ATI’s Ruger 10/22 AR-22 Stock System: Turn Your .22 Into a Tactical Beast

Believe it or not, this was a plain Ruger 10/22 Carbine not long ago...

Believe it or not, this was a plain Ruger 10/22 Carbine not long ago…

This week we’re going to invest in plastic surgery. No Kardashians will be involved, I promise.

While many might argue that I myself need it, I’m going to direct this decidedly non-medical procedure at a plain Ruger 10/22 Carbine .22LR plinker. The Ruger 10/22 Carbine is the basic model, with wood stock that usually sells for a street price of less than $250.

I’m going to turn it into… exactly the same rifle it was before. It will have the same functionally, but with a few cosmetic and usability improvements. You know, the kind of changes that turn a rifle into an assault weapon, whatever that is. It will have the same operating system. It will have the same magazine capacity. It will have the same caliber. It will not fire grenades. But it will look exceptionally cool. It will be easier to handle. It will be adjustable to fit shooters of different sizes and statures. It will probably make Michael Bloomberg apoplectic for no good reason at all.

What is it?

I’m talking about the ATI Ruger® 10/22® AR-22 Stock System with 8-Sided Forend. This complete stock replacement kit turns your vanilla Ruger into a tactical beast. Yeah, it’s really cool looking and incredibly fun to shoot.

Yes, some of the features are purely cosmetic, like the forward assist, safety lever, charging handle and bolt release. That’s OK, because the way the system is designed, those functions (barring the forward assist) are all covered by the existing buttons and levers on the Ruger 10/22 receiver. The idea is to provide a look and feel alike rifle to a standard AR type – great for practice and training at much lower cost to shoot.

What makes the ATI kit useful for your Ruger 10/22 are the functions that it adds. For example, the six position stock. Like a real AR-type rifle, the stock is adjustable from short to long length of pull along a faux buffer tube made of aluminum. The stock has a nice (and soft) butt pad to absorb whatever recoil your .22LR load of choice has. More importantly, the butt pad serves to provide solid placement on your shoulder so the rifle doesn’t move around when you’re emptying a 25 round magazine at a platoon of hubbard squash. The warts on that stuff are creepy.

While we’re talking about the stock improvements, an even more important feature is the adjustable cheek rest. You can raise and lower this using a screwdriver. Got low scope rings? No problem. Got a high mount just like your .223 Remington / 5.56mm AR? No problem. Adjust away. Oh, and the cheek rest has a soft rubber pad on top to protect your jawbone from the earth-shattering recoil of the .22LR.

The kit also adds a pistol grip, so if you want to use cheap (in comparison to .223 / 5.56mm) rounds for practice, it will feel somewhat like your AR type rifle. As a nice extra, the pistol grip has a textured rubber back strap and feels great during extended shooting sessions.

 

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

 

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

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

The GunBox: Secure, Yet Accessible Storage For Your Handgun

The GunBox is sized to hold even a large gun along with spare magazine.

The GunBox is sized to hold even a large gun along with spare magazine.

Here’s an accessory that is supremely elegant, tasteful in appearance, but the with constitution of a tank.

The GunBox looks like a high-tech computer or sound system accessory. Its space-age appearance and sleek looks won’t give away its real purpose – safe and secure storage of a handgun.

I spent some quality time with a pre-production model and here’s what I found.

The GunBox is built like a tank – no doubt about that. Someone would have to work hard to break into it. But that’s beside the point. The primary idea of something like a gun box is to keep unauthorized hands away from your gun. If your primary concern is protection from fire and/or burglary, then get a 1,500 pound safe and bolt it to your floor.

The GunBox does offer some anti-theft features. You can mount the GunBox to wall studs or perhaps a heavy piece of furniture. It even features a Kensington style cable lock interface that allows use of a sturdy cable lock. These features will help deter theft of the entire box, but it’s not something you want to rely on to protect from burglary.

The idea behind the GunBox is to keep little fingers off of your gun, yet keep it instantly available to you in case of emergency. The classic use case of something like a gun box is safe, yet accessible, storage on your nightstand. Your gun is secure from children or guests, but you can get access to it any time you like.

 

When used on a nightstand or desk, the dual USB ports are handy for charging phones or other devices.

When used on a nightstand or desk, the dual USB ports are handy for charging phones or other devices.

The GunBox has different options for secure access to the interior. The primary access method is via an RFID chip embedded in the unit itself. Simply wave a provided bracelet or ring over the top of the box, and it opens automatically. You can also get a fingerprint scanner in addition to the RFID lock. The fingerprint scanner allows you to store multiple fingerprints so you can open it with different fingers on your own hands, and also program fingerprints from a spouse or significant other. In my testing, I found that I could open the box with any orientation of my finger on the scan pad – it didn’t require me to achieve perfect, or even consistent, placement.

Other options available with the GunBox include a motion sensor alarm which makes a loud beeping sound when somebody is messing with the unit, for example, attempting to open or steal it. The premier model offers GPS tracking and 7×24 alarm service that will notify you by text message of unusual activity.

The GunBox includes an RFID bracelet as the default opening tool and AC power adapter.

The GunBox includes an RFID bracelet as the default opening tool and AC power adapter.

The construction and mechanics are elegant. One nice touch is the inclusion of two pneumatic pistons that assist the opening of the door when unlocked. Instead of just flinging open by spring power, the door gently opens in a controlled fashion. The lock itself is a motor driven affair. Using the fingerprint scanner or RFID sensor, a motor is activated which slides a metal bar off of a fixed piston in the lower half of the unit, thereby allowing the pneumatic pistons to gently the door. One thing that I found slightly annoying was the noise of the motor. It gently grinds for several seconds in the process of unlocking. I couldn’t help but think how loud that would be in a dead quiet house, in the middle of the night.

The GunBox is a nice piece of gear. When it comes to safety, it doesn’t benefit you or anyone else to skimp on quality. This box is secure from unauthorized use yet offers dependable options for immediate access. If your home has kids or frequent guests, then you owe it to them to secure your guns.

A Beretta 92 and the Sounds of Silence…

Here's a happy combination: a Beretta 92FS and SilencerCo Octane

Here’s a happy combination: a Beretta 92FS and SilencerCo Octane

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there are just under 600,000 silencers registered in the U.S. as required by the National Firearms Act. With the current backlog of 74,000 applications for NFA classified guns, that number is rapidly growing.

Why? Silencers are polite. While they don’t hush gunshots to whispers as depicted in the movies, they do reduce the ear-damaging noise of a gunshot to safer levels. When folks are using silencers at a shooting range or training class, students can easily hear range commands. New shooters avoid the tendency to flinch away from the loud bang when that bang is muffled. Neighboring homes and businesses will also appreciate the reduction of noise.

Depending on your configuration and ammunition choice, you may not need hearing protection at all. As hearing damage is permanent, be sure to carefully review the performance specifications of your silencer and ammunition choice before leaving the hearing protection in your shooting bag.

I’ve got a well used Beretta 92FS that’s been one of my perennial favorites. I love the feel, the weight, the balance and how softly it shoots even +P 9mm loads. You could say it fits me like a glove. It’s also been the most reliable handgun in my safe. It eats any and all types of 9mm ammunition and never jams. Ever.
Whether intentional or not, the Beretta 92 is a perfect handgun for use with a silencer. The barrel naturally extends past the front of the slide – enough for a competent gunsmith to cut threading so a silencer can be mounted. The open-top slide presents even more forgiveness for proper cycling, with which a silencer can interfere.

For these reasons, I decided it was time to suppress this bad boy.

Because of my insatiable need to tinker with gun configurations, I wanted to get a silencer that was multi-purpose – one that could be used on different caliber handguns and even a subsonic rifle. For this reason, I elected to acquire a SilencerCo Octane 45. Getting the .45 caliber version meant that my silencer would be a tad longer and heavier, but on the positive side, I could use it with .45, .40 S&W, 9mm, .380 and even .22LR handguns. This one is even rated for use with a 300 AAC Blackout subsonic rifle. Talk about versatility!

Read the rest at Beretta USA!

Adventures With A .22 Silencer: The SilencerCo Sparrow

The SilencerCo Sparrow 22 on a Smith & Wesson M&P 22.

The SilencerCo Sparrow 22 on a Smith & Wesson M&P 22.

There’s not much more fun in recreational shooting than a .22 with a Silencer. Note I said “silencer” instead of “suppressor.”

While “suppressor” is a more technically accurate term, the original devices were named silencers. Maxim Silencers, in fact. Hiram Percy Maxim, not to be confused with his machine gun inventing dad, Hiram Stevens Maxim, is the guy whom most people believe invented the gun silencer. Not surprisingly, Hiram Percy also worked on early automobile mufflers as the basic principles are similar – taming hot and noisy gases after combustion.

For a long time, the industry drifted towards referring to “gun mufflers” as suppressors, but over the past few years I’ve noticed that most companies have gone back to the traditional name – silencers.

A few weeks ago, my BATFE Form 4, Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm came back from 10 months of hibernation on some faceless bureaucrat’s desk. Receipt of that precious document meant that I could pick up my SilencerCo Sparrow 22 Suppressor that was also in a 10 month deep sleep at my local FFL dealer. After dusting off the box and using carbon dating technology, I determined that it was, in fact, 10 months old. At least it’s new to me, right?

Let’s take a closer look at the SilencerCo Sparrow 22 and some gun and ammo options to go with it.

The SilencerCo Sparrow 22 Specs

Simply put, the SilencerCo Sparrow is a whole lot of fun in a small package. It measures just five inches long and a hair over one inch in diameter. Its total weight is just 6.5 ounces. It’s a rimfire design, although it is rated for the FN 5.7×28 centerfire cartridge. If you’ve got a .22LR, .22 Magnum, .17 HMR you’re in business. It will even handle .22LR in full-automatic operation if you’ve got such a thing.

For testing, but mainly just fun, I mounted the SilencerCo Sparrow 22 on two different guns: a Smith & Wesson M&P 22 pistol and a Colt / Umarex M4 Carbine chambered in .22LR. The Sparrow 22 comes with a standard 1/2×28 thread mount. Both guns required an adapter piece to mount the silencer. Some M&P 22’s models are available with threaded barrels, but the threads don’t extend past the slide. Adding a Tactical Innovations thread adapter and extender provided the proper mount for the Sparrow 22. The Colt Carbine also required a thread adapter to convert the standard barrel threads to the required 1/2×24 mount. With the adapters in place, mounting the SilencerCo Sparrow was a piece of cake – just screw it on until hand tight. While I did not encounter any loosening of the silencer, be sure to check once in a while to make sure it’s stills screwed on tight.

Here you can see the Tactical Innovations thread adapter on the pistol. Adding the Crimson Trace Laserguard turned out to be an "extra fun" bonus.

Here you can see the Tactical Innovations thread adapter on the pistol. Adding the Crimson Trace Rail Master turned out to be an “extra fun” bonus.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 22 with the SilencerCo Sparrow 22 was a beautiful combination. The MNP 22 is a full size 22 handgun, yet is very lightweight. Because the Sparrow 22 is only one inch in diameter, it did not interfere with the standard sights on this gun at all. I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I added a Crimson Trace Rail Master with a green beam for improved daylight visibility. The Smith & Wesson M&P 22 has a standard rail, so this was an easy upgrade. Unless you’re opposed to giggling like a kindergartener, add a laser to your suppressed .22. Trust me.

Even though I was nowhere near bored with the pistol configuration, I moved the Sparrow to the Colt M4 Carbine 22. With its even higher iron sights, there was no issue with the silencer obstructing the sight picture. With the longer barrel, the rifle configuration was even quieter. Since I had to remove the muzzle brake, there was very little change in the overall length of the rifle with the Sparrow 22 attached.

Read the rest at Outdoor Hub!

 

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Mossberg FLEX System: When One Gun Is Enough

I’ve seen magazine ads for the Mossberg FLEX system for sometime now, but have not had the opportunity to kick the tires, so to speak, until now.

The Mossberg FLEX system allows you to swap stocks, grips and butt pads quickly and easily.

The Mossberg FLEX system allows you to swap stocks, grips and butt pads quickly and easily.

If you’re not familiar with the Mossberg FLEX, the idea is a system of interchangeable parts, like stocks, grips, buttpads and forends, that allow you to quickly and easily reconfigure a rifle or shotgun. There are plenty of good reasons you might want to do this.

  • Seasonal clothing changes. If your shotgun or rifle fits you perfectly in the cold months when you wear heavy clothing, it might be a bit long in the stock during the summer t-shirt months.
  • You may want to share the same rifle or shotgun with another person who requires a different length of pull than you – a child for instance?
  • Maybe you want to use one gun for hunting and home defense. Why not mount a solid stock for hunting outings and a collapsible for home defense use?
Butt pads are a piece of cake to swap. A button on the bottom of the stock releases one, so you can add a different size.

Butt pads are a piece of cake to swap. A button on the bottom of the stock releases one, so you can add a different size.

Before I saw the system I had hesitations about the about how solid this the mounts would be. After all, the stock is the focal point for heavy recoil forces in shotguns and rifles. At the recent Professional Outdoor Media Conference (POMA) I had the opportunity to swap some stocks and shoot.

I found the locking system to be rock solid and here’s why. Mossberg uses zinc fixtures on both male and female sides of the locking mechanism between the stock and receiver. The locking mechanism is similar and appearance and function to AR style barrel extension and bolt carrier the way the two pieces locked together. A semicircular lever lifts out of the stock itself and twists 90° to release the mechanism. A quick bump with your hand and the two halves come apart. It’s a tight fit and I could detect no “play” at all between the receiver and stock.

You can also swap the butt pad for different sizes with a simple button release on the bottom of the stock. The butt pads are designed to snap in place and are available in small, medium and large sizes. Mossberg also offers different sizes of stocks blanks so you actually have two ways to customize. First you choose the stock you want, then select the desired butt pad. Couldn’t be easier.

Mossberg makes the FLEX system for 12 gauge 500 series shotguns, 7.62mm and 5.56mm MVP bolt action magazine fed rifles, 20 gauge shotguns and now FLEX-22 rifles.

Cool stuff.

A Great Reason To Take Your iPhone Or iPad To The Shooting Range

The Bullseye Camera iPhone application. It's got all the basics you need to monitor shots up to one mile downrange.

The Bullseye Camera iPhone application. It’s got all the basics you need to monitor shots up to one mile downrange.

Back in September I wrote about a new product that’s a must have accessory for rifle shooters – The Bullseye Camera System.

The iPad version provides the same functionality, just on a larger screen.

The iPad version provides the same functionality, just on a larger screen.

I won’t review all the capabilities here as you can read about those in the original article. The short description is this:

The @BullseyeCamera is like having an extra set of eyes down range, closely monitoring (but never criticizing!) every shot you take. (Tweet This)

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

Well, life has gotten better. When I first got my hands on the system, it required a Windows-based computer, laptop or netbook to run the software. That was OK as I had a small netbook available to lug to the range. Now, Bullseye Camera has released both iPhone and iPad versions of the software. So you no longer need to bring a laptop to the range – your iPhone will work just fine by itself. If you want a larger screen, then bring an iPad.

You can find the iOS application free here. Of course, you need the Bullseye Camera hardware to use it.

The downrange part of the Bullseye Camera setup.

The downrange part of the Bullseye Camera setup.

Bullseye Camera is hard at work on Android and Mac OS versions of the software too. We’ll give you a heads up as soon as those are available.

Quiet Recoil Reduction From Silencerco

And the deluge of announcements for SHOT Show 2014 begins…

Both the Silencerco Harvester and Harvester Big Bore (shown here) have a nifty and quite cool looking integrated muzzle brake.

Both the Silencerco Harvester and Harvester Big Bore (shown here) have a nifty and quite cool looking integrated muzzle brake.

From one of the most innovative companies out there comes two new silencers optimized for hunting applications. That baffle-ey thing on the front? That’s an integrated muzzle brake to help control felt recoil. The Silencerco Harvester and Harvester Big Bore will be available starting in February.

Of course, the BATFE will do everything in their power to delay you taking possession for some unreasonable amount of time. Word on the street is that Class III Trust electronic tax stamp applications are getting turned around in a couple of months, so look into that. We’ll be doing an article on Gun Trusts in the near future.

The Harvester is a .30 caliber bore with a thread mount for numerous barrel sizes using a modular thread adapter. The silencer is 8.8 inches long, but weights in at only 11 ounces. That’s light. It’ll knock 21.1 to 33.6 dB off the muzzle blast sound depending on which specific caliber you’re using.

The Harvester Big Bore features a .338 caliber bore, but more importantly adds mounting options beyond a simple thread mount. As a result, it’s heavier, weighing in at about 22 ounces. It’s also a bit longer – 10 inches total.

I’m looking forward to (hopefully) shooting these at SHOT Show Media Day next week. More on that soon…

Vanquest MOLLE Sticks: They Will Save Your Sanity

At a recent Gunsite event hosted by my friends at LaserMax, I met Alex. He’s a gear head from Vanquest. But he doesn’t have greasy fingernails or smell like brake fluid, because his gear specialty is packs, bags, totes, backpacks and cases of all sorts.

Anyway, Alex showed me a sooper-dooper nifty little invention that it sure to save your sanity: MOLLE Sticks.

Two five-inch MOLLE Sticks. Shown here not hooking anything up so you can actually see them.

Two five-inch MOLLE Sticks. Shown here not hooking anything up so you can actually see them.

If you own a bag with all sorts of canvas straps all over it, it’s most likely MOLLE compatible. I’m pretty sure MOLLE stands for Militaristic Odor-eaters for Linsday Lohan Lawn tractor Excursions.

Or maybe it’s MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. You see, as cool as they are, our military Department of Namers-of-things always cheats on acronyms. There’s no “O” word in there, they just shamelessly borrow the one in “modular.”

Anyway, if you have a backpack, briefcase, camera bag, medical kit, bug out bag or MK-19 Automatic Grenade Launcher case with all these MOLLE straps, then maybe you’ve tried to hook some other pouch, canteen or perhaps a stuffed lemming to your bag. If you have, then you know it’s more annoying than all those home-made cartoons popping up all over Facebook.

Enter the sticks.

As opposed to a canvas strap that you have to wind through all those MOLLE loops, when there is no space whatsoever between the two surfaces, the MOLLE Sticks are made from slippery polymer. You simply push them through, in and out of the loops. When you hit the end, just push down the snap on the end to lock the stick in place.

Here I've used two MOLLE sticks to attach a Vanquest ISOPOD fold up pouch to my Vanquest Javelin VSlinger pack. Two other MOLLE sticks are shown beside.

Here I’ve used two MOLLE sticks to attach a Vanquest ISOPOD fold up pouch to my Vanquest Javelin VSlinger pack. Two other MOLLE sticks are shown beside.

It’s crazy easy to attach your MOLLE gear however you want – no matter how tight the loops are. And with these, the tighter the better, so your gear doesn’t jingle around.

The even better part is the instant removal. Whatever your reasons – simple pack reconfiguration, or maybe something really important like removing a modular medical kit – just unsnap the MOLLE Stick and it slides right out. The gear can be removed instantly.

Love, love, love these. You can get them from Vanquest here.

You don’t have to thank me, just consider this tip one of the many free benefits of Obamacare.

By the way, the pack and pouch shown here are two other nifty Vanquest products – the Vanquest Javelin VSlinger pack and the Vanquest ISOPOD fold up pouch. We’ll be reviewing those over at Bearing Arms.

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