Thursday, May 31, 2012

Arsenal's SLR-106UR 5.56 Pistol at retailers

Noticed an emails that the SLR-106UR 5.56 Pistol is starting to make it to retailers.  If that's your cup of tea or are looking for a good SBR project base, it could be a good option.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Strike Industries PARA and Dura Grip

Strike Industries has came out with another interesting product for vertical foregrips (VFG).  This time it isn't just AK oriented but has a major selling point to tactical AK owners.  Using an traditional VFG on an AK is problematic since it can block the rock in magazine loading process.  Strike Industries' new PARA (Pyramid Angled Rail Adapter) will angle back any standard VFG to 17 degrees, which is about the same grip angle as a Glock.  This improves the ergonomics of a standard VFG.  All of our grips on pistols and rifles are angled, but yet few foregrips are as well.  The other times I've played around with VFGs, I've never liked their perpendicular angle.  While VFG use isn't quite in vogue as it used to be, I do personally like angled VFGs if you are going to use them as an actual grip and not just as a large handstop.

While this feature is great for AK owners that want to put a short VFG out far on the a railed handguard, the PARA can also allow a new tactical twist on a AK classic, the Romanian pistol grip handguard (often referred to as a certain part of a donkey's anatomy): 

(Thanks mikeplan14 of INGO for the photo!)

With the PARA you can angle a VFG forward like the Romanian grip and still have room to rock in a magazine:

I coupled the PARA with a Strike Industries Dura Grip.  They make quite a combo, both are solid, high quality aluminum just like their AK mount. Also like the mount, the PARA and Dura Grip have robust black anodizing. As you can see, I was able to mount the PARA pretty far back with the full length Dura Grip and still have enough room to rock in this 5.56x45mm magazine.  More curved 7.62x39 magazines may require a little further forward placement, but it will still be further back than a regular VFG of this length.  If you like the Romanian pistol grip handguard but want something a little more modern, this is definitely the way to go. It will allow the most rearward positioning of a AK VFG and I think still feels more comfortable than a perpendicular VFG.  For comparison, knives will often sweep somewhat forward in their handles, which is an ergonomics feature that obviously works in a lot of cases but is rarely used in firearms.  In the end, the swept forward PARA still feels like the traditional Romianan handguard, but gives you the modern capability and looks.

This combo is pretty versatile.  If you are one that likes to mount VFGs as far forward as possible, you can take advantage of the PARA's improved ergonomics if you use a "stubby" VFG.  This is probably my personal favorite PARA configuration just because I like the more similar feeling between the foregrip and the pistol grip.  The nice thing about the Duragrip is that it has a screw off extension that allows it to be a stubby VFG as well.  This does take the water resistant compartment capacity down to 2 CR123 batteries instead of 3 though.

The Dura Grip is built like a tank and is great quality.  However, due to it's clamping groove cut in the top of the grip, it isn't waterproof, although the bottom cap is O-ring sealed.  If you require that or a light tape switch cutout and want to stay with SI, there is also Strike Industries' Dura Grip Pro version

One other interesting thing I was able to do with the PARA is add a handstop to it.  This made it very similar in profile and feel to Magpul's Angled Foregrips.

Overall, the PARA is a neat little piece that gives you a lot more flexibility in mounting foregrips to your AK.  While I know not everyone likes VFGs on AKs, if you are in this crowd, I definitely recommend the PARA.  One other use Strike Industries suggests but I didn't get to try is using it to angle down a light for trail navigation or search and rescue work.  The PARA weights just 1.3 ounces and has a screw-on clamp that doesn't require sliding it all the way down the rail to position it.  It lists for $30.

The Dura Grip is a excellent quality VFG that weights in at 3 ounces in stubby configuration and 4 full size.  Note that the Dura Grip does require you to slide it in place and then screw in the cross-bolt.  So if you do have anything else on the rail you would have to remove it before installation (or get even better, mount it to a PARA first).  Its list price is $40.95.

Disclaimer:  Strike Industries provided the PARA free of charge and the Dura Grip at cost.  The more is see from them, the more I am excited to see what they are bringing out. I do feel they offer great quality gear at good prices and wouldn't partner with them if I didn't. Hopefully they will extend their AK line soon!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Panteao Productions' Jim Fuller AK Armorer's Bench Review

Out of the gates, I have to say a great video!  It is just over 3 hours in length without the included extras.  The extras do have some great info as well, but these are the Pro Tips that will probably be available on Panteao's You Tube page eventually.

Like the Travis Haley Adaptive Kalash video, it has Panteao's excellent production quality, which is great for the detail close up shots.  However, I did find myself wishing that there was a full HD digital download or Blu-ray available.  I ordered the DVD instead of viewing it through Panteo's streaming HD monthly subscription.  While Panteao's subscription service is a great deal, I did have to cut back on it a couple of months ago.  Plus, I really like to have a DVD or digital copy for those times I don't have an internet connection.  While this DVD is well done and more than sufficient quality, this is one time on an instructional DVD I thought HD would be a plus due to the small parts and detail close ups being just that little bit more crisper.  Honestly, on most DVDs as long as good information gets across, I'm happy with relatively low production quality.  However, Panteao is definitely starting to change my standards.

The DVD starts with the typical safety rules, introduction of Jim Fuller, and history of the AK.  Then it moves into basic field stripping and more detailed bolt disassembly.  Fuller next explains the fire control group in detail with a very neat color coded cutaway of the mechanism.  For those of you that are new to the AK platform, it will help your understanding of the fire control group immensely!  After showing the trigger group workings, the different U.S. group options are discussed along with modifications to improve the trigger pull (but not the overall weight, which for most groups is light enough for the purpose).  Before moving to the outside of the rifle, cleaning is discussed.

The DVD then moves to the exterior for awhile.  Changing of furniture is covered, along with some of the options out there.  Sight adjustment and replacement sights are detailed as well. The Magna-matic sight tool is featured too as a great adjustment method and particularly so for stuck sights.  While the Magna-tool is an excellent option, it doesn't fit some of gas/front sight combo blocks like the Draco and AK-104 style.  Minor gripe for only a few AK users, but if you have one of these with a stuck Draco sight drum like I did, a wrench socket can support a Kroil soaked front sight block while using punch will do the trick.  While not covered in the DVD, I believe though I did learn the socket method from a Fuller post on a message board.

Next, muzzle devices are then talked about where Fuller recommends different types flash hiders and brakes, especially the AK Battlecomp, of which Fuller's Rifle Dynamics is the exclusive distributor.  The typical 14x1 LH and 24x1 RH threadings on AKs shown.  Booster usage for short barrel rifles is explained too.  He also shows how to check that the threads are concentric to avoid bullet strikes.

After muzzle devices, Fuller of the details the cycle of operation first from the gas system side.  Fuller shows why piston wobble is actually recommended.  Then feeding, the bolt carrier cycle, and ejection is modeled with dummy rounds and the previous chapter on the fire control group is referenced.  Fuller also credits the AK's tapered rounds for part of its feeding and ejecting reliability.  While not that big of deal, I do wish there was a little more detail here.  Discussing how the bolt is camming and locking up would have been nice.  That can somewhat be shown through the magazine well, there probably isn't a really good way to show bolt without some kind cutaway.  Another minor thing that could have been nice is pointing out the ejector and how to check it.

At this point the DVD is about 2 hours in and now definitely takes a shift to more advanced techniques.  Some of the fixes after this require a hydraulic press with tooling and jigs being highly recommended.  Often the ones that require the press are really just guidelines of how it is done since there is no press in the video's work area.  If you have enough hydraulic press experience you could probably pull off what Fuller discusses but for a beginner who bought a press to do some serious AK work, it wouldn't cut it.  However, Fuller does mention that there are plans do do more advanced videos of these things in the future.

Trigger guard and magazine latch replacement is the first one of these that would need a press and jig.  However, even for someone like me who probably won't do something like this it was still cool to see and helped my overall understanding of AK construction.  Also the AK-Builder jigs featured are mechanically  interesting to me as well.  Almost makes me wish the days of parts kits weren't pretty much over so I would finally build an AK from a flat.  

The next topic of barrel removal is another one that requires a press.  It was definitely interesting to get an idea of what it would take to change out an AK barrel, but again unless you have a press and some general experience, it was more academic.

Fuller then moves forward and shows how to check the front sight, gas block and rear sight for alignment and then fixing cant.  However, Fuller makes a point that needs to be reiterated: not all canted sights are a bad thing, sometimes it is for a slightly bent barrel.  Canted sights don't scare me that much, and this video shows how to fix them if they need to be.  In my opinion, I would only absolutely fix front sights if I ran out of windage adjustment before point of aim/point of impact matched up.  I would consider fixing cant if I used so much windage to zero that the sight was close to one of the sight ears. But if the front sight is canted and the post is somewhat close to center I leave the sight alone!

Mag well and latch adjustment is addressed next.  Overall, great advice to help you with a misfeeding AK.  Another nice part of the video is safety fitting.  Fuller goes through multiple methods to loosen up the safety and make it easier to move.

The DVD closes out with sight mounting options, 922r compliance which then leads into Fuller's take on the modern AK.  The Ultimak, US Palm (Midwest Industries), and Texas Weapons Systems mounts are recommended, with Ultimak installation and tips being demonstrated.

As seems to be their standards, Pantaeo and Jim Fuller have an made excellent effort.  While not perfect, I cannot think of a better single source for basic AK technical information.  It will be interesting to see what else will come out of this relationship in the future.  This was so exhaustive of the basics, the only way I see for them to go from here is really AK building (of which the heydays have unfortunately passed) and true AK gunsmithing. It covers nearly everything needed at an Armorer "kitchen table" level.  Every serious AK owner needs a copy! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

CTD Blog's AK stuck case in class

Mike at Cheaper Than Dirt's blog has a good article about the experience he had at a class went to a couple of weeks ago.  He is normally an AR shooter classes but decided to run his homebuilt AK for a class.  He has some great observations of checking gear, going to classes to test gear, and the platform in general.  With ARs failing around him mostly due to the muddy conditions, he finally had stuck case in his Romanian kit AK. There were a couple of ARs that made it through the case malfunction free.

My Monday morning quarterbacking points.  One is that you need the jag or the brush buttstock tool kit to make the cleaning rod long enough!  I always either have it in the stock or in a pocket when I have a folding stock.  Second, have a broken case remover as well in case you tear of the case head which can happen too. If you do things right you can often squeeze those removers in the buttstock kit. Third, do you know all the amazing things that little kit can do to an AK?  Jim Fuller's Armorer's videos describe a lot of things they can do as does the Romanian AK reference site (review coming soon on Panteao's Fuller Armorer DVD)  Fourth, I wonder if he would have been using gear more designed for AKs like a US Palm chest rig or even their MOLLE shingles if this could have been avoided.  He had to switch mags with the rounds up to avoid the mag latches from dragging, which then exposed the magazines to the mud.  I don't know if the mud on the top rounds then junked up the chamber enough to cause it or it was enough build up of lacquer and polymer in the chamber to make it stick.  (UPDATE:  Mike replied to my comment saying that he thinks that they used the same magazines over and over without retaining them, just dropping them to the mud is what got everything so dirty, says the cleaning afterwards was "epic")  Lastly, make sure you do give the chamber a good brushing from time to time to help prevent these malfunctions!

Hat tip to Say Uncle for linking it!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tapco Smooth Side 7.62x39 magazines at retailers now

I'm starting to see Tapco's new magazine, a smooth side version for those that don't like their aggressive texture but still like their magazines overall.  Definitely has a more traditional look.

So if you like Tapco but not the look of their mags, this might be a good option for you.  If you don't watch out for these magazines since you might have to do a double take to separate them from surplus magazines.  They look more traditional for sure, I just wonder why they went with the more 5.45x39 style front ribs (granted 7.62x39 Polish Radom and rare AK-103 mags have them too).  The floorplate area is still a little bulky as well.  Available colors are orange "bakelite," flat dark earth, and black (it looks like Tapco may have dropped olive drab from there AK products).  MSRP is $15

One thing about there description gets me, "Designed in the spirit of the original Bulgarian steel magazine for use with the AK-47."  LOL, again looks more like a Polish Radom mag.  If anything the AK-103 style is more like the original Russian steel magazine with its lengthwise ribs.  Honestly though, I have given Tapco mags a little more of a chance now. I bought a few for range use in 5.45x39 due to the current shortage and to have for a reference.  I also have a single 7.62x39 one that I got in a package deal.  I do think for a lot of people, they can make sense for cheap range use as surplus mags start to dry up on the retail market, but they still aren't up to the standard of ((10))  <(how the cool AK kids are typing Circle 10 these days) waffles or East German bakelite, my current 5.45x39 magazines.  Also cruising the for sale section of various gun message boards can net you a lot of good surplus mag deals.