Fenix TK15: Cree LED goodness

CreeLEDI attended a ham radio swap meet several years ago and at one vendor’s display I saw a very strange flashlight. It used a flat, square LED under an adjustable lens that produced a very bright light. This was my first look at the new type of light emitting diode (LED) from Cree, inc. Now, several years later they are taking the lighting industry by storm. The efficiency and durability of this technology is a game-changer. So when it came time to replace my Surefire G2 on my carbine this was the obvious direction for me. Continue reading “Fenix TK15: Cree LED goodness”

Precision Rifle Part V: Sum of its parts

Precision Rifle 2With the addition of a simple bipod the Precision Rifle was ready for the range. I was very interested to see how this would all come together. This project was a study in focus. My goal was to build a rifle that could put 75gr .223 bullets on target at longer ranges and to do so at a very low cost. That being said it would require some key choices. With everything you see in these photos the total cost of parts was right at $850.00.  Continue reading “Precision Rifle Part V: Sum of its parts”

Precision Rifle Part IV: Geissele SSA-E Two-Stage Trigger

IMG_4488-SSA-E-TriggerWith the scope mounted the gun was fully assembled and ready to fire. I had purchased the lower parts kit without a trigger because I knew I would be adding a much better unit than the USGI work-alike that would come in the kit. During assembly I used an old stock trigger I had on hand. This trigger has been used to fire well over 10k rounds and had been treated to the “10-minute trigger job”. Even so it when I dry fired it I was not too happy so I decided to wait on live fire until I could get a more appropriate trigger installed. I had heard very good things about Geiselle’s Super Semi-Auto trigger and I figured it would be ideal for this project. Continue reading “Precision Rifle Part IV: Geissele SSA-E Two-Stage Trigger”

Precision Rifle Part II: RGuns complete upper receiver

RGuns 20" Stainless Upper
RGuns 20″ Stainless Upper

With the new lower completed I was ready to find a new complete upper receiver for my Precision Rifle project. I had been trying to buy a Bushmaster Predator upper for some time. I liked the concept of a longer, heavier barrel, simple aluminum handguard with no rails and a low-profile gas block, all good things for a scope-only rifle. The trouble was they were very difficult to find at a reasonable price right at the time I was building the rifle (August 2012). In fact they were only in stock at a few places selling them for 200-300 more than the normal sources. Continue reading “Precision Rifle Part II: RGuns complete upper receiver”

Precision Rifle Part I: Palmetto State Armory stripped lower


PSA stripped lower

Eugene Stoner would be amazed at how popular his creation has become over the last 50 years. As “America’s Gun” there are many sources for information and parts. It doesn’t require a lot of tools or even mechanical aptitude so when Brian told me about his plan to build a carbine in early 2012 I figured it was a good time for me to build my first AR-15 as well. I had been thinking about a precision rifle for a while so that would be my project. Continue reading “Precision Rifle Part I: Palmetto State Armory stripped lower”

Burris Fastfire II: excellent low cost/low profile 1x optic

After finding my red dot had completely lost zero while riding around in my trunk I decided it was time to get my hands on a more appropriate optic for my “truck gun”. What I found was much more than that in the form of the Burris Fastfire II.

I really like my Kel-Tec SU-16c but the challenge has long been to find a good 1x optic for my application. The rifle overall is very small which makes installing a full-sized combat optic very awkward. Sure an Eotech 5.12 will fit on the receiver’s small top rail but it is quite high above the bore allowing no co-witness with the low-profile factory sights. Also it adds a significant amount of weight to the top of the gun. The same goes for the Aimpoint full-sized optics. Visually they look rather silly given their relative bulk compared to the rest of the gun. Continue reading “Burris Fastfire II: excellent low cost/low profile 1x optic”

Timney 667 AR-15 trigger: Finally!!

After nearly two years shooting my Ruger SR-556 I finally broke down and bought an aftermarket trigger for it. I had long considered this purchase and after looking at Chip McCormack, Geissele and Timney I finally decided on the excellent Timney AR-15 competition trigger. The specific model I chose was the 667, which is the 3 lb. pull version. I also went with the solid trigger shoe since I could see no reason to pay another $25 for something (skeletonized trigger) that is essentially cosmetic. Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful things but a trigger is, well, a trigger. Continue reading “Timney 667 AR-15 trigger: Finally!!”

AR-15: Handguards and Barrels

Recently a friend asked me a few questions about an AR-15 he was considering for purchase. It prompted a lengthy response on my part that I thought would be good to share here. The rifle in question was a Smith & Wesson M&P15PS, which is a piston carbine with traditional carbine-length handguards. Here is a summary of his questions:

Do you know if it’s possible to put a longer handguard on a carbine setup?  The handguard always look so short which seems to be bad for retention and also for possibly burning your self or resting it on something…  I would like to put a longer handguard on the M&P piston one, but would then need to put a rail mount sight further down the barrel do you know about people doing stuff like that?

As you can imagine, I had a few things to say about this setup:

I don’t know much about that particular model but on paper it looks like a decent, relatively basic rifle. I don’t see a forward sling mount and the barrel is the “M4 contour” which I would avoid personally given the relative thinness of the barrel at several points along the barrel. Sure, it probably won’t matter under light use but a medium or heavy barrel will last longer and dissipate heat better, especially under rapid or extended fire.

You asked about the handguard. The standard carbine-length hand guard is 7-8″. Mid-length is usually 9-10″ and rifle length is 12″. Given that this rifle has a piston system you might be limited in what you can do. Specifically, you mentioned concerns for having the hot components touching stuff. I’m not really sure this is something to be concerned about. I can’t imagine ever reaching my hand that far forward while carrying or shooting the gun although I do like the 10″ rail on my SR-556, which covers most of the gas block. Perhaps with your reach it could be an issue but that setup is standard issue for M4 military users (82nd Airborne, Rangers, etc.). You might touch something with the barrel or gas block, but that’s possible with any AR-15.

So, with the gas block you have, there may be no way to put a free-float tube on that rifle without it being some sort of over-size (large diameter) tube. You can of course replace those handguards with anything else that will fit a carbine setup but that will by definition not go beyond the front handguard ring, i.e., not achieve your stated goal.

My preference is and has always been to have a free-floating handguard with an integrated rail system (quad rail). This is because you can attach a sling, bipod or whatever you want and not have it create any stress on the barrel. If you press hard into a sling that is attached to the barrel, you can significantly change the geometry such that your shot goes way left (or right in your case). Same goes for bipod: it can make the POI go high if attached directly to the barrel as is the case with rail systems that simply replace the stock handguards.

The rifle in question looks quite good as a general purpose carbine. Put an optic on the top rail and you are all set. However, you don’t have any mounting points for lights, FVG, bipod, etc. and if you created a sling mount on the hand guard, that would stress the barrel as mentioned.

If this is to be a patrol carbine you have to ask yourself which features are really important. Would you even use a sling? Probably only in a SWAT/HRT role I would think. Same goes for FVG, bipod and perhaps even for a tactical light although I certainly keep one on my AR at all times. Bad things don’t always happen in the daylight.

Lastly, you mentioned the need to place a front sight further down the barrel if you covered or otherwise compromised the existing front rail, right? Be aware that this would only be ideal if the sight is rigidly attached to either the barrel or a free-floating handguard. In other words, if you cover that existing gas block with some sort of after-market extensions, they may not be rigid enough (mounted in the handguard rings) to keep zero with the new front sight. The plastic handguards don’t usually have to be held very tightly in place.

So, I would say that it is probably hard to go wrong buying any M&P product but depending on your intended purpose this particular model might be too much of a compromise. Then again, it might be perfect as a light, simple, accurate piston gun. Only you can determine that.

Well, you knew you would get an earful, didn’t you? 😉 Darn it, I need to get back to my blog!

And so I have.

Magpul CTR butt stock: my favorite AR stock.

Magpul_logo_animate_bigAs you probably know, I like Magpul products…a lot. How could I not? They make really great things that do exactly what they are supposed to do and they just run and run. I’ve mentioned the CTR stock in several posts but I thought it deserved a direct treatment, so here goes.

The collapsible or telescoping stock has been a standard component of the M4 since its inception. With its shorter barrel, flat top and short stock, the M4 was a light and nimble successor to the M16. In the civilian market the inclusion of a collapsible stock has become de facto. AR-15 owners have grown accustomed to the flexibility of the stock: you can shorten it up for stowing or transport or if you have on a lot of bulky clothing, load bearing gear, or body armor. It can also be extended for bench or bipod/tripod shooting thereby offering greater control when taking aim. There is little doubt of the value of a good collapsible stock. However, the standard model is in my opinion flawed. the latch release on the bottom can get caught on clothing, webbing or anything else that comes near, the sling mount is on the bottom (great for over-the-shoulder carry but useless for ready-carry) and the darned thing rattles around like a broken tailpipe. Luckily the stock comes off the buffer tube by simply hyper-extending the retention lever and can then be replaced.

Enter the Magpul CTR. This little gem has a number of nice features that place it head-and-shoulders above the standard stock. First, the spring-loaded retention pin is released by a lever that is fully enclosed within the body of the stock. No more hooking onto things! Second, the stock has a locking lever on the bottom-front that, once the stock is properly adjusted for length, is locked closed thereby holding the stock firmly in place. No more rattling! Third, the stock has four webbing slots for attaching slings and a Quick Disconnect swivel mount in the frame. This is a huge plus for me since it allows the use of those wonderful heavy-duty Daniel Defense Quick Disconnect swivel mounts I like so much. Also, the mount is ambidextrous and because of its tucked-away location it keeps the sling nice and close to the rifle and keeps the rifle in the proper orientation. It is a sturdy, clean method for mounting a sling. Finally, the commercial version comes standard with a nice rubber butt pad that helps keep the stock firmly connected to the shoulder when raised to the shooting position.

There are two versions of the CTR. Which one you need depends on your rifle. Most civilian AR-15s have buffer tubes with “Commercial” dimensions. Colt is the only manufacturer I know of that uses the “Military” spec on their civilian guns but there may be others. Always check your manufacturer’s specs before ordering your CTR. Even if you get the Mil-spec CTR you can still add the rubber pad if you like.

I have found that with the CTR, my check weld is at just the right location for my Eotech 5.12, Troy BUIS sights or my CompM3 on a 1/2″ Burris XTR Xtreme mount.

With its rugged construction, elegant design and drop-dead gorgeous looks, this is easily my favorite AR-15 stock.