Tag Archives: firearms

Open Gear Retrospective: Year One

I’ve been having a blast in Open, and thought I’d take a bit to talk through some of my gear and the small changes I’ve made. My gun has been running great, and I’m super happy about that. Let’s look at some of the other stuff, and one gun part swap.

1) Holster: Double Alpha Alpha-X vs. Everglades Magnetic Race Holster
I started with a purchase of a ‘belt kit’ from Double Alpha, which included their Alpha-X race holster. This holster requires inserts to fit the trigger guard of your firearm. Since I’m using the relatively new Lone Star Innovations Outlaw grip on my race gun, which doesn’t have an insert explicitly made for it, I guessed and got the insert for the Phoenix Trinity Evo grip.

Was this module the right choice?
Yes. Or, at least, it was retained correctly and drew (mostly) fine.

Why did I switch?
Sometimes I found that I could get my gun to snag a little on the draw. I also wanted something with a bit more positioning change options, so I gave the Everglades Magnetic Race Holster (MRH) a try.

Is the MRH better?
Yes. Much smoother draw, nicer adjustment range for holster position, and the adjustments actually stay in place without a bunch of loctite. It also has a much bigger lever for the lock to keep the gun retained when moving, which is easier to sweep off on the draw. The only downside to the MRH is that its only for hi-cap 1911 platforms.

Which should you buy?
If you’re shooting a hi-cap 1911/2011 type platform, get the MRH. It’s just better.

2) Mag Pouches: Double Alpha Racemaster vs. Alpha-X
I opted to go for the Racemaster mag pouches in my belt kit.

Why did I switch?
I decided to give the Alpha-X a try since forum reviews indicated they had a superior mounting system design and I found that my mags could drag a little when drawing from the aluminum-bodied Racemasters. The Alpha-X pouches have plastic liners to try to correct this.

Which is better?
The Alpha-Xs are better. The belt attachment is a lot more secure, and only requires you to tweak/torque/loctite one screw instead of two. The plastic liner really does allow you to get a clean, slick mag draw even after you’ve messed around with tension. Plus, if you like to run your pouches bullets-out like me, the Alpha-Xs are way easier to set up that way. I’ll slowly switch out the Racemasters for Alpha-Xs, but being an open shooter, extra mag pouches are a seldom-used item anyway.

3) Magwell: Dawson ICE vs. Limcat V2
My awesome open gun came with a nice, big Dawson ICE magwell on it. This is a pretty typical choice and it’s been around for a while. It’s got an aluminum top with a replaceable plastic liner, so when you gouge it up after practicing reloads, you can just replace the liner rather than the whole magwell.

Why did I switch?
I noticed sometimes during reload practice that there was a way I could actually get my mag stuck in the grip if I didn’t rotate it correctly to align it with the grip. Some googling showed me that I wasn’t the only one with this problem, and Limcat made a magwell to try to fix it. The Limcat V2 magwell has an aluminum top and a hardened steel liner, which isn’t easily replaceable, but it should be resistant to getting all gouged up by reloads as you try to get faster.

Which is better?
The Limcat by far, even if I had to spend some time fitting it with a file. It’s got a shape that helps push your hand up higher on the grip, and the magwell’s narrower mouth and convex shape really does mean that you can’t get the mag to jam up. If you don’t miss the magwell, your reload is gonna happen. It’s a fantastic magwell design, which is probably why everyone is trying to copy it. And the hardened steel liner is, in fact, resistant to gouges.

4) Which helped more, minor kit tweaks or consistent practice?
Consistent Practice. Duh.

5) Do I want to try any other minor changes?
Of course. In no particular order, I’m considering trying the following:

  • Some kind of thumb rest, mostly because this is open and I can have one.
  • The Atlas ‘Ape Hanger’ racker, because it looks cool and it won’t smash your thumb if you flag it (old habits die hard).
  • The Limcat Heavy Brass V2 magwell, because I kinda like my current heavy gun, so why not try more weight low in it?
  • Possibly the SIG Romeo 3XL red dot, but that’s a lot more expensive than everything else on that list, so I might wait.

But really, the big thing is just get more practice.

DISCLAIMER: I paid my own money for all of the above parts and received $0.00 in compensation from any of the manufacturers listed here.

RIA VR80: Open Shotgun for a Reasonable Price?

Previously when I’ve talked about Open Shotguns, I’ve mentioned the gold standard that is a Vepr 12 worked over by Dissident Arms. They’re feature packed and work great, but come at a hefty price of $2,200 for the base competition model and $3,400 for the KL-12, one with all the bells and whistles. Alternative designs haven’t really caught on, often because they’re unreliable. An unreliable, cheap gun isn’t all that useful. The RIA VR80, a rebranded Derya Mk12, is a new option. Let’s see how it shakes out.

VR80: $699 (MSRP)
The VR80 comes out of the box with a couple of small magazines (thanks ATF), a charging handle that can be swapped to the left or right side, and threads for chokes. It also, of course, comes with a few chokes to get you started. A stock Vepr 12 comes with neither of these features out of the box, and both are only available on the fully tricked out KL-12 from Dissident. Early reports say that the VR80 is a pretty reliable weapon after a break-in with higher velocity shells. We’ll see what shakes out.

Long compensator: $99.99
Open shotgun demands a comp. So far, we just have one from Advanced Tactical, RIA’s importer. Done.

Taccom Buffer: $49.95
Taccom has a buffer which is supposed to improve the recoil feel. It’s not that expensive, and probably worth a try. Taccom makes good stuff.

Magwell: $39.99
I’m not sure how necessary this part is, but open guns should have magwells. Also, both Dissident guns feature a magwell. It’s a cheap enough addition.

Magpul ACS stock: $85.45
I picked this stock because I like it, the price is reasonable, and it comes with compartments in case I want to add weight to get the balance where I want it. The VR80 comes with a lame thumbhole-type stock, probably for import reasons.

New pistol grip: ~$25.00
Pick one you like.

Fix that trigger: ?? (budget $200 based on fancy AR triggers)
There are apparently a few differences that make this not a standard AR-10 style lower, so we’re waiting on a nice trigger to be made. I’m using AR trigger prices as a ballpark here.

There are other parts forthcoming. Hayes Custom Guns is working on a mid-barrel comp and alternative handguards are also in progress. The big question is how well will it work? Dissident’s guns come already tuned and ready to rock out of the box, and that’s not nothing. I’m quite happy with that aspect of my open pistol.

A more accurate concealed carry map, 2019 update

In 2017, we ran the first version of this map, which purports to show the carry situation in the US a little more accurately than the standard permitless/shall-issue/may-issue trichotomy1. That fails to capture some of the nuance—a may-issue state may nevertheless issue permits to just about anyone, and some shall-issue states may be worse than others2.

Here’s the map. You’ll find notes below, along with exact definitions of the colors.

Notes

  • Onerous shall-issue means states with a waiting period in excess of two weeks, a training requirement which requires leaving your house, or an application fee of greater than $100.
  • Permissive shall-issue states impose lesser requirements.
  • De facto shall-issue states are statutorily may-issue, but shall-issue in practice.
  • Onerous may-issue states deny carry permits as a matter of course.

  • MA and NY: rural sheriffs likely to issue permits, but urban-dwellers basically out of luck.

  • PA: processing time of up to 45 days allowed, but most counties, including Allegheny (i.e. Pittsburgh), issue permits immediately.
  • WI: average processing time of about one week.
  • WA: average processing time appears to be under one week, except in the Seattle area.
  • SD: temporary permit issued within five days.

2019 update notes

  • KY: Constitutional carry legislation passed, effective June 26, 2019.
  • OK: Constitutional carry legislation passed, effective November 1, 2019.
  • SD: Constitutional carry legislation passed, effective July 1, 2019.

  • OR: Cost and wait time are the disqualifiers; training requirement can be done online.

  • VA: Wait time is the disqualifier; training can be done online.
  • RI: Local authorities must either issue or deny an application on a shall-issue basis as of 2015, but I can’t verify how open the process actually is.
  • WA: Downgraded to onerous shall-issue on the basis of wait time, which is ‘up to 30 days’, and in practice appears to be ‘around 30 days’ even outside of Seattle.
  • WI: Downgraded to onerous shall-issue on the basis of training requirements, which do not appear to be online-friendly.

If you see an inaccuracy or a point in need of clarification, leave us a comment!


  1. I stand by my word choice. 
  2. Looking at the final product, however, I’m pretty sure I need a third shall-issue category, given that only PA remains in the permissive shall-issue group. 

Vignettes from the 2019 USCCA Concealed Carry Expo

This past weekend I got to attend the USCCA Concealed Carry Expo. I had a great time! I got to talk to lots of vendor reps, handle things, attend lectures, and even test fire some guns!

Lectures

I attended talks from John Correia (Active Self Protection), Chris Cerino (Cerino Consulting and Training Group), and John Lovell (Warrior Poet Society). These talks were all 90 minutes or so and were pretty densely packed with information. I went away happy with all of the talks and wanting to spend more time with the speakers. So I’d call this a success. Plenty of takeaways, possibly for future articles here. Also, Lovell looks eerily like my brother from another mother.

Product Floor: What Stood Out

Shadow Arms MR918
This is sort of a factory customized Glock. It’s got a lot of popular tweaks to the Glock design already applied. I expect this to be successful, as Kimber used the same business model to establish their bona fides back when the 1911 market consisted of GI-style Colts and GI-style Springfields. This one had a good texture, grip reduction, trigger tweaks, and a milled slide. The milled slide had all the serrations people like up front, plus an RMR cut. What stands out there is that the RMR cut is low enough that standard height sights will cowitness with an installed RMR, which is pretty cool. The grip felt much shorter than a usual Glock grip, but more blocky because it still has to fit around the Glock magazine. I’ve never had a problem with trigger reach on a Glock, but it’s not an uncommon issue, and this might be worth a look for you if you have small hands. Unfortunately there were no MR918s to test at the Demo Range. More on that in a bit.

Ameriglo FBI Contract Sights
The Ameriglo booth had a ton of dummy “slides” mounted on plates so you could play around and compare sight pictures. This meant I got to take a look at the FBI contract sights, which was pretty cool. These are three-dot tritium sights with a high-visibility front sight and a U-notch rear, with nothing around the rear tritium vials. I rather like them. If you’re looking for some excellent iron sights, these deserve a look. And really, more places should have demo plates like these.

Crimson Trace LS-250 LaserSaddle
At the Mossberg booth, they had a shotgun set up with the Lasersaddle. It’s a saddle-looking laser sight that goes over the receiver of a 500/590 series shotgun. This gives you a laser that’s really close to the bore and some super convenient switchology. I like laser sights and I like aiming my shotguns. This is a neat product.

Ruger Super GP100
This is new, and I know Fishbreath is always looking at speedy revolvers. Anyway, I thought the grips were very comfortable, and the trigger was nice and smooth. Unfortunately, S&W didn’t have a booth for me to compare things to, so I can only say that it was the nicest revolver trigger by far in the Ruger booth. Sights looked really precise and excellent. I’m kinda lukewarm on the styling, but if the cuts on the barrel shroud get the balance right (and I couldn’t really swing a tethered booth model around much to check this) then they’re worth it.

SIG Tango6 1-6×24 Scope
I love low power variables. SIG’s offering got picked by SOCOM and the US Army. Taking a look at this guy, I thought they did a really good job on the reticle. It was actually pretty useful on 1x, 3x, and 6x. The show model had the horseshoe-dot reticle with BDC in it. Comparing with others in the 1-6x space, it’s still kind of a pig of a scope, and it did not have the forgiving eyebox that I’ve come to love on my Vortex Razor Gen 2-E. I can’t comment on glass clarity without something known for comparison.

Cabot Guns: Everything
Cabot makes some absolutely beautiful custom 1911s. If you’re in the market, you should go talk to them. Be prepared to drop real coin. They also have a more affordable offshoot called Alchemy Custom Weaponry, which makes some slick 1911s that look good, are a whole lot less custom, and cost a lot less.

Stumping the Sales Reps: Asking the Unanswerable

To Mossberg: “Are you aware of any plans to put the new detachable box magazines on the 930 or another semi-automatic shotgun design?”
Rep: “I’m aware of no such plans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not working on it. Just that I don’t have a product to tell you about.”

To SIG: “Do you have a release date for the Romeo3Max or Romeo3XL red dots?”
Rep: “I do not. Sorry. I wish we (SIG) were better at timely release dates after new product announcements.”

The Demo Range

At the expo, there was a Range-In-A-Trailer, which was a pretty nice pistol range inside a large trailer. Sound proofing, ventilation, and cooling were pretty good for an indoor range. Definitely up there with some of the nicer indoor ranges I’ve been to. Attendees could fire any of a number of ready demo pistols for free. You only got five shots, but that’s a decent way to give something a try, especially a hard to find or weird something. Here’s my report on what I got to shoot.

Walther Q5 SF
I really, really like this thing. It’s got that great Walther trigger, plus a relatively heavy steel frame to soak up recoil. It was an absolute joy to shoot. I’m sold on it, and I’m not surprised Walther is having trouble keeping these in stock.

Walther Q5 (And comparison!)
I also wanted to give this a try, since this is a decent test of the steel frame in the SF. No, it’s not perfect, it’s an indoor range, and I can’t run these through a match or get great timed drills. For what it’s worth, the triggers seemed extremely similar and easy to run, but the steel frame model seemed a lot easier to control. If you asked me which I’d want, I’d go for the SF model.

Walther PPK/S (.380 ACP)
It’s not technically James Bond’s gun (he shoots the 7.65mm PPK), but what the heck, right? It’s iconic, even if it’s no longer the best small gun choice for a master spy. The PPK/S has a longer grip, so this one actually sort of fit my hand. The controls are still weird, the sights are still tiny, and it’s kind of jumpy. Fun to shoot a few rounds through, but there was another small gun that really, really stood out.

SIG P365
This little gun has been a great seller for SIG. It also seems to have had some early troubles, but those appear to be worked out now. It’s a very small gun, narrow like a single stack, but having ten rounds in the staggered-column magazine. For a small gun, it shot remarkably well. Still not quite as nice as a service size polymer gun, but definitely nicer than you would expect given how small it is. This was probably the biggest surprise. I expected to love the Q5 SF, but the P365 being shootable and fun was a shock. Congratulations on being an exception to the “I hate small guns” rule, P365.

FN 509 Tactical
FN has had a devil of a time breaking into the pistol market in any serious way. The FN 509 has a reduced grip circumference compared to their previous FNS, and it has nice texture that goes all the way up the side of the grip. You know, where I actually want to grab the gun. The 509 handled pretty well in the demo. The tactical model also comes with a number of optional extras installed, including suppressor-height sights, an optic cutout, and a threaded barrel. The trigger was good but nothing to write home about.

SIG P320 X-Carry
Another solid gun with some desirable improvements built in from the factory. Alas, I didn’t have a regular P320 Carry to take to the Demo Trailer, so I can’t do a mini-comparison for you. I do prefer the “feel” of the X-Carry grip over the regular grip, and I much prefer the flat trigger that they’ve put in it.

Of the above pistols, I’m sold on the Walther Q5 SF and the SIG P365.

New Product Alert: P320 X5 Legion

The P365XL isn’t the only new product from SIG. They’re also releasing a P320 X5 Legion. It looks a lot like their regular P320 X5, with the Xgrip, slide with lightening holes, bull barrel, and removable rear sight plate to accommodate optics.

The P320 X5 Legion has a new flat trigger design, which is skeletonized. I think this is mostly just to look cool.

More importantly, SIG has added weight to the gun. They’ve infused the grip with tungsten, bringing the weight up to 43.5 ounces. More weight in the grip will make the pistol more controllable in recoil, and should provide good competition to the Walther Q5 SF. If you like heavy pistols, you are getting some options.

The P320 X5 Legion comes with three magazines with aluminum basepads. Osage County Guns has a product page with a buy now price of $929, though no word yet on when you’ll be able to get it.

Initial Open Gun Impressions

It’s finally here!1 I got my open gun out to the range over the last weekend, and it is AWESOME. I’m super happy with it.

First, a brief review of the characteristics I decided to go with after picking Lone Star Innovations (LSI) as my smith. In no particular order:

  • 5 inch overall length (i.e. including threads) bull barrel
  • Titanium compensator of recent design
  • V6 barrel ports
  • Steel grip with aggressive texture
  • Leupold Deltapoint Pro red dot sight
  • Caliber: .38 Supercomp

In terms of build choices, a lot of this is “get what the pros using, but trying to keep this not ridiculously expensive”2. Most of the top guys are using “middy” (having a threaded barrel with 5″ overall length) guns, so I got a “middy gun”. That’s a reasonable balance between barrel length and compactness. A bunch of top guys seem to be using some flavor of V-porting, so I got some V-porting. Plus, I think V-porting is super cool. Steel grip is all the rage now, so I went that direction. Plus, those have better shaping, since that’s where the R&D is going. And I went .38 SC because that’s what the top guys shoot, plus it’s a bit easier to reload and it gives more gas for the comp and all those ports. For the record, the one thing I didn’t opt for that the top guys have is a tungsten-sleeved barrel. This is heavier than a bull barrel, but adds to the cost substantially, because tungsten is a bitch to machine. The costs were what made me reconsider that on this build. Maybe on a future build.

For finish I went with black overall with TiN (Gold) on the barrel and small parts, plus red on the trigger shoe. I also chose an SVI medium flat trigger shoe. I prefer flat triggers, and medium seems about right for my hand size/finger length. Colors were chosen because they look cool and I like them.

The steel grip is LSI’s Outlaw Grip, which is brand new. It’s wonderfully machined, with an aggressive texture and plenty of undercutting. It’s super comfortable in the hand and avoids the “blocky 2×4” feel that most 2011 guns seem to have. The end result of all of my choices is a heavy gun, weighing in at 56 oz. Which is just what I want. The grip fits my hand wonderfully, and I tend to like aggressive textures.

Let’s also talk trigger pull. On Fishbreath’s scale, it has a pull weight of just over 2.5 lbs. But you’d swear it’s lighter because it’s so perfectly smooth and crisp. This trigger is fantastic and I love it.

And on to the shooting. I got some major power factor .38 SC from Big Country Tactical3 and some nice 171.25 mm MBX magazines. Locked and loaded, I went to the range and started blasting away. And I do mean blasting: V6 ports plus a big modern comp yields a loud, loud gun. But gas redirection and all that mass also means that the gun just kind of sits there. Recoil felt like some sort of wimpy .32 or something, not hot .38.

Of course, this also meant that I had to concentrate on getting a good strong grip, because you really don’t need one. When I got a good grip, the dot really didn’t move very much. Even with a weak grip, the dot tracked straight up and down. It was super stable and predictable.

I ended up burning through the 90 rounds I brought super quick. This gun is a joy to shoot. I’m really looking forward to getting some quality match time in with it.


  1. It took longer than it was supposed to, but it also got a nice discount due to delays. So overall I’m happy. And I’d go back to LSI again for another gun. 
  2. This seems a reasonable approach, given that I can’t plausibly get useful amounts of time behind every reasonable open gun design possibility to formulate my own opinions on all of them. 
  3. These guys are also great. They asked about barrel length and number of ports to get something reasonably close to tuned to my gun. Or at least, making major with enough gas to rock the house in my gun. 

A Continental Fish

As ever, my entry in this competition is a little less well-thought-out than Parvusimperator’s. Given that I am a little less well-informed about the wider world of firearms than he is, I started with the intention to hit as many achievements as I could while still choosing things which make sense for me. So, without further ado, here are the achievements, and here’s what I’m buying.

Achievements

HIPSTER: because it’s me.
EUROTRASH: which is more or less implied by…
BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: I went so far as to pick one manufacturer, even.
LEATHERSLAP: I don’t know if I would actually go for this were I a real card-carrying member of the Continental, but I wasn’t able to do Heavy Metal because the BREN 2 BR isn’t available yet, so I’ll go this way instead.

The Pistol: CZ P-09 9mm Suppressor Ready (Cajun Gun Works tuning)

We’re going to start with the pistol, because that’s where I’ve been doing most of my thinking lately. It’s also a crucial piece of kit for the Continental assassin—sure, the carbine comes out now and then, but the bulk of your wet work will be done with the handgun, so it behooves you to pick a good one.

Anyway, back to the P-09. It fits my hand almost perfectly and I shoot it well. It’s a good base, and the Cajun tuning turns it into a great gun by any standard. The trigger is light and predictable, if not quite up to custom-gun snuff, but then again, we aren’t allowed to buy custom guns here anyway. The standard sights aren’t great, but they’ll do. If I weren’t doing Leatherslap, I would have Cajun mill the slide for an optic and backup sights (which adds $160).

As we say on the defense blogging side, the suppressor-ready model is fit for but not with a silencer1. It bumps the cost up, but we still get away for a Cajun Gun Works website-quoted price of $915.

Backup Gun: CZ P-07 9mm (also Cajun Gun Works tuning)

I might as well go with a familiar face here. Cajun just so happens to sell tuned P-07s, too, which have all of the virtues of the P-09 while remaining within the confines of the compact pistol style.

The Carbine: CZ BREN 2 7.62×39

Foiled in my plan to go Heavy Metal by the fact that the BREN 2 BR is not yet available in civilian trim, I had to improvise a bit. I ended up with another CZ BREN 2.

The particular model is the BREN 2 MS, which comes in pistol form in the US with a provision for attaching an AR-style buffer tube or the factory stock (not yet available on the open market). The factory stock is a side-folder, which I would prefer if the Sommelier can get it for me. If not, I’ll settle for an AR stock with a folding buffer tube adapter. In either case, it’ll add some cost—say $200, to be safe.

Why bother with folding? Well, because the BREN 2 you can buy today is technically a pistol, slapping a stock on it makes for a delightfully short-barreled rifle, and making that stock fold means you have something extremely compact—about an inch or two longer than the pistol itself. Assuming we’re going for the nine-inch barrel, that gives us an overall length in folded configuration of maybe 22 or 23 inches. You can stage that just about anywhere for your fighting retreat.

Why 7.62×39? One: because it’s me. Two: I’m on record (possibly over on Discord?) with the view that 7.62×39 can do everything a modern .30 short cartridge (.300 Blackout, I’m looking at you) can, and in vast swathes of the world, you will never find yourself hurting for ammo.

Adding our $200 in stock expenses to CZ’s MSRP, the BREN 2 tips the scales at $1,999.

The Shotgun: CZ 712 Utility

It’s a short-barreled semi-automatic shotgun. I’m not much of a tactical shotgunner, and have very little interest in shotgun sports which don’t involve shooting at aerial clay targets, so I don’t have much to say here.

Evidently, Benelli Nova tube extensions have the same thread pitch as the CZ 712’s cap, so I might have the Sommelier throw a few of those into the order, but honestly, the shotgun’s purpose in my loadout is 1) to make a big boom, and 2) to maybe blow open a locked door. It’s part of the challenge, but it’s not my thing, really. If I weren’t writing this at the last minute, I would add a bonus section on a precision rifle, which is much more my speed, but alas, time is short.

MSRP: $499.

The Knife: Gerber Truss multitool

If you have a knife you don’t know how to use, and get into a fight with someone who does know how to use a knife, you’d be just as well (poorly) served by handing him the knife before the fight starts.

I don’t really know how to use knives, so in place of a knife for fighting, I will instead elect to bring a knife for utility. Along with the traditional pliers/wire cutter tip and a variety of potentially useful screwdrivers and files, the Truss has a saw and two different knife blades, giving me some flexibility in how to cut things.

Bonus Picks: Pinching Krugerrands

Obviously, the BREN 2 is the big cost center in this loadout. If I drop it in favor of whatever complete AR-15 Palmetto State Armory has on sale this week (typically for $450 to $500) and add the classic UTG DS3840 red dot ($50), I have a $550 rifle to go with my $500 shotgun and $915 pistol, which brings me in neatly below the $2000 mark.


  1. It’s a Hollywood gunfight movie, so let’s use the classic term. 

Parvusimperator’s Continental Loadout

Last week we looked at our favorite guns from the John Wick movies. This week, let’s insert ourselves in a slightly different way; choosing our own firearms for crazy Hollywood multigun battles. I’m going to go for all of the maximum performance, Open/Unlimited division guns.

Shotgun: Dissident Arms KL-12 14″ NNS
Amusingly, even though I’m not much of a shotgun guy, this was the easiest choice to come up with. Per our rules, we need a shotgun. Going with box-mag fed shotgun means we can reload without worrying about deuces and quads nonsense. The most proven box-mag fed semiautos out there are the Dissident Arms Vepr 12 builds, which are almost an entirely new shotgun. The KL-12 comes with all of the fancy extras pre-selected, including a lengthened forcing cone on the barrel, left-side charging handle, threading the barrel for (internal) chokes that can be installed and swapped with a compensator still on the barrel, replacing the iron sights with picatinny rail segments, adding an AR stock adapter, tuning the action, installing a tuned ALG trigger, adding a magwell, installing an extended mag release, and installing an extended safety. We have but a few choices to make: stock, pistol grip, cerakote color(s), compensator model, keymod or mlok handguard, and barrel length. Vepr 12s come with a 19″ barrel from the factory, but Dissident arms will happily cut that down to 16″ or 14″ and then redo the threading for the compensator if you like, pinning and welding as necessary for the NFA. A shorter barrel is handier, and we don’t give up very much in terms of reduced length in a shotgun barrel.

Our chosen options are: the Custom Arms Competition grip (with a palm shelf), XLR Industries Tac Lite stock, Dissident Arms Phoenix Comp, Mlok handguard, and a barrel cut to 14″. We’ll go with a two-color cerakote finish, with Cobalt (actually a dark grey) as the primary color and USMC Red as the accent color.

For shotgun sights, we’ll take a Vortex AMG UH-1 atop the rear sight block rail, We’ll mount a Trijicon Type 2 RMR06 a 45 degree offset mount on the dust cover rail to let us take right hand corners more easily without switching shoulders. We’re going with the big Huey for primary because I kinda like holographics, and the offset RMR because it has the nicest controls of any microdot and window size really doesn’t matter for offset long gun sights.

Carbine: Cobalt Kinetics Evolve
This one was quite a bit harder, since I like to go out and build my own rifles from carefully chosen parts. Now I need someone to do it for me, but without choosing from a giant list of options so as not to break my own rules. So let’s try to find a rifle with the premium parts I love plus some special sauce that I can’t easily do myself. And it’s gotta look really good, because this is Hollywoodland. Enter Cobalt Kinetics. Their Evolve is their flagship competition model. It has a bunch of high-end parts, including a billet matched receiver set, billet handguard matched to the upper, 16 inch Proof Research carbon-fiber wrapped barrel, Cobalt’s excellent and effective Pro compensator, a gorgeous billet aluminum pistol grip, and a billet aluminum adjustable stock. The operating system is exactly what we’d expect with an adjustable gas block, low-mass bolt carrier, and a tuneable buffer setup with a weight and spring set for that perfect recoil feel. The safety is a 45-degree throw design, and the trigger is the exceptional AR Gold. All of that is cool. The real special feature is CARS, which will automatically drop magazines when empty, and automatically send the bolt home when you insert a full mag. This can be disabled if you prefer to do all of this manually, but it can give you a bit of a speed edge. I really like it. I also like the lines of the handguard, receivers, and stock. Everything else is classic high-end carbine parts.

We don’t have much in the way of options for the Evolve: the gunsmiths at Cobalt Kinetics have already put all of their magic into it. All we get to pick are our cerakote finish colors. Again, we’ll go with Cobalt as the primary and USMC Red as the accent color. Now our longarms are color coordinated.

Sights time. This is pretty easy. While I love my Vortex, the Swarovski Z8I-BRTi 1-8×24 has two more magnification levels, has fantastic FOV and glass clarity, and even has a bright dot. We’ll grab that and mount it with Geissele’s mount, because I’m pretty fond of that mount. We’ll grab another Trijicon Type 2 RMRO6 in a 45 degree offset mount for those hard cover leans, the occasional rapid transition, and maybe as a bit of a backup.

Pistol: Limcat Stormcat
Saving the hardest for last. Of course, I wanted a fancy Open-division ready 2011 with all of the optional extras. These tend to be custom guns made to order, which is not what my rules allowed. Sigh. Limcat makes some excellent pistols that have been used by some fantastic shooters to win a whole bunch of competitions. They’ll make you something custom, or you can order a preset model. The Stormcat is Scott Greene’s model for Unlimited Division 3-gun, which we pick for its awesome features that are compatible with minor power factor (i.e factory) ammo. We have a few options to choose here. We’ll pick a caliber of 9mm, midlength “HBar” barrel, which has a tungsten sleeve, steel grip, and a medium, flat, red SVI Trigger. I do like a heavy pistol. Heavy is good. It’s a sign of reliability. And if you ever run out of bullets, you can always hit people with it.

On to the sights. We’re going with a frame mount, of course. I’m not entirely satisfied with any of the current red dot sights on the market for pistol use. I think the best choice as far as balancing durability with window size and overall mass is the Leupold Deltapoint Pro, though I’m not a big fan of its control setup. Still, it’s a really nice dot. That gives us our heavy, really high-capacity pistol with a fantastic trigger and a cool guy compensator. Plus, plenty of fancy slide cuts and a nice finish.

Backup Pistol: Glock 26 Gen 5 with TTI Combat Carry package
I really like that John Wick carries a backup pistol, so I’m gonna get one too, by Awerbuck. I’m going with the Glock 26 Gen 5 for my backup. There are smaller backups, but I like the Glock 26’s size to balance concealment and shootability. Also the Glock 26 has a solid history of reliability. I like to stick with more proven options. The Glock 26 also allows us to use the larger Glock magazines if we like, or if we find some. The Gen 5s are pretty fantastic, and I could make do with them as they come from the factory, especially given that the excellent high-visibility Ameriglo Bold sights are a factory option. But that’s not really our style. So we’ll get a complete TTI Combat Carry package. And, since an RMR cut is an option, we’ll go with that too, and a Type 2 RMR06 for our sights. Done and done.

Knife: Ban Tang Double-Edge Clinch Pick
My grandfather gave me a pocket knife for my eighth birthday, saying that every little boy should have a pocket knife. I still like knives, and I’ve spent some time studying their use. In this context, I want something for the close in fight, something that’s easy to deploy, something to give you that extra edge1 in a grappling engagement. The Clinch Pick is designed for exactly that purpose by Craig Douglas, and it fits well with his style of knife employment. Ban Tang makes a nicer version, available in single or double edge. We’ll take the double edge model.

There we have it. Super fancy guns, and they’ll look great on camera, which is important for Hollywood. They’re also gonna be really fun to shoot our way through various stag–er, Hollywood Gunfights with.

We’ve also earned ourselves the following achievements:
ONLY SHOOT OPEN
IRONS DEFICIENCY
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUNS


  1. Pun intended. 

The Guns of John Wick: Which Are Best?

Inspired by a post by TTI over on Instagram, let’s look at the guns of the John Wick movies. All three of them. We’re going to compare (primary) pistols, carbines, and shotguns across all three movies. We’ll pick best by category and best movie set overall.

First, let’s talk through our ground rules. We’ll be picking as if we work at The Continental. Therefore these guns are chosen for “assassinations” (read: epic, awesome movie gunfights) and not to fit in any particular competition ruleset. Also, we pay in Magic Assassin Gold Coins, so we don’t really care what the list prices are. We also don’t get to make any changes to the guns as we see them in the movies. What the sommelier has is what we can pick from.

Second, let’s review our weapons. In the first movie, Mr. Wick is armed with an HK P30L with compensator as his primary handgun, an HK 416 clone with EoTech sight as his carbine, and a Kel-Tec KSG with EoTech sight as his shotgun. In John Wick 2, our hero has a Glock 34 that’s been tricked out by TTI as his main pistol, a TTI built custom AR-15 carbine (the TR-1) with a Trijicon Accupoint 1-6x scope and offset RMR, and a TTI customized Benelli M4 as his shotgun. His arsenal in John Wick 3 is an STI 2011 pistol that’s been customized by TTI, a SIG MPX that’s been tricked out by TTI with a Trijicon MRO red dot sight, and a Benelli M2 that (you guessed it) has been customized by TTI.

Carbine
We’ll start with carbines because that’s the easiest, and because I’m quite fond of carbines. First, we can rule out the MPX. It’s a pistol-caliber carbine, which is great for USPSA’s PCC division, but much less so combatively. 9mm is less potent than 5.56mm, and will have much more trouble dealing with armor. The MPX also has a long, NFA-compliant barrel, so we can’t even take advantage of the pistol caliber to get us something PDW-sized. Plus, the MPX has a reputation for eating parts and needing frequent cleaning. It’s in its third revision from SIG, and I don’t trust them to not beta test things on their customers. We’re left with a pair of carbines in 5.56mm. We can eliminate the HK 416 clone, because it’s got lame old quadrails, is entirely too heavy for what it is (since it has a piston and the aforementioned fat quadrails), and has the least nice sights of the three. EoTechs have that annoying tendancy to shift zero in the heat. The piston does literally nothing for us in the current configuration, and it’s probably got some stock, untuned, garbage trigger. Lame. That leaves us with the TR-1, which is also my favorite configuration of the three. It’s got a low-power variable, is reasonably light, comes in 5.56mm, and has a tuned trigger (and probably gas system/bolt carrier too).

Winner: TTI TR-1

Shotgun
The KSG is a pretty easy out, because I don’t like it, because it’s the only non-autoloader, and because Benelli’s QC and reliability are light years better than that of Kel-Tec. Also, no tuned trigger and reloads are a pain. After that, we’re looking at a tuned Benelli M4 v. a tuned Benelli M2. Were I buying the guns stock, the Benelli M2 would be the clear winner since it’s way cheaper and has a much larger aftermarket. In this case, we have them already customized. The big advantage to the M2 is some very long magazine tube extensions, but those haven’t been mounted here. Given similar capacities (and our payment in Killer Krugerrands), the differences are going to be that the M2 is somewhat lighter, being recoil operated, and that the M4 is going to be softer shooting, being gas operated (and heavier). I’m not much of a shotgun guy, so this is a toss-up. I’ll take the M4 because I’ve always wanted one and because it should shoot softer.

Winner: TTI Benelli M4

Pistol
The P30L is another easy out, because it’s got the lowest capacity and worst trigger by far of the bunch, though I do like the compensator. After that, it gets tricky because neither the TTI Combat Master Glock 34 nor the TTI Combat Master 2011 are customized in the way I’d like. But you do your job with the weapons the sommelier has. Of the two, the 2011 will have the better trigger, and will probably be a little more pleasant to shoot. So we’ll go with that. We shouldn’t really be in a position to take advantage of the Glock’s famous reliability, to the extend that it hasn’t been compromised by modifications.

Winner: TTI Combat Master 2011

Movie Winner
While we could do this as a “total up the wins” exercise, it’s more interesting to look at the weapons sets as a whole and compare them. I trust my readers can add. In terms of weapons sets, the original doesn’t have much in the way of cool custom stuff. Between the sequels, I think the shotguns are a toss up, the TR-1 is better than the MPX and the 2011 is better than the Glock. All that said, I think you’re getting more if you go with the TR-1 over the MPX than you lose with taking the custom Glock instead of the custom 2011. So my overall choice is the arsenal from John Wick 2.

Winner: John Wick 2

Honorable Mention: Backup Glock 26
No word yet on whether or not the Glock 26 backup gun has made it into John Wick 3. But it’s been his backup for two movies, with some slide work done for John Wick 2. I like when a character like John Wick actually goes to the trouble of carrying a backup gun, and the Glock 26 is an excellent choice.

On Light Machine Guns

The US Army has decided that they might could replace the M249 with something. Possibly. Or maybe it’s just Lucy Van Pelt with her football. Anyway, the US Army claims it wants “Overmatch”. Or something.

Overmatch

The fear is, of course, Russians (or Chinese or whoever) with level IV-equivalent body armor. Let’s think about this for a minute. Level IV hard plates are rated to stop the .30-06 M2 AP round, which is a pretty darn good steel-core AP round. And no existing round short of .50 BMG is significantly better at penetrating armor than .30-06 M2 AP; it’s actually better at penetration than both Russian 7.62x54mmR B-32 API and 7.62x51mm M61. I’m not sure how a new 6.8 mm cased telescoped round is supposed to be massively better at armor penetration than .30-06 M2 AP, unless it’s supposed to use a tungsten core. Tungsten becomes problematic once you look at the cost and where most of the world’s tungsten is mined.

It could also be some sort of Magnum 6.8mm CT round with tons of velocity, but then managing recoil becomes a huge problem. After all, steel core .30-06 is not enough, so we need more energy. More energy means more recoil, because physics is a real jerk sometimes.

Let’s also recall my usual criticisms of some sort of radically new and unproven small arms technology, which is exactly polymer-cased telescoped ammo is. We’re talking about completely new ammunition manufacturing techniques, completely new cartridges, plus massive changes in how a firearm operates. We’ll let the US Army put up and prove the stuff or shut up. Come back and talk to us in five to seven years, and then we’ll know if it’s more than the next SPIW.

Okay, so that should deal with all the WONDERCALIBER advocates. Don’t trust Big Army to buy crazy new stuff. Wait for ambitious programs to come to a conclusion. Don’t be a beta tester. Wait for bugs to get worked out. And there will be bugs.

If we’re sticking with conventional calibers and known solutions, that makes our lives a lot easier. Let’s take a brief look at squads to see how we might use the LMG. I’ve been on record before that I don’t think squad size matters too much, and I still don’t. Picking the Namer as our (Heavy) IFV of choice lets me have a nice big dismount element of nine, which makes life easy. Nine men is a pretty classical dismounted infantry squad size. Squad leader, two fireteams of four men, and one LMG per fireteam. Two LMGs in the squad is a lot of firepower, and lets either team cover the other for fire and movement if desired.

Had we gone with a smaller, more conventional IFV with a dismount team of six or seven men, I would have copied the Australians and gone with two fireteams of three men each (plus a leader in the seven-man case) and kept the two LMGs per squad. Again, fire and movement. Also, it allows for better implementation of parapet foxholes.

And now, a brief word on command. In general we’d expect the IFV commander to be in overall command, and to remain in the vehicle when the troops get out. The vehicle commander would be senior to the dismount commander.

There is the pressing matter of caliber, configuration (i.e. mag fed or belt fed), and model. Let’s take those in order. Caliber is pretty easy. It should be our usual 5.56mm to maximize bullets per pound of loadout and (therefore) volume of fire capability. It’s also a lot easier to carry, since most GPMGs aren’t workable with a single gunner (i.e. without an assistant gunner).1

And we’re going belt-fed, because we want that big ammo reserve for suppression and sustained rates of fire. Large capacity drums are bulky, heavy, annoying, and generally unreliable. They also usually have to be stowed when empty. Screw that. Belts it is, by God and John Rambo!

Belt-fed 5.56mm light machine guns. They’re super fun to shoot. We just have to pick one. For the most part, they’re all pretty similar. The one that stands out weight-wise is Knight’s LAMG, which is significantly lighter than all the rest. Which should make it a slam dunk, except that no one else has bought them. And such a massive weight savings has me nervous, since there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I have some concerns about durability, and since no one has issued them on a wide scale, no one has worked the bugs out. Again, we don’t do beta tests. So we’ll pass too. Which basically leaves a whole bunch of equivalents in FN’s Minimi/M249, HK’s MG4, IWI’s Negev, and some others that I’m forgetting. They’re all pretty much the same, and I don’t think you can go wrong. Of course, this also means that there’s not much of a reason to switch, unless you wanted to beef up your local firearms industry. Since I hate wishy-washy conclusions, I’ll go with the proven M249, mostly because it’s the only one I have any time on. It’s also been licensed to a number of other countries.

I’m sure the Wondercaliber advocates are going to ask about body armor. Well, okay. Fine. Shoot them more. It’s a belt fed. Ceramic plates are only good for a few hits. Even the multihit rated ones. You have 200 rounds in the belt. Use ’em. Also, the real killer is and always has been high explosives. 40mm grenade launchers, rocket launchers, recoilless rifles, mortars, and especially artillery. More on that in a few days.


  1. I think this might be a change from the last time I wrote on squad support weapons. It happens.