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:


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.


B.E. Meyers & Company at DSEI

I was very fortunate to get a detailed run through of the MAWL by one of the staff at the B.E. Meyers stand. As background, the unit was designed specifically to address handling and ergonomic issues for SOF troops employing PEQ type boxes on short carbines in CQB. If you’ve ever tried to setup a rifle’s rail with a laser, light, switches for both and potentially other accessories and you’ve had limited real estate to do so, you’ll definitely understand the side mounted form factor of the MAWL.

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Of course on the inside the diodes are all the latest tech, using assemblies of very small emitters grouped together to give greater power while also delivering increased battery efficiency. The construction is of the quality you’d expect and is entirely modular (head, body, tail cap) ready for future upgrades and adaptions.

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I personally was mostly interested in functions and ergonomics however. The clever part of the system to mind is the switching. Going from visible green laser to IR outputs is going to be the less frequent function for most personnel, so that’s done via the bezel up front. On the linear switch you have short, medium and long range selection, with a simple lock-out for the high power consumption long rage option to prevent accidental activation in doors or anything along those lines. Then the A and B momentary pressure switches have generally different options; each button at any setting always presents the laser pointer while A is generally low power consumption at close ranges, B for more power and greater range of illumination.

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If you take a moment to familiarise yourself with the chart here you’ll probably gain a clearer understanding:


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Aimpoint at DSEI

The new M5 was on display in conjunction with the T1 and 2, their larger models like the PRO, 3x and 6x magnifiers and the CEU (Concealed Engagement Unit).

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The new M5 is powered by common AAAs rather than the harder to find (especially in war torn nations) lithium button cells of the T1 and 2. I made sure to move a T-2 in to shot for size comparison, it’s basically just the battery housing that’s longer, though they’ve added some sacrificial lenses and with the screw cap on the AAA housing now being much smaller the o-rings are smaller and you have waterproof guarantee to a greater depth. I have to say even if I was looking at it as a commercial user, the tiny amount of peripheral vision you lose with the M5 would be worth it just to never have to worry about buying a specific battery to only use in one piece of kit.

The medium and heavy support weapon MPS3 red dot is something I’ve looked at but never in detail. The large silver lever allows the user to quickly switch between 3 different range/elevation zero settings by moving the entire mount base (like a SUSAT) rather than having to move the dot within the FOV through the optic. Far more rugged system suitable for substantially recoiling weapons. Also compatible with all the QD/Flip-to-Side mounted magnifiers to get the most out of those heavy, long range cartridges.

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MOE-Back Thursday – Illumination

Bit of a throwback for this one, but if you have any of the pre M-LOK Magpul Industries Corp. furniture laying around like I do, I recommend looking at these MOE Illumination Kits.

I don’t think it gained as much traction as it deserved because it wasn’t ‘gucci’ compared to the quad rails that used to be all the rage around the same time period, but I think the MOE slots (which were universally interchangeable in sizing) were a superb system. As long as you weren’t trying to mount a laser that needed a zero, it took a little chopping and cutting sometimes but you could create a super light, slick and all over smooth setup for the forend of your rifle. Light mounts, pressure switches, sling mounts, foregrips, rails for anything else, all catered to and all meshed together in a genuinely organic fashion.

The joins between a VFG and the handguard for example were/are infinitely smoother and more comfortable than anything you’d get with 20mm picatinny. Yes you had to screw things on and it’s not as quick as M-LOK, but if you did a little digging you could find manufacturers making parts to suit basically any configuration you wanted, especially once the system had matured a bit and Impact Weapons Components [Official Fan Page] got in on the game.

If you still have any of the old MOE handguards, the PTS replicas thereof, or any model of the PTS ACR/Masada airsoft rifle and you want to get a nice light mount setup going on, this kit is excellent. Comes with 2 different pic rail pieces that can mount any popular weapon light with built in clamps for picatinny, remote pressure switch clamps for current and old (very old) styles of SureFire, LLC tail switches, as well as alcohol pads for surface prep and seriously strong ahesives to get those rubber pads 100% secured.

I’m a huge fan of the SureFire switch when setup as pictured there on my AEG ACR forend. It barely sits more than 3-4mm proud of the surface, integrates nigh-on seamlessly and the overall ergonomics of actually manipulating that switch are just an absolute dream.

The tricky part about actually finishing some of my recent airsoft builds is the little details. The larger parts that really change up the weight, feel and aesthetic are comparatively easier to decide on and get hold of, but it took more hunting around for the smaller touches that make something genuinely different (at least to the eye of the keen observer). Manufacturers by and large tend to ship out rifles with all sorts of different stocks, grips and forends but usually it’s fictional stuff, and even if the small items like the trigger and selector aren’t just the plain old USGI designs then again it’s usually not a pattern that really exists on a firearm and I’m not personally a fan of that look.

The other aspect is that airsoft brands copy firearm products more than people realise, it’s not as common now but historically it happened a lot and they just never put the original name to the item to save themselves legal hassle. So again tracking down that replica part takes a lot of trawling and you have to have the prerequisite knowledge. A couple of stores I like for these small parts and accessories are ehobbyasia.com in Hong Kong and Dave’s Custom Airsoft LTD here in the UK. At the time of writing eHobby actually carry some quality gear like G-Code Holsters and a lot of other items that US stores won’t let you export as an individual because of the pointlessly over-reaching arse covering exercise that is elements of ITAR, so that’s handy.

One thing I’ll say is I strongly recommend avoiding APS like the plague. I’d always gotten the impression just from the look of their stuff online and the pricing that the quality would be pretty dire and my suspicions were thoroughly confirmed. I figured hey it’s an anti-rotation link for an AEG, purely cosmetic item so why not? Now I may have a biased view because of my work, but the metal on these things is in my opinion the living embodiment of that old trope when they say something is “made of cheese”. The no-name ACM charging handles also took work on the dremel to fit my particular RIFs but I almost prefer that in a way, it’s a lot more satisfying when they eventually fit and work. That said, if higher quality alternatives were common and stocked widely I’d opt for them. They generally aren’t however because that market is fairly dead these days in the realm of AEGs.