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Tag Archives | AR15

New from SIONICS – 16″ 416R SS “RECCE” Barrel

SIONICS Weapon Systems has released a new 16″ stainless steel barrel. The new barrel, the 16″ 416R SS “RECCE” Barrel, is currently available separately from their website and will be available as an option on their uppers/complete rifles next week. If these shoot anywhere near as well as their 18″ stainless barrels, they will be excellent performers.

The 16″ 416R SS “RECCE” Barrel has everything you expect from a SIONICS barrel including an in-house designed medium contour, 1 in 8″ twist, 5.56 chamber, M4 barrel extension, mid-length gas, and SIONICS’ own extensive QC processes. Check out the barrels on SIONICSWeaponSystems.com for more details.

sionics recce build sionics recce barrel

Dueck Defense Red Dot Adapter

The new Dueck Defense Red Dot Adapter (RDA) is a compact mount that bolts directly to your Dueck Defense RTS rear sight. It allows you to attach your Micro Aimpoint or compatible red dot in such a way that it achieves a lower 1/3 co-witness with the RTS sights.

Dueck Defense adapter

It should be noted that this is designed to be used with the generation 2 versions of the RTS sights. To determine if your RTS rear sight is compatible with the RDA, check to see if the holes on the leading face of your rear sight are threaded. If they are threaded it will accept the new RDA.

Check out the RDA at Dueck Defense.

Set Up Your RDS Magnifier for Success

It wasn’t long after Aimpoint released their 3X Magnifier that I had one in hand. I basically waited to purchase mine just long enough for LaRue Tactical to come out with their LT755 QD Pivot Mount. Since that time, the magnifier concept has lost some of its cache likely due to the improved low power variable magnification optics that proliferate now and a better understanding of some of the shortcomings that are inherent to RDS magnifiers. Those shortcomings include narrow field of view (which isn’t that bad), significant extra weight, increased distortion of some red dot sights, and a clumsy transition between mounted and unmounted.

There were times in the last several years where I was tempted to sell my magnifier but I could never quite bring myself to do it mostly because, in spite of its flaws, it still does something that no other optic set up can. It offers useable magnification along side true non-magnified performance. As good as 1-4X and 1-6X optics have become, there is still a difference between the 1X setting of these low magnification variables and a quality RDS (see this previous article).

Now that I have literally years behind an RDS and magnifier setup, I have found that there are really three keys to making them work for me. That means there are three keys to mitigating the main drawbacks of the concept and all three are pretty simple.


Choose a Good Mount

The mount is probably the single most important factor in ensuring that you have a good magnifier experience. I dislike mounts that require the magnifier be removed from the rifle in order to use the RDS by itself. I don’t want to have to worry about stowing my magnifier on my gear.

Choose a mount that allows you to quickly move the magnifier out of your field of view while keeping it attached to the rifle or remove it all together. I like the LaRue Tactical LT755 but there are other choices.

Choose the Right RDS

I use Aimpoints almost exclusively on my carbines and as much as I love them, I admit that not all of them work well (for me) in front of a magnifier. I first used the magnifier behind an Aimpoint Comp ML3 with a 2 MOA dot reasoning that the finer aiming point would be beneficial and it worked well for me but I saw some distortion of the red dot. I later tried it behind several Aimpoint Micros and Comp M4s but found that the dot turned into a series of star bursts or several dots swimming around each other when magnified. This may not happen for all users but it happened for me.

It turns out that the best combination that I have found so far is a Comp ML3 with the 4MOA dot. For whatever reason, I see Aimpoint’s 4 MOA dots much more clearly. This combination gives me a razor sharp aiming point and makes hits out to 300 yards very easy which is really all I can ask from this set up.

Whichever RDS you prefer, spend some time figuring out what works best in front of the magnifier.

Shed Weight from the Front of Your Carbine

Using an RDS and magnifier set up means having two optics and two mounts on your rifle. The capability that this setup offers comes at a fairly steep cost in weight. The best way I have found to mitigate this is the shed weight from your carbine, concentrating specifically on the front end.

The weight of the magnifier sits toward the rear of the receiver. You can really counteract the heavy overall feeling that this lends a carbine by reducing weight at the front. Choose a lighter barrel profile and a lighter hand guard. I think that in order to get the most out of a RDS and magnifier setup, you really need to build the carbine with this setup in mind.

You don’t have to go crazy. A lighter medium profile or pencil barrel and lightweight extended hand guard will make a big difference in how your carbine feels. It will also greatly reduce the overall weight. You should be able to build a carbine that weighs around 7-7.5 pounds (and feels lighter because of where the weight is) without much trouble at all.

If you have a magnifier and are thinking of giving up on it, gives these three tips a try before you boot it to the curb. If you are thinking of trying a magnifier, make sure to set yourself up for success. There really is a strong upside to this set up but it takes a little fore thought to get the most out of it.

Sub 6 with a Twist

I recently added the Scalarworks LDM to my lightest carbine which shed 1.5 ounces from the total weight, lowering it to 6.13 pounds (unloaded). I stood there looking at the scale for moment and realized that I was so tantalizingly close to the 6 pound mark, that I would have to go for it. There are certainly AR-15 builds that are lighter than this but this one is different. It has a bit of a twist that sets it apart from most. I have a set of requirements that I will not compromise in order to maintain this carbine’s intended use as a defensive firearm and the idea for this project was to start with base components that I already owned to show what could be done with careful retrofitting versus building something from the ground up.

JTT Ultralight with a Twist

Throughout the project, these requirements have guided my decisions:

  • It must have an optic, light, back up sights, and a forward grip of some kind (hand stop, vertical grip, etc.). This alone sets it apart from many lightweight builds which are generally done with just an optic or just irons and no light in order to save weight.
  • It must be able to accept a two point sling.
  • It must have a rail that completely covers the gas block (11″ or greater since this is a midlength). This is to support the way I shoot, support practical field shooting positions, and make barricade shooting easier.
  • It must have an appropriate weight buffer (an H buffer in this case) and an M16 bolt carrier group. I do not want to get into adjustable gas systems and lightweight recoil parts.
  • It should have a forward assist… not because I use it often but because I like the idea of it and I have a hard time giving it up.
  • I will not resort to drilling holes in grips, stocks, or similar lightening methods.

Those requirements, coupled with the limitations of using an upper I already had, make this an interesting and challenging project. I could purchase a BCM upper with their KMR and excellent ELW profile barrel and be done but that strays outside my idea for working with what I already had (a BCM 14.5″ lightweight midlength with pinned A2X). I could add a low mass carrier and adjustable gas block and done but that goes against my requirements. So, that basically leaves me hunting and pecking for lighter weight options.

The carbine currently weighs 6.13 pounds which means I will have to find a way to shed a hair over 2 ounces. My current plan is go with a rail system that is lighter than my current Fortis REV. I will probably go with the Fortis REV II since it is about 1.4 ounces lighter than my current REV and uses the standard barrel nut as an attachment point which is important since I have a pinned muzzle device. I will also try to track down the lightest Keymod forward grip I can find. Those two items alone might take me to the sub 6 promised land.

Hopefully, this will serve as some inspiration for what can be done to reduce the weight of the carbine that you already own.
Here is a breakdown of the carbine as it stands:

You can find many of the parts listed above at Brownells. I purchase a lot of my parts there because of the trust they have built with me over the years.

Get Your Dream AR15 Today!

Armageddon Tactical GMS-15 Gen I Charging Handle

I have an Armageddon Tactical GMS-15 Gen I Charging Handle in hand for review and I am very impressed so far. It has a lot to offer in terms of functionality and it is fairly innovative in terms of design.


Suppressor owners will like the GMS-15 for its special gas port and chamber. The port runs up diagonally from the underside of the charging handle to redirect the excess gas into a chamber on the handle. The chamber is a large, semi-circular void that is shaped in a way it contains the gases and slips slightly over the top of the receiver to form a better seal. It’s far simpler than it sounds.

The GMS-15 is ambidextrous in that it can be operated from both sides of the AR-15. However, you should note that it’s design requires tension on the charging handle so it will not release when pulled from the ejection port side on a locked back bolt. On the first pass that sounds like a big deal but it was accounted for with the addition of a fairly large textured button (for lack of a better term) that when pressed, provides the tension necessary. This is the only time this “button” is needed and it is fairly intuitive in its use.

The most exciting thing about the GMS-15 is it’s robust construction and mechanical nature. While other charging handles attempt to overcome the shortcomings of roll pins, the GMS-15 removes them from the equation entirely (they are present but not in any sort of load bearing way). The entire handle moves back on the shaft via a robust internal mechanism. Its rearward travel is stopped, not by a roll pin, but by a large rear lug and the internal structures.


Most of the GMS-15 is machined from billet 7075 aluminum and the latch machined from heat treated 4140 steel. The aluminum components are finished with a Teflon impregnated hard anodized finish which, according to Armageddon Tactical, ” produces a durable non-reflective surface and reduces the coefficient of friction between moving parts”. The latch is Mag Phosphate finished.

I will be continuing to work with the GMS-15 to see how it holds up and how well the gas mitigation functionality works. So far, I am very impressed. The one fly in the ointment is the locked back bolt issue but a left-handed friend felt that this was overcome easily enough that he is very interested in spending more time with it.

Check out the Armageddon Tactical GMS-15 Gen I Charging Handle.

Aero Precision M4 Barrel

Aero Precision is usually my first stop when I need an AR-15 upper or lower receiver. I have found their receivers to be an excellent value and it appears that their newest offering is going to be a great value as well. They are now serving up an M4 profile barrel that looks like a great value on paper.


The Aero Precision M4 Barrel is turned from 4150 Chrome Moly Vanadium steel and features a 1 in 7″ twist. It has an M4 profile, carbine length gas system, a 5.56 chamber, and M4 feedramps. This barrel accepts a standard .750″ gas block over it’s .0635″ gas port. I commend Aero Precision for not only listing their gas port spec but also for sizing it correctly!

The icing on the cake is the inside and out QPQ finish. QPQ is a nitriding treatment. Similar finishes are often known by their trade names like Melonite and Tennifer. QPQ is hard enough and corrosion resistant enough to stand in for chrome lining. Since it is a treatment, not a coating, it adds almost no thickness to the bore which can lead to improved accuracy.

Aero Precision would like to offer additional barrel profiles in the near future so stay tuned. Check out the new Aero Precision M4 Barrel.


X Products X-15 C Drum Magazine

XProducts X15C

X Products just introduced several new color options for their X-15 drum magazine. This compact, 50 round magazine for the AR-15 was previously only available in black. Burnt Bronze, Flat Dark Earth, Olive Drab, Desert Tan, and Zombie Green are available now. X Products will release additional colors later including Tungsten.

Check out the new X-15 C at X Products.

PSA Stealth Lowers

PSA Stealth Lower

Some of the roll marks on AR-15 lowers have become too big and too garish for my tastes. Roll marks don’t affect the function of a lower but, all things being equal, I would prefer to not have a zombie head on my lower. That is why I like the Aero Precision lowers and why this new Stealth Lower from PSA is such a great idea.

V7 Weapon Systems Ultra-Light Port Door and Extreme Environment Gas Tube

In the past, I have said on these pages that carbon fiber and titanium both automatically make things cooler. Well, I think you can add another material to that list – inconel.

V7 Weapon Systems just released their Extreme Environment Gas Tube which is made from heat treated inconel. Inconel is an alloy that is notoriously difficult to machine and shape but offers extreme (that word is actually fitting here) resistance to heat and corrosion. I suspect that these gas tubes are extremely difficult to make and I know from talking to V7 Weapon Systems that it took them quite a while to get these to market. Does everyone need an inconel gas tube? No, but if you do a lot of full auto or suppressed shooting, it may be worth looking into.

They also just released their latest weight saving part, the Ultra-Light Port Door. It is machined from hard anodized 7075 T6 aluminum and has a stainless steel ball detent and roll pin.

Check out V7 Weapon Systems.

V7 Port Door

Review: Trijicon TA33 – The Most RDS-Like Magnified Optic Available?

This review is going to be a little different than most. I will spend just almost as much time talking about other optics as I will the Trijicon TA33 ACOG which is the subject of the review but please bear with me. I have a point… I think.

The holy grail of carbine optics is an optic that provides red dot sight (RDS) like speed and performance coupled with the ability to ID targets and shoot effectively through most or all of the useful range of the 5.56 cartridge. As with anything we hang on our carbines, the grail optic should also be as compact and lightweight as possible. Most shooters immediately think of low power, variable magnification optics like a 1-4X style scope largely because of the ability to dial the magnification down to 1X which they assume will offer the most RDS-like experience.

I think they may be barking up the wrong tree or at least missing some of what makes an RDS great. The most RDS-like magnified optic is not a variable power optic at all. It is a compact, lightweight, fixed 3X magnification scope called the TA33 ACOG from Trijicon. It might not be the grail optic but it is a real gem.

Trijicon TA33

There is More to an RDS Than Just 1X

I have written before about how the reason the RDS is the default optic for fighting guns is not just that it is 1X. It has just as much to do with the fact that the RDS has long eye relief (basically infinite) and the most forgiving eye box possible. This is what makes it forgiving of the awkward positions and the less than ideal shooting situations that come with defensive shooting. This point is largely missed or ignored by novice shooters.

That is not to say that you can’t be fast with a 1-4X (or 1-6X/1-8X). You certainly can, especially if you choose your 1-4X optic wisely and practice. When you are standing or walking through a course of fire, you likely won’t see much difference at all in your times between a 1-4X and an RDS. However, when you add in some awkward shooting positions, a full on tactical tuxedo (plate carrier, chest rig, etc), and barrier shooting you can start to see the RDS rise to the top. This is due to how forgiving the RDS is of the inconsistent eye placement that comes along with this type of dynamic (forgive me for using that tactical buzzword) shooting.

When you are standing, it is easy to drop your eye into more or less the same position every time behind an optic. Now go to prone. You will likely find that you are now closer to your optic. The same goes for barrier kneeling. Go to some form of roll-over prone or supine position. Your eye is now probably offset to the optic slightly (or at least you are straining to get it centered) and it is probably either closer or further depending on the position. None of this matters with an RDS but with a magnified optic, you have eye box considerations to deal with. It takes time to hunt for that sweet spot to place your eye behind your optic. That is time that would be better spent shooting if you optic allows it.

TA33 on barrier

If your shooting involves awkward positions like this, you will be thankful for the forgiving eye relief and eye box. Photo credit: Eric H

Enter the TA33 ACOG

The TA33 may lack 1X capability but it makes up for it with a variety of eye catching reticles along with the most forgiving eye box and eye relief of any magnified optic I have ever tried. It also happens to be extremely lightweight, compact, and durable like an RDS. It even has a few other little tricks up its sleeve that further cement it as the most RDS-like magnified optic available.

The eye relief on the TA33 is absolutely amazing. It is useable from as close as roughly 1″ to as far as 7”. That sort of eye relief is utterly amazing and while it isn’t the infinite eye relief of an RDS, it is might as well be for the way a carbine is used. If you can get your cheek on the stock, you can probably get a sight picture. This forgiving eye relief means that whether you are nose-to-charging-handle or shooting from your back, you won’t have to spend time hunting for the proper eye relief.

Trijicon TA33GH Reticle

The eye box is equally amazing. There is a massive area behind the TA33 that will still allow a full sight picture through the optic. Even when you are so offset that the view through the optic is partially or even fully blacked out, the eye catching reticle is still visible and will allow you to get a hit at shorter distances. Let that sink in a bit. Even when the view through the TA33 is obscured because your eye placement isn’t perfect, you may still be able to see the reticle and get a hit.

We have established that the TA33 is forgiving in terms of eye relief and eye box but the RDS comparisons don’t stop there. The TA33 weighs around 10 ounces if you replace the heavy TA60 mount that Trijicon includes with the optic. That is about 4 ounces more than a Micro Aimpoint (6 oz) and about 2 ounces less than full size Aimpoints (12 oz). It is typically at least 6 ounces lighter than most 1-4X style optics with their mounts. So, even its weight is very RDS-like.

It also happens to be very compact like an RDS. It is about 6” long and 1.25” wide at its widest point (the objective end). Compare that to the 10+ inch length of a typical 1-4X optic.

FOV: Buzz Kill or Blessing?

Right about now, you are pretty fired up about the TA33. You are probably already cruising the Trijicon website and pulling out your credit card when… your TA33 buzz is killed by the field of view (FOV) numbers that you are seeing listed in the specs (3.7 degrees, 19.3 feet at 100 yards). Step down off the ledge. It isn’t as bad as it looks. It is definitely tight (the tighest of any optic I have owned) but the limited FOV actually works in the TA33’s favor. Let me explain.

A magnified optic with a 1x setting lets you shoot with both eyes open easily because the image through the optic is close enough to what you see with your unaided eye that your brain can stitch the two images together. In that sense, 1-4X optics are very RDS-like. However, the TA33 has a fixed magnification of 3X. The image that you see through it is vastly different than your unaided eye and your brain will not stitch them together but it can rapidly switch between them or even ignore it all together!

The limited field of view coupled with the compact size and generous eye relief of the TA33 are actually what make it so fast up close. The compact size and long eye relief ensure that you can see around and past the optic to allow for a fuller view of what is in front of you beyond the TA33. The limited field of view through the TA33 gives you less visual input when you are up close which makes it easy to ignore the view through the optic and look past it (target focus) with both eyes open, super imposing the bright reticle on your target, like you would with an RDS. It is essentially works like an occluded eye sight that you don’t actually have to occlude.

Trijicon TA33 Top Down

If you do need to take some time to refine your shot, you simple allow the eye behind the TA33 to focus on the image through the optic. It happens in a flash, especially if you practice. This is basically what Trijicon calls the Bindon Aiming Concept (BAC). It can be done with just about any optic made but Trijicon has basically mastered it with their eye catching reticles. I have owned TA31 and TA11 ACOGs which are both great in their own way, but the smaller overall size and tighter FOV really lets the TA33 excel at the BAC over those models. The TA33 is the BAC fully realized.

Other Considerations

The above has really focused in on the RDS-like quality of the TA33 which is really just scratching the surface.  There are a few other things about it that I should note:

  • The available reticles are all very usable. My favorite is the horseshoe since it seems to offer the best compromise between precision and speed.
  • The BDC reticles are more of a guide than a hard and fast rule but I have found them to be accurate enough to get hits on steel at extended distances.
  • The glass in the TA33 is typical Trijicon glass which is to say it is bright and clear from edge to edge. The TA33 is a 3X30 optic so it has a massive 10mm exit pupil which allows it to excel in low light.
  • Some people tend to recoil in disgust at the price of ACOGs. I have never understood that. They are not inexpensive but they are so good optically, that they have always struck me as a solid value compared to other optics with similar quality glass.
  • A number of manufacturers make replacement mounts for the TA33 and I highly recommend that you pick one up. Some of them will bring the total weight under 10 ounces and the pick of the litter is the Bobro high mount that is sold through Trijicon. It preserves the OEM mount height which helps the BDC match up better and helps clear a fixed front sight base.
  • The TA33 is one of the few ACOGs that can accept normal scope caps. That is a huge plus if you want to protect your investment and especially if you want to use it as an occluded eye sight in close quarters or low light situations.
  • One of the best things about ACOGs that no one talks about is their integrated mounts. I like that I don’t have to worry about leveling them.

The TA33 certainly isn’t perfect…

  • Trijicon’s dual illumination system is one of the best things about ACOGs and one of the worst things about ACOGs at the very same time. It is great because it doesn’t need batteries and because it self-adjusts pretty seamlessly… to a point. If you are in a dark area, looking out into a light area, you might find that your reticle washes out. The same is true if you are trying to use in close quarters with a flashlight. I find that the circle dot is eye catching enough when “blacked out” to help but it still takes a moment to find the reticle. This is part of why so many shooters use offset iron sights or an offset red dot sight in conjunction with their ACOGs.
  • I already covered that the tight FOV can be played as a strength of the TA33 but there may be times when you will wish you could see more through the optic.
  • The TA60 mount that the compact ACOGs like the TA33 come with is not a great fit for such compact, lightweight optics. The quality is good and it is bull strong but it is massive and heavy. You can knock almost 2 ounces off the 11.64 ounce total weight by purchasing an after market mount and gain QD capability. That said, even with the TA60, this is far lighter than most magnified optics.

Trijicon TA33GH

Wrap Up

The TA33 may not have a true 1X magnification setting but I think that an argument can be made that it is the most RDS-like magnified optic available based on its compact size, low weight, extremely forgiving eye relief, and massive eye box. It deftly straddles the line between RDS and variable, low magnification optic in way that no other optic can. Its extreme versatility makes it a solid choice for the general purpose carbine. The TA33 is my favorite ACOG made to date.

Eventually, I would like to try one of the TA44S 1.5×16 ACOGs to see where it fits in and how it performs versus an RDS but for now, my long time love affair with the TA33 continues.

Check out the Trijicon TA33 ACOG at Brownells.

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