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TangoDown ARC Magazine

3/30/09 - The ARC (Advanced Reliability Combat) Magazine from TangoDown is a polymer magazine designed for the SCAR, M4-series of 5.56x45mm weapons with true 30-round capacity.

The ARC was originally designed for the FN SCAR-Light, but will also fit the M16/M4/AR-series of rifles, plus the M-249 weapon system. Two versions are available; one aimed at the military user and a commercial variant for all other users. The difference between them is the presence of a ridge/lip around the magazine body with a soft die-cut 'gasket' that seals against the magazine well on the military model; the 'sand seal', preventing sand and debris from entering via the mag well. The ARC/L-001 is the military model and the ARC/L-001C is the commercial model, without the seal.

General Description - The ARC utilizes polymer construction to provide smooth, dependable feeding in a corrision-proof unitized body. The body is of a two-piece, modular design - the top portion comes in the military and commercial versions (with and without lip/seal), and is molded only in black, and is of a different material from the lower portion. The feed lips are oversized and will take abuse that would damage aluminum or steel feed lips. The top portion has a straight feed column instead of constant radius, matching the straight magazine well of the weapons it fits into. It is designed to drop free from any weapons system, and will also seat easily in a bolt-forward weapon fully loaded wtih 30 rounds. The material/ARC mag has been tested in both cold and hot operating temperatures. The only issue I had with the upper portion is that since the rounds are tapered, the top round will want to point lower than in some other mags. I have not yet experienced a feeding problem while shooting the ARC in my rifles, but when I wanted to extract rounds from the mag by hand, I'd have to press on the back of the round to tip the bullet up and slide it out.

The lower portion is permanently bonded to the upper portion with industrial adhesive that exceeds the strength of the base material, and can be produced in different colours and capacities (30 rounds is the initial offering at the time of this writing). It has a radiused curve, that transitions to the straight feed in the upper portion. The lower portion is completely sealed, with no floor plate. This produces a very strong, crush-resistant 5-sided box construction. The ARC is essentially a 'sealed' design that cannot be disassembled, the idea being to seal the inside of the magazine as much as possible from the environment when inserted into the weapon.

The lower portion has a waffle pattern molded into it, which further strengthens the walls and also provides improved purchase when gripping the mag. Serrations are molded along the front and back spines to eliminate slippage when pushing or pulling on the magazine. The lower portion is currently molded in black, SOCOM FDE (flat dark earth) and foliage green. A translucent lower portion is in the works (see below).

 


ARC/L-001



 

The white polymer follower is a no-tilt design that is extremely slick and slides inside the body without noticeable resistance. It has slots/holes in it to facilitate maintenance. While the magazine cannot be disassembled, the recommend procedure for cleaning it is to spray compressed air or a water jet into the magazine through the slots while holding it upside down. Debris or sand will exit through the slots in the follower. No further maintenance is required. Magazines are designed to be expendable items, and while the ARC should last a very long time, it should be discarded if it fails for some reason.

The spring is chrome silicon which is heat treated, stress relieved and moly coated.

 


ARC/L-001C




Feed lips and follower

Solid bottom

 

Observations and notes - The ARC feels extremely solid; no Orlite or Thermold feel here. Pre-production prototypes (like the military ARC/L-001 shown above) had a smooth finish, but the production ones (the ARC/L-001C) have a non-glare, bead blasted finish. It should be noted that the military version with the seal will not fit into most mag pouches designed for USGI dimensions, due to the added dimensions. I did find that two of them would fit my EMDOM M4/AK mag pouches, which are designed to accomodate oversized mags like the AK and Pmags, and are loose enough to accomodate the military ARC. The front mag lip needs to be staggered above that of the rear mag so that it doesn't hang up when extracted from the pouch.

The commercial ARC without the lip will fit most mag pouches, but could be a tight fit if the pouches are designed to hold USGI mags tightly. This is because the lower portion of the ARC is wider than a USGI aluminum mag by about 0.15". Again, they fit my EMDOM M4/AK pouches perfectly.

All standard mag loaders can be used on the ARC like the MagLULA, StripLULA (shown below), Beta-CMAG loaders and USGI stripper clip guides. 30 rounds load with ease and a full mag can be inserted into my carbines with the bolt forward. I tested the ARC mags on four different lower receivers and they dropped free from all of them.

 


Use with Strip LULA

Visual comparison with other mags



Translucent mag


 

At the range - TangoDown had put the ARC mags through extensive testing, so I expected nothing less than stellar performance from them. They didn't disappoint, and I had no magazine-related issues of any kind at t a couple of range sessions. I put about 500 rounds through my three samples, with my Addax GPU gas piston upper, LMT MRP and old Colt SP1. Yes, it's a small sample that doesn't say much, but for now, that's all I've put through them. I did notice that the ARC mags seat very positively in the magazine well - more so than USGI mags. Once in a while, I'll get that 'is the mag seated?' feel from full (28 rounds) USGI mags (due to a not aggressive enough insertion - my fault), and sure enough, it'll pull out in my hand when I tug on it, but the ARC allowed the mag catch more positively it felt, on a full mag.

Using my EMDOM AK/M4 mag pouches, the ARC waffle pattern and serrations provided a pretty secure grip on the body of the mag during extraction from the pouch and also the push-pull upon insertion into the mag well. I would, however, like to see the bottom three waffle rectangles filled with texture like on their BattleGrips and the serrations made sharper for an even better purchase. As they are, the serrations are quite rounded. I added some texture with a soldering iron tip (photo below) and I feel that I can get a better grip on the bottom of the mag when drawing it out of a pouch.

Like any other product that has to be proven, only time will tell how well the ARC mags hold up, but they look very promising.

 


ARC/L-001C





TangoDown 20-Round ARC Magazine

6/12/09 - The ARC (Advanced Reliability Combat) Magazine from TangoDown is now offered in 20-round capacity. Why 20 rounds? Some folk prefer to use the 20 round magazine for its lower profile, so they can get closer to the ground when using a bipod, instead of being limited by the 30-round magazine sticking out the bottom.

Same materials and features as the 30; just shorter. The lower portion is currently molded in black, SOCOM FDE (flat dark earth) and foliage green. A translucent lower portion is in the works.

 







Lancer Systems L5 Translucent Magazine

4/27/08 - Prior to the '08 SHOT show in February, I saw previews of Lancer Systems' L5 translucent 30 round magazine. When I was at SHOT, I met Greg from Lancer at the SKD Tactical booth, and he handed me a couple to try out. The L5 is a translucent 30 round magazine developed for the 5.56mm M16/M4/AR15 rifle. It has an impact resistant translucent polymer body in a smoke grey tint, corrosion resistant steel feed lips and a removable rubber coated bottom floor plate. The L5 was designed to be used with the existing magazine pouches and carriers.

Polymer mags have been around a while - Thermolds, Orlites come to mind. Translucent ones are also nothing new; the Steyr AUG and SIG 550 series and more recently the HK G36 all use translucent polymer magazines (seems like a European thing). There have been a couple of transparent AR15 mags on the market, but they never really caught on and did not enjoy a reputation for durability. Polymer mags have had a less than stellar reputation until Magpul recently introduced the PMag, and now Lancer hopes to do the same for the transparent magazine doubters.

The L5 has a smoke-tinted translucent polymer body that is impact resistant through a wide range of temperatures. Unlike the other polymer mags, the L5 has steel feed lips with a corrosion resistant coating permanently molded into the body. The body has a fine matte texture to eliminate reflection from the magazine and also from the rounds inside. There is no shine or glint from the rounds inside. The L5 has thin raised ribs for reinforcment and to aid in gripping the magazine. 20 and 30-round count indicators are molded into each side of the body. The inside of the body has constant radius geometry for smoother follower/spring travel. There is a magazine well stop, or supporting rib that prevents the magazine from being inserted too far and solely relying on the magazine catch to stop it. This also limits the L5 to rifles with a standard length magazine well (it won't fit a HK 416). USGI stripper clip guides and LULA mag loaders will work with the L5 body.

The removable floorplate has a drain hole and is coated with rubber which serves to protect the magazine when it's dropped and also provide purchase when extracting it from a pouch. Disassembly/removal of the floorplate only requires a bullet tip to push in a tab on either side. The green follower looks like a standard USGI follower at first glance, but it isn't. It's proprietary to the L5 and cannot be used in other magazines. Any USGI spring can be used with the L5.

 


L5 empty and fully loaded


Rubber coated polymer bottom


Disassembled


Steel feed lips

USGI and L5 followers

 

The challenge that Lancer faced was developing a translucent polymers that would meet the reliability and durability of LE and military operations. In other words, 'real world', not sporting/hobbyist applications. The other was designing feed lips that wouldn't deform when exposed to high temperatures or creep when kept fully loaded. There's a limited envelope to work with, and you can only increase the thickness of the feed lips to increase strength within that envelope. It's bounded on top by the bottom of the bolt carrier, and you cannot move the rounds lower as it changes the feed angle and the carrier might override the round instead of stripping it from the mag. Lancer decided to go with steel inserts for feed lips, to preserve the correct thickness and still have the strength. The L5 went through extensive testing, and much more information can be found on the Lancer website (look under 'L5 documents'. The L5 is generally resistant to most chemicals, but Lancer found that the feed lip area is sensitive to DEET when directly applied. So, handle them accordingly.


Comparison to other mags

At the range - What can I say; the results were quite boring. The L5 mags worked flawlessly with 3 different rifles, and there were no issues whatsoever. I dropped them on concrete/gravel and stepped on them hard a few times, and they were no worse for wear with barely any scuffing. When extracting the mags from pouches, the mag to be drawn first should have the magazine well stop (raised rib) above the second mag if the pouch is tight. The raised ribs are very low profile and nowhere as obtrusive as the ones on the Thermolds, which would catch and ensure that the 2nd mag came out (at least partially) with the first. The L5 is just slightly longer than a USGI mag (shorter than a HK mag), and fit all the pouches I tried it in. They're well made, work well, and I think they look good.

Some people have questioned the tactical use of translucent magazines. Being a plain old civvie, I don't have the answer to that question, but I find it very convenient to be able to do a quick visual approximation of the number of remaining rounds on the range. If i don't see rounds, I know I have 15 or less (that's how many are covered by the magazine well when the mag is inserted). Sometimes, before a drill with a known round count, I'll check to see if I need to change a mag or top off. I also find it useful when looking at a partially loaded magazine (in the case of a tac reload) that I've stowed in a dump pouch. Being able to see all the rounds in the mag eliminates the guesswork. If you don't feel the need to see how many rounds you have left, you can still use an L5; you just don't have to look at it - it'll function just the same as any other mag.


Magpul Industries PMag™

8/9/07 - One of Magpul Industries' latest offerings is the 30-round PMag (Polymer Magazine) for the M4/AR-15. When I first saw the PMag, at first glance my initial thought was: "that's cool looking, but didn't Thermold already try that?". Well, the key word in that sentence is 'try'. I've had the U.S. made Thermold polymer mags in the past and experienced some problems with them - followers jamming halfway, bolt carriers not riding over them properly, and once where the rounds got jammed inside the Thermold and bulged it out enough to make it extremely difficult to remove from the mag well. That one immediately went in the trash. Also annoying were the reinforcing ribs that ensured that trying to extract an already-tight Thermold from a magazine pouch would usually result in the second one being pulled out as well. So, from my subjective point of view, the Thermold, while a good 'try', wasn't what I'd consider a front runner to replace the standard USGI 30-round magazine. I've also had limited experience with the Israeli Orlites, but most were already thrashed.

As we've come to expect from Magpul, a lot of thought has been put into the PMag design which is evident from their features (for more detailed specs and information, read Magpul's PMag press release):

  • True 30-round capacity - no downloading to 28 is necessary to insert a full magazine with the carrier forward.
  • Special 4-way anti-tilt follower for increased reliability - This works in conjunction with the magazine body to stabilize the loaded round stack. The PMag body has a constant internal curve (USGI ones have a straight portion that fits in the mag well, both outside and inside) and allows for consistent feeding regardless of round count. This configuration prevents nose-diving and bolt-over head failures. As you can see from the photos below, the magazine body has a ridge molded inside the front which separate the left stack from the right and guide the bullet tips all the way down the magazine. The rounds cannot twist or go sideways.
  • Impact Cover/Magazine Tool protects feed lips and allows long-term loaded storage - Each PMag comes with an Impact Cover. It snaps onto the top of the PMag with interlocking tabs in the front and back. When installed, it pushes down the top round very slightly, taking pressure off the feed lips. This eliminates distortion of the feed lips due to long-term storage when fully loaded. It also seals off the magazine from dirt, and protects the feed lips if dropped onto a hard surface. It can also be used as a disassembly tool.
  • One-piece molded long-fiber reinforced polymer body - This resists denting, eliminates weld spots and joints, and improves durability. The PMag body has slightly raised reinforcing ribs, making it slightly bulkier than the aluminum USGI mags.
  • Easy assembly/disassembly - The lock plate is pushed down with the Impact cover or the tip of a round, and the floor plate slid forward and off. The spring and follower then slide out of the magazine body. To re-assemble, insert the spring and follower, place the lock plate on the spring and compress the spring until the lock plate tab engages the top of the mag and tilts down at the front. Slide the floor plate onto the mag body, over the lock plate, which will spring up and lock it in place.
  • Heat treated stainless steel spring - Compatible with USGI magazines/springs
  • Heat resistant body - withstands full-auto suppressed fire
  • Molded-in colour will not scratch off - available colours are Black, Flat-Dark Earth, Foliage Green and Olive Drab.
  • Sealed magazine catch helps prevent debris intrusion
  • Corrosion-resistant construction
  • Exterior ribbing and texture improve grip surface
  • Flared Floor Plate improves magazine extraction from pouches

Standard PMags and MagLevel

Impact Cover

View of feed lips and followers


Loaded mag


PMag disassembled

Spring, lock plate and floor plate

Olive Drab and Foliage Green PMags - Shown below are the OD and Foliage Green PMags. The Foliage green is a very close match to Vltor and TangoDown furniture. Magpul's OD is closer to the the actual military vehicle OD paint than most others - a dark blend of green and brown. What most manufacturers call OD is more along the lines of the 'OD' jungle fatigues fabric green, which is closer to Medium Green or Forest Green (which are lighter, greener shades). PMags can also be loaded using USGI stripper clips and guides.


OD and FG PMags



USGI stripper clip

MagLevel™ Round Indicator System - The MagLevel PMag tracks the amount of ammunition you have in the magazine. It consists of a transparent window on each side of the bottom half of the magazine. The window is molded into the body and locked in place by an internal flange, so there's no danger of it popping out. The other part of the Round Indicator System is the stainless steel spring on which a coil has orange paint on it. The orange-painted coil is seen through the window, and its position indicates the number of rounds in the magazine, even when you can't see rounds in window. Refer to the photo I took below which shows what you see in the window when the PMag is fully loaded with 30 rounds, then removing 5 rounds after that until empty. Once you get used to the system, a quick glance at the window will tell you how many rounds you have left, give or take a couple.

The PMag is just slightly longer than the USGI and Thermold mags and shorter than the HK HRM (High Reliability Mag). While the flared floor plate of the PMag aids in extracting it from a pouch, it can also hamper it if using a double mag pouch that's tight, and the front mag's floor plate is lower/under the rear. When inserting PMagS into a pouch, always ensure that the front mag floor plate overlaps the inner one or is at least the same level and not under it. I'm on the fence about the flared floorplate and wonder if I'd prefer a non-flared floor plate with a Ranger Pull. The PMagS are a bit tighter in the double mag pouches I tried them in (EMDOM, Eagle, BHP) but still work well.


MagLevel PMag

MagLevel round indicator window

Compared to other mags


I also got some Enhanced Magazine Grips (EMGs) from Rainier Arms made specially for the PMag, which are small rectangular pieces of vinyl/rubber with a very grippy surface molded into them, and industrial-strength adhesive on the smooth side. They fit in the rectangular channels between the reinforcing ribs of the PMag and come in two sizes - the shorter one fits on the sides of the PMag and the longer ones fit on the front. Once stuck on, they're very secure. You place them (as many as you want) in key locations that will aid your grip when extracting the mag from a pouch. I felt that one on each side and one in front was optimum for the PMag. They also work on USGI or other mags - I put one on the front of a USGI and HK mag, as they're too wide to fit on the sides without some trimming. Just having the EMG in the front makes a difference when you place your index finger there when extracting the mag. You can also stick them anywhere else you want enhanced grip.


Enhanced Magazine Grips



HK and USGI mag with EMGs

PMag at the range

At the range - The PMags were very smooth to load - I loaded rounds individually by hand, and also used a LULA mag loader and Beta C-MAG 5 round mag loader (which I prefer to the LULA). I had no problems at all loading them up to a full 30 rounds, and felt no binding of the follower at any time. The rounds stay pointed straight forward and level when loading, no tilting down whatsoever like in green-follower USGI mags. I dropped the PMagS on the ground (empty and partially loaded), stepped on them etc and they seemed to hold up just fine, without rounds coming out or signs of visible damage. Throwing them around a few times doesn't constitute a long term test, of course, so we'll have to see how they fare after they've been out for a while. The PMags fit all of my lower receivers consistently. Empty PMags will drop free, but I found that the rifle should be close to horizontal when doing so because the PMag is slightly thicker than the USGI, which will eject when the rifle is at a 45° angle. I had no magazine-related malfunctions using the PMags. The bolt carrier on one rifle did fail to lock back completely on the last shot, but the bolt was a LMT Enhanced carrier combined with an Enidine buffer. I switched it out to a standard carrier and the problem went away.

I like the PMags so far and think they stand a good chance of becoming very popular in shooters' inventories, as long as no durability issues crop up under 'reasonable' use. Like the USGI mags, the PMags are meant to be 'disposable' - but we know how that goes - some people expect 'disposable' items to last forever and complain when they don't. Magpul has also kept the cost very competitive with USGI mags while offering a lot more features. Another very important consideration is that Magpul is a company that stands behind its products.

Magpul Industries PMag Ranger Plate

4/17/08 - Ranger Plates for Magpul's PMags are finally out, in Black and OD at the time of this writing. These are similar to the Ranger Plates for the USGI mags and are a direct replacement for the PMag floorplate. All you do is remove your original PMag floorplate and slip this one on. It will not work with any magazines other than Magpul's PMag.

The shape of the new PMag Ranger Plates differs slightly from the original Ranger Plates for USGI mags as you can see from the photos below. The material used is also stiffer, and not so rubbery as the USGI Ranger Plates. The PMag Ranger Plate is not homogeneous - the more pliable loop is attached permanantly to the hard plastic floor plate.

I prefer Ranger Plates to the original Magpuls as they don't add any circumference to the mag. Having a loop on the bottom (I used to make my own 550 cord sheathed tie wrap loops) aids in extracting magazines from pouches. The Ranger Plates give your fingers more purchase on the bottom of the mag than without. They also cushion the magazine's impact on hard ground when you drop one out of the rifle, empty or partially empty.

 


Black and OD Ranger Pulls



Plates shown on different coloured PMags

USGI and PMag Ranger plates

 


Bobro Gen 2 Bipod

1/11/08 - BOBRO Engineering's new Gen 2 Bipod (I believe the Gen I Bipod was designed and manufactured for GG&G as their Extreme Duty Bipod), uses some of the proven design elements of the 2001 Gen I unit, but incorporates a new system that permits deployment in less than one second, without having to press a button. It's currently available from Rainier Arms.

Attachment - The BOBRO bipod attaches via their MCU (Master Coupling Unit), which is the system that permits attachment of the bipod to any 1913 rail. The bipod is slid onto a rail (you must slide it from the front of the rail), not rocked on from the side. There is a block, or central 'driver' with an index bar that rises when the thumb knob at the bottom of the MCU is turned. The index bar is set within an available cross-slot on the 1913 rail and the knob tightened clockwise until the unit is securely locked on.

Cant - The bipod 'body' (the part to which the legs are attached) pivots around a pin attached to the MCU. This allows the bipod to cant. There is enough resistance in the pivot to support the weight of the weapon and keep in at the cant angle chosen. It will not flop over to one side or the other. It's not too tight, however, and the cant of the rifle can be adjusted easily. The tension is set at the factory and really needs no adjustment. There is no built-in traverse.

Deployment Mechanism - The BOBRO bipod uses what they call CTM (Collapsing Triangle Mechanism) technology to permit deployment of the legs without having to push any buttons or controls. The legs are held in the stowed (up) position by spring tension. A spring on each side puts tension on the end of a pivoting arm (or 'clawbox'). A post that's attached to the side of the upper leg runs in a channel along the inside of this clawbox. The post engages a spring-loaded claw that locks the post at the end of its travel when the leg is fully deployed. The clawbox pivots as the leg pivots down, with the tension spring on the side resisting the downward movement of the leg until the post passes a 'neutral point' and the tension spring starts pulling it into its locked position. A conical interface between the post and the claw applies constant and even pressure to ensure that the bipod remains positively locked and cannot collapse (like the Harris) without the user unlocking the claw. When deployed and locked out, the clawbox forms a 'triangle' providing a strong support strut for the leg against both forward and aft pressure. Pressing the forward part of the claw disengages it from the post, and allows the legs to be pivoted forward and stowed. This can be done with the same hand, one leg at a time. The clawbox pivots up and the triangle disappears when the legs are returned to the stowed position, hence the 'collapsing triangle mechanism'.

There are provisions to put a length of 550 cord to serve as a pull loop between the upper legs, which will allow deployment of both legs by pulling sharply rearwards on the loop with a finger. I tried this out, and found that the tug required quite a violent pull to overcome both the spring tension and the fact that the legs are trying to spread apart at the same time (pulling on the loop tries to pull them together). I removed the loop and went back to the old, slower way of deploying the legs individually which takes about one second per leg.

Legs and Height Adjustment - The upper legs are actually outer sleeves in which the lower legs slide in and out. The bipod will adjust the height of the bottom of the rail that its attached to from 7" to 9.5". Height adjustment is accomplished by loosening the thumb knob on each leg and sliding the inner leg up or down, then tightening the knob. There are no notches or spring assists. Personally, I'd prefer pre-set notches every 0.5" or so (one feature of the Harris bipod with notches I do like), and a push button release (which is also faster than loosening or tightening a knob), so that there is no chance of the knob loosening and the leg collapsing. If you're doing any kind of quick transitioning from standing/kneeling to prone, where the rifle and bipod might hit the deck with the rifle's weight behind it, you do have to ensure that the knobs are tightened properly. This is just my personal preference/opinion; others might prefer loosening and tightening a knob.

The plastic feet have a waffle pattern molded into them for traction, and are secured to the lower legs with phillips screws. This is something I'd change, even though most users might not have any problems with it. Putting a screw head where it's exposed to clogging with dirt and rocks, and potential wear and deformation due to repeated impacts and contact with debris on the ground might make it difficult to remove later on. Relocating the screw to the side of the leg would have been the route I'd have taken (this is coming from a 'design for maintainability' standpoint - don't put fastener heads in areas of direct wear if you want to remove them later). Another option would be to make the plastic foot longer so the screw head is recessed at least 1/4". You can always dig mud or crud out of the hole to access the screw head but at least it'd be more protected. The plastic used in the feet is relatively soft, and subject to wear. A rubber foot might be more resilient, or a harder plastic compound or even metal might preserve the waffle pattern for longer.

 


Bottom view

Top view

Leg closed and extended


Side view, mounted


Bottom view

Top view

Overall impression - The BOBRO is very well made and put together. Everything is machined precisely and all aluminum is finished in Type III hard coat anodizing. It's very easy to install and remove, and locks solidly onto the rail. It definitely looks more at home on an AR-15 than a Harris, and I think it's more suited to a precision rifle or SPR than a carbine (it's shown below on a LaRue Stealth Sniper System). Because of its aluminum construction, it doesn't feel any heavier than a Harris of the same height, and the people I handed it to said that it was lighter than it looked. I used it at two different ranges visits on two weapons - a carbine and a scoped rifle. The easy on-off made it very convenient to switch from one rifle to the other. The first session was shooting off a concrete bench. Shooting from prone or the bench, it feels very solid, and even though I was a bit concerned about the leg knobs loosening for whatever reason (recoil impulse etc), they didn't. The second session involved shooting from prone and also making transitions from kneeling to prone. It was only when I hit the deck with the rifle did the legs sometimes collapse partially (about 1/4" to 1/2") from the impact. Shooting was done on both concrete and mud/sand. In the photo below, you can see the wear on the feet and screw heads after two range sessions.

Overall, I think it's a very well made product with some neat design features, just with a couple of small things I'd personally change in the design that other shooters might not even notice.

 


Partially deployed leg

Legs collapsed

Legs fully extended


On a carbine

On a LaRue Stealth Upper

 


Vltor Weapon Systems Bipod

12/26/06 - Vltor's bipod (or bipod legs) take a different approach to the rail mounted bipod. Instead of a one-piece assembly that attaches to the bottom of a rail, the Vltor bipod legs mount to the host weapon separately on the side rails. Instead of folding beneath the handguard, the Vltor bipod legs stow above the centerline of the bore, reminiscent of the Sako TRG 22/42. This puts the center of gravity of the weapon lower, resulting in a naturally more stable position.

The Vltor bipod utilizes the carbon fiber-reinforced TangoDown legs from the ACB-4 bipod featured below, and will be available in tan or black. Instead of a common center mount to which the legs are attached, each leg has its own rail clamp. Some of you might recognize it as the same thumbscrew mechanism as seen on Vltor's Tactical Light Scout Mount. Each leg is simply attached anywhere on the side rails. The legs can be mounted to stow facing backwards or forwards. When mounted facing back, they're located further forward on the rail, and vice versa. Since there is no built-in traverse feature, mounting them further back on the rail, facing forward, makes it easier to traverse from side-to-side, as the pivot point is closer to the shooter. However, for an SPR or target type rifle, mounting them forward like a conventional bipod works as well. There is no cant feature built in, either, except for the 3 height adjustments in the legs for uneven ground.

Although the feet have a 'front' and 'back', the legs can be mounted on either the left or right side interchangeably. This doesn't affect the function, but it enables a slightly difference in height, and the legs will appear to be 'backward' (look at the M4 VIS/M203 photo - the legs are mounted 'backward'). If you look at the center photo immediately below, you can see that the forward and rear-facing mounting options put the stowed legs at different heights relative to the rail. The leg facing forward stows alongside the side rail, whereas the leg facing to the rear is above the side rail. The right and left bipod legs can be swapped, and either mounting height can be chosen. Note tha the bipod feet might have to be pulled outwards a bit for them to clear the rail when deploying the legs, if the bipod is mounted with the feet facing backwards.


Black legs

Tan legs

Facing forward or back



Top view
I had a chance to fool around with the prototypes shown here for a couple of months, and they provide a very solid shooting platform. They're easy to deploy and lock in place with a press of the center button. Using the Vltor bipod does preclude the use of side rail mounted accessories like a light, unless it's mounted forward of a rear-deploying bipod. The pivot points are place wider apart than other bipods, further adding to the stability of the weapon. Combined with the low c.g., the rifle has less tendency to topple over when moving it from side to side.

Deployed bipod legs

On M1A



On VIS/M203

 

 


TangoDown Advanced Combat Bipod (ACB-4)

2/1/06 - From concept drawings a couple of years ago to the production bipod, TangoDown LLC recently released their Advanced Combat Bipod for the M4 (ACB-4). It's not a sniper or hunting bipod that has been adapted for combat rifles, but designed from the ground up for the military as a combat-tough bipod for variants of the M16 system (including SPR or DMRs) . No springs or small parts to lose or poke at you, the ACB-4 works just as well on the shorter M4s and other weapons as well as the longer ones. The ACB-4 was developed over the course of two years with numerous iterations and refinements, testing, and user input from the military.

Bipod body - The clamp body and center portion are forged from 7075-T6 aluminum with Type III hard anodizing. The center portion has two pivots, to which the legs are attached. It will fit on any MIL-STD 1913 rail, using a clamp on the base that is secured by two stainless, black finish screws. An allen wrench or screwdriver can be used to install or remove the ACB. A black stainless button on the outside of each pivot releases and engages a sealed, pre-lubricated stainless steel locking mechanism, which allows the bipod legs to rotate 90° from stowed to deployed. It is locked in both positions and can only be released by puching the button. The center portion rotates for traversing and allows about 40° of angle. The whole bipod body can cant 15°. Urethane bushings keep the bipod center-favoured while allowing it to cant on uneven ground.

Legs - The legs are made up of two pieces - the inner and outer legs. The outer legs house the locking mechanism and button, and have 3 holes/detents which provide 3 height adjustments. The outer legs are made of a proprietary glass-reinforced nylon and are much tougher than they look (I was concerned early on in the design stage when I saw the inner legs, but tried to snap one and I couldn't. The ACB-4 has exceeded Army drop-test requirements). The inner legs are made of carbon-fiber reinforced nylon, and slide in and out of the outer legs. At the top of the inner leg is a button, which fits into the detents in the outer legs. The inner legs are extended by simply pulling them out. In order to shorten them, the button must be depressed and the leg slid in, where the button will engage the next detent. The feet are large to prevent sinking in sand and aggressively checkered for a good grip. When stowed, the bipod legs are locked along the rail system, fitting neatly between the lower and side rails. It will fit most rail systems, and some are shown below.


ACB-4

Legs partially and fully extended

Closeup of clamp/buttons


Bottom view


Closeup of body

Operation - To deploy the ACB-4, the hand is wrapped around the front of the bipod, depressing the buttons (1 in the photos below). Depending on the size of your hands, you might have to deploy one leg at a time. 2 shows a leg partially deployed and 3 shows it locked out. Next, extend the legs fully before going prone (4). This is done by pulling or pushing on the feet with a quick movement. It's much easier to extend the legs fully and retract them using the weight of the rifle than to try to extend them when you're in the prone position. To stow it, first retract both legs to their shortest length (5). Grab the front of the body, depress both buttons at the same time and fold the legs up (6). The legs will lock in the stowed position (7).
Also shown below is the ACB-4 mounted on a Troy Ind MRF-C, an LMT MRP and a KAC MRE rail. The bipod is positioned on the rail slots that allow it to stow with the legs around the delta ring. As you can see, it also stows with the MRP and free-floating barrel nut of the MRE. It was originally designed to fit on a KAC RIS standard rail.
Specs - Weight of the ACB-4 is 15.7 oz. Max width of the feet while deployed is 12.48". Extended height 10.53" and collapsed height 9.1".


Deploying the ACB-4

Stowing the ACB-4

On a Troy Ind MRF-C

On a LMT MRP

Top and side views on a KAC MRE

About 40° of traverse

Overall Impressions - As mentioned before, the ACB-4 will mount on any MIL-spec 1913 rail, and just about any weapon that has one. Most weapons lights will still mount to the 3 and 9 o'clock rails, but the bipod will preclude mounting lights on angle mounts. Unlike the Harris bipod, the ACB-4 is almost devoid of sharp edges or things jutting out. The only edge is at the back of the bipod body where the stainnless steel pivot rod is (for cant), and it's possible to scrape a knuckle against it if it's mounted too close to a vertical grip. Back the grip (or bipod) away from each other a slot and that will solve the issue, or wear gloves. When stowed, the bipod, with the rounded profile of the legs, is quite unobtrusive and doesn't detract from holding the forend or vertical grip properly. It's actually quite comfortable - reminiscent of the FAL or G3 bipods that fit into recesses on the handguards. The rifle can be fired offhand normally. Before hitting the ground, the ACB-4 is deployed first, the legs locked out, and the inner legs extended fully if necessary. That's because it's difficult to get the leverage to snap them out while lying on your belly (at least it is for me). To make the height shorter, the inner leg detent button is depressed and the inner leg allowed to slide inside the outer leg under the weight of the rifle. Simple as that.
We shot it on a KAC MK11, FAL Para (with DSA rail), and M4 with KAC MRE rail as shown below (I personally think it looks bitchin' on each of those weapons when mounted). I fired both the Para and M4 offhand, then all of them prone. The bipod was at least (if not more) as stable as any other I've tried. Traversing, canting and tilting is no problem with the ACB-4. Forward (or rearward) pressure can be applied to the rifle without fear of the legs collapsing. I made extra effort not to be gentle with the ACB-4, letting the feet slam and dig into the ground when going prone, and snapping the legs up and down quickly. Operation was smooth and positive and I encountered no problems whatsoever. The impression one gets is that it's very solid and rugged, yet allows the range of motion necessary to acquire and track targets.
Not everyone needs a bipod of course, but for those who do, this is the one to get. Another excellent product from the boys at TangoDown.


MK11 and Para with ACB-4 stowed

MK11 (top) and Para below


Para stowed

On KAC MRE rail

The TangoDown ACB-4 is now available in Flat Dark Earth. The body and main legs are molded in FDE material; all other components are the same.


Black and FDE ABC-4's




Mounted on midlength VIS


LaRue Tactical Harris Bipod Adapter LT-130

7/22/07 - LaRue Tactical's Harris Bipod Adapter QD LT-130 is simply an adapter that provides a stud for the attachment of a Harris bipod, allowing it to be mounted to any picatinny rail. The LT-130 utilizes LaRue's adjustable locking lever, and provides a rock-solid bipod interface. The adapter is attached to the rail first, and the locking lever adjusted via the small adjustable nut to the proper tension (for more details on the LaRue system, go to my optics page). The adjustment nut is not accessible when the bipod is attached.


LT-130

Side view

Bipod stud


Attached to bipod


On weapon - locking lever side

The best thing about this setup is the convenience. You might not think that you'd have to remove and replace a bipod frequently, but with my former Yankee Hill adapter (which took two screws), I found myself wishing I had a quick-detach adapter. On my precision uppers, I usually have a bipod dedicated to the upper. But having a detachable bipod at the range for sighting in or confirming zero for a couple of carbine uppers from prone or the bench makes it so much easier, as I found when I went to the range this past weekend. I just attached the bipod, sighted in an upper, took it off and put it on another. Then stowed it in the range bag afterwards. No messing around with tools or loctite. Another one of LaRue's products that makes life just that little much easier.


Vltor Compensator 1st Model

5/6/07 - Vltor's Compensator was first seen in the M4K preview, and the 1st Model is shown below. It's really the 2nd model, since the M4K comp was the first, but it's the first one that will be offered to the public, hence the designation. The 1st Model differs from the M4K model at the rear - the M4K model has a shoulder that acts as the M203 mounting interface, the 1st Model does not.

The 1st Model utilizes any standard peel washer or crush washer (peel washer supplied). There is no need to index the comp, unless you want the Vltor logo at the top, as shown. The flats on either side are sized for the USGI combination tool - an adjustable wrench will not work for installation. The 1st Model is machined from steel, heat treated and manganese phosphated. It's 2.1" long, and will bring a 14.5" barrel to legal 16" length when permanently installed.

The 1st Model is compatible with all suppressors that attach to the standard GI comp/flash hider, and most blank firing devices. The 1st Model provides a controlled interface for suppressors like the HALO to engage, which key off the rear of the comp. When suppressors like the HALO are installed on GI hiders that have crush washers, the crush washers do not provide a square/aligned interface, and can cause the suppressor to angle off when tighened, ever so slightly. The 1st Model prevents that from happening, and ensures that hider-mounted suppressors are aligned with the bore.

The 1st Model utilizes and internal vortex design, instead of an external one. It actually has ten slots. It doesn't ring out like a tuning fork as loudly as the Vortex when hit, as it has a closed-prong design. Vltor said that the flash suppression of the 1st Model is decent - on par with a Phantom, maybe not as effective as a Vortex as you can still see a flash. I have not fired it at night, so I don't know how it performs in the dark. When I fired it at the range offhand, it felt very stable. But without changing out comps or flash hiders on the same weapon, it's hard to judge. Anyway, it's something different from what's currently out there.

 


Vltor Model 1 comp


HALO mounting

Primary Weapons Systems DNTC AR-15 Compensator

1/19/07 - Shown here is a new muzzle brake/compensator for the AR-15 from Primary Weapons Systems (formerly AK Concepts, Inc). PWS offers accessories for the AK weapon and adapted their J-Tac47 compensator design to the AR-15.

There are typically 3 different common types of muzzle devices - flash hiders, comps/ brakes and combinations of the two. A flash hider is designed to suppress the flash coming out of the muzzle, for the purpose of reducing the signature of the shooter to the enemy. Compensators/brakes can be designed to reduce felt recoil, and/or muzzle 'jump/rise'. This is usually achieved by redirecting the expanding gases leaving the barrel at an angle to the bore. The expanding gases act like 'jets', and exert a force on the compensator and barrel. The idea is to figure out how the muzzle moves when the weapon is fired, then engineer the compensator to counteract and reduce that movement as much as possible. Every movement of the barrel requires a corrective/reactive movement on the shooter's part. Reducing that means less time spent getting back on target or moving on to the next one.

To counteract muzzle 'rise', holes or ports are usually located on the top. This is common on IPSC open class race guns, to eliminate muzzle flip of the pistol and keep the sights on target and level. To counteract recoil, the 'jets' are usually angled to the side and to the rear. The 'jet' of expanding gas pushes the rifle to the front, in an opposite direction to the recoil. The advantage to having a compensator is reduced recoil and muzzle rise, which means the rifle barrel moves less during a string of shots and can be kept on target or moved to a new one much more easily. The disadvantage to compensators is typically increased blast/concussion to the sides, higher noise levels (same reason why blowing hard through a straw makes more noise than breathing out quickly through your mouth wide open), and less flash suppression, due to the faster-moving, redirected gases. There are devices that attempt to strike a balance and do both - like the simple A2 flash hider with the slots on the bottom closed to direct gases upwards and keep the muzzle down, or others that have flash hider slots after the muzzle brake holes.

I've used a couple of comps in the past - one of the first was the DTA mil brake by Fabian Bros back in the early 90's. I didn't find it very effective. Then an early Smith Ent brake without the side holes. I was a bit disappointed with that as well, as I hardly noticed a difference. Since then, I've just avoided using compensators, as I was skeptical about their effectiveness, or those that were effective were just too noisy (like the Bushmaster Y-comp) or were more suited to competition than regular shooting. But I've been around other shooters who had different compensators on their weapons and the obnoxious noise levels just turned me off to them.

So when I caught wind of the PWS DNTC brake and saw that it looked 'normal sized' (not much larger than a standard flash hider), and relatively tactical-looking vs. 'race-gun looking', I was intrigued. For the AR-15 comp, PWS started out with their J-Tac47 design. Collaborating with Dave Neth, champion 3-gun match shooter, they went through 15 different prototypes, modeling on Solidworks and experimenting with different hole size, cuts and port configurations before they arrived at the production version of the DNTC compenstor.

The DTNC is made of steel and is 1.95" in length, and a standard 22mm diameter for the attachment of suppressors and accessories. It's available in a black (blasted and black oxide) finish, and stainless steel, and fits AR-15 weapons with the standard 1/2" x 28 threads. There are two vertical slots on each side, angled back at about 45° to counteract the recoil of the weapon. The front of the comp is flat and acts as deflector, forming the 'blast chamber', which encourages the expanding gases to vent out the side ports instead of the front hole. AK Concepts also claims that this blast chamber increases gas pressure to the weapon improving functioning (a feature I'm not equipped to verify). Instead of relying on holes on top of the comp to deal with muzzle rise, the top half of the side 'fins' are cut away. This creates a path for expanding gases to expand upwards, hereby pushing down on the horizontal flat surface of the fin. The fins are assymetrical - the right one lets out a bit gas to counteract the twist imparted by the bullet from the rifling. The DNTC requires indexing/clocking, with the flat side on the bottom. A crush washer is provided to achieve that. Overall, the DNTC has a pretty unique look to it, and looks at home on a military weapon. The DNTC installs in place of the standard hider, after placing the crush washer over the muzzle. The DNTC is hand tightened, then a wrench is used on the flats to tighten it until it's properly aligned.


Top and bottom views



Size comparison

On M4 barrel

I went out to the range with my shooting buddy 'Brando', with the DNTC installed on my lightest M4, with M4-profile barrel. I thought that any reduction on recoil or muzzle rise would be most noticeable on a light weapon. I brought along a standard A2 hider and a Phantom hider for comparison, using a locknut instead of a crush washer to facilitate easy switching and timing of the different devices. This was purely an unscientific test - no instrumentation - just our general feel and impression. I went into this pretty skeptical, expecting to find little or no difference. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the reduction in felt recoil and muzzle jump was substantial. Most definitely enough to immediately notice the difference. I switched the DNTC back and forth a few times with the other hiders to make sure, and each time, the difference was further confirmed. I'd hazard a guestimate that felt recoil and muzzle movement were cut in half. Keeping the Aimpoint dot on target was much easier with a more neutral-handling weapon and subsequent shots were quicker. Brando fired the rifle and was impressed as well. We took a couple of turns firing his LMT MRP, which was heavier and had more accessories mounted on it, and the DNTC-configured M4 was definitely softer shooting all around. He was sold on it after that.

I didn't notice an increase in sound level to the shooter - it just sounded 'different'. It wasn't something that stood out to me as a cause for consideration. Standing off to the side and behind about six feet away, directly in the exit path of the angled slots, there was a slight pressure wave/concussion to be felt, and it was louder than the standard hider. When I was shooting SS109, Brando felt a few particles of unburnt powder when he was standing to the side. Side blast is an expected by-product of the compensation process, but the DNTC wasn't close to being as unpleasant as the other side-venters I've been around, like the dreaded Y-comp which makes you feel like someone is firing off a .50 cal a foot in front of your face. A small flash could be sometimes be seen in the blast chamber inside the comp while shooting. As with all compensators that vent to the side, awareness should be kept when shooting in very close proximity to other shooters. Even muzzle blast from flash hiders like the Vortex is unpleasant in close quarters, especially during particular drills with a partner. If someone's firing a .223 four feet from your head, it's going to be loud no matter what, unless he's using a suppressor. It's up to the user to determine the usability of the device in enclosed environments like buildings or vehicles.

In summary, I was very impressed with the performance of the DNTC compensator, which it achieves with less noise and blast than other side-venting comps I've been around. PWS has found a good balance between comfort to the shooter and performance. It also a plus that it's a good-looking brake, and doesn't look like something belonging more on a race gun. An enthusiastic 'thumbs up'.


At the range


Primary Weapons Systems FSC556 AR-15 Compensator

8/22/07 - I've been using the Primary Weapons Systems (PWS) DNTC Compensator reviewed above on most of my rifles since January, and everyone who's shot my rifles alongside their own have gone "wow - that really makes a difference". The only negative comment I've got from people standing off to the side and behind is "that brake's pretty loud (but not as bad as some others)". Since the DNTC is a brake, not a flash hider, it does not suppress flash. It's similar to firing the weapon without any kind of muzzle device. During the day, you can usually make out the flash when standing off to the side and looking directly at the chamber of the brake. I've never noticed it as a shooter, only as an observer.

When firing at night, the flash is apparent and can be distracting when firing the weapon as the flash enters into the shooter's field of vision. To address the needs of users who would like to take advantage of the controllability a brake provides, but cannot have the large flash for night use, PWS has introduced the Flash Suppressing Compensator, FSC556 for the AR-15 or any rifle with 1/2 x 28 threads (visit their website and it's under 'AR accessories'). The FSC556 offers the same compensation performance as the DNTC brake, but tames the flash so that it no longer becomes a distraction to the shooter nor turns off night vision devices momentarily. Note that It is not a flash hider (which can suppress flash down to almost nothing and is meant to conceal the position of the shooter from an observer), and a small flash can still be observed in darkness. PWS says that the BATFE has notified them that the FSC556 is not classified as a flash hider, so it's legal in the remaining few states where flash hiders are not allowed, except on pre-ban weapons. Check with your local laws first, though.

PWS has a night shoot video, demonstrating the flash suppression ability of the FSC556 with the DNTC as the control case. The difference is impressive. I did a couple of screen captures from PWS's video below. These were shot with a video camera on a tripod with the shooter in the same position:

The FSC556 is made of ETD (Elevated Temperature Drawn) 150 steel with a Rockwell C hardness of 32 (min), and is 2.10" long with a standard USGI diameter of 0.865" (22mm), so that it's compatible with suppressors that use a USGI A2 hider mount, like the Gemtech HALO. For that reason, it's also supplied with a peel washer for indexing instead of a crush washer, as the larger diameter crush washer will prevent the locking ring of the HALO from contacting the shoulder on the comp. The compensator part of the FSC556 is identical to the DNTC, so please read the writeup above for details on how it works and performs. Forward of that are four Vortex-like prongs about a half-inch long, which do the job of flash suppression.


FSC556

Front view of prongs

HALO compatibility

On LMT MRP

Installation was a breeze - no different than an A2 hider with peel washer. I installed it on my LMT MRP, and took it out to the range. I didn't have a chance to shoot at night, so it was just a test of it's compensation performance and to see if I could notice the same flash as the DNTC during the day. Boring results (to be expected) - it has the same great compensation performance as the DNTC and only a barely noticeable flash in the comp chamber could be observed when looking closely, if any. No DNTC-sized flash. Side blast and sound level were the same, as far as I could tell. Suppressing flash from muzzle brakes and compensators has always been a challenge, but PWS has licked the problem without sacrificing any compensation performance with the FSC556.



Brass case leaving the ejection port

 

 

 


FERFRANS Rate Reduction System

1/31/04 - I was contacted by Ferdie from FERFRANS who provides weapons system to the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police, and some U.S. SWAT teams. FERFRANS selects off-the-shelf M-16 components from manufacturers like Bushmaster and A.R.M.S. and puts together packages tailored for use in the Philippines. However, some U.S. law enforecement agencies are taking interest and have purchased some of their systems - mostly their M4 variant called the SOAR. They also offer a Designated Marksman Rifle, Sniper Rifle, and PDW (ultra short M2 M-16's for CQB and close protection). The thing that sets their weapons apart from all others is their proprietary/patented RRS (Rate Reduction System). I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can't describe how it functions mechanically. I can say however that it works very well. I was very impressed with it.

Any M-16 variant can utilize their system and the ROF will be reduced from about 800 down to the mid 500's.
I brought along my M4 upper with KAC MRE and LMT SOPMOD carrier to function test it on FA (I had only fired it on semi up till now). I also had a Beta C-Mag and a Chinese 120 round drum, which I had modified slightly to function properly. Chinese drums haven't had a good repuatation for reliability, and mine was no different, not even functioning on semi. A little bit of filing and smoothing out burrs here and there and it ran like a champ. A sharp edge on the front of the feed lip was catching on the case mouth and causing mis-feeds.

Ferdie brought along a couple of his M4s (14.5 and 11.5 barrels), and a couple of M2 Corp ultra-shortys (6 and 8.4" barrels). He also had a Bushmaster Carbon pistol upper to test. I shot about 500 rounds through all the guns there, using the Beta C-mag, Chinese drum and standard 30 rnd GI mags, all on FA. The RRS enabled me to fire singles and doubles with ease. The combination of lower cyclic rate and Smith muzzle brakes made all the weapons very controllable and easy to keep on target. Almost no muzzle jump/climb; even with the ultra-shorties. I smoked 100 rounds through the Beta with my upper, and then tried his RRS for comparison. The slower ROF didn't heat the gun up as quickly and the difference in control was immediate.
Surprisingly, the piece of crap Chinese drum functioned flawlessly during this shoot, while the expensive Beta mag had some problems with the ultra compacts. The Bushmaster Carbon pistol upper would not function even on semi. A definite no-go.
Anyone who uses an M16 can benefit from the FERFRANS RRS if full-auto is going to be used. However, they sell only complete systems to Military/Law Enforcement only, not to civilians, at this time, so it is unavailable to the general shooting public.


My upper on a Bushy M16 lower

Shooting the cheap yet reliable Chinese 120 rnd drum

The expensive and not-so-reliable Beta C-mag

FERFRANS SOAR rifle
 

PDW8

PDW6



10/9/04 - Went out with Ferdie to demo the rate reducer to a not-so-local SWAT team out in the desert. Had a great time burning up some ammo with some real nice guys, including officer JT, who had initally contacted me about some gear questions. They also brought out a Ranger Body Armour plate that we shot at - check out the pics here. Thanks to officer JT and his team for being such accomodating hosts.


Badger Ordnance Tactical Latch

10/16/04 - I've been using the Badger Ordnance Tactical Latch on my AR's for probably a couple of years now, and it's an accessory that (in my opinion) is an enhancement to the AR/M16 family of weapons. Badger Ordnance is well known for their bomb-proof sniper rifle rings and bases, plus other weapons accessories.

The Tactical Latch is a direct replacement for the standard latch on the charging handle, and replacement is a 5-minute job at most, with the right tools. It consists of a skeletonized square of 8620 ordnance steel, with a mil spec parkerized finish. It allows easier manipulation of the charging handle by providing a larger latch to both unlock the handle, and draw it to the rear. Instead of the normal method of pulling the charging handle to the rear by using the index and middle fingers on both sides of the handle, it is possible to pull it to the rear with only the Tactical Latch, using the side of the hand, palm, index finger etc. This is a necessary addition to scoped rifles, where the rear of the scope overhangs the rear of the receiver, making it difficult to access both sides of the charging handle. With the Tactical Latch, charging is made much easier.

Badger Ordnance now has the Gen II Tactical Latch, which is a lower profile latch, for those who don't have a scope that limits access to the charging handle, but would still like quicker and easier manipulation of the charging handle. Instead of the skeletonized square, the Gen II has a serrated/grooved from surface for better purchase, and rounded edges. Both Tactical Latches are useful when doing 'press checks' to ensure a round is chambered. I'm a leftie, so my SOP for manipulation of the charging handle is different than right handed shooters. I find the larger Tactical Latch invaluable for malfunction drills, as I have to reach over with my right hand to rack the charging handle while rotating the weapon to the right with ejection port down. That'd be very difficult with a standard latch. I like 'em.


Gen I and II Tactical Latches

Front view

Mounted on weapons

Gen I at the range

Badger Ordnance Ambidextrous Charging Handle

1/3/07 - Another excellent product from Badger Ordnance is their ambidextrous charging handle. This is the only 'true' ambidextrous charging handle with a mirror-image latch on the right side. The T- handle itself is a mil-spec forged charging handle. It has been modified with two slots on either side (instead of one on the left) which connect to each other in the middle. Proprietary left and right latches are installed in the slots; either one can be used to disengage the receiver notch when depressed, to draw back the charging handle. The latches are connected inside the T-handle body; pressing either one will activate the other. The right latch doesn't have the 'claw', of course.

There's some argument over whether lefties should modify their rifles from the standard, right-handed configuration to a more lefty-friendly configuration by the installation of left-handed safeties, mag releases, etc. The argument against it is usually that almost all the ARs you'll come across are right-handed, so when time comes to use one that isn't your own, you might get screwed up and be unfamiliar with it. I'm just a civvie shooter, not a soldier, PSC or SWAT member that might be part of a team that constantly works together where standardization might be of merit. I'd rather set up my weapon to be optimized for my use, as I'm going to be shooting it 99% of the time. The other 1% of the time I might have to shoot standard ARs, I'll deal with them the way I did before ambi stuff was available - it's also a good idea to be practiced doing all the drills with a standard non-ambi rifle as well. When it comes to civvies, there is little or no standardization - every one has different slings, optics, handguards etc.
Instead of lefties leaving all the ambi stuff off their ARs, a better solution (in my humble opinion) would be to retrofit ALL standard ARs to ambi configuration and make THAT the new standard. It's not just to accomodate the left-handed shooters; right-handed shooters are sometimes required to shoot with their left hands, if for some reason the right hand is incapacitated or you're switching shoulders to shoot around a right corner. Having ambi controls ensures that you're able to do everything with your left that you can with your right. Ambidextrous controls are becoming more common on weapons (like the FN P90 and F2000) and are even becoming a requirement for the military; the FN SCAR for example. 1st Force Recon had the foresight to install Norgon Ambi-catches and ambi safety selectors on their M4A1 carbines.


Ambi charging handle


Dual latches

Top closeup

Bottom closeup

The Ambidextrous charging handle was the last item I felt was important for a lefty shooter to have. The other two are the Norgon Ambi magazine catch, and an ambi safety. With the ambi charging handle, I no longer have to roll the weapon over to charge it with the support hand. I can use the side of my bent index finger to charge it. One thing to note is that you still have the forward assist on the right side of the receiver that sticks out, so you've got to watch your finger clearance. When I put it on the Vltor MUR upper receiver, I discovered that it was a great setup for lefties. The Vltor MUR forward assist is shorter and placed further forward on the receiver than the standard one, leaving ample room to get your finger in there. I've installed these on all my MUR-equipped uppers.
If you're a lefty shooter like me, I think it's a great product that makes you more efficient with your own weapon.


On standard receiver

On Vltor VIS


Armament Dynamics ACLM Charging Handle

5/29/09 - As ambidextrous controls and features become the standard on modern weapons, rather than right-handed only, more accessories and replacement parts to update the AR-15/M16 family of weapons to ambi configuration enter the market. One of these is the ACLM™ (Advanced Combat Latching Mechanism) ambidextrous charging handle from Armament Dynamics Industries, LLC. This is a charging handle that is a direct replacement for the standard charging handle that allows the user to pull back the charging latch from any position with either hand. The ACLM differs from the standard charging handle by not requiring the user to release the latch on the left side of the receiver, and requiring only a single, rearward pull on either side of the handle to draw it back.

Description - The ACLM was designed to offer the user a simple and fool-proof way to charge the weapon without having to first locate or activate a separate upper receiver retaining latch. The standard charging handle is a one-piece unit. On the ACLM, the "T" and "shaft" sections of the handle are separate parts. When a backward force is applied to the handle while the shaft is held fixed, it first moves a short distance against internal spring pressure to the rear and a camming mechanism automatically pivots the retaining latch open, clearing and releasing it from the upper receiver notch. When the handle reaches the end of its travel relative to the shaft, it functions exactly like a standard one-piece charging handle and transmits the rearward force to the shaft, follows the handle back, retracting the bolt carrier. The spring returns the handle to its 'neutral/forward' position when released. There are four teflon inserts embedded into the shaft portion where the handle bears against it, for lubrication-free operation under all environments.

Since the handle is under spring pressure, pulling back in it when the shaft is not held in place just pulls the shaft rearwards without releasing the latch. To release the latch when the shaft is not held in place ( if the bolt carrier is rearward or removed), the protruding "manual override" button on the release latch on the left side of the handle is pressed, and it functions exactly like a standard charging handle latch.

The ACLM handle is about the same size as the standard charging handle; it isn't any taller, nor does it extend more to the sides. This was one of the design constraints of this project - that the external physical dimensions duplicate that of the standard USGI charging handle as much as possible. There are grasping grooves machined into the handle, to help ensure that fingers will not slip off the handle even when wet or cold.

The ACLM is precisely machined from premium-grade aluminum billet with MIL-A-8625 Type III Class 2 hardcoat anodized matte black finish for extra strength and resistance to surface wear. Internal components are made of ordnance-grade steel, and PTFE inserts between the shaft to handle bearing surface ensure smooth operation without lubrication.

The question of the two-piece construction strength of the ACLM has been brought up, and Armament Dynamics designed and manufactures the ACLM to be as strong as the USGI mil-spec handle. Like the USGI handle, it is not indestructable, and abuse that will bend or break a USGI can also do the same to the ACLM. Like anything else on the weapon, use common sense and follow the standard manual of arms for this weapons platform. Since it's a relatively new product, only time and user feedback will tell whether it's an issue or not.

 


ACLM

Handle top

Handle bottom


 

Observation and notes - I've illustrated the ACLM on my painted Colt, just for contrast. When I first installed it, the matte finish on the shaft can initially make it feel like there's some drag, but it wears smoother with use. To retract the ACLM, all that is required is a straight-back pull, grasping the handle anywhere, on the left or right side, or both. As a lefty, I grab the right side of the handle between my thumb and second joint of my index finger. I found that the vertical grooves work well to prevent my grip from slipping. At the range, I had no issues pulling back the handle, and found it easier and more natural than a standard handle. It essentially simplifies the process of pulling the charging handle back by eliminating the need to ensure that the latch is depressed.

With the standard charging handle design, the latch can fail to be fully depressed if the proper grasp is not obtained on the charging handle. The latch can fail to clear the notch, catch on it and prevent the rearward movement of the handle, or ride over the notch as it scrapes over. With the ACLM, this is prevented from happening as the intial backwards pressure on the ACLM handle fully opens up the release latch so it clears the notch without catching or scraping on it. This will result in less wear and tear on the receiver notch. So far, I'm very pleased with it and I think it's a good addition to the AR weapons system, whether you're a lefty like me, or right handed.

Armament Dynamics does not have a website yet, but the ACLM can be purchased from their distributors. Just enter "Armadynamics ACLM" in a search engine and they'll pop up.

 


Timney Mfg. AR15 Drop-in Trigger Group

12/22/06 - Patriot Ordnance Factory (POF-USA) worked with famous trigger maker Timney Mfg. to develop the Timney Mfg. Part #661 drop-in AR15 trigger group. This is a self-contained unit, along the lines of the McCormick Super-Match AR15 trigger (which they don't seem to be making any longer). Instead of supplying you with separate components (new hammer, disconnect, trigger etc) which you install and adjust yourself, the #661's individual components are assembled in a gold-anodized aluminum housing which is then installed in the lower receiver, in place of the stock trigger components. No adjustment is needed or possible by the end user.

The single-stage trigger pull is set at 3lbs. I don't have a trigger pull gauge to verify that, but it's lighter than the McCormick triggers I have. The trigger only moved .030" to pull and reset. The trigger and disconnector are A2 tool steel and the hammer is S7 shock-resistant tool steel. The aluminum components are machined. The tool steel EDM'd, then heat treated and hardened to 58-62 HRC. The hammer spring is stainless, and the disconnect and trigger springs chrome silicon.

Installation is a breeze and only takes a few minutes if you're familiar with the AR trigger group. To install the trigger group, the stock trigger/hammer components are removed the normal way, as well as the safety selector. The #661 is simply dropped in, and the stock trigger and hammer pins used to retain it. Two small set screws are accessed from the top with the supplied allen wrench by pushing the spring legs aside, and are tightened alternately. They bear against the bottom of the lower receiver, and push against the trigger and hammer receiver pins, preventing them from falling out (since they're normally retained by the hammer and trigger springs). The safety selector is reinstalled, and that's it - no adjustment or tweaking needed by the user.

The trigger is skeletonized, which some people like, and some don't. Personally, I think it looks good - and sets it apart from a stock trigger. The edges of the trigger are not rounded off as much as the stock trigger, but I don't have a problem with it, as it's no different from a 1911 trigger. If the pad of the finger is properly positioned on the trigger, it shouldn't be an issue. That being said, Timney plans to offer a standard-looking trigger as an option in the future.

I installed the trigger in my lower dedicated for use with my SPR/target uppers. There was no creep, nor could I feel the very short travel in the trigger before the break, which was crisp. Reset was very short, as advertised. I really like this trigger - it's lighter and crisper than the McCormick. I'm looking forward to more versions coming out.


Side view

Top view


Installation

Installed

Oberland Arms AR-15/M16 trigger guard

2004 - These neat little trigger guards caught my eye at a Buffer Technologies table at a gun show. They're made in Germany by Oberland Arms, out of aluminum. They're a direct replacement for the standard trigger guard for the AR15/M16 series of rifles. They're beautifully shaped and are very aesthetically pleasing they follow the lines of the gap between the mag well and the pistol grip much better than the standard guard. All edges are rounded which is nice as I've sometimes found the standard guard to have sharp edges. For those who need to fold down the guard for use with heavy gloves, two detents hold it in place, eliminating the need for a sharp instrument to fold it down. Note that it will not fold down with pistol grips that have a 'duckbill' or if you're using the 'gapper'. Instead of a roll pin, the guard is attached to the receiver with a stainless pin, held in place with two O-rings. No tools are needed for installation (just punch out your old roll pin to remove the old guard). I just love the way this thing looks and have replaced all the standard guards on my rifles. Update - Unfortunately, Buffertech doesn't seem to carry these anymore.

Sadly, Larry Bullock, the owner of Buffer Technologies lost his life in a tragic automobile accident on 11-12-05, leaving behind his wife and two daughters. He was a great contributor to the shooting industry and a supporter of our men and women in the military; always making sure they got what they needed if he had anything to do with it. He was a kind and generous man - a genuine 'great guy'. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him. A scholarship fund has been set up to help his girls through school. Please send contributions to Mary Wilson at Jefferson Bank of Missouri, 700 Southwest Blvd. P.O. Box 600, Jefferson City, MO 65102-9930. The account is titled The Abby and Grace Bullock Scholarship Fund. The account number is 0144784. Rest in Peace, Larry.

 

LMT Enhanced "SOPMOD2" Bolt carrier group

The LMT (Lewis Machine & Tool) submission for the SOPMOD2 program or enhanced M4 is shown below. Numerous changes were made to the bolt and bolt carrier, most significantly the dual extractor springs and re-shaped locking lugs. This modification is supposed to increase reliability under adverse conditions and improve extraction under fully automatic fire. Machining and finish are superior to the standard bolt and bolt carrier. Some of the differences are summarized in the photos below. Note that it's optimized for M4-length barrels - 14.5" or longer, not shorties. For more details on the bolt design, read the patent.

 


Enidine AR-restor™ Hydraulic Recoil Buffer

11/27/05 - The Enidine AR-15 AR-restor™ Hydralic Recoil Buffer is a drop-in replacement for the standard M4 buffer. Enidine Inc is a company that has offered energy absoprtion and vibration isolation solutions to industrial, aerospace, rail and other market for over 30 years. They have applied their expertise in the defense industry, with their products used in gun mounts, missile systems, land vehicles and aircraft, so it's no surprise that they entered the small-arms arena and introduced their AR-restor. The AR-restor is distributed (and available) from Buffer Technologies. The aim of the AR-restor is to slow or cushion the impact that the rear of the buffer has on the back of the buffer tube when the bolt carrier is traveling rearward after a shot is fired. Spreading the impulse over a greater duration results in a reduction in felt recoil and shock to the weapon. This can lead to quicker follow-up shots and a reduction in cyclic rate for automatic weapons.

The AR-restor looks like a standard M4 buffer tube with a piston on it. It has a black oxide finish for corrosion resistance, and a polyurethane bumper on the end. The 'head', or striker cap is the part that contacts the rear of the bolt carrier. It is separated from the main body of the buffer by a nickel plated rod. The rod connects to a hydraulic pistol inside the buffer body, which allows the stiker cap to be compressed. When the bolt carrier is nearing its most rearward position, the polyurethane bumper contacts the inside rear of the buffer tube. The bolt carrier and striker cap continue to move rearward, but that movement is now damped by the hydraulic piston inside the stationary buffer body. Instead of the bumper contacting and bouncing off the buffer tube almost immediately (like with the standard buffer), it stays in the rearward position for a longer duration (the time taken to compress the piston) and the impulse felt by the shooter is less sharp (kind of like firing a .45 vs a .40). Less shock is transmitted to the weapon.

Installation of the AR-restor was a simple as replacing the stock buffer. Less than a minute. The AR-restor looks and feels like a quality unit. I noticed that in order to lock the carrier back, it requires you to depress the bolt-release catch while pulling back quickly on the charging handle, so that the piston can be compressed quickly enough to allow the bolt catch to engage. The weapon is noticeably 'smoother' to fire. .223 has very little recoil to begin with, but when shooting quickly, any reduction in felt recoil and muzzle jump helps. It's most noticeable when doing something like a Bill Drill (6 shots fired as fast as possible), or hammers and controlled pairs. Using a dot sight, the dot 'jumps less'. It's a worthwhile upgrade to any M4.

Update - The first buffer I had broke after a couple of years of use; right behind the striker cap. From the serial number, Enidine was able to determine that it was a very early model, and later models should not have the same issue. A replacement was sent out and I have had no issues since then. I have noticed that with some weaker loads, some tweaking of the buffer spring might be necessary.



Enidine M4 Buffer

Enidine (above), standard H buffer below

Enidine compressed
Simply replaces stock buffer Installed in buffer tube

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