Dec 112017
 

Written by ILya Koshkin

 

Revisited in December 2017: If I could Have Only One, Alternate Scenario

 

This is a follow up to the post I wrote earlier where I think my way through three weapons (handgun, rifle and shotgun) that are all supposed to do a bit of everything.

Now, I am going to change my boundary conditions a bit: this time around I am not looking to have everything do everything.  I like having some crossover, but I am not going to mandate maximum versatility for every weapon system.  Also, I am going to open the door to potential carry, concealed or otherwise, for the handgun.



When I was looking for maximum versatility for everything I settled on Remington 870 with ghost ring sights, AR-15 in 6.5 Grendel and long slide 10mm Glock.

I will leave my choice of a shotgun alone since I am not a shotgun guy and a pump gun with ghost ring sights covers defensive scenarios and hunting within a reasonably close range well enough for my needs.

The selections for handgun and rifle, however, change.

A handgun for me is primarily a defensive and plinking weapon.  Hunting with a handgun, while interesting, is not much of a priority, so if I have a different weapon system for hunting I can compromise on that.  Also, once you need to carry a handgun, a longslide Glock is less than ideal, and a 10mm cartridge in a smaller gun is a bit more pop than I am looking for.  I have experimented with it a little and the after shot recovery is slower than I like.

With that in mind, the choice of a handgun changes to a different Glock.  The ideal option would probably be Glock 19 with co-witnessed red dot and irons, but I do not own one of those (something I may rectify if I manage to get my hands onto a Gen 5 Glock).  So, in the spirit of trying to work with the guns that I actually own, I will settle on my Glock 17.  Mind you, it is a bit modified, which makes it very suitable for this.  The grip is made a bit smaller and shorter, so it can accept both Glock 19 and 17 length magazines.  It also prints quite a bit less when you carry (not that I can carry in public in California, but that does not prevent me from experimenting at my own house and where legal).  The slide is the Atom from Unity Tactical, which makes it fairly easy to mount a red dot, co-witnessed with iron sights.  At the moment, I have Insight MRDS on there, which is not an ideal choice.  It is a nice red dot, but it is bulkier than I like, uses a battery that noone else uses, and mine has a 3.5 MOA dot.  On a handgun, I use primarily for defensive purposes, I prefer a larger dot (7-8 MOA seems ideal).  With handgun mounted red dot sights, out of all I have seen, the two I like the most are Doctersight III and Shield RMS.  My Doctersight III also has a 3.5 MOA dot, but since it sits on a long slide 10mm that I built for hunting, I am OK with that.  Shield RMS sits on a Glock 43, which was one of my contenders for this and if concealed carry was the primary purpose, it would be my choice.  Hence, until such time as I get my hands onto another Doctersight or Shield, Insight MRDS it is.  I just took a class with it at Frontsight and it worked well enough, but eventually it will end up on a carbine of some sort.  I think it works better there.

The trigger is, again, Travis Haley’s excellent Skimmer design.  It is about as good as non-competition Glock triggers get.

A natural question, of course, is why I am going with a 9mm vs a host of other cartridges people like.  While cartridge discussions can go on forever, all data suggests that with modern bullets there is no practical difference between 9mm, 40S&W, 45ACP, etc for defensive use.  I’ll leave it at that.  I can shoot 9mm well, with rapid follow up shots and reasonable accuracy.  It does not hurt that it does not jam.  For basic defensive use, anything smaller than a 9mm seems to compromise effectiveness, while anything bigger compromises shot-to-shot speed.  With hunting out of the picture, 9mm seems to be the sweetspot.

With rifles, I am probably going to make the most radical change of all.  As much as I like my ARs, if I have a shotgun and a handgun aimed at home defense, my rifle becomes a bit more dedicated for hunting and precision shooting and that means “bolt action”.  Also, since the shotgun covers closer distances quite nicely when hunting is concerned, I want the rifle to be able to reach way out there.  If it was precision shooting only, the choice would be obvious: I have a DTA SRS bullpup precision gun that is freakishly accurate with both barrels I have (338LM and 6.5x47L).  It is, however, kinda heavy.  

My general purpose hunting rifle is an old Tikka M695 in 280Rem that sits in McMillan.  It is more accurate than any gun this inexpensive has any right to be, but the barrel is on a thin side.  While it is an absolutely superb hunting rifle (especially with the stunning Leica Magnus 1.8-12×50 scope on it), it is not the best fit for target shooting since the barrel heats up pretty quickly.  It maintains accuracy well enough, but I do not want to overheat it.

Enter The Fix.  It is a new bolt action rifle designed by a company called Q out of New Hampshire.  It appears to be a very new take on boltguns and with their design I get a 7lbs rifle with a 20” 6.5 Creedmoor Bartlein barrel, AR-style ergonomics, compatibility with AR-10 magazines, fully adjustable folding stock and an excellent two stage trigger.  With the Tangent Theta TT315M 3-15×50 scope in an Aadmount and a sling, it will weigh less than 10lbs.  That is something I can use for both hunting and target shooting, with 6.5 Creedmoor taking me out to 1200 yards on targets and further than I need to on game.

 

The Fix has a very short lift bolt ( 45 degrees), so it remains to be seen how quickly I can manipulate it.  Another nice feature is that the barrels are easily user replaceable, so I plan to take advantage of that and add a 300WSM barrel/bolt combination to it for hunting purposes (and a wider, softer recoil pad…).  Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, The Fix is still sitting at my FFL, so I can not make any pronouncements on how well it really works.

Until I spend some time with it, my choice is the DTA SRS.  It is a bit on a heavy side, but the bullpup configuration makes it surprisingly well balanced.  Besides, I do a hell of a lot more target shooting than hunting anyway.  I have two barrels for it: 338LM and 6.5x47L.  While the  6.5x47L is a very pleasant cartridge to shoot, the 338LM is a bit of a handful, while still manageable.  The reach, power and stability at distance with the 338LM though is something you simply do not get with smaller calibers.  With a If I can see it, I can hit it.  With a 250gr Bulldozer bullet from Badlands Precision moving out at close to 3000fps, if I can hit it, I can destroy it.  Here is a picture of the DTA with the excellent VORTEX Razor HD AMG 6-24×50 on it:

 

While with a smaller caliber, I would default to the Tangent Theta TT315M 3-15×50, with the 338LM, I want a bit more magnification.  On a rifle where weight did not matter, I would just step up to the Tangent Theta TT525T 5-25×56.  This is where the AMG 6-24×50 comes in.  It is barely an ounce heavier than the TT315M, while offering excellent optics and turrets.  On a gun where I want more than 20x of magnification and that might be carried into the field, the AMG is an easy choice.

 Posted by at 5:08 pm
Dec 102017
 

Written by ILya Koshkin

Revisited in December 2017: If I could Have Only One

I revisit this topic fairly regularly, usually inspired by a conversation with someone. Somewhere through the conversation, I get asked (usually by someone who thinks that he can buy one gun and not have the urge to buy any more) “what if you could only have one gun?” At that point, I ask for boundary conditions: are we talking handgun or rifle or shotgun? Are we talking home defense? or hunting? or armed resistance to an overbearing government? Do I have my own ammo supply or do I have to count on foraging for ammo? Etc.

Also, I update my choice of “Only One” when it comes to different optics categories once a year, which I did a few days ago. Now, it is time to think about guns.



First, I am going to set the boundary conditions (I am likely to go through a couple of different sets of these in follow-up posts, so bear with me).

Imagine that the government has really limited your 2nd Amendment rights. The whole country is subject to something akin to current California gun laws exacerbated by the fact that you are only allowed to have one item of each gun type: one handgun, one rifle and one shotgun. You have to be able to use them for anything and everything you may ever want to do. You have to be able to protect your home, hunt, etc. Since these are the only guns you have, they also serve to satisfy your hobbies (if firearms and shooting happen to be your hobby, as they are for me).  You are not expected to forage for ammo. Assume that the legal changes have been happening slowly enough, so you had time to stockpile enough ammo to last you for the rest of your life. The only time you have to carry your ammo is when you decide to go hunting. The rest of the time you can safely assume you are operating near your house or car, so there are means of ammo re-supply. You do not get to pick multiple sighting devices you can swap around. You can have a secondary sighting system on your gun, if you so choose, but you can not have eight different scopes pre-sighted in and ready to be swapped out in QD mounts. Since we are talking about California style gun laws, concealed carry is not a concern. My chances of getting a concealed carry license in Los Angeles are about as good as my chances of becoming a professional salsa dancer (for the record: I am big, fat and tone deaf).

Shotguns are not my field of expertise, but since I just took a shotgun class with a Remington 870, I’ll stick with that. My 870 is a very simple weapon with an upgraded recoil pad and Trijicon Front And Ghost Ring Rear Sights I installed years ago (they are a little crooked, but they don’t seem to be falling off). If I had to do it all over again, I would probably come up with some sort of a co-witnessed red dot/irons set-up, and I still might.  For the time being, I will simply say that my 870 as is, with ghost ring sights and a cylinder bore, is good enough for me. I spent some time shooting slugs, buckshot and birdshot through it to know at which distances I am comfortable with it. To my great surprise, slugs are accurate enough for me to take off-hand headshots on steel at 40-50 yards and center-of-mass shots at 75-100 yards.  Birdshot patterns adequately out to 20 yards and buckshot seems alright out to 35-40 yards. I am not a clay shooter, so this is good enough for me. Since I am not really a shotgun guy, I basically treat my shotgun as a very powerful short range rifle and use rifle style ghost ring sights on it.

With rifles and handguns, I have a bit more mileage and a little bit more training, so I am fairly specific with what I like and what works for me.  I re-iterate: for me.  YMMV

Obviously, there are many different rifle/handgun combinations that would satisfy these conditions, and practical differences between them come down to personal preference and training.  I am viewing this particular set of boundary conditions as requiring maximum versatility from each weapon system and caliber.  Since I removed any ammo commonality requirement out of the equation, the two calibers I converge on are 6.5 Grendel for a rifle and 10mm for a handgun.

As an aside, I have discussions like this with my friends once in a while as a thought exercise.  I recall that once a while back, we were having this discussion at my house with an American-born friend of mince.  Rather than go into a lengthy explanation, I walked him over to my gunsafe and explained that, me being a somewhat paranoid Jew with great appreciation of history and vivid recollections of Soviet Union where I grew up, I have thought about this before and have such a situation covered. In triplicate. And then some. I do not think he took my concerns particularly seriously (my American-born friends often don’t), but then again, he did ask the question.  I did not start that conversation.

Had I been forced to rely on external ammo sources, my choices would have been different: I would have a reflex sight capable 9mm handgun and a SPR-type AR chambered for 5.56×45. However, since I get to prepare my own ammo supply, I can diverge from that a little (besides, I am well covered with those firearms as well; naturally, in triplicate; and then some)

I am still going to go with a reflex sight capable semi-automatic handgun and a AR-type rifle. However, I am going to bump up the chamberings a bit.

Let’s start with the handgun. Fairly recently, I built myself a long slide 10mm Glock, ostensibly for hunting. I originally set it up to be able to accept a variety of red dot sights using a rear sight mount form www.sight-mount.com. After some experimentation, I decided that approach works well for testing different red dots, but for my personal use, I want a set up with co-witnessed red dot/iron sight arrangement.  So I have a second slide for it, milled for DOCTER sight III, Dot size 3.5moa.  In principle, if I lived in a civilized state, I would have simply bought a Glock 40 MOS and be done with it.  However, Gen 4 Glocks are not for sale in California (for reasons sufficiently idiotic I’d rather not get into them). When I decided to build this gun, I headed over to the store, and bought Glock 21SF chambered for 45ACP. As un-American as it sounds, I no longer shoot 45 (I sold my last 45, a Sig P220 a while back), so I took the whole slide assembly off and sold it on Gunbroker.  Then, I took most of the internal parts from the frame and removed them, since I wanted to build this gun exactly the way I like it. Then I headed off to Lone Wolf and GlockTriggers.com websites and did some shopping: 6” long solid top slide, 6” long barrel, and the rest of the parts I needed to build this thing.  The milled slide was done exceedingly well by a friend of mine who specializes on custom slide mods like this.  I highly recommend his work.  The trigger is Haley Skimmer which, to me, remains the best Glock trigger on the market. The iron sights I am going to put on are from Suarez International and they are still on their way.  WHat I am going for here is lower 1/3 co-witnessing.

Longslide 10mm Glock with Doctersight III.  6

Longslide 10mm Glock with Doctersight III. 6″ barrel and heavy slide do an excellent job of taming recoil

I am not a particularly good handgun shot, but I usually hit what I am aiming at. It also helps that I actually practice. With typical iron sights, longer shots become a bit of an issue due to the need for holdover. Even with a comparatively narrow front sight and a long sighting radius, proper holdover is hard for me. Well, that is where a reflex sight really makes a difference. Since everything around the aiming point is open, it is much easier for me to do simple trajectory compensation. Don’t get me wrong, I do not advocate taking unnecessary long distance shots with a handgun. However, it is nice to have that capability and it is a good idea to practice these shots even if you will never take them in the field. My 25 yard shooting seems to have gotten a fair bit better ever since I started practicing at 100 yards with my 10mm. In terms of terminal ballistics, a full power 200gr load out of a 6” barrel has about as much pop at 100 yards as 40S&W has at the muzzle.  It is not the equal of a proper longarm, but it is nothing to scoff at either.  I am also planning to experiment a little with ENDO Tactical TSA-G Gadapter and forearm brace.  Perhaps that will give me more stability for longer shots.

I originally built the 10mm as a hunting semi-auto, but once I got it finished up, I realized that I can still draw it pretty quickly and the recoil of the full house 10mm rounds is nicely soaked up by the long and heavy slide. Another useful characteristic is that it shoots 40S&W just fine without any modifications: same magazines and everything. That adds versatility (and I also have a 357Sig barrel for it).

In practical terms, I am a bit faster with the 9mm, but since I am requiring maximum versatility with this set-up, 10mm it is. A revolver in a larger caliber would undoubtedly be a better hunting handgun, but with slower recovery and slower reloading it would be not be nearly as good for defensive use.  10mm is neatly capable of both uses and, keep in mind that with a 6” barrel I get pretty good velocities out of it. This is pretty much the best semi-auto compromise I could think of between hunting, plinking and defensive use.

Anyhow, with the handgun selection out of the way, let’s talk about the rifle. A couple of things were apparent from the start. Since this rifle has to cover home defense situations, this requirement can not be compromised a whole lot. For example, for long range target practice that I enjoy and for hunting I might want to pick a fairly peppy cartridge, but for home defense situations, I want to keep rifle weight and recoil down while maintaining the ability to make quick follow-up shots. That basically narrows the choice of the rifle and of the caliber down to intermediate cartridges: 7.62×39, 300AAC Blackout, 6.8SPC, 6.5 Grendel and a few others. All of them work equally well for home defense situations, with a suppressed Blackout likely taking the cake. However, in my post apocalyptic California nightmare suppressors are likely going to be illegal anyway. For hunting purposes, all of these work about equally well at distances at which I am likely to take a shot. However, for target shooting, the Grendel is an obvious choice (I happen to own rifles in all of these calibers aside from the 6.8SPC, so I’ve exercised them pretty well). Now, many people I know prefer a larger frame AR or similar gun chambered for 308Win or some other similarly sixed or bigger cartridge. I think they are wrong and these guns give up too much, in terms of shot recovery, weight (with ammo), handling and muzzle blast. Then again, to each his own.

The rifle type would likely be either an AR or AK variant of some sort. I am very partial to bullpup rifles, so I’ve got my sights set one exploring Desert Tech’s MDR, and Keltec’s RDB-C which forgoes the pistol grip (and is weirdly comfortable that way while complying to California’s lunatic laws). It is on my list of guns to get and test once it becomes available, but as of now, I stick with the AR platform. For most uses there isn’t really any practical reliability difference between AK and AR, but a well built AR is usually more accurate and can be configured for the Grendel. My version of this gun, sports a medium weight 18” barrel that is accurate enough to take me out to 800-900 yards in a pinch, while keeping the weight manageable for everything else. I took this rifle hunting with me and, while I am not a huge fan of humping up and down the hill out of general principle, the rifle weight was manageable. That is where I think it has a pretty notable advantage over large frame ARs. I have a similarly configured AR10 chambered for 308Win, and it is notably less maneuverable. It is not just the weight, but also the balance. That balance is really the reason I am so interested in bullpup rifles. My precision bolt gun is a bullpup Desert Tech SRS and it handles far better than a gun that weight ever should.

In terms of terminal ballistics, despite all sorts of fanboy commentary out there, the Grendel is not a match to 308 and larger cartridges, but with reasonable shot placement it is sufficient for typical big game in North America: pigs, deer, etc. Once distances start opening up, 6.5 Grendel is closer to 308Win than it is to 5.56.

Let look at drop velocity and energy for three bullets that I regularly shoot: 77gr in 5.56, 123gr in 6.5 Grendel, 175gr 308Win. I am going to look at drop in mrad, velocity in fps and energy ft-lbs. All data is from Shooter app on my phone. I am assuming 2000ft altitude, 60F, 50% humidity (which is very different from where I live, but clsoe enouhg for everyone else).

I am assuming that the 308 has a 16” barrel, while the other cartridges have 18” barrel. This keeps overall length of the gun about the same, although in terms of weight the large frame AR will likely still be a bit heavier. I am also assuming that the velocities are 2700fps for 5.56, 2525 for 6.5 Grendel and 2500 for the 308Win. These are the velocities I have actually chrono’ed. All barrels vary, so yours might be doing something different. Personally, I think I am being a little generous to the 308 since most 16” barrels I have seen were slower, but I like round numbers.

Also, keep in mind that I am only looking at one particular bullet for each caliber and these are not really hunting bullets. However, I like looking at SMKs for cross-caliber consistency reasons. With 308Win, I need to explore a little bit how well modern 155gr bullets do out of a 16” barrel. They are fairly efficient and go faster.

Drop, mrad

Distance, yards 5.56:

77gr SMK @ 2700fps

6.5 Grendel:

123gr SMK @ 2525 fps

308Win:

175gr SMK @ 2500fps

200 0 0 0
300 0.8 0.8 0.9
400 1.7 1.8 1.9
500 2.8 2.9 3
600 4.1 4.1 4.4
700 5.7 5.5 5.8
800 7.5 7.0 7.5
900 9.6 8.8 9.4
1000 12.2 10.7 11.6

 

Velocity, fps

Distance, yards 5.56:

77gr SMK @ 2700fps

6.5 Grendel:

123gr SMK @ 2525 fps

308Win:

175gr SMK @ 2500fps

200 2269 2217 2174
300 2069 2073 2021
400 1879 1933 1873
500 1698 1798 1731
600 1525 1668 1594
700 1360 1541 1462
800 1206 1420 1335
900 1078 1303 1215
1000 1017 1192 1106

 

Energy, ft-lbs

Distance, yards 5.56:

77gr SMK @ 2700fps

6.5 Grendel:

123gr SMK @ 2525 fps

308Win:

175gr SMK @ 2500fps

200 880 1343 1837
300 732 1173 1587
400 603 1020 1363
500 493 883 1164
600 398 760 987
700 316 649 831
800 249 550 693
900 199 464 574
1000 177 388 476

Simply looking at the numbers a few things are apparent. In terms of energy and stopping power, 308WIn is undoubtedly the better cartridge. However, in this case, I am mostly preoccupied with good enough within a certain weight/size envelope. Otherwise, there is no limit to how far you can go. 300 WinMag is better than 308Win, and 338LM is better than 300WM and so on.

Looking at the energy, the 6.5 Grendel should be good enough for me to use for hunting out to 400 yards, which is further than I have any business shooting at an anumal from field positions. Hunting is where 5.56 is obviously very marginal. 308Win would give me extra couple of hundred yeards over the Grendel in terms of energy, but to be honest, if I ever take a shot at an animal at 600 yards, it will not be with either one of these cartridges.

For target shooting, with these fairly short barrels, the Grendel is actually a little flatter than the 308Win and drifts a little less (this would change with longer barrels as 308Win benefits mroe from a longer tube).

There are of course other cartridges to look at that are in between like the 6.5Creedmoor and others, but after looking at a bunch I ahve basically concluded that for me, 6.5 Grendel is what I judge to be good enough. YMMV.

As far as the actual rifle goes, to each his own. The bulk of my training has been with an AR paltform, so I choose to stick with that. Since I tend to follow what I preach, I own an AR-15 chambered for the 6.5 Grendel, built on VC Defense upper and lower receivers, BHW 18” barrel, 15” Lancer carbon fiber handguard and, CA-compliant FRS-15 stock (which is fugly, but comfortable enough). I have a rather excellent Geissele DMR trigger in that gun, and I often use it to test scopes since despite reasonaby light weight (7lbs without optics) it is very shootable and sufficiently accurate with both factory ammo and handloads.

Since in my scenario this is a rifle that might be used for self defense, I must have the ability to run it 1x or similar with a very visible aiming point. If I could have only one sighting system for it, it would have a Tangent Theta TT315M on it with a compact red dot sight mounted at a 45 degree angle. As it is right now, I am messing with Elcan Spetre TR on it. Spectre TR gives 1x, 3x and 9x and the ability to switch between them extremely rapidly. I took it to a carbine class and at 1x it functions virtually ike a red dot sight. Switching magnifications with Spectre TR is faster than with any other riflescope I have seen to date. However, at 9x, while very serviceable, it is not a match to a proper precision scope at distance. On the other, it is not too shabby either. The reticle is set-up with BDC holds for 7.62×51 and they work exceedingly well for the Grendel. Also, if you are looking for a riflescope that is sturdy enough to club baby seals with any of the Elcans should be on your list.

Elcan Spectre TR on a similar AR-15 (this is not on my Grendel, but this is the only picture I can find right now).

Elcan Spectre TR on a similar AR-15 (this is not on my Grendel, but this is the only picture I can find right now).

 Posted by at 11:59 am
Nov 132017
 

Every once in a while, I sorta step out of things that are within my range of expertise and talk about other things I experiment with.  That is why every once in a while you see me talk about somewhat random things, like bags, shirts and other accessories.

Mantis X is an accessory that is a little more relevant than most.  For a little while now I have been talking about miniature red dot sights and their applications on handguns.  While I do not talk about handguns all that much, I shoot them quite a bit and go take classes once or twice per year.   With all that practice, over the last twenty years, I have become a somewhat adequate shot (not good compared to people who are truly good, but good enough to understand my limitations).   Some classes I take are shooting classes with a lot of lead heading downrange, while some are more of what I would call “thinking” classes.  For both of them, to do well, my fundamentals have to be pretty solid.  Generally, noone has ever become a worse shot by practicing the fundamentals.



With that preamble done, I stumbled onto the Mantis X rather accidentally, and about 3 seconds after learning about it, I made arrangements to get one here to play with.  Basically, it is a small device that clamps onto the rail on your gun (be it handgun, rifle or shotgun) and using a bunch of internal accelerometers and stuff, it senses what exactly happens as you pull the trigger.  Then it transmits the data to an app on your phone.  The app plots what was happening before and after a trigger press, provides some statistics on how you have done overall and makes suggestions on what could be causing some of the problems.

Mantis X works for both live fire and dry fire.

I had grand plans to use on both handguns and long guns, but so far it has been so incredibly useful for my handgun shooting that it stays put on my Glock.

This thing is awesome.  I repeat: it is freaking awesome.  It seems to pick up subtle problems just fine.  I can do some basic troubleshooting and see the differences between what I do in dry fire vs live fire.  It gives me an idea of my wobble zone.  It gives me some data to see what happens when I speed up or slow down.  It tells me if I am doing anything differently when using iron sights or a red dot.  It tells me what happens when I experiment with different ways of holding the gun.  And the list goes on.

I could not be more impressed if I tried.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 11:49 am
Jul 312017
 

As most of you are probably aware, I live in California.  California is special in many ways, some good and some not so good.  The state is beautiful and the weather is spectacular.  The people here do not have a particularly good reputation for friendliness, but I suspect it is the same thing as we have every place with large cities.  Living in a very densely populated area brings out the inner jerk in most of us, while the further away from a major city you get, the friendlier your neighbors are.

What is not so good about California is the politics.  It is a liberal progressive’s dream come alive and the results are finally coming in: California has the highest poverty rate in the nation if you adjust it by the cost of living.

Another thing that is not so great here is the spectacular stupidity that is our gun laws.  I am not going to bore you with all the details, but basically as of now, if you have a semi-auto centerfire rifle like an AR-15, you either have to register it with the state as an assault weapon (which means that you can not sell it within the state or if something happens to you, the state will confiscate it as it can not be inherited by your children) or you can go “featureless”.



Here is what “featureless” means: the cretins here in PRK who make these laws have decided that certain features in a rifle make it inherently dangerous and the public can not be trusted with them.  In a nutshell, you can not have a rifle with a detachable magazine and a pistol grip (or thumbhole stock).  Other things you can not have are collapsible stocks, flash hiders, bayonet mounts and forward pistol grip.  If you have two or more of these features, it is an assault weapon and, apparently, (sarcasm on) if you own a rifle so configured you are just bound to head out and mow down a bus full of nuns (sarcasm).  If you are trying to figure out how this makes sense, don’t.  It doesn’t.  Everyone knows it doesn’t.  The state of California wants the citizens fully disarmed.  They have, apparently decided that an outright ban is not going to work, so they are simply making owning guns in California sufficiently inconvenient to gradually chip away at it until noone here has them.

I think that their pipe dream is unlikely to come true.  There are approximately 18 million gun owners in California and every time our knuckle dragging, booger eating, mouth breathing elected officials in Sacramento come up with some new insane regulation, within days someone comes up with a workaround.

Basically, everyone is going featureless and to do that, the key thing is to do away with the pistol grip.  There are a few ways to do so and when you see an AR-15 in my pictures with a very funky looking stock, that is why: I had to go featureless.  I have decided to experiment with different featureless arrangements, and have tried most of them at this point.

The three most developed options are, I think, Thordsen FRS-15 stock, Hera Arms CQR stock and Juggernaut Tactical (JT) stock.

FRS-15 stock sorta mimicks the handling of a hunting rifle to a good degree:

Thordsen FRS-15 stock (tested with my 458 SOCOM)

Thordsen FRS-15 stock (tested with my 458 SOCOM)

It looks a little odd, but is reasonably comfortable and gives you a good degree of control.  Safety selector manipulation is a little tricky though.  The deal with wrapping your thumb around the grip is, best I can tell, is as follows:  if it is possible to wrap your thumb around the grip below the highest point of the trigger, you are basically a “mass murderer in waiting”.  On the other hand if the shape of the grip takes your thumb above the highest point of the trigger blade (or trigger pin, I am not sure), then you are no longer a menace to society.  Makes total sense, right?

Hera Arms CQR and Juggernaut Tactical (JT) stocks on the other hand retain the grip angle of the proper AR grip except without the ability to wrap your thumb around the grip:

Hera Rms CQR on the left; JT on the right

Hera Rms CQR on the left; JT on the right

Hera Arms stock is an integrated design that  incorporates the buttstock and grip into a single unit complete with several sling attachment points and potential changes in length of pull via buttpad spacers.  The small black cover on the bottom of the stock toward the back conceals a plastic Picatinny rail that can be used for alternative sling attachment points or a monopod.  The CQR stock in free states is sold as a thumbhole design, but for us in the PRK, it is sold with a black plastic plate that covers the thumbhole.  That plate can be removed in a non-destructive manner in a few minutes of removing screws.  For people like me who go to free states to take classes occasionally, this is a nice feature.  While shooting in California, you get to keep your thumb on the right side of the action, where it naturally rests on the safety selector switch (an ambidextrous safety is a necessity in this case and a short throw design makes for a more comfortable thumbrest).

JT stock quite simply retains the regular AR grip, so you can choose something that works for you.  The metal part right behind the grip is an integral part of the stock, so if you move to one of the three states, you can’t easily remove it.  One interesting feature of this stock is that it does away with the extension tube entirely and since it is made of rather thick aluminum, it makes for a rather smooth shooting experience without the annoying “twang” of the spring.  Another interesting feature of the JT stock is that it comes with a replacement rear takedown pin that incorporates a shelf of sorts for your thumb:

JT Thumbrest

JT Thumbrest

That helps shooting comfort a fair bit, but makes safety manipulation a little more difficult.

On balance all three options work.  I think overall I like the Hera Arms CQR the most so far on a low recoiling gun, but it will take a little more testing to be sure.

For kickers, like my 458 SOCOM, Thordsen FRS-15 has a lot to recommend itself.  Being able to actually have a proper grip really helps control the movement of the rifle (when you light off a 300gr pill heading out at 1900+ fps out of an AR-15, there is a lot more movement to the rifle then you get with 5.56).

The other option that I have not discussed is simply setting up a fixed length stock (remember, in California speak, “collapsible stock”=”mass murderer”) and a separate grip that does not allow you to wrap your thumb around.  The original such grip was the MonsterGrip and there are quite a few newer and cheaper versions that seemingly take a standard grip and add a fin on the back.  If you like your particular grip, you can also wrap it in kydex and create a fin on the back that prevents the wraparound grip.  The advantage of newer such grips and of the wrap around method is that the grip angle is the same as on normal ARs.  The original MonsterGrip slants back more.  I will revisit these in a little bit and post some pictures.

I am sorta attracted to the idea having a kydex wrap for one of my grips.  That way, if you head out to one of the free states to go hunting or for a training class, you can remove the kydex wrap for a few days.

 Posted by at 8:27 am
Feb 072017
 

Just like the videos (here), this is going to be long and laborious.  If you manage to make your way through this whole thing, pour yourself a nice bourbon.  Personally, I am starting with the bourbon now, as I write this.  I suspect, it will be a living document for a few days (so Scotch and Rum might be involved in some stages of this creative process).




Docter Optics

DocterSight G

I liked the DocterSight III quite a bit, so I made sure I visit Docter Optics at SHOT.  They are now owned by a company called Noblex.  I am not sure what that means for Docter, but I hope that means more funding for R&D and increased marketing reach.  Docter is one of those German companies that I can never quite figure out like Kaps or Nickel.  I know Docter has an arm that deals with the military side of things since I have run into theei US arm in the past.  In the commercial world, Docter has a fairly complete line of hunting scope and a few offerings intended for some sort of competition use.  I am not up to speed on the types of competitions that exist in Europe, but it sounds like a low range variable scope with a simple dot reticle and bright illumination is just the ticket for that.  Aside from that, these all look like very solid scopes with the V6 line standing out to me as the more modern offerings that probably go head to head price-wise against Meopta’s MeoStar R2 line, the new Leupold VX-6HD and a few others.  I honestly do not know where these sit quality wise, but they looked pretty good offhand, so I will make sure I look at one.  I think the V6 2-12×50 will be an interesting design to mount on my 280Rem and test.  It looks like it only comes with the #4 reticle which I happen to like, but the illumination system looks to be exceptionally well worked out.  There are quite a few other magnified scopes in the Docter line-up (some come with intersting colors…), but I have to start somewhere and I think I will start with the V6.

I think these are Cerakoted...

I think these are Cerakoted…

On the red dot sight, they have a couple of products that got my interest.  The new DocterSight G is the next evolution of their miniature reflex sight, but with a much larger lens, so I expect it to be notably quicker to pick up.  It will also have manual intensity adjustment.  I expect it to land on our shores toward the end of the year and I will test it then.  Quicksight, is on the other end of the spectrum: it is a freakishly small reflex sight intended for shotguns.

Docter Optics QuickSight

Docter Optics QuickSight

It has a different construction which allows it to have a very low axis.   The construction uses some sort of a prism to redirect the projected dot, so the LED can be set underneath the lens.  That way the body you can see to the right of the lens is basically just a battery compartment.  Vertically, the sight is extremely short and low profile.  Looking it over, I did not see any means of adjusting POA, so I suspect that on shotguns, it clips to the top rib of the barrel and is considered to be more or less sighted in by design.  I would like to test that theory.

In short, I see some things at Docter that are very traditional and some are pretty innovative.

 

Janz Revolvers

They were right next to Docter and the revolver there looked very cool with interchangeable barrels, cylinders, etc.  Once I learned that these start at around $6k, I walked away, but not before taking a couple of pictures.

Janz

Janz

The whole kit.

The whole kit.

 

EOTech

EOTech had some reasonably well publicised issues involving their holographic sights which tarnished both the company and product in many ways.  Beyond this acknowledgement, I will pretty much ignore all of that sordid history and focus on the new products.  New products in question are Vudu riflescopes.  Finally, EOTech offers a line of proper magnified sights and they seem to be pretty decent magnified sights.  What I am not entirely sure of, is whether they are sufficiently differentiated from everybody else on the market who uses LOW’s OEM designs.  What I do not know is whether EOTech has made any modification to these LOW designs outside of their own reticles and external cosmetics.  The EOTech person I talked to said there was some additional customization, but I do not have an easy way to verify that.  There are four riflescopes in the Vudu product line: 1-6×24, 2.5-10×44, 3.5-18×50 and 8-32×56.  There are some discrepancies between the brochures I picked up at SHOT and the information on the website, but best I can tell, 1-6×24 and 2.5-10×44 are available as FFP models only, while 3.5-18×50 and 8-32×50 are available in both FFP and SFP configuration.

EOTech Vudu 1-6x24

EOTech Vudu 1-6×24

The two reticles available in the 1-6×24 both built on the original circle-dot theme of the HWS.  There is a 65 MOA circle that makes for a very quick CQB aiming point.  However at 6x, it disappears outside the FOV and whatever is in the center of the reticle can be used for more precise shots.  There you have an option of either a mil-scale or a horseshoe with caliber specific holdovers for either 5.56 or 7.62.

The reticles in the other scopes are fairly simple designs that look a little bit like Gen 2 MilDot (or Sig’s milling reticle) and are available in two versions: mrad-based and MOA-based.  They look like perfectly respectable reticles, but I am surprised EOTech is not offering something along the lines of a Christmas tree or grid style reticle.  I could have sworn I saw mention of H59 somewhere in the past, but I can’t find it anywhere now.  Honestly, I think that is an oversight.   I am curious to see how these scopes will do, so I sent an e-mail to the gentleman I talked to at SHOT to see if they are willing to lend me one to play with.  The model I am most interested in is the 2.5-10×44.  It is a very underlooked configuration and there are very few of these in FFP form.  My plan is to compare it to US Optics B-10 1.8-10×42.

EOTech Vudu riflescopes and Q's

EOTech Vudu riflescopes and Q’s “The Fix” rifles

Oddly enough an item that caused a lot of interest in the EOTech booth was the rifle that a couple of the scopes were mounted on.  The rifle in question is called “The Fix” by Q LLC.  Best I can tell, Q employs a bunch of people that used to work at Sig and AAC.  I am not sure if either one of those companies has a financial interest in Q and do not particularly care.  The rifles were interesting and, unlike most modern chassis-style rifles, quite light.  I made a mental note to look them up and I did. And then I pre-ordered one.  I like the idea of huting with the same gun I use for precision shooting and my Desert Tech is a bit too heavy for that.  The Fix with a 16″ 308Win barrel weights right around 6lbs and takes a regualr LR-308 magazine that costs abotu $20.  A Desert Tech Covert with a 16″ 308WIn barrel weighs around 10lbs and the magazines are $100 each.  Desert Tech is probably a better precision platform.  I like the bullpup configuration and its weight distribution, I like the quick change barrels.  However, if I wanted to buy a Covert to add to me Gen 1 Desert Tech SRS, I’d be out around $5500.  The Fix is $2800 and weights four pounds less.  If it proves accurate enough for my needs, I’ll have to pull off some sort of a miracle of self-persuasion to keep my old SRS.  Ultimately, that will become the question of how much I want to keep my 338LM.

 

Nightforce Optics

There were two fairly new things at Nightforce booth this year: ATACR F1 7-35×56 and SR-1 Competition 4.5×24 scope.  Both were announced a bit before SHOT, but that was the first time I got to see them.  The little 4.5×24 looked mighty appealing to me (I like compact fixed power scopes, probably owing to how much time I have spent with various Mosin PU scopes) until I figured out that it costs right around $1900.  I will freely admit that it looks like a very well optimized scope and I am sure it will do well with service rifle competitors, but I am having a hard time justifying that cost for a fixed power scope.  Then again, I am not a service rifle competitor, so I might be missing something.  Also, it is cheaper than the March 1-4.5×24 that is also new this year.  On the other side of the spectrum the FFP 7-35×56 ATACR is intended for a very different audience and I suspect it will do very well with precision rifle shooters.  It is pretty expensive at right around $3500, but that is more or less in line with the competition, although in all fairness, if you want more than 30x in a FFP scope there isn’t that much competion out there.  S&B 5-45×56 is close to $5k.  March 5-40×56 is probably the closest and it costs about the same.  There were two 7-35x56s sitting in the Nightforce booth and one looked excellent while the other seemed a little iffy.  I am guessing these were prototypes of some sort, but in the meantime I asked Nightforce to send me one of these for T&E.  I really liked the 4-16×42 ATACR F1, so my expectations for the 7-35×56 are pretty high.  I have not shot my 338LM in a little bit.  This will be a good opportunity to do so.

Trijicon

The big recent news with Trijicon is their acquisition of IR Hunter.  That was a shrewd move on their part.  In my opinon these are the best engineered of the commercially available thermal sights.  Now, with Trijicon’s marketing muscle behind them, we will likely see them get a bit more traction.  The first obvious effect though is that the price has gone up…  Now, in principle, Trijicon has something to offer regardless of the type of a weapon sight you are looking for.  Between RMR and MRO the have some of the better red dot sights on the market.  ACOGs and Compact ACOGs continue to do well (although some could models stand a refresh).  Accupoint and Accupower cover conventional riflescopes fairly well, while TARS serves the precision market (not sure how much impact it has had).

Trijicon MRO

Trijicon MRO

On the non-thermal side of things there is a new version of the MRO called “patrol” or something along those lines, which is the original MRO with a different mount and some accessories.  I really like the MRO and prefer it over the Aimpoint Micro, and the new mount is a solid improvement.  THe top mounted control dial is much easier for me to use with either hand than most other arrangements.  As far as small tubualr red dot sights go, I sorta settled on the MRO is being my overall favourite with Hi-Lux MM2 being the bang for the buck champ.

 

There is also a new Accupower, and it is an interesting design being a FFP 1-8×28.

Trijicon 1-8x28

Trijicon 1-8×28

A slightly larger than the more common 24mm objective might make a difference at 8x.  Aside from that, it looks suspiciously similar to the 1-8×24 design that Light Optical Works from Japan makes for a bunch of other people.  That is not a bad thing since this is a very respectable design, but I am not really sure what changes Trijicon has introduced other than a slight bump in objective diameter.  The reticles are simple and fairly effective designs: broken circle and a ranging scale.  There are two versions, one with mrad scale and another with MOA scale.

I have mixed feelings about broken circle designs.  They work adequately well, but a solid circle or a solid horseshoe is, I think a better option.    One other nice feature thing is a removable cat tail.

I asked Trijicon who I should talk to if I want to borrow one of these for T&E, and they gave me a business card for a gentleman named Eddie Stevenson who is the President of Driftwood Media.  Apparently, that is Trijicon’s PR firm.  I reached out to Eddie and got a fairly quick reply politely asking who I am.  I told him what I do here and never heard back from him.  He is either really busy, or he deemed that I am not worthy of testing the new Trijicon.  I might still borrow one from one of my dealer/distributor friends, but that sorta depends on how busy I am in this coming year.  In years past, I tried to get my hands on every new scope in some manner, but that was before I was married and with kids.  Nowadays, I follow the path of least resistance: I figure out what I want to compare, reach out to the makers and spend whatever time I have on the actual testing process.  If I have to spend time chasing after a manufacturer or, in this case, a PR firm, that’s basically a non-starter for me.  Most of the time, that means they will not deal with writers whose opinion they can not easily influence (via advertising revenue or other means), and I do not feel like delving into figuring this out.




Juggernaut Tactical

I had never heard of Juggernaut Tactical before, although they, like me, live behind enemy lines (in California) and have to comply with California insane laws.

JT CA-compliant Stock for AR-type rifles

JT’s CA-compliant Stock for AR-type rifles

They make a lot of miscellaneous parts for semiauto rifles including a bullpup chassis for M1A and a bunch of other things.  What attracted my interest was there CA-compliant AR stock.  It replaces the buffer tube and provides a pretty good way to make a “featureless” CA-compliant AR-15 or LR-308.  Interestingly, the part of the buttstock that replaces the buffer tube is apparently three times thicker and it feels exceptionally sturdy.  They also tell me, it gets rif of that annoying twang sound AR buffer tubes make.  It comes with an extended takedown pin that serves as a thumb rest and still allows yo to use your original pistol grip (except you cant wrap you thumb around it).  The length of pull was about right for me, and I think it will serve well on my LR-308 when it finally comes out.

Kel-tec

I always stop by the Kel-tec booth to see what they have that is new.  They are an innovative company that really needs more manufacturing capacity.  What has a really got my interest lately with Kel-tec is their RDB-C rifle.  It is a semi-automatic bullpup rifle that does not have a pistol grip.  What it does have is a very respectable trigger.  Since there is no pistol grip, it should be allowed in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia.  It was surprisingly comfortable to hold and when equipped with a 20″ barrel, the overall length is just over 30″.  If they actually make it, they will have the bulk of the California market to themselves.  They have a 5.56 variant and they are working on a 6.5Grendel one.  I will buy both when available.

US Optics

I’ve always had a somewhat complicated relationship with US Optics.  I like a lot about this company, but for a little bit I thought that the market has sorta passed them buy.  They did not have a whole lot of new development (they did have some with low range variables) and while I am a big fan of the EREK knob, I do not like the low magnification tunneling and I did not like how much their scopes cost.  This year, they’ve got the new B-series scopes which are newer iterations of the original 1.8-10x, 3.2x-17 and 5-25 designs called B-10, B-17 and B-25 respectively.  They told me that there were some changes in the system that helped with the tunneling and the turret box was redesigned a bit to be more streamlined.  The tunneling is still there, but looks less pronounced.  The elevation turret is still excellent, and, very importantly, the pricing is a bit more reasonable, at least for the B-10 which lists somewhere around $1700.  B-17 and B-25 list at $2300 and $3300 respectively.   B-10 is the one that I would like to look at.  It is reasonably compact and I really want to give the new turrets a workout with the new zero stop design, tool-less zero, etc.  I glanced at their website and it looks like they are still making changes to it.  At the moment they’ve got some rather questionable product categories there, but I will reserve judgement until it is all updated.

Shield Sights

This is a British company I stumbled onto purely by accident.  Apparently, they make Jpoint and have, in the past made a bunch of miniature reflex sights for others, like Trijicon.  They are now marketing their sights under their own brand and best I can tell, they have been in use by British military for quite some time.  There is a rumor floating around that their rifle sight (either SQS or SIS, I guess) proved to be more reliable than Aimpoint Micro in some British trials.  If true, that is pretty impressive.  Aimpoint Micro is a nice sight.  Shield currently has for reflex sights in their product line.  The original miniature reflex sight is called SMS (Shield Mini Sight) is what you get if you order a Jpoint and a few other sights.  Best I can tell, this is the only one that Shield OEMs for others.  The other models are RMS (Reflex Mini Sight), CQS (Close Quarter Sportsight) and  SIS (Switchable Interface Sight).

Shield SIS

The SIS feature list, interestingly, enough, looks like someone reached into my notes and made a carbine/backup sight based on them: it has three auto adjust modes and a manual adjust mode, it has four reticles you can switch between (8MOA dot, 4MOA dot, 1MOA dot with a 65MOA ring made out of 12 dots, and SIS 2MOA bullet drop).  It also looks pretty indestructible and very compact.  The SIS 2MOA bullet drop reticle is unique to the SIS, while the other four reticle are available in the other sights as well.

 

1MOA with 65MAO circle reticle

 

CQS looks pretty similar to the SIS, so I am assuming it is the earlier version.  That is the sight that is in service with the British military.  Like the SIS and RMS, it has an aluminum body (earlier SMS has a plastic body).  You lose some of the options you have with the SIS and save about a hundred bucks.  I think SIS runs ~$500 and CQS runs around $400, so they are up against some pretty serious competition, and I am very curious to see how they stack up.

Shield RMS

Shield RMS

For handguns, the sight that really got my attention is the RMS.  It has the lowest base of any red dot I have seen and looks like it would be a perfect match for cowitnessing iron sights.  With the proprietary plate, it cowitnesses with standard Glock sights, which is kinda remarkable.  Basically, the body of the sight below the lens is concealed by the rear sight and does not interfere with the sight picture.  That means that all the presentation drills I do with iron sights are not wasted.  With RMS, I do not have to change a thing.

I sent the gentleman who owns Shield an e-mail to see if I can get my hands on one.  We will see how it goes, but I am pretty pumped about these.

 

Nite-Site

Another British company around the corner from Shield was Nite-Eyes.  I was probably pre-dispositioned to not take them very seriously since I have a pet peeve about intentionally misspelling words.  I am not sure what the reasoning is behind butchering the words “Night” and “Sight”.  Maybe they were trying to write in ebonics or something.  I was not born in this country and I worked very hard to learn this language.  I sorta take it personally when people butcher it for no good reason.

Nite-Site gizmo

Nite-Site gizmo

 

This company makes a Near InfraRed camera that clamps onto your scope and blasts the image from the eyepiece onto a screen that hangs a few inches above the scope.  The gizmo with the screen also contains a NIR illuminator that points in the same direction as the barrel.  I see a few problems with this approach.  First of all, if you are shooting a rifle with any sort of recoil, that camera will smack you in the face.  Looking up at that screen while shooting is very unnatural and breaks your cheekweld, since looking at the screen without breaking your cheekweld did not work for me due to camera housing blocking the line of sight.  Then again, they had it all set up with on a Rudolph scope, which kinda stands to reason…  On a plus side, the had a standalone system that was essentially a NIR spotter: it integrates a NIR camera and illuminator into one module with a screen on the back.  That seems like a perfectly viable idea except for some ergonomic issues.  They claim that it is designed to spot things  out to several hundred yards which requires some means of holding it in a stable manner.  The way it is right now is not conducive to that.  Still, that is a fairly clever gadget, while their system that attaches to a scope is… well, I think you worked out what I think about it.

Sightron

Sightron did not have too many new things  this time around.  They now offer simple plex reticles in some of their high magnification scopes.  There is a new small rimfire scope in the SIH line (3-9×32) which looks like a pretty nice little scope, but a simple crosshair reticle it comes with is not my cup of tea.  I think there were a couple of new SII Blue Sky spotters as well.  The two announcements that are of interest to me were in two far removed from each other market segments: miniature red dots sights and ultra high magnification target scopes.

ED Glass in Sightron's next to of the line scope

ED Glass in Sightron’s next to of the line scope

I spent a lot of time with Sightron’s SV 10-50×60 target scope and really liked the innovative dual speed side focus.  That scope was almost good enough to go head to head with the Marches of this world, but did have some annoying CA at high magnification.  More importantly, Vortex’ new Golden Eagle cost a bit less and performs better at high mag.  Now, Sightron has updated this scope with ED glass, which should help at high mag.  It should be out in late spring some time and I will make sure I get my hands on it.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, it looks like Sightron is finally getting into the miniature red dot sight business with their new SRS6 that features a 6MOA dot and a battery compartment accessible form the top.  I’ll make sure I look at that one too.

 Posted by at 2:13 pm
Feb 012017
 

While I work on the pictures and some written commentary, here are the video clips of my ramblings after SHOT.  I apologize about how disorganized these are, but they are mostly intended as a means for me to record my impressions before they fade.

These are long and meandering, so watch at your own risk…




 

 

 Posted by at 10:45 am
Oct 292016
 

Following on the hills of the initial issues I had, my problems with the TNW ASR are continuing.  Here is the previous post on this subject:

http://opticsthoughts.com/?p=1696

I finally managed to get a couple of hundred rounds through it and since it is still about as reliable as a politician’s promise, I sent TNW’s tech support an e-mail.

Here is the text of the e-mail in its entirety:

I recently purchased an ASR from you chambered in 10mm.

I fired of a couple of hundred rounds as a break-in of sorts, but the situation is not improving, so I figured I should contact you and see if you have any suggestions.

  • The rifle is not very good in getting a round into the chamber.  On an initial round, where I manually cycle the bolt (I pull it all the way back and let it go), the round does not go into the chamber.  It looks like the nose of the bullet hits the fed ramp and bounces up, Instead of going into the chamber, the round is stuck pointing upwards.  Once I get a round chambered (by manually inserting it into the chamber and closing the bolt on top), the rifle fires and the next round is successfully chambered about eighty percent of the time.  The rest of the time, there is the same failure to feed and I have to start over with the manual chambering.
  • About fifty rounds ago, the rifle stopped firing altogether.  When I took the bolt out of the receiver, I noticed that the firing pin is frozen in place.  I carefully tapped it out and discovered that the back of the bolt is all chewed up from the impact of the hammer.  It is apparently so soft that it deformed into the firing pin channel and prevented it from moving.  I gently removed the deformation and chamfered the back opening of the firing pin channel. That got the firing pin working again, but I am a little concerned that if I continue using the rifle, it will get deformed again.  Honestly, it sounds like the heat treat on the bolt is not quite right.  I would not expect it to be that soft.

Any suggestions?

I’ll let you know if they come up with anything good.

So far, I am more than a little disappointed.  ASR stands for “Aero Survivial Rifle”.  In principle, it would be a good survival rifle, since it can be taken down and transported in a very compact bag.  I like survival guns and have reasonable familiarity with several of them.  They are often crude, but decently reliable.  To trust a gun to be a survival tool, you have to have faith in it.  At this stage in the game, I have about as much faith in the ASR as I do in the ethics of news reporters’.

At this stage, if I can get the reliability issue worked out, it will take a fair amount of reliable operation to restore my faith.  Until then, this is a rather expensive project gun that I have to tinker with.  In principle, I suspect that polishing the feed ramp with some JB paste might do the trick, but I will wait for TNW’s response prior to doing that.

 

 Posted by at 8:41 pm
Oct 222016
 

Written October 22nd, 2016

DocterSight III

 

I have been looking into various miniature red dot sights for quite some time.  I typically use them as auxilliary sights to the primary magnified optics, but I did put together an article focused on a couple of specimens: Leupold Deltapoint and Vortex Razor (here).  I liked both of them pretty well, but they also had a few shortcomings.  Also, I realized that the type of shooting I typically do is not conducive to giving red dot sights a fair shake.  I am a precision guy at heart, and that is not what these sights are designed for.

That did not mean that I stopped looking at reflex sights, but I did start expanding my shooting practice into other disciplines and, a couple of weeks ago, I finally made it out to Frontsight for a rifle class.  This class had a very brief stint shooting from 200 yards, but the bulk of the shooting was from closer distances, mostly within 50 yards, which is red dot territory by and large.  On top of that, I suffered a leg injury early in the class, so I had to shoot standing from all distances even when other positions were available.  Trying to get into any other shooting position was painful.  Even though I had both a magnified sight and a red dot on my rifle, I ended up using a red dot a lot more than I originally thought.

For me a rifle class is both a training opportunity (especially since shooting offhand is easily my weakest discipline) and an opportunity to test different optics.  I went there with my brother and my nephew and since I had three rifles to set up, I had a chance to look at several sighting systems.

As far as reflex sights go, I had the following with me:

  • DocterSight III (mounted on top of my Elcan Spectre OS 4x)
  • Meopta Meosight III (on the rifle that also had Elcan Spectre 3x)
  • Vortex Sparc AR (with a VMX3 magnifier)
  • Leupold LCO (together with a D-EVO)

 

I will talk about most of these other sights in separate pieces, but I will mention them here and there.




In principle, the DocterSight competes directly against the Meosight and they look very similar, to the point that they even use the same mounts.  However, there are a couple of important differences in how they operate.

DocterSight does not really have any external controls per se.  Once the cover is off, it senses ambient light level and adjusts the dot brightness accordingly.  Generally, that is a pretty good way to go, except for one problem: if you are in a shaded place, but your target is brightly illuminated, the dot might not be bright enough.  To be honest, that is how this whole idea of looking at the DocterSight III started.  I was roaming around SHOT Show earlier this year and upon stumbling onto the Docter booth, I blurted out something along the lines of: “nice sights, but I’ve got some issues with the operating method”.  Going forward, I think I will try to first see what is new in the booth before voicing opinions, since the very pleasant lady at the Docter booth, instead of telling me to shove my opinions where the sun don’t shine, cheerily suggested that I looked at their latest iteration of a reflex sight, namely the DocterSight III.  

DocterSight III, unlike its predecessors supports three different operating modes.  All three involve automatic adjustment with light level changes, but they can now accommodate the variable lighting situations I have described earlier.  Here is an excerpt, from the product manual:

operatingmodes

Keep in mind that this is a log-log plot, so the actual perceived brightnesss difference between the modes is significant.  In order to switch between operating modes, there is a magnetic switch integrated into the front right corner of the sight body and a magnet incorporated into the sight cover.  Hold the magnet to the switch for three seconds and you go to a different mode.  Here is another illustration from the manual:

switchingmodes

Basically, I had to eat some crow.  It is not my favourite thing to do, but that is what I get for talking too much.

I was pretty busy earlier in the year, but in late summer I reached out to Docter and asked for a sample of DocterSight III that I can take with me to the rifle class.

The first thing I did, was try to throw different lighting conditions at the DocterSight III to test all these operating modes and it passed that first test with flying colors.  

Then, I mounted it on my rifle and headed to the range.

 

Sighting it in was pretty trivial.  The adjustment screws require a small flat screwdriver, which is provided with the sight.  They also provide a reference disk that you can affix to the screwdriver and that tells you how much you need to turn the adjustment screws to move the POI.  While I freely admit that it is a good idea, I ignored all that and made some educated guesses.  THe basic process is simple: loosen the set screws on the back, adjust windage and elevation, tighten the set screws again.  I suspect that instead of taking about ten shots to get a basic zero, it would have taken my five, but I can live with that.  Once I got the initial zero, I proceeded to settle down and, taking my time and paying attention the fundamentals, fire off twenty shots without fiddling with anything.  That tells me a couple of things:

1) it is the first rudimentary check on whether the sight is holding zero

2) if you do this, you really get an idea of where your zero is.  Basing it on an aggregate of twenty shots is much more trustworthy than on three.    

I had to make one small adjustment after that and we were off to the races, so to speak.

After that, I spent a fair amount of time setting up other rifles and did not shoot with the DocterSight a whole lot until we headed off to FrontSight.  I did shoot it side by side with the Meopta MeoSight III a fair bit, and one interesting thing that came up was that the dot on the Docter optic had sharper edges.  The MeoSight seemed to have a bit more of a starburst effect to my eyes.  Now, I have a slight astigmatism, so the dot is not perfectly round to me, but with the DocterSight, in slow fire, I could use the edge of the dot for aiming.  With the other red dot sights I had, I could not do that as easily.  Frankly, I have not spent too much time digging into that so far, but I will.  Generally, that blooming effect is usually due to the dot being too bright, but with MeoSight I was running in the manual mode (it has both a manual mode and an Autoadjust mode), so I tried to decrease dot brightness.  The dot was still sharper on the Docter.  Weirdly, the dot in the Leupold LCO and Vortex Sparc AR was also less well defined than in the Docter.

During the class, all reflex sights I had functioned without issues, but I had the most time with the Doctersight and it worked beautifully.  I had some initial concerns that the speed of finding the dot might be a problem due to the sight sitting above the primary sight, but those concerns turned out to be unfounded.  

The 3.5 MOA dot size turned out to be just right for my purposes.  I generally like smaller dots and I think the 7 MOA is better suited for handguns, while the 3.5 MOA was just right on a rifle.

Despite some fairly rough handling the sight stayed zeroed and never gave me a hint of trouble.  I am not sure what the battery life will be, but so far I have not had to change it.  I’ll keep using it and see how long it lasts.  In order to change the battery, I have to remove the sight from the mounting plate, so one of the things I want to keep track of is whether that causes a significant POI change.  Interestingly, some competing designs, like the Razor and Meosight, have a sidemounted tray that holds the battery, while some others, like the Deltapoint Pro and FastFire access the battery from the top.  I am a bit mixed on what is the better way, so it will take some experimentation.  I suspect that accessing the battery from the bottom aids reliability and compactness.  With the side mounted battery, keeping the contacts always connected might be more of a challenge, although I have not run into these issues.  Top acces battery is likely to require a larger sight body and might interfere with LED placement.  Either way, that is one of the things I plan to investigate going forward.

Fundamentally, I like this sight a fair bit and, honestly, more than I thought I would.  I will keep it on my AR for now.  At a later point, I might try it on my Glock.

As I wrap up with my testing, I’ll put together some final thoughts and, naturally, if I run into issues, I will report those as well.  For now, I am pretty impressed with what I see.

 Posted by at 11:11 pm
Oct 212016
 

I mentioned this little carbine a while back:

Pistol Caliber Carbines from TNW Firearms

I finally managed to get my hands on one in 10mm and dragged it out to the range together with my longslide Glock that takes the same magazines.

I really like the concept of this carbine: it is easy to take down and it is very handy.  Also, a 10mm cartridge out of a 16mm barrel is a pretty potent beast.

Now, I understand that firearms need some break in, so I am not going to form any major conclusions yet.  However, of the three ammo types I brought with me, it only fed with one: 180gr FMJ Armscor.  I had two Double Tap loads with me, 135gr HP and 230gr Hardcast and neither would feed.

The trigger is quite possibly the worst I have tried on any modern firearm and the grip it comes with must have been selected specifically to be so uncomfortable that I do not pay too much attention to the trigger.

Once I got a round in the chamber and muscled my way through the trigger, the gun went boom every time and ejected a spent case every time.

I chrono’ed the velocities and they were within expectation.

I will take it apart and take a close look at what is happening inside.  I can see where the cartridges are getting hung up and causing failures to feed, so perhaps I will need to do some minor surgery to that spot. That will wait a bit though since I will first get a couple of hundreds of rounds through it as a break-in process of sorts.  If it still gives me issues, I will give TNW a call and see what they say about it.

Stay tuned…




 Posted by at 7:57 pm