One of the highlights of the 2013 SHOT Show was a tour of the Blackhawk! booth. Actually, it was more like three or four tours, with each covering a different segment of the very broad Blackhawk! product line. One day was holsters. Another day was rifle accessories. Then clothing and the new Blackhawk! watches. Those rate an 11 on the cool scale by the way. Anyway, thanks to the Blackhawk! staff for their infinite patience. They must have felt like Justin Bieber’s press secretary with the onslaught of questions.
One of the 2013 products that really got my attention was a a $25.99 AR-15 accessory that completely changes the way you handle and shoot and AR-15 rifle. That was the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest. Nifty, nifty, nifty. A demonstration and trial of the thumb rest led to a discussion about all the Blackhawk! AR-15 accessories and what I could do to a basic AR-15 rifle.
One idea led to another and soon we decided to build a Blackhawk! custom AR-15. As I wrote about a few days ago, I’ve got a stock DPMS Lite 16 A3 AR-15 that is just screaming for a little TLC.
So I’m going to bling this rifle out with every piece of Blackhawk! AR-15 gear I can get my grubby mitts on. I’ll document the why’s and how-to’s along the way in hopes of sharing some do’s and dont’s about home accessorizing.
Step 1: Get a grip!
Standard AR-15 grips are OK I suppose. Most of them have a finger ridge to help place your middle finger along with some texturing molded into the plastic. Or should I say polymer? Meh.
Fortunately, Blackhawk! has added a new item in their 2013 catalog – the Blackhawk! Ergonomic Grip.
Blackhawk! has a history of partnering with best of breed companies to bring products to market and expand distribution. The Knoxx / Blackhawk! deal is a great example. In that case, the partnership went Full Monty and now Knoxx is a part of the Blackhawk! organization. We’re not sure of the future of Blackhawk! and Ergo Grips, but even if the deal is a private label branding, it’s still a good thing. It’s good because Blackhawk! brings massive distribution to the table and a well-known brand. Even my local Wal-Mart carries a pretty broad selection of Blackhawk! products. Whether or not you care to shop at Wally World, it’s great exposure for the shooting sports and will only help to promote that fact that black rifles are common, everyday tools.
So, back to Step 1. Replacing the pistol grip on an AR-15 is ridiculously simple and usually requires just a flat bead screwdriver and a large hammer. I’m just kidding about the hammer. If you need that, please re-read the instructions carefully! Some factory grips are mounted with a hex screw, but even still, it’s easy.
Here’s how you do it:
|The DPMS Lite 16 factory grip is installed with a simple flat head screw. Remove this screw and the grip will come right off. But before you do, read the next step.|
|Remember when I said replacing the pistol grip was insanely easy? Well, I lied, but just a little bit. There is really only one thing you have to be careful of. The selector spring is installed halfway in the grip and halfway in the lower receiver. This is the spring that makes the No pew / Pew lever click into place. The chances of that little spring launching across the room when you remove the factory grip are about the same as Joe Biden renewing his membership at Hair Club for Men. Make sure not to lose the spring!|
|The Blackhawk! Ergonomic Grip will slide right on. Just be sure to replace the selector spring as shown as you put it on.|
|You’ll need to remove the rubber cap to screw the grip onto the lower receiver. Interestingly enough, there is a note inside the Blackhawk! Ergonomic Grip that says not to store anything in there as it may fall out! That made me laugh just a little. There is no reason you can’t store something in there, just be aware that the base cap mounts with pressure and friction and could come off with heavy activity. I’m probably going to rig up some way to keep it in place so I can store a couple of spare parts and some Orange Tic Tacs in there.|
|Here’s a nice touch. As you can see, the No Pew / Pew switch can still move freely due to a cutout in the grip.|
|When you finish installing the screw, be sure to put the base cap in place. Just because it has a cool logo. One other thing to note, don’t overtighten the grip to the receiver. As the grip houses the selector spring, it’s possible to interfere with selector switch operation. Be sure to function test the rifle when you finish. And be sure to test fire it at the range before engaging in any life-saving activity.|
|All done! Nice huh?|
|I measured the factory grip circumference and found it to be just about 4 1/4 inches. The new Blackhawk! Ergonomic Grip measured exactly 4 1/2 inches.|
|My hands are men’s large size. Here’s a visual on how my hand fits on the new grip. The grip is rubberized all around and has a pebbly texture. It’s somewhat similar to rubberized skateboard tape. All in all, it’s a great improvement over the hard plastic factory grip.|
For Step 2, I’m going to get really crazy and replace that round plastic hand guard with a Blackhawk! AR-15 Carbine Quad Rail Two-Piece Forend.