Tech Tuesday: A Visit to XS Sights

When I volunteered at my first HAVA Family Day a couple years ago, I became fast friends with Jon and Stephanie Pastusek of XS Sight Systems. Jon and Steph have an awesome energy and enthusiasm for everything they do, a lot of which is introducing new and young shooters into the sport. With the company being based in Ft. Worth, they invited me to come visit the shop and hang out sometime. Well, Monday was finally that day.

XS 1

 

The parent company, Horizon Tech Industries, has been in business for about 30 years. They make a lot of different stuff, though most of the production capacity is now focused on XS Sights. I knew that the Big Dot sights were popular,

A small bin full of what will soon be front sights for a Ruger LCR.

A small bin full of what will soon be front sights for a Ruger LCR.

but I didn’t realize just how popular these sights really are until I saw the number of machines dedicated to making them. Now, before somebody starts talking about how Big Dots aren’t accurate, suited for competition or anything else, let’s remember that they are really designed with a single purpose in mind. Shooting a bad guy inside 20 feet, and for that, they work extremely well. As talked to all the employees, it was pretty apparent that they all share a passion, and everybody is committed to making the best possible products for their customers, and that’s always cool.

 

Now, enough of that, the real purpose of driving up there was to give their Xpress sights for a shotgun and XTI sights a good test drive. I probably shot about as many slugs on Monday as I have in the past year, which was a little painful from a cost standpoint, but hey, don’t want them to go bad right? Up until now, I’ve been using the factory fiber optic bead that came on my Mossberg 930 JM. It works extremely well inside 50 yards, but it can start to get a little interesting past that. With the not quite bead, not quite rifle sights design of the Xpress sights, things started looking better quick.Slugs The biggest difference that I noticed right away was my ability to call the shot vs shooting with a bead. With the factory set-up, I was always waiting for a audible signal (ding or a spotter call) to really have any idea if I hit or miss a slug target.  I’ll be using the sights at SMM3G coming up in a few weeks, so I’ll have more to report soon!

 

 

 

Tech Tuesday: Hogue Knives

Several years ago, Hogue teamed up with Allen Elishewitz to produce knives that were of custom quality, but without the $600+ price tag for most of Allen’s beautiful pieces. The line has since expanded to include 4 different folders and one fixed blade, each available with different blade lengths and options.

The EX-F01 is the sole fixed blade in the lineup and is available in both a 5.5″ and 7″ blade.  Your first impression when you pick it up is that it is a pretty serious piece of equipment. Designed with survival and woods use in mind, it is balanced really well for both slicing and chopping. g10_ex-f01_detail_3_smPersonally, my two favorite features of this knife are the removable grip panel where you can store some various items, and the thick spine that can be used for a strike surface for flint or other fire starter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My normal EDC knife is a drop-point EX-o2 with a flipper for opening. This is the best knife I’ve ever owned by far. It opens extremely smooth and easy and locks solid when its open. One of the cool features that are built into Hogue folding knives is the manual safety lock, which keeps the blade open even if you press the button or liner lock. While a thumb stud is available, I prefer the flipper for it’s ease of opening, but also, when combined with the already deep finger groove, it makes for an excellent hand stop if you need to use the knife as a defensive tool. ex-02_flipper_smAlso, the other end of the handle sports a glass breaker, which I’m sure can also work well as a defensive tool if need be. The 154CM Stainless that the blade is made out of does a great job holding an edge, even after doing ugly things like opening boxes, prying staples and and cutting telephone wire, at least that’s what I heard from a friend…

 

 

 

 

My next knife (which hopefully will come soon) is going to be an EX-04.ex-04 They debuted these awhile back, but are just now getting production ramped up. I knew I had to have one as soon as I saw it. It just looks way too badass not to own… Look for a review soon!

 

Tech Tuesday: XTI Sights from XS

Let’s take a preview at a new product that I’ll be using this year in 3-Gun; the Xpress Threat Interdiction(XTI) sights from XS Sight Systems.

XTI Back view

The XTI  sights are an angle mount iron sight designed to fit on the handguard of AR style rifles. The theory with behind he angled iron sights is to have an ultra close range option when you have a scope mounted on the the top of the rifle.  This let’s you have the wide open field of view of iron sights with only a quick twist of the rifle to get your eyes behind the irons.

 

XS developed these primarily for Tactical/LE use, since nobody was offering a similar sight with the proven low-light capability of the Big Dot system. But, when Jon Pastusek showed them to me last year at an event, I started really thinking about them for 3-gun. Since I’ll be shooting in Tac-Optics this year, a set up bac-up/angled sights should be handy any targets that are super close. I’ve always been a fan of XS Sights for  their speed at close range, so I think these should be a perfect fit for 3 gun. I’ll report more soon once I get my new handguards from Hogue so I can get them mounted.

Tech Tuesday: Carbon Arms Pinwheels

So, now that I’m supposed to be good at this whole 3 gun adventure, I had to take a look at the weakest part of my game. Keeping shells in the shotgun.

 

As is standard, I spent hours and hours dry-firing with my 4 shell caddies, complete with crushed thumbs, cursing, and a few tears trying to gain a measure of proficiency at reloading my Mossberg 930. I had looked into the TWinS method when it was brand new and decided to stick with what I “knew” at the time. Fast forward to now, and it’s a much more proven method and I decided to give it a whirl after Lena Miculek let me try out her set-up. SSLP8I know ya’ll aren’t interested in excuses, but I’m still sick with what I’m calling the “delayed incubation SHOT Show death crud”, so the pictures are from Carbon Arms website (thanks guys!), but here’s what I’ve got to say about the SSLP 8.

 

One of the first things I noticed is that the clips themselves are very high quality, and I don’t expect them to break or wear out, barring me doing something stupid. One of the things that I think could be improved on though, are the instructions. I was a little lost at first on how exactly I was supposed to attach and orient the ELS backer, and I didn’t get it fully worked out until James Casanova showed me his rig at SHOT Show. He (and now I) had his Pinwheel oriented in a vertical arrangement, similar to their FSL caddy, rather than working all the way around the belt like is shown in a lot of pictures. Since I switched mine over, my loads have gotten a lot smoother.

 

So, after you get them set-up, it’s time to go to work. Remember, there is some modification to the loading port that is required to use the TWinS method, but that’ll be the subject of another post. Just like with regular caddies, you can load strong hand or weak hand. Weak hand loading you simply flip the gun over while grabbing the shells in your weak hand. Loading with the strong hand requires you to flip the gun up on top of your shoulder. Personally, I’m much faster and more consistent loading strong hand, rather than weak hand. I think it has to do with the angle of the gun when you’re trying to feed the shells into the loading port. Having the gun on your shoulder puts you at a downward angle, as opposed to weakhand, where the gun is mostly flat.

 

After a few days of practice, I’m getting around 4-4.5 seconds to load 8 shells on a pretty consistent basis. This is way faster than I have ever been able to load 8 with the standard caddies, and that’s after months of practice. I’m pleased with the way the pinwheels perform, and while I’m still tweaking the angle and location of them, I can recommend them to anybody, especially a newcomer to 3 gun who isn’t invested in the load 4 technique.

Tech Tuesday: New Cameron’s 6″ 9mm

Alright, today’s article will be short because I don’t have many rounds on the gun, but I will write a follow-up in a month or so.

Cameron's Custom 6 inch

 

Alright, so here we go. I picked it up from my dealer yesterday afternoon, and couldn’t wait to get out this morning and give it a good run through. Cosmetic wise when I pulled it out of the box, the gun is perfect. Eddie does an awesome job at bead-blasting and polishing the gun, and to quote my wife “That gun just looks clean“. I couldn’t have said it better myself, the lines and cuts on the gun look great, and take the needed weight out of the slide to cycle with my GreenMatch Competition ammo from SBR that I use for Steel Challenge. We used a 6″ AET barrel from Schuemann that has no hybrid ports. I’ve never had a gun with this set-up before, and I’m anxious to run some standardized drills with it to see how it stacks up against what I’m used to. Currently, the gun has one of the TAS rear sights from STI on it, but this is only temporary until something new and cool comes onto the market (a hint of things to come).

 

I only had time to run about 100 rounds through it this morning on an indoor range, but so far I’m really liking the way the 6″ sight radius with the sight tracker looks under recoil, and of course the gun ran great right out of the box. It’s not easy to get a gun to run 100% straight away on 112 power factor ammo, so that’s just another sign that they know how to put a gun together in my mind. Being a 9MM, it’s really designed forteel Challenge and 3-Gun, but it may just make an appearance at the Texas Open in March and we’ll se how Limited minor performs. Until next time, Train To Triumph!

Camerons left side Camerons Top

Tech Tuesday: Hogue Magrip

One of the more exciting products to me when I was first picked up by Houge as a shooter is the Magrip for 1911s.

 

IMG_0388

Magrip mounted on a S&W 1911 in 38 Super.

 

The Magrip kit is made up of 3 pieces: a mainspring housing and two grip panels to form an integrated magwell. Though also available in aluminum, I prefer the G-10 version. G-10 itself is a fiberglass composite material and Hogue uses a unique process called G-Mascus to produce the patterns that simulate wood grain.  G-10 also makes it incredibly easy to blend the magwell portion to the frame of the gun without the need to re-finish either the frame or the grips, as is the case with anything made from aluminum. Pictured above is the green G-Mascus with the classic double diamond checkering. They also sell an extremely aggressive texture called Chain Link that works awesome down here in East Texas, but be warned, they aren’t for sissy hands!

About the size of an S&A magwell

About the size of an S&A magwell

In a world of growing magwells, Hogue sticks with a profile similar to that of a classic Smith & Alexander. This makes the Magrip suitable for carry, as well as competition, and will fit the IDPA box if that happens to be where you find yourself. Personally, I’m not a fan of the huge profile magwells on a single stack 1911. No offense to those who have them, but I think they’re ugly, and IMHO if you need that little bit of extra space, things have already gone terribly wrong.

 

I’ve been using Magrips on my single stack gun for a couple years now, and they still look almost brand new with just a couple dings where I have…um… been slightly misaligned while inserting a magazine. These definitely have my stamp of approval and pretty much all of my single stack 1911’s have a set of them mounted.

 

 

 

They are available direct from Hogue, and run about $125 for the whole set in either aluminum or G-10.

Cool factor Magrips

Cool factor Magrips

Tech Tuesday: Taran Tactical Basepads

Today’s Tech Tuesday comes to you from SHOT Show 2013. Wi-fi is limited but that can’t stop the signal Mal.

 

Taran Butler brought some of his new Taran Tactical basepads to USPSA Nationals last year for demo and I decided to start using them there. Normally, I won’t use a new piece of gear without extensive testing, but basepads won’t affect the function unless you try and stuff one more round into the mag, which is a generally poor idea anyway. If you can’t easily seat the mag when full, you should probably take at least one round out of it.

Laser engraved on the bottom with the Taran Tactical Innovations logo.

Laser engraved on the bottom with the Taran Tactical Innovations logo.

 

Originally, the design was manufactured and marketed by Bolen Custom before Taran bought the design and began to market it under his brand. An extremely nice feature of the design is that it is completely tool-less for disassembly. A small detent on the front that keeps the basepad secured on the tube, but is easily removed by finger pressure when it’s time to clean that mag (which is after every time is touches the ground). The aluminum construction also allows the advantage of increased tolerance and room, which can sometimes let you gain an extra round of capacity, or give it some wiggle room for the last round, making it easy to reload._DSC8281

 

Now, the ones I have are for STI/SV mags, but are also available on Taran’s website for Glock and S&W M&P and in a variety of colors, so you can pick your poison!

Push the pin out of the bottom as shown and you're ready to assemble or disassemble. Push it the other way and it's locked on to the front of the mag.

Push the pin out of the bottom as shown and you’re ready to assemble or disassemble. Push it the other way and it’s locked on to the front of the mag.

Tech Tuesday: Aimpoint Micro series

Tech Tuesday begins! This week, let’s talk about the Aimpoint Micro series of optics.

 

What's In The Box

Box contents of an Aimpoint Micro. The little red tool can be used to mount the scope, adjust windage and elevation and as a wrench for the battery cap.

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to treat the H-1 and T-1 as the same, as the only functional different between the two is the T-1 has an extra coating on the glass that allows it to be used with night vision, whereas the H-1 does not.

While most at home on a rifle, I predominantly use the Micro on my Steel Challenge pistols. I’ve used a few different scopes in the past, but I’ve had the most luck using the Micro because of it’s brightness, battery life and consistency of adjustments.

 

Brightness:

 

All Aimpoint scopes use a version of their Advanced Circuit Efficiency Technology (ACET) diode emitter. The largest dot size that is offered in the Micro is 4 MOA, and this concerns many people when they mount it on a pistol, as larger dot sizes (6-10 MOA) are traditionally used for pistols. However, with the better diode technology that Aimpoint uses, the dot is so bright and clear that it appears to be the same size as a 6 MOA on some other scopes. Crank the scope up to max brightness and you might feel like you’re looking into a small sun inside your scope. The same ACET also allows for some pretty incredible battery life. I generally replace my battery about once a year, and that’s mainly out of my own paranoia, as the rated battery life is about 50,000 hours.

 

Consistency of Adjustments:

 

Ever pulled your gun out of the bag only to find it’s now shooting 2″ right? How about spending an hour chasing your zero back and forth? Well, that’s other really nice thing about the Aimpoint. The mechanical adjustment system is exactly 1/2 MOA per click, and doesn’t like to move once it gets there. I’ve seen a CompM2 that was returned after being blown up by and IED and would still hold the adjustments when Aimpoint tested it.

 

The greenish tint of the front lens signifies NV compatibility. Also notice how the adjustment cap doubles as the adjustment tool.

The greenish tint of the front lens signifies NV compatibility. Also notice how the adjustment cap doubles as the adjustment tool.

A single CR2032 powers the Micro.

A single CR2032 powers the Micro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, whether you need red dot for your competition pistol, or something for your new AR you got for Christmas, the Aimpoint Micro is a great choice!