Showing posts with label optics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label optics. Show all posts

Monday, February 16, 2015

AR Optics, Caches and Randomness

Alexander Wolfe discusses optics for the AR. He is leaning hard towards a red dot, specifically an Aimpoint Micro. His comment about weight is valid. The weight of my MTAC is listed by midway at 17 ounces. Of course it needs a mount so that is is going to be a few more ounces. Alex's figure of one weighing a pound and a half is not unrealistic. Depending on how heavily you weigh those ounces in your overall equation that could be a significant consideration.

Then again to play devils advocate the way to make a light weight AR is to keep it simple, iron sights, plastic hand guards, etc. The only additional piece I would put on is a light as that is a genuine capability you can't work around. This means no rail, no optic, no fore grip, no lasers, etc. 

Whether this weight is worthwhile as a trade off is an interesting question. Overall the AR is a light rifle so an extra pound isn't going to make it a drag to pack around. Next we have to talk about accuracy. In my moderately informed opinion pretty much everybody shoots better at any distance over 100m with a magnified optic. While it is true red dot's can be used to engage targets out to, and past, 300m that is usually for a basic body shot against a silhouette of a standing man sized target. Also worth noting the ability to really identify an distinguish targets at any distance with a red dot (0 magnification) is nil. Yes you can shoot to 300-400m but you probably can't really tell if that person is an actual threat or not.

The point that a normal civilian (vs a soldier, etc) will not likely need to fight with a rifle at a couple hundred meters is valid. Cases of normal folks getting in legitimate (vs murder) gun fights at or past 100 meters or so are at best very rare. Honestly I have never heard of one but admittedly I haven't done a ton of research into the topic. That being said one can also make a very legitimate argument a normal American does not in fact need a mag fed military pattern rifle at all. A good shotgun set up for defensive use like my 870p or Alexander's 590 is plenty of gun for burglars or to make someone get off your lawn in a hurricane.

The thing is that I did not put the money and effort into setting up a pretty nice AR because I am worried about a couple meth heads trying to steal my TV. My shotgun amply covers that scenario. I own a military pattern rifle because I enjoy them and am ever so slightly worried something really bad could happen. I'm talking riots, civil unrest, EMP, racial crap, war, etc. The kind of ugly scenarios where I might have to fight multiple individuals in a defensive situation or engage in offensive operations against some sort of threat. If the situation is bad enough that I need my AR I might well need to use it at a 2 or 3 hundred yards.

Generally speaking the benefits of a rifle are that they are effective at long distance and hit really hard. For military pattern rifles add self loading and high capacity to the mix. I fear that parts of the 'tactical community', including some big names are so focused on absolute speed in CQB and end up making optics choices that hinder 400+ meter guns from their maximum potential for the trade off of being a bit better at 0-25/ under 100m.. This neuters the power of the rifle to reach out and touch someone. You could make a legitimate argument all CQB type concerns can he handled with a shotgun. If the goal is a rifle set up for a CQB/ home defense or something is great but for a more general purpose rifle, that might need to reach out and touch someone it is not my ideal setup.While the modern defensive rifle is arguably handier than the shotgun the real benefit is that while it can also be used for door kicking it can also be used to shoot people at a quarter mile or more away. I am not anti red dot it is just that a magnified optic brings so much to the table and the low bottom end (say 1-1.5) mitigates most of the down sides. As to CQB speed at in home ranges, say under 6 or 7 meters one could make a legitimate argument it will be front sight them bang. Heck, I've done some pretty decent CQB stuff by reflex without looking at any sights.

On another note our friend Meister wrote about his 'grey man cache.' Very cool stuff. That is something I would like to emulate in the not so distant future.

On a really weird note Bradley Cooper and Betty White made out on SNL. That is so random I don't know what to say about it.

This evening we watched The Interview. It was enjoyable. I would recommend it to others.

Hope you all have a good night.

Friday, February 13, 2015

AR-15's, Ham Radio and Life

Alexander Wolfe bought himself a fancy new Bravo Company AR-15. We talked about this before and he was fortunate to pull the trigger before they stopped the free BCM bolt carrier with every upper special which ran for a pretty long time. He went with the lightweight barrel, while I chose the standard weight on my rifle, but for most civilian applications the difference is probably academic.

On the plus side for him our mutual advertiser Lucky Gunner hooked him up with some 5.56 ammo to zero/ test fire the new toy with.

Alex doesn't buy guns often so when he does it is usually well thought out and a significant event. The topic of optics came up. It looks like Alex is planning to upgrade. He mentioned the Aimpoint micro. There are a lot of really good scopes in that general price range. I tried to throw out the topic of low power variable scopes. For a do everything rifle a low powered variable with an illuminated reticle has a lot going for it. Best of all even if you run out of batteries you still have a day optic.My Burris MTAC is pretty darn nice. However I do find the 4x max a bit lower than I would like. As Alexander noted 1-6's are great but really expensive. Burris makes a 1.5-6x MTAC which I've heard good things about. Also Vortex recently put out their 1-6x Strike Eagle with a projected street price under 4 bills.

Am helping a friend do an AR build. They got a deal on a lower now we are looking for an LPK to put it together. The goal is to get a decent to good duty type rifle at a reasonable price so while not necessarily the cheapest gun out there it should be a lot of gun for the money. This means no derp tier 'Bubba's Basement Armory's rusted thrown together 2nds LPK' is out. Any recommendations? Any smoking deals going on right now?

I've decided to finally get off my duff and get moving on the ham radio thing. There is a club that meets once a month in a bigger town not so far from here. So to get a license I need to pass a test. Any recommendations on how to study? Good websites you have used?

Tonight I'm watching the new episode of The Walking Dead. On the downside instead of a parade I think tomorrow there will be a trip to the hospital as Walker seems to have an ear infection.

Do you all have any big plans this weekend?

Friday, December 19, 2014

From Around The Web

Bayou Renaissance Man talks budget AR sights/ optics. Ryan's take Plinkers and sporting/ recreational rifles are fine with just a scope. Fighting rifles need iron sights and if you so desire (the only downside is $$$) an optic. Unless you plan on running a long and or free floating rail there is little reason not to stick with the standard front sight post. They are darn stout. For rear sights a fixed sight is the most robust but can get in the way of some optics, particularly magnified ones. In that case a folding sight is the way to go.

As to optics. For red dot/ holographic I recommend Aimpoint or Eotech. Both are quite stout. I have seeen Eotech's, the weaker of the two, that went through multiple combat deployments to Iraq and were still functional.Aimpoints are even stouter. Cost is $400 and up though you can find some deals bringing them closer to the $350 range.

I am not a fan of budget optics on fighting rifles. Historically budget (in particular red dot/ holo) sights either fail to function at the most basic level or do not hold a zero. Generally speaking I would suggest you rock iron sights until a quality optic is within your price range. That being said as technology matures it is worthwhile to question old wisdom.

As to magnified optics. There are a lot of low (1/2 to 4/6) power variable scopes with illuminated reticles on the market. I ended up with a Burris MTAC. For a general purpose rifle the option to have magnification at distance yet near 1x up close is darn handy. Sure if you built an AR pistol as a house gun or were specifically concerned with CQB a red dot/ holo has some advantages but otherwise I like magnification.

There are lots of great scopes in the $300-500 range.

John Mosby talks the OODA Loop.

A Few Thoughts on the M16A4. Personally for most applications I prefer the handiness of a 14.5in barrel and a collapsible stock. The exception would be a longer range concept of use either due to more open terrain or some sort of SDM concept. While not the preferred long range precision rifle (for anything except punching paper) they can be quite effective in the right hands; as proven by Travis Haley in the Battle of Najaf.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Burris MTAC Review at Range Time and My Thoughts

This review interested me. The stats and facts are put forth honestly and while I do not agree with Cory about the overall utility of the store there are some subjective factors in play. 

Should note I have a Burris MTAC on Project AR.

The RT folks were not in love with the reticle on this scope. Personally I really like it. The big thick doughnut ring around the reticle is a bit different. I find that it greatly aids in in rapid target acquisition at close ranges yet does not detract from precise shooting. Presuming a reasonable application (a 2.5x scout scope on a 22-250 to shoot Coyotes at 500m fails the common sense test) there is a fair bit of personal taste in optics and reticule design/ layout.

I found the reticle to be useful at distance. Some folks are against BDC's on scopes. I think they are a good compromise between speed and precision. You get a lot better accuracy than just holding over without the time and thought to figure out how many MOA down you are.

The topic of back up red dot's came up in this video. To ME one of the reasons I like a low powered variable optic is that at 1x with the illum on it is, thought not quite as forgiving about eye placement, almost as fast as an Aimpoint or Eotech. I would keep it at 1x for general use then crank it up to 4 if needed.

Anyway the 3 gun crowd started using red dot's mounted at a 45 degree angle on the side of their guns. I have also seen iron sights that mount in the same way. The idea is that you use a scope for longer shots and for the short ones rapidly transition to the red dot.

I am entirely ambivalent about this concept. First I want to use the same 'ready up' to shoot at a target at any distance as it is simple. Simple is good. Second I can do CQB with a low powered variable or even an ACOG just fine. Third at distances where the negligible time difference might matter I'll probably shoot from the shoulder without even looking at the sites. There are so many points of contact in a long gun that you can 'point shoot' out a bit. Also this addition red dot is another thing to buy, zero and maintain. Honestly I will leave that for the 3 gun crowd.

[Just before hitting publish I realized this is a significant difference between me as a practical defensive shooter and the 3 gun crowd. They know exactly what they are facing and can 'game' the scenario. They can know that the first 2 shots will be with a red dot and have their scope cranked up for the longer shot that is coming. For them this makes sense. For me as a more practical (defensive, offensive/ .mil) shooter I need to solve every problem when it occurs. In this light the second sight makes sense.]
While I disagree with their final conclusion it is a well done review.

Should also note Burris makes a 1.5-6x MTAC. I do not necessarily regret my purchase of the 1-4x. For my concept of use at that time it made sense. However if I am in the market for a low powered variable scope again it'll probably be the 1.5-6 MTAC.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Magnified Optics on Fighting Rifles

Saw this video and found it to be interesting. As a general rule I like 1 magnification red dot type optics for CQB type stuff. They are the fastest thing out there. The downside is they are not great at long range. In fairness you can HIT at fairly long ranges with them (say 300-400m) but the issue is target identification. As Peter noted in Thoughts on Combat Weapon Sights for Civilians this is significant. I'd really like to be sure what I am shooting at since as a Civilian I do not have the type of functional immunity that cops and soldiers who act semi reasonably (or not) tend to get.

Also while folks can often engage targets, albeit with limited identification, at distances beyond 200m almost everybody shoots better with magnification. Without a doubt I shoot project AR with a magnified optic a whole lot more precision than a red dot.

I used to have an ACOG but as affordable rugged optics like the MTAC (John tried like hell to break one and all it did was damage one of the adjustments) have come onto the market I think there are better options. My personal choice for an all around fighting rifle is a low to moderate variable magnification optic with an illuminated reticle. My MTAC is a 1-4x which acts a lot like a red dot up close. I keep it set at 1x but can crank it up to 4 if needed. They also make a 1.5-6x version that John Mosby has. If/ when I end up building another AR I'll likely go this route.

For a more designated marksmen type setup I would either get a scope that starts at a slightly higher power like a 3x9 or 4-12 or pay big money for a scope with a larger magnification range like a 2-8 or something.

Thoughts? What kind of optic is on your fighting rifle?

Friday, October 18, 2013

John Mosby Talks Iron's vs Optics

Optics Options For The Fighting Rifle

Interestingly I have been around the Army long enough to see the transition first from iron's to Aimpoints and \then to ACOG's. With Aimpoints people shot about the same at distance and much faster up close. With ACOG's folks shot about the same up close and better at distance. Aside from occasional anecdotes where somebody failed to zero the optic before shooting for whatever reason nobody shot worse.

As to ruggedness/ reliability optics have come a really long way over the GWOT period. EOTech's, Aimpoints (probably the most rugged of the bunch) and ACOG's are almost indestructible. Not saying they never break but rifles break as much or more often than the optics on top of them.

For a do everything type rifle a low to medium variable power optic is an excellent option. I like basically having a red dot up close and the ability to magnify for improved target selection as needed.

I really like the Burris MTAC. If money was no object I might get a fancier brand but this scope works great. Next time around I'll probably go with the 1.5x6 version to get a bit more top end magnification.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Reader Question: Budget AK Optics

Anonymous 10:24 asked "Anyone recommend reflex sight or an optic that wont break the bank for an AK?"

Ryan here: Without knowing what you consider "breaking the bank" I can only speak in generalities. Broadly speaking I am not a fan of low end optics for practical use in general and especially for fighting weapons.
With optics there is a certain price point where quality falls off a cliff.  You go from duty grade briefly touching hobby grade and landing strait in plinker/ Chinese made junk. A $30 Walmart red dot on a .22 pistol is a riot to shoot. Worst case if it breaks or fails or the zero wanders so what, it ends the .22 pistol shooting fun for the day.  Worst case if a hunting rifle's $120 scope fails it messes up a hunting trip. Though inconvenient and not ideal that is not actually the end of the world despite what some may think. An optic on a fighting gun fails and good people can die.

For fighting optics/ red dots I like Aimpoint/ Eotech/ Trijicon products. For red dot/ reflex sights you can get a basic Eotech or Aimpoint Pro for around $400. A bit cheaper if you find a sale or something. Now and then stolen surplus used M68 Aimpoints pop up on various sites at very reasonable prices. Since they are hell for stout I would be comfortable with a used one at the right price. Trijicon makes a smaller (reflexive) type red dot that you could look at. 

Could you fudge it a bit and maybe get a Burris Fastfire or something and be OK, probably. However cheaper red dot's generally do not work real well. They do not hold zero's, fail to turn on and just have issues. Putting it simply a $400ish quality red dot will cost the same if you try a $100-250 cheaper optic before or not. Buy nice or buy twice.

For magnified optics it is a bit more complicated. Leupold has some nice offerings in the $400 ish range. Personally wanting a variable power with a true (or very close) 1x bottom end I went with a Burris MTAC. So far it is hell for stout and a well designed easy to use optic. I like it a lot. There are some other quality optics in that general $400 ish price range. Note that price did not include a mount. In general I cannot see the real reason to put a magnified optic on an AK. About where you need the magnification they are falling off in terms of accuracy and ballistics so I do not get it though to each their own.

Mounting an optic/ red dot to an AK is an interesting proposition. There is the original intended side mount for a scope but you would need to take it off to clean the gun which is problematic. Some folks make dust covers with a rail attached but those probably do not mount securely/ stably enough to work very well. A company (Texas Weapons Systems?) makes a kit to swap out the dust cover to a secure one with a hinge on front. This is the only good option for mounting an optic in the conventional position where a normal scope would work.

You can put a rail on the gas tube (I think Ultimak) or a quad rail forend on it (Midwest Industries) both of which are solid options.

If I was going to mount an optic on an AK here is what I would do. I would purchase an Ultimak gas tube rail. I would then put an Aimpoint (new Pro or used M68) on that rail. Out the door that setup will run around $500. That might be getting into "break the bank territory'. However first as I noted before that quality setup will cost the same if you put time and energy into trying cheaper stuff (which usually fails) first or not. Second while they are very nice you do not NEED an optic. If money is an issue I would recommend that you rock iron sights for a few months while saving up tobuy a serviceable setup that will last and meet all your needs.

Well those are my thoughts on that. Hope they are helpful.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Initial Impressions Burris MTAC 1-4 and LaRue SPR 1.5 QD Mount

The good folks at Black Bear Sporting Goods and LaRue collaborated to get both my new scope and mount here in the same day. So naturally I had to fiddle with them both. Forgot to take pics at the start and then was too lazy to go back and do it later.

Please do remember these are just my initial impressions from messing with the stuff and doing a few ready up drills. An IPR and eventually a full review will come in due time.

Burris MTAC 1-4 power:
Very stout without being excessively large or heavy. The thing looks really solid. The reticle is pretty awesome. Doesn't crowd the glass but the big circle brings it onto target wicked fast like an EoTech. The graduated BDC dots seem like a really slick system. It doesn't have mil or MOA hash marks all over the place to be super cool sniper guy but that's not really what this scope is made for.

I particularly like the adjustment system for the illuminated reticule, really the whole system. The illum turns off between settings. So instead of an Aimpoint where you need to turn it all the way off then back to your preferred setting it can just be a short flick and it's at level 5 or whatever where you want it. This is pretty neat and well thought out.

The illumination has 10 settings varying from barely lit to bright enough that it starts to do the starburst type thing Aimpoints do when cranked up all the way. For reference the highest power setting is probably 80% of the power on an Aimpoint. Maybe not high enough to see at noon in the desert during August but I think it's sufficient for my needs. The normal reticle really draws your eye anyway so for normal light it's a fine option.

It did not come with a battery which was sort of annoying. I wanted to fiddle with it right away, not run to the store then fiddle with it.

Stout and well thought out. The only annoying thing is fiddling with all 8 screws to get the scope in. They thoughtfully included the right sized wrenches to adjust it. Also they tossed in some meat seasoning and a cool bottle opener as some DVD and the usual catalogs n such.

The only downside of fiddling through their catalog is that now I have a serious gun crush on the 20" 7.62 OBR. It looks sort of odd and almost backwards when the mount is on the rifle but it's the same way in the catalog so I'm probably not wrong.

I am pleased to say this setup fits over my Magpul BUIS which is good. So far I'm really psyched about this setup, especially since the price was (for a legit optic and mount) pretty sane at about $550. Should get it out to the range this weekend. Will talk more afterwords.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Variable Power Optic Deliberation: Leupold Mark AR or Burris MTAC

I really was set on the idea of a Leupold Mark AR 1.5-4 and almost pulled the trigger on it earlier today. However for some reason I didn't. Got to looking and it seems like a true 1 power is an advantage at the bottom end. Got to looking at what was available and reading a ton of junk on ARF and such.

The Burris scopes come up a lot. The TAC-30 and the newer MTAC. The MTAC seems like a pretty good scope. I like the 1 power and the reticule is awesome. Honestly my only moment for pause is that Leupold generally makes good stuff and I do not know much about Burris. However on the downside of the Leupold, aside from being 1.5x at the bottom is that the only illum is a tiny center dot.

There were some other options out there. I'm not pinching pennies so no need to get a Millet or Leatherwood but on the other end a Schmidt and Bender Short Dot or Night Force is not happening. Vortex makes a scope in that range but I don't like the reticule. If there is something else out there under 6 bills (though I would like to keep closer to $500 with a mount)that is a true 1 power with a decent illum reticle please let me know.

If anybody has used or owns both the Mark AR and MTAC I would really like your input. Cost is about the same so it is not a factor.

Friday, February 8, 2013

M4 Flat Top 1" Scope Mounts

Hey, I am pretty much set on a Leupold Mark AR 1.5-4 but unsure about a mount. Leupold makes one but I am not sure the clearance in back is sufficient for a (folding) BUIS. Also I would prefer to be able to take it off without a wrench if needed.

If you are running a 1" scope on an AR or similar gun I am curious about the mount you are using and how you like it.

Thanks in advance.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

M-4/ AR-15 Optics and Civilian Legal IR Lasers

I am looking at the Leupold Mark AR 1.5-4x20. The Firearms Blog reviewed it awhile back and it seems like the ticket. If anybody has PERSONAL EXPERIENCES with this scope I would really appreciate their thoughts.

Also I have been looking at civilian legal IR lasers. I am familiar and comfortable with the lasers we use on the .mil side but the civilian offerings are something new to me. Have heard of the DBAL but they have multiple models and the same company makes a few other lasers. From reading the descriptions I can't tell the difference and the prices vary widely. Of course I would like to keep cost down but would rather take the hard right over the easy wrong. In any case if you have experience with multiple models or know a place that does a good comparison of readily available civilian legal lasers that would be a big help.

Thanks in advance,


ACOG Sale Question

Commander_Zero asked a valid question..
Why would you be getting rid of such an awesome piece of gear?

My answer is: 3 reasons for selling the ACOG

1) Most of my shooting as a civilian is very close range. X4 magnification even with an ACOG is less than ideal. I am going to switch to a low power variable Leupold (1.5-4) with an illuminated reticle. Since most of my shooting is pretty close but I do not want to lose the long distance capability this seems like a good compromise. It should give me almost red dot performance for close range but still magnification for those few times when I need it.

2) Cash out some value to put towards an IR laser. The market has come up with some really nice scopes at a lower price point than the ACOG (and I have become better educated about what is available, might have made a different choice in hindsight). This means I am able to free up a few hundred bucks to help finance about half of something I really need.

3) I sort of don't like that ACOGs have a shelf life. Not a big deal to replace a hundred dollar set of night sights but paying a bunch of money to get an ACOG recharged is a bit much.

Friday, November 9, 2012

RE: John Mosby's Notes On Setting Up The Modern Fighting Rifle

John Mosby wrote a great post recently. It is jam packed with sound practical advice. Seriously read the whole post before continuing. What I say here will not make much sense otherwise. Needless to say I have some thoughts on the matter.

As to optics. John Mosby says there really isn't an excuse for not running an optic. I do not think that is exactly true. The one valid excuse I can see is economics. Somebody who scraped up enough cash to get a rifle that is smart and putting money into food, energy, medical, training and such instead of just gun junk might need to save for awhile to get an optic. I have some respect for a guy who is waiting to buy an optic instead of shorting important areas to get one right now.

If there is a serious viable fighting optic available for under $400 I have not seen it. A $140 Walmart red dot is cool for plinking with a .22 or whatever but you get what you pay for. Either these optics fail or they fail to hold a zero or generally just suck. I talked some about specific optics like the Eotech, Aimpoint and ACOG awhile back. Any of those models or some of the new low power variable scopes by folks like Trijicon or Leupold are also very good candidates. Personally I am running an ACOG. I got it because they are what I use at work and it is easy to shoot them well. The new 1x4ish power scopes are a really good option and in 10 years when the ACOG's half life is up I will likely replace it with a Leupold variable power 1x4ish scope.

Running iron's as a backup is IMO absolutely essential for a fighting gun. Modern optics and in particular the Aimpoint CCO/M68 and the ACOG are really rugged and rarely fail. However optics are complicated and relatively fragile all the same. If the scope on a hunting or target gun fails it is an inconvenience or might ruin the day's hunt. In a fight it could conceivably get you killed. I am running the Magpul BUIS simply because of cost.

I am sold on the concept of free floating a rail. Phase 2 of Project AR Upgrade will be a free floating Troy Rail. Assuming the world doesn't end I'll get one in a few months.

Tactical lights are the way to go. They make such a difference in being able to identify targets. Especially considering the realistic real world use for most of our rifles would be a home defense situation lights are very important. Sticking with serious manufacturers like Surefire or Streamlight is probably smart.

Incidentally I had a few bucks that I was trying to decide what to do with for the last week or so. I was sort of at a log jam with a bunch of gear that really needs to be purchased together. After reading John Mosby's excellent article I was reminded that the new M4 needs a light sooner instead of later and picked up a VTAC surefire light and mount combo.

On the topic of slings. The old 3 point sling really came into existence as a viable tactical way to sling an M16 rifle with the old school strap under the rifle musket style hardware. They were fine for what they are but since pretty much everybody is running an M4 or an M4 style butt stock these days it isn't needed. Also because of their excessive webbing and attachments these things can tangle you up like some sort of bondage setup.

I do not like one point slings. For me the rifle hangs too low and is really floppy. I like modern adjustable two point slings. The adjustable feature is important for transitioning to the weak shoulder if needed. Also in a much more practical everyday way it allows you to adjust for wearing a plate carrier or not, winter clothes or even different users.

The only time I run a vertical foregrip (a grip pod to be specific) is at work when I expect to be using my IR laser enough to justify the optional pressure switch. Really this is just to buy me some more real estate. Some folks like them, or an AFG like the Magpul but I am not part of that group.

I think there is way too much potential for fiddling with the AR platform. Rifle, optic, light, BUIS, sling and if you can afford it an IR laser. No real need for anything else all the time. If you are going to be in a support by fire position doing some varmit shooting then stick on a bipod but I wouldn't run one all the time.

As to custom type parts I am generally not a fan. Some parts are just a better version of the original and that is fine. People do the same thing with AR's that they do with 1911's in that they stick a bunch of random parts together, find it doesn't work and say the platform sucks. The issue is that they are not a gunsmith and are stacking tolerances like crazy. Also I do not like products that change the way a gun is operated. Products like the Magpul BAD change the way you run the gun. I am running a BCM gunfighter charging handle but it does not change the manual of arms. You should be able to shoot any rifle that ends up in your hands well not just one specific set up.

Well those are my thoughts on that.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Discretionary Firearms Purchases and Modifications

Firearms accessories and modifications are an interesting topic. First of all just to clarify I am talking accessories which are not essential such as lasers, optics, bipods, etc all (as opposed to accessories which are really more like ancillary equipment such as magazines, slings, holsters, etc). I think they are sort of like Whiskey, great if used properly with some moderation but the potential is there to get stupid in a hurry.

Lets break these accessories and modifications into 2 groups. The first group are replacements for an original part of the firearm that (rightly or wrongly) are perceived to be better than the original part. Switching out a stock collapsible buttstock on an AR for one of those sweet Magpul ones is an example of this. As are a gazillion "competition" or "tactical" parts on the market for all manner of guns. The other group would be parts that are add on's which do something the stock weapon does not. Optics, lights, buttstock shotshell carriers and the like are good examples of these.

Back to my Whiskey analogy. The same way that 2 drinks make everybody a bit more sociable at a semi awkward randomly thrown together cocktail party I do not know a single person (especially at distance) who doesn't shoot better with a magnified optic. Also a mounted light (especially one activated by a thoughtfully located pressure switch:) is pretty darn useful for a gun that may be used at night. If you think about the intended purpose of a weapon a well thought out quality accessory or two can greatly increase the weapons usefulness.

In particular I like night sights on pistols. I also think every long gun should have the capacity to store some extra ammunition on it. This means buttstock mag pouches and shotshell holders.

It is easy to get stupid with accessories. I personally don't see a need to buy a "competition extended mag release/ slide release/ safety/ etc". In almost every instance I have been in the stock stuff works fine for me. More importantly if the stock stuff isn't working fine the issue is probably what we call "Operator head space and timing". In other words I am messed up, not the gun. One notable exception would be lefties who find themselves using fight handed firearms. Lucky for them the market on truly ambidextrious or dedicated left handed weapons seems to have gotten a lot better in recent years.

Today I got the pleasure of using an M4 with a Magpul MOE type collapsible stock. It is more solid and has a far better cheek to stock than the original collapsible (or for that matter normal) stock. When I get home I'm going to order one. This is a great example where an accessory just does what the original piece of equipment does but in a better way.

There are almost more types of slings than rifles these days. Personally I have tried pretty much all of them but keep coming back to a normal long piece of nylon that is mounted at the front and butt so the weapon hangs in the ready configuration (mounting points at the side or top of the weapon vs the bottom). I find the 3 point "tac slings" to be far too busy and cumbersome. Single point slings leave your weapon hanging way too low to be practical. A notable exception is if you are wearing heavy body armor and getting in and out of a vehicle all the time a short "wolf hook" works very well for M4's. Just clip it to the vest and it hangs in place whilst out and about then unclip it to get into the vehicle. Getting in and out of a vehicle with slings wrapped all around you (especially those "tac slings") just turns into an awkward mess.

Anyway I am going to go eat some lunch. What sort of weapons accessories and modifications do you like?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sharks With Laser Beams On Their Heads


I read your blog frequently and appreciate your views on the utility of pistols and also the weakness of the weapon. I have engaged in combat with an M4, but never closer than 50m and I was always in a decent position as far as cover and concealment. The adrenaline in these situations was pretty intense, so I imagine a pistol fight, at close range and in the open would dramatically increase the spaz factor.

I don't get to the range enough, which is one of my resolutions for 2011. I'm not a gun nut, but I own a few. I also carried the M9 in combat, but only fired it at the range. The SF guys I worked with had lasers on their M9's, but I never shot one. In retrospect I should have asked just to check it out, but I always concentrated on my own weapons during range time.

Anyway, after all of that background I've been thinking about adding a laser to my 9mm or maybe getting a new pistol with an integrated laser. What is your experience and/or thoughts? I'm not looking at it as magic. Training will obviously still be important and I have been deficient in that area. However, I wonder about it's utility in helping overcome some of the inherent weaknesses in a pistol? If you get a chance I would appreciate any advice you might offer.

As for your upcoming deployment, good luck! I was there from 04-05. Keep your chin up and your head down!


TOR here: First I have to mention something. Between my various correspondences,advertisers, newsletters I subscribe to and random questions/ comments/ etc I get a pretty decent amount of emails. I try and am generally successful in answering, in some form or another all emails to which it is applicable. If you send me an email that has a question or something and I don't respond in a couple weeks then please resend it. Also mention that you are resending it. Sometimes stuff just gets lost in the inbox.

Anyway to the question at hand. My thoughts and experiences when it comes to lasers is that visible lasers, while fun for plinking at best offer negligible advantages. I personally don't think they add much in the way of capabilities which is what separates novel/ cool accessories from truly useful ones. The four fundamentals of marksmenship are: steady position, aiming/ sight picture, breath control and trigger squeeze. Do those right and you hit stuff. Mess any, some or all of them up and your accuracy degrades accordingly. Anyway strictly speaking the advantage of lasers is that they largely remove aiming from the picture. If you can't put the little red dot on the target then nothing I can think of will help you. Still got to get the other three elements right to hit stuff. The thing is that you still have to essentially aim the weapon by pointing or using your sights to get the dot onto target with any sort of speed. Otherwise you would just be pointing the weapon wherever and then slowly walking it onto target. I haven't seen visible lasers improve the speed or accuracy of decent or good shooters. I have seen (not saying you fall into this category) folks who think getting a laser means they do not need to learn to use pistols.

There is also a school of thought that a visible laser is intimidating to a potential goblin. That school of though says if you are in the dreaded hostage type scenario a laser to the face will make them wet their pants, drop their weapon and surrender immediately. To be blunt I don't buy it. My observations on performance not really improving with lasers and their tendency to be part of an overcompensation lead me to that belief. The biggest thing about that sort of situation which will help you is CONFIDENCE. A laser might work as part of a bluff. However if you know you can put a bullet into the 4 inch circle at the center of a goblins face you don't need to bluff. If you know for sure that at 10 meters no matter the pistol you can make the shot you will subconsciously display that in your voice and manerisms. Also worst case you can just shoot them in the face.

Your mileage may vary. I would suggest that you try to shoot, or at least really handle a a pistol with a laser before putting money into one. I would also note that if you choose to go with a laser for defensive purposes don't go cheap. Buy a quality laser from a reputable manufacturer. Also you probably don't need to go out and buy a new gun to use a laser with. There are all kinds of options when it comes to lasers but I would like to highlight two cool ones. The first are lasers that essentially replace the guide rod of the semi automatic pistol. The first advantage of these is that they do not require or necessitate changing the holster you use or add any bulk to the pistol. The second is that the laser is about as close in line with the bore as it can be. This means the closest point of aim and point of impact that you can get with a laser. The other noteable type of laser is Crimson Trace Grips. These are cool because they can be mounted on weapons without rails and revolvers (no guide rod). They are also cool because they are activated by pressure on the grip so when you grab the pistol the laser is activated.

Personally I think if you want to use technology to make it easier to quickly and accurately engage targets I would look into a red dot type optic. Suarez International does a lot of stuff putting together in terms of defensive pistols with red dot sights which are rugged and compact enough for tactical use. The reason a red dot type sight is so much better than a visible laser is that they make the traditional skill set of marksmenship easier. Traditional marksmenship techniques put red dots very close to on target and it is so fast to get them the rest of the way. They just make what we have been doing for our whole shooting lives easier and faster.

For whatever it is worth I would suggest you either put the money that would go into a laser towards additional training or look at options for red dot's. Hope that helps.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

AK Stuff

It has been a pretty chill day here. Spent the first part of the day taking care of Walker which was cool. Wifey and I took an idea from Chief Instructor and did a crackers and cheese, appetizers kind of dinner. It was pretty nice and is about the only kind of date that is Walker compatable. Also it has the benefit of costing about as much as a round of drinks at a restaurant.

I spent a good chunk of the evening floating around Warrior Talk forum. That has gotten me thinking about some interesting AK ideas. I suppose it is like anything else where you can spend as much as you want.

On the bright side my most recent purchase has pretty much finished me up on mags and ammo. The great thing about AK's is that ammo and mags are, at least relatively speaking, quite affordable. The bad thing is that supplies are almost entirely produced in former Communist Bloc countries and thus can go away at the stroke of a pen and a change of import regulations. Recently good availability has returned and prices have gone down to reasonable levels. This is a great time to get squared away (however you define that) as quickly as your finances permit.

So I've got a bone stock AK (of course a sling and a cleaning kit) with a decent stash of 30 round mags and ammo. That is a pretty solid start and not at all a bad finishing point. I have been pondering a folding stock lately, one of those aftermarket side folding ones. Since they have a fairly short barrel and no weird buffer in the butt an AK folder is really compact. That would make for an easy to discretely transport package. Some parts are on my list; maybe for next year.

The idea of an AK with a folding stock, a tac light is kind of appealing to me. I think it would be a strait up CQB machine and a pretty darn good defensive rifle. I could do it for around $300. I probably just spent too much time reading about all kinds of AK configurations and accessories.

Maybe some day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ACOG Product Review

The Trijicon ACOG is a a pretty darn nice optic. Onto the usual format.

The Good: These things are rugged and reliable. They have a day/ night illuminated reticule that doesn't require batteries. They are really easy to mount on a flat top rail. If you remember where you mounted them they hold a zero well enough for functional use. Between the generous eye relief, wide field of view and Bindon Aiming Concept they are easy to shoot well from very close to a few hundred meters. Their bullet drop compensator is very quick and useful after a little bit (like a single trip to the range) of practice. With a properly zeroed ACOG most people shoot better than before. I know I do.

It is my opinion that the ACOG is the best all around combat optic I have used or seen to date.  I could go on and on but it is easier to say they are really good scopes.

The Bad: They are expensive. These are a lot nicer than Chevy grade optics costing less than half as much, as they should be. An ACOG can easily costs as much, if not more than many AR style rifles you could mount it on. Depending on the exact model you want they start a bit above a grand and go up from there.

The Ugly: The only real ugly is just a continuation of the bad. They're just too expensive for many to willing to pay for or able to afford. I can certainly understand that perspective and don't think you should go out on a financial limb to get one. Also I get just being a cheapskate. The high price point and the resulting sticker shock of the ACOG is such that they  aren't even considered as an option by lots of folks.

Bottom Line: If you can deal with the sticker shock and hit to your wallet I strongly suggest the ACOG. You will really like it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

The biggest thing was that I ordered an ACOG from Idaho Preps. Been planning and saving to purchase an optic for some time. Hadn't thought I would be able to afford what I wanted but the good folks at Idaho Preps reached out to me and were able to make it work. Really happy that at the end of the day I was able to get one.

I also opened up a ROTH IRA. We had been saving for awhile and this week we signed up for an account and all that stuff. Pretty psyched about the whole thing. Made a few bucks so far which is just cool.

Picked up a few odds and ends of canned and staple stuff at the store. Stocking up a little bit but probably for the most part just rotating what we already have. Sometimes the stores on post have weird super cheap sales for no real reason. I guess they get too much of something or their stocks are getting old or whatever and so they sell it for half price. This week they have Natural Light Beer for $3.25 a twelve pack which is half the normal price. I got 4 of them to stash away as a beer reserve.

Been looking at ammo as my inventory of 9mm isn't quite up to my own standards.  A case of Federal hollow points is pretty darn tempting and would put me in a good place. I've got to save a few more bucks before I can seriously consider that purchase. Really can't complain because I just ordered a sweet rifle scope.

A very solid week for me. What did you do to prepare?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

EOTech/ Aimpoint vs Magnification, Long Range Engagements, 5.56 in Afghanistan

In an email our friend and advertiser Idaho Preps asked the following questions. "So, let me ask you this.  In your experience and in the way that is training you 4x works out to be a good all around optic?  What is the current thinking on average engagement ranges, etc?  I have read quite a bit on the 500 yard engagement issues we are currently having in Afghanistan, but the point usually made is that the round is underpowered for the distance (5.56), not too much info on optics. I've always thought that something like the Millett DMS makes a lot of sense it's 1-4x with an illuminated dot.  When/why would you go with a EOTech or Aimpoint (by this I'm asking from the .mil's point of view, I know when I would use one) vs an ACOG?  I know you're busy with the little guy, and there are a lot of questions in there, so whatever you have time for would be appreciated."

TOR here: That covers a lot of ground and I will try to answer as much as I can.  It is however worth first noting a couple things. First I am just one guy and obviously can only speak for myself as an individual not the Army or anything like that. Secondly there are somewhat diverse opinions within our ranks on most things including optics. Now that you have been properly disclaimed I am going to make with the answers.

"In your experience and in the way that is training you 4x works out to be a good all around optic?" The simple answer is yes. Especially in a platform with very forgiving eye relief and a wide objective/ view such as the ACOG it has a big up side and a minimal downside when compared to just rocking iron sights or the Aimpoint (or I imagine EOTech which I have very minimal personal experience with). At real close ranges of say point blank to 50 meters they are a tiny bit slower then the Aimpoint but probably comparable to iron sights. I think it is at most a very small issue. Also most significantly the up side that pretty much everyone shoots better past 100 meters (certainly 200m) with a good magnified optic more than balances it out.

As an all around optic I really like the ACOG. As I've gotten more experienced and comfortable with the ACOG I prefer it over the Aimpoint. They are easy for most people to shoot well. Magnification aids with identifying and engaging targets at distance, as well as at even fairly close ranges. Some experienced folks feel equally strong about Aimpoints or EOTech's for the same role. I hesitate to say there is a right answer to this one. At the end of the day it really comes down to personal preference. 

What is the current thinking on average engagement ranges, etc? By context I will talk about Afghanistan. I hesitate to use the term average because it implies a level of tracking and statistical analysis which I do not believe is present. However it would be accurate to say that in Afghanistan engagements tend to be further out than in Iraq. A few hundred meter contacts are at least relatively common. Not surprising seeing as Afghanistan is relatively short on built up urban areas and also very open with lots of hills and mountains. Also these far ambushes are a lot easier for insurgents to safely break contact from. There is the worst case scenario of complex heavy weapons ambushes from several hundred meters. However popping off a couple mags or part of a belt of machine gun ammo then fading away is probably a lot more common.

As this applies to the reader as a private citizen. It sorta goes without saying that the longer line of sight is in your AO the further away people could potentially exchange gunfire. You can see a long way in lots of the midwest if you get above all the corn. In Montana and Wyoming you can usually see as far as your eyes or optics are able. If long range is the rule magnification is your friend.

The second half of this question is  "I have read quite a bit on the 500 yard engagement issues we are currently having in Afghanistan, but the point usually made is that the round is underpowered for the distance (5.56), not too much info on optics." Interestingly enough I wrote about this some time ago, Increasing Small Arms Lethality In Afghanistan-Taking Back The Infantry Half Kilometer. To rehash quickly it breaks down like this. First and foremost is training. It doesn't matter what kind of distance a weapon is capable of if you can't effectively employ it. It doesn't matter what a bullet will do if it doesn't hit flesh and bone. In terms of the caliber discussion. There are some very effective rounds for the 5.56 (most notably Black Hills MK262 MOD1 but really 70+ grain JHP/open tip match grade stuff in general) but unfortunately they are not issued widely enough to make a difference. Of course some people will always believe that anything less than 7.62x51 is useless but lets not go there.

[Though I cannot help but note that in WWI and WWII when everybody used .30 cal rifles there wasn't close to a 100% mortality rate for GSW. Furthermore in Korea where our troops were periodically overrun by hordes of Chinese they were carrying the 30.06. The same 30.06 which is bigger and more powerful than the mighty 7.62x51. Every man they shot didn't die. Chinamen didn't flee towards home en mass because they were so afraid of the BATTLE RIFLES waiting for them. Somehow that big heavy .30 caliber BATTLE RIFLE made of good American steel and wood didn't do a very great job as a magical talisman.]

Specifically as to optics. It goes without saying that when stuff is hundreds of meters away magnification makes it easier to see and thus easier to shoot. This is where Aimpoint's and EOTech's are especially wanting in comparison to magnified optics. Their relatively large dots and lack of magnification turn what could be precision fire into area fire.

"I've always thought that something like the Millett DMS makes a lot of sense it's 1-4x with an illuminated dot."

I am not sure about variable power magnification for an all around optic. I have some concern that they are more complex and thus fragile than fixed power models. For all around use I think it is just hard to beat a good 3-4x optic.

There have been what could be called a "have your cake and eat it too" ideas when it comes to optics for some time in various shooting arena's. Ever seen the scope rings which let you still see the iron sights? I've heard of folks talking about mounting some sort of a small red dot IN ADDITION to a magnified optic. They need to be offset somehow and that is inevitably awkward. Trijicon offers an ACOG with what could (generously) be called back up iron sights on top of the scope which isn't a bad idea. I imagine it would be good for CQB. They even have one with a tiny red dot site on top of the scope. I have no experience with that but it seems like a bit much to me. [The ACOG has a cool system called the Bindon Aiming Concept (BAC): The highly advanced Bindon Aiming Concept is an optical breakthrough that combines traditional long-stand-off marksmanship capability with the ultimate in close-combat transitional aiming. Using the two-eye aiming method, when the weapon is being moved, the perceived image is unmagnified, permitting extremely rapid target acquisition. As soon as the weapon movement is stopped and the shooter is close to the proper aim on target, the targeted image "zooms" into magnification, permitting greater shooting accuracy with higher hit ratios. This is especially useful for moving targets or for targets in dense cover.]
I do not have personal experience with the Millet DMS scope but did some research. At least enough to talk semi intelligently about it. They got some decent man in forum reviews. Don't seem like too bad of an optic for the money. I don't like the reticule but that is sort of a personal thing. Also they lack a BDC or turrets which makes precision distance shooting difficult. Most likely that would only be an issue around 300 meters or so varying by the ballistics of the cartridge. Depending on what you want it for that may or may not be important.

[One thing that has always sort of confused me is when people buy a rifle and then immediately go get the cheapest big variable power scope Walmart sells. This makes even less sense when folks mount a cheap scope on an expensive rifle. Personally if I am going to scope a rifle I save up and do it at least decently right. Spend at least a few hundred bucks and get a quality name brand scope with comparable rings or mount. This isn't the place to go cheap. Not necessarily saying the Millet DMS does or doesn't fall into this category; I just don't have the experience with them to say. This trend is just something I felt like rambling about ]

 When/why would you go with a EOTech or Aimpoint (by this I'm asking from the .mil's point of view, I know when I would use one) vs an ACOG? There isn't, at least that I know of, any sort of doctrine or best practices on this. Units (aside from maybe SOF folks) use whatever they have on inventory. If they have a bunch of Aimpoints they use them, same for EOTech's or ACOG's. There is at least a general consensus that magnified optics are good for the open terrain in Afghanistan. As for individuals this is definitely a personal preference thing.

Personally I would be inclined to go with an EOTech or Aimpoint when for some reason or another the range I would use it at was really limited. I'm talking CQB to maybe 100 meters. If I was building a rifle for defense inside of my home (versus the traditional shotgun) and wanted an optic it would be some kind of EOTech/ Aimpoint. For some of the shooting sport stuff where you use rifles but only at close distances an EOTech/ Aimpoint is what I would use.  For a more all around scenario which could require longer distance shooting I like magnification.

Well I hope that answers the questions. Maybe we will get some interesting discussion out of it.

Also I would be negligent if I failed to mention that Idaho Preps sells EOTech, Aimpoint and Trijicon products including ACOG's at very competitive prices.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

 On the bright side I am finally starting to feel normal again. However between work and life nothing amazing happened this week. I did some cooking which was good. Wifey has been taking it easy so Miley and I have been cooking. Nothing too crazy but if you don't use those skills you start to lose them. I have also been reading a lot which is cool. Got all caught up on blogs plus also some select chapters of various field manuals. Learned some interesting stuff and was pretty entertained in the process.

Moved some money around and I should be getting a plate carrier and rifle plates this week. Also I have been looking at optics. Awhile back I was thinking EoTech but after a recent trip to the range I really like and shoot better using an optic that has some magnification. I LOVE the ACOG but alas, hangs head in shame, it is too expensive. I am looking at the IOR M2 scopes. Got to do some more research and run the numbers. Still might be awhile.

I also tore up our place and finally found my P Mags. Unfortunately I have a few less than I thought I did. Oh well that can be rectified later. Think I'm going to start using some at work to evaluate them.

I started working on next years Wish List which makes up at least part of the New Years Resolutions. Nothing new or huge there. Working on protective gear as well as some outdoor type stuff. Just kinda coming up with ideas now. Then I will weigh different categories and think about what I can realistically do in a year. More to follow in a month and a half or so. Come to think of it I need to look at where I am on this years New Years Resolutions. Don't have much time to finish things off.

My home brewed beer is better after waiting another week. They said it needed 3 weeks but 4 turns out to be more accurate. It is less cloudy and the carbonation seems to be more uniform. Also the bitter after taste has gone away. It is a relatively light, slightly sweet and refreshing ale.

For a slow week I guess it wasn't too bad. Next week is going to be pretty packed. Posting may be abnormal this coming week.

What did you do to prepare this week?
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