Category Archives: Product review

Products and equipment

Area 419 ARCALOCK Dovetail Rail

Can I start out by just saying how I love American ingenuity? I am constantly presented with impressive new products from an untold well of small business’ that push the envelope. Today that product is from Area 419, some of you will be quite familiar with their products and for those that aren’t, prepare yourselves for fresh lust.
see video below
Area 419 is a precision rifle shooters wet dream, they produce custom rifles, precision loading equipment, muzzle brakes, suppressors and more. Its all done with top tier industry standards, and has kept 419 at the top of their game for some time.

As much as I’d like to evangelize the entirety of their products, today I must focus on one product in particular. The ARCALOCK rail system is Area 419’s proprietary version of the impressive and popular ARCA rail. The ARCA has become the go to accessory rail for precision rifle shooters in PRS and NRL style shooting. The 1.5 inch wide rail allows shooters an impressive host of rifle supporting equipment, it allows quick attachment and adjustment of bipods, clamps, bags, tripods and more.

The ARCALOCK system made by Area 419 features a serration like edge, with tiny radii down both sides. The ARCALOCK clamps that go with it have three hard steel pins that engage the serrations when tightened down. It does this while still retaining the reciprocal use of standard ARCA products from other manufacturers as well. The augmented engagement of the ARCALOCK system allows shooters to quickly and securely install and adjust their rifle support hardware.

It may look like a measuring device for small fish, but the index marks are simply reference points for the shooter.

How it works
The ARCALOCK rail attaches via machine screws to the bottom of your rifle chassis, it is available in various lengths to fit most rifles. It has a long slot down the center line to take advantage of most any attachment point. The dove tail of all ARCA rails give a broad clamping surface, with lots of surface contact. The added benefit of the ARCALOCK system is that with the clamp lugs engaging the rail, there is a mechanical engagement in addition to the clamping, which will reduce wear. Also in my experience, the ARCALOCK’s additional engagement translates into lower torque required to firmly secure your clamped on accessories.
I decided to install the ARCALOCK rail on my 25 Creedmoor, which uses the KRG Bravo chassis. The rifle is a perfect candidate for the rail, and I’ve wanted to add something like this to it since I first got it.
Once installed, I was immediately intrigued with its use. I played with both a Harris and an Atlas bipod that had been fitted with 419’s ARCALOCK clamp. The clamp is easily attached to the Atlas with two screws, the Harris does require an adaptor that Area 419 produces that only improves the mounting and use of it in my opinion.

It mounted up neatly in my tripod, which gave my rifle a firm foundation that locks up so tight it feels like you could stand on it.

My Cole-TAC Support bag attaches to the ARCALOCK perfectly for shooting from barricades or rocks. There are many other accessories made by Area 419 like barricade stops, weights, and bag riders. These all clamp right onto the rail, giving the shooter an impressive amount of support.

As I stated at the opening of this article, I am constantly impressed by so many great ideas that good people like those at Area 419. Simple yet brilliant solutions to advance our shooting sports.
After shooting just a short time with the ARCALOCK system, I find myself wanting to add it to all of my rifles. I don’t shoot as many matches as I used to, but I can see how this system would add trigger-time to the clock. Together with all the available accessories, it will absolutely help you stabilize your rifle, through transitions of all sorts.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this system continues to see proliferation, and offered as OE from precision rifle companies.
In the meantime, I think I may have to get a few more of these for my other rifles, because good rifles should be spoiled.

Strike Industries Adjustable Scope Mount (ASM)

I go through a lot of scopes, not like you think though. I find myself constantly switching optics back and forth, from one rifle to another. One of the reasons I can getaway with it is because of quality scope mounts. And today I’d like to share a little bit about the latest one I have been fortunate to use.

That scope mount is from Strike Industries, a company I am well familiar with. They make all kinds of firearms accessories, the ASM is the first scope mount from Strike that I have used. The ASM is a 30mm set of rings, joined together as one billet piece of aluminum. It does come with ring reducers should you choose to mount a 1” tube scope. The base and rings are held together by a few screws, that also allows one of the paramount features of this mount. The rings can be slid fore and aft to use the mount either as a standard scope mount, or as a cantilever mount. The base of the mount features a recoil lug and two claw clamps to attach to the pic-rail of the rifle.

These features make this mount extremely useful, particularly if your like me and switching back and forth between rifles.
The design and style that comes with most Strike Industries products wasn’t lost on this unit, its clean lines and slender features make it both attractive and unlikely to snag on clothing or other gear.

I like that they used appropriate sized fasteners, some scope rings use insufficient screws that are easily stripped or broken. And I like that there are nearly zero exposed clamps, or screws and such to hangup on. This minimalist design style likely reduces the weight of the mount.

This scope mount is a handsome and useful piece of equipment, no matter which of its four positions you need, I think you will be very pleased with it.


The US Optics Foundation 25X

Many years ago, when I first stumbled down this rifled rabbit hole, I would daydream about the high-end and prestigious rifles I saw in magazines and movies. The internet had not yet become the superhighway it was destined to be, but as it developed I could also visit websites and court those beautiful works of art. Not only was it the rifles, but the impressive optical sights that accompanied them. My dreams of owning such a piece of artisanship seemed unattainable at the time, but I never could have foreseen just how far down this hole I would go.

Years would pass, more than a decade, and I found myself the proud owner of what I had always considered a dream scope. US Optics had always been one of the brands I was smitten with, maybe it was the incredibly robust design that seemed overbuilt for what many would consider standard use. On top of their strength, US Optics scopes had a mechanical attractive flair. It was like looking at top-fuel race engine, you could see all the little things that made it work its magic, and that enticed me even further.

That first US Optics scope was an ER-25, it was the first but far from the last. I’ve since had four more, with the latest being the newest offering from US Optics, the Foundation Series 25X. The Foundation series is USO’s latest line of top tier telescopic sights, made here in the US. The FDN25X boasts some impressive features, some you would expect, and others you might miss if you didn’t pay close attention. The 25X uses a fairly standard 34mm tube and 52mm objective, manufactured from 6061 T6 aluminum, it shares a nearly identical body with its predecessor the B25. But there is more, the FDN25X has the new EREK3 elevation turret with 11 MRAD per revolution, a 180-degree throw magnification ring, the new JVCR reticle (my favorite) with illumination available in red, blue, or green, smooth parallax adjustment, and an internal bubble level.

As I opened the box of the 25X and first picked it up, I was surprised at the weight. At thirty-four and a half ounces, it’s not exactly light but it seemed light for its size. I was expecting it to weigh more. I surely wasn’t going to waste much time, I wanted to get this scope mounted and get shooting with it. I mounted it on the rifle it was ordered for, my custom built 257 Blackjack. It is a lightweight carbon fiber hunting rifle to haul all over these Rocky Mountains for Mule Deer, Elk, and likely a few Antelope as well. The 25X makes a great companion optic for the Blackjack, it stays supersonic beyond two thousand yards, and its energy, drop, and wind deflection makes it ideal for long-range shooting. The 25X has been designed and built for just such shooting, with high-quality lenses to give a clear picture of distant targets. The JVCR reticle gives fine wind holds and holdovers, with .1, .2, and .5 subtensions.

JVCR Reticle detail, and green illumination

So with the 25X mounted in rings on a 20 MOA scopebase, I wandered off into the hills to get it zeroed and to put it to the test. Zeroing the scope was simple, the new EREK3 elevation turret was easy to figure out with a brief revision of the manual. I removed the center screw on top of the turret and adjusted my reticle with the provided hex wrench. After a couple adjustments, it was zeroed perfectly and my elevation set to zero. Normally I slowly work my way out from closer targets to more distant ones, but that day, I went straight for the long shots. The first shots after zero were 1230 yards, I dialed 6.5 MRAD on the EREK3, and fired a few shots. After getting the wind call right, they were hammering the steel. The EREK3 turret is a good combination of stiff, and crisp. Not too hard to turn, but firm enough to avoid accidental movement.

As it happens, my first trip out with the FDN25X was a shoot with Donald Trump Jr. He was impressed by performance of the 257 Blackjack, and the FDN25X

The clicks are both audible and tactile, adjustments are easily made from the shooting position by simply counting the clicks either felt or heard. The magnification ring is also a welcome improvement, with only 180 degrees of rotation, you can go from 5x all the way up to 25x with one movement. Instead of having to release and turn again like other scopes. It’ also easier to turn than previous models.
After zeroing my scope, I swapped out the scope base for a 30MOA, to get the scope closer to an internal mechanical zero (to avoid the extremities of erector movement). And with it freshly zeroed, the turret had a full twenty-one MRAD of elevation available. It is highly unlikely I will ever use that much elevation, according to my ballistic computer, twenty-one MRAD will take the supersonic Blackjack to 2159 yards.

The EREK3 elevation, and US #1 windage turrets

The JVCR reticle is one of my favorite reticles, I’ve got another one in another US Optics scope. The .2 MRAD marks are all over the reticle, giving a quick and easy reference for adjustments. The open center floating dot makes a perfect reference point when trying to shoot tiny groups on paper, and the open space around it will make it easy to hold center on any of the animals I plan on hunting this fall. I ordered green illumination on the scope, mainly because I’ve had red on every other scope I’ve ever had and wanted to see something different. I’m not overly worried about it, as illumination has rarely been used in most hunting scenarios I’ve been in. But for that occasional need, it is sure nice to have.

One little thing that I found that did bug me perhaps, is an abnormal crescent shaped shadow when the scope is dialed to either of its extremities. This is normal as US Optics has it listed under their FAQ’s on their website. To be fair, it is only visible at low power (less than 8x), and only when the EREK3 turret is almost all the way up or down. I think it is very unlikely that it will ever be an issue, because if Im dialed all the way up, I’ll very likely be zoomed in at least to 12x or more. And if it is an issue bottoming out the scope, then you’ll need to use an additionally canted base. Like I said, a small issue, but one you may want to know about.

The anti-cant bubble inside. When looking thru the scope and focusing on the target, the highlight of the bubble is seen at the bottom of the reticle

Another very cool feature of the Foundation 25X is the internal level or anti-cant device as it’s often called. I always loved the idea of having it inside the scope, but so many times its been done poorly. Not that I have anything against it being external, especially good ones you can see from the shooting position. But it is so much nicer to see in real-time, through your aiming eye without taking it off the target. The way US Optics executed this level is very nice, I ordered the internal level, but it is so subtle that I didn’t even notice it the first time I looked through it. It is tucked neatly at the bottom of the field of view, and like I said, its so low profile that you actually have to make an effort to see it. I’m not sure if the engineers at USO want you to look at the actual bubble itself, or if you are meant to see the highlight reflecting on the bubble as your reference point, either way, it is very handy when you’re in the shooting position.

I also tested the scope for actual click value, which can vary greatly in rifle scopes. I tested the click value by measuring the turret movements against the values of the reticle, as well as against a ruler at a set distance. By doing this you can tell if the clicks actually represent the value claimed. I’ve never tested one that came out perfect, but this one is close enough for my purposes. Under 10 MRAD of adjustment, the actual value was no more than .02 MRAD off of claimed. And at 20 MRAD, it was just over a tenth MRAD from claimed value. I am not a rocket surgeon, but I think its safe to assume that the difference between claimed and actual is spread progressively across the curve as elevation increases.
In addition to testing click value, while I had the scope clamped down solid I also checked the tracking and for reticle cant. Cranking the turrets up down and left and right shew no inconsistency, they always returned back to the exact same spot as I counted the clicks. No noticeable movement in the reticle either, as I zoomed from one magnification to another.

The only thing I haven’t been able to test so far with the Foundation 25X, is its durability over time. My First US Optics scope took such a beating I was sure it would break, banging into rocks, falling off the tailgate onto concrete attached to a twenty-pound rifle, stuff like that. But I was blown away when not only did it survive these events, but didn’t even lose zero. That is a pretty hefty standard to live up to, and I hope that the Foundation scopes are up to it. Time will tell, I certainly don’t plan on dropping it, or bashing it against rocks, but who knows what the future holds?

There is no way this rifle and scope aren’t coming with me for hunting season this year. The 257 Blackjack will light up anything I intend to hunt, and coupled with the impressive view from the Foundation 25X, it should be unstoppable. I am extremely anxious to get up into the high country, and get comfortable and effective with this rifle and scope. You will no doubt be hearing from and seeing more pictures of us in the fall.

US Optics TS8X

Low Power Variable Optics (LVPO’s) have been flooding through the firearm market for years now, likely due to the proliferation of medium-range carbines. It didn’t take long for shooters to realize the value of variable low power optics, but what makes an LVPO shine over another?

I’ve had several different models from a wide range of manufacturers, and today we will discuss in depth the US Optics TS8X.

The Tactical Sport 8 power LVPO is one of several great scopes I’ve been able to shoot in the offshore line of scopes from USO. So far they have proven to be a great option for shooters in my opinion. I have been shooting USO scopes for many years now, and to be completely honest I was a bit worried when I saw they were releasing a more affordable line of scopes. My concerns were quality and performance, for which USO’s are well known. My concerns were assuaged with the TS20X, which quickly became one of my favorites. The TS8X has so far been just as good an experience.

Why an LVPO?
I also have the TS6X, which is the little brother to the TS8x. I wanted the 8X because having used several 1-4’s and 1-6’s, I wanted just a little bit more power for seeing those downrange targets. Again in my opinion, a 1-8 or 1-10 is about perfect for a medium range rifle, for distances around six to eight hundred yards. The TS8X fit that spot perfectly in my estimation, and with the RBR Reticle, it would give me plenty of holdover points for shooting at those further distances.

The TS8X features a 30mm tube, with adjustable diopter eyepiece, covered turrets, and an illuminated front focal plane reticle.
Many manufacturers have moved to the 30 or 34mm scope tube now, it gives a larger tube to pass light through, as well as allow a larger erector to increase the internal mechanical movement of the scope. The parallax is fixed for 100 yards, which leaves the diopter eyepiece focus the only adjustment for the image seen. This is common in most LVPO’s, particularly in this price range. If I had one wish for the TS8 it would be adjustable parallax, I frequently shoot well beyond 500 yards with this scope and others like it. The ability to adjust parallax for those distance targets would be very welcome.
Another feature that thankfully is becoming more commonplace, is the reticle placed in the front focal plane (second focal plane models are also available at a lower cost). This means the reticle is magnified with the power setting of the optic, keeping the reticle values always the same regardless of power setting.

The RBR reticle is illuminated red, with an adjustable rheostat for brightness. It also features both MRAD hash marks (both whole and half) as well as range based holdover points, including wind holds at five and ten MPH.

With the stiff competition in the LVPO market, the TS8X fits in the middle ground of price range. There are many options that are far less in price, and many others that cost double, triple, or more.
My initial concerns about quality were more based on mechanical performance and robust construction. I knew that due to its price point, it would likely not have the same optical quality as scopes costing more, which I was okay with.
Speaking of optical quality, I found the image to be bright, and clean. Not much to complain about there, but don’t expect to see the same image as a $1600-$2400 scope.
I found the RBR reticle to be very useful at distances out to nearly 1000 yards, at 8X it could possibly be a little thick for tiny targets, but I don’t expect many people will be doing benchrest or squirrel hunting at that range. For real world shooting, such as echo targets inside 600 yds, it is perfect. The rifle its currently mounted on will be doing some coyote hunting, and I’m very confident that anything inside 800 yards will be easily identified, targeted, and engaged using the RBR.
As I mentioned above, the reticle features both MRAD marks, as well as estimated drop and wind marks. This is handy, because if you need an honest elevation or wind call, you have the actual MRAD values. Whereas if your shooting at the aforementioned coyote, you can use the drop values according to how far away he is.

I mounted the TS8X on my Desert Tech MDR, which at the time was a sixteen-inch 223. The scope was easily zeroed with no tools, and in no time I was shooting steel all over the range.

I love using the scope at 1X, with the reticle lit up, it is just like using a red dot scope. Up close shooting at steel, animals, or whatever else is easily done with both eyes open. Cover the target with red as you break the trigger will give you sure hits.
I then switched out the barrel for the new Hornady 6mm ARC barrel, to see how the TS8X would match up to its ballistic curve.
Without even rezeroing the scope, I was in business, perhaps more a testament to the rifle than the scope. I later made a few corrective adjustments, and the rifle was punching centers very consistently. The click values of the turrets seemed to be close enough to values marked, but to be honest, I hardly had to move them.
Stretching the rifle out would require using the drop points indicated on the RBR reticle, I figured they would be close since the 6 ARC is not too far off of the 223 trajectory it is based on.
It was close enough to be dangerous that is for sure, at 960 yds I shot over the target. The 6 ARC has less drop than a 223 at that distance, so I held a corrected hold (7MRAD) and a bit of left wind for a perfect center punch hit.
I followed it up with a few more shots to confirm, inside I was giggling like a child watching the trace of my bullets on the way to the target.

I’m not sure if its the TS8X or just better optics that we are spoiled with today. When I first started shooting these farther distances, it seemed like 10X was barely enough, and 15-25 was more like what you needed for shooting long range. But I found shooting almost everything inside a kilometer to be relatively easy with the 8X of this little USO.
I guess the technology is catching up, soon one thousand yards will no longer be a long range benchmark. It will be more like medium range for drills at a beginners carbine class. If you find yourself on that spectrum, the US Optics TS8X will fill the need for a medium range optic. And it will do it without needing a signature loan to checkout, and you’ll still have the quality and guarantee US Optics has always put on their scopes.

The Canik TP9 Elite Combat 9mm Pistol

Good friends can often be the catalyst we need to try something new. Whether it be a new activity, or way of thinking, some of our best practices are simply learned from the good people we surround ourselves with.
Im a rifle junkie, always have been. But due to the good influence of friends, I have been exposed to all kinds of additional shooting enterprises. One of them being IDPA style pistol shooting, which if you haven’t tried, you should.

Having tried it a few times, mostly as an informal competition between friends, I was immediately hooked. Steel targets, and fast reloads just seem like the best kind of practice for having a good time. But I needed a good pistol for it, being a rifle junkie, my pistol inventory was very superficial and necessity based (CCW). So I began the search for something that fit the bill.

What do we have here?
It was SHOT Show 2018 that I first noticed Canik USA firearms, they are imported by Century Arms from Turkey. My initial impression was they looked great, and I wanted to run a few mags thru one, but much time would pass before I would. A friend let me handle one, and I immediately fell in love again. It was the TP9 Elite Combat model, which draws on several aftermarket parts from Salient Arms International (SAI). The TP9 EC uses a fluted threaded barrel, trigger, +3 floor-plate, and flared mag-well from SAI. The styling and custom look only enhance the graceful lines of the TP9. The Canik is a striker fired 9mm, with double stack magazines. I purchased the pistol as a kit from Century, which included a host of additional goodies. Two magazines, one of which had the SAI +3 floor-plate boosting its capacity to 17+1. Two different grip back-straps to choose from to better fit your hand. A polymer holster to fit the pistol to your gun-belt. It also comes with the slide pre-cut for sighting devices, the kit included a Vortex Optics Viper red dot, and with several other baseplates, I believe you can mount others as well. The threaded SAI barrel is suppressor ready, though one complaint I had was the thread protector was so tight I nearly damaged the pistol trying to get it off. For that I know no excuse.
The EC also has a chamber indicator on the top of the slide, when a round is chambered, the red indicator is clearly visible. The chamber indicator is also tactile, you can feel it either in the dark, or while looking towards your next engagement. Also on top of the slide is the fiber optic sight (rear sights removed to install the Viper red dot). The fiber optics are interchangeable with others included in the kit.

Several other things are included in the hard-case, trigger lock, tools for assembly and cleaning, as well as different mag release height options you can customize.
I wasted no time, and literally within minutes of delivery, I was pumping magazines through the TP9.

The Vortex Viper was easy to mount, and zero. I was amazed at how accurate the gun was, I wasn’t shooting particularly far, but once zeroed, I could put a whole magazine thru a less than two inch hole at 10 yards. And if I can hold steady enough, whatever you put the red dot on within 30-40 yds, gets hit.
The trigger overall is pretty good, though I was a little bit let down, as mine wasn’t as good as the ones I had felt prior to purchase. The take-up has a bit of stickiness to it that I didn’t feel on other guns. The break and reset however is clean and very crisp. I have taken it apart several times to see if I can clean up the trigger pull, We’ll see if any of that helps.
The EC also comes with an oversized mag release, which I found to be very good for dropping the magazine. And despite its prominence, never caused an undesired mag drop.
Underneath the muzzle there is a pretty standard accessory rail, perfect for mounting lights, lasers, etc.
The magazines themselves are manufactured by Mec-gar, a well known manufacturer of great aftermarket magazines. There are several different models available including an 18 round and a 32 round stick mag.
The holster is about what you would expect from a manufacturer, nice enough to use, but leaving you wanting more. It’s serviceable, but I dont care for the release. Instead of pressure to the side releasing the pistol, you curl your trigger finger in the same action as you would to pull the trigger. This seems a little unsafe, in that once clear of the holster, if your finger continues the curling motion, it could find the trigger before your on target. This is probably just a training issue, but I didn’t care for it none the less.

Shooting the TP9
I mentioned the accuracy of the TP9,I’ll add that the functionality has also been almost perfect. I say almost perfect because I have had a couple malfunctions, nothing a tap, rack, bang wouldn’t fix. And more than likely due to the low budget ammunition I was shooting at the time.
Even so, with the cheap ammo I find it very easy to hit what I’m aiming at.
The flared mag-well made mag changes easy to feel into place, though I wish the flared part had at least two points of contact. As it sits, the mag-well flare is attached by a single screw at the rear, not a huge deal, but it has caused me to re-engineer it in my head.
I bought the gun with the plan of using the red dot on it, though I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I figured if I didn’t, I could just run the iron sights on it and sell the Vortex. But as it turns out, I really enjoy shooting with the red dot. So much in fact that Im considering doing the same to another pistol I love and shoot quite a bit, my Taurus TX22. One thing that I absolutely love, is the way this Canik feels in my hand. It’s a perfect fit with the larger grip back-strap, and it points so nicely and naturally. The way it draws from the holster and lines up perfectly for the shot gives me some undeserved confidence.

It may sound like I’m ragging a bit on the TP9 Elite Combat, but to be honest I really do like it. I’ve never been much of a gun snob, so when it comes to minor issues I tend to look right thru them. I love shooting the TP9, and intend on becoming much better with it, might even take a few classes or training courses to save myself the embarrassment in public.
I think despite the little issues I’ve brought up, the gun is a great option. I may get another holster for it, and I will definitely be getting a bunch more magazines, and ammo.