Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Samson Evolution Series AR Forend Review

Samson Evolution Series AR Forend Review

In a recent review of a ASA side charge receiver build, I used a Samson Evolution Series AR forend and liked it so much I thought it deserved its own review. I am a fan of those near barrel length handguards and the slimmer the better simply because I find them easier to handle and far more comfortable.

I also find longer handguards much more versatile with added room to stretch out or more placement options to shoot from supports, so it should come as no surprise that I really liked the features of the lightweight 12.37” long Samson Evolution series handrail.  

For this build, I set up the ASA Side charge receiver including a chrome carrier and topped it off with a Young Manufacturing bolt.  The big fat 16” ASA .223 Bull Barrel was slipped into the receiver with a low profile ASA gas block and White Oak stainless gas tube and covered with the Samson Evolution Series billet handguard.  

Samson offers a unique and lightweight option in their Evolution Series and of course I chose the long 12.37” version and almost wish I would have picked up the even longer 15” version. The 12.37” Evolution version weighs in at only 11.5 oz and the slim 1.8” width is easy to hold even for younger and female shooters. This handrail includes 2 - 2” picatinny rails which provided mounts for my Atlas bipod and an extra rail for hopefully a laser designator down the road.  The Mil-Spec hard coat anodizing was a perfect hard deep dark consistent black finish on the 6010 T6 billet aluminum rail.

Installation was as simple as clipping the half moon coupler to your standard Mil-Spec barrel nut, slip on the handguard and then tighten down the two handguard hex screws. During installation, I appreciated that I did not need any special tools for installation and those that have suppressors or piston systems will be happy to hear that Samson has taken extra steps in the design to assure this slim rail is still compatible with most suppressors and piston systems. For testing, I mounted the upper to my Holding Precision billet lower and clipped on my Nikon Monarch 8-32X50ED scope with a PRI Gator Grip Platform Quick Release mount.

With the marginally fatter ASA upper receiver, you do need to use a file to trim just a bit were the Samson handguard keys into the upper receiver; on standard Mil-Spec upper receivers the handguard is a direct fit and this modification is not required.  It was a simple modification that took only 5 minutes of file work and is hidden after installation.

As with any free-float tube, there are concerns that it will have that little wiggle, however the Samson locked up tight and perfectly to the ASA receiver and was wiggle free even after banging it around on various supports.

I am a fan of long handrails because they give loads more room to find a comfortable handhold or support in less than optimal situations.  The Samson Evolution rail was extremely comfortable to handle and made the 16” ASA bull barrel  feel lighter than it actually was. 

In fact I liked this length and slim profile so much that I simply cannot imagine living with this build with a rail this long or even longer.  If you are looking for a quality rail option that looks a bit different, a bit cooler than what everyone else has and for the price, I think that the Samson Evolution Series rail offers an outstanding value and it doesn’t hurt that it looks great and is comfortable in the process.

Samson Manufacturing 12.37” Evolution Series - $185
  • Length: 12.37"
  • Weight with Bushing: 11.5 oz
  • The thermal bushing locks onto the stock barrel nut
  • The inside diameter is large enough to fit most suppressors (1.56”)
  • Continuous mil spec top rail
  • Dual anti rotation tabs
  • Thermal Bushings helps reduce heat transfer to hand guard
  • Supplied with 2x 2” rail kits and 1x 4” rail kit
  • Tube Matl 6010 T6, Bushing Matl. 303 Stainless
  • Mil-spec Hard coat Anodized

16 Inch Stainless Steel Bull Barrel - $349
  • 16 Inch 1:8 Twist
  • Stainless Steel with Target Crown
  • Barrel Extension has been cut with M4 Feed Ramps
  • .223 Caliber
  • National Match Chamber

ASA AR-15 M4 Side Charger Upper Receiver with Modified Carrier - $450
  • 7075 Billet Flat Top Side Charger Upper Receiver (Incorrectly listed as Forged)
  • Mil-Std 1913 Rail
  • Assembled with the highest quality mil-spec components
  • Includes Modified Carrier with Gas Key
  • Lifetime Warranty

ASA Low Profile Gas Block -$48
White Oak Armament Gas Tube - $10.50
Nikon Monarch 8-32x50ED Scope - $669.95
Precision Reflex - Quick Release Gator Grip Platform with 1" High Rings - $190

Start your AR15 build at Brownells.com 

Samson Manufacturing

ASA American Spirit Arms

White Oak Armament

Nikon Hunting Optics

Precision Reflex

Friday, November 23, 2012

American Metalcraft Pizza Oven Peels Review

American Metalcraft Pizza Oven Peels Review

Once you experience the amazing hardwood infused flavor that only an outdoor wood fired oven can deliver, you wonder why you ever considered using a gas or electric oven in the first place.  At least at my house, you find yourself experimenting with baking garlic to slow roasting pork shoulders.  As reviewed previously, I added a Round Boy outdoor wood fired oven as a foundation for my Pandemic Preparedness Primitive Outdoor Kitchen.  I has been without question the best $1700 I have ever spent on any home improvement, gas or charcoal grill or any other cooking implement, but I soon realized that I was in need in a few tools to move food and flame around. Around our house, our Round Boy wood fired outdoor oven receives the same use as our Weber grill and perhaps a bit more as the weather turns colder.

Unfortunately the elitist foodie crowd has driven the price of most of basic pizza oven tools into a stratospherically moronic price range.  I actually saw a $175 pizza peel, really?  This pushed me out of Gourmet Magazine’s ads back into restaurant supply companies.  After seeing a lot of made in China sourced products, I found American Metalcraft which makes everything right here in the USA.

There a couple tasks you need to do if you have an outdoor wood fired oven; place and move around wood, move around and scrape up and remove ash, make and place pizza, breads or anything else you may be cooking, turn the pizzas or breads and remove them.  In my case, I found a set of welders gloves and a DIY pizza peel were not getting the job done.

The first mistake most people make to to buy one of the huge wide peels that you see in the pizza shop.  In case you have not noticed pizza shops have 4’ wide ovens which are well over 3’ deep which they move around XL and XXL pizzas; most home pizza ovens have at most a 16” wide door opening and only about 9 square feet of internal space, of which, some room is taken for the wood. 

The tip I will give you is to not go for a peel any larger than ⅔ the width of your oven’s door width if you expect to have any room to maneuver.  Moving and turning anything in the oven while it cooks requires a certain level of maneuverability and a with a big pizza peel you feel like you are taking an 18-wheeler through a drive-through.

A 9” bladed peel will handle even 12” pizzas just fine, however if you consistently make a lot of larger pizzas a 12” bladed peel for final retrieval/removal can be handy. I have found that a 9” bladed pizza peel is the right size for the home pizza oven chef as most people will want to make several different smaller sized pizzas versus just a couple larger ones.

So one giant pizza peel will not do it and in this case we now know smaller is better, but due to the variety of the above cooking tasks, you will need more than one peel.  A smaller square 9” peel is perfect for moving wood around in the oven, removing ash and scraping the brick before a pizza is laid down, and retrieving and placing breads and pans all for far less than a set of very expensive cast iron “oven tools”. The square peel it is not the best shape for turning the pizza though through the cooking process due to the confines of the home oven.  

Round peels on the other hand have a hard time getting into the corners, scrape, or moving the wood around, but excel and helping you turn the pizza during cooking.  Round peel are better at removing the pizza at the back of the oven that is done without disturbing the pizza up front and without also scraping up ¼ cup of ash in the process.  

The reality is that one 9” square peel, a 8”-9” round, and 12” round peels have been the perfect combination for my Round Boy wood fired pizza oven.  That noted, I also purchased a very long handled 14.5” bladed all aluminum peel which I is invaluable only for those really big pizzas, but I still use my short handled 9” round peel to turn those big pizza.  If you have made the investment in a wood fired oven, then I would suggest investing about $100 in several pizza peels so that you have much more flexibility during your cooking cycle and enhance your enjoyment considerably.

Assembling a pizza was also a learning experience for me and I taco’ed/burrito’ed more than a few pizzas sliding them into the oven after making them on corn meal laden metal peels. For some reason dough sticks more readily to the metal peels than the wooden ones, however obviously the wooden ones do not hold up to the heat so you need both.  

Makes sure you mineral oil your wooden pizza peels to keep them water resistant and easier to clean otherwise you will have to straighten them from warping after you wash them off - lesson learned.  

The process learned through a few mishaps is to build your pizza on a heavily corn-mealed wooden peel, slip the pizza into the oven with the wood peel and then manage the rest of the cooking process with a metal peel.  Some people like to build a pizza on the wooden peel and then “shoot” the metal peel under the pizza for final placement in the oven, which I have found 

Although not from American Metalcraft, heavy leather welders gloves are one the best $20-$30 investment you can make for your oven and allow you to reach into the oven and move burning logs or pick any up that may fall out of the oven during cooking prep if required.  For the best price and quality see your local welders supply retailer and stay away from the fancy food and gourmet retailers for this item.

A few other accessories I picked up at American Metalcraft were half a dozen aluminum restaurant style 9” Couple Pizza Pans.  This are beyond handy to slip a finished pizza onto for the hungry guest to run upstairs to devour.  Plus they will not blow away, are totally indestructible, dishwasher safe, and add a little pizza kitchen touch to serving.

For those that like a deeper crust or less pocketed dough, a dough docker is the prefered tool to prolifically perforate your dough and ready it for saucing. American Metalcraft makes what I have to believe is the most durable dough docker in the world which should easily survive the next three global apocalypses and it is also dishwasher safe. If you want that perfectly uniform crust without all the extra pockets and bubbles, then this is your tool.

Having the right tools for the job makes the easy task of wood burning oven cooking just that much more enjoyable.  I searched long and hard for an affordable set of cooking tool and believe American Metalcraft is the best deal for an all American made product and their product line depth is stunning.

Standard Blade Short Handle Wood Peels 8” x 9" - $16.00 EA & 14" x 15" - $27.80
Aluminum Round Blade Peels - 8"blade - $13.00 & 13-1/2" blade - $18.00
Small Square Blade Peels – 9" x 11" - 32-1/2" overall - $16.60
Deluxe All Aluminum Long Handle Peels – Medium Blade - 75" overall, 14-1/2" blade - $ 62.60
CTP Series Coupe Style Pizza Pans 9” - $4.80 each
Casted Handle Dough Docker - 6" x 7-1/2" $32.40

American Metalcraft

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leupold VX-2 3-9x33mm Ultralight EFR Review

Leupold VX-2 3-9x33mm Ultralight EFR Review

I will be honest, on my first Leupold scope I did not have the enlightening love of all things Leupold that most users do. That rather poor experience caused this scope to be my second Leupold ever almost two decades later. That noted, this scope changed my entire perception of what clarity and scope quality could be in a sub-$400 scope, refreshed my belief in Leupold, and opened my eyes to what everyone has been raving about. 

If you are a hardcore 75+ yard shooter and gopher hunter then you will want a higher magnification scope and I would suggest looking at the Leupold line. Although generally more power will deliver more accuracy, this 3-9X scope is the perfect compromise for those that want the best of both practical hunting/plinking and benchrest shooting from a 10/22 all without being a gigantic optic or causing the user to swap optics back and forth.

The Leupold Ultralight VX-2 line is specifically designed for use with rimfire cartridges and features multi-coated super clear optics, blackened lens edges to reduce glare, fast focus eyepiece, and most importantly and adjustable objective.

Parallax is most severe at typical sub-50 yard ranges of our rimfire rounds. Most centerfire riflescopes will be preset to be parallax-free at 100-yard but could delivery you off target as much as several inches at 25 yards based on the power of the scope and your eye’s relationship centering on the scope.

At these close distances you either need a rimfire dedicated scope with a 25 or 50 yard parallax-free design or an adjustable objective such as this Leupold Ultralight VX-2 3-9x scope. Above 100 yards the effect on accuracy is less and less, up close at .22LR ranges parallax is a problem when attempting to punch tiny little groups. To maximize accuracy, a scope with an adjustable objective is critical to tune parallax and the features of this Leupold scope fit the bill perfectly for even 10 yard shooting.

Leupold has a number of their own vary interesting technologies such as Mulitcoat 4 to reduce glare, Quantum Optical System which increases light transmission to 94% as well as color and clarity, Index Matched Lens System which delivers a more crisp and bright image, and DiamondCoat which provides a flawless high abrasion coating to the lens.  Leuopold’s 2nd Generation Argon/Krypton Waterproofing assures you will not have any problems with rainy hunts, …plus another page of features listed on the Leupold site which are too numerous to list.  It is the little feature refinements to such the step on the power selector that makes magnifications changes quick and the micro-friction ¼ MOA windage and elevation adjustments that are easy to make with the fingers. 

The All this features on the VX-2 add up to a much more refined higher quality rimfire scope. What I liked most about this scope was that for just under $400 you end up with a solidly built all metal scope with crystal clear optics.

After months of juggling this scope around from one 10/22 build to another to another, I can say I am in love with this scope.  It does not have a fancy BDC reticle or target turrets but it really does not need it to deliver outstanding accuracy.  The optics are brighter, crisper and superior to any other rimfire optic I have tested and this is a huge advantage.  I found that I needed up to 30% more magnification from other lesser quality glass to get the same amount of precision. My used Simmons needed to be maxed out to 12X just to deliver the same optical precision that the Leupold delivered on 9X.  If you spend the serious cash on a high precision custom 10/22 or other super accurate rimfire, then you deserve to mount an optic that will get the most from your build and one which will give you the most flexibility and the Leupold VX-2 3-9x33 delivers everything you need.  

Actual Magnification 3.3 x 8.5 x
Linear Field of View (ft/100 yd) 38.3 ft 15.2 ft
Linear Field of View (m/100 m) 12.6 m 4.9 m
Eye Relief (in) 3.4 in 3.1 in
Eye Relief (mm) 88.0 mm 79.0 mm
Weight (oz) 11.5 oz
Weight (g) 326.0 g
Objective Clear Aperture (in) 1.3 in
Objective Clear Aperture (mm) 33.0 mm
Elevation Adjustment Range 64.0 moa
Windage Adjustment Range 64.0 moa
MSRP $499
Street $399


Shop the complete selection of Leupold Optics at Brownells.com 

Leupold Optics

What I Learned in 100 Rounds - How to Zero an AR15

What I Learned in 100 Rounds - How to Zero an AR15

Fresh out of the box, you picked up your new AR15 and giggly as a schoolgirl blasted away several magazines worth of ammo on the 25-yard range making cans dance... well kind of. Unless you ordered a Houlding Precision custom HPF-15 AR and it came perfectly zero’ed, it was probably clear to you that your new AR needed to be zero’ed, but what is the best method and zeroing point?

We have all seen the person becoming more and more frustrated with each round sent downrange at a 100-yard target attempting to zero their new rifle or optics.  You hear their muffled cries as the bolt locks back from yet another empty magazine all while a pristinely clean target still exists down at the 100-yard line.  My tips will help you not be that guy.

I have been that guy at the range and the embarrassment, although years ago, is still a painful memory. I remember the point where a very old centurion shooter said “maybe you should start with zeroing a little closer”.  This concept of zeroing at a close range technique is actually the standard military method for zeroing most military rifles including the M-16/AR-15 rifles.  This method will save you boatloads of frustration and will get you perfectly zero’ed in around a dozen rounds. 

In this case, I will be zeroing my a newly attached Eotech sight on my Houlding Precision Custom HPF-15 AR15 and checking the zero on my Spikes Tactical ST15’s iron sights and assuring my co-witnessed Vortex red dot sight is on the mark as well.

The military has found that the ballistic trajectory a typical .223/5.56 Nato round hits the same point of aim at 25M and 300M with a military spec round. This means that zeroing your rifle at 25M will put you pretty close to dead on at the 250M-300M range with most .223/5.56 Nato ammo. The 5.56 Nato/.223 round ballistically delivers a relatively flat trajectory everything in between on center of mass man sized targets out to around 375 yards with minimal adjustment in combat situations.  

The trajectory of a standard .223/5.56 NATO round with the 25M zero will put the point of aim at around 4-5” high at 100M.  Using this zeroing method, the shooter can even deliver 400 and 500 yards shots with a simple holdover of 12" for 400 yard targets and about 36' for 500 yard targets.  It is an AR zeroing method which has stood the test of time and is practical even at short combat distances as well.

The 25M zero allows me to have a bit more fun when I go out shooting versus spending all my time understanding where this rifle is shooting.  Zero all your ARs at 25 Meters with the same base ammo and you will truly enjoy life more with less frustration.

From a practical perspective I have found this zeroing method to be relevant in all but those rare situations where a ballistically calibrated scope reticle requires a 100 yard or 100 meter zero. For iron sighted ARs or ARs with red dots a 25M zero is the way every single AR I own is zero’ed with 55gr 3GunAmmo.com loads and affords me the option of putting reliable shots on target with any AR out of my safe. Yes, I am a huge advocate of assuring all your similar rifles all are zero’ed the same way otherwise it is far too confusing for my simple mind to remember whether this gun was zero’ed for 100, 150, 200, 300, or something else.

One of the other keys to ensuring a repeatable zero is to use the same ammo you plan on using for sport or defense. Your practice ammo should be the same or have the same ballistic trajectory as your high end ammo.  My preference has been to use .223 55gr and 62gr rounds from 3GunAmmo.com.  I have found 3GunAmmo.com extremely consistent, reliable, accurate and reloadable all for the just a bit more than inexpensive steel case ammo.

At the 0-100-yard ranges, I have found most .223/5.56 Nato ammo to prints about the same point of impact within an 1” or so regardless of bullet weight and ammo brand as long as the velocity is similar. Beyond 100 yards, the point of impact changes based on the velocity, bullet weight, and aerodynamics of the round.  

The iStrelok iPhone/Droid Ballistic app chart shown below is an example of 3gunammo.com 62 grain rounds shot from my Houlding Precision 18" barreled AR and should be very close to what you will see with most .223 rounds - Note this chart reflects yards.  As they say, your mileage may vary based on which round you select to zero your rifle, however the below chart gives you a general idea of the flight path of the bullet from your AR with a 25M zero.  The X-axis is in yards and the elevation x-Axis is in inches.  Attaching this chart to your stock or scope makes it easy to hit targets from 0-500 meters.

One of the all time best AR15 25M/300M zeroing targets I have found is the free (yes free) printable, downloadable and savable BobDBob.com 25M AR15 Zeroing targets here. I prefer these over a standard bulls-eye target because the AR15 Zeroing target has a grid that gives you the appropriate windage and elevation adjustments

I have created a target stand to hold my targets, however you can just staple these targets to a an existing stand at the range or fabricate your own target stand. Caldwell has a nice little Portable Target Stand for around $22, which is available from most sporting retailers.

Print out a half dozen of these targets and measure off 25 meters (82 feet) from the muzzle of your AR on the bench or from a board mounted target back to where you can position your muzzle at the 25M point.  Remember 25M does not equal 25 paces or 25 yards. Yes, measure it with a ruler to 82 feet or with a laser rangefinder. I recommend picking up a cheap 100 foot landscaping ruler for this chore as a couple feet either way will impact the precision of your zero from rifle to rifle.

If possible the target should be mounted as level as possible to the height of the AR.  If I use short ground mounted targets, I usually shoot from a prone position on the ground. After you have assured the target is 82 feet/25 meters from the muzzle of your AR, the next step is ensuring you have a solid rest to shoot from. Zeroing should be done from a benchrest or prone position with a bipod, sandbags, bean bags, or rice bags.  Most of the time I shoot from my pictured Atlas bipod however I do shoot form bags as well. Personally I have found bags of rice or beans to work just as well and are less expensive than sandbags, and of course if the situation arose they could be cooked and eaten. Usually I alternate bags of beans and rice in a heavy duty Ziplock freezer bag to elevate my handguard enough to comfortably put me on target and an extra bag under the stock to facilitate incremental adjustments.  

Get locked in behind the rifle and shoot a three shot group.  If you are not on the paper, you will need to move the target closer; generally the 10-15 yard line, however in most cases you should see a nice little cluster somewhere on the target.  The linked BobDBob.com target has the appropriate clicks up and down for Mil-Spec iron sights, I have found that Magpul sights are close, but do not match these clicks perfectly.  The target gives you a grid guide which enables you to make the appropriate number of left or right click adjustments to both the front and rear sights.  Making the required sight adjustments should deliver the next three shots on the center black silhouette.  After the second group, make any minor adjustments and shoot a final group assuring your shots are dead center. If no further adjustment is required, I usually shoot another three-five shot group to assure my 25M average group is dead center.

It had been a while since I checked the zeroing on my Spikes ST15 and this exercise
demonstrated that it is good to check this once in a while; the rifles was a couple clicks out of alignment. Once those adjustment were made on the ST15, I mounted the co-witnessed Vortex Sparc and used the iron sights as a reference point to zero the red dot.  This is one reason I like to have back up sight with a red dot equipped rifle; if you ever remove and reattach or knock something out of alignment, you can double check them against each other.  I then attached the included 2X multiplier on the Vortex and shot a three round group at 25M which was perfectly dead center. 

I repeated the same process with the Houlding Precision HPF-15, however the sights were perfectly zero’ed and all that was required was to assure my co-witnessed Eotech sight was also zero’ed at 25M. The only thing left to do is to verify that at 100M and 300M that you are not a click off on windage left or right.  I am fortunate that at our range, we have a 12” 300-meter steel gong which makes it really easy to validate a rifle is delivering a 300-meter zero. Three satisfying hits in a row with both AR15s on the 300M gong put a smile on my face and instilled the confidence that I could deliver hits on any 12” target within 0-300M.  If you followed the above steps your AR will be properly zero’ed and can easily deliver the same accurate hit out to 300M.

Obviously the name of this new series is "What I learned in 100 Rounds", but I only used about 20 rounds for each rifle to complete the zeroing; what did I do with the other 60 rounds? I had fun plinking away at golf balls and Coke cans at 25, 50 and 100 yards understanding the holdovers at each range... it is a lot more fun once your AR15 is perfectly zero'ed.

Shop the complete selection of AR15 parts and ammo at Brownells.com 

Houlding Precision

Spikes Tactical



Vortex Optics

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

PRI Precision Reflex Gator Grip Quick Release Scope Platform Review

PRI Precision Reflex Gator Grip Quick Release Scope Platform Review

At this point my PRI Gator Grip Quick Release scope mount has appeared in numerous articles on this site as well as being used continuously offline for accuracy testing on everything from AR15s, to AR-308s, to custom 10/22 builds. In fact, I liked the high-ring version so much I ordered a low ring version as well. In addition to just your basic scope swapping between rifles for this or that rifle, it is beyond handy to be able to zero a rifle, remove the scope, use the rifle as an iron sighted sporting rifle and then clip a high power optic back on, such as my Nikon Monarch Gold 8-32X scope, for those long range shots.  The PRI Gator Grip mount does all this while still retaining  zero.

I have written about PRI - Precision Reflex Industries products before on their AR assembly tools, their GEN III Carbon Fiber Forend, and soon on a 308 build featuring their Carbon Fiber Delta forend; they have become a go to source for many of my builds because of high quality, ergonomics, and innovation.

PRI was one of the first to offer cantilever scope mounts, and the first to offer a lightweight carbon fiber forend handguard which can and do take all the abuse of a harsh tactical environments. PRI also tweaks their versions of standard product concepts which make them more useful such as the AR tools, billet upper Vise Block, and this QR scope mount.

Like all PRI products the Gator Grip Optic Platform is of superb quality and of extreme durability. As you can see, the finish matches the exceptional finish of the billet American Spirit Arms side-charge bull barreled 16” upper.  All the edges on the Gator Grip are perfectly machined, beveled and then radiused.  

Considering the milling intricacy of this scope mount and quick release base, that is some impressive machine work.  The base is built to be beat on in military situations and is just over 1/2lb in weight due to the steel clamping feet and spring mechanism.  It is a hefty scope mount that will take a huge amount of abuse.

There are a number of innovative features on the PRI Gator Grip Quick Release scope mount platform. The most obvious feature is the ability to remove and attach the scope mount with just one spring loaded lever.  Unlike most quick detach mounts, the Gator Grip does not use a friction clamp, but instead uses dual heavy duty spring powered feet to grip the picatinny rail. 

At first I was a little unsure about the security and force of the mounting feet... would it loosen or fall off? The answer is no, because the springs are extremely heavy and exceed normal scope ring mount force requirements. In essence the quick release spring powered mounting feet, actually mount the base with more force than you would with typical bolt-on rings.  

When it comes time to remove the base, a surprising amount of force is required to flip the lever down into the unlocked position where it locks open.  Place the Gator Grip scope mount platform back on your top rail and flip the lever and the feet will slam closed on the rail... erhh, correction - flip the lever in a controlled manner. I found that controlled release of the lever and mounting to the same T-marking assures a return to zero.  There is some serious pressure on those spring powered clamping feet.

The PRI Gator Grip scope mount platform is available with high or low rings in either 1” or 30mm versions. The rings are sold as part of the platform or separately and key into the base and then attach via machine screws from the bottom.  The base has numerous holes along the rail to accommodate any scope ring position for various scope sizes and eye reliefs.  One of the cool side benefits of this setup is that you can mount and zero one optic and then unbolt just the rings and scope from the base, so you can use the same quick detach platform for multiple rifles and optics.

The 7” long base platform and rings are constructed of T6 6061 hard coated black anodized aluminum.  The based has two steel locating clamp pads and provides a .6” lift off the receiver.  

As pictured, I mounted up my gorgeous Nikon Monarch 8-32x50ED Side Focus Scope with a fine crosshair the Gator Grip high ring platform.  I have been using this setup on a little over a dozen firearms reviews to wring the accuracy out of rifles plus extensive behind the scenes testing and lots and lots of moves from rifle to rifle.  I have probably moved this thing around more times in the last three months than the average user ever will. Through that all, the Precision Reflex Gator Grip platform has performed perfectly.

As noted at the start of this article, I liked the Gator Grip so much I picked up a second platform with low rings to use with a low powered scope for DMR type testing. Where I think this PRI scope mount is really a huge benefit  is to be able to use your home defense/sporting/combat rifle with iron sights and be able to just clip on a scope quickly when needed.  

It should be no surprise that US Special Forces are using the Gator Grip to quickly convert a accurized iron sighted entry gun to a longer range DMR rifle by just clamping on a high powered optic when needed.

Precision Reflex, Inc.

Nikon Optics - Nikon Monarch 8-32x50ED Side Focus Scope

Friday, November 2, 2012

PWS T-3 Summit 10/22 Biathlon Action Review

PWS T-3 Summit 10/22 Biathlon Action Review
There are unique custom 10/22s out there, some are stunningly amazing, however their upper bolt/receiver assemblies operate exactly like the original 10/22 action. The PWS T3 Summit rifle action is unique and unlike any other 10/22 on the market.

The T3 is not a semi-auto or bolt action action, but instead features an innovative biathlon upper receiver that uses the same 10/22 magazines you already own. The cammed action is based on the fast reloading and highly accurate simple straight back and straight forward action you see on .22LR olympic biathlon rifles. 

The action knob is pulled back to extract a round and pushed forward to chamber a round; in essence it is similar to a bolt action, but far faster to cycle. The cammed action locks the bolt as it is pushed forward and is so slick that you can use your index finger to operate it with most ammunition.

Obviously the receiver and Summit action is proprietary to PWS, however any 10/22 compatible barrel, barrel v-block, trigger group, magazine, receiver pins, or stock will work just as it would on any other 10/22 receiver. PWS made this build unique with its own proprietary laminated stock design, an excellent trigger and tensioned carbon fiber threaded barrel of their own design.

The owner of PWS (Primary Weapons Systems - an AR manufacturer) decided there should be a European legal 10/22 (they do not allow semi autos over there) which could use all the great 10/22 parts on the market and developed the T3 Summit action. The action also has the unique ability to deliver the bolt action benefits of potentially squeaking out just a bit more accuracy and/or keep things extremely quiet in a suppressed 10/22 format rifle.

Primary Weapons Systems was founded in 2005 with a focus on innovation, in fact their slogan is “Strength Through Innovation”.  The company has had a meandering path from initially developing collector grade AK-47s, then AK accessories, innovative piston AR platforms, and even a 7.62x39 pistol driven AR platform.  Now PWS has turned their innovation to developing the T3 Summit which is, honestly the most innovative 10/22 upgrade I have ever seen.

Complete PWS T-3 Biathlon receiver with Summit action, T-3 Carbon Fiber tensioned barrel, complete trigger group, PWS Raptor Stock- - $799/95.  Leupold VX-1 2-7x28mm scope - $220. Total Build $1020 as equipped.

The PWS Summit action is a gorgeously designed and engineered work of art, the most sophisticated, and arguably the finest quality 10/22 action available. The engineering itself is impressive, however the real appreciation begins when cycling the silky smooth action; its like  butter.

The action gets all the attention, however PWS did a wonderful job on developing a crisp and light trigger assembly.  There are definitely lighter match triggers, however the 1-2lb trigger pull on the PWS trigger is lighter than many other 10/22 match triggers and the flat blade reduces felt pull weight further.  For the target shooter, this lighter feeling trigger pull can give definately give you an edge in accuracy. 

The extremely light carbon fiber sleeved barrel delivers a very easy carrying and shooting rifle for the hunter or target shooter. The carbon wrapped look is extremely cool, but is designed to greatly increase stiffness.  Carbon fiber also used in high temperature applications for its heat wicking and dispersing ability - carbon wrapped barrels instantly transmit heat, so the barrel stays cooler, distorts less during sustained fire and is more accurate. Definitely a barrel that offers much more than just looks.

Functionally the action fed anything that resembled a L (long) or LR (long rifle) length round including insanely quiet CCI CB Longs and the very effective Remington CBee’s.  For more urban pest elimination, this is a handy gun to have that can shoot and cycle ultra-low veloicty rounds. 

A buddy screwed on his suppressor with these rounds and the only thing audible was the hammer dropping and with CCI standard velocity ammo it was significantly quieter than the Troy Tactical Solutions barrel build because of the added action cycling noise.  The tensioned barrel is suppressor friendly, so if you live in a free state and can swallow the $200 tax stamp plus the cost of the suppressor, you will have one really quiet rig. I was so impressed, I have now started the process to purchase a suppressor.  

Shooting the rifle from shot to shot is very fast and does not require that you change rifle positions or come off the scope. The T3 action is intuitive, smooth as silk, and can be cycled with just the index finger for most match ammo, however tighter rounds such as some bulk and CCI ammo does require a little extra force. 

There is much debate about which .22LR chamber gives you the most accuracy. Some feel that a very tight chamber will squeeze a little more accuracy out of your .22LR rounds, others seem to feel a standard Benz match chamber is good enough. PWS's Carbon Fiber barrel has a proprietary match chamber which is definitely on the tight side. Some rounds such as the CCI rounds, which are noted to typically be on the top end of SAMI spec, feels noticeably tighter going into the chamber on this barrel. With the right ammo, in this case match spec ammo, tended to both function the best and deliver the best accuracy. For me, I do not see this as a plinkers barrel, but one specifically designed around shooting high grade standard velocity (sub-sonic) .22 match ammo.

PWS did a fabulous job with the modified PWS Raptor stock based loosely on the Boyds Evolution stock. When you have a field of 10/22s around you, you notice the little things and the PWS magazine release is outstandingly more ergonomic in a way that makes you want to replace all the other magazine releases on the other builds. A part that often get overlooked is the magazine release and of all the 10/22 mag release designs, this is the best I have found.  The little bat wings that extend on either side of the trigger guard allow your trigger finger to just press straight down to drop a magazine; a marvelous little part.  All the competing models require a grip change to some degree to drop the magazine.  This is the most ergonomic magazine release I have tested.

The trigger group is not a warmed over “tweaked Ruger version, it is PWS’s own proprietary trigger design.  Along with the precision 6061 T6 aluminum trigger housing, the trigger, sear, and disconnector are all high precision EDM and CNC machining. The PWS trigger is mighty fine target trigger. Having the luxury to comparing this trigger directly to the Force, Kidd, and Timney trigger, I would put the PWS on the higher end of the match range alongside the Kidd. It is crisp and with just over a 1lb pull which gives it the edge on the Timney and Force triggers on the bench.

I topped this rig with the VX-1 2-7 scope which has excellent clarity and is the perfect magnification range for hunting and moving targets, however I realized after the fact that this was a 100-yard parallax set scope. This build could have taken advantage of a bit more magnification and the lack of a parallax adjustment impacted precision at the 25-50 range. I swapped out to my other Leupold 3-9 VX2 Rimfire scope for testing.  

The only other complaint I had was that the PWS barrel was picky from an accuracy perspective. Accuracy ranged from a fairly stock 1.237” 50-yard group to nearly taking the best group title from the Kidd build with a .247” group at 50 yards in initial testing. 

It is a spectacular barrel when you find the right ammo, however it can be a bit frustrating to see stock level groups printed from a $1000 during that process of ammo discovery. When you do find the right ammo, you will be rewarded with stunning groups. Generally the Summit has shown to favor standard velocity rounds over high velocity rounds. The carbon fiber barrel looked the coolest, however the accuracy variability really drove me nuts. Hopefully this variability will decrease as the rifle breaks in and I can continue testing various rounds. 

Based on my initial recorded accuracy and additional informal shooting since then, the pattern which has emerged is a preference for .22LR ammo on the lower width range of SAMI specifications, which means it has a very tightly spec'ed match chamber. The frustration for me is that I have seen reports of these PWS T-3 barrels performing well across the board with a variety of ammo and even out-shooting Kidd barrels, however this barrel was picky about what ammo would deliver on accuracy expectations. As they say, "your mileage may vary" with this barrel.

Upcoming Part II - I will best using the awesome receiver for a few barrel tests.  The unique locking bolt mechanism technically should deliver the most accurate 10/22 ever, so I am very excited to get this project underway.

During initial testing PWS always seemed to create wind gusts.  Pull the gun out and the wind picks up, start shooting something else and the wind died down... almost comical at one point. In the end the PWS shooting accuracy results have some gaps and I wish I could have spent more time side by side in the same conditions shooting this against the others before this article, however testing 6-8 rounds at a time takes the better part of a day for five rifles. 

I have shot the rifle a lot since those initial groups were recorded and so far I have not seen any substantial changes which would influence my initial observations other than my enduring love for the Summit T-3 biathlon action.  The barrel I have a love and hate relationship with. On one had it the most incredible looking barrel I have ever seen and when it finds the right ammo, it delivers stunningly little groups. On the other end, the barrel drove me a bit crazy with accuracy with ammo it did not like. Look for this action to reappear in a build as I test it out with a host of other 10/22 barrels. I believe this locking bolt biathlon action could deliver the best accuracy yet from some of my previously tested barrels.

If you want to build your own, the Summit T-3 receiver action is available separately for $399 or complete with the PWS trigger assembly for $525. The Summit action is cool for us here in the US where semi-auto actions are legal, however PWS deserves commendation for developing a European legal action that can leverage all the great and wonderful 10/22 accessories on the market.  This is truly the most unique and innovative 10/22 on the market today and potentially the most accurate as well.

Complete PWS T-3 Biathlon receiver with Summit action, T-3 Carbon Fiber tensioned barrel, complete trigger group, PWS Raptor Stock- - $799/95
Leupold VX-1 2-7x28mm scope - $220
Total Build $1020 as equipped

PWS - Primary Weapons Systems

Leupold Optics