Winchester’s PDX1 Defender 12 Gauge Buckshot and Slug Ammunition

Winchester's PDX1 Defense load creates a large pattern with slug and buckshot.

Winchester’s PDX1 Defense load creates a large pattern with slug and buckshot.

I was working with a Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun I have in for review and brought along a box of Winchester PDX1 Defender Personal Defense shot shells. Winchester makes a couple of varieties of this product line in 12 gauge. One is a segmenting slug design, where the slug is designed to fragment into three large chunks as it impacts the target. This load is a buckshot and slug combination, but with a twist.

Three 00 buckshot pellets are placed on top of a 1 ounce slug. Image: Winchester Ammunition

Three 00 buckshot pellets are placed on top of a 1 ounce slug. Image: Winchester Ammunition

As you see by the illustration here, there are three 00 Buckshot pellets loaded on top of the one ounce slug. This has the effect of dispersing the three .30 caliber pellets in a broader pattern while the slug continues along a straight path.

I shot it at a target placed 15 yards downrange, and as you can see by the target photo, the slug hit center while the three 00 buckshot pellets created a triangle pattern. The pellet impacts are just about 10 inches from each other measured along the sides. That’s a pretty broad pattern even from the cylinder bore of the Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun used for this test.

Winchester advertises one feature of this as “compensates for aim error.” This certainly appears to be true. As with any ammo choice, you need to carefully consider your environment and desired performance. If you live in a crowded environment, you may not want ammo that expands into too large a pattern, as you’re responsible for where those projectiles go. On the other hand, if you’ve got space, you may want ammo that performs exactly this way. This load is designed to create a big pattern of large projectiles, so if that’s your desired result, then check it out. It’s an interesting load.

Cabelas has it in stock.

Gun of the Day: What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Ruger Vaquero chambered in 40 S&W and .38-40

Ruger Vaquero chambered in 40 S&W and .38-40

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

I went shooting with friend and fellow gun writer William yesterday afternoon and he brought along the un-possible.

Here’s a Ruger Vaquero. No big deal, they’re pretty common. If you haven’t seen one, they’re beautiful single action pistols. I was a little surprised as Williams is a complete and total .40 S&W caliber nut. He doesn’t own anything that’s not chambered in .40 S&W. While he won’t admit it, I think his trap shotgun is secretly chambered in .40 S&W.

Anyway, after pulling this beauty out of its case, he proceeded to open a box of Winchester .40 S&W practice rounds. Huh? Usually he knows his way around a handgun, but today maybe not.

With all the unusual things manufacturers stamp on their guns these days, here's one you don't see often.

With all the unusual things manufacturers stamp on their guns these days, here’s one you don’t see often.

Turns out he got his hands on a special edition model chambered in .38-40 and .40 S&W. Like the Ruger Single Six .22LR / .22 Magnum conversion, this one comes with two cylinders for those respective calibers.

Fun? Yep.

Why? Why not?

Cabelas has one in their Wisconsin store

Gun Review: Smith & Wesson’s 1911TA eSeries

One of the design goals of the eSeries line was elegant, but not gaudy, appearance.

One of the design goals of the eSeries line was elegant, but not gaudy, appearance.

There’s always something appealing about a nice 1911. While carrying a full size, all steel 1911 isn’t always fun, shooting one sure is. This particular eSeries model is a blend of traditional and modern innovation. Like the origin government model, it’s got a 5 inch barrel, single stack .45 ACP magazine and single action trigger. Unlike the original, it features Tritium night sights, tactical rail and other internal design changes that we’ll discuss later.

Impressions

Let’s start with the most noticeable features. With that criteria in mind, I have to mention the grips first. They’re gorgeous. The specs say the grips are wood laminate, but it’s sure hard to tell. The grain pattern is beautiful and the finish is well polished. There is a small diamond with the eSeries “E” logo. Surrounding this is a traditional diamond checkered pattern. Above and below the diamond pattern area you’ll see a fish-scale pattern that matches the scallop pattern carved into the slide. The grips are not only really attractive, but functional. They won’t rub your hands raw, but do provide a positive grip through recoil.

It's a personal opinion, but I think the grips are, well, awesome.

It’s a personal opinion, but I think the grips are, well, awesome.

The slide also falls into the “cool looking” category. The cocking serrations at the rear are the same fish, dragon or snake scale pattern – choose your favorite reptile. There are matching scale serrations on the front. Some people don’t like texture on the front of 1911 slides, but I find them handy for press checks. Even if I grab the front of the slide overhand, I can still easily see the chamber. But using front serrations or not is a personal preference thing. I happen to like them, but get that others don’t. The top of the slide is flattened and has full length grooves. Whether or not you think this “looks” cool is not really the issue. The practical purpose is to reduce glare that can interfere with your sight picture. Another thing to mention while we’re talking about the slide is that there are horizontal serrations at the rear also on both sides of the hammer cutout. Again, the purpose is to minimize glare.

The extractor is an external design, so that varies from the “purist” 1911. Personally, I don’t favor internal or external, as long as it works. You’ll also notice that the ejection port features a scooped cutout at the front to assist with easy ejection with a wide variety of load types.

The SW1911TA ships with two magazines with 8 round capacity, so the total carry load is nine including one in the chamber. The magazine release button is aggressively checkered and .145 inches is exposed above frame level. It’s easy to reach with your firing hand thumb if your’e right handed. When shooting left handed, I was able to operate the magazine release with my trigger finger without breaking my normal firing grip. Magazines easily fall free of the magazine well when empty.

Both sides of the frame behind the trigger are beveled to allow an unhindered reach to the trigger. The front of the grip is contoured and recessed to allow a high grip and secure resting place for your firing hand middle finger.

The front and back of the grip area are checkered with good, but not sharp texture. I counted somewhere in around a 17 or 18 lines per inch pattern, but all those dots kept getting blurry when counting, so let’s call it 17.5 lines per inch, OK? I’ll schedule a visit with my eye doc before the next time I have to count checkering patterns.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Grab a copy of my free eBook, A Fistful of Shooting Tips. It will help make you a better shooter and the envy of your range in no time.

Gun Review: Browning Citori 725 Feather Over & Under Shotgun

The Browning Citori 725 Feather is a beautiful gun, both in handling and appearance.

The Browning Citori 725 Feather is a beautiful gun, both in handling and appearance.

There are times when a heavier shotgun is nice to have—the trap or clays course, for example, where you’ll be popping off a hundred or so 12-gauge shells and have ample opportunity to set your (heavy) gun down. And there are other times when lugging around a gun that weighs the same as a gallon of house paint really, really hurts.

Much of the weight savings comes from use of an alloy receiver. However, key components like the breech face are constructed of steel for durability. You can see the steel inset here.

Much of the weight savings comes from use of an alloy receiver. However, key components like the breech face are constructed of steel for durability. You can see the steel inset here.

The primary design idea behind the Browning Citori 725 Feather is, you guessed it, light weight. My evaluation sample was a 12-gauge Feather model with 28-inch barrels. It weighs in at 6 pounds, 9 ounces. If you compare to the equivalent Field (non-Feather) model, the 28-inch barrel model weighs just about a full pound more at 7 pounds, 8 ounces. That adds up over a day in the field. Imagine taping a can of lima beans to the Citori 725 Feather, and now you’re carrying a standard weight over-and-under.

Where did the weight go? Unlike the Field model, with its all-steel receiver, the Feather uses an alloy receiver. The breech face and hinge pin are still constructed from steel for durability.

A Quick and Dirty Tour

OK, so we’ve established that the Citori 725 Feather is light. Now let’s take a look at what else it offers.

pistol grip checkering-1

The pistol grip area features cut 20-line-per-inch checkering.

Chambers are cut for 3-inch shells if you want to shoot the big-boy stuff. And you can do this thanks to a variety of felt-recoil-reducing features that we’ll talk about later. First on that list is that the Citori 725 has a lower-profile receiver. If you look at it compared to a “standard” over-and-under receiver, you’ll see that the top of the receiver is somewhere between ⅛ and ¼ inch lower than normal. This lowers the recoil force just a tad, which helps prevent muzzle jump. The more inline the bore, the more natural, and less painful, a gun feels.

In terms of dimensions, the overall length is 45 ¾ inches with a 14 ¼ inch length of pull. Drop at the comb is 1 ⅝ inches and drop at the heel is 2 ¼ inches. You can order the Feather with either 26-or 28-inch barrels.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

Fun and Games with the .257 Weatherby Magnum

The .257 Weatherby Magnum has a lot of cartridge case behind a little bullet.

The .257 Weatherby Magnum has a lot of cartridge case behind a little bullet. These handloads are using Nosler Custom brass and Hornady .257 117 grain SST bullets.

I’ve got a thing for the more unusual calibers. Probably because I’m a reloading addict. I just don’t care that commercial rounds of .300 AAC Blackout cost over a buck each. Or that .357 Sig pistol ammo is crazy expensive relative to 9mm. Or that no one stocks 6.8 SPC ammo. I don’t know why, but these oddball cartridges are some of my favorites.

When I had a chance to start some serious tinkering with a .257 Weatherby Magnum, how could I resist? Word is that the .257 Weatherby Magnum was Roy Weatherby’s personal favorite, and that’s saying something. Developed starting back in 1944, it’s a belted cartridge derived from a .375 H&H Magnum case. That’s a lot of case capacity for a .25 caliber bullet. It likes projectiles in the 85 to 120 grain weight range with 100 grain bullets being the most common.

All that case capacity is put to good use as the .257 Weatherby is a true speed demon. An 85 grain bullet will move at over 3,800 feet per second, while a 100 grain projectile cooks along at just under 3,600 feet per second. Yes, you have to be considerate to your rifle barrel. Proper cleaning and cooling will extend its life.

If you look at energy, the “standard” .257 load exceeds both the “standard” .308 Winchester and .30-06 loads with over 2,900 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

If you have to say just one thing about the .257 Weatherby Magnum cartridge, that’s easy. It’s a flat shooter. How flat you ask? If you fire a 100 grain projectile from a .257 Weatherby Magnum parallel to the ground, it will drop about 46 inches by the time it reaches 500 yards. A .30-06 150 grain projectile will drop about 66 inches over the same distance.

The Weatherby Vanguard 2 Package comes with a Redfield scope, sling and case.

The Weatherby Vanguard 2 Package comes with a Redfield scope, sling and case.

I recently got my hot little hands on a new Weatherby Vanguard 2 Synthetic Package. As the name implies, you get everything you need with this model except ammo. The factory mounts and bore sights a 3-9x42mm Redfield Revenge scope, adds a sling and packages it all in an injection molded rifle case. The price of the complete package has a suggested retail of $999.00.

The stock is a monte carlo style with soft inserts in the grip and fore end areas. These felt great, improved grip and seemed to help dampen recoil impulse to the hands. The stock has a raised comb and contoured cheek rest area which positioned my face perfectly at scope height.

The barrel is 24 inches, cold hammer forged and features a 1 in 10 inch twist rate. Magazine capacity is three, plus a fourth round in the chamber. The magazine features a hinged bottom for easy dumping of unused rounds.

The trigger was crisp and clean. The face is flat with serrations and had no detectable creep. It’s a two-stage design with about ⅛ inch of take-up immediately followed by a clean break. It’s also adjustable down to 2 ½ pounds of pull weight.

The rifle with scope mounted weighed in at 8 ¾ pounds, although it felt lighter to me. It’s a nice handling rifle with a great feel.

Accuracy and velocity

I couldn’t bring myself to shoot factory ammo out of such an interesting gun, so I decided to give it a variety diet of carefully hand loaded ammunition. Being a brand new rifle, I broke it in very carefully. For the first 10 shots, I fired, cleaned and allowed the barrel to cool down between shots. For the next 20 rounds, I cleaned the bore after every several shots while still monitoring barrel temperature to guard against accuracy loss (and excess wear and tear) through overheating.

I used my very portable OTIS cleaning kit to scrub the bore frequently during the barrel break in period.

I used my very portable OTIS cleaning kit to scrub the bore frequently during the barrel break in period.

In my first outing, I recorded velocity of a variety of hand loads, and just for the heck of it, fired 5 shot groups. As the rifle was still in a break in period, I didn’t expect perfect accuracy performance (yet) but was curious about how it would shoot right out of the box.

I loaded a half dozen combinations for initial trial using Hornady 117 grain SST, Nosler 100 grain Ballistic Tip and Barnes 100 grain TTSX bullets. Powders were IMR 4351, Hodgdon 4350 and Reloader 25. While I won’t publish load data here (I’m a stickler for getting load data from manufacturer sources only) my load data was sourced from Barnes, Hornady and Hodgdon.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

 

Ammo Review: Winchester Ammunition Train and Defend

Two varieties of the same ammo: one for practice, the other for self defense.

Two varieties of the same ammo: one for practice, the other for self defense.

When it comes to designing ammo, many of the objectives conflict with each other – you can’t have them all. For example, perfect ammunition would have all of the following:

  • Low recoil
  • Low blast and muzzle flash
  • Low noise
  • Reliable expansion, even after passing through tough barriers like 10 copies of the New York Times Sunday edition
  • Deep penetration
  • No over penetration
  • High velocity
  • Weight retention
  • Auto replenishment. Ok, no one has figured that out yet, but I did say “perfect” ammunition, right?

Given that you can’t have combinations like Mach 7 velocity, 4x expansion after passing through Iron Man and no measurable recoil, ammunition manufacturers decide in advance what performance they want and for what purpose the ammunition will be used.

Both 9mm and .40 S&W Defend loads were tested with bare gelatin and multi-layer fabric.

Both 9mm and .40 S&W Defend loads were tested with bare gelatin and multi-layer fabric.

Winchester Ammunition launched its new Train and Defend line with some pretty clear goals. According to the company, Train and Defend is aimed (see what I did there?) at “new shooters interested in training to become more proficient with their personal defense ammunition.”

What does that mean?

First, there are two varieties of the ammo: Train, and, you guessed it, Defend. Both are loaded to yield the same basic performance and feel. If you fire a round of Train ammo, followed by a round of Defend, you won’t be able to tell the difference. This is kind of a big deal.

Winchester Train ammo

Usually, practice ammo is lower powered and, therefore, much more mellow to shoot. When you load a round of full powered self-defense ammo, you’ll feel it. The blast and recoil will be substantial in most cases. Not so with Train and Defend – both rounds feel the same and perform similarly. The Train version is loaded with full metal jacket bullets which result in a much lower cost per round – appropriate for practice. On the street, expect to pay less than half the price of a Defend round for each Train round. It’s easy to identify as it has a big “T” logo on the box.

Winchester Defend ammo

When you’re finished practicing, load your magazines up with Defend. This is what you want for personal protection and home defense applications. The Defend ammo uses bonded projectiles that ensure the bullet stays intact and retain its original weight. The cases are nickel-plated for corrosion resistance and improved feeding. You’ll spot the Defend version by the big “D” logo on the box.

I tested the 9mm Defend load with a Beretta 92FS. Using the SilencerCo Octane suppressor was added fun as this load is subsonic.

I tested the 9mm Defend load with a Beretta 92FS. Using the SilencerCo Octane suppressor was added fun as this load is subsonic.

I got all geeky about how the Train and Defend ammunition is put together and posed some questions to the product manager. Are the Train and Defend Loads identical except for the projectile? Do they use the same powder?

Here are the answers from Winchester:

The Train and Defend loads do not use the same powder and there is a good reason for that. We utilize low-flash powders in our Defend options, because a defensive situation is likely to occur in low-light conditions; it is important that night vision not be impacted due to a bright muzzle flash. HOWEVER, these low flash powders have a tendency to be slightly dirtier burning, so they are not great options for our Train round. We developed Train to be a great high-volume training round so we utilize some of our cleaner burning propellants in these loads. Train would be great for competition, low recoil, 180 grain in 40 S&W will make for a great competition load.

Performance

Velocity

As part of the design goal of Winchester Train and Defend ammunition is to offer lower and more controllable recoil, they’re manufactured to travel at lower velocity. I measured both 9mm and .40 S&W versions using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet down range.

40 S&W Train, fired from a Glock 22: 885.3 fps
40 S&W Defend, fired from a Glock 22: 907.7 fps
9mm Defend:, fired from a Beretta 92FS: 936.3 fps

Expansion

I shot both 9mm and .40 S&W loads into Clear Ballistics 6x6x16 inch gelatin blocks. According to the manufacturer, the blocks are calibrated to 10% ballistic gelatin standards as used by the FBI for ammunition testing.

Assuming that penetration of these lower velocity rounds would be less than 16 inches, I only brought one block to the range. You know what they say about assuming right? Exactly. All of the 9mm and .40 S&W rounds tested exited the block and were stopped by my expired Kevlar vest backstop, so the only penetration measurement I can offer is “more than 16 inches.” That’s plenty.

For both 9mm and .40 S&W Defend loads, I fired two scenarios. For the first, I used bare gelatin. For the second, I covered the front of the gel block with the new standard light denim, multi-layer fabric designed to simulate average street clothing layers.

The 9mm projectile surprised me somewhat. Projectiles fired into bare gel and those shot through the test fabric all expanded properly. The bare gelatin bullet expanded to a smaller diameter than the one fired through fabric layers. That might have been caused by gel anomalies or perhaps the lower overall resistance allowed the bullet to travel at higher velocity, thereby pushing back the petals further. I measured expansion of this projectile at 0.535 inches. The projectile fired through the fabric layers expanded to 0.605 inches diameter.

The Defend .40 S&W rounds expanded beautifully in bare gel and after passing through fabric barriers.

The Defend .40 S&W rounds expanded beautifully in bare gel and after passing through fabric barriers.

The .40 S&W Winchester Defend projectiles also expanded properly in both test scenarios. The bare gelatin projectile expanded to 0.690 inches while the projectile fired through fabric layers expanded to 0.685 inches diameter.

In summary, I found this ammo comfortable to shoot and performance matched its design goals. Expansion worked properly after passing through “normal” clothing layers. Winchester Train and Defend ammunition is a great option for newer shooters where the reduced recoil will help keep shots on target and allow for faster and more accurate follow-up shots.

Weaver Kaspa-Z Scope Review

The Weaver Kaspa-Z Scope is a swingin' deal at a street price of $199

The Weaver Kaspa-Z Scope is a swingin’ deal at a street price of $199

Lots of folks are skeptical about the whole Zombie thing. Unrealistic they say. Will never happen. I say just look to Washington, DC or The Maury Show live studio audience. It’s obviously real.

Even if you choose to remain in a blissful state of denial about the Kardashians Zombies, you ought to check out the Weaver Kaspa-Z Zombie rifle scope.

Why? Zombie label or not, it falls in the heckuva deal category. With an MSRP of $299.95, you can actually find one on the street for about $199.

Just the specs

If you don't want zombification on your scope, leave off the stickers. All that remains is the turret fonts and a hazmat logo that's kind of cool.

If you don’t want zombification on your scope, leave off the stickers. All that remains is the turret fonts and a hazmat logo that’s kind of cool.

Here’s what you need to know about the Weaver Kaspa-Z scope:

It’s got a 30mm tube, so make sure you get appropriate rings.

Zoom range is from 1.5x to 6x.

The turrets offer ¼ MOA adjustments and total adjustment range at 100 yards is 80 inches.

It’s got multi-coated lenses to increase light transmission and prevent zombie-attracting glare.

It features a nitrogen-filled tube to prevent fogging.

Weight is a hair over 16 ounces, so it’s got some meat on the bones. I was impressed by its construction – especially for the price point. It’s a solid beast that could probably be used as an impact weapon against the undead.

The second focal plane reticle is black and easy to see in daylight conditions, but has illumination powered by a CR2032 battery. Just twist off the illumination turret cap to replace the battery.

The Z-CIRT Reticle

I really like the Z-CIRT reticle. It's a mil-dot geek fantasy.

I really like the Z-CIRT reticle. It’s a mil-dot geek fantasy.

I’ve had some quality time behind Weaver’s CIRT reticle. A while back, I took a close look at the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 scope which also uses the CIRT reticle. Besides being a cool looking pattern, the CIRT is insanely useful for both targeting and distance estimation.

It’s clearly designed for AR platform rifles and Weaver conveniently includes pre-mapped ballistic information for a variety of .223 Remington / 5.56mm rounds.

  • Shooting M855 ammo? Then you know that the top of the vertical post is your hold point at 325 yards.
  • How about M193 ammo? Then you know the second horizontal bar is your hold point for a 585 yard shot.

I could go on with pre-mapped firing points all day as the CIRT is carefully calibrated to give you near infinite hold points. Oh, and it’s a swell ranging tool too.

  • The solid center dot corresponds to the size of a zombie head, assuming it’s still in one piece, at 200 yards.
  • At 100 yards, that zombie head will fill the area between the parentheses around the solid dot.
  • Assuming your zombie still has both arms, the top horizontal hash mark represents 20 inch shoulder with at 400 yards.

If you’re a mil dot freak, you can go crazy. Weaver gives you elevation indicators ranging from .25 mils to 10 mils and everything in between. Windage is also marked out the wazoo. Get a phone or tablet program like Ballistic and go crazy mapping out aim points for any load you want.

Performance Against the Undead

I had hopes of using this against hordes of undead at long range, but they’re all on hiatus until the next season of The Walking Dead. Instead, I mounted the Weaver Kaspa-Z scope on a Daniel Defense DDM4V5 300 AAC Blackout rifle. That was particularly fun with the Z-CIRT reticle as there are plenty of aim points to help me cover the wide range or trajectories available with 300 Blackout ammo. When you’re ballistic performance ranges from 110 grain bullets cursing at 2,500 feet per second to 240 grain subsonic bricks lumbering along at 950 feet per second, you need some flexibility.

After doing a little basic mapping, and zeroing the supersonic rounds at 50 yards, I started doing some semi-serious tests.

I tested the Weaver Kaspa-Z on a Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout rifle. Suppressed of course.

I tested the Weaver Kaspa-Z on a Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout rifle. Suppressed of course.

The Scope Olympics

I usually like to “shoot a box” with a new optic, like I did with the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24, but I was bored. So knowing the measurements of my 5 target sheet, I started doing some predictive shots. Using one target as the hold point, I did some clicks to inches math and started trying to hit other points on my target backer. Like the Weaver Tactical, the Kaspa-Z had no issues with impacting within 1 MOA of where it was supposed to, even with large windage and elevation adjustments.

One of the other things I always verify in a new scope is whether the point of impact stays constant when you change magnification levels. With a scope that starts at or near 1x magnification, this can be a little tricky as you’re relying more on your eyesight to properly sight in a distant target. For the Kaspa, which starts at 1.5x, I set up a target at 100 yards and fired a carefully aimed shot at the lowest magnification level. I then cranked up the zoom to about 3.5x and fired another at the exact same point. Last, I enjoyed the luxury of actually getting a clear view of that 100 yard target with the full 6x magnification. All three shots were within about an inch and a half of each other, which was darn lucky as I could hardly see the target at the 1.5 zoom level. Old eyes and all that.

Closing Arguments

The Weaver Kaspa-Z scope is a deal. Even though it has a Zombie name, the Zombie gear is optional as most of the zombification is accomplished by a pile of stickers in the box. You don’t have to put them on if you don’t want to. Construction is solid and performance was great. I really dig the CIRT reticle. It’s fast at closer ranges and infinitely flexible if you want to establish pre-determined hold points at all sorts of distances.

My Favorite Concealed Carry Shirt

This Blackhawk! 1700 Warrior Wear shirt is built for concealed carry. Image: Blackhawk!

This Blackhawk! 1700 Warrior Wear shirt is built for concealed carry. Image: Blackhawk!

I absolutely love the Blackhawk! Concealed Carry Shirt! Here’s why:

It’s designed from the ground up to help you cover either an inside the waistband or outside the waistband belt holster. The patterns are medium plaid to help break up outlines of a concealed gun. The cut is boxy, again to help naturally cover a belt-carried gun. Small vertical slits on the bottoms of both sides make access easy and snag-free.

Even without the concealed carry optimized design, the shirt is pretty handy. It’s made from 62% cotton and 38% polyester, so you can yank it right out of the dryer and it looks pretty darn good. It’s dressy enough to be respectable, doesn’t look tactical but is still comfortable to wear on hot days. In addition to the front left exterior chest pocket, there is a zipper compartment accessible from the outside. It’s really discreet and most folks won’t notice it. The weight of the shirt (light) doesn’t allow carrying a gun in this zipper pocket, but it’s great for other gear, like cell phones, that you don’t want to fall out while you’re out running around.

Highly recommended!

Be sure to check out our new 2nd Edition for 2014 book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters, 2nd Edition 2014. It will teach you all the major methods of concealed carry and walk you through pros and cons over 100 different holster models. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

Now available in print! The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Now available in print! The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters, 2nd Edition 2014

Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15 VTAC Rifle: A Review One Year Later

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 VTAC I with Warne RAMP scope mount and Bushnell Tactical Elite optic.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 VTAC I with Warne RAMP scope mount and Bushnell Tactical Elite optic.

Most gun reviews allow for a short acclimation period, a couple hundred rounds at the range and a rushed story and photos to meet an editorial deadline. We thought it might be interesting to do a “one year later” review on a gun – just to see how it holds up over time and use. While announced by Smith & Wesson all the way back in their 2009 new products catalog, I picked up the M&P VTAC I just under a year and a half ago. It was new in box, found with a small stash tucked away in a Smith & Wesson warehouse somewhere. Now in its second iteration, the M&P 15 VTAC remains as popular as ever. Let’s take a look.

A Tour of the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC I

Let’s take a look at what makes the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC special. The simple explanation is that the VTAC models are preconfigured factory produced hot rods. The VTAC is more than a “marketing bundle” where various third-party accessories are bolted on and factored into the price. The base rifle itself includes premium upgrades that set the VTAC apart before any toys are hung on the rails.

Core Component Upgrades

When talking premium upgrades, you have to start with the Barrel. The VTAC I features a 4140 steel 16 inch barrel with a 1:7 twist. The aggressive twist rate stabilizes longer (and heavier) projectiles like 77 grain bullets. Numerous components are chromed for wear and ease of cleaning including the bore, chamber, gas key and bolt carrier.

JP Enterprises Single Stage Match Trigger and Speed Hammer

The big deal about the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC is the inclusion of a first-rate trigger. AR type rifles aren’t exactly celebrated for their quality triggers, but the JP Enterprises Single Stage Match Trigger is outstanding. Oh, it also features the JP Enterprises Speed Hammer upgrade.

Even though I’ve become accustomed to the feel after shooting a few thousand rounds, it will still offer a surprise break when I’m concentrating on precise shots. It has no detectable take up and no over travel. By my measurement, it breaks extra crispy at 3 1/2 pounds.

Viking Tactics Handguard by JP Enterprises

The 12.5 inch aluminum handguard is attached to the receiver with a steel nut, resulting in a free floated barrel. The handguard itself is completely round, with a light texture applied to the aluminum surface. It’s insanely configurable with use of three included rail segments that can mount to the top of the hand guard via a line of seven screw holes or on the bottom or sides using rail backers that attach to the oblong grooves in the hand guard.

SureFire FH556-212A Flash Hider / Silencer Adapter

The original VTAC included a Surefire flash hider.

The original VTAC included a Surefire flash hider.

The included Surefire flash hider is a dual purpose accessory. It’s primary purpose is to reduce flash signature in order to protect the shooters night vision and conceal position. This one also helps prevent muzzle rise. This particular flash hider also serves as a no-tools mount for SureFire FA556K, FA556-212, FA556MG, or MINI suppressors. The Surefire flash hider attaches to the VTAC’s standard ½” by 28 tpi threaded barrel, so it’s easy to configure most any muzzle device you want.

VLTOR Modular Stock

The VLTOR ModStock has waterproof compartments for extra batteries or beef jerky - your choice.

The VLTOR ModStock has waterproof compartments for extra batteries or beef jerky – your choice.

The VLTOR stock offers six positions for varying lengths of pull. Not only does this accommodate different shooter dimensions, it allows quick reconfiguration to properly fit when the user is wearing body armor or other gear. The stock also contains two waterproof compartments large enough to house (3) CR123 or (2) AA batteries in each compartment. You might also want to use these compartments for critical spare parts – firing pin, springs, or perhaps beef jerky. The stock also has three different sling mounts: top, center and a quick-detach stud swivel mount if you prefer that to simple loops.

The gizmos are nice, but what I like most about this stock is the ergonomic design. The top offers an extra wide and smooth surface, owing to the storage compartments on either side. The shape makes for a comfortable and solid cheek weld surface. I also like the butt design. It slopes down and towards the muzzle, and is coated with a textured rubber pad which helps establish a solid position against your chest or shoulder.

Surefire G2 Light and VTAC Light Mount

Smith & Wesson includes a 60 lumen Surefire G2 tactical light with tail switch that mounts wherever you want with the included Viking Tactics light mount kit and hand guard rail segments.

Viking Tactics 2 Point Sling

If you haven’t used the Viking Tactics Quick Adjust Sling, try it. After one-time “permanent” length adjustment, you can use the quick adjust pull tab to cinch your rifle in tight or loosen it for firing flexibility. When sized correctly, you can even shoot from your offside shoulder without adjustment to the sling. It’s handy.

This rifle arrived pretty much loaded – with one exception. I immediately replaced the standard hard plastic grip with an Ergo Tactical Deluxe Grip. Now it was ready for the configuration games.

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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.

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