Beretta’s ARX100: A Lesson In Flexibility

Beretta's ARX100 may look like a space gun, but its primary feature is easy configurability.

Beretta’s ARX100 may look like a space gun, but its primary feature is easy configurability.

There’s ambidextrous, and there’s ambidextrous.

Some rifles have safety levers on one side, or at least a safety lever that can be relocated to the opposite side of the frame. Others might have a way to move the magazine release button or even bolt release to the opposite side.

The Beretta ARX100 takes configuration flexibility to a whole new level.

The left side looks... almost exactly like the right side.

The left side looks… almost exactly like the right side.

I just got my hands on a sample unit of this rifle and have been shooting it, taking it apart, and shooting it some more. Rather than waste words here with the specs like weight and length – you can find those here – I’ll focus on how this rifle operates and handles.

For starters, let’s take a look at the many components of what I think is the ARX100’s standout feature: flexibility.

Barrel

Once the bolt is in the maintenance position, pull down these tabs and the barrel pops right off.

Once the bolt is in the maintenance position, pull down these tabs and the barrel pops right off.

You can swap barrels on a standard AR-type rifle, it just takes some doing.

On the Beretta ARX100 with its default 16-inch barrel, it takes no doing and no tools. Just move the bolt to the maintenance position – I’ll describe that in a minute. Then you can pull two spring-loaded levers downward, and the barrel and extension will release and pull right out the front of the stock. The gas piston assembly comes out attached to the barrel.

The process could not be easier. Unlike an AR-type rifle, you have complete and unobstructed access to the barrel and extension with all those nooks and crannies for easy cleaning. Wow. Impressive simplicity and functional too.

Seeing how this works, I was concerned about the ARX’s ability to hold zero through a barrel change. Hold that thought until we get to the shooting report.

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A Closer Look at the SilencerCo SWR Octane Pistol Suppressor

SilencerCo SWR Octane 45 mounted on a Glock 26

SilencerCo SWR Octane 45 mounted on a Glock 26

After waiting long enough for three additional square inches of my hair to turn gray, I finally received my permission slip from the BATFE to take possession of my SilencerCo Octane 45 suppressor. Having collected dust in my local FFL’s safe for over 10 months, it’s now mine.

The Octane is a silencer made by SilencerCo, or more accurately SWR. SWR is now a part of SilencerCo, although the brand still appears. The Octane model is designed for pistol calibers, yet is rated for full automatic pistol caliber carbine use. It can also be used in the 300 AAC Blackout, provided you stick to subsonic rounds – it’s not rated for supersonic projectiles. If you try to fire supersonic cartridges through it, the moon is likely to plummet into downtown Possum Kingdom, South Carolina. But seriously, don’t do it. It’s not made for those high-pressure spikes.

Caliber choices

The Octane is available in 9 mm and 45 ACP. I chose the 45 model for flexibility. You can shoot 9 mm, 40 caliber, 45 caliber, 300 Blackout or even 380 ACP. You can also use it on a .22, but that might be a bit silly given the size of the unit.

The only drawback to using the 45 model with smaller calibers is that you lose a couple of decibels of sound reduction because it has a bigger hole in the front. For me, that trade-off was easy. I have incredible flexibility on which guns I can mount a suppressor. Buy one, and cover all of your compatible handguns.

By purchasing different pistons and/or fixed mounts, you can use the Octane 45 with a variety of pistol calibers.

By purchasing different pistons and/or fixed mounts, you can use the Octane 45 with a variety of pistol calibers.

Shooting silently

I’ve used the SilencerCo SWR Octane 45 on four different guns so far including a Glock 26, a Glock 31, a Beretta 92FS and a Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout rifle.

For use with the Glock pistols, I used Lone Wolf threaded barrels. These not only provided extra length and threading for silencer attachment, they also use traditional rifling which allows for more liberal use of lead bullets in the Glock. In the case of the Glock 31, which is a .357 Sig chambering, I cheated a bit and ordered a Lone Wolf .40 S&W threaded barrel. As magazines and recoil springs functionally the same, this barrel swap converted my .357 Sig to a .40 S&W. A Glock 31 is now a Glock 22, at least until I swap the barrels again. One more thing on the Glock configurations. Use of Crimson Trace Lasergrips on both models allowed for a great sighing option. The laser is offset just enough to bypass the suppressor.

I converted this Glock 31 to a Glock 22 using a Lone Wolf threaded barrel. It worked beautifully with Winchester Train subsonic ammunition.

I converted this Glock 31 to a Glock 22 using a Lone Wolf threaded barrel. It worked beautifully with Winchester Train subsonic ammunition.

The Beretta 92FS solution is relatively simple. The 92FS doesn’t come with a threaded barrel, but the barrel does extend far enough past the slide to allow a qualified gunsmith to add threading. Companies like Gem-Tech or Tornado Technologies can thread your existing barrel, or you can buy a second barrel which is pre-threaded and that’s what I elected to do so I could keep my factory barrel in its original configuration. Oh, the Crimson Trace Lasergrip solution works great on the Beretta 92FS as well.

A classic combination: Beretta 92FS + Silencer

A classic combination: Beretta 92FS + Silencer

The Daniel Defense rifle was the easiest of all to configure. Remember, the Octane 45 is a pistol silencer, so use subsonic ammo only if mounting it on a 300 Blackout rifle. Using some heat to loosen the factory Loctite, I removed the flash suppressor and direct mounted the silencer using a fixed mount on the Octane. Be sure not to use the compression washer that might already be in place as that can prevent your silencer from mounting perfectly parallel to the bore.

The standard Beretta 92FS barrel extends far enough past the slide to add threading.

The standard Beretta 92FS barrel extends far enough past the slide to add threading.

While any pistol ammo is fun with a silencer, the best solution is subsonic ammo. For the 9mm guns, I particularly liked American Eagle’s 147 grain flat point full metal jacket ammo. With a velocity of about 950 feet per second, it was super quiet using the Octane. Function was also perfect in both the Glock 26 and Beretta 92FS.

For the Glock 31, now converted into a Glock 22, I used subsonic hand loads and .40 caliber Winchester Train ammo. Use of an 180 grain projectile at 925 feet per second resulted in some seriously quiet shooting.

For the 300 Blackout, I used a variety of hand loads constructed with 220 grain Sierra Matchking bullets and factory ammo from Gorilla Ammunition. Gorilla offers a great subsonic round made with Hornady 208 grain A-MAX bullets.

Pieces and parts

Figuring out what parts you need is a little bit confusing. Let me see if I can simplify things here.

First, you will need to know which kind of mount you need based on your gun’s design. Your gun will come in one of two configurations. Either the barrel will be fixed to the frame, and not move upon firing or it will have a recoil operated action where the barrel moves, tilts or rotates as part of the recoil process.

If you have a recoil operated action gun, things are a little complex. Successful operation of a semi-automatic handgun requires many forces to balance in perfect harmony. When the cartridge fires, the slide moves backward a short distance, carrying the barrel with it. The barrel tilts downward, disconnecting from the slide, and the slide then continues on it’s own all the way to the back of it’s cycle. At this point, the recoil spring starts to push the slide forward again. This choreographed movement of the bang-bang process has to be perfect for a gun to function reliably every time.

Adding the weight of the silencer to the barrel can disrupt this perfectly orchestrated routine. So now, when the gun recoils it has to drag the weight of the silencer along with it. The rearward travel may be slower to the point of not completing the cycle. Forward motion from recoil spring pressure may also be slowed.

The solution in the case of the SilencerCo SWR Octane is what’s called a booster mount.

The booster mount makes this Glock 26 function perfectly.

The booster mount makes this Glock 26 function perfectly.

Instead of a rigid connection to the barrel, a free-floated pistol is connected to the gun barrel. The pistol is spring mounted inside the silencer body, allowing movement back and forth. The piston can actually move a little bit, with resistance provided by the spring. The spring action of the pistol inside the silencer actually assists the recoil action of the gun, increasing the likelihood of reliable function.

Here’s how the pistol system works. Pardon the complete bastardization of scientific principles OK?

If you hold the pistol frame with one hand and pull the silencer away from the gun with the other, the piston remains fixed in position, but the silencer body and internals move away from the bore under pistol spring tension. When you fire the gun, the explosion of hot gas coming out the muzzle pushes the body of the suppressor forward against booster spring pressure. At that point, the suppressor piston spring starts to bring the body of a suppressor backwards. This is a good thing, as the barrel is also wanting to move backward as part of the recoil action. The net result is that the silencer is moving on its own, so the barrel doesn’t assume the full burden of lugging the extra weight. All this fancy movement make sure that your gun cycles correctly.

The piston is the only part that attaches to your gun barrel by design. This means you can use one suppressor with multiple pistons to fit different gun barrel diameters and threading types. I ordered three different pistons for the Octane 45 so I can mount it on 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP barrels. Pistons are inexpensive and not regulated like the suppressor body, so you can get them anytime.

Now let’s talk about the other scenario for a minute – a fixed barrel situation.

When the barrel doesn’t move, you don’t want to use a booster. Like the barrel, you want the silencer fixed in place. Rather than using a pistol and spring, you order a fixed mount that is rigidly attached to the silencer body without use of a spring or piston. Using a piston in a fixed barrel scenario will beat up your expensive silencer.

Make sense?

Maintenance

The SilencerCo SWR Octane is designed for easy maintenance. As you can see by the photos here, the insides are easily removed for cleaning and maintenance. The interior baffle structure is made of a series of connecting pieces that come apart when removed from the silencer body. If you want to clean the easy way, take the unit apart and dump the interior pieces into an ultrasonic cleaner like the Lyman Turbo Sonic cleaner like the one I use. Use the ultrasonic on the internals only – clean the body and end caps by hand.

All of the guts are easily removable for cleaning. That's especially important if you shoot lead bullets.

All of the guts are easily removable for cleaning. That’s especially important if you shoot lead bullets.

You won’t need to obsess about cleaning your suppressor, but if you like to shoot lead bullets, you will need to deal with that more frequently. I’ve cleaned mine once, mainly out of curiosity, and have fired somewhere north of one thousands rounds of mixed ammo through it. No worries.

Closing thoughts

The most surprising thing about adding a pistol silencer to my collection is how it changes the whole feel of shooting. The sharp bangs turn to more of a whoosh. You can hear bullets zinging through the air. Recoil feels less abrupt. Newer shooters are less likely to flinch. Depending on your ammo selection, you may be able to remove hearing protection.

All in all, use of a silencer dramatically improves your shooting experience. Bite the bullet. Pay the feds their highway robbery extortion of $200. Get one.

Top Shooting Gear Finds From The Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational

The Smith & Wesson 929 Performance Center revolver is a 9mm. Moon clips make the rimless rounds work.

The Smith & Wesson 929 Performance Center revolver is a 9mm. Moon clips make the rimless rounds work.

One of the highlights of the annual Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational is schmoozing time with the match sponsors. With more than 40 different companies present, I had many company reps to pester. Unlike chaotic events like SHOT Show or the NRA Annual Meeting, the M3GI has plenty of daylight hours (shooting is only at night remember), and the folks are captive at the remote location. Sponsors can’t run or hide; they simply have to tolerate my endless questions and make the best of it.

Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting finds at this years Midnight 3 Gun Event.

Smith Wesson 929 Performance Center Revolver

Look at the lead photo in this article. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Got it? Now tell me how anyone can pick that up and not immediately try for the 50 yard steel plates. That’s exactly what I did. I’m not the world’s best shot, but I hit it from a standing position nearly every time.

Too. Much. Fun. To. Shoot.

Too. Much. Fun. To. Shoot.

The Smith & Wesson 929 Performance Center is a 9mm revolver with 8 round capacity in the wheel. Since it uses rimless 9mm ammo, you use moon clips to load the cylinder. Weighing in at a hefty 44 ounces, the 929 is plenty stable for offhand shooting. The 6.5 inch barrel and corresponding long sight radius makes steady sight picture a snap. It’s a Performance Center model and Jerry Miculek signature design. I want one.

I2 Technologies and Systems Integrations Binocular Night Vision System

The helmet requires a counterweight to balance out the dual monocular night vision system.

The helmet requires a counterweight to balance out the dual monocular night vision system.

I2 (pronounced eye-squared) brought about a billion dollars worth of leading edge night vision gear. They are innovators in complete, integrated night vision systems. Their primary wares at the M3GI were helmets equipped with dual PVS-14 mounts. Two PVS-14 Gen 3 night vision monoculars are configured into an adjustable, quick-release helmet mount. This gives the wearer broader peripheral vision, and more importantly, depth perception. Competitors had the good fortune of cleaning a “house” in the pitch dark with a Gem-Tech suppressed Glock and suppressed, full-auto PWS 300 Blackout SBR. After that, one had to clear the “back yard” with a shotgun. A truly awesome stage.

One of the neat little details I learned was that, due to the weight of the gear, you have to configure the helmet with a one pound counterweight on the rear, else you’ll be staring straight at the ground. You can get your own ready-to-go rig like this for just over $7,000. Got a birthday coming up?

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A Big Little Surprise From Smith & Wesson: The New M&P22 Compact Pistol

Smith & Wesson's new plinker: The M&P22 Compact

Smith & Wesson’s new plinker: The M&P22 Compact

Yeah, I know, .22LR ammo is impossible to find. But the situation is getting better, and this fun new pistol comes with a starting supply of ammunition – 222 rounds of Winchester to be exact. Yep, it’s your birthday!

An 87.5% scale version of the original, it's just the right size for a .22LR pistol.

An 87.5% scale version of the original, it’s just the right size for a .22LR pistol.

If you keep up with the .22LR pistol market, you know that Smith & Wesson announced the original M&P22 .22LR pistol way back in 2011. Technically, the original model was an adopted child through partnership with Walther. The pistol was made by Walther, imported and marketed under a partnership arrangement between Smith & Wesson and Walther.

Since then, the companies have moved into more independent ventures, amicably I might add, and now Smith & Wesson has produced a natural born child – the M&P22 Compact. Unlike its predecessor, the new M&P22 Compact model is entirely American made by Smith & Wesson. And it’s not just a scaled down version of the original. The new compact model has been largely redesigned – a quick look at the inside will show you new internals including trigger transfer bar, extractor, ejector, firing pin and feed ramp. Speaking of feed ramps, one of the design goals of the new pistol was reliability with a broad range of ammunition. More on that later.

The specs

Like most .22LR pistols, this one is a blowback design with a fixed barrel. It’s a single-action, hammer operated firing mechanism with solid safety levers on both sides of the frame. As a side note, the safety levers are now metal with a plastic over mold and noticeably more solid than those on the original M&P22.

One of the many improvements from the 2011 original: better adjustable sights.

One of the many improvements from the 2011 original: better adjustable sights.

Here are the basic specs:

Overall Length: 6.7 inches
Barrel Length: 3.6 inches
Barrel Rifling 1:15, 6 Groove, Right Hand
Overall Height (including sights): 5.0 inches
Overall Width (with controls): 1.5 inches
Total Empty Weight: 17.0 oz.

The pistol has a threaded barrel, but you won’t notice that at casual glance as the threaded portion and thread protector cap are internal to the slide. This means that you will need an adapter to extend 1/2×28 threads past the muzzle so you can attach a silencer. If you have an original model M&P22 be aware that the barrel threading is now larger, so you’ll need a new adapter.

In addition to ambidextrous safety levers, the M&P22 Compact has a magazine release button that can easily be moved to the opposite side, so the pistol is friendly to righties and lefties.

Sights are standard dovetailed post and notch with three bright white dots. The rear sight has also been redesigned to be more easily adjustable so point of impact can be tuned to your specific choice of ammo.

Other features include a front rail for lights and lasers (don’t laugh, this makes an excellent rodent gun, trust me, I know!), two (10) round magazines and a loaded chamber indicator hole in the top of the slide.

The trigger is more of a service gun style as compared to a target pistol, and I think that’s part of the goal of the Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact. Comparable in size to a shield, it makes a low(er) cost option for training. The trigger has about ⅓ of an inch of take up, followed by a break at just under six pounds of pressure.

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Holster Review: Simply Rugged Cuda IWB / OWB Holster

The Simply Rugged Holsters Cuda is shown here in the outside-the-waistband configuration.

The Simply Rugged Holsters Cuda is shown here in the outside-the-waistband configuration.

Today’s neat holster design falls squarely into the “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?” category.

While Simply Rugged Holsters makes a number of different holster designs, the shiny one that diverted my attention away from the squirrel was the Simply Rugged Cuda model. Here’s why.

To use the Cuda as an IWB, flip the straps over the front - that's it.

To use the Cuda as an IWB, flip the straps over the front – that’s it.

It’s all the rage out at Gunsite these days.

But seriously, while that’s not the only reason Simply Rugged got my attention, it’s a big plus. The guys and gals at Gunsite certainly know what the heck they’re talking about, and I would be foolish not to take a close look at gear they wear themselves on a day-to-day basis.

The Simply Rugged Cuda is a combination inside-the-waistband (IWB) / outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster. By combination, I mean you can easily convert it from one to the other. Other designs on the market allow you to perform this exorcism by screwing and unscrewing clips or gun pouches or whatever. The Simply Rugged Cuda design has the conversion capability built-in – with no reconfiguration required.

Here’s the secret. The holster itself is a classic pancake design with three belt loops. Depending on which loops you use, you can wear the holster as a traditional strong side outside-the-waistband with standard or canted angle or a cross draw outside-the-waistband on the weak side. Simple enough, right? What Simply Rugged has done differently is add leather straps that hang downwards on the back (body side) of the holster. When you want to wear the holster as an inside-the-waistband, you flip the two straps over the top then down the front. The holster goes in your pants while the straps with snap loops are exposed to latch onto your belt. The beauty of the design is that you leave the straps in place when wearing as an OWB and they don’t get in the way. You can literally move this holster from OWB to IWB in no time flat because there is no reconfiguration. It’s hard to explain, so check out the pictures here to see how it works.

Here's the Cuda in action as an IWB holster.

Here’s the Cuda in action as an IWB holster. Image: Gunsite and Simply Rugged Holsters.

The Cuda model is hand molded to your specific firearm and Simply Rugged will happily work with you to design a holster that fits your gun, Lasergrip and light configuration. No one can guarantee a fit for every combination, but if you don’t see your specific gear combination listed, be sure to check with them first as offerings are always changing. One more thing regarding the Cuda design. The holster is made of thick leather, and while the mouth is not technically reinforced, I’ve had no problem re-holstering even while carrying inside-the-waistband.

When used as an outside-the-waistband holster, the IWB straps hand out of the way on the back.

When used as an outside-the-waistband holster, the IWB straps hand out of the way on the back.

If you prefer a holster with a hard reinforced mouth for absolute frictionless one-handed re-holstering, check out the Defcon 3 model. It’s got a layer of (proprietary trade secret unobtainium) sandwiched between the layers of leather to keep the mouth open at all times. All other features and options are similar to the Cuda, so you can get the Defcon 3 with IWB straps too.

Both Cuda and Defcon 3 designs are open mouth and secure your firearm with fit and friction. This is working out just fine on my Cuda model for a Smith & Wesson E-Series 1911 with a tactical rail. If you feel more comfortable with a top strap, check out some of Simply Rugged’s other designs – you’ll find a variety of models all geared towards heavy outdoor use.

Since you’re wearing a holster every day, or should be, you might want to take advantage of customization options. For example, the holster shown here has the optional basket weave pattern on the exposed side of the holster. BBQ gun anyone?

If you want to learn a whole lot more about different approaches to concealed carry and holsters, check out The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters, 2nd Edition 2014.

It’s on sale now along with our other shooting books!

Sig Sauer’s P226 Elite SAO: Love Child of the 1911 and P226?

 

Notice something different about this Sig P226? No decocking lever, and it's got a safety.

Notice something different about this Sig P226? No decocking lever, and it’s got a safety.

There’s no doubt about the Sig P226’s status as a reliable and quality handgun. After all, hard-core gun users like Navy Seals and Texas Rangers use the P226, or in the military’s case, the MK25. Like most of the other Sig Sauer “P” models, the standard P226 is a hammer-fired, double / single action design. The first shot requires a 10-pound trigger pull to cock the hammer and break the shot. Subsequent shots only require about 4 ½ pounds of trigger pressure as the hammer is cocked from the semi-automatic action. Also, “standard” P226’s are available in multiple calibers: 9mm, .40 S&W and .357 Sig.

The safety is ambidextrous and equal size and shape on both sides.

The safety is ambidextrous and equal size and shape on both sides.

Here’s what’s different about the Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO. As you might surmise from the name, it’s a single action only design. It’s kind of like the love child of the 1911 and a Sig P226 Enhanced Elite model. If you’re not familiar with the Sig E2 (Enhanced Elite) concept, it’s an improved grip design that reduced reach to the trigger while offering a full, and very rounded, grip profile. Also, the SAO model is only available in 9mm at this time.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO comes with two 15-round magazines. It’s packed in a foam-lined hard plastic case that has two holes for padlocks if you want to lock it up for travel. Sig also includes a cable gun lock so you can store your pistol safely when not in use.

The E2 grip profile makes this gun particularly shootable. The "wraparound" grips are actually two pieces that fit together.

The E2 grip profile makes this gun particularly shootable. The “wraparound” grips are actually two pieces that fit together.

The P226 is a full-size gun. It’s 8.2 inches long and 5.5 inches high. At its widest point, width measures 1.6 inches. The barrel itself is 4.4 inches. Overall weight with an empty magazine in place is 34.4 ounces.

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We Test The New Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact

Hot off the press - the new Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact. 87.5% scale of a full size M&P, it's a fun .22 plinker.

Hot off the press – the new Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact. 87.5% scale of a full size M&P, it’s a fun .22 plinker.

Getting home and tearing open Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact box, my very first impression was, “Oh snap!”

The next thought that crossed my mind was that this gun won’t be out of the box for six seconds before I’m compelled to attach a silencer. A SilencerCo Sparrow would be an excellent fit. The compact size just screams harmony and balance with the diminutive SilencerCo Sparrow.

I love .22s. Full size, compact, micro – I don’t care. They’re just fun. But there’s something to be said for a .22LR gun that is downsized for the rimfire caliber, and this one is. While I didn’t do a volumetric test to determine the exact size relationship, think of the M&P22 Compact as an 87.5% scale version of a full-size Smith & Wesson M&P – that number is from the company. Whatever the numbers, the feel and balance is great.

The pistol comes with (2) ten-round magazines, safety lock and gun lock keys.

The pistol comes with (2) ten-round magazines, safety lock and gun lock keys.

I picked up a production model at my local gun store, East Coast Guns in Summerville, South Carolina. When I asked manager and firearms trainer Tim Elmer for his first impressions, the first thing out of his mouth was “Wow! That’s a neat little thing!” After a bit more reflection, he noted “the size is awesome, well perfect actually. It also seems very well built, the safety is positive and the action is smooth. Now I have to shoot it!”

Me too. So let’s check it out.

Features and Specs

Opening the box, you’ll find a pistol, two 10-round magazines, keys for operating the integral safety lock, a hex wrench for windage adjustment of the rear sight, fired case and owners manual.

The pistol uses a blowback action with a fixed barrel, common to most .22 pistols. It’s a single-action, hammer operated firing mechanism. Here are the basic specs:

Overall Length 6.7 inches
Barrel Length 3.6 inches
Barrel Rifling 1:15, 6 Groove, Right Hand
Overall Height (including sights) 5.0 inches
Overall Width (with controls) 1.5 inches
Total Empty Weight 17.0 oz.
If you've seen the original M&P22, you'll notice the Smith & Wesson lettering is toned down on the new model.

If you’ve seen the original M&P22, you’ll notice the Smith & Wesson lettering is toned down on the new model.

The barrel itself is threaded, although that’s not obvious until you retract the slide. A screw on thread protector cap, the same diameter as the barrel, is hidden inside the slide when in battery. If you want to add a silencer to the M&P22 Compact, you remove the cap, add a thread extension and adapter to provide 1/2×28 threads compatible with most .22LR silencers. If you already have an adapter for the original M&P22, be aware that it won’t work – you will need a new one sized for the larger 3/8”-24 threads on the M&P22 Compact barrel.

The magazine release button is mounted by default on the left side of the pistol, but it’s easy to move it to the opposite side if you like. The owner’s manual includes clear step-by-step instructions with photos if you want to do this.

The new M&P22 Compact is shown here (right) next to a Smith & Wesson Shield (left). I put a Crimson Trace Rail Master laser on my test gun because... Fun!

The new M&P22 Compact is shown here (right) next to a Smith & Wesson Shield (left). I put a Crimson Trace Rail Master laser on my test gun because… Fun!

The M&P22 Compact features an ambidextrous thumb safety which blocks operation of the trigger. A nice design feature is that you can perform administrative functions like slide operation, slide lock and takedown with the safety engaged. We’ll talk about other improvements to the safety levers in a minute. While we’re on the topic of safeties, the pistol also has a trigger activated firing pin block and it’s drop safe.

The M&P22 Compact has a visual loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide. A small curved cutout allows you to see if there is a cartridge in the chamber.

There is a lawyer lock on this gun. On the M&P22 Compact, an included key can be used to lock the safety in the “safe” position. In fact, the lock can only be engaged while the safety is in the “safe” position. Do with the lock what you will.

 

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A Look At The Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun

The Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun is all business.

The Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun is all business.

I recently got my hot little hands on a Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun. After checking out the floor model at the 2014 NRA Annual Meeting, I decided I had to have one. Why? Because it handles like a shotgun carbine. If you’ve shot short, light weight and compact rifles, then you know exactly what I mean. Now envision those attributes in a shotgun and you’ve got the Beretta 1301 Tactical.

The Aimpoint Micro H1 optic fit perfectly and allowed for co-witness of the ghost ring sights.

The Aimpoint Micro H1 optic fit perfectly and allowed for co-witness of the ghost ring sights.

Right out of the box, it’s just under 38 inches long, which is right in line with other famous carbines like the Ruger 10/22 and World War II era M1 Carbine. Beretta ships this gun in its shortest configuration. The butt stock has removable spacers included in the box that allow you to add ½, 1” or 1 ½ inches to the stock length to arrive at the length of pull that you want. Me? I loved the short and handy configuration, so I left the spacers in the box for future use in the event my arms grow longer.

The 1301 Tactical is offered in 12 gauge only at this point and features a 3 inch chamber. In a small, lightweight shotgun like this one, you really don’t want to shoot 3 ½ inch shells anyway – it’s not intended to be a turkey hunting gun.

Differing from it’s 1301 competition sibling, the 1301 Tactical model sports some differences. First, it has an 18-inch barrel as compared to the Competition choices of 21 or 24 inches. It’s also got adjustable ghost ring sights. Both the ghost ring in the rear and sturdy post up front are protected with metal “wings” to save your sights from getting knocked around in the back of the SWAT wagon. More importantly, the 1301 Tactical model has a receiver-mounted rail just in front of the rear sight so you can mount optics. For me, this just screamed for an Aimpoint Micro H1. With a 2-MOA red dot and compact size, it turned out to be the perfect solution. The quick-release mount on the Aimpoint positioned the optic at a perfect height so the iron sights are just visible in the bottom section of the glass. If your battery croaks, you’ve got iron sights ready to go without need to remove your optic.

Beretta_1301_Tactical-15

Magazine capacity on the 1301 Tactical is a bit less than that of the 1301 Competition due to its shorter length. In mine, I can stuff 4, and sometimes 5, shells into the tube depending on the shell. Be aware that Beretta ships this model with a magazine plug in place, temporarily limiting tube capacity to two shells. No worries, just pop out the plug and you’re good to go.

Beretta_1301_Tactical-26Speaking of magazine capacity, I felt compelled to add a Nordic Components extension tube to my test model. While I could have chosen a longer tube, I opted for a 2 shell extension. This makes the overall length of the magazine tube just a hair longer than the barrel. I get two extra shells with no sacrifice of the compact handling qualities. Now, my total capacity, at least using Federal 12 gauge Gold Metal Target loads, is 7 in the tube plus one in the chamber. If you’re a 3 gun competitor, you might notice this sets this shotgun up nicely for…

The Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Event!

While I was itching to try this shotgun anyway after seeing at the NRA Annual Meeting, I really wanted to test it in such a way as to give it a total workout. The idea was to configure this gun as a useful home defense model and the midnight 3 gun competition is a great way to test gear to see how it performs in the dark. In addition to the Aimpoint Micro H1 optic, I added a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro up front on the right side. A Nordic Components tube / barrel clamp with rail segment gave me the perfect spot to do that.

Read the rest at Beretta USA!

 

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Premium Optics for the 300 Blackout Rifle

night·mare [nahyt-mair]

The Trijicon 3x30 ACOG for 300 AAC Blackout.

The Trijicon 3×30 ACOG for 300 AAC Blackout.

noun

  1. a terrifying dream in which the dreamer experiences feelings of helplessness, extreme anxiety, sorrow, etc.
  2. a condition, thought, or experience suggestive of a nightmare: the nightmare of his years in prison.
  3. reflective of the process of trying to design an optic for the 300 AAC Blackout.

I got this from Websters, really. OK, maybe not all of it, but you have to admit that the definitions of “extreme anxiety” and “helplessness” fit pretty well, right?

There aren’t many 300 AAC Blackout specific optics on the market and I can guess why. Imagine trying to design a reticle that can accommodate the incredible variety of ballistic performance of that round. As we talked about a few weeks ago in the article about 300 Blackout Ammunition and Reloading, there is no “standard” ballistic performance profile. You can do pretty much whatever you want in a broad range of subsonic to supersonic performance. And therein lies the challenge for the optics gurus. How do you design a ballistic drop compensation reticle to account for… infinity plus one?

Wonky ballistics

The Leupold design is classic AR tactical, with 1.5-5x magnification.

The Leupold design is classic AR tactical, with 1.5-5x magnification.

Before going into the specifics of these two optics, let’s take a look at the ballistic challenges they have to overcome – all in the same reticle. For purposes of the trajectories shown here, let’s assume a zero yard zero, and we’ll use two common and “representative” projectiles and “standard” velocities. For the supersonic load, we’ll show the flight path of a Barnes TAC-TX 110-grain bullet. As a side note, Barnes just released a 120-grain version of this bullet – I can’t wait to try it. I’ll assume a velocity of 2,500 feet per second. For the subsonic load, we’ll use the classic 220 grain Sierra Matchking and assume a traveling speed of 1,050 feet per second.

The purpose of the “zero yard zero” is to compare the absolute, unadjusted flight paths of the two rounds. Basically, we’re looking at shooting each round exactly parallel to the ground to see how it falls over distance.

Yards Barnes
110 grain TAC-TX, 2,500 fps
Sierra
MatchKing 220 grain, 1,050 fps
0 0.00 0.00
50 -0.72 -3.98
100 -3.00 -16.14
150 -7.05 -36.78
200 -13.13 -66.20
250 -21.52 -104.71
300 -32.57 -152.59
350 -46.68 -210.13
400 -64.31 -277.63
450 -86.02 -355.36
500 -112.41 -443.63

As you can see, the brick, I mean subsonic round, falls at about four times the rate of the supersonic. That’s a lot to account for. The idea behind a common reticle is to design it for the supersonic round and figure out a couple of realistic hold points for a short range trajectories of the subsonic round.

As we’ll look at in more detail this week, two premium optics companies have done just that. Trijicon and Leupold have each developed outstanding 300 AAC Blackout solutions. In my words, not theirs, the two options are not really comparable. They’re more like apples and oranges. Do you want applesauce or orange juice? More specifically, do you want adjustable precision or simplicity and speed?

The Trijicon offering borrows from the company’s ACOG line. It’s a fixed power optic that you adjust once, then shoot. And shoot. And shoot.

The Leupold offering is more of a scope tinkerer’s dream. With variable magnification and lots of fine lines in the reticle, you can get it to do whatever you want, out to very long ranges.

Let’s take a closer look at what each has to offer. One thing that both have in common is that they have boiled the ballistic ocean to two options at the extreme ends of 300 Blackout performance. The idea behind both the Trijicon and Leupold optics is that they design a dual reticle, with one-half mapped to supersonic projectiles in the 110-grain vicinity and the other mapped to subsonics in the 220-grain vicinity. If you want to use stuff in the middle ranges, it’s up to you to do some trial and error to map the reticle marks to specific ranges. On the plus side, at shorter and more reasonable ranges, it won’t really matter if you’re shooting 110, 125 or even 135-grain projectiles. That will only become significant past a couple hundred yards or so, so don’t get too concerned.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

 

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Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun Review: A “Carbine” Shotgun

The Beretta 1301 Tactical is all business with ghost ring sights and a rail for optics.

The Beretta 1301 Tactical is all business with ghost ring sights and a rail for optics.

Have you ever shot an M1 Garand, followed by an M1 Carbine? Or perhaps a FAL, followed by a Ruger 10/22? Or maybe a full size over and under 12 gauge, followed by a compact coach gun?

If so, then you already have an idea of the relative feel of the Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun.

What attracted me to this gun for testing and evaluation is its compact size, light weight and super quick handling. You can think of it as a shotgun carbine. With an 18.5 inch barrel and short stock, the entire length is just under 38 inches long. As a comparison, the M1 Carbine of WWII fame is 35.6 inches end to end, while a Ruger Carbine measures 37 inches.

Just the specs…

In standard configuration, you'll be able to fit four 2 ¾ inch shells in the tube, but you'll have to remove the plug first.

In standard configuration, you’ll be able to fit four 2 ¾ inch shells in the tube, but you’ll have to remove the plug first.

The factory configured stock is really, really compact, offering a length of pull of just about 13 inches. As I wanted a compact shotgun, I left it just as is – almost. More on that a bit later. If you prefer a longer stock and length of pull, Beretta includes two spacers that work together or separately. One is ½ inch while the other is 1 inch, so choose the length you want and mix and match accordingly. As with most other Beretta guns, you can also tweak drop and cast, although I had no need – this one fit me out of the box and offered a natural sight line right down the sights.

Offered in 12 gauge only, the 1301 Tactical features a 3-inch chamber, not that you need it. If you want to get thumped, feel free, you can load the big boy shells.

Magazine capacity is a bit of a mystery. Some retailers quote the 1301 Tactical as 4+1 while other say 5+1. Beretta doesn’t exactly say in their website specs, but the owners manual indicates 4+1, so I just tried it. Mine fit four 2 ¾ inch shells plus one in the chamber. Just a heads up, Beretta ships the gun with the magazine plug installed, which limits you to two shells in the tube. Just remove the end cap and pop that out to take advantage of full magazine capacity.

The controls

The controls, bolt handle, bolt release and safety are all oversized and easy to manipulate with or without gloves.

The controls, bolt handle, bolt release and safety are all oversized and easy to manipulate with or without gloves.

The primary controls are all oversized and easy to operate, presumably to enable operation with gloved hands. This also makes it a solid combination home defense and competition shotgun.

The bolt release button is oblong with textured ridges, so operation is easy and positive. The bolt handle is also oversized, and shaped somewhat like a snow cone cup, with the pointy end in the receiver. The shape encourages your fingers to stay on the handle when operating it quickly. The push through safety bar is also oversized and reversible.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

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

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

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