Saturday, April 22, 2023

Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot

Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot

One of my favorite things is to breathe new life into an old project. From an AR perspective nothing screams reclaimed & upcycled like my nearly ten year old DeadPoole build that was a cobbled together set of ultra-premium parts. The brand new Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot is a heck of a product name but was exactly what was needed to update one of my favorite builds. 

The DeadPoole build parts read like a who’s who’s of premier parts such as an retro cool early 1970 Armalite carry handle upper, precision National Match sight set, Barnes Precision custom milled quad rail, Feddersen 17-inch .223 Wylde fluted match barrel, Ace stock, Timney two-stage trigger, Bootleg Adjustable Gas Bolt Carrier, and New Frontier billet Pandemic Biohazard lower. Because literally every part I listed was a different shade of light to dark black anodizing or freshly milled, the set was hideous unfinished. The build received a shockingly durable DIY rattle can combo finish with spray epoxy, ceramic mag wheel paint and Alumahyde clear to create a battleworn finish.

From an optics perspective, some trick innovations I made were to open the large national match rear aperture to a huge size - effectively delivering an almost non-existent rear ghost ring while still preserving the ability to flip to the fine aperture if needed for backup or secondary zero. This open ghost sight allowed unobstructed co-witness use of the Gen 1 Primary Arms push button red dot mounted directly in front of the front carry handle on the handguard. 

It is a very tight setup which delivers total sight backup with the precision of a standard red dot plus some protection from the convenient carry handle. The result of all this was an incredibly accurate National Match style build but with the advantages of a red dot.  The vintage Primary Arms red dot has been fantastic and was left on continuously and has only had one battery change since purchase. Times change and there are now far better options than just a tiny red dot. Enter the brand new Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot.

To call the brand new PA SLx MD-25 Gen II ACSS-CQB a “Red Dot” is a bit misleading because it is so much more. The MD-25 Gen II is about 20% larger than a typical red dot which delivers more clarity, a lighter & brighter optic, and larger field of view that seems very close to large format holographic sights. Primary Arms has also added an AutoLive feature which helps preserve and extend the 25K hour runtime - essentially it can sit in your safe in hibernate mode and comes to life whenever motion is detected. 

Though 50K hour runtimes are common on Primary Arms standard red dot electro-optics, the SLx MD-25 Gen II is supporting the the illumination of a larger and more advanced ACSS-CQB reticle with calibrated ballistic drop holds plus an extremely fast and precise chevron reticle with an even faster 65-MOA CQB horseshoe. With all that illuminated, the runtime is factory tested to 25K hours or more with AutoLive. The result is a clean reticle without clutter, a fine and precise chevron aiming point, plus bullet drop holds calibrated for the 7.62 Nato and 5.56 Nato calibers, plus a battery runtime that still blows holographic site runtimes out of the water. All this is an optic platform with more field of view, clarity and light transmission than a typical red dot all for $199. There are even night vision compatible settings. PA has included a very high quality rugged co-witness mount with two additional risers. Not sure how these guys do it, but I love it.

Mounting was as simple as any red dot, however the SLx MD-25 Gen II has moved up to max sized heavy duty torx screws which can take some serious torque with the included T-handle torx wrench. Having broken or broken-off many inexpensive optic mounts and bolts over the years with tiny screws, I am very excited to see a big durability shift of the new mount vs the older legacy mount. Zeroing was simple via the capped turrets and ½ MOA adjustments.

The ACSS-CQB reticle is a big jump from a simple red dot in use and speed. One of the previous challenges with the red dot  was determining holds at longer ranges. Generally I could have a good idea of where my hold-overs were or tune the iron sights to co-witness for a secondary hold, however the ACSS-CQB reticle has integrated holds to 600-yards which seem to be pretty accurate holds depending on the right ammo choice. The Semicircle horseshoe, like similar other circle dot reticles, is extremely fast at close ranges and far more apparent than hunting for a small red dot.


Way back I heard that this retailer called Primary Arms was making optics and I thought it sounded like a me-too optics story, but they definitely proved me wrong. After owning and putting a very hard level of abuse on several of their red dots and a 4-16 FFP mil-dot scopes, I am extremely impressed. Obviously I have a nearly ten year old red dot that is still running hard and will find a home on another build. PA has become one of the most respected optics brands in the industry delivering high value, cutting edge features, developed a widely regarded ACSS reticle system, and offers some features like AutoLive that many competitors still do not offer. Overall I am impressed with all their optics over a very long term.

The Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II AutoLive ACSS-CQB Red Dot is a fantastic optic and for $199, it is an amazing value and was perfect to upgrade this old build with new capabilities. Comparing this to other red dots in this price range, you will see that with the reticle, mount, and ACSS-CQB reticle wider field of view and extended run time make this my new go to recommendation for a red dot.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

ATF Brace Ban Options - Thordsen Cheek Rest - Part 2

 ATF Brace Ban Options - Thordsen Cheek Rest

This is my Part 2 of these ATF Brace Ban option articles, but the background is worth repeating. Over a decade after the ATF’s 2012 express written approval of pistol braces and after reportedly over 40M were sold, in Jan 31 the ATF decreed pistol braces were now banned. The decision sent highly concerned shockwaves around the country to law abiding owners that what you legally purchased yesterday was not necessarily legal today. If the decree is not shut down, you will need some options which are not an arm brace or shoulderable attached device. That is still a murky area with lots of undefined language like “shoulderable”, “surface area”, “functional extension”...etc which all have no quantitative measurements defined. Kind of like saying your car is illegal if it “could fly” which is not reasonable as it can have “some path of flight” after being driven off a cliff.

According to the ATF, pistol arm braces which people may inadvertently shoulder are “in scope” of the decree, however buffer tubes and extensions which “do not have sufficient surface area” to shoulder (whatever that means) are not in scope of the ruling (at this point). If you have an AR, AK or other similar build which has an attached pistol buffer, compliance of the decree is as simple as removing the brace or installing an upper with a 16”+ barrel. According to a number of manufacturers, all are noting straight tubes/extensions and cheek rests are still completely out of scope according to the ATF’s Maxim and Thordsen cheek rest letters and are conspicuously unlisted as part of the ATF decree. 

Here are some “should be legal” Thordsen Customs cheek rest options according to what we know. At the very least these options should become an example of you attempting to comply with the ATF decre

Thordsen Customs

Throughout the years Thordsen Customs has helped firearms owners become compliant with the ever changing landscape of arbitrary gun laws at the Federal and State levels. One of the products which people know Thordsen Customs from is the featureless (and futuristic looking) stock for the AR15 which effectively transforms the evil pistol grip rifle into a featureless hunting rifle style stock.  The company also has a number of other products such as capacity limited magazines. Thordsen Customs also has a long history of offering a variety of pistol cheek rests which can fit both pistol and carbine buffers. Similarly, Maxim Defense also offers an aluminum adjustable cheek rest in their specialized buffer short buffer assembly. The cheek rest offers the shooter an option to rest their cheek on the buffer tube more comfortably, thus improving accuracy and enjoyment of the firearm.  Thordsen and Maxim both have approval letters from the ATF and neither product seems to be notable in-scope of the arm brace ban of Jan 31.

I had the opportunity to install and test out a few of Thordsen Customs cheek rests and buffer tube covers as options to replace removed pistol braces. Although Thordsen does offer full kits which also include a pistol buffer tube, most kits are available as simple slip-on kits that do not require any modification or removal of the buffer tube. Generally most of these kits can be installed in under ten minutes. The company offers several options that include:

  • Buffer Tube Cover - Standard with No QD mounts

  • Buffer Tube Cover - Enhanced with side QD swivel mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Wider MFT Cheek Rest - Standard with No QD mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Wider MFT Cheek Rest - Enhanced with side QD swivel mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Slim  CAA Cheek Rest - Standard with No QD mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Slim  CAA Cheek Rest - Enhanced with side QD swivel mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Medium Thordsen Cheek Rest - Standard with No QD mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Medium Thordsen Cheek Rest - Enhanced with side QD swivel mounts

  • All versions are offered in a variety of colors

Buffer Tube Covers

The Thordsen Buffer Tube covers are a nice looking upgrade to an otherwise bare pistol or carbine buffer tube at only 3.5oz. The cover looks great and adds a little length to the overall buffer tube but protects it from damage and offers a cover that is a bit warmer feeling on the cheek than an ice cold or red hot piece of aluminum. I especially like the Enhanced level kits  which feature the Enhanced Buffer Tube Cover as the base of the build and include left and right QD swivel mounts. I featured the Buffer Tube Cover on the ultralight custom blue camo Aero Precision build. This was a good fit for this ultralight build and still affords great use of the pistol.

Cheek Rests - CAA Left, MFT middle, Thorsden Version lower Right

Cheek Rest w/ MFT, CAA, Thordsen Cheek Rest Options

Both Command Arms and Mission First Tactical have been supply partners with Thordsen since their first cheek rests were introduced. Essentially the Thordsen Buffer Tube cover is designed to receive the snap-on accessory cheek rests from CAA, MFT and Thordsen’s own Cheek Rest. All provide good uniquely different options. 

The MFT version is the widest overall and provides onboard A123 battery storage and an overall wider profile cheek rest. The caveat with the MFT is that it does not provide full folding when used in conjunction with the Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter, where the CAA and Thordsen cheek rests do lay flat with this accessory. The MFT version is shown on the unmounted fixed buffer adapter for picatinny rails.

The CAA is what I call the slim width in the group and overall is the most compact option while still providing a very comfortable cheek rest shown on the silver custom PWS build.  Thordsen’s own cheek rest option is the medium width option and is currently being produced with industrial 3D printing (read that as very high production quality) until they have finalized the injection molding process. The Thordsen version was installed on the custom Aero Precision with Geo Fractured camo. Thordsen also offers a fixed picatinny rail mount adapter for buffer tube compatibility on large format pistols like the MPX/MCX and similar rear picatinny rail pistols.

Final Thoughts

Though there are some legal decisions being made around the legality of the ATF pistol brace ban pre-May, these Thordsen Cheek Rests are options if you want to assure you are attempting to be compliant. More importantly, for those who chose to carry a AR pistol or similar format firearm in a vehicle which has a high likelihood of being inspected by LEO, the most prudent course of action is to have that firearm equipped without a brace and with something that reduces questioning such as a cheek rest or simple buffer tube cover. It is my confirmed opinion that 99% of LEO have no freaking clue about actual firearms laws and what is and is not legal as far as large format pistols go. During a traffic stop and “lawful with cause” search is not the time to have a six hour discussion while handcuffed on the legality of how you have configured your AR pistol. The Thordsen Cheek Rests and Buffer Tube covers are a great option to potentially reduce those inspection headaches and debates around the current legality of pistol braces.

Magic has Occurred - I have a Trig-lug Mount for my Sig Sauer SRD9

Magic has Occurred - I have a Trig-lug Mount for my Sig Sauer SRD9

I am posting this for all the Sig SR9 owners out there. The Sig Sauer SRD9 has been one of my favorite suppressors and I have been 100% happy with the purchase... but one thing has always driven me nuts - no tri-lug adapter. Yes, the Sig SRD9 comes with one of the best out of the box kits in the industry with both 1/2-28 and 13.1x1LH pistol booster mounts and a fixed lockout all included.

This allows owners to be able to use these mounts for both modern pistols and direct thread PCC carbines and even 300BO subsonic rounds. Since the SRD9 is completely user serviceable, owners can also use it for smaller caliber rounds like .22LR, .22WMR and 5.7x28. It is a fantastically adaptable suppressor with suppression that matches my Liberty Mystic X, but with a length several inches shorter. With all the awesomeness of the SRD9, not being able to do tri-lug mounting is a major downside. Tri-lug mounting is fast and secure for all but 99.999% of fixed mount PCC and rimfire applications. The tri-lug is a well proven and secure mount for all pistol calibers on fixed barrels, but we still need the boosters for Browning tilt type pistol barrels.

Tri-lug mounts are the fastest mounts on the planet - just a pull down and 1/3 twist is all that is required to securely mount and remove suppressor for any PCC style firearm all in a very compact and durable mount. With that said, the SRD9 is freaking an incompatible island unto itself with an oddball 1.125-24 thread that marries to nothing. I measured threads and thought I had it figured out with a KAK 1.125x28 tri-lug adapter, but the thread size was wrong. Just before sending off the adapter I designed in Fusion 360 to my machinist, I found Ecco Machine’s adapter. Praise the Lord! I found a stainless magic unicorn adapter for 1.125-24 male to 1.125x28 female all for under $70 at Ecco Machine. My credit card could not get entered fast enough. The Ecco SRD9 adapter screws in and then the $70 KAK Tri-lug adapter (notably one of the more affordable) screws in and you have a high quality all stainless tri-lug mount for your SRD9. Getting a complete all nitrided and stainless tri-lug adapter for any suppressor for $140 is a decent deal, but for this SRD9 unicorn it's a steal.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

ATF Brace Ban Picatinny Rail Options for MPX - Part 1

ATF Brace Ban Picatinny Rail Options for MPX

Sigh… Over a decade after the ATF’s 2012 express written approval of pistol braces and after reportedly over 40M were sold, the Jan 31 ATF decreed pistol brace were now banned. The decision sent highly concerned shockwaves around the country to law abiding owners that what you legally purchased yesterday was not necessarily legal today. Yet again an example of us letting the government run rampant. If the decree is not shut down, you will need some options which are not an arm brace or shoulder-able attached device. That is still a murky area with lots of undefined language like “shoulder-able”, “surface area”, “functional extension”...etc which all have no quantitative measurements defined. Kind of like saying your car is illegal if it “could fly” which is not reasonable as it can have “some path of flight” after being driven off a cliff.

Top - MWI Standard Beam
Middle - MWI Adjustable Alpha Series Beam
Bottom - MWI Non-Adjustable Alpha Series Beam
All configured a straight cheek rest bufferless extensions

According to the ATF, pistol arm braces which people may inadvertently shoulder are “in scope” of the decree, however buffer tubes and extensions which “do not have sufficient surface area” to shoulder are not in scope of the ruling (at this point). If you have an AR build which requires a pistol buffer, compliance of the decree is as simple as removing the brace or installing an upper with a 16”+ barrel. According to a number of manufacturers, all are noting straight tubes/extensions and cheek rests are still completely out of scope according to the ATF’s Maxim and Thordsen cheek rest letters and are conspicuously not listed as part of the ATF decree. 

Pictured Registered SBR for demonstration purposes
Pictured - Registered SBR for Demonstration purposes

So here are some “should be legal” options according to what we know. At the very least these options should become an example of you attempting to comply with the ATF decree. If you own one of the many firearms with the very common rear Picatinny Accessory Rails like MPX, AK, MP5, PCCs, shotguns, semi-autos, and even bolt action guns, and ARs with rear conversion plates, you need an option after you remove your brace. Midwest Industries MWI may have a few options for you for your pistol and a path for a stock if you intend to proceed with registering an SBR.

MWI Options

If I was in charge of marketing for MWI, their slogan would be “No wimpy Products”. Historically, MWI products have never been the lightest, but they are without question one of the strongest. MWI has a very long standing legacy of high quality and actually does work directly with a number of companies as an outsourced manufacturing partner in the industry. From my perspective their folding stock mechanism is among the strongest around. Buy once, cry once, the quality of MWI is exceptional and their new line of Beam products also can be adapted and moved from pistol to rifle as needed.

Bufferless MWI Beams attached
as a hopefully compliant option

For a rear picatinny rail gun owner, the best option (we think) is removing the brace and leaving a rear extension in place or attaching a plain looking buffer tube, however if you own an integrated SB Tactical brace, you will need to replace that with something else entirely. MWI has folding models of bufferless standard pistol tubes with rear picatinny rail attachment.  They also have something called a Beam series and the new highly adaptable Alpha Series which also include an adjustable height cheek rest. Most of these models are available in fixed or side-folding options and a few adjustable length models. MWI also has a simple thumb screw accessory which replaces the hex screw with a thumb/wrench/slot screw which is field serviceable for attaching/detaching any of the Beam, tube, stock or brace compatible solutions without hex wrench. 

MWI Brace Compatible Beam

MWI "Stock Plate" added when rifle barrel
length upper is attached. Also shown
MWI extruded folding stock

The standard Brace Compatible Beam is in essence a very heavy duty bufferless skeletonized tube available in different profiles. The round Brace Compatible Beam can be used as a buffer tube style extension and left bare or covered with some type of foam or paracord cover or is compatible with Tailhook braces or the MWI Stock Plate which converts it to a rifle stock.

Models are available in both fixed or folding models. I have been using the standard Brace Compatible Beam with just a foam cover for about a year now without a brace on a BRN-180 pistol receiver build. I can slip a 16” barreled BRN-180 rifle upper on and swap to the MWI side Folding extruded stock other the Alpha Series configured stock. As you might recall, the ATF allows pistols to transform back and forth between rifles and pistols - once a pistol, always a pistol.

Shown the reconfigured AR
pistol into rifle format

MWI Alpha Series Beam

The new Alpha Series was in essence the Gen 2 of the MWI Beam concept based around very broad adaptability. The Alpha Series Beam can be used bare as a receive extension, folding buffer-less “tube”, cheek rest, brace host, and stock. So if you are on the path to registering your gun as an SBR or just want one highly adaptable solution to move around from pistols to rifles and configure as needed, the Alpha Series is an amazingly flexible option. 

MWI also offers an Apha Series M4 Beam which is compatible with all standard carbine buffer tube compatible stocks. For the pistol owner, this could be used as a receiver extension and on a rifle or after an SBR tax stamp a stock could be added.  The other very cool feature of the Alpha Series folding and fixed Stocks is that it can be disassembled and reconfigured for different purposes and is specifically designed to do so. The Cheek Rest and folding mechanisms are ambidextrous configurable and the rear padded stock plate is adjustable up/down in several positions. The length adjustable model also offers a wide range of length adjustment. All Alpha Series models are designed to be compatible with the optional pistol brace adapter plate which can be covered simply with a protective tube cover or used with compatible bolt-on braces such as the Tailhook. If you are looking for some option for your picatinny rail pistol, take a look at what MWI has to offer.

Grey Birch La 10/22 Chassis with MWI Alpha Series Beam
Feddersen 10/22 Match .22LR Receiver & 7" Barrel
Kidd Trigger and Bolt & Hawke Optics Sidewinder 6-24
Ti Element .22 Suppressor Should be a fun build

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Henry Big Boy X Model 357 Tactical Lever Action Rifle Review

Henry Big Boy X Model 357 Tactical Lever Action Rifle Review

Everyone with a cowboy soul fell in love with the Henry Big Boy rifles with the classic brass receivers, hex barrels, and stunning stocks. For those that want to shoot fast, and attach things like lights, lasers, bipods and suppressors then it would take a lot of work to get a classic Henry Big Boy to do all that. For those that want the fun of the tactical capability of a more modern rifle which can allow simple attachment of accessories, deliver faster sights, side-gate and tube loading, and threaded barrel for suppressor mounting.

The Big Boy X Model delivers all the things you love plus the things we have all wanted from Henry in a more multi-function lever gun that we could knock around in the field like synthetic stocks, swivel studs, and a couple MLOK slots and picatinny rail for simple light and accessory mounting. We have kept asking for a threaded barrel for suppressor mounting and side loading to be able to top off the magazine. The Big Boy X Models include top rail mount threading holes for your choice of picatinny rail for optics mounting. The probability is high that most buyers will add a red dot, however Henry has included a Hi-Viz set of fiber optic sights which are excellent modern style sights for fast shooting.

Beyond those updates, the Big Boy X Model is a bit different from the original brass receiver Big Boy models. The X Models have round vs octagonal barrels, the receiver is steel and the loop is an intermediate size loop. Following a more typical side gate loading design, the X Models offer that feature plus can still be bulk tube loaded. Personally the tube loading is the fastest reloading option to refill the magazine tube, however the side gate does offer a quick option to to add one or two quick rounds. 

The Henry Big Boy X Models are fun to shoot and offer some great practicality in the powerful, accurate, light recoiling and quieter shooting .45 Colt, .357/.38 Special, .44 Magnum/.44 Special chambering. Shooting handgun rounds from a rifle offers a refreshingly pleasant report compared to crack of extremely high pressure and velocity MSR/AR rounds. Attaching a suppressor is simple via 5/8x24 threading, however I highly recommend using tri-lug adapters as this provides quick near instant on/off attachment of a suppressor and quick access to the tube loading feature which is blocked with a suppressor attached. The near silent report of suppressed handgun rounds shot in a rifle is something that has to be experienced.


Accuracy remained what I have come to expect from Henry Rifles Big Boys which is easily 1-inch 50-yard groups.

Model Number H012MX

Action Type  Lever Action

Caliber .357 Magnum/.38 Spl

Capacity 7 Rounds

M.S.R. Price $1,091.00

Barrel Length 17.4"

Barrel Type Round Blued Steel, 5/8x24 Threaded Barrel

Rate of Twist 1:16

Overall Length 36.3"

Weight 7.3 lbs

Receiver Finish Blued Steel

Rear Sight Fully Adj. Fiber Optic

Front Sight Fiber Optic

Scopeability Drilled and Tapped

Scope Mount TypeBB-RSM

Stock Material Black Synthetic

Buttplate/Pad Black Solid Rubber Recoil Pad

Length of Pull 14"

Safety Transfer Bar

Accessories - Swivel Studs, Large Loop Lever, M-Lok

Picatinny Rail

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Custom AR15 Paint Job - We don't have to CeraKote to have Deadpool’s Gun

Custom AR15 Paint Job - We don't have to CeraKote to have Deadpool’s Gun

Warning - If you are not a Deadpool fan, you will miss a few self created easter eggs painted into this article.  The weirdness/uniqueness of this build which I have now nicknamed “Deadpool” deserves some background as this was one of those custom projects which was never intended to be an editorial idea or anything more than an experiment.. ya, know like Hollywood actually making a real Deadpool film. It was something ugly which became beautiful in a way I never imagined. Yes… I did touch myself after building this rifle. [Easter Egg 1}

My buddy had this weird very early 1970 A2 AR15 with a peculiar giant 1.25” bull barrel presumably designed and produced as an ultimate National Match Rifle. From our research, it was one of the earliest Bill Wylde chambered production National Match rifle made to feature a .223 Wylde chamber. After discovering the barrel delivered lights out ½ MOA accuracy, my friend asked me to swap out the upper for a flat-top receiver to direct mount a scope without a goofy carry handle adapter. Naturally we worked out a trade for that old and retro cool Armalight A2 carry handle upper and gas block sight I was lusting over. About the same time Artisan Arms sent me one of their new Match 17.3” Feddersen blank based barrels to test out, so as we know the laws of AR15 building when you have two extra parts that fit together, you have a project started.

I had been craving an A2 carry handle AR15 build for a while after seeing my favorite Walking Dead character named Abraham Ford. He was a badass with an old school badass A2 carry handle M16 - and I wanted one. The traded upper was old, faded light grey, with a huge round forward assist button... it fit the look with an order style I rarely see on modern A2 builds.

With the orphan receiver pinned to an unmatched Outbreak Ordnance billet lower receiver, it was became one of the single ugliest builds I have created. The faded grey 1970s upper and beautiful deep charcoal black anodized lower was ugly.

To make the initial build look even worse the handrail I was using on the build was a customized Barnes Precision Machine rail. I had been milling the very old and dinged up Barnes Precision Machine quadrail to remove large portions of the rails partly to practice my milling and also to convert a great bombproof rail into something much lighter. The milling was decent but the freshly milled uncoated aluminum made the build look even more disjointed.

Another concept I wanted to personally test was co-witnessing a Primary Arms red dot on the handguard in front of the carry handle without a goofy cantilever handle adapter.

About halfway through the project, Star Distributing send over an Ace Skeleton Stock and then a crazy huge Phase 5 Tactical FatMan Brake and amazing brand new AR15 Timney 2-stage flat trigger arrived on my doorstep with nice notes asking that I test them out. I started to feel guilty that that I was going to use these really amazing looking and performing parts in such an abomination of a build. With the above parts, plus Strike Industries polymer ejection port cover and grip, a PWS BCG, and very old Phase 5 Ambi Charging handle this was one of those builds with $1500 worth of amazing components but looked it still like hell.

It was a project attached to a project attached to a bunch of test ideas and it looked like it. It was like that part of the movie Toy Story where all the weird looking toys had been put together with random parts… it was hard to look at even though I knew it would be an amazingly accurate rifle.  After seeing Deadpool, it was like “one avocado had sex with an even uglier avocado... and it was angry hate sex”. Even after recognizing the potential cost of the build, one of my friends saw it on my workbench and actually exclaimed “Damn that’s horrifically ugly.”  It needed a mask.

After seeing the amazing distressed BlownDeadline and Midwest Firearms Solutions CeraKote finishes I wanted to try that out on a gun - even a failed DIY paint job couldn’t make this gun any uglier. With that goal in mind, I thought there had to be a way for me to get this finish at home. I know everyone is all jazzed about DuraCoat and Cerakote, however the reality is that neither of these finishes are DIY friendly. Cerakote requires training and a high grade respirator to assure you do not get ceramic in your lungs and DuraCoat requires at the very least a LPHV sprayer and compressor which most of do not own. The finish for this project had to be spray can based because there was no way I was going to dump $400 on a custom cerakote job for this ugly build.

A superb option are the Brownell’s spraycan based AlumiHyde II and is relatively easy for the DIY’er to deliver a professional durable epoxy based finish as good as a professional Duracoat finish. AlumiHyde is not Cerakote, but AlumiHyde is a workable and durable alternative. After many projects, I have zero reservations about spraying down any project with Brownell’s AlumiHyde II assuming the required cleaning and surface prep is completed meticulously prior to painting. In fact even standard white and black epoxy appliance spray paints have delivered really durable finishes even when used in conjunction with the AlumiHyde colors for effects. The problem is that the colors are very limited to muted AlumiHyde camo colors plus the bright white and black of the appliance paints and I wanted some bright colors. Damn it, I wanted a freaky red and black gun with a distressed finish.

AlumiHyde resists chipping exceptionally well, the appliance epoxy has a bit harder finish and is not as chip resistant as the AlumiHyde but delivers a smoother finish. The Automotive ceramic enamel spray paint provides a rainbow of 500 degree heat tolerant color options and a beautiful smooth finish, but will chip like any high grade enamel if you start beating on it. Previous projects have had great durability with several AlumiHyde clear topcoats over the Ceramic Enamel automotive paint even from hard blows. A paint test was completed on a spare Glock Pistol box combining the black epoxy appliance paint as a base coat, the ceramic red enamel, another light wipe off coat of black epoxy, and and once all fully cured an AlumiHyde top coat to create the distressed finish and it worked.

Paint prep is essential. If you have so much as one little freaking dot of oil on anything it will catastrophically impact the entire paint job. I disassemble all the components completely and use a clean Dawn soaked scotch brite pad to clean everything, rinse thoroughly with distilled water, then dry completely by baking all the parts at 200 degrees for an hour, then I wipe everything down again with acetone and re-bake for another hour. After that point the parts are never handled without new rubber gloves on. All the parts or hung or suspended to avoid then moving and banging into each other. For this build the Ace stock was installed after cleaning and the entire handguard, upper, and lower was slide onto a broom handle for painting. This allowed 360 degree painting and a uniform distressing pattern.

I will throw out there that all the cool paint finishes you see on everything from BlowDeadline cerakote custom guns to custom stenciled paint themes have already been done millions of times by some old gal who likes to do craft projects. Your local craft store actually has an entire aisle dedicated to distressed painting themes and another aisle for stenciling, and another just for gold and silver leafing, so none of it is a freaking new idea. All those hot granny paint distressing videos on Youtube straightened me out and delivered some very educational content including the dry brush technique - Yeah! I may have even been holding a unicorn while I was watching the videos.

The old gals taught me that a distressed paint finish is nothing more than one or more base coat colors with a top coat color that is then partially removed by abrasive or chemical means. Apply several layers of a base paint color of the black expoy and fully bake it off dry for hours then coat with another paint like the red ceramic enamel and then fairly quickly top coat which was a black appliance epoxy paint. The base coat must be fully cured - like if it says it takes a week on the can, wait a week. If you do not, you will easily work all the way through the top, middle and bottom coats during the distressing process. This happened on this project and I needed to respray a few areas to assure the base anodizing was not showing.  Most people typically just use mineral spirits and a rag to do the distressing as I did here. You can use a Scotch Brite as well, but I think that is more work and leaves a rough overall finish. All the distressing on this project was simply with a rag and mineral spirits. Spray on, let dry and and wipe off a little here and there.  

If you want an even cooler effect, two, three or four colors could be used before the topcoat is added. An idea is to think of laying down red, white and blue base colors with a black topcoat and as you wipe off colors during the distressing process you get the colors of the flag. I am sure you get the idea that the distressing process is only limited by your imagination and educational old gal videos.

After all the distressing was completed and had air dried for a full day, I slipped the entire painted chassis into the oven at 150 degrees for two hours just to speed the curing process. After another day of air curing, I coated the completed chassis with four coats of AlumiHyde II matte finish and baked it again for 150 degrees. The oven is not required it just drastically cuts down on the overall curing schedule. Final touches were reassembly and adding some paracord form to wrap a portion of the buffer tube.

Once this gloriously bad ass build nick-named “Deadpool” was completed, a range trip was required to set up some steel and get “Deadpool” mouthing off.  With that giant Phase 5 FatMan Comp Deadpool is freaking loud and obnoxiously entertaining. The FatMan Comp is a very effective brake, maybe the best I have tested yet with exceptionally flat shooting performance. What is cool about this design is that although it looks long, half of the FatMan is a sleeve that slips over the barrel, so in reality it is an optical illusion that actually delivers a shorter overall compensator than most other compensators - and it looks freaking bad ass.

From a trigger happy perspective, the Timney 2-stage trigger delivers a superb trigger feel. The king of single stage triggers, Timney now offers two drop 2-stage triggers named the Targa. The Targa 2-Stage triggers are available with long and short first 2-lb stages plus the 2lb break of the final stage. Timney provided the $229 Targa 2-Stage Short version and has an incredible feel and brake for precision shots while still being fast during fast shooting.

I am sold on Feddersen blank based barrels and Artisan is the only current company offering finished and chambered barrels for OEM and retail sales. Of course showing the potential of this $260 Artisan 17.3” barrel requires a scope, but at the 25 meter zero target showcased a ¼” five shot group with just the Primary Arms push button red dot with a 50K+ hour run time during sight in. Based on a previous builds Feddersen Artisan barrels, I know this barrel will easily deliver sub-½ MOA 100-yards groups with a scope. The huge advantage of this Primary Arms red dot mount and setup was that it is a really tight little setup which still allows a handle mount optic with more power all without removing the red dot.

The unsung hero of this build was definitely the Outbreak Ordnance billet lower made by New Frontier Armory. The New Frontier lowers and the ones they OEM for other companies such as Outbreak are without question the best deal in the billet lower market. The lower delivers great looks and style with all the cool touches you would expect in a $200+ billet lower receiver. The lower features a heavily flared magwell, threaded bolt catch pin, threaded rear takedown pin detent, and upper receiver tension adjustment screw all for a $129 retail price.

For a gun that was never going to be anything more than just a ugly rifle for testing ideas, it amazes me how well it turned out and even shoots really well with a drop in CMMG .22LR conversion kit. Much like Deadpool, this rifle delivers obnoxious report, lots of durability, extreme precision matched with high speed and of course that classic great Red and Black mask that is covering up all the ugly underneath.


Check BROWNELLS for the best deals on firearms and accessories

Artisan Arms Micro MOA -
Barnes Precision Machine -
Strike Industries -
Phase 5 Tactical -
Primary Arms -
Star/JT Distributing - Ace Stock -