The peril of cutting edge or trailing edge.

I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while, but I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject.

Today, I got offer a Surefire 720V in trade for something I was selling, and it got me thinking about the subject again.

The U.S. military spends ridiculous amounts of money to develop and fly the latest and greatest in fighter aircraft. Having the very best takes so very much time, effect, and most of all the money.

Same applies to any hobby or craft. There will always be something newer. Some time back, Surefire designed a new weapon light with all the cool features and that was the M720V.

This thing had all the coolest new features. Bright light, and dim light. IR light. Multiple switches and remote switch options. Metal construction, tempered lens. It was to be the pinnacle of weapon lights.

It also cost $800ish.

Oh man did I want one. But now way was I going to spend that much money to have the latest and greatest. I drooled over all the pictures of the cool guys running around with theses.

Good thing I didn’t get one, turns out they are huge, heavy, and better lights came out shortly afterwards at more reasonable prices. It seemed like a year after they came out I saw a bunch for sale used and nobody wanted them even at drastically reduced prices.

There is always something newer coming out. If you try and chase the very newest stuff you are going to pay the premium for it, be it cost, time, etc. And sometimes that newest tech ends up not being that great (Magpul Masada anyone?).

Look at the Leupold CQBSS, an excellent piece of gear. An early adopter would have had to pay around four thousand dollars for one. Now, we have plenty of excellent 1-8X options that are lighter, smaller, and cheaper.

Sometimes it is worth waiting to see if something really is an improvement. This can also help you avoid the extra cost of being an early adopter.

We don’t want to go to the other extreme either. We don’t want to be Luddites to progress. I’ve met individuals who still believe that optics are not reliable enough for a fighting weapon. There are people who think that only equipment the military uses can be trusted.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes)

A basic M4 is a good gun, but we can do better.

For each of us, the sweet spot of what to get and use will vary. Some people are more adventurous and would like to try new stuff, or have more cash to spend on the latest. Others will be more conservative and wait till things are proven and cheaper. Just don’t blow all your money on the latest gimmick or be that old fogey that just keeping whining that cartridge guns are fad.

PSA EPT SBA3 Pistol Lower

PSA Part (1)

This is Part One, of a several part Palmetto State Armory (PSA) 10.5″ pistol build. This part will focus on the PSA lower, other articles will focus on the 10.5″ upper, parts kit and the completed build. This is my first experience with PSA products, so let’s jump right into the PSA AR-15 lower.

PSA 10.5″ 5.56mm Slant Rail w/ Flash-can Pistol

Value:

I purchased the PSA EPT SBA3 Pistol Lower while it was on sale. The sale was for 199.00 and had free shipping. Considering the SB Tactical SBA3 adjustable brace is about 150.00 dollars if you purchase it by itself, this is a screaming deal for a complete assembled pistol lower. The PSA Lower can be found here: (
https://palmettostatearmory.com/psa-ar15-complete-moe-ept-sba3-lower-5165448150.html). The lower also came with PSA’s Enhanced Polished Trigger (EPT) which is a slight upgrade on the trigger.  Of course Magpul grip and trigger guard also come on the lower and is pretty much standard with most manufacturers now.

Packaging:

PSA Lower Box

The PSA lower came in very simple and nice packaging. A padded box and a PSA sticker. Simple, no extras and straight to the point.  The small PSA box is nice if you want to store your lower for whatever reason.

PSA Lower in Box

Specs/Attention to Detail:

Over all the lower seems to be mil-spec in quality and materials and finish.  A few things stuck out to me when I first looked over the PSA lower. I was surprised to see, in a lower priced this affordably, STAKING. The end plate is staked into the castle nut. This is a minor thing but I think it is important and a sign of quality. There are several manufacturers that sell lowers far more expensive than the PSA’s and they do not stake the castle nut in place.

Castle Nut Staking (left)

Castel Nut Staking (right)

The next thing I noticed was the beveled magazine well. Another nice touch that makes feeding the magazine into the lower quick, smooth and easy.  The lower receiver is a low shelf receiver, so if you are someone who is lucky enough to have a drop in Registered Auto Sear (RAS), you should be good to go.

Beveled Magazine Well
Low Shelf

The last thing I thought was a nice touch is the Palmetto State Armory logo on the SBA3 brace itself. In the future PSA articles this will tie in nicely on other parts.  A small marking that shows PSA is tying in all the small details for the purchaser. This has no functional use but makes the buyers experience enjoyable in small matching details.  For someone who checks to make sure every part on a Colt rifle or other manufacturer firearm is marked or stamped properly, it is a nice touch.  Clearly PSA took the time to have  a conversation with SB Tactical to ensure this happened.

PSA SBA3 Marking

Function/Performance:

So let’s get down to what really matters, how does it function. Well the simple fact is 100%.  I have had absolutely no issues with the PSA lower. I have run approximately 750 rounds with the lower, which is not a lot, but a proper built and spec’ed  lower will probably never have issues.  I did change a few things with the lower. I replaced the PSA carbine buffer with an H buffer as I run an H buffer at the minimum on all lowers I have.  I also changed the MOE grip to a Magpul K-Grip as I like the angle better. The safety selector is audible, tactile & smooth when flipping from safe to fire and back.

I used several different AR-15 uppers on the PSA lower. All uppers function 100% with the PSA and I had no issues on the fit or function. The PSA upper I used can be found here: (https://palmettostatearmory.com/psa-10-5-carbine-length-5-56-nato-1-7-nitride-12-slant-m-lok-upper-with-bcg-ch-mbus-sight-set-5165449684.html).

EPT Trigger:

The EPT trigger is a mil-spec trigger but has PSA’s enhanced polishing and a Nickel Teflon finish. Both the hammer and trigger is polished and coated in PSA’s Nickel Teflon finish. Can you tell a huge difference from a stock mil-spec trigger? That is for you to decide. I compared the EPT PSA trigger to several Colt mil-spec triggers.  I could maybe feel a slight difference but all of the Colt’s had thousands of rounds through them. The PSA was smooth right out of the box, very little creep and the break was very nice. I have no complaints and because it was included in the price of the lower, I think it was worth it.  Fast and clean follow up shots felt like a well used, broken in trigger.

PSA EPT


PSA EPT Components

Conclusion:

At this price point, I see absolutely no reason why you should not pick up a PSA lower. Especially if you are looking for a Pistol lower with the SBA3 brace. Hell, pick up a few at this price. I am very happy with this purchase and it should serve me and you well if you choose the PSA lower. If you are in the market for a rifle lower the PSA rifle lowers are cheaper than the PSA pistol lowers. I have seen them as low as 120.00 dollars, depending on stock and grip. If you are building a pistol or rifle I would say you should give PSA a look, especially if you are on a budget.

Duncan. 

KeyMod vs M-LOK

M-LOK Left, KeyMod right

We were asked, “What are the pros and cons of M-Lok vs Keymod?”

Long ago there was no standard for attaching stuff to firearms. We use sling studs, bayonet lugs, hose clamps, bespoke custom mounts, etc.

Then came the MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail. And all was well. It took some time for people to move away from the weaver rail, but eventually most of the world adopted the 1913 rail. Except for Zee Germans, who as always thought they could do better. They came up with their own spec for rails, where they took the surface most likely to get damaged in use and make that the critical dimension. Thus the NATO spec rail was born.

Then people wanted smaller and slicker hand guards. Companies started milling off the rail section and offering bolt on rail sections. But each company had their own system. While the bolt spacing was somewhat standardized due to the sizing of Picatinny rail, how the rail section interfaced was not standardized. KAC, LMT, Larue, Colt, etc all had their own various rail attachments for their slick handguard.

VLTOR designed a new mounting system in 2012. Somewhat similar to the old post and slot system used in shelving, they included a taper on the mounting tab and recoil lugs. Best part is that they released the design as open source, so any company could use it for free.

Noveske and Bravo Company were early adopters and helped popularize the system. It looked like it was going to be the next standard. But then something interesting happened.

Before we get to what happened, lets talk about the other option, M-LOK.

Magpul came up with a new mounting system on their Masada and their early MOE line of accessories. They had slots cut(or molded) into the hand guards allowing accessories to be bolted to the slots. This was 2009. But this MOE slots sucked. They were inconsistent, and the backside of the slot had to be accessed to install an accessory.

In 2014, Magpul came up with a new standard, the M-LOK. M-LOK used slots where the accessory would lock in using a rotating T-Nut. M-LOK is free licensed, not open source like KeyMod. So people can made it freely, but they have to get permission from Magpul. This way Magpul ensures people don’t deviate from spec.

Wow, writing the history there took longer than I thought this article would be.

So what are the cons:

KeyMod accessories can be installed wrong. When I first mounted a KeyMod QD swivel, the next day I read about people mounting Keymod accessories backwards. I said, “How could anyone mount one of these backwards?” Then I found out that I mounted mine backwards. Doh.

Also some companies are cutting corners and making KeyMod accessories out of spec. Either missing the critical taper on the lugs, or missing recoil lugs.

As for M-LOK. M-LOK accessories protrude into the rail, so in areas with little clearances they can be an issue. Or sometimes the screws can protrude enough to touch a barrel in a narrow free float tube.

M-LOK screws protruding past the hand guard

It looked like KeyMod was winning the modular handguard war. Many were pushing it as the superior mounting system and it looked like the Army was going to adopt it for use on newer hand guards and sniper rifles.

Then we get to the interesting test. NSWC-Crane did a test between the two. They deemed M-LOK as being better.

https://ndiastorage.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/ndia/2017/armament/McGee19427.pdf

Overall, test and evaluation demonstrated that the M-LOKTM modular rail system surpassed the performance results achieved by other modular rail systems. In repeatability testing, M-LOKTM allowed for the repeated installation of the same accessory rail in the same location on a handguard with an average point of aim (POA) shift of 1.3 MOA, as low as one quarter the average POA shift observed by other modular rail systems. Drop test results demonstrated that M-LOKTM systems maintain securement of accessories to the handguard and sustain less damage from impact forces than some other modular rail systems. Failure load testing demonstrated that M-LOKTM systems support the highest load of all modular rail systems tested. In fact, the test equipment used to interface with 1913 accessory rails secured with the respective modular rail system across testing repeatedly failed prior to failure of the M-LOKTM attachment system. Even so, testing of the M-LOKTM systems failed at loads as high as over three times the maximum failure load of some other modular rail systems. NSWC Crane recommended to USSOCOM that the M-LOKTM modular rail system be utilized over the alternative systems tested. USSOCOM has chosen to incorporate the M-LOKTM modular rail system in acquisition efforts including the Suppressed Upper Receiver Group (SURG) and Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR).

Since this test, interest in KeyMod has been reduced, but it is far from dead. M-LOK is gaining much more popularity.

M-LOK design of just being simple slots has allowed M-LOK mounting slots to be added to a great deal of accessories for other older firearms. Newer gun designs are able to have thin aluminum hand guards with simple slots milled in them allowing for the end user to add what ever accessories they deem fit.

Both are good, but now the consensus is that M-LOK is better.

ARISAKA DEFENSE MLOK ACCESSORIES

Late last year Colt sent me the “trooper” M4 carbine which came with the centurion M-LOK rail. Normally I am a quad rail guy. So I didn’t have any parts on hand to adapt the gun for my needs. I looked around for a bit and wasn’t impressed with magpul’s MLOK crap and everyone else seemed to have only parts of the ( in my opinion) inferior keymod stuff. I remembered Arisaka Defense made MLOK parts. I ordered a few things from them to give them a try.

Above you can see the sling mount of course. Very well made part with rotation lock. Which I appreciate to no end. It is pretty damn low profile to boot. I like it a lot, Hard recommend.

The other part I ordered was the vertical foregrip. Love it. It is just the right size and it is metal and not plastic.

I don’t have much more to say about these at the moment since a full article on the gun is upcoming. I can tell you right now I really like the Arisaka stuff. It’s well made and tough and its not insanely high priced. You do get more than you pay for i think. I’d rate it right up there with KAC stuff at the moment.

My Colt 6940 FDE

Some time back Colt did a limited run of FDE anodized LE6920 and LE6940 models. I’ve heard there was something like 300 of these tan 6940s made, and 1500 of the 6920s.

Shawn was a pretty early adopter of the monolithic upper model of the 6940. He wrote a nice write about the 6940 back in 2012. You can see it here. When the FDE 6940 came out, he picked one up and switched to it.

An old picture of Shawn’s FDE 6940

I always thought how he has his rifle set up is pretty practical. So years later when I picked up a LE6945, a shorter barreled 6940, I set it up similarly.

My LE6945

Every so often I would see one of those limited run FDE 6940s come up for sale. Often $3000+. Insane.
Then I saw one for sale just a little over what I thought was reasonable, so I snatched it up.

This rifles comes out of the box ready for use, it even included a nice accessory kit I teased about here.

The kit comes with 2 mags, sling, cleaning kit, ladder covers, manual, a vertical forward grip, and a QD sling swivel.

Now I could write about this rifles performance, reliability, etc. But being it is a Colt, I think you what is going to be said. Now sometime down the road I plan to do some accuracy testing, but that hasn’t happened yet.

The 6940 has two heat shields in the hand guards. One above the gas tube and one at the bottom to help protect the shooters hand from heat when rapid firing.

The bottom rail is removable when you press a recessed button.
A 6940 has a 16″ M4 profile barrel. A notch in the upper receiver allows for a M203 grenade launcher to be mounted.

The 6940 model is a great gun, but I think it has a similar problem the FN SCAR has. It is a product of an older time. Now people want longer slick hand-guards, greater molecularity, etc. It is great at what it is, but you are limited to what you can change on it.

So what did I change on mine?

The Magpul MOE stock and grip on the rifle are fine, but I replaced them with the CTR (with extended pad) and A2 grip as I prefer. I removed the Magpul winter trigger guard and replaced it with a standard trigger guard (why?). A Tango Down stubby VFG was added to the hand guard. This rifle will normally wear an Aimpoint T-1 with a 300m zero. A KAC Ambi-Safety & Norgon Ambi-Catch aid in making the rifle more ambidextrous.

Eventually I’d like to swap out the Magpul rear sight for a KAC 2-600m sight. I’m also going to add a Surefire Warcomp so I can mount my silencer. I’d like to add Surefire Scout Light, once I can find another one cheap. Other than that, it is as it will be. I just need to shoot it more.