May 17th, 2018 by asjstaff

Many people associate SHTF gear with doomsday preppers, underground bunkers, and enough ammo to support a small army.

The truth is that everyone should have an emergency supply for when shit really hits the fan – not just people who like to plan hypothetical zombie apocalypse-nuclear winter scenarios.

PacRim Canceling the Apocalypse
You heard the man, the apocalypse is on hold…for now…

Speaking of zombies, if you haven’t read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) Zombie Apocalypse Plan you really should – no joke, it’s a great start to SHTF planning.

Setting aside some ammunition, extra weapons, and other survival gear is a great way to ensure the safety of you and your family in the event of an emergency.

Today we’re going to look at some SHTF gear essentials that every survivalist needs to have.

Table of Contents

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The Essentials to Have on Hand

Above everything else, you want to have a self-defense handgun that’s powerful enough to neutralize any incoming threat.

This will be your primary pistol, so you want to make sure that it’s something you’re comfortable shooting;  don’t go purchase that .50 Desert Eagle just yet.

Golden Desert Eagles
This is NOT SHTF Gear!

Personally, I believe that the best SHTF gun is a 9mm – and this has nothing to do with the debate over which cartridge is better.

The truth is that the 9mm is one of the most commonly used cartridges in the world, so coming across ammo for it is going to be much easier than a 10mm or .41 mag.

Remember, even the best gun in the most powerful caliber in the world is completely useless if you run out of ammo.

I find the absolute best SHTF gun to be the Glock 17.

Some might argue that there are better guns on the market, but the G17 is built for durability and usability.

And in a survival scenario where you might not have the time to pamper your gun like you normally would, you want a dependable gun that will still shoot accurately and cycle through ammo even with some wear-and-tear.  

Another good choice is the .45 ACP, as it’s an even more powerful cartridge that’s also commonly used.  You can see our list of recommendations for good .45 ACP pistols and 9mm pistols.  

What about Rifles?

If you’re like most modern firearms enthusiasts, you’ve probably already got an AR-15 on hand.

If not, it’s a great home-defense weapon that you should consider adding to your arsenal.  You can learn more about buying your first AR-15 by checking out our AR-15 Beginner’s Guide.

Pew Pew Upgraded AR-15s
Pew Pew Upgraded AR-15s

Depending on what kind of shit hits the fan, you might want to have something a little more versatile (or at least harder hitting) on hand than an AR-15 – especially if you live outside of a major metropolitan area.

Some would say that a Scout Rifle fits that role, and it did…70 years ago.  While a scout rifle isn’t a bad idea, there are better options.

The AR-10 is a perfect example, get one chambered in .308 Win with a variable scope and you’ve got a great rifle for taking down game, protecting yourself from two-legged threats, and keeping the whole thing light enough to hike with and giving yourself 20 rounds on tap in case things go really sideways.

The Pew Pew Tactical Complete Buyer’s Guide to AR-10s will help you get started off right.

Best Semi-Auto Precision Rifle
Aero Precision M5E1 .308

Aero Precision M5E1 .308

Prices accurate at time of writing

Remember, part of what makes a good SHTF gun is being able to easily replenish ammo, even in a post-apocalyptic world.

You might also want to get you a .22LR rifle if you don’t already have one.

It won’t protect you against the bad guys, but it’s useful for hunting small game to eat… if need be.

Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle

Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle

The Henry Survival Rifle is a 3.5-pound .22LR rifle that’s portable, accurate, and perfect for hunting squirrels, rabbits, and other small game.

Get a Compact Backup Handgun

As the saying goes, “a .380 in your hand is better than a .45 in the glovebox.”

While I recommend keeping your .45 ACP a little closer than the glovebox (or .357 Mag, 9mm, 10mm, .44 Mag, or whatever handgun you prefer), having a backup pocket pistol on hand can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.

The idea is to have a compact gun available that you can easily grab in a pinch.  I like the .380 ACP because it’s small and lightweight, but still powerful enough to neutralize a threat at close range.  

Glock 42

There are a number of excellent .380 ACPs on the market, but I prefer the Glock 42.

Most Reliable .380
Glock 42

Glock 42

Like most Glock models, the G42 is a functional handgun that’s designed specifically for performance. 

In other words, it’s not flashy and it doesn’t come with extra features.  But it is durable and extremely dependable, which happen to be the two most important things to look for in a backup handgun.

As the smallest of the Glock models, it should go without saying that the G42 is an incredibly easy gun to carry in your coat pocket or strapped to your ankle. 

One more thingAmmo is everything when it comes to the .380 ACP.  Unlike some of the harder-hitting cartridges that’ll stop any threat dead in its tracks, the .380 ACP is only as effective as its ammo.

Using it effectively in a high-stress situation means shooting premium, self-defense ammo – not cheap rounds.

One of the more popular choices is Hornady’s Custom 90-grain XTP Jacketed Hollow-Point .380 rounds.  They come highly recommend for self-defense by our friends at Lucky Gunner and they’re reasonably priced.

Best .380 Defensive Round
Hornady Custom Ammunition 90 Grain 380 ACP

Hornady Custom Ammunition 90 Grain 380 ACP

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .38

If the .380 ACP isn’t your style and you’re looking for something a bit more tried and tested in the field, you can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned .38 Special.

The Bodyguard 38 is a modern take on a law enforcement classic – the .38 snub nose.

While the Bodyguard 38 (and other .38 specials) may not be popular services pistols in today’s generation, they’ve more than proven themselves to be powerful, dependable, and more than capable of acting as a backup pistol.

Keep in Mind When Choosing a Pocket Pistol

Overall, the pocket pistol makes a great addition to your SHTF Kit because it’s small enough to carry on your person at all times.  I recommend a .380 APC or a .38 Spl because both of them are small and lightweight, yet powerful enough to take down a threat at close range.

Ideally, the pocket pistol is something you’d only want to use as a last resort – like if your primary gun jammed or it ran out of ammo.

Storing Your Ammo Safely

The last thing you want to do is stockpile ammo for an end-of-the-world scenario, only to discover that it’s corroded and functionally obsolete when it comes time to use it.

A lot of people tend to forget that ammunition has a shelf life.  However, that shelf life is completely up to you.  Store it right and it will last long enough for your grandchildren to use, store it wrong and you’ll kill your stock before the next deer season.

One of the easiest ways to extend the shelf life of your ammo is by storing it in safe, secure containers where it’s protected from dirt and moisture.

You can learn more by reading our guide on long-term ammo storage.

In the meantime, a simple Ammo Can will go a long way towards preserving the life of your ammunition.

Honestly, every SHTF prepper should have at least one Ammo Can lying around.  They’re cheap, easy to come across, and are worth their weight in gold if you ever are in a situation where you actually need to use your ammo stockpile.

Keeping a Silica gel packet in your ammo can will help ensure that your ammo lasts almost forever, they are cheap and easy to get – keeping one in every can is SOP for me.

Silica Gel Packets

Silica Gel Packets

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s your take on having a good ammo can and moisture stopper?

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Get a Good First Aid Kit

Ideally, every home and automobile should have a first-aid kit – especially people who’re outdoor enthusiasts.  For most situations, the standard first-aid kit found in most workplaces will get the job done.

But if you’re in a situation where you really did have to use your SHTF kit, there’s a greater likelihood that you won’t have easy access to paramedics and hospitals in the event of the emergency.  For this type of scenario, you’re really going to want to have a little more than a burn kit, some gauze, and antiseptic ointment.

The Grizzly Series First Aid Kit by Adventure Medical Kits is a heavy-duty kit designed specifically for the survivalist and apocalypse prepper.

Grizzly Series First Aid Kit

Grizzly Series First Aid Kit

Prices accurate at time of writing

It comes with everything you need to treat injuries, including QuickClot, syringes, and a tourniquet so that you can stabilize trauma victims until first responders arrive.

If you’re looking for something a little more extensive and are willing to pay more for its durable design, the Echo-Sigma Trauma Kit is also an excellent choice.

Echo-Sigma Emergency Systems Trauma Kit

Echo-Sigma Emergency Systems Trauma Kit

Designed to meet the needs of law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day, the Echo-Sigma kit comes with all of the tools necessary to treat sprains, fractures, and cuts, as well as stabilize people who’ve experienced serious trauma from knife and gunshot wounds.

And as a bonus, it comes in a pouch that’s easy to carry around if you have to walk for extended periods of time.

We cover how to build the ultimate Range Med Kit too if you like customizing.

Heavy Metal Equipment

You’ll be surprised how much use you can get out of a good quality knife.

Not only does your survival knife act as your last line of defense, it can also be used as an important tool – especially if you’re stuck outdoors for an extended period of times.

Food prep, shelter building, making tools, and even first aid (cauterizing wounds and cutting bandages) can all be done with the help of your survival knife.

Ka-Bar 7" Knife

Ka-Bar 7″ Knife

The KA-BAR is a tried-and-tested survival knife that’s been a long-time favorite among survivalists – partly because it’s also the combat knife issued to members of the US Armed Forces.

Another popular knife for your hunting trip or bugout bag is Survival Knife by Ontario Knife Company.

Ontario Knife Company USN-1 Survival Knife

Ontario Knife Company USN-1 Survival Knife

Functionally, it’s similar to the KA-BAR except that it comes with a gut hook for cleaning game, as well as a sawback – the serration on the top of the blade just past the hook.  It’s made out of 1095 steel and has a 5” blade length, with an overall length of 9.26”.

And don’t forget a Whetstone for keeping your blades sharp without damaging them, like some of the other knife sharpening devices on the market.

Some other tools you might want to consider for your survivalist kit include:

If you ever find yourself away from your toolbox, each of these compact tools makes it significantly easier to set up shelter, make fires, and work on anything that needs tinkering.

Gun Equipment for Your SHTF Cache

As you already know, good gun maintenance is essential to ensuring that your gun is accurate and dependable.  If you happen to find yourself in a shit-hits-the-fan moment, you want to make sure that you have all the supplies you need on hand.

After all, it’s not guaranteed that you will be able to trek to the nearest outdoors store and buy more equipment.

For this reason, I recommend keeping a few extra cleaning kits around.  Preferably one for your SHTF Bag and another for the trunk of your car.

Our favorite M-Pro 7 kit from Best Gun Cleaning Kits is perfect for handling most of you gun maintenance needs on the go, and it’s compact enough to be stowed away without taking up significant space.

M-Pro 7 Cleaning Kit

M-Pro 7 Cleaning Kit

Prices accurate at time of writing

I also recommend picking up a few packs of Break Free Weapon Wipes.  They will go a long way in keeping your guns, knives, and tools clean, lubricated, and protected against corrosion – especially if you’re ever in a situation where you have to use your weapons and tools daily.

CLP Break-Free Wipes

CLP Break-Free Wipes

And if you don’t already have one, you should think about getting a CCW holster so that you can carry your handgun on at all times.

You can see some recommendations by reading our concealed carry holster review.

For a survival scenario, I recommend something lightweight and effective, without any of the frills.  Concealment Express has a number of lightweight holsters for $35 that are durable and comfortable to carry around.

Food, Water, and Air

This really should be self-explanatory. You need food and water. You also need a way to get food and water after your stores have run out.

Getting food is where your firearms will come in handy, but water is a little more complex since you can’t just drink any water you find laying around – that is a quick way to get all kinds of nasty sicknesses.

For water purification, you need two options at least, one for you to get drinking water right now and one method for you to purify a lot of water.

Don’t forget – water isn’t just for drinking. You’ll also need it for cooking, cleaning, and treating injuries.

To get drinking water right away, I love my LifeStraw.

But when it comes to purifying larger amounts of drinking water you’ll need something like the Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System.

Better Than a LifeStraw
Sawyer Gravity Flow Water Filter

Sawyer Gravity Flow Water Filter

Prices accurate at time of writing

Before the apocalypse strikes, you should have stocked up on food and water also.

I know a basement full of MREs is the more classic prepper thing to do but…anyone that has had to eat MREs for an extended period of time can tell you that…almost any other option is preferred.

Augason Farms Deluxe Emergency 30-Day Food Supply

Augason Farms Deluxe Emergency 30-Day Food Supply

Prices accurate at time of writing

Each of these pails is a 30-day food supply for one person. That is a lot of food! Throw in the fact that each of these only weighs 23 pounds and what you have is a fairly lightweight option for long-term food supply.

Long-term water storage is a little more complex than food, you’ll need water – obviously, but you’ll also need a water preserver.

Combine these two so that your water supply will last long enough for you to get through whatever has hit the fan!

Prepping for air isn’t something that you may have thought off before – but it should be on your list. If you really want to be prepared then you’ll want to find yourself a full biological suit…

…but for more run-of-the-mill applications, a good respirator will do the trick.

3M Respirator

3M Respirator

Prices accurate at time of writing

Other Essentials to Have on Hand

Being stuck in an emergency situation means that you could be forced to pack up and move at a moment’s notice.

For this reason, you need to have a dependable backpack large enough to carry your essentials like water, knives, tools, and first aid kit.

I recommend a 60-liter backpack because it’s large enough to hold your necessary equipment but not too large that it starts getting bulky and in the way.

The Tactical Backpack by Trekking King is a popular 60-liter backpack that’s durable and comfortable enough to withstand long hikes and hunting trips.

Trekking King Tactical Backpack

Trekking King Tactical Backpack

Prices accurate at time of writing

Aside from looking cool, the Tactical Backpack has a number of extra compartments for maximizing your storage capabilities.  You can load it up with survival material and store it in your trunk, garage, or closet and grab it at a moment’s notice.

Here are a few things that you want to keep in your backpack to keep you prepared for the unexpected:

You should also think about buying a Shemagh from Condor Outdoors.

This traditional Middle Eastern headdress was made popular in the western world by the British SAS.  It’s a versatile cloth that can be used for a number of things including:

  • Protecting your face from UV rays, dust, and sand
  • An arm sling, emergency bandage, or tourniquet
  • A headscarf
  • An improvised bag, or “hobo sack”
Condor Outdoor Shemagh

Condor Outdoor Shemagh

Surviving Whatever Is Thrown at You

When you’re building an SHTF bag, your goal should be to anticipate and prepare for any situation – not just the apocalyptical, but also the more common such as an earthquake, tornado, fire, and whatever else is possible to your local area.

Choosing good survival gear isn’t always about maximizing your firepower.

It’s also about making sure that you’ve got clean water, shelter, and enough supplies in the event that you have to gather your things and leave at a moment’s notice.

Are you a prepper? Do you have a store of SHTF gear? Let us know all about it in the comments!

The post Essential SHTF Gear: When The World (Almost) Ends appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.

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May 9th, 2018 by asjstaff

The AR-15 as a platform is upgradeable to an extreme degree.

It seems like every part can be upgraded to be a little better. But that can often mean costing you an arm and a leg!

One of the smallest and easiest upgrades you can make to your AR-15 is swapping the charging handle.

Like every other AR-15 part in the world, the charging handle has dozens and dozens of different options.

Navigating AR charging handles can be a real challenge, especially when it comes to finding the right one for you. So we want to help you a bit.

If you’re in a rush, here is our quick break down table:

Charging Handle Role Note
Strike Industries ARCH General Purpose Best Mil-Spec
Strike Industries Extended Latch General Purpose Best Budget Option
Strike Industries Latchless General Purpose Best Latchless
Radian Raptor – LT Lightweight Best Lightweight Build
Radian Raptor General Purpose The Original Raptor
Radian Raptor – SD Suppressed ARs Best Suppressed Build
Aero Precision Ambidextrous General Purpose Best For Scoped ARs
BCM Gunfighter Mod 4 General Purpose
BCM Gunfighter Mod 4B General Purpose Best for Keeping it Simple
BCM Gunfighter Mod 4×4 General Purpose

Left Side Ejection AR-15 Pistol
Testing Charging Handles with a Left-Side Ejecting AR-15

Here are charging handles from companies far and wide, and through testing and evaluation from other gun enthusiasts, they’ve narrowed it down to 10 on this list.

1. Strike Industries ARCH – Best Mil-Spec

An upgraded charging handle doesn’t mean an extended charging handle, or a latch-less charging handle, or really anything crazy at all.

Even the most basic Mil-Spec style charging handle can be well made and can stand above other Mil-Spec options (Improving on Mil-Spec is easy when it isn’t being made by the lowest bidder).

Strike Industries in AR-15
Strike Industries in AR-15

If you want an affordable, and Mil-Spec option, then Strike Industries has you covered.

On the outside, this is a pretty standard looking charging handle, but upon closer inspection, you can tell Strike put some work into this simple charging handle.

The SI ARCH is hard anodized and is exceptionally smooth.

Strike Industries ARCH

Strike Industries ARCH

Prices accurate at time of writing

This smooth finish allows it to glide rearwards with ease. The most significant difference you’ll see is near the rear of the charging handle.

It’s rounded off at the back but features a sharp straight angle on the inside of the charging handle.

Strike Industries Out of Rifle
Strike Industries Out of Rifle

The inside is also textured for a better grip, and the latch is only as large as it needs to be. While the differences are subtle, once you start running the charging handle, they are significant.

A textured grip is excellent for clearing jams when your hands are sweaty or if you are wearing gloves.

The smoother finish makes the charging handle glide backward, it reduces the effort needed to charge the weapon, clear jams, and more.

Plus it just feels nice, really lovely. The SI ARCH isn’t necessarily sexy, or fancy, but it functions and does so well.

2. Strike Industries ARCH With Extended Latch – Best Budget Option

Budget is relative to what you are getting for the money. So yes, cheaper charging handles exist, but they don’t deliver as much value as the SI ARCH with the extended latch.

For right around 30 bucks you get an excellent charging handle that takes the best features of the Standard ARCH and makes it a little quicker and easier to grasp.

Strike Extended Latch
Strike Extended Latch

The extended latch sticks out about an extra half inch that gives the user a little more space to grip the charging handle.

This additional purchase gives you the ability to quickly charge the weapon and clear malfunctions. It also gives you more room to grab the charging handle if you are rocking a variable power optic.

Strike Extended Latch on Rifle
Strike Extended Latch on Rifle

The Strike Industries ARCH is already an outstanding charging handle, we just covered it above, and all the same features there are present here.

Strike Industries Extended Latch

Strike Industries Extended Latch

Prices accurate at time of writing

One detraction from this design is that the extended portion of the handle is only on the left-hand part of the charging handle. This charging feature is somewhat useless for left-handed shooters.

Side view of the Strike Industries Extended Latch
Side view of the Strike Industries Extended Latch

The Strike Industries ARCH charging handle is a great option and comes in at a low price. It’s a lot like Starbucks, basic, but not bad.

3. Strike Industries Latchless Charging Handle – Best Latchless

Strike Industries likes to experiment and does so quite well. The latchless charging handle is one such experiment.

The lack of a latch is an interesting idea as it reduces the movements needed to release the latch and manipulate the weapon.

Strike Industries Latchless
Strike Industries Latchless

I could charge the weapon with a compromised grip. Compromised means rushed, crappy, and in a hurry.

The lack of a latch allowed to load the gun from either side with ease. If my left arm is out of the fight, I can still find a way to manipulate the charging handle.

Strike Industries Latchless Charging Handle

Strike Industries Latchless Charging Handle

This latch-less system uses a cool hidden spring mechanism in the center of the charging handle to make sure it stays put when not in use.

That spring holds it in place entirely, but you don’t even feel it when you charge the weapon.

Strike Industries Latchless in Rifle
Strike Industries Latchless in Rifle

Like the Strike ARCH, this is 7075 T6 aluminum charging handle and the finish is slick.

The Latchless charging handle can be extended via a simple add-on to the left or right side that makes the handle a little bigger.

If you wanted to, you could purchase two extended handles and have one on the right and the left side. They install quickly and are like ten bucks.

The charging handle also features side gas venting, which is great for my 7.5-inch barrel AR pistol. It tends to be a gassy girl.

4. The Radian Raptor LT – Best for a Lightweight Build

AR-15s are getting smaller and lighter. Guns come in at well under 6 pounds these days, and some builders are taking that to the extreme. My friend Rex Nanorum over at the Loadout Room has built his lightweight AR that comes in under 6 pounds when it’s outfitted with a suppressor and optic.

Radian Raptor-LT
Radian Raptor-LT

From talking with him I’ve learned that guys taking on these projects are looking to trim ounces, and even half ounces as much as possible.

If you are chasing this kind of build and still looking for a lightweight, but functional charging handle then the Radian LT is an excellent choice.

Coming in at only 1.2 ounces the Radian LT is a functional choice.

It’s got two massive wings on the sides that make the charging handle easy to grip and rip regardless of the situation. This is especially true when it comes to using the charging handle with an optic.

Raptor LT on Rifle
Raptor LT on Rifle

The Radian Raptor LT is made from 7075 aluminum and is hard anodized with a Mil-Spec Type 3 finish.

It is also reinforced with high strength reinforced polymer for saving weight, but maintaining strength.

The Radian Raptor LT is a lightweight, well made, and priced well. It’s a great option for your lightweight build or just a standard build that needs a great charging handle that’s priced affordably.

5. The Original Radian Raptor

If we are going to name the lighter weight choice we can’t leave out the classic Radian Raptor. The Radian Raptor was one of the OG modern, extended charging handles.

An ambidextrous design features two extended handles for lots of space to grip.

Original Radian Raptor
Original Radian Raptor

The extended charging handles are big enough to allow a blading technique for those of us with tough hands. Blading is when you are catching the charging handle with your palm and rapidly pull it rearward.

You need a nice, large charging handle to do this efficiently and quickly. The Radian Raptor allows that to be possible.

It also sports two different independent levers that will enable quick and easy charging and weapon’s manipulation.

Charging the Raptor
Charging the Raptor

The Radian Raptor is made from 7075 aluminum and comes in a multitude of colors.

The different colors make it charming and sexy, and I appreciate a splash of color here and there. As you can see, we went with the FDE Radian Raptor.

The Raptor is a classic extended charging handle that still keeps up with the young ones.

6. The Radian Raptor SD – Best For Suppressed Guns

The third and final Radian Raptor is one specifically designed for suppressed guns. The Radian Raptor SD is the same old Raptor grip we know and love but vented explicitly for suppressed ARs.

Left Side Ejecting AR-15 with Raptor Charging Handle
Left Side Ejecting AR-15 with Raptor Charging Handle

AR-15s have quite a bit of gas blowback when they are suppressed. This gas blowback hits the shooter in the face and occasionally carries carbon to the shooter’s face.

This gas can be a mild inconvenience that gets worse and worse the more rounds you put downrange.

Radian Raptor SD
Radian Raptor SD

The Radian Raptor SD is vented extensively down the sides to decrease gas blowback by venting it out the sides. This makes shooting your suppressed AR a much lovelier experience. If you are shooting suppressed, you can stop reading now; this is the charging handle you need.

Aero Precision

7. Aero Precision Ambidextrous – Best For an Optic Equipped AR – (Writer’s Choice)

If you want a massive charging handle, then Aero Precision has you covered. The Aero Precision Ambidextrous charging handle is quite likely one of the most significant charging handles on the market.

Aero Precision Charging
Aero Precision Charging

This makes it perfect for optic’s equipped AR-15s. Especially when it comes to large variable optics. These handles will clear the eyepiece of any modern scope and is my go to on my budget Recce rifle.

Aero Precision Charging Handle
Aero Precision Charging Handle

This ambi charging handle sports two massive latches, and it’s simple to blade the weapon, even with an optic on the gun. The Aero Precision charging handle is one of my favorite all around charging handles ever. I like it on any rifle, and its large size works with my massive hands pretty well.

Aero Precision Ambidextrous Charging Handle

Aero Precision Ambidextrous Charging Handle

Prices accurate at time of writing

The 7075-T6 aluminum design makes it a rugged and capable charging handle for your build. I love how it glides backward when pulled, and the extra size means extra leverage. This makes blading pretty easy, and not too painful on the hands.

Aero Precision and The Meme War
Aero Precision and The Meme War

The Aero Precision charging handle is my personal favorite, and it functions as an absolute champ.

8. BCM Gunfighter MOD 4

BCM redesigned the traditional charging handle to take the force off the roll pin and placing it to the rear of the charging handle.

The GFH MOD 4 features the medium latch on the left-hand side for right-handed shooters. This particular extended model is a little shorter than an inch past the main body of the charging handle.

BCM Gunfighter MOD 4 Ready to Rock (Get it Rock Sorry.)
BCM Gunfighter MOD 4 Ready to Rock (Get it Rock Sorry.)

The BCM GFH MOD 4 is primarily designed to be used with the blading technique and is designed so that the pressure applied via this technique won’t damage the charging handle or latch. 

BCM Gunfighter MOD 4

BCM Gunfighter MOD 4

Prices accurate at time of writing

It’s not often that you see a firearms technique incorporated into the design of a part, this is the kind of extra-level of effort that I’ve come to expect from BCM.

The BCM Gunfighter MOD 4
The BCM Gunfighter MOD 4

It catches the hand perfectly and is perfect if you are new to this technique. The Gunfighter is a thoroughly modern option for your next AR-15 build and Bravo company has an outstanding reputation for producing high-quality AR components and even full rifles.

9. BCM Gunfighter MOD 4B – Best KISS

If you want to keep things simple, the BCM Gunfighter MOD 4B is the option for you. It’s a compact and small charging handle that meets the standard Mil-Spec dimensions. This charging handle is designed for shooters used to the standard manual of arms associated with military training.

BCM Charging
BCM Mod 4B Charging

While it functions as a standard charging handle, it’s made to last.

BCM Gunfighter Mod 4B

BCM Gunfighter Mod 4B

Prices accurate at time of writing

It’s made from 7075-T6 aluminum so its strong as hell and outfitted with a type 3 hard anodized finish for long lasting durability. The MOD 4B is available in both a mil-spec design and an ambidextrous model.

BCM Mod 4B
BCM Mod 4B

This particular model is the mil-spec model, and it excels for those of us who’ve spent a little time in the armed forces. It’s also a great low profile option for those of you who don’t need or want an extended latch system. The MOD 4B is textured for a more comfortable grip and outfitted with BCM’s load eliminating design. This reduces wear on the pivot pin and paces it midline of the rifle.

10. BCM Gunfighter MOD 4×4

The 4X4 from BCM is an ambidextrous option for Bravo Company. It’s mil-spec size and dimensions makes it nice and compact, at least compared to the other charging handles on this list. Each side features a latch that releases the charging handle with ease.

BCM Mod 4x4
BCM Mod 4×4

The GFH 4X4 is a great option for lefties seeking a mil-spec sized charging handle. It’s straightforward to use and is made from 7075-T6 aluminum.

BCM Gunfighter Mod 4x4

BCM Gunfighter Mod 4×4

Prices accurate at time of writing

I’m a right-handed shooter, so maybe I can’t get the full effect of this charging handle, but I get the concept.

BCM 4x4 in Rifle
BCM 4×4 in Rifle

Even though it feels unnatural for me to charge the rifle with my right hand, I find it surprisingly easy to do with this charging handle. The MOD 4X4 is a great little charging handle, and it’s priced affordably for a premium grade charging handle.

Charged Up

I’ve gone through a lot of charging handles; I mean a lot of them. So much so that when testing these designs I got a nice case of tennis elbow and a bruised palm. Maybe it’s charging handle elbow?

Whatever you want to call it I got it. I did, however, learn a ton about charging handles, and there is more to learn than I expected. The best thing I learned was I have a ton of options when it comes to AR-15 builds of all kinds.

Interested in more AR-15 upgrades?  Check out Best AR-15 Upgrades for everything from triggers to handguards and more.

This is our Top 10 list, but we want to know if you think we missed any? If so let us know what we missed and why it deserves a place on the list!

April 13th, 2018 by asjstaff

So you’re ready to build your own AR-15 upper but aren’t sure of the upper receiver?

We’ve got you covered with our personal go-to mil-spec receiver and also a couple of unique options that will turn heads.

F1 UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver
F1 UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver

If you haven’t read my AR-15 Guide that goes over all the components of an AR, I’d suggest starting there first.  Otherwise, I’ll suppose that you’re well-versed in everything AR and ready to just see what’s the best upper receiver.

*Updated 2018*: More lightweight uppers.

Here’s a sneak peek of our best uppers list if you can’t wait:

  1. Best Mil-Spec: Aero Stripped Mil-Spec
  2. Mil-Spec Upgrade: Aero M4E1
  3. Best Slick Upper: Aero Slick
  4. More Accurate: VLTOR MUR
  5. Light & Reliable: Battle Arms Development Lighweight
  6. Lightest: F1 Firearms UDR-15-3G

Best AR-15 Upper Receivers

I’ve built almost a dozen AR-15 uppers for myself and friends and have almost exclusively gone with Aero Precision.  They got their start manufacturing for the aerospace industry (name checks out) and moved into AR-15 parts.  Now they are really gunning with complete AR-15’s and even barrels too.

Upper Receiver Forge Marks

AR-15 Upper Receive Forge Mark
AR-15 Upper Receive Forge Mark

You might have heard about forge marks, which are above the forward assist.  This just designates which metal forging company created the upper blank.  The end company (such as Aero) is the one that actually machines the upper.

So the forge mark by itself means nothing since the quality really comes from the final company (and there are differences).  As far as I know, Aero uses several forges but mostly the “broken A” which comes from Anchor Harvey Aluminum.

1. Aero Stripped Upper Receiver

Mil-Spec Goodness
Aero Stripped Upper Receiver

Aero Stripped Upper Receiver

The gold standard ($80) in my mind that lets you choose your own forward assist and port door.  Comes with M4 feedramps, laser engraved T-marks for the rails, and also available in several colors for a little bit more.

Stripped Upper Receiver and Forward Assist
Stripped Upper Receiver and Forward Assist

I’ve had no problems with any of my builds and if you do any searches you’ll see that it’s almost exclusively positive comments.  Remember to finish out your stripped upper with an upper parts kit ($17)

2. Aero M4E1 Stripped Upper Receiver

Editor’s Choice
Aero M4E1 Stripped Upper Receiver

Aero M4E1 Stripped Upper Receiver

The upgraded version of the mil-spec that gives a billet look without the doubling in price.  My personal favorite now for my builds and what lives on my home defense gun (full review).

Aero Precision M4E1 16 Midlength Pencil
Aero Precision M4E1 16 Midlength Pencil

Remember to finish out your stripped upper with an upper parts kit ($17) or simply look at assembled uppers which are basically the same price with the upper parts installed.

Aero Assembled Uppers

Aero Assembled Uppers

Prices accurate at time of writing

No need to scrape anything when installing…or go nuts on the port door.

Ejection Port Spring
Ejection Port Spring, SnareMan

3. Blemished Aero Uppers

And if you’re balling on a budget, you can get a “blemished” version (~25% off) of the stripped or assembled upper (depending on their stock).  “Blemished” just means there’s some cosmetic abnormalities that will not affect actual function.

The last two builds I’ve done have been with Aero blem uppers and I had to really look to find the cosmetic problem.  And of course they’ve all worked fine.

Here’s the latest one…looks like there’s a scuff & a dimple.  I put more scuffs on mine during a match!  If you want to save a couple bucks I’d go this route.

Aero Blemished Upper
Aero Blemished Upper

Bad thing is that they are usually snatched up as soon as they become available.

4. Aero Slick (No Forward Assist) Upper

Aero No Forward Assist Upper

Aero No Forward Assist Upper

If you have never used the forward assist and want to shave some weight off…you can get a no forward assist upper ($84).  This type of upper is also known as a “slick” upper.

In my opinion I just like the look of the forward assist and I go by the mantra that I’d rather have it and not use it, than need it and not have it.  Especially on a more duty rifle build.

5. VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver

VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver

VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver

The MUR upper receiver ($200) has thicker walls to make it a more rigid shooting platform which should translate to more accuracy.  Plus it looks different and cool enough to get some envious looks.

6. Battle Arms Development

Best Lightweight Upper
Battle Arms Development Lightweight Upper

Battle Arms Development Lightweight Upper

If you want to go light…but not at the expense of extreme lightening cuts and possible reduced reliability.

Plus…I dig the Tron-esque design.

7. F1 Firearms UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver

Lightest Upper Receiver
F1 Firearms UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver

F1 Firearms UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver

Prices accurate at time of writing

My newest muse…

Probably as light as you can go…and geared towards turning heads at rifle competitions (not home-defense).  If you’re in a dusty environment I’d keep it covered…but otherwise initial reports say that the large cuts don’t affect function even with tons of rounds downrange.

I have one on the way for my new competition gun so I’ll report back soon.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve seen our suggestions for the best AR-15 upper receiver (both stripped and assembled), you’re one step closer to your build.  Check out the rest of our AR- 15 Guides to continue your parts selection and overall education.  And if you’re ready to build…here’s our AR-15 Upper Assembly Visual Guide.

The post 7 Best AR-15 Stripped Upper Receivers [Hands-On 2018] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.

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March 26th, 2018 by Danielle Breteau

The Triple Play

Aero Precision’s M5E1 is an evolutionary improvement on the basic AR-10 theme.

The Aero Precision M5E1 is a logical development from their more basic M5 .308 autoloading rifle. It is positioned as a firearm that’s practical in the field, yet more accurate and capable of sustained fire than typical hunting or defense rifles. The main upgrade is the strengthened receiver designed to give monolithic-rail effects without its logistical disadvantage, namely the difficulty of changing the forend. The area where the freefloated handguard and the barrel attach to the receiver has been beefed up relative to the typical AR-10-style guns. The mounting surface for the forend is machined into the upper receiver, so the free-floated rail attaches with just four pairs of screws and no need for additional rings or hardware.

Aero Precision M5E1 (Oleg Volk)

Its realistic niche is for a designated marksman or a hunter working from a blind.

Aero Precision (Oleg Volk)

The creation of this rifle was driven by the need for a relatively handy rifle that yields maximum muzzle velocity.

Aero Precision (Oleg Volk)

The rifle I tested was a combination of all three variants offered by Aero Precision. It came with an adjustable Magpul CTR stock designed for the 16-inch carbine, a 15-inch forend for an 18-inch midlength rifle and a 20-inch barrel for a full-length rifle. The goal was to have a relatively handy weapon yielding maximum muzzle velocity. A variable-length stock allowed adjustments for various shooting positions and for body armor. Of the two colors available, I chose the flat dark earth cerakote, mainly to reduce the gun’s visibility and its tendency to warm up in direct sunlight during hot Tennessee summers. The edges of the receiver and the forend have all been carefully chamfered and smoothed, making gloveless handling comfortable. Extensively ventilated KeyMod handguards with a full-length Picatinny top rail proved well suited for field use, requiring only a short rail segment up front for the bipod, or a direct KeyMod bipod stud. The stock offered a quick-detach socket on both sides, and the QD rail-mounted receptacle for the front of the sling completed this field-ready rifle.

Aero Precision (Oleg Volk)

The edges of the receiver and the forend have all been carefully chamfered and smoothed, making gloveless handling comfortable.

In cold weather, the all-metal forend would be insulated with rail covers, while in warmer weather, free air flow around the barrel would take priority. Due to the long barrel, the rifle starts out front-heavy, but adding a scope and a full 20-round magazine brings the balance to the front of the magazine well.

In keeping with the intended use of this rifle, I put a 1-6x Vortex Razor HD scope on it. With the optic set to six power, the M5E1 can be used to engage goblin-sized targets out to 600 yards from a bipod or an improvised rest. At intermediate magnification, it’s excellent for unsupported shooting. And at true 1x with daylight-bright reticle illumination, it works as an expedient red-dot sight for tracking motion. A rifle-length barrel with a flash hider keeps muzzle flash from showing up in the field of view, even in low light. The same length and the attendant inertia keep the muzzle rise to a minimum, so shooters can spot their own targets through the scope at all magnifications. The recoil is negligible, allowing full concentration on marksmanship without concern for the kick.

Aero Precision (Oleg Volk)

The area where the freefloated handguard and the barrel attach to the receiver has been beefed up relative to the typical AR-10-style guns.

The rifle functioned reliably with over a dozen types of ammunition, from steel-cased ball to hunting soft points and match hollow points. The trigger is smooth during take-up, with a crisp breakpoint but still at military standard weight. Running it in winter gloves, I came to appreciate it for the tactile feedback it provided. The enlarged integral trigger guard helped make gloved use safe.

My M5E1 was test fired from a rest at the factory on my request, grouping around 1 minute of angle with Federal 168-grain Gold Match ammunition. All of my testing was conducted by a former Marine Corps rifleman under less formal conditions from sandbags or from a Lead Sled, usually with some crosswind.

The Averaged Results

Prvi Partizan 175-grain match 0.75 MOA

Pierce Munitions 168-grain match 1.5 MOA

Federal Fusion 150-grain 2 MOA

Hornady 168-grain match 2 MOA

The shooters remarked that they considered the rifle capable of better precision than it demonstrated, though I am convinced that 0.75 MOA is quite respectable, especially when the limitation of the six-power scope is considered. The barrel twist rate is 1 in 10, optimal for 175-grain bullets, while the older 1-in-12 standard works fine for the 168s. For short-range plinking or CQB training, the difference in mechanical accuracy would be of negligible importance, but heavier bullets would work best for deliberate long-range precision work. With initial muzzle velocity around 2,500 feet per second, most 175-grain loads stay supersonic out past 1,000 yards – well outside of the optical range of our setup.

Aero Precision (Oleg Volk)

The trigger is smooth during take-up, with a crisp breakpoint, but still at military standard weight.

The fit and finish of the rifle are excellent. Internals showed almost no visible wear after the first 400 rounds. While the lower has a threaded opening for a tension screw, I found it unnecessary because play between the lower and the upper was already negligible. I would have preferred an extended charging handle latch, but that’s an easy fix.

The rifle weighs 9.6 pounds empty, on par with an M1A match or FN FAL. Loaded and scoped, it tips in at 13.6 pounds. Its realistic niche is for a designated marksman or a hunter working from a blind. Despite the weight, the gun travels well slung, thanks to the absence of any protrusions. The M5E1 is an evolutionary improvement on the basic AR10 theme, and is a very enjoyable to operate and unfailingly reliable. With the recent price drop bringing the complete gun to the $1,300 to $1,600 range, depending on the variant, it is quite competitive with other precision alternatives. And that has long been Aero’s chosen field, good performance at a reasonable price. ASJ




Review and photographs by Oleg Volk

 

 

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