparc AR has 10 variable illumination settings—the lowest two settings are night-vision compatible. Another feature Vortex kept the same was the automatic shut off after 12 hours to prevent accidental battery rundown.

Moving the controls from the left side to the base also helps keep the body sleek and compact.

The up and down brightness controls have been moved from the left side to the base as well, which leaves the body of the optic much slimmer overall. Vortex incorporated a rubber cover with tethered lens caps. The caps help keep dust and dirt from getting on the lenses, and they can interlock into each other to stay out of the way when the optic is in use.

The lens caps suck. I'd prefer something spring loaded or magnetic to keep the caps out of the way without a meticulous process of snapping them together.

Its almost impossible to snap the caps together one handed, let alone in your peripheral vision. If you don't like them (which I wouldn't blame you) you could either snip the tethers and remove the caps from the soft armor, or pull the whole thing off entirely. Honestly, I'm disappointed it this design from Vortex. Standard small scope caps can't be used either, as the Sparc AR doesn't have any tubular objective or eye piece like the Sparc II did. Maybe someone else will design a rubberized armor cover with flip up caps as a third party option.

The Sparc AR is more Aimpoint-like than the Sparc II. Both still hold up as my favorite red dot sights.

Now back to the Sparc AR... it utilizes a crisp 2 MOA dot (so did the Sparc II). For those who don't have MOA burned into their brain, that means the dot will cover up a 2 inch diameter circle at 100 yards. At 200 yards that coverage doubles to 4 inches, and so on. 2 MOA is a good sized dot for a precise point of aim, but should be easy enough to pick up when shouldering the rifle. The controls are easy to use while maintaining sight picture, and the electronics automatically return to last dot intensity used when powered back up.

The 2MOA dot is crisp and perfect for precise, slow shooting or fast rapid shooting.

The Sparc AR still uses a removable 3mm shim plate to offer absolute cowitness height (37mm) or lower third cowitness (40mm) like the Sparc II did, however the ability to remove base entirely and mount low onto the rail was lost in the upgrade. Obviously the AR in the optic's name stands for AR-15, and there's little need for super low mount on the receiver or on a free floated rail, as the comb on any stock would still be too high for a usable eye height. For AK rifles, shotguns, and certain pistols this ability was a must. Hopefully Vortex doesn't discontinue the Sparc II anything soon. Its shared footprint with the Aimpoint Micro T-1, Micro T-2, Micro H-1, and Micro H-2 was also a huge benefit, as there were plenty of QD bases available.

The Sparc AR is just as at home on a bullpup like the IWI Tavor as it is on the AR-15.

With all the comparisons to the Sparc II, you'd think I wouldn't like the Sparc AR at all. Thats not necessarily true. One big plus over the Sparc II is the shutoff sequence. You wouldn't think pressing and holding two buttons at the same time would be difficult, but with gloved fingers it was a royal pain, and often I would just leave it on to shutoff automatically after 12 hours. With the Sparc AR you only have to press and hold the down button, much easier to do with gloves on and either hand.

Don't worry, the Sparc AR still works great with the Vortex 3x magnifier, if not even better than the Sparc II did because of the lack of cylindrical objective and eye pieces.

I really enjoy the sleeker design of the Sparc AR... especially atop my IWI Tavor bullpup. It is still very much compatible with the Vortex VMX-3T magnifier, however the repositioned rear controls are harder to use with the magnifier deployed versus when they were located on the side of the Sparc II. The slick sided profile and battery-integrated base are still worthy evolutionary traits of the Sparc AR though, and it's a great choice for anyone with and AR-15 or other rifle variant. I would say just be aware of the differences between the two generations, and don't hesitate to get both either, because 2 smart decisions are still better than one!

FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS

Claim to Fame:  Duty rifle - home defense—recreation, the SPARC AR is built to handle all your red dot needs.

Target Market: Modern Sporting Rifle / Modular Rifle owners (AR-15s, SCARs, etc)

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Single-Piece Chassis

  • Hard Anodized low-glare matte finish

  • Unlimited eye relief and parallax free

  • Nitrogen Gas Purged

  • Waterproof, fogproof and shockproof

  • Sutomatically shuts off after 12 hours

  • Uses common AAA battery

  • Typical battery life 300 hours at maximum brightness and 5,000 hours at minimum brightness

  • Fully Multi-Coated

  • 10 variable brightness settings — lowest two settings night-vision compatible..

  • Operating temperature rated -4 degrees to +158 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Multi-Height Mount System Includes a spacer shim that can be utilized to provide two different mounting heights: lower 1/3 co-witness (40 mm) & absolute co-witness (37 mm)

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black Only

What others are saying?: "" Amazon User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Brownells or Amazon

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Sleeker, sexier design
  • Integrated lens caps
  • Soft rubber armor is removable
  • Easier to shut off than the Sparc II

Cons:

  • Windage and Elevation caps are no longer tethered
  • Lens window is still small / narrow
  • Lens caps will dangle and obstruct your field of view if not snapped together
  • Snapping together of lens caps is difficult if in a hurry / focusing downrange
  • Position of the internal laser emitter protrudes into view, often appears with a black goo sealant that bothers a lot of people

Score: 7.5 Good

 

Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design

Mesa Tactical SureShell Aluminum Shotshell Carrier

The "tactical shotgun" is a very popular build for those who use a shotgun as their primary home defense weapon. Inspired by the trench guns of the World Wars, the tactical shotgun is a great stand off weapon for holding up in a room while emergency services arrive, or clearing rooms in your house and the close yard (if you are properly trained to do so).

Reloading a shotgun is easier when shells are positioned close to the receiver's ports.

Reloading a shotgun is easier when shells are positioned close to the receiver's ports.

An iconic feature of a tactical shotgun is a side saddle to carry additional ammunition on board. One of the disadvantages of a shotgun versus a carbine is the magazine capacity. Even with a mag tube extension, shotguns typically top off at 6-8 shells total. Thats why carrying extra rounds is a popular practice. Bandoliers are a bit overboard in my opinion, as are slings with shell loops. However side saddles are quite popular as they position the shells close in proximity to the action for quick reloads.

The Mesa Tactical SureShell is a rugged and solid side saddle.

The Mesa Tactical SureShell is a rugged and solid side saddle.

Mesa Tactical has been synonymous with rugged and high quality shotgun accessories, often used by Law Enforcement and security forces. Their SureShell line of aluminum side saddle carriers are a popular aftermarket add on for several popular shotgun models, including the Remington 870 / 1100 / 11-87, Mossberg 500 / 590 and 930, and Benelli M1/M2/M4/M1014 and SuperNova. Some SureShells utilize the receiver pin holes, while others use the shotgun's drilled and tapped receiver when an optic rail is wanted.

The elastomer tube goes through each bore in the yoke to provide friction resistance.

The elastomer tube goes through each bore in the yoke to provide friction resistance.

For my home defense build, I opted for a Remington 870 Express that I could readily swap between a 26" choked barrel during hunting season, and an 18" barrel during the rest of the year. The SureShell comes in handy both in the field and at home, as it works with all types of shells: birdshot, buckshot, and slugs. Its even handy for carrying a alternate type of load then what's loaded up, like if your hunting for upland birds and deer at the same time, or rubber buckshot for non-lethal, and 00 buckshot for extra-lethal.

The SureShell carrier is milled from 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum, then bead blasted and anodized with a mil-spec, non-glare finish. It is secured to 870's receiver with a bracket that comes with an adhesive-backed rubber gasket to protect the shotgun’s finish from marring by the carrier's flush screws. Back in my cheapskate days, I had glued microfiber cloth to the back of a TacStar side saddle's bracket. Oh how relieved I was to upgrade to a more rugged and professional solution.

The SureShell shotshell carriers come in three configurations: four-shell, six-shell and eight-shell. The Eight-shell configuration spans the entire side receiver and seemed overkill for my application. The four-shell carrier was appealing as it could be installed on either side of the receiver, just behind the action port if installed on the right side.  I went with the six-shell carrier, since my current magazine capacity is six in home defense configuration, and three when its hunting season.

The SureShell uses a Chicago screw and a standoff pin. Comes with an extra Chicago pin set and washer in case custom filing of the female screw is needed, and you need two tries.

The SureShell uses a Chicago screw and a standoff pin. Comes with an extra Chicago pin set and washer in case custom filing of the female screw is needed, and you need two tries.

Mesa Tactical also makes SureShell carriers that work specifically with M4 SOPMOD buttstocks using special hardware, and an adapter mount so carriers can be attached to shotguns already equipped with the Mesa Tactical High-tube or Lowtube Telescoping Stock Adapter. The carriers are pretty specific, so the 870 one I picked up wouldn't work on stocks. But if you are the kind of guy who wants to carry an extra 12+ rounds onboard the shotgun, I guess its handy to know Mesa makes that possible.

Mesa supplies two different elastomer tubes with different stiffness ratings. I swapped to the white elastomer for increased resistance.

Mesa supplies two different elastomer tubes with different stiffness ratings. I swapped to the white elastomer for increased resistance.

Mesa Tactical also designed SureShells with integrated rails for certain shotguns with drilled and tapped receivers. So instead of a stamped backing plate, the shell carrier yoke is attached to the top of the receiver, and users can attach an optic to the picatinny MIL-STD 1913 sight rail. Personally, I didn't intend to do any modification to my 870's receiver, and instead use a barrel with rifle sights for use in the home. This keeps the receiver nice and clean for traditional sight picture when trap, skeet, or wing shooting.

For those afraid of marring their shotgun's finish, Mesa provides an adhesive backed rubber gasket to add a protective buffer between the bracket and receiver.

For those afraid of marring their shotgun's finish, Mesa provides an adhesive backed rubber gasket to add a protective buffer between the bracket and receiver.

One compatibility factor you have to consider is your shotgun's forend. If the forend overlaps the receiver when you rack the action open, then the forend itself may contact the SureShell carrier, and require modification for proper functioning of the shotgun. For instance, if you own a Remington 870 Super Magnum thats designed for 3.5" shells, the factory forend will not come back fully with a side saddle installed. Ask me how I know!

For 870 owners, its very, very important you remember to remove this clip that engages the trigger pin. If you don't, you'll be pounding away at the Chicago screw all day and possibly damage your internals.

For 870 owners, its very, very important you remember to remove this clip that engages the trigger pin. If you don't, you'll be pounding away at the Chicago screw all day and possibly damage your internals.

The SureShell receiver mounting system for Remington 870, 1100 and 11-87 shotguns uses a combination of steel fasteners threaded into a steel pin (at the rear) and paired Chicago screws (up front) for more secure attachment to the shotgun without the risk of pinching the receiver. The mounting plate even features a window over the shotgun serial number location, to make it easier for armorers to inventory their weapons.

Mesa-8.jpg
Mesa-9.jpg

The shotgun shells are retained inside the aluminum carrier via an elastomer tube that spans all 6 bores of the yolk. When the shells are inserted into the bores, the elastomer provides resistance against each shell. Mesa provides two different stiffnesses, the white tube being stiffer than the black tube. You may want to swap them out based on your preference, or if you find your climate effects the resistance property of the elastomer. 

Shells can be places brass up or brass down depending on your preference and how you train.

Shells can be places brass up or brass down depending on your preference and how you train.

The SureShell carrier is a huge upgrade over the TacStar I used to have on my Remington. Its got no edges to snag on stuff, and only protrudes 1.25" from the receiver. The anodized finish is a big improvement over the shiny plastic as well. The only downside is that if the weather is cold, the shrinking effect can cause shells to fit looser inside the bores. If they are positioned brass down, they could fall out. For that reason I usually insert them primers up when in a cold environment, like sitting in the duck blind in mid January.

Overall, the SureShell carrier from Mesa Tactical is a pricey but worth while for any home defense shotgun.  It's a buy once, cry once kind of upgrade that should take the same degree of beating as the host shotgun can withstand.

FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS

Claim to Fame:  The Mesa Tactical SureShell Side Saddle is a rugged, reliable on-gun shotshell carrier

Target Market: Shotgun owners (home defense, security/LEO, hunting)

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • 12 or 20 gauge

  • Elastomer friction retention holds shells in place

  • Machined from 6061-T6 Aluminum

  • Hard coat anodized black

  • Comes with or without a picatinny rail

  • Mounts via shotgun receiver pin holes or tapped receivers

  • Compatible with Mesa buttstocks are forends

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: available is 8, 6, 4 and 4 shell capacity for 12 or 20 gauge shells

What others are saying?: "Bought this for my Remington 870 Express Tactical. Mounting was very simple and involved removing the two action pins which hold the 870 trigger group in place. The pins are replaced by double ended screws (Chicago screws) that tighten from both directions. These, in combination with a thin rubber adhesive strip allow the mount to fit snugly to the weapon without damaging the finish. They hold on to shells very tightly from either a primer-up or primer-down position. Only difficulty is with the rubber retainer piece. When loading the side saddle, the rubber tends to squish around and twist, making remaining shells a bit tricky to load. If this happens, DO NOT FORCE THE SHELLS IN! This may damage the rubber and deform it considerably. I figured out that if you twist shells while sliding them in, they go in smoothly without binding up the rubber retainer. Knowing that, this thing is good to go! Durable, made of aluminum, and fits well. Definitely would use it on my other shotguns." Amazon User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Mesa Tactical or Amazon

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Comes with two Santoprene® Elastomer tubes for variable stiffness/retention
  • Aluminum rings don't wear out like all plastic carriers
  • Doesn't cover up the serial number
  • Mesa has more replacement Santoprene tubes for free upon request

Cons:

  • Elastomer tube insert can warp if shells are inserted too hard

Score: 7.5 Good

 

Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design

Griffin Armament M² Sight Deployment Kit

There are two kinds of companies: those that make a product just to sell, and those that make products they want to use themselves, because they recognize the hole in the marketplace and the need that's there. Griffin Armament is one of the latter type, and they design some of the most forward-thinking products in the industry.

There are a lot of back up iron sights out there, with their own differences and improvements over their predecessors. Some are fixed, some are collapsable. Some are in-line with the top rail, others are offset to be used in conjunction with a long, magnified optic. If you own an AR-15 or other modern sporting rifle, you probably like to try different optics and different configurations every now and then, which means accruing a junk drawers worth of different iron sight sets.

The hole in the marketplace is that there wasn't one pair of iron sights that were flexible enough to do-it-all. That, and nearly every offset sight on the market is designed to hang off the right side of the gun, leaving lefties out completely. Well, the guys over at Griffin Armament were pondering the same problems, and as a solution came out with their Micro Modular Back Up Sights.

Also known simply at M² Sights, they are flip up front and rear iron sights that mate with a dovetail-like base, secured together and tightened with a set screw. The use of the dovetailed joint allows for easy swapping between inline and offset, and also the reversal of the offset bases for either left or right handed shooters. The vertical set screw method is best way to secure the sight in place, while doing away with any unnecessary bulk that comes from a clamping design.

The M² Sights don't have a spring-loaded rapid deployment feature, but its not needed in my opinion.

Should the need arise for iron sights, it only takes a few seconds to manual pull the front and rear sights up in the ready position.

Not having an mechanical flip up feature also does away with extra moving parts, and thus removes variables that could fail. A simpler design can be a stronger and more reliable solution, and that's exactly what you want if your life depends on your rifle, and your iron sights are all you got.

Griffin-4.jpg

The inline configuration of the M² Sights has the traditional M16 sight picture, except for the partially exposed threads of A2 front sight post.

Cowitnessing is just like it should be through a red dot optic, however the fixed aperture of the rear sight is a bit small for my preference in short range work, but it still works fine. Not having a dual aperture removes some utility, but its an acceptable compromise for a strong, solid construction. What really matters is the total height above the rail when the rear is folded, for optimal clearance of magnified optics. Folded, the rear sight is only 0.525" at its tallest point. This is plenty low enough to clear most magnified optics mounted at the appropriate height for AR-15s / AR-10s. For comparison, Magpul BUIS polymer rear sights also measure 0.525" tall when folded.

The real beauty of the whole M² Sight Deployment Kit is the angled plates that come in the bundle. The bases are ambidextrous, so you can position the dovetailed base offset on the left or right side of the rail. They are affixed to the rail via two set screws instead of just one, and only take up the smallest amount of rail space possible.

Both rear and front M² sights are windage adjustable. The front sight utilizes the A2 front sight post, so obviously its elevation adjustable as well. Using the existing pool of aftermarket A2 posts is a no brainer, and easy to replace with your favorite blade, even tritium equipped ones for low light use.

The M² Sight Deployment Kit is a well thought out backup iron sight system that fixes several issues that experiences guys have been wanted resolved. It combines the aesthetics of the more minimal backup sights like that of the FN SCAR, while using a modular attachment system previously unseen on a sight itself. Plus, they look to be one of the tankiest low profile iron sets I've come across. That, coupled with the angled ambidextrous bases that come included, make it a 'buy once, never buy again' upgrade.

FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS

Claim to Fame:  Griffin M2 sights offer an industry first, patent pending, modular base plate system and were designed to be the correct product for every backup sight application. 

Target Market: Modern Sporting Rifle / Modular Rifle owners (AR-15s, SCARs, etc)

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Constructed from 17-4 stainless and ordnance grade steel materials
  • Melonite QPQ and Manganese Phosphate finish
  • Front sight compatible with mil-spec posts
  • Included angle plates are ambidextrous

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black Only

What others are saying?: "Great sights. Very well made and designed. They are small enough not catch on everything, especially in a crowded gun safe. They mounted easily and securely and the rear sight fits nicely around the forward assist. Deployment is quick and sure with a solid lock. Sight adjustment is fast and easy. Because of the design you can adjust elevation at the front sight without the use of a bullet tip. All you need to do is depress the pin with a thumbnail. I am very happy with this purchase and will buy other Griffin Armament products because the quality is excellent." Amazon User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Griffin Armament or Amazon

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Easily convertible to inline or offset configurations
  • Ambidextrous offset sights! Finally!
  • A2 front sight post compatible
  • Rear sights are windage adjustable

Cons:

  • Detents are really stiff at first
  • Fixed small aperture in rear sight

Score: 8.5 Great

 

Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design

 

PHNX-MBS Muzzle Brake System by VDC Armory

  For some reason, I always seem to stumble across muzzle brakes. It's not that I am recoil sensitive, they are just neat. Plus, any recoil reduction helps to keep the muzzle on target. So today I bring you the PHNX-MBS muzzle brake system, from the fine folks at VDC Armory. Notice it says system, well that's because it is. The system makes it possible to install a threaded muzzle brake onto a smooth, or unthreaded, barrel.

  When first looking at the PHNX, you notice it has 2 basic parts. The first is the mounting portion. This is the part that VDC cuts to your barrel profile. When ordering, you must measure your barrel at the muzzle, and 1.5" back from the muzzle. This mounting portion is then clamped to your smooth barrel with 10 allen head screws. The supplied instructions are very thorough, so I'll just briefly go over them. When installing the PHNX, VDC says to put loctite on the barrel, and then slide the brake onto the barrel. This acts as a lubricant and sealant. Then tighten the screws evenly. Now wait at least 30 minutes until you progress to the next part.

  Now on to the second part of the PHNX, which is the muzzle brake part. Now that the adapter has been mounted, slide on the crush washer and then thread the muzzle brake on. Tighten it down with the top holes up, and the line even with the line on the adapter. Now we get to try it out.

Top with center grooves lined up and holes facing up

  The PHNX muzzle brake works very well. I shot it with and without the brake to see the difference. I mounted it on a .243 Winchester rifle. You might not think a .243 has much recoil, but this brake tamed the felt recoil by a ton. When shooting offhand, I can see hits through the scope, something I couldn't do without the brake. The brake also wasn't as loud as I expected, it didn't even make other range goers question it. Now to the PHNX's benefit and my junk science, it came in at a 56% recoil reduction. My junk science consists of measuring the distance the rifle moved during recoil, with and without the brake.

  As with most muzzle devices, it does affect some aspects of the rifle. For one, the point of impact moved down about 3". My rifle is using a lightweight barrel profile, a heavier barrel may not change as much. The other noticeable effect, at least in my case, was the change in barrel harmonics. One of my pet loads didn't shoot near as good after installing the brake. I guess it's back to the old reloading bench. However, some of my other loads were not effected. 

Measuring distance w/muzzle brake

  Some side notes. The PHNX-MBS system is NOT to be used with a suppressor. I'll take VDC Armory's word for that, as I wouldn't want to damage anything or myself. They also scribe in your provided dimensions on the bottom of the adapter. The adapter is threaded 5/8-24, so any other brake of that size can be screwed onto it also. The coating used to make the supplied PHNX black, looks pretty thick but seems to wear fine.

  This PHNX muzzle brake system might not be what everyone is looking for. But as an option for not threading the barrel, it works great. The install is very easy and comes with great instructions. VDC even sent a couple extra screws. It exceeded my expectations for a clamp on system. The PHNX is well engineered and is a good muzzle brake. If this type of system interests you, give VDC Armory a look.

 

Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:

Clamp on Muzzle Brake System

Target Market:

Those wanting a changeable muzzle brake system without having to thread their barrel

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Clamp on system
  • Effectively threads barrel for muzzle brakes
  • No gunsmith installation
  • Threaded 5/8-24
  • Stainless Steel
  • Custom made to your barrel
  • Made in U.S.A.

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?

Smooth Stainless, Tumbled Stainless, or Flat Dark Earth

What others are saying?:

Couldn't find any

Link to other reviews:

AmmoLand Review

Price point:

MSRP = $114.00 as tested

Retail = $99.00 - 114.00

I need it now! Availability:

VDC Armory

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Very Effective muzzle brake

  • Easy Installation

  • Threaded for 5/8-24

  • Takes standard muzzle brakes

  • Dimension markings on bottom of clamping system

  • Made in U.S.A.

Cons:

  • POI Shift

  • Thick coating

  • Only sold as system

  • No suppressor use (I was hoping)

Score: 7.50 Good

 

Chad’s Favorite Link: AR15 Podcast

 

Kinect QD MLOK Mounts by Kinetic Development Group

AR-15s were popular before, but after the proliferation of modular accessory attachment systems like M-LOK, the interest in the platform keeps on skyrocketing.

If you are a listener of the Gun & Gear Review Podcast, then you are aware of my affinity with the M-LOK system over Keymod. Gone are the days of skin grating, bulky quad railed handguards being the status quo. The ability to attach rail segments and other accessories to your firearm so quickly is a perfect match for the reigning king of modularity, the AR-15 modern sporting rifle. I just happen to believe M-LOK is more secure and reliable, and the industry seems to be leaning that way as well.

M-LOK did away with full picatinny quad-rail handguards. Now the Kinect QD rail does away with the allen wrench.

Of course for a society thats accustomed to instant gratification, the appeal of speeding up efficiency is too tempting. Lets face it, we all lust for convenience. Sure M-LOK accessories are quick to attach, but you must have the right Allen wrench or hex key on your person, and a few other variables just right in order to attach anything under 60 seconds. When a new technology comes along that removes the need for the tool, and cuts the time down on any manual labor, its going to be a potential home-run.

What seems like an invention straight out of James Bond's Q Labs, the spring loaded wedges that activate upon contact with the host M-LOK rail is pretty clever.

The Kinect QD Mount by Kinetic Development Group is an almost perfect evolution for M-LOK furniture. You no longer need to keep the proper tool inside your pistol grip or in your range bag to remove and swap accessories on your rifles. Not only that, but it also removes the possibility of over tightening screws and T-nuts entirely, as well as the need to remove accessories from rail segments in order to access the screws of the rail sections themselves.

The beauty of Kinect is it converts ordinary picatinny-compatible accessories into M-LOK.

Operation of the Kinect rails are so simple, they're almost idiot-proof. There are two spring-loaded wedges in the base of the mount, and when you press the Kinect down in the M-LOK slot, two very tiny triggers get pressed against the surface and deploy the wedges into place. Thats it! You know the wedges are deployed correctly when the tabs on the opposing sides fully extend. When you want to remove the Kinect, just pinch the tabs back inward to release the tabs.

Using the Kinect, adding and swapping accessories really is a "snap." You can have one bipod to swap around to each one of your rifles... or your favorite foregrip, flashlight, etc. Customization and personalization is so huge in the firearms industry, and the ability to truly snap on and off whatever you want on all your M-LOK compatible guns is a real improvement to manually loosening and tightening each screw one by one. That means you don't need to buy duplicates of your favorite accessories for multiple rifles. Also, it saves a lot of space inside your gun safe if you can easily pull off accessories when you're storing your rifle.

Accessories like lights and bipod can be easily attached, moved around or swapped within seconds.

The reason I said "almost perfect" early is because the compatibility with some of Magpul's most popular M-LOK furniture is severely hit and miss. The problem is the polymer products with M-LOK slots are not built to the same tolerances as their metal counterparts, by necessity. Many of the polymer M-LOK products on the market have to be thicker to support glass filled polymer rail systems.  KDG's Kinect system was designed around the original specs set by Magpul Industries for a rail thickness of .080″ and .125″ thick. Current specifications for M-LOK are a thickness of .080 to .150.″ What's all this mean? It means theres a strong change the Kinect won't work if you are using Magpul's Hunter 700 or X-22 Stock, MOE handguards, and other furniture constructed of that glass filled polymer.

For example, lets try the Magpul SGA Forend for Remington 870 and Mossberg 500/590 shotguns. The Kinect can attach to the side M-LOK slots (3 and 9 o'clock), but not the bottom slots (6 o'clock) because the walls are just a bit thicker on the underside - probably to withstand recoil forces as well as the forces from working the action back and forth if using a polymer M-LOK rail section with a vertical or angle foregrip.

Step One: Make sure both end's tabs pushed in, and align with preferred M-LOK slot.

Step Two: Push firmly down in the center of the rail, to be sure even pressure is applied on both sides. You'll know the Kinect is locked in place properly if both tabs fully deploy outward.

When you want to reposition or remove the Kinect, just squeeze both tabs in and pull the whole accessory off. Its really easy and effortless.

Accepting of all that, KDG doesn't guarantee the KINECT will work every polymer M-LOK product.  Keep in mind that polymer can be modded to work with some files or a Dremel tool, but good luck retaining precise dimensions within the specs.  Your best bet is to measure the thickness of the polymer thickness before ordering, or bring a Kinect with you to the store and try it if the staff doesn't mind. Luckily, KDG does offer a 30 day return policy (for store credit) if you have purchased a Kinect mount and it doesn't work with your desired M-LOK furniture.

In my opinion, KDG should really just manufacture a second Kinect line with redesigned wedges that specifically work for polymer furniture. With the popularity of Magpul's polymer products, the market for a QD rail that works with polymer forends should be substantial enough to justify it. I imagine KDG has had this conversation already at the drawing table, so perhaps I'm wrong.

With the Kinect it's easy to go overboard. But the real strength is not having to buy duplicate accessories for multiple rifles, just snap on and snap off whenever you want to change things up.

Personally, I feel upgrading your polymer M-LOK handguard to an aluminum one with the M-LOK system has plenty of merits on its own, and then you could fully enjoy the use of the Kinect QD Rail without issue.  Its my opinion than KDG has changed the whole dynamic of the M-LOK system with the Kinect QD mount, and it is my hope that with more Kinect product variations, other manufacturers in the industry will chose M-LOK for their handguards and rifle chassis over lesser, phallus-shaped mounting solutions. The saying "AR-15s are like LEGOs for adults" definitely becomes more true as you add some Kinect mounts to your collection.

Firearms Insider Reviews – 8 Key Points

Claim to Fame:  The Kinect™ by KDG for M-LOK™ is a revolutionary QD mounting system that will change the way we attach accessories to our modular weapons platforms

Target Market: Modern Sporting Rifle / Modular Rifle owners (AR-15s, SCARs, etc)

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Length: 3 Slot= 1.68″ (uses one M-LOK hole) 7 Slot= 3.73″ (uses two M-LOK holes)
  • Width: 0.82″
  • Height (Over M-LOK surface): .41″
  • Compatibility: Compatible with any M-LOK rail system.
  • Weight: 0.8oz

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black Anodized Only. Bipod swivel stud and offset mounts are also available.

What others are saying?: "This is by far and above the best and most convenient way to attach anything to your rifle. No more Allen wrenches and more importantly, no more searching for those wrenches when you want to reconfigure your rifle. If you're like me, I share accessories between my many rifles and the ability to pull attachments off and simply stick them on another rail in less that 30 seconds with no tools is just the best. Because of kinetic development group's Kinect system, all of my rifles are M-LOK." Brownells User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Brownells or Amazon

Our Rating:

Pros:

  • Easy to attach, turns any picatinny accessory into M-LOK
  • Works on all sides of the handguard with M-LOK slots
  • Secure and solid attachment
  • Removes risk of over tightening / damaging the handguard

Cons:

  • Unlocking tabs on opposing ends of mount need clearance to use, takes up additional rail space 
  • Not compatible with all polymer MLOK furniture (check all sides, manufactures beef up thicknesses of some walls)

Score: 7.5 Good

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Featured FFL:

For FFL services I choose Promised Land Firearms in Toulon, IL.

Ryan's Links:

Gun & Gear Review Podcast

Hunter of Design