Sunday, April 14, 2013

SAI Salient Arms International Glock 17 Tier 3 Review

SAI Salient Arms International Glock 17 Tier 3 Review
I love my Glocks simply because they work each and every time I pull the trigger. A primary selling point for me and most firearms experts is that the safeties are integrated into the trigger with no other switches to flip during times of stress. My Glocks have been carried daily for personal defense, trained with, and shot for target and fun at distances up to 300 yards (and yes we were able to hit a 12”-300 yard gong consistently after a few tries).  Glocks are also plenty accurate to hunt small game with solid FMJs and I can attest a Glock 9mm is fabulous on rabbits. Of all that is good about Glocks, there is about 10% I wanted to change including grip, comfort, smoothness of operation, and the trigger to make it just that much better. The one things that has always annoyed me with the Glock 17 is that the front of the lower receiver above the rail curves up which in my opinion just looks a bit ghetto for a class leading pistol and can inhibit smooth operation.
The Glock is exceptionally easy to work on and generally I do a lot of my own gunsmithing, however I have also witnessed first hand the reliability decreases some Glock owners have tinkering with drop in parts. I cannot count the number of times a Glock owner has started cussing after adding a new “non-stock drop in part”.  In a defensive pistol these drop in parts can get you killed if not installed correctly. So for a little more money, I decided it was time to turn this defensive carry pistol project over to Salient to make it run better versus worse and know that any upgrades done would be done right.

This "need" for an even better Glock led me to Salient Arms International - SAI.  The normal armchair gunsmiths that troll forums certainly have heated debates over the validity of customizing a Glock or in general any plastic pistol, however the continuous competitive wins of Glock shooters who have tweaked, tuned, and modified Glocks would tell another story and those such as Taran Butler with Salient Arms tuned guns seem to have more than a few competition wins. 
From my perspective there is as much validity in customizing a Glock to your needs as customizing a 1911 as they both start off around $600-$800 in base configuration. For this build, I wanted to retain 100% of the stock parts expressly as a concealed carry gun. Though the pictures may indicate a competition build, the intent of this build was purely to perfect a stock Glock 17... basically I wanted my Glock to have a tuning package just like the 1911 owners do to improve upon an already great gun.
No matter how good a gunsmith's reputation is, I have control issues which manifests itself when I turn over a gun to someone and say go to work on it. After handling a few of Salient International's Glock conversions and talking to a few owners, I packed up a Glock 17 and sent it in. In this case the Glock 17 Gen 3 I provided had a mismatched slide serial number due a slide replacement from some serious slide damage.  Even though this is a non-event from an FFL perspective (serial numbers are always taken off the lower receiver), some folks freak out over this and the result is I got a smoking deal on this used G17 as the platform for the Salient Tier 3 Conversion package.
I know everyone wants a tricked out competition gun these days with 1lb trigger, however what I wanted was a Glock tuned for the highest possible reliability while maintaining a defensive stock weight trigger and stock barrel. In essence I wanted an even more dependable Glock I could run harder, faster, with more control and with a bit better trigger. The result of those needs and a discussion with the folks at Salient resulted in me choosing their entry level Tier 3 Conversion Package.  The $1000 Tier 3 package delivered exactly what I wanted to slip into my beautiful Galco belt pancake holster for concealed carry and potential use in a few competitions.
Comparing Glock Gen 3 G17 frames before and after SAI conversion. 
If I could sum up my beloved Glocks, I would say they are not pretty, but they are the most reliable semi-auto pistols I have ever shot. There are some shortcomings. The grip fit is not optimal for anyone, but works for most and the finish is highly durable, but not overall very attractive. The feel of the gun is a workable combat pistol, but it lacks a grip that securely locks into your hands when you start sweating buckets.  Many have referred to the slide as a beautiful as an overweight 2x4. The Salient conversion transforms the look and feel starting with the grip.
Grip - SAI actually has a set of artist who perform the grip stippling (texturing). I have seen a number of professional stippling jobs that looked horrid, but the SAI work is so precise that it looks like a CNC machine did the texturing throughout the grip, trigger guard area, Glockmeister grip plug, and rear firing pin cover. Situated in a Crossbreed Supertuck or Galco pancake holster with a undershirt, the Salient stippling does not chafe or wear on the skin. If the grip is just a tad too aggressive for you, a pass or two with a little very fine grit sandpaper will take the edges off. SAI has a 60% stippling option which leave the weak side of the grip smooth for better comfort next to bare skin.  If I were to do another SAI conversion, I would do the full stippling again and just plan on hitting the rough chafing areas with a little sandpaper.
Generally as a rule you should have a grip on a defensive firearm as aggressive as you can stand because after all comfort is the last thing on your mind when being attacked. In that situation, firearm retention is critical when slippery blood sweat and tears are involved. SAI ‘s grip takes a step further beyond a finely stippled grip texture by recontouring the backstrap and opening up the space between the front strap finger grooves which is infinitely more comfortable. 
Salient also did a ton of R&D to find the optimal trigger-guard middle finger undercut and just the right amount of relief under the trigger guard without reducing . All these little tweaks result in a final Glock 17 hand locking grip which is far from the original Gen 3 fit and feel. Honestly it is the most perfect feeling Glock grip I have yet to handle.  Everyone who has handled it gives it a "ohh, ahh, they is really nice" comment.
SAI CNC machines a “comet cut” magazine release recess which allows perfect access to the stock magazine release. Functionally this is an outstanding feature and is also a better situation on a defensive pistol than upgrading to an extended magazine release which are prone to being accidentally hit. The other grip enhancement is the forward stippling just behind the accessory rail and is purely aesthetic. I could do without this stippling as all it does it eat the inside of leather holsters and adds too much tension to the holster draw stroke and it too far forward to actually provide any grip on any finger. I sanded off this stippling.

Slide - The most visually noticeable magic Salient performs is on the stock slide. The goal of the CNC re-milling of the stock slide is to reduce weight and reduce recoil. It is generally known that the stock Glock slides are heavier than needed and SAI has gone through the R&D to understand how far you can lighten the slide without changing the stock springs. 
The Salient slide treatment dropped just over a full ounce from the slide which makes my SAI Glock 17 the same weight as my Glock 19 - 21.5 ounces. From my testing, the cycling was perfect, but just a bit faster but with noticeably less recoil. What I noticed was that the SAI G17 shot a little flatter in a direct side by side comparison to my other Gen 3 Glock 17.
The top of the slide is left untouched in the process, but the rounded top edges are squared to 45 degree angles, front serrations are milled in and the rear serrations are sharpened up during the truing of the left and right sides of the slide. The one nuance I did not like was that the side and top edge milling created a sharp edge on the front of the slide’s ejection port area, however SAI has noted the issue and is cleaning that edge up going forward. For me I touched this area with a Dremel polishing bit to take the edge off.
Salient Arms International created its own S Bond coating which is a blackened version of the premium gold coating on milling bits. This coating is virtually wear free and increases lubricity and overall durability. SAI noted that technically the gold finish is more durable, however most people do not want a gun that flashy. Although Salient offers upgraded sights as an option, I stuck with the stock sights as I had a set of AmeriGlo CAP sights ready to install after the conversion was complete.
Trigger & Connector Tuning - Right after the first round leaves the barrel you will be shocked at how crisp the trigger rework is. There is literally no trigger reset or take up on the SAI tuned trigger. To further improve the feel of the trigger, SAI performs a polishing of the stock Glock parts. Salient does not swap out the trigger but tunes the trigger with a take up pin instead to reduce take up and overtravel. On a defensive focused pistol, I would not want an aftermarket trigger any lighter. With no take up and a super crisp break, my mag speed emptying abilities were greatly improved. 

Shooting both my stock and the SAI G17 side-by-side, the final trigger pull weight between the two is about the same, however the SAI with the stock polished parts was a bit lighter and felt worlds crisper without any take up. The only parts upgrade swap on this conversion was from the stock action/receiver pins to three stainless oversized pins. This one upgrade seems to tighten things up a bit, especially on a gun that has been ridden hard and disassembled a few times.
Notice how the bottom two stock Gen 2 and Gen 3 Glock 17
have the persistent warped frame syndrome solved by SAI.
Frame Straightening - Pick up any generation of a Glock 17 and you will see a front rail that oddly and incorrectly bends up to meet the slide. Since its inception, I have always been stunned that Glock has not fixed this issue. As you can see in these pictures, my Gen 3 and Gen 4 both had this issue. The reality is that this frame alignment does not just stop there, it extends all the way down the frame.
Today SAI has a special custom jig which heats the frame just enough to straighten the frame. The result of this frame tweak is that you would swear the Salient Tier 3 conversion includes polishing the slide and frame rail guides.
Buffer/Recoil SpringThe stock recoil rod works like a charm, but is far from smooth feeling. To smooth things up, the captured recoil spring is often a replaced item, however without proper tuning, it can also be the culprit of malfunctions.  A a Glock shooter the result of this warped frame and recoil rod is that charging your Glock 17 sounds like grandma's screechy screen door spring. Salient discovered that if the frame is straightened and the stock recoil rod is simply polished that the slide suddenly would cycled like a polished action. I am still amazed how smooth the slide action is now.
I find it odd noting that the Salient Tier 3 conversion runs better than a stock Glock, because after all in stock form, Glocks run perfectly. In the the case of the SAI conversion, my Glock 17 is now functionally smoother, faster, and flatter shooting due to the slide lightening and frame straightening. The upgraded grip finish locked the Glock into my hand and allowed a much more confident grip versus the rather slick stock finish. The slide resurface made the serrations sharper which increased reliability of the “draw, charge, & fire” stroke. Accuracy also improved by about 10%-15% from the trigger tuning and internal polishing and reloads were a bit faster as well due to the Comet cut access to the magazine release.  All these things add up to a gun I feel much more confident to safely push harder and faster; the result is tighter groups, more hits on target and less time between draw and fire.
Comparing Glock Gen 4 G17 frames to SAI Gen 3 G17 conversion. 
There is always a premium to have a professional gunsmith work over a gun.  In this case a couple extra hundred dollars assures you have a gun you can stake your life on, however $1099 worth of gunsmithing work on a $700 Glock may be a bit much for some to handle on a pistol that already works great. In most cases for some reason these same naysayers will be the first in line to hand over a perfectly good $700 1911 for another $1000+ worth of tuneup and reliability work. The reality is both are just guns and if you can make them better, why not?
Adding up the work separately, for a $200 grip job, $250 for a upgraded trigger, and another $100 for an action polish puts you into the $550 range and still does not smooth out the slide, correct the common frame warp issue, or lighten the slide which I would estimate at around $300-$400. It is always good to be able hold one gunsmith’s feet to the fire on the job, or you may end up with a gun that does not shoot well or worse yet is potentially unsafe or unreliable. To me the extra $200 to know it will all work right was money well spent on a pistol I stake my life on.
To date I have put more than 500 rounds of steel case and defensive Hornady ammo as well as a sizable number of my own reloads and I have yet to have a malfunction. Where I did find an increase in reliability was with my occasionally lightly loaded handload; believe me the ounce lighter slide makes a difference. The G17 feed this same ammo before the conversion without incident, so it was my expectation that things would only get better with the slide lightening to increase cycling of the occasional light handload.
Did the Salient Arms International -SAI Tier 3 conversion “Transform!!” my Glock drastically? No and I hoped it would not as I really like about 90% of my Glock. It is the other 10% of annoyances which I normally live with which most were corrected on the Salient Conversion.
Despite the custom appearances, it is important to note that Salient did not swap out any parts with aftermarket versions except the three stainless oversized receiver pins on this Tier 3 conversion. The Tier 2 and Tier 1 conversion upgrade a number of parts, but on the Tier 3 each and every part including the trigger shoe were stock tuned and tweaked parts all in an effort to improve reliability, handling and accuracy on a gun intended for personal defense.  
This conversion is first and foremost a carry gun conversion. The advantage is that this SAI Tier 3 converted Glock is not a hypersensitive competition conversion which could become a liability in a defensive situation, but tuned enough to provide a significant advantage on the weekend 3-gun course by just dropping in a KKM  aftermarket match grade barrel with a compensator.
As is I am extremely pleased with the conversion carried in the Galco pancake holster and my Crossbreed Supertuck holsters, however the SAI stippling can be just a bit rough on the inside next to bare skin. I very lightly hit that side with sandpaper and it took the hot spots off for me. The slide width is modified, so you may need to tighten up the retention on your polymer holsters such as my Blackhawk Serpa.
A few other extras I added to the build were a couple Glock OEM +2 round magazine extensions to provide a 19+1 carry and competition option. I did pick up a gorgeous Galco pancake holster and Ameriglo Tritium CAP sights which I will review later.  Some will scoff at upgrading a plastic gun however from my perspective this is the perfect Glock 17 carry gun and has proved to me the cost of the conversion is worth every penny and delivered the better Glock 17 I was looking for.
Salient Arms International Tier 3 Conversion Customer Supplied Weapon
Salient Tier 3 Trigger Conversion
Polish all factory trigger parts & polished and tuned trigger bar

Upgrade to stainless oversized pins
Factory Sights - Later upgraded to Ameriglo CAP Tritium sights
Slide Rework
Slide Coating - S Bond Black - standard
Frame straightening
Factory Glock Guide rod polish
Grip Job - Full Grip Stippling adn trigger undercuts - standard
Trigger Guard Undercut One - standard
Mag Release - Comet Cut - standard
Salient Total - $1,099
Salient Arms International
Hornady Ammunition

Friday, April 12, 2013

Black Hole Weaponry 308 Barrel Review

Black Hole Weaponry 308 Barrel Review

My poor scratched and scraped DPMS AP4 7.62x51 rifle has worn a lot of hats. It was the second AR format rifle I ever purchased a year or so after my heavy barreled DPMS 308B. First and foremost as a hunter and target shooter, I loved the utility of the 308 round.  These DPMS AR 308's seemed the logical purchase for both sporting, target shooting, and hunting of any North American game.

Like so many other firearms, my original DPMS AP4 wandered into my arms after being a used gun deal that was an unbelievable $600... yeah I dare you to find that deal on any AR format 308 these days.  In fact I saw a DPMS 308 Bolt Carrier Group alone that was selling for $700 alone. The downside was that after I beat this already used rifle it was in need of a new bolt.

I always enjoyed how light that DPMS AP4 rifle was comparatively to heavy bull barrel 308 ARs, however a recent ultra-light build beat it out and pushed this now heavier AP4 to the back of the safe. This rifle was in need of an update and this time I wanted to go to a heavy barrel to improve precision and long range hit capabilities.  The choice was an 18" Black Hole Weaponry 308 Barrel, new bolt carrier group, with all new furniture, optic, and trigger to completely update the rifle. My old AP4 easily delivered 1"-1.5" groups at 100 yards, but of course my expectations were higher for this build which has clawed its way to a little over $3000.

When you want huge accuracy improvements beyond a free-float handguard, the obvious upgrades are an improved trigger and target barrel, but it is the barrel which can net the biggest benefits.  The problem is that upgrading from a standard mil-spec to a premium mil-spec hammer forged barrel these days will typically lighten your wallet upwards of $250 and in reality provide good durability improvement but marginal accuracy improvements.  Upgrading further to match grade barrel will pull $350-$600 from your wallet.  Fortunately for those that are looking for sub-MOA accuracy, Black Hole Weaponry has an affordable match grade polygonal rifled 308 barrel that starts around $320. Not heard of Black Hole Weaponry? They sell barrels direct to customers, however they are primarily an OEM barrel supplier for many AR brands you know that punch tiny little groups. I featured a lightweight .223 Black Hole Weaponry barrel in my ultralight Mega Arms monolithic upper build last year and was so impressed, I decided one of their 308 barrels would be just the ticket for the high precision intent of this build.

The Black Hole Weaponry barrels will fit and install perfectly in place of or as any other standard DPMS 308 format AR barrel and are available in all the standard contours and gas system lengths.  If you want a certain weight, feel, barrel profile, fluting, or barrel finish on the stainless barrels in a carbine, mid, or rifle-length gas system, Black Hole Weaponry can accommodate almost any request within their regular list of options. You can even specify a threaded or a standard target crown.  The result of all these options provides the AR15 or in this case me the DPMS 308 barrel buyer with a huge amount of options to customize the fit, feel, and finish desired.  Including this barrel, I have two other barrels from Black Hole and they are all excellent tack drivers.


Black Hole Weaponry wins the attention to detail barrel maker award.  They only purchase certified US materials and keep the certificates on file, then record material lot numbers and track each piece of steel through the entire manufacturing process.  After profiling and finishing, each barrel is marked near the extension with their name, the lot number, chambering, twist, and the inspectors stamp.  They perform magnetic particle inspections (MPI) and other non-destructive testing to assure the integrity of each barrel and pull random samples for destructive testing.  A hell of a lot of attention to detail on a $320 base configuration 308 barrel with polygonal rifling.

The barrel I choose was their standard bead blast 18” mid-length gas system. The barrel is polygonal rifled with a 308 match chamber, 11T twist, and a threaded muzzle.  Flutes look cool and could have dropped some weight, however actually wanted a bit of extra weight and knew that the extended 15" Precision Reflex Delta Carbon Fiber forend I was planning on using would cover most of the barrel anyway, so the added cost of fluting was sort of pointless cost in my case.


Black Hole Weaponry 308 Barrel - The Black Hole Weaponry barrel features three-land polygonal rifling based on 416R stainless steel with a rifling shape is a series of arcs instead of square corners, as in the traditional style of Enfield rifling. This arc shaped rifling has long been held in very high regard for its accuracy, increased velocity, reduced gas cutting and ease of cleaning.  From my experience with two other Black Hole barrels, polygonal rifling deliver outstanding accuracy and run significantly cleaner and require far less cleaning compared to other comparable cut rifled barrels which in the end has delivered accuracy which held during extended shooting.

The barrel features Black Hole’s own 308B match chamber with a 1x11 twist ready for a .936” gas block. Black Hole’s 308B chamber is similar in theory to the idea of the .223 Wylde chamber for .223 chambered rifles, but in this case to optimize .308 or .5.56 ammunition for accuracy. I used a Precision Reflex low profile gas block for the mid-length gas system. My old AP4 was a carbine length gas system packed a snappy punch, however this mid-length system noticeably smooths things out a bit.

PRI Quite Brake - Working down the barrel I tipped the ⅝”x24 threaded muzzle with a Precision Reflex 308 Quiet Brake to take just a bit more bite out of the 308 recoil and improve follow up shot recovery. As with any brake, they are far from quiet and in fact they are freaking loud as hell, however the PRI is a fair bit less annoying to other shooters, but do not expect any warm embraces.

PRI Delta Carbon Fiber Forend - PRI products are outstanding quality so in addition to the gas block and brake, I selected an extended black 15" Delta Carbon Fiber forend.  Honestly, I am in love with this forend as it locks down onto the receiver like a bank vault. The forend is extremely stuff with zero wiggle all while being very light. This stability means a rock solid mount for the Atlas bipod. 

The big advantage with the PRI Carbon Fiber forends is not the look of carbon fiber, but the weight, stiffness, durability, and heat dispersion capabilities. If your guns kicks out heat like this 308 will during consistent shooting, a carbon fiber forend from PRI will deliver a significantly cooler forend than aluminum.

DPMS Bolt Carrier Group - Stunningly the most difficult part of this build was obtaining a new bolt carrier group.  In these insane times, to say I got lucky is an understatement on finding a brand new DPMS bolt carrier group direct from DPMS. I waited months for the backorder to fill however, it finally arrived all without getting raped on Gunbroker for the $700 bolt I saw online. 

Generally a best practice when replacing a barrel is to also replace the bolt to allow a new bolt and barrel to wear and marry together. In this case I replaced the bolt and carrier group together. Most accuracy nuts believe that this will provide a tighter fit and increase accuracy. In my case the older bolt was pretty worn, so this was a must do replacement before shooting just one round.

Atlas Bipod & Mako Furniture - To add bipod stability, I choose an Atlas bipod simply because I believe it is the best bipod available anywhere for any amount of money.  For furniture I stayed with my original Mako Group ergonomic grip and recoil reduction stock with removable cheek piece simply because I like them and they work. I noticed that Mako has a new rear monopod adapter for my Mako stock however they are backordered.

Geissele Hi-Speed National Match DMR Trigger - The tweaked stock trigger was definitely not up to matching the capabilities of the new Black Hole Weaponry barrel so I looked to my favorite AR trigger company. In this case I choose the very high end Geissele Hi-Speed National Match DMR (Designated Marksmanship Rifle).  This trigger combines the 1st stage of a match trigger with a 2nd stage of a crisp service trigger to perfectly fit the hunting, target and precision tactical rifle build intent. This trigger is superb.

Other Extras - Another custom piece retained from my initial build was the Phase 5 Tactical Ambi-bolt release.  Although I cropped the extension a bit after photos were complete to free up some space within the trigger guard, this is a godsend with the long stroke on the 308’s. 
The Phase 5 Tactical bolt release also allows clearing the gun or handling malfunctions by pulling the bolt back with the left hand and trigger the catch with the right. For magazines, if you have any experience with the DPMS 308 platform, you know that without tweaking stock metal mags, a Magpul PMAG LR20 is the way to go to assure reliability.

Burris MTAC 6.5-20X Scope - Previously I had a 4.5-14X Tac30 on my old DPMS 308B build and it performed perfectly, however I did want a bit more power without raising the low end of the power too much.  After seeing the 6.5-20 MTAC at the Shot Show, I knew it was the perfect compromise of high and lower power for this build. 

The new Burris MTAC G2B Mildot reticle adds additional Mildot subtense, resettable zero and mil-based windage and elevation adjustment. Most importantly the MTAC is crystal clear and with a 30mm tube that sucks in light a bit more than a smaller 1” tube.  Crystal clear repeatable click adjustment all at about half that of comparable optics.

As with any new custom build it takes a magazine or two to functionally break in the rifle. A lube job with Premium Synthetic Oil from Black Rain Ordnance helped functioning in the first couple magazines.  I was lucky and only had two little feeding bobbles in the first two magazines before reliability settled down to what I have come to expect before the makeover of this old DPMS AP4.

I fired a couple boxes of Hornady Steel 308 match to settle things down and also find zero with the Burris. After that I worked through about 100 handloads to make sure my 100 yard zero held and then re-established a zero at 200, then finally 300 yards. With this rifle, my hope is to push beyond the 500-yard limit of my outdoor range and a 300-yard zero will allow that 500-yard contact without touching the elevation tuning.

A feature of the polygonal rifling is that you will find yourself cleaning the barrel significantly less to maintain accuracy. In fact, Black Hole Weaponry recommends to only clean the barrel with just a dry cleaning patch and to only use solvent if needed. Polygonal rifling has none of the crevices which increase fouling and decrease accuracy. After all my testing, I pulled two dry patches and an oiled patch through the barrel and it was clean.

Accuracy Groups - For accuracy testing, I reached into my stash of Hornady ammo and luckily I had a few boxes of Hornady’s 150 gr SST, 150 gr SST Superformance, 168 gr A-MAX Superformance Match and 178 GR BTHP Match. From my experience, Hornady ammo has delivered outstanding and these results continued that legacy.

My best 5-shot 100 yard group was with the Hornady 150gr SST .456” group which from perspective is outstanding for a semi-auto 308 firearm. As you would expect at longer distances in the 200+ ranges, heavier bullets start to gain an advantage.  By the time I was reaching out to the 300 yard line the 168gr rounds were my favorite round with tighter groups. 

Using my iStrelok ballistic iPhone app to dial in with a very light breeze, my personal best 300-yard group shot from prone from the Atlas bipod was with the 168gr A-Max Superformance Match which delivered a 2.17” group at 300 yards. What was surprising was that as long I did my part, I kept my other two groups under 2.25". I was thrilled with these initial groups, but most interesting to me was how the groups held together at those longer ranges and that the most accurate round at 100-yards was not the most accurate at 300-yards.  To give you some perspective my old DPMS 308B best 300-yard group was just under 4" which is not bad at all, but not in the same class at this barrel.

I know shooting off sandbags or locking into a LeadSled would immediately minimize the human variable and decrease groups. Additionally with a bit more work on understanding how this rifle shoots long-term and a little reloading bench load tuning I have no doubt sub-2" 300-yard groups are possible off the Atlas bipod. At this point I have not pushed the rifle beyond the 300-yard range, however once I work through a few Sierra and Hornady reloads, you can bet I will see what this rifle can do out there near the 1/3 mile marker. Based on conversations with a few tremendous distance shooters, I believe this build could easily deliver accurate shots out at 1000 yards. At those distances I have a whole lot of work still to do on my side to reach out that far.

Average 5-shot 100-yard groups
Hornady 308 Win 150 gr SST
Best 5-shot 100-yard Group .456” - 5-Group Average .743”

Hornady 308 Win 150 gr SST Superformance
Best 5-shot 100-yard Group .593” - 5-Group Average .789”

Hornady 308 Win 168 gr A-MAX Superformance Match
Best 5-shot 100-yard Group .478” - 5-Group Average .692”

Hornady 308 WIN 178 GR BTHP Match
Best 5-shot 100-yard Group .494” - 5-Group Average .710”


The other major components of this rifle including the PRI handguard, Burris 6.5-20 MTAC, and the stunning Geissele National Match trigger will have dedicated review, so I will not go into those details here. I will note each and every one of these components performed stunningly. As I have proved to myself over and over again through upgrades, the barrel is the heart of accuracy and realistically just a barrel swap and a quality optic on my old AP4 could have delivered nearly the same results. Of course the super sweet Geissele trigger added to the accuracy abilities, and the PRI forend provided stability, and the rest of the upgrades just made the rifle feel, and handle better. The quality of each component absolutely contributed to the accuracy of the rifle. 

I doubt you will here many other writers admit this, but to be totally honest this rifle's accuracy far exceeds my ability to shoot it. It can deliver .5" 100-yard groups all day long in my hands and in the hands of someone really good could probably deliver near single hole groups. The same goes for those longer distances where an I am delivering just over 2" groups. Perhaps later this year I will have an opportunity to put this in the hands of a military shooter who I know can wring out the accuracy of this barrel.

The other reason I went this far and perhaps a bit overboard on this build was timing. Hands down this was the most difficult build I have ever done; not because of assembly, but because of parts availability.  Pricing is nuts on some of the parts in today’s market and if you can get in line, there is a huge waiting period. In the process, I actually sold my other DPMS 308B to help fund the cost of this build.  Believe me when I say that I took a big deep breath to sell a working and very accurate DPMS 308B to fund hopefully getting parts for this build. To put this in perspective,  I started this build in June of 2011 and just finished it up in February 2012... yes it has taken that long.  A long back ordered DPMS bolt from DPMS arrived just in time to relieve my panic. 

Along the way while I was waiting I “may have” upgraded far beyond my initial goal with a new forend, new optic and new trigger...and once you are half way in on cost, you convince yourself to go even further.  I am thrilled with the initial results of the Black Rain Ordnance 308 barrel, however the next fun and hard part is putting in the time and work to take advantage of the capabilities of the amazing barrel and build with consistent shots way out there in the distance.


  • Used DPMS AP4 - $600
  • AP4 barrel sold - ($250) subtracted from total
  • 18" Black Hole Weaponry 308 Stainless Bull Barrel - $320
  • PRI Precision Reflex Industries - Carbon Fiber Delta Forend - $390
  • PRI Precision Reflex Industries - Low Profile Gas Block - $59.50
  • PRI Gatorgrip Quick Release Scope Mount - $190
  • PRI Precision Reflex Industries - Quiet 308 Brake - $83
  • Burris 6.5-20 MTAC scope - $680
  • White Oak Mid-Length Gas Tube - $15
  • Atlas bipod - $279.99
  • The Mako Group - AG-43 Grip - $27
  • The Mako Group - Buttstock - $120
  • Geissele Hi-Speed National Match DMR Trigger  - $279
  • ---Total $3045

Start your AR build at 

Black Hole Weaponry -
The Mako Group -
Geissele -
Burris Optics -
Hornady -

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ruger LCR Upgrades for Carry & Convenience

Ruger LCR Upgrades for Carry & Convenience

My Ruger LCRs have had a love, then hate, then love relationship for some time. What first drew me in on the LCR in .357 magnum was the weight and compact size.  It could deliver full power 357 magnum loads from a snubby about the weight and size of a mini-380 ACP and still shoot less expensive.38 Special loads for practice.  

The problem was that the LCR was a bitch initially to find carry options because it really did not fit “universal” snubby revolver holsters. Another issue was that my prefered 158gr 357 Magnum loads from my heavy revolvers made the hyperlight 357 magnum snubby feel like I was shooting .44 Magnum rounds... I have plates in my dominant arm from a break and honestly it freaking hurt. I have prided myself on having good trigger control without a bit of winc, however I flinched like a little bitch when shooting those 158gr 357 magnum rounds. Reloading solutions were also a little too slow and fumbly for my taste. The last issue was a minor one, but important; the LCR needed a front night sight for reliable targeting on anything beyond 5 yards in a reduced light.
ClipDraw - $29.99 - Of all the accessories I have added to my LCR the one transformative accessory has been the holsterless ClipDraw. This single accessory is responsible for the LCR being in my concealed carry rotation more often versus collecting dust in my safe. 

For $30, it will transform the utility of the LCR and will not interfere with any of your other carry options. In essence the ClipDraw attaches a pocket clip the the revolver unobtrusively with VHB - Very High Bond Tape and allows the revolver to just be slipped and clipped inside pants, shorts, waistband, underwear, or skirts (at least according to my wife). In addition this option even provides a tuckable carry option which allows your shirt to tuck in over the clip.

Blackhawk LCR In the pocket holster - $19.99 - For those that want to carry a revolver in a pocket, the simple but effective Blackhawk LCR pocket holster is an easy way to mask the outline of you LCR in the front or back pocket. The downside is that unless you are wearing really baggy pants or shorts, this carry method can hamper your draw a bit, but does give you an inexpensive carry option. Sourced from

Galco Tuck-N-Go In the Waistband Holster - $29.99  The ClipDraw is a stunning add on, however holsters can provide an increased margin of retention and potentially deeper concealment. I choose the universal snub nosed revolver Galco Tuck-N-Go tuckable Holster which allows tucking a shirt over the gun... yep even a dress shirt. I use this holster when I need just a bit more tuckable concealment. 

I did modify it a bit to make the LCR 357 magnum version fit by removing the inner stitching row. Basically the stock state made the pistol ride way too high for me, but removing that one non- supporting stitch line allowed my LCR to fully seat in the holster. This is a great simple holster which allows great concealed carry. Sourced from

Newton’s law tells us that acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (the heavier the bullet being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object) and of course Newton's third law explains recoil that for every action there is an equal and opposite re-action. If we lighten the bullet grain weight, we can drop recoil down a bit as well. 

Heavy grained 158gr rounds can be a bit harsh to shoot in this lightweight revolver, however the recoil can be reduced either dropping the bullet weight or the charge. You could just shoot lower power .38 Special rounds like the Hornady 110gr round to drop the charge and recoil. The other option is to to move over to lighter Hornady 125gr .357 Magnum rounds or something in the middle with a +P .38 Special round. This is what I love about the .357 Magnum chambering; it is flexible with the ability to shoot a huge variety of .38 Special to .357 Mag rounds. What I found took the edge off the recoil was just dropping to the Hornady .357 Magnum Critical Defense 125gr FTX ammo. Still a little sharp, however the round still delivers all the power you expect from a .357 but with more control. Sourced from my ammo guy named Vinnie.

I am generally a huge fan of “press to reload” Safariland Comp series speed loaders however sadly they do not make one for the LCR.  The HKS twist to reload speed loaders do not work as smoothly and catch on the grips during reloading. Bianchi Speed Strips are a better carry option for those that carry a revolver and lay flat in the pocket. They are a bit slower for reloads however I have found them to put rounds in the cylinder a bit more reliably than a speed loader that does not quite want to go in willingly. $5.99 for two speed strips is a steal, so I purchased three sets. Sourced from

To increase safety in a defensive situation, we know from research that those wonderful deteriorating half life Tritium night sights can make all the difference when one inch to the right or left can make a big difference in the dark.  Obviously the Ruger LCR does not have rear sights, however it does have a front sight which can be swapped out. I picked up a Tritium front sight from Simply drive out the retaining pin on the front sight and replace with a Tritium replacement sight. Note the pin goes in easy but could require some gunsmithing assistance to get back in. Although you should always attempt to illuminate your target, sometimes it is not possible and I believe night sights add a margin a safety when forced to fire in reduced lighting situations. Sourced from 

My Glock is of course my first choice, however there are many situations where the Glock will not work well with that certain pair of pants or print just a bit more than I would like with “that shirt”. At that point, which seems to be often, I reach for the Ruger LCR or Kahr CM9.  The LCR’s Bianchi holster or Clipdraw attachment both provide deeply concealable tuckable carry options. Thus, the ultra-light 357 magnum LCR gets carried much more than I ever thought it would. The lighter 125gr Hornady ammo take a bit of bite out of the recoil from the original 158gr rounds and now the Tritium sights add safety to taking shots in low light environments.

Over four months of carrying, shooting, and protecting, my updated LCR is finally what I would term as the perfect carry snubby. On more than one occasion I have been asked by a first time gun buyer what should they buy for a universal personal defense firearm for home and concealed carry. My answer is usually a Ruger LCR. I believe there are capacity advantages to a semi-auto pistol however much more training is required to be proficient with a semi-auto pistol however for the money and simplicity of a revolver, the LCR with a $30 ClipDraw attachment is the perfect light, dependable, and concealable option.

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