Thursday, December 8, 2016

Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope Review

Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope Review

Sure red dots are all the rage, however until you have peered through a prismatic red dot or optic, you have not enjoyed the in focus crystal clear huge field of view that prismatics deliver. Let me give you a couple of reasons you should consider the new for 2016 Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope. As a brand ambassador for, they were nice enough to supply this optic for review.

Your Eyes will Thank You - A huge benefit is that as eyes age, the more you will appreciate how an adjustable ocular will tune up that old eyesight to deliver a crisp in-focus image downrange. Many people benefit from the ocular tuning focus of a standard scope to make the target and reticle look nice and sharp, but that feature also extends to unmagnified prismatic optics such as the Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope. The downside it that you cannot use a magnifier with prismatic optics… well you can but it is a nightmare.

The Reticle is Etched - One huge benefit to this design is that the reticle can actually be etched (black) so even if the illumination is off or the batteries are dead, the shooter still has a black reticle to use. Because of the etching, the reticle no longer has that splashy red dot effect. Instead the shooter is greeted with a sharp and crisp well lit reticle regardless of illumination setting. The Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope has a dot and double circle for very fast target acquisition. In the case of the Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope, the shooter has the choice of an unilluminated black reticle or red or green illuminated reticle.

Enhanced Reticle Beyond a Dot - Since the reticle is etched it can be anything and the manufacturer is not stuck with just a dot. Though red dots are all the rage, experienced shooters will quickly admit that more visible and visually larger reticles will put shots on target faster. The circle/donut and dot reticle has become known as one of the faster reticles since the human eye picks up the reticle faster. Vortex has expanded this popular reticle design with a double donut reticle and dot design which they have called the DRT (Dual Ring Tactical) reticle. I am not sure that the reticle is a lot faster than a single donut, but the Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope reticle does seem faster to me - it sure is easy to pick up with the eye. In this case, extra donuts can make you faster.
This new Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope is more of a new optic than just an updated old version. Vortex still offers the first generation 2032 wafer battery powered model in 1X and 3X for the moment. Just like the first model, on the this new model shooters can select from un-illuminated black or red or green illuminated reticles with just the push of a button and the same awesome double donut dot reticle is still there. All the windage and elevation knobs feature waterproof caps and the ocular/focus can be adjusted and the optic includes an integrated high quality picatinny AR sight height base.

This newest Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope improves the features of the previous Vortex Prism models with a little better field of view, a little more eye relief, slightly smaller size, forward mounted controls instead of a rotary switch, features ½ MOA adjustments instead of 1 MOA adjustments, and is powered by a single AAA battery. There is also an extra 55gr 5.56 round BDC turret included which can be swapped with the MOA elevation turret to provide fast precision longer range shots out to 700-yards. The new Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope also has a $349 MSRP which is $50 less than the previous model. Optics Planet street price is around $250, which is a great deal for this quality of optic. The only potential downside is that the new Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope is fixed at a lower ⅓ co-witness height, versus the older model which allowed for a riser to be removed for an absolute co-witness mount.

The Vortex Spitfire AR 1X Prism Scope was mounted and tested on both a IWI X95 5.56 rifle and an Aero Precision based AR15 pistol. Notably this optic performed outstanding. Now that I am [cough] middle-aged, my eyes appreciate being able to tweak the focus just a tad for a crystal clear image. This feature alone would drive me to replace every red dot I own. The additional features also add up to a more useable red dot such as readily available AAA power, a reticle which does not even need power, the fast DRT reticle design, increased field of view, and the included BDC turret all add up to a really nice package that is tough to beat for $250. From my perspective prism based optics are THE way to go with red dots. Of course if you use code "MAJOR5" you can get 5% off your entire order of anything Optics Planet sells.


- Fully Multi-Coated Multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces increase light transmission.

- Prism-Based Design Delivers sharp optics and allows for unique reticle designs that are visible with or without illumination.
- Brightness Settings Provides 12 variable illumination settings—adjusts for use in very dim to very bright lighting conditions.

- Single-Piece Chassis Compact and lightweight.
- Nitrogen Gas Nitrogen gas purging with o-rings-seals delivers fogproof, waterproof performance.
- Waterproof O-ring seals prevent moisture, dust and debris from penetrating for reliable performance in all environments.
- Shockproof Rugged construction withstands recoil and impact.
- Hard Anodized Finish Highly durable low-glare matte finish.
- Operating Temperature Rated from -22 degrees to +122 degrees Fahrenheit.

- Comes mounted at a lower 1/3 co-witness height of 40.4 mm from the optic center to base surface.
- Provides five levels of brightness intensity with red and green illumination settings.
- Red/Green Reticle Option Allows shooters a choice of dot color.
- Battery Life 14-hour auto-shutdown feature maximizes battery life. Typical battery life is 250 hours at maximum brightness and 3,000 hours at minimum brightness setting.

- Magnification 1 x
- Objective Lens Diameter 25 mm
- Eye Relief 3.8 inches
- Field of View 79 feet/100 yards
- Adjustment Graduation 1/2 MOA
- Max Elevation Adjustment 120 MOA
- Max Windage Adjustment 120 MOA
- Parallax Setting Parallax Free
- Length 4.3 inches
- Weight 11.2 ounces
- MSRP - $349.99

Vortex Spitfire AR Prism Sight:
Vortex at OpticsPlanet:
Use code "MAJOR5" for 5% off your entire order

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tips and Recommendations for Building a Better AR15

Tips and Recommendations for Building a Better AR15

After nearly a hundred AR15 builds over the years of all types, shapes, sizes, configurations, and accessories including both forged and billet receiver, I have learned a few tips which have made my AR15 builds better, cleaner, less scuffed, less-problematic, and certainly easier. I would say that once a month still I pick up a new trick or tool that yet again improves my ability to build a quality rifle.

It should go without saying that using the right tool for the right job can make all the difference in the world, however when we all start our first build we do it exclusively with a claw hammer and ⅛” punch. The result is that the build usually has the scraps and scratches that makes it look like it was put together with a punch and claw hammer. Sure you can build an AR with this, however it you want to do it right without crying out in pain or anguish every five minutes you should plan on investing in some tools over time to make the job easier and more professional. Geissele particularly has offered some really excellent firearms specific tools and shop accessories.

Apron & Gloves - Get a long sturdy apron you can use in the shop with a pocket you can keep a supply of rubber gloves in. This are the single most awesome pieces of equipment you can own. Why? Because now you can actually do something in those dozen or so 5, 10, or 15 minute windows in the day all without getting covered in grime or getting a spot on your shirt right before you head out for dinner. $40 for a quality heavy duty long cooking apron + Rubber gloves is a wonderful thing. The pictured Geissele Shop Apron is long, large, adjustable, with plenty of pockets to keep tools and extra gloves handy.

Action Rod & Receiver Blocks - Your lap or the towel on your kitchen table is not going to securely hold the receivers and at some point that gorgeous set of receivers are going to go careening off your lap or table and bounding across a floor. Believe me, swearing during said event will not help prevent them from impacting the floor. The lower and upper receivers need to get securely mounted to something in order to work on them and the three tools I use continuously are a heavy mounted bench vise, the Geissele Reaction Rod $99, and Precision Reflex AR10/AR15 Upper Assembly Vise Block $53. All serve different purposes. Any heavy shop vise mounted to an immovable bench will work - my bench is bolted to the floor and wall to I can apply lots of torque without flipping my bench over (yes I did that with before I learned the hard way). A vise does not need to be elaborate or even new, but just functionally solid - I picked up one of my larger vises on clearance a Lowes for $25.

The Geissele Reaction Rod teeth lock into the barrel nut extension and allow you put God level force on a stubborn barrel nut without putting any stress on the upper receiver itself. It also allows you to turn the receiver around the rod which is crazy handy for installing handguards, optics, gas blocks, muzzle brakes, and forward assist pins. The PRI Vise Block is handy because it allows you to have the upper receiver securely pinned up to check the operation and fit of charging handles, bolt carrier, and optics mounting and to pull and push things on and off the receiver.

Geissele also makes a Reaction Block which will hold most lower receiver builds by the buffer tube. This is a handy third hand when I am assembling lower receivers and is a unique product since not many people have any options to affix a lower to a vise.  

Punches, Hammers, and Misc - All punches should be considered disposable/consumable items. Use them often and they will break and deform - just throw them away and buy new ones. Invest in a good quality set of straight un-tapered drift punches. I think mine are currently a sets of $15 Bostich or Stanley drift punches ranging from the size of a paperclip to around ¼”. You will need a very fine punch at some point if you ever replace the charging handle latch and the larger ¼” punch tipped with a spent 22LR case makes a great sight drifting tool. Another set of punches which are extremely high on my list are the Geissele Roll Pin, Trigger Fitting Pin, and Gas Block Pin Punch Set. They do wear out and I am probably on my fourth set, but they are simply indispensable.

Whether you are attempting to get into building cheap or buying everything on this list, a set of Starting Punches and Center Punches have to be on the list. The purpose built Geissele punches are REALLY handy, however the Starting Punches are used to get the Bolt Catch, Forward Assist, trigger guard, and gas block pins started and driven in as far as the punch will allow and the center punch is used to drive it just a tad further and recess the pin. Invest in a set of these and you will drastically reduce the chances of maring up a receiver.
A 2 or 3-ounce brass hammer is your friend for any gunsmithing chore. In all but the most rare situations have I ever had to reach for an extra small ball peen hammer for the extra power.  My 2-ounce brass hammer was $4 on Amazon so there is no reason everyone should not have one. A good non-marring rubber mallet is also a good investment and they are cheap to come by.

A set of fine needle nose pliers, an extendable magnetic pickup tool, strap wrench for handguards with “no wrench” barrel nuts, ball head hex/Allen wrenches, and set of channel lock pliers are basic tools that you will always use continuously.

When assembling an AR15 you should be using some type of high grade lithium grease to very lightly lube the receiver threads and barrel extension to avoid metal to metal seizing. A lube I love and use for everything from ARs to Glocks is a $10 jar of copper lithium based high heat Anti-Seize from O’Reily Auto Parts. A tiny little bit goes a very long way.

Andrew Barnes of Barnes Precision Machine turned me on to Mobil One Synthetic Motor oil as an all purpose lube. Along with WD-40, I now use Mobil One almost exclusively on all my guns as a general purpose lube. I have been testing Geissele’s new Go Juice which been a great lube as well and is formulated for the general purpose lubrication needs of firearms. Beyond the above lubes, a builder does not really need any other lubes with the exception of a spray can of brake cleaner for cleaning.

Do not be afraid of LockTite. Every muzzle brake, scope ring, handguard screws, selector screw, and castle nut I install gets LockTite applied. My only regret when doing a build is not using the Red permanent LockTite on the muzzle and castle nut which will delivers an extremely well built gun that will never loosen up. The barrel nut is the only thing that does not get LockTite applied.

Beyond using the above mentioned tools for their appropriate purpose, there are some other tricks I have learned along the way.  
  • The trigger should always get installed before the safety selector - I still screw this order up all the time.
  • Always consider upgrading the trigger guard before installing the standard one, even on the world's cheapest lower receiver… this part sucks to install, uninstall and reinstall and come on, cheap extended trigger guards are like $5.
  • A thick leather glove placed in the vise jaws is the non-marring third hand you are looking for.
  • Brownells AR15 receiver lapping tool
    it works and improves accuracy.
    Use a pencil and mark on the barrel’s gas block shoulder where the gas port hole is centered. Also mark the center of the gas block hole on the face of the gas block. When you assemble the gas block on the barrel all you have to do is line up the two witness marks for perfect gas port/gas block alignment.

  • Turn the un-installed gas block over and hold it next to the barrel in the position it would be installed. You should be able to see both the barrel’s gas port and the hole in the gas block. Make sure that when the gas block is slammed all the way up to the shoulder on the barrel that both gas ports are going to perfectly align. I have had many gas ports which require the gas block to be mounted up to 1/8” back away from the shoulder for proper alignment.
  • In my opinion, 300 Blackout and 7.62x39 AR barrel gas ports should be 3/32” minimum to function correctly. All of mine are ⅛” gas ports. If you see a 1/16” gas port on a 300BO or 762x39 barrel it probably will not cycle correctly and will have to be drilled out and opened up, but always test it first before any modifications.

  • Sliding an old gas tube or similar sized steel rod backward from the receiver exiting the front of the receiver will help you time/index the barrel nut to assure you get it perfectly aligned. If it is not straight, it could cause the case tube to hit the gas key funny and prevent the BCG from cycling reliably.
    Precision Reflex Barrel Nut tool is the
    Ultimate Answer to stubborn barrel nuts.
  • Sometimes handguards need lube to slide onto a barrel nut.
  • Using a Brownells Receiver Lapping tool to lap the face of your receiver will improve your overall barrel to receiver fit and has proven to me to increases accuracy.
  • LockTite the Grip Screw, muzzle device, and castle nut and optics mounting screws.
  • Super cheap sub-$50 upper and lower blemished receivers will not give you a “precision build” unless you get really...really lucky.
  • Always upgrade and install an adjustable gas block on 5.56/.223 builds - or other type of adjustable gas system unless you are buying a premium barrel with a tuned gas port. Adjustable gas block are inexpensive upgrades and you will send me fan mail once you get it tuned.
  • If you get frustrated, stop and walk away for a while… have some Black RIfle Coffee and come back to it later after you are really jacked up on caffeine.
  • A ¼” steel hitch pin and 1/16” punch from the hardware store will make installing the front pivot pin infinitely easier. Slide in the hitch pin, slip the spring and detent through the holes on the hitch pin, push down with the punch and turn 90-degrees. Now carefully push and slide the hitch pin out with the front pivot pin. Done.
  • The tiny hole on the front detent pin is for a paperclip or small punch to push down the detent to be able to remove the pin.
  • Do not crush the selector spring while installing the grip… say this three times.
  • The rear takedown pin can be removed with a stiff sewing needle without removing the buffer tube. Use the needle to push back the detent enough to rotate the rear pin 90-degrees and then removed. The reinstall is easy.
  • Yeah - sometimes fitting is required with sandpaper or a file. Just go slow.
  • Anything which has been painted will likely suck to assemble. Use an Xacto knife and sandpaper nail file to “tune” areas for install. If there is any type of paint or coating on the face of the receiver’s barrel nut threads a receiver lapping tool is highly recommended.
  • Yes, all Pinned front sight pins do require the force of God to drive out. Note - these pins are tapered and one side in smaller than the other. Hit the smallest sized head of the pin for removal otherwise you are tightening the damn thing. A large head starting punch and and large hammer will help get the pins moving.
  • Use the Primary Weapons Vise Block to lock in the receiver and level the top of the receiver on a flat surface. A piece of wood under the lower receiver works as well. Place a level on the top of the optic turret to assure the optic is level with the receiver.
  • Lubricate your buffer spring before assembly to quiet it down.
  • WD-40 is one of the most popular CLP - Cleaners Lubricants and Protectants. I use a lot of this to prep parts.
  • Wipe down the receivers and all moving parts before assembling them with some type of CLP… like WD-40.
  • Check every single bolt face at the range to assure it is the correct for the caliber you have the barrel for. I have had two situations where I was shipped the wrong caliber bolt.
  • Any AR rifles chambered in anything other than .223/5.56 should be labeled with a brightly colored zip tie around the muzzle so it reminds you this one is not like the others and you don’t make your gun go boom in a bad way.
  • A large $5 white beach towel on the workbench will help you see everything and also will prevent the dreaded parts bounce of doom which requires 20 minutes of looking for a dropped part.
  • A small dab of vaseline on the end of a pin or other tiny parts will usually help it stick in place to make it easier for you to install it. Excess is easily wiped off.
  • Low quality and cheap parts and receivers will still give you a functional build, however do not kid yourself that it is high quality. I have had more than my share of $30 parts kit parts fail or not fit correctly. Have fun with the cheap kits and experiment with paint and other DIY receiver finishes.

Obviously those folks who build AR15s as a job probably have other tips. In my experience this should cover the big tips, tricks and tools help you have a fun... build on.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Galil ACE Pistol GAP39SB First Look Review

Galil ACE Pistol GAP39SB First Look Review was fortunate to be one of the first writers to get their hands on the newly introduced Galil ACE GAP39SB. For those not familiar with the original Galil line, it was developed in the 1960s and has been tuned and tweaked over the years by IWI. The original design was an adaptation of the AK platform. In this case, IWI’s Galil ACE GAP39 pistol has been fitted with a new style Sig Brace with folding adapter and now dons the GAP30SB model name. The ACE GAP39 pistols are all fed via AK compatible magazines - in this case IWI includes a magpul AK PMag with the pistol.

If you want to mess some stuff up and need a small package to do it, this thing is freaking awesome. At this point we only have around 300 rounds through it, but it was fast targeting, 100% reliable, quick handling and impressively accurate for an AK 47 style pistol with a tiny 8.3” barrel. Loud? Hell yes, but not as bad as I have experienced with my Century Arms AK pistols. Notably the recoil was much more controllable than the AK pistols I have shot. Actually I love this pistol and format. I immediately started thinking of my friends at S.W.H.A.T - Special Weapons Hogs and Tactics, because this would be a great option for the backup guy responsible for managing charging boars.
A simple and inexpensive Bushnell TRS-25 was mounted to the integrated picatinny rail on the bolt cover. Generally this never works, however IWI has managed to engineer the top cover in a way that it is rigid and will still hold zeros shot after shot. I had no issues painting a 1” ragged hole at 25-yards with the little pistol off of sand bags or hammering the 300 yard 12” gong shot after shot.
Beyond, less recoil, improved accuracy over typical AK variants other refinements include really nice adjustable tritium sights with a 0-300 and 300-600 yard AR style aperture flip sights, integrated picatinny handguard rails and covers, integrated light switch hole on the covers, ambi-safety selector, and standard muzzle RH threads with a lock nut.

Look for a full review soon, but barring any issues I will have a few of my other AK pistols up for sale. So far the Galil GAP39SP is lighter, softer recoiling, more accurate, and much more ergonomic than AK pistols I own and have tested in the past, but it should be at twice the price with an $1850 MSRP.
IWI - Marketing Info on the GAP39SB
The Galil ACE SB features a side-folding Stabilizing Brace, produced for IWI US by SB Tactical LLC, designers and manufacturers of the original SB15 and SB47 Pistol Stabilizing Braces. Originally designed as a means for persons with limited mobility to operate and fire the AR-15 pistol, the custom adaptation of the Stabilizing Brace to the Galil ACE pistol takes the application of large frame pistol control and stabilization to a new level. With the IWI brace’s unique sidefolding feature, the Galil ACE SB can be fired with or without the brace extended depending on the shooters need. With the brace in the folded position, storage space required in your safe or range/rifle bag is minimized.

In all other respects, the Galil ACE GAP39SB is identical to the GAP39.
The modernized Galil ACE is based upon the reliable mechanism of the original Galil assault rifle first developed by IMI in the late 1960’s. Drawing inspiration from the legendary Russian AK-47 and the Finnish Valmet RK 62, the IWI Galil ACE has been continuously improved over the last 40+ years, resulting in today’s extremely reliable and highly accurate Galil ACE.
Improvements made since the original Galil was first developed include:
Charging handle (reciprocating) moved to the left side of the milled steel receiver allowing for weak hand operation
Weight reduction with the use of modern polymers
AKM/AK-47 magazine compatibility
Full length 2-piece Picatinny top rail
Picatinny tri-rail forearm with built in, slide on/ off rail covers with pressure switch access
Fully adjustable iron sights with Tritium front post
Caliber                   7.62x39mm
Action Semi-auto
Operating System Closed rotating bolt, long stroke gas piston
Magazine Capacity 30 rounds
Barrel Material Cold hammer forged, CrMoV, chrome lined
Barrel Length           8.3"
Overall Length 26.75"
Weight 6.5 lbs w/out Magazine
Rifling Right Hand, 1:9.45 inch twist
Brace Color Black
Sights Adjustable with Tritium front post and 2-dot Tritium rear aperture.
MSRP $1,849

Bushnell Optics -