Testimonials

Viktos Zerodark™ Vest: Staying Comfortable Between the Seasons

Intended for the intermediate climates between the heat of the summer, and the frigid temps of the winter, the Zerodark™ vest gives shooters the ideal blend of core temperature comfort and freedom in range of motion.

Comprised of Fitelite™ nylon, the Zerodark™ vest has a lightweight outer chassis designed by Viktos with an added water-resistant Dupont™ Teflon® coating for longstanding outdoor use. The Zerodark™ vest also includes an inner layer of 100g Thermolite® insulation for temperature regulation and to serve as a windbreaker.

Exterior

At the top, the Zerodark™ vest has a high collar roll to protect from rifle sling abrasion or wind. A full length YKK zipper has a nylon pull tab with rubberized ends.

The sides include Viktos’ Attackposture™ design, that incorporate four-way, flexible back and underarm panels to give improved flexibility to accommodate a variety of shooting stances.

Along the bottom there are two chest-rig stylized cargo pockets in the front (one each side). These are secured by hook-and-loop, and include nylon draw-string tabs with shrink-tube ends. A low-profile side pocket on each side behind the cargo pockets include a zipper enclosure with a plastic pull tab.

Both sides of the Zerodark™ vest include Viktos’ Gunvent™ design, a unique, dual-zippered side that allows for immediate access to range belt or holstered sidearm while wearing the jacket.

Interior

The interior sides of the Zerodark™ vest have one large and one small angled accessory pocket on each side. In addition, the Viktos “Undefeated” logo appears on the right side front interior.

The Zerodark™ vest is available in Nightfall (featured), Ranger, or Coyote and sized between Small to 3XL.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostGood (4/5): Viktos currently has the MSRP for the Zerodark™ vest at $120, but is discounting it to $102 as the company prepares to rotate stock for the 2020 spring. With its materials and design, the Zerodark™ vest is both lightweight and functional that keeps the upper core warm despite the wild environmental changes of the spring or fall. In comparison, vests of similar make/material include the 5.11 Peninsula Insulator Vest ($99), Triple Aught Design Syntax Vest ($170), or Arc’teryx Atom LT Vest ($189) – all of which demonstrate the market for designer tactical clothing. As such the Zerodark™ vest, at its current available price of $99, makes it very competitive and among some of the more balanced options on the market given its design and materials.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): Given its lightweight material, and thickness of the insulation layers, the Zerodark™ vest was very comfortable in the early spring weather here in Missouri. Worn in average morning temperatures of 50s-60s, rising to low 70s by mid-day, the Zerodark™ vest allowed for comfortable regulation of temperature and adjusting comfort. The only notable negative aspect was in light winds where the Zerodark™ vest was limited in keeping the overall comfort maintained simply because of the lacking sleeves. Viktos does offer a full-length light Zerodark™ jacket made from the same design and materials, should there be those more interested in overall upper body coverage. The high collar did an excellent job of mitigating abrasion from the sling, and the Attackposture™ design did well to adjust to the more dynamic movements of the upper torso on the range.
  • Durability – Fair (2/5): There was an almost grid-like stitching pattern on the outer shell of the Zerodark™ vest that lends to its overall strength in durability. The outer layer was permeated with Teflon which gave it an almost slick feel between the fingers, and helped resist abrasion from things like sliding slings, gun belt, or other accessories. There was minimal double line or overlap stitching, and what was observed was around the zipper or collar line to reinforce the material there. While some thread excess was noted (and easily removed), it was most likely attributed to the manufacturing process. However, prior to conducting range drills there were at least two missed stitches observed; one at the collar line and the other on the interior liner that could also be explained by lapses in the manufacturing process. While minimal, and unlikely to affect the durability of the product in the short-term, over a longer period the threading could become compromised. Indeed, following use on the range, the missed stitch on the collar had broken and the threads needed to be cut. Obviously one recommendation for Viktos would be to consider adding bartack stitching in/around the zipper, along the pockets and its hook-and-loop panels, or high abrasion/tension points.
  • Functionality Average (3/5): The Zerodark™ vest adequately fulfilled its role as a base layer vest for light-to-moderate use—as well as served as an alternative to the Zerodark™ jacket. In that role, the material did keep the user’s central core very comfortable, while the sleeveless design helped to regulate excess heat. On the range, the high collar proved well placed and the Attackposture™ panels did provide for good flexibility in more dynamic movements to the side or in twisting. The YKK zippers for the front and on the Gunvent™ sides provided for smooth and quiet function. The chest rig pockets were very wide and allowed for multiple rifle magazines to be kept there, though it did increase the bulk of the vest. There was sufficient material to close the vest with an IWB CCW holster worn, though access through the Gunvent™ was a little tricky as opposed to simply lifting the vest and conducting the draw. With a gun belt worn (secondary handgun, mag pouches, IFAK), the vest did not have sufficient material to cover the belt and still be closed in the front. It was only with the Gunvent™ open on the side, to allot for room for the OWB holster, was there sufficient material to close the vest. It was noted that much like the Gunfighter Flannel Jacket, the Gunvent™ zippers would inadvertently open from the bottom if the sides of the vest were slightly pulled. Again, this is a common problem with other fleece and light jackets with a similar side opening, and one resolved by having a covering material (secured via snap button) over the bottom of the zipper to secure it as well as reinforce the closure. Viktos may want to consider that as an improvement in its next Gunvent™ design.
  • Weight Good (4/5): Extremely lightweight, the use of the Thermolite as an insulation later allowed the Zerodark™ vest to weigh in at 13.7 ounces while still maintaining the core temperature without excessive bulk. The Zerodark™ vest was even light enough, that Viktos added a loop behind the collar by which to hang the vest to dry when wet. For tactical vests of this type, the market runs the gambit in both material and design (of various weight reflecting those factors). For instance, 5.11’s Peninsula Insulator Vest (16.8 ounces) runs the more traditional design, similar to the Zerodark™ vest with its insulation, pockets, and a quick access sides. Whereas in comparison, the Arc’teryx Atom LT Vest (7.8 ounces) is a more minimalist design we few pockets and intended more to serve as a base layer in conjunction with other outer garments. Regardless, the Zerodark™ vest was still one of the lightest vests available that offers insulation and some level of tactical function. Viktos could likely add additional reinforcement stitching to key areas without significant increases to the product’s weight.

Overall Rating – Above Average (17/25)

Product Link: https://www.viktos.com/collections/outerwear/products/zerodark-vest

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

Vortex Spitfire HD GEN II: Compact But Powerful

Released for 2021, the Spitfire HD Gen II is the latest iteration of the Vortex line of rifle and carbine powered optics. It offers powered magnification, and Vortex’s classic ranged donut reticle for distance shooting that gives the user a broad range of application. With its other features, the Spitfire HD Gen II is one of the most compact powered optics available.

The exterior chassis of the Spitfire HD Gen II is made from a single piece of aluminum, resulting in a shock-proof housing that withstands recoil or impact. The outer layer of the chassis is then hard-coat anodized in a matte black to provide the shooter with a low-glare surface.

Both lenses in the Spitfire HD Gen II are sealed in multiple anti-reflective coatings that maximize clarity. In addition, both rubberized endcaps to the optic can be folded over and attached to the optic’s body for storage, or completely removed if desired. The Spitfire HD Gen II uses Vortex’s HD Optical System to deliver high-quality resolution with minimal chromatic aberration and extreme edge sharpness. Finally, the internal space is purged with nitrogen gas and sealed with rubberized, waterproof O-rings to prevent moisture penetration and cut down fogging in any extreme temperature.

The Spitfire HD Gen II comes in two models (one in a x3 magnification and another in x5) with each featuring a donut-style reticle, with bullet drop compensator markings for holdover up to 650 yards that make it ideal for the 5.56 cartridge. The reticle has 12 intensity settings (with the lowest two compatible for night vision devices) and runs off a single CR 2032 battery.

The Spitfire HD Gen II comes with variable-height mounts (lower 1/3 Co-Witness and Low-Height) and a T-10 Torx Multi-Tool.

Specifications:

  • Magnification……………………x3 or x5 (model dependent)
  • Objective Lens Diameter……25 mm
  • Eye Relief………………………….3.7 inches
  • Field of View……………………..23.3 feet/100 yds
  • Adjustment Graduation……..1 MOA
  • Max Elevation Adjustment…200 MOA
  • Max Windage Adjustment….200 MOA
  • Parallax Setting…………………100 yds
  • Length………………………………3.6 inches
  • Weight………………………………10.3 oz

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Fair (2/5): With an initial MSRP of $649 (for the x5 magnification), the SPITFIRE HD is a continuation of the previous variant optic with two variable magnification powers available. This gives the end-user the availability to choose which optic best suits their needs. With the added features of an illumination reticle, ruggedized housing, and variable height mounts, the SPITFIRE HD GEN II offers a lot in a package smaller than most with similar magnification. In comparison, market alternatives would include the x5 Cross Dot Reticle Scope ($385) from Barska, the AR-536 Red Dot Optic ($399) from Burris, or the T332 ($735) from Steiner that all place the SPITFIRE HD GEN II at the upper end of similar market optics with the same magnification, and a fair price for its function and design.
  • Comfort – Good (4/5): The SPITFIRE HD GEN II easily mounted and felt secure throughout the evaluation period, thanks in part to its picatinny rail mount using two Torx screws to lock itself in. The reticle brightness easily adjusted via the + and – marked buttons on the left side, but the buttons themselves did not have a tactile feel when depressed (something that would have been nice). Both the windage and elevation adjustment dials provided crisp and solid adjustments per MOA and it was easy to zero the optic. The optic glass itself was remarkably clear and the retile was bright and well defined, with the darkened reticle also being visible when the illumination brightness was turned off. The optic’s 25mm objective lens gave a larger, more comfortable field of view for the shooter (when the eye was positioned close enough – but more on that in the Function section below).
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): With the SPITFIRE HD GEN II’s single piece chassis, O-ring gasket seals, and anodizing, it all ensured the optic was able to function regardless of impact, temperature, or moisture encountered on the range. The anodized surface proved very durable and resisted abrasion to a good degree, with only minor surface marring noted from contact with the ground or barricades. Through it all the dot held zero and did not drift despite various stressor and rifle drills. But one of the areas Vortex shines over its competitors is its no-questions-asked Vortex VIP Warrantee where if the optic becomes damaged accidentally at any time, they will replace it (although they will want to hear the story). 
  • Functionality – Average (3/5): Functionally the use of the SPITFIRE HD GEN II was straightforward. Press/hold the + for ON and press/hold the – for three seconds for OFF. The buttons themselves were large enough to be comfortable but not overwhelming. The intensity levels were clear with the higher being the most optimal for outdoor use, and the lowest two optimal for night vision use. One feature the SPITFIRE HD GEN II had that was a nice additive was an automatic shutoff to prevent battery drain that kicked in after 14 hours of inactivity. One element noted during use was the focal point of the optic’s rear lens is very short, almost to the point of being uncomfortable. The optic itself had to be mounted to the extreme rear of the rail (almost to the point where a bill of a ballcap was touching it) to attain a usable position with a full field of view, and this is something Vortex may want to look into resolving. Traditionally, many powered optics do not have this shallow of a focal point. The only purpose for this design would be for the use of an additional magnifier that would be placed behind the optic, so it is something the end-user should be aware of.
  • Weight – Good (4/5): Weighing in at 10.3 ounces (for the x5 magnification variant), the SPITFIRE HD GEN II is several ounces less than its predecessor (most likely attributable to the compact design and battery difference). But the optic itself was neither distracting in weight nor unbalancing to the rifle during function. In contrast, the x5 Cross Dot Reticle Scope (19.2 ounces) from Barska, the AR-536 Red Dot Optic (18.75 ounces) from Burris, or the T332 (14.2 ounces) from Steiner all illustrate the light weight of the SPITFIRE HD GEN II in comparison to older optics with similar magnification and give the Vortex optic a very good weight for its design and materials.

Overall Rating – Above Average (18/25)

Product Link: https://vortexoptics.com/spitfire-hd-gen-ii-5x-prism-scope.html

I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Streamlight Racker Forend Shotgun Light: For the Bump In the Night

Released for SHOT Show 2020, the Racker by Streamlight is a new edition for the company’s line of weapon mounted lights, and its first integrated design for the Mossberg 500/590 line of shotguns.

Intended as a drop-in replacement for the Mossberg’s forend, the custom light optic produces a focused beam with peripheral illumination that reaches 283 meters before dispersal.

In front of the optic, the Racker included Borofloat glass is designed to have a high degree of heat and impact/abrasion resistance.

IMG_7432

The Racker’s integrated weapon light produces 1,000 lumens (20,000 candela) off of two CR123 batteries that give it 1.5 hours of run time.

Along both sides of the Racker, the 4.5” ambidextrous pressure switch allow the operator to select between momentary and continually on function.

IMG_7431

The impact-resistant housing of the forend is almost 8” long and made from a polymer/nylon resin that provides ergonomic handling for the support hand.

The Racker is Mossberg compatible to the 7 3/4″ Action slide 500® and 590® series, or works with Remington 870s (with the exception of the Remington 870 Express Supermag).

With its sealed rubber gasket endcap and enclosed housing to provide waterproofing the Racker is IPX7 rated; waterproof for up to 30 minutes.

The Racker comes in Black (featured) and Orange.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostExcellent (5/5): Coming in at an MSRP of $225, the Racker is a larger, intergraded WML for the more common shotgun styles on the available market. With a light source throwing out 1k lumens, the Racker gives as much light output, or more as other long-gun weapon lights. The closest comparator would be Surefire’s line of forend lights for the Mossberg 500/590 ($399-$599) and Remington 870 shotguns ($399-$599). For a short time EOTech also did offer its Integrated Forend Light ($243.70) forend light, but has since discontinued it. Regardless, as technology has developed, Streamlight’s new Racker is an inexpensive alternative to Surefire’s dominance in the market for intergraded shotgun lights.
  • Comfort Average (3/5): For its textured grip and rigid chassis, the Racker proved to be a very comfortable fit in the support hand that, combined with the angled housing of the light module, served as a good hand stop by which to control the forend. The switch module ran nearly the full length of the grip; however, there wasn’t much of a raised or textured surface on the switch to delineate the tactile feel between that and the chassis. The result was sometimes having to look down to check the position of the thumb on the switch. A recommendation to Streamlight would be to improve the comfort of the switch would be to raise the switch’s surface into a rounded or rubberized feel.
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): The ABS polymer housing of the Racker took a good beating yet never failed. The chassis was struck against the wooden frame of the nearby shooting bench five times each side (10 total strikes) before loading and firing the shotgun, and at no point did the material separate nor become compromised beyond minor surface marring. The light module itself remained firmly inside the chassis and it and the switch module continued to function as normal.
  • Functionality – Average (3/5): Functionally, the Racker was designed to be a drop-in replacement for the stock Mossberg forend while adding an integrated weapon light. Its installation was easy and straight forward; however, it would have been nice to have an included forend removal tool, similar to what was included with the Magpul MOE M-LOK forend replacement. Users should take care in ordering the correct Racker for the Mossberg line of shotguns as the 500/590 variant of the Racker (Part # 69600) is slightly different than the 590 Shockwave (##69602) Racker. The latter will still fit on the full-length 500/590, just with the chassis’ shorter overall length it required a spacer to accommodate for the difference. The 1,000 lumens thrown by the Racker made illumination of interior spaces very easy, with a solid central beam for getting into dark corners. The hand strap of the 590 Shockwave variant did not have any adjustability, and did little to secure the forend to the hand. The switch module did have a tangible feel to it that denoted the Racker’s ON/OFF operation. The battery endcap was a little tricky to remove because of its position/angle, but with a wide flat-end screwdriver it was removed to allow access for the CR123 batteries. The Racker did lack the “Safe ON/OFF” feature as found in its other pistol WMLs, such as the TLR-7 and would have made for a nice feature. All of these gave the Racker an appropriate (or average) score with some room for improvement in function.
  • Weight Excellent (5/5): Depending on the model selected (the Mossberg 500®/590® weighed in at 10.78 oz. while the Remington 870 will weigh in at 11.08 oz.). The weight will vary due to the overall size of the chassis and associated ABS polymer. The switch and light modules are the same in both versions and thus had the same mass. In comparison, the DSF-500/590 forend replacement from Surefire (with 600 lumens) weighed approximately 18.2 ounces and its heavier mass is due to the thicker chassis and rubberized features for added grip. When in production, the IFL from EOTech (with 250 lumens) weighed 12.2 ounces and with its integrated light and design was a closer approximation of Streamlight’s Racker. However, in both alternatives the Racker (with 1,000 lumens) was still the lighter option and demonstrated the excellent lightweight design with current LED technology to deliver superior light output.

Overall Rating – Good (21/25)

Product Link: https://www.streamlight.com/products/detail/index/tl-racker

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

Lead Devil USA Tactical Duty Belt: American Made For the Duty Professional

Building its belts from some of the toughest materials available, the 1.75” tactical duty belt by Lead Devil USA offers a rigid and functional two-piece belt system that allow for customization to fit any need.

Inner Belt

The Lead Devil tactical belt starts with a 1.75” wide inner EDC base belt made from the company’s proprietary Lead Devil Tactical Webbing (LDTW) nylon blend. This includes a nylon weave with a smooth inner facing side intended to pass through the belt loops of the trousers. This blend is then resin treated for greater strength and abrasion resistance. Sum total the nylon has a tensile strength upwards of 5,500 pounds per square inch.

The outward facing side of the inner belt includes Lead Devil’s low-profile unnapped (female) hook-and-loop material that, combined with the double layered Type 3 (male) hook-and-loop material of the outer belt, provides for maximum strength against sheer forces. The sizing of the inner belt is adjusted by a genuine AustriAlpin triglide EDC buckle with the excess capable of mating to the outer layer of the inner belt’s (female) hook-and-loop material for maximum comfort.

Outer Belt

The outer belt of the two-piece Lead Devil’s 1.75” tactical belt is where all the work happens. Made from the same LDTW nylon material as the inner belt, the outer belt features a number of elements that make it ideal for work, duty, or general training. Sizing is done through a 2.25” genuine AustriAlpin Cobra Prostyle belt buckle with any excess again folded over and secured on the outer belt’s exterior hook-and-loop material. This enables for the perfect fit in sizing with any excess secured rather than retained by an elastic cuff.

The exterior of the outer duty belt features two bands of ½” nylon, made from the same material as the outer belt and reinforced using bartack stitching into 0.25” Micro MOLLE-compatible sections. This pattern is repeated over ¾ the length of the outer belt to accommodate left or right-handed users, as well as most pouches or accessories. The outer belt also includes a hook-and-loop fastener that retains the attached D-ring when not in use.

Along the interior of the outer duty belt is a length of double layer Type 3 (male) hook-and-loop that thanks to its larger “hook” mates to the corresponding material on the inner EDC base belt for maximum retention. This also enables for the inner belt to be worn when the outer belt is not necessary, and the outer belt to be easily donned when needed.

Belt Specifications:

  • Small……..27” – 30”
  • Medium…31” – 34”
  • Large……..35” – 38”
  • XL………….39” – 42”
  • 2XL………..43” – 46”
  • 3XL………..47” – 50”

Lead Devil’s 1.75” Tactical Range Belt comes in an outer belt that includes OD Green (featured), Coyote, and Black. The inner belt color can be selected separately to correspond or be another of the other colors available.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostAverage (4/5): The 1.75” wide tactical duty belt by Lead Devil has a $164 (color dependent) starting price, which given its custom rigid LDTW nylon material solid hook-and-loop, and hardware, make the cost good in that its custom materials represents a significant amount of attention to custom design, quality, and function. In comparison, other notable manufacturers with products of similar design are the Delta Belt ($115) by Persec, the T3 Trident Operator Belt ($159.65), or the Ronin Senshi Belt (at upwards of $190) which some use off-the-shelf SCUBA/4088 webbing, or have regular hook-and-loop material. This all gave the tactical duty belt by Lead Devil a very good cost for its custom nylon and hook-and-loop materials, included two-part belt system, and genuine AustriAlpin hardware.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): Perhaps its greatest advantage in comfort, was the ability of the tactical belt to be easily adjusted for any fit needed before donning, or while worn. The inner EDC belt, with triglide buckle, allowed for easy adjustment when donning, and with any excess cinched and secured completely to the side. The outer belt also followed similar design by allowing the cobra buckle to be tightened as necessary and the excess secured to the side as well. As the outer tactical duty belt was worn, over time it loosened up a little from its out-of-box rigidity. But even after a 30-day trial period consisting of a number of shooting iterations, the belt still held a good level of rigidity due to the tightness in nylon weave pattern. This made it good for bearing the weight of pouches or accessories.
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): Out of the box it was immediately evident to the durable qualities of Lead Devil’s tactical range belt. There was extensive bartack stitching throughout the inner and outer belts, as well as X-pattern reinforcement in key areas that added to its overall strength. Overall the LDTW nylon to both the inner and outer belt was very resistant to abrasion. Despite repetitive adjustment and readjustment, donning and removal, at no point during evaluation did any of the material separate or become compromised. Lead Devil does offer its Exchange Program which covers the belt against wear & tear, damage, maintenance, weight loss/gain for the lifetime of the purchaser.
  • Functionality Average (3/5): Functionally the tactical range belt was very straight forward, with its Micro MOLLE webbing serving as the ideal fit for most pouches and accessories. The inner EDC belt was a rigid nylon webbing that made daily wear comfortable while the triglide buckle allowed for easy and immediate adjustment. The outer belt was likewise easily donned and mated to the inner belt easily and consistently. The cobra belt buckle provided for an easy and audible lock, and retained a solid lock throughout. As a stand-alone belt, a recommendation to Lead Devil that could have improved the tactical range belt’s overall score in function would be the inclusion of features on the outer belt that allow for expansion of the outer belt’s operational role; such as loops for suspenders, or a glove loop.
  • Weight Average (3/5): The size of the belt and materials used often determines the volume of overall mass for the tactical range belt, as well as the amount of reinforcement. In this evaluation a Large was reviewed and held an overall weight of 1.38 pounds. This included the weight of the two-part nylon belt system, with its extensive reinforced stitching and Micro MOLLE webbing, and both AustriAlpin buckles. In comparison the Persec Delta (1.3 pounds), T3 Trident Operator Belt (1.27 pounds), and the Ronin TF Belt (1.2 pounds) all demonstrate that the choice of hardware is often the deciding factor in as little a difference in ounces. In the selection of Lead Devil’s tactical range belt, the minimal heavier weight over its competitors is directly related to Lead Devil’s choice of using genuine AustriAlpin hardware, the extensive bartack and reinforcement stitching throughout, and the density to the nylon weave for the LDTW material. The result is an appropriate (or average) score, and if Lead Devil could develop a way to shed 10 ounces from the overall design then it would score higher amid its competitors.

Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)

Product Link: https://www.leaddevilusa.com/tactical/tactician-belt-rb2ne

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

Lancer Systems L5AWM Magazine: Strength Where It Counts

Released circa 2013, the L5AWM is a 30-round capacity rifle magazine by Lancer Systems for a variety of Colt-patterned ARs. The L5AWM gives users a blended design with stainless steel feed lips for strength, and a polymer body for minimal weight.

As a whole, the L5AWM body is made from impact/stain resistant polymer rated to perform in extreme environmental conditions (40F to +180F).

IMG_7511

Starting at the top, the L5AWM’s hybrid body begins with a hardened steel feed lip assembly. This assembly is molded to the upper magazine and not removable. It also greatly strengthens the upper tower of the magazine’s body from excessive impacts from the bolt in full-auto or when running suppressors. The L5AWM also features an anti-tilt, self-lubricating follower and stainless steel spring that ensure consistent feeding of ammunition. Slots at the rear of the steel lip assembly help seat stripper clips guides to speed in the loading of ammunition.

The L5AWM has a consistent curve throughout the length of the magazine to aid in reliable function. The bottom half of the magazine has a raised magazine stop line and ribbed grip surface along the exterior surfaces for tactile improved control. The L5AWM comes in a variety of clear and translucent options, each with 20- and 30-round count markings that enable for full-length and immediate visual recognition of ammo count.

At the bottom, the removable polymer floorplate is separated from the interior base plate using a round or similar pointed object to release the locking mechanism. The floorplates also include optional drain holes for those working in maritime operations.

The L5AWM magazine is only available in a Translucent Smoke (featured), Translucent Clear, Translucent Dark Earth, Opaque Black, and Opaque FDE.

Specifications:

  • Compatible with M4/M16/AR15, SCAR16, HK416, ARX160, SIG556, ARC, SIG MCX, IWI Tavor, IWI X95, SA80, chambered in 5.56x45mm / .223 Remington.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostAverage (3/5): Priced between $16.30 – $21.99 (color dependent), the cost of the L5AWM reflects not only the materials, but uniqueness of its optional clear or translucent body. In addition, the L5AWM is one of the few hybrid polymer magazines with a stainless steel feed lip that brings forward the best of both magazine types. When placed in comparison to other market magazines; the Series 2 ($14.99 – $16.99) by Hexmag, or the Gen2 MOE ($15.95) and Gen3 ($17.95) by Magpul Industries, appear on the higher scale of cost against straight polymer magazines. But in relation to full stainless steel magazines, the price (depending on vendor and quality) can run approx. $16/per with no option for a clear or translucent body. So, it becomes a balancing decision on the part of the consumer where the materials and function of the L5AWM is appropriate (or average) in relation to its cost.
  • Comfort Excellent (5/5): The L5AWM was used for a period of 30 days in various training iterations, and what stood out the most for its comfort was the notable stainless-steel spring, which felt stiffer and held more potential energy than other magazines. This gave the follower a positive and consistent pressure against the ammunition and thus, a solid feeding into the chamber. The translucent sidewalls allowed for immediate recognition of ammo count in light environments or outdoors, and was aesthetically appealing as well. As an AR magazine in general, the L5AWM magazine was as comfortable in the hand as other polymer-based magazine on the market. The robust contour features gave a solid tactile feel over the entire bottom half of the magazine regardless if the shooter was wearing gloves or not. This helped in stripping the magazine out, driving it home into the magwell, or with manipulation in/out of pouches.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): The biggest positive aspect to the durability to the L5AWM magazines laid in the polymer’s resiliency (or the ability of the polymer to flex and then return to its pre-determined shape). The sidewalls appeared to be slightly thinner in comparison to Magpul’s Gen3 magazines, but the reinforced gripping surface of the L5AWM added additional thickness along key areas. Three drop tests to several fully-loaded L5AWM magazines were conducted from a height of approx. six feet, with the feed ramps down in an attempt to get a direct strike. In each iteration, despite striking a concrete surface, only 1-2 rounds were typically ejected and the feed lips or follower were never compromised beyond simple surface marring. Internet research did find at least one example in 2016 of the L5AWM’s polymer follower being damaged during drop testing due to the front end shearing off—and it would be recommended to Lancer to consider bolstering the follower. Other examples demonstrated people driving over the L5AWM with no adverse effects. It should be noted, much like many other polymer-based products, users should avoid prolonged direct UV exposure to the L5AWM in that it may affect the molecular resiliency of the product (i.e. becomes brittle).
  • Functionality Excellent (5/5): From a functional aspect, the biggest positive feature of the L5AWM was its hardened steel feed lip assembly. There was plenty of documented examples of use in the field and on the range, of dropped polymer magazines striking the upper tower, or on full-auto/suppressed, cracking the feed lips. This problem appeared exacerbated by the mass of cartridges once the magazine was fully loaded. Lancer Systems attempted to resolve this concern by making three of the four sides to the feed lip assembly molded steel for added strength. It was noted during evaluations that a fully loaded L5AWM magazine did appropriately seat and lock in the magwell with the bolt closed/forward. The sidewalls of the magazine while thinner, did not bulge and they remained parallel under the spring’s tension of a full 30-rounds. Another added function of the L5AWM was the anti-tilt follower filled up the space inside the magazine more than other brands, leaving less room for potential debris.
  • Weight Average (3/5): With its weight of 4.8 ounces (empty), the L5AWM has a mass appropriate (or average) for its hybrid design—bringing together its polymer body and stainless steel feed lip assembly. The next alternative would be full stainless steel magazines, such as by ASC, which have an average weight of up to 6.4 ounces. In comparison to other polymer-based magazines; Magpul Industries Gen2 MOE (4.6 ounces) or Gen3 (5 ounces), as well as Hexmag’s Series 2 (4.6 ounces), or Daniel Defense’s DD Magazine (7 ounces) all demonstrate the variance in weight due to differences in magazine design and material. This placed the L5AWM within the average weight of the competitors noted.

Overall Rating – Good (20/25)

Product Link: https://lancer-systems.com/product/l5awm-30-magazine/

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

SB Tactical SBA3 Brace: A Minimalist Approach With Adjustability

Released in February 2018, the SBA3 is one of the newer AR pistol braces offered by SB Tactical, and among many along its AR, AK, and shotgun models. The A3 variant was intended to bridge the design differences between the original and fixed SBM4, with the adjustability of the future SBA4. The SBA3 features an adjustable length with mil-spec buffer tube compatibility, and a QD mounting point that provides for improved comfort and function for shooters.

While the SBA3 was intended as a follow-on to the SBM4, the SBA3 has a more minimal forearm support wings, and a 1” hook-and-loop strap to secure the brace to the arm. This gives the A3 a less-bulkier profile overall. However, where the A3 differs is the brace now accepts any 7075 mil-spec carbine buffer tube (included with brace) and thus has a 5-position adjustable length. The newer A3 brace also includes a metal ambidextrous QD mounting point for slings behind the buffer adjustment pin.

Fully collapsed, the A3 has a minimal length of 6.5”, while on a fully extended carbine buffer tube measures 9.5”. Understanding these measurements can become impetrative when determining the overall length of an AR build to meet ATF regulations on AR pistols.

With a narrower 1.8” polymer body, the spine of the A3 provides a minimalist profile for the user that avoids excessive snagging while still giving an angled platform for a cheek weld. This is an improvement over the SBM4, and for comparison an improvement over the smaller, thinner, and lighter Magpul CTR buttstock.

The SBA3 is available in FDE (featured) Black, OD Green, or Stealth Grey.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Average (3/5): At an MSRP of $169.99 the A3 is the same price as the SBA4, thus giving the user the opportunity to find a design that best suits their needs at the same cost. The A3 is also available at secondary sites for approximately $129, with some retailer coupons or sales during holiday’s providing the brace for even a lower cost. Given that SB Tactical is the market leader for firearm braces, there is no direct competitor for comparison to the A3. However, its predecessor the SBM4 ($99) with a similar design, does include many of the same stabilization aspects, but the SBM4 is only for use with pistol buffer tubes and as such is not adjustable. Even the more recent A4 ($169) is lighter and adjustable, while the SBPDW ($299) is one of the heaviest AR pistol braces on the market. In all this gives the A3 an average price range for its time on the market and amount of materials involved.
  • Comfort – Average (3/5): From a comfort aspect, the minimalist sides of the A3 were not as obtrusive as the M4 or A4, and gave good support to the forearm. This did result in the AR pistol canting slightly while in use, but the support strap kept the overall brace secured even with the weight of the firearm held out at full extension to the body. Users with thicker forearms may find it more difficult to get a deeper lock within the brace at first, until the rubber has had time to adequately break in. The nylon support strap was slightly elastic which made getting a positive/tight bond somewhat difficult, but not unattainable. One notable feature for the A3 was the approximate 2” wide angled polymer body that gave the user more surface for a positive cheek weld. This was an improvement over the SBM4’s width of 2.0” and thus narrower angle/less surface for contact. Internet research showed a number of aftermarket replacement straps to most SB Tactical braces, including Lunar Concepts “Split Fix” for the A3 that prevents overlapping and permanent warping of the rubberized plastic while in storage, and the recommendation to the manufacturer would perhaps examine improving or offering alternate straps for improved comfort and function.
  • Durability – Average (3/5): The SBA3 was made with dominantly a minimalist polymer body that gave it a similar profile to a A2-style stock, but with less rigidity than the A4 brace, and provided a semi-stable platform for a positive cheek weld. There was some play noted between the brace and the buffer tube that could be manipulated with the hand, as well as some elements of the body (such as the locking pin) felt somewhat frail. The forearm support sides were made from a rubberized ABS material that gave the sides sufficient flex to contour around the arm. Over time and use, the SBA3’s support sides did collapse and overlap when stored against the loop. It is most likely that over time, the element of the A3 that will actually wear out first, will be the hook-and-loop material to the 1” support strap (another reason there are aftermarket straps available).
  • Functionality – Good (3/5): Functionally, the SBA3 was easier to don on the forearm as opposed to bulkier braces, it being necessary to fully loosen the support strap and push the arm through the sides. The newer A3 also had more rigidity and coverage in its forearm minimalist support sides. This defiantly effected support to the AR pistol given its minimal contact surface, and linear dimensions that contoured around the arm once the support strap was tightened. Adjusting the position on the carbine buffer was a little loose, most likely attributed to variances in buffer tube dimensions and that not all tubes are a one-size-fits-all. But with minimal effort the A3 was able to move across all five (of six) positions on the carbine buffer tube. The ambidextrous QD mounting points were full metal and accommodated a variety of mounting accessories. The feel of the QD point (behind the adjustment pin and closer to the forearm brace) made connecting QD points somewhat difficult in the tight space. Some adjustment of your sling may be necessary to accommodate this QD location.
  • Weight – Excellent (5/5): At 6.75 ounces (w/o buffer tube) the SBA3 is relatively lightweight, and among the line of other SB Tactical braces had a good scoring. As noted above, once secured to the arm, the brace did help to keep the AR pistol balanced as well as helped alleviate the weight of the firearm forward of the body. In comparison, the heaviest AR pistol brace in the SB line is the SBPDW (18.14 ounces) while others, such as the SBM47 (15.5 ounces), SBM4 (8.7 ounces), and SBA4 (10 ounces) demonstrate the weight of the SBA3 is towards the lighter side given most other AR pistol braces trend to a more minimalist approach with less materials that achieve the same results. The added weight is the payoff for the SBA3 to have that five-position adjustability.

Overall Rating – Above Average (17/25)

Product Link: https://www.sb-tactical.com/product/sba3/

***Editor’s Note: The history and ruling of AR/AK pistol braces is a sordid one. From the initial ATF ruling in 2014the “clarification” letter by Max Kingery (then-acting Chief of Firearms Technology Criminal Branch) in 2015, and a second ATF ruling in 2017, and the most recent ATF clarification in 2019 the regulation agency has struggled to provide a clear ruling on the application of such devices. Specifically shouldering, the topic of proper use of braces has caused more internet arguments among “internet lawyers”. Currently ATF guidance as of 2019 states as follows:

“To the extent the January 2015 Open Letter implied or has been construed to hold; that incidental, sporadic, or situational ‘use’ of an arm-brace (in its original approved configuration) equipped firearm from a firing position at or near the shoulder was sufficient to constitute a ‘redesign,’ such interpretations are incorrect and not consistent with ATF’s interpretation of the statute or the manner in which it has historically been enforced.”

As such, Per the ATF the use of an AR/AK pistol brace comes down to intent. Thus, accidental or “sporadic” shouldering of an AR pistol brace is not illegal. When consistently shouldered however, it demonstrates the intent to subvert regulations on SBRs by utilizing the AR pistol and brace as an impromptu work-around (and thus illegal). The same is said by adding accessories intended for precise accuracy as found with an SBR, such as scopes or utilizing irons. During the course of evaluations, any shouldering of the SBA3 was purely accidental, as efforts are made to test the brace within various range iterations to the extent of design, while still adhering to ATF regulations.

I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Lancer System Adaptive Magwell: Speed at Any Angle

Introduced in 2015, the Adaptive Magwell (AM) by Lancer Systems is a bolt-on upgrade that expands the magwell opening of the standard AR-15 for easier drive of a magazine into the receiver and quicker reloads.

 

Made from either a single piece, or two (depending on which model of AM is selected) of machined 6061 T6 aluminum, the AM has a solid construction that ensures a high degree of abrasion and impact resistance. For the purpose of this review, the single piece AM was selected.

 

From the sides, the AM expands the overall width of the magwell to 1.63” across with angled interior sides to help further drive the inserting magazine inward. From the top to bottom, the AM expanded the length of the AM to 3.02”.

 

The Lancer AM’s angled funnel directs magazines into the magwell regardless of approach angle or cant. This can decrease reload time and improving reliability under stressful or adverse conditions.

 

It should be noted the AM is not compatible with Magpul’s Gen3 PMAG’s due to the Gen 3’s robust over-travel stop.

Specifications:

  • Designed for milspec AR-15 rifles and standard forged lower receivers with removable trigger guards
  • Includes rubber gaskets for a snug rattle-free fit
  • Compatible with most standard M4/M16/AR15 pattern magazines

The Adaptive Magwell is only available in a matte Black (featured).

 

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostAverage (3/5): At an MSRP of $115, the Adaptive Magwell (AM) (either single piece or two-piece) is made from a solid block of T6 aluminum for maximum strength and durability. The AM is perhaps one of the larger non-polymer magwells on the market and will resist all but the most serious abrasion, impact, or chemicals. In comparison, the Armaspec Rhino ($20.90), MAS Defense Flared Magwell Adaptor ($44.99), Sylvan Arms Adaptor ($54.99), or Cobalt Kinetics Magwell Extension ($75) show just how diverse the market is in design. It should be noted while the AM is one of the most expensive AR-15 magwells available, it is also one of the largest, durable, and functional. As such, the cost balances against those factors to give the AM an average scoring.
  • Comfort Excellent (5/5): Once installed, the AM was very lightweight and did not negatively affect the balance of the rifle. The pronounced size of the AM’s flared edged, and how it bolted into the lower receiver, made for an excellent and very solid mount with zero movement. Indeed, the AM was solid and large enough that it also doubled as an additional magwell grip surface while holding the rifle.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): Made from 6061 T6 aluminum, the AM offered an expected level of durability from an alloy specifically designed for maximum abuse. The AM exterior was struck approximately 10 times on each side with a rifle magazine, in addition to repeatedly feeding magazines into the rifle over a 30-day period. The only impact to the AM itself was minimal surface marring to the exterior surface coating, but not to the extent to compromise the sub-layer of metal. The exterior appeared to have a thin matte black powder coat, and as the only negative point to the AM’s durability, it would be a recommendation to Lancer to examine improving the AM’s exterior paint hardening process or consider an alternative exterior coating type.
  • Functionality Good (4/5): What set the AM apart from the more inexpensive magwell adaptors on the market was its size as related to function. The AM measured approx.. 0.856” tall with an interior cavity at approximately 1.623” across which, once mounted, gave the slanted interior a wide slope by which to direct magazines into the center of the magwell. Regardless of approach angle, cant, or speed in which magazines were driven into the magwell, the AM directed all magazines where they needed to go and ensured proper alignment. This was especially of interest to shooters approaching training from a competitive aspect as it allowed further speed in magazine transitions without worry of where the magazines feed ramp/lips were angled. In many of the aforementioned market alternatives, their design amounted to basically a plate that sat under the magwell, and provided only minimal surface area. This could translate to potential magazine hang-ups or damage to polymer-framed designs. Thus, while the AM is one of the larger/bulkier adaptors, its size fits a specific purpose and one that gives an overall good function for those looking for an added accessory to help speed magazine transitions.
  • Weight Average (3/5): At 0.25 pounds (or 4 ounces) the biggest influence to the AM’s weight was simply due to the principle atomic weight of aluminum, which is fixed and directly related to the overall design. While measures could have been taken to perhaps shave down the AM to save weight, the impact would have been a negative to its intended function. In comparison, the Armaspec Rhino (1.73 ounces), MAS Defense Flared Magwell Adaptor (2 ounces), Sylvan Arms Flared Magwell (2 ounces), or Cobalt Kinetics Magwell Extension (5.5 ounces) place the Adaptive Magwell at the higher end of weight, but appropriate (or average) for its size and function.

Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)

Product Link: https://lancer-systems.com/product/adaptive-magwell/

IMG_2889_TackenbergI am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

Magpul Patrol 2.0: Protect Your Knuckledusters

Released in 2020, the 2.0 is the latest iteration of the Patrol Glove offered by Magpul to bring together dynamic materials and robust protection, while offering maximum dexterity possible. The Patrol Glove 2.0 has full coverage and is designed to support law enforcement, military, and private shooters alike.

Made overall from a dual chassis combination of corded elastic nylon and premium goatskin leather, the Patrol Glove 2.0 affords a high-degree of breathability with adequate enclosure around the hand and fingers. This protective leather extends up and around the front tip of each finger and thumb, for increased protection.

Between the thumb and forefinger is a reinforced valley with added leather, that will protect the hand web and material from compromise, be it through abrasion or impact. This is especially good for users of compact and sub-compact handguns due to the increased risk of contact with the slide during function. The thumb in each glove includes touch-screen compatibility for most common smart devices.

Each finger has an enhanced articulation design, and closed-cell padded knuckle panels for maximum tactile control and protection. The top-most facing half of the glove is made from an elastic nylon that allows the glove to contour to the user as well as most dynamic situations.

The Patrol Glove 2.0 includes an elastic nylon band around the wrist bone that secures the glove, as well as anchors a leather pull loop that aids in donning the glove.

The Patrol Glove 2.0 is available in Coyote (featured) and Black, and come in sizes between Small and 2XL.  

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Average (3/5): With a list price of $49.95, the Patrol Glove 2.0 is one of several gloves in the Magpul clothing line, and the second generation of the glove that improves on the previous design. The corded elastic nylon material gives maximum flexability and tactile sensation for the wearer, while the closed-cell padding offers a modest degree of protection for the overall hand and knuckles. Some notable market comparators to the Patrol Glove 2.0 would be the M-Pact Tactical Gloves ($24.99) by Mechanix, the Assault Pilot Gloves ($70) by Oakley SI, or the Tactical Gloves ($49.95) by Sig Sauer. This gives the Patrol Glove 2.0 an appropriate (or average) score in terms of its cost to the consumer.
  • Comfort – Good (4/5): The lightweight and flexible material of the Patrol Glove 2.0 enabled it to fit very comfortably, with a good degree of tactile sensation for weapon controls, loading ammunition, or in general use. The premium leather potions did affect some sense of tactile feel at the fingertips, but not to the point of distraction or inability to manipulate controls. The cut of the material and reinforcement along the web of the hand and palm kept a good degree of comfort and flexibility, while still allowing for full range of motion. The closed cell pads provided a good degree of protection to the knuckle line, but the harder the force striking it (and the object in question), the more abrasive on the exterior material it became and some fraying was noted.
  • Durability – Average (3/5): Over the course of examination (roughly 30 days on the range, hikes, and in everyday wear); while the upper corded elastic nylon exterior was very flexible, as it came into contact with more abrasive surfaces (such as hard metal edges, wood, or rocks) the smaller breaks and fraying of the material was noted. This was particularly notable around the raised foam padding with its slightly taller profile. The leather palm held up well with minor scratching noted from manipulating weapon controls or grabbing at various surfaces. The same leather material also extended from the palm, down the bottom length of the fingers, and around the front half of the fingers. This ensured the fingertips were properly protected from hard or abrasive surfaces. The stitching appeared to be one continual line throughout most of the glove, with only extensive bartack and double line stitching added to various stress points. One aspect of the Patrol Glove 2.0 design that lends itself to its longevity is the option to use an elastic wrist closure as opposed to the use of a hook-and-loop tab that many other gloves use and often wears out. This design choice will ensure the gloves longer-term usage.
  • Functionality – Good (4/5): From a functional aspect, the Patrol Glove 2.0 did what was expected, it protected the backhand with its closed-cell padded material, while giving the palm and fingers extended protection with the leather. With its elastic wrist enclosure and stitched pull tab, this aided in easy donning of the glove without risk of excessive wear out or compromise of the overall stitch line. The loop itself also had the added function to be used to hang the gloves on a carabiner or hook when not in use. The fingers did have good tactile connectivity to touchscreen technology and easily manipulated the screen to various smart devices to some extent (things that required more dexterity like zoom in/out were somewhat more challenging).
  • Weight – Good (4/5): Weighing 2.5 ounces for the pair, the Patrol Glove 2.0 was a lightweight additive to any range belt or bag. Its materials and size did not contribute to overall bulk, and was otherwise very comfortable. While the M-Pact Tactical Gloves (4.8 ounces) by Mechanix, the Assault Pilot Gloves (7.5 ounces) by Oakley SI, or the Tactical Gloves (3 ounces) by Sig Sauer demonstrate the variance in market weight for such accessories. Given the listed market alternatives, they all demonstrate that the Patrol Glove 2.0 is of a good weight among its competitors that offer similar protection and materials.

Overall Rating – Above Average (18/25)

Product Link: https://magpul.com/apparel-gear/accessories/gloves/patrolglove2-0.html?mp_global_size=undefined

I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

SB Tactical SBM4: Remaining a Solid Option

Released at SHOT Show in 2019, the SBM4 is one of the original AR pistol braces offered by SB Tactical, and among many along its AR, AK, and shotgun models. The M4 variant features a fixed length pistol brace on a mil-spec buffer tube, and soft rubberized support wings that provide for improved comfort and function for shooters over the first SB15 brace.

As an improvement in design over the first SB15 brace, the SBM4 was intended to be a more comfortable variant, with improved ergonomic forearm support wings and a 1” hook-and-loop strap to secure the brace to the arm. The M4 brace is mounted and fixed on any AR pistol buffer tube (not included with brace).

Fully seated, the M4 has an overall length of 7.2”. Understanding these measurements can become impetrative when determining the overall length of an AR build to meet ATF regulations on AR pistols.

With a wide 2.1” rubberized body, the spine of the M4 also enables an improved cheek weld for the user. This is an improvement over the SB15, and for comparison an improvement over the smaller, thinner, and lighter Magpul CTR buttstock.

The SBM4 is only available in Black (featured) and FDE.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Good (4/5): As one of the more inexpensive braces offered by SB Tactical, the SBM4 has a sticker price of just $99.99. The M4 is also available at secondary sites for approximately $79, with some retailer coupons or sales during holiday’s providing the brace for even a lower cost. Given that SB Tactical is the market leader for firearm braces, there is no direct competitor for comparison to the M4 other than the original SB15 or perhaps the first Sig Brace (neither of which are currently offered). Nearly all other pistol braces within the SB Tactical line (and other vendors) cost more, with a variety of additional features. But for its bare basics approach and simple functional design, the M4 is among the best balance of these with regards to inexpensive cost.
  • Comfort – Average (3/5): The M4 brace is a duality of comfort—one with pliable rubberized support wings that gave the wearer a good base of support to the forearm. This prevented the AR pistol from canting while in use, and the support strap kept the overall brace secured to the arm even with the weight of the firearm held out at full extension to the body. The downside being that the brace itself had a fixed length of pull on the AR pistol buffer tube, and was un-adjustable for either the length of the forearm or against the cheek and thus made it difficult for those with thicker forearms. Elsewhere, the nylon support strap was slightly elastic that made getting a positive/tight bond somewhat difficult, but not unattainable. Internet research showed some aftermarket replacement straps to most SB Tactical braces and the M4 that prevents overlapping or permanent warping of the rubberized plastic while in storage, and the recommendation to the manufacturer would perhaps examine improving or offering alternate straps for improved comfort and function.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): The SBM4 was made with an ABS rubberized polymer body that gave it a similar profile to a A2-style stock or the newer SBA4, but was less rigid and provided a very stable platform for a positive cheek weld due to the lock with the buffer tube. The forearm support sides also had sufficient flex to contour around the arm without strain or cracking. Because of the polymer material, perhaps the only risk to the durability of the brace itself would be from extended exposure to UV (i.e. sun) light that has been known to make ABS plastics brittle over time.
  • Functionality – Good (4/5): The SBM4’s function as an AR pistol brace was pretty straightforward, however installation on a pistol buffer tube did prove difficult (let alone removal) given the tight tolerances and the friction resistance of the ABS material. The upside is that when on, the M4 was very solid. Fit and function did as intended, with the brace securely attaching to the forearm and providing some measurable distance (similar to a collapsed A2 stock) for a cheek weld. THose with thicker forearms may experience some difficulty in getting a full fit of the M4’s side wings, but not to the point of being detrimental to a secure fit. The only notable negative aspect from a functional point (aside from the lack of adjustability as discussed in Comfort) was an ensuing gap at the back end of the M4 brace where the AR pistol buffer tube did not fully extend. A suggestion here to SB Tactical would be to consider developing some type of endcap or utilize the space as an impromptu storage space like the Magpul grip modules.
  • Weight – Good (4/5): Weighing in at 8.04 ounces (w/o buffer tube) the SBM4 is still one of the mid-weight braces offered by SB Tactical, and most likely attributed to the sheer volume of ABS polymer. In comparison, the heaviest AR pistol brace in the SB line is the SBPDW (18.14 ounces) while others, such as the SBM47 (15.5 ounces), SBA3 (6.75 ounces), and SBA4 (10 ounces) demonstrate the weight of the SBM4 is directly in the middle of other AR pistol braces.

Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)

Product Link: https://www.sb-tactical.com/product/sbm4/

***Editor’s Note: The history and ruling of AR/AK pistol braces is a sordid one. From the initial ATF ruling in 2014the “clarification” letter by Max Kingery (then-acting Chief of Firearms Technology Criminal Branch) in 2015, and a second ATF ruling in 2017, and the most recent ATF clarification in 2019 the regulation agency has struggled to provide a clear ruling on the application of such devices. Specifically shouldering, the topic of proper use of braces has caused more internet arguments among “internet lawyers”. Currently ATF guidance as of 2019 states as follows:

“To the extent the January 2015 Open Letter implied or has been construed to hold; that incidental, sporadic, or situational ‘use’ of an arm-brace (in its original approved configuration) equipped firearm from a firing position at or near the shoulder was sufficient to constitute a ‘redesign,’ such interpretations are incorrect and not consistent with ATF’s interpretation of the statute or the manner in which it has historically been enforced.”

As such, Per the ATF the use of an AR/AK pistol brace comes down to intent. Thus, accidental or “sporadic” shouldering of an AR pistol brace is not illegal. When consistently shouldered however, it demonstrates the intent to subvert regulations on SBRs by utilizing the AR pistol and brace as an impromptu work-around (and thus illegal). The same is said by adding accessories intended for precise accuracy as found with an SBR, such as scopes or utilizing irons. During the course of evaluations, any shouldering of the SBA3 was purely accidental, as efforts are made to test the brace within various range iterations to the extent of design, while still adhering to ATF regulations.

I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Marksmenship Training Aids: Show Them the Way

It can often be difficult for firearm instructors to find the right tools and resources that adequately convey the concepts of shooting fundamentals to students. There are any number of gimmicks that can prove either stellar successes, or abysmal flops. Enter the Marksmanship Training Aids by TrainingSights.com that have made it easy for both instructor and student to visualize the same sight picture, and improve the lessons learned.

Made from a transparent sheet of ABS plastic, the Marksmanship Training Aids (MTAs) come in a variety of sizes. The largest (8.5” x 11”) best used for large class demonstration can be clearly seen form a distance, while the wallet-sized (2.25” x 3.75”) is best utilized for one-on-one instruction. The ABS material makes the aids water and stain resistant, and are flexible enough to fit inside a range bag without being overly rigid.

At a basic and intermediate level, the MTAs come in a variety of pistol and rifle configurations and sight colors. This allows the broadest number of students, regardless of personal firearm selection, language, or experience to associate what is conveyed in instruction (both audibly and visually) to their own sight picture. This speeds learning and limits excessive lectures.