Aimpoint Micro – King of the Hill

Just my Aimpoint AB T-1 operating in the very toughest of suburban environments.

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There is really nothing I’m able to say to endorse this optic that hasn’t already been said in the many years it has already been on the market and in usage all over the world in a myriad of applications. These things have seen untold amounts of military usage for many years now and there’s already a plethora of torture test videos out there showing just how ridiculously durable the T-1 is. The most impressive part of the durability of this red dot sight is not just purely how rugged it is though, because generally less weight = less durability, yet a T-1 with no mount weighs a paltry 84 grams and that’s essentially nothing. In fact without getting very vulgar it’s hard to find the words to describe how close to nothing it really weighs and yet can still survive things that would kill off the vast majority of other firearm/tactical equipment.

Pop in a fresh battery and it will run for 50000 hours (~5 years) on visible setting 8. Leave it on setting 2 (NVG/IR visible only) and Aimpoint reckons you’ll still see a dot through your Night Vision after more than half a million hours of continuously being on i.e. over half a century, though I’d imagine the battery itself would expire long before then simple through age. Try something similar with a cheap clone and you’ll have a dead battery in about 2 days most likely, if that.

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The spec sheet also states the device has an operation range going from -41 degrees celsius to 71 degrees. Even the hottest days in the hottest parts of Afghanistan only reach around 50 degrees and if you’re trying to shoot at someone in lower than -30C… well design dependant I’d be surprised if even your firearm and/or ammunition continue to function reliably or indeed at all.

I originally had intended to stick purely to the likes of Primary Arms, Vortex and Holosun for airsoft usage since they can all happily withstand use on recoiling replicas whereas Chinese clones often don’t. I’d also use an IR laser if I happened to be playing the game at night using NV so the H-1 would be the more economical choice, however when this device came up for sale for not very much more than a Vortex equivalent I had to jump on it. Obviously anyone would be sceptical initially at that price but I’ve tested the IR modes and they all work and the build quality is evident in the flesh, so if this is a fake it’s the best fake I’ve ever seen and I don’t know why the market wouldn’t be flooded and paranoid over these incredibly realistic imitations.

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In typical fashion I’m yet to purchase a mount for this optic but the plan is to go with the Geissele Automatics, LLC to create an all around nigh-indestructible package that I can use for shooting sports in future if I take up something like practical shotgun (or indeed emigrate).

It’s Just Like Call of Duty 4

So yes, a while back I jumped in to the night vision arena, which was a fairly expensive jump as you’d imagine. The ‘hardest’ part was actually listening to my own years of learning in the sense that buying the cheap option to begin with will never satisfy me, knowing there’s something better available and seeing other people with that better thing. I think just about everybody who’s not a millionaire starts with more budget gear then gradually works up over time. Not everyone wants or needs to eventually buy the most gucci and expensive option of course, but I think many of you will be familiar with a wastage of money through buying something cheaper to start with, only to then sell it at a loss and replace it with the superior product. Be it a uniform set, belt, helmet, whatever.

Trying to learn from one’s own mistakes and apply that learning to something like gloves or a shirt for example is not comparatively all that painful. Applying that learning to night vision however is one of those occasions where you take a hard gulp, pay the money and sit back in your chair for a minute afterwards to process what you just did. Problem is the unit itself is just the start, because the rest of the things you’ll need in order to use that unit really securely are going to tot up to yet another pretty fat stack of cash.

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“Surely dual tubes are the top of the line?” some would ask, but after seeing Bryan’s ITS Tactical interview with John Lovell of Warrior Poet Society some time ago, I decided saving myself a couple grand and taking John’s advice was the way to go. There’s a ton of ex-SF guys in the states making videos and offering training of course and I’m sure we all subscribe to at least a few on YouTube, but listening to John talk about NV use on deployment with a clear depth of genuine experience and his general down to earth persona (certainly compared to a lot of guys in that same arena who want you to #crusheverything) I just got a good vibe overall. I’m picky on who I’ll take advice from, but in this instance I decided to listen up.

The key piece of info in the aforementioned interview was the fact that you’ve always got instant access to your normal vision through 1 eye with a single tube setup and the reality is you’re very unlikely to spend your entire time in the pitch black. You will move through different light conditions, someone might well hit you with white light that negates the NV entirely and as anyone who’s used NV will know, the technology can’t focus like a human eye. So if some bad stuff happens in bad stuff proximity there’s real value in being able to instantly switch to at least one eye of regular vision, or maybe you just have the NV focus set out to the far distance and you need to do some gear admin on yourself or weapon. There’s lots of other reasons too, but the single vs dual tube thing could easily be its’ own book and I am very far from a world expert. Another big takeaway from the interview is that absolutely every piece of NV gear has distinct ups and downs, which made for very honest discussion and of course applies to everything I just said above. Check out the video if you want to learn some really solid foundational stuff on NV use:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZS-4xQITec

So what did I actually pick up?

The unit itself is a PVS-14, which is like the AR of Night Vision with shed tons of after market support. It’s a Gen 3 Omni VII setup with auto-gating, manual gain adjustment and a small built-in IR illuminator. I’ve got a LIF filter on there as well as (crucially) lexan protective discs and daylight-drilled scope covers from Tactical Optician/AM Tactical – AMTAC. The helmet shroud is the skeletal 3-hole type that came on my Ops-Core, with a Wilcox Industries Corp. L4G24 mount and the matching Wilcox J-Arm.

Many people will at this point presumably be wondering what the fuck all that means and believe me when I say it wasn’t that long ago I had no clue either. I spent a good few weeks combing websites, old forum topics, stores and FAQs teaching myself the real basics of what each part of an NV setup actually is, what it does, what I wanted to buy and how it might perform for me. As backwards as it is, I’ll be breaking all those parts down in a future blog that I think will serve as a very handy reference for anyone wanting to buy night vision but who is currently lacking knowledge of the core nomenclature.

SHOT Focus – Samson Manufacturing

One company I wanted to put some specific focus on from SHOT was Samson Manufacturing. They’re not quite the sort of company I’d usually shine a spotlight on, but I think what they do is provide a very solid mid-price product line. The trends I see online are for most people to really go in hard for either the very cheapest stuff or the absolute most gucci and expensive, because there’s a large interest base at the two opposite ends of the spectrum. Lots of people want the very cheapest and lots more people want to live in that luxury realm as it were, because there’s mass appeal in both of those. Reality of course is that the true value for money lies somewhere around the middle.

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If we’re talking freefloat AR handguards for example (which these folks have been making for a long time now), Samson offer their new M-LOK SXS series which are visible in the first picture. For $185 for the 12″ rail which will nicely suit 14.5 and 16″ barrels is made from 6061-T6 aluminium, which is a great choice for rails, definitely up to the task and actually has some small advantages over 7075. You’re also getting US military standard/spec Type 3 hard coat anodising, a weight of 9.5oz minus barrel nut (Titanium nut available) and of course full length 12 o/clock pic rail with M-LOK at 3, 6 and 9. The inner diameter is 1.3″ which is a standard across dozens of companies and makes for just the right type of slim, ergonomic grip everybody is looking for. There’s no timing of the barrel nut and there are anti-rotation tabs to hug the upper receiver. You don’t have QD sockets, but then I’m not a fan of QD myself so I wouldn’t personally mind that at all.

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Now, can you spend a lot more and get super tough 7075 rails for military usage, or Alu-mag/Alu-lith alloys that weigh far less? Yes. You can also spend much less money and get inferior metals and much weaker surface finishes along with pic rails and M-LOK that are suspect dimensionally. But Samson also offer their SXS Lightweight (2nd picture) with similar qualities to the SXS MLOK and at barely over 6oz minus barrel nut. They’ve also got KeyMod, forearms for Sig and H&K platforms and tons of other products that I’d say hit a great place on the cost/performance curve.

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Additionally they’ve had a soft spot with me for a long time as they deal with the ITAR legalities somehow or other and will actually ship their rails out of the US. So folks in places like the UK here and around the world can customise personal rifles, airsoft replicas, mag-fed paintball etc with some rather nice accessories that give the popular, modern AR look and ergonomic feature set.

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PataWrongia More Like…

Gear I was trying out for the first time yesterday at Ambush Adventures The Billet site:

-Custom Blue Force Gear, Inc./Magpul Industries Corp. 1-to-2 point sling:
I’ve been using setups like this that I’ve made myself for years, but yesterday was the first time using it with QDs instead of Paraclips. The rotation-limited QD sockets that the MS4 adaptor and ALG rail have built in are good once you get things set the way you like, but you can’t realistically see where the segments and dividers are within the socket (without taking undue time clipping in) and sometimes you end up having to go back and mess with the attachment. Regular QD sling swivels are also a pain to manipulate compared to clips or hooks, which is why Magpul and BFG make their own versions with better control mechanisms.

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-Crye G3 All-Weather Combat Shirt:
Thicker in the torso than the regular G3 shirt, giving just that little bit more insulation and still a decent drying time. Unfortunately the wind will still go right through the torso and it definitely was doing that yesterday in a biting fashion, but the unlined softshell on the sleeves and yoke cuts out any wind and still breathes very well indeed.

SKD Tactical/Patrol Incident Gear [PIG GEAR] FDT Deltas:
I’ll be replacing at least a couple of pairs of my Alphas with these, if not most of them. All the same brilliant fitment and dexterity without the bloody annoying velcro tab to get them on and off every time where the hook part of the 2nd glove you put on always ends up eating some small part of the 1st glove. The Pig silicone letters peel off very easily but that’s always been the way with small grip additions like that on glove palms and fingers; be better if they knocked a few $ off the price and just never put those adornments on in the first place.

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– ALG Defense EMR V2 M-LOK Handguard:
A true pleasure to get to grips with. There’s not a massive different between this tube and the V1 I changed over from, but the small piece of pic rail at 12 o/clock up front is exactly what I want personally with no other wastage. It’s slim, extremely light and with just enough texturing in the geometry and anodising to not make things too smooth and slippery. You can’t beat 95%+ Geissele Automatics, LLC quality at a fraction of the price. I may add some covers/panels of some type just to decrease heat transfer slightly in winter, or possibly a cordura wrap as metallic rails act like a perfect heat sink, but that sort of thing entirely depends on your glove choice and circulation in the hands.

Grey Ghost Accomodator rifle mag pouch:
With an AEG mag, the function is perfect. Just enough grip to hold the ammo source, but no resistance to drawing it. I’ll need to try it again with a GBB rifle mag (they weight the same as a real one loaded) to see how it really retains something that has the necessary mass to carry momentum under movement however.

Patagonia PCU Level 9 Combat pants:
Big fat meh on these. They look cool and different to the G3s yes, but they’re not better in any way from what I’m seeing so far; certainly not when compared to NCs with the buttons. The normal front pockets are too shallow, the front thigh pockets seem too small in general as well. The main thigh cargo pockets are too far around the back of the leg and by far the worst feature is the fly. The button arrangement overall makes taking a piss a nightmare mission that would genuinely need SEAL training to complete. It’s hardly impossible to do a button fly that works either, other trousers have them, but the Pata arrangement is a fail. The L9s are just a step down from the NC or G3 in most ways. Not the worst trouser ever by any means and they’re not a million miles behind the Cryes, they’re just straight up not as good, so there’s no reason to recommend them for the vast majority of folks. Doubly so when Crye combats are far easier to find.

What folks want to know most I’m sure is what failed. Frankly these days I’m a bit disappointed if nothing goes wrong at all because then there’s nothing I can change and improve. I’ll say this beforehand however – I neither baby my kit nor do I deliberately trash it. I own enough now that if something falls apart I’m not going to be stuck and without kit to use, but on the other hand I’m not about stepping in to any recreational activity purely to ruin stuff I’ve purchased.

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The Patagonia knee pads were frankly unsurprising in their fragility and lacklustre performance. As with anything this is just a sample size of 1, however given the thin and brittle type of plastic that’s been used for the external caps I was pretty much expecting something to go wrong from the start. Bearing in mind I didn’t crash my knees in to any sharp edges to cause the split, this was the first outing for these pads and I only took a knee maybe 7 or 8 times during the day. A day of casual airsoft – not war fighting. As mentioned the plastic is just brittle, it doesn’t flex and cracks were simply bound to propagate. I liked the padding of the internal components of the pads, they’re a bit small compared to Crye but do a decent job. The other issue of course is the press/pop studs, which I knew weren’t nearly tough enough as soon as I took them out of the packaging. Move to a kneeling position too fast and guess what happens? At least 1 will disengage. Easy enough to take the time to remedy that in an airsoft game, not when you’re taking actual fire and have bigger concerns than protecting the stretch panels on your trousers from abrasion. The newer iterations I have on the way (which I’d presume are current issue) do have a positive locking system instead of the press studs.

What really disappointed me was the G-Code Holsters RTI rotating belt mount, which as you can see decided to shed 2 screws and would’ve shed 3 if the body of the holster hadn’t actually retained the 3rd. Those 3 sets of chicago screws worked themselves incredibly loose somehow, the other 2 were also loose but not to the point of the outer screws falling out (yet). I only drew and re-holstered maybe a dozen times and I’d rather expect draws and holstering actions to be the movements this gear should be designed to hold up to the best. Is this a parts or materials issue? Nope, it’s assembly. I’ve got lots of G-Code products here and this is the only one to have an issue anything like this. Clearly that bloke on the assembly shop floor was having a bad day; either that or the torque specs he was working to were far too low. Or the torque tool got a hard knock and was producing vastly different numbers to its’ setting. Either way those 2 screws of the 5 are gone forever now, I was lucky to catch the third right as I was packing up to leave.

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Highly fortunately I’ve got a bunch of spare G-Code nuts and bolts in a small organiser unit here that’s designed for DIY use and is full of similar ‘just in case’ bits and pieces. Wouldn’t want to be the guy on deployment or between shifts who was relying on this thing to mount his holster, especially if he’s only armed with a pistol in the first place. If they don’t respond to this post G-Code will be informed directly of this issue so they can double check their assembly processes. They’ve responded quickly in the past when I brought up a very minor issue with a slightly corroded piece of non-essential hardware. I’ll update here with my findings, but having talked about this item recently and sung its’ praises based on the other one I have (that has performed very well), I’m hardly thrilled by this turn of events. The toolbox and loctite will be used shortly to return the mount to full working order with the addition of spare screws, I’m just glad my holster and pistol didn’t even up clattering on to concrete.

B5 Systems Crane Style Stock

It’s a shoulder thing, that goes up?!?

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Just kidding it’s a B5 Systems SOPMOD stock (and what I did with 2 of them).

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Generally speaking – it’s an AR stock, I’ve tried out a lot and I’ve never found one that does anything different in terms of the interface between my shoulder and gun. This style of stock is old as the hills at this point and everyone’s familiar with the shape, it’s been cloned endlessly from the original Crane design. The B5 is well proven and the construction is sound, there’s a fair few flash lines from the moulding, but as you expect the rigidity and general robust design is evident; yet surprisingly not very heavy at all compared to a hulking beast like the Magpul ACS which I think is a pretty ridiculous stock by modern standards.

The SOPMOD features a soft rubber butt pad which can be easily removed to access the back of your buffer tube, should you need that for some reason. Each of the battery storage tubes has a double o-ring and should keep out water pretty well, as long as you’re not diving to deep for too long. Though I can’t claim to have tested this. There’s also a rotation limited QD sling point between the 2 old school sling slots, though personally I don’t like putting the weapons weight on a stock, even one this well made. Especially if you happen to have said stock extended all the way out, lot of leverage going on there.

The position adjustment level works in exactly the way you’d expect, no surprises there. Thick, solid metal pin to interface with the buffer tube. Overall, if you really like the sloped cheek weld or want storage in your stock for slim/cylindrical things and you want that stuff in a quality package, you can’t go wrong.

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M-LOK Competition

News announcement from Mission First Tactical – drop-in plastic M-LOK handguards for ARs.

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Not many alternatives to the Magpul out there right now, but of course the ability to just rip off those USGI handguards and instantly gain M-LOK is always nice. Likely similar price to the Magpul MOE-SL handguards once these get to stores, very similar overall shape of course. No idea whether there are M-LOK slots at 12 o/clock as I just had this media message drop in to my e-mails and I can’t find any other images. I know some VERY early MOE handguards had flat tops that you could bolt accessories on to then Magpul changed that years and years ago, maybe because of the heat from a gas tube? Not sure.

I’ve had some MFT BUIS that were a real let down quality wise, some really poor design aspects. On the other hand I’ve got a couple of the minimalist stocks that work great for me. Not a brand I’d take to war but of all their products I’ve seen/handled the overall impression is definitely decent. When you want an economical accessory that can quickly and very easily add functionality it’s very hard to beat a forend like this one.

A Light Sting

The Haley Strategic Partners Thorntail Offset KeyMod, manufactured by Impact Weapons Components [Official Fan Page], pictured on a Fortis Manufacturing Switch 556 forend.

At the time I originally picked this up around the end of 2015, KeyMod wasn’t nearly as ubiquitous of a system as it is now; things have definitely progressed a lot in terms of attachment systems during that time period. I seem to recall HSP had a sale on and the number of mounting options for SureFire, LLC Scout lights on KeyMod was comparatively limited at that point. Picatinny was tailing off in popularity but most of the accessories out there on the market were built to clamp on to quad rails.

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Today there are slimmer, lighter mounting options out there for Scout lights to go on to KeyMod (or M-LOK), but the Thorntail was clearly designed with a wide range of functionality in mind. Of course the screws for attaching a Scout are included, but the additions of the short section of pic rail (and the way it is cut) facilitate attachment of any weapon light that uses picatinny, as well as hand held lights if you purchase an additional clamp ring. The HSP Inforce variants work nicely as expected, placing the activation switch at a 45 degree angle when the mount is bolted on to the weapon’s handguard as pictured. There’s some good example images of all these configurations on the HSP web store:

http://www.haleystrategic.com/…/haley-strategic-thorntail-k…

IWC has obviously done some high level machine work and anodisation to create these pieces. The price isn’t economy minded but it’s good for what you’re getting. There are some plastic mounts out there for Scout lights and some are perfectly good for a majority of users, but this is the type of gear you need if you’re expecting serious usage and cannot accept any failings in any personal equipment. Or if you want to invest in a firearm accessory that’ll most likely last as long as you do.

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P-Tec Switch Rail

If you’ve ever forgotten your head torch and had to grip a normal one in your pie hole while trying to clean twigs and grass and carbon and other sthit out of an assault rifle, go ahead and hit that like button.

This little widget is a Princeton Tec Switch Rail I picked up from Tactical Distributors a nearly 3 years back, after a specific learning experience that highlighted the fact I really needed such a thing.

I’m a big fan of the fact it weighs almost literally nothing and with 1 simple button you’ve got 2 levels of handy red light and emergency white light at your disposal. One normal press immediately goes to low-power red, 2 quick presses for brighter red and a long press+hold for white. If the lower power red has been on for more than a couple of seconds then a press turns the light off again rather than going to higher power, meaning it’s very easy to ensure you never go in to the brighter modes if you don’t wish to do so and staying sneaky is achievable.

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I’ve mounted the light to an SLR Rifleworks forend for illustration purposes here and you’ll note how slim and small it is. Now of course the tacticool thing that all the gucci operators do is have a white/IR light and an IR laser/illuminator up front with a dual switch paired with night vision. Problem with that of course is it’ll cost you a few grand minimum for a really basic setup if you’re not so BA to have it issued to you and that’s a lot of dosh for pretty much anybody. Even if you’re not minted however you still may need to be able to navigate around places and not fall up a flight of stairs and die while carrying a weapon/replica, so that’s where an economical piece of gear like this comes in.

For just a bit less money than a night vision setup, you can have a powerful white light on one side of the weapon to identify, highlight and disorient targets (when necessitating compromising your natural vision and position), then on the other side have a discreet red light easily and instantly accessible to aid simply moving around and any other administrative tasks. Personally I find having such a red light weapon mounted allowing you to easily point it exactly where you want it while still maintaining a full and proper firing grip is invaluable vs forcing yourself in to some weird uncomfortable grip or slinging your weapon to go with a hand held (or even mounting a red light to a chest rig and then having the fuck about of trying to make it point where you actually want it to point).

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The Princeton still isn’t a ‘cheap’ option exactly, but relatively speaking in the realm of lights it’s not bad and you’ll only ever need to buy one since it’s very easily transferred between weapons if required. I think of all the bullshit one can potentially mount to a handguard, this is something that gives a huge amount of function at essentially no cost in weight or ergonomics to your gun. You won’t look like people on Instagram think you should look like with one of these (they want to see fake chinese PEQ boxes instead), but it’s by far the better option to not fall over and break your face on a metal railing instead of a fucking pointless hollywood red laser.

Edgar Brothers at DSEI

I had a feeling EB were putting something pretty special together for their stand and I was not disappointed. They had essentially a mini SHOT Show setup all in one area and I was loving it I have to say. On board they had lots of gear from Daniel DefenseBlue Force Gear, Inc.S&S PrecisionVelocity Systems/Mayflower R&CGeissele Automatics, LLCTeam WendyMYSTERY RANCH BACKPACKSArc’teryx, of course Hot Shots Calendarand even more I’m forgetting right now.

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Great opportunity to take a close look at a huge variety of equipment in one place that you’d otherwise have to travel the world or spend a fortune to see. That in itself is a very large and key part of the reason why I run this outlet and try to put out as much information as possible to anyone who wants it.

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Special mentions to Rosie Jones and Kelly Hall smiling away as always raising some cash for Help for Heroes Official. Between the pair of them they’ve attended more defence and security industry expos at this point than probably the majority of people actually working in that business. They’ll be at it again in Vegas come January with some of the other ladies and I’ll be saying the same thing no doubt. What actually matters is the fundraising to help the vets who’ve suffered so you and I don’t have to and deserve absolutely nothing but the best. Last time at Shot the cash boxes at the Crye booth were quite literally bursting and overflowing, so credit where credit is due because a lot of the people coming up to the stand do ask some strange and unusual things but the girls are never phased. I’ve had some experience being the other side of the table as it were, presenting service weapons to crowds of people at open days and the like on base and the patience required just doing that for 1 day being asked the same things over and over again is substantial, let alone doing it for 3-4 days.

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BCM Goes M-LOK (At Last)

Interrupting your scheduled broadcast to bring you important KeyMod vs M-LOK news.

Bravo Company USA have (at some point recently, I only just noticed) released an M-LOK version of their famous KMR forend series. As the company that pretty much put KeyMod in to the market place to begin with and staunchly stuck by it the past couple of years, this is pretty crucial. My prediction was that this would happen eventually, but it’s still surprising to see none-the-less.

https://www.bravocompanyusa.com/BCM-MMR-13-M-LOK-Compatible-Free-Float-Handguard-p/bcm-mmr-13-556-blk.htm