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News Flash: Water is Wet and Custom Gear is Expensive

Whenever I post about custom gear that costs more than production or overseas made gear, someone complains about the price in the comments. The optimist in me thinks maybe it is just because the complainer doesn’t understand what goes into making these sometimes very complex items one at a time (the pessimist in me thinks they are probably just d-bags). So, just in case it will change someone’s mind, here is a glimpse at what goes into a single custom bag.

javran wingman parts

JAVRAN recently posted this image of all the various unassembled parts of their Wingman Messenger bag. It, like most custom bags, is expensive due to the large amount of time and materials that go into them. The image you see above contains 120 individual parts and pieces. All of that Velcro, Cordura Nylon, foam, webbing, paracord, and all those zippers go into just one bag. Imagine the cost in keeping all of those materials in various colors on hand. Imagine the time it takes to cut them all. Imagine the time it takes to assemble them. Image the equipment it takes to sew through all the layers. All that time, all those materials, and all that equipment add up to one thing: money.

Do you still want to complain about the price? Surely these craftsman deserve a wage that reflects the time and expertise that goes into such a product. Next time you are tempted to complain about a price online remember: sometimes thing are expensive to buy because they are expensive to produce (and it makes you sound like a d-bag).

Now before you get too down on yourself, take a look at the finished Wingman on JAVRAN’s Facebook page. One look at this killer bag will cheer you right up.

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Arisaka Finger Stop

Arisaka’s Finger Rest is a bit different than most hand stops. It is smaller and more rounded, like the world’s tiniest vertical grip, so that it can slip between the shooter’s index and middle fingers, a technique that I use on occasion with a standard hand stop when my shooting position dictates it. This design allows the shooter to place the Finger Stop further forward on the rail which can provide additional space should you need to move your hand back on the rail as you would in a kneeling position.

arisaka finger stop

At just .4 oz in weight, it is less than half the weight of most hand stops. I have written about how the weight of a hand stop is well worth the functionality that it brings. The Finger Stop would have all the same benefits at less than half the weight. Lightweight AR builders take note.

The Finger stop is available for the Centurion Arms CMR, KeyMod, and M-LOK. I believe it takes real work and ingenuity to reduce something to its simplest form. I am not sure I have ever seen a more minimalist and simple weapon control device than the Arisaka Finger Stop.

arisaka finger stop on rails

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Review: TOPS Knives Baja 3.0

The TOPS Knives Baja 3.0 has a size complex. It is small enough to be pocketable but it boasts a blade larger than you would expect.

TOPS Knives Baja 30

Overview

The Baja 3.0 is a TOPS Knives creation through and through. They often follow a simple formula and get great results. That formula is quality 1095 steel + micarta slab handles + solid heat treat + usable sheath = great knife. This one doesn’t stray far and that is a good thing.

  • Steel: 1095 carbon steel
  • Thickness: 1/8″
  • Blade length: 3″
  • Overall length: 6 1/4″
  • Blade shape: Drop point
  • Primary grind: Full height flat grind
  • Scales: Green canvas micarta
  • Coating: Tan traction coating
  • Sheath: Leather pouch style sheath (can be worn vertically or horizontally)

TOPS Knives Baja 30 Handle

Observations from Use

The Baja 3.0 is comfortable to hold and use. The handle is lightly contoured and the scales are flat but grooved for texture. The butt of the knife is turned down a bit and this curve rests nicely on the ring finger. Some users will be able to get all four fingers on the grip.

TOPS Knives added jimping on the spine and the self guard area. The spine jimping is well placed and provides grip during cuts that require you to back the blade with your thumb. I could do without the jimping on the self guard but it isn’t so aggressive that it is uncomfortable.

The first thing that jumped out at me when I unwrapped the Baja 3.0 is just how much cutting edge is packed into a relatively small knife. It is just 6 1/4″ long and 3″ of that is blade. When measured from tip to handle scale (instead of the plunge line), it is actually more like 3 1/4″ of blade with 3″ of handle. That is a lot of blade for a knife in this size range.

TOPS Knives Baja 30 Spacers

There are times when I am glad it has that much blade but I often find myself wishing it was 1/4″ – 1/2″ shorter. That would leave plenty of edge for an EDC fixed blade and make this knife just a bit more compact overall. Maybe a Baja 2.5 is in the works!

Back in the day, you could expect a thick edge from TOPS Knives. Their edges were bomb proof but they didn’t always cut so well. This little Baja 3.0 is just the opposite. It has a very tall flat grind and distal taper that results in very aggressive cutter with a fine point. TOPS Knives turns the point down just a bit to keep it strong. This knife came to me shaving sharp (literally, I always check on my arm hair) and it graduated to laser status without much work on a strop. The combination of flat grind, carbon steel, and good edge geometry almost always creates a solid cutter that is easy to maintain. That is definitely the case here with the Baja 3.0.

The sheath is of good quality. The leather is fairly thick and it has double stitched construction. It is ambidextrous in design and holds the knife securely. There is some kind of insert in the bottom of the sheath to protect from pushing the knife through. In addition to belt carry, the rounded shape lends itself well to back pocket carry. While the sheath is well made, I do find myself wishing that the Baja 3.0 came with one of TOPS Knives Kydex sheaths with metal clip. They are a little smaller on the belt and I like how easy their metal clips are to place on the belt. This is purely a preference and I suspect that many users will prefer the leather.

TOPS Knives Baja 30 in Sheath

Normally, I don’t really care what a knife looks like as long as it works. The Baja 3.0 certainly works but I think it could be a lot more attractive without the brass crosshead screw that is used in the handle construction. It is a tiny nit to pick but it just looks out of place.

The size of this knife allows it to work well for a variety of tasks. This is a true general purpose knife. It may not be the right tool for every cutting job, but it is rarely the wrong tool. It is great as an EDC fixed blade due to its compact size and more than enough blade for opening boxes, cutting strings, and other typical tasks that an EDC knife must perform. It would also make a good hunting knife. I prefer a more compact knife for dressing game up to whitetail deer size and the Baja 3.0 is ideal for that. Surprisingly, it is pretty handy in the kitchen as well. The blade is offset from the handle quite a bit allowing the user to get close to the cutting board.

TOPS Knives Baja 30 in Hand

Wrap Up

The Baja 3.0 is a solid offering that stacks up well with other similar EDCable fixed blades. I find myself wishing the blade was a bit shorter at times and the crosshead screw is a bit off putting but these are small nits to pick. It cuts like a laser thanks to a tall flat grind paired with 1/8″ stock. The handle is comfortable and offers plenty of purchase. The sheath is usable and well made. It is just a very solid, ready-to-use package.

More often than not, you’ll find mine tucked into my back pocket.

Diclosure: This product was sent to me by the manufacturer, free of charge, for review.

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Robar PolymAR-15

Robar is developing an AR-15 with a polymer upper and lower receiver called the PolymAR-15. The fact that Robar is putting their name on a polymer upper receiver is interesting. I know of at least one polymer lower with a good track record but no polymer uppers with a solid reputation. However, I am willing to give a company like Robar some attention and if they can make it work it will be big news.

They claim to have a prototype that has shot over 45,000 rounds without cleaning or lubrication. As you might expect, the PolyAR-15 makes use of Robar’s NP3 coating which is self lubricating. Everything in the firearm is treated with a Robar finish of some kind. They are also claiming sub-MOA accuracy and a weight around 5 pounds.

It will be interesting to see the price point. Typically polymer has been used in AR-15s to reduce the cost but it is hard to imagine that a Robar firearm will be inexpensive.

In the video below, they also reveal that they are working on a polymer fore-end. I can only assume that because drop-in polymer hand guards already exist and the context of the video that they are referring to a polymer free-float rail which would definitely be unique and interesting.

I for one will be anxiously waiting to see if Robar can pull this off or if this is the second coming of the Carbon-15.

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Geissele Raptor Charging Handle

The Raptor Charging Handle is not new but this Geissele Automatics branded version is. This is the same great AXTS Raptor that you love with the same easy to grasp levers, massive roll pins, and 7075 aluminum construction. Check it out at Geissele Automatics.

raptor_stock_images

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Magpul Armorer’s Wrench and BEV Block

I know a lot of you have been waiting for these. Magpul officially released their Armorer’s Wrench and BEV Block today.

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Magpul Armorer’s Wrench

It is amazing to me how few top quality AR-15 armorer’s wrenches there are on the market. The majority of them are junk and I have seen several that didn’t make it through a single build. Magpul’s introduction of their Amorer’s Wrench is important because it is well designed, I expect that it will be very well made, and Magpul has the resources to distribute it widely (which is an issue with many of the better wrenches available now).

Here is what Magpul has to say about their wrench:

The Magpul Armorer’s Wrench: Requirement Driven, Purpose Built

The Magpul Armorer’s Wrench is an exceptional product in a number of ways; its design, construction, and intent are a level above what has traditionally been available in a dedicated AR15 assembly and maintenance tool. However, one of the most unique things about the Armorer’s Wrench is the product development process that brought it to market. The Armorer’s Wrench was actually a product requested for Magpul’s internal use and then developed into a commercial product.

At Magpul, our diverse and ever-expanding product line necessitates a tremendous amount of testing. Some of these tests include tolerance of environmental conditions, chemical and UV resistance, and controlled scientific strength testing among many others. As to be expected, one extremely crucial part of our product validation prior to bringing a new item to market is high-volume live fire testing. We are fortunate to have a wide selection of high-quality firearms and access to great industry partners and suppliers to maintain these firing schedules, and the world-class armorers at Magpul stay very busy repairing, refitting, reconfiguring, and maintaining our armory.

The Armorer’s Wrench was purpose designed and built to provide our armory with a tool that would stand up to the volume of use that other tools could not sustain, as well as providing optimized functionality for the tasks it had to perform. The cost and lost time of breaking tools at an unacceptable rate came led to our armorers asking the company to apply our proven design and manufacturing expertise to solving their problem, and the Magpul Armorer’s Wrench is the result. While the cost was slightly higher than some other armorer’s tools, the function and durability more than offset the cost difference. Once the wrench proved its worth in our shop, the Armorer’s Wrench transitioned to a production item with a singular goal made possible by its many functions: to provide the professional, institutional, or recreational armorer the finest commercially available AR15-pattern tool ever produced.

Details:

American-Made, solid steel construction with grip-enhancing phosphate finish engages both Mil-Spec and pin-style barrel nuts. Fits standard sized flash hiders. Installs and removes rifle receiver extensions and carbine castle nuts, with extended teeth for use with ASAP plates. Two hammer faces. Works with 1/2” torque wrench, relevant torque specifications included on Wrench for quick reference. Convenient Bottle Opener for refreshments after the build is complete (fits both Metric and SAE bottle caps.)

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BEV Block

The BEV Block is just a clever, clever tool. It just makes sense to secure the barrel at the lugs, rather than the upper, when doing certain common tasks like installing flash suppressors or torquing a barrel nut.

Details:

The BEV Block (Barrel Extension Vise) is an all-in-one, compact vise block tool for AR assembly operations of barrel nuts, flash hiders, etc. Mounts securely in a vise and provides support for both billet and forged upper and lower receivers. Engages barrel extension with solid steel lugs and full length support shank to prevent flexing. Steel hardness is optimized for durability yet won’t damage barrel extension, and Magpul Polymer for all other engagement surfaces to protect aluminum receiver. O-ring post uses bolt carrier for additional stability and included Pin keeps upper in proper position.

You can check out both the Armorer’s Wrench and BEV Block on Magpul’s website. Both tools are part of their Armorer’s Tool Series. Hopefully that means there are more tools to come.

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