Sunday, February 26, 2012

DIY Shoot-N-See Type Targets

I've sort of been following the Gunmart Blog.  "Gunmart" found a video on YouTube on how to make Shoot-N-See targets with paper and spray paint.  Pretty cool.  I'll have to find some oil and water-based paint so I can make some targets for the 100 yard rifle range.  I have a hard time spotting hits on targets that I can see, and the targets that I can see hits on, I have a hard time seeing 100 yards away without magnification.

I believe Shoot-N-C targets are trademarked by Birchwood-Casey.  No lawsuits please.  I just think that it's the name most people will recognize.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: Troy Battlemag AR-15 Magazine

EDIT:  If you are a 2nd Amendment supporter, you should probably read about Troy's hiring a Ruby Ridge shooter, before continuing.

I haven’t used my Troy magazines too much yet to talk about reliability, but I can show you some pictures, and tell you a little bit about them.

Battlemags with and without pull-tab

The Troy Battlemags come with two different lock-plates.  They come assembled with a pull-tab lockplate, which you can use to pull the magazine out of a mag pouch.  You also get a flat lock-plate if you don’t want or need the pull-tab.  It’s a nice touch, to be sure.  It beats paying three-something dollars for a standard Magpul or a couple dollars more for a Ranger plate.  I guess it might be a problem when you go to Tap-Pull-Roll-Rack with a partially loaded magazine.

The Troy magazine base-plate is held on with tabs, much like a Lancer L5 magazine.  The Lancer disassembly tool actually works really well on the Troy magazine.  The Lancer tool is piece of plastic that usually sells for around $3, but you might find them cheaper on closeout since the new Lancer magazines don’t require a tool to disassemble.  You don’t really need the tool, you could use the tip of a bullet to push in the tabs, but it can be difficult to get one, and then get the other, without the first tab popping back into place.  The Lancer tool pushes in both tabs at the same time.

The Troy base-plate is slim; it’s actually the same width as the rest of the magazine.  If you want a polymer mag, but the wide bases on PMags are pissing you off, or they just don’t work with your vest or pouches, then the Troy’s may be for you.

The Troy follower is an anti-tilt unit, in high-visibility green.  The spring it bent, such that the follower is pushed straight up, rather than rear-first, as is the usual with most AR/M-16 magazines, including the PMags.

The magazine body has a fish-scale checkering pattern on the sides and down the front and back.  All the texturing is oriented to give maximum traction when pulling on the magazine.  When seating a Troy magazine, you had better get your palm at least part-way under the base-plate.  If I were texturing a magazine body, I would probably use multi-directional pineapple grenade checking, like Glock used on their 2nd and 3rd generation frames, or maybe stippling - like between 36 and 60 grit.

If you need some kind of a pull tab to get mags out of your vest or pouches, these may be a good deal.  If you like 6-pack SAW magazine pouches or something, and the fat base-plates of PMags won’t fit, the Troy mags may work out for you.  I do like the high-visibility followers, and the bend on the top coil of the spring is something that should get done all the time, but usually doesn’t get done.  I guess they aren’t my favorite magazines, but there’s really not anything wrong with them, and under certain conditions I can see them being very desireable.

EDIT, 10/21/12:  I've run 3 full loads through one of the Troy mags, without any issues.  I've loaded it with M193, and put it in with my SHTF stash.  The other one will make it into the rotation for further testing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Revew: Magpul Art of the Tactical Carbine I

I looks like it's been more than a month since the last time I posted.  Time got away from me, I guess.  Here's a review that I've been working on for a while.

The Trainers
The Magpul DVD series are sort of documentaries on training courses.  “Stars of the show” are Chris Costa and Travis Haley.  Costa sometimes sounds like an angry boot camp drill instructor, but he’s actually the joker of the pair.  Haley is the more easy going of the two.  Costa and Haley do things a little bit different, so you get to see things done a little bit differently in the same DVD set.

According to the bio on Costa’s facebook page, he was involved with counter-drug actions and “special missions in Europe, the Middle East, and South America” with the Coasties.  After this, he worked for Applied Marine Technologies, Inc., working with the Homeland Security Risk Management Division, specializing in teaching Police Assault Operations.  It also says that he provided Red Team Vulnerability Assessments on U.S. Government infrastructures, which makes me wonder if he’s one of the characters in my favorite Rogue Warrior book.  Costa left Magpul Dynamics to start up his own training company, Costa Ludus.

Travis Haley was a Force Recon Marine.  Haley also left Magpul to start up his own training, product consulting, and marketing company, Haley Strategic Partners, LLC.  According to the about page of Haley Strategic, Haley served in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia in his 15 years with the Force Recon Marines, and then worked in the private sector as a special operations and security contractor before joining up with Magpul Dynamics.

Production Quality
Production quality of the videos is really good actually.  There’s no music left over from a 1995 Cozumel travel video; something you sometimes get with lowest-bidder production companies.  Menu graphics are pretty decent, and I like the Japanese-themed DVD case covers.  It doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the training, but it’s nice anyway.

So you put in the disk and press play, and there’s 3 or 4 minutes of lawyer B.S. about how training with firearms is potentially lethal, and all that.  You have to wait through all this crap every time you put a disk in, unless your player allows you to pick up where you left off.  You can not skip past it.  It gets really annoying.

Disk 1 – Fundamentals [and Equipment]

A lot of this will be a little boring to some of you who have been shooting for a couple years or more.  They cover sighting in.  Administrative loading, and a few different methods of press checking are covered.  Emergency and tactical reloads are explained and demonstrated.  They show how to work the AR-15s, both with the Magpul BAD extended bolt catch and the standard “ping-pong paddle” bolt catch.

Hold offs for close-range carbine shooting are shown and explained.  Perhaps useful if you’ve only used rifles at 50 and 100 yards.

Getting into some stuff that you may not have seen at your local gun club, Travis and Costa discuss the aggressive stance, grip, and recoil control that are useful for shooting a carbine rapid fire.

There are some basic malfunction drills, including S.P.O.R.T.S. and tap-rack-bang.  There's a little bit more in Disk 2, but that’s about the extent of if for this series.  There’s much more in the Magpul Carbine II DVD set.

Towards the end of Disk 1, they’re starting to get into more advanced drills, including shooting on the move, shooting from positions other than standing, and working with a partner.  Then there is a Final Exercise, which is most of the drills all put together, and shot by the students in pairs.

Disk 1 Special Features – There is some discussion of optics, back-up iron sights (BUIS), slings, mag pouches and tactical vests.

Disk 2 – Advanced Skills
For some reason Travis is not on Disk 2 or Disk 3, so it’s all Costa from now on.

Pistols are introduced into the mix, and they work on transitioning from carbine to pistol a little bit.  There is some basic training on malfunction and failure drills.

“Check drills,” a method of calling out for a reload when working with a partner, are explained and practiced.  Using this method, it increases the odds that one member of the team is always capable of returning fire.

Costa shows how you can get pretty decent hits with the red dots turned off, without flipping up back-up sights.  In the event that the battery dies or the sight is damaged, this could be quite useful.

Continuing with sighting, a method of holding the front sight above the rear aperture is explained for use at close range.

There are some advanced shooting on the move drills followed by barricade drills.  The students practice shooting from either side of the barricades, and then work the barricades in pairs.  After the folding table barricades, which simulate building (or hallway) corners or doorways, they move onto barricades with a variety of firing ports.  There is some working the carbine with the left hand, but much more is covered in Magpul Carbine II.  Finally, they move into a range set-up with vehicles, and in pairs, they shoot at targets in and around the vehicles.

Disk 3 – Drills [and Miscellany]
The third disks a quick reference of all the drills covered in disks 1 and 2.  The drills are done at full speed and slow-motion, and are shown from multiple camera angles.

Disk 3 also gets into some detailed information on weapon accessories, disassembly/cleaning/maintenance of the AR-15/M4/M-16 weapons system, and some information on traveling with firearms.

Costa explains why he prefers single point slings. . . although you can see that he uses 2 and 3-point slings in various points in disks 1 and 2.  Disk 3 is the only place, in this set, that you see any shoulder transitions.  They don’t get into shoulder transition drills until The Art of the Tactical Carbine II.

So, In Conclusion
Although not a real substitute for a real training course, you can learn some stuff from DVDs, and combined with live-fire and dry-fire practice, you can make some real progress.  Unfortunately not everyone can afford a high-end class, the travel, and the housing.

The DVDs really only concentrate on the AR-15 platform.  Although there was an AK-47 type rifle in Disk 1, and an AK-74 type rifle in Disk 2, I would have liked to see more on the use of the Kalashnikov rifles.  There’s also nothing to help you shoot better beyond about 75 yards – nothing on using a 2-point sling as an added support for shooting.

For less than $40 the set is a pretty fantastic deal.  I really like that Travis and Costa lead by example, rather than just by dictation.  I learn a few few things, and I now understand the fascination with single-point slings.

Valhalla Tactical Supply has the best prices that I've seen on the Magpul DVDs.  They also have pretty good deals on other Magpul stuff, black rifle parts, and gear.  I have Art of the Tactical Carbine, and Art of the Dynamic Handgun also, but you'll have to give me time to go through them again, take better notes, and do the write-ups.