5.56 Timeline

30 years of the Eagle A-III pack.

I mean, it has been around for 30 years, I’ve only had mine for 13 years.

I hate this pack. But that is just me, ignore that.

When I was in Iraq, back in 2006, I was my platoon’s radio operation. I don’t think my higher ups liked me much, so I got that job. Carrying that AN/PRC-117F really sucked. I kept looking for a better way or back to carry it as it made my back and knees hurt packing the radio along with all my other gear, and the radio support gear. One of the several packs I got during that time was an Eagle A-III airborne pack.

There is some debate if the Eagle A-III was a copy of some other design, but it was one of the early purpose made tactical packs that was greatly copied by other companies in and out of the tactical community. There were many versions of this pack. Some where slick, some had ALICE webbing, some had MOLLE webbing, other has purpose made pouches. Blackhawk copied and and made it overseas cheaply flooding the market. I think that lead to Eagle discontinuing it. John Carver, designer of the A-III, now has a company called Atlas46 which makes new production “A3 Legacy Pack”.

The basic A-III pack pretty much look like any other modern backpack. But back when it came out, having a smaller pack that was completely subdued was a pretty nice option. I wanted to buy one covered with MOLLE webbing, so I could slap on what ever pouches I wanted for the mission I was doing.

The picture above is what I wanted to buy. But, that was unavailable. So I had to settle with the airborne model. Part of me loves the idea of having a jumpable pack. But, for it to be jumpable, it has tons of extra straps and stuff sown on it.

All that extra strapping for airborne ops adds weight and bulk.

Most annoying for me, was that the airborne model had pockets sown on the sides. On one side there was a small general purpose pouch. On the other a radio pouch and a pouch about the right side for 2 M16 magazines. I used these to carry extra AA, CR123, and those big BA5-something or another batteries.

One of the big selling points of this pack, back in the day, was that you could open the main compartment completely. That was pretty rare 30 years ago. Inside the A-III pack, there were often cinch down straps for securing what was inside the pack. There are all manner of customer A-III, some with pre-segmented main compartments. For example there was a medic’s version of the pack organized for medical gear.

Each side of the top of the pack has a hook and loop secured flap covering an opening. These two opening would corespond to the antenna and the microphone of a AN/PRC-117F radio. They could also be used for a hydration pouch, or similar. This pack has an area for a hydration pouch, but does not include one.

They sold a stiffener you could purchase and place in that area to give the pack additional rigidity. This had a strip of vertical alumnium in. It did sorta work, but wasn’t worth the cost.

The bottom of the airborne pack has some of the normal webbing, along with a weird set of velcro covered flaps. I’ve been told that the idea was that you could put a pop flare in there, and easily grab it with either hand when wearing the pack. I tried putting a M127A1 Parachute flare there once. Not a practical place for it. Also I didn’t like that when I took the pack off and set it on the ground it would be sitting on the flare.

It comes with a couple extra straps so you could strap gear to the outside. For example you could use them to strap a sleeping bag or mat to the bottom of the pack. It also has a waist band. I removed mine, and found it the other day which caused me to dig up this old pack from storage. Now that I have the pack out, I can’t find the waist strap. It was generic and padded, nothing special.

Between the main compartment, and the two other compartments on the body of the pack, the A-III had plenty of storage space. It seems now that we tend to use either much smaller packs, or much larger packs. Even so, there are many A-III packs and knock offs out there still being put to use.

But not mine, I hate this thing. It wasn’t the model I wanted, and it reminds me of a job I hated.

Zentico AK rails, B10M and B33

I got a package from Russian last week.

Well packaged inside are Zenitco AK products.

The first item is the Zenitco B10M. The B10M is a tri railed handguard for the AK. It is also the foundation for other accessories and rails.

For those who don’t want all that rail, there is the B10U which just has a bottom rail and modular sides. For those that want more rails, there is a version that reaches farther forward.

When you look at the rail you can see that they cut away as much metal as they reasonably could out of it. It is nicely machined. I didn’t find any edges sharp enough to cut me on it, and no burrs. Nicely made.

When these first were coming into the country, people were paying 3-400 dollars for them. Fortunately you can now get for less than $100, which I think it a great deal.

You remove your standard handguard, and install this one in its place. It is suppose to be a snug fit, and I spend a long time with a rubber mallet to get it fully seated. Now I know it is not going to come loose to move. I am also never going to remove it since it was such a pain to get installed.

There are many Zenitco accessories you can add to these lower handguards. There are upper handguard rails, short sections for reflex optics. Then there is what I think is coolest, the B33. The B33 is fairly pricey, but inline with the similar American made options.

The B33 replaces the dust cover with a railed cover. It securely attaches to the receiver and to the B10M (or B10U). It pivots up and back down allowing you to mount an optic, and still field strip the rifle.

The B33 requires the use of the recoil spring guide they include.
This railed dust cover is so nicely made, it seems out of place on an AK.
This clamps to the receiver to ensure it locks up repeat-ability.
Here is a picture of that clamp.
Zenitco made sure that the screws would be screwing into steel inserts. Much preferred over threading into aluminum.
Here you can see how the B33 attaches to the B10M handguard
Here they are installed on a rifle.

I had a hell of a time installing the B33. The tabs that slide into the B10 lower were very tight, and I ended up placing a wooden slat over them to use to push them into place. The finally lining it up took as long as getting it in. How easy or hard it would be to assemble on your AK may vary.

Once assembled, you may need to adjust the recoil spring guide with a file. I did not need too as I could not find any binding or rubbing in my rifle. With the B33 down and locked in place, I can not move it with my hands. It locks up like the proverbial bank vault.

I’ve often heard of Zenitco compared to our Knights Armament Corp. Excellent and expensive. But I don’t know if I agree with that. Zenitco products are pricey, but not out of line with American made alternatives. Quality is excellent. Individually, fit and finish are excellent. But as the AK isn’t a space age high precision machined device, fitting these parts to your rifle might not be plug and play.

I’ve also seen many people claim that these are the best option for rails on an AK. I wonder if that of that comes from that it is considered “authentic” because they are from Russian. Best or not, they are very good, and would be an excellent choice if rails are what you need on your AK.

Side note, the railed handguard does get very hot during extended rapid fire. But to be fair the standard AK handguards get very hot. Either move to a magwel hold or wear gloves. Personally, I think it is safe to assume that any Russian weapon is designed to be used with gloves on.

Bonus Mini Optic Tool of the Week: Troy Sight Tool

I had debating posting this up and seeing if anyone could guess what it was, but as far as I know, there are less than 6 that exist. Many of you would have immediately guessed it was a sight tool, but as to what sight, that would have been random luck.

The tool it self is very simple, a knurled piece of aluminum, 4 stainless pins, and a sling stud so you can put it on a lanyard or key-ring.

So what is special about this?

Long ago there was this company that made flip up sights for the AR15. They were called Troy Industries. Their flip up sights were considered the best and a necessary upgrade for a flat top rifle. No one would have considered having a serious use gun with out a quality metal BUIS. I used one of their rear sights while I was in Iraq. It is for this same rear sight that I got this tool for.

Now, I recall Troy Ind had multiple gaffs leading to a boycott of their products. That is probably why you have never heard of them, as we all know how effective conservative boycotts tend be. The last few Troy Industries products probably sit in the back of closets and in boxes in basements. No one would want to be seen with one of their products now. Certainly, the boycotts against Netflix and Walmart by conservatives will cause them to go out of business the same way.

But back to the tool. Early Troy rear sights had a stainless pin that locked the windage adjustment in one of the holes in the windage knob. You had to depress the pin each time for each “click” of windage. This was a pain in the ass, so someone started making these tools with the intent to sell them.

As it always tends to work out, as soon as someone comes up with a business idea, someone else pulls out the rug. Troy redesigned the sight to use a ball detent instead, changed the hole pattern, and included a slot so that it could be adjusted with a coin. Now you could easily adjust a Troy rear sight. Rendering this tool not only unnecessary, but completely useless for the new Troy sights.

Optic Mount of the Week: Scalarworks LEAP/MAG

Old annoying mount

Previously I talked about the Samson Aimpoint 3X magnifier mount I had. It was a minimal viable product. Sharp edges I cut my self on, repeatedly. When open it just sort of flopped around. It was very slow to attach or remove from a rifle. Quite frankly, it sucked. It made me not want to use the magnifier I own. This month I had decided to buy several of the items I wanted, and to sell of a bunch of stuff I wasn’t using. One of the items higher up on that list was a replacement for that damned Samson mount.

I was looking around at the multiple of options and quite a few people said that the Scalarworks mount is the very best. Once I saw the price tag, I had figured it had to be the very best since it was one of the most expensive options. I was pretty hesitant to shell out the money for it. If they are going to charge that much, it had damn well better be the best option out there.

This mount came vacuum sealed in a box with a clearly printed instruction card, and a hex drive torx wrench for the screws.

The ring is hinged at the top and bolted at the bottom. This makes for installing the magnifier very easy.

Instead of a cross bolt or throw level, Scalarworks mount uses a flush ratcheting knob. It is easy to use and the clicks are very positive. Loud too. The clamp is captive so it won’t come apart when you remove this from a weapon.

Lots of laser markings on the bottom. Looks like the individual units might be serialized.

Using this mount, like the factory Aimpoint mount, will require you to remove the rubber from the front of the Aimpoint magnifier cover. Don’t forget to degrease the inside of the ring and the outside of the magnifier before installation.

Putting the magnifier in the mount was very easy.

You can install the magnifier in the mount either direction, so you can have it flip left, or flip right. The clamping wheel will be on the side opposite of which it flips.

The Scalarworks LEAP/MAG mount is very quick to install or remove. Just give the knob a few turns. Not as fast as a throw lever, but fast enough.

The mount is very simple to use, and extremely small and light.

As for the flip to side, it is awesome. Unlike the sad and floppy Samson mount, this one has two ball detents securing it in the open or closed position. It takes a firm movement to flip the magnifier. Not hard, just firm. I can shake the rifle with the magnifier in place or flipped and it won’t move. I can pick up the rifle by the magnifier and shake it with out it moving out of the position it is in. Only with rotational movement then I can easily flip it in or out of place.

Now I haven’t used all the options out there, so I can not say if this is “the best” option out there. But it is damned good. I am glad I sold that old floppy Samson and upgraded.

Colt CM16A1 Part 1

The M16A1 is an iconic piece of American history. Easily identifiable by silhouette.

The moment I read that Colt was going to sell a new production run of M16A1 clone rifles, I knew I was going to get one. Then I saw the price and decided I could wait a while. Only 2500 of these rifles were made

Most dealers had them listed for $2500. A few had them closer to 21-2200. I waited as long as I could. When the news came out of Colt pausing civilian sales, I knew that people would go nuts and start to panic. So I went ahead and broke out the credit card and order one at the cheapest place I could find it. I’m very glad I did. I also started digging though all my junk and selling off stuff I didn’t need. Between ordering the rifle and the time I received it, I ended up selling enough stuff to offset the cost. I should have done that long ago.

It showed up at my dealer, in the standard Colt box. Blue plastic wrap instead of the clear I am used too. But I have since then seen that the uppers that are sold separately also wrapped in the same blue plastic.

Also in the box is a Colt AR15 manual, 20 round magazine, black silent sling, and a type 2 3 prong flash hider.

My first impressions. It is awesome. It is the nicest Colt I have ever seen. Everyone I have shown it too has also been impressed by it. Out of the box it was flawless. I’ve been using it, so it is not staying that way.

I’ve been handling and using the Capco A2 I bought recently. I’ve been thinking about how light and handy that is. After using this A1 for a while, going back to the A2 makes it feel like a heavy pig. What a difference.

My first shots out of it made me love it even more.

There are plenty of people online whining about this gun. That it is too expensive, that it isn’t correct, or that the finish is wrong, etc. I’ll address some of those in a follow up post.