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.

 

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.

 

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.

More advanced MTAs incorporate a Red Dot Sight picture, or more common scope reticles for long-distance shooting education.

The Marksmanship Training Aids are available in White, Red, or Black sight configuration and come in either 8.5” x 11” (Legal), 4” x 6” (Notecard), or 2.25” x 3.75” (Wallet) sizes.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostGood (4/5): Price per Marksmanship Training Aid varies based on complexity and overall size, with the more simplified wallet versions costing $4.50 each—to the largest 8.5” x 11” pistol aids (which comprise two pages for both sight posts) at $20.99. Thus, for its varied size and the durability of the ABS material, the MTAs make for a very good and affordable product. In comparison, other similar training aids vary in creativity and cost (such as homemade wooden/PVC sight alignment trainers), visual graphic illustrations, or tried-and-true dime/washer drills. But in all these alternatives the training aids are fixed and static, and require associated lecture to explain concepts. The MTAs by TrainingSights.com allow both the trainer and trainee to visualize the same training concepts, in the same sight picture. This alone can eliminate confusion and speed success.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): For its various sizes, the MTAs were still semi-flexible and pliable enough so as to not be bulky in a range bag. They were also lightweight enough so as to not be burdensome when carried. Thus, when using them, the clear background and stark sight picture silhouettes, allowed the trainer to easily demonstrate proper sight picture and convey various concepts as related to fundamental techniques effectively and clearly.
  • Durability – Average (3/5): The principle material to the MTAs was a transparent ABS plastic, into which is printed the sight picture silhouettes. The use of this material meant that the MTAs were water and stain resistant; however, as a softer polymer it was not completely scratchproof. When in contact to hard-edge metal, such as wire cleaning brushes or firearms, the ABS material became superficially marred. Thus, the best means of protection for the MTAs and preserve its durability was to either slide them into the portion of range bags intended for targets/documents and apart from the main compartment with ammo, firearms, and cleaning supplies—or to retain them in a separate folder or binder. The smaller MTAs were easier to store in this regard as they could easily be kept in a side pocket of the range bag or in the individual’s clothing pocket and produced quickly.
  • Functionality Excellent (5/5): Functionally, while the MTAs were all simplistic in design, it was what they helped convey that was far more beneficial—a shared understanding of principles and concepts between instructor and student. In almost all methods of training aids (classroom lecture, drawing illustrations, homemade sight blocks, etc.); instructors are often left demonstrating concepts that then conveyed to the student in the hopes that they understand and internalize the message. Instructors have no awareness if what lesson was being communicated, was done so correctly until shots went downrange and the results are seen on paper. Then the instructor is left to try and get “inside” the student’s head to help either correct or guide the student to attain success. In contrast, the MTAs (printed on large and clear ABS material) allowed the instructor to manipulate various representations of iron sight pictures, holographic red dot images, or multi-power scope reticles to easily help convey the concepts and lessons. Literally using the MTAs was so easy that even a young, aspiring 5yr old novice shooter was able to understand what the sight picture needed to look like to get rounds on paper. The ability to draw upon a variety of different reticle and sight configurations meant that the instructor was able to easily customize the training aid to fit some of the most common firearms and optics on the market.
  • Weight Excellent (5/5): From the largest 8.5” x 11” (2 ounces), the 4” x 6” (0.4 ounces), or the 2.25” x 3.75” (0.025 ounces), all the MTAs were amazingly light and not cumbersome in any degree. Weighing less than a notepad, these training aids easily could fit in a variety of locations without being noticeable until needed. In contrast, other training aids noted above (white boards, homemade wooden boxes, endless field manuals) obviously all weight more than these simple ABS sheets. Again, this showed the benefit to these training aids in that they can be stored in any location without much bulk or weight added to the training kit.

Overall Rating – Good (21/25)

Product Link: https://www.trainingsights.com

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.

Propper Bail Out Bag: Rapid Response On the Go

Designed for rapid deployment and flexibility, the Propper Bail Out Bag offers a modern take on a way to pack for a short-term contingency.

Initially introduced during the Korean War by soldiers preparing “bail out” positions, packs were put together that were meant to sustain individuals 12-24 hours until they could get to a position or point of greater support. These packs became known as Bail Out Bags (BOBs). Today the concept of BOBs has expanded to include packs specific to a purpose, such as Boom Bags, 72-hour packs, or first responder/active shooter bags.

Specifications for the Propper Bail Out Bag

The Propper Bail Out Bag is 100% 600D Cordura and features two, full-sized access compartments (one wide, one thin) – both featuring a full panel of hook-and-loop in the interior, but the larger compartment also features a full panel of MOLLE webbing as well. This allows customization of the internal compartments to any pocket, holster, or pouch with the associated mounting system. Both compartments are secured via zippers using 550 cord with rubberized tubing.

On the BOB’s exterior, one side is completely lined with three bands of MOLLE webbing and one panel of hook-and-loop the entire length of the bag. On the other side are three AR-15 magazine pouches with elastic slide adjusters that will accommodate up to six magazines (two per pouch) and secured via hook-and-loop. The BOB features two side pockets; one mesh with an elastic enclosure band and the other with a zippered enclosure (using a 550 cord drawstring) and exterior MOLLE webbing.

The entire bag measures 11″ length, 5″ deep, and 9″ in height. It has five drainage grommets and is carried via a single padded shoulder strap with two plastic carabiner clips and anchored at two plastic D-rings. The Propper Bail Out Bag comes in Coyote (featured) and black.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostAverage (3/5): At $34.99 the Propper Bail Out Bag is nicely priced for its size, features, and materials. I do think however given the market for similar BOBs, some improvements could be made with minimal impact to the overall cost of the product, such as reinforced hardware.
  • Comfort Fair (2/5): Fully loaded, the BOB resembles, and feels like it looks – a large square slung over your shoulder. While you can’t overload it weight-wise, if worn while deploying a carbine the pack does not contour to the body effectively and is only secured via a single shoulder strap. Additionally, I would have liked to have seen the underside of the shoulder pad rubberized for added grip. Access to the compartments and magazines was easy as the zippers felt smooth and the hook-and-loop was secure.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): The 600D Cordura of the bag is on par with other similar priced BOBs on the market. The choice of material will ensure abrasion resistance and longevity regardless if the BOB is used on the range, in a patrol car, or personal vehicle. I do question the choice of using plastic for the carabiner and D-ring hardware, because it feels flimsy in relation to the weight of a fully loaded bag and its potential operational environment (one where it is supporting law enforcement and getting tossed around while worn or pulled at by vegetation). Other patrol bags and smaller dump bags do use similar plastics in their hardware, but as a BOB you want that added durability to key points.
  • Functionality Good (4/5): The design of this bag as a “Bug Out Bag” implies one (by nature of position or duty) regularly carries, or has immediate access to a carbine, such as a patrol officer or sheriff would. With the dedicated magazine pockets, and plenty of MOLLE webbing, the BOB has a large array of functionality for LEOs or members of the military looking for an active shooter or first response bag. However, from the standpoint of civilian application then this BOB would be better suited as a small range bag.
  • Weight Good (4/5): Weighing in at less than a pound, the BOB’s relatively small size and choice of materials help ensure the overall weight is minimal. Your ability to add weight is entirely up to you, but keep in mind that there are no carry handles so all the added weight will be on your shoulder.

Overall Rating – Above Average (17/25)

Product Link: https://www.propper.com/propperr-bail-out-bag.html

IMG_2889I 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.

Pocket Pro II Shot Timer: Simplicity and Speed

Depending on if your shooting interests are competitive, developmental, or personal a quality shot timer is essential. The Pocket Pro II by Competition Electronics offers a simplified timing platform that covers all the bases needed to accurately track skill progression. Initially introduced circa 2012 as a more ergonomic model to its predecessor the Pocket Pro, today it remains one of the most visible and readily found timers on the range.

The Pocket Pro II is a simplified, stand-alone audio-detection shot timer that can be worn in any number of locations (belt, pocket, vest) thanks to its integrated, large clothes-pin style belt clip. Additionally, it features a 3/4″ x 2.0″ LCD display screen that can be modified to three different shot time configurations. Because of the Pocket Pro II’s overall size (5” x 3” x 1.5”) it is clearly designed to be worn or hand-held, which makes it ideal for formal matches. The Pocket Pro II also comes with a 9-volt battery that powers the shot timer for 20 hours of run-time that is extended thanks to an automatic shutoff feature if the device records 10 minutes of inactivity.

Specifications for the Pocket Pro II

  • 1.5kHz (105 dB) start buzzer frequency transmits well through hearing protection
  • Accurate to 1mSec with times rounded to the nearest 10mSec
  • Separate and independent shot sensor and buzzer
  • Large buttons
  • Top-mounted display is readable from your belt or the bench
  • Review four shots at once, forward or reverse with split times
  • Large, easy to read lighted graphics LCD displays full words and description of functions
  • 2 year warranty

The Pocket Pro II comes configured in the “Quick Start Mode” that allows the user to power up and start shooting thanks to the platform’s factory pre-programming.

Start time for the Pocket Pro II can be customized between Fixed (.5 – 9.9 seconds), Random (.5 – 9.9 seconds), or Instant.

The main display can be customized between Review Direct, Rounds Per Minute, or Single Time Only.

The shot timer stores up to 99 shots per timing cycle, with customizable par time between 0 and 199.9 seconds. The sensitivity of the device’s “Shot Dead Time” can be adjusted to mitigate echo, while the audio-detection sensitivity of the timer itself can also be adjusted. Display backlighting can be customized between 0 and 99 seconds, but the longer it remains on, the shorter the battery life.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostAverage (3/5): At $136.95 the Pocket Pro is about the median for what a reliable shot timer costs in the current market. However, for its basic programming as a static shot timer the Pocket Pro II is in the higher end of that group given there are other timers available, with more functions at a lesser cost.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): The size of the Pocket Pro II was very comfortable in the hand. As an RO or MD timing a shooter, it’s large enough you don’t worry about dropping it and the buttons are simple and large enough to maximize the user’s experience. The included belt clip allows you to determine the best placement so as not to interfere with shooting, were as a neck lanyard may.
  • Durability – Average (3/5): The Pocket Pro II is made of a commercial-grade plastic and does the LCD screen comes with a replaceable polycarbonate lense. But it’s large enough that it is unlikely to be damaged if dropped. Competition Electronics does offer a two-year warranty to cover any defect or damage to the unit shy of the owner purposely destroying it.
  • Functionality Good (4/5): As a simplified, basic shot timer the Pocket Pro II offers users the ability to skip the formalities and dive right into shooting. The ability to customize the main display screen allows one to determine what fits best for them in terms of displayed data. However, the lack of programming diversity in the unit does not allow for it to hold multiple shooting styles (Comstock, Cowboy, etc.) and requires the settings to be adjusted whenever changing between them.
  • Weight Average (3/5): At 7.2 ounces the Pocket Pro II is of average weight for its size and utility. When worn on the belt the unit is hardly noticeable, and when held its size and weight doesn’t make it difficult to keep raised.

Overall Rating – Above Average (17/25)

Product Link: https://www.competitionelectronics.com/product/pocket-pro-2-blue/

IMG_2889I 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.

Snake Eater Tactical Simple Sling: It’s All In the Name

Introduced in mid-2017 as a lightweight and functional rifle sling, Snake Eater Tactical continues to produce its Simple Sling as a customizable mainstay to its overall tactical product line.

Made from a 1” wide nylon webbing, the Simple Sling uses an ITW Ladderlock buckle at the front end of the sling to allow for easy, one-handed adjustment.

The Simple Sling comes with several different mounting options to include; a QD swivel, HK snap hook, the Blue Force Gear Uloop, and a stitched webbing loop.

The rear of the sling comes with the standard plastic hardware to allow the material to be passed through any 1” sling mount or allow for additional mounting hardware to be added (not included).

The front end of the sling end in a “Z fold” that has reinforced stitching to ensure adjustments never exceed the hardware, and that there is always a minimum of five inches of tail to grab a hold of. The rear end is free-running, and allows the user to apply it to either through webbing slots or tri-glide buckles to form a loop for the buttstock or QD attachment.

Specifications:

  • Minimum Length: 6”
  • Maximum Length: 65”

The Simple Sling comes in seven unique colors to include; Multicam (featured), A-TACS, Wolf Grey and more.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostExcellent (5/5): The listed cost for the Simple Sling runs between $29 and $42 based on hardware. This price reflects the balance between the nylon material of the sling, and the included minimalist hardware. The Simple Sling’s design is comparable to other mainstream slings currently offered by a number of vendors to include; the Operators Two Point Sling ($35.99) by First Spear, the Vickers Tactical Sling ($49.95) by Blue Force Gear, or the MS3 Gen2 ($47.45) by Magpul. Thus, at its base price the Simple Sling is perhaps one of the most inexpensive and affordable on the market while the inclusion of extras still keeps the cost modestly priced.
  • Comfort Good (4/5): Very lightweight and of average thickness for modern nylons, the Simple Sling added little weight to the overall rifle, even when wet. The solution-dyed mil-spec 17337 nylon weave pattern helped ensure durability, and still yielded good flexibility through the ladderlock hardware without binding or drag. As a minimalist sling there was no padding, yet the material was soft enough not to excessively chafe exposed skin.
  • Durability – Excellent (5/5): From a durability aspect the Simple Sling comprised of just that—a simple sling made from lightweight and flexible 17337 nylon. This type of nylon has been used for years in MOLLE webbing and has breaking strength of 1,200 pounds at 1” wide. Numerous adjustments to the overall length and position did not yield any frayed edges nor friction markings (typically associated to the hardware heating up to the point to physically melt the outermost layer). The heat-shrink tubing attached to the ladderlock buckle did not split nor stretch, and did a good job at adding a purchase point on which to grab for adjusting the overall sling.
  • Functionality Good (4/5): Functionally, it’s hard to get overly complicated on a minimalist sling design. And the Simple Sling took its adjustment design from the older Vickers Sling by Blue Force Gear and employed that simplicity with more modern materials and hardware. This allows the Simple Sling to deployment in mere seconds. Attaching/adjusting the provided front end connection point was easy, and the rear folded material allowed it to be directly mounted to a stock or have preferred hardware added (not included).
  • Weight Excellent (5/5): At just 53 grams (1.86 ounces) the overall weight of the Simple Sling was extremely light thanks to its principle 17337 nylon. There was no excess material or padding, and that kept the weight to a minimum. In comparison the Operators Two Point Sling (113 grams), the Vickers Tactical Sling (117 grams), or the MS3 Gen2 (225 grams) were all still well above the weight of the Simple Sling due to the thickness of the nylon and associated metal hardware. The Simple Sling’s light weight put it as one of the lightest minimalist slings on the market.

Overall Rating – Very Good (23/25)

Product Link: https://www.snakeeatertactical.com/product/the-simple-sling/

IMG_2889_Tackenberg

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.

Propper Summerweight Tactical Shorts: Just In Time For The Summer

As the temperature turns up, time on the range can translate to long hours in the sun. Thankfully the Summerweight Tactical Shorts by Propper can help keep you cool, while still giving you the flexibility for training. The additional pocket storage, and fabric design of the shorts help ensure that no matter how much you carry with you, you will still remain cool and comfortable.

Initially introduced circa in 2015, the Summerweight Tactical Shorts feature 11 overall pockets on an athletic-fit style short with an 11″ inseam. The material itself consists of a UPF 50 fabric, blended to a 94% nylon / 6% spandex ripstop that keeps the shorts light, and maintains moisture-wicking breathability.

At the waist, the Summerweight Tactical Shorts have a rigid waistband, and sit straight through the hip and thigh. The six, 1.5″ belt loops (four in the front, two on the back) coincide with an extended oversized button, and YKK zippered fly. The added gusseted crotch adds to the flexibility and movement.

On the leg are two flap-closure thigh pockets (one each side) secured with hook-and-loop, and with mesh lining. Above the thigh pockets are two YKK zippered pockets (one each side) to mid-thigh also with mesh lining. Each front pocket has re-enforced knife lining on the edge, and a partial mesh lining. The shorts also have two hook-and-loop secured watch pockets.

On the back are two YKK zippered rear pockets with a mesh lining, and a bonus concealed pocket between the two back belt loops wide enough to fit a spare AR magazine, notebook, or wallet.

The Summerweight Tactical Shorts come in sizes 28″ waist to 56″ and the listed colors include: Alloy (featured in review), Black, Khaki, LAPD Navy, and Olive.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • CostGood (4/5): At $39.99 the Propper Summerweight Tactical Shorts continue the line of cost-effective clothing the company has been marketing with their EdgeTec products. Given that the clothing comes in a ripstop weave that will extend the longevity of the clothing, the shorts are very well priced in comparison to other tactical shorts on the current market.
  • Comfort Excellent (5/5): Amazingly breathable! The lightweight materials and the mesh lining not only keep the overall weight of the shorts to a minimum, but enable very good breathability amid high temperatures. During testing, the only mistake made was not using sunscreen because the shorts allowed the shooter to remain cool despite stressors and heat.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): Despite the lightweight materials and ripstop design, the durability of the Tactical Shorts isn’t in question. No loose thread were found and the shorts have re-enforced stitching in high-stress areas. The YKK zippers felt smooth and didn’t hang up during opening//closing so it is likely the only risk to the durability will come from genuine hard use over time. I would have liked to see a little more re-enforcement to the belt loops or waistline given that you can store a lot of items in all the various pockets and you’d need a sturdy belt to help secure it.
  • Functionality Excellent (5/5): Legitimately, with 11 pockets (including a concealed pocket that fits a backup AR mag) you would be hard-pressed to find tactical shorts that could compare.
  • Weight Good (4/5): At 4.2 oz. the lightweight materials and design translate to shorts that don’t feel heavy or pull at the waistline after an extended time worn, even with loaded pockets. With the summer months approaching, if shooters are looking for lightweight tactical shorts that will help ensure they stay cool, these would defiantly do it.

Overall Rating – Very Good (22/25)

Product Link: https://www.propper.com/mens/propper-summerweight-tactical-short.html

IMG_2889I 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.

Shadow Elite Range Bag: Pack Everything You Need

From Canadian designer/manufacturer The Requirements Group (TRG) comes undoubtedly one of the largest, and most capable range/patrol bags available. The “Range Bag” offers enough pockets, sleeves, and space that if Batman himself needed a dual range/patrol bag for the Batmobile—this would be it.

Constructed overall of 600D Cordura with closed-cell padded foam, the included rigid inserts/dividers provide customizable storage space to the main storage compartment and assist the bag overall in maintaining its integrity when fully loaded. The range bag can be carried either by the provided padded shoulder strap (anchored via plastic speed clips on either end), or the carrying handles that can be joined together via a padded hook-and-loop cuff. The Range Bag measures approximately 17” (L) x 10” (W) x 11.5” (H) and features reinforced “X” type stitching or bartac where needed. The range bag only comes available in Black (featured).

Exterior

On the front is one 7” (L) x 8” (H) open-ended notebook-sized pocket (with ID card window), between two 3.5” (L) x 9” (H) open-ended accessory pockets. On one end is a curved, open-ended pocket for water bottles upon which is also a secondary zipper-secured pocket for documents. The other end features five rows of MOLLE straps for added customization of other pouches, holsters, or other items.

On the rear of the range bag are two hook-and-loop straps for securing gear, and six additional MOLLE straps that run the entire length of the bag—a feature that makes securing the range bag to vehicle interiors extremely easy, or adds to the flexibility of the overall bag.

The top of the bag features an 9” (L) x 14” (H) expandable zipper-secured pouch (with 4” (L) x 13” (H) hook-and-loop field), three pen slots, and a hook-and-loop strap to secure flashlights, gloves, or batons. The main storage compartment inside the range bag is accesses from the top via an oversized “chunky” zipper designed for rugged field use—the same zipper style on the top expandable pouch.

On the bottom of the bag are four textured rubberized pads to help keep the bag from moving.

Interior

On the inside of the range bag lid is one small, zipper-secured accessory pouch (5” (L) x 6” (H)), one small hook-and-loop secured accessory pouch (5.5” (L) x 6” (H)), four pen sleeves, four individual MOLLE straps, and another hook-and-loop strap. In addition, on the inside lid is a zipper-secured pocket that runs the length of the lid and gives access to a second mesh pocket inside the pocket. Lastly, the lid also has a headrest strap that enables the bag to remain open and accessible while in a vehicle.

The main storage compartment to the range bag is fully customizable using the removable rigid dividers. This not only allows you to prioritize what needs to be protected, but how the inside of the range bag is organized.