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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at OutdoorHub.com!

Holster Review: Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster

The original design behind the Galco Miami Classic II shoulder holster is way older than Don Johnson’s Miami Vice character. In fact, it was launched by the Famous Jackass Leather Company (Galco’s former name) in 1970. The original models were made for the Chicago Police Department.

But Hollywood does have a habit of latching on to cool things. In James Cann’s 1981 movie Thief, he wore an original Jackass rig. By 1984, a weird series of events led to actor Don Johnson carrying his Bren 10 (and later Smith & Wesson 645 and 4506) in a Jackass shoulder holster rig for the hit series Miami Vice. And the Miami Classic holster was born.

Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster

Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster shown with a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP

I’ve been wearing a Galco Miami Classic II shoulder holster almost daily for several months and I’m starting to get spoiled. Wow. This is an incredibly comfortable setup — even for carrying a large, heavy gun like a full-sized Springfield Armory TRP 1911. And the design lends itself to carrying spare magazines with equal comfort and ease.

Galco Miami Classic II front

Galco Miami Classic II shoulder holster in use

The Miami Classic II shoulder holster is really a holster system. A “spider” harness consists of a custom Kydex panel in the back with 4 swivel joints. Leather straps are connected to the Kydex plate. These leather straps form two “loops” that go around your arms. From the back, you see an “X” pattern of leather straps, but the front just has a single strap coming over each shoulder and disappearing behind each arm. The idea is that you wear a jacket or blazer that’s open in the front to hide the leather straps, holster and magazine pouches.

The gun winds up positioned in a cross draw position — horizontal with the muzzle pointed straight backward. The magazines hang on the strong side and are accessible with your support hand.

As this is a system, Galco offers interchangeable holster and magazine carrier modules. You can buy one harness system with different gun holsters and different magazine carriers. Our test model included a 1911 gun holster with a dual single-stack magazine carrier. The magazines were also positioned horizontally and we found access to be consistent and fast. As a side note, Galco offers a 4 magazine carrier option if you need to gear up.

Galco Miami Classic Belt Straps

The optional belt straps really increase overall stability.

Comfort with the Miami Classic II rig is outstanding, whether standing, sitting, walking, running, biking or driving. Having the gun on one side and magazines on the other resulted in a very balanced setup with all the weight easily distributed across both shoulders.

If you’re going to use this setup, there are a couple of things to be aware of. Muzzle and trigger discipline are the first. In the carry position, the muzzle points straight behind you. Also, when you do any sort of cross draw, the muzzle can cover people and things that are located on your support side. Practice with a muzzle down swing can minimize this risk. Just be aware of these issues before considering a shoulder or cross draw carry option.

Obviously you’ll need some type of appropriate cover garment for the Miami Classic II shoulder holster. Blazers, suits, and open jackets are perfect. We found that the Miami Classic II shoulder holster encouraged us to “dress up” a little more than usual. While you may not get scouted for a starring role in a new detective series, you’ll still look suave while carrying.

You can find the Galco Miami Classic Holster at Brownells.com

Galco International Miami Classic Shoulder System
Loading…

 

Learn more about lots and lots of gun holsters in our new book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters, now available at Amazon.com!

The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters - Now available at Amazon.com

The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters – Now available at Amazon.com

Scope Review: Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose Scope

The Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi Purpose Scope plays well with others

Somewhat like Captain Jack Sparrow, the Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope easily adapts to all sorts of situations. Originally designed as a crossbow optic, people quickly realized that it was fit for more combustible applications. As I’ll show in more detail, it has 3 easy-to acquire aiming points which you can use to identify both near and far zeros for your particular rifle, crossbow or shotgun.

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope  3

The Hawke 1×32 Multi Purpose Scope plays well with others. Crossbows, AR-15’s and shotguns to name a few.

 Just the facts about the Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope…

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope illumination

The left side-wheel operates the illuminated reticle. Both red and green illumination is available and each color offers five levels of brightness. The “crosses” illuminate – see the reticle image below for detail. The illumination feature is powered by a single CR2032 battery – available most anywhere. Just unscrew the reticle brightness control knob cap to replace the battery.

 Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope windage and elevation

As this is a 1x optic, you’re probably not going to use the windage and elevation controls while shooting. They’re more for adjusting your zero as you change rifles and ammunition types. You might even move this to a crossbow! Each click adjusts the point of impact by 1/2 MOA, or just a hair over a half an inch at 100 yards. I found this to be plenty of granularity to get my favorite .223 load on target. The turrets are finger adjustable, and once you get your settings right, just screw the protective caps back on.

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope reticle

Clarity of the scope was really good, with no discernible loss of focus or brightness as you look to the edges of the scope. The photo here shows a view at a berm about 110 yards away. The long horizontal and vertical bars made targeting fast and easy. Also as this photo shows, the cross aiming points show as black when illumination is not turned on. There’s really no need to use the illumination feature unless you’re in early or end of day low light conditions. One more thing – the top of the vertical bar is another aiming point – we’ll talk more about that below.

Hawke 1x32 Multi-Purpose Scope coated lens

Lenses are multi-coated and I found visibility to be good. While the objective is 32mm, the tube is 1 inch in diameter.

Hawke 1x32 Multi-Purpose Scope mount

Keeping this an all Hawke Optics solution, I used the Hawke 1″ 2-Piece, Reach Forward mounts. As you can see in the photo, this left quite a bit of remaining adjustment play both on the rail and in the scope rings. The eye relief in the Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope is very generous so you can put this scope pretty much anywhere on the receiver rail. The specs indicate that eye relief is 8 inches. It’s not intended to be a scout scope so you’ll get some shadowing if you try to put it on the front rail. While testing, I placed the scope so the rear lens was about an inch forward of the rear of the receiver. This provided great visibility and unhindered access to the charging handle.

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose BRC reticle

Hawke Optics offers free ballistics software for Mac, PC, iPhones and iPads and Android devices. The BRC software has the Hawke reticles and a bunch of cartridge profiles built-in, so you can quickly tell it you’re using the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope with an AR-15. As I was using practice hand loads, I adjusted the actual velocity to 2,700 feet per second instead of the default 3,250. As this is a 1x optic, and I’m half blind, I chose a 200 yard zero. not to actually shoot at 200 yards, but because the “near” zero point for the primary aiming cross works out to 42.2 yards. You can see on the image here that the left columns shows near zero distances while the column on the right shows far zero distances. Using my specially calibrated tennis shoes, I paced off 42 yards and added a bit more. Sure enough, I was right on target with the primary (top) aiming point in the reticle.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Hawke BRC software tells me, that for this reticle, with my specific load and velocity, what the aiming points are for the lower cross and the top of the vertical post – 6.3 and 4.3 yards respectively. So I moved my target in to 6.3 yards, again using my Imperial system calibrated shoes and paced off 6.3 yards. Again, right on target. same with the top of the vertical post aim point at 4.3 yards. Depending on where you set your primary zero, and which load you use, you can develop a useful scenario where you know point of impact for both very short and very long-range. This is particularly handy with AR-15 applications. As the center of AR-15 optics is generally about 2.5 inches above the bore, you normally have to compensate for short-range shots. With the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope, you simply use one of the lower two aiming points to put you right on target at “inside the home” distances.
Hawke 1x32 Multi-Purpose BRC software

The Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose BRC software comes preloaded with all of the Hawke Optics reticles so you can easily work out point of aim and impact solutions. Here’s the data we used for AR-15 testing with a 2,700 foot per second .223 Remington load.

 

Closing Arguments

The practical flexibility of this optic is just plain cool. I’ve been using it on an AR-15 with great success. My daughter just got a Barnett Jackal crossbow, so the weekend project will be to equip it with the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope and see how that works. Our first step will be to configure the Hawke BRC software with the Jackal’s ballistic data. Here’s the initial report based on the bolt velocity of the Jackal. By the way, crossbow data is preloaded into Hawke BRC software and you can tweak variables like velocity.

Hawke BRC Crossbow data

The Hawke BRC Software give us this projected aim point and range data for the Barnett Jackal crossbow.

So, looking at the right column of far aim point data, we see that the three default aim points correspond to ranges of 20, 40 and 50 yards.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the value of this one. Retailing at $129.99, the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope is a great option to consider if you’re on a tight budget. Add the benefit of moving it around from rifle to crossbow to shotgun and you’ve got a winner.

Available Here Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose Scope

 

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest: Get A Grip On Your AR-15

One of the neatest things I saw at SHOT Show 2013 costs less than $20. And no, it didn’t involve dark alleys behind Caesar’s Palace.

It has no electronics, lights or knobs and it doesn’t even explode.

It’s the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest for the AR-15. This nifty little piece of gear radically transforms your grip. Since it’s rail mounted, and the thumb rest is off-center, you can use this in several different locations depending on personal preference and other gear you have on your rifle.

Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest  3

Here’s the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest shown with the Blackhawk! Vertical Grip. They play well together.

Think of the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest as a shelf for your thumb. No, your thumb is not likely to get tired and need a shelf on which to rest. The value of this piece of gear is that it provides stability and consistency. While technically your thumb does rest on the shelf, the stability comes from the web of your hand, between your thumb and index finger, wrapping around the rear edge of the thumb rest. So right off the bat you have extra vertical stability without having to wrap your hand around the hand guard or rail.

Perhaps even more important is the consistency factor. As your support hand now has a fixed place to go, you achieve the same grip and location every time you mount the rifle. No muscle memory required and you’re never gripping the forend slightly in front of, or behind, the location where you last supported the rifle.

The thumb rest is a rail mounted piece of gear, so you have to upgrade those plastic hand guards if you have them. On the rifle shown here, I’ve already added the Blackhawk! AR-15 Carbine Quad Rail Forend, so it’s ready to go. The big advantage of the rail mount for this component is that you can place it wherever you want. Back close to the magazine well, or way out front like the 3 Gunners do.

Let’s take a closer look at how the Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest installs and the ways you can use it.

Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest Installation

Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest installation The Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest is a two piece assembly with a main body that hooks over one side of the rail. A separate support piece mates to fasten to the other side of the rail. Just be sure to line up the bolt channels with the grooves in the rail.
Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest installation  1 The thumb rest comes with two hex bolts and two nuts that inset into the main body. Just run them through the support piece and into the inset nuts. Notice that the shelf can me mounted high or low relative to the rail horizontal center line. I’ll talk more about that in a minute. Tighten things up and you’re good to go. Once you use this for a while and get the placement you like, re-mount the bolts with a little Blue Loctite so it won’t come loose under recoil.

Since the thumb rest is offset relative to the center line of the rail, you can mount this in different ways. It goes without saying that the thumb rest is ambidextrous.

Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest  1 Here the thumb rest is mounted with the shelf in the high position. It’s shown with a Blackhawk! Rail Mount Vertical Grip.
Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest The high shelf mounting option is great if you normally like your hand to wrap over the top of the rail. It will place your thumb almost level with the top rail so your thumb can slide onto the top of the hand guard.
Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest  7 Or, you can flip the thumb rest upside down so the shelf is low relative to the rail center line.
Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest  5 If you’re using a vertical grip, this will put more of your hand on the grip post as compared to using the post as a support for your fingers. Notice this location keeps your thumb low and aligned with the bore.
Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest  8 The Blackhawk! Rail Mount Thumb Rest works just as well without a vertical grip. I liked it in the high position this way.
Blackhawk Rail Mount Thumb Rest  9 Here’s how it looks mounted in the high position with no vertical grip.

One last thing. If you like a vertical fore grip, you might be able to mount this on the opposite side of the rail. The idea would be to grasp the vertical grip with your thumb on the opposite side. The shelf could be placed in such a way to line you up with a rear-activated light mounted on the same side. The fore grip I’m using here didn’t sit quite right with that configuration, but depending on what you have, it might work for you.

Now that I’ve taken this to the range a few times, it’s become a welcome addition to the Blackhawk! custom AR I’m building. This piece will stay. And in case you’re wondering, after the photos were taken, I settled on the high mount option with a short vertical grip from Blackhawk!. We’ll talk about that more in the next article.

Blackhawk’s AR-15 Offset Safety Selector: Don’t Be All Thumbs

If you’re right-handed, operating the safety lever on an AR-15 is a pain in the butt.

If you’re left-handed (using a standard AR-15), operating the safety lever on an AR-15 is a pain in the butt.

If you’re either right or left-handed, operating the safety lever on an AR-15 is a pain in the butt.

If you’re right-handed, you really have to alter your grip to work the lever with your thumb. Or you can work it with your left hand. Or you can phone a friend. If you’re left-handed, things get really interesting. You can de-joint your thumb and reach around the back of the grip. Maybe.

Now that topic is settled, let’s look at potential solutions.

  • You could try a self-imposed “assault weapon” ban. Be sure to email Dianne “Vengeful Hissing Cockroach” Feinstein. It will make her day.
  • You could duct tape a spent .223 cartridge onto the selector to provide more leverage. And slather the whole mess with WD-40 to slick up the action. You can fix anything with duct tape and WD-40 right?
  • You could avoid the problem altogether and switch to a double-barrel shotgun. Hey, if it’s good enough for Uncle Joe…
  • Or, you could try the new Blackhawk! AR-15 Safety Selector.

The last options brings us to the next step in the custom Blackhawk! AR-15 project.

Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector

Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector

Blackhawk’s AR-15 Offset Safety Selector is one of the nifty AR-15 accessories introduced at the 2013 SHOT Show and they are now shipping. It’s a drop-in part that only requires a screwdriver to install.

It works well for two reasons:

  1. The lever is offset 45 degrees so the range of motion is altered in a more favorable way.
  2. The whole lever is not as flat to the receiver as the standard safety lever, so it’s easier to manipulate.

Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Safety Selector Installation

Installation is easy. Just follow these steps:

Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector The Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector kit is pretty straightforward. It consists of the new selector lever and the package card with instructions on the back. If you finish this upgrade with parts left over, please step away from the margarita…
Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector remove upper Go ahead and remove the upper from the lower by pushing the front and rear receiver pins from left to right.
Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector loosen grip OK, here is one of two steps where you get to use actual tools! You want to loosen, not remove, the hand grip.
Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector selector detent spring Here’s why you want to just loosen it. See that little spring peeking out between the grip and the receiver? You want to take some pressure off that as it is the detent spring for the selector lever. You know this is a serious gunsmithing project when we’re using words like “detent.”
Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector remove selector If you loosen the grip enough, you’ll be able to pull the existing selector lever out. See that little detent pin? That’s what was holding it in place. Of course you can remove the grip entirely, but then that spring tends to launch into low earth orbit, facilitating a call to Brownells to order a new one. This will slow down your installation considerably.
Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector remove selector (1) Just lift the existing selector lever out from the left side of the receiver.
Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector installation This is the BEST PART! Remember when I said this was a drop-in upgrade? Here’s where you literally drop in the new Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector lever.
Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector installation detent pin You may need to push the detent pin down a bit with a small screwdriver or your favorite pocket knife to seat the new selector lever.
Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector tighten grip Here’s part two that requires intimate knowledge of tools. Tighten that hand grip back up. Not too much though as over-tightening could interfere with operation of the selector lever. Remember that the grip houses the detent spring. If you crush it, things may not work too well.
Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Selector (1) Voila! Take a break. Tell your significant other that you just completed a delicate and complicated machining project.

How it works

While moving a standard safety lever from SAFE to FIRE is fairly easy for righties, requiring a downward sweep of the thumb, the Blackhawk! AR-15 Offset Safety Selector makes it a bit easier. To move to fire, the offset lever moves from about a 1:30 to a 4:30 position. Your thumb does not have to stretch to push the lever all the way to 6:00.

Moving back to safe is even better. The “taller” lever and offset allow you to use the top of your thumb to move the selector back to SAFE.

The benefits apply to lefties as well. Your index / trigger finger can easily sweep the selector to FIRE and you can use the top of your trigger finger to move it back to SAFE.

All in all, a nifty little upgrade.

Shooting Accessory Review: Smith Enterprise Tactical Cheek Piece

The Smith Enterprise Tactical Cheek Piece Completes a Scoped Rifle

Smith Enterprise Tactical Strap-On Cheek Piece side

Smith Enterprise Tactical Strap-On Cheek Piece – Shown here mounted on a Springfield Armory M1A Standard

Which of the following can happen when you mount a scope on a rifle primarily designed for iron sights?

A. It becomes more dangerous-er, and therefore illegal in New York, Colorado and within 500 feet of banks located on the Island of Cypress.

B. Your primary self-defense plan becomes shooting the gun out of the bad guy’s hand. From 600 yards away.

C. The effective range of your rifle increases 5,432%, allowing you to easily hit targets up to 17.2 miles away.

D. The scope is a lot higher than the iron sights and you have to stretch your neck like a Gumby action figure to see through the scope.

If you answered (B) perhaps you should take up macrame instead of shooting? If you answered (D) you are correct!

For Part 2 of our Springfield Armory M1A Standard rifle project, we mounted a scope to the M1A using a Springfield Armory steel scope base. Once mounted on top of the M1A receiver, the rail itself is already higher than the iron sight plane. Add rings and a scope and now the scope sighting plane is roughly an inch and a half taller than the iron sight plane. The walnut stock on this rifle is not adjustable, so unless you can extend your jaw an extra inch or so on command, you’ll find that attaining a firm cheek weld and being able to see through the scope are somewhat mutually exclusive. Accuracy really suffers when trying to hover your face a couple of inches above the stock.

Here’s where a cheek piece comes in handy. There are all sorts of cheek piece solutions. Some of our most decorated snipers in the Vietnam war attached shaped blocks of wood to the top of their rifle stocks. You can do that too. Or you can acquire an elastic slip-on pad with foam inserts to add some height to your stock. We’ve tried those, and while they are inexpensive and simple solutions, they aren’t all that great. Things just move around too much and the foam insert pads can be too squishy, preventing you from getting a solid and repeatable position on the stock.

A number of vendors make cheek rests that strap on with velcro, straps or cords. Many of these have either padding or a firm insert that increases height of the stock. The Smith Enterprise model uses three straps that go around the bottom of the stock and a fourth that wraps around the butt of the stock.

Smith Enterprise Tactical Strap-On Cheek Piece back

The Smith Enterprise Tactical Strap-On Cheek Piece features a rubberized back for a non-slip fit.

The exterior of the Smith Enterprise Tactical Cheek Piece is a solid canvas material. The insert is very firm, with just a little bit of give. This achieves two goals: getting a solid and repeatable position on the gun and providing a bit of recoil dampening for your jaw bone. The insert is just about 1 ½ inches high, so it creates perfect scope alignment on the M1A shown in the photos here. The interior of the rest is made of a rubberized material so it grips the stock really well.

Once we got this mounted on the Springfield Armory M1A Standard rifle with walnut stock, it didn’t move around. At all. As you can see by the photos, we mounted this with all three straps forward of the sling loop on the bottom of the buttstock. You may prefer to mount it so that the third strap is behind the sling loop to help prevent forward / backward motion. We just liked the fit as shown, and with the fourth back strap, we did not have any issues with the pad moving.

While this specific model is marketed as a solution for the M14 / M1A rifle, it will fit most any rifle with a more or less standard stock. If you need about an inch and a half of height, check out the Smith Enterprise Tactical Cheek Piece. It’s a solid and well made product.

Our Rating

4 Nuns Four Nuns! The rubberized backing and vertical horizontal strap system ensure that this stays solid in place through carry and recoil. We also really liked the firmness of the cheek insert. It’s solid enough for a good cheek weld, but still offers just a bit of cushion.

 

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

 

You can find the Smith Enterprise Cheek Piece at Brownells

Smith Enterprise Strap-On Cheek Pad
Loading…

Gun Review: Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle

Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle

Springfield Armory M1A Standard

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard model is the civilian version of the battle classic M14

This rifle is beast. Not a beast. Just beast. If you have teenage kids, you might have already heard things like video games, high school athletes and cars described as “beast.” Apparently it’s a subtle, yet cool, form of praise. Kids these days don’t generally describe praise-worthy things as “richly robust with just the proper hint of panache.”

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard rifle is beast because of its homage (another non-teen word) to military history. The M1A is the Springfield Armory produced civilian version of the battle-tested M14 rifle. The M14 was introduced to field use during the Korean war and is (roughly speaking) the next generation of the famous M1 Garand that had such a dramatic impact during World War II. In fact, the famous World War II general, George S. Patton, called the M1 Garand “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” We’re not exactly sure what actor George C. Scott had to say about it, but he did play Patton on TV.

After the war, The M14 brought a few changes to the M1 Garand era. Fully automatic capability, 7.62mm / .308 ammo chambering and a detachable box magazine – to name a few. The M1A as a civilian rifle does not offer fully automatic capability, but maintains the detachable box magazine feature and chambers the .308 round. One other notable difference is the lack of a bayonet lug on the M1A. I know, it’s tragic, but it keeps the politicians from hemorrhaging bio-diesel. If you’re hell-bent on mounting an infantry charge down your street, you’ll just have to improvise with duct tape and a Ka-Bar knife.

A Closer Look at the Springfield Armory M1A Standard

 Springfield Armory M1A safety

Safety first! Just like the M1 Garand, the Springfield Armory M1A uses a lever in the front of the trigger guard as the safety. As shown in this picture, the gun is on safe. Nudge the lever forward with the back of your knuckle and it will snap forward, out of the trigger guard, into the firing position. It’s the same basic mechanism used on the M1 Garand. Be careful with this type of safety – to put the rifle on safe, you’re pulling backwards with your trigger finger! Make sure you’re pulling the safety and not the trigger!

 Springfield Armory M1A rear sight

The rear sight on the Springfield Armory M1A has a windage adjustment dial on the right and an elevation adjustment dial on the left. On the M1A Standard rifle, elevation and windage are adjustable in 1 minute of angle (about 1 inch at 100 yards) clicks. The windage dial gives you 16 clicks in either direction and you have sufficient elevation adjustment to compensate to about 1,100 yards. Springfield Armory includes a nifty article by Scott Duff and John Miller that tells you exactly how to properly zero your M1A. The elevation adjustment knob was tight, as to be expected and desired in my opinion. I found the windage elevation knob on the test rifle to be somewhat beyond tight, and I’ve been working out to get in shape for the upcoming Thumb Wars of the Stars special. I tried smothering it with Activia Butt-Modulating Yogurt to “loosen things up” but that didn’t seem to help. Don’t tell the folks at Springfield Armory, but I had to cover it with a cleaning rag and muscle it the first few times. Whatever you do, DON’T use pliers – this will almost certainly crack the adjustment dial. Don’t get me wrong, this adjustment should be firm and very deliberate as you don’t want it moving around on its own. Just be aware that there might be some break-in period required to get things loosened up. And it did loosen up with some use. Before venturing off to any foreign wars, be sure to try the adjustments and break in accordingly.

Springfield Armory M1A mag release

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard rifle ships with a 10 round box magazine. You can order factory 5 or 20 round magazines using the nifty Springfield Loaded Coupon that we’ll talk about in a minute. The magazine release lever is on the back side of the magazine well and releases the magazine when pushed forward. It’s about an inch and a half forward of the safety lever, so you just barely have to adjust your grip to reach it with the firing hand. Seating a magazine in the M1A takes just a bit of practice. The easiest way is to insert it into the magazine well, angled backwards, and rock it into position. It sounds complicated, but is very smooth once you get the hang of it. And the magazine makes a satisfying click when it seats. You won’t be in doubt about it’s locked status.
 Springfield Armory M1A aperture sight The rear aperture sight features fine checkering on the back side to reduce glare. We found this to be a very useful feature! It’s one of those details that no one notices in the store, but really makes a difference on the range. Note the protective wings that help prevent the aperture sight from getting abused.

Springfield Armory M1A stripper clip guide

On the top of the receiver, at the back of the magazine well, you’ll see a stripper clip guide. While the M1A has detachable box magazines, it can still be reloaded with stripper clips from the top. We didn’t use this in testing, but know it’s there. In case you want to get super authentic. The dovetail for the stripper clip guide has a second use as a mounting point for the scope base. We’ll cover that in detail in the next article where we mount a rail base and scope to this M1A.
 Springfield Armory M1A front sling A sturdy sling mount is placed towards the front of the stock on the bottom side. It swivels back and forth, but not side to side. At the rear, just ahead of the rifle butt, is a similar, but fixed, sling mount. Somehow the Springfield Armory M1A Standard just screams for a traditional leather loop sling. No worries, you can get one cheap using the Springfield Loaded Coupon mentioned a little later!

Springfield Armory M1A front sight wings

Like the rear sight, the front post is protected by sturdy steel wings on either side. And the post is not a wimpy little AR type either – it’s a steel blade that tapers like a wedge towards the front. This helps the post look sharp and crisp from the back. And it’s more aerodynamic when charging the trenches at a full run. The sight blade and wings assembly is movable side to side so you can zero the rifle (for windage) and have your windage dial on the receiver exactly centered. A hex locking screw keeps everything in place once you’ve got it set. One other thing to note about the front sight blade. It’s width can be used for rough range estimation. It will exactly cover a 20 inch wide target at about 300 yards.
 Springfield Armory M1A buttplate No, it’s not a collapsible bayonet to protect the rear flank. Nor does it make the M1A more aerodynamic, although you can probably use it while speed walking. But seriously, the fold-out butt plate has a purpose. You can lean it on top of your shoulder for a little extra stability. It’s an interesting feature, especially when shooting from a standing position or moving. It’s one of those things you just have to try to see if it works for you.

Springfield Armory M1A cleaning kit

Unfortunately you can’t quite fit two rolls of Mentos breath mints in the stock storage compartments. However, you can fit the original Springfield Armory cleaning and oiling kit. The top hole is about 10 inches deep while the bottom one is about 6 ½ inches deep. Why waste all that potential storage space in the stock? Later, we’ll mention some factory cleaning and maintenance supplies that will fit perfectly into these two chambers.
 Springfield Armory M1A bolt lock On the left side of the receiver is the bolt lock lever. If the magazine is in place, and empty, the bolt will lock back on it’s own. If you want it locked open while the magazine is out, or full, use the bolt lock lever.

 Springfield Armory M1A gas

About six inches behind the front  sight is the gas port in the barrel and the gas tube below. The nut on the end is removable for cleaning and maintenance. The handy multi-purpose tool (discussed below) will remove this easily. Remember when cleaning that the gas system is supposed to be dry, so no oil or grease in there!

 

Shooting Performance

As the Springfield Armory M1A Standard comes with iron peep sights and no provision for mounting a scope without accessories, we’re not going to address accuracy in this article. Trying to do so would tell you more about the poor state of our eyesight than performance of this rifle! However, we have a second part of this article coming out shortly which details the process of mounting and using the optional scope mounting base. Once we get a scope mounted, we’ll do some accuracy testing with various .308 loads and report on the results.

We did shoot a variety of ammunition through the M1A for function testing and just plain fun. As you might expect from this design, digesting lots and lots of different ammunition was not a problem!

We shot and choreographed the following loads:

American Eagle 7.62x51mm M1A – 2,637 feet per second

Black Hills Match Hollow Point – 2,565 fps

Nosler Match Grade 168 grain Custom Competition – 2,548 fps

Winchester 120 grain PDX1 Defender – 3,034 fps

In addition to the factory loads, we assembled four different hand loads – all with 168 grain Sierra Matchking projectiles. We developed upper mid-range loads for 2,550 to 2,650 feet per second velocity performance using Hodgdon BL-C(2), IMR 4064, IMR 4895 and Ramshot TAC powders. We experienced no feed or function issues with any of the loads tested.

Felt recoil on this rifle was polite and relatively genteel considering that it has a not very soft steel butt plate. Between the M1A’s 9.3 pound weight and gas-driven semi-automatic action, much of the perceived recoil is dampened.

Paperwork

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle arrives in a large cardboard box which includes a variety of instruction paperwork and other extra-special surprises.

The nicest surprise was a printed “booklet bound” copy of the  TM 9-1005-223-12 Department of the Army Technical Manual. Subtitled Operator and Organizational Maintenance Manual – 7.62mm Rifle M14 and Rifle Bipod M2, this 76 page booklet, dated January 1963, is the lightly burnt sugar on Creme Brûlée for any self-respecting gun geek.

Another bonus surprise is a reproduced article by Wayne Faatz entitled The Mysterious Slam Fire.

Springfield also includes a reproduced article by Scott A. Duff and John M. Miller. This one, From the Bench – Zeroing M1 and M1A Service Rifles, walks the reader through easy to understand instructions on how to zero either standard or National Match M1A rifles.

And another! As with all Springfield Armory products we’ve received, a M1A Loaded Coupon allows you to order accessories like extra magazines, cheek pieces, tools, cases, and M1A cleaning accessories at deeply discounted prices. The discount depends on the specific item, but most are available at 20% to 70% off retail. As an example, the Springfield Armory factory .308 20 round magazine sells for $37.50 instead of $54.95. Of course, most of the items on the list are available in third party manufactured versions, but if you want genuine factory accessories, take advantage of the one time use coupon. You can order as much as you want of each item – but one time only.

Oh, and a basic instruction book is included that covers operation, ammo information (mil-spec only recommended), cleaning, and basic maintenance.

Stripping and Cleaning

The subtitle of this section got your attention didn’t it?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but we’re talking field stripping here – with the primary intention of cleaning and lubrication.

Basic takedown is simple. But first, remove the magazine, then check the chamber to make sure there is no cartridge there. Now check it again. Now flip on the safety just for good measure.

Springfield Armory M1A trigger housing removal

The barrel and receiver assembly is locked into the stock by the trigger assembly. To remove the trigger assembly, pull the rear base of the trigger guard (where it meets the stock) towards the butt of the rifle. It will take some muscle!

Springfield Armory M1A trigger system removal

Pulling the trigger guard backwards will release it from a catch, allowing it to pivot towards the muzzle of the rifle. Pull it up all the way and the trigger assembly will come out in one piece.

Springfield Armory M1A field strip

Now the barreled receiver will lift out of the stock. It may need a gentle nudge to get it moving.

There you have it! This simple, no-tools, field strip procedure will give you pretty good access for basic cleaning and lubrication of the main parts.

Accessories and Upgrades

Original Cleaning Kit

M1A cleaning kit

The M1A multi-purpose tool and cleaning kit are accessories that fit in two hollowed-out stock tubes

You can order an original military style maintenance and cleaning kit and store just about all of it in the stock. Shown in the photo is a four-piece cleaning rod, M1A multi-purpose tool, ratcheted chamber cleaning brush, bore cleaning brush and lubricant container. Pack that stuff into the stock compartments and you’ll have it when you need it!

Magazines

The rifle includes a single ten round magazine, but you can order  additional magazines from Springfield Armory in 5, 10, 15 and 20 round capacities. The 5 round magazine comes in a standard box configuration or a low-profile sporter configuration. Perhaps you want to hunt with your M1A? Check your state laws before trying to order different magazines!

Scope Mounts

Springfield Armory offers two different receiver scope mounts for the M1A – one constructed of solid steel and the other aluminum. Both are custom designed to attach to the receiver on the left side and via the stripper clip guide dovetail at the rear. We obtained a steel scope mount and installed it with a Hawke Optics Sidewinder 30 10x scope. We’ll cover that in a follow up article. Springfield Armory also offers a Scout Scope forward mount.

Other

Given the history of the M14 platform and Springfield Armory’s adherence to the core original design, a number of other accessories are readily available from Springfield and third party vendors. Cheek rests, replacement match sights, tritium night sight posts, muzzle brakes and more can all be found at Brownells.com.

Springfield Armory M1A Hawke Optics Sidewinder IR

In part 2 of this article, we’ll mount a Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical using the Springfield Armory steel receiver mount

Closing Arguments

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle is, well, kind of nostalgic. True to the basic M1 Garand and M14 military rifle design, it’s a sturdy and reliable war horse. The iron sights feel natural and are quite effective. A good rifleman is expected to hit targets out to 500 yards with them. We’re going to add a scope for fun and some accuracy testing, but odds are, the scope will come off as soon as we’re finished. Somehow, adding optics to this gun just seems wrong and unnecessary.

We loved the Springfield Armory M1A Standard. From it’s walnut stock to iron sights to classic action design, it’s a natural combination of form, function and fun.

Our Rating

4 Nuns Four Nuns! We’re not sure if this is a 4 Nun product because of the history of the design, Springfield Armory’s adherence to that design (mostly) or it’s construction and operation. Probably some of each. Like a Ruger 1022, every household needs one of these rifles.

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

 

Accessories available at Brownells

Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

El Paso Summer Cruiser Gun Holster – A Hand Boned Delight

Here’s another holster featured in our new book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters:

El Paso Saddlery has a deep and storied tradition of holster craft. Literally.

El Paso Summer Cruiser Gun HolsterPeruse their online catalog and you’ll see holsters like the John Wayne, Patton, Jesse James and Doc Holliday to name a few. The interesting thing is that El Paso didn’t just name these holsters — they made them for the actual folks on the label! You’ll notice dozens of absolutely gorgeous western style holsters and if you’re a fan of spaghetti westerns, and pay close attention, you’ll see plenty of their models in the movies.

The El Paso Saddlery Summer Cruiser is an inside-out design to help it stay in place via friction with your clothing. It has two belt loops that are interchangeable. You can swap loops to fit different sized belts and choose black or brown to better match the belt you want to use.

For a comfortable inside the waistband design, the El Paso Summer Cruiser has a lot of structure. The holster mouth is reinforced with an interior metal band so it stays open to facilitate one-handed reholstering. A sight rail is molded and stitched into the holster that allows for snag-free holstering and reholstering. There’s even an extended leather flap on the inside to help keep the hammer, safety and/or beavertail from chafing your midsection.

Like many other El Paso designs, this one is hand-boned for near-perfect gun fit.

Holster Terminology Alert: Before you start questioning the PG rating of this book, know that hand boning is a process where the wet leather is pressed — by hand — around the specific contours of the gun. Back in the fourth century BC they used to do that with actual bones instead of metal tools, hence the name hand boning. Artisans skilled in the art of hand boning had little to do for centuries however, as gun holsters were not to be invented until the 1800’s. As a result of hand boning, you’ll actually see a pretty good outline of your specific type of firearm shaped into the leather. Hand boning isn’t done just to sound funny or look cool, the very detailed shaping is what provides solid holster fit and retention.

Read about more carry styles and over 120 different gun holsters in The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters – available at Amazon.com! Learn more about our Insanely Practical Guides!

Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Legal Disclosures about articles on My Gun Culture