Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mega Arms MTS Monolithic AR15 Upper Review

Mega Arms MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 Upper V2 Review

Several months ago, I reviewed the Mega Arms GTR-3S Billet lower receiver.  Initially the Mega Billet lower was the foundation for a DPMS Oracle kit build, but since has been a favorite base testing platform for a number of AR upper builds. Mega’s billet lower was of such high quality that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Mega’s newest MTS Modular Monolithic AR Upper.  Ideally the MTS V2 should be mounted to Mega’s GTR-3H custom billet lower to merge the hex profile around the stock tube, however as you can see it looks just great on their AR15 spec billet 3S version or on any standard forged lower for that matter.  
I have said it before and I will say it again, in five years, the entire industry will be offering monolithic uppers as standard equipment as they are the next logical evolution in the AR15 platform.  Monolithic uppers integrate the upper receiver and a free float forend into a one-piece upper receiver. This offers the advantage of a stronger overall structure from charging handle to the end of the forend, no flex to throw off optics previously straddling a receiver and forend, and nothing to loosen. Generally you save a few ounces when comparing a monolithic upper to a equivalent free float forend mount plus receiver and generally you loose nothing in the process from a functional perspective.  Most Monolithic uppers feature integrated or removable picatinny rails like on this Mega Upper.  The only downside is that you will pay a slight premium compared to a equivalently equipped receiver plus free float forend.

ULTRA-LIGHT BUILD
The Mega billet upper offers a number of advantages including strength, weight, and comfort that I will get into in a moment, but only an upper does not an AR15 make.  For this build, I used a number of Mega Arms products including the MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 V2 Upper, Tactical Trigger, Grip Charging Handle, and the GTR-3S Billet Lower.  Adding to the Mega components was a Black Hole Weaponry 16” LTM Mid-Length Barrel straight heavy profile with 3-land Polygonal 1:8 twist rifling and .223 Wylde chamber.  From PRI I used a Low Profile Stainless Steel Gas Block and gas tube.  To drop weight, I chose an Ace Ultra Light Stock Assembly which includes a rifle length buffer. To assure the hammer and bolt were all slicked up for lube-free operation, a FailZero M-16 Bolt Carrier and Hammer kit group was installed. Optics were kept simple and light with a Burris Fast Fire II mounted way up front with a Yanhee Hill ½” riser.
As you are seeing in my latest trend of articles, I am building a number or different task focused high end ARs. For this build I wanted to take advantage of the total 20 oz. weight of the upper and build a ultra-light AR build. The challenge in typical ultra-light builds is that they usually sport a pencil profile barrel  which do not handle sustained fire well and barrel mounted forend which  degrades accuracy. To provide high end accuracy and negate heat problems the Black Hole straight heavy barrel which is in essence .750 from front to back, but this meant I needed to balance out the weight gain. The Ace Ultra Light stock provides over a ½ lb of weight savings and allowed complete build to remain a feathery 6.45lbs.  Swap to a pencil profile barrel and you easily have a sub-6lb gun.
   

FIT, FEEL
As expected the Mega billet monolithic upper is of the same superb quality as I saw on my earlier billet lower and even matched the deep anodizing of the new upper perfectly.  Quite a feat of consistency considering they are six months apart on the production line.  There were no issues what-so-ever with fitting any of the build parts or the fitment to the Mega or other lower AR receivers in my safe.
After assembly the Mega Monolithic upper makes an AR feel drastically different due to the 1.625” wide forend... drastically different from typical 2”-2.25” AR tubes.  It feels fast, slim, light, and exceedingly comfortable with the ribbed and vented forend.
FEATURES
First off the one piece 7075-T6 billet aluminum Mega upper adds an “O-my-God” level cool to an AR build.  There are not that many monolithic uppers out there presently and I was literally mauled at the range with questions. All the usual design aspects have been treated with Mega’s design flavor for something that is truly custom looking.
Mega has two version of this monolithic upper, this smooth version and a quad rail version for those that need four feet of picatinny rails. This version still has flexibility and is drilled and tapped for Mega’s various sized picatinny accessory rails.  Mega includes one 3” accessory rail, but you can add as many rails as you need for equipment.  They also have Rife, Carbine and Pistol length versions as well.

As with most free float forends, Mega has their own castled barrel nut.  The barrel nut can mount any stock or standard barrel and requires no gas tube indexing. This allows the barrel nut to be accurately torqued without worrying about tube alignment. Because there is no bottom barrel nut access hatch on the upper, Mega includes one serious looking long pipe style wrench with the upper that allows you to tighten the barrel nut. If you run out of ammo you can use your barrel nut wrench to defend yourself.
This new V2 version has a few upgrades from the original version including prolific lightening and venting of the handguard. The dust cover and forward assist are both pre-installed, and of note is the blind mounted hinge pin which is a pretty trick little detail all by itself. The top rail has grey T-marking every other slot, but the most notable feature, when pulling the Mega Monolithic upper from the box, is the very light 20 ounce weight.  Generally most free float forends alone are in this weight category.  For those that want to run a piston kit, only the Adams Arms Piston Kit for the MTS will fit the upper. The kit is available through MegaArms.com or Adams dealers.
FUNCTION
The Mega monolithic billet upper receiver worked and fit perfectly together and obviously well on other lowers as well such a Tactical Machining Lower it was featured on in an earlier article.  Builders should not worry about fitment to other Mil-spec forged receivers as it will work just fine.
The Mega MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 Upper V2 is without a doubt the most comfortable and easy to push around rifle I have ever shot.  My expectation was with the venting and smaller gauge forend would deliver heat management issues however this was no more an issue than with any other vented forend.  The downside is that if you decide you want to drop in a specialized JP Enterprises heat-sinked barrel, it will not fit in the narrow forend cavity.  Bull barrels should have plenty of room and work just fine.  My intention is not to use this rifle for “tactical” use, so I left off the picatinny rail, however should I decide to add it on for use with my Atlas Bipod, it only takes a minutes to screw in the accessory rail where I need it.
   
The Mega Grip Charging handle provided a bit extra grip over a standard handle and maintained the look of the build, but I would have like a larger tactical latch.  The Tactical Trigger is very nice for a single stage trigger and is completely adjustable for take-up and over-travel and is excellent for this type of light weight high rate shooting build.  When paired with the Fail-Zero EXO coated hammer, it delivered a custom crisp breaking trigger.  I will dive into reviews on the Ace Ultra-Light Stock and Black Hole Weaponry barrel in later articles, but I will note that both are exceptional quality products.  If you are going to the trouble of a build like this you might as well spring for the high end stainless gas block and gas tube such as the PRI versions I used which are both quality products.
ACCURACY
As surmised by the Burris Fast Fire II mounted in the photos, my intent is not for this gun to be a 100 yard tack driver, however it can be.  In the testing process, I mounted my trusty Simmons Predator Quest 6-24 scope and hammered the magnification up to 24 to see what this barrel could do.  The results were several .5” groups with Hornady 69gr TAP ammo at 100 yards and one just under that.  If I need a little extra range, I may slip on a 1-4X scope such as the Hi-Lux CMR scope I am reviewing now. Probably a shame to just have a red dot on this barrel, but it is an outstandingly fast shooting competition rifle in this configuration.

FINAL THOUGHTS
If you ask me to grab a 1000 rounds of .223 and go out for an afternoon of impromptu drills, plinking, and just fun shooting this is the gun I am bringing.  This mid-length system is so easy to shoot and the Ace stock with supplied rifle length buffer makes the impulse feel even less.  Going on the theory that forward mounted optics increase your target acquisition speed, I went to the extreme and mounted the Burris way out front... and you know what? In timed drills I was faster than moving the sight to the back.  I wanted to keep something original and retained the A2 flash suppressor, however I am betting that a compensator ends up on this rifle sooner than later.  For me the $100 difference in price between a high end forend plus receiver and this Mega MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 V2 Upper is worth every penny.  Maybe I can convince Mrs. Pandemic that I quad-rail version is needed.
 SPECS
• Comes standard with laser engraved "T" numbers*(V2).
• Comes with dust cover and forward assist installed.
• Single-rail with smooth hand guard, featuring multiple holes for modular rail attachments.
• Now fluted for lightening and a more aggressive look*(V2).
• Machined to be compatible with the BAD lever*(V2).
• One 3" Modular rail is included with the Carbine and Mid length MTS, & One 4" Modular rail is included with the Rifle length MTS. Modular rails are also (sold separately) & are available in 2", 3", 4" & 6" lengths for specific tactical needs.
• True light-weight billet monolithic design.
• Redesigned dust cover hinge pin for a quality appearance.
• 7075-T6 aircraft grade aluminum alloy.
• Based off our billet upper design, so it matches perfectly to our billet lower, but is compatible with any mil-spec lower.
• Redesigned barrel nut and thread allows use of any stock barrel.
• MTS-120 Pistol accepts only one 2" rail on the bottom and no rails on the sides*.
• For hand guard dimensions including I.D., length, and hand guard width see the following PDF.
• Weight 20oz.
• M.S.R.P. $592
• Barrel nut and wrench included
• Model MTS-900-M
• Compatible with some Adams Arms gas piston systems however not compatible with the standard Adams Arms gas piston system



BUILD COST
Mega Arms MTS Modular Monolithic AR15 Upper V2 $592
Mega Arms Tactical Trigger (4.5lb pull)                       $91
Mega Arms Grip Charging Handle $33
Mega Arms GTR-3S $206
Black Hole Weaponry 16” LTM Mid-Length Barrel     $247.50
PRI Low Profile Stainless Steel Gas Block .750 Dia. $59.50
PRI 223 MSTN Straight Quiet Control Brake SS         $79.95
PRI Stainless Mid-Length Gas Tube                          $16
Ace Ultra Light Stock Assembly                               $114
FailZero M-16 Bolt Carrier and Hammer kit group       $265
Burris Fast Fire II                                                     $175
Yanhee Hill ½” riser                                                  $40
Lower Parts Kit     $60
TOTAL BUILD COST   $1,979



SOURCES
Mega Arms
http://MegaArms.com


Black Hole Weaponry
http://blackholeweaponry.com/
Fail Zero
http://www.failzero.com
Burris
http://www.burrisoptics.com/
PRI - Precision Reflex
http://www.precisionreflex.com/
Ace Stock - J&T Distributing
http://riflestocks.com

Monday, January 30, 2012

Poppin Storm Kettle Kit Review

Poppin Storm Kettle Kit Review

In my time on this earth I have seen and used loads of stoves powered by everything from wood, to pump up kerosene and unleaded gas, to alcohol, to propane, but I have to admit, the Storm Kettle is one of the most impressive kettle and stoves I have used. In a survival or outdoor situation, “simple” is good because I guarantee “complex” will fail you more times than it works. As far as gas stoves, my simple white gas/gasoline pump up single burner Coleman stove has never failed me, as a small grill my Weber Little Smoky works every time, but I was looking for a good option for a packable wood or scavenged fuel powered stove which would deliver simple boil and cook capability for camping, hiking, and preparedness.  Go figure that some Irishman back long ago wanting a hot, easy and fast cup of tea would come up with the simple answer that will even work during stormy Irish days.

The original historic water boiler design was made of copper and used on a number of trips by John Grindlay and eventually he decided to tune up and tweak the design back in his home of England the early 1970s.  Eventually he began manufacturing the original Storm Kettle brand under his Eydon Kettle company company. Like all great ideas the operation started small with his children and family handling production, but as the business grew, he established a full manufacturing facility.  Today Storm Kettles are popular in the English countryside and can also be found all over the world, after all who doesn’t need a storm proof, fuel frugal water boiler. The design itself has lead to other innovative accessories which allow use as a stove and grill. That I know of, I will probably be the first US writer to review the virtues of this elegantly simple and bulletproof water heater and camp stove.

FEATURES
The Storm Kettle is a simple solution to a complex problem. How do you boil water quickly, even in a storm, with a minimal amount of fuel. As you can see from the picture on how the Storm Kettle works, it provides a number of advantages.  The base fire cup allows the Storm Kettle to deliver zero impact heating, so damage to any fire proof base ground surface is prevented.  The fire cup also provides a readily available dry base to build the fire from regardless of conditions.  
Once the Storm Kettle is placed on the fire cup, the tall chimney-like interior and the two holes on the side of the fire cup form what we here in the US call a charcoal chimney starter.  Once the fire is started the entire setup becomes a high draft very high heat chimney starter which delivers intense heat quickly to the walls and water inside the Storm Kettle.  

The Poppin Storm Kettle Complete Kit I picked up, also includes a Storm Tripod to stabilize the fire cup base on uneven or rocky terrain, a cooking pan support, a cup, frying pan (which can be used as a cooking lid for the cup and as extra water coverage during really heavy downpours), two piece grill, pan and grate handle, and Jute Storm Carry bag.  This is a quite full featured cooking stove and kettle kit for $130 considering the very high quality.

The rounded Storm Kettle design itself shields the fire from winds and rain.  Top off the kettle with the cooking pan support and frying pan and even the chimney stack has a rain cover for making hot water even in a deluge.

Storm Kettles come in three sizes, The Original 1.5 liters (approx. 2.5 pints), The Popular one liter (approx. 2 pints) and The Poppin. .85 liter (approx. 1.5 pints). The Original and The Popular models are available in the upgraded durable and protective black finish (inside and out), however the black finish is standard on the Poppin kettle.

When I received the Storm Kettle, my first reaction was, wow this thing is huge, however keep in mind that when cool it is also hollow and in reality you can stuff the cavity full and you really do not loose much space at all.  The entire kit stores very compactly and only needs about a third of the space in the grocery bag sized jute carry bag.

The very high quality environmentally friendly carry bag is a little yuppie tree hugger environmentalist for me and makes a serious piece of expedition level equipment scream Food Network picnic.  I would have preferred a small canvas draw string bag to nest everything from the kit in so I don’t get soot all over the inside of my pack... perhaps the bag will get “recycled” into just that because I took home economics and know how a sewing machine works (I am man hear me roar).

FIT, FEEL, FINISH
In the past, I have on occasion been disappointed by the quality of some stoves and cookware, however the aluminum Storm Kettle is a very nice heirloom quality piece of kit which should last many lifetimes. The cooking pan support are chrome coated steel and add up to the majority of the weight of the full kit. Most likely I will not carry both grate halves and I will work on fabricating a lighter aluminum reproduction of the pan support. The unique high heat oven baked powder coating is applied inside and out to the Poppin Storm Kettle, to provide a subdued, durable, and non-reactive aluminum container for the water.  I suspect the black coated kettles will also look a bit better over time.  Excellent fit, feel and finish.

FUNCTION
The instructions outline one set of lighting procedures, however I have a simpler method. Drop some wadded up newspaper in the fire cup, place a filled Storm Kettle on the fire cup with the cork installed (so you don’t drop fuel in the water, but you MUST remove this before there is any sign of simmering) and load a handful of whatever relatively dry fuel you have into the top of the chimney such as twigs, light the paper through one of the holes in the fire cup base, and then pull the cork.  In around four minutes from match strike, you will have boiling water, in 5 minutes you will have volcanically explosive boiling water if you keep feeding it fuel.  In that same time you can also use the chimney heat to cook up or reheat your dinner.

The benefit to this design once a fire is started is that the intense heat burns nearly any potential tinder even if it is a little damp. Storm Kettle users have even been reported to use hard dried camel dung, from my understanding the wet dung is problematic for a variety of reasons. In my experience the kettle burns everything from pin cones, sticks and twigs, to bark and grass quickly and completely to an ash state with very little odor.  

This makes one heck of a tactical stove as the flame signature is completely contained with the exception of the two vent holes in the fire cup and because of the high burning heat, unless you feed it damp fuel, there is very little smoke signature.  If you so desired, you should be able use the Storm Kettle make char-cloth by using the cup and fry pan on top of the storm kettle.  Always assure you have water in the Storm Kettle or you risk burning out the aluminum.

Another interesting modification which I may attempt would be to tap the water chamber top with copper tubing and run it was the cork loosely attached for use as a water still to desalinate water.  Look for this modification in a future article. The black powder coat finish option would definitely help negate any salt reactivity in the water chamber.

This is an incredibly efficient stove design which has not required more than my Zippo, a strip of paper, and fist full of twigs yet to deliver boiling water in about 4 minutes.  The grill works well, albeit little messy, but the baked powder coating makes kettle clean up easy. I was expecting hot spots with the grill and aluminum cookware, however the heat coming out the chimney delivers pretty consistent temps to each edge of the pan.  One thing that is a learning curve while cooking is not using too much fuel too quickly as the high draft design can generate quite a food scorching inferno quickly.  Rice for instance only takes just a small amount of consistently fed small bits of fuel poked into the chimney under the cooking stand for a slow simmer.  As with any aluminum cookware, I would recommend seasoning the aluminum pan cooking surfaces by coating them with vegetable oil and then heating until the oil forms a black carbon coating.  This coating limits food reactivity with the aluminum and adds a significant non-stick coating similar to a well seasoned cast iron skillet.

Instead of being like the dog that has to figure out what to do with the car once he catches it, the Storm Kettle design makes it easy and convenient to accurately pour boiling hot water into the cups of friends patiently waiting for some hot brew.  Once the Kettle has boiled, use the handle and the chain from the cork to help you pour the water safely.  

FINAL THOUGHTS
This was a fun article to write, because quiet honestly the Storm Kettle was a surprisingly awesome product which I think few know about. Many will look at the Storm Kettles and think “what in the hell”.  I thought the same thing until I boiled my first kettle full of water, then you understand the simple brilliance of the design.  The Poppin Storm Kettle kit is the perfect size for 1-2 people and satisfies everything you need for a lightweight cook stove in a package durable enough for a lifetime of daily use.  Generally I feel the highest honor a piece of kit can receive is to be tagged for inclusion in my Bug Out Bag and this is definitely included... you know the bag, the one we have ready for total subsistence after the EMP hits.  Generally no matter where you travel, you can always find something to burn as fuel and this kit provides everything from the basic need for boiled drinking water for comfort or survival and can do it in a downpour.  The only down side is I have yet to find a dealer here in the US.

It provides a number of cooking options for everything from meats, to stews, to cooked grains and vegetables, and possibly even baking which I have yet to attempt.  It can provide a simple heat source for shelter with fire or just as a hot water radiator and most importantly can do so with minimal fuel without broadcasting your position on a hunt or in a survival or tactical situation.  In the land of $500 titanium camp stove kits, the Poppin does it for about $130 US shipped. From every perspective the Poppin Storm Kettle is an excellent and versatile stove kit which is worth every ounce of its weight.  Look for future articles and tweaks to the great stove and kettle.

SPECS
  • Capacity:                      0.85 l (1.5 Pints or 3 cups)
  • Diameter:                                14 cm
  • Height - closed with base in:     28 cm
  • Height - ready for use:     30.5 cm
  • Weight - empty:               570 g  (1.25lbs)
  • Total Kit Weight              2.9lbs (including bag)
  • $69.99 + $17.00 shipping in British Pounds
  • About $136 US Dollars including shipping
SOURCES
Storm Kettle - Eydon Kettle Company
http://www.eydonkettle.com/


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tactical Machining AR-15 Complete Lower Review

Tactical Machining AR-15 Complete Lower Review

Most likely I am like you, looking for the best deal on lower receivers as I fill my Liberty Safe and assemble an arsenal of ARs.  The truth is that there are only a handful of forging companies and component manufacturers that the AR public rarely if ever has contact with. They are typically pure manufacturers and leave the marketing and retailing to someone else and make either the forged blanks or in some cases completely milled and finished lower receivers complete with brand X’s logo. Even though nearly every forged receiver comes from one of those companies the finish work after the blanks are forged delivers a significant swing in quality. Devil is in the details.

Once we as consumers have identified a quality receiver available, the question of completing that receiver becomes a build or buy. A theoretical savings argument can be made by building your own, however I have yet to find that the case. Buy the time I get all the bits, pieces and upgrades I am at the same price or more as a complete lower.  For the guy who wants a quality and reliable lower receiver without going to the billet custom extreme, it will always be easier and usually less expensive to purchase a complete lower such as the Tactical Machining AR-15 Complete Lower I am reviewing here


Me being the adventurous type and always hoping to discover and write about the next new industry brand, I ran across Tactical Machining (TM).  Tactical Machining was started in 2008 to offer high quality AR parts and is continuing to develop an interesting mix of products.  Tactical Machining is one of the top providers of 80% AR receiver and 80% receiver kits.  For the home machinist, non-ATF 80% receivers provide a fun project to finish the milling and create their own ATF register-able receiver.  Other products include a 10/22 competition upper receiver, a long list of AR accessories, complete AR uppers, and of course complete lower receivers such as the one I am reviewing here.  To be honest, the AR market is very competitive but surprisingly the Tactical Machining complete lower edges out all the standard go-to names from a price and features perspective all while maintaining like or in some cases better quality.

FIT, FEEL, & FINISH
A receiver will work just fine as long as a receiver is in spec as it is kicked out of the forging, and after the internal areas have been milled.  Some manufacturers limit or omit the external surface milling to lower cost.  The result of that omission is some budget receivers look pretty rough. Believe me I have seen a few that I felt compelled to not to review. It is the picky-er manufactures of receivers such as Tactical Machining who take the time to fully mill all surfaces of the forged receivers.  This extra milling step cleans up all the forging flash marks and reduces forging swirls for a very high quality finely crafted lower receiver after anodizing. 





I am noting the quality, because as configured the Tactical Machining complete lower was $10-$50 less than the brands most of us know and was surprised by the quality. They have taken some care in assuring a top notch receiver and finish.  That attention to detail can be seen throughout the Type III Hard coat anodized lower with the fit of the final assembled parts kit.  I know it may be a small detail to some, but I think a sharply milled name, model, serial number and logo looks a whole lot better than just enough shallow milled or stamped info to get by.  The info and logo is nice an crisp on the receiver which just classes it up a bit with the cool looking logo... yeah little things, but they add up to a better looking and quality finished receiver in my opinion.  From a finish perspective, the anodizing is impeccable, deep and dark and as you can see in the above photo, it a higher quality and better finish that my DPMS upper. 
 
FEATURES & FUNCTIONS
The Tactical Machining AR-15 Complete Lower is forged from 7075-T6 aluminum, fully machined, and then Type III Hard coat anodized.  The standard complete lower includes a high quality Mil-Spec parts and trigger kit, Mil-Spec 6-position stock tube, M4 stock and grip, and standard buffer. A couple nice little extras on the base lower are that the grip in installed with a hex bolt versus a slot head bolt and a billet TM logo’ed aluminum extended trigger guard. Nice touches for a very competitively priced complete lower. For my lower I upgraded to a Magpul MOE stock and grip and added a H (Heavy) marked buffer. 

Once in hand, I immediately added the pictured Mission First Tactical One Point Sling Mount grabbed three mid-length uppers from Mega Arms Billet Monolithic upper  (Black Hole Weaponry .223 Wylde, Fail Zero Bolt), Spikes Tactical, Delton AR15 Uppers, and two carbine length uppers from DPMS and Smith & Wesson and headed to the range.  I ran at least three magazines through each upper during testing.  No surprises, fumbles, or stumbles and the Tactical Machining AR-15 Complete Lower performed just as any quality lower should from mounting to various uppers, bolt hold open, and the magazines dropping free. Of note was a preferred nice and tight fit to the uppers which required use of my Leatherman MUT to punch the take down pins.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The Tactical Machining Complete Lower is very high quality, adds in some nice touches from a quality and feature perspective all while being priced below the usual suspects.  Looking over their site, it looks like they have  started offering complete $399.00 uppers as well, which when paired with this well equipped lower, would make for very nice complete rifle for a tad over $700.  Perhaps I might have to pick up one of their AR uppers and a 10/22 receiver for a future review.  I am really looking forward to seeing this company grow considering the quality and value in a product they could just as easily have skimped on.  If you are looking for a complete lower, I would certainly recommend the 
Tactical Machining AR-15 Complete Lower.

SPECS
  • Forged + Fully Machined
  • 7075-T6 Aluminum
  • H Marked Buffer
  • 6-Position Mil-Spec Buffer Tube
  • Billet Extended Trigger Guard
  • Type III Hard Anodized
  • Magpul MOE Grip
  • Magpul MOE Stock
  • $309.00 as configured (Excluding Mission First Tactical Single One Point Sling Mount)
  • $239.00 minus Magpul MOE Grip and Stock

SOURCES
Tactical Machining, LLC
1270 Biscayne Boulevard #4
Deland, FL 32724
Phone: (386)490-4464
Fax: (386)490-4890
Email: sales@tacticalmachining.com
http://tacticalmachining.com

JP Enterprises Modular Hand Guard Review

JP Enterprises Modular Hand Guard Review
In my recent AR15 build and review of the JP Enterprises Barrel Kit, I utilized JP’s own rifle length Hand Guard System.  3-Gun and competitive high speed AR shooting has influenced new development and innovation of the AR platform more than any other factor in the last 10 years even more than our engagements overseas.  The JP Modular Hand Guard is one of those products born from competitive needs and I wanted to write a separate review of this deceptively elegant forend.
FIT, FEEL, & FINISH
As noted in my JP Barrel Kit review, the JP quality and fit is exceptional and easily equal to custom level components.  The guard finish is a hard anodized textured finish which provides a secure grip even when wet without the cheese grater profile of a typical picatinny quad rail and the round 2” tube profile is thinner and easier to hold than typical 2.25” tubes. There is definitely a trend toward smaller diameter forends.  Smaller forend profiles provide a more solid controllable grip for high speed competitions like 3-Gun. As JP notes in the Modular Hand Guard product description, that ¼” reduction greatly increases comfort of the grip. My medium sized hands found the JP forend very comfortable.

FEATURES
The JP Enterprises notes safety, precision, versatility, integrity as the primary benefits of their Modular Hand Guard, but let me add my own observations.
From a safety perspective, JP is right on the money talking about potentially grabbing hot gas tubes and gas blocks. Rifle-length systems inherently give you more forend real estate and reduce the chances of grabbing a hot gas block than carbine or mid length forends. JP of course has a variety colors and hand guard lengths all the way from 15” down to standard carbine length, but this forend was a rifle-length. Sometimes though your hand chokes up around the receiver only to remind you there is also a red hot gas tube under there somewhere. JP’s outer nut design completely shields this area to prevent contact with the gas tube. The nut also adds strength to the receiver, barrel, and forend union while also completely covering the transitional area preventing the exposed tube from being crushed. For those running typical 1-4X optics on their AR’s now, there is also a significant reduction of the thermal optical distortion effect from
For AR’s, a free float tube is one of the most significant accuracy improvements you can make.  Some have noted groups reducing by quarter of their original size by simply converting from a delta ring retained barrel mounted hand guard to a free float tube.  At some point I will test this transformation improvement.  
The JP Modular Hand Guard provides the ability to attach JP’s picatinny rails and sling studs at not only the 6:00, 12:00, 3:00 and 9:00 o’clock positions, but also the in between ⅛ hour positions as well. Many tactical experts say a 1:30 position is much better for tactical lights than the 3 or 9 positions because it provides improved door clearance. If you only need one rail or sling stud, there is no sense degrading comfort with a yard of picatinny rails, place them exactly where you need them and move or remove them as needed with just two screws.

The JP Modular Hand Gaurd tube is secured to the outer nut with six hex screws which lock in the permanently clocked hand guard positioning which allows all types of sighing and lighting accessories to retain zero. Not only will the hand guard stay put, but the union to the receiver is strengthened by a dual-nut system with a 6061 T6 outer receiver extension nut combined with a carbon steel internal barrel retainer nut. This is typically the weak point on most hand guards that depend on shallow barrel nut pulling double duty securing the barrel and supporting the hand guard. After handling quite a few hand-guards, this more substantial guard mount seems like it could take a lot more punishment than some of the guards I have seen. 
 The extension on the JP version is first permanently Lock-Tite’ed in place to the receiver.The nut can then be secured with a standard M16 armorers wrench rather than strap wrench needed on one-piece tubes. This arrangement provides the forend and receiver with significantly more support from the cantilever forces of a free float hand guard and a solid wiggle free forend.

FUNCTION
The JP Modular Hand Guard is ventilated to reduce weight, increase heat dissipation, and improving shooter comfort.  The Modular Hand Guard allows for easy attachment of rail sections, so you can simply attache two short rails and bolt up your favorite iron sights for offset backups, vs needing to purchase rather expensive offset sights. All accessories can quickly be relocated at will, and you can use as many rail units of whatever length makes sense when and where you need them and can forget about rails positions you don't.  At some point I will add a few rails and update this article to show the various options for users.

One of my pet peeves on quad-rails is attaching swivel studs for use with bi-pods and slings and   generally requires some bulky adapter. On the JP Modular Hand Gaurd, the floating studs included allow complete flexibility for any attachment need from standard and tactical sling setups to bi-pod attachment and you can position them in any slot on the guard.

FINAL THOUGHTS
One of those old Ron Ronco info commercials comes to mind as I list through the features of the JP Modular Hand Guard. “it slices it dices...” but in this case the JP Modular Hand Guard is “Safe, durable, comfortable, flexible, and versatile all with good looks”.  For those pondering a new or updated hand guard or forend, the JP Enterprises Modular Hand Guard is a very versatile forend flexible and completely configurable for law enforcement, defense, 3-gun, or bench rest shooting.  All the way around this is a top notch hand guard for your AR.
SPECS
  • JP/VTAC modular free float hand guard System
  • Full length for AR-15/M16 type rifle
  • 1.75" Inside diameter, 2.00" outside diameter, 12.500" Overall length
  • Weight: 15 oz.
  • Matte Black Hard Coat Anodized
  • Includes 2 JP Quick-Detach Sling Studs with Backer Plate(JPHGS)
  • $189.95

SOURCES
JP Enterprises