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Author Archive | Jon L

Review: Laser Devices DBAL-D2

The new class of infrared lasers freely available to individual customers, Class 1, has brought once out of reach technology straight into the waiting hands of serious end users. One of the best offerings in this new category is the DBAL-D2 made by Laser Devices, Inc. In short, you are getting the same piece of gear the military is using, made at the same factory, but with less powerful eye safe lasers. What an opportunity!

LDI DBAL-D2 Class 1 IR Laser

Overview

The DBAL is a class 1, multi function, dual beam, IR/Daytime visible weapons mounted aiming laser with an effective range of approximately 250 yards. This capability is about the maximum usable range for even the newest PVS-14s, etc.  Integral to the unit is a very powerful and widely adjustable IR illuminator with a range of approximately 800 yards.

IR/Daytime lasers are slaved, which makes zeroing a snap during daylight hours. Included is a rugged, self adjusting QD lever/attachment fully compatible with any modern rail setup. This waterproof, 12.5 oz piece of equipment is powered by a single CR123 battery with a lifespan of one hour on the highest setting.

LDI DBAL-D2 Class 1 IR Laser Rear

Observations From Use

I purchased a DBAL-D2 with the daytime visible green laser from the very helpful folks over at Tactical Night Vision Company, and received it after an admittedly lengthy wait. I paid the premium for the green laser as it is daytime visible to about 100 yards. The red version is only visible to about 25 yards, which is a little short for my desired 50 yard BZO. I mounted this product on a BCM 16″ middy with an Aimpoint T1, Larue free float rail, Inforce WML IR/White light, and other appropriate accessories.

I found the function controls of this laser to be fairly intuitive with positive adjustments and an easy to remember layout, which is invaluable in the dark. While a rugged tape switch is included, I found it unnecessary as a momentary/constant on rubber clickie switch is conveniently nestled into the 10:30 rail position (if the device is mounted in the recommended 12 o’clock position). The INFORCE WML is a perfect companion here as it’s well sized for an unobtrusive 9 o’clock mount and contains a back up IR illuminator.

LDI DBAL-D2 Class 1 IR Laser Mount

LDI DBAL-D2 Class 1 IR Laser with WML

I spent a fair amount of time familiarizing myself with this piece of equipment in my night time back yard so that my first “dark” range time would be fairly seamless. I can’t stress how important this is to avoid fumbling and humiliation during later training. All I can say about the illuminator is that the power and range of focus is nothing short of amazing as viewed through my helmet mounted PVS-14. After a very easy and pleasant daytime zeroing session I was ready for a night fire evaluation!

The green daytime visible laser is powerful enough to be used as a backup sight to the Aimpoint, even in bright sunlight. I’m not sure how much I would revert to this, but it is a nice option. So far during testing I’ve had about 9 trouble free months with 4-500 rounds downrange. I have to slightly alter my hand placement because of the amount of real estate required on the top rail, but for what I’m getting it’s a great trade off.

LDI DBAL-D2 Class 1 IR Laser Adjustment

The only (minor) suggestion I have to offer after this evaluation is more user friendly lens covers. My rifle is not subjected to super hard use and I found that it was just easiest to remove them completely. I’m not sure how possible it is, but it seems that some kind of clear sacrificial cover would be a nice option.

My dark range/time constraints limited me to a 100 yard no light evaluation on 2/3 IPSC targets. It was very satisfying to confirm the accuracy of the slaved laser system and I was easily and consistently able to hit these targets in full darkness with no adjustment besides what I had already done during daylight zeroing. I’m looking forward to testing myself and this gear at some point in the future at a night fighting tactics course.

LDI DBAL-D2 Class 1 IR Laser Narrow Illum

100 yards, illuminator tight focus

LDI DBAL-D2 Class 1 IR Laser Wide Illum

100 yards, illuminator wide focus

Wrap Up

This excellent piece of equipment is not stand alone, and, as a result, careful consideration must be given towards proper integration with a weapon and night vision device. I spent months looking at options and I carefully arrived at the decision to purchase this DBAL. Every time I’ve used it has been confirmation of a right decision. I highly encourage you to take advantage of the availability of this class of lasers, which only came about by a lot of tireless work and industry partnering by the folks at TNVC. Check it out for yourself today!

LDI DBAL-D2 Class 1 IR Laser Top

Review: Crimson Trace CMR-201 IR

Crimson Trace has been busy rewriting the rules when it comes to handgun grip mounted lasers. This innovative company has made a series of service worthy products in a category that until recently was thought of as “gamer gear” only by many in the shooting community. I’m pleased to announce that I found the CMR IR laser to be another excellent offering that earned a place in my armory.

Crimson Trace Rail Master IR

Overview

The Crimson Trace CMR is a very compact and lightweight IR laser that was designed to be mounted on the integral light rail with which most of today’s serious handguns are equipped. This product was constructed to fill a very unique offensive, low light handgun niche and is very small and lightweight. While this may be something that your average end user does not require, it’s far from the only application for this laser. Keep in mind that it is IR only and as such requires the use of a night vision device (NVD) for viewing.

Observations From Use

I had no need to run an IR only laser on a handgun, but I found a home for this product on my “battle rifle,” a Larue 7.62 PredatAR. My rifle’s primary role is for up close to 5-600 yards during daylight hours and to be as light as possible. Because it is not primarily a night fighting gun, and is heavy enough after being properly accessorized, I had no desire to add an expensive and somewhat bulky laser/illumination system. However, after being exposed to the CMR I was very impressed by its capability and small size and decided to try it out as a secondary night fighting accessory.

I placed the laser in the 12 o’clock position right in front of my forward BUIS. You would never even know it’s there. I’ve had it on the rifle for about 6 months now with regular use and even though the product was designed for handgun use, it doesn’t seem worse for wear. I zeroed the laser for 100 yards utilizing my helmet mounted PVS-14 and with an auxiliary source of IR illumination can get 100% first shot hits on a steel 2/3 IPSC target in full darkness. This was as far as my time/range constraints allowed, but the laser is visible at much farther distances through the NVD.

Crimson Trace Rail Master IR Top

Operation of the device is very simple: press either of the ambidextrous side levers and you have 5 minutes of laser. The IR dot blinks rapidly as a warning before automatic, battery saving shut down commences. It is powered by a 1/3N Lithium battery with a four hour lifespan. This battery should already be common to many Aimpoint users.

Despite my teeth rattling PWS FSC on a 16″ barreled 7.62 rifle, I observed no loss of zero during my live fire testing. One small point of contention with the product is that the windage/elevation adjustment screws were not labeled with directional arrows. The included written directions clearly explain which way is which, but when zeroing in the dark and having the CMR “upside down” on a top rifle rail it would have been nice (and saved some incorrect adjustments) to just follow the arrow. Also, one should note that zeroing an IR only device is a slow and sometimes frustrating process under the best of circumstances.

Crimson Trace Rail Master IR PVS14

Laser dot shown at 100 yards

Wrap Up

I like this device so much I’m debating as to whether or not to spend on a separate IR illuminator to mount on the rifle and make it independently night capable on the cheap. While price should never be the driving force of a gear decision, the reasonable cost of this piece of gear when compared to other IR options is worth noting. While I would not consider this for a primary night fighting rifle, it makes an extremely appealing back up. Check it out for yourself at Crimson Trace!

Disclosure: This product was provided, free of charge, to me for review by Crimson Trace.

Building Your Mindset – Carry Essential Tools

Most readers of this blog probably have many solid habits, including never leaving the house without some essential tools. This is often referred to as an “every day carry” (EDC) kit and the contents vary based on the needs and skills of the individual. I think it is safe to assume that most would consider a knife and flashlight as foundational tools which should never be left behind.

If you want to be prepared to help in a sudden emergency, you will have to have your EDC tools immediately available upon your person. Just like a firearm in the truck will do you no good during a business hold up, a knife at home will not help you when you need it out on the road. A recent tragic accident that I happened to run across in some news really drives home this point.

A semi truck driver did not see cars stopped in road construction traffic in time to react and he crashed into several vehicles, causing one to catch fire. This vehicle was occupied by a mother, father, and 3 year old girl. The father was able to free himself and good Samaritans were able to free the mother, who was on fire, although she ended up perishing on the scene.

According to witnesses interviewed in the video portion attached to this story, no one on the scene had a knife with them to cut the burning toddler out of her car seat straps. She also perished at the scene. My point is not to judge anyone present and we will never know if a rescuer with a knife could have changed the outcome of this tragedy. I just know that if I am ever confronted with a tragedy like that I would be sick if I was unprepared and missing what should be an essential part of my kit.

Resolve with yourself to never be out and about without basic essential tools. The life saved one day maybe your own or it maybe that of a stranger. Regardless, anyone who is properly equipped and has the mindset of a sheep dog should faithfully exercise the basic responsibility to be prepared.

Building Your Mindset – Continuous Observation

You just finished purchasing that new rifle you’ve had your eye on for some time now at the local Wal-Mart. While you were at it you went ahead and purchased some ammo before heading out into the parking lot to your waiting vehicle. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and everything is right in the world…until it’s not.

While you were making your purchases, you didn’t realize that you were being cased by a suspicious person hanging out in the store. As your thoughts drifted towards the big plans for properly accessorizing this newly purchased rifle, you didn’t see that same man, a felon on the run who recently shot four people, lying in wait for you in the parking lot. You did notice that man when he stuck a gun in your face and robbed you of your freshly purchased rifle and ammo, but by then it was way too late.

The sarcasm above is directed at myself and not the victim of this crime, whom I’ve never met. This recent brazen robbery in Columbus, IN just chilled me a little bit because I thought of all the times I’ve purchased a new firearm and walked out to my vehicle with my hands full and not necessarily on the alert for a parking lot predator. I don’t know the excruciating details of this robbery besides what I found in the local paper, but regardless I certainly found a good lesson.

For the wanted felon on the run, it’s really not a bad plan. People are buying guns like crazy these days and you just need to find some low hanging fruit. You don’t have any plans of filling out a 4473 and waiting to see if you’ll be denied during the back ground check so the next best thing is a quick parking lot robbery. As our society continues to unravel and people become more desperate, brazen crimes like this will probably continue to find their way out to the quiet bedroom communities around America.

Stay alert!

Complex AR-15 Malfunction

I have well over a decade’s worth of experience with the AR-15 rifle and have had the benefit of being instructed in its use in military, police, and civilian arenas. As a result, I have developed a certain amount of proficiency with this weapons system over the years. Learning to clear malfunctions is an integral part of this training and I have had the opportunity to deal with most of the possible malfs this type of firearm can spring on you. I have also soaked up most of the armorer skills necessary to accomplish about any modification or maintenance that the rifle may need.

All that being said, I had a malfunction recently during a range training trip that left me stumped. About six shots into a string of fire my BCM carbine abruptly went single shot only. The rifle would perform all the necessary cycle of functions except I had to manually operate the bolt via the charging handle to feed the rifle the next round. I had recently attempted to clean the lead out of my barrel after mandatory department training with .22LR conversion kits (don’t get me started) because the lead fouling in my 1:7 twist barrel had greatly eroded accuracy.

I am unfamiliar with lead and this type of heavy fouling and my initial thought was that because I had cleaned the barrel the night before with an aggressive compound I had somehow blocked the gas port or obstructed the gas tube. I took the rifle apart and checked the relevant areas for an obstruction and to make sure the gas key was still tight, which it was. At this point I had no choice but to take the rifle home for a detailed strip down and continue hunting for the problem.

I ended up beating out the tapered front sight pins and removing the front sight base (FSB) from the barrel and removing and cleaning the gas tube. After checking the gas path from the port in the barrel all the way back to the gas key I did not observe any signs of an obstruction. All I got for my considerable amount of wasted effort was a marred finish after removing the FSB from my nicely duracoated barrel. I took the rifle out again the next day with some other experienced shooters. The rifle still continued to function only in single shot mode, which was quite frustrating.

I tried using a different bolt/carrier and the rifle worked flawlessly, so we at least had the problem isolated to this parts group. I subscribe more or less to the Pat Rogers school of thought when it comes to cleaning – keep the gun well lubed with quality lube and don’t waste a lot of time doing unnecessary cleaning. This is quite a (welcome) departure from my USMC days, although I did receive some well earned wise cracks about the carbon build up inside the bolt carrier. However, I refused to believe that some carbon buildup would render the rifle suddenly single shot.

Finally, Matt noticed that there was an obstruction deep inside the gas key after a pipe cleaner failed to go all the way through. I had checked the tightness of this thoroughly, but I had neglected to detect the obstruction when I just visually inspected the gas key. The obstruction was a primer that had apparently blown out of a spent shell casing at the exact right instant in time to be hammered into the hole at the end of the gas key and literally peened in place by the end of the gas tube.

Yes, that is a primer inside the gas key.

I then drilled a small hole in the stuck primer and then inserted an appropriately sized wood screw and gave it a little twist. That allowed the aggressive threads to lodge the primer over the end of the screw and I easily removed the whole mess with the aid of a bench vise and a sharp tug. After a couple of cleansing passes with a pipe cleaner to get rid of the metal shavings, I applied an aggressive dose of fresh lube, and that somewhat dirty (on the inside) rifle was back in the fight!

The above incident was a great reminder that every trip to the range is an opportunity to continue the never ending cycle of learning. Also, no substitute exists for thoroughness and if I had exercised a little more of that initially I would have saved some time, not to mention the finish on my barrel. I hope this example will be helpful if you ever find yourself facing a similar malfunction with this type of rifle.

Why We Train – Interrupting a Robbery

One of the most likely situations the armed citizen could find themselves in where they maybe required to use deadly force is interrupting an armed robbery. Regardless if the robber(s) chooses a bank, liquor store, restaurant, gas station, or etc. to victimize, the one thing they all have in common is the likelihood that customers will be present. The most powerful weapon for police/armed citizens is strong situational awareness. If you happen to find yourself caught in the initial act of robbery or you unintentionally interrupt one in progress by entering the business at a critical time, the best way to give yourself the edge is to not miss trouble cues.

Most of the time the robber(s) will be outnumbered, focused on the clerk or other victim, and unable to watch the customers scattered throughout the place of business. Quick thinking and acting at this critical point could easily hand off an opportunity stop a felony and save lives. One will most likely not have a warning of the impending trouble so the exercise will be strictly, “come as you are.” The big bore hand cannon under the truck seat may as well be on the moon if caught away from your vehicle when the moment of truth comes.

A Jacksonville, FL grandfather recently found himself in a situation like this and he was mentally and tactically prepared to proficiently use deadly force to stop an armed robbery at a Dollar General store. The article is understandably short on details, but we do know that the man was able to cue off a warning from the clerk and that he was a skilled marksman who practiced with his weapon in competition. His labor and preparation bore real fruit that night as he successfully stopped the robbery, protected others, and came safely home to his family. What more could you ask!

Why We Train – Other Weapons

Most of the time when one considers the appropriate use of deadly force it is in response to a crime in progress involving a firearm. However, it is important to consider that firearms are by no means the only weapons in an attacker’s hands that may require an armed response. Knives, bats, and even pepper spray being used in the commission of a crime could quickly create a justified deadly force situation under certain circumstances. With the rise of flash mobs and the violence that has accompanied some of these incidents, deadly force could easily be justified if a person is violently attacked by a group of unarmed thugs.

Recently in Salt Lake City an armed citizen was able to stop a violent stabbing spree. An apparently deranged man purchased a knife from a store and then proceeded to attack and stab multiple customers. If everyone would have just waited until the police arrived this story would likely contain more victims and some fatalities. Fortunately for everyone, a quick thinking customer who was prepared to act decisively intervened and stopped the threat. Train yourself now to be that guy if called upon!

Building Your Mindset – Police Ride Alongs

Most police/sheriff departments will allow interested citizens to accompany a law officer during their regular patrol, which is commonly referred to as a ride-along. Both the department and citizen benefit from this practice as most riders come away with an increased knowledge of the job and a heightened sense of awareness for real life “ground conditions” in the community. A citizen with this type of exposure is not only more educated about his or her neighborhood but also may be less likely to pass judgment on the police before all the facts come in whenever the inevitable next “shocking” video or other incident hits the airwaves.

The best way to maximize the ride-along experience is to conduct it with a trusted police officer friend. While this is not possible for everyone, it is about the only way to get the “uncensored” version. Naturally, if an officer is accompanied by someone they don’t know the rider is most likely to experience a sanitized viewpoint for obvious reasons.

If you want to gain some valuable insight regarding dealing with dangerous people, and etc., look for an opportunity to tag along with a cop on patrol. Try to do it with someone you know and also request to go to the worst neighborhoods. Summer and other times of nice weather will greatly increase the activity, especially in an urban area. I’m confident it will a good and mutually beneficial experience!

Why We Train: Save a Cop

Most of the time police respond to calls for service and provide a wide range of assistance to the citizen in need. However, occasionally the roles are reversed. I know that if I ever found myself in a similar situation, I would love to have impromptu back up from a man like this!

The majority of police/community partnership talks consist of a variety of “Kumbaya” hand wringing sessions where well meaning, but ineffective chatter and programs fail to decisively stop or redirect criminal behavior. However, this was not the case when 66 year old Texas man Vic Stacey made a decisive 165 yard pistol shot with a .357 magnum that likely saved the life of at least one officer. This man, a self described “average working guy,” was well prepared to use his available firearm of choice to stop a violent threat.

The police can’t (and shouldn’t) be everywhere and backup is not always close enough to make the difference. Responding alone to an active shooter situation where two people are already dead is surely one of the most gut wrenching experiences of any law enforcement career. Read this news story and watch the video interview with a man who seamlessly stood in the gap and helped law officers put down a violent murderer.

Why We Train: Don’t Forget the Wife

During my deployment to Iraq, one of my close friends in the unit was enjoying a call home to his wife. It happened to be late at night her time, and while they were speaking a man started trying to force his way into the apartment, where she was alone. My buddy told her to retrieve her firearm (that he had instructed her how to use) and then call 911 immediately. He hung up and then had to sit, pray and wait while being thousands of miles away and totally unable to help.

After an agonizing delay, he learned that the police had arrived and forcibly subdued the drunken creep before he was able to enter the apartment. He damaged their door, but the deadbolt held and that kept his wife from having to make a deadly force decision while already under the stress that comes with having a husband deployed to a combat zone. While we discussed the incident later, I clearly remember how glad he was that he had armed and trained his wife to protect herself.

When it comes time to hit the range, the wife is often times left at home. This is understandable because she often isn’t nearly as interested in recreational shooting/training and also has many duties that occupy her time in the home. However, don’t neglect to prepare her for a deadly force situation. The best answer is to invest in professional training for her as well, but if this isn’t possible look for ways to include her in your range trips and work on dry fire/scenarios at home.

Martha Lewis displayed the presence of mind to arm herself, arm her children, call 911, and successfully use her firearm to defend her family. Image source: WVTM-TV

This Alabama woman was home alone with her daughters when she was forced to shoot a late night home invader. Amazingly, she had the presence of mind to call 911, arm herself, direct her daughters to arm themselves, and still confront and stop the intruder before he caused any harm to the family. Obviously, she gets it: “There‘s so much talk about banning guns and gun control but they’re for protection,” she said. “There’s no way that I could have fought him off.”

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