Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lighting up an AR... with quality on a budget.

Now if most folks' budgets worked like the "goober"ment's budget does, spending more than we take in on a regular basis and leaving the bill for someone else would likely result in everyone owning a couple of Jacks. Of course, most of us have to make sure the income is more than the out-go and that is why I'm currently in the process of building a quality AR for training and self-defense on a budget.

Trying to balance quality and cost to build a basic, reliable, quality AR for training and self-defense is the goal of this project. With that in mind, I'm starting with adding things the rifle didn't have before I even consider replacing parts the rifle already has. I intend to post a complete review of the project when it's done, but for now I'm in search of the best mount for a tactical light on a Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport with a standard A2 front sight and the standard round handguard.

I thought a light mount that would bolt-on to the A2 front sight would be a good way to go since there are a lot of quality options that are relatively inexpensive and installation can be done by just about anyone without any major modifications or gunsmithing. The first mount I tried was a KZ AR15/M16 Sight Tower Combo Mount from BoTach Tactical, which you can pick up for under forty bucks.

This light mount appears to be well made, had a terrific fit and finish, and even offered two quick-release mounts for quick-release sling-swivels... although I'm not sure I'd mount my sling that far forward on the rifle. This light mount attaches to the front post of the A2 sight and positions the your light directly over the barrel, but below the ling of sight for aiming with most tactical lights that have rail mounts built into them.

When I first mounted the KZ Combo Mount, it canted off to the left about five degrees which was due to the slightly uneven forging of the A2 front sight post. There really isn't an adjustment for this on the KZ Combo Mount so short of machining or filing the post on the A2 front sight, I cut a small shim from shim stock I had out in the barn, blued the shim stock, and basically shimmed the mount to the right so that it aligned with the barrel. The mount sits about three sixteenths of an inch above the barrel so there is airspace to keep the barrel heat down, but it is sitting directly over the barrel.

I mounted up a Steamlight TLR-1s weapon light... actually, a new 300 lumen version which you can find many places for under a buck and a quarter. This is the standard weapon light on most of our rifles and pistols, they've been through a lot of shooting in a variety of conditions and have proven reliable in both heat and cold, when firing nine-millimeters and five-five-sixes.  

I like the narrow profile of the light being directly over the barrel with this mount. The problem I had was that the light was mounted too far forward for me to operate without grasping the A2 front sight area of the barrel which gets pretty hot with use. Streamlight makes a replacement battery cover and remote switch, but that adds additional cost and potential reliability concerns depending upon how you route and mount the wire from the light to the remote switch.

The other mount I tried and that I currently have on the rifle is Midwest Industries MI Tactical Light Mount. This mount was under forty bucks and basically "sandwiches" the A2 front sight and clamps in place with a single machine bolt.  It has several slots to fit various light mounting configurations unlike the single slot of the KZ Combo Mount. The MI mount has two quick-release sling swivel attachment points.

The MI mount creates a wider profile at the front end of the rifle and even wider when you hang the weapon light off to one side. When installed, it appears to be rock-solid, aligns well with the barrel. and doesn't shift under use.

One this with this mount to consider, as my good friend Matt over at Jerking the Trigger points out, is that you can potentially activate the light switch when carrying your rifle in this configuration in a soft case. I currently have an Inforce WML Haley Strategic weapon light I've purchased to evaluate which has a "bale"that prevents the switch from being depressed in that situation, but at 200 lumens, it's not nearly as bright as this new 300 lumen Streamlight TLR-1s weapon light.

The position of the weapon like with the MI mount makes it very easy to operate with the thumb of your off-hand by pressing down for momentary lighting while keeping a firm grip on the front handguard. I'm going to spend some time with configuration and see how it works with both the Streamlight and the Inforce. I may still end up replacing the front handguard and mounting the weapon light there, but for now this was an easy bolt on solution.

So what ideas and solutions have you folks come up with... for... Lighting up an AR... with quality on a budget.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Do you practice like you carry?

That seems like a very simple question... and it is a simple question.  There are a lot of folks who practice often, many even compete in various shooting sports matches, IDPA, USPA, etc., but is it truly preparing you for your daily needs when it comes to carrying concealed?  I also know a lot of folks go to the shootin' range and stand there putting holes in a fixed target at a fixed distance.

It's OK if you go to the local shootin' range occasionally or regularly, but are you drawing from concealment?  I'm talkin' bout real concealment, not the unzipped jacket or shoot-me-first concealment you see folks sportin' at an IDPA match.  It was a high of eighteen degrees 'round here yesterday.  CCW folks are not walkin' around here with t-shirts tucked into their jeans covered by an unzipped wind-breaker or fishin' vest.

Now don't get me wrong, practicing shooting at the range or in competition are great for building skills... just like weight-lifting and aerobic exercise is great for football players, but you still need to get out on the field and run some plays before game day.  And just like the coaches, you need to track your progress too. Are you "scoring" your targets while timing yourself? If you're not keeping track of your hits and accuracy while timing yourself, how do you know if you're getting any better?

Do you practice and run your gun, holster, and equipment like you carry daily?  Do you practice reloading from your concealed extra magazine?  Do you have a "competition" holster and a "daily carry" holster?  Do you practice with your "daily carry" holster too?

Now I realize that many folks don't always have a place to practice that allows you to draw and fire from concealment... let alone shoot move or practice seeking cover, but it would be good if you can at least find some place that will let you practice you real-life skills occasionally.  We're fortunate to have a place out back, but I'm sure if you look around your area, you'd eventually find some place to practice those daily carry skills.

So when you're walking around in 18 degrees with gusty winter wind blowing about... how fast can you get to your gun when your wearing three layers of clothes under your fully zipped-up, heavy winter jacket?  Do you carry in an alternative location in that situation?

As I asked before... Do you practice like you carry?

So, what are your thoughts?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ma'am, what you need is a five-shot snubby...

So gals... would you let your guy pick out your new purse or bra without you? Yeah, it's a pretty personal decision... it needs be a good fit for you, it needs to be the correct caliber... uh... size, it needs to be one of good quality plus reliability, and you don't really want it to cause any discomfort.  These are the same basic reasons as to why you need to educate yourself and choose your own gun too.

This past weekend, I taught another NRA Basic Pistol/Ohio CCW course, and five of my students were ladies who, for the most part, were completely new to shooting.  Several had asked me about buying a gun beforehand, but I encouraged them to come, go through the course, and try some of the rather large selections of handguns we happen to have on hand and then make a decision on which type and kind of gun to purchase.

Now there's been more articles arguing 'bout revolvers verses semi-autos than you can shake a stick at...some that have valid points, but many that aren't looking at specific, individual gun owners. I discussed a recommendation for revolver I gave a while back and I still stand by that recommendation for that particular person.  Tellin' someone they need a specific gun without knowing them well or educating them and making sure it fit's that particular person's needs is like tellin' a gal she needs a 34DD bra without havin' a clue what size she really is.  

Most recently, Greg Ellifritz over at Active Response Training posted the first part of his Firearms Manifesto which I whole-heartily agree with.  It's a fair assessment as it's always a very personal choice. Caleb, over at Gun Nuts Media discussed the topic of snubby revolvers a while back too, and he sums up their short-comin's... pun intended... pretty well, but I've got another view too.

There were three gals this past weekend in my course that did their shootin' with five-shot snubbies... three gals with almost no shootin' experience among them... and you know what... they all shot really well.  Are they ready to win an IDPA match next week? No... but after a good day of learnin', tryin', checkin'out, and decidin' for themselves, they chose to do their shootin' with the snubbies... over the full size revolvers, mind you.

These ladies all felt the semi-autos were fine, but a little complicated... for them.  As with many I've trained, and even though I've shown them how easy it is to work, check and run a semi-auto... they felt most comfortable with the .38 snubbies... the weight... the size.  I even offered to start'em with .22s, but these three preferred their snubbies.  Now I will say, the Ruger SP101 and the LCR's are fairly easy shootin' with .38 Specials, especially when compared to the snappiness of an ultra-light gun like the Smith & Wesson Airweights.

Even with those short sight radiuses, light-weight guns like the Ruger LCR, and long-double action trigger pulls didn't seem to mess up these gals and I think I know why.  Fundamentals.  They learned and practiced the fundamentals of safe shootin' and they were consistently keeping groups of hits on nine-inch targets at fifteen and twenty-five feet without any problems... initially from the benchrest position, then from the two-handed isosceles position while standing. 

Having confidence in their knowledge about the operation of the gun lends itself to gaining confidence for mastering the fundamentals of shootin'.  One of them did try a 9mm semi-auto, but by the end of the day, they were pretty sure the revolver was for them... for now.  Are they ready to compete in the next IDPA match? Probably not? Are they ready to go out and purchase their own gun, practice, and join the ranks of American gun owners? YES!

I prefer a semi-auto, although I've been known to carry a five-shot snubby from time to time too.  Maybe these gal's will move on to a semi-auto someday too. One recommendation I have though, guys, let your gals pick out their own bras, their own purses, and their own guns.  And ladies, regarding purses... you need to educate yourselves and make your own decisions, but I recommend on-body carry for concealed carry instead of your purse... although that is a topic for another day.

That way, when a gal chooses a snubby as her personal firearm, it's not because some guy told her that's what she needed... it's because she educated herself, looked at her options, and finally said to herself... Ma'am, what you need is a five-shot snubby...