About Tom McHale

Tom is the primary author of the Insanely Practical Guides series of how-to books. He believes that shooting can be safe and fun, and works hard to make the shooting world easy to understand. If you want to learn about the world of guns, shooting and the American way, check out some of his books. Have a laugh or two. Life is too short for boring "how to" books.

You can find print and ebook versions at Amazon. For more information, check out InsanelyPracticalGuides.com

Feel free to visit Tom at his website, MyGunCulture.com. It's a half-cocked but right on target look at the world of shooting and all things related. If you want to learn with a laugh about guns, shooting products, personal defense, competition, industry news and the occasional Second Amendment issue, visit him there.

TSA Bully Tactics: Making Travelers Violate Federal Law

This is legal if you pay attention to the rules. Don't let TSA agents bully you in to breaking the law,

This is legal if you pay attention to the rules. Don’t let TSA agents bully you into breaking the law,

When you’re the fastest growing federal bureaucracy in history (that’s NOT a good thing by the way) you get to do pretty much whatever you want, regardless of what the law says. After all, they’ve got uniforms, buy lawyers by the pallet load, and if all else fails, have Eric Holder on their side of the kickball team.

In the case of flying with firearms in checked baggage, the law is short, sweet and intolerably (apparently not for the TSA however) clear. Here it is, as written in the Code of Federal Regulations:

Title 49: Transportation, Part 1540 – Civil Aviation Security: General Rules, Subpart B – Responsibilities of Passengers and Other Individuals and Persons, 1540.111 (c) (iv) – The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the passenger retains the key or combination.

Title 49: Transportation, Part 1544 – Aircraft Operator Security: Air Carriers and Commercial Operators,  Subpart C – Operations, 1544.203 (f) (iii) The container in which it is carried is locked, and only the individual checking the baggage retains the key or combination;

While the emphasis above is mine, the TSA can’t seem to figure out what might be the shortest and simplest federal law on the books, so I added the bold to help them out. I’ve written about this a number of times (here and here for example) in hopes that fellow subjects citizens will know how to travel with firearms according to the law.

Previously, I mentioned that the security folks in the Bend, Oregon airport force travelers to violate the law by surrendering their gun case keys to an agent who inspects the contents of your firearms case in a back room where you are not allowed. More recently, my home airport of Charleston, South Carolina has assumed the same practice. Perhaps the TSA has sharing days at CiCi’s Pizza to swap ideas amongst each other?

Here’s the problem. You are not allowed to surrender your keys or combination to your secure gun case, period. No exceptions are stated for surrendering your key ring to federal employees either. You, and you alone, are responsible for making sure your hard travel case remains locked and under your absolute control. Any variation from that and you are in violation of the law.

Would you care to guess who would win in Judge Judy’s courtroom should something happen with your guns after the TSA opened your case out of your presence? I’ll give you a hint, if it comes to a he said / she said legal argument between the feds and you, you’ll go down faster than Piers Morgan’s ratings.

As I’ve written about before, the law as written rules out use of TSA locks, since by very definition, tens of thousands of people have the “key” to your TSA locks. That’s the entire purpose of TSA locks. They have a “master key” so pretty much anyone can open them.

Back to Charleston. Not long ago, when declaring firearms at the ticket counter, the agent would call downstairs to TSA and request an agent. The TSA agent would walk up a flight of steps to inspect your gun case (in your presence) then allow you to lock it back up. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.

Now, TSA no longer wants to walk up the steps or maybe they just prefer to rummage through your gun case in private. They want you to send your keys downstairs, while you wait upstairs, so they can do whatever it is they do. No thanks. I love those spiffy TSA uniforms and all, and nothing makes my day like getting groped in the privates, but as much as I like those folks, I’m not going to violate federal law for them.

What do do?

Leave for the airport early in case you have to have a polite discussion with the agents. Quote the law mentioned above. Better yet, print it out. If you’re not making any headway, request an airport law enforcement officer and explain it to them. It’s a pain. You might miss your flight. But if you don’t start pushing back against abuse of power, you might find yourself resisting involuntary cavity searches before the next season of The Bachelorette is canceled.

The Making of a Timney Custom Trigger

If you want to get maximum accuracy from your rifle, check out a Timney Trigger upgrade.

If you want to get maximum accuracy from your rifle, check out a Timney Trigger upgrade.

If you’re in the business of eking every last bit of performance out of an already fine-tuned product, you have to have a relentless, bordering on obsessive, sense of attention to detail.

Looking at the factory floor of Timney Triggers, the compulsive behavior quickly becomes apparent. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “you could eat off the floor” before. At Timney Triggers, you really can. Well, actually you can’t, because eating off the floor would get it dirty. This place is seriously clean and polished. Even the brass outlet covers and ventilation grates on the factory floor are shined. I suspect even a Marine Corps Drill Instructor would have to begrudgingly express satisfaction.

The folks at Timney wouldn't let me eat off the factory floor as I would have gotten it dirty.

The folks at Timney wouldn’t let me eat off the factory floor as I would have gotten it dirty.

According to Timney Triggers owner John Vehr, this fanatical approach to organization and cleanliness sets the tone for the level of detail that goes into product design, manufacture, testing, shipping and most of all, service. After all, he wants Timney to be known not for products and inventions, but their service. “I want Timney to be the Kleenex of triggers, so people say ‘Check out my Timney’ instead of ‘Check out my trigger.’” The company intends to get to that point my removing internal competition and focusing all efforts externally. “When we no longer compete with each other, but rather outside competitors, it turns out we’re competing with companies that are competing with themselves,” says John. Every one of Timney’s 22 employees signs posters on the wall that detail Timney’s five commitments and Collaborative way. The fact that Timney has virtually no turnover seems to indicate the corporate culture investment is working.

I recently had the pleasure of spending a day touring the (relatively) new Timney manufacturing facility just north of Scottsdale, AZ to see just how Timney trigger parts and assemblies are made. Hint: It’s a fascinating process which is a lot different than you might imagine. Let’s take a look.

Calvin the mad scientist-engineer working on a new design.

Calvin the mad scientist-engineer working on a new design.

The process starts in the spacious work area / lab / office / studio occupied by mad scientist Calvin. New gun candidates for Timney aftermarket trigger are racked up near Calvin’s desk awaiting scanning with a three-dimensional video imaging system. This captures exact dimensions of the internal receiver space that a potential Timney Trigger product has to occupy.milling machines along a back wall, we didn’t see any powered up the day we were there.

 

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

 

Be sure to check out Tom’s latest books! They are ON SALE now for a limited time!

Beretta’s ARX100: A Closer Look

As the exterior appearance indicates, the Beretta ARX100 is a complete redesign.

As the exterior appearance indicates, the Beretta ARX100 is a complete redesign.

If you made me describe one thought about the Beretta ARX100, it would be something along the lines of “ambi-flex-trous.”

Yes, you can easily reconfigure this rifle in all sorts of ways, which we’ll discuss in a minute, but the interesting thing is you can do all of it with a bullet. Macho, isn’t it? So far, I have yet to use a single tool of any kind for reconfiguration. Well, there was one exception. I did need a wrench to remove the factory flash hider, but I don’t think that counts as it doesn’t fall into the category of routine maintenance. Don’t tell the Beretta folks I applied wrenches and a bench vise to their loaner rifle, OK?

Let’s take a closer look.

As the ARX100 is a pistol-operated rifle, there's no buffer tube to prevent a folding stock. It shoots in this configuration too.

As the ARX100 is a piston-operated rifle, there’s no buffer tube to prevent a folding stock. It shoots in this configuration too.

The ARX100 looks large and potentially heavy, but it’s not. Judicious use of polymer keeps weight down and unloaded, it tips the scales at just 6.8 pounds. While the stock appears monolithic in design, it breaks into an upper and lower receiver, although the dividing lines are different than the upper and lower components of an AR rifle.

The butt stock is connected to the upper receiver half through use of a hinge, which allows the rifle to operate like a pistol. While the intent is easier transport, shooting with a folded stock feels very Buck Rogers. Since the rifle is piston operated, there’s no buffer tube in the way of pistol operation. The butt stock itself has four different positions to adjust length of pull.

The rifle is covered in web sling attachment points. A rotating swivel is in front of the gas block. The butt has a web sling loop. There are two flat sling loops on each side of the receiver for a total of six.

Rails are also abundant. The entire top surface of the rifle is a continuous rail, so there is no “joint” between receiver rail and forend rail as with an AR rifle. Four-inch rail segments are located up front in the three and nine o’clock positions. There’s a 1 ½ inch rail segment on the bottom in front of the forend cover. If you need to attach a 40mm grenade launcher, remove the lower cover and you’ll find a proprietary rail segment for this purpose. Because military-style rifle. Word is that Beretta may offer a Picatinny adapter at a later date.

It comes with non-standard height sights. They'll get you going, but may not co-witness with your optic.

It comes with non-standard height sights. They’ll get you going, but may not co-witness with your optic.

The ARX100 comes with polymer flip up sights so you can shoot it out of the box. The front sight features a standard, height-adjustable post while the rear has a rotating aperture dial where apertures are calibrated for ranges of 100 to 600 meters. Be aware that these sights are taller than standard AR models, so they may not co-witness as you like. No worries, by pressing a button on each, you can slide them right off the rail if you don’t want them present.

The trigger is all military all the way. It’s big and wide, set in an oversized trigger guard for easy access with gloves. The pull weight leaves something to be desired, measuring 8 1/2 pounds for me, but at least it was smooth and not gritty. The trigger components are held in place by pins, so assuming demand is there, aftermarket companies like Timney should be able to offer replacements.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

Wanna learn more about guns? Check out The Rookie’s Guide to Guns & Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s on sale now!

You Really, Really Want to Win This…

Gunsite Sweepstakes

So Crimson Trace is giving away an all expenses paid trip to the world famous Gunsite Academy to take the gold-standard of handgun training classes – Gunsite 250. But, this one has a twist. It’s the Laser Course, which adds practical use of laser sights.

At risk of reducing my own chances of winning, I’m sharing this information with you. Yes, I know, I’m such a giver…

The famous Gunsite Academy, based in Arizona, is known to many gun owners as a place to learn in-depth firearms shooting and handling skills. Now Crimson Trace, America’s leading developer and supplier of laser sighting systems and tactical lights, will be sending a grand prize winner and guest on a trip to Gunsite Academy. Those two shooters will be enrolled in the Crimson Trace Gunsite 250 Laser Course scheduled during November 3-7. This program will utilize the innovative 250 Course Doctrine—plus the practical use of laser sights on a firearm.

“The 250 Laser Course is an intense, one-of-a-kind experience for shooters,” said Gary Killingsworth, Crimson Trace Digital Marketing Manager. “Not only will they gain hands-on training from some of the best instructors in the business, they will learn the intricacies of shooting with both fixed sights and laser sights. We’re extremely proud of this partnership with Gunsite Academy, and pleased to be able to help offer this unique training opportunity.”

The contest winner— and guest—will have airfare, ground transportation, lodging and course registration fees provided. The deadline to enter the contest is September 30, 2014 and entrants must be U.S. citizens age 21—or older. Full contest details are at http://www.gunsite250lasersweepstakes.com.

OH AR-15 Hacks: Do These 4 Things Or Your Rifle Might Explode

Here's a properly staked AR gas key. Note how the gas key metal is bashed into the two screws so they can't turn loose.

Here’s a properly staked AR gas key. Note how the gas key metal is bashed into the two screws so they can’t turn loose.

If you think people hyperventilate over hypothetical scenarios in politics, spend some time visiting online gun forums. While fun, and a great way to chit chat with others of like passion, you might leave convinced that your AR rifle has the operational complexity and maintenance requirements of the Trident II D5 ballistic missile.

Yes, your AR rifle requires care and maintenance like any other mechanical device, but don’t fret too much over it. In the past 40 years or so, the design has been improved to the point where it will function properly in some pretty nasty environments and under the worst of conditions.

With that said, here are a few things I like to keep an eye on. And no, if you miss one of the details below, your rifle will almost certainly not explode, but it may not function properly.

Gas rings

You’ll hear all sorts of panic about the three gas rings on your AR bolt.

“I change my gas rings every 9 rounds, because I shoot exceptionally tactically and need to replace them before they wear out.”

“If all three gas rings aren’t in place, the American Idol voting system will crash and Clay Aiken may capture the hearts of pre-teen girls – again.”

“If the gaps in each ring are lined up with each other, Spain will immediately declare war with the National Rifle Association, thereby causing a massive increase in membership solicitation mail.”

OK, so there’s a tiny bit of truth in each of these statements, but only just that – tiny.

Well, actually in the case of lined-up gaps in the gas rings, I don’t think there’s any real truth. The idea is that the gas rings are supposed to do what their name implies and seal gas. With a proper seal, the gas ported back into the bolt carrier will exert the right amount of pressure to unlock the bolt and move it and the bolt carrier back far enough, and fast enough, for proper ejection. The thinking behind the gas ring myth is that if the gaps are lined up, gas will leak between the rings and your semi-automatic rifle will function about as well as the congressional ethics committee.

These three gas rings almost have the gaps lined up! No matter.

These three gas rings almost have the gaps lined up! No matter.

In reality, the bolt and carrier move back and forth and rattle around at speeds approaching Warp 19. This action moves things, including has rings, all over the place. No matter how carefully you line them up to avoid the dreaded alignment scandal, they’ll end up aligned on their own accord at some point.

This brings up a related point. The idea behind three gas rings in the first place is redundancy. They’re consumable items and will break on occasion. Your rifle will most likely work just fine with two, or even just one, gas ring. After all, we’re talking about a lot of gas pressure at play during recoil, so a “mostly sealed” scenario will be just fine.

Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to keep some spare rings on hand. A pack of three costs a grand total of $2.19 from Brownells.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Wanna learn more about guns? Check out The Rookie’s Guide to Guns & Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s on sale now!

AR-15 Hacks: Clean Your Rifle Like A Boss

The most tedious part of AR-15 cleaning is the bolt. Fortunately there are tools to help, like this OTIS B.O.N.E. tool.

The most tedious part of AR-15 cleaning is the bolt. Fortunately there are tools to help, like this OTIS B.O.N.E. tool.

While no one really knows for sure, industry sources estimate that there are more than 10 million AR-type modern sporting rifles in the US. That’s a lot of rifles, a lot of ammo and a lot of cleaning!

Inspired by the popularity of the modern sporting rifle and its many variants, and the fact that I just like them, it’s time to embark on a series of AR-15 hacks. Over the next month or so, we’ll take a closer look at all sorts of tips and tricks that will help you clean, maintain, use and customize your AR-15.

To start things off, let’s take a closer look at cleaning tips. If you listen to the internet forums, you might believe that cleaning an AR-15 is a tougher chore than scrubbing the boilers of the Titanic. According to some, the design is so bad that more grime collects in the action from each and every shot than that deposited by all the gas semi-automatic shotguns on South American pigeon hunts over a year’s time.

Yes, the AR-15 direct impingement design does vent hot, dirty gas into the receiver and smothers the bolt and carrier with each shot. But in the scope of things, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. If your day job is strolling through wadi’s in Afghanistan, where the airborne dust resembles talcum powder, then your results may vary and daily cleaning is probably a necessity. Here, I’m referring to recreational and home defense AR use.

If you’re using your rifle for range gun, competition or as a home defense option, you can take a more practical approach to your cleaning chores. If you own a rifle of at least moderate quality, it’ll run when it’s dirty. Just for fun, I’ve been boycotting a cleaning job on a Smith & Wesson M&P15 OR rifle I picked up last fall. That’s right, almost a year ago. Why? I’m deliberately letting it go without cleaning just to see how forgiving it is as it starts to get grimy. To date, the rifle has somewhere around 1,500 rounds through it in all sorts of conditions, yet it runs. Contrary to popular belief, your rifle does not have to be babied to run reliably – within reason of course.

I’ll assume you already know the basics on how to disassemble your AR-15 rifle, so I won’t go over that here. If you want a really good video overview of how to field strip and clean your AR-15, check out this video produced by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Gunsite Academy. Here, we’ll focus on tips, tools and cleaning products that will make your cleaning chores easier.

Cleaning set up

A lower receiver vise block, like this one from Brownells, makes your cleaning and maintenance chores a lot easier.

A lower receiver vise block, like this one from Brownells, makes your cleaning and maintenance chores a lot easier.

If we’re joint to talk about doing things the easy way, step one is to figure out how you’re going to hold rifle parts during cleaning. Unlike a traditional rifle, the AR-15 hinges open, or even separates into multiple parts when you open one or both takedown pins. Holding on to a hinged-open AR that’s flopping around with one hand, while you’re trying to scrub with the other, is kind of like hitting a baseball with a Slinky.

The answer (for me) is a lower receiver vise block. This is a neat little piece of gun maintenance tool that inserts into your magazine well and locks into place. The idea is to put the bottom of the vise block into a workbench vise so the rifle is supported. They’re not as cheap as you’d expect, but good tools rarely are. If you have more than one AR rifle, or are planning to do more tweaking of your rifle, it’s a good investment – you’ll use it forever once you have it.

The best part is, with the lower receiver solidly supported, when you open the rear takedown pin, the upper receiver will hinge down towards the floor. This is important for cleaning the barrel because…

Barrel cleaning

Ideally, you want to clean a rifle bore from the chamber to muzzle so all the powder residue, chemicals and miscellaneous grime dribbles out the muzzle rather than back towards the action. That’s why I’m in favor of the OTIS cleaning system. In the case of cleaning the AR-15 rifle, there’s another, more specific, reason. The barrel extension is perhaps the hardest part to clean in an AR-15. Buried deep within the upper receiver, it makes you work just to get to it, and once you do, you’re confounded by a three-dimensional maze of bolt lug recesses and hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. It’s a pain. If you’re dredging solvent and grime towards the chamber, gunk will collect in those hard-to-reach barrel extension recesses.

 

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Be sure to check out Tom’s latest books! They are ON SALE now for a limited time!

You Might Be A Gun Control Activist If…

Gun-Control-911

You might be a gun control activist if…

You think Shannon watts makes a lot of sense if people would just listen to her.

You think that Shannon could deliver her message more effectively if she talked slow and loud, like you do when visiting foreign countries.

You’ve had a pot luck supper at Michael Bloomberg’s house.

You’ve smoked pot with Michael Bloomberg.

You think that the FBI has fudged crime statistics data for the past 20 years because Wayne LaPierre takes them out for CiCi’s pizza every Tuesday.

You’ve ever said “If it could save just one life…

You’ve never used the phrase “If it could save just one life” when it comes to drunk driving, swimming pool drownings, or car accidents.

You’ve ever uttered the words “If it could save just one life” while drinking a glass of wine by your swimming pool.

You’re convinced that law abiding citizens, who take a class, submit fingerprints, get probed by the FBI and wait months for a permit, are the root cause of drive by shootings.

You have to believe that guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans are more of a threat than nuclear weapons, terrorism and the unchecked spread of Shake Weight use.

That millions of Americans who knew how to shoot didn’t make all that much difference when it came to winning World Wars I and II. Everyone knows the French turned the tide in our favor.

You believe that Riker’s Island inmates are more scared of “No guns allowed” signs than clowns, Freddie Kreuger or Rosie O’Donnell.

You choose not to remember that the biggest, baddest assault weapons in existence were owned by private citizens when the 2nd Amendment was written.

You believe you are 937 times more likely to die by spontaneous combustion or killer bunions if you have a gun in your home.

You think that the people with the least amount of relevant knowledge have all the great ideas.

Read the rest at AmmoLand!

What a Difference a Trigger Makes

Will adding this to an AR rifle improve accuracy?

Will adding this to an AR rifle improve accuracy?

Gun shop wisdom says a good trigger makes all the difference.

It should be obvious that replacing the trigger doesn’t have any physical impact on a rifle’s accuracy. It’s not like it synchronizes barrel harmonics to the tune of “You’re So Vain” or anything. A trigger doesn’t touch the barrel or impact flight path, yet everyone swears it makes a rifle more accurate.

That’s kind of true. But it doesn’t make the rifle more accurate, it makes it easier for you, the shooter, to get the best accuracy that the rifle is capable of. This is an important distinction.

The reason is that pesky physics thing. When a rifle takes several pounds of pressure to break the shot, and the rifle itself only weighs several pounds, it’s gonna want to move, at least a little bit. A good trigger, with a smooth action and reasonably low pull weight, is going to make it easier for you to break the shot without moving the sight alignment of the rifle. When you’re trying to extract every last fraction of an inch of accuracy, a little bit of unwanted movement means a lot on the target.

According to John Vehr, President of Timney Triggers, “There is only one reason to upgrade a trigger in a firearm – to make you more accurate with the firearm.  A great trigger will allow you to become more accurate by eliminating physical factors like drag, creep and heaviness – Less movement equals better accuracy.  A great trigger will allow the shooter to make the act of pulling the trigger more of a mental decision that a physical decision.  A great trigger is an extension of the mind and should break exactly when the shooter calls for the shot.”

I shot groups with proven accurate handloads before and after the Timney Trigger installation.

I shot groups with proven accurate handloads before and after the Timney Trigger installation.

Gaining more practical accuracy by using a custom trigger sounds great in theory, but I wanted to put it to the test in a quantifiable way.

I decided to take two rifles of proven quality and accuracy, but with less than optimal triggers, and test their accuracy before and after a trigger upgrade. The folks at Timney Triggers sent me an AR-15 Competition trigger for the test. This trigger, the 3 pound 667 model, is a self-contained unit with drop-in installation.

My thought for the test was simple. Shoot groups of 5 shots each with each rifle with its standard factory trigger. While at the range, swap the trigger for the Timney AR-15 Competition trigger, and reshoot the groups. Same ammunition, same rest, same day, same atmospheric conditions and same shooter. When all was done, I figured on applying some common core math to compare the average group sizes before and after. Then I realized that this article was due in 2014, so I skipped the common core stuff and added, subtracted and averaged the old fashioned way.

Read the rest at AmmoLand!

Sig Sauer’s Single Action Sensation: The P226 Elite SAO

That's right, there's no decocking lever on this Sig P226!

That’s right, there’s no decocking lever on this Sig P226!

I like action. Who doesn’t?

Single action. Traditional double action. Double action only. Striker-fired action. I like ‘em all. But I especially like single action handguns. Having only one thing to do, release the hammer, single actions tend to be easier to shoot accurately. Repeatable accuracy leads to confidence, and confidence is something I want in spades if I’m carrying a gun for protection.

With that goal in mind – a carry gun that inspires confidence – I checked out the new Sig Sauer Elite SAO. Unlike most traditional Sig Sauer pistols, this one is a single action – kind of like a 1911. Its got an ambidextrous safety lever. You carry it cocked and locked. In fact, outside of cosmetic differences, one of the few

The safety levers on this model are ambidextrous and of equal size on both sides.

The safety levers on this model are ambidextrous and of equal size on both sides.

observable things different from a 1911 is that the Sig has a hinged trigger while the 1911’s trigger moves straight back like a sliding door.

OK, so that’s some gross over-simplification. The Sig P226 Elite SAO has classic Sig internals – not the hinged recoil action and barrel bushing we’re accustomed to seeing in a 1911. Yet it offers the benefits of a constant, light trigger to aid in accurate shooting. Unlike the 1911, it offers a double stack magazine so you get 15 rounds of ammo, plus an extra in the chamber. Oh yeah, and it’s chambered in 9mm, not .45 ACP.

I keep mentioning 1911’s as a comparison, but if you want to get more specific, you can think of the Sig P226 Elite SAO as a combat version of the P226 X-5 Competition. While the X-5 Competition models are built as elite pistols for professional competitors, they’re not necessarily suited for defensive or combat use. You’ll find allen screws all over the place on a competition X-5 model as the design allows specific adjustment to nearly every aspect of the gun’s operation. Trigger weight, trigger travel, trigger over travel, trigger shape, magazine well style, compensators, flux capacitors and so on. You can also find similarity with the P226 X-5 Tactical model, but the Elite SAO has a 4.4 inch barrel instead of 5 inches. Corresponding overall length dimensions are shorter and weight of the Elite SAO is about one ounce less.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

Thinking about getting a gun for personal or home defense? Or maybe for recreation or competition? Then you need to read this first!

Trijicon’s 300 Blackout Optic Offering: It’s Simple and Fast

While a bit slimmer, Trijicon's 300 AAC Blackout model shares many of the same features that made ACOG's so popular.

While a bit slimmer, Trijicon’s 300 AAC Blackout model shares many of the same features that made ACOG’s so popular.

The 300 AAC Blackout caliber is a nightmare for optics manufacturers.

Why? The range of possible projectiles and associated ballistics are crazy. 300 Blackout can be a flat shooting cartridge using a light bullet at 2,500 feet per second. It can be a thrown-brick projectile weighing 245 grains and traveling at 950 feet per second. It can also be just about anywhere in between those extremes.

Like classic ACOG's, the 300 Blackout model features dual illumination sources: fiber optic and tritium.

Like classic ACOG’s, the 300 Blackout model features dual illumination sources: fiber optic and tritium.

Imagine trying to design an optic with ballistic drop compensation (BDC). In plain English, BDC simply means that the reticle is pre-marked to show the hold point for a given distance. For example, if you’re shooting at a target 200 yards away, you just hold the 200 yard reticle mark on the target, and you should make a hit. That’s great in theory when you have a caliber with fairly standard performance over distance like the .223 Remington 55 grain projectile. When a caliber can fire a range of bullet weights ranging from 90 grains to 245 grains, things get tricky.

To put that in perspective, if you shoot a 300 Blackout cartridge with an 110 grain Barnes TAC-TX projectile, traveling at 2,500 feet per second, it will drop about 64 inches at 400 yards, assuming a zero yard zero. If you do the same thing with a 220 grain Sierra Matchking traveling at 1,050 feet per second, that bullet will drop almost 278 inches over the same distance.

The difference in drop between two difference loads in the exact same caliber is a whopping 214 inches. That’s 17.83 feet. To put that in visual terms that’s equivalent to 3.147 Michael Bloomberg’s stacked on top of each other or 4.13 AMC Gremlins. Sorry for two entirely different, yet equally scary, visuals.

Enter the Trijicon TA33-C 3×30 ACOG 300 AAC Blackout

The 30mm objective lens provides plenty of light.

The 30mm objective lens provides plenty of light.

Trijicon has taken a whack at this ballistic challenge by using a single reticle, but marking it with realistic and common hold points for both extremes of the 300 AAC Blackout performance range. We’ll get more into that in a minute.

Like other Trijicon ACOGs, the 300 Blackout model is a fixed power magnification design. This one offers straight 3x magnification, which is plenty sufficient for realistic subsonic and supersonic ranges.

The fixed magnification means no zoom rings or controls and generous eye relief, so it’s really fast and efficient. Also like most other Trijicon optics, it’s designed to use the Bindon aiming concept. In Trijicon’s words, “Human vision is based upon a binocular (two eyes) presentation of visual evidence to the brain.” In plain English, that means keep both eyes open. Your brain does magic brain stuff and you see your target with reticle superimposed. The reason is that the Trijicon uses a bright reticle, which allows your brain to merge the target image from your outside eye with the aim point visible through your “scope” eye.

Like other siblings in the ACOG family, this model has a dual illuminated reticle. The distinctive fiber optic tube across the top collects light to amplify the aim point when ambient light exists. An internal tritium lamp provides illumination in low light and pure dark conditions. No controls to turn on or adjust, you just use it, regardless of light conditions. My evaluation model came with a green reticle, but you can also choose amber or red if you like. The green reticle shows up plenty in broad daylight. In low light conditions, the visibility is even better.

Zeroing

For initial zeroing, the optic has two removable caps that cover the windage and elevation dials. Using a dime, empty cartridge case or screwdriver blade, move the dials as needed. Each click will adjust the point of impact by ¼ inch at 100 yards.The arrows on the adjustment dials indicate the direction you want the bullet to move on the target. Simple. My unit came pre-centered and only required a couple of clicks of windage and elevation adjustment to match the point of impact of my Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 AAC Blackout rifle.

Windage and elevation adjustment dials are a one-time use affair, or whenever you significantly change your primary supersonic ammo choice.

Windage and elevation adjustment dials are a one-time use affair, or whenever you significantly change your primary supersonic ammo choice.

This ACOG includes a handy reference point on the reticle that simplifies zeroing. When installing on a new rifle, set a target at 25 yards. Instead of using the cross intersection as you would for a 100 yard target, use the pointed top of the long distance 300 meter post, which is the same as the top of the 50 yard subsonic diamond, as a hold point. If your shot impact matches that, the 100 yard zero using the cross above will be pretty close. Now move your target to 100 yards and verify that the 100 yard supersonic aim point matches point of impact.

The reticle

The reticle is simple, yet has both hold point (ballistic drop compensation) and basic ranging tools. It’s also parallax free so it works from zero to 600 meters without the need for parallax adjustment.

The ballistic drop compensation features are clever in their simplicity. Rather than cluttering up your view with lots of marks, Trijicon has figured out how to make the few marks that are there multitask. For example, the primary aim point for 100 yards (supersonic ammo) is a free-floating cross. For 200 yards, there is not a separate mark, you simply hold on the bottom of the crosses vertical post. Horizontal hash marks indicate 300, 400, 500 and 600 yard supersonic projectile hold points.

The Trijicon ACOG TA33 Blackout reticle.

The Trijicon ACOG TA33 Blackout reticle.

For subsonic rounds, there are two solid diamonds on top of the vertical bar: one above the 300 yard supersonic hold point and the other resting on the 400 yard hold. These are 50 and 100 yard holds for a standard subsonic round.

I zeroed the Trijicon at 100 yards with 110 grain supersonic ammunition. Then I popped in a subsonic rounds put the 50 yard whole point directly over the bullseye on a 50 yard target. The very first shot hit dead center, so that was encouraging.

The reticle also includes basic ranging indicators. The horizontal BDC marks vary in width to represent a 19 inch wide target. If a known object of 19 inches matches the width of one of the crossbars, there’s your range. If it’s in between two, you can guesstimate.

Closing Thoughts

The Trijicon ACOG TA33 300 Blackout model is a fast no-brainer solution. With fixed 3x magnification, there’s nothing to fiddle with. Raise your rifle, open your eyes and go. The two eyes open concept works great unless you’re cross-eye dominant and establishing aim is fast. The reticle offers enough granularity to hit reasonable sized targets out to a few hundred yards. For a tactical or home defense rifle, I do like the “always” on reticle lighting. In the daytime, the fiber optic tube makes the reticle glow brightly and in low light conditions, a tritium lamp lights it up. No batteries to run down and no switches to operate – it’s just on.

 

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