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US Palm AK Attack Rack (AKAR) – A New AK-47 Chest Rig

Click for a larger view.

Chest rig choices have been somewhat limited for AK-47 users. Eagle Industries has a couple of dedicated AK rigs and several manufacturers make chest rigs that are somewhat universal. Often these universal rigs don’t work well with the curved shape of the AK mags or hang up on the locking tab located on the back of the mag. US Palm has a new rig that will, at the very least, give AK users another choice.

This chest rig is somewhat spartan (as any good chest rig should be). It is basically just a means to carry 4 primary mags and 4 items like pistol mags, flashlights, or multi-tools. Each of the primary magazine pouches is lined with a high wear material to protect the pouch from the locking tab on the backs of the magazines. They also have a unique shape that is tailor-made for AK mags. The materials used in the construction are all top-notch (500D Cordura, ITW hardware). The shoulder straps look broad and somewhat flat (as they should be). Primary mags are retained via “bungee” loops that offer great retention and speedier access than flaps. It will be available in all the colors that you have come to expect including Multicam.

I only have two potential misgivings. First, I have always preferred AK chest rigs with a 3 mag set up since the size and shape of AK mags make them more difficult to manipulate when you have to reach across your body to the weapon side pouch or to the pouch nearest your support side. With the 4 mag set ups, the middle two pouches always seem to be more usable than the outer two. Second, the rig it appears to favor right handed shooters due to the shape of the pouches. I guess the AK47 isn’t particularly lefty friendly either.

You can find more info here:

US Palm (once their website is updated)

Scottsdale Gun Club

One Source Tactical

Lakota Hydrographics – Multicam Coatings

Lakota Corp is now offering Multicam hydrographics. What are hydrographics?

From the Lakota Corp website:

Hydrographic printing is known by several names. It is also called water transfer printing, cubic printing and fluid imaging. This technology is a water-soluble film, upon which patterns of ink are applied. Similar to some of the new medicines and breath mint sheets on the market that dissolve in your mouth, the film in this technology dissolves in water, leaving the ink floating. When the item is submersed into the water, the ink then adheres to the item “dipped” three-dimensionally.

The picture shows a helmet that has been through the hydroprinting process. You can click the picture to go to a small gallery of other items that have been dipped. They can do objects of all sorts of sizes and shapes – even entire rifles. The results are appear to be very nice but I wonder about the durability of the coating.

If you have experience with these coatings leave a comment about their durability. Thanks.

AAC Brakeout – AAC's New Flash Suppressor/Compensator

AAC is bringing a new flash suppressing compensator to market called the Brakeout. It is based on the successful and very effective Blackout flash suppressor line. The Blackout is probably the most effective flash suppressor on the market today. It will be interesting to see how much of that effectiveness the Brakeout retains. If it can suppress flash nearly as well as the Blackout and add some muzzle rise compensation it will be truly impressive.

Flash suppressing compensators are starting to fill the market. I own and use two PWS FSC556 flash suppressing compensators and they really do work. They reduce muzzle flip noticeably – which is saying something on the already mild muzzle flip of the 5.56. It also suppresses flash just as well as an A2 flash suppressor. The FSC556 and devices like it can give an already good shooter a needed advantage by decreasing the time needed to realign the sights between shots.

This type of performance does not come without costs. They increase (or at least redirect) the noise that comes from the muzzle while shooting. This extra noise may not be apparent to the shooter who is behind the rifle (as is the case with the FSC556) but it may be painfully obvious to those to the sides of the shooter. The extra (or redirected) noise will also become apparent when shooting indoors. Shooters who will be using these devices in team settings or on home defense guns should take note. The muzzle blast from these devices can also cause debris to be stirred up and rained down on the shooter when using non-standard shooting positions like roll over/urban prone. Any shooter who is considering one of these devices should educate themselves on the down sides before purchasing.

It should also be noted that these will not make marginal shooters into good shooters. If you do not apply the fundamentals of stance to control recoil, you will see little to no gains from these devices. While they do compensate for muzzle rise, they do not compensate for training, practice, or skill.

The sounds suppressor mount version of the AAC Brakeout is available for purchase now from AAC. I believe that eventually there will be a version without the suppressor mount.

More Thoughts on the US Palm AK Magazines

I have had few questions on whether the new US Palm AK magazines that I covered recently are worth the $29.95 asking price, especially when surplus steel mags tend to costs $10-20. They really don’t cost anymore than the European manufactured plastic mags on the market. Only the person buying the magazines can say whether or not they worth the price. I can say that I believe certain aspects of this mag are better than steel mags. And when something is better, it usually costs more.

  1. The design is better – The ridges and waffle pattern give good grip when manipulating a magazine. The body of the mag is essentially fused into one piece (no more loose base plates that spit your rounds all over the floor at the range – yes, I have seen it happen).
  2. The materials are better – Polymer is better than steel for this application. Steel bends on impact and the mag stops working. Polymer bounces back or maybe cracks but the mag will likely continue to work even when cracked. It is also lighter in weight. The days of worrying about polymer magazines are long gone. You WANT plastic mags in many cases. Stop resisting the inevitable!
  3. The follower is better – The follower is a low friction design. This sort of thing revolutionized AR mags.
  4. The weight is better – Like I said above, they are lighter. This is a big deal. This just in… AK mags are heavy!
  5. The spring is better – These mags use a chromium-silicon spring which is rated for 100,000 cycles. Steel mags use whatever springs the communist government that made the mags could get that day (maybe).
  6. The manufacturer is better – These are made in the US by a top tier maker. They will take care of you if you have an issue.

With all that said, I can definitely understand those who want to wait and see. There is definitely something to be said for not being an early adopter. The prices may come down and, more importantly, any bugs will be worked out if you wait to purchase these. We still do not have any real world accounts of usage on these things (no, “I went to the range and slow fired 30 rounds. These mags are awesome!” does not count).

This whole thing reminds me of when the PMAG first came out. You had people who wouldn’t trust any plastic mag and those who wouldn’t pay $15-17 when aluminum mags could be purchased for $10.

I am not in a hurry to buy any of these right now, but my AK is really just a toy. If the AK was my primary weapon, I would be taking a good hard look at these new mags.

Buffer Tubes Remixed

PWS Enhanced Buffer Tube – This is PWS’s new buffer tube for Ar-15 pattern rifles. It is interesting to me for a number of reasons.

  1. There is no castle nut to come loose. Very few manufacturers or home builders take the time to properly stake the castle nut which can lead to problems if the nut loosens. This design does away with the castle nut completely.
  2. It is potentially a more durable design. I have heard some people say that the buffer tube can be knocked out of alignment or broken at the place where it threads into the receiver. I have never seen it happen myself. PWS claims that the one piece design and manufacture of this tube will make it stronger.
  3. It provides a sling attachment point near the rear of the lower receiver which is my preferred place to mount a sling (2 point).
  4. It claims to reduce felt recoil by 10%. I am not sure that most shooters would notice that or be able to take advantage of it but any advantage is a good advantage.
  5. The design of the tube can actually help counteract carrier tilt. This may be big news for you guys running piston uppers since carrier tilt is a systemic problem that plagues piston ARs.

At first glance the price seems a little steep. However, if you consider that true mil-spec buffer tubes (not just mil-spec diameter) are not cheap and that a similar sling attachment point would cost extra, it becomes a little more reasonable (but still steep). I will be interested to see if these take off. Whether it is worth the price will be up to you.

NovaTac 120T Review

Why Carry a Light?

If you carry a gun regularly, you should also carry a light. Many shootings happen at night. You may even find yourself in a low-light situation during the day time if you are indoors. Colonel Cooper’s 4th Rule mandates that we are to be sure of our target and what is behind it before we pull the trigger. We must have a light in order to properly identify our target before we shoot.

A bright white light can also give you an advantage by disrupting your attacker’s dark adjusted vision. In some cases this may even temporarily blind your attacker (according to Surefire) – giving you needed fractions of seconds to respond swiftly and violently. Disrupting the night vision of your attacker alone is not a sufficient response to being attacked. You must be ready and willing to follow-up with overwhelming violent response.

Hopefully, we are in agreement that we should all be carrying a light (or two) along with our guns but that is the easy part. The hard part is choosing a light to carry. There are certainly no shortages of manufacturers who would be happy to supply you with a “tactical” light. Many of these manufacturers offer multiple lights. The options can seem limitless and overwhelming.

One of those manufacturers that would be happy to sell you a light is NovaTac. The brand is somewhat new but the people behind it are not new to the tactical light scene. They have used their experience and innovation to bring several lights to market. The one that we will focus on for this review is the 12oT.

NovaTac 120T

The NovaTac 120T is built from the ground up to be a compact tactical light. The specifications, construction materials, and ergonomics leave no question about that. This light is purpose-built.

Specs:

  • 3 Brightness levels (120 lumens, 10 lumens, .3 lumens)
  • Easily accessible disorienting strobe
  • Extended tail cap button and grip ring (allows use of multiple flashlight and handgun control techniques)
  • Momentary or click-on functionality
  • Pocket clip
  • Automatically compensates for weakening battery
  • Runs on a single CR123A battery
  • Waterproof to 66 feet
  • 3.3″ long, 1″ in diameter, 3.1 oz

Materials:

  • Aluminum body
  • Steel bezel ring
  • HAIII hard anodized finish
  • Polycarbonate lens with anti-reflective coatings
  • Steel pocket clip

Runtime:

  • High: 30 Minutes
  • Medium: 14 Hours
  • Low: 240 Hours

More information can be found on the 120T spec sheet(PDF).

How Does it Work?

On paper it sounds somewhat complicated but in use it is actually very simple. The 120T has only one button. The user can access all functions from this button by using a series of clicks and/or presses. It helps if you understand the difference between clicks and presses. The user clicks by quickly depressing and releasing the button – like you would click a mouse button. The user presses by depressing and holding the button.

  1. Momentary – Press the button. The light will stay on high until you release the button. This is very natural and lends itself very well to short bursts of light while moving and “slicing the pie”.
  2. Constant or Click-on – Click the button. The light will stay on high until you click the button again.
  3. Medium – Starting from any high mode, click the button twice quickly. The light will stay on medium until you click the button again.
  4. Low – Starting from high or medium mode, click the button three times quickly. The light will stay on low until you click the button again. Any clicks from this mode will put the light back in high mode.
  5. Strobe – Press the button from any constant mode or click-press from off.

Notice that the light always comes on in high mode. This is good news. It means that no matter how you turn on the light, you will immediately have 120 retina searing lumens on tap. This feature is important in a tactical light versus a general use light that may come on in a more battery conservative low mode. The designers of the 120T correctly assume that tactical users would need the most light available at the very instant they turn on the light.

The medium and low modes make this light useful for general use as well. You probably won’t be holding an attacker at gunpoint every time you fire up your flashlight. You may just be trying to find a key or walking the dog. The medium and low modes are well-chosen and very useful. I especially appreciate that the low mode is truly low. It can be used without destroying your dark adjusted vision. The vast majority of lights miss the mark here because they are too busy chasing the biggest lumen numbers to actually make a useful light.

The light carries very well in a pocket using the included pocket clip. The light rides very deep in the pocket and seems very secure. The checkering on the body of the light is somewhat aggressive and may fray your pockets over time. It does, however, make for a very secure grip. A lanyard can be attached to the pocket clip.

The shape of the light lends itself to several handgun/light combination holds. Many people are familiar with the FBI flashlight technique, Harries technique, and the Surefire/Rogers technique.  NovaTac promotes the Thorpe Technique which is specific to their lights. There is a thick o-ring provided with the 120T to aid in acquiring this grip. It is quite simple to use and indexes the light well. I suggest that you practice this technique before using it as you would any new technique.

Worth a Look

I am quite pleased with this light. I believe it offers an excellent set of features to law enforcement, military, and civilian users alike. If you are in the market for a feature rich but still easy to use light, be sure to check out the NovaTac line of lights.

More Information

Gear Geek’s Review of the 120T

Back Door Programming the 120T

North Branch Knives Soloist

North Branch Knives is a fledgling custom knife company that has been the longtime dream of Ben Wiernusz. Ben and I grew up in north east Pennsylvania, in a small town, right on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. The river and its surrounding areas not only provide the name of the company, but also the inspiration for the designs of his knives. The river even provides the inspiration for the names of each individual model of knife Ben hopes to offer one day!

Ben and I spent most of our time during high school in the woods or on the river, whether it was small game hunting, camping, or canoeing – if it was outside, we were doing it. Ben’s love of the outdoors and hunting continues to this day and it drives his knife making philosophy. He makes knives that are made to be used as only someone who regularly uses knives can.

The Soloist is his first offering. It was designed from the start to be everything Ben would want in a small, capable, and versatile tool. It must be compact but ready for any task that the soloist canoe camper could throw at it – hence, the Soloist.

Ben is the kind of guy who knows a little about everything and does all things well. He has an eye for the aesthetic and can make just about anything. I have any early prototype of this knife that I still use. It wasn’t everything Ben hoped it would be so he continued to refine it until he arrived at the current design. I know Ben is already working out more ways to further refine this design!

On to the pics!

What does a guy with an eye for the aesthetic and a drive to do things well do when he needs a box for his knives? He makes them himself, by hand!

The boxes are handmade from some kind of attractive waxed cardboard so even the box is tough. You can see the end tag with model name that Ben designed in the previous picture and the logo tag in the next. Ben studied advertising in college so you better believe his knives will be well branded!

Here is what I was greeted with when I opened the box. I was very, very pleased.

Under the knife you can see further evidence of the care that goes into each knife – a certificate explaining more about the model and saying thanks for your purchase. Each knife is also numbered.

The sheath itself is very well made. It is quality full welt construction and hand stitched with the addition of rivets at the stress points. Ben added a simple “N” stamp to the leather for North Branch Knives. The proportions are very nice. It is molded to leave just about half of the handle exposed. The leather has a warm, used feeling that makes it seem like you have already owned this knife forever. The square design of the sheath is not only visually attractive but functional (helps the sheath ride well in a pants pocket). It allows the sheath to be used with either the left or right hand.

Have you ever broken a belt loop on a leather knife sheath? I have. That won’t happen with this sheath. The belt loop is stitched and riveted to the sheath. The loop is large enough for most any belt.

Like I said before, this knife had to be versatile so a spear point blade shape was chosen. The blade is about 3 inches long from tip to scales. It has a convex edge, a long straight area near the handle, a short section with plenty of belly, and still enough of a point to be useful. The point is also positioned in line with the handle to facilitate drilling tasks. This knife would be at home zipping open a white tail or whittling a tent stake.

I provided stabilized Eucalyptus scales for Ben to work with for this project. The knife bares a “1” stamp that corresponds with the number on the certificate that came with the knife. The opposite side bares Ben’s “N” stamp like the sheath.

The biggest clue that you are using a knife that was designed by someone who uses knives comes from the handle. It is shaped well with no guard and a slight finger choil. The choil is not obtrusive enough to force any one grip but serves well to index your hand on the knife. The scales have a relief cut near the blade that allow a pinching kind of grip that is important in some grips like the “chest lever” grip. The handle is long enough for any grip and short enough to keep the knife very compact over all (about 6 3/4″ overall).

I tend to like knives that work and I am generally not willing to pay more for a knife that is beautiful. Ben proves you can have both beauty and function with this knife.

Everything from the handmade box, to the finish on the scales, to the way the white spacers set off the beautiful reddish hues in the Eucalyptus scales, to the warm tones of the leather sheath contribute to feeling that this knife gives you. It is like you have already owned it for years. This knife looks simple and primitive but when you have it in hand, you realize that was all by design. It is all part of the aesthetic as well as the function. You can really see the knife maker’s hand in this knife.

It’s like an old friend.

Specs:

  • Steel: 1095
  • Blade Length: 3″
  • Overall Length: 6 3/4″
  • Sheath: Leather, Belt or Pocket Carry
  • Scales: Stabilized Eucalyptus

Contact North Branch Knives on BladeForums (username Cheekser).

Kifaru G1 Sale

Kifaru has redesigned most of their packs and accessories. They are calling the updated designs Generation 2 (G2) packs. The redesign happened at least a year ago but the good news is that there are still G1 packs available. The better news is that they are available at a pretty deep discount.

If you have ever wanted to try out a Kifaru pack to see what the fuss is all about, now is the time.

Kifaru G1 Sale Page

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