Cross Machine Tool UHPR Mod 1 9.5″ AR Handguard

Unfortunately with discussing AR forends like this I can’t ever provide any serious feedback on how they perform when mounted to a firearm that is then shot extensively, given the laws we have in the UK; not to mention ammo prices for the neutered AR type rifles that can actually be legally obtained. Just something to bear in mind. All I can give is my opinions on the design and construction as they sit before me and see how they handle being bashed around a little bit in the occasional airsoft game.

I opted for the UHPR to go on a 10.5″ KWA Performance Industries, Inc.LM4 build that I’ve been very gradually working on the past couple of years. I wanted a short and light M-LOK compatible rail in the mid-range price bracket so I wouldn’t feel so bad about getting it cerakote’d.

The big plus about this CMT design is the mounting and if you’re looking at any AR forend I can’t advise strongly enough that you highly prioritise a mounting setup that does not require timing of the barrel nut. Much like the Geissele and BCM rails I’ve worked on before the CMT nut requires no timing, shims or anything of the sort, you just tighten the round barrel nut and the clamp system at the base of the rail secures the forend itself. Infinitely preferable to trying to get radial screw holes lined up perfectly and doubly so on airsoft receivers that are mostly made of cheap, nasty, weak ‘alloys’ that will not stand up to the same treatment a real receiver will. Personally I hate the feeling of paranoia when trying to vice mount something or work on a piece in said vice. It’s not something I have to concern myself with in my usual daily work using proper firearms parts and I certainly don’t miss it while I am at work. I’m yet to break an airsoft upper while re-profiling the threads to AR spec or attaching a handguard, but the nagging feeling is always in the back of my mind.

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CMT list the UHPR as “6000 series alloy” on their website, although the Battle Arms Development manufactured ‘Rigidrails’ are listed as 6061-T6 over atRainier Arms and I’d say there is a pretty good chance both products are machined from the same extrusions; but take from that what you will. Either way, the CMT barrel nut is made from 7075 and has a good length to it to ensure proper support of the handguard, an important feature you’ll see extolled by the likes of Geissele for both reasons of resisting applies leverage and consistent zero’ing of lasers. Both the rail and barrel nut are coated in Type 3 hard anodise, just as one would expect to see on a quality product.

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The Mod 1 variant has M-LOK at 3, 6, 9 and some slots at 12. You can also pick up the Mod 2 which features full pic rail around the 12 o/clock. I prefer to minimise the weight and outer diameter by cutting out some of that picatinny so a partial M-LOK configuration is what I’ll go for when it’s available, but of course it all depends which accessories you’ll personally be utilising. There’s rotation limited QD sockets both near to the receiver and near the muzzle on both sides of the rail, so no shortage of options there if you use a QD sling. For me though the best features are the non-timed barrel nut and the anti-rotation tabs that combine to both allow extremely easy, hassle free mounting as well as assurance of the best possible alignment along the 12 o/clock.

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Total weight for this 9.5″ model comes in at a squeak over 8oz which for a sub-$200 aluminium (i.e. not mag or lith alloy) rail is highly competitive within the marketplace. The one and only change I might make is to slightly shorten the forward picatinny on the 12 o/clock to move the M-LOK slots forward, since it is a bit longer than is really needed for a front BUIS, though that said it might well be handy for mounting some PEQ units. Especially if you want to try and squeeze on both an IR laser and fixed front sight.

Again I can’t comment on longevity, dissipation of heat, comfort in the hand under recoil or any of the like, but in terms of design I’m definitely happy with this effort from CMT.

Centurion C4 (A Quad Rail? Srsly??)

Great product, bad purchasing decision – not necessarily mutually exclusive.

I opted for this 10″ Centurion Arms C4 rail for a few reasons. First off because I had this older VFC/Avalon AEG with BCM markings and the C4 is a type of forend that Bravo Company do actually sell on their AR-15 uppers. Secondly I wanted to have at least one quad rail in my RIF collection for both posterity and the extreme range of accessories that are already available on the market. I believe, if memory serves, that at one time Centurion were marketing the C4 as the lightest quad picatinny rail on the market, something I dug in to deeply at the time of purchase (back in winter 16). The website description now says it is the lightest quad rail to attach to a standard barrel nut, so I’d be interested to know who’s out there manufacturing a lighter freefloat quad. Purely from a curiosity standpoint.

The C4 is a 2-piece design that easily clamps around a standard type of USGI AR barrel nut and it mounts on there with no question of the security or rigidity.
This is aided by the extra set of screws towards the front end that join together the 2 sections and keep everything perfectly lined up. It is machined from 6061 T6 which is essentially always the go-to when you want a quality handguard possessing of the right properties. Surface finish is again the bar setting standard in the form of Type 3 hard coat anodise which not only looks consistently good but even under simple handling and installation holds up a lot better than some other finishes I’ve seen on even more expensive forends.

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The rails are of course 100% true to the 1913 picatinny spec. Centurion have even included the small cuts in the slots at the very end of each quadrant to enable old school KAC cover panels to mount correctly. Then there’s a total of 4 QD sling socket points, both near to the receiver and way out up front, catering to either preference. Most impressively for a 10″ quad rail the weight sits at around 11oz with the barrel nut included and when you consider some old tube forends like the Troy offerings weigh double that then you really start to see the achievement in design. Even some very recent and slightly shorter M-LOK tubes with minimal pic rail along the 12 o/clock will still weigh around 9oz when using aluminium and some skinny M-LOK tubes will get to over 10oz at lengths of around 11″. Again, impressive numbers and all part of the reason I picked up the C4 in the first place.

The unfortunate rub for me is the diameter of the C4, that’s the only significant reason I decided not to keep it in the end. The internal diameter around the curved surfaces is only 1.37″ which is very much comparable with many modern negative space handguards featuring KeyMod/M-LOK, however the 4 pic rails make the outer diameter of the C4 far, far larger than the inner diameter. There are some hefty old quads out there which are even wider and heavier so the Centurion design still does very well in its’ own league, but having gotten extensively accustomed to far narrower handguards over the past 4-5 years I personally just could not go back to the old style given the actual feel in the hand.#

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Does that mean nobody should consider the quad in 2018? Not at all. There is one real downfall to negative space systems that I’ve experienced and very, very rarely see mentioned online; it’s a problem that is particularly exacerbated with narrow diameter tubes and when using silencers that sit within the rail. Because the modern rail accessories have to go through the handguard vs purely clamping on to the outside they require space on the rear face of the accessory slot i.e. inside the handguard. Any time the gas tube, piston or gas block (or a silencer) get close to the inside of an M-LOK slot you lose the ability to attach items to that slot. I’ve noticed a distinct tendency for aftermarket M-LOK handguards for AKs and HK roller-locks to be quite wide in order to avoid this issue, though AR rails often try to go slim and sacrifice mounting slots for that.

On a daylight usage rifle or one with a long barrel this is usually not much of an issue and the weight savings of M-LOK over quad 1913 really make themselves known and felt when examining 12-15″ rails, but short barrels and lots of front end electronics for night time use are of course the norm these days and a short barrel necessitates a short rail. When you’re potentially trying to mount a white light, front BUIS, laser unit, a remote pressure switch and a foregrip all within the area of the forend you want to hold while shooting (and your hand does actually require an area to slot in to as well) then space is very much at a premium. With some super narrow M-LOK tubes this can raise an issue as mentioned with accessory attachment and especially when the 1913 along the 12 o/clock is deleted in favour of more M-LOK. Is this insurmountable? Far from it, it is entirely surmountable in fact, but it is still an issue that can be encountered and the narrower the rail and the more stuff you try to put on it, the further exacerbated the problem can potentially be.

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I would tend to say that all things considered the quad is somewhat comparable to the idea of the SMG at this point. It can have some niche applications but it is only getting increasingly obsolescent every year that goes by. The range of M-LOK accessories is only growing and elements of US SOF have already adopted it in the form of the Geissele Mk16 rail. I’d predict the entire US Army to follow in time with either a completely new rifle or an M4A2, after which the rest of the US military will follow and we might well see a replacement of the HKey forends on our L85A3s before moving on to a new rifle.

In the meantime however, if a quad pic rail fits your needs you’d not be underserved by the C4 from Centurion by any stretch given the overall quality of manufacture and design. I’d tend to not recommend a quad, but if you are going that way then this one is a very solid bet.

BCM Gunfighter Mod 0 Stocks and Rail Panels

Tired of all that Magpul on absolutely everything? Well if you’d prefer something different that’s still incredibly tough and durable you won’t go far wrong with the Bravo Company USA Gunfighter line of polymer accessories for your firearm/replica. I’ve opted for the Mod 0 stocks on 2 of my VFC AEGs, one being the original type and the other being the SOPMOD variant which features the wider construction with sloped cheek weld areas as per the original military SOPMOD/’Crane’ AR-15 collapsible stocks.

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For an extremely economical price you’re getting a very tight fit on a Mil-Spec buffer tube with a strong latch system that isn’t going to get knocked and collapse your stock at a bad moment, but is still perfectly easy to adjust for length of pull. Essentially, the spring on the latch is just stronger than most other stocks since there’s no other material around said latch to cover it; like the lever inside a CTR for example. The general build strength of course will be welcome for shooters in the event of an accidental drop or having to mortar the rifle to clear a stubborn stoppage. There’s an integrally moulded tab that will retain an elastic band should you wish to fold up a sling for stowage and you can attach your sling at the rear via either a traditional pass-through slot or QDs. The QD sockets are not rotation limited but BCM have gone for the cheaper, lighter option in the form of simple, thin metal plates drilled through to the correct size vs machined solid sockets that could accommodate the anti-rotation notches.

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Fortunately the SOPMOD variant is not quite as excessively wide as the older style stocks that share the name and as you’ll see from the underside shot the plastic is all hollow with a few reinforcement ribs, so if you do prefer that sloped cheek weld you’re not adding too much weight. They lock in to place very solidly indeed and the colour matched rubber butt pads are a nice touch that’s certainly comfortable in the aim. All your favourite tacticool colours are also catered for to include this nice shade of so-hot-right-now grey.

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While I’m here I’ll also mention the rail panels BCM produce, which are available in KeyMod and M-LOK variations. If you own a handguard that has modular slots all the way around (i.e. diagonals included, not just 3, 6 and 9) then a slim panel such as this design is certainly my personal recommendation as they conform nicely, add minimal width to keep the forend slim and do not interfere with each other. If your rail does not have KeyMod or M-LOK on the diagonals then something wider like the Magpul Type 2 covers is the way I tend to go, but if you want the narrowest profile possible while still insulating your hand then these solid plastic BCM panels definitely work well. They also weigh nothing at all and have a nice middle-ground grip texture.

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:

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:…/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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