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Review: Griffin Armament M4SD II Flash Comp

I have written before that, when it comes to muzzle devices, it has basically all been done before. There is a finite amount of gas to redirect in order to achieve the effect that the muzzle device manufacturer desires. We have reached the point where there are a number of good devices on the market with very small performance differences from device to device. Each device will have those who prefer it based on how it works with their style of shooting.

I recently had a chance to check out two versions of the same device that illustrates the above perfectly. I accidentally ended up with both a somewhat rare, very early version of the Griffin Armament M4SD-II Flash Comp and a current version. The differences are subtle but noticeable and they are indicative of the main difference between many devices on the market.

Griffin Armament M4SD II Flash Comp

Overview

The Griffin Armament M4SD-II Flash Comp is a hybrid muzzle device. By that I mean is that it blends functionality from comps or brakes with flash suppression features.

The Flash Comp is made from 17-4PH stainless steel with a black oxide finish. It is 2.25” long (long enough to bring a 14.5” barrel to 16”) and is pre-drilled for pinning. The Flash Comp is a touch on the heavy side at 3 ounces in weight.

This device has one chamber with several small ports and three thick, short tines at the muzzle end to enhance flash suppression.

The early version has ports placed all around the circumference of the device except for the closed bottom. The current version is similar in that it also has a closed bottom but the top center row of ports has also been removed (more on this later).

Griffin Armament M4SD II Flash Comp Comparison

Observations from Use

I’ll start with a bit of back story on how I ended up with 2 different versions of the Flash Comp. I have wanted to test this device for some time now so when I came across a used, but like new example on the secondary market for a great price, I jumped on it. After using it for a short time, I noticed that the Military Morons review mentioned that, as a result of their testing, the device would have the top row of ports removed to make it behave in a more neutral manner. My example still had the top row of ports. I contacted Griffin Armament and they confirmed that the Flash Comp that I had was an earlier version of which few were made. So, I purchased another device directly from Griffin Armament so that I would have the current and much more common version of the Flash Comp to test.

The story of how I ended up with both devices may not be all that interesting but the results of using both devices side by side and the window into the development process of a muzzle device that it provided was quite interesting. I was not part of the testing and evaluation that took place for this device but I had a rare chance to retrace the steps of that process and validate their findings.

In terms of muzzle rise mitigation, I saw exactly what Military Morons and other testers saw. The original version did exhibit a negative recoil impulse meaning the muzzle was forced down below the starting point. The original version behaves very similar to the BattleComp in that it pushes down but it can be muscled a bit to make it very controllable. The new version with the top row of ports removed was very neutral by comparison. It did not exhibit much, if any, push. It kept the muzzle very flat, even with a relaxed hold on the carbine. This is a pretty big plus to me. It feels very similar to the PWS FSC556 – a device known for keeping the muzzle very steady.

Griffin Armament M4SD II Flash Comp Bottom

I think it speaks well of a company when they are willing and able to react to end user feedback the way Griffin Armament has. They removed the top row of ports and their device is better for it. It sounds simple but it is fairly rare for manufacturers to revise a product in this way. Kudos to them for listening to their customers.

Recoil mitigation was similar for both versions. They do a very good job of reducing what little felt recoil is present with an AR-15 chambered in 5.56.

The Flash Comp has three thick tines at the end to serve to reduce flash so I was hoping for great things but overall, the flash reduction is not quite as good as an A2 or PWS FSC556, but better than most open side brakes. I can already hear you asking if it is better or worse than the BattleComp and I would say it is too close to call with the naked eye.

FOLLOW UP: I spoke with Griffin Armament and their testing indicates that the Flash Comp suppresses flash better than what I experienced (which was still VERY good for a comp). The ammo that I used, mostly Prvi 75gr. probably lacks any sort of flash retardant in the powder which may account for the difference in performance. Griffin Armament tested with M855 and the Flash Comp performed very well with it.

All comps and brakes are loud relative to a dedicated flash suppressor. The M4SD II Flash Comp is less concussive than something like an open side port device but louder and more concussive, especially to those adjacent to the device, than something like an A2 flash suppressor. Comparing noise levels between the Flash Comp and similar devices like the PWS FSC556 and BattleComp is somewhat problematic because I can’t tell a difference between them when standing within 2 feet of the muzzle. However, when standing back more than 8 feet, the Flash Comp sounds and feels less concussive than a PWS FSC556 and about the same as a BattleComp.

There is a disparity in how these devices sound at various distances. I first noticed this after reading something written by Andrew at Vuurwapen Blog and it is something that I had neglected to test. The difference between the sound of the devices doesn’t become readily apparent until you back up several feet.  Many of these devices are marketed (Griffin Armament doesn’t make such claims) as providing muzzle rise mitigation within the context of situations that may have team members in close proximity and/or the necessity of shooting in enclosed spaces, there really won’t be a noticeable difference between most modern hybrid devices. In tight spaces and with short distances between team members, they will all be ear splitting.

Griffin Armament M4SD II Flash Comp Tines

This isn’t a knock on the M4SD II Flash Comp. It is more of a reality check on what we (myself included) have expected from these devices in the past. All of the comps mentioned in the previous paragraphs feel less concussive than something with large unobstructed side parts and much more concussive than an A2 flash suppressor.

Wrap Up

The Griffin Armament M4SD II Flash Comp serves up a lot of value (retail is less than $85). It is made from steel that is well suited to the application, offers very neutral muzzle rise mitigation and sufficient recoil reduction. Its flash suppression performance was a little disappointing given the presence of the tines but it was on par with similar comps.

Given the attractive price and neutral muzzle rise attributes, I think the M4SD II Flash Comp is a real winner. I am thrilled with it. This is probably my favorite all-around muzzle device offering a good mix of balanced recoil control and flash suppression.

Review: Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel

The Hive Satchel is the result of collaboration between Chris Costa and Blue Force Gear. This bag is purpose built to serve as a discreet weapon carry bag. Blue Force Gear is so dedicated to maintaining the discrete nature of the bag that they are only releasing it in limited numbers in each colorway in order to make it less likely that the Hive ever fits any particular visual pattern.

I have spent a few months with this bag and, frankly, I am still not sure where I stand on it. On one hand, it does everything that BFG says it will do but on the other, it is designed for such a specific functionality that requires such specific styling cues that I am left wondering about its general utility. Hopefully I will have made up your mind about the Hive (if not my own) by the end of this review.

Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel

Overview

The Hive Satchel is built from the ground up to completely conceal 2 different types of weapon systems – PDWs and handguns. In order to prevent any type of visual clue or pattern that might indicate the abg’s purpose, BFG pulled out all the stops. The styling is unlike any other concealed carry bag, modern and sleek. The colorways are limited to just 300 pieces per. The satchel is padded throughout so it holds its shape in spite of any bulky or heavy objects that it may contain. The back panel is stiffened to prevent sharp edges from digging into the wearer and, again, to allow the bag to hold heavy objects while still holding shape.

BFG really went all out in terms of access with this bag. A discreet carry bag’s usefulness is diminished if it does not provide fast access to its contents. The bag is completely ambidextrous. Its single strap design allows it to be worn over the left or right shoulder. The main compartment has double zippers that can be opening together when you need fast access and clearance for something like a PDW or separately when you need to access the contents of the bag without advertising the contents.

Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel Zippers Linked Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel Zippers

Finally, a bag like this needs flexible organization which BFG accomplished with lots and lots of loop lining. This allows you to use their Dapper line to outfit The Hive based on your specific needs.

The loop lining can be found in both of the Hive’s compartments – the large main compartment and the smaller ambidextrous CCW compartment at the base of the shoulder strap. In addition to a ton of loop material coverage, the main compartment also features a hydration sleeve.

The bag itself is constructed from lightweight CORDURA nylon and slightly stretchy tweave material. The tweave is used pretty ingeniously. The shoulder strap is outfitted with a small section of a discrete MOLLEminus form of MOLLE webbing.

Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel Back Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel Strap Close Up

Observations from Use

As I get into my observations from using this bag, I will say up front that the biggest hurdle that I had with it is that I probably wouldn’t use a bag that looked like this as my everyday bag. The styling that its intended task necessitates just didn’t gel well with me at first. Normally, in gear reviews, I don’t care how something looks but this is different given the intended purpose of this bag. It is supposed to look unremarkable, but compared with my style (if I have one) it can standout at times. This is, of course, entirely subjective and I grew to like the bag.

The grey colorway looks much better in person than it does in the initial product pictures. In fact, I would say the two greys look great together. It helps a lot that the zippers are color matched unlike the contrasting zipper shown on the prototype bag. I can’t tell you how weird it feels to be discussing the aesthetics of a piece of gear.

Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel Strap Attachment Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel CCW Pocket

The bag does look fairly unremarkable, especially in an urban setting or places where there are often crowds. Go to any public place like a zoo or amusement part and you are likely to see several sling style bags being worn. It is these types of settings that really allow the Hive to shine. It looks like something a tourist, city commuter, or maybe a cyclist would wear and I mean that in a good way. In this case, that means it is a successful design.

The bag always holds its shape. Every part or it is stiffened with either padding or HDPE. This is absolutely key to its mission. It will not betray its contents by losing its shape.

The shoulder strap design on the Hive deserves heaps of praise. It is wide, comfortable, and probably the most successful ambidextrous strap design that I have ever seen. It is truly just as comfortable mounted on either side and the pouch at the base of the strap moves with the strap which is probably why this strap is so successful. It attaches via 4 toggles that slip into paracord loops. This system is easy to use and robust.

I have no need to daily carry a PDW so I mainly used the smaller pouch on the strap to carry a G19 or G17. It works well for this. It is just the right shape and is positioned such that is can easily be pulled around to in front of your hip and then ripped open to initiate the draw stroke. It is pretty intuitive. I would strongly prefer to carry a CCW handgun here versus the main compartment.

Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel Contents

The double zipper on the main compartment works well. The zippers can be snapped together so that they can be ripped open together. This is important to create a large opening through which the PDW can be accessed. I find that it is actually better to slip your fingers up under the tweave cap at the top of the bag and grab the flap itself rather than the zippers.

The Hive can have as much or as little organization as you need with the use of Dappers. If you are using the main compartment for weapon carry, you will probably want to go light on pouches. If you are using the Hive as your EDC, you will have plenty of real estate for adding Dappers. Even the flap of material between the zippers has loop material on its interior.

The exterior of the bag has a slip pocket on each side made from tweave. The tweave has some stretch which lets the pockets really grip water bottles. This is nice considering that the bag is designed to be pulled around in front of the user for access which orients the water bottle pouches on their side. Without the stretch of the material, the bottles might fall out.

Blue Force Gear Hive Satchel Costa Logo

Wrap Up

If I sound conflicted in the opening part of this review, it’s because I am. You can see in the “observations from use” that the Hive does what it is supposed to do. However, since I don’t have need to carry a PDW, much of the functionality is lost on me. That functionality largely dictates the styling of the bag which doesn’t quite fit me. So I am stuck between not really caring for how it looks and admiring how well executed it is which is a strange place to be when you are used to reviewing gear based on its functionality and ignoring its looks.

This is a great CCW bag with big time EDC potential for those who like the styling. It could also be a great grey man bag for those who need to look like tourists rather than snake eaters but that isn’t really something I am qualified on which to comment.

Check out The Hive Satchel at BlueForceGear.com.

Review: Crosstac Ammo Can Liners

It is scientific fact that everyone loves surplus ammo cans. It is impossible not to love them. They are ridiculously handy for all sorts of tasks, relatively inexpensive for what they are (especially if you can find them locally), and they will last forever with some maintenance. They also happen to be just the right size for hauling stuff to the range and back but they lack any type of organization. That is where Crosstac Ammo Can Liners come in.

Cross Tac Ammo Can Liner

Continue Reading →

Review: Sneaky Bags CRB

A few years ago a company called Sneaky Bags introduced an entire line of bags that were designed to allow discreet carry of various firearms and, in some cases, even serve as second line gear to support the fight. Sneaky Bags had tremendous ideas but they struggled to meet demand. Now, the company and name has been resurrected with support from an established manufacturer – SERT. The Sneaky Bags CRB (Covert Rifle Bag) is the first product from what I hope will be a lasting and productive venture.

Sneaky Bags CRB

This Sneaky Bags CRB is currently holding two loaded AR-15s with optics, a Glock 17, and extra magazines for each with room to spare.

Overview

The Covert Rifle Bag is designed to carry rifles without looking like it is carrying rifles… hence the name. Its rounded shape and purposefully non-tactical color scheme help to disguise its contents. The CRB features padding throughout and stiff plastic reinforcement where necessary to prevent any telltale shapes or bulges from betraying the contents of the bag.

The 36” version that I have to review can hold two 16” barreled AR-15s or similarly sized rifles. The large interior compartment is slick to allow the rifles to be withdrawn easily and features an integral padded divider to keep the 2 rifles from beating each other up during transport.

The exterior of the CRB has several organization features including a small zippered pocket at the top, a deep Velcro flap secured pocket, a daisy chain, a shock cord (bungee) grid, and a roughly 10”x10”x2” pouch with internal PALS/Velcro organization. The carrying strap can be configured in a number of different ways to allow for backpack carry or multiple modes of side or quiver carry.

Sneaky Bags CRB Front Pouch Sneaky Bags CRB Flap Pouch

Observations from Use

The very first thing that I wanted to do was establish whether or not the CRB is effective as a covert bag. I showed the bag to some family members and gauged their impressions about what they thought it was for and what was inside. They know about the blog and my interests and they still thought it was some kind of sporting equipment bag. Baseball and tennis were both mentioned specifically. I also gauged a few other acquaintances’ reactions and even among shooters, their initial impressions weren’t of a gun case but rather some kind of sporting equipment bag. These tests were far from scientific but they are encouraging – to me at least.

I should point out that I also showed the bag to people who are familiar with Sneaky Bags. They, of course, immediately knew what it was for which points out the limitations of any form of covert carry. If your method of covert carry isn’t one-of-a-kind and it is for sale in the public market place, there is a chance that someone is already familiar with and even trained to look for your covert carry method. This can be a big deal for the armed professional but it is mostly a non-issue for me since I won’t be taking the CRB on any covert missions. (It should also be noted that wearing your best desert tan footwear, 5.11 tactical tuxedo, and “operator” cap will probably cancel out any gray man points you may earn by using the CRB.)

I just wanted bag would allow me to move a carbine around outside of my home without making the neighbors raise their eyebrows. All I need is a bag that lets me lay it on the backseat of a car or carry a carbine and some range gear to and from the front door of my house in a reasonably discreet way. I think the CRB is certainly capable of that and more. I think there could be tremendous value in having a bag that allows you to carry a carbine (or 2) without the so-called “sheeple” (I hate that term) noticing.

Sneaky Bags CRB 2 Rifles

The CRB’s main compartment is very well designed in large part because of how simple it is. The interior is so slick and simple that there is absolutely nothing for your carbine to snag on when you are inserting or removing it. It has heavy padding and HDPE stiffeners in all the right places. For instance, the bottom of the bag has an HDPE stiffener to prevent the muzzle from bulging and the back of CRB is also stiffened to prevent your carbine from digging into your back.

I was able to fit 2 of my bulkier carbines (with larger Aimpoints, inserted magazines, free float rails, etc) without much trouble. It is a tight fit but it is very doable. If you need to carry 2 carbines and you want to maximize ease of access you can do a number of things to make the fit a little less tight. I found that using 20 rounds mags or only keeping a magazine in one of the carbines freed up some space. If you are just carrying one carbine, you will probably have plenty of space regardless of how the carbine is configured. I found that the main compartment is also large enough to carry some support gear along with a single carbine.

The front compartment is very versatile. It has a PALS/Velcro grid so that you can use either MOLLE compatible or Velcro backed pouches to organize it. It is large enough to fit a full size handgun and at least 3 magazines. It is also a great pocket for carrying some of the extra stuff that comes along with a trip to the range like eye protection, ear protection, oil, tools, and similar gear. This pocket is also large enough to carry full range session’s worth of loaded mags.

Sneaky Bags CRB Front Pouch Organization

The smaller zippered and flap pockets are useful for smaller, mostly flat items. There isn’t a lot of room for items with a lot of bulk but you will find uses for them.

I have a lot of bags with daisy chains and I rarely use them. I am sure some people do but to me the daisy chain on the CRB is more useful for making it look like a sports bag than for carrying gear.

The bungee cord organizer is great for securing something bulky like a softshell or rain coat just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse at the range. I have also used it lash my lunch bag to the CRB. You could also use it to secure something like a shooting mat or chest rig but that might spoil the covert appearance of the bag.

The CRB can be carried in a number of ways. It comes with a long strap and 2 shoulder pads that can be used in various configurations. I use it most often in backpack configuration (which uses both shoulder pads pads) but it probably looks even more like a sports bag when carried with the strap in a single shoulder configuration. The way that the strap can be configured is very clever and it works reasonably well though you will never confuse the CRB for a dedicated hiking bag with a proper suspension.

Sneaky Bags CRB Quiver Carry

There is a single grab handle on the top of the bag. The handle can be secured out of the way of the main compartment’s opening with Velcro. It can be useful for controlling the CRB as you withdraw a carbine from the main compartment. I wish that the CRB had grab handles on the sides as well. This would make carrying it horizontally or quiver style with a single strap over your shoulder more convenient and would be fitting for a sports equipment bag.

This CRB appears to be very well made. All of the stitching is pretty much impeccable and there are no visible cloth edges to fray. I have spent quite a bit time with this bag loaded with 2 loaded carbines, a handgun, and spare mags. This load is, as you can imagine, quite heavy. The shoulder straps, hardware, materials, and construction have been more than up to the task. Even the interior bottom of the bag, where the muzzle devices of the stored carbines rest appears to be holding up very well. I suspect that it would take you a long, long time to wear one of these bags out.

The bag is quite heavy even before you add rifles (5.4 pounds). This is largely due to the necessity of the foam and HDPE reinforcement to hideits contents. It would be nice if some weight could be saved somewhere in the construction of the bag. For instance, 500D nylon would probably be more than sufficient for the exterior of the pack and even some of the internal areas. Additionally, the interior combination of PALS webbing and Velcro in the front pocket could likely just be replaced with Velcro to save weight. There is a wealth of Velcro backed pouches on the market and I wouldn’t miss the PALS compatibility. Both of those modifications would probably represent a fairly small weight reduction but anything would be welcomed.Sneaky Bags CRB Backpack

Wrap Up

The CRB and a sturdy sports duffel might be the ultimate gray man range kit.  I wanted a bag that could pass the first glance test and I think I found it in the CRB. A lot of care went into the subtle rounded design and material selection to make this bag about as covert as any dedicated firearm case can be – especially one that lets you carry a carbine without breaking it down. I would like to see the CRB lose some weight and have some handles added to the sides but this is a very useful bag for me. It is great to see Sneaky Bags back in the marketplace again!

Check out SneakyBags.com and Sneaky Bags on TacStrike.

Review: RAND CLP

When it comes to lubricating my firearms, I have found that just about anything will work as long as you use enough of it. If you keep the bolt wet, an good AR-15 will run like a sewing machine. This makes me very skeptical of and even uncomfortable with lubes that make grand claims. However, I acknowledge that while just about any lube will work, some lubes have properties that make them preferable in some ways to others. It is with this understanding that I approached this review RAND CLP, a fairly new CLP on the market.

Rand CLP

Overview

RAND CLP is a non-toxic, non-combustible, vegetable oil based gun lube that can used to Clean, Lube, and Protect (from corrosion) your firearms. Its consistency is a bit thicker than most gun oils and it has little to no smell. RAND claims that it provides faster and easier cleaning after pretreatment.

RAND also claims the following:

“The state of the art nanotechnology we use allows our nano-particles work their way into the metal in your firearm and form a protective shield against rust, carbon and dirt. The vegetable oil acts as a scavenger, “lifting” the carbon/fouling from the metal, allowing it to be wiped away easily during cleaning.”

One of the nano-particles used is Boron which RAND claims has the potential to make the gun run cooler because it “has the characteristic of pulling heat from metal.”

Observations from Use

Some of these claims make me uneasy about this review because I can’t verify any of the nanotechnology by taking an AR-15 to the range. The heat reduction claim sounds a lot like one of those things that could be real in theory but makes very little difference in practice. I can’t really test it and I can’t imagine it makes that much of a difference. Heat is the enemy of machines. If you run your gun hard, it is going to get hot no matter what lube you use. I am not saying that RAND CLP doesn’t do everything it claims. I am just saying that I can’t test it and that is typical of a lot of marketing claims in the gun oil world. So, all that said, I set out to test RAND CLP on its merits as a gun oil without regard for nanotechnology.

I like a gun lube that stays where I put it. This is a bit of a balancing act because a lube shouldn’t be so thick that it gels in cold weather or so thin that is runs off the parts that it is supposed to protect. RAND CLP does a good job of staying where you apply it. I applied 5 drops of it to the surface of a relatively clean AR-15 bolt carrier group along with 5 drops of another gun oil to another bolt carrier group, spread it around with my fingers, and then placed the guns in the safe with their muzzles up. Both bolt carrier groups looks very wet when they were first placed in the safe.

After 5 days, the bolt carrier group that was treated with RAND CLP was still wet while the other bolt carrier group looked and felt basically dry. Most of the oil from bolt carrier group treated with the other lube had seeped out around the take down pin and down into the receiver extension where it could do little to no good. The RAND CLP treated bolt carrier group was not as wet as it was when I first placed it in the safe, but it was definitely still wet. In fact, after more than 2 weeks, the bolt carrier group was still somewhat wet in appearance and feel. I haven’t tried any other lubes that stay put quite this well.

Rand CLP Comparison

Lube brand X after 5 days in the safe…

Rand CLP 5 Days

RAND CLP after 5 days in the safe…

I used RAND CLP to clean in two different ways. First, I cleaned an already dirty bolt carrier group that had a different brand’s lube on it. The RAND CLP did a decent job though I am not sure it did any better than a dedicated cleaning product. It isn’t like the carbon on the bolt tail wiped away on its own. It still required scraping. Second, I pretreated a bolt to see how it worked when used in the way RAND suggests. It definitely cleaned up fairly easily but many gun oils will have this effect if you pre-treat the bolt. The bottom line here is that it is an effective cleaner but it isn’t magic. I don’t need magic. I just need something that works well enough that I don’t have to carry multiple cleaning products to the range (just in case I want to go completely out of character and decide to clean a rifle at the range) and RAND CLP delivers on that.

There are three things that I wasn’t really thinking about at first but that I really came to appreciate as I directly compared RAND CLP with other gun lubes that I was already using. First, RAND CLP doesn’t smell. I can get it all over my hands without smelling like a medicine cabinet. Second, it doesn’t really smoke. Many gun lubes can start to smoke as the gun gets hot. RAND CLP wasn’t as smokey as most (it still smokes) and, in fact, it didn’t seem to burn off as readily as similar products. Finally, I really like that RAND CLP is a traditional oil and by that I mean, you don’t have to do any pretreatment before you use it. I can just drop some into the the ejection port and start shooting.

I should also mention that RAND CLP has a very smooth feel to it when you hand cycle a treated AR-15. If you have ever switched from an old CLP to a more modern one, you know what I am talking about. You can really feel and hear a difference. The charging handle feels smoother, less gritty, and there is less of that crunchy metal on metal sound that can sometimes still remain after treatment with a poor lube. RAND CLP slicks up the action immediately. It is like an instant break in. This isn’t unique to RAND CLP but it is a mark of a good lube.

Wrap Up

In spite of the nanotechnology and heat removal claims that make me grit my teeth, I am actually very happy with this lube. It doesn’t smell, it doesn’t smoke, it feels very smooth, and, most importantly, it stays where you put it. It is also an effective enough cleaner that I would feel comfortable leaving the Hoppes at home (that’s right, I still use Hoppes) when I go to the range.

Check out RAND CLP.

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