Monday, July 21, 2014

TacProGear Covert Go Bag Light without MOLLE Review

TacProGear Covert Go Bag Light without MOLLE Review

During this year’s Make Big Noise PR event for select media in the Sporting Industry, I was delivered a “goodie bag” packed with eval items upon check-in at the hotel. The bag itself was also a “goodie” and was this TacProGear Covert Go Bag Light which I have been putting a beat down on since the event.

What is interesting about the TacProGear Covert Go Bag Light are summed up in two points: lightweight and covert looks.  This pack is not particularly rich on those features found on MOLLE’ed and heavily pocketed packs simply because the entire pack is designed around the goal of being extremely lightweight. The other reason is that the plainer it looks, the less it screams “Hey over here I am a Tactical kinda guy and probably have a gun on me!”  The Covert Go Bag Light is a very clean and concise design with only an exterior double sided CCW pocket and large main pocket.

The Tacprogear Covert Go Bag Lite without MOLLE webbing was designed for a quick hike or trek through town all while providing CCW handgun carry. It features a lighter weight ballistic fabric and simpler design. To test this pack, I loaded it down with a full sized laptop and H&K P30L and lugged it various places to work on articles such as this for about a month.

The minuses of this extreme lightweight design are less durability. Its a simple fact that you are not going to get the durability from this pack that you would with the heavyweight fabrics. In only a week I began to see some wear on the back bottom edge (a high wear area on any pack) from the heavy vintage laptop edges.  I did not see any other heavy wear areas. Its a lightweight pack, so I would not recommend loading it down as I did on a regular basis with a full weight laptop, but the new lightweight laptops should not be as harsh on the pack.
The upside is that this is a great size that will accommodate large heavy laptops on an occasional basis and definitely would tote the lighter laptops and tablets with ease and could still have room to pack in a change of close or pair of shoes. The TacProGear Cover Go Bag does is not particularly feature rich beyond its ultra-light weight, however it does have some thoughtful features.  The front CCW compartment is dual zippered-sided for ambi-access for righties/lefties. Internally, the compartment is covered with a field of Velcro which allows the included CCW tactical pistol wheel to be attached and positioned as required. The wheel, which looks like part of a kid’s toy, has a few straps to provide retention for almost any pistol or revolver.  I did note that due to the extreme thin and lightweight fabric, you do need to be conscious that some guns will print more than others and that a notepad or glove may need to be placed on top of the pistol to break up the profile.

Inside main compartment, is a larger zippered pocket, the cavernous main compartment space and a hidden velcro compartment which will accept a standard 10x12 ballistic plate. TacProGear kept the compartments to a minimum to reduce weight, but provided the abiliaty to carry an armor plate. Including Ballistic armor plates in backpacks has become all the rage now even for kids in school to help the kids have a fighting chance in “gun free zones”.  

For the tactically minded on the campus or on the street it makes sense in a single strap sling pack which can easily spin into forward position to offer some amount of body armor protection and shielding. The body armor plate is available separately from a variety of sources.  

I am a fan of single sling packs for lighter loads simply because they are fast to throw on and off and comfortable with lighter loads. The Covert Go Bag has a fairly wide flat pad-less strap which dissipates pack weight and features ambidextrous loops on each side of the pack for right or left shoulder carry.  The wide strap is not particularly comfortable, however it does the job on a lightweight pack such as this. TacProGear did add an additional sternum strap to provide an option for more “active “ situations.  Beyond a few MOLLE straps on the shoulder strap and on the bottom of the pack to attach additional accessories, the pack itself is void of any other MOLLE straps in order to save weight and add to it covert look.


FINAL THOUGHTS
If a user is intending on putting a long haul beat down on a pack this would not be my first choice, however it would be on the top of my list if weight savings is a priority. The Covert Go Bag is about half the weight of any other pack this size I own and still does the job in a very affordable sub-$70 pack. If you overload it, expect some quick wear.

If you are one of those extremely high speed guys, this is a simple and effective pack to be used as a plate carrier, a sub-machine gun, and a couple hundred rounds of ammo, however for me I just use this pack a lot is as a quick trip bag to just toss in a gun and light laptop or tablet device. Extraordinarily light pack for a great price for around $60 on the street.


SPECS
Weight:
Single ambidextrous padded sling with swivel buckles for easy removal
Dual-entry zippered pocket that contains Tacprogear’s proprietary Universal Tactical Pistol Wheel
Reinforced drag/carry handle
Internal plate pocket that holds a standard 10 x 12 ballistic plate
Additional internal zippered storage compartment
Color Options: Black, OD Green, Coyote Tan
Dimensions:6” D x 12.25” W x 17.5” H
MSRP $73.00

SOURCES

Monday, July 14, 2014

CMMG Beyer Dedicated AR15 .22LR Upper Build Review

CMMG Beyer Dedicated AR15 .22LR Upper Build Review

We all want to shoot more .22LR now that our beloved .22LR ammo seems to becoming available again at reasonable prices. For the AR15 shooter, there are a couple options. The first option is to just buy a dedicated .22LR AR format rifle such as the S&W M&P15-22 or one of Umarex’s Colt .22LR models for a little under $500. Another option is to build a dedicated upper or use a drop-in .223 to .22LR adapter Atchison/Ciener style conversion.

The drop-in conversions are simple and allow you to use your existing AR15 5.56 barreled action with just a bolt and magazine swap. The technically allow you to shoot .22LR ammo out of your .223 chambered rifle, but the sacrifice is that they generally deliver poor accuracy and reliability. 

The main reason for reliability issues of these conversions is that they usually require a higher power hammer spring to assure reliability which then requires very high velocity rounds to provide reliable cycling and charging of that heavy hammer spring. Accuracy suffers due to two reasons; because of the jump the bullet has to make down the conversion adapter throat to the rifling and the faster twist of a typical AR15 barrel which destabilizes the slower and shorter .22LR round. The result of using .22LR AR15 conversion kits is usually frustrating reliability and marginal accuracy.

If you want to shoot .22LR from a standard AR15 lower, then the only real option is to go for a dedicated upper receiver. Although high hammerfall force is still required for reliable ignition, I lusted for the accuracy potential a dedicated .22LR AR15 upper could deliver.

One of the leaders of very high quality .22LR conversions has been CMMG. CMMG has continually pushed the design envelop of the original .22LR Atchison/Ciener AR15 Conversions by creating an updated design which is more reliable, user friendly, with more available optional add-on features such as forward assist and last shot bolt hold open. The CMMG conversions are also fully compatible with the large supply of BlackDog .22LR AR15 magazines I already had on hand from drop-in AR15 .22LR conversions. BlackDog X-Form magazines are pretty much “THE” standard magazine of choice for almost every dedicated .22LR kit out there.

I previously tested the ATI Chiappa .22LR upper which delivered OK accuracy, so this time I decided to do my own build from the ground up using a .22LR Match grade barrel. My previous experience with Beyer barrels has been positive, so my thought was to use one of their cool looking fluted match AR15 .22LR barrels for this build.

THE BUILD
The general build specs of a dedicated AR15 .22LR upper is very similar to any other AR15 upper build. Actually, all the components are the same except for the dedicated barrel, barrel collar, and bolt assembly plus you can omit a few parts. The .22LR action is recoil operated with bolt movement limited within the length of the .22LR bolt carrier which does not have forward assist capabilities so you can omit a gas block, gas tube, and forward assist on the upper and the buffer spring and buffer on the lower receiver. If you already have a favorite lower receiver build, the buffer and buffer spring can be left in place when swapping between your 5.56 upper and .22 upper receivers, but just note the .22LR carrier does not reciprocate into the buffer tube.

You can use the same charging handle, upper receiver, barrel nut, and free float handguard as you would with any AR15 build. If you want a .22LR replica of your favorite AR15 upper, you can build it in .22LR. For this build, I used a Beyer AR15 Match Barrel with CMMG complete .22LR bolt carrier and barrel collar. The barrel and carrier slipped into an Aero Precision upper with a Parallax Tactical Slim 15” forend.  I initially left off the forward assist simply because the one I had was needed in another 5.56 build, however later on after the photoshoot, I installed one to complete the look of the build. Had I thought a little further ahead, I should have use one of Aero Precisions No-Forward Assist uppers.  


The initial upper build was complete in about 5 minutes after slipping in the Beyer barrel in the Aero Precision Receiver, installing the Parallax Tactical Slim barrel nut and forend, and finally sliding in a charging handle and CMMG bolt carrier. The barrel collar on the CMMG carrier just snaps on and off the Beyer barrel and can be removed or installed easily without tools for cleaning. I added a giant .22LR Tactical Innovations Muzzle brake. Done!  

I topped off the build with one of my favorite .22LR optics; the Nikon P-Rimfire 2-7x32 Matte BDC 150. This variable scope offers a really low 2X magnification for fast moving targets and up to 7x magnification for more precise target shooting. This P-Rimfire model features a swappable turret design for dial and shoot capabilities at extended ranges. Nikon supplies two turrets; one aligned to high velocity round and another for standard velocity rounds.  This allows for a pretty easy way to hit larger range targets with just the twist of the knob. Nikon also has other models with built in BDC (Bullet Drop Compensating) reticle.

I did go all out on the lower, simply because I needed “yet another” killer lower receiver to use for other builds.  I snagged one of Aero Precision’s newer Ambi Lower Reviewers with BAD ASS Ambi Short throw Selector. 

This receiver looks like any other standard Mil-Spec profile Lower receiver, however it features an ambi-bolt release lever on the right hand side and has markings specifically set up for the Battle Arms Development Short throw Selector switch. Having tested many manufacturers attempts at delivering ambi bolt release controls, I have to say that I think Aero’s design is one of the more common sense and user friendly of those I have tested.

Because I was already spending the money, I decided to upgrade to a Hiper-Tough Hiper-Fire 24E match Trigger to deliver that high hammerfall energy the .22LR detonation requires and really freaking awesome trigger feel. The rest of the lower receiver was completed with Mission First Tactical’s ENGAGE Grip and BATTLELINK Minimalist stock, a Barnes Precision Machine lower parts kit, and KNS Precision - Anti-Rotate Pins to dress things up a bit. The final completed lower receiver delivers a great blend of looks and performance.


FIT, FINISH, FEEL, FEATURES, & FUNCTIONALITY
The quality, fit and finish of the CMMG bolt is excellent. I previously tested an ATI Chiappa upper and there is zero comparison between the low end ATI quality and what CMMG is delivering. The CMMG design is a huge upgrade.  Just like my previous Beyer barrel for my 10/22 build, this AR15 version features the same high quality fit and finish which is a step up from Tactical Solutions aluminum sleeved barrels. The Beyer barrel is more precise and more durable due to the 7075 aluminum sleeve versus competitors 6061 sleeves. Beyer also uses a proprietary Benz style .22LR match chamber which I have found delivers a good blend of accuracy and reliability across a wide variety of ammunition. There are all metal full weight barrels on the market, however for a .22LR I believe it is better to keep weight down to encourage use by younger shooters.  The Beyer barrels are definitely light, but just a bit heavier than typical aluminum sleeved barrels.

The Tactical Innovations giant muzzle break does nothing other than look cool. I had it rattling around in my parts bin, so I thought this build would be a fun use for it. The TI brake slips on to any .920 bull .22LR barrel and is secured via a set screws. In this case, I just secured it to the removable thread protector on the end of the Beyer barrel. Its a fun accessory, not a performance upgrade.

Functionally the build works well, however initially I did have some cycling reliability issues with standard velocity (sub-sonic) ammo such as CCI SV, SK, and Lapua, however high velocity rounds delivered the near flawless functioning I see from my M&P 15-22 rifle right out of the shoot.  The problem is that as any match chambered barrel, the Beyer barrel really performs its best with standard velocity rounds.

Over the last couple months, I have noticed that a couple thousand rounds later, my reliability went way up, so I have less and less problems with the Beyer barrel’s prefered high accuracy ammo. My best group with Lapua Center-X was just under ½” at 50-yards which is excellent for an AR15 .22LR upper. By contrast, the three drop-in .22LR AR15 conversions I have tested barely could hold 2” groups at 25-yards… one delivered far worse accuracy. The M&P 15-22 is not inaccurate, but it cannot come close to delivering ½” 50-yard groups.

A dedicated AR15 .22LR upper is the way to go for those who want accuracy. Winchester M-22 ammo functioned perfectly as did a bulk Survival Tin of Federal .22LR HV ammo. My best groups with high velocity ammo were from CCI Velocitor ammo which coincides closely with my accuracy results of the 10/22 Beyer barrel I tested previously.  I did find that I needed to keep the CMMG bolt well lubed or I started seeing various reliability issues at the beginning. About every couple hundred rounds, reliability was returned with a solid oil soaking of the carrier.

Of note the HiperFire trigger is really a magically upgrade and seemed to all but eliminate light strikes. A great trigger which I like more and more.

FINAL THOUGHTS
There are some teething pains and a pretty long break in process for one of these builds, however I don’t think anyone will complain to much. In some ways I had these same issues with customer 10/22 builds. My customer Kidd 10/22 rifle is just now finally humming along after about 2000+ rounds.

Is the cost of a dedicated .22LR upper justified? Well, its easy to justify from a cost saving perspective now that .22LR ammo is returning to the shelves at reasonable prices. Even a high end dedicated .22LR AR15 upper, such as this, can pay for itself quickly just as a trainer. Add in that you are spending more time behind the same lower receiver you shoot defensively/competitively/hunting, and its a big win for building gun familiarity. It is also a great option for those who want an accurate .22LR upper for their favorite AR15 lower receiver and you can even build the upper with the same components to replicate the feel of your current .223/5.56 upper. Obviously, for the cost I have invested in this upper, I could have just purchased a complete S&W M&P 15-22 or Umarex .22LR AR15 model as these are regularly on sale for under $500. Doing that would not be quite the same.

For me, I have an M&P15-22 and have had the Umarex models, however I wanted a dedicated upper which worked with my existing lowers and delivered better accuracy and reliability over my previous ATI Chiappa upper. This build works well enough for me as long as I keep it well lubed and fed with high velocity rounds and most importantly, it has been an absolute blast to shoot.


UPPER SPECS
Beyer Barrels
Fully machined to precise, match grade tolerances from exceptionally hard 7075 aluminum
Light weight ranging from 13-18 ounces
Barrel shanks are oversized to .001" and may require a little sanding to fit receiver
Barrel: 22 LR Ultralight Target, AR15
Price: $244.00
Caliber: 22 Long Rifle
Chamber: Custom Beyer Match .22LR Chamber with recessed target crown
Finish: Matte Black
Length: 16.5
Diameter: .920
Twist: 1-16
Options: Fluted
Product Notes: Threaded

CMMG Dedicated .22LR Bolt with Collar - 22ARC - MSRP $219.99
Tactical Innovations - M110™ MUZZLE BRAKE .22LR BULL BARRELS - $29.99
Aero Precision Stripped AR15 Upper - $79.99
Parallax Tactical Gen2 15" Free Float Super Slim Rail (FFSSR) - $199.99
Nikon P-Rimfire 2-7x32 Matte BDC 150 - Reg. $179.95
Black Dog X-Form Magazines - 10-30 round magazines available - $20-$30

LOWER SPECS
Aero Precision Ambi Lower Reviewer with BAD ASS Ambi Short throw Selector -  $250
Hiper-Touch Hiper-Fire 24E Match Trigger - $225
Mission First Tactical - ENGAGE Grip and BATTLELINK Minimalist Stock - $89 Street
Barnes Precision Machine - Lower and Upper parts kit - $69.99
KNS Precision - Anti-Rotate Pins - $29.99

SOURCES

Also used in this build
Parallax Tactical - http://parallaxtactical.com
Tactical Innovations - http://www.tacticalinc.com/
Mission First Tactical - http://www.missionfirsttactical.com/
Battle Arms Development - http://www.battlearmsdevelopment.com/
Black Dog X-Form magazines - http://blackdogmachinellc.net/

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Little Machine Shop HiTorque 3960 Tabletop Mill Review

Little Machine Shop HiTorque 3960 Tabletop Mill Review


After a long wait and even longer decision process, I decided to spring for a table top mill. One which is much more capable with harder materials and with significantly more capacity, power, and flexibility to tackle even larger sized home fabrication and machining projects. I do have a 14” tall 20lb $400 Micro Mill from Proxxon which is a wonderful tool, but in essence a glorified precision Dremel Tool in Micro Mill format. It works great, accepts Dremel bits, but definitely has its capacity, power, and bit size limitations. Even for finishing a roughed in polymer AR15 80% lower receiver with the drill press the little Proxxon worked but was painfully slow and at its limits. I needed “more power”.

For the “semi-serious/professional” home hobbiest, a “table-top” mill offered a very nice balance between taking up a garage stall with a huge floor standing mill and still having a large enough tool to be useful in something that fits on a bench. Keep in mind that your typical Mini Mill is around 160lb, about 24" x 20" x 30" in size, maintains .001” tolerances, and generally built or milled from cast iron. These “tabletop” mills are not light or light duty by any stretch of the imagination, however they do not weigh 2-tons either. The new class of mini-mills such as this Little Machine Shop HiTorque 3960 Mini Mill delivers over ½” end milling and drilling capacities and nearly two square feet of table movement.

After looking around at tabletop mills from Grizzly, Harbor Freight, and MicroMark, I choose the Little Machine Shop HiTorque 3960 model simply because it offered more capacity, torque, and features than the competition. They were also the most helpful on the phone in determining which mill would be the right fit for me. I put the HiTorque 3960 to use immediately finishing various 80% AR15 lowers and working through a number of other little customer projects.


Like many of the available Mini-Mills on the market, you will still need some sort of startup tooling kit which includes at bare minimum a vise, a few mills and arbors. Some of the more comprehensive tooling packages include extras which most pros rarely use with a mill.  I settled on Little Machine Shop’s Essential Package which included a premium vise, mill bits, and accessories; enough to get me started without going crazy with things I didn’t need. I did add a drill chuck because it is always handy.

ABOUT LITTLE MACHINE SHOP
The company was founded by hobbiest for hobbiest. The result has been a continual drive to deliver the highest quality and the most feature rich machines. Their goal has been to deliver the features of the big expensive floor standing machines in less space and for far less money. Based on my experience, they are delivering on that customer promise with machines

FIT, FEEL, FINISH, & FEATURES
My Little Machine Shop HiTorque 3960 and accessories arrived via common carrier. It was dropped off next to my garage and I gleefully cracked open the crate to inspect my purchase. I always say that you know you purchased something seriously cool when it arrives via common carrier on a pallet. Even though I knew the specs, the HiTorque 3960 was far bigger than mentally what I was expecting and far heavier as I was deadlifting its stout 160 lb weight onto my bench. This mill is about the maximum size weight I would want to drag into the basement or move around with just one person. The next size up to a floor standing mill model would require several burly looking men with special moving equipment. For me this is the perfect size.

Several reasons I choose the Little Machine Shop HiTorque 3960 over other models were a fixed and precalibrated (to 90 degree) column which the mill head rides on, it is brushless motor which delivers smoother and considerably more torque than other standard typical brush motor designs, the fit and finish was higher, and the table X and Y axis movement was more than other competing models.

The HiTorque 3960 features the most powerful motor and highest low-speed torque in its class, no gears in the spindle drive, the largest table and X-Y travel in its class and a standard R8 spindle. Many people think they want a tilting vertical column to mill various angles, however the challenge is that on any mill realigning the vertical column to a perfect 90 degrees is a painful and time consuming process. Additionally, a solid column adds exponentially more strength and stiffness to the overall mill and cannot be torqued out of alignment during milling. Unless you have a very specific need for milling angles, Little Machine Shop and the other competitors all seriously recommend steering away from an adjustable column mill.

Setup was simple. Uncrate, un-bolt from the crate and bolt down on your bench. I attached and squared the vise on the table, slide in a collet and two-flute end mill, lubed all the sliding points, and was ready to start my maiden project.

FUNCTIONS
With all these features, one would ask what type of cool projects you could make with a Little Machine Shop HiTorque 3960 mill?  My first project was transform a few scrap pieces of Lexan into luggage tags for the kids camp bags with initials milled in them. This was a simple little project to get acclimated to the controls before I started on more complex projects.



My next project was to work through a variety of 80% AR15 lowers to make my own AR15 pistols and rifles. Some of those 80% lowers were forged 7075 aluminum, other fancier billet 7075 lowers, and some even polymer. In all cases the Little Machine Shop HiTorque 3960 performed perfectly and accurately without stuttering or sputtering. The 3960 ran well across a broad array of materials and delivered great looking milled finishes on all materials. Mills and collets were easily switched and the simply and easy continuously variable RPM was a huge plus as materials and cutting speeds/depths varied.


As you can see on this Matthews Carbine billet 80% lower, the final project was very good and functionally perfect.


FINAL THOUGHTS
Its one thing to be a DIY'er who paints or carpets a room, however another all together who is machining parts and items from solid chunks of material - these folks I term as fabricators. I fall into this segment where I actually use a mill more than a couple times a month for various projects. At this point the only limitation I would really like to have is a little more height on the Z-axis (up and down). This would allow a little more room for the long bit on the drill press to work on taller pieces, however as spec'ed the HiTorque 3960 is an outstanding tabletop mill which delivers very high quality product and enough features to keep me from wanting more. Excellent investment for the home fabricator.


SPECS
Little Machine Shop HiTorque 3960 High Torque Mini Mill
Most powerful mill in its class
Most low-speed torque in its class
No gears in spindle drive
Largest table and X-Y travel in its class
R8 spindle (Includes R8 to 33JT drill chuck arbor, but no drill chuck)

The LittleMachineShop.com HiTorque Mini Mill is the best in its class. It has the most power, most torque, and a larger table than other mills in its class.
This mill has a solid column. It does not tilt from side to side. This construction is significantly stiffer than the tilting column on other mini mills.



The 500 Watt brushless spindle drive motor provides tremendous low-end torque. And you can vary the speed from 50 RPM to 2500 RPM continuously. There are no gears to shift. And, with no gears, the HiTorque Mini Mill is the quietest in its class.

The large mill table provides 50% more table area than other mini mills. It also has 30% more travel in each direction. The resettable feed dials allow you to zero them at any point.


The HiTorque Mini Mill has drill press handles for drilling and fast motion of the mill's head. It also has Z-axis fine feed with 0.001" resolution for milling operations.

MSRP $779.00
Solid Column - Non-Tilting Column
End Milling Capacity0.6" (16 mm)
Face Milling Capacity.2" (30 mm)
Drilling Capacity0.5" (13 mm)
Table Size 18.1" x 4.7" (460 mm x 120 mm)
T-slots3 slots 0.47" (12.0 mm) wide
X-Axis Travel 1.8" (300 mm)
Y-Axis Travel5.1" (130 mm)
Z-Axis Travel9.8" (250 mm)
Throat6.5" (165 mm)
X- and Y-Axis Feed Screws0.062" (1.59 mm) per rotation
Head TiltNone
Positioning Accuracy0.0004" (0.010 mm)
Spindle TaperR8
Spindle Motor0.67 hp (500 Watts)
Spindle Speed00 - 2500 RPM
Power Requirements 20 V 60 Hz 8 Amps
Machine Weight 24 lbs (56 kg)
Base Dimensions (W x D) 8.5" x 14.2" (216 mm x 362 mm)
Mounting Holes Center to Center (W x D) 7.00" x 11.88" (177.8 mm x 301.6 mm)
Overall Dimensions (W x D x H) 23.2" x 19.7" x 29.1" (590 mm x 500 mm x 740 mm)
Weight 161 lbs (73 kg)
Crate Dimensions (W x D x H) 23.6" x 24.8" x 27.0" (600 mm x 630 mm x 685 mm)

Essential Tooling Package
MSRP $464.00
Tooling Package, R8 Mini Mill Premium
All the best products to get started with your R8 mini mill right now
Workholding - 3" precision milling vise, parallels, clamping kit, 1-2-3 blocks
Toolholding - R8 collet set
Cutting tools - end mills and center drills
Blocks, 1-2-3 Ultra Precision2881 Blocks, 1-2-3 Ultra Precision
Box, for 3" Parallels2367 Box, for 3" Parallels
Center Drills, Cobalt Set of 5 (Numbers 1-5)4859 Center Drills, Cobalt Set of 5 (Numbers 1-5)
Clamping Kit, 7/16" T-Slot 144 Clamping Kit, 7/16" T-Slot
Collets, R8 Set of 13, Professional Grade4860 Collets, R8 Set of 13, Professional Grade
Edge and Center Finder, Fisher 959 Edge and Center Finder, Fisher
End Mill Set, 6 Piece 2 Flute Cobalt4888 End Mill Set, 6 Piece 2 Flute Cobalt
End Mill Set, 6 Piece 4 Flute Cobalt4887 End Mill Set, 6 Piece 4 Flute Cobalt
T-Slot Cleaner 263 T-Slot Cleaner
Vise Mounting Kit, Mini Mill3125 Vise Mounting Kit, Mini Mill
Vise, 3" Precision Milling, Heavy 699 Vise, 3" Precision Milling, Heavy
More - edge finder, vise mounting kit, T-slot cleaner

SOURCES
Little Machine Shop - http://www.littlemachineshop.com

Monday, June 30, 2014

H&K Heckler & Koch P30L 9mm Pistol Review

H&K Heckler & Koch P30L 9mm Pistol Review

I have always wanted a $1100 H&K pistol about the same way I have always wanted a BMW 7 series. In reality there are many cars far less expensive which can deliver the utility of the BWM, however with the Beemer, you get a style and exclusivity which many cannot afford. I still do not have the $85K for a low end 7 Series, however I decided to plop down the cash for the H&K P30L after seeing it at SHOT show 2014.

Beyond the exclusivity of the H&K brand and style, one of the main features which grabbed my attention was the simple but effective rear decocker. Other features that sealed the deal include the H&K trigger guard magazine release,which I have become a huge fan of, as well as the outstanding ergonomics. In many ways this H&K P30L delivers a nearly identical ergonomic experience as the Walther PPQ M2 which I am totally enamored with, but it does it with H&K style and features.









ABOUT H&K - HECKLER & KOCH
H&K P30L (top) vs Walther PPQ (bottom)
Obviously as a German company, Heckler & Koch's history dates back prior to WWII as a defense manufacturer, however at the end of the war, the company was disbanded. In 1946 the company was reformed as H&K initially as a bicycle and sewing machine manufacturer, however by the 1950s, the company was back at it developing firearms and weapons. Since that time, H&K has consistently been on the bleeding edge of firearms designs. Some designs  put them on the map as a top tier firearms manufacturer and design house... others not so much.  One such idea that never took off was a ceaseless ammunition rifle and ammo. Basically the powder was compressed in a manner which allowed it to durably function as it's own case. H&K was the first to develop this caseless select fire rifle which I am still not sure why it was not insanely popular with the military folks. Perhaps it was too cutting edge of an idea and begs the question if someone offered a Star Wars Blaster, would the military reject it just because it does not look like an M4. H&K was also the first to develop hexagonal rifling which many companies now use to improve accuracy and reliability across a diverse array of ammo.
H&K P30L (top) vs Walther PPQ (bottom)

Successful cutting edge designs obviously include Heckler & Koch delayed roller sub-machine guns and pistols, however for the general populace they also had some edgy designs which were still very successful. From a pistol perspective, I thought the polymer VP70 Volks introduced in 1970 with a stunning 18-round capacity was one of the most futuristic production pistols I had ever seen and it still remains futuristic looking today over thirty years later. The pistol was initially hot because of the huge capacity and followed with an amazing 29-year production life. The collectable HK P7 with its squeeze cocking device is still a gun a lust after even though they are going for more than this new HK P30L. Meanwhile companies like Colt and Springfield are just recently getting into polymer pistols.  So you get the idea that H&K are innovators and this HK P30L is one of H&K's newest designs.
H&K P30L (top) vs Walther PPQ (bottom)

FIT, FEEL, FINISH, & FEATURES
The P30 series has been an enormous success for H&K with the military and police as a solid reliable pistol platform which delivers H&K innovative features in a design which is not too unfamiliar/strange when compared to other pistols. Plainly put, the P30 series is not so cutting edge that no one wants to adopt it and features just enough H&K cool stuff to deliver more than the the rest of the polymer pistols on the market.

The fit and finish are excellent as you would expect. The molding is well defined and precise around all areas of the pistol. This pistol is offered in a number of versions and calibers.  The P30L is basically a 1/2" longer barreled version of H&K's very popular P30 designed with the addition of the "L" on this model. Beyond the barrel length, the P30 and P30L are identical and can share all accessories, holsters and magazines. Essentially, the H&K P30L is the same size as a standard Glock G17 but with a 15-round capacity versus zone G17's 17-round capacity.  The H&K P30L is infinitely more comfortable for me than... well, any other pistol with the exception of the PPX and PPQ Walther pistols.

I know I have bantered on my soapbox that the comfort of a defensive pistol is secondary as long as it not uncomfortable, however this is a different type of purchase. I don't need leather and hand burnished burl wood in my car either, however you tend to expect these things in a high end car and a high end pistol. For a retail price tag about twice that of most other similar full sized 9mm pistols, you expect refinement and that is exactly what the H&K P30L delivers. Unlike my Uber comfy Walther PPQ, the H&K P30L features three sets of Small, Medium, and Large back straps and grips to tune the already incredibly comfortable grip to your perfect wide and backstrap feel. I spent the better part of an hour playing Gun Barbies with the grips and settled on the medium side panel and back straps initially already installed on the H&K from the factory. Mrs. Pandemic found that the large grips for her very long fingers fit her best. From a car perspective, I suppose this would be the equivalent to playing around the seat height, angle, and lumbar support on supple leather seats of a BMW 7-Series... or so I imagine.
H&K P30L (top) vs Walther PPQ (bottom)

The P30L is beefier than the Glock and marginally heavier with a more substantial breach and thicker bits here and there in key stress areas. The design team added a slip on buffer to the recoil spring and guide rod which in theory increases service life and shooter enjoyment. The H&K P3-L was the softest shooting between a side-by-side testing of a Glock 19, Walther PPQ, and H&K, however the difference was not significant.

Beyond sheer durability, one notable feature is the H&K paddle magazine release. The rationale for this release is that is greatly reduces a Jam/Condition 1 loose magazine pistol failure caused by the mag release button being accidentally hit in the holster or during the draw stroke. Another reason is that the paddle mag release provides true ambidextrous magazine release features even if the pistol is transitioned to the weak hand during fire. In some cases, I could see that this release could actually be faster than a standard release because you trigger finger can drop the magazine without a hand reposition while you reach for the mag, but that would require completely re-training oneself to use this feature efficiently. The reality is that with fifteen rounds on tap, it is statistically unlikely that you will ever need to reload your firearm in a gunfight, and in that situation you would be best served with the pistol magazine fully seated and somewhat protected from accidental release.

The pistol is fully ambidextrous with dual slide releases, magazine release levers, and a serrated decocking button located on the rear of the frame. H&K designed the extractor to also serve as a loaded chamber indicator providing a reminder of a loaded chamber that can be subtly seen and felt.

My P30L features luminous (non-radioactive) tubes housed within big beefy looking steel front and rear sights which worked just fine during day and night testing. To assure you know what is in front of you making that bumping sound in the night, the pistol provides a pretty long picatinny rail for mounting lasers and tactical flashlights.

All these cool features aside, the biggest feature for me is the double action and single action capabilities of the pistol. Many pistols do this however most add in some stupid superfluous safety or decock lever which gets in the way and just irritates me as Glock shooter. That noted, you will at some point need to decock and drop the hammer and the preferable method is a decocking lever to safely drop the hammer. H&K delivers a design which moves this decocking lever from the side of the pistol where it is typically in the way of normal charging and malfunction clearing operations, to the back of the pistol next to the hammer. Once the bad guy is down or your Steel Action Target is all painted silver, you can just reach up with your thumb and touch the button on the back of the slide and the hammer drops safely.  I love it.
For a full sized defense pistol, I really do like the idea of a that the first shot has a heavier trigger pull and then transitions to a lighter single action trigger pull for follow up shots, however in most cases you need a hammer fired gun to do this. Obviously, if you have the time to cock the hammer first, you are treated to a lightened single action trigger pull which does increase first shot accuracy.

Many manufacturers still offer hammer fired pistols such as Sig, Beretta, and others however no one moves the damn decocker out of the way. I cannot count how many time my support thumb has pulled the decocker on Sig or S&W instead of the slide release when attempting a speed reload. I am not such and idiot that it happens every time I shoot these pistols, however it happens more than I feel comfortable with on one reason I prefer Sig's 226SAS model.  The Beretta 92F additionally has the problem that you can actually put the gun in safe during a draw, charge and fire drill especially if you are used to a striker fired pistol. H&K gets the decocker out of the way to the back of the pistol. A small detail, but another level of refinement you see on the H&K P30L.


This is a defensive pistol so it does have some trigger take up and the trigger reset also is long compared to some striker fired pistols. Compared to the Walther PPQ or a Glock, the H&K P30L trigger pull is a little longer for both the single and double stage, however that is a feel you get with a double action/single action trigger pull.  The trigger pull on the P30L is similar to Sigs, Smiths and other similar Double action hammer fired pistols. For me if there was a weak point on the pistol, the trigger would be it. I would really like the pistol to have a bit crisper break, however that might be a odd criticize for a pistol designed to assure that when you pull the trigger you mean it in a defensive situation. For a defensive trigger it works, however I would like it to have been more refined.


FUNCTION & ACCURACY
Just like a Glock, I am confident I could use soft turds and dirt clods as bullets and this P30L would feed perfectly and it did even with real bullets and my reloads (which in some cases are spec-wise close to turds).  Accuracy was excellent a bit better than any of my factory Glocks, Sigs, and Walthers easily delivering 1" groups at 25-yards off sand bag rests with most .

FINAL THOUGHTS
If we look at what defines premium, generally German brands are usually on the top of the list. In cars we have brands like BMW and in guns we have brands like H&K. The fit and finish of this pistol is outstanding as are the features packed into the H&K P30L.

SPECS
P30L
Caliber 9 mm x 19
Recoil operated weapon with modified Browning locking system and recoil buffer system
Dimensions v3
Overall length 7.56 in.
Overall height 5.43 in.
Overall width w/lever 1.37 in.
Barrel length 4.44 in.
Sight radius 6.42 in.
Weight With magazine 1.72 lb
Magazine 0.20 lb
Magazine capacity 15 Cartridges
Trigger system SA/DA
Trigger pull (N) * 20 + 4/-2 (SA)  51 +/- 5 (DA)
Trigger travel .25 inch (SA)  < .55 inch (DA)
Sights Fixed (Open square notch rear sight with contrast points)
MSRP $1100  - Street $900

SOURCES

Heckler & Koch H&K  - http://www.hk-usa.com/