Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Training Trumps Equipment

Training Trumps Equipment

Etha2 - Awesome Paintball gun

I was reminded again that training always trumps equipment as two two rounds exploded into me; one hitting my exposed right knuckle and the other against my shin. I raised my hands as the two pre-teens that had been randomly showering my position with hundreds of rounds screened “we got him”. Paintball and its airsoft counterparts are both very painful reminders that I always need more training and a whole crapload more cardio work. In this case one of the .68 caliber paintballs left me with a sore knuckle and bleeding bruise all because I leaned out for a shot with my leg exposed and forgot to keep my leg in and  angle the barrel out instead of the whole gun. The net was I exposed my entire hand and leg when taking the shot. 

I know not to do this, I have had a lot of training on not doing this and been shot with a lot of paintballs and airsoft rounds as a reminder, but I was tired, hot, tired and sweaty. The previous two hours of running paintball around paintball ranges in 98-degree heat. Discomfort and fatigue were showcasing that I needed a bit more muscle memory training and my cardio certainly played a factor in all that. The net was that despite all twelve of us on the field having exactly the same equipment and me with boatloads more training, two random shots from over 100 rounds spraying my position showcases a momentary lapse in the moment. That and if I would have moved instead of letting my ego keep me in that position. If they would have been real bullets, I would have been out of the fight or at least a lot less effective.

My fatigue was a factor and a lot of that really could be pinned on my Covid bod which unfortunately has gained weight and had far less exercise that it should have had since all this started. A higher level of fitness training would have allowed me to focus a bit better even after being tired instead of dropping by from a more aggressive pace, focus more clearly, and not just want to finish the game to grab a quart of Gatorade.

Training Trumps Equipment - Fitness, Tactics, and Equipment

All this noted, a tournament tier paintball gun like an Etha 2 or Axe 2.0 that would have allowed me to shoot twice as fast and with twice the accuracy but would not have helped me get shot less. A whole lot more cardio and more tactical muscle memory would have kept my hand and leg behind cover. That noted, we all fall back on equipment upgrades and I really do "need" a new marker with an electronic trigger and high rate of ramping fire would not hurt to barrage opponents.

The caveat here is that we all had good high quality loaner paintball guns that ran perfectly, so for equipment you do need the best, the most accurate, or the most featured, you just need reliability that will keep working. Skip the budget stuff, but quality, but most importantly get training and if possible get out there on the field to to test yourself once and a while.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard

Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard

One of the holey cow wow factor AR15 accessories that came out in 2016 that still has a wow factor today is the Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard. The Brigand Carbon Fiber handguard optically looks like it is fragile, however the company put those doubts to bed with a display that had 100-lbs hanging from the end from one of their handguards. Brigand Arms actually makes three different models including the EDGE, BLADE, ATLAS. The impressive clean EDGE handguard deserved a special build to show off this incredible handguard.

The build started with the proprietary patented woven handguard is made from 3/16-inch carbon fiber rods. Capped at both ends with billet aluminum and mounted with an aluminum barrel nut. My one complaint on the Brigand handguard is that the far too substantial and heavy of a design considering the amazing light weight of the handguard - the decision was an AR15 pistol build.

The Brigand Arms carbon fiber handguard is extremely well made and installs just as any handguard would. Tighten the supplied barrel nut down on the barrel and index it properly for the gas tube pass through. Drop a little LockTite on the external threading of the barrel nut and thread on the brigand handguard and then tighten the locking ring.

In this case, the Brigand handguard was attached to a Phase 5 Tactical billet Upper Receiver loaded with a Phase 5 billet charging handle, Sharps Reliabolt, and Phase 5 Carrier. A special handguard requires a special barrel and I reached for a top and Ballistic Advantage Hansen profile .233 Wylde barrel tipped with a Kineti-Tech Brake. The optic used was the new Hi-Lux Leatherwood MM-2 Red Dot which has proved to be exceptional. Later I move to a Nikon fixed 3X AR optic which is super clear and allow the accuracy of the barrel to shine through. Currently this little rig delivers sub-moa groups at 100-yards and tiny little ragged holes at 50. It is a crazy impressive little rig.

The lower was a custom Faxon/Houlding Precision billet lower with Phase 5 Tactical Hex buffer tube complete with a newly introduced Timney Targa Flat Trigger, and a host of components from V Seven. V Seven manufacturers a variety of titanium parts including their selector, pivot pins, magazine release, magazine release button, egg-plate, buffer detent, and dual castle nuts used in this build. Of course there was a significant amount of customization on this build. All the titanium V Seven parts were hand mirror polished along with the stainless steel KNS model JJ anti-pivot pins and the Timney trigger. I know the Brigand Arms carbon fiber handguard deserved a special build, but hand polishing titanium is no small task.

The final custom touches were adding in some HexMags customized with Hex Grips and chopping down a completely perfect Mission First Tactical 15-Degree Engage grip to fit in with the more compact look and feel of this AR15 pistol build. The look I must say is pretty special.

On the range the Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard is an insanely light and open design which delivers full and unrestricted cooling ventilation of the barrel during spirited shooting. Despite the unusual design the handguard is comfortable to hold and grasp while being unbelievably cool looking.

Brigand has brought to market one of the coolest (literally) handguard designs on the market. It is something truly unique and different from anything else which applaud their ingenuity.

3.6-5.00 ounces depending on handguard length
Large gauge design provides ample room for suppressors
$260-$399 MSRP depending on model and length
9” Version Featured - $279


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Brigand Arms -

Also Featured

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Ballistic Advantage -
Faxon/Houlding Precision -
Phase 5 Tactical -
Hi-Lux Leatherwood -
Extrema Ratio Knives -

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Primary Arms 4-14X44 Mil Dot FFP Scope Review

Primary Arms 4-14X44 Mil Dot FFP Scope Review

As I marched through a quest to find and review as many "quality" FFP (First Focal Plane) scopes, I initially discounted what Primary Arms was offering. I mean how in the world could a $229 retail scope compare with the mid-higher tier optics on the market in the $800-$1200 range. I am here to tell you that it gets you about 80%-90% there for a third to a quarter the price. Just a few weeks ago, I again say a fellow shooter who had topped his AR with this great optic. For the price this optics remains a stunning deal.

FFP scopes whose reticles zoom in proportion to the magnification are all the rage now within the shooting industry because they simplify ballistic calibrated reticle based shooting systems. Your ballistic reticle tick mark at 200-yards will be the same whether you are at minimum or maximum magnification.  

There are MOA - Minute of Angle, bullet calibrated and Mil Dot reticles which have some type of hash mark on the reticle with the intent that you can use these hash marks to calculate a shooting “hold” solution, measure distance, or target height. In this, case Primary Arms’ 4-14x44 FFP scope features a Mil Dot reticle. There is a learning curve to any ballistic or graduated hashed reticle, however what makes any of these calibrated reticles tough to use on regular second focal plane optics is that they are typically calibrated only at their highest magnification. This means that the reticle will not zoom with the magnification on standard scopes. For example, the first tick down on the reticle may be calibrated for 300 yards at max 14x magnification, but on 4X magnification that same tick mark will not deliver a 300 yard shot and like a zero around 500-600 yards instead.

Some people like this fixed reticle configuration because it allows your 14x 300-yard zero to be a 600-yard zero at 4x, however this math makes my head hurt. FFP optics make shooting solutions consistent at any magnification and therefore simpler to calculate as you are learning the ballistic system of your scope. If you know your 10/22 or AR15 delivers a 125-yard zero on the top of the first mil-dot at 14x, then that zero will be the same at 4x when you have the magnification low for fast moving varmints. The problem is that this cool FFP system is usually reserved exclusively for more expensive $800+ optics.

On my last cruise through PA's site dropping things in my cart for my latest AR15 build, I took a hard look at the Primary Arms 4-14x44 FFP scope. I will have to admit that my plan was to bolt it on a custom 10/22 just to spend more time practicing my Mildot ranging, but after I received the $229 the optic changed my mind about the quality  a sub-$300 optic can deliver and instead dropped it right on my custom AR15 build. Considering the PA 4-14x44 also delivers the FFP feature usually only found on expensive optics, this scope is an amazing deal.

Primary Arms is a firearms parts and products retailer founded on delivering high quality firearms related products at a extremely competitive price. What makes Primary Arms unique is that they started offering their own line of optics and red dot sights which are now widely regarded as being “best buys” in the industry.

Generally Primary Arms optics are affordable quality equivalents of well know brand name optics. Their $90 Micro Dot design and mounting holes match up to the $400 Aimpoint Micro so you can mount it to Aimpoint Micro pattern mounts. Their $90 Reflex recoil proof sight compares very closely to $300+ reflex sights from Burris, Vortex and others which makes it a very attractive option for both handguns and rifles. There is a difference in quality between the high dollar optics and what Primary Arms is offering, however the quality will really surprise you. It is impressive that Primary Arms optics quality is not ¼ or ⅓ of the quality as the price would indicate.

The fit is actually pretty good with quality on par with the Lucid, Leatherwood and other similar quality optics. The optic was solid and the finish was consistent throughout with a good feel and heft to the optic. A 24oz, the PA 4-14x44 FFP scope is not light and feels substantial.

The Primary Arms 4-14x44 FFP scope features a side adjustable parallax adjustment from 10-yards to infinity which makes this an ideal scope for .22LR rifles and even pellet guns all the way to your .308 sniper rifle. Most FFP optics typically don’t deliver parallax adjustment for those close ranges. The 1/10 mil click adjustment turrets deliver a tactile and audible click and can be easily re-zero’ed. The total 35 Mil of windage and elevation for each turret adjustment is not huge, but good enough for the applications most people will use  this scope for.

The scope is shockproof, waterproof and nitrogen purged with a 30mm scope tube to maximize light transmission. If you have any problems Primary Arms covers this optic with a three year warranty.

What stunned me was that this optic was more clear at mid-range 400-yard distances than my personally well regarded Lucid Crossover optic. I ended up sitting out on the deck for a good hour attempting to figure out if my Lucid was out of focus, however the final deduction was that the Primary Arms scope was just more clear. To be fair the PA 4-14 was more clear than a lot of my optics at that distance. When I broke out the higher tier Burris XTR II, Vortex Viper PST, Nikon Monarch Gold, and Bushnell Elite Tactical scopes for comparison, these did deliver better clarity as they should for the price difference. It was still impressive how great the clarity was compared to these higher end optics.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Primary Arms 4-14x44 FFP scope. At $229 is is a deal of an optic and considering it is also a high clarity bright 30mm tubed FFP optic, I have to move it to a best buy status. I plan on picking up a few more for other builds as well. This is a very competitive price range for optics, and Primary Arms has done a great job delivering one hell of an optic for the price no matter what rifle you stick it on.

Primary Arms 4-14X44 Mil Mil FFP Scope
Model: PA4-14XFFP
Magnification: 4-14X44
Reticle: Mil-Dot (USMC)
Focus/Parallax Adjustment 10-yards to Inifinity
First focal plane
Matte anodized black finish
Exit Pupil: 11.2 mm to 3.3 mm
Eye Relief: 80 mm to 82 mm
Field of View: 27.2 to 7.85 feet at 100 yards
Click Value: .1 MIL
Total Adjustment Value:Windage: 35 MIL
Total Adjustment Value:Elevation: 35 MIL
Multicoated to prevent glare
Shockproof rating: 1000g, 20 times
Waterproof: 11°C, 0.25 m, 3 min/ 52°F, 10”, 3 min
Nitrogen purged
Main material: Aluminum
Tube size: 30mm
Length: 330 mm / 13 in.
Weight: 690 g / 24 oz.
Three year warranty
MSRP $229


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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Home Security Basics

Home Security Basics

Forty five murders a day, one property crime every 3 seconds, a burglary every 10 seconds, a violent crime every 20 seconds, a robbery every minute, and a forcible rape every two minutes.  According to the US department of Justice 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions and 20% of homes will experience a break-in or home invasion. It may be necessary to protect yourself, however there are better plans to limiting or preventing unauthorized entry without simply just planning on returning fire. Just as you don’t want to walk around New York with a backpack, camera around your neck, and map in your hand, there are several security basics experts have shared with me to help you become more secure and reduce the chances of your home, contents, and occupants becoming a target.

The game we are forced to play with criminals is one of deterrence and delay.  The less appealing you and your home look, the better.  Additionally the harder you make it to gain entry, the less likely the criminal will attempt to continue.  The generally accepted rule is that if you can delay a criminal by four minutes, they will seek another less challenging target. 

85% of all thefts and break in related crimes are by non-career criminals. If you leave your tool box out overnight, it may be the neighbor kid who picks it up, not an organized band of nefarious criminals you picture in your head.  The vast majority of crimes including rape are ones of opportunity, so lets not make it easy for those with easily tip-able morals. Not all crooks are dumb, and most realize that if you are taking this much trouble to make it difficult to get in the house or at you, that once in, things will become even harder so they will pick another easier target. The best you can do is make it as difficult and un-inviting as possible for them to gain entry.

Most security experts have all conveyed to me the same basic two principles of passive versus active security.  Passive security options generally are considered to provide deterrents for criminals before they gain entry into your home. Active security measures kick in after the the intruder has decided to forcibly or otherwise enter your home.

Things like motion detection lights and deadbolts are typically though of as passive security which operate on their own once set. Other items the thieves would encounter after un-authorized entry such as a formidable Liberty Safe could also be considered passive security measures.

Active Security measures on the other hand required that you do something.  That action could be as simple using using binoculars to view suspicious vehicles in your neighborhood, calling the police, or complex as being faced with using deadly force to defend yourself and your family. For this article I will omit defensive tactics and all things firearms and stick with the more passive security options you should consider. 
One of the top security improvements is to have good outdoor lighting.  This can be in the form of manual, or automatically controlled photo-sensor or motion-sensor lighting.  Automatically controlled lighting is always the recommendation because it will never forget to turn on when the sun goes down.  Motion sensor lights are also handy and can also trigger a variety of other light bulb socket compatible security products.  One of my favorites is a high output horn that can be used in place of a light bulb... imagine that surprise as an intruder is scouting around a house. 

Experts note that well lit homes and landscapes are at a significantly reduced risk of burglary. Keep the area around your home either well lit or covered by motion detecting lights.
Shrubbery surrounding the home should be kept short to prevent someone from hiding behind it for concealment while attempting entry through a low window.  Most of use have mulch around the home, however I suggest river rock instead.  For the homeowner it is far less expensive in the long run compared to re-mulching each year and will provide a audible crunch if someone is lurking and walking close to the house.

The first goal of a criminal is not to be spotted or heard and a well lite home with short shrubbery and crunchy rocks will look less inviting because there are less places to hide and lurk.

The single number one recommendation for security is to use a deadbolt on each exterior door and the next would be recommending solid core steel doors, followed by heavy duty strike plates.  Standard non-dead-bolted doors can be defeated easily in seconds by a trained criminal so each and every exterior door should have a deadbolt type lock with at least a 1” throw.

It may sound obvious, however the #1 entry technique used by thieves is to just walk right in via an unlocked door or in some cases an open door. Statistically this occurs because mentally we are not leaving our home for a while, we are just running down to the grocery store, only heading over to the neighbors, or the kids will be right home. If someone is watching your house, they could walk right in and take whatever they want and in a matter of seconds be gone all while you are at the neighbors dropping off a wild mushroom gratin and your kids are upstairs ignorant of the intrusion rocking out on the iPod.  Lock your doors as you enter and exist your home each and every time for the safety of you, your family, valuables and general security.  I played a little joke on a buddy once after noticing he leaves all his doors unlocked, previous to the passage of concealed carry in our state.  I knew his schedule and he found me sitting on his couch drinking a beer, eating leftovers in his living room... great joke by the way if you know they are unarmed and he now locks his doors.

If you purchased your home and the locks were not re-keyed post move in, re-keying your entire home should be done on the next business day; who knows how many duplicate keys are floating around at this point.  A sub-contractor, I had never meet who had supposedly worked on our home during the building phase, let himself in to a garage door about a month after we moved in at around 9PM and found himself staring down the barrel of a 357 revolver and was forced to the floor. He “thought he had left something here”.  After questioning by police, I am still a little dubious about his motives, however the lesson was learned for both him and I. Re-key your damn locks and assure you are the only ones with copies no matter what the realtor told you.  If you didn’t personally do it assume it was never done.

Upgrades to exterior locks are keyhole-less exterior blank plates for your dead bolt locks which should be placed on less accessed or supplementary doors.  These blank plates will replace your exterior lock keyhole with a flat blank and will prevent someone from picking the lock on those secondary or tertiary doors. 

Bump keys and lock picking has become a standard entry technique for the nefarious which depend on standard lock cylinders.  A locksmith demonstrated a double picking of a standard and deadbolt lock to me recently and was through in about seven seconds after picking both locks. Typical pins in a lock look like little cylinders which move up and down and follow the contour of the key to un-lock a door.  Picking or bump keying efforts realign cylinders however having a locksmith replace your existing lock pins with upgraded “Mushroom” pins almost completely prevent any bump key entry or lock picking.  Mushroom Pins, are shaped like little mushrooms and will twist and catch to prevent lock picking even with an electric lock pick gun.  My locksmith charged me $20 per lock installed and also demonstrated it could not be picked.

Other high security lock options are the Schlage Everest Primus and Everest locks which have a set of side bar pins as well as standard key pins. These locks are non-pickable and the serialized keys can only be made by registered locksmiths for extra security.

Most of us paranoid types lock our exterior doors, however interior doors should be locked as well when appropriate. This will provide an additional level or security a delay to a criminal which will give the police time to respond to your alarm and if home, provide you with additional time to protect yourself and your family.  

Many home defense and security consultants recommend a solid core “security” door for all master suites.  These are basically higher strength doors similar to your garage access doors which are not the typical hollow core varietal most prevalent for interior doors.  These are kick and entry proof resistant and are reinforced with additional frame and hinge reinforcement as well and turn the bedrooms into quasi panic rooms.  They will buy you time if someone means you harm.  The second part of that security door is accessorizing it with a exterior grade lock and deadbolt.

It should go without saying, but leave your freaking garage door down unless you are pulling in or out of your garage.  Over half of all burglaries occur due to garage doors being left open.  It is an easy crime; walk in the open garage and walk out with whatever you can carry. Unfortunately almost 90% of Americans also do not lock their interior garage doors so thieves could also walk into the house also.

Most electric garage doors now have scrambling technology which prevents crooks from driving though neighborhoods with a couple standard remote frequencies to see who’s garage door they can open. Modern garage doors also feature opener “locks” on the wall mount door openers which prevents each garage door from responding to any transmitters. The best idea is to keep these switches in the off position at night or any time you are not using the garage doors to maximize security.

We all now live in glass houses which provide lots of additional access points beyond the front door.  Window glazing is a more affordable option over bullet proof glass and iron grating that makes you feel like you live in a prison. Window glazing can be as simple as fitting 1/16” or 1/8” Plexiglas directly over an existing window and securing it in each corner with double stick tape. Acrylic will shatter, Plexiglas is the generic impact resistant version of GE’s Lexan.  This setup is found on homes on golf courses and will defeat golf balls and at least a couple crow bar swipes, but it still may still crack the window.  Up that to ¼” and it can stop a .22LR round, 1” thick will stop nearly all handgun rounds.

Advanced security films, or also referred to as hurricane window films, are another window glazing option to provide substantial security as well as UV protection and tinting.  In my research I have found that you can expect $200-$300 per standard window for the treatment which can defeat a baseball bat blow buying you time and most likely deterring a criminal. In some cases these films will also qualify for an energy credit, provide less cooling needs in the summer, reduce fading of your carpet and furniture, and offer some tinting to limiting viewing into your home.

Homes without an alarm are 300% more likely to be broken into. At the very least, most commercial alarm systems provide a chime or beep when doors are opened even when unarmed.  If you have small children this is a really handy feature itself, however it is the very loud and annoying siren which can send criminals running.  

Things to consider when purchasing an alarm are the placement of the motion sensors and the type of alarm installed.  The most reliable alarm systems will be hard wired versions. In new construction this is easy, however in old construction wireless systems may be the only option.  Historically I have had problems with wireless systems, however I know some who recommend them.

Alarms generally have a Stay and Away setting with the Away setting arming the motion sensors covering window and secondary access points. Talk with your alarm company prior to the installation about your normal routines and maximizing your security by positioning the motion sensors so that you can arm the alarm in an Away mode after going to bed.  Our bedrooms are on the second floor, so the entire first floor is un-occupied each night and we can arm in the more secure motion sensor activated Away mode each night. The most important part of having an alarm is to use it religiously.

Most alarms have a battery back up, but don’t forget that tying small Christmas sleigh or cow bells to a door can also serve as supplemental security and provide instant audiable identification of which door was just opened.  There are inexpensive stick on door chime/alarms at most hardware stores for under $20 which I have used and work great for small homes and apartments.  In the garage, prop a shovel against your door.  For the Mel Gibson Conspiracy Theory fans, an empty glass beer bottle on top of the door knob also makes a loud and messy alarm.

Believe it or not, “Protected by” alarm company signs are deterrents, however make sure you have exterior signs prominently on each side of your home including out front.  Another effective option is to also have “Protected By” alarm company stickers on all your entry doors.  

One security expert noted that red neck signs such as “I don’t dial 911, I dial S&W” or “Warning trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot again” have also shown to be as or more effective than the alarm company signs as deterrents.

For your valuables, the only thing your can do is to buy time.  The longer it takes for someone to get access your stuff, the better odds you have of keeping everything.  Recently I picked up a Liberty Fat Boy safe which is by far the best security investment I have made. Where there is a will and enough time any safe can be cracked, however they buy you loads of time and protection against both humanoid and natural disasters.  

The locksmith I had out was also the authorized Liberty safe locksmith and explained that should a safe need to be cracked it still takes him as a professional 3-4 hours with specialty equipment. He noted “cracking a safe is not like the movies”. Your average criminal may just leave after seeing you have a large safe... there are a number of noted stories of this actually occurring.

Liberty Safes feature a number of safety features additional or not offered on other safes.  Liberty Fat Boy Safes feature primary and secondary re-locker, awarded UL Residential Security Container burglary classification, triple case hardened steel plates protect lock from drill attack, DX-90 Monster Mech over-center cam (prevents side-bolt punching) 12 total 1.25" active bolts that extend 33% longer (making it tougher to pry all the way around) handle all wrapped up in a large immovable 710 lbs safe.

If you are the prepper type or fearful of an EMP, you should also consider a standard mechanical lock.  I have been told by a number of sources that dial mechanical locks are the most reliable safe locks and actually more secure than electronic locks. My original electronic lock was extremely convenient and had no issues what-so-ever however it has been swapped over to a mechanical version for the above reasons.  If you are in the slightest concerned with security, a Liberty Safe, such as the Fat Boy model I choose has a significant amount of space to protect your valuables.
Know your Response Times. I am certainly not advocating “testing” your 911 and response times, however the next time you do need to call the cops, you should time it.  Generally you will be on your own for around 20 minutes and if you are out of town it could be 30-45 minutes.  

Think about all that can happen in that time period... quite a lot.  Every security person I spoke highly recommended becoming proficient and comfortable with a firearm, because if the exterior deterrents, upgraded locks and doors, and alarms do not stop a determined criminal nothing other than deadly force will.