Saturday, August 30, 2014

PWS AK47 and 5.56 FSC Muzzle Brake Review

PWS AK47 and 5.56 FSC Muzzle Brake Review

On of my favorite muzzle brakes has become the PWS FSC simply because it works great and looks and adds some style to my builds. At this point i have four rifles tipped with the PWS FSC brakes, so, yeah I really like them.

My Century Arms 100% American Made billet received model C39 has been around the block with a few upgrades. To date, those upgrades included a Burris 2-7 Scout Scope, Midwest Industries Picatinny Forend, Mission First Tactical grip, and about fifty Tapco AK mags. The package works, however one annoyance was the rather aggressive stock muzzle brake which  sent a blast of muzzle flash straight up into my scope's sight line. I needed a change and luckily with The AK format, it is a swap and upgrade which anyone can do in under 3 minutes. 

In another build, my WMD Ultimate Beast AR15 Chassis needed a great brake. That build features the WMD complete NiBx coated AR15 which I accessorized with the PWS FSC brake, ALG handguard, a Vortex StrikeFire and triple combo, and Mission First Tactical grips and stock. It seemed logical to add a FSC 5.56 brake to my order and tip the barrel to have the ability to discuss both.

I have been really impressed with the quality of PWS products from their T3 Summit biathlon Ruger format 10/22 rifle to their top end billet AR15 tubes, but I am especially in love with their Brakes.  Their FSC line, which stands for Flash Suppressing Compensator, are muzzle brakes which both reduce muzzle flash and deliver a flatter shooting platform all while looking totally kick ass. The FSC line is not quite though, however PWS's original Genesis or CQB  Compensators are designed to decrease shooter noise might be an option if you are little sound sensitive.

In the land of muzzle brakes, the looks and features of the PWS lineup stand out. The fit and finish is above what you see on most brakes and is without question a finely made part. One features I have found particularly esthetic on their AR15 5.56 FSC line is that there is a lip on the rear/thread side of the brake which covers up either the crush washer or supplied shims used to align the brake to the muzzle. On the AK-47 model, the compensator transitions nicely into a standard AK-47 barrel and aligns/indexes to the muzzle brake detent.

The AR15 5.56 PWS FSC brakes installs just as any other brake would with the exception that you add the appropriate number of shims to perfectly align the brake. This flexibility allows the brake "clocking" to be tuned later on. In most cases a 12 o'clock alignment/clocking of the brake works well, however more recently many shooter prefer a slight 1 o'clock clocking to better fit a shooting style and further flatten the rifle during shots. In most cases, this post install timing would require consistently replacing the crush washer. With the PWS FSC, you just add or subtract a shim at any time. From a looks perspective, the rear lip/skirt on the brake covers any shims used as shown in my WMD Ultimate Beast chassis.

The installation of the AK version is about as easy as it comes. Push in the muzzle brake detent on your AK-47 and unscrew the brake then reinstall the PWS FSC brake. Done.

I personally dig the stylized Starship Troopers look as it adds a bunch of style to the end of the muzzle and why not since you are spending the money anyway.  As we know, looks are secondary to performance. PWS's brakes work great as well as any Miculek style brake I have tested and also adds flash suppression. 

I have quite a bit of experience with standard A2 AR15 birdcage flash hiders and they do a decent job of mitigating flash' but do zip for recoil reduction. For those who still run standard birdcages on their AR15, the PWS FSC delivers a dramatic change in how your rifle shoots. Expect a louder, but much softer shooting rifle with the majority of flash being mitigated.

Conversely, the stock Century Arms C39's brake is pretty effective, but doesn't do much for flash suppression which in this case is directed straight up through a large single port. Making the swap to the FSC brake delivered both a significant improvement in flash suppression, but also a softer shooting AK47 which I could deliver faster follow up shots with.

I am all about making my rifles look cooler, however the coolness is paired with performance and in this case PWS definitely delivers with the FSC series of brakes for AR15 and AK-47 shooters. It is an easy swap for even a new novice gunsmith which delivers big dividends' however expect that neither will deliver a quieter shooting gun, but definitely faster and softer shooting.

Caliber   .223
Length   2.33”
Diameter   .865”
Thread Pitch   1/2x28 RH
Weight   2.5 oz

FSC 556 A PWS signature product, the FSC556 couples flash suppression with muzzle control. The FSC556 is an ideal compensator for putting a high volume of rounds on target, and is a mounting option for the Gemtech HALO.

Shop a huge selection of Firearms and Accessories at - excellent prices and huge selection.

Midwest Industries - Handguard -
Burris - Scout Optic -
Mission First Tactical - Grips -
Century Arms - C39 100% USA Made -
WMD - AR15 Ultimate NiBx Chassis -
Vortex - Strike Fire II & Tripler Combo -

Bond Arms .410 Ranger II Review

Bond Arms .410 Ranger II Review

Granbury Texas is not one of the huge mecas of the Lone Star state, however one very notable business has made its home there; the now famous Bond Arms.

Last year, I toured the factory and left so impressed that I ordered two different guns plus an extra barrel. The first I reviewed was the Texas Defender which is an extremely compact .45 ACP double barrel pistol. For the second Bond Arms gun, I choose the Ranger II which features a 4.25" .410/.45 Colt barrel with a finger guard equipped frame and extended hardwood grip. Unique to the Ranger series is that it also includes Bond Arms custom leather horizontal belt holster which makes this combo a great personal protection option. Not only is this gun and holster beautifully crafted, the gun is actually a whole lot of fun to shoot ever with full power .410 defensive rounds.

As noted in my Bond Arms factory tour article, one of THE features of the Bond Arms handguns is that any barrel length and caliber offered by Bond Arms can be swapped out with any Bond Arms frame and vise-versa. Gordon went a step further and created sets of various grips and grip sizes. All the Bond grips can be swapped between the frames. Technically, all the Bond Arms frames are the same, some models feature different finishes or have a removable trigger guard, so if you have a Bond barrel, it will fit on any Bond lower receiver. Honestly it is dizzying to think of all the combinations, however in this case the Ranger II is a standard Bond Arms receiver with removable trigger guard, extended hardwood grip, and 4.25" .410/.45 Colt barrel.  

The longer 4.25" length was designed to add velocity, deliver a little more accuracy, and take a little bite out of shooting .410 rounds in a handgun. There are a lot of folks who carry Bond Arms handguns as their defensive firearm and more than a few requested a carry package and the Ranger II was created.

Realistically, I never thought that I would want to have an afternoon plinking session with the Ranger II loaded with .410 shells, however that is exactly what happened after realizing the recoil was really quite manageable, even for folks like myself who are recoil sensitive; due to two steel plates in my right arm.

Just like any of Bond Arms handguns the operation and loading is simple. Push down on the left hand side action lever and the action will pop open, drop in two rounds, close the action, assure the safety is pushed to the right (fire), cock the hammer and pull the trigger to fire the first round, and cock the hammer and pull the trigger to fire the second round. Bond Arms feature and automatic firing pin selector which automatically moves to the next barrel with each cocking of the hammer. Is it as fast as pulling the trigger twice on your Glock? No, however it is surprisingly fast and if you have been brushing up on your Cowboy Action Single Action Revolver skills, its quite fast.

Stunningly, I hammered through over five boxes of various .410 shotshells and two boxes of Hornady .45 Colt rounds and it was a blast. BB and buckshot rounds were a bunch of fun on 10-yard cans, however the pattern really opens up quick out of a rifled 4.25" barrel. #4-8 shotshells would be awesome on closer range pests and snakes. I found that a general rule was that upland game shot delivered 1" group size for each foot you were away from the target. For example, at 10 feet a #6 shotshell would deliver around a 10" group.  A good rule of thumb for the Buckshot rounds was a 1" group for every yard away from the target - a target 10 yard away would deliver a 10" group. So basically I was just shredding cans at 10 yards and could hit the litterally blindfolded.

Reloading was actually pretty quick with the auto extractors, however even quicker using Tuff Products QuickStar reloading strip for single action revolvers. The QuickStar worked perfect to carry both .410 and .45 Colt ammo. I actually cut my Tuff Products QuickStar set into two-shot strips.
These are not target pistols, the Bond Arms pistols are short barreled defensive pistols, so you cannot hold them to the same accuracy standards. Realistically shots beyond ten yards take some practice.  Of note, there is difference in point-of-aim between the top barrel and bottom barrel, however if you hold center of mass you will consistently deliver gut and chest hits. If you want to shoot for groups, pick a barrel and cycle through shooting groups with that chosen barrel, otherwise you will end up with a 2” top group and about 4”-6” lower another 2” group with the respective barrels.

Naturally, the longer the barrels such as the 4.25" barrel on the Ranger II deliver better the practical accuracy.  Similar to my spare .357 Magnum barrel, I was able to deliver 50-yard offhand shots on full sized Action Target Silhouettes while keeping most shots within a large pie plate sized ring. Due to the legality and spread of the .410 defensive rounds, I would not personally take a 50-yard shot with buckshot or with a defensive multi-projectile .410 round, however this demonstrates the flexibility of two barrels and the .410/.45 Colt chambering.  

My typical carry method for the pistol is to have one barrel loaded with a Hornady Critical Defense .410 defensive multi-projective round and the other barrel (cycled to shoot first) with a Hornady Critical Defense .45 Colt defensive round. Based on typical defensive shots fired, ranges, and likely encounters, I feel pretty confident that two shots and having the ability pistol whip someone with a 2lb piece of stainless steel should take care of pretty much any reasonable issue I could encounter.

The vertical driving custom leather holster also deserves special attention because it really makes the Bond Ranger II a versatile and practical carry gun. In many cases the rig is far more comfortable than a strong side holster. The holster itself is a gorgeous work of hand made leathercraft and compliments the look of the Bond Ranger II perfectly. Honestly, this is such a beautiful setup it would be a shame to cover it up for concealed carry, so I hope you have open carry in your state if you pick one up.  The holster is set up to allow nearly instant removal or attachment via a heavy duty Velcro wrap over design. It is a great setup for those who will be going in and out of "gun free" buildings. Cross drawing from the holster is smooth and fast only requiring the release of an ergonomically placed thumb break button closure.

The Bond Arms have proven to be infallibly reliable and easy to shoot. Add in a premium quality not found on most guns these days and you have a tough to beat firearm. Sure, on almost any given day, I have a Walther PPS, Glock 26, 19, or 17 on my hip, however there are times and places such a driving where having a vertical carried firearm is more comfortable and accessible as a backup or primary firearm.

Admittedly, I wanted the Ranger II as a complimentary firearm for my Ruger Match SASS Vaquero set to add to my SASS - Single Action Shooting Sports rig, however I have found that it is far more versatile than just a competition gun for cowboy action shooting. Yes they have a derringer division in SASS.

There are very few guns that you will find me recommend just because I think they are gorgeous  however the Bond Arms Ranger II is one of them. Beyond the impeccable quality, fit and finish, the Bond Arms Ranger II is a rock solid hiper dependable defensive firearm. With that noted, it is still a beautiful pistol that is fully capable with some training to be used for self-defense and one which I carry proudly when the need arrises.

Bond Arms .410 Ranger II
Available in either .45/.410 or .38 Spec./.357 Mag Barrel
Features: Interchangeable Barrels
Automatic Extractor (EXCEPT FOR 9mm, 40S&W, 10mm and .45 ACP)
Rebounding Hammer
Retracting Firing Pins
Crossbolt Safety
Spring-Loaded Cammed Locking Lever (for a tighter barrel/frame fit and Rapid loading and unloading)
Stainless Steel with Satin Polish Finish
All Bond Arms barrels will fit this frame, and do come in shorter barrel lengths.

Weight: 23 1/2 oz.
Overall Length: 6 1/4″ Calibers:
4 1/4″ barrel, .410/.45LC (included on gun)
Optional Accessory Barrels:
.357 MAG/.38 Spl
.45 ACP
.45 Colt, Only
.45 Glock Auto
.44 Special
44-40 Winchester
.40 S&W
10 mm
9 mm
32 H & R Mag
.22 Long Rifle
.22 Mag.
Stocks: Black Ash Star Grips
Sights: Bladefront and Fixed Rear Retail Price: $634.00

Shop a huge selection of Firearms and Accessories at - excellent prices and huge selection.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Houlding Precision HPF-15 Utility Battle Rifle Review - Irish Curse & Forend

Houlding Precision HPF-15 Utility Battle Rifle Review - Irish Curse & Forend

A year or so ago, I worked with Houlding Precision to tailor fit a lightweight battle rifle to me. The company was just getting started transitioning from a precision agriculture focused machine shop into top shelf firearms. Yep, quite a switch. Houlding Precision has done well… very well. In fact they even make the billet receivers in an OEM relationship for a few notable companies including JJFU - Jesse James Firearms Unlimited. Under their own firearm label, they have grown and grown. In fact the last two years has been painful for them from a growth perspective just the way it has for other top tier AR15 companies.

At that poinT, I had purchased and built many custom AR15 rifles, however Houlding had a different concept which delivered more of a tailor made rifle. A few months after our virtual fitting, I had in my hands what I still consider today one of my favorite and finest quality rifles I own.

As far as I was concerned, my Houlding Precision was so perfect that I wanted to be buried with it when I die… no, really my wife and I discussed it. So, you can understand my reluctance when Todd Houlding asked that I swap out a few of the original spec'ed components with his new Houlding branded components for testing. I asked, “Why mess with perfection.” Well the parts arrived anyway with a note politely requesting I give them a chance.

The Houlding Forend comes complete
with an extended barrel nut and wrench
Houlding Precision, previously named “Houlding Kaufman Ironworks, Inc.” has been around for a while. In fact, the business was originally started way back in the late 1800’s and early 1900s by farmers who began repairing farm equipment; definitely a plowshares into swords story. Today the company is named Houlding Precision and focuses on producing the best custom tailored AR15s available.

The reality was that my original custom rifle I reviewed was so requested that it became a standard configuration in the Houlding Precision lineup called the HPF-15 Utility Battle Rifle, but with a few tweaks many, including me, would argue are substantial upgrades. Instead of my original rifle configuration of Troy Alpha Rail with squid grip inserts, Daniel Defense bolt and barrel, Geissele Trigger, and PWS muzzle brake, Houlding's current version features its own HPF CMX billet forend, Curse brake, and Battle Tested Equipment AR Match trigger with a choice of 16” or 18” Lother Walther match barrel. Mr Houlding politely asked if I could install and review the current version accessories on my rifle which were being offered instead of continually pimping a rifle he did not offer. How could I refuse such a nice request.

I made the forend and muzzle brake swap and what do you know, I now have a Houlding Precision HPF-15 spec rifle with the exception of the barrel, bolt and trigger and I am actually even more happy with.  The Irish Curse brake actually works better than the PWS model and is a little bit quieter for the shooter and shooters around you. I have tested the regular Houlding Curse brake and the shorter Irish Curse brake and I actually like the shorter version better. It still delivers a flat shooting rifle, but with less boom. The Irish Curse is a gorgeous part which has been nicely radiused and then Melonite finished.

The idea of the Irish Curse brake was to mitigate recoil in the shortest possible length while also suppressing flash. The original dual chamber curse actually provides a huge amount of downforce however the Irish Curse has a little different porting and seems to do the same job in less space. Lower ports are angled at 60 degrees to prevent dust kick up in the prone position.

HPF-15 Irish Curse Muzzle Brake
Identical to Curse EXCEPT shorter
Additional top port to compensate for smaller size
1144 Stressproof Steel
Single Chamber
60 degree, off-set porting to prevent muzzle from rising
Smaller Ports to prevent muzzle blast on firing line
CNC Machined for precision
1/2-28 RH Threads - Melonite finish - Laser Engraved
Designed for competition shooting

The only downside for me to move to the Houlding forend was it 2oz heavier weight than the Troy Alpha Rail. Not a huge deal considering the added features the CMX Forend delivers such as Keymod slots at 90, 180, and 270 degrees, 13” or 15” lengths (I chose the 13”), longer and stronger barrel nut design over the Troy, and of course the very trick looking and exceptionally comfortable octagonal shape. 

The Houlding forend is a significantly stronger due to the design of the extended barrel nut. Honestly most of the weight increase is contained within the size and length of the nut. I do miss the Silicon Troy Squid Grips which provided a cooler handguard during high round count shooting, however the CMX actually seems to do a better job staying cooler longer than the Troy Rail.

From a comfort perspective, the Houlding CMX rail is far more comfortable than the Alpha rail due to the smooth exterior and beautiful triangular pattern.  As you can see, I just had to plug in my X Products 50-Round skeletonized drum magazine with the matching triangle pattern.

HPF Handguard CMX
Extruded aluminum
Type 3 Hard coat anodized
Ergonomic octagon shape - Integrated top picatinny rail
Key mod slots at 90°, 180°, 270°
Available in 13” and 15” lengths
All handguards include HPF-Barrel Nut - BN acts as heat sink
Attaches with 8 10-32×3/8 screws - Handguard wrench included
Weight: 18.1 Ounces

Generally when I find something that works, I have a really hard time changing things especially when it comes to an AR15 which shoots extremely well and was for all practical purposes my perfect rifle. That noted, the new Houlding CMX forend and Irish Curse brakes were great upgrades in both comfort and shooting ergonomics as well as adding a bit more style in the process. So yes, you can make a perfect rifle “perfect’er” even though a grammar teacher just twitched that I typed that.  

Though my original rifle was used as a prototype for the UBR-15, the new version has a few tweaks including a RCA Bolt Carrier Group, BTE match trigger and of course the match grade Lother Walther barrel. Houlding actually even has a new rifle which I have ordered called the Wraith which weighs in at an amazing 6 lbs if you want something a bit lighter. I have said it at least once before; the Houlding Precision AR15 rifles are put together right, look great, and shoot wonderfully. One of the gems of the industry.

HPF-Irish Curse Muzzle Brake
Match Grade 16″ or 18″ Mid Length 1/8 Twist Barrel
Low Pro Gas Block
HPF-CMX Handguard 13”
HPF – G2Set Receiver Set
BTE Single Stage Trigger
Magpul MOE Plus Grip
Houlding Super Slick RCA Bolt Carrier Group
Magpul ACS 6-Position Stock
Magpul MBUS Sights
Cerakote Finish
Weight:8 lbs, Unloaded
Length Collapsed: 34 1/2″
Length Extended: 38″

Houlding Precision Firearms -

X-Products -
Burris - Scout Optic -