23 Things You Can Do With A Leatherman Rail Tool For AR-15s

Today’s gift idea for you or your favorite gunnie is the Leatherman Rail tool for AR-15s and lots of other stuff.

The Leatherman Rail holds a lot of tools per square inch.

The Leatherman Rail holds a lot of tools per square inch.

The Leatherman Rail is a nearly flat tool that is nowhere near flat when it comes to versatility. Just under 5 inches long, 1 ½ inches wide and ½ inch thick, it packs a lot of uses for space taken in or on your range bag. You can even clip it on the outside of your bag, pack or belt using the built-in carabiner.

A ⅜" will allow you to drive a standard socket. It's a bit awkward, but will work in a crunch.

The ⅜” open-ended wrench will allow you to drive a standard socket. It’s a bit awkward, but will work in a crunch. And of course it’s a handy open-end ⅜” wrench.

Here are just a few things you can do with it:

  1. Adjust the front sight on an AR-15 or similar rifle.
  2. Change grips on your 1911.
  3. Remove the bottom of pistol magazines using the pin removal tool.
  4. Open taped ammo boxes. The AR-15 front sight adjustment tool is sharp and pointy like that.
  5. Lovingly and gently encourage stubborn push pins to move.
  6. Measure group sizes – the center of the tool is *exactly* 1 inch wide; the front sight adjustment prongs are 5/16 inches apart and there are ¼ and ⅜ inch drivers. With all those, you can estimate a lot of measurements.
  7. Mount Magpul Back Up Sights on your AR-15 using the flathead screwdriver tool.
  8. Remove the carrying handle on an AR-15 A3 model.
  9. Check / tighten / loosen your scope rings.
  10. Dig a bullet out of a log. While not listed on the Leatherman web site, I find this a valuable feature.
  11. Uncap a bottle. After the shooting is done, you can use the carabiner hook to open a cold one. It’s a little tricky, but if you tackle that, you can also…
  12. Shotgun a beer. Remember that sharp and pointy front sight tool? It’ll go through an aluminum can like butter.
  13. Open and close an oxygen tank valve. If you really choked on that last Steel Challenge stage, take a few hits of O2 and compose yourself.
  14. Tighten or loosen anything you have a ¼” Hex bit for. The hex driver is universal for all sorts of bits.
  15. Remove staples from a target backer.
  16. Remove an AR-15 firing pin retaining pin when cleaning the bolt and carrier.
  17. Pull a nail out of a target stand.
  18. You can open an AR-15 ejection port cover when the bolt is already open – without tearing off your thumbnail.
  19. Remove your AR-15 trigger group.
  20. Peel a banana when the top doesn’t want to separate.
  21. Easily remove the bottom from a PMag
  22. Scrape carbon from your AR bolt in the field.
  23. Use it as an emergency toothpick. Yep, done that. I’m not proud. Just resourceful.

You can buy the Leatherman Rail here for less than 30 bucks.

The rail includes a phillips and flat head screwdrivers, a Torx #15 bit, pin punch and 7/64" drivers. Those fit in a special slot in the compression handle.

The rail includes a phillips and flat head screwdrivers, a Torx #15 bit, pin punch and 7/64″ drivers. Those fit in a special slot in the compression handle.

What Happens When You Shoot A Bullet Proof Vest? We Test Engarde Body Armor

Did any of these penetrate the Engarde Body Armor? Read on to see...

Did any of these penetrate the Engarde Body Armor? Read on to find out…

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don't know, but either way he's protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don’t know, but either way he’s protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Did I mention we’re giving away a set of FREE body armor? Thanks to the good folks at Engarde, we are. You can get full contest details here, but in short, it’s simple to win. Just like our Facebook page and you’re entered.

The Engarde folks sent us two sets of body armor. One to give away and the other to shoot to pieces. After all, we wouldn’t want to give our readers any untested gear, right?

Since we couldn’t find any willing, and breathing, human volunteers, we dressed up Plastic Saddam with some Engarde Exterior Body Armor and took him to the range. Most of the folks at our local shooting range thought he was a 1970s era porn star, but we knew he was a bona-fide, genuine, evil dictator that really needed to be shot. Either way, with that hairdo and cheesy mustache, dispensing of him was a service to humanity.

A quick look at Engarde Body Armor

This specific model is similar to the Engarde Patrol. It’s an external setup with soft panels that are inserted into the carrier front and rear. The sides overlap so there is full coverage around the body. The carrier also features external pockets which are sized to house optional ceramic plates for protection against rifle and machine gun rounds. The soft panels included with the system are intended to stop pistol calibers only.

The Dyneema soft panels fill the entire space of the carrier. Soft panels insert via a full-width Velcro closure across the bottom of the vest.

The Dyneema soft panels fill the entire space of the carrier. Soft panels insert via a full-width Velcro closure across the bottom of the vest.

The material inside the panels is genuine Dyneema SB-21. While I didn’t count exactly, there are about 40 layers of Dyneema material in each ballistic soft panel. Each layer of Dyneema feels somewhat like a cross between wax paper and plastic tarp material. It’s got a slick and waxy feel to it with a “crinkly” texture. And it’s very, very lightweight.

This specific product is rated National Institute of Justice (NIJ) IIIa. The simple description of the NIJ IIIa rating is that it’s intended to stop most pistol rounds in calibers ranging from .32 through .44 Magnum. Previous certification definitions like NIJ II would not necessarily stop .357 Sig full metal jacket or hard jacketed .44 magnum rounds.

I won’t go into NIJ specifications here, but levels are carefully documented for different type of projectiles, i.e. full metal jacket, moving at specific maximum velocities.

Strength is achieved via layering. While I didn't count, there must have been at least 50 layers of Dyneema material on each side.

Strength is achieved via layering. While I didn’t count, there must have been about 40 layers of Dyneema material on each side.

The vest we tested is rated for up to four straight-on, zero-degree angle hits per panel and two thirty-degree oblique hits. As I did not want to worry about deflected shots, I only tested zero-degree deflection scenarios, so perfect performance would be defined by four stops per panel.

Did it stop bullets?

For no specific reason other than some weird OCD tendency, I decided to shoot the front of the vest with smaller caliber pistol rounds including .32 ACP, 9mm and .357 Sig. The back vest panel I reserved for the slow and fat heavies like .40 S&W, .45 ACP and .44 Magnum.

After being shot several times, the Engarde vest puffed up like Michael Moore at free pizza night at CiCi's. The layers of Dyneema separate while absorbing energy of the incoming projectiles.

After being shot several times, the Engarde vest puffed up like Michael Moore at free pizza night at CiCi’s. The layers of Dyneema separate while absorbing energy of the incoming projectiles.

Being me, I was a bit curious about two things. First, I wanted to verify the vest met manufacturer claims. Would it stop handgun projectiles in the rated bullet type and velocity parameters? Second, could I exceed those parameters and possibly make it break? And by “break” I mean at what point would a round be able to penetrate the vest?

During the vest destruction, I was careful to move shot placement around so that no two impacts were closer than three or four inches to each other.

So let’s take a closer look at results by ammunition type.

.32 ACP

Just for variety, I shot the vest with three different .32 ACP rounds with a Walther PP: Fiocchi 73 grain full metal jacket, Hornady 60 grain XTP and Cor-Bon 60 grain JHP. I thought perhaps the small diameter round nose of a .32 ACP FMJ might stand a better chance of sneaking through the vest undetected so to speak.

A .32 FMJ (left) and .32 hollow point (right)

A Fiocchi .32 FMJ (left) and Cor-Bon .32 jacketed hollow point (right)

No such luck.

This .32 ACP hollow point flattened to about 20% of its original length. And yes, it stopped immediately on impact - I did not remove any layers of Dyneema in this photo.

This Hornady .32 ACP hollow point flattened to about 20% of its original length. And yes, it stopped immediately on impact – I did not remove any layers of Dyneema in this photo.

The full metal jacket projectile flattened like a spoon, one hollow point somewhat self-destructed and the other flattened to about .125 inches top to bottom. If you’re covered head to toe in this material, and attacked by a horde of Walther PPK wielding evil dudes, you don’t have much to worry about, except bruises.

9mm

Since I was feeling ornery, I decided to use 9mm ammunition that was designed to penetrate – Hornady’s Critical Duty. It’s a 135 grain 9mm load that is designed not to expand as easily as the standard Critical Defense load. It’s intended for law enforcement use where barriers like car doors and windshields might be encountered. And it travels at about 1,115 feet per second, so considering the heavier than average weight for 9mm, it’s moving right along. I’ve even tested this load against a giant pile of BS – The New York Times – and it performed superbly. To make sure velocity was up to par, I shot it from a Glock 17 Gen 4.

This Hornady Critical Duty round hit within ½ inch of the edges, yet still was stopped in the first five to eight layers (of 40)

This Hornady Critical Duty round hit within ½ inch of the edge, yet still was stopped in the first five to eight layers (of 40) of Dyneema

Again, no luck. And I noticed something really interesting that would appear a few shots later with the .357 Sig testing. All giddy with excitement and curiosity, I yanked one of my shots a bit off target, so it hit within ½ inch of the right hand side of the vest. I expected the projectile to take the path of least resistance and deflect away from the vest altogether. Contrary to my assumption, the round traveled inwards towards the center of the best and got tangled up in the Dyneema material. It’s almost as if the edge hit encountered more resistance than less.

.357 Sig

Keep in mind, by this point, the front panel had been shot 5 times, or one more than it’s rating. As the panels are shot, the Dyneema sheets start to separate as projectiles dump energy into the vest. As the layers separate, penetration is more likely.

Although I didn’t really plan to be unfair from the start, that’s kind of what happened. Shots six through eight, or double the vests rated capacity, were done with a smoking hot round – the .357 Sig. The projectiles are the same diameter as 9mm at .355 inches, but velocity is cranked way up. The two rounds I shot, Georgia Arms Gold Dot and Winchester PDX1 Defender both use 125 grain bonded projectiles at 1,400 and 1,350 feet per second, respectively. I used a Glock 31 with a 4 ½ inch barrel to get every possible bit of velocity advantage.

The .357 Sig Georgia Arms Gold Dot flattened completely - even though it was the 6th shot at the front vest panel - two over rated capacity.

The .357 Sig Georgia Arms Gold Dot flattened completely – even though it was the 6th shot at the front vest panel – two over rated capacity.

Shot six was the Georgia Arms Gold dot. It flattened completely into a nickel-sized blob of lead. Like the previous projectiles, it was stopped cold in the first ten layers of Dyneema material.

Next up were shots seven and eight, which exactly doubled rated capacity of the vest. These were both Winchester PDX1 Defender .357 Sig rounds. The seventh shot didn’t flatten, but tumbled and got caught up about half way through the vest panel – another complete stop.

The eight shot, or double the rated capacity of the vest, passed through the front panel, but didn't even penetrate the mesh of the back panel. It was clearly out of gas.

The eight shot, or double the rated capacity of the vest, passed through the front panel, but didn’t even penetrate the mesh of the back panel. It was clearly out of gas.

The eight shot found how much punishment the vest could take, as it passed through and was immediately stopped by the back panel. At this point, having absorbed eight hits, the vest was done. It had blimped up to approximately eight inches thick as the panels expanded more and more with each subsequent hit.

As the rated standards call for up to four “straight on” hits, I would certainly say it did it’s job absorbing eight – three of which were from very hot .357 Sig rounds. Now let’s look at the back panel, where I tested the “heavier” and larger caliber rounds.

.40 Smith & Wesson

I had no doubt the Engarde vest would stop a relatively slow 180 grain .40 S&W projectile, so I decided to try a lighter weight and higher velocity round – the Speer Gold Dot 155 grain bonded hollow point. I clocked this specific round at 1,168 feet per second from a Beretta PX4 Storm.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

I’ll let you guess what happened. With the first hit on a fresh Engarde panel, I observed full “splat” with virtually no penetration into the vest.

.357 Magnum

Next up was .357 Magnum shot from a Ruger LCR. I used Hornady’s Critical Defense 125 grain FTX round. As expected, the second shot on the fresh back panel yielded the same result – a flattened bullet caught in the first several layers of material.

.45 ACP

Getting bored by all these stopped bullets, I decided to try a couple of different things. First, I had to try one of my favorite carry loads for my Springfield Armory TRP 1911Remington Golden Saber 185 grain +P. It’s a jacketed hollow point that I’ve choreographed at 1,167 feet per second from this particular pistol.

It penetrated exactly two of the 40 Dyneema layers before flattening completely. Yes, two.

So it was time to try a different option. I recently picked up a box of DoubleTap .45 ACP +P hard cast ammunition. It features a solid lead, semi-wadcutter projectile that’s designed for hunting thick-skinned critters like wild boar. Surely this would do something dramatic right? It was also the fourth shot at the back panel – the last shot within the performance rating of the vest.

Both the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain FTX .357 Magnum (left) and Speer Gold Dot 155 grain .40 S&W (right) were stopped cold.

The DoubleTap 255 grain hard cast and Remington Golden Saber 185 grain +P .45 ACP projectiles.

Well, the 255 grain hard cast projectile did manage to penetrate a bit further. One layer. That one passed through two and stopped at the third, making a small tear in layer three. Only 37 more layers and it would have gone right through.

.44 Magnum

I know, there aren’t many .44 Magnums on the streets, so testing body armor against that isn’t really practical. But it did sound entertaining. So I dug out a box of Magtech 240 grain semi-jacketed soft point ammunition and launched one from a Ruger Super Blackhawk.

.44 Magnum versus Engarde Body Armor

.44 Magnum versus Engarde Body Armor

The result? Yet another deformed bullet, this one caught in the first four layers of the vest’s material. Add “magnum” to the mix and you get one more layer of penetration. Only 36 to go!

Closing Arguments

This was enlightening and a little bit shocking. After shooting each side of the vest, I cut it open to examine the results. As described earlier, the Dyneema material somewhat resembles wax paper. Heavier and stiffer, but not something you would think capable of stopping a bullet. Even though I understand the science behind it, it’s still mind-boggling when you feel how light the panels are.

This vest worked beyond what is advertised. I had to shoot the front panel to double the specification before it failed. The rear panel was shot five times – all with some insanely powerful handgun loads and never failed.

A slew of really messed up bullets.

A slew of really messed up bullets.

There was no deflection. All bullets were caught up in the material and stopped cold. Two shots hit on the very edge of the vest, yet were still trapped.

Watching the target stand and vest “jump” with each shot, I quickly decided I would prefer never to be shot, vest or not. While these have saved hundreds and maybe thousands of lives, getting hit with a supersonic projectile will still leave a mark. Ouch.

The model tested, identical to the one we’re giving away, is a great “emergency” option for civilian use. It slips over your head, outside of your clothing, and can be put on in seconds. Engarde makes lots of other models with some designed to be concealed, so check them out.

Don’t forget, we’re giving an identical set to this one away free! All you have to do is like our Facebook page. Or you can get full details here.

Did you like this?

Then be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

If Engarde Body Armor Can Protect Plastic Saddam, It Can Protect You

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don't know, but either way he's protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Is he a plastic Saddam Hussein or a 1970s Porn Star? We don’t know, but either way he’s protected with Engarde Body Armor.

Today’s work project is shooting plastic Saddam full of holes. Well, I think he’s supposed to be Saddam, but he kinda looks like a 1970s era porn star. Either way, it’s a service to humanity.

But it’s not as unfair as it sounds. You see, he’ll be wearing Engarde Body Armor. So he has a fighting chance.

Stay tuned for the results…

Oh, by the way, thanks to the folks at Engarde Body Armor, we’re giving away a FREE bullet proof vest to a lucky Facebook fan. No catches, just like our Facebook page here, and it could be yours!

But we wouldn’t want to give our valued readers anything not street proven. So we’re going to dress up our plastic Saddam in a second, identical set of Engarde Body Armor (don’t worry, the prize set will be un-shot!) and shoot him with all sorts of pistols. .357 Sig, .45 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W and even a classic James Bond Walther PPK in .32 ACP.

Read the full contest rules here. Like our Facebook page. And check our Facebook wall on November 23rd. That’s it.

A Really Pointy Knife: The Spyderco Des Horn

I wouldn’t consider myself a knife guy, but I seem to be amassing quite the collection of them. Probably because they’re so darn handy. I use a pocket knife at least ten times a day for something or other. You know, all that tactical stuff like opening boxes and letters, getting steak out from between your teeth and as an impromptu screwdriver or pry tool. Ken Onion, please forgive me, for I have sinned…

At a LaserMax event at Gunsite last week, I picked up a new one – the Spyderco Des Horn folding knife.

The Spyderco Des Horn is nothing if not sleek.

The Spyderco Des Horn is nothing if not sleek.

When open, this pocket folder just looks sleek and, well, medical. That’s probably because designer Des Horn is a practicing dentist. I have no verifiable information as to whether Des uses this on his patients. When opened, the total length is just under 7 1/2 inches.

Even the clip is unique and has a light and airy feel.

Even the clip is unique and has a light and airy feel.

Closed, the Spyderco Des Horn measures about 4 1/4 inches. The cutting edge of the blade is just a hair over 3 inches. The clip is easily removable if you like and the handle is made from sturdy G10 material.

The spear-style point is aggressive to say the least.

The spear-style point is aggressive to say the least.

As cool as it looks, the Spyderco Des Horn standout feature is the very pointy spear tip. No, it’s not suited for removing screws or prying things. On the other hand, it might be the world’s greatest junk mail opener. Heavily taped boxes? No problem, that sharp point slides right in there as easily as a politician finds a TV camera.

Yeah, it’s a nifty tactical knife too. The cutout for the lock makes a great finger groove and the hole in the blade allows for one-handed opening. And the best part? The whole thing weighs only two ounces.

You can pick one up for about $110 if you shop carefully.

OTIS Technology Announces LaPierreCare Offerings

OTIS Elite Cleaning System - everything you need, for every gun you have. Or might have.

OTIS Elite Cleaning System – everything you need, for every gun you have. Or might get.

Hey folks – just found out OTIS Technology, maker and purveyor of my absolute favorite cleaning kits, just launched a couple of rebate specials. Starting October 1 and continuing through the end of the year, there are two deals to check out.

Is it coincidence that the launch date coincides with the go live date of LaPierreCare Affordable Gun Act? I think not.

The first deal is for the OTIS Elite Cleaning System which has gizmos to handle every firearm from .17 caliber through 12 gauge shotguns. 105mm light guns require additional parts, sorry. Buy the OTIS Elite kit and send in the forms for a $15 cash back rebate. If you want to know a little more about the OTIS Elite system, we gave one away last year with the ladies from Women’s Outdoor News.

OTIS Technology MSR / AR-15 Kit with B.O.N.E. Tool and Ripcord cleaner

OTIS Technology MSR / AR-15 Kit with B.O.N.E. Tool and Ripcord cleaner

The second offer is available with purchase of the OTIS MSR / AR Cleaning Kit. Specifically designed for AR platform rifles and pistols, this kit includes things you need to clean out that nearly impossible to reach chamber. It also includes the OTIS B.O.N.E. tool, which is one of the niftiest inventions I’ve seen in a long time. Use the OTIS B.O.N.E. tool to clean your bolt, bolt tail and carrier. Handy. When you buy the MSR / AR kit, OTIS will send you a free OTIS Ripcord cleaner, which we recently evaluated.

If rebate forms don’t come included with your purchase, no problem. You can get them from the OTIS website.

Neat Invention of the Day: OTIS Ripcord Gun Cleaner

I spent some quality time at the range yesterday. I had to shoot some AR rifles to gather some data for my upcoming Insanely Practical Guides book, The Rookie’s Guide to the AR-15. Yeah, I know, it’s not just an adventure, it’s a job!

The OTIS Ripcord with an OTIS IDT Bore Brush attached. If you look closely you can see how the cord gets larger from one end to the other.

The OTIS Ripcord with an OTIS IDT Bore Brush attached. If you look closely you can see how the cord gets larger from one end to the other.

Anyway, the not so fun part of all that work is the cleaning afterwords. While not as difficult as rehabbing a recently paroled assistant crack whore, it can be a tedious process.

Fortunately I got my hands on a sample of the hot-spankin’ new OTIS Ripcord while at the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational. OTIS was a sponsor (thanks!) of the event and brought lots of new cleaning supplies for trial and testing.

The OTIS Ripcord is a semi-rigid cleaning “rope” for lack of a better word. Except it’s not much like a rope at all.

It’s constructed from a molded and rubberized core which provides the rigidity. Wound around that is carefully patterned Nomex fiber. You know Nomex – it’s that space age fire-resistant stuff that helps protect astronauts, military pilots and race car drivers from all that highly combustible fuel that they surround themselves with. It won’t even start to burn or melt until you get north of 700 degrees. This is important because… gun barrels get HOT. So you can use the OTIS Ripcord at the range while your barrel is still smokin’. That makes it a little easier to get the gunk out before it cakes on like Joan Rivers’ stage makeup.

The Nomex fiber is wound into a helix shape, like Alpaca DNA, so that the pattern gets deep into the rifling grooves. This means better cleaning and fewer passes through the bore. You’ll also notice that the OTIS Ripcord increases in diameter from one end to the other. The larger end won’t even go through the barrel if you try to put that in first. That’s by design. Insert the skinny end, and when it comes out the muzzle, pull the rest, including the fat part, through.

At each end of the Ripcord is a female threaded cap. So you can add other OTIS cleaning accessories. I stuck the OTIS IDT Bore Brush on the fat end and soaked the mop portion with FireClean Conditioning Oil, which I’ve been testing recently on AR’s.

Wow. I did two passes and the bore was squeaky clean. The rigidity of the Ripcord makes life a lot easier, especially when cleaning a semi-automatic where you don’t have linear access to the chamber end of the barrel. I’ve been a fan of the OTIS breech to muzzle cleaning system for years, and part of what makes it easy is the fact that the cleaning cables are not limp and floppy. While “limp and floppy” may sound a bit suggestive, it’s really a bad thing when you’re trying to wind a cleaning rope through an AR chamber. You have to orient the rifle muzzle down and take advantage of gravity to get the leading end out of the muzzle. It can be a three hand job. Not so with the Ripcord. Put your rifle on the bench sideways and just push it through. Awesome. I’ll be picking up more of these for my other rifle and pistol calibers.

You can get them in a couple of calibers at Amazon now and more will be appearing at your favorite gun accessories retailers like Brownells.com over the next few weeks.

Want an Extra Set of Eyes Downrange? Try the Bullseye Camera System

Shoot a rifle? How about a pistol? Or a bow? Or an air gun? Or maybe an atl-atl?

If yes, then you need to take a close look at the Bullseye Camera System. It’s like having an extra set of eyes just a couple of feet away from your downrange target, closely monitoring (but never criticizing!) every shot you take.

The Bullseye Camera System goes downrange to monitor your target so you don't have to.

The Bullseye Camera System goes downrange to monitor your target so you don’t have to.

Here’s the Bullseye Camera System in action downrange. Open the case, set up the camera, and you’re ready to go.

Here’s what the Bullseye Camera System does, in a nutshell:

  • Watches your target for every shot
  • Tracks the exact location of each hit in the target area
  • Beams that information back to your shooting bench location
  • Displays a real-time view, on a laptop or netbook computer, of each shot taken
Here’s the Bullseye Camera System in action downrange. Open the case, set up the camera, and you’re ready to go.

Here’s the Bullseye Camera System in action downrange. Open the case, set up the camera, and you’re ready to go.

It’s a little bit like having an insanely high-powered spotting scope zeroed in on your target, only better. Unlike a spotting scope, the Bullseye Camera System tracks each shot individually throughout your shooting session. The system monitors target status and all previous shots, so no matter how many holes are in your target, the most recent one will be clearly flashing on the laptop screen at your shooting bench. Not only that, you can choose to mark shots with colored dots for future reference.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub.com!

When 10 Rounds Of 12 Gauge Shotgun Isn’t Enough

Recently I ran across a deal that I couldn’t refuse on a Mossberg JM Pro 930 semi-automatic shotgun. The only problem is that it’s a little light on capacity. With only 9 rounds in the tubular magazine and 1 in the chamber, this shotgun is limited to a measly 10 shots.

And there are times when 10 rounds of 12 gauge isn’t enough. For example…

  • You hear a bump in the night. But your house has 6 porches. When you step out on the porch and fire a couple of blasts in the air, you’ll run out of ammo by the 5th porch. Wise Uncle Joe didn’t think of that did he? No worries, that’s why we’re here.
  • Let’s face it. The job market is tough. If you have to accept a position as a nomadic crime boss, you’ll want extra capacity for those unruly board meetings and employee grievances.
  • Your upcoming social calendar includes a walking dead family reunion.

Of course there are other less realistic scenarios where you might want to carry extra shotgun shells. Like home defense or 3 gun competition. Or maybe you’re a really, really bad skeet shooter.

For those scenarios, you might want to check out the Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carriers. Add a “by the seashore” to that and you’ve got a proven tongue twister.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier on a Mossberg JM Pro 930

The Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Carrier is designed to mount to your shotgun receiver or stock and carry from 4 to 8 extra shot shells. Models are available for numerous shotguns including:

Remington 870, 1100, 11087

Mossberg 500, 590, 930

Benelli M1, M2, Super Nova, M4, M1014

There are a lot of variables, so be sure to check the Mesa Tactical web site for details.

Most models are constructed from sturdy 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum, so you should be able to mount it to an F-18 Super Hornet, but be sure to consult a competent armorer before attempting installation.

A closer look at the Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Carrier

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier  2

I ordered the Mossberg 930 (6) shell carrier. This one is constructed of solid aluminum and includes all the parts and tools needed for installation.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  7

One of the “hidden” features of the Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Carrier is the adjustable friction mechanism. A channel is machined into the carrier which holds a rubber tube. This tube applies pressure to the shot shells in each port. Mesa Tactical supplies two rubber tubes with different hardness to increase or decrease the amount of friction you want.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  6

Try the default setup. If it works for you, great. No further action is required. If you want the carrier to hold shells more tightly, you’ll need to swap the rubber tube.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  5

On the Mossberg 930 model, 6 screws hold the backing plate to the carrier. Remove those and you’ll have access to the tube.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  4

Replace the default tube with the firmer white tube and replace the backing plate.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation remove trigger group pins

Installation on the Mossberg 930 JM Pro was easy. Just punch out the two pins that hold the trigger group in place. Leave the trigger group in the receiver – no need to take that out.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  3

Mesa Tactical includes a rubber gasket that sticks to the back of the shell carrier. This creates a no-slip attachment and ensures that your receiver won’t get all scratched up. Stick that on the back, making sure you don’t cover up any of the backing plate screws in case you want to swap retainer tubes later.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  2

For the Mossberg 930, the carrier kit includes two sets of pass through bolts. Insert the two female ends through the carrier and then through the receiver. Be careful to keep your trigger group in place – these bolts are now holding that in the receiver.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  1

From the other side, insert the male end of the bolts, with washers, and join them up.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation

The Mossberg 930 carrier kit includes two hex wrenches to tighten the bolts. Finger tight using the hex wrenches will provide all the tension you need.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier  1

Here is the Mesa Tactical Shot Shell Carrier mounted. Notice the cutout placed over the area of the receiver where the gun’s serial number is stamped. (The serial number is blurred out in this photo.)

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier top view

A view from the top. The Mesa Tactical ShotShell Side Saddle Carrier. Notice that it’s well out of the way of the receiver-mounted safety.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier  3

The grip is solid enough to carry shot shells base up or base down depending on your preference. Or, if you want to carry two types of shells, you can alternate them to easily tell the difference between buckshot and slugs. After some use, I found that I preferred the base down method. With your support hand thumb, you can press down on the top of a shell to “dump” it into your support hand. With proper hand placement and practice, you can drop a shell into your support hand and load it in one fluid motion. OK, it was more like a spastic motion before practicing a few times, but practice makes perfect.

You can find the Mesa Tactical ShotShell Side Saddle Carrier at Brownells.com

Mesa Tactical Products, Inc. Receiver Mount Shotshell Holder
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Blackhawk! AR-15 Vertical Grip: For Stability, Tactical Lights & Low Heat

Adding The Blackhawk! Rail Mount Vertical Grip

Moving right along with the Blackhawk! custom AR-15 project…

This time, I’m going to try out a complimentary accessory to the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest I installed last episode. The thumb rest can operate on its own to help grip, control and consistent hand placement. It also works great with a vertical grip.

The Blackhawk! Rail Mount Vertical Grip will work on most any rifle with a standard rail up front. Of course, if you want the grip to be on the bottom of the forend, you must have a rail on the bottom.

But first, why does one need a vertical grip?

  1. The grip is one layer removed from even the rail, so it’s not gonna heat up with lots of firing. Keeping freshly manicured hands away from that softness-robbing heat has got to be a benefit. Along with a daily soak on Palmolive.
  2. Control. The vertical grip presents a modified weapon support method. It’s especially handy for short-stock configurations, like indoor use.
  3. If you want to add a tactical light, it provides a great way to grip the rifle AND easily control a tail cap activated light. We’ll explore that in a future article.
  4. You have to admit, it looks cool. That counts for something right?
Blackhawk Rail Mount Vertical Grip

Here the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Vertical Grip is installed with the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Shelf – they play well together.

 

Blackhawk! Rail Mount Vertical Grip: Installation and features

Blackhawk Rail Mount Vertical Grip parts

The Blackhawk! Rail Mount Vertical Grip is modular in design, so you can customize the height of the grip. The standard vertical grip measures about 3 inches from the bottom of the rail. You can just fasten the included bottom cap to get a short post vertical grip configuration. This works great if you like to use the vertical grip as a partial hand support as shown in the photo later in this article. The kit also includes a grip extension that screws into the primary grip. This adds about 1 ⅝ inches so the total height of the vertical grip, with extension, is about 4 ⅝ inches. All of the parts are hollow and both the flat cap and extension grip piece include rubber gaskets to help seal the interior. This makes a handy place to safely store spare light batteries, small parts, cleaning supplies or maybe a few pieces of Bazooka Joe’s Bubble Gum. Your choice.

Blackhawk Rail Mount Vertical Grip installation

Since it’s a rail mount grip, installation is a snap. The grip itself has one half of a rail clamp molded in and a separate clamp for the opposite side. Two included hex bolts are used to fasten the grip to your rail. This provides a little extra flexibility for out of spec rails – you’ll still be able to get a solid mount.

Blackhawk Rail Mount Vertical Grip installation  1

The two included hex bolts are spaced to slide through grooves in the rail for forward / backward stability.

Blackhawk Rail Mount Vertical Grip water tight storage

The flat end cap has a rubber gasket to help keep moisture out of the storage area. Since there is not much surface on the flat one, there’s a large slot on the bottom to make it easier to remove. The extension piece also includes a gasket, but does not need a bottom slot and has a slightly rounded bottom.

Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest  2

Here’s the standard 3″ vertical grip installed with a Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb rest installed above and just forward of the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Vertical Grip.

Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest

The combination of the short vertical post and thumb rest works great. The thumb rest allows a little stable forward pressure and the vertical grip post allows a little backward pressure. The overall support-hand grip is rock solid. Of course, if you add the vertical grip extension, you have the additional option of using the vertical grip only with your support hand. In that configuration, you’re grasping the vertical grip more like a hammer.

One of the reasons I elected to install a vertical grip is that I’ll be trying out the Blackhawk! Offset Flashlight Rail Mount with a Blackhawk! Night-Ops Legacy L-6V tactical light. That one has a maximum output of 570 lumens, so maybe I’ll try it out at the 2013 Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational Match

Buy the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Vertical Grip Here

 

How To Add Night Sights To The M1A or M14 Rifle, And Other Rifleman Jazz

The Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight (TCCS)

Recently I had a Springfield Armory M1A in for evaluation. Somehow, this military classic (civilian semi-automatic version of the M14) just insists that you use iron sights.

Why?

Got me. But I’ve waffled more on the scope / iron sights decision more than Eric Holder in his Fast and Furious testimony. Some weeks the scope mount goes on and others its back to iron sights. Right now, it’s iron sights, and I think I’m going to stick with those – at least until Honey Boo Boo gains another 5 pounds.

Actually I’ve got even more incentive to stick with irons for a while. Recently I picked up a Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat front sight for the M1A / M14.

Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight for M1A and M14 Rifles

The Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight (left) shown next to the standard Springfield Armory M1A front sight.

As you can see, the front sight post is noticeably wider and not tapered like the standard M1A front sight post. This sight is intended for low visibility, close quarters use. Don’t take it to the National Matches! Here’s why…

Let’s consider the sight picture at 100 yards. My particular Springfield Armory M1A sight is just about .055 inches wide on the shooter side. It’s tapered and therefore narrower than that in the front. This helps create a really crisp and precise sight picture. Many other M1A’s use a National Match sight blade, which is .062 inches wide, so your particular mileage may vary a bit. Keep in mind that numbers will float around depending on exactly how far from the front sight post you place your shootin’ and aimin’ eye. In my case, it’s about 34 inches.

On the other hand, the Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight has a post that measures just about .093 inches wide.

What does this mean if your shooting at a target 100 yards away? Let’s do some fancy math and find out…

Gun math

So, solving that equation, dividing by the number of times John Boehner visits a tanning booth and carrying the one gives us the following sight pictures:

My Standard M1A Front Sight post covers a 5.82 inch wide target at 100 yards. With this fancy new match, that means a standard military 20 inch wide target would exactly match the width of my front sight blade at 343 yards.

The Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight post covers a 9.84 inch wide target at 100 yards. Not trusting my math, I eyeballed this at the range. Close enough. To make a similar military target ranging comparison, the Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight would match the 20 inch target width at about 203 yards. That’s kinda handy for ranging a man-sized target at distances us older folks you can actually see with the naked eye.

So, for long targets, you’re going to lose some precision with the Smith Enterprise Tritium Combat Sight. But that’s by design. This sight is supposed to be easy to see in low light conditions. With it’s built-in Trijicon tritium vertical bar, you can’t miss it.

This front sight upgrade also makes a great backup scenario if your M1A or M14 is scoped. Many (maybe most?) M1A / M14 receiver mounts have a half-tunnel cutout that allows you to see the front and rear iron sights under the scope. Smith Enterprise makes an M1A / M14 mount configured this way.

Front Sight Installation

If you have a standard M1A with the factory muzzle break installed, installation is simple.

M1A front sight removal

The standard front sight is a reverse dovetail setup where the sight itself has the female dovetail cut. It’s held in place by a hex bolt. Just loosen and remove that.

M1A front sight dovetail

The front sight will slide right off. Perhaps a gentle nudge will be required to get it moving.
 M1A front sight  1 Save that hex bolt. You’ll need it for the replacement front sight!

Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight installation

The Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight installs exactly the same as the standard sight. Don’t apply any Loctite – yet. First, you’ll want to bring your hex driver to the range with you for zeroing. If you zero for windage by drifting the front sight, then you can have your rear sight mechanically zeroed too. Just place the rear sight at it’s zero windage point, shoot, and adjust the front sight side to side as necessary. Once you’re happy, go ahead the tighten everything up.

Initially, I tried out the Tritium post version of the Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sight, but they also make one with a round tritium dot, also provided by Trijicon. I’ll be trying that one in a few weeks to see how it compares.

I really like shooting with this configuration. Given my aging eyes combined with iron sights, it’s not hurting my practical accuracy either.

 

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

 

You can find the Smith Enterprise Tritium Close Combat Sights at Brownells

Smith Enterprise M14 Tritium Close Combat Sight
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