When Gaston Glock set out to design a lighter, more ergonomically correct, high capacity pistol for military use in the 80's he came up with the Glock 17 (so named because it was his 17th invention). The polymer frame "safe action" pistol soon became the standard sidearm for the majority of Law Enforcement agencies in one form or another, and if it would have been entered into the US Army's pistol trials in 1986, it would likely have become the same with our military. However, that didn't happen and the Beretta 92 (M9) took its place in history. We’ll discuss our thoughts on stock Glock pistols, and we’ll walk you through our fully custom competition ready Glock 34 build which features over $3,000 in parts alone as an example of the highest quality Glock type pistol it is possible to create.
In my humble opinion the stock Glock has four weaknesses: The sights, the trigger, the slide stop, and the guide rod. The trigger is NOT a major weakness, it’s just an average trigger on an otherwise above average firearm... But, we’ll get to that in a minute. The sights, however, are crap. The white half rectangle on the rear sight draws attention away from the front sight post which is the opposite of what you want on a sidearm. "Gun fight, front sight". This is not all bad because an experienced shooter doesn't need sights on their pistol for the majority of scenarios, and we always upgrade to night sights anyway. The sights we put in our competition Glock build are Trijicon suppressor height night sights with blacked out rear dots (keeping attention on the front post). Being suppressor height allows them to be co-witnessed with our Trijicon RMR red dot sight. The trigger is long and heavy, especially in comparison to something like the Sig SRT in our "best" pistol article. Also not a major issue because a good polish, pre-travel modification, and/or a $20 trigger bar can make a huge improvement. Add a spring kit and its better still. If you want one of the best triggers available in any pistol you can easily get one of the drop in, fully adjustable trigger units like the Phantom Adjustable Trigger from www.rockyourglock.com that we put in our custom Glock build. The guide rod is polymer, weak, and cheap. The spring is also underpowered. The underpowered stock spring allows the Glock to cycle lighter loads, but increases felt recoil. We believe a polymer guide rod is more likely to cause malfunctions than a stainless steel or tungsten version. A heavier spring and guide rod like the one we used for our Glock build will also greatly decrease felt recoil. If you are using a suppressor it’s easy enough to switch out a lighter spring for proper suppressor/firearm function. We used a Glockmeister tungsten recoil spring assembly with an 18lb spring for our 3 gun style custom Glock 34 build. Lastly, the slide stop. I believe it is a weak point in the mechanical design of the pistol itself. The stop is weak and too much relies on the small slide stop and relatively weak spring. At a time when I personally had to use a Glock pistol to defend myself in a life or death situation the slide stop malfunctioned and locked the slide back after one round was fired (Murphy’s Law). Luckily, that one round I fired saved my life. This also would have been an easy fix (tap, rack, bang), had I needed to fire more rounds. However, all machinery is subject to failure, all machines have weak points, if it can happen it will, and this is likely to be the only design flaw in the Glock. It's also completely preventable with proper maintenance (spring changes), cleaning, and inspections of one's firearm. There is not really an "easy fix" for slide stop malfunctions, but it isn't a major issue as long as the springs are changed out as needed (which is part of normal maintenance). We went with an extended slide stop from Rock Your Glock for our build.
When we wrote up our "best" pistol article we knew it would only be a matter of time before we dedicated a write up to the Glock. When a friend of ours from Chaos and Pain supplements ( www.chaosandpain.com ) contacted us inquiring who could build him the best custom Glock pistol possible it was an easy answer, we could. We built him a Glock 34 out of the very best individual components, none of which are stock Glock parts, and took this opportunity to compare and contrast our build to that of OEM Glock pistols. Most of our guys own Glocks, many of them carry Glocks, and one even shot competitively for the Glock amateur team and is a certified Glock armorer (He did all the labor on this build). Glocks have come a long way since their initial invention and now come in all shapes, sizes, and calibers. The many different models offered are in fact very different animals, but the general mechanics and function of all Glock pistols are similar enough to do an effective write up in which the general information applies to them all.
The Glock was truly a game changer in several areas which sent firearms manufacturers into a frenzy of trying to re-create similar performance results. Its polymer frame made it much lighter than the competition which is a huge plus for someone who has to carry their sidearm regularly. We went with a Lone Wolf frame for our build which is built to Glock specs but is not a Glock frame at all. The grip profile is a bit different, we further changed it by adding custom stippling, and hollowing out the mag release area a bit more. We had our frame hydro-dipped in Multicam camo by Twin State Hydrographics. The amount of moving parts, and parts all together in a Glock pistol is very low. The relatively few parts are also very easy to disassemble and reassemble. This makes it much easier to clean and maintain than previous semi-auto pistols, and as with any mechanical device... less moving parts means less likelihood of a malfunction. Another such change that received a lot of attention is the grip angle. Basically this affects the angle of which the wrist is held in the sagittal plane while firing the pistol. It is quite a different "feel" than firing, say, a 1911 style pistol so if that's what you're used to firing it could take some adjustment to your firing grip and/or wrist angle. Whether or not you like Glock pistols the grip is more ergonomically correct than most of its semi-auto predecessors. Another aspect of the grip that is often over-looked is its oval shape with flat sides. This allows an experienced marksman to know the windage orientation of their pistol without using the sights at all. Our team members very rarely use their sights when firing a pistol at close ranges and accuracy by "feel" or "muscle memory" is much easier to master with a Glock due specifically to the shape of the grip. Because of this, some of our personal training pistols do not have sights at all. A pistol with a more rounded grip makes windage orientation more difficult to judge by feel alone. The only down-side of the grip design is the less than aggressive texturing. There is a possibility of losing a firm purchase on the firearm when adverse conditions add water, mud, or bodily fluids into the mix. Thankfully stippling the grip is common, easy, and effective for these situations.
One huge benefit to owning a Glock is customizability and aftermarket parts availability. Apart from the sheer popularity of this pistol, the relatively simple design and few moving parts have led to a huge market of custom "drop in" parts. This is great in our opinion because each Glock pistol can truly be custom fit to meet the specific needs of the owner. Apart from stippling the polymer grip for added security of purchase we also use and recommend several other aftermarket parts. Here is a list of the custom parts we used in our Glock 34 “three gun” build roughly in order of importance: Stainless steel or tungsten self-contained guide rod (Glockmeister tungsten recoil spring assembly), night sights (Trijicon suppressor height night sights, white front post, blacked out rear), trigger components or complete drop in triggers ( Rock Your Glock Phantom Adjustable Trigger), threaded barrels (KKM Precision extended threaded barrel with compensator coated in ZrN by S3F Solutions), magazine extensions (Arrendondo competition magazine extensions), spring kits (Rock Your Glock competition spring kit), maritime spring cups , lightened stryker (Lone Wolf lightweight firing pin and 6lb spring), and extended or modified controls ( Vickers Tactical Extended Mag Release, Aluminum Timberwolf extended magwell kit, Rock Your Glock extended slide release and slide stop). Several major companies also offer custom work to Glock pistols that increase aesthetics and/or function such as custom cut or machined slides and frames. There are even complete aftermarket slides and frame's available. We went with a Lone Wolf Distributors Glock 34 slide, had custom serrations and a Trijicon RMR mount machined by DP Custom Gunworks, and had it all Cerakoted burnt bronze by Weapon Works LLC. This just goes to show, so many aftermarket Glock parts exist that you could build a Glock completely out of parts made by other manufacturers… As we did.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about the “best” CCW, and we all know what opinions are like… CCW (concealed carry weapon) is a term used for a concealed weapon one carries on their person, usually on a daily basis. So what’s the best the best CCW? Like all answers to all generalized questions, it depends. Mostly on who’s asking the question. More specifically on a given individuals skillset, size, athletic ability, and area of operation. This being said, we set out in this write up to find the most versatile and effective CCW over the widest variety of scenarios and for the largest group of people.
Choosing a CCW:
As we mentioned earlier choosing a CCW is a very individual specific task. The first thing that must be taken into account is an honest assessment of combat skillset, mindset, and weapons proficiency. It starts with a mindset of willingness to protect yourself and your loved ones by any means necessary. If you do not have the proper mindset stop reading here, become a vegetarian, buy a Prius, and vote for gun control. If you’re still reading you’ll need to establish your strengths and weaknesses in a fight, and take into account any weapons you have extensive experience with. For example, a bladed weapons expert may choose simply to carry a knife or knives because they are comfortable and proficient with that weapons system.
A concealed weapon does not necessarily have to be a firearm, and in some areas a firearm cannot be legally concealed. Someone highly proficient in the use of edged weapons can be more effective in close quarters than an individual with a firearm. If you’re well versed in operation of a 1911 style pistol a sub-compact 1911 type pistol might be your best CCW strictly due to familiarity. If you are moderately skilled with weapons or less than moderately skilled we recommend carrying a revolver due to ease of use and operation. The point here is that when a situation arises that you have to draw a concealed weapon to defend yourself your bodies stress response will make normally easy tasks much more difficult. When the parasympathetic nervous system takes over you had better have a well ingrained body response that can only come from many hours of repetitive training with your chosen weapons platform.
Smaller weapons are obviously always easier to conceal, and any weapon is better than no weapon! If you buy a full size pistol for concealed carry only to turn around and not carry it on a hot day then its rendered completely useless. The size of the individual carrying the concealed weapon should also generally be a direct representation of the size of the weapon. This is to improve the operator’s ergonomics and weapons manipulation. If you have little man syndrome buy a big truck. Carrying a Glock 20 at 5’5” tall can get you killed or possibly even arrested. It can get you killed if the pistol you’re carrying is too large for an individual with smaller hands to properly manipulate in a life threatening scenario, and it can get you arrested or otherwise harassed by law enforcement for “printing”. Printing is when a concealed firearm is showing through the individuals clothing that’s carrying it because it’s too big or not being properly carried. A larger person can more easily conceal, and more easily manipulate a larger firearm. This is why we say the weapon needs to fit the operator. Your athletic ability and level of physical fitness also plays a role in choosing a CCW. I need to mention here that having a sharp and prepared mindset should spur an individual on toward maintaining at least a decent level of physical fitness and prevent one from being obese. Being obese makes it extremely difficult to effectively conceal and operate most weapons systems.
Your body type will affect where you can carry your weapon. IWB, OWB, shoulder holsters, pocket carry, around the neck, belt buckle holsters, ankle holsters, up the sleeve, and good ol’ Mexican carry are just a few ways to conceal a weapon. Flexibility is a facet of physical fitness that will manifest itself by your ability reach your CCW in its carry position. Athletic ability, mostly in the area of hand-eye coordination, will affect what type of weapons you can hope to master. Balisong knives, karambits, and semi-auto pistols are more difficult to become highly proficient with than kubaton’s, fixed blade knives, and revolvers.
Your area of operation will determine what types of weapons you can carry and how you can conceal them. Warm weather environments make it more difficult to conceal weapons thereby limiting the size of concealable weapons as well as the types of carry. As a rule of thumb smaller is better for concealed carry. It is also important to find a balance between conceal ability and ease of access. Many would be attackers can cover 21 feet in about 2 seconds, this means you need to find a way to completely conceal your weapon with the ability to effectively employ it in less than two seconds. A task that takes planning and practice, but also a conversation for another write up because we are specifically discussing weapons in this review rather than concealment, employment, and use.
Smith and Wesson revolvers are widely known for their reliability, durability, accuracy, and attention to detail. Their higher end pistols and custom shop work is the best money can buy. S&W J frame revolvers have been used as concealed carry firearms and backup guns for law enforcement officers for decades. They don’t double feed, stove pipe, fail to feed, fail to eject, experience out of battery detonations, and they almost never jam. When you pull the trigger they go bang (when properly used and maintained).
The M&P 340 no lock is no exception to its legendary line of succession. This modern adaptation of the J-frame revolver comes complete with all the bells and whistles: Night sights, laser grips, and a space age Scandium alloy frame. It weighs in at just 13.3oz unloaded making it incredibly concealable and the .357 magnum rounds can stop a charging bear. In fact I’ve carried this pistol on mountain trail runs through remote regions of the Rockies and Appalachians in the pocket of my running shorts for just that reason.
The only problem we’re aware of inherent to this series of pistols is with the lock. Although being able to render your revolver inoperable with a key is a great idea, we’ve heard that the locks can sometimes be activated incidentally by high recoil. Obviously that could be a serious problem if your firearm locks while firing it in a life threatening situation. For this reason we opted to go with the no lock model so we don’t have to worry about that. Like anything else in this world there are a few drawbacks to this setup.
Recoil is extremely potent when firing heavy .357 magnum loads, in fact I would venture to say it has more felt recoil than any pistol on the market. That can easily be remedied by firing .38 special round which is safe and recommended for the faint of heart. The trigger pull on this particular double action only model is a bit heavy but very smooth with a nice break and not bad at all for a double action. The reason we went with a DAO design is because an exposed hammer can be more than a nuisance for a CCW revolver. If it were to get snagged in the wrong situation it could cost the user his/her life.
The combo of night sights and Crimson Trace laser grip works well at night and in low light conditions even without a flashlight. We must stress the importance of target recognition in self-defense scenarios, but if you were without a flashlight at night this pistol can keep you in the fight. The revolver points very well and the front sight post is highlighted as it should be on a CCW pistol. It allows for quick target acquisition and fits directly into proper “gun fight = front sight” training. This pistol can be carried in pocket holsters, IWB, OWB, fanny packs, deep concealment undergarments, and shoulder holsters but our favorite method of concealing this pistol is with an Alessi ankle holster.
We’re calling this our best overall concealed carry weapon because of ultimate concealabity due to size and weight, relative ease of use, and excellent knock down power. We must note that there will be pros and cons to any CCW set-up. The down sides to this firearm are ammunition capacity and accuracy. It’s relatively easy to maintain “combat accuracy” with practice but it takes much more training to achieve a high level of accuracy with a “snub-nose” revolver than it does with a larger pistol. The pistol itself is incredibly accurate but the short barrel and snappy recoil can make manipulation difficult at first.
Training is crucial for any CCW setup or weapons platform and this is no exception to that rule. To maintain a decent level of readiness one must also develop plans for various scenarios and run through said scenarios first with dry fire practice, then at the range. Your plan for self-defense should be based off your normal daily activities. Have a readiness plan for your workplace, your vehicle, and your leisure activities. An often overlooked aspect of CCW readiness that is a good example of the importance of planning and training is one’s ability to access their CCW while in their vehicle with a seatbelt on. If you cannot easily access your CCW while in your vehicle wearing a seatbelt then you’ll need to adjust its location while riding or driving. The other downside to this revolver is that it only holds five rounds, but with planning and training five rounds of .357 magnum should more than enough to protect yourself and your loved ones. Speed loaders are an available option for quick reloads. We recommend keeping at least two in your vehicle and/or EDC (every day carry) bag.
Model M&P340 CT
*Suggested Retail, Dealer Sets Actual Pricing
It's a question which we industry professionals are often asked and seems ignorant at first... But it's not. There's always a best. However the parameters need to be defined. The best for what? Combat? Hunting? Every-day carry? IDPA? Fun at the range? the list goes on... Well this, in my opinion, is the best "overall" pistol. Shown here in a highly specified, "tacticool", and even Hollywood setup with a Yankee Hill suppressor and 30 round extended magazine is the Sig Saur Scorpion P226 in 9mm. Let me first mention that when I'm going about normal everyday activities I often carry a compact Glock with a lot of personalized work done to it because it's relatively light, reliable, accurate, dependable, highly customizable and has a high magazine capacity. When I need a pistol that is extremely light, small, and can be concealed in minimal clothing I carry a Smith & Wesson M&P 640 in .357 magnum with no lock. But the Sig p226 scorpion is tougher, more accurate, and more finely tuned with many more features and much more attention to detail out of the box. It's more durable? Yes. Like a Glock or S&W revolver it rarely jams but unlike a Glock it won't melt when subjected to heat and flames. (Glock frame's are made out of polymer a space age thermoplastic that will melt when subjected to high temperatures). However unlikely that scenario may be a metal frame is more durable than polymer. A revolver is usually very durable but sacrifices magazine capacity, reload speed, and in the case of a snubnose... accuracy. More accurate than a Glock? Yes. The Glock derives it's accuracy from polygonal rifling in its barrel and although it's very accurate the Sig is a much tighter tolerance, finely tuned, more accurate machine.
Steel Guide Rod and Coiled Steel Recoil Spring:
Those who have used an M9 in sandy environments such as Iraq, Afghanistan, or Africa can attest to the problem of sand caking on the guide rod and recoil spring. There were only two pistols to pass the Army's pistol selection in the 80's, the Beretta M9 (then the 92FS), and the Sig Saur p226. The Beretta was chosen because they were cheaper to produce, but it has two major drawbacks in my opinion: The safety, and the plastic guide rod. The plastic guide rod on the Beretta M9 was designed to flex and return to original form instead of bending if the pistol is dropped with the slide locked back. I cant imagine dropping a pistol hard enough to bend a solid steel guide rod with no other function impeding effects. To me this is a non-issue. The M9 has grooves along the length of its plastic guide rod to catch dirt and debris and keep it from impeding function of the firearm. That may sound like a good idea, and it may look good on paper, but it doesn't work. It does in fact collect dirt and debris, but it just builds up and jams the pistol. Along the same lines as the reasoning behind why I use dry lubricant but that's a discussion for another time and place. The Scorpions steel guide rod and coiled recoil spring doesn't have that problem. There is nowhere for excess dirt build-up to be trapped with a solid stainless guide rod. The coiled recoil spring also maintains its tension much longer than the traditional recoil springs of other manufacturers. The steel guide rod improves reliability and lessens felt recoil. Some of the reasons why we always get rid of the plastic guide rod's in our Glock's as well...
The Sig Short Reset Trigger is a big deal. The pull is light and short, and the break is sharp and clean. The reset requires a mere twitch of the finger and makes this pistol a pleasure to shoot as well as a real contender in combat or for competition shooting involving quick follow up shots. There are not many other pistols that have an excellent trigger requiring absolutely no gunsmithing to lighten the pull or shorten travel out of the box. Furthermore not many pistol owners can do the work required to their own pistols to make the trigger short, light, and crisp. With more local gunsmiths popping up each day it's also becoming exceedingly difficult to find one that knows what they're doing and wont do more damage than good to your firearm. In a Glock the stock trigger pull leaves something to be desired (although it's still not bad when generally compared to average pistols). Again, the Sig SRT trigger is the smoothest trigger I've ever fired on any pistol "out of the box". The fulcrum aftermarket trigger for the Glock measures up nicely when properly adjusted but it's an aftermarket accessory.
The ergonomics on the Sig are also on par with other top designs. The controls (slide stop, magazine release, and decocker) are all well placed, easily accessible and work well. The decocker allows the gun to be cocked, then decocked, and carried with a round in the chamber. Once decocked the first pull of the trigger is a heavier double action pull making an accidental discharge less likely, with the follow up pulls being very light. You may wonder why I'm continuously comparing this pistol to the Glock. That's because the Glock has taken the tactical community by storm since its introduction and is a highly respected and well known firearm. For you 1911 guys still clinging onto a pistol design over a century old let me say we're discussing just firearms here. Not taking into account the preference or skillset of the shooter. A 1911 was designed to be hand made and hand-fitted. You may find a $3000 1911 that's an incredible pistol but it's still going to be an inferior design to a P226 based on engineering and moving parts alone. If you choose a 1911 with very tight tolerances because you know how to use it well and its reliable because you use ammo it likes and keep it clean then that's all well and good. I'm not bashing 1911's at all they're beautiful firearms when properly built and maintained, but technology is always improving and when the best 1911 operators tape down their grip safeties in combat that says enough to me about the firearm itself which after all is just a tool. The G10 grips on the Sig are not just stylish, they perform well when it count... They provide a sure enough grip to allow the user to maintain control when slick with mud, blood, or water. There is only one drawback to this pistol I have found and it involves the shape of the grip. When I fire a pistol in an emergency situation or in competition it is often that the first shot or two are fired without using the sights on my pistol. I use a combination of muscle memory, feel of the grip, proprioceptor sensory input, and experience to determine the relationship of the pistol in time and space. This allows at the very least for accurate T-zone shots out to 10 yards. The problem with the grip of the Sig is that it is too ergonomic... Let me explain. It is extremely comfortable and fits the hand so well that it is difficult to judge the precise angle of the firearm by feel alone. If you look at a Glock pistol you will see the sides of the grip are completely flat. This allows the shooter to determine where the pistol is pointing in the horizontal axis by feel, further allowing accurate fire mid draw stroke without using the weapons sight system. I have become able to do this with the Sig, but it has taken much more practice.
Why 9mm? It's cheap, high magazine capacity, and if I run out of mine I can take yours (It's a NATO round and very common). I'm not going to get into the bullet debate here, but I'll weigh my 2 cents. Colonel Coopers 10mm is my favorite pistol round but I'm calling this 9mm the best all around pistol. Simply because there's no magic bullet and I'd rather not get shot with a 9mm any more than I already have. Let me tell you .45 guys... It's no fun, and well placed 9mm rounds are deadly. If I had to stake my life on one pistol only, without knowing the scenario ahead of time, this would be it.
It's a full size "combat" pistol but still concealable. Depending on the size of your hands a full size pistol offers the most control. For individuals with smaller hands like the woman in the picture below a compact pistol like the Sig p229 might be the best overall pistol, since such individuals often find it difficult manipulate effectively and maintain a proper grip. Full size pistols also feature better accuracy, higher velocity, and less felt recoil. The downside to a full size pistol is that it can be difficult to conceal. And the icing on the cake, if your like me and prefer everything you own to be in earth tones (which you're probably not), you won't have to duracoat this pistol! It comes completely cerakoted in beautiful flat dark earth from factory.
If you could only have one rifle what would it be? A question we set out to answer as completely as possible. We built this rifle to be the most versatile and complete rifle that it's possible to build. with the highest quality parts currently available to civilians, and without spending any more money than we absolutely had to. You may hear modern battle rifle and think SCAR, ACR, or some other piston driven dream gun but we're not their yet. It's not a piston driven SCAR that could blow up on you like it did with a SF friend of mine while his unit was testing them out west. He now has them at his disposal on engagement in Iraq while gearing up for round two... But the SCAR stays in its pelican case with its new ELCAN optic and space age FDE polymers. When the green beret's I know (shown in photo below) leave the wire they still take the old M4. Why? You wont have to worry about a clogged gas port sending springs flying, or polymer parts breaking on a direct impingement rifle. That's because Eugene Stoner perfected the AR10 gas system back in the 1950's. This rifle platform actually preceded the m16, but its modern in every sense of the word. And more importantly: battle proven. The SEAL's have had great success with their version dubbed the Mk11, and the Army has grown fond of their Knight's Armament M110 with only minor problems reported (an issue with the ejection port cover causing malfunctions which has since been fixed). Versatility is the name of the game in weapons and this particular rifle has it in spades. With an experienced shooter it can send a .30 caliber projectile out to a target a mile away. It's overall weight is around 10lbs depending on how its loaded out. A high level of accuracy, Semi-automatic box fed magazine capability, and the familiar AR platform make this rifle truly modular and mission capable. It has great knock down power and as long as you keep it clean, its extremely reliable.
We chose a Krieger barrel in 18.5" that will shoot sub MOA groups and still maintain a velocity of 2550 fps with Federal Gold Medal Match 168 Gr HPBT ammo. The 7.62x51 round itself has proven very effective in combat and can do the damage of two or three standard 5.56 rounds out of even a 16" barrel while maintaining an effective range out to 800 yards (some shooters can use a 16" bbl effectively out to a mile in this caliber). Aside from maintaining long range capabilities our 18.5 " barrel helps
keep the overall length down to approx. 37" with the carbine stock in collapsed position. This means the rifle can also be used effectively in CQB, room clearing, and even vehicle based operations when a designated marksman is absolutely necessary. Barrel break in an important and often overlooked aspect of getting the most accuracy out of your precision rifle. We used Montana X-treme .50 BMG copper solvent ( www.montanaxtreme.com ) for our barrel break in procedure. The procedure involved swabbing the barrel with the copper solvent after each shot for ten shots, then after two shots, then after three shots, and on up to ten. This allows for an even base layer of copper to be formed throughout the barrel. On the end of our barrel is a great compensator from Primary Weapons Systems ( www.primaryweapons.com ) that helps with recoil management.
To sheath the barrel from harmonic disruptions and to provide an accessory platform for iron sights, lights, scope level, quick detach sling attachment point, and bipod, we chose a Yankee Hill Machine ( www.yhm.net ) smooth modular rail. The round rail isn't always getting caught on stuff like a Knights Armament rail seems too and it's much lighter. You can also add rail sections when needed in virtually any position or size.
Upper Receiver and Bolt Carrier Group (BCG):
The upper receiver is a standard DPMS style upper we got from the folks at Fulton Armory ( www.fulton-armory.com ). They seem to be higher quality than DPMS (although DPMS blank receivers themselves are not quite the same poor quality as some of their small parts) while utilizing the same standard .308 pattern. We also got our bolt carrier group and all upper parts from Fulton Armory: it's hard chromed which is a huge improvement over standard mil-spec finishes. It is much easier to clean, more resistant to wear, and seems to run much better for longer periods of time with less lubrication. The folks at Fulton Armory make some great high end precision rifle components, and that's why we chose them.
The lower receiver is standard DPMS ( www.dpmsinc.com ) and its the only truly DPMS part on the rifle other than the butt stock. We had a DPMS buffer retention pin failure during testing and no longer use DPMS parts in any of our rifles. The specs of the pin were way off and even the shape itself led to the buffer tube jumping the pin and rendering the rifle inoperable. The trigger is a drop in self-contained unit from Timney Triggers ( www.timneytriggers.com ) made specifically for the AR-10. The pull is short and crisp with a break at about 4.5lbs, not to mention a huge improvement over standard AR triggers. It is very important with drop in triggers to get a set of non-rotating trigger pins like the set we picked up from KNS precision ( www.knsprecisioninc.com ) nicely cerakoted in flat dark earth. This helps to insure full reliability of the trigger group since the tension on the pins is different with a drop in trigger unit. The anti-rotational trigger pins are a good upgrade for any AR but essential for reliability with self contained triggers. It also alleviates a wear point. The rest of the springs, upper, and lower receiver parts we got from Fulton Armory with no problems during testing whatsoever. The new buffer retention pin came from Olympic Arms ( www.olyarms.com ) and is also an excellent design.
Moving back up to the forend of the rifle lets talk a bit about that beast of a bipod called an ATLAS. It's stronger AND lighter than a Harris. Each leg is also independently adjustable. If you cant tell we love it. Our back up sights are Dueck Defense Rapid Transition Sights ( www.dueckdefense.com ), which are really quite nice. I particularly like the quickness of the large peephole rear aperture. They are for use with the rifle from point blank to 100 yards or so even though myself and some of our other guys like to shoot mostly by feel and muscle memory for quick shots at short distances. The scope is a Bushnell Elite ( www.bushnell.com ) fixed power mil-dot reticle. The mil-dot reticle is absolutely essential for making quick accurate shots at extended ranges. The fixed power scope delineates this DMR from a precision rifle in that its faster on target, with a higher rate of fire, and no focus adjustments are necessary. I have had mixed luck with Bushnell, and have probably had to send back at least 10 different optics with problems over the years. I continue to use them because they always take care of their customers and their Elite line is a whole other level of quality with very few problems. I have definitely not had any problems out of their Elite line. Putting a scope on an AR like this creates a problem in being able to get to a stock charging handle. The TacOps-1 charging handle from www.mechdefense.com has gone above and beyond fixing that problem. It's not the newest fad in charging handle's, no their charging handle is a genuine work of art. They also make armored turrets for our military so they know what the heck they're doing and they enjoy dealing with military and ex-military individuals. The two point sling from Blue Force Gear ( www.blueforcegear.com ) is very high quality and an excellent way to keep this rifle close. The rubber butt pad from U.S. Palm is not a necessity but simply a nice comfort item. Different parts as well as the rifle itself have been duracoated, cerakoted, gunkoted, and krylon rattle canned camo in various stages of its life. Its seen different stocks, buffers, buffer tubes, scopes, and accessories but the setup shown and described is the best we could come up with after thousands of rounds of testing. Hope you enjoyed this reading material.
Our goal for this build was to set up a PDW (personal defense weapon) package to be used for Personal Security Details. A PDW is a weapon similar in size to a sub-machine gun that fires rifle rounds for more knockdown power and a greater effective range. A weapon designed to be used for Personal Security Details has to be small enough to allow the user to get in and out of vehicles with the weapon at the ready, while maintaining an effective range capable of engaging enemy targets at rifle ranges. High magazine capacity, light weight, high rate of fire, and knock down power are the desired attributes. This build turned out to be an excellent example of a modern PDW.
They say only the weapons change and that the warrior does not. Well one thing is for sure, weapons are continuously changing. Smaller, lighter, faster, more powerful, extended range, higher magazine capacity... These are all manifestations of the arms race toward more effective firearms. But there's another saying that goes, "if it ain't broke don't fix it"... That was our outlook on piston driven firearms readily accessible to civilians until we built this PDW in 2011. Many early piston system manufacturers had problems with carrier tilt, pre-mature cam pin wear, and improperly tuned gas systems. Primary Weapon Systems ( www.primaryweapons.com ) long stroke piston design, in our experience, does not suffer these ill-fated issues.
PWS originally designed their piston system for use in the Mk107 "Diablo" SBR package. Although the PWS Diablo was an incredible design and functioned very well it only has a seven inch barrel, and we prefer not to employ 5.56 firearms with a barrel length of less than twelve inches. The reason for this is the inherent light weight of the 5.56 projectile and subsequent loss of velocity out of a dramatically shortened barrel make the already small round a much less effective man stopper.
The PWS long stroke piston design is a step above other short-stroke piston operated systems. Some people will tell you that a piston driven AR-15 is more reliable than a DI (direct impingement) gun, but this is simply not true. A clean, well built, and properly maintained DI AR-15 is as reliable as any piston AR on the market today. Direct impingement AR-15's were finely tuned, battle proven fighting machines before the world started trying to turn an AR into an AK. However, DI guns get dirty fairly quickly since the spent gas from the fired cartridges is vented directly onto the bolt carrier group via the auto-loading operation process. DI guns are also plagued with malfunctions when they are overly dirty (a maintenance issue) due in part to the tight tolerances of the AR platform design. These same tight tolerances also lend the AR its great accuracy. Piston driven AR-15's seek to build a bridge between accuracy and cleaner operating firearms for a best of both worlds, reliable and accurate, scenario.
We have had our eye on PWS products since their debut of the Diablo, and when they introduced the Mk112 version with a 12" barrel we took this opportunity to set up a piston AR platform. The Primary Weapons Systems Mk112 complete upper itself fit the bill for what you would expect from a high end weapons company. Fit and finish was excellent. The long stroke piston system is easy to dissemble and clean. You don't have to remove any pieces of the quad rail as you do on some piston guns, and the field stripping process is very similar to a DI firearm. The long stroke piston system also eliminates the metal on metal contact of other piston systems (another way they reduce or eliminate carrier tilt and wobble). Mass has been added to the rear of the bolt carrier to increase dwell time, delay unlock, decrease chamber pressure, and further reduce felt recoil. The bolt carrier group is precision machined from tool steel and Nickel Teflon coated. The coating greatly reduces friction and carbon build up while making cleaning easier similar to hard chrome.
A fully adjustable gas system allows the PWS to fire a variety of ammo with or without a suppressor flawlessly. We had some minor malfunctions when testing this rifle due to poor quality ammo, but none related to the firearm itself. The gas system is easy to adjust and is found at the 12' O'clock position on the fore-end at a gap in the rail. The 12.75" barrel is button rifled, 1:8 twist, Isonite QPQ treated, and truly free floating within the rail system. What this means to you is that it's tough, very accurate, and propels rounds at an average of 2800 feet per second.
The Mk 112 is chambered in .223 Wylde which gives this weapon the ability to function properly with .223 Remington or 5.56 ammo. The chamber in .223 Wylde is not as tight as .223 Remington which allows 5.56 brass to cycle without affecting accuracy. The rail is picatinny along the top with two inch sections at the front on either side. It is lined in the middle with keymod cutouts to allow a variety of attachments and has QD sling attachment points at the front and rear. The upper weighed in 3lbs, 9oz when we received it and came fitted with a nice upgraded charging handle from BCM.
The Finished Build:
I must say in the interest of full disclosure that I didn't use a PWS lower for this build. The only insight I have into PWS lower receivers comes via a combat disabled Green Beret friend of mine who had a terrible run with PWS. He dropped the rifle from his wheel chair to the ground and the lower receiver shattered. As this is the only registered part of the firearm it's basically a worst case scenario. PWS was also very difficult for him to deal with over this issue to the point that he will no longer do business with them, and I agreed to share his experience in my article.
We mated the PWS Mk112 upper with a Colt HBAR match grade lower. Colt has been making high quality ARs for decade's and we knew we could trust this lower to be made to spec and without any flaws or issues that could negatively effect the build.
We used an Aimpoint micro red dot optic ( www.aimpoint.com ) in a LaRue mount for light weight, durability, quick target acquisition, and long battery life. Aimpoint makes some of the best red dot optics on the market and just about everything that comes from LaRue in Texas is very well machined and high quality. Our shooters have trained themselves to be able to provide accurate fire from their red dot equipped carbines whether the optic is on or off. Muscle memory and thousands of rounds at the range allow us to guage where our shots will go simply by using the tube of the optic. This provides extremely useful in cases of battery failure. We added a TangoDown rubber cover for the Aimpoint Micro in flat dark earth that for a little extra durability, lens protection when not in use, and overall aesthetics of the build.
We used Magpul BUIS (back-up sights) just in case the optic should be lost or destroyed and set them up to co-witness the red dot. We chose a Hogue overmolded grip ( www.hogueinc.com ) mainly for the color and texture. The grip was relatively inexpensive, fits the hand very well, and maintains a good amount of "tack" even with gloves. For a weapon light we chose the Inforce WML ( www.inforce-mil.com ) in sand color, the inforce light has since taken on water during training and no longer works.
The PWS CQB muzzle brake looks cool and helps project gas and noise away from the user while minimizing muzzle flash. This PDW has been an SBR and a pistol in various stages of it's life and testing. This mostly depended on what lower it was attached to and whether it could legally be an SBR at the time. Aside from their revolutionary long stroke piston system, PWS has also designed their own "enhanced buffer tube". This buffer tube does not use a castle nut to secure, instead it uses indexing screws to create torsion that holds it in place. It is very easy to install and works quite well when properly adjusted. Another big feature of the buffer tube is the extended lip which 'holds" the bolt carrier and eliminates carrier tilt (carrier tilt can be a major issue with piston AR's). The enhanced buffer tube also features a QD (quick detach) sling attachment point on either side. As set up here the rifle balances well and we found it was a pleasure to run through drills. Function is smooth, reliable, and efficient. This is an excellent choice for a piston operated firearm.