All posts by Toby Asplin

SHOW Show 2016 Day 3

Today is the final day of SHOT Show 2016. We’ve covered at least a double marathon on foot to bring you what we though were some of the most interesting and most unique things on the expo floor and we hope you have enjoyed the coverage.

Here is our parting shot ….

Petzl has been doing some interesting things with headlamps for quite a while. This year, they’re bringing the infrared, distance-sensing technology, available in their STRIX IR military line of lamps, to the sport market. According to the rep at their booth, the TIKKA XP will soon have the ability to adjust lighting intensity based on distance sensed by an IR beam.


Another company known for their headlamps, Brunton, is branching out into soft goods. (We’re seeing a theme with traditional hard goods companies branching out into soft goods.) Brunton has launched a line of battery-powered head and hand gear extending their line of battery-powered products.

Brunton Heatsync Glove Liner
Brunton Heatsync Glove Liner

While we like the idea of battery-powered glove liners for those really cold days in the field, the battery, stored in the cuff, seemed large and unwieldy. We hope to get a pair or two to test in the next couple months.

Speaking of companies branching out, Cammenga surprised us with AR-15 magazines and loaders.

Cammenga EasyMag
Cammenga EasyMag

The Cammenga EasyMag is a heat-treated steel magazine with a stainless spring and steel, non-tilt follower. The unique thing about this magazine is that the front portion slides downward making loading easier (in theory). Since it’s made of steel, the EasyMag is heavy and likely prone to rust. We’ve asked for a couple test subjects.

In addition to their EasyMag, Cammenga also now has an Easyloader. The Easyloader quickly loads up to twenty rounds in an AR-15 (5.56 or .223) or AK-47 (7.62) magazine. Interestingly, when I asked Cammenga’s booth rep to compare and contrast the Easyloader to Maglula’s product line, he confessed that he was unaware of Maglula.

Cammenga Easyloader
Cammenga Easyloader

Meanwhile, not far away, Maglula offers a variety of magazine loaders in a rainbow of colors.

Malula's Color Choices
Malula’s Color Choices

After seeing Cammenga’s innovations in magazine loading and Maglula’s wide array of colors, we searched out new packs and pack innovations. On Day 1, we reported that SOG had expanded their offerings with some relatively high-featured packs. We also found some new(er) releases by traditional pack makers and an innovation or two that intrigued us.

Eberlestock has released a range bag called the Bang Bang, a messenger bag called the Combat Office and a three gun competitor’s bag called the Up Ranger. The Bang Bang also appeared that it might make for a good photographer’s bag as it had a padded internal divider system (pictured below).

Eberlestock Bang Bang Bag
Eberlestock Bang Bang Bag

Eberlestock also now offers a line of tents and sleep systems.

Eberlestock Sleep System
Eberlestock Sleep System

Under Armour also appears to have expanded their backpack line into the bushcraft/tactical arena. The display pack was filled with a variety of field craft items and appeared to be a slick-sided version of their Storm pack.

Under Armour Field Pack
Under Armour Field Pack

Sandpiper of California (SOC) showed us a fairly unique design in pack frames. Their Pack Mule frame has a section that folds out to create a seat. If you’re one of those that carries a portable seat with you on camping or hiking trips, the Pack Mule might be worth a look. The entire frame is only 4.5 lbs. SOC had a pack loaded up with 30 lbs of weight. I carried it around for a couple minutes and felt absolutely no discomfort. The frame is a good frame, regardless of the fold-out seat.

SOC Pack Mule with their Three Day Elite Pack
SOC Pack Mule with their Three Day Elite Pack

We also visited the Hill People Gear booth to take a look at their latest pack, the Connor. The Connor started out as a pocket that could be strapped onto the back of another pack and has morphed into a full-fledged pack in its own right.

Hill People Gear Connor Pack
Hill People Gear Connor Pack

Similar to most of HPG’s packs, the Connor has a simple main compartment that allows the contents to be placed in compression sacks. In addition, the front of the main compartment is lined with a MOLLE panel made from loop material allowing attachment of MOLLE compatible gear or hook and loop gear. The pack also has side wings with MOLLE attachment points and twin mesh pockets on the back of the pack. The mesh pockets can be used to hold water bottles or … as Evan, of HPG, uses them … to air out wet socks.

Next to the HPG guys, we ran into Bart Combs, President of SOLKOA. If you aren’t familiar with SOLKOA, it’s probably because they’ve been running under the radar for their company’s entire history providing service to some of our country’s elite units. As federal training and equipment budgets have shrunk, Bart has had to branch out into the civilian market.

One of SOLKOA’s unique offerings is a line of first aid/survival kit modules. Most vendors in this arena either offer full kits or individual components – sometimes both. Bart has assembled modules, like the fire module pictured below, that allow the buyer to augment their existing kit without having to purchase individual components one at a time.

SOLKOA S3 Fire Module
SOLKOA S3 Fire Module

We also had some really good discussions with Bart about an ultra-light kit for trail runners and ultra-light hikers.

We didn’t see a lot that jumped out at us at any of the knife vendors’ booths but ESEE’s had a couple new offerings. They have slightly re-designed their standards, the ESEE 3 and 4, and released a laser-etched version of the Izula. Reportedly, the ESEE CR (Cody Rowen) 2.5 knife was available for pre-order by dealers as well.

Modifications to the ESEE 3
Modifications to the ESEE 4

The new ESEE 4 has thicker, more rounded scales and no finger guard. The ESEE 3 has been similarly modified.


The CR 2.5 looks like a handy little knife for small tasks around the campsite.  You can see the size of its blade as compared to the ESEE 4 above.

All the New ESEE's Together
All the New ESEE’s Together

That’s it for 2016. Stay tuned for deeper, longer-term reviews of many of these items over the course of the year.

SHOT Show 2016 Day 2

Two of the top billed items this year are the Glock MOS and Magpul’s new PRS rifle stock. Yesterday, we took a look at both.

Glock’s new Modular Optics System (MOS) pistols (Glock 17 & 19) provide the ability to mount popular optics or reflex sights directly to the pistol’s slide. The pistols come with four mountable plates. Previously, the ability to mount optics to pistols required customization. The MOS system puts that power in the hands of the gun owner. With a MSRP of $726.00 and very limited availability at this time, it’s a tossup as to whether Glock’s MOS solution is actually less expensive than relatively minor customization.

Glock MOS
Glock MOS

Like Glock, Magpul certain has its fair share of followers. Many of those followers have been waiting with bated breath for the third generation of Magpul’s Precision Rifle Stock (PRS3). We’ve utilized the second generation PRS and found it to be adequate if heavy and expensive. The third generation appears to follow the same path. Magpul has changed up the look and feel a bit. The new texture was grippy without being rough. The color appeared slightly different than past stocks but that may have been due to the expo floor lighting. The clicks of the adjustment knobs for the cheek piece and length of pull (LOP) were somewhat soft and seemed to make rather large adjustments. In addition to the cheek piece and LOP adjustment available on the original PRS, the PRS3 adds a cant/height-adjustable rubber butt pad – something we’ve seen for a while on other precision-focused AR stocks. Finally, the PRS3 can be mounted to a full-length buffer tube as well as mil-spec and A5 carbine length tubes. The PRS3’s MSRP is, interestingly, $0.05 cheaper than the PRS.

Magpul PRS3 Stock
Magpul PRS3 Stock

Magpul did pull off a bit of a surprise with their new soft goods line. We know one of their designers so we knew something was coming but we had no idea of the extent of the line. There are fifteen new items including casual shirts, pants, T-shirts and hats. More casual than tactical in nature, the clothing items are, nonetheless, configured for freedom of movement, carrying concealed and lugging around packs and messenger bags (Perhaps coming soon?). The pants have a Vertx-inspired look to them. The casual shirts are a little more Columbia-esque.

Magpul Soft Goods Line
Magpul Soft Goods Line

Focusing on soft goods for a moment, we came across a couple companies new to the market with products that will most likely interest our readers.

Hanz produces waterproof socks and gloves. The socks were of particular interest because, no matter how good your waterproof boots are, they’re likely to get water inside. In theory, unless the water is deeper than your socks, waterproof socks would aid considerably in keeping your feet dry. We hope to be able to test Hanz’s socks in the near future.

Hanz Waterproof Socks
Hanz Waterproof Socks

Another interesting entrant into the U.S. market is Jaghund. Jaghund clothing has been sold exclusively in Europe but is now being represented by Rein Outdoor in the U.S. The clothing appears to be very well made with European styling. The look is a blend of Filson and Kuhl. We, of course, volunteered to run a few of their items through the wringer and let the American market know what we think.

Jaghund Clothing Line
Jaghund Clothing Line

While we were in the camping/hunting area, we stopped by the Klymit booth to take a look at their very non-traditional sleeping mats. Klymit’s sleeping mats utilize body mapping technology to create air dispersion, air volume control, dynamic flow control and anatomical neutrality. Klymit also has mats that offer “loft pocket technology.” The loft pockets allow the insulating material of one’s sleeping bag to fill the pocket and maintain its insulating capabilities – and interesting theory that we hope to be able to test.

Klymit's Loft Pocket Sleeping Mat
Klymit’s Loft Pocket Sleeping Mat

Sticky Holsters was another soft good company making an impact. Their neon green and block color scheme stopped browsers in their tracks as they passed the Sticky booth. Most people spent several minutes looking over the holsters which are made to fit dozens of handguns. Eric, with Sticky Holsters, was very accommodating and promised to send us a number of test items when he recovered from SHOT.

Sticky Holsters
Sticky Holsters

From soft goods to about as “hardcore” as it gets, we navigated our way to the Standard Manufacturing Company booth to take a look at their DP-12 … because everyone needs a double-barrel pump shotgun. The DP-12 has a sixteen round capacity and handles like a houseboat. Obviously not targeted at states with magazine capacity restrictions, it is fairly well-balanced but VERY heavy. The DP-12 was displayed with door-breacher choke tubes and that may very well be its most practical application.

Standard Manufacturing's DP-12 Shotgun
Standard Manufacturing’s DP-12 Shotgun

After the double-bore assault of the DP-12, we moved on to visit a couple vendors whose products we have used or tested in the past.

We’ve utilized Daimondhead handguards on a couple AR-15 builds, including our Run and Gun build, and have been pleased with their ease of installation and good looks. Their most recent release is the VRS T-556 Keymod handguard. It looks very similar to their other VRS T handguards but with an added, horizontal row of keymod openings running horizontally along each side. This provides flexibility for the installation of accessories while reducing weight. We’re hoping to give one a try on an upcoming build for an ultra-lightweight AR.

After visiting with the folks at Diamondhead, we circled around to the Liberty Suppressor booth to see what was new. (We’ll be running Liberty Suppressors in our upcoming suppressor cover review.) Liberty has released a new, shorter version of their Centurion suppressor for better balance when mounted on a handgun.

Liberty Suppressors' Shorter Centurion Suppressor
Liberty Suppressors’ Shorter Centurion Suppressor

We’ll end today’s coverage where we began – at the Pelican booth. We’ve long known that Pelican provides top-notch protective cases. They have now branched out into coolers and lighting products. Keith, their media contact, walked us through the entire lighting product line from flashlights and headlamps all the way up to large area lighting.

We have a headlamp shootout on the 2016 editorial calendar and we’ve invited Pelican to participate. For portable remote area lighting, we were impressed with Pelican’s 9490. Roughly the size of a small suitcase, this portable, battery-powered area lighting system pushes 6000 lumens of light. The price point, at $999.95, is a little high for the average hobbyist but is certainly reasonable for law enforcement, fire or military units looking to shed a little light on their respective subjects.

Pelican's 9490 Remote Area Light
Pelican’s 9490 Remote Area Light

SHOT Show 2016 Day 1

SHOT Show 2016 kicked off with a bang. All bad puns aside, there was actually a vendor setting off small explosions throughout the course of the day. He yelled, “Fire in the hole.” A fairly sizable boom followed shortly thereafter. The vendor to whom I was speaking at the time was only a few booths away and was clearly tired of the show.

Speaking of that vendor, it was an upstart company called Advanced Ballistic Concepts with a solution to low probability hits on target in high-pressure, self-defense situations.

The Mi-Bullet by Advanced Ballistic Concepts
The Mi-Bullet by Advanced Ballistic Concepts

According to Advanced Ballistic Concepts’ literature, 93% of first shots fired in life threatening engagements miss the intended target. (Source not cited.) Theoretically, the fragmenting Mi-Bullet, with a hit profile of 14″ (pistol) or 24″ (shotgun) “will allow a user to fire sooner during target acquisition, knowing that they will deliver a hit.”

The concept looks interesting and the booth was fairly busy. We have requested some ammunition for our own testing.

Getting lots of rounds on target was definitely a theme. Roth Concept Innovations (RCI) had their XRAIL high capacity shotgun solution on display. The XRAIL allows for a capacity of up to twenty-three rounds on board without the added length of traditional extension tubes.

RCI's XRAIL High Capacity System
RCI’s XRAIL High Capacity System

Not surprisingly, the XRAIL throws off the balance of a shotgun considerably. If high capacity is your main goal, you might still want to take a look.

After being blasted by Mi-Bullets and XRAILs, we stopped by to see the folks at Rise Armament. Rise was featuring their newly-released RA-140 Super Sporting Trigger and RA-701 Compensator.

Rise Armament RA-140 Super Sporting Trigger
Rise Armament RA-140 Super Sporting Trigger
Rise Armament RA-701 Compensator
Rise Armament RA-701 Compensator

The RA-140 is Rise’s value-priced entry into the AR-15 drop in trigger market. While it is nowhere near as light and crisp as their RA-535 trigger (used in our Run and Gun AR-15 build), the lower price point ($129.00) tends to also lower one’s expectations. We hope to have one in hand to test in the not-too-distant future.

We have not had the opportunity to test Rise’s RA-701 compensator on its own, we have had the opportunity to shoot one of their rifles in competition. The phrase, “Set it and forget it,” comes to mind. The RA-701 flat out works.

Down the aisle from Rise Armament was clothing manufacturer, Vertx. Traditionally, Vertx has gone after the low-profile “tactical” market. This year they announced a line of more casual clothing. Their Delta Stretch pants were displayed with Vans shoes. They also had on display a plaid, square-tailed “concealed carry” shirt with faux buttons (actually snaps), a small pocket for a weight and grommets through which a length of paracord could be threaded – all in the name of a quicker draw from concealment.

Leather-trimmed Tool Pocket on Delta Stretch Pants
Leather-trimmed Tool Pocket on Delta Stretch Pants
Concealed Carry Detailing on Vertx's New Shirt
Concealed Carry Detailing on Vertx’s New Shirt

From the Vertx booth, we headed to the Luth-AR booth. We’ve utilized their MBA-1 stock on a couple rifles and have been impressed by the features, quality and price. The Luth-AR family was enthusiastically welcoming and even sought feedback on a prototype pistol grip fresh from their manufacturer’s temporary mold.

Luth-AR Prototype Pistol Grip
Luth-AR Prototype Pistol Grip

Next door to the Luth-AR booth, we found an interesting concept in bipods. Manufactured by Accu-Tac, the SR-5 bipod had several interesting features beyond its rather unique look. Rather than having spring-loaded tension to extend the arms of the bipod, the SR-5 has spring-loaded tension to retract the arms. Additionally, the arms must be pulled past a detente to position them to the desired angle. The SR-5 is manufactured entirely in the US by Accu-Tac. We tried to wrangle a test unit but their booth staff was non-committal.

Accu-Tac SR-5 Bipod
Accu-Tac SR-5 Bipod

Not far from the Accu-Tac booth was the Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) booth. As usual, they had a magnificent display of dozens of knives. On a pedestal, all by itself was the new Trencher tool. CRKT is also usually a bit stand-offish when asked to commit items for review but we’d really like to get our hands on this item. It’s long and heavy (when compared, for example, to the Cold Steel 92SF shovel) with a polypropylene handle.

CRKT Trencher
CRKT Trencher

Secure storage solutions were everywhere. We stopped by the SecureIt Tactical booth, down the aisle from CRKT, to talk to them about their take on secure storage. Historically, SecureIt has targeted the law enforcement and military markets but has several new products for the civilian market.  The Fast Box is intended to provide secure, under-bed or mobile storage.

SecureIt Fast Box
SecureIt Fast Box

The Fast Box 47 can accommodate a firearm up to 46.5″ in length while the Fast Box 40 can accommodate a shorter firearm. The 47 can be bolted to your floor. The 40 can be securely mounted in a vehicle. Both are intended to be mounted horizontally but can be fitted for vertical installation as well.

We’ve always loved Nite Ize gadgets and doohickeys. They make so many cool little products, it’s hard not to integrate them into your daily life once your discover them. Well, now Nite Ize finally has released a product called … wait for it … the Doohickey. The Doohickey is a “6X Key Tool featuring a carabiner clip for convenient accessibility and 6 compact, but incredibly useful tools: a bottle opener, scraper/tape cutter/scorer, flat-head screwdriver, pry tool, ruler, and wrench.” Personally, I’m not a big fan of key ring tools but I might just give this one a try.

Nite Ize’s marketing director was really excited about their Financial Tool. I knew that Nite Ize made tools for almost everything but financial tools? Rest assured, they haven’t strayed far from their primary focus.

Nite Ize Financial Tool
Nite Ize Financial Tool

The Nite Ize Financial Tool may not help you maximize your IRA’s returns but it is a handy wallet-size tool meant to actually replace your wallet. “This 7-in-1 multi tool can be a wrench, screwdriver, bottle opener, ruler, and securely hold your cash and cards without breaking a sweat.” Stay tuned for a review.

Our last stop of the day was the SOG booth. We expected, of course, to see a vast array of knives and tools. What we didn’t expect to find was … relatively high-end backpacks and day packs. Apparently, not content to constrain themselves to knives and tools, SOG – like others – is going after the soft goods market. Their booth was jam-packed so we didn’t get a chance to try on the packs but they have all the latest bells and whistles that one would expect from a market-leading pack.

SOG Tactical Backpack
SOG Tactical Backpack

Stay tuned for more coverage tomorrow morning.


Crocodile Tears – Obama’s Recommended Steps to Reduce Gun Violence

On January 4th, 2016, President Barack Hussein Obama stood in the White House, wiping away tears, and outlined his recommended actions to “reduce gun violence and make our communities safer” in the United States.

According to the White House Fact Sheet, our president, in his infinite wisdom, has recommended the following steps to reduce gun violence across America:

1. Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks (for people trying to buy some of the ‘most dangerous’ weapons … through a trust or corporation or for people ‘in the business’ of selling firearms)

2. Focus on “smart and effective” enforcement of our gun laws

3. Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system

4. Shape the future of gun safety technology

Let’s break down these four steps by applying a few facts and a little logic.

First, a few statistics. President Obama suggested that more than 100,000 people were killed as a result of gun violence over the past decade. Fortunately for us, the FBI publishes gun crime statistics every year. As most of our readers know, violent crime, including gun death crimes, has been on a sharp decline since the early 90’s. Although statistics prior to 2006 are no longer available on the FBI website, based on the numbers from 2006-2013, the president’s statement is reasonable.

But the president suggests that we go after the gun owners who have gone to the effort and expense of creating a trust, paying for a $200 tax stamp (per item) and placing themselves squarely in the ATF’s crosshairs … because those silencers, short-barreled rifles and other items that these law-abiding citizens are purchasing are so dangerous!

How many murders were committed with “other guns” (the only category tracked by the FBI that might reasonably correlate to these ‘most dangerous weapons’)? Between 2006 and 2013, a whopping 829 murders were committed with these “most dangerous” weapons – out of a total of 73,959 firearms murders during the same period. That’s 1.12% for those of you keeping score at home.

So … we’re going to reduce gun violence by going after the 1%? I must have missed the statistics class where they taught that you could make the biggest impact by going after the smallest percentage. I smell something fishy.

Now, let’s discuss “smart and effective enforcement of gun laws.”

Although gang-related murders are not tracked as a specific category by the FBI, a number of city police departments do track gang-related murders. Data from a several of our larger cities’ police records suggest that gang and drug-related firearms murders comprise anywhere from 55% to more than 90% of the firearms murders in our cities – which, of course, is where the bulk of firearms murders take place.

It would seem that “smart and effective enforcement of gun laws” would include enforcement targeted at known and suspected gang members with punishments that kept gang and drug-related murderers off the streets forever. It would also seem that the theft of guns and straw purchases of guns would be associated with harsher penalties and longer prison sentences.

Instead, U.S. Attorney, B. Todd Jones admitted, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013, that of 48,321 cases involving straw purchasers (those who knowingly purchase firearms for prevented persons) only 44 were actually prosecuted. Yes, you read that right – only forty-four (44)!

The Obama administration has clearly demonstrated that prosecuting criminals with actual ties to gun violence is not a priority. They would rather go after individuals who conduct a few private gun sales every now and then. They would rather lie about internet gun sales not requiring background checks. (There’s already a federal law on the books that requires a background check for this type of sale.)

That fishy smell … I think it’s a Red Herring.

And, while the Obama administration claims that it doesn’t have the resources to prosecute straw purchasers, they want to “increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.” I wonder what would happen if the proposed $500 million investment in increased access to mental health care was spent on prosecuting and jailing gang bangers and straw purchasers? (Not that we don’t need better mental health care in this country.)

Admittedly, we don’t have all the information on the Social Security Administration rulemaking and Department of Health and Human Services reporting, but on the surface this sounds a lot like violations of HIPAA regulations and trampling of the Fourth Amendment.

Finally, the Obama administration wants to “shape the future of gun safety technology.” When has it ever been a good idea for the government to shape the future of any technology?

The level of intellectual dishonesty and barefaced lying is both shocking and disappointing. What is even more disappointing is the American people’s willingness to believe and embrace these “common sense” distractions. If, as a nation, we really want to reduce gun violence and protect our communities, we need to focus on root causes and major contributors rather than chasing after law-abiding citizens and 1% contributors. If we “must do something,” do something that will have a real impact.

Oh, devil, devil!
If that the earth could teem with [President’s] woman’s tears,
Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile.  –Othello

Common Sense Gun Laws

Photo Credit: Washington Times

It’s time … well past time … for us, as a nation, to have an intellectually honest conversation about these so-called “common sense gun laws” that are so frequently mentioned in the wake of tragic events.

In the most recent round of rhetoric, President Barack Hussein Obama suggested that preventing individuals on the “No Fly List” – who have been adjudicated of … absolutely nothing in most cases … be prevented from legally purchasing firearms. Of course, that doesn’t prevent them from illegally purchasing firearms as the perpetrators of the San Bernadino shootings did.  (The long guns used in the shootings were acquired illegally through what is called a “straw purchase.”)

Since this most recent event took place in California (home to the nation’s most Draconian gun laws), let’s take a look at some of California’s “common sense.”

California’s gun laws make all of the following illegal in the state:

  • Carrying a concealed firearm without a license to do so – which is nearly impossible to obtain – is illegal
  • Carrying a loaded firearm on one’s person or in a vehicle while in a public place is illegal
  • Carrying an exposed firearm while in a public place is illegal
  • Purchasing a firearm that the state has classified as an “assault weapon” is illegal
  • Purchasing magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds is illegal
  • Selling any new handgun, unless it is on the state’s roster of handguns certified for sale, is illegal
  • A ten day waiting period is required on the purchase of any firearm
  • Virtually all firearm purchases must be conducted through a California licensed dealer under the Dealer’s Record of Sale process (which requires a background check)
  • Generally, individuals are limited to purchasing no more than one handgun per 30 day period
  • Private party transfers of firearms are generally prohibited (antiques, curios and relics more than 50 years old are generally excluded)
  • All firearms purchases conducted through a California licensed dealer must be accompanied by a Firearm Ownership Report (essentially registration)

Those are the biggies. There are hundreds more laws on the books in California – at both the state and local levels – related to firearms purchase and ownership.

Simply stated, however, these laws do not work. Time and time again, determined killers have proven that they will walk through and around laws intended to hamper their ability to wreak destruction. Even the president’s press secretary admitted that supposed “common sense” gun laws would have done nothing to stop the San Bernadino killers … “Of course not.”

The time has come to drop the reflexive “more gun laws” mantra and step up to the plate with intellectual honesty to address the underlying root causes to violence in our society.

Radicalism, mental health issues, narcissistic entitlement mentalities … these are causes. Deep, beneath their surface, lie the roots – roots that have taken decades to grow into every corner of our society. Identifying these roots and admitting our own culpability is difficult and uncomfortable. As difficult as this may be, it must be done if we want to reduce mass murder.

Those who continue to parrot the need for more “common sense gun laws” are doing nothing more than deflecting attention away from themselves, and their own responsibility in these matters, with an emotionally convenient red herring.

Run and Gun AR-15 Lower Build

FTC Disclosure: Some of the items reviewed in this article were provided at no charge.

If you’ve been following us for a while now, you know that we’ve been working on a series of articles focused on assembling a purpose-built AR-15.

Yeah, we know, everyone and their brother has done AR-15 build articles and videos. Many of those articles and videos have been produced by people building their first AR. We also know that you expect more from us than to simply follow the crowd of other evil black rifle builders. Fortunately, because we know that you expect more from us, we intend to provide something a little different in this series of articles.

This is the third and final article in our series covering the build of our “Run and Gun” AR-15. In this article we cover our run and gun AR-15 lower build. If you would like to read the first article in the series, click here. To read the second article, click here.

As Yogi Berra (may he rest in peace) used to say, assembling an AR-15 lower isn’t “rocket surgery.” OK, maybe he never said that about building AR-15’s but we like the rocket surgery part.

In our first article, we reviewed the components of our build as well as some of the tools that make the assembly much easier. One of those tools is a lower receiver vise block (pictured below). The vise block helps protect the lower receiver from damage and provides a solid work space for your assembly.

Vise Block
Vise Block

Place the lower receiver on the vise block and install the magazine catch/release assembly. We used a pencil eraser (see photo below) to press the release button into the receiver while threading in the catch lever. The eraser won’t scuff or damage the button while providing a “stop” for the lever as it is threaded into the button.

Pencil Eraser to Assist with Magazine Catch Install
Pencil Eraser to Assist with Magazine Catch Install

Improper installation of the trigger guard can result in a broken rear guard tab. Be sure to support the tabs when driving the pin into the rear tabs.

We used the vise block as a support.

Use the Vise Block to Support the Trigger Guard Tabs
Use the Vise Block to Support the Trigger Guard Tabs

Next, install the bolt catch lever.

We used an awl with a plastic handle to hold the lever in place while we started the roll pin (see photo below). The plastic handle won’t mar the finish of the receiver.

Holding the Bolt Catch Lever in Place
Holding the Bolt Catch Lever in Place

Use a roll pin starter punch to start the pin (see photo below). Allow the roll pin to push the awl out of the receiver as you drive the pin through the lever. Use a roll pin finisher punch to complete the assembly. This method saves you the time associate with putting tape all over your receiver to protect it from scuffs or nicks during the process.

Roll Pin Punch
Roll Pin Punch

One of the tricks that we use when installing the front take-down pin is to rotate the vise block 90° in the vise so that the opening for the take-down pin spring is facing up (see photo below).

Rotate the Block in the Vise
Rotate the Block in the Vise

Drop the spring into the opening (see photo below) and carefully insert the detent pin. Use a razor blade to hold the spring and detent pin in place as you slide the take-down pin through the tabs on the front of the receiver.

Detent Spring in Vertical Opening
Detent Spring in Vertical Opening

The RISE Armament trigger is a simple drop-in installation. No external springs to mess with.

RISE Armament Trigger
RISE Armament Trigger

When installing the fire selector switch and hand grip, flip the receiver upside-down on the vise block. Drop the detent pin into the opening (see photo below).

Fire Selector Detent Pin
Fire Selector Detent Pin

Place the spring in the hand grip and utilize a long screw driver or Allen wrench to tighten the screw.

A Long Allen Wrench Helps with the Hand Grip Installation
A Long Allen Wrench Helps with the Hand Grip Installation

Install the buffer tube and rear take-down pin. Use a razor blade, again, to hold the take-down pin’s detent pin and spring in place while threading the buffer tube into the receiver. Be sure to put a little grease on the threads of the receiver and some anti-seize on the face of the receiver where it contacts the stock tube.

Be Careful with the Rear Take-down Pin's Detent Spring
Be Careful with the Rear Take-down Pin’s Detent Spring

Finally, insert the buffer and spring into the buffer tube. Depending on your stock, you may still have to install the actual butt stock. Our Ace Ultra-light needed no additional installation other than tightening the clamp screw.

Ace Ultra-light Clamp Screw
Ace Ultra-light Clamp Screw
Install the Buffer and Spring.
Install the Buffer and Spring.

And … the proof is in the pudding (or the ‘putting’ of rounds down range). Here’s a typical 4″ target at 100 yards with Hornady 55 grain practice ammo.

Typical 100 Yard Target
Typical 100 Yard Target

2015 Walker Draw Tactical Challenge

On a cool, foggy morning in late August, the 2015 Walker Draw Tactical Challenge was already facing some challenges of its own. The heavy fog shrouded the rolling hills making even close-range targets invisible.

Fog as Thick as Pea Soup
Fog as Thick as Pea Soup

Competitors milled about as the match directors conducted the safety briefing. About an hour after the scheduled start time, the safety briefing was over and competitors were on their way to the various shooting stages. Perhaps a half hour after that, the fog had lifted and the long-range targets were visible.

The Competition Gets Underway
The Competition Gets Underway

The Walker Draw Tactical Challenge is put on by the Old Breed Gun Club (OBGC) on private property near Bloomfield, NE. The property is exceptional and the guys from the OBGC are top-notch.

Several Junior Shooters Competed in the Challenge
Several Junior Shooters Competed in the Challenge

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the Walker Draw are donated to The Battle Buddy Foundation. This year, the OBGC donated more than $3000.00 to Battle Buddy.

One of the organizers, D.R. Herrold, said, “We are honored to do what we can to help out such an important organization. The Battle Buddy Foundation is quietly battling a vicious enemy, and winning.”

Obviously, Battle Buddy is a veteran-oriented organization. Even though all of the members of the OBGC are veterans, the event is open to those without prior military service. The overall feeling is one of inclusion and brotherhood, regardless of military service. (OK, there might be a little ribbing that goes on between former Marines and ex-Army, but that’s about it.) There were several junior shooters at the event, all of whom seemed to feel right at home.

The competition itself is pretty much what one would expect from such an event. The course of fire was comprised of fifteen stages with scenarios that challenged competitors and mimicked real-world situations – “rooftops,” pistol-to-rifle transitions, moving targets, “floating” shooting platforms, VTAC boards, long-range, close-range and much more.

Multi-position Shooting Challenges Abound
Multi-position Shooting Challenges Abound

The organizers also recovered exceptionally well from the fog delay. An hour and a half delay in an eight-hour competition is significant. By lunch time, however, the organizers had recovered nearly half of that time. With an eat-on-the-go lunch, the competition wrapped up by around 6:30 p.m. Dinner and the awards ceremony were finished and most everyone was on their way home by 9:00 p.m. or so.

Floating Platform for the "Captain Phillips" Challenge
Floating Platform for the “Captain Phillips” Challenge

Speaking of the awards ceremony, the prize table was impressive for such a young competition.

According to Herrold, “OBGC is comprised of four main members. All four of us reached out to the shooting community to get the best prize table possible. Numerous emails, phone conversations and a lot of time went into reaching out to the sponsors. All of which were an absolute pleasure to deal with. Every business noted on our website deserves your attention. Quality people putting out quality products and services.”

Almost as importantly, the food was excellent featuring beef raised on the property and venison harvested on the property. I can’t think of another shooting competition that offers food raised or harvested on property!

The OBGC is looking to keep the Walker Draw at about the same size as this year’s event. So, if you’re looking to get in on a great event hosted by some great guys on some great property, get your registration in early for next year’s competition.



The Efficacy of Gun Free Zones

Much has been said about gun free zones over the last several months. To date, Trek Tech Black has remained silent. As our president laments his inability to implement additional gun control measures, the time has come to break that silence and take a hard look at the efficacy of  one of the most sweeping gun control measures in recent history, gun free zones.

To ensure that we’re all on the same page, let’s define “efficacy.”

Efficacynoun, the ability to produce a desired or intended result

Let’s also take a look at the “desired or intended result” of gun free zones. The United Nations recently produced a paper, under their UNODA (United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs) umbrella, entitled The Gun -Free Zone – A Tool to Prevent and Reduce Armed Violence.

Since the United Nations is the single largest organization promoting gun free zones, let’s take a look at their “desired or intended” result. According to the paper mentioned above, gun free zones are “geographically limited spaces where the carrying or possession of guns by civilians is prohibited in order to reduce armed violence and promote public safety.”

The apparent desired result of gun free zones is to “reduce armed violence and promote public safety.” It is through this lens that we will analyze the efficacy of gun free zones.

The next question that must be asked is, “How do we measure the efficacy of gun free zones?” It is virtually impossible to prove a negative, i.e. that violent crime does not take place because of gun free zones.

We can easily see that violent crime, as a whole, has been on the decline in the United States for several years. However, there are any number of factors that may have a causal effect or a correlation to this decline. For example, the proliferation of concealed carry permits has seen an exponential increase over the same period as the decline in violent crime. Does this mean that civilian concealed carry of firearms reduces violent crime? Perhaps, but not necessarily so. Further study is required.

One method for determining the efficacy of gun free zones is to look at the number of undesirable incidents that take place in gun free zones. In other words, if the desired result of gun free zones is to “reduce armed violence,” how often, and to what extent, does armed violence take place in gun free zones?

CNN recently produced a piece detailing the 27 Deadliest Mass Shootings in U.S. History.


  •  Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007 – 32 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Sandy Hook Elementary School, December 14, 2012 – 27 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Luby’s Cafateria in Killeen, TX, October 16, 1991 – 23 Killed (Presumed Gun Free Zone due to Texas State Law)
  • McDonalds in San Ysidro, CA, July 18, 1984 – 21 Killed (Presumed Gun Free Zone based on California State Law)
  • University of Texas, August 1, 1966 – 18 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Post Office in Edmund, OK, August 20, 1986 – 14 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Ft. Hood, TX, November 5, 2009 – 13 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Binghamton, NY Community Center, April 3, 2009 – 13 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Columbine High School, April 20, 1999 – 13 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Wah Mee Social Club, Seattle, WA, February 18, 1983 – 13 Killed (Illegal Gambling Club; Functionally not a Gun Free Zone)
  • Wilkes-Barre, PA Banks Family, September 25, 1982 – 13 Killed (Not in a ‘Geographically Limited Space’; Not in a Gun Free Zone)
  • Camden, NJ 32nd Street, September 5, 1949 – 13 Killed (Pre-dates Gun Free Zones)
  • Washington Navy Yard, September 16, 2013 – 12 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Aurora, CO Theater, July 20, 2012 – 12 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Atlanta, GA Home & Brokerages – 12 Killed (The killer’s family were killed in their home; 9 others were killed at two brokerages that were Gun Free Zones; Not in a ‘Geographically Limited Space’)
  • Geneva, AL McLendon Family, March 10, 2009 – 10 Killed (Killings were not in a public building; Not in a Gun Free Zone; Not in a ‘Geographically Limited Space’)
  • Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC, June 17, 2015 – 9 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Red Lake High School, Red Lake, MN, March 21, 2005 – 9 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • General Motors Acceptance Corp, Jacksonville, FL, June 18, 1990 – 9 Killed (Unknown if GMAC was a Gun Free Zone)
  • Salon Meritage, Seal Beach, CA, October 12, 2011 – 8 Killed (Presumed Gun Free Zone based on California State Law)
  • Hartford Distributors, Manchester, CT, August 3, 2010 – 8 Killed (Unknown if this was a Gun Free Zone)
  • Appomattox, VA, January 19, 2010 – 8 Killed (Killing took place in a home; Not a Gun Free Zone)
  • Nursing Home, Carthage, NC, March 29, 2009 – 8 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • Westroads Mall, Omaha, NE, December 5, 2007 – 8 Killed (Gun Free Zone)
  • San Francisco, CA Law Firm, July 1, 1993 – 8 Killed (Presumed Gun Free Zone based on California Law)
  • Standard Gravure Corporation, Louisville, KY, September 14, 1989 – 8 Killed (Unknown if this was a Gun Free Zone)
  • Miami, FL Machine Shop, August 20, 1982 – 8 Killed (Shooter shot by witness; Not a Gun Free Zone)

In summary:

  • Gun Free Zones: 13 Incidents, 188 Killed
  • Presumed Gun Free Zones: 4 Incidents, 60 Killed
  • Not a Geographically Limited Area: 3 Incidents, 35 Killed
  • Not in a Gun Free Zone: 3 Incidents, 29 Killed
  • Unknown Status: 3 Incidents, 25 Killed
  • Pre-dates Gun Free Zones: 1 Incident, 13 Killed

A total of 350 lives were taken in these 27 events.

Seventeen of the incidents (nearly 63%) took place in known or presumed gun free zones. A total of 248 were killed in those incidents – accounting for nearly 71% of those killed.  All other incident categories totaled 102 killed.

Nine of the top ten worst mass shooting murder in modern U.S. history all took place in gun free or presumed gun free zones. These nine killing sprees accounted for 174 deaths out of a total of 350. Number ten on the list was a gang-related shootout in an illegal gambling club.

If gun free zones were, indeed, efficacious, 0% of the individuals killed would have been killed in gun free zones. Of course, in the real world, 100% efficacy is highly unlikely. Let’s be fair. If gun free zones were as efficacious as any of the other zones, only 10% of the individuals killed would have been killed in gun free zones. (The next worst ‘zone’ type was an area that was not geographically limited. This ‘zone’ accounted for 10% of the individuals killed.)

By any measure, the efficacy of gun free zones is miserable. (I’m being polite.)

After a seventeen year hiatus from gun control research, President Obama issued an executive order in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting that once again allowed the CDC to conduct gun control-related research.

The cat has been out of the bag for some time and most of our readers know that, “… the [CDC] Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence.”

Not only is there no conclusive evidence that gun control laws prevent violence, one of the most sweeping laws and most significant “violence prevention” methodologies – Gun Free Zones – is so ineffective that it accounts for 71% of the lives lost in the 27 most deadly mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

The time has long passed to repeal Gun Free Zone laws. While there may or may not be a causal relationship between gun free zones and mass shootings, the absolute ineffectiveness of these feel good measures is reason enough not to limit law abiding citizens’ right to self defense.


Run and Gun AR-15 Upper Build

This is the second article in our series covering the build of our “Run and Gun” AR-15. If you would like to read the first article in the series, click here.

FTC Disclosure: Some of the items reviewed in this article were provided at no charge.

One of the keys to minimizing problems while assembling your own AR-15 is having the right tools. When it comes to assembling an AR-15 upper, a vise clamp or block is absolutely indispensable. Blocks and clamps each have their own pro’s and con’s. We’ve been utilizing a clamp for quite some time and prefer a clamp to a block. The clamp holds the upper more securely and doesn’t place as much shear on the lower lips of the stripped upper. There are plenty of folks building AR-15’s utilizing blocks, though. So, if you prefer a block, by all means use a block.

AR-15 Upper Vise Clamp
AR-15 Upper Vise Clamp

If you purchased a stripped upper for your build project, the first step is to install the forward assist and dust cover. Both are relatively easy to install. We purchased a Yankee Hill upper with the forward assist and dust cover already installed, saving ourselves a bit of time and effort. If you’re having trouble installing a forward assist or dust cover, here’s a good YouTube video (skip to about 2:29 to get into the actual install).

Once your forward assist and dust cover are installed, clamp your upper receiver in your vise clamp to prepare for the installation of your barrel. In this build, we are installing a Diamondhead handguard. The Diamondhead handguard comes with a proprietary barrel nut that does not require timing. This is one of the many things that we like about Diamondhead’s handguards. Normally, the barrel nut has to be “timed” to achieve the right torque and allow for the gas tube to be positioned properly. That is not necessary when utilizing a Diamondhead barrel nut.

Your barrel should slip into your upper receiver with only a small amount of resistance. If the barrel does not slip easily into the receiver, remove the receiver from the vise clamp and gently tap the back of the receiver with a rubber mallet. Do not tap on the barrel or place the barrel on a hard surface while tapping on the receiver! There is a nub on the top of the barrel that fits into a slot in the threads of the receiver. Be sure these two are aligned.

Before installing the barrel nut, apply a small amount of grease to the threads of the receiver and barrel nut.

Grease the threads of the upper receiver before installing the barrel nut
Grease the threads of the upper receiver before installing the barrel nut

Hand thread the barrel nut onto the receiver. Torque the barrel nut to 30 lb/ft of torque. Loosen the barrel nut and re-torque to 35 lb/ft of torque. This tighten-loosen-tighten process “seasons” the threads. Do not exceed 80 lb/ft of torque on the barrel nut!

Obviously, you will need a torque wrench to achieve the proper torque on the barrel nut. Another handy tool, when installing the Diamondhead barrel nut, is a 1 1/4″ “crow’s foot” intended for a socket wrench (the same drive size as your torque wrench). These wrenches are available on Amazon and eBay.

Threading the Barrel Nut onto the Receiver
Threading the Barrel Nut onto the Receiver

After the barrel nut is torqued to the proper specifications, install the gas block and gas tube.

A note about gas blocks: If you’re new to assembling AR’s, gas blocks come in a variety of sizes. Be sure your gas block diameter is properly sized for your barrel. Your barrel manufacturer should list the required size in their specifications.

Another note about gas blocks: Often, gas blocks do not include the roll pin necessary to install the gas tube. We typically purchase several of these roll pins at a time to make sure we have them on hand for our builds.

Yet another note about gas blocks: Be sure to determine whether or not your handguard requires a low profile gas block. If the profile of your gas block is too high, you will not be able to install your handguard.

A final note about gas blocks (Who knew such a simple part would be so complicated?): The gas block roll pin is a unique size. Although it can be installed with a standard roll pin punch, life will be much easier if you purchase a gas block roll pin punch. We like the Geissele roll pin punch ($11.49 at MidwayUSA).

Diamondhead Gas Block Sized for Radical Firearms Barrel
Diamondhead Gas Block Sized for Radical Firearms Barrel
Proper Positioning of the Gas Block
Proper Positioning of the Gas Block – Front of Rifle to the Viewer’s Left

To install the gas block, carefully slide it onto the barrel until it covers the gas port. A very light coat of oil may be necessary. The roll pin hole should be positioned toward the muzzle of the rifle. Most barrels will have two “divots” on the underside of the barrel to index the set screws that hold the block in place.  Lightly tighten the set screws until they index into the divots. Once the gas block is in its final position, finish tightening the set screws. Do not over-tighten.

Insert the gas tube into the gas tube hole on the upper receiver. Slide the tube in as far as necessary to allow it to clear the gas block. Insert the opposite end of the tube into the gas block until the opening in the tube lines up with the opening in the gas block as pictured above.

Use a roll pin starter punch to insert the roll pin into the opening in the gas block. User a gas block roll pin punch on the other side of the gas block to hold the tube in place.

Roll Pin Starter Punch
Roll Pin Starter Punch

Once the roll pin has engaged the gas tube, finish installing it utilizing the gas tube roll pin punch.

Properly Installed Gas Block and Tube
Properly Installed Gas Block and Tube

Forward assist and dust cover installed? Check. Barrel installed? Check. Gas block and tube installed? Check. We’re getting close!

Time to install the handguard.

As mentioned earlier, we really like the Diamondhead handguards. They’re easy to install, relatively lightweight, top quality and provide a distinctive look to our rifles.

Diamondhead Handguard and Proprietary Barrel Nut
Diamondhead Handguard and Proprietary Barrel Nut

To install a Diamondhead handguard, remove the hex-head screws at the rear of the guard, slide the guard over the barrel and onto the barrel nut, reinstall the two hex-head screws, ensure that the Diamondhead rail is aligned with your upper’s rail and torque down the hex-head screws.

Told you it was easy! No timing of the barrel nut. No muss. No fuss.

Just Two Screws to Install the Diamondhead Handguard
Just Two Screws to Install the Diamondhead Handguard

One last component to install before we drop in the charging handle and the bolt carrier group – the compensator.

Your basic $500 bargain bin AR typically comes equipped with a flash suppressor/hider at the muzzle end of the barrel. The flash suppressor/hider does just that – tones down the muzzle flash … but not much more.

A compensator is designed to provide some flash suppression but primarily to counteract, or compensate for, the rise of the muzzle as the rifle is fired. This reduction in muzzle rise allows the shooter to get back on target quickly. That’s a good thing if you’re trying to put multiple rounds on a target in a short period of time.

Incidentally, a brake – which may appear similar to a compensator – is intended to reduce the recoil (often called ‘kick’) of a firearm.

We chose the Precision Armament M4-72 compensator for this build. It’s gotten some good press based on its price and effectiveness. Based on Precision Armament’s product information, it appears that their intention for the M4-72 is to reduce both recoil and muzzle rise.

Because the compensator controls the direction of the muzzle, it is critically important that it be installed absolutely in line with the vertical axis of the barrel. Incorrect installation will cause the muzzle to rise to one side or the other. A compensator must be “timed” to the barrel to ensure this vertical alignment.

Precision Armament Compensator and Tuning Kit
Precision Armament Compensator and Timing Kit

A timing kit is basically a set of washers in various widths. The washers are installed one at a time as the muzzle device is test-fitted for vertical alignment. It’s a bit of a tedious process but careful attention to detail pays off in accuracy and performance.

Start by placing the thickest washer on the muzzle of the firearm and then test installing the muzzle device.

Install Timing Washers One at a Time
Install Timing Washers One at a Time

As each washer is installed, thread on the muzzle device. The device should hand-thread to within about 1/4 turn of vertical. This will allow the device to be torqued into place at absolutely vertical.

Checking Vertical on the Muzzle Device
Checking Vertical on the Muzzle Device

We use a small torpedo level to check alignment of the muzzle device to the rifle. With the upper receiver locked down in the vise clamp, lay the level on top of the receiver’s rail. Take note of the location of the bubble.

If you look closely at the photo above, you will notice that the right side of the bubble is touching the line on the right side of the level tube. This was done purposefully. We utilize a bench with adjustable feet when assembling firearms or installing scopes. The feet have been adjusted so that a level laid on the top of the reads exactly like the level pictured above. This removes any guesswork from reading the bubble in the center of the level tube.

In order for the compensator to be properly installed, a level laid on top of the receiver should read exactly the same as a level laid on top of the compensator. If the top of the compensator is not flat, or if the receiver is not a flat-top receiver, this process will be more difficult.

Note to barrel and muzzle device manufacturers: Proof marks would be really, really nice!

Prior to the final installation of the muzzle device, place a couple drops of high temperature adhesive on the threads of the muzzle. This will help keep the muzzle device from un-threading itself over time and flying off the end of the barrel. We use Rocksett adhesive.

Rocksett High Temperature Adhesive
Rocksett High Temperature Adhesive
Slide in Your BCG and Charging Handle and You're Done!
Slide in Your BCG and Charging Handle and You’re Done!

That’s pretty much it. The hard parts are over. If you’re assembling your bolt carrier group (BCG), do so. Once you have an assembled BCG, slip your charging handle into your upper, slide in the BCG and ensure that it operates smoothly.


Run and Gun AR-15

FTC Disclosure: Some of the items reviewed in this article were provided at no charge.

When we met the folks at RISE Armament at SHOT in January, they were nice enough to invite us to the Oklahoma Run and Gun competition. The competition sounded like a lot of fun and … made for a great excuse to build a new rifle.

The Oklahoma Run and Gun is a 5k or 10k race that combines physical obstacles and challenges with shooting targets out to 500 yards. Competitors are required to carry a center fire rifle and pistol, ammunition for each and any other gear or water they need for the race. The race is held in mid-July so water is critically important.

The first challenge: Build a relatively lightweight, yet accurate, rifle for run and gun style competitions.

Challenge accepted!

This article will be the first in a series of three. In this installment, we’ll list out the various parts, prices and reasoning for each. In the following installments, we’ll document assembly of the upper and lower of our Run and Gun AR-15.

Yeah, we know, everyone and their brother has done AR-15 build articles and videos. Many of those articles and videos have been produced by people building their first AR. We also know that you expect more from us than to simply follow the crowd of other evil black rifle builders. Fortunately, because we know that, we intend to provide something a little different in this series of article.

First of all, we’re experienced. With dozens of AR-15 builds under our collective belt, this is not our first rodeo. You’ll benefit from our experience, learn from our mistakes and, hopefully, pick up a tip or two along the way.

Secondly, we’re building a rifle with a specific purpose. We intend to detail that purpose and discuss how each component of the build was chosen to meet that purpose.

Finally, while there are dozens – maybe hundreds – of articles and YouTube videos with relatively poor photos and shaky, out-of-focus video, there are very few with high quality photos that demonstrate some of the more intricate details of assembling an AR-15. We intend to deliver our usual quality photography to help highlight some of those details.

Run and Gun AR-15 Parts
Run and Gun AR-15 Parts

Upper Components

  • Yankee Hill Manufacturing A3 Upper Receiver: $101.50
  • Radical Firearms 16″ Mid Length Barrel (1:7 Twist, SOCOM Contour, QPQ Melonite Coating): $119.99
  • Fail Zero NiB Full Auto Bolt Carrier Group: $160.00
  • Bravo Company Manufacturing Charging Handle MOD4: $37.99
  • Diamondhead V-RST 10.25″ Free-Floating Handguard: $154.99
  • Precision Armament M4-72 Severe Duty Compensator: $90.00
  • Muzzle Brake Tuning Kit: $10.00
  • Diamondhead Low Profile Gas Block & Tube: $35.00
  • JP Enterprises Tuned Buffer Spring: $19.00
  • DPMS Buffer: $10.00

Briefly, we chose the Yankee Hill upper because we’ve built several AR-15’s on these uppers and have had nothing but good performance at a reasonable price. Tolerances are always in spec and everything always installs easily.

The Radical Firearms barrel was new to us. We were looking for an accurate barrel that didn’t weigh a lot. “A lot” is subjective but the SOCOM profile is a good, middle of the road profile – in terms of weight – and we had heard good things about the quality and accuracy of the Precision Firearms barrels. This was also our first Melonite coated barrel. Supposedly the Melonite coating supposedly increases the hardness of a barrel while decreasing the amount of expansion during the coating process when compared to chrome lining. A chromed barrel must be over bored to allow for the lining which typically leads to a barrel with looser tolerances than those of a Melonite barrel.

We met the guys from Fail Zero at SHOT Show in January and wanted to give one of their NiB (Nickel Boron) bolt carrier groups a try.

Bravo Company’s MOD4 charging handle is pretty much our standard when we build AR’s. We saw no reason to mess with success here. It’s nice to have a familiar feel to and placement of the major operating components of a rifle being used in competition.

We’ve also become a fan of Diamondhead’s handguards. They have a unique look, simplified mounting hardware (no barrel nut tuning required) and have never given us a problem.

Precision Armament’s M4-72 compensator had seen some good press, both in terms of performance and value, so we decided to give it a try.

The gas block and tube, buffer and buffer spring were chosen based on past experience and value for the money.

Lower Components

  • RISE Armament RA-535 Advanced Performance Trigger: $259.00
  • Spike’s Spartan Stripped Lower Receiver: $64.95
  • ACE Ultra Light Stock with Buffer Tube: $104.99
  • Magpul K Grip Pistol Grip: $17.95
  • Palmetto State Armory Lower Parts Kit: $49.99

As we contemplated this build, there was no question as to which trigger to run. The RISE Armament RA-535 trigger is a thing of beauty. It’s installation is simplistic. It’s performance is fantastic. We’ll take a closer look at this trigger in the lower build article in this series but suffice to say the RA-535 is a race gun trigger for your AR.

We found a deal on “blemished” Spike’s stripped lowers and have never had a problem with them in the past so we picked up one with Spartan markings for this build.

To keep the weight down, we chose the ACE Ultra Light stock. As far as we know, it is still the lightest stock on the market.

In keeping with the relatively lightweight design, we chose a Magpul K Grip pistol grip. Much like the ACE Ultra Light stock, we believe the K Grip is the lightest pistol grip on the market.

Finally, we used most of the parts from a Palmetto State Armory lower parts kit to accompany the RISE Armament trigger inside the lower.

Other Accessories

  • Trijicon ACOG 4X32 Optic with BDC Chevron Reticle: $1189.99
  • Armageddon Gear Carbine Sling: $45.00
  • Diamondhead VRS 2″ Rail Section: $13.00
  • Magpul RSA QD Sling Swivel Rail Mount: $28.45
  • GovTec QD Sling Swivel: $6.50

Although the ACOG optic nearly doubled the price of this rifle, we feel it was well worth the investment. If you’re counting on a rifle in a competition … or to keep you alive … you want the best glass you can afford with the fastest aiming possible. In our opinion, ACOG optics are winners in both categories.

After meeting and competing with Tom Fuller, the owner of Armageddon Gear, they have become a go-to source for slings, cases and other firearms-related soft goods. Their carbine sling is no exception.

The Daimondhead rail section was chosen to match the Diamondhead handguard which is not a quad rail handguard. The Magpul QD sling swivel rail mount and GovTec swivel are proven performers.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series: Building the Run and Gun Upper.