Archive for the ‘ Gear Reviews ’ Category

My reloading gear

I started off with some real basic reloading equipment that I trade for from a guy who tried it and just didn’t enjoy it.  After some time spent reloading and gaining experience I found some things I thought could work better and even found some of the equipment just didn’t work as good as I wanted.  I’ll go through my setup and let you know what I liked, didn’t like and what I replaced and why.

The press I started with is the LEE Breech Lock Challenger Press that comes in the LEE 50th Anniversary Reloading Kit.  It has a feature that uses these quick change bushings so that you can keep your dies adjusted when you switch them out.  I thought this was really neat at first but now I just keep one of the bushings locked in the press and change the dies like normal.  It really doesn’t take that long and I didn’t want to by the bushings for all my dies.  The press comes setup to use the LEE Safety Prime which works fairly well.  It usually doesn’t want to feed the last couple of primers and sometimes the primer arm on the press likes to stick or fall out.  These are minor issues but they do get annoying after a while.  My solution was to order a LEE hand priming tool from Midway USA for 11 bucks.  I figure eleven dollars for an easier time priming sounded like a good deal.  One thing I do really like about the press is the tube it has that catches spent primers when you are depriming once fired brass.  It comes with a removable cap on it so you can route the tube to a trashcan or bucket of some sort or just leave the cap on and let the primers fill up the tube which is what I do.  It will hold several hundred before it needs to be emptied and works just fine.

When it comes to dies all I use right now is the RCBS carbide three die sets, not because they are better than anyone else’s but because that’s what the local purveyor of reloading gear has on the shelf.  Not much to report about them, they work and I don’t have anything to compare them to as of yet.  I do have a LEE 4 die set inbound that comes with the LEE factory crimp die so look for a report on that in the future.

Next let’s move on to the powder measurer.  I started with the Lee Perfect Powder measure and honestly found it to be anything but perfect.  It has some nice features like the fact that you can shut off the hopper and even remove it to pour extra powder back into its original container.  On the downside I found it’s mount to be flimsy and didn’t like how it would flex when I measured powder.  My biggest complaint was the fact that it didn’t measure powder consistently.  The charges were always close and I loaded pretty conservative loads so it wasn’t really a safety issue for me but the key to accuracy is consistency and the Lee Perfect Powder Measure wasn’t consistent.  To solve this I replaced it with a RCBS Uniflow, something smaller like the RCBS Little Dandy would have worked fine but I found a great deal locally on a lightly used Uniflow so I ended up going that route.  It is amazing how much more accurate and consistent the Uniflow is compared to the Lee unit.  I still put every tenth load on the scale to make sure everything is still working right but so far it has always been right on.  It is also made out of metal as compared to plastic and is much sturdier.

The only other piece of equipment I replaced was the Lee Safety Scale.  It did work, it would measure powder accurately.  It was just finicky, everything had to be just right for it to work.  I felt like I was constantly fighting with the scale to make it work.  I replaced it with a RCBS 502 reloading scale.  It just seems better made and easier to use.  The ironic part is now that I have a better powder measurer I don’t have to rely on the scale as much but it is still an important tool to have around and will come in much more handy when I start trying to load up some precision rifle rounds and want to weigh every charge.

The last piece of equipment I’m going to talk about is arguably the most important.  You NEED to have a good reloading manual (or three).  This is where you will find all the load data you need, it also acts as your speed limit sign when you wonder if you should add another grain of powder or not.  I really like the Lyman manual because they include components from a variety of other companies and don’t just focus on one.  As I’ve mentioned before if you are just getting started I would also pick up “The ABC’s of Reloading” it explain everything step by step and with pictures.  If you are on the fence about reloading just pick up the ABC’s or any of the reloading manuals to read through it and give you a better idea of what is involved.

My setup is fairly simple but effective, I’m not loading 500 rounds an hour but I can manage ~150 right now.  It’s hard to measure because I do everything in batches.  One of these days I will probably step up to a progressive press to really crank the ammo out but right now I kind of like taking it slow.  Reloading really becomes a separate hobby instead of just an addition to shooting.  I find sitting down in my reloading cave working the lever and concentrating on doing simple things really well to be very therapeutic.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and maybe learned something from me rambling.  If you have any questions about reloading feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email and I will do my best to answer you.

Keep up the good fight


New article on ITS Tactical

Sorry the site has been a little slow lately but I’v been dealing with lots of personal stuff lately.  I do want to let you know that I am now a proud ITS Contributor and my first article went up today.  It’s a review of a Strider WP, a real hard use knife.  Be sure to check it out.

Saga of the Saiga

Well I finally managed to scrounge up all the parts and all the tools I would need to convert my Saiga 12 back to its intended design. To make the gun 922R compliant for importation it was brought over in a “sporterized” form with no pistol grip and a cheap hunting style stock. To make the trigger workable with a rifle style stock and no pistol grip the trigger had to be relocated about an inch and a half back basically to where the pistol grip should be.

To start off I gathered up the tools I would need for this conversion:
-small vice
-small and large flathead screwdrivers
-small needle nose pliers
-various size punches

The parts I used were:
-KVAR Nato length stock
-Tromix DIY Trigger guard
-Tapco G2 trigger group modified by Tromix

Friday night both my wife and daughter weren’t feeling very well so they both went to bed early so I headed to the garage to play gunsmith. I started by verifying that the gun was unloaded and visually and physically checked to make sure the chamber was clear.

Next I field stripped the gun by removing the top cover, taking out the recoil spring, and then removing the bolt and bolt carrier. With the gun field stripped I could access all three of the screws holding the stock on. Using a large flathead screwdriver I removed the three screws holding the stock on and then proceeded to beat on the stock until it worked its way free of the rear of the receiver.

Now the real fun, taking out the guts. I used a small flathead screwdriver to push down on the axis pin retaining spring which allowed me to drift out the axis pins which hold in the hammer and the linkage between the trigger and the hammer. Once both pins were out the linkage and the hammer along with the hammer spring could be lifted out of the receiver. Once those were out I lifted the original bolt hold open also.

The next thing that needed to be removed was the trigger assembly that was held in by two rivets. I initially tried to drill the head off of the rivets but ended up finding it easier to just use the Dremel to grind the head of them off. Once I had the head off I used a punch and a hammer to knock the rest of the rivets out allowing the trigger assembly to be taken out as well.

Once all of the insides were on the outside it was time to turn my attention to the original trigger guard. If the trigger had to be moved forward then the trigger guard would need to follow. The trigger guard was held on by three more rivets. Since I found that the using the Dremel to grind the head of the rivets off worked better I just started with that technique this time and it served me fairly well. Once I had all three rivet heads ground off I once again grabbed the punch and hammer and started knocking out what remained of the rivets. Two came out with little trouble but one did not want to come out. I grinded on it some more to no avail, I eventually had to drill it out and I think I actually made the hole a little bigger in the process but the river finally came out.

With the old trigger guard removed I prepared to install the new trigger guard from Tromix. I purchased the Tromix Do-It-Yourself Trigger guard because it just seemed a lot simpler than trying to modify the receiver even more than I already was. The Tromix trigger guard allows you to mount a pistol grip to the actual trigger guard instead of having to cut a pistol grip hole in your receiver. It also has a nice angular look to it which adds some CDI points. The trigger guard bolted in through the existing rivet holes and the hole that was for the old trigger. This is only designed to work with the Tapco SAW grip so I had limited options for what pistol grip to use but I hear that more options might be on the way. I was slightly worried about the stability and ruggedness of mounting the pistol grip to the trigger guard like this but now that I have it installed and have had a chance to shoot it I have no doubts that it will hold up just fine.

With the pistol grip and ne trigger guard attached it was time to turn my attention back to the inside of the receiver. I was going to use a Tapco G2 trigger assembly that had been modified by Tromix for use in the Saiga 12. This involves removing some material from the side of the hammer to clear the original bolt hold open (if you keep it) and grinding part of the hammer to make it clear the bolt so the gun will cycle. I dropped the trigger assembly in and then set the original bolt hold open into place so that the axis pin that holds the trigger in place would also hold the bolt hold open spring in place. Not everyone reinstalls the bolt hold open but I am a fan of locking my bolt back when at the range and not shooting that particular gun to help show it is clear, also it is much easier to load a full magazine into the gun when the bolt is to the rear.

Once the rear axis pin had been installed and was holding the trigger assembly and the bolt hold open spring I moved on to the hammer and hammer spring. Things can get really tricky with the spring so I took some good advice and put tension on the spring and wrapped it in tape to hold it in place while I installed it into the receiver. After the hammer was in place I reinstalled the front axis pin which holds the hammer and bolt hold open in place. Once I was sure it was setup correctly I cut the tape around the hammer spring allowing the two legs of the spring to snap into place. Finally to ensure that the axis pins will remain in place I installed a shepards crook spring which is designed to hold both axis pins in.

The shepards crook spring was fairly easy to install. I started by inserting it into the receiver from the rear and then making the long part of the spring go over the first axis pin and then under the second axis pin. Using a small flathead screwdriver to move the spring around and push it over this or under that made the process much easier. Once I had it lined up correctly I just used a punch to push it the rest of the way until it snapped into position.

At this point the new fire control group was completely installed. All I did was a quick couple of function checks to make sure the trigger would release the hammer and that the hammer would reset. Once I was sure that everything was working they way it was supposed to I put the bolt, recoil spring, and top cover back on.

The last part I needed to install was the KVAR Nato length stock I had picked up. This is a much more traditional AK style stock than the sporter stock that the Saiga came with. It was a direct bolt in replacement, the only modification I had to do was drill the actual holes for the screws into the stock itself, it utilizes the old holes in the receiver. The stock fit pretty snug into the receiver and with the screws added it is rock solid.

Finally it was done, I had converted my Saiga back to the way it should be. I was slightly concerned because when you switch the old hammer to the new hammer that is in the Tapco G2 fire control group it rides slightly higher which makes it drag against the bolt a little more making the gun not cycle quit as well. It definitely wasn’t as smooth as before but I wasn’t sure if it would affect the actual cycling of the gun when being fired. To help smooth things out, or maybe just make myself feel better, I oiled up the fire control group and the bolt and then worked the bolt back and forth a few dozen times to help the parts wear in.

The next day I swung by my local ammo supply point (Sportsman’s Warehouse) and picked up some slugs, some buckshot, and some full power birdshot loads. I also took along some of the real cheap Federal bulk pack 7 1/2 shot from Wal-Mart. I started with the slugs to help break the gun back in and it ran great, no issues at all. After that I switched to the buckshot and then the full power bird loads and it still ran with no issues. Once I switched to the Federal bulk pack I had a few stovepipe malfunctions until I adjusted the gas system to the higher setting which is normally needed for bird shot. Once the gas system was properly adjusted I had no further issues with the bulk pack cycling.

Overall I am exceptionally pleased with my conversion. I am extra excited that it is cycling the bulk pack bird loads that I can get 100 of for a little over 20 bucks, makes going to the range more enjoyable when I can actually afford to shoot as much as I want. I was fairly nervous going into it but I had a blast doing the work and now have a much better understanding of how my gun works and how AK’s work in general. I got a little carried away with the work and my cigar and forgot to take step by step pictures like I meant to. If someone is considering doing a conversion likes this and would like some specific pictures or a better explanation of how I did something just reply down below and I’ll see what I can do.

Keep up the good fight

-Rob Review

Let me start off by saying that I have placed some orders with these guys in the past and wasn’t overly pleased with the experience. My biggest complaint was ordering something and only after ordering it finding out it was back ordered for an indefinite amount of time and then having it show up weeks and sometimes months later with no further email traffic. I have no problem with ordering something that is back ordered but I want to know that it is back ordered and a decent estimate of a timeline for when it will be back in stock.

My most recent order was a much more pleasant experience. My wife was complaining that I needed some new pants, mine were getting a little worn out. Not long after I received an email from containing a special on some of the 5.11 Covert Khaki’s. I went ahead and ordered a pair of the pants from them because it was a really good deal. I placed the order late at night and the next morning I received an email from customer service member letting me know that the color and size I ordered was out of stock and discontinued, she also offered to either cancel my order or change my order to one of the other colors that they did have in stock. I quickly emailed back requesting a different color and within hours received an email confirming that my order had been shipped.

Four days after the shipping confirmation email I got my package in the mail. I’m currently living in Alaska and mail can be a little slow sometimes so I was pretty happy with the speed of delivery. Nothing real exciting here, package came quick and was a great deal.

Overall I was very pleased with my new order and how things went. I still wish their webpage would let you know what is and is not in-stock before you place your order but the way they handled my out of stock order was plenty acceptable. I’m sure I will be ordering for them again and will continue to pay attention to their closeout section that contains some amazing deals.

Keep up the good fight

KAR-15 Review

FIgured I would do a quick review of my first AR build. I call it a at KAR-15 since my first name starts with K. I stole a lot of this from a forum post I made last year on the GRRN Forums. If you don’t know what GRRN is please click here and check it out. I’m a big fan of several of the podcasts over there.

Buttstock – MOE Stock
Never have been a fan of the original collapsible stock. I liked the MOE because it is harder to snag anything on the stock release with the triangle design. I also liked the value of the stock compared to some of the other replacements. Overall I really like it, locked up well and felt great. It did have a very slight side to side wobble but not enough to effect anything.

Pistol Grip – MOE Grip
Same as above, I really hate the A2 style grip, the finger groove doesn’t fit my hand at all and actually rubs a blister on my finger. I also like the storage options for the grip. I tried one before I bought it and the size was just right so I had no need to get the MIAD since I wouldn’t be adjusting it anyway. Lately I’m thinking it might not be as good as I first though. I’m looking into getting a Ergo grip or one from Tango Down. The MOE is the right size but it is just too slick, I could just but a piece of bicycle inner tube over it but what fun would that be?

Trigger Guard – Magpul
Liked the rounded edges on the side better. Plus it fills that annoying little gap that is normally behind the trigger guard. When I was building this I knew I was heading to Alaska and figured (correctly) that I would be shooting with gloves on occasionally. If the plastic version was available when I built this I would have picked that up instead but nothing wrong with the metal one.

Optical Sight – Eotech 512 w/Larue mount
Let me start off by saying that some people have had reliability issues with this sight. This is not a gun for serious social purposes, my life is not riding on the reliability of the sight. Having said that I prefer the circle and dot reticule as opposed to just the dot that other companies like Aimpoint use. So far I have had zero issues with it but I only shot 200 rounds through the gun while I was visiting. I also like the Larue mount because it raises the sight up slightly allowing for a lower 1/3rd co-witness of the iron sights. I also like the fact that I can just take it off and have a zero that is fairly repeatable.

Handguard – VTAC by JP Enterprises
I knew I wanted some rails for mounting stuff but I also knew I really would only be mounting a vertical fore grip and a light. This handguard is a free float design that you can attach small rail sections all along the guard. It is also slightly lighter than a fully railed handguard. It also has the added benefit of being smooth with no unused rail sections to tear up your hands. I love this on my gun, I can set it up just how I need it. I did have to wait 9 months while it was back ordered though but I’m glad I waited. If I had it to do over again I would have went ahead and got the rifle length handguard. I still might go ahead and order it, it would be really easy to attach at this point.

Vertical fore grip – Larue FUG
Wanted a vfg to use as more of a handstop. I was looking for a shorty grip and went with the Larue one for a few reasons, one it was adjustable by switching the end caps, two, I’m from Texas and love supporting Texas companies, and three I just plain like Larue products and have never had a problem with any of them or there service. Any of the major brands of these would probably work just fine though and most of them are a little cheaper. I still love my FUG but am really interested in th Magpul AFG. I already use the FUG as more as a handstop and think the AFG would just work slightly better.

Light – Surefire X300
This was kind of a fluke, I lready had a Surefire G2 in a VTAC mount ready to go when I stumbled across an insane deal on the X300. I went ahead and mounted it instead of the G2 since it was lighter and more compact. No issues with it, it is easy to activate with my support hand from my normal firing stance. Since I got up to Alaska the X300 rides on my every day carry Glock 19 pretty much all the time but I still keep the small peice of rail on my AR so I can always slide it right back on.

Magazines – Pmags and L5’s
All I own are Pmags and Lancer L5’s. I’ll admit I only have the L5’s for the CDI factor even though they have proved themselves to be very reliable . So much has been written about the Pmags that I don’t really have anything to add, they just work.

Upcoming Plans –
I’m still waiting for the top rail of the handguard so I can mount some BUIS, I plan on picking up a pair of the MBUS sights from Magul. Other than that I have no other plans to change anything, if I find a really good deal on an Aimpoint I might switch it out but just not sure. I’m also toying with the idea of a magnifier for the Eotech but who knows at this point. What I really need to focus on is buying ammo and practicing more (don’t we all).

Keep up the good fight

Range Report 04-14-10

Well I had the day off because I have to go into the shop this weekend for some special missions that we are supporting. Oh yeah I should probably mention that I bought a Ruger 10/22 yesterday. Look for a initial review of that in a few days.

It’s a little colder than it has been the last week or so but most of the snow has melted and it’s actually pretty nice outside. I took the new 10/22, the Saiga-12, the 1911, and I carried my Glock 19 as I do everyday. I also took my Birchwood-Casey .22 spinner target figuring it would be a real hoot with the 10/22.

I started by setting up the spinner target about 20 yards down range and loading up some 10/22 mags. For the first 50 rounds or so I don’t think I ever hit the spinners once. The only experience I have with long gun iron sights is aperture sights. I was trying to use the sights on the 10/22 like pistol sights lining up the notch in the middle of the big gap in the middle of the rear sight. Took me those 50 rounds or so to notice the much smaller notch in the bottom of the rear sight. Once I got that little trick figured out I was ringing the steel much more regularly.

Actually I still had some trouble hitting the targets every time so I set up a cardboard box and put a sticky target on it to see where my point of impact was compared to my point of aim. I set the box up right next to the steel spinner around 20 yards out. I shot an entire 25 round magazine at the target while aiming at the bullseye so I could get a good pattern to see how the POA/POI compared. Turns out with the irons I was hitting about an inch lower and an inch to the right of where I was aiming. Once I figured this out I applied a little Texas Windage (Kentucky Windage) and was able to hit the steel targets at least 9 times out of 10.

Total I fired 200 hundred rounds of .22LR and had a blast. As you can see from the picture at the top the steel targets are pretty much gray so next time I run by the hardware store I going to pick up some blaze orange paint to re-touch the spinners.

I also shot about 50 rounds through the Saiga-12 bouncing coke cans and bottles around the range. It has about 200 rounds through it now and it seems to be smoothing out. I actually had zero malfunctions at that was shooting nothing but Federal bulk pack from Wal-Mart.

I also ran a few magazines through my Dan Wesson Pointman 7 1911 and all I really learned was that I need more practice and I need to slow down and focus more on the basics. When I did my job the bullets went right where I wanted them. If I got in a hurry and rushed the shots they might end up somewhere in the vicinity of where I was aiming.

Over all I had a great time and really enjoy weekday trips to the range when there is almost no one out there. Since the weather has started improving the range has been really crowded on the weekends. Well I hope y’all have a great time on your next trip to the range no matter what you’re shooting.

Keep up the good fight

RCS Phantom LC for Glock 19

My main carry gun is a Glock 19 with a Surefire X300. Initially I was against the idea of a pistol mounted light but once I got to the ragged edge of civilization (Fairbanks, AK) where there is 22 hours of darkness in the winter and only 2 hours of daylight I saw the light, so to speak.

I have been stationed in Germany for the last three years so I was basically starting from scratch when it comes to carry gear. When I started looking for a god holster I found out that there is a serious lack of quality holsters for pistols with lights mounted. The main two options I found were Bladetech and Raven Concealment.

I eneded up going with the Phantom LC from Raven Concealment Systems (RCS). A family member actually ordered it for me for my birthday but accidentally selected a left hand holster. When it showed up I contacted RCS to see what I could do, I was only hoping for a possible discount to re-purchase the same holster in a right handed configuration. I got an email back from one of their reps telling me to just send it back with a very minor payment and they would replace it. I was shocked, RCS has a customer for life. They have some of the best customer service in the industry.
I’m really a big fan of this holster. It has a slight curve to it which makes it hug your hip holding the pistol very close to your body. This makes it exceptionally easy to conceal, even under just a t-shirt. One issue that I noticed was that it keeps the pistol so close that it rubs my side and is slightly uncomfortable. Now I firmly believe in the concept that carrying a gun should “be comforting, not comfortable” but I like comfort. The solution that works for me is just wearing a tucked in undershirt, usually just an a-shirt (beater).

One of the other things I really like about this holster is how tightly the Glock and X300 snap in. The way the holster is custom molded for this combination makes it have amazing retention. I can hold the holster upside down and shake it vigorously and the gun will not fall out. This is extra important for me because I have a two year old daughter and I really enjoy not worrying about the gun falling out of the holster when I’m playing on the floor or worry about my daughter accidentally kicking the gun out when we are cuddling on the couch.

So in summary Raven Concealment’s Phantom LC holster is a great piece of kit that holds a pistol securely and close to your body from a great company who I will be doing more business with in the future. Speaking of future business, I plan on ordering some of the many different attachment options that are offered by RCS. The first one I’m looking forward to trying is their IWB tuckable belt loops. As the days get longer and the temps get higher I think this will make an already great holster that much more concealable and useful.

Keep up the good fight