You may remember that I recently announced the most unique and important light mount to come down the pike in quite some time – the patent pending Thorntail. The Thorntail is a joint venture between Force Recon veteran Travis Haley of Haley Strategic Partners and Impact Weapons Components. This is one of the most anticipated rifle accessories around and I am fortunate to be the first one to have them in hand for review.
The market has lacked a light mount like this for a long, long time. The only thing that came close to offering the same functionality of the Thorntail is the SMC MOUNT-N-SLOT from Impact Weapons Components (IWC). However, the SMC is limited to use only on certain types of slotted handguards like the Magpul MOE Hand Guards. It didn’t take long for Haley Strategic Partners (HSP) and IWC to see the need for a similar mount that works with picatinny rails.
The best products solve problems and the Thorntail is certainly a problem solver.
Some weapon configurations allow only limited space to mount one of the most essential items on any rifle – the weapon light. The placement of the weapon light usually dictates where the shooter must place their support hand on the rifle. The support hand must be placed in a location that allows easy access and operation of the light. This can become problematic on weapons with short rails like AR-15s and M4 carbines with the 7″ carbine length gas system and even the 9″ midlength gas system. It can also be an issue with AKs in some configurations and really just about any weapon with rails that are too short.
Shooters know that much of recoil control is really just about leverage. You must be able to control the rifle in a way that minimizes movement at the muzzle from shot to shot. The ability to place your hand closer to the muzzle can greatly enhance leverage which in turn improves shot to shot speed. When a rifle recoils, it wants to move straight back in a line that is opposite of the trajectory of the bullet and that runs straight back through your shoulder. However, the shape of your shoulder, and the way the buttstock engages the shoulder, creates a hinge that converts that straight back movement into muzzle lift.
Think of what happens when you open and close a heavy door. You don’t grab the door near the hinges. You grab the handle that is placed on the opposite side of the door, far from the hinges. This maximizes leverage and makes it easy to open and close the door. Likewise, you want to be able to hold your rifle as far is practical from your shoulder (the hinge) in order to maximize leverage.
If your light dictates where you must place your hand and your rail is short, you will have to place your hand in such a way that you are unable to maximize your leverage.
The Thorntail light mount allows shooters to extend the light several inches (the true distance varies according to the light used) beyond the end of their hand guard rail. This clears space on the rail and promotes optimal hand placement. Rail space that was taken up by your light and mount before is now useful gripping surface for your hand. It is that simple.
It accomplishes this with an ingenious design. The Thorntail consists of two main components (along with some screws). There is a piece that serves as a rail grabber and a 3.5″ extension piece. The extension is drilled and tapped on both sides so that the rail grabber component can mounted on either side of the extension which makes the Thorntail completely ambidextrous. It can be mounted on either side of a rail for a total of 8 positions on a typical 4 rail handguard.
This is ideal for users who are stuck with shorter rails. For instance, if your police department issues AR-15s with the carbine length gas system and 7″ rails this is a perfect solution. The current issue M4 carbines are also stuck with 7″ rails for the most part.
Even if you aren’t stuck with a 7″ carbine rail you will love the Thorntail. I am using it on a LaRue 9.0 rail to push my light far enough forward to mimic the light position on an 11-12″ rail. I like to run my hand out as close to the muzzle as possible and the Thorntail allows me to achieve the feel and performance of a 12″ rail on a lighter weight 9″ rail.
I tested the Thorntail by mounting it on two different weapon configurations – an AR-15 with a 9″ mid-length rail and an AK-47 with an Ultimak railed gas tube. Installation was intuitive, though the flashlight rings can be a little bit tricky to deal with, but I managed to get them mounted with no problems. If you can’t figure it out just by looking at it, I bet you probably have problems loading your magazines, too.
My first concern was that the mount would be fragile since it does extend the light out from the rail quite a bit. I grabbed the Surefire G2L bezel that was mounted on my mid-length carbine and tried to pull it in every direction and it didn’t budge, bend, or loosen. It would take quite a lot of force or a really, really hard hit to damage the Thorntail and that sort of force would likely damage other parts of the rifle at the same time. After actually testing the Thorntail, I have no worries about its durability. Like other IWC products, the Thorntail is CNC Machined from Billet 6061-T6 Aluminum and Black Type III Mil-Spec Anodized for durability.
The Thorntail is shaped very well for the way that it will be used. Most users will likely use this mount to place their light so that it falls directly in front of their thumb in a strong, thumb forward style grip (with or without a handstop/vertical grip). There is a small angled flat spot directly behind the light is makes a perfect index point for your thumb. This index point serves as a tactile reminder that your hand is in the correct position to be able to easily reach your weapon light. I am going to place a small piece of grip tape on this flat to make it even easier to feel with my thumb.
This mount is particularly well suited to the Ultimak railed gas tubes for AKs. One of the best features of the Ultimak rails are how low they sit which allows your to co-witness your sights with an Aimpoint. If you mount an overly large light mount on the Ultimak rail in front of your Aimpoint it can obscure your view through the optic. The Thorntail is very low profile and the rail grabber portion can not even be seen through the Aimpoint.
As I stated before, I found that the Thorntail allowed me to get the same grip that I typically have on a 12″ rail but on a 9″ rail. This configuration weighs less than a 12″ rail but offers most of the same function.
I found this to be a very ergonomic mount. It holds the light in close to the rifle and forward of the rail which allows the tailcap switch to fall directly under your thumb. Once the mount is position properly, operating the light is effortless. Compare this to a typical light mount where the light is placed in such a way that you often have to stretch your thumb back from the vertical grip in order to get to the switch. The Thorntail is a huge improvement these situations.
In addition to the ergonomic considerations, the Thorntail greatly reduces the shadowing caused by the barrel of a weapon. With a typical light mount you might have shadowing from both the barrel and front site tower. The Thorntail allows the light to clear the front sight tower so the shadow is greatly reduced. In fact, when used on a 9″ rail, the bezel of the light is just 2.5-3.5″ (depending on the light, barrel length, and muzzle device) from the muzzle. This nearly completely eliminates the shadow of the barrel in the beam of your weapon light.
I tried the Thorntail with a Surefire M600 Scout and Surefire G2L. It worked perfectly with both and there are additional flashlight rings available that allow the use of most of the best weapon lights on the market including the Surefire C and E series lights and the Streamlight PolyTac. There is also a version in the works that will work with the Surefire Millennium series lights. Shooters will find that lights that use the flashlight rings like the Surefire G2L can be pushed even further forward than those with fixed mounts like the Surefire Scout lights since they can be slid very far forward in their rings.
It is my opinion that this is not merely a unique product. It is an important product that has been missing in the market. It allows the shooter to place their hand closer to the muzzle end of the weapon in order to control recoil and solves the problems that have been plaguing short handguards for as long as they have been around. The Thorntail blurs the distinction between short rails and extended rails. It represents a funtional and ergonomic improvement for the way weapon lights are mounted. I could not be happier with how this mount functions.
The Thorntail is available for pre-order on the Impact Weapons Components’ website (remember to use the code “triggerjerk” at checkout to receive 5% off at IWC).
Note: The finished Thorntail mounts will feature the HSP logo, not the IWC logo as shown.
Disclosure: These mounts were provided to me for review, free of charge, by IWC for whom I am an independent product rep.