March 31st, 2018 by asjstaff

In the world of night vision, most people use some sort of aiming device. While you can use a red dot sight, there are issues with getting helmet mounted NOD (night observation device) behind the optic to aim. So lasers are the key, specifically infrared lasers. B.E. Meyers has been making lasers for the military starting with the IZLID during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Well, they have taken their laser technology and developed the weapon mounted MAWL (modular advanced weapon laser). They make the Class III MAWL-DA which is restricted to military, government and law enforcement sales only. We were sent the civilian legal version, the Class I MAWL-C1+ for review.

One Laser To Rule Them All

Let’s get the price out of the way first. The MAWL-C1+ is not cheap. It retails for $2500 and while you may have sticker shock, believe me when I say I once thought the same thing. “What makes the MAWL-C1+ worth so much?” I have seen people claim that the MAWL is like no other. And yet they haven’t quantified or explained why it is better than the competition. Most common IR weapon lasers cost half as much as the MAWL. If you can get them, full power restricted IR lasers still do not cost as much as the MAWL. After talking with Chris Danks of B.E. Meyers he understands this hurdle with the MAWL-C1+ so he arranged this loaner MAWL to be sent for review.  Seeing is believing. The MAWL-C1+ is hands down better than all the other lasers out there, well except for the MAWL-DA, B.E. Meyers full power version of the MAWL.

Here is a video I shot with the help of my friend J.W. He brought out his collection of weapon lasers and really showed me why the MAWL beats them all.

What sets the MAWL-C1+ apart is the illuminator. As you saw in the video above, the other laser illuminator beam patterns were dirty looking and in some cases unusable. Before using the MAWL, I thought I was set with IR illumination. I have Surefire Vampire Scoutlights and while they do work they do not illuminate at distance. From about 50 yards and in, the Scoutlight works well. But if you need to illuminate something further out then you will have problems. The MAWL can punch its illuminator out to 300 yards and effectively light up the darkness. But I’m wearing night vision how can there be darkness?

Easy, ambient light from street lights and lights of houses etc causes shadows. My PVS14 is autogated and so it dims to protect itself from burning out. Because of this, there can be shadows that are so dark, that night vision cannot show you what is there. So you need to light up the shadows with a good illuminator. The MAWL-C1+ punches through the darkness with both its aiming and illuminating laser.

Let’s Take A Closer Look At The MAWL-C1+

Matt Meyers told me that LEGO was his inspiration behind the modularity of the MAWL. Almost every weapon laser is some sort of box that sits on top of the handguard. Look at the Steiner DBAL or L3 PEQ-15, they are boxes that sit high on the handguard. The MAWL is an offset design but with a simple twist of a locking screw you can change the battery and change the MAWL orientation for left-handed shooters.

The head is detachable and is a feature for the MAWL system. You can upgrade your MAWL with a MAWL-DA or MAWL-CLAD head if you are a “secret squirrel” in the military or law enforcement world.

MAWL-C1+ dissassembled

Those metal bars are the Head tension bars they are what the tailcap locks onto and holds the MAWL together. The body houses the activation buttons and you can see three brass female contacts. The body has matching contacts on the other side so you simply flip the body around 180 degrees. This makes the MAWL ambidextrous. No other weapon laser is ambidextrous like this. Usually, you just have to adapt your right hand when using other weapon laser systems.

The MAWL head has two recessed LEDs that are only visible to the shooter. There are two so at least one is visible when positioned for left or right-handed shooters. They glow yellow when the MAWL is switched to VIS or IR. This lets you know that the unit is on. When you press either A or B buttons, the LEDs will glow green. This is particularly useful when you are in IR mode as you cannot see the beam with your naked eye.

This is the business end of the MAWL-C1+. The propeller cap is also the on/off switch and selector between visible and IR modes.

close up of MAWL head with propeller cap set to VIS.

Propeller cap set to VIS

Here is the propeller cap set to IR. You can see there are four elements. There are three illuminators and one pointer.

At the rear, the MAWL has auxiliary ports for use with Insight ATPIAL plugs. This will allow you to use a remote switch like the UNITY Tactical TAPS and control your white weapon light. 

The set screw can be switched to the other open position and this changes the MAWL-C1+ to its Alt Programming Mode. According to Chris at B.E. Meyers, the Alt Programming mode is for use with NODs with Photonis tubes. The standard programming mode puts out a beam that is sub-optimal for Photonis tubes. I believe the full power MAWL-DA uses the Alt mode for eye safe mode.

Full Control Under Your Thumb

The MAWL controls can be actuated with your support hand thumb. There are two activation buttons, A & B. The activation buttons are momentary but a quick double tap and the MAWL will stay on for 3 minutes. Then there is a range selector switch which has three positions. You can change sub-modes while using constant on. With the two buttons and three sub-modes, this gives the MAWL six different modes just in IR.

 

Just reach forward a little bit more and you can rotate the propeller cap to turn the MAWL on or switch from VIS to IR and back.

The diagram below shows you the six different modes. At short range (aka close range), the flood illuminator is activated. Where in mid-range both the mid-range illuminator and long-range illuminator are simultaneously activated with the IR pointer. Don’t want illumination?  Slide the selector all the way forward and push button B.

Here is a page out of the owners manual and lists the power ratings for the IR illuminator and pointer.

It was hard to see the benefit of the two short-range illuminator modes until I was at Jim Grant’s house. Take a look at the video clip below and you can see a noticeable difference between button B and button A in close range mode.

The MAWL-C1+ Is Not Just For Night Vision

While the MAWL truly shines (pun intended) when used in IR mode with night vision, it is no slouch in visible mode. Here are some photos comparing my Holosun weapon laser compared to the MAWL-C1+.

The beam on the left is the MAWL and the beam to the right is my Holosun.

The difference is more apparent up close.

Just like IR mode, the two different buttons and sub-mode selector switch give the MAWL 3 different modes. When pushing the A button down you get a 5mw green pointer at all 3 modes. It is only button B that has different modes. On Short Range, the pointer is reduced to 1mw. On Mid Range it bumps up to 5mw and when you are in Long Range mode the 5mw pointer pulses.

Conclusion

Yes, the MAWL-C1+ is relatively expensive. But the old adage applies here “Buy once, cry once”. I prefer to equate it to any other well-made item that fetches premium prices. A DPMS AR-10 will fire .308 but the SCAR17S is one of the best out there and it too fetches a premium price tag. Those who have them would re-buy them in a heartbeat. I believe the same goes for the MAWL-C1+. While it is not “melt your face off retina-searing” like the Class III full power IR lasers, it is very versatile, it is ambidextrous and it beats the competition in pointing and illumination. For shooters who want to have the best equipment, the MAWL-C1+ is the one for you.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

March 30th, 2018 by asjstaff

You have to hand it to Ruger – over the past few years the Newport, New Hampshire headquartered firearms manufacturer has transformed their image from “bolt action and rimfire” to “backpack-ready and NFA” (raise your hand if you predicted that Ruger would be making silencers). Seemingly basic considerations like optics and accessory rails, threaded barrels and polymer furniture options are progressive enough to get a younger generation of shooters interested in buying a Ruger. But manufacturing the new Ruger PC Carbine to accept GLOCK magazines is just part of the reason that Ruger’s latest offering is a homerun.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

Reports of the death of the pistol caliber carbine have long been exaggerated – a steady flow of companies have announced models that are either new and unique or are update versions of classic guns. The Ruger PC Carbine is a bit of both, channeling the company’s original PC9 that debuted in 1996 as well as modern takedown features from recent rimfire hits.

In simple terms, the PC Carbine is basically an overgrown 10/22 takedown with magazine interchangeability features. In fact, Ruger’s new rifle allows trigger/fire control group swaps with 10/22 mechanisms.

OVERVIEW:

The Ruger PC Carbine comes nicely packed inside a well organized box with all the required tools and components to shoot, adapt and maintain your new rifle. Although the 9mm carbine comes ready to shoot out of the box with a Ruger American magazine well and magazine, included at no extra charge is a GLOCK magazine well – Ruger could easily have left the GLOCK compatibility feature as an added cost.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

Ruger’s new long gun is available in three versions: threaded barrel, bare muzzle and a 10 round magazine options for those states where a handful of extra rounds in a magazine can get you in legal trouble (don’t get me started). For this review, Ruger was nice enough to let me borrow the threaded barrel version due to my need to suppress every firearm that lands in my lap.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

Specifications – Ruger 9mm PC Carbine

https://ruger.com/products/pcCarbine/specSheets/19100.html

  • MODEL NUMBER: 19100
  • CALIBER: 9MM LUGER
  • Stock: Black Synthetic
  • Capacity: 17
  • Barrel Length: 16.12″
  • Overall Length: 34.37″
  • Barrel Feature: Threaded, Fluted
  • Front Sight: Protected Blade
  • Rear Sight: Adjustable Ghost Ring
  • Thread Pattern: 1/2″-28
  • Weight: 6.8 lb.
  • Length of Pull: 12.62″ – 14.12″
  • Material: Aluminum Alloy
  • Finish: Type III Hardcoat Anodized
  • Twist: 1:10″ RH
  • Grooves: 6
  • Suggested Retail: $649.00
TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

My initial reaction was very positive: The PC Carbine feels like a quality firearm right out of the box, has no visible machining marks and includes a well made polymer stock set.


Safety reminder: Always follow the rules of proper and safe gun handling. If you don’t understand something, stop and ask a professional for help. 


Operation:

If you are familiar with the classic 10/22 rimfire rifle, you are ready to run the PC Carbine – ergonomics, controls and general operation are basically the same. The only real difference being the magazine well and release button (more on dropping mags in a bit).

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

Breaking down the PC Carbine into its two halves is simple and takes less than 30 seconds. Simply unscrew the unlocking ring, push the release lever, then twist the front section counterclockwise and pull.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

The magazine release is reversible; using the included hex key simply loosen the screw and remove it along with the release and the spring. Then install the assembly from the opposite sides and tighten the screw. I’ve included screenshots from the Ruger owner’s manual below (You do read the manual, right?).

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

The charging handle can also be switched for right or left hand side operation.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

The safety is a standard cross bolt design, operated with a push of the index’s finger or thumb. And the bolt hold open mechanism is classic Ruger 10/22 – love it or hate it, at least it is familiar.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

Inside the charging handle is a hex nut which can be unscrewed to switch it from the right or left hand side. We will have more time inside the PC Carbine’s instructions to show you the ease of the charging handle swap.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

This pistol caliber carbine ships with two additional stock spacers to adjust length of pull. Truthfully, these little slices of plastic were the biggest disappointment of the entire review. They are shiny plastic rather than rubber or polymer and feel like an afterthought rather than a design feature like the rest of the PC Carbine’s winning personality. It’s a minor issue, just try to ignore the fact that they feel like the fake Legos you used to find at your least favorite cousin’s house as a kid.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

The ghost ring sight set is perfectly suited to the sporter/carbine feel from Ruger. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation with the turn of a screw.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

My only request here would be some side-protecting blades to keep the ghost ring from snagging on gear or clothing.

It takes Glock mags!

Now for one of the PC Carbine’s biggest features: magazine wells that can be changed to allow for the use of GLOCK mags. As of this writing, Ruger’s new Carbine ships with a Ruger magazine and mag well along with a GLOCK well. Time will tell if the company, or even aftermarket manufacturers, will make additional inserts to accept other manufacturer’s magazines.

The PCC’s user manual has an easy to follow set of instructions. Read and follow the steps for a proper installation.

Here’s the box insert with tools and accessories. The empty slot holds the included Ruger magazine.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine


TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine



There are two captured screws that hold the receiver in place. Loosen them until they pull away from the receiver.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

The form of bare receiver may seem familiar: it’s e beefed-up version of the rimfire classic 10/22 design. In fact, Ruger boasts trigger group interchangeability with 10/22 products, which opens the door to some fantastic aftermarket options.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

Looking into the empty stock from the top down shows the magazine insert and a spring loaded tab that is actuated by the magazine release. Simply depress the tab inside the well and lift the insert out of the stock.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

Follow the steps in reverse to install a different mag well. In all, the process took about five minutes from start to finish.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

The design simplicity should allow Ruger or other aftermarket manufacturers to make inserts for other popular magazines. Although GLOCK mags fulfill most shooters dreams of carrying their favorite pistol that shares mags with a capable carbine.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

Details: Ruger.com

  • Interchangeable magazine wells for use of common Ruger® and Glock® magazines. Ships with SR-Series Pistol and Security-9® magazine well installed and an additional magazine well accepting Glock® magazines is included*. Ruger American Pistol® magazine well is available at ShopRuger.com.
  • Easy takedown enables quick separation of the barrel/forend assembly from the action for ease of transportation and storage. Takedown is as simple as locking the bolt back and verifying that the rifle is unloaded, pushing a recessed lever, twisting the subassemblies and pulling them apart.
  • Dead blow action features a custom tungsten dead blow weight that shortens bolt travel and reduces felt recoil and muzzle rise. Bolt is machined from heat treated, chrome-moly steel to ensure strength, structural integrity and durability.
  • Reversible magazine release and reversible charging handle to support ambidextrous use or one-handed control manipulation while maintaining a proper firing grip*.
  • Cold hammer-forged, chrome-moly steel barrel with ultra-precise rifling provides exceptional accuracy, longevity and easy cleaning. The heavy contour barrel provides consistent accuracy, while barrel fluting sheds unnecessary weight and allows for quick handling.
    1/2″-28 threaded barrel with included thread protector allows for use of standard muzzle accessories.
  • Accurate sighting system with adjustable ghost ring rear aperture sight and non-glare, protected blade front sight.
  • Soft rubber buttpad with spacers allows the rifle to be properly sized for different shooters or varying levels of outerwear or defensive gear (three, 1/2” spacers included).
  • Durable, glass-filled nylon synthetic stock features sling swivel studs for rapid sling attachment and forward mounted accessory rail to allow for a variety of under-barrel accessories such as lights or lasers. The grip features a proprietary texture for enhanced control.
  • Light, crisp trigger pull with minimal overtravel and positive reset utilizing proven 10/22® trigger components.
  • CNC-milled from an aerospace-grade 7075-T6 aluminum billet, the receiver includes an integrated Picatinny rail and is Type III hard-coat anodized for maximum durability.
    Also includes: one, SR-Series pistol magazine and hex wrenches for rear sight adjustment, buttpad spacer adjustment and charging handle removal.

Charging handle swap:

Magazine release swap:

Silencing the Ruger PC Carbine:

Suppressor owners will want to thread on their favorite 9mm capable can as soon as possible (I did, anyway). Caution here: Ruger has included a rubber o-ring between the barrel and the thread protector that could interfere with proper silencer alignment. I just removed the ring from my test unit and set it aside.

Remove the rubber o-ring prior to installing a suppressor

The PC Carbine really is a nice looking gun.

Factory 33 round Glock mags!

Factory 33 round Glock mags!

The addition of a threaded barrel should be an option on all modern pistol caliber carbines. The exploding suppressor market along with a healthy selection of subsonic ammunition makes long guns like the new Ruger really enjoyable hosts.

Silenced!

Fully configured, the PC Carbine can be outfitted with optics, lights and lasers, suppressors and magazines of varying capacities, making it a solid performer in many categories.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

Mounting my Surefire X300 Ultra was slightly inconvenient; the sling stud was in the way of the light’s rear tail cap.

But unscrewing the stud fixed the issue and it could be that I don’t have the correct attachment plate for the X300. So it really is a minor issue.

For optics I used a Trijicon RMR in a Strike Industries REX Reflex Exoskeleton. The setup is easy to setup and functional, giving an extra layer of protection for your RMR. The REX retails for $44.99

RUGER PC CARBINE: Strike Industries REX Optics Mount.

Compact, lightweight, and rugged, the Reflex Exoskeleton provides extreme protection for a wide variety of reflex optics. The precisely drilled holes in the mount enable users to attach various optics of their choice. Included mounting posts securely hold your optic firmly in place – Strike Industries REX.

Rangetime!

In all, I put 300-400 rounds through the Ruger without issue. On my steel targets I used the Federal Syntech Range Ammo which I thought performed very well. Even though Syntech is subsonic in most pistols, the 16” barrel in the Ruger definitely gave it a speed boost. But I used a few 147gr ammo types to achieve very quiet suppression levels.

Although I spent most of my time with the PC Carbine using the GLOCK magazine well adapter, the Ruger well functioned without issue. I used many versions of GLOCK mags, to include an older “ban era” variety, a Gen 3/4 Style that included a G26 and G18 capacities and the new Gen 5 magazines. Reload, round feeding and ejection were all spot on. Empty magazines also drop free without concern.

Accuracy was a generic and unscientific 2-3 MOA from a seated and supported position using a non-magnified re dot from the RMR. Better shooters with magnified optics and the right ammo pairing will undoubtedly drop group sizes to excellent levels. But the PC Carbine at its core is not a bench rest or target shooter. And besides small game and pest control, I see it’s hunting role as limited.

Recoil is easily manageable by anything but the smallest of shooters, especially when running suppressed or using the Syntech ammo. Follow up shots are quick and re-acquiring the sights or red dot after a shot is easy to do.

Conclusions:

Overall, the Ruger PC Carbine is a winning package that offers a good host of options and accessories for an accessible retail price. GLOCK magazine capability, a threaded barrel, reversible controls and 10/22 trigger group compatibility alone make this long gun worthy of a ‘buy’.

But the aftermarket possibilities really have me excited: magazine well options will obviously increase, but the idea of a Magpul Backpacker-Style stock and integrally suppressed barrel assembly is awesome. Ruger did a great job with this gun and I’m looking forward to seeing what is coming up next from the classic Granite State firearm manufacturer.

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

TFB REVIEW: Ruger PC Carbine

special thanks: Mac Tactical

Posted in Product Reviews, Rifles Tagged with: , , , , , ,

March 19th, 2018 by asjstaff

Expand Your Mind, Extend Your Range

Learning about shooting disciplines should always be an ongoing experience.  Even those of us with hundreds or thousands of hours of training time can find value in absorbing the shared expertise of others.  One book that I have encountered that covers precision rifle techniques is Anthony Cirincione II’s Long Range Precision Rifle; Expanded Edition.  (MSRP $31)  In my personal regard, it is one of the best guides out there to help with the setup and effective employment of a scoped rifle.

A bit about the Author

Anthony Cirincione has an incredible knowledge base concerning the use of precision rifles.  He has over 2 years of OIF/OEF combat deployment experience in Iraq and Afghanistan as a US Army Sniper and has served as a sniper section leader.  He has implemented both DMR and sniper training curricula as part of that role.  In addition, he actively competes in the long-range shooting disciplines and has a private training company he instructs at when stateside.

Building from the Basics

As a gunsmith, one of my services was mounting and zeroing scopes and doing a basic setup of hunting and precision rifles for customers.  Nowhere have I seen or heard a more thorough, well written and outlined guide of how to set up a scoped rifle than in this book. Chapter 1, Rifle and Ammunition Selection, is an excellent guide for new and experienced shooter alike on:

  • Selecting appropriate calibers/cartridges for your desired purpose
  • Choosing twist rates
  • Checking action screw torque
  • Secure attachment and proper alignment of the scope
  • Getting perfect cheek weld and eye relief that facilitates shooting from multiple positions

You’ll benefit from this book even if you shoot primarily with irons

Other basics are covered in the beginning chapters as well.  Cirincione demystifies other essentials, such as:

  • using measuring devices within the reticle
  • Mils/MOA
  • Focal Planes
  • Box Drills
  • Ballistic cards
  • Keeping a DOPE book

Advanced Techniques

For more experienced shooters, there is a wealth of advanced data and techniques laid out in other chapters.  One of my favorite sections deals with shooting over or under obstructions.  This concerns the techniques to use should there be power lines, window sills, bridges, or more commonly in my experience, tree branches in the line of one’s long-range shot.  This could make all the difference between a solid hit or an ineffective hit/miss.  It is a subject I’ve not seen well covered at shooting schools or in other literature.  Once again, Cirincione’s clarity shines through the murky waters on this subject.

Have you ever encountered high angle shots?  On a recent hunt, I was at such an extreme angle that it almost felt like I was going to slide off a cliff. I’ve been shooting at extreme angles for a while and received instruction in such situations. I do believe that the section on high angle shooting in this book is probably one of the simplest and easy to understand outlines of what one needs to take in account to achieve long-range hits at extreme angles.

The New Edition

I only learned about the “Expanded Edition” of this book because my well-worn copy was pretty much destroyed in a micro-burst storm.  I knew I left something on the range deck in my dash to the truck, and unfortunately, it was the book.  The expanded edition now includes:

  • External Ballistic Truing
  • Determining Fast and Correct Windage Adjustments and Holds
  • Magnetospeed V3 Ballistic Chronograph Vs. External Ballistic Truing
  • How to Build a Switch-Barrel Rifle
  • Suppressed Subsonic Shooting

By far my favorite new section deals with Suppressed Subsonic Shooting.  Cirincione explains supersonic vs subsonic “Cold-Can Shift”, why it occurs, and how to account for it.  For subsonic reloaders, he also covers how some sound barrier calculations hold true for certain grain weights of bullets and not others.  He also covers why not to drill out the primer pocket of one’s brass for subsonic-specific loads.

Overall Impression:

Anthony Cirincione II’s Long-Range Precision Rifle: Expanded Edition is an excellent addition to the library of anyone engaged or interested in the discipline of long-range riflery.  Cirincione’s clear, concise style of explanation and practical exercises help guide shooters of any experience through the concepts, tips, and techniques outlined in this work.  While it may not contain the most detailed and in-depth explanations of each subject it touches on, it is a great, concise overview of subjects that one needs to know in order to be a better long-range rifleman. I want to stress as well that at no time does the author reveal any classified TTPs that might compromise our armed forces.

The book is useful enough that I often find myself checking out its tables and references while in the field, and it has its own slot in my range bag for long range rifle use.  For anyone interested in the accurate choice, setup, cartridges, and employment of long range rifles, I highly recommend this book.

Note:  Paladin Press, the publisher of this book, sadly went out of business at the end of 2017.  This book can still be purchased from sites such as Amazon, however, and will be published this year by Redd Ink Press.  

 

Posted in Long Range, Product Reviews Tagged with: , , ,

March 14th, 2018 by asjstaff

Osprey Publications has recently come out with a new title in the Weapon Series of books, “The Anti-Tank Rifle”.  It is a light history of the anti-tank rifle from the First World War to the beginning of the Cold War.

For those not familiar with the Weapon Series from Osprey Publications, the series of books are designed to give a well laid out and explained (but easy to read) description of a particular small arm over the course of 80 pages. It is supplemented with artwork and high-quality photographs. The Weapon Series of books isn’t supposed to be a definitive guide, but instead more of a survey for those wishing to expand their knowledge in regards to any particular small arm.

My Takeaway of “The Anti-Tank Rifle”

Steve Zaloga does an excellent job of dividing the book into two sections of information. The first section is concerned with the mechanical and procurement aspects of the anti-tank rifles that each country produced. While the second section deals with the actual effects in combat that each rifle had, both positive and negative.

Through the pages of “The Anti-Tank Rifle”, Steven Zaloga leads the reader through the initial requirement and subsequent development of the anti-tank rifle by a number of the combatant countries that produced them during the two World Wars and the interwar years. Almost to a country, it is readily apparent that there were several central issues that accompanied these heavy, man-portable, infantry rifles throughout the wars.

The first, and most glaring, issue was that anti-tank rifles were only marginally effective, even under the best of conditions. Although they were designed to penetrate an opposing foes tank armor (up to 25mm in some cases), very few of the rounds used would actually finish the job. Hopefully, one of the rounds would have enough energy to kill, or wound, the armored crew (or damage a mechanical feature leading to a mobility kill). The kill was completely contingent on the right conditions being met, the thickness of the armor, the angle at which the vehicle was bladed to the shooter, and the range of the target.

Even with all of those four conditions being met, over the course of the war, countries would upgrade their vehicles to the point where the anti-tank rifle in its original employment was essentially over.  Anti-tank rifles soon found other roles during the war, much like anti-materiel rifles today filling an anti-personal role. 

Another issue was the complete lack of oversight and intelligence when it came to developing and fielding anti-tank rifles. Defense industry completely supported the endeavor, building whatever fit the requirements that the various military procurement agencies blindly set forth. As an example, the .55 Caliber Boys anti-tank rifle was initially adopted in 1936 with a cartridge that was completely inferior to what the German Army had introduced with the T- Gewehr almost two decades earlier (S.A  Armour Piercing .55in W Mk I). In another example of an intelligence failure when it comes to anti-tank rifle design, the entire German anti-tank rifle inventory essentially went obsolete merely a year or two into fielding by the introduction of the Soviet T34 tank.

However much disdain was apparent for the early (to mid 20th Century) anti-tank rifle, it must be noted that, in their early development, they were seen as special weapons. The German T-Gewher was under such secrecy that only the U-Boat programs were held in a more confidential status. In the case of the Polish 7.92mm wz.35, the rifles had the nomenclature of “Uruguay” to confuse Soviet and German intelligence officers into thinking it was an export program to Uruguay instead of a combat rifle. Many of these rifles were treated with such secrecy that they were delivered to their units in boxes under orders not to be opened until a certain command was given. For some units that command wasn’t given until after the war began in September of 1939.

Interesting Rilfes

German T-Gewher

Germany’s entry into anti-tank rifles in the First World War was purely reactive as the British came up with tanks first. Their result was one of the most uncomfortable rifles to shoot, and apparently, it routinely broke the collar bones of gunners using it.

Polish wz.35

Poland experimented with a 7.92x107mm round, trying to make the .30 Caliber round “speed” through armor at great velocity. Unfortunately, this left the Poles with a barrel life of 20-30 rounds. The solution was an odd one when a Polish designer found out that the round wouldn’t have to even penetrate the hull of a tank as long as it knocked spall out from the inside. An odd concept indeed but the wz.35 was one of the most used anti-tank rifles by both the Poles and the Germans in the early years of the war.

PTRD and PTRS

The semi-automatic PTRS designed by Simonov and the bolt action single shot designed by Degtyarev were actually competing designs with each other, but the Soviets needed everything they could throw at the German advance so took both trial guns and threw them into production. These were also the most widely produced anti-tank rifles of the entire war, numbering in several hundred thousand. Unfortunately, their effectiveness couldn’t match the German tanks. Zaloga has a quoted account where a Soviet Infantrymen recounts that 45 anti-tank teams (two men per) were killed in a single action over several days in 1943.

Japanese Type 97

This was by far the heaviest rifle of the war used by one of the bigger combatants. Coming in at almost 68 kilograms fully equipped, the Type 97’s 20x125mm round could only penetrate 35mm of armor at 100 meters. Compared to the PTRS/PTRD in 14.5x114mm round that could do 50mm at the same distance.

Conclusion

The eclipse for the anti-tank rifle was the improvement of vehicular armor, vastly improved anti-tank light artillery/field guns, and the advent of the rocket-propelled anti-tank launcher that fired shaped charged explosives. It clearly became apparent that using up several soldiers for the purposes of supporting, moving, and protecting an anti-tank rifle was extremely inefficient when compared to the effectiveness of a single soldier with a Panzerschrek or 2.36-inch Bazooka.

My only real complaint with the book is that it really should have included at least a paragraph or two on the resurgence of the anti-materiel rifle in modern warfare. We’ve seen more domestic, improvised production, and field use of anti-materiel rifles in Syria and Iraq in the past several years than we have almost anywhere else. The author dedicates a single sentence to some PTRD rifles appearing in Ukraine and then another sentence mentioning that anti-tank rifles are the forerunners of the current day anti-materiel rifle.

The Anti-Tank Rifle by Steven Zaloga is available on Amazon for $13.39 in the United States.

Posted in Product Reviews, Rifles Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

March 13th, 2018 by asjstaff

When I was contacted about reviewing new pistol sizing and recapping dies I thought, “wow….dies. Big deal”. What are these S3 Reload dies anyways?

Shell Shock Technologies (SST) of Westport, Connecticut has created the S3 RELOAD set; dies not just for “regular” brass, but designed to accommodate the NAS3 casings (their nickel alloy casings for small caliber pistols).

A week later I picked them up (along with a huge bag of the NAS3) and started reloading.

Components

Looking at the dies one would think that the reloading process would be significantly different. On the contrary, I actually found the process a little easier with these dies. The sizing die contains a polyurethane spring that assists in removing the case from the die. The spring-action is counter-intuitive to my typical method of reloading, but I got used it after about a dozen rounds. That small spring effect also gives the bullet a little push, improving the ease of the resizing.

Spent NAS3 casings next to freshly loaded rounds. Note the purple magnet; these are very easy to pick up at the range.

Spent NAS3 casings next to freshly loaded rounds. Note the purple magnet; these are very easy to pick up at the range.

I also think it is important to talk about the NAS3 casings as well. Unlike normal brass, each casing is actually two pieces fused together. Engineered to be 50% lighter and 2x stronger than brass, it ejects cool to the touch and can be picked up with a magnet. This makes picking up your brass much easier at the range, which is especially good since you will want to recover these casings for repeated reloading with the S3 Reload.

Observations of the S3 Reload

While the expander die does look a little alien, I actually like the design more than traditional expanding dies. Since I was given a big bag of brass I figured the few I butchered getting the process down was the price SST was willing to pay. However, to my delight, I did not over-expand a single case!

Some foreign manufactured brass casings have unusual internal dimensions, and those should be avoided with these dies. SST dies WILL work on traditional brass cases, but SST cases CANNOT be used with regular dies. As a test, I loaded 20 brass cases I had on this set with ease (all of which also fired just fine).

During my review, I had some questions about the S3 Reloads and “best practices” for using them, and I reached out to SST and spoke with “Volo” (pretty sure he is one of their engineers but forgot to ask). During the call, he told me has loaded shells up to 30 times (all at normal pressures, no +p’s, or any other “hot loads”). Though the cases are rated for them, hotter loads will wear them out more quickly. He also mentioned that case wear is shown in the stamp in the case head soonest. So make sure you are checking that as part of your inspection process.

Biggest problem? Not using enough lube. I think we have all ran into that one time or another. :). After I dialed in the appropriate amount, everything operated smoothly.

I was also told they are soon releasing other calibers, some even in the high powered rifle arena (.308 Win) which is definitely of interest to this author. It will be interesting to see the life cycle of those cases and if they are able to withstand twenty (or more) reloads.

One of many containers of rounds this author loaded using the S3 Reload for testing.

One of many containers of rounds this author loaded for testing.

I initially loaded 50 rounds and fed them through my Sig P226 without issue. Then I invited a buddy out to shoot with me. We ran through a large Tupperware container of 9mm and didn’t have any problems.

Conclusions

The combination of the S3 Reload dies and NAS3 brass seems like a really decent combination, and the ability to also load regular brass is great. I like the quality of Shell Shock’s products, and I was very impressed with their staff willing to stop their work day and spend 30 minutes to talk to me. I will continue using the dies and SST cases (until I wear them out) and recommend you give them a try if you reload.

You can find out more information at https://s3reload.com/

Posted in Product Reviews, Reloading Tagged with: , , , , ,

March 9th, 2018 by asjstaff

The C96 ‘Broomhandle’ Mauser is certainly one of the most iconic self-loading handguns of the First World War. Osprey Publications has recently published a title about the C96, written by Jonathan Ferguson, Curator of Firearms at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, UK. For those not familiar with the Weapon Series from Osprey Publications, they are written to give a well organized and explained, yet easy to read, description of a particular small arm. The books are generally 80 pages in length and supplemented with artwork and high-quality photographs. The Weapon Series of books aren’t meant to be a definitive guide, but instead more of a survey for those wishing to expand their knowledge in regards to any particular small arm.

Ferguson begins his final chapter with this quote, “Overall it has to be said that the Mauser pales in comparison with later pistol designs and would be unsuitable for today’s various military, police, and civilian needs. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that in 1896 there was simply nothing in its class to touch its firepower, reliability, and accuracy potential.” Summed up in two sentences is the story of the C96 from its debut in 1896 to the end of production in the 1930s. Although it was technologically advanced at the time, it quickly became outclassed by Browning and Luger designs.

But the Mauser is unique in its historical trajectory. Similar to many iconic firearms, it was beloved and loathed by criminal, soldier, cop, and civilian alike. And for that reason, Ferguson’s book really stands out in taking the reader on this Mauser journey.

This particular paragraph was interesting about the use of the Mauser C96 during the Sydney Street Siege, giving very eerie parallels to what we often see today with media discussing civilian small arms ownership.

One important point about Jonathon Ferguson’s position at the Royal Armouries is that he was able to use dozens of C96s that exist in the National Firearms Centre reference collection as images throughout the book. It is this access that really allows readers to get to know the design changes throughout the different variants that were produced.

The artwork is trying to give a reader of a colored sense of the circumstances that these old firearms were actually used in. Note that both the Chinese Communist and his Nationalist Army foe have C96s or at least a variant thereof (possibly produced in China), illustrating the widespread popularity of the C96 on both sides of the Chinese Civil War.

Content

The book begins with the development of the C96 with the operational requirement for a self-loading handgun. An interesting fact here is that the Mauser team specifically designed the handgun to not have a single pin in the operating mechanism holding the trigger and hammer together.

Ferguson discusses partial acceptance by some elements within the German Army, mostly as an alternative to a bolt action carbine in use by cavalry. Later on, the C96 would have to bow to the Luger as a substitute standard handgun. He then goes into describing the different versions and iterations as Mauser worked on different safety and hammer designs and even carbine versions. He ends the initial chapter by discussing the end of the Mauser C96 in the 1930s after over one million were made.

The remaining chapters discuss the C96 throughout the world and this is what I really like about it. He discusses Mausers that were extensively used by Chinese warlords, rebels in Ireland and Armenia, police in South America that continued to use Brommhandles into the 1960s and 70s and even adventurers around the world that relied on the C96 for defense in the bush. He also discusses the different copies of the C96 from Spain to China, both licensed and unlicensed. Interestingly, Chinese Norinco was still producing a domestic copy of the C96 into the 1970s as the Type 80 for paratroopers. It ended up as a failure and was never really issued.

It was really neat reading this page about the dedicated carbine version of the C96, seeing that perhaps 1,100 were ever made, and then to actually hold the real deal in the Las Vegas Antique Gun Show the next week.

What’s in a Name?

As with many iconic small arms, names for them often vary from locality to locality. Ferguson makes specific mention of this throughout the book and even points out that Mauser as a company didn’t even have a standard nomenclature for the handgun throughout its production life. In China it was called the “Box Cannon”, in Ireland “Peter the Painter”, some British called it a “Bolo” for its use by a number of Communists/“Bolsheviks” after the First World War, among many other both official and unofficial terms. And of course throughout much of the English speaking world, the “Broomhandle”.

Room for Improvement

As always, I want to point out a few bits that the book could possibly have done better on. One point I would have really liked to see is in the conclusion that Ferguson could have discussed the current collector market of the C96 today, or even the subsequent reproductions and possible fakes out there. He spends time covering the image of the C69 in various Hollywood films which is important, but I would have liked at least a paragraph or two on the collector market today. Also, on page 64 there is a mismatched caption to photograph which should show the internal rate reducing mechanism of an Astra C96 copy, but instead only shows the external handgun. And this just because of my own interests but in one photo caption, Ferguson mentions that Ottoman C96s had their rear sights marked in ‘Farsi’ numerals. This is incorrect as Ottoman Turkish would have used Arabic numerals instead of Farsi ones.

Ferguson uses an inset to describe the different forms of safety catches, which is very important to identifying a C96 from afar. Early safeties were found to be quite insufficient through British experiences during the Boer War.

Conclusion

If you are a collector of German handguns, you could probably duplicate the written contents of this book yourself many times over so it wouldn’t be for you. But, if you are a student of the First World War or early 20th Century small arms, want to get a gift for someone who is, or are simply more curious about this German steampunk handgun, then I would absolutely recommend this Osprey Weapons Series book for you.

The ‘Broomhandle’ Mauser is available from Amazon for $13.59 in the United States.

Posted in Military, Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

March 7th, 2018 by asjstaff

Any dedicated carry bag will be a slightly less covert method of transporting a rifle simply due to the advertising around its intended purpose. However, the VERTX EDC Gamut Plus does not overtly market the backpack as a rifle bag and does an excellent job of staying low profile while offering a feature-rich backpack.

When transporting firearms to the range, this bag can allow for easy transport without catching the eyes of your neighbors. The great feature of this pack is the ability for it to quickly adapt and transition between covert and overt while truly filling both rolls.

Construction and Observations

The EDC Gamut Plus comes in Greener Pastures, Smoke Grey, and Black and retails for $219.95. The bag appears very durable, constructed of 220/310 Cordura material, and uses YKK zippers. I purchased the bag for a low profile means of transporting SBRs and pistol AR’s. The dimensions are 24”x16”x9”. The 24” dimension is very important as many bags do not offer this great of a height and therefore significantly limit your options for carrying a rifle. After testing I found that up to a 14.5” upper would fit inside the bag when broken down.

While a 16″ upper was a little too long, a 14.5″ upper with a short muzzle device would most likely fit.

The bag held an assembled PWS Mk107 with a 7.75” barrel. This did require the use of a Maxim PDW brace as that shortened overall length by 1.545”.

A PWS MK111 with an MK107 upper can fit fully assembled in the pack.

The MK111 pistol with the 11.85″ barrel will fit well when broken down.

This brought total overall length to just under 22.75”. While I do not have a LAW Tactical folder to test folding AR’s, a 10” AK with a folding stock fit well with approximately 1.5” to spare when in the bag at an angle. This 1.5” should make up for the length added by a LAW Tactical folder.

A side folding AK with a 10″ barrel fits well in the bag with room to spare.

All measurements above pertain to the large main pocket in the bag. The main compartment also has a zipper stop on both sides to allow for added privacy when searching through the main compartment. These can also be readily unsnapped to access content in a timely fashion.

Zipper stops offer the ability to only open the top of the bag for added privacy.

Mesh pockets and micro Velcro line the interior of the largest compartment. The mesh pockets are divided by zippers and offer great storage options for medical gear, extra magazines, laptop chargers, etc.

The mesh pockets provide organized compartments for smaller gear.

There is also a well-padded laptop compartment that was designed to fit up to a 17” laptop. I have used this pocket primarily for extra rifle magazines and it has worked well. Inside the pocket is more micro Velcro that can be used in conjunction with other Vertx accessories for better organization and retention.

The laptop compartment is well padded to protect your electronics.

The quick access pocket in the back of the bag is a cool concept but difficult to match with a larger weapon system. A standard pistol would work well in this compartment, however, a stabilized pistol often is too long or too wide if using a folder.

This pocket would be excellent for a small sub gun styled firearm, but it definitely works better for collapsible stocks and braces due to their thinner profile.

Notice the bulge in the back of the pack due to the thickness of the brace.

A folder does work, but is uncomfortable on the back and pushes out the pocket in a way that the pocket was obviously not designed. There is a zipper that allows access to the backing panel.

This zipper could allow the user to add a ballistic plate.

This panel adds structure and stability to the bag but can be removed and replaced with a ballistic plate for added protection.

There are also two water bottle pockets on both sides. Inside the pockets is a cinch cord to retain the bottles by placing the elastic cord around the bottle. These were designed for 27oz (to 32oz) Nalgene bottles can be stowed but are difficult task to fit.

Notice the retention lanyard around the bottle.

Side pockets are also available beneath the water bottle compartments on each side. These work well for cell phones, pens, wallets, and other flat items.

More pockets to organize small, flat items.

On top of the bag is a zippered pocket Vertx refers to as an admin pouch. This pouch is a nylon pouch without padding and is great for carrying small items you need to have in a convenient location without searching deeper into the backpack. I like to keep an extra set of Surefire Sonic Defender earplugs, sunglasses, compression bandages, or a cell phone charger. It also includes a small lanyard with a clip to attach keys, identification, etc.

This pocket offers quick access to a few small items on top of the bag.

A key component of any backpack system is the shoulder straps. The shoulder straps on the Gamut Plus are well padded, with 1919 straps that run along the shoulder straps and allow for attachment of added tools or pouches if needed.

There is a removable sternum strap included. Keepers are also included at the bottom to manage the excess straps at the bottom of the bag once the straps have been fit to the user. A waist strap is attached for those wanting added stability.

An incredible design feature of the Gamut Plus is the outermost pocket. The outmost pocket can be unzipped and the shell of the pocket can be stuffed into the bottom stow area. This allows for an overt package with quick access to gear attached to the molle and provides identification patches to be attached to the Velcro.

Open the Velcro at the bottom of the bag.

Push the shell into the pocket.

Velcro shut the bottom and you have an overt exterior that is convertible in seconds.

A medkit or magazines could be attached to the MOLLE segments, but there are minor stability issues if the large pocket is not filled.

A small Dark Angel IFAK and FASTMag are attached to the MOLLE.

Since there is not a firm backer to the outermost pocket, the weight from the mag holders or other accessories can pull outward instead of remaining perfectly vertical. The “shell” also has G hooks that can be attached to the loops on the side of the pack.

Notice the G-Hooks attached to the outer shell.

Other large items can be then retained such as a ballistic or motorcycle helmet thanks to this sling load system. The outer shell is also able to somewhat expand in an accordion fashion while also compressing down to a small size when not in use.

Conclusion

While many bags only do one job well or many things poorly, the VERTX EDC Gamut Plus seems to break the rule. I experienced no durability issues, SBRs and stabilized pistols were retained well, and the only issue with the pockets is that you may lose gear due to the multitude of pockets! The outer appearance is definitely disguised well and could truthfully also be used for standard school or office activities as well. Next time you are looking for a backpack you should definitely check out theVERTX EDC Gamut PLUS.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , ,

March 5th, 2018 by asjstaff

Feeding a Classic

There are millions of United States Carbine, .30, M1 Carbines out there.  There’s a lot more to these light, handy, and once-affordable carbines than one might think if one hasn’t handled them before.  Despite their oft-repeated combat ineffectiveness, they make a well balanced and light home defense carbine.  I personally know someone who uses the M1 as their carbine of choice for such a purpose.  My personal version is a papered, 1943-dated carbine of General Motors manufacture.  While I enjoy taking it to the range, the .30 Carbine ammunition that I’ve been able to get for it  has been somewhat low-powered.  I’ve often wondered if I had to use this carbine for defensive purposes, what would be available as quality ammunition for such a purpose?

range time

It may be old, but it’s still viable…

More power

When looking for higher-powered ammo, usually Buffalo Bore is one of the first places I check.  As a customer, I appreciate their posted velocities being tested out of standard length barrels.  I also have verified many of their velocities from various calibers and they are always true to the claim, unlike some other manufacturers.  Buffalo Bore did indeed have some “Full Power+ 30 M1 Carbine” loads, moving at 2100 fps.  I decided to try a few boxes to see if it performed as claimed.  BB (Buffalo Bore) has FMJ, Soft Point, and JHP loads in 110 grain, but only the FMJ and SP loads were available at the time I ordered them.  Most of these rounds run $28.79 for a box of 20.  While more expensive than the average of 30-40 cents per plinking round, they offer a different level of capability.

Old and new packaging

Left: Old style packaging with FMJ
Right: New Packaging with SPRN

New Box Buffalo Bore

Newer hard plastic packaging from Buffalo Bore

Full Power+ FMJ

Full Power+ FMJ

Cold, Hard Data:

alternate view of range testing

Cold-bore shot? No problem!

Once I received the ammunition, I went to the range with my Carbine, a Magnetospeed V3 Chronograph, the BB Full Power+ ammo and some Remington UMC for comparison.  Temperatures were in the high teens and low 20’s for the duration of my testing.  Note: This is not as in-depth an ammunition test as Andrew’s gelatin tests.  I do not have a good setup for gelatin testing.    Testing was done prone, off a front rest.  First off was the Remington UMC 110gr FMJ that I use for plinking with this carbine.  I obtained the following data:

Remington UMC .30 Carbine 110gr, velocity in fps:

  • Max: 1936
  • Min: 1885
  • Avg: 1906
  • ME: 850 ft/lbs
  • Energy@ 100Y: 587 ft/lbs
    Carbine with chronograph

    Definitely not the bayonet the carbine’s designer envisioned

I then switched over to the Buffalo Bore FMJ load.   Right away, I noted that recoil was a bit more pronounced.  Cartridge ejection also varied greatly from the Remington ammo.  The Remington cases ejected to my 3-4 o’clock position, while the BB cases ejected to my 1 o’clock (and quite a bit farther).  There were no malfunctions with this ammunition using the 15-round surplus magazine.  The BB load yielded the following data:

Buffalo Bore Full Power+ 30 M1 Carbine 110gr FMJ, velocity in fps:

  • Max: 2128
  • Min: 2087
  • Avg: 2110
  • ME:  1082 ft/lbs
  • Energy @ 100y: 740 Ft/lbs

This average velocity is extremely close to, though a bit more, than Buffalo Bore’s stated velocity of 2100fps.  Once again, I have always found them to be truthful about their velocities.

A note on accuracy:

While groups at 100 yards were a bit tighter with the BB ammo than with the Remington ammo, this is a pretty old carbine.  Although its bore and rifling are in pretty good condition given its use and age, surplus M1 Carbines are known to on average produce 3-4 MOA groups, depending on barrel band and recoil plate fit.  Both groups fired were within this average, and nothing to write home about.

Calculating conclusions:

There are other options for defensive .30 carbine ammunition out there.  Hornady makes a FTX version in their critical defense line, and IWI .30 carbine SP ammo is also available.  These two loads do not approach the BB ammo in terms of velocity and energy, however.  Only the Underwood/Lehigh 85gr “extreme cavitation” round approaches the velocity of the BB round, but does not match the muzzle energy.  To put the BB load’s muzzle energy in perspective, 1082 ft/lbs is roughly comparable to a Federal .357 Magnum 158gr JHP out of a similar length barrel.

The Buffalo Bore ammo proved it was more powerful than the standard M1 Carbine ammo.  In fact, the Full Power+ ammo has as much energy at 65y as the Remington UMC ammo had at the muzzle.  If one uses the M1 Carbine as a defensive arm, one would be much better served by the BB ammo for such purposes.  I would recommend the use of the SP or FMJ rounds if one can find them.  Though pricier than standard plinking ammo, it is always wise to use the best rounds available for one’s purpose.  If one is looking for a good defensive round for the .30 carbine, take a look at Buffalo Bore.  It’d be a great load for one’s Magal, Automag III, Cristóbal, Franchi LF-58, Kimball (take a look at this gem), or for the good old United States Carbine.

Buffalo Bore’s .30 Carbine Soft Point Round Nose Ammo

For more information, please visit Buffalo Bore.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , ,

March 2nd, 2018 by asjstaff

9mm Magtech 147 gr bonded JHPMagtech might not be the name that first springs to mind when you think of premium defense ammunition, but you could be looking for less expensive, but still decent defense oriented ammunition for rainy day storage or hunting. If that’s the case, this line of bonded ammunition may be pretty attractive. Bonded JHP usually performs pretty well. Let’s take a look.

9mm Magtech 147 gr bonded JHPSo, a little disappointing that the heavy clothing prevented expansion. It shouldn’t be too surprising, given the lower velocity of heavy for caliber 9mm ammunition. I do wish Magtech had put a bit more R&D into this, though. It’s possible that something as simple as having slightly deeper pre-fail cuts or less antimony in the lead alloy would have resulted in perfect performance. There are a lot of factors to balance, though, and this bullet is already borderline on bare gel penetration. In case you were wondering, it doesn’t do any better from a short barrel.

Now, some folks might argue that it’s “good enough”. That’s a fair point, depending on your interpretation of “good enough” and what use you intend to put it to. Is it “good enough” in the sense that it’s still live ammo that pokes holes in stuff? Sure, I guess. Is it “good enough” for your carry pistol? My opinion is worth every penny you paid for it, but I don’t think so. There are too many solid choices that do meet the standards to settle for anything less than outstanding performance for carry ammo. 9mm Magtech 147 gr bonded JHPIs it “good enough” to buy cheap and stack deep for the zombacolypse? Sure. Why not? That is, if you’re stacking pallets of FMJ for Armageddon and you decide to stack up some of this too, well, it beats ball ammo. Is it “good enough” for discrete pest control or hunting? Well, that’s the one place where this is probably a good choice. It penetrates deeply enough to be useful for most critters that you would decide to use a 9mm on. Pigs and ‘yotes don’t tend to wear jean jackets or jorts so it ought to still expand well. It was also reliably subsonic. It may even stay subsonic in a longer barrel.

Bottom line: it’s better than FMJ and cheaper than premium defense ammo. If you have a need for something in that category, it might fit, but there are other options along those lines, too.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , ,

February 28th, 2018 by asjstaff

The FLIR T50 ACTS is a thermal weapon sight that is almost a decade old. But it does not feel out of date and has some interesting features that many modern day thermal sights do not have. The T50 is a clip-on thermal weapon sight designed for military and law enforcement.

I have dabbled with thermal sights before but they were budget thermal sights like the Torrey Pines and Leupold LTO. The T50 is a bonafide thermal sight designed to be used on a rifle. It was a collaboration between FLIR and Trijicon. It was designed to interface with the Trijicon ACOG while maintaining the same field of view and zero. The T50 displays the thermal image on a small LCD screen inside the optic. Since the LCD screen projects light, the T50 has a rubber shroud and comes with a coupler to seal out the light from illuminating the user and giving away his position.

Flir T50 coupled to a ACOG

Photo banner by Trijicon

The T50 can be used as a stand-alone handheld thermal device. However, due to the small screen and how it interacts with the ACOG, the screen is rather small. Look at the image above. The soldier is holding the T50 sideways. This is due to how the screen is oriented in the housing. When mounted to a rifle the screen is positioned in a portrait configuration.

This is what I see when I look through the T50 with just my eye.

FLIR T50, Not Just For Trijicon

The T50 can be used with other day sights. I prefer to use the Browe BCO optic with the T50 since the objective lens is flat compared to the ACOG.

T50 paired with my Browe BCO

The T50 pairs perfectly with the Browe BCO.

Here are some other setups I have tried with the FLIR T50 ACTS.

Elcan Specter

Aimpoint T2 Micro

Lucid P7

Optics on Optics: Optic Inception

Since Trijicon helped design the T50, they had an RMR mount integrated into the top of the T50.

Holy height-over-bore Batman!

I bought an RMR when they were being cleared out at Cabela’s and found an immediate problem.  The interfacing lugs are out of spec so the RMR cannot sit flush to the FLIR T50.

I actually bought the RMR for use on my FNX-45 Tactical but I was curious how the T50 would look as intended with an RMR mounted. In order for this to work, I would have to either mill the lug off the T50 or mill the pocket in the RMR wider. I’m not sure if this was a problem with my specific unit as I didn’t have another to test with.

Onboard Features

As I mentioned above, the T50 has features that other thermal weapon sights do not have. Besides the Trijicon optic integration, the T50 has a video output port. This is not as amazing now when modern thermal sights have onboard recording features.

The T50 came with this video out cable that you can connect it to a video recording device.

The cable is coaxial with a female BNC connector at the other end.

I bought a mini DVR from TNVC and found a BNC to composite adapter. I connected that to the video cable of the mini DVR.

One major downside to the video output is the orientation of the screen. As I mentioned above, the screen is oriented vertically. This means the image is sideways as it is recorded in the DVR. While it is easy to rotate a video on a computer, it is slightly annoying. Or I can hold the T50 in my hands and rotate it sideways so the video is oriented properly with the video.

Here is a video I shot at the Agency Arms shoot after they ripped apart a Winnebago with four miniguns.

And here is the video of the miniguns firing.

How far can the T50 see? Well, it seems the T50 is set for the body temperature of people. It shows people very well. When I picked up the T50 I tested it out on the balcony of the hotel I was staying at in Daytona Beach. Please excuse the shakiness. I was using my iPhone to film through the optic.

I took the T50 with me when I went to see Mt. Rushmore.

Laser Beams!

The number one feature that sets the T50 apart from other thermal sights is the onboard laser designator.

So the laser is actually why I bought the T50. The T50 comes in three flavors. NO Laser, Visible Laser and IR Laser. This one is infrared and has two settings. ON and HIGH. When set to ON, the IR laser is a Class 1 type laser. When set on HIGH it is a CLASS III IR laser that is not eye safe.

The lower right button, on the side panel, is how you activate the laser. It is momentary only and is used for designating a target.


When the laser is turned on, a square reticle is displayed in the center of the screen. LZ is the indicator to let you know you are on HIGH.  You can see how this looks below. The thermal is boring and gray due to the ambient temperature. It was 38F when I took these images.

Why would you need a laser built into your thermal sight? So you can point out to others what you are looking at. I was told that this setup would have been used in the military. A single person in a squad would be equipped with a FLIR T50 while everyone else has night vision. The thermal equipped solider would scan for threats and when he sees something he does not recognize he could designate it with the onboard laser to indicate to the rest of the team what he is looking at and they can better identify the target.

A Closer Look

The T50 is powered by three CR123A batteries held in a single magazine. I often store the T50 with the battery magazine removed because the “on” switch has an oversized paddle that is easily activated accidentally. This results in the T50 killing my batteries.

The rail mount is a little odd. The lug that interfaces with the Picatinny rail is at the far leading edge of the mount.

I am sure you have noticed that the FLIR T50 has an odd shape to it. It is taller than it is long. This periscope-like shape was intentional so the T50 would not take up a lot of rail space but also so laser aiming modules would not interfere with it. The lens sits high enough to clear the top of my laser.

Wrap It Up: I’ll Take It

As I said before, I really bought this for the laser. My friend Justin was offered the FLIR T50 by his local LGS. They got a few of these as trade-in’s from a local security team for a nuclear power plant. He asked if I would want a thermal sight. To be honest, I was not interested in thermal since I do not hunt. He borrowed it from the LGS to see if it was worth the price. That is when he discovered it has a laser and that it is infrared. What interested me most was the HIGH setting. I met up with Justin and confirmed it with my PVS14 that the laser is indeed Class III.

Now comes the part about price. If you Google the FLIR T50 ACTS, you will find online retailers selling them for around $10,000 USD. Thankfully I did not pay nearly that much. Justin was offered the FLIR T50 for $3,000 but he had no use for it so he passed the deal on to me. I figured a full power IR laser would cost me around $2,000+ and in some cases $3,000 depending which one. Then having a thermal weapon sight was just the cherry on top of the icing.

Even though the FLIR T50 ACTS is almost 10 years old (they came out in 2009) it works very well as intended. It easily displays heat signatures in the range of human body temperatures. It is designed to work in conjunction with a day optic so you can attach this to multiple guns without needing to zero anything. It is important to note that it is not recommended to use high magnification with the FLIR T50. At most, 6x magnification works but anything higher the image is difficult to use. You are zooming onto an LCD screen and the closer you look the worse the image appears. The price is the hardest part to swallow but if you can pick one up, I would highly recommend it.

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February 28th, 2018 by asjstaff

Solid copper hollow points typically offer excellent reliability and are a solid alternative to traditional, lead core jacketed hollow points, especially in locales where lead is banned. This test features a Springfield Armory standard, 5″ 1911A1 firing Prograde’s loading of Barnes 185 gr TAC-XP through four layers of denim to simulate heavy clothing as well as bare ballistic gel.

First, let’s take a look at the numbers.

Impact velocities:

994.7 fps
1,008 fps
1,000 fps
1,004 fps
989.6 fps
988.4 fps
1,016 fps
1,004 fps

Average: 1,001 fps

Minimum expansion: 0.445″

Max expansion: 0.802″

Penetration varied substantially in the bare gel test, with a minimum of 13.4″ and a max leaving the gel block and stopping in the first water jug. To be honest, I did not expect the bullet to leave the 16″ block. In the future, we’ll use other gel blocks to get a more accurate measurement of penetration. That said, water tends to give about 1.8 times the penetration result seen in ballistic gel at this speed and the bullet did not dent the back side of the jug, so the total penetration is likely to be less than 19.3″ as a rough estimate. That would exceed the FBI max, but it’s important to note two things. The first is that, based on the performance of the other rounds, this is probably a statistical outlier. The second is that, while the FBI standard strongly penalizes ammunition that fails to meet the minimum (-9 points), it does not penalize bullets that exceed the max by nearly the same degree (-5 points). That’s because the FBI is not nearly as concerned about the “over penetration” myth as that guy with the greasy John Deere cap who hangs out at the end of the gun counter said you should be.

It is true that some law enforcement officers have struck an innocent bystander with a bullet fired through a bad guy. But it is far more common for uninvolved parties to be hit with projectiles that missed their target altogether. More to the point, I know of not one single instance where a private citizen, using legally justified deadly physical force, hurt an innocent bystander with a bullet that passed through the intended target. Not one.Conversely, there are many documented cases where innocent people were hurt by bullets fired by a perpetrator who was already shot, but didn’t stop quickly enough. Every shallowly penetrating, ineffective bullet that is fired gives the bad guy that much more time to do his own shooting. Except, he may not be as diligent in his aim and he is probably loaded with FMJ. It also means that you have to shoot more, and consequently have more chances to miss the target and hurt someone.

As far as the other measures of performance, there was some significant variation in the penetration depth for the bare gel portion, though all made minimum. I suspect this is due to the relatively low velocity causing variation in when expansion occurs, though I can’t say for sure. The degree of expansion was extremely uniform and weight retention was absolutely perfect. Overall, this is a solid performer and a good choice for defense, assuming it cycles in your pistol. As you can see, it did fail to feed in my Springfield GI Model 1911A1, but 1911s with throated chambers and polished feed ramps may do better. Non-1911 pistols like the XD or Glock 21 should have no trouble, but this does underscore the need to test your carry ammo in your gun.

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February 23rd, 2018 by asjstaff

The new Elftmann Tactical Ultralight Aluminum Stock was introduced at SHOT Show.

I guess that by this time everyone is already familiar with the Elftmann’s triggers, and possibly their safety, but the minimalistic stock is brand new.

As an “early adopter” I was lucky to get my hands on one, and you can see what it looks like in the pictures below.

The drawback of being early is that it’s difficult to get a lot of experience with a product AND be one of the first to write a review which is supposed to include conclusions from that experience. It’s like when you’re looking for a job, and the employer is looking for someone who’s 20, has a lawyer’s degree and 10 year’s of working experience.

However, I think I have enough background and experience as a shooter and competitor to see where this kind of stock will shine.

As with everything, there is a compromise. The question is if you can live with them, which most of the time depends on what you’re going to use the rifle or carbine for.

If you’re going to shoot a lot of long range this is obviously not the best-suited stock available, unless you’re going to carry it for a very long time and your absolute aim is to reduce weight.

Extremely low weight versus less optimal ergonomics, this stock suits carbines with low recoil, shooting at shorter distances. Perhaps even as a PDW stock.

This stock is better suited on AR9 Pistol Carbines, for PCC competition for instance, where the actual shouldering is not always as important as if you’re shooting 200-300 yards.

If you’re looking at this stock for 3 GUN / IPSC Rifle competition rifle I’d say you’re probably better off with something more traditional, but it depends on the stages as well.

I did a quick fit of the new Elftmann Ultralight Aluminum Stock to my AR-300 Blackout, just to get an idea what it would look like.

It has the NEA gas tube, so far from ideal as it uses a shorter, non-standard buffer tube and a shorter bolt carrier but I took what I had at the moment. There’s a picture below from Elf with the stock on another buffer tube as a reference.

The ELF Ultralight Aluminum Stock is the lightest all metal adjustable stock produced today, weighing in at a trim 5.2oz. Innovative features include ease of adjustment over the entire length of the buffer tube and silent operation – no clicking into detent holes, a simple turn of the knob allows full adjustment and when tightened, it is rock solid with absolutely no rattle.

In terms of quality, I cannot spot any imperfections. It’s well made and has a nice surface finish. Perhaps the clamping screw might unscrew itself with time, but Loctite may help. I am happy that Elf didn’t put any shining red details on it.

Note the AR-15 / AR-10 Ambidextrous Speed Safety. I’ve had this for some time now, and it works really well. Easy to get used to. Available from $39.95.

Quickly take your AR from safety to ready to fire and back to safe with the simple push of a button. With no rotation necessary, no shifting of the shooters hand needed, this is the fastest safety selector to engage and dis-engage on the market!

JP Rifles CTR-02 upper. Magpul K2+ pistol grip. Raport charging handle.

The Elf stock is very minimalistic. It is really easy to adjust the stock, although this specific buffer tube offers very short adjustment length.

Aimpoint H2 Micro. 7.5″ barrel 300 Blackout. The barrel is a bull barrel from Lothat Walther Germany.

Below you can see Elftmann’s own pictures. Note the trigger.

There is also an even shorter version in development:

we are working on a shorter version of our aluminum ultralight stock, combined with this short carbon fiber PDW tube, it’s going to be hot!!! Regrann from @dk_320 – So over the past few weeks I have been working with @elftactical and @smokecomposites to create a PDW stock for my #SBR that was as short as possible and still functions properly. Light weight, extremely durable and most of all as cost efficient as possible. This is just a prototype and we’re still working to make this even better but I figured I’d give you all a sneak peak.

You can find the stock here.

The price is $199.00.

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February 22nd, 2018 by asjstaff

I semi-retired from reviewing flashlights…but when Olight reaches out to me, it is my pleasure to come “out  of retirement.”  I’ve mentioned this in Olight reviews before, but Olight won me over when they donated an entire day’s GROSS SALES PROCEEDS to the family of Marshall Hoots, the founder of Goinggear.com.  Marshall passed away at far too young an age, and the proceeds of the sales will definitely help his wife and children.

Also, my first “good” flashlight – 9 years ago – was an Olight M20T, so when essentially the modern iteration of that light came available, it was easy to agree to give it a quick review.

Specs:

It’s a nice looking light, easy to hold in the hand and is supplied with a reversible, deep clip.

The light comes supplied with 2 CR123 batteries in a carrier, but can also run (at higher levels) on 1 18650 cell.

I’m a big fan of the Olight interface.  It’s too embarrassing to admit how many flashlights are in my collection, but I typically carry an Olight S1 Mini Baton because it’s small and I love the side button interface.  This light has that same type side button interface but adds a rear “tactical” button.  You can access level 6 (1 lumen) with a press/hold of the side button.  Double click that side button for level 2 (600 lumens). Double click it again for Turbo (level 1). With the light on, press and hold the side button to cycle through levels 5.4.3,2.   Press and hold the rear switch to have constant on Turbo – soft press the rear switch for momentary.  You can also use a combination of the side/rear switch to activate enhanced tactical – in this mode the rear switch activates a strobe.

Another nice feature is the lockout – press and hold the side switch (from off) for 2 seconds and it locks out the ability to switch the light on.  Repeat that procedure to reactivate the switches.

The light comes with the aforementioned CR123 cells in a carrier, as well as a holster and lanyard.

The LED is a CREE XHP35 and appears to have a 5500k tint.  Shown here next to the output from a 4000k light.

The Olight M2T is, in my humble opinion, a great value priced at around $70.  Lots of light in your hand for a decent price.

You can find more information and other Olight products at www.olightworld.com

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February 20th, 2018 by asjstaff

Having compensators on pistols is not exactly new. Competitors have been porting pistols for a very long time. Go look at any open division pistol in USPSA or IPSC. However, since the Roland Special came out, we have seen an increasing trend in compensators for Glocks. This has led to companies like Archon Mfg to make compensators. As a fan of compensated pistols, I got the opportunity to check out their Glock compensator.

Compensating For Something

For those who have not had the pleasure of shooting a compensated pistol, You are missing out. With a good comp design, the gasses help mitigate muzzle climb and recoil.

Archon Mfg’s take on their compensator is actually different than their competitors. While many other comps do screw onto a threaded barrel, Archon’s comp does not require thread locker or set screws against the threaded barrel. Instead, they split the female threads and have two screws on either side. So all you need to do is screw the comp onto the barrel, then time it to the right position and tighten the two screws so the comp clamps onto the barrel.

One added benefit to a comp on a Glock is that now your weapon lights don’t get coated in muzzle blast residue. Most of the gasses are going out the sides and top. Very little of it is blowing down to the light.

One minor issue is what threaded barrel you use. I am using a Lone Wolf Gen5 Glock 19 threaded barrel. Some threaded barrels have different lengths.

The gap between the Glock Comp and your slide will vary due to variations in barrel length on aftermarket barrels.

This is as close as I could get the Archon comp onto the G19X with the LW barrel. Notice there is a gap and the rounded corners of the Gen 5 disrupt the look. If I used a Gen4 or lower Gen Glock, the aesthetics where the slide meets the comp would look better.

Archon Comp, It’s Not Just For Glocks

While their compensator was designed for the Glock pistol, it is not limited to just the Glocks. You can mount this compensator onto any pistol with a threaded barrel.

Beretta 92A1 with Archon Mfg Comp

Sig Sauer P938 with Archon Mfg Comp

Does It Actually Do Anything?

Archon Comp redirecting gasses

So I am a bit spoiled as my benchmark for compensated pistols is my STI Steel Master race gun. It is the flattest and softest shooting 9mm handgun I own or have ever shot. So how does the Archon Mfg compensator compare? It is not in the same league. Is the disparity just from the compensator design? I don’t think so. The STI Steel Master is a purpose-built race gun. It was designed to run compensated. Adding a compensator to a pistol does not mean it is a race gun now. Just like adding a spoiler to a car does not make it a race car. So does the Archon comp work? Yes. There is an appreciable difference with the comp than without.

Take a look at the video below. It is a side by side comparison of the Glock 19X with and without the compensator. The left side has the Archon comp and the right side does not. Both shots you can see there is still muzzle climb. However, pay close attention to the position of the 19X after the recoil. The gun is physically higher and I have to bring the gun back down on target. With the compensator, the 19X does not jump as high and is quicker to bring back on target for the next shot.

The difference is very noticeable on smaller guns like my Sig P938. I think it is because the barrel is so much shorter and there are more gasses to make the comp work better. Just like a spoiler, you need more air/gas for them to be effective. In open division pistols, shooters typically load hotter rounds just so there is more gas to act on their compensators.

Is It Perfect?

No, it is not. But it is pretty good. The best part is their split design. It was very easy to swap between guns and since there is no set screw, the threaded barrels are not messed up. The overall length of the Archon compensator is a bit long.

  • Precision machined from 7075 Billet Aluminum
  • Type III Hardcoat AnAnodizedlack
  • Weight: 0.9 oz.
  • Dimensions: W: 1.000″ L: 1.375″ H: .800″

Mounting it onto a Glock 19 gives the overall length similar to a Glock 34. I would have preferred a Glock 17 profile as holsters would be easier to find. Luckily I have my holster for my Glock 35 and this fits perfectly.

One idea I had would be to alter their design so that the compensator does not need a threaded barrel. They could get a batch of long barrels and mill a slot on either side. Similar to the KAC Hush Puppy Beretta barrel. Reposition the set screws to line up with those slots and now you have a compensator/barrel set up for states that ban threaded barrels on handguns.

The Archon Mfg Glock compensator is quite affordable at just $69.99. Check out their website for more info.

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