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:
|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|
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Strike Industries ARCH is already an outstanding charging handle, we just covered it above, and all the same features there are present here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Aero Precision charging handle is my personal favorite, and it functions as an absolute champ.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While it functions as a standard charging handle, it’s made to last.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m a right-handed shooter, so maybe I can’t get the full effect of this charging handle, but I get the concept.
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.
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!
How many cop or detective movies have you watched where the hero had a .38 revolver?
Damn near all of them, right?
That’s because the .38 revolver is a ridiculously reliable gun. You won’t be winning any long distance sharpshooting challenges with it, but you will feel safe carrying one. Just look how confident those old-timey cops and private dicks were.
First off, let’s talk about what makes the .38 caliber and a revolver worth carrying. Some people might consider the .38 and even the .38+p ammo to be outdated.
The .38 ammo is pretty much the same size as a 9mm. Where it IS different is the actual weight: a .38 is heavier than a 9mm.
Both have their benefits. The .38 is a little slower-moving but has more mass. The 9mm has more punch to it and travels faster.
One of the main reasons you’d want to carry a .38 this because it predominantly comes as a revolver. Revolvers, as we know, are very reliable. There are less moving parts and there’s less to go wrong. That’s why a lot of the police and other agencies used it in great quantities before the advent of reliable semi-automatic pistols.
Agencies eventually moved to the more common use of semi-automatic pistols but it wasn’t necessarily because of a lack of confidence in the caliber, it was more because of the greater number of rounds in each gun that semi-autos provide.
If you have the option of carrying five rounds vs 15 rounds, there’s little choice as to which one is better to have in a gunfight.
The 1-6x scope can do almost anything.
Close-up shots at 1x is almost the same speed as a red dot. And 6x allows you to hit targets out at several hundred yards easy.
I’ve bought and used a bunch of 1-6x scopes for competition and plinking over the past few years.
Here’s my favorites across a couple of price ranges. All with real views and videos through the scopes.
I was so happy when the Strike Eagle came out.
I was ready to move up from my 1-4x Burris Tac30 ($240) I used for a year and that was losing me time after my local rifle competition introduced ~400 yard targets.
This is a view of 1-4x for comparison aiming at 100 yard steel plates:
There were some 1-6x scopes out but they were expensive. The Vortex Strike Eagle made it accessible for normal folks at around $300 (just a little step up from 1-4x scopes).
It had everything you needed with decent glass. Very minimal side distortion on the sides at 1x.
And acceptable clarity at 6x.
The illuminated reticle is also not daylight bright. Fine for dusk/dawn but don’t expect it to be a red dot at other times.
I’d knock the reticle a little bit…I prefer a dot or cross for 1x shots. But the bullet drop compensation (BDC) marks did help for the couple hundred yard shots.
It held zero for the 2 years I used it as my primary rifle competition optic. And the magnification ring was easily turned for speed since it has a protruding fin.
Here it is in action (some range sounds):
At the end…my runner-up recommendation for a budget 1-6x scope. With Vortex you also get a transferable lifetime warranty.
My new recommendation for the best budget 1-6x scope is the PA 1-6x with ACSS Reticle.
I’ve always heard of Primary Arms having affordable optics that perform great. Now I’m finally a believer after using their 1-6x and 4-14x scope that they sent me for testing.
It’s the same price range as the Strike Eagle at under $300. But if you purchase directly from Primary Arms you get free rings or a discounted single-piece mount.
So far both have held zero admirably…although a little heavy. I’d opt for the single-piece over the rings since it’s much easier to take on and off without losing zero.
Now…how does it look through the glass compared to the Strike Eagle.
Less distortion at 1x. And much clearer at 6x.
Here is the Strike Eagle at 6x again:
I also like the ACSS reticle a lot more. It has a single dot for precise work but also the bigger bold circle for hosing targets. The BDC also worked well for several hundred yard shots.
I haven’t shot the PA as much as the Strike Eagle but so far so good. Zero has held for several range trips but I’ll report back if anything changes.
Magnification ring is also easy to manipulate but illumination shown at the beginning of the video is only useful for dusk/dawn.
For under $300 to get decent glass and a free mount (although heavy)…you can’t ask for anything better than that. Plus PA offers a lifetime warranty. I had a damaged red dot and they look care of it quickly & easily (Best Budget Red Dots).
Note that PA’s stock goes in and out since the 1-6x sells like hotcakes.
If you want to spend a little more to get much better glass and a day-time bright red-dot. I would heavily recommend the Vortex Viper PST II. I saw it at SHOT Show 2017 and had to buy it as soon as it was available.
It’s my current competition rifle optic.
Forgiving eyebox (how specific your eye placement needs to be) and little distortion at 1x and 6x. When you’re actually on the rifle it’s like having a thin black circle and a floating reticle.
Hard to replicate that through a cell phone camera!
And here it is at 6x.
I also really like the reticle because of the red dot. I’ll try to get a better picture of it later since it was a super sunny day. It even washed out the reticles in my Best Holographic Sights article when they were fine to my eyes.
Zero has held well in the Aero mount and magnification ring manipulation is fine too. I’ve been putting off on getting a scope lever since my competitions usually require only one change.
My current recommendation for the best bang-for-the-buck higher end 1-6x scope.
There’s a lot of scopes out there…and these honorable mentions are for the higher end ones. These are the ones I’ve shot at ranges or borrowed a fellow competitor’s rifle for use on a stage.
When a slight edge in performance is worth a few hundred (or thousand) more dollars over the PST II…
The highest end Vortex has a much more forgiving eyebox and better glass while still having the daylight bright illumination. My favorite for a future upgrade.
Lightweight and awesome describes the Kahles.
Daylight bright and awesome glass you can expect from the name Swarovski. If money were no object.
Scopes have come a long way in the last few years. Quality glass for plinking and competition doesn’t have to break the bank now (but always can).
My go-to recommendation for a budget 1-6x scope is the Primary Arms.
Runner up is the Strike Eagle 1-6x that has served me well and will still live on in a backup competition upper.
And my best bang-for-the-buck optic is Vortex’s Viper PST II.
Want to protect your auditory organs?
The percussive vibrations of each gunshot actually kill vital little hairs deep in your inner ear. And that can open the door to a high pitch ringing or humming noise that can last forever.
We’ve got the 411 on the best shooting ear protection…from affordable passive ones to the top of the line electronic earmuffs. We’ve tried them all over hundreds of hours at the range as shooters and range officers.
We’ll quickly cover our top picks in each category and budget. Then round it out with our research and more in-depth info on each pick at the end.
Ready? Let’s start with some passive ear protection.
The most affordable of the bunch and really protective at 32dB NRR (noise reduction rating). Remember to compress them before sticking them into your ears.
Big, affordable, and protective at 30 dB NRR. My first set of hearing protection earmuffs/headphones. Great if you don’t like things inside your ear.
Slimmer profile for a good long-gun cheekweld and adequate protection at 24 dB NRR. What I used for many ears (sorry).
Now, let’s dive into electronic ear protection that cuts out harmful shooting sounds but amplifies regular sounds like people talking.
14K reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star average. It’s the first pair of electronic earmuffs people get when they are tired of yelling “WHAT?!?” when someone speaks to them at the range.
Affordable, decent protection at 22dB NRR, slim for rifle/shotgun shooting, and reasonably comfortable.
Noisefighters Gel Caps…this upgrade makes the HL’s super comfortable.
These feel like the pads used in my favorite $200+ earmuffs further down the list. AND they have cutouts for eye protection since after a few hours your glasses really dig into the side of your head.
If you’re ready to jump up a notch you get 30 dB of protection and ability to hear people around you and range commands. Note that I would use these with pistol shooting only…they are pretty thick and will mess up your cheekweld.
Plus…since they also fit the Noisefighters Gel Caps!
For most you’ll be well-served with any of the Howard Leights with the possibility of upgrading to gel caps. But if you want better sound quality and shutoff (plus the ability to change it for each ear), I like Pro Ears’ Pro Tac Slim Gold with 28dB NRR.
Most of my fellow competitors wear these bad boys for their comfort and sound quality.
I finally caved after I became range officer for a couple competitions. That meant constant blasts for hours while still needing to hear everything.
They allready has built in gel caps and there’s a couple colors. I of course went with the camo…
It’s ok protection at 22dB NRR which is fine for pistol competitions…but if you have compensated rifles going off around you…they have enough room in them for some lightly put-in earplugs.
Well that’s the quick list of my favorites…check out our research and more in-depth reviews of each.
Everyone always talks about the middle ear. That’s mainly the eardrum and those three little bones with cool names: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup.
But what really causes hearing damage though is what happens in the inner ear.
Inside, picture a spiral staircase. Only this passage is just 2 millimeters wide and maybe 30 millimeters long all coiled up.
Sound races along the outside of the staircase, but in the middle are the organ of Corti (yup, sounds ominous) and the basilar membrane. Both are long and thin, with the organ resting on the membrane. All along this little assembly are tiny little hairs. They register sound and transmit it through the auditory nerve to your brain.
But—and here’s the kicker—exposure to an intense sound—that’s 140 dB or more—can make segments of the organ of Corti separate from the basilar membrane. Portions of it actually tear away and float around.
So you end up with an inflamed lesion that causes an accompanying chemical reaction. Hairs die. Scar tissue forms, and even with rest, the tiny hairs typically continue to degenerate. A cascade effect takes over, and the entire auditory central nervous system goes deaf.
Researchers suspect that tinnitus—that high pitch noise inside your head that won’t go away—“begins as a result of the brain trying to regain the ability to hear the sound frequencies it has lost by turning up the signals of neighboring frequencies.”
One more thing: noise exposure is cumulative. Each loud sound is killing ear hairs, so you need to be thinking about total exposure over the course of days, weeks and years.
Ready for some hearing protection yet?
First of all, forget cotton balls, tissue, packing peanuts, or my personal old-shooter favorite, cigarette filters. While they are better than nothing, they are also next to nothing. At best, you’ll get a reduction of maybe 7dB.
Effective choices for hearing protection come down to
There are so many options, there’s no reason not to protect your ear hairs. From neon foam-on-strings to high-tech headphones, there’s something for everyone.
What you should be looking for is a minimum noise reduction of 15dB, but 30dB is preferable. Pair a good set of plugs with muffs and you might shut out another 10 to 15dB or so.
You know the load you like to shoot, but a conservative 140dB is a common figure for an average muzzle blast. A .22 will be less, a magnum more. With quality protection, you can start approaching a range that’s still loud—as in chainsaw- or sandblast-loud—but may be up to 1,000 times quieter.
Traditional earplugs fit inside the ear, forming a seal that blocks sound. They come in a range of sizes, configurations and materials—from foam to hypoallergenic rubber and moldable polymers. Earplugs tend to be more efficient at handling low-frequency noise.
I like these because they are comfortable for a few hours and are 32dB NRR rated.
There’s tons of other foam options but I would stay away from cylindrical ones…those are not very comfy.
Traditional earmuffs come on a headband and have foam pads that cover and form a seal around the entire ear. For those who don’t like the over-the-head fit, a few versions have back-of-the-head wrap designs. Muffs typically are better at screening out higher frequency sounds.
My favorites and what I wore for a long time are the 3M Optime model and Shotgunner model.
The Optime is super protective with 30dB NRR but is also quite bulky. It’s not heavy but it will seriously cramp on your cheekweld situation for rifles and shotguns. Use if you’re shooting handguns…and especially if you’re at an indoor range where the sound reverberates.
For going slim…I really like the Shotgunner. I painted mine over and it served me well for years. It’s less protection at 24dB but you can always double up if it gets really loud with compensated rifles. Comfort is average but I found it to be fine for a few hours if I can take it off my ears during downtime.
High-tech electronics are stepping up the game for earplugs, ear cuffs, ear muffs, and every smart device in between. These focus on screening out the loud booms while letting you still hear conversations and the sounds of the great outdoors.
My go-to recommendation is the Howard Leight Impact Sports. They are super popular for a reason. They are affordable and they work. The only thing I could knock them for was their comfort. But with the newly released gel caps…I have nothing bad to say anymore.
These usually go head to head against Walker’s Razor Slim. But I give the win to Howard Leight because it’s usually cheaper and are super comfortable with the gel cap upgrades.
I’d say get the Howard Leight’s if you want to experience electronic ear protection. See how you feel after a few hours at the range. And you’ll always have the option of having sweet gel on your ears down the line.
If you want to step up a little in the world of electronic earmuffs…there’s the Impact Sports Pro which offers 30db NRR protection and good sound cutoff.
They are large, bulky, but surprisingly light and comfy to wear even for longer range sessions and provide amazing noise reduction. I’d recommend these if you are shooting large caliber handguns or shoot at an indoor range.
And they fit the Noisefighters Gel Caps.
Next up is a bigger jump in price. But with that you get much better cutoff and amplification. Pro Ears has a stellar reputation and I like their Pro Tac Slim Gold edition. They don’t make my Editor’s Pick because they fit a little tight for people and the ears aren’t as comfy as the MSA Sordins.
Ah…the MSA Sordins Supreme Pro X. A mouthful to say…but like a heavenly cloud on your ears.
I simply asked my competition buddies “what are the best electronic ear muffs” and the MSA’s got the majority of votes.
They are comfy for hours with their gel caps, have easily accessible button controls, great sound cutoff and compression, and allow for earplugs if the decent 22db NRR doesn’t cut it.
Plus they can attach to ballistic helmets and comms if that’s your thing.
What I wear when I shoot for hours and my main recommendation for when people want the best.
How did we do? Did you get the Howard Leights or MSA Sordins? Let us know down below. And for our other favorite hands-on-tested guns & gear…check out Editor’s Picks.
The post Best Shooting Ear Protection [Electronic & Passive] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.
Seeing if a holographic weapons sight is for you?
We bought the two most popular holographic sights right now…plus a third underdog contender.
And we break them down into what we think is the best. If you can’t wait, here’s our picks:
Without going too much into everything…why would you even want a holographic sight compared to a red dot?
Red dots (or reflex sights) operate by having an LED project a dot towards a lens, which is specially coated so that it bounces back towards your eye. Check out our Best Red Dots Under $200 article.
Holographic sights use a laser transmitted hologram of a reticle through a series of lenses back to your eye.
Since it’s laser based instead of LED, the battery life is significantly less. But it allows for more specialized reticles (the big difference in my mind) and also does not need a specially coated lens.
You also tend to get a bigger view window with holographic sights.
Now onto our favorites…
EOTech is the giant in the holographic sight game.
Sure, they had a little snafu a few years back about thermal drift (where the reticle doesn’t return to zero if subjected to extreme temperatures). But they are back and better than ever.
If you’re still worried about the thermal drift (all sights, red dot or holo, have them)…check out EOTech’s response for their new sights. When put through temperatures of -4 to 122 degrees F, there is a max drift of 3.5 MOA.
It has a big rectangular window that is very clear. And the famous 68 MOA circle with a 1 MOA dot in the center.
Here it is at the range. I had trouble getting clear shots of the reticle in high brightness. But it works great even in the sunniest of days in the desert.
And a better image of it inside.
The shorter EOTech’s have a couple variants…but I like the EXPS2-0 compared to the regular XPS line since it is 1/3 co-witness which doesn’t get in the way as much if you have irons or backup irons (Best AR-15 Backup Irons).
It also has a robust quick detach (QD) rail system and the buttons on the side (essential if you’re going to run magnifiers).
The 2-0 designates that it is the 68 MOA circle with 1 MOA center. A must if you ask me. If you’re running night vision, opt for the EXPS3-0 which has some settings for NVGs.
Here’s a video of it in action with a little simulated head movement to show how it’s devoid of almost all parallax.
The reticle makes it super easy for close up shots when I used the optic for pistol caliber carbine (PCC) competitions. While the 1 MOA dot was useful for farther plate racks.
I even took it on and off a couple of times while testing and it always stayed in zero (plate racks at 25 yards).
My choice for best overall holographic weapons sight.
The AMG UH-1 is a newish sight from Vortex and is the only real holographic contender to EOTech. It’s affectionately known as the “Huey” because of the UH-1 designation.
Built like a tank…it looks like it’s much bigger than the EXPS but it’s about the same length. It’s the extra hood that protects everything that makes it seem that way.
Since it’s new, it doesn’t have the military track record of the EOTech but so far no major complaints besides a first initial batch that had some reticle flaring that is now fixed. Plus it’s Vortex so it has a lifetime transferable warranty.
Speaking of reticles…the Huey’s reticle is my favorite out of the bunch. Still has the large circle for CQB but also has a nice chevron at the bottom for shorter engagements.
I set my zero at 25 yards for the shorter PCC competitions…but if you zero at the standard 100 yards…the triangle will really help. Also has a great integrated QD mount that maintained zero between testing.
One thing I gotta knock it down for is…the greenish tint. It’s a lot more apparent than the EOTech which if it has one…is nearly imperceptible.
It didn’t matter too much during actual shooting…but looking at it by itself it bugs me a little.
Another is that the buttons are on the back so it might also interfere with magnifiers.
However, one cool thing is that it has a rechargeable battery inside that you can charge through USB.
I tried it out to see if it works…and it does. But realistically I’m not sure if I’m really going to be plugging in my upper to my computer when swapping batteries seems so much easier.
Speaking of batteries…the AMG UH-1 has a sweet 1500 hour battery life compared to the EOTech’s 600 hours.
Overall, my runner-up if you want to get into the holographic sight game at a slightly lower entry fee.
Ok…it’s not technically a holographic sight. But instead the Holosun 510C brings together the best of both worlds of red dot and holographic.
Long battery life and a sweet reticle that isn’t “fuzzy” like normal holographic sights.
The center is a 2 MOA while the outside ring is 65 MOA. You can also cycle between using the dot only, ring only, or the combo.
Has a greenish hue on par with the Vortex. Again, it was hard to get good pictures at the range.
If you’re solely looking for the circle and dot reticle…you can’t go wrong with this optic.
It’s crisp and nearly parallax free like its brethren.
AND with a 50,000 hour battery life since it runs off LED and not lasers. PLUS it has solar capability that switches in the sun so you aren’t running off batteries. Finally, it’s lighter and has a smaller profile.
Buttons are on the side for easy access and also has a QD attachment system that also maintains zero. Has NVG capabilities but is less waterproof than the others.
My pick for the best worth-it “holographic-esque” sight.
If you’re looking for something more than a simple red dot…holographic sights are the way to go.
The big player and my favorite model is the EOTech EXPS2-0 which has the clearest glass, great button placement, and decent battery life.
My runner-up is the Vortex AMG UH-1 which is built tough, has my favorite reticle, has a longer battery life, but has a greenish hue.
Lastly…if you’re interested in the holographic reticle, go with the Holosun 510C which sports an impressive 50K battery life.
Did we miss any holographic sights out there? Find out more of our favorite optics and scopes in our Gear Reviews section.
The post Best Holographic Sights [Real Views]: EOTech, Vortex, Holosun appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.
Do you carry extra mags for your CCW?
Better question, do you know about all the options available to help carry extra ammunition?
Even better question, do you understand the differences between the different styles and brands of CCW mag holders?
If you don’t know, I have good news…
We are going to explore the idea of carrying extra ammo and the practical considerations of a concealed carry magazine holder, including what features a mag holder has to have to be a great addition to your carry lineup.
We are also going to suggest a few of our favorite methods of carrying an extra mag or two, and where to buy them to best save your hard-earned dollars
Now, you six gun guys and gals may be feeling a little left out, but don’t worry!
I get it, I really do, but today we are focusing on the folks who carry automatics. Your time will come, and we’ll discuss practical carry of extra ammunition for six gunners soon, but for now, let’s see talk about mag holders.
Carrying a semi-automatic is generally the more popular option for concealed carriers. With little effort, you can carry a relatively substantial amount of ammunition in a tiny package.
One of the other main benefits of this is, of course, the ability to rapidly reload should you need to
Now, to be completely realistic the likelihood of ever needing to reload your firearm in a defensive situation is very, very low. Clear statistics aren’t really out there, but there is a general consensus that the majority of defensive firearms uses do not involve extensive gunfights.
However, the likelihood of ever really having to pull your firearm is low in the first place.
With this in mind, we all still conceal carry – correct? We carry because it’s a right, and because if we ever fall into that statistical outlier of being in a violent situation we want a means to defend ourselves.
With that in mind, I’ve always found it bizarre that half the gun community seems to think to carry an extra magazine makes you are a mall ninja.
Yes, it is superbly unlikely I’ll ever need an extra magazine. However, it’s superbly unlikely that I, a normal, law-abiding, reluctantly-tax-paying citizen will ever need my gun, but I carry it anyways.
The same goes for an extra magazine. Maybe it’s just from my time as a Machine Gunner in the Marine Corps, but more ammo is always better than less ammo in my simple grunt mind.
The other big reason to carry an extra magazine is in case of malfunctions.
First and foremost, magazines fail. Some more than others, but it can and does happen. In a situation where you have a magazine malfunction, you don’t have time to try and fix the magazine.
Drop it and reload with your spare.
An extra magazine makes it easier to recover from a malfunction and to get back into the fight and can aid in clearing nearly any complicated malfunction.
If you get a complicated malfunction like a double feed, the best thing to do to remedy the situation is to remove the magazine to clear the malfunction.
It’s quicker to drop the magazine, clear the malfunction, and then reload with a fresh mag. Plus you now have more rounds on tap.
Carrying an extra magazine isn’t hard, it’s much easier than trying to carrying a gun, and not that much different than carrying a pocket knife. Since most guns come with two or more mags anyway it just seems like common sense to carry one extra.
Concealed carry mag holders, like holsters, are available at really any quality and price point. Some out there are better suited for range use, or to use when shooting airsoft guns. Others are better suited for tactical use.
In the middle somewhere we have CCW mag holders designed for concealed carry. There are 5 features I think every CCW mag holder needs to have to be effective and worth the money.
The key to a CCW mag holder is the big C in CCW. C being concealed of course. Your magazine pouch needs to be easy to conceal.
There are a few options for concealed carry and follow most holster configurations. This includes IWB, OWB, and pocket carry methods. Some systems are more suited for duty belts and are often wider, and easier to access for sure.
However, when worn on the belt they tend to print a helluva lot more than a purpose-built concealed carry magazine pouch. Typically a pocket or IWB option is naturally very easy to conceal carry.
A concealable OWB option is typically designed to be held tight to the body and can ride high if worn vertically. Horizontal is another concealed carry option with OWB that’s a bit odd, but extremely effective.
The last thing you want to happen while carrying an extra mag is for the pouch to break. Especially if you spent hard earned money on it. Concealed carry mag pouches are exposed to everything you are exposed to.
This includes your sweat, rain, varying temperatures, as well as tons of movement, vibration, and stress. So you want to buy one that’s made to last, from a material that’s resistant to these stressors.
The best materials are generally leather and polymers, but a few high-quality synthetic cloth materials options out there.
Ease of use generally refers to how easy it is to draw the magazine from the pouch. This has to do more with what standard the user is willing to train to. If you want an active retention device you’ll have to train to overcome it.
You’ll need a model that is appropriately sized for your handguns magazine. Take a look at these Glock magazines. They are the same width, but of course, one is way longer than the other.
If your magazine is too long the weight of the ammunition will make it unstable, and easily fall out of the pouch. If it’s too short it will be nearly impossible to remove the magazine with ease. So remember to find an appropriately sized magazine pouch.
We mentioned retention a little above, and there are two types of retention, active and passive. Active retention means there is a physical device you have to defeat to access your magazine. Passive retention means the magazine is retained without an active device.
With CCW mag holders the only real retention device is an overhead flap. These are typically secured via a button and hold the magazine in place effortlessly. The mag is highly unlikely to accidentally fall out of this style pouch.
The downsides to active retention holsters are they are slower to utilize and take more training time to learn to effectively use.
Passive retention is most often friction based. The magazine pouches are slightly smaller than the magazine, but can still fit the magazine. The tension and friction from the magazine pouch keep it in place.
Passive retention devices are easier to use and are often sufficient to retain the magazine. It is more likely you’ll drop a magazine, but still unlikely with a well-made mag pouch.
When it comes to passive retention it’s critical you choose a magazine pouch designed for the magazine you are using. Glock 19 magazines, for example, are wider than CZ 75 magazines. So you need to pay attention to the width of the magazine the mag pouch is aimed at, or passive retention is useless.
Lastly, like any gun holster, a mag pouch needs to be comfortable while being carried concealed. Sharp corners and abrasive materials are a big no-go, as are ill-placed seams. You need something comfortable if you are going to be carrying it tight to your body.
If it’s not comfortable then you won’t carry it. If you don’t carry it, it’s worthless.
So there are three main ways to carry an extra magazine. Just like a firearm, you can carry it inside the waistband (IWB), outside the waistband (OWB) and Pocket carry. There are additional options, like the mag pouches built into certain shoulder holsters or attached to IWB Appendix holsters.
Today, however, we are going to talk about the magazine pouches that are independent of holsters. The most common CCW Mag holders are the styles listed above.
IWB magazine holders offer the most concealment, especially mag pouches that can be worn with a tucked in shirt. These are called tuckable options. Since they sit in the waistband they often have incredibly effective passive retention devices.
The downsides to IWB carry is a lot of people find it uncomfortable in general. I’m incredibly picky about IWB carry and only trust a few companies to really give me a comfortable option. That might just be the price I pay for a tactical fat guy.
Your mileage may vary.
OWB is my preferred style of concealing an extra ammo pouch, and my gun, and my knife. I find it to be the most comfortable and quickest to access. Of course, to do so I have to say goodbye to a tucked in shirt.
Outside the waistband, carry is the most popular option for magazine pouches and what you’ll traditionally find the most options in. OWB options need to be made to conceal since many are made for tactical applications.
You’ll also find both active and passive retention choices in this category. As far as I’m aware this is the only category that features active retention options.
Like a handgun, you don’t want to throw a magazine in your pocket and call it a day. The dirt, grime, and lint in your pocket will make you instantly regret that decision. It’ll gum a magazine up pretty fast without a popper pocket carry mag pouch.
This method of carrying is gaining steam due to convenience. Unlike a handgun, almost all magazines can be pocket carried. There are a wide variety of pocket carry options and it’s a very comfortable way to carry.
The downside being reaching into your pocket is not as always possible in some positions. Trying to dig into my left-hand pocket while kneeling simply isn’t gonna happen.
If you are looking to for a concealed carry mag holder I have a few suggestions. I’ll suggest specific models, but the companies I’m suggesting in general produce very high-quality mag pouches, so feel free to explore the other options they produce.
If you are a classic leather lover you can’t go wrong with Gould and Goodrich. They produce awesome holsters and awesome magazine pouches. They do have a focus on OWB mag pouches and offer models with both active and passive retention.
For Concealed carry, I’d suggest the Gold Line Single Mag case. This leather mag pouch is very versatile and comes with an adjustable tension device that will allow you to carry almost any double stack magazine. This is an OWB device and is cut low enough to access a compact magazine.
This simple little case is quite affordable, easy to use, and simplistic.
I as a rule generally stay away from most synthetic cloth based anything when it comes to concealed carry. I’m not a big fan of universal nylon gear. However, Blue Force Gear does it right with just about everything they do, so I trust them.
Their Ten Speed Single Mag pouch is made from a combination of ULTRAcomp and ten speed elastic. The Elastic front allows you to utilize nearly any magazine, be it a single stack, or a double stack.
It’s an OWB option and can be worn vertically or horizontally. Horizontal carry is very easy to conceal, and quite intuitive once you train with it. Blue Force Gear makes great stuff and this CCW Mag holder is no different.
Desantis makes some pretty awesome pocket holsters for guns. When in my day job work attire I utilize one to conceal carry my little Walther. The Desantis Mag pack is made from the same synthetic material they make their holsters from.
This material is textured to keep it in the pocket when you draw the magazine from. This mag pouch fills your front pocket and presents the magazines at an excellent angle for easy drawing. The Desantis Mag pouch is also quite affordable, and the design naturally breaks up the outline of the magazine.
Carrying a little extra ammunition isn’t a difficult thing to do. With the right mag pouch, it’s comfortable, easy to do, and concealable. Just remember, like a holster you want a quality option, not the cheapest option.
If you’re want to learn more about CCW, take a look at our Definitive CCW Guide for all of our reviews and recommendations.
We want to hear from you, do you carry spare ammunition? If not why? If you do, how do you carry it?
Looking for a perfect all-in-one gun cleaning kit?
Bad news…there isn’t one.
But we’ll help you get the best one for your end-use…and suggest some standalone products to truly make your kit perfect.
I’ve used a bunch of cleaning kits throughout the years and this is only a snapshot of the ones I haven’t thrown away.
Follow me as I cover what’s needed for pistol and shotgun up to precision rifle shooting. I’ll also cover my favorite cleaners/oils, cleaning rods, AR-15 specific tools, and more.
If you can’t wait for the results, here are our favorite gun cleaning kits:
The Winchester Kit is a good deal for a little over $20 since it is pretty universal…covering everything from .22 to 12 gauge shotgun.
The box looks good but keep in mind the whole thing is around $20 so there’s a distinct China feel to it.
There are two sets of brass rods that won’t scratch your barrel’s harder steel and all the copper brushes are actually pretty good quality and marked with the caliber.
There’s an ok amount of patches but you’ll need to add your own oil and gun cleaner (and there’s no room to fit it in the box). My specific suggestions at the end…but hint…it’s M-Pro 7.
Only have a handgun for now…or want a super compact kit?
The Real Avid kit is great and covers everything from .22 to .45 caliber handguns.
It’s tiny since the rods are long enough just for handgun length barrels. Everything feels sturdy and the box can take a beating in your range bag or trunk.
The only fault I can find is that it doesn’t come with oil or cleaner…and you’ll be hard-pressed to fit anything in the box beside eye drop sized droppers.
There’s a lot of this kind of kit being sold…probably one factory that makes it and a bunch of people brand it as a something else.
But it’s my go-to range kit if I don’t think I’ll actually need to clean.
It’s small, slim, and is supposed to have an empty bottle to put some cleaner or oil.
I’ve modified it through the years to have extra bronze brushes, a dental pick, Allen key, and Q-tips/patches. And yes I’ve lost the bottle but I tend to keep my cleaner and oil separately.
It’s not my cleaning kit for home since the rods seem to be steel and could damage the barrel if used a lot. But it’s great for getting things unstuck! Can’t go wrong as a backup cleaning kit for around $10.
From my favorite gun cleaner comes their cleaning kit that has everything you need…including the oil and cleaner.
The kit rocks since it has individually packaged brushes and tips (.22 to 12 gauge) so you can keep everything tidy and the case has more pouches to add additional cleaning items.
Even comes with a silicone cloth to wipe down the surface of your guns. Throw in some Q-Tips and this kit is ready for anything.
Everyone and their mom have a favorite gun cleaner and oil. Here’s a sample of what you’ll see if you try to find out more:
I’ll admit…I started with Hoppe’s No. 9 and it’s an awesome cleaner. Problem is that I like to clean indoors and though I really LOVE the smell…I’d get dizzy and also it started eating away at my nails (now I wear gloves no matter what).
I switched to M-Pro 7 cleaner and didn’t look back. It’s nearly as good at cleaning but without the caustic effects.
For oil…I also like M-Pro 7, but I also like Militec 1 for the smell.
The following are also popular ones (including some combo CLP which stands for clean, lubricate, preservative):
I also like to use gun grease for rails since it stays on longer…and I go by the old adage “oil if it turns, grease if it slides.”
Now, how about copper cleaners (for when you start seeing some accuracy degradation). I’ll admit…I almost never do this except for my precision rigs.
For my precision rifles, I like using a one-piece cleaning rod to make sure nothing scratches my lands & grooves. I stick with the ole standard…Tipton.
Now some of you might be asking where are the bore snakes? Frankly, I don’t really use them since I don’t like the idea of running something previously dirty back through my barrel.
But some swear by them…especially as the ultimate space-saving cleaning “kit” for a range bag.
And you’ll be sure to run out of patches sooner or later. In a pinch some cut up t-shirts or boxers will work. But I like going with Hoppe’s.
Lastly…for the hard to clean carbon-fouled parts of AR-15’s…there’s a scraper tool that’s been a godsend. And also our AR-15 Cleaning & Maintenance Guide.
To sum it up, this is my Editor’s Pick for best cleaning kit:
If you’re doing handgun only and want a super small kit:
A nice backup:
And a good starter kit that will get you through everything from .22 to 12 gauge:
That’s it on my end…let me know if I missed some kits. And if you must…your favorite oil and cleaner. Lastly, be sure to check out our Editor’s Picks for more guns & gear that we love.
Need some protection for your hands from weekend shooting to busting down doors?
We bought a bunch of the most popular tactical shooting gloves out there and tested them with competitions, range trips, and even a house move or two.
While emphasis will be on what’s important to civilian shooters (price, fit, touch-screen capability, durability etc.), we also cover some tactical aspects as well.
By the end you’ll know the best glove for your end use. Here’s a sneak peek of our results:
Why gloves? Let me list a couple of reasons:
The most important thing to me…if you have the best glove out there and it fits like a grocery bag or a kid’s mitten…it’s not going to work out.
Here’s measurements of my hand so you can compare when I go over the sizing. Overall I have skinny wrists, not that much of a palm swell, and long fingers.
Now let’s get to it…
I’ve had a couple Mechanix original gloves for shop work but the few times I took them to the range I felt their fingers were a little too bulky for some firearm tasks.
Enter…their newish Fastfit Gloves.
I wore mediums and using their sizing chart I re-confirmed I was indeed medium.
Here’s some other useful stats:
For me they didn’t fit quite right because of my palm size. You can see there’s a lot of gap in there.
And the cut between the index finger and thumb is a little restricting for handgun shooting. Rifles are fine.
Also very thin so great for dexterity but not very warm or heat resistant if that’s your thing.
But for $14 and pretty good durability from what I’ve seen from friends…you can’t go wrong for a first pair of shooting gloves. Especially if you have slightly meatier hands.
My main recommendation for affordable shooting gloves are Magpul Technical Gloves.
I went with medium and they fit a lot more snugly one me…especially at the cuff. The Mechanix ones were just too loose and flared for my tastes. However…with the smaller cuff you’re going to have a lot harder time taking these off.
You can see it fits a lot better and the cut of the thumb and index finger is much more conducive for shooting. There’s also extra material on three fingers that enables touch-screen access.
At first I thought it would disrupt precision shooting but it’s at the tip of the finger enough that I had no problems.
Thicker material than the Mechanix and what I think is a good Goldilocks zone of dexterity and protection. Also some terrycloth material on the back of the thumb for sniffles or cleaning optics. Awesome for $20.
The FDT stands for full dexterity tactical and they live up to their name. The Delta Glove version is the thinnest version.
If you want full dexterity at the expense of some protection…these are the best on the market.
I’m a large for SKD gloves and I fit very snugly even though I sized up.
No complaints in the finger or palm swell area.
But note that the words “PIG” are rubberized textures that work well but will eventually fall off. However the tips of the gloves are still touch-screen enabled.
Some more stats:
They look great too and you can see how thin they are even in the back. If you need knuckle protection look elsewhere. The design is cool but I have a feeling it’s going to start peeling when I wear it more.
A little more at $30 but currently my favorite when dexterity is the primary focus.
My current favorite shooting glove…the Alpha version of the PIG FDTs.
The thicker OG version…I think this glove checks all the boxes. Still super dexterous while having some additional protection…all the while fitting like…a glove.
I went with large on this like the Delta version.
I’ve used these gloves the most and they shoot pistols, ARs, reload magazines, and move couches perfectly. A little slower to dry since it’s thicker and has some synthetic suede.
You can see a lot of it is giving dexterity for the trigger finger and it shows in those knuckle breaks. It’s almost the same as the Delta but with more warmth and protection. Plus I like having the ability to tighten the wrist strap.
Lastly, it has a nice soft material behind the thumb…again great for your nose or cleaning lenses.
The most expensive on the list but if you shoot a lot or value protection/dexterity…I highly recommend the Alpha gloves.
Side-note: I had a defect with my Alphas where the ring finger on one hand was twisted so a seam was on my finger pad. Not a deal breaker but annoying. I emailed SKD and they took care of the problem in less than an hour and two emails.
There’s a lot of tactical shooting gloves out there…and I couldn’t buy & test them all. But here are some of my honorable mentions that I’ve used or know are popular.
After a good amount of testing…here are my final recommendations.
For the best overall glove…
If you want the glove with the most dexterity:
And if you want the most affordable but still very capable:
How’d I do…any I miss that I should test out next? Let me know if the comments below. And be sure to see more of our favorite gear in Editor’s Picks.