Saturday, November 26, 2011

LED Lenser M1 M14 H7 Light Review

LED Lenser M1, M14, and H7 Light Review

I am admittedly a LED light bigot with my favorite brands which everyone has heard of.  When I first saw LED Lenser brand, I thought ohh great yet another premium LED light, but I am the curious type and took the plunge first with one and was so impressed that I bought another, then another LED Lenser light. The LED Lenser lights I picked up were the full sized 4 x AA powered M14, 3 X AAA powered H7 headlamp & single 123A powered M1 micro tac light.


How could a hard core tactical light guy fall for a new “none tactical” brand?  The German Engineered LED Lenser lights deliver unique features including one of the most brilliant bright white lights, focus-able beams, higher then average light output, and long-run times.
LED Lenser’s has several advantages over other lights including AFS (Advanced Focus System), SLT (Smart Light Technology), super premium LEDs, gold plated circuits, aerospace grade aluminum and
anodizing, and perfectly machined bezel.

AFS - Advanced Focus System combines both a lens and reflector into the patented LED Lenser lights.  The LED Lenser AFS provides both the advantages of the reflector’s broad flood light and a lens’ ability to provide a tight focused spot light and everything in between with just the slip of the thumb forward or backward on the bezel. The result is a much tighter and brighter spot light and a more consistent edge to edge flood light. As you can see in the photos below of me lighting the ground about 5 feet in front of me, the same light can provides complete control and functionality of both a very wide flood and narrow beam spot light just by moving the thumb forward.

SLT - Smart Light Technology adds intelligence to some of the LED Lenser lights with choices of operational modes and energy modes accessed by various momentary and full clicks of the tail switch.  The Basic SLT operational modes on the M1 provide additional 15% power and defensive strobe settings, while the Advanced SLT lights provide sets of operational programs grouped into Defense, Basic and Professional modes with different operational intents.  The Advanced SLT Energy Saver and Constant Current modes allow a choice between best battery life or highest light output.
Every manufacturer is working to optimize light efficiency all while maximizing light output, however a great reflector and LED which most companies are focused on will only get you so far.  Operational efficiency on the LED Lenser is increased not only because of top end reflectors, but due to smarter gold plated circuitry and higher grade LEDs which enable LED Lenser to deliver higher output and longer run times than many

The LED Lenser line is solidly build from aircraft aluminum with water resistant o-rings. The M14 and M1 are both build on the same chassis design but scaled to different sizes and of course the H7 is for head mounted lighting duties.

At 6.4” and 12.9oz is The M14 is a belt or home sized flashlight.  The LED Lenser M14’s body is about the diameter of your standard Mag-lite and provides room for the quad-AA battery core. This does make for a larger sized flashlight with some heft; however the function and 210-Lumen output greatly outweigh the size disadvantage if you are not concerned about weight. The M14 comes with a belt clip and lanyard.
Only requiring a single 123A battery the M1 is tiny at only 3.8” and 2.8oz which in additional to its140 lumen focus-able beam makes for one of the most powerful tiny lights available.  One of the things I have grown to love about this little light is that it is a size convenient to carry all the time.

The H7 Headlamp’s compact 1” head adjusts easily for fit regardless of whether your head is bare or capped.  The H7 is a very light weight 4.2oz that you can easily forget about while you are wearing from a comfort and weight perspective. When not in use the H7 can be stored in the neoprene type belt case. 

The most unique features of all the LED Lenser lights are the AFS ability to manually focus the beams from a long reaching spot to very broad flood.  Some of the LED Lenser lights, such as the M14, have a lot of other programming functionality, however it was the focus functionality which sold me on the LED Lenser brand because it adds a huge amount of utility to the lights with a much brighter overall beam. Now when I let my old half-blind dog out for the night I can have a nice big consistently lit yard flooding light, but if I need to see the buck grunting 100+ yards away all I have to do is slip the focus ring forward on any of the LED Lenser lights for a powerful focused spot.
The LED Lenser M1’s features are impressive starting with the ability to manually focus the beam and standard click on/off/momentary tail switch, however the little M1 is also equipped with Basic SLT which also provides a 15% power and defensive strobe. The big appeal to the LED Lenser M1 is that tiny size that could even mount on a keychain, super light weight, and 140 lumen output.  More impressive is that the M1 does
all this running on a single 123A lithium battery with 5 hours low power and 3 hours high power run time.  This 140 Lumen output exceeds many top end tactical lights all with run-times about the same as a light powered by two 123A batteries. From a practicality and survival perspective, I like the fact that this little light is more efficient and provides the same amount of light but only eats batteries at half the rate.  The M1 is a tiny size and has found a daily home slipped into my back pocket next to my wallet.

The H7 Headlamp features the focus-able beam and also has a simple beam intensity/power adjustment on the 3-AAA power box to allow for tuning just enough light and allowing you to extend run-time.  Operation
of the H7 is both fast and convenient with the simple touch of switch right on the headlamp. The H7 headlamp tilts to put the light right where you need it without having to readjust the placement of the headlamp on the head which is handy if you have a mixed lighting need that requires working near the ground, straight forward and overhead. Pair the tilting headlamp function with the ability to adjust output intensity and beam width from a broad flood to narrow spot light and you has a truly versatile head lamp. The power of the H7 is impressive with the ability to range from 2.5-150 Lumens and paired with its hands-free use can really prove  extraordinarily handy versus the other option of mouth mounting your flashlight.  On the lowest power setting of 2.5 Lumens the H7 can run for 63 hours and even on high setting you still end up with 4.5 hours of runtime.
The 210 lumen LED Lenser M14 is the programmable feature loaded light like nothing I have ever owned with a variety of capabilities and modes. The M14 offers three different Defense, Easy, Professional modes to choose from which limit or extend access to the light, dimmer, blink, strobe, and SOS features and increase or decrease the run-times and light outputs.  Honestly it took me a few minutes to figure out all the programming features of the M14 and in the end I selected the straight forward Defense mode.  Where the other modes provide other additional features such as SOS and dimming, the Defensive mode allows a momentary, double click constant on, and defensive strobe feature.  This is the first flashlight I have owned that was programmable. The programmable capabilities are great; however the very bright 200 lumen light output is the most significant feature. The light output is the equivalent to holding a headlight in your hand which can be tuned from a massive flood light to a spot in an instant. From a convenience and survival perspective the ability to run on AA batteries which are available everywhere was another key selling point and the M14 will even run on rechargeable batteries as well.  If the end of the world comes or you are simply on the edge of civilization, chances are 123A batteries will be rare, but you will still be able to find or recharge AA batteries and can still use your M14.
Most tactical high output lights scream military and frankly lack the style or size most urbanites would carry on a daily basis.  The LED Lenser M1 and M14 on the other hand have a cool modern look to them.  If you are looking for a gift-able light, then I would highly recommend the M1 and M14 lights.  The M1 should be on everyone’s gift list and would be just at home in a suit jacket as a purse. With the exception of the headlamps their hand-held lights all come in a very unisex stylish black box that makes a high end statement and will definitely be the gift that gets used.
The LED Lenser lights have surprised me in a very good way with exceptional and surprising run-times and light output both brighter and whiter than most premium flashlights. The light output is very bright and very white when compared to other high end tactical lights.  Cycling through modes can be a little confusing and until I wrote this article I did not even realize the M1 had defensive strobe functionality. LED Lenser has attempted to make the using the SLT technology as easy as possible however unless you consistently use the different modes, you will be consistently asking yourself was that two clicks or three.  LED Lenser has packed significant technology into these quality built lights all while still offering them at a price competitive to other premium tactical lights.   I have noted more than a few times, everyone needs a tactical light with them at all times, for convenience, for security, and for potential survival and I believe LED Lenser are some of the best lights I have owned yet.


LED Lenser

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Troy Industries Drop-in Battlerail Review

Troy Industries Drop-in Battlerail Review
Like many I found myself having the need to attach a few options to my AR and extend my top rail for simpler optics mounting. In this case, the hand guard broke on DPMS Oracle kit. The Oracle kit has been featured in a number of previous articles and honestly the gun gets the hell beat out of it on a regular basis. Apparently it cracked one of the 100 times I slammed it against a support. Although not a big deal, the last thing I wanted to do thought was pull off the gas block and remove the flash hider just to mount another handguard. 

Troy Industries has been the leader in hard use aftermarket AR accessories for some time and has a solution with their Troy Drop In Quad Rail. The Troy Drop In Quad Rail allows you to replace your plastic hand guard with a rock solid optics stable quad rail in about 2 minutes all without removing your front gas block/sight and muzzle brake. Troy’s Drop In Rail is a simple professional strength non-free floating direct replacement for all M4//M16/AR15 carbine length plastic hand guards.

On the box Troy states it takes about two minutes and they were right on the mark. Replacement was as simple as disassembling the Troy Drop In Quad Rail via four screws, removing the old hand guard, popping the Troy quad rail on, and screwing it back tight via the four screws.

The fit is exceptional and rock solid thanks to Troy’s patented clamping system. I expected a minute amount of wiggle, but the Troy Drop In Quad Rail is absolutely rock solid zero play platform to mount everything from optics to lasers and lights to.

In addition to easy and quick mounting, the Troy Drop In Quad Rail provides the user all the standard features we have come to expect from Troy’s free-floating quad-rails including 1913 standard picatinny rails, full T-markings, and of course Troy's T6061 hardened aircraft aluminum and finished in MIL-STD Type III Hard Coat Anodizing available in Flat Black or USSOCOM Flat Dark Earth. Unlike a lot of the “me to” brands that have come along, Troy Industries still makes all their products right here in the USA.

Also added during the upgrade were front and rear Troy fixed BattleSights because this rifle is used 99.9% of the time for shorter range drills and I felt deprived not having a good set of fixed iron sights. Now that I had a rock solid rail platform that continues from the upper receiver through the front of the handguard, the occasional 1-4X scope mounting becomes simply mounting one scope ring on the receiver and the other on the forend instead of using one of those scope cantilever scope mounts.

For those with standard plastic handguards this is a simple upgrade that provides free-float functionality with only a flat-head screwdriver. You will obviously not get the accuracy improvements of a free-float tube, however you will get all the other benefits of a solid optics mountable quad rail without having move, remove, un-pin, or unscrew anything other than your stock hand guard. For $150 this is a great buy and AR upgrade.

7" Carbine/M4 Drop In Battle Rail
True U.S. Military Specification M1913 rails at 12-3-6 and 9 o’clock
Available in black or tan
Sizes - Carbine, Mid-Length, Rifle Length.

Troy Industries

Saturday, November 19, 2011

FailZero M16/4 Bolt and Carrier Group & Trigger Basic Kit Review

FailZero M16/4 Bolt and Carrier Group & Trigger Basic Kit Review

About ten years ago I did some consulting work for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to help develop a cutter for use in cutting and testing stored solid explosives.  One of the reasons I was selected was my background working with and testing advanced metal treatments such as cryo-treating, ceramic, and other vapor deposited coatings.  The result of that work and testing was a hard material cutter which cut up to three times longer than untreated samples. While working with a meat processor and a number of paper manufacturers, this initial research confirmed itself over and over with longer wear and tool life, lower cost, and higher retained tolerances.  I have seen the testing proof first hand and am a believer that advanced metal coatings and treatments dramatically increase service life and overall performance.  This background was the reason I was very excited with what UCT Coatings has done with their EXO coating and FailZero subsidiary company.  
Where UCT Coatings is the applicator of the patented EXO Nickel Boron coating process, FailZero is the productized application of that process to a set of premium firearm products such as the FailZero M16/4 Basic Full Auto Bolt and Carrier Group Kit I am reviewing here, as well as coatings for a variety of firearms.  After a sizable amount of customers coating their AR/M4 bolts and even an independent government test, UCT thought it was time to launch FailZero to provide a drop in bolt and hammer AR15 and M16 kits for the masses.  The result is the finest quality AR bolt I have ever used, seen or handled.

FailZero offers two mil-spec bolt carrier group kits which also include EXO coated hammers, one with an AR15 bolt and hammer and one with an M16 full auto bolt and hammer. I purchased a FailZero M16/4 Basic Full Auto Kit because I am one of those who believe the additional mass of the M16 bolt marginally increases reliability over a wider variety of loads during longer periods between cleanings. Purchasing the M16 version was a carrier mass thing for me, but obviously you need a NFA licensed select fire M16 for full auto capability otherwise it performs like a standard semi-auto bolt.  The kit includes an EXO coated hammer as well. 
A little bolt/carrier bling on your AR is great however only where it is secondary to function and I am not entirely convinced chrome is the substantial reliability upgrade people make it out as.  Upgraded chrome coated bolts have proven themselves to provide some cleaning and cleaner running advantages which can increase reliability.  The downside is I have also seen chrome bolts chip, peel and flake off, which not only looks like hell, but those rough spots can be more detrimental to reliability at that point than just starting with a plain bolt.  EXO nickel boron coating is the improvement most people hope for when looking for bolt and carrier group upgrades.

Like chrome, EXO does provide rust and corrosion protection, however to a much more significant degree. The UCT EXO coating on the FailZero M16/4 Bolt Carrier Group and Trigger Basic Kit is also significantly different in a number of ways.  EXO coating is 40% harder than chrome, bonds at a molecular level to the metal, never rubs off, chips, thins or builds up.  EXO also coats non-line of sight surfaces which mean inside all the holes, nooks and crevices.  Of course the biggest advantage of all is that the EXO coating completely eliminates the need for lubrication.

Someone once told me that the quality of the final finish is determined before any paint is applied, and with next generation coatings such as on the FailZero EXO coating prefinish is even more important.  With that in mind FailZero obviously performs a significant amount of polishing before the application because post conversion of a Carpenter 158 Bolt and 8620 Steel Carrier into a FailZero Bolt Carrier Group (BCG) delivers a mirror polished stainless steel look.  It is a truly the most stunning looking bolt and carrier you will ever put your hands on. 

It is important to note FailZero does this not to make a jewelry quality looking BCG to look cool, they do it because a polished finish is more slippery, easier to clean, quieter, better functioning and once the EXO coating is applied all those qualities improve exponentially on top of being able to run lube free.

The hammer in the FailZero M16/4 Bolt Carrier Group and Trigger Basic Kit is also another part which takes an obvious beating and benefits from the EXO coating with easier cleaning, cleaner running, and improved reliability. When you handle the FailZero M16/4 Bolt Carrier Group and Trigger Basic Kit all the parts are of course dry but feel as though they are fully oiled... an odd feeling, but a great characteristic for lube free operation.

The most significant advantage of the FailZero M16/4 Bolt Carrier Group and Trigger Basic Kit is that the EXO coating is so slick it completely eliminates the need for any lubrication.  The ability to run un-lubricated can be a significant advantage in sandy and dirty environments where particles like to latch onto lube and gum things up.  Because the FailZero EXO finish is so slick it is also very easy to clean when compared to a standard phosphated bolt and carrier group and in my tests everything just wiped right off. The finish is so durable your can still scrape areas if needed. Less crud sticks and what does stick comes off and cleans up much more easily.

The BCG may get all the attention, however the hammer provided a very smooth and upgraded trigger feel from a standard hammer and even after a couple hundred rounds.  It also looked like new after my testing which I think is an impressive testament to the durability of the EXO coating.

I ran several hundred rounds with the bolt carrier group in a number of different rifles including my Del-Ton, Spikes Tactical, Black Rain Ordnance, and DPMS AR15s and it was a perfectly functioning BCG.  The reality is that the FailZero M16/4 Bolt Carrier Group and Trigger Basic Kit is not designed for a couple hundred rounds, it is designed for tens of thousands of rounds. The US Defense Department did several tests which validated and proved the FailZero bolt was effective for 50,000 lube free rounds and also tested it against a standard BCG in a variety of situations.  I would have loved to repeat these tests on another person’s ammo budget, but I was not willing to drop $10K on ammo for this article.  If you are interested, you can find one of the test articles here.
The EXO coating is not voodoo, not a posers part, not just a pretty face, and certainly not just for show.  This is a serious part for extreme hard use environments which also happens by its benefits to look great and is without question an upgrade for the most failure prone part on an AR.  The Defense Department is sold on the EXO coating as well as many law enforcement and special operations units.  The reason is simple, the FailZero bolt, hammer and carrier kit requires no lube at all and that increases reliability beyond a standard phosphated bolt, beyond a chrome bolt, and even beyond even a standard nickel boron coated bolt without the attention to prefinish that UCT undertakes.  If you are looking for the finest looking ultra-bling BCG that could be in a modern art museum then the FailZero is your BCG.  On the other hand if you are looking for the finest quality BCG that will outperform any other, you might seriously consider the FailZero Bolt Carrier Group and trigger kit.

FailZero M16/4 Bolt Carrier Group and Trigger Basic Kit
  • Case Hardened, Shot Peened and MPI Bolt (Magnetic Particle Inspected)
  • EXO Coated Bolt (40% more wear resistant than Chrome with a very Low Coefficient of Friction)
  • Mil-Spec Gas Rings
  • Carpenter 158 Steel Bolt
  • 8620 Steel Carrier
  • EXO Coated Carrier
  • Gas Key with EXO Coated Exterior and Chrome Lined ID.  Hardened to USGI Specifications
  • Mil-Spec Staked Gas Key
  • Grade 8 Hardened Fasteners
  • Black Extractor Insert
  • Firing Pin and retainer



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kel-Tec PMR-30 .22 Magnum Pistol Review

Kel-Tec PMR-30 .22 Magnum Pistol Review

Regardless of what everyone says a gun should look like, Kel-Tec has always bucked the normal path that other manufacturers have followed with truly unique and innovative products.  The Kel-tec PMR-30 translates to Pistol Magnum Rimfire 30-shot and is yet another innovative firearm which fills a niche in the market with a very fun 30-shot .22 WMR semi-auto pistol.

The polymer frame fit is tight and the various material used in the construction are all finished with a soft buffed finish.  Despite the light weight, the PMR-30 is a solidly built gun.
As with any of the Kel-Tec firearms the PMR-30 is uniquely unlike anything else on the market. The ergonomics do not feel odd but different from typical pistols due to the size and shape designed around the magazine. Part of that different feeling is the grip angle and the deeper grip to accommodate the .22 Magnum round.  The other quite noticeable trait is the weight which makes for a fast handling and packable trail gun. At 13.6oz unloaded and 19oz loaded the PMR-30 feels like a well built pellet pistol. 

The Kel-Tec PMR-30 comes with two magazines the pistol and a nice hard case. The pistol makes innovative use of materials starting with the slide and barrel made from 4140 steel and a frame of 7075 aluminum. The grip, slide cover, trigger, mag release, and safety levers are glass reinforced Nylon (Zytel), much like the other Kel-Tec Pistols. The two included 30-round magazines are also very durable Zytel, with handy round count ports. Dual opposing extractors increase reliability of the rim-fire rounds for positive extraction. The Kel-Tec PMR-30 features a heel magazine release instead of a typical thumb release which was still plenty fast to load and adds to the complete ambidextrous function of the pistol.  Recoil is managed by the urethane recoil buffer and captive coaxial recoil springs. Dis-assembly is via a simple single pin removal which breaks the gun down into slide, barrel, buffer, and recoil springs.

The PMR-30’s trigger is a very surprising crisp single action with an over-travel stop. My expectation was that the trigger would be the mushy trigger of my Sub-2000 however this was a really good trigger for an inexpensive pistol. The manual safety is a standard thumb activated ambidextrous safety lever (up for SAFE, down for FIRE) which even my stumpy thumbs could reach and operate.

The sights are high visibility fiber optics with the front green and rear orange of different colors. These sights were fast to pick up and easy to see in all ambient light levels.  Surprisingly with so much zytel utilized on the gun the front sight is dovetailed aluminum front sight which provides windage adjustment.  Elevation is fixed on the PMR-30. The pistol also has an optional accessory mounts for several popular red dot sights which provide mounting just in front of the rear sight, however a plain old picatinny mount up top would have been nice for other optics.  If you want to mount a laser or weapon mounted light the PMR-30 includes a standard 1913 picatinny rail under the barrel.

The Kel-tec PMR-30 design goals were around providing a light weight, full size pistol chambered for the flat-shooting and surprisingly powerful .22Magnum cartridge (.22WMR). The power of this round in many respects match's that of the .380 round for defense, sport, and hunting with much lower recoil even in this ultra-light gun.

The PMR-30 operates on a unique hybrid auto-adjusting blowback/locked-breech system which Kel-Tec indicates allows for the use of a wide variety of ammunition and varying velocities. The system automatically adjusts between locked breach and blowback operation, depending on the pressure of the cartridge. A friend and I worked the gun over hard with about 400 rounds of various Super X, CCI, and Federal rounds and had no failures to fire, feed or extract.  This is a highly reliable gun which I would feel comfortable using for self-defense or survival.

Kelt-Tech has succeeded where others have failed by producing a double stack magazine that holds 30 rounds and fits completely in the grip of the pistol. Of note, if you just start stuffing rounds in as I did and loading the ammo incorrectly, you will never get 30 rounds into the magazine and you will have feeding and functioning issues due to rim locking together. If on the other hand you follow the printed directions which details a technique that combines a 5.56 mag reload and .22 rimfire mag reload you can get the 30 rounds in and not have any functionality issues what so the manual on this gun.

Similar to the statement you will find with Glock the slide lock lever is noted as not being a slide release.  The suggested method of manipulation is to release the slide via pulling back on the slide to release. A problem I found with this was that my hands never felt like they had a great grip on the slick zytel slide, but maybe some skateboard tape in between the ribs would help. The lock lever will hold back the slide after the last shot and also provides for manual slide lock lever use.  The heel magazine release is different from the now standard thumb release, however with 30 rounds in the magazine and +1 in the chamber, the need to reload is doubtful in all but the most extreme situations and even then mag changes will still be quick.

Thirty rounds, let’s contemplate that.  That’s three mag changes on any standard .22 semi-auto and five revolver reloads.  This is a load of ammo is a light weight standard size gun that just keep s shooting and shooting.  My buddy and I kept saying, “geez I have to be empty by now”, but 30 rounds makes for a long period of shooting.

Buyers of the PMR-30 will have to do a little work to figure out which ammo shoots best in their gun. Figure that out and buy a stack of that ammo. My accuracy results were pretty varied.  With CCI Maxi-Mags the accuracy of this gun was quite good, but with the Winchester Super X rounds, it was what I would term as combat accurate. For a light weight gun and for a pistol hunting where most shooting is in the 2-25 yards range, this gun has more than adequate accuracy with the right ammo and could keep golf balls and pop cans dancing consistently at 25 yards off hand.  My best group with the CCI rounds were .86” which is quite good for a reliable and powerful gun that is priced on the street for $300-$350.

Average 5-shot groups at 25 yards off a rest
CCI Maxi-Mag JHP                           40gr  Accuracy 1.3”
Winchester Super X.22WMR FMJ 40Gr Accuracy 3.1”
Federal .22WMR JHP                       50gr Accuracy 2.25”

When I first picked up the Kel-Tec PMR-30 my first thought was this would make the ultimate gun for a light weight bug out and field bag.  Two 30-round magazines is a ton of ammo at your disposal and tucking in an extra box of ammo is certainly not going to add a ton of weight to a grab and go bag.  The reality is though this gun is more than that.  It is a blast to shoot producing pleasant little fire balls as the sun starts to hide for the evening and very mild recoil all for a very inexpensive price.  The price of .22WMR ammo is about the same as inexpensive 9mm ammo these days, however for the hunter, sportman, or survivalist there is a big weight difference between the rounds and firearm required for each. The .22WMR is the key to this gun’s flexibility.  If it was a standard .22LR it would be underpowered for defensive use or larger game, if it was a larger caliber the grains of lead would start to add up and drastically increase the weight of ammo in the magazine and extra rounds carried.   

This is a great gun for a lot of different duties. The Kel-tec PMR-30  is the quintessential trail and pack gun that could handle all manner of beast and odd situation all in a light weight package that is only 19oz when fully loaded.  It is light to pack, ammo is relatively inexpensive, and easy to operate equally with either hand.  Having 30 rounds on tap in this size gun is just plain fun, but could really be helpful in a defensive situation. Admittedly the grip angle took a little to get used to, but now with a few rounds down range, I like this gun more and more as I shoot it.

Calibers: .22 Magnum (.22WMR)
Weight unloaded: 13.6oz. 385.6g
Loaded Magazine: 6oz. 170.1g
Length: 7.9" 200.7mm
Height: 5.8" 147.3mm
Width: 1.3" 33.0mm
Barrel length: 4.3" 109.2mm
Sight radius: 6.9" 175.3mm
Energy (40gr): 138ft-lbs 187J
Capacity: 30 rounds
Trigger pull: 4-6 lbs 17.8-26.7N

Kel-Tec CNC