Thursday, May 18, 2017

Let There be Weaponlight - Streamlight TLR-2 HL G and Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro

Let There be Weaponlight - Streamlight TLR-2 HL G and Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro

The biggest weapon lighting trend at this year’s SHOT show was integrated weapon light and laser combos. Streamlight and Crimson Trace both had some of the most well integrated models I saw at the show each with their own unique features.

Previously, I was not a weaponlight kind of guy and really saw these as entry tools for the tactical elite, but my mind has been changed. After getting literally destroyed but a guy a Streamlight TLR-2 equipped airsoft trainer during the Armed Movement in Structures training course by Shivworks, I left convinced that a combo light and laser weaponlight is an undeniable advantage… literally the guy destroyed us round after round. Where the advantage of these lights becomes clearly apparent is when working through clearing or defending very dark areas or in mixes lighting areas.

The light and laser equipped gentleman in question had gone through the Armed Movement in Structures training before and had experienced the same in-training realization that lights and lasers are game changers.  If you are clearing a dark room the light delivers the ability to illuminate those dark areas or areas you think you might have seen something. Creative backlighting and/or use of reflective surfaces with a weaponlight can also help you see hiding silhouettes which were not visible before.

Yes, green lasers are better than red. What you will see is that red lasers wash out easier in light or on darker colors. Green lasers are much higher contrast for the eye, so even during very fast movement on a shooter, you can still stay on target.  As a defender hunkering and bunkering these light/laser give you an option to surprise, identify and engage targets extremely effectively and quickly. There were more than a couple situations where we were surprised to see a green dot on our chest followed by a painful airsoft reminder of our exposure.

Light, Laser or Light and Laser Combo
The idea of a weapon light with laser is not to take the place of a hand held light, but as a tool to help identify, distract, control, disable, sight and engage after a potential threat has been identified. Most people would understand that using a loaded gun as a flashlight is not the best idea when checking on kids in the middle of the night, but neither is firing a gun and holding a flashlight at the same time if you have actually trained on this. A weaponlight takes over where the handheld light leaves off and allows for full weapon control and/or a free hand for opening door or securing a kid.

Both of these lights deliver on these weaponlight capabilities and feature a high output LED light with a high contrast green laser integrated into one unit. Both of these models deliver light only, laser only, laser and light combo and a laser and strobe light settings. On the street the retail price of either of these weapons light ends up around $300. Between these two units the decision really is size and convenience versus brighter longer range power. There are certainly a number of manufacturers offering combo laser light weaponlights, however I liked the execution of these two models the best of all the models I have handled.

Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro - Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro packed a bright 100-lumen LED light and green laser weapon light combo into a super tight small concealable package compatible with any weapon with a picatinny rail. The little LED is far brighter than you would expect and the green laser is plenty bright for daylight use. The Railmaster Pro is literally only a little wider than most weapon mounted compact laser sights with a MSRP of $380. The Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro is about half the size and a third less weight than the full sized Streamlight.

What I really like about this unit is that it is the basically the same size as most compact trigger guard integrated weaponlights, but is in a format that can be easily moved from one handgun or rifle to another. If you have a smaller compact gun like a Glock G26, Walther PPS, HK P30SK or other similar sized compact gun or do not want a giant weapon light hanging off the end of it then this is the right sized weaponlight for your gun. I also really like this for small compact AR15 pistol builds which when mounted at the and of the rail acts likes a handstop. Attachment is via two bolts and a variety of included weapon specific rail adapters.

In a time where we have access to 800+ lumen lights 100-lumen may not seem like a lot or enough, however in reality it is more than enough for movement inside a home or office building, and sufficient for distraction and positive identification of a threat. There are a lot of people who consider anything over 200-lumens too much light for typical defensive room clearing, because an overly bright light can actually blind the use from reflected light off walls. This light fills the requirement for a weapon mounted light which can more than sufficiently identify an attacker from your son slipping into the window at 3AM. 100-lumens is quiet enough to illuminate most standard sized rooms, stairs, and closets when you hear a bump in the night.

The function is really simple and the paddle actuators are about the same size as a full sized light and are hard to miss offering tap on tap off functionality. These large paddles are an important feature of the Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro which is that it feels and operates like a full sized weapon light in a compact size. Often the finger operated buttons on the small trigger guard attached lights/lasers are something you have to think about to use and can be easy to miss with a finger in a tactical situation. More importantly most of these small flat integrated buttons can be literally impossible to use with gloves. The Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro has a giant cannot miss paddle on each side which allows a finger thumb or even a boot heel to activate the light. This is a really unique feature that made this light stand out for me during the review and a feature which clearly stands out when you move the light to an AR15 pistol or SBR.

The Streamlight TLR-2 HL G - The Streamlight TLR-2 HL G is decoded as Tactical Light Rail 2 High Lumen Green Laser. This is considered the beast in the industry with a blinding 800-lumen light with a super bright piercing green laser wrapped in a very durable billet aluminum casing with heavy duty mil-spec polymer parts. The giant full sized Streamlight TLR-2 HL G weaponlight lacks reasonable concealability, but it is a better option as a crossover light that you would move between a pistol and rifle while still delivering the light output needed for rifle use. The downside is that the TLR-2 HL G has an MSRP of $580, but the street price is shockingly similar to the Crimson Trace.

What I really like about the Streamlight TLR-2 HL G is that is delivers a level of brightness far beyond what is expected for a light this size. You really do not expect 800-lumens from a light this size which turns night into day… and eyesight into blindness. If you get hit with this light you are not seeing anything until your eyes readjust which gives the owner plenty of time to take a shot or maneuver around you. The huge light output is both a blessing and a curse as there is so much light that in really tight confines or without a lot of attention to when the light is used, reflected light is so bright is can actually blind the user.  On the other side of the argument, you can hit any area of a room and light up every corner of the room with all that output. One of my friends note the green laser was sole piecing and it is crazy daylight bright. For those situations where you might reach out a bit further or even use this light for predator control, the brilliantly bright LED and laser in the Streamlight TLR-2 HL G is a huge benefit.  If you want to add a pressure switch, the Streamlight TLR-2 HL G is equipped with a remote-pressure switch port. Like most full-sized weapon lights, the Streamlight TLR-2 HL G offers an adjustable quick release style screw, but can allow the light to be attached or removed quickly.

One of the features I liked the most about this particular weapon light was that it allowed direct access to all the settings without going through a menu thanks to the lower toggle switch. The lower mini toggle can be easily changed on the fly from light only, laser only to both laser and light. The actuation paddles pivot up and down to activate momentary or constant on operation of whatever mode is selected. Double tapping the momentary switch accesses the strobe function. It is one of the most intuitive weapon lights I have found.

Of note, both Streamlight and Crimson Trace offer a wide array of mighty fine full-sized and compact-sized light and laser weapon lights however I personally liked the operation these specific models the best. It really came down to the ease of operation and use. Neither of these are cheap weapon lights, but they are a tool you can depend on with your life. Let me tell you first hand, you can die fast in the dark without one of these lights.

The Rail Master Pro™ Universal Green Laser Sight & Tactical Light combines two tactical tools in a single compact unit. The versatile unit is designed to fit most modern pistols, rifles and shotguns with an M1913 Picatinny or Weaver-style accessory rail. A powerful green laser anchors the unit and provides up to 1 hour of continuous use on a single CR2 Lithium battery. The Rail Master Pro also includes a powerful 100 Lumen white light for target identification. The unit features four operational modes including: Laser/Light Constant On, Laser Constant On, Light Constant On, and Laser w/Light Dazzler. Activation is instant, with Tap On, Tap Off controls and a programmed Auto Shut Off at five minutes to conserve battery life.

Attachment Accessory Rail
Activation Mode Switch Activated - Light only, laser only, or both
Sighting Factory Sighted at 50' - (Re-zeroable)
Battery Type CR2 Lithium Battery X1
Laser Output Up to 5mW Green Laser
Activation Mode Switch Activated
Laser Visibility Approx .5 Inch Diameter at 50 Feet
User Adjustable Windage and Elevation
Installation User Installed
Warranty Three Year Full Warranty
Color Black
Dot Size Approx. 0.50" at 50'
Light Output 100 Lumen LED White Light
Light Specs 100 Lumen LED
Weight 2.5 ounce including battery
Size 2.25 L x 1.3 W x 1.4D inches
MSPR $380

LED and Green Laser combo tactical light.
Engineered optic produces a concentrated beam with optimum peripheral illumination
Green laser provides high-visibility long-range targeting

Laser 510-530nm direct drive green laser
Light C4® LED technology, 50,000 hour lifetime, Impervious to shock
Lumens 800.00
Candela 15000
Range of Light 245 meters
Runtime 1.50 hours
Battery Styles Non-Rechargeable
Battery CR123A Lithium X2
Length 3.390 inches (8.61 centimeters)
Weight 4.780 ounces (135.51 grams)
Colors Black
Attachment Accessory Rail
Activation Mode Switch Activated - Light only, laser only, or both
Sighting Factory Sighted at 50' - (Re-zeroable)
MSRP $580

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Magpul X-22 Backpacker Ruger 10/22 Takedown Stock

Magpul X-22 Backpacker Ruger 10/22 Takedown Stock

Magpul has been on an aggressive innovation design track for the last couple years with one product after another. One of the coolest products from this year’s 2017 SHOT show was the Magpul X-22 Backpacker Ruger 10/22 Takedown Stock. Magpul took all the great features and ergonomics of their awesome X-22 stock and created a light packable version specifically for the Ruger 10/22 Takedown stock which allows for compact storage of the barrel and receiver.

The notable feature of the Magpul X-22 Backpacker Ruger 10/22 Takedown Stock is that instead of a separate barrel and separate receiver flopping around in you pack, Magpul has designed the hand guard to lock into the under part of the buttstock. This provides an all-in-one stowable secure rifle solution which does not require a secondary soft case to keep parts from banging around.  Deployment is easy - press the release buttons on each side of the handguard and the barrel releases from the buttstock and the barrel breech is pulled from a passed hole. This little hole that the breech keys into offers protection to a critical part of the barrel which if damaged or dented could cause significant problems.

The barrel is then just slipped into the receiver like any other Ruger 10/22 Takedown model and rotated into place. Simple. This stowable feature is the big feature, but there are still plenty more Easter Eggs hidden in the stock.

From a feature perspective this is a standard sized stock with real buttpad and does not feel like the dwarf stock Ruger has included with the factory takedown models. The funny thing is that although the Magpul stock feels larger, it is actually shorter than the factory Ruger stock.  The Magpul X-22 Backpacker Ruger 10/22 Takedown Stock features a MOE SL compatible buttpad which means that if you want, you can extend the length of the stock by about .5” with a .7” buttpad swap. The larger size has not gone to waste. Magpul has hidden a sizeable ammo compartment and water-resistant compartment inside the stock.

The stock includes a flat and elevated cheek rest. The cheek rest is actually a hinged lid for the ammo compartment which can accommodate three full loaded 10/22 10-round magazines or one magazine and a 50-round paper box of ammo with still a little room to spare. What I liked about this compartment is that it is configurable with slip in dividers. Technically you could jam far more than 60-rounds of ammo plus other items into this space if you worked at it. The taller riser does provide additional space compared to the low riser.  Because I had AR style Techsights on my Ruger 10/22 Takedown I was able to use the high rise cheek rest and maximize my onboard storage.

The other little compartment is located in the base of the grip and is o-ringed and water resistant. The plug is quite tight so I would imagine that it should do a pretty decent job of keeping water out unless the gun was submerged either deep underwater or for an extended period. I would probably place dry tinder or matches in a secondary waterproof bag before stuffing it into this area. In this case a partially disassembled ferro rod with flammable firestarter tinder paracord fit easily into the grip with room to spare.

Though I was not able to test other Magpul accessories, the Magpul X-22 Backpacker Ruger 10/22 Takedown Stock is compatible with Magpul QD mount inserts at four point on the stock and is compatible with the new Backpacker optic mount which provides a solid base sized for any red dot optic.

Install is so simple it only requires about five minutes and just a standard head screwdriver. Of note, the Magpul Receiver and Barrel groups both re-use the factory screws. Unscrew and remove the factory barrel band and handguard from the factory barrel assembly. Unscrew and remove the reciever from the factory buttstock and reverse the previous two processes to install the Magpul X-22 Backpacker Ruger 10/22 Takedown Stock. Really… it could not be more simple.

I would say the gun feels world different and is infinitely easier to shoot, but I still think I would be still somehow under emphasizing the significant ergonomic upgrade over the factory stock. To be fair, the factory stock never felt even close to comfortable for me - it worked, it was just not comfortable. The Magpul’s ergonomics also felt like they delivered more stability than the factory stock. The only downside to the upgrade is that the handguard is a reduced size, but I am more than willing to make that trade for the other features the Magpul X-22 Backpacker Ruger 10/22 Takedown Stock provides.

Even with a standard 18.5” barrel, the Magpul X-22 Backpacker Ruger 10/22 Takedown Stock delivers a disassemble 19.5” packable size. It is tiny… well no, but keep in mind this stock’s length of pull is actually about ¾-inch shorter than the factory Ruger stock. It could be slide into larger sized packs, but is still a little large for most 3-day sized packs. I am looking forward to swapping out the factory barrel for perhaps a lightweight sleeved match grade Whistlepig or Volquartsen barrel to shed a bit more weight. The bottom line is this is a really excellent stock which has some innovative features and features which solve problems like shrouding the barrel breech from damage. This is as good as it gets to pack up your Ruger 10/22 and take it with you.

The Magpul X-22 Backpacker stock takes the function of our full-size Hunter X-22 Takedown, and pares it down for ease of storage and transportation. Made for the Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifle, the X-22 Backpacker offers a minimalist solution for the hunter or outdoorsman who wants to transport their rifle in an efficient, convenient package without compromising shooting performance.
Constructed of a durable advanced polymer, the X-22 Backpacker features an ergonomic hand guard, optional QD sling mounting capability, integrated storage compartment in the grip, a hinged storage compartment in the stock capable of storing up to 3 spare 10rd magazines, a MOE SL non-slip rubber butt pad, and a unique locking interface to attach the barrel assembly to the receiver when being transported. Fits all Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifles as well as the Tactical Solutions SBX barrel.
- Made in U.S.A.
- Drop-in design compatible with all factory Ruger 10/22 Takedown
​- Unique locking interface to attach the barrel assembly to the stock body when being transported
- Reinforced polymer construction for strength and durability
- Ergonomic handguard
- Comes with interchangeable standard and “optic height” cheek risers
- Optional QD sling mounting capability
- Integrated storage compartment in the grip
- Hinged storage compartment in the stock capable of storing up to 3 spare 10rd magazines
- MOE SL nonslip rubber butt pad
- MSRP $109.95


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ruger Precision Rifle .223/5.56 Nato RPR Review

Ruger Precision Rifle .223/5.56 Nato RPR Review

Ruger shocked and stunned everyone when they introduced the Ruger Precision Rifle dubbed RPR for short. It was a rifle that featured loaded top end upgrades all in a rifle that can actually print tiny groups and retails for around $1500 on the street… and now they offer this great gun in .223/5.56 NATO and it can freaking shoot.

The Ruger Precision Rifle is competition killer in the factory precision rifle market from a number of perspectives. It includes everything you could possibly want on a custom target rifle and if you do want to upgrade the design the grip, buttstock, forend and selector are all AR15 compatible items. Swapping out triggers is easy as well and rebarreling to one of the many aftermarket options only requires a barrel block and some leverage.

It is all included - billet precision chassis, fully adjustable buttstock, folding stock adapter, AR compatible safety, outstanding factory trigger, tri-lug style bolt, free floated AR15 compatible forend, and AICS compatible box fed magazine. Ruger offered the RPR in .308 and .243 (now discontinued), but they have also kept up with the competitive precision shooting markets demand for 6.5mm Creedmore and 6mm Creedmore. Now of course Ruger has the RPR in the insanely cheap to shoot .223/5.56 Nato chambering.

Bushnell ERS First Focal Plane
Optic is the perfect optic to take
advantage of the
accuracy potential of this rifle
Sure the .308, .243, and Creedmore rounds are fun to shoot, but there are a lot of us who want a “trainer” gun that feels and shoots like our precision gun, but does it at greatly reduced per round price. Maybe there are even a few of us that just want a really accurate .223 bolt action that still feels like a full sized rifle. Though the 6.5 and 6mm Creedmore rounds are “the new .308” and can do everything in a hunt the .308 can, I will say first hand that 6.5 Creedmore are not cheap to shoot by any means. Now we have the .223/5.56 Nato Ruger Precision Rifle which is a delightful duplicate of the other models that you can shoot all day long without a sore shoulder or emptying your wallet.

Without question, varmint hunters are going to love the exceptionally accurate .223 RPR, however I believe this is going to become a hit with two other types of customers - customers who want a trainer for their larger bore guns, and customers who want a precision rifle that “feels” like their AR15 and shoots the same caliber.

As a trainer, even if the Ruger .223 Precision Rifle is only used to practice trigger pull, grip, shooting position, general marksmanship tactics and perhaps hammer a few critters in the process, the gun would pay for itself in ammo savings in only a few thousand rounds. Really, I have to tell you those insanely accurate Hornady 6.5 Creedmore ELD Match rounds are not cheap. The Hornady .223 equivalent are half the price of 6.5CM and a good reload recipe could deliver further savings. This is the category I fall into; wanting a training gun that will allow me to fiddle around with shots and shooting positions to find my sweet spot all without blasting $2 rounds down range. There are a lot of range days that we want to “feel like we are shooting the big gun” or are training a new shooter but just do not want to shell out the cash.

I have a lot of friends in the other category of potential .223 RPR owner who do not want to add managing yet another caliber to their firearm inventory. For them the huge selection of .223 ammo for match, plinking, hogs, and other game is enough. The price point, precision, and user friendly nature of the .223 RPR makes it a perfect fit for these shooters.

Most would expect that the .223/5.56 NATO Ruger Precision Rifle would duplicate the larger calibers in size, length and weight and it does. In fact this rifle is exactly the same weight as the .308 model. Ruger did go with a .223/5.56 NATO chambering presumably some type of .223 Wylde chamber which Ruger notes is completely cross compatible between the calibers. Ruger has really set up this smaller caliber RPR to extend the precision range with a 5 gove 1:7 rifling to stabilize heavy longer bullets better. One feature which I really liked on the original larger caliber rifles was that they were cross compatible between Magpul LR20 and AICS magazines.

The .223 is not and is only compatible with Remington Short Action .223 AICS size magazines. Personally this is disappointing that I cannot run any of the hundreds of GI spec AR 15 magazines on this gun. There would be some real cross compatibility advantages to that in the field, but alas the Ruger only feeds from AICS mags. The reason Ruger went with the much more expensive AICS sized magazines was to allow round with 77gr or heavier .223 bullets to fit, function and feed. If you are going to create a precision rifle, then I suppose the compromise you should be able to shoot the best heavy bullet you want.

The trigger on this unit was not as good as previous RPR triggers I have tested. Our primary tester jokingly noted that the trigger felt like Ruger’s three stage trigger. There was a noticeable second stage before the third stage break. In this case, I would say a Timney trigger upgrade is in order.

As with all the other Ruger Precision Rifles, the .223 model is also a tack driving ½ MOA gun with the right match ammo. We tested a number of .223 Hornady and Federal rounds including Hornady 68gr, 75gr, and TAP 55gr, PMC Bronze 55gr, Federal Match 68gr Sierra Match King, and standard M855 steel core penetrator rounds. The Ruger Precision Rifle performs its best with high grade match ammo. The best two 100-yard groups were Federal SMK 68gr .383”, and Hornady Match 75gr. at .375”. Notable the Federal SMK 68gr round was the clear accuracy favorite in our test averaging .453” across all three of the three-round groups.

100-yard Groups
Federal Match 68gr Sierra Match King - .437”, .383”, .54”
Hornady 68gr Match - .602”, .687”, .531”
Hornady 75gr - .743”, .375”, .773”
Hornady TAP 55gr - .700”, .756”, .649”
PMC Bronze 55gr - 1.908”, 1.717”, 1.386”
GI standard M855 - 2.49”, 2.81”, .699” - Not really sure what to make of this inconsistency

Sure were were able to punch some plinking grade groups with PMC Bronze and the M855 Steel Core rounds were about the same, but feed the RPR the right high grade match ammo and suddenly you are greeted with considerably better than ½” groups at 100-yards. The Federal 69gr Sierra Match King rounds consistently delivered the best groups. Unfortunately we did not have any 77gr rounds to test with.

In my reviews of the first RPR, I asked where my .223 version was and Ruger delivered. The total Ruger Precision Rifle package adds up to a gun which shoots extremely well, is stunningly accurate for the price and is loaded with pretty much everything you could want in a precision rifle for far less than any other offering on the market. 

Ruger… simply amazing gun for the price… now where is my rimfire variant?

Stock Folding, Adjustable Length of Pull and Comb Height
Barrel Length 20"
Barrel Cold Hammer-Forged, 5R Rifling
Handguard Ruger Precision Rifle™ Short-Action
Twist 1:7" RH
Grooves 5
Weight 9.8 lb.
Capacity 10
Height 7.30"
Overall Length 39.25"-42.75"
Length of Pull 12" - 15.50"
Folded Length 31.60"
Width 3.30"
Suggested Retail $1599.00

  • 5.56 NATO "Target" chamber safely accommodates 5.56 NATO cartridges while providing maximum projectile control and accuracy for both 5.56 NATO and .223 Rem cartridges.
  • Medium-contour barrel features a Ruger Precision Rifle® Hybrid Muzzle Brake to effectively reduce recoil while minimizing noise and blast to the sides of the shooter (thread protector included).
  • Cold hammer-forged 4140 chrome-moly steel barrel with 5R Rifling at minimum bore and groove dimensions, minimum headspace and centralized chamber.
  • 20 MOA Picatinny rail secured with four, #8-40 screws for increased long-range elevation capabilities.
  • "Upper" receiver and one-piece bolt are precision CNC-machined from pre-hardened 4140 chrome-moly steel to minimize distortion.
  • Three-lug bolt with 70° throw features dual cocking cams and a smooth-running, full diameter bolt body.
  • In-line recoil path manages recoil directly from the rear of the receiver to the buttstock, not through a traditional bedding system, providing maximum accuracy potential.
  • Ruger® Precision MSR stock with QD sling attachment points features a bottom Picatinny rail and soft rubber buttpad. The left-folding stock hinge is attached to an AR-style buffer tube and accepts any AR-style stock. Length of pull and comb height are adjustable.
  • Equipped with a Ruger Precision Rifle® Short-Action Handguard for improved scope clearance for long-range scopes.
  • Magazine well front is contoured for a positive grip for bracing against shooting supports.
  • Oversized bolt handle for positive bolt manipulation, with 5/16"-24 thread for easy replacement. Bolt disassembly tool is stored in the bolt shroud for easy striker channel cleaning. Also features a Ruger Precision Rifle™ Billet Aluminum Bolt Shroud.
  • "Lower" magazine well halves are precision machined from aerospace-grade 7075-T6 aluminum and are Type III hard coat anodized for maximum durability.
  • Ruger Marksman Adjustable™ trigger is externally adjustable with a pull weight range of 2.25 to 5.0 lbs.; wrench is stored in the bolt shroud.
  • Extended trigger-reach AR-style grip and 45° reversible safety selector. May be configured with any AR-style grip and selector.
  • Barrels can be easily replaced by a competent gunsmith using AR-style wrenches and headspace gauges.
  • Also includes: Two, 10-round, Ruger AI-Style Precision Rifle magazines compatible with longer, higher ballistic coefficient projectiles.