It is not possible to cover everything on the market in great detail, and much of what is on the market simply does not warrant an entire article. The goal of this article is to make the reader aware of some new or newish products that have some merit, and to offer a brief review of each. Every product reviewed here is U.S.-made.
TORREY PINES LOGIC T12 THERMAL VIEWER
Anyone whose interest in thermal sights and viewing devices is dampened by the assumption that they are expensive, is, well, right. Even mid-level equipment can run over $4,000. If money is no issue, it’s easy to get up over $10 or even $20 K.
At under $750 depending on model, the Torrey Pines Logic T12 thermal viewer is Picatinny-rail ready and compact enough to be mounted on a rifle with very little weight or bulk penalty. A simple reticle can be turned on and off, but this device is intended as a viewer and not a gun sight, so there is no provision for adjusting the reticle for zero.
The device is small, so it follows that the viewing screen is not large. Still, I was able to identify animals and people, and objects having a temperature differential to the surroundings. Viewing a parking lot, it was easy to see which cars had been there awhile and which had just arrived.
A handprint on a wall or car window remains for minutes depending on conditions, but a thermal device treats a window as surface only and does not “see” through it. Watching guns heat up as they were being shot was entertaining, and I found some non-shooting practical uses for it around the house and shop, such as checking ceiling lights for overheated ballasts.
For many who examined it, mentally decoupling the concept of “thermal” from “night vision” was difficult. Most were surprised that it has equal utility day or night, as it “sees” only temperature differentials—lighting conditions are irrelevant.
Mounted on a rifle, it is easy to scan thermally without losing your sight picture through a red-dot sight. Depending on where it is mounted, you accomplish this with a slight shift of the head or a simple shift of the eyes with no head movement. As the image is on a screen, you don’t need to align the eye with it to look “through” it as with a traditional optic.
The T12 is not the be-all, end-all thermal device. It’s probably not in use by SEALs or Rangers. It is useful within its limitations and is a way to venture into thermal imaging without having to sell half your guns.
TORREY PINES LOGIC, INC
ELITE TACTICAL SYSTEMS MAGAZINES
Twenty years ago, I’d have turned up my nose at clear magazines as gimmickry. Now I consider them almost indispensable, and the Lancer AR-15 clear magazine has been my preferred ammo gas tank for a few years.
For my Glock 43, I have been wishing for spare magazines of a greater capacity than eight rounds, which can be had by using any of several “plus-2” kits being offered. These kits replace the magazine base with an extended one. Most include a new spring and follower. I have now tried them all, and for me they all work fine. But I wanted more than eight rounds.
A friend directed me to ETS for 12-round Glock 43 magazines. As a bonus they are clear, and also offered in seven- and nine-round capacities. I’ve been using the nine and 12 rounders for a few months, and several hundred rounds later, they are still working perfectly. With no metal liner or feed lips, they may hold up for decades and thousands of rounds. That’s the problem with long-term testing: It takes a long time. So far, so good, and at this point I am confident in them, although I could not seat the seven-rounder unless I downloaded it to six rounds.
ETS also makes clear magazines for the full-sized 9mm and .40-caliber Glocks and the .380 Glock 42. Clear AR-15 magazines are available too, with one model having a twist-to-lock-two-together feature. Some may find this useful, while others may roll their eyes. The extra material for this feature interferes with some tighter magazine pouches, but ETS also offers AR magazines without it. One truly “wish I’d thought of that” available upgrade is a magazine follower with a tritium vial in it, so ammo supply can be read even in pitch darkness. Very clever.
ELITE TACTICAL SYSTEMS
STEALTH GEAR HOLSTER
Having been swept along with the current to Glock 43 ownership, I went through several holsters that were not stable, inconvenient or unsafe in use, or just had the wrong rake for my preference.
I ran across the Stealth Gear site and spotted the rake angle I like, about 20 degrees forward, and ordered two different offerings identical except for the backing, or against-the-body material. Both styles, Vent Core and Revolution, are made for comfort and ventilation. Both are IWB (Inside the Waist Band), using plastic clips to secure them to the belt. Donning and doffing them are easy enough, and once in place they are very secure.
I settled on the Revolution, with its perforated backing having about the consistency of leather. The Vent Core might be better in muggy climes. Both can be adjusted by moving the retention clips around. Screws should be LocTited before use. Their double mag pouches, one IWB and one OWB, are larger than some but effective and comfy. Stealth Gear also makes Appendix IWB models for a wide range of pistols.
STEALTH GEAR HOLSTER
BBs FOR G43
When I select ammunition for a carry gun, my criteria might be a little different than some, with terminal ballistics rated last. My order of importance is:
- Reliability: should be a given but must be tested.
- Shootability: low flash, noise, and recoil, the last having its own effect on reliability in many cases.
- Terminal ballistics.
I bought some Wilson Combat Pinnacle 9mm ammo, which uses the excellent all-copper 115-grain Barnes TAC-XP bullet. It got the nod for having the lowest velocity rating I could find in loads using this particular bullet.
Over several years of FBI Protocol ballistic gel shooting, I’ve seen the Barnes all-copper hollow points test effectively in all calibers. Many companies loading them push them to the ragged edge. Barnes advises that the 9mm 115-grain TAC-XP works well down to 850 fps. Loading this bullet style smokin’ hot can actually cause fragmentation and reduced penetration. Further, the shooter suffers more noise, flash, and recoil. Some guns may be cycled so hard and fast that reliability is compromised.
This “Optimized for Compacts” load is advertised at 1,060 fps in a four-in barrel (runs 1,008 in my G43’s 3 7/16-inch tube). Compared to some other loads using the same bullet, it is milder in all aspects and plenty accurate enough, to the tune of three-inch five-shot groups at 15 yards.
NOVESKE KX5 FLASH SUPPRESSOR
Strange but true: The worse my hearing gets, the more sensitive I am to loud noises. Even with plugs and muffs, when in the midst of 30 officers shooting AR-15s, I often find that my hands automatically migrate to my muffs in a subconscious attempt to further mute the noise.
AR-15s are tremendously loud no matter the barrel length or ammo type used. I detest muzzle brakes on any kind of patrol rifle or other “serious use” rifle that may be fired without hearing protection, worse yet in a closed space or with others around.
We simply do not allow them in our Patrol Rifle classes, as they are at best a discourtesy to firing-line mates, and their concussion and high-velocity particle blast constitute a genuine health hazard.
The other end of the spectrum is a sound suppressor. If only every gun in every class could have one!
Somewhere in the middle is one of the few aftermarket muzzle devices I have come to appreciate over the years, and actually encourage students to have: the Noveske KX3 flash suppressor. A few years ago, Noveske Rifle Works started offering the slightly downsized KX5.
In observing them on the line, I find that the KX5 is the equal of the larger KX3 in taking the painful peak off the rifle’s report, from the shooter’s/uprange perspective. Placing myself between two shooters with 16-inch barrels, one with a standard flash hider and one with a KX5, the Noveske-equipped carbine has a noticeably reduced muzzle blast.
Noveske long ago submitted this device to BATFE for testing, and it was declared “not a sound suppressor,” as the overall sound signature is not reduced; it is just rechanneled downrange. That’s a good place for it.
In night-shoot flash-hider testing, I have been downrange (safely to the side) of rifles equipped with a variety of devices, and from this perspective the Noveske device is easily the loudest (and it does work well as a flash hider).
I suggest that taking the peak off the noise for the shooter is a good thing, both health-wise and tactically, and that channeling it downrange toward the bad guys might also be of use. The KXs are not just for carbines. I also find them useful on bolt guns. MSRP of the KX5 and KX3 is $125 each.
NOVESKE RIFLEWORKS LLC
SAVVY SNIPER SLING
I confess to being a sling snob with a low tolerance for overly long, complicated slings with heavy, bulky, noisy metal parts. The Savvy Sniper M4 Lite model I’ve been using (MSRP $35 to $45) has simple strap ends and a sliding length adjustment that is uncomplicated and intuitive in use. A grab loop of sling material is easily found and slid up or down to make the sling instantly tighter or looser.
Savvy Sniper was recently awarded a contract to make slings for the Marine Corps. The Marine model is a little “complicated-er” than the M4 Lite with slightly less range of adjustment and a bungee section. Savvy Sniper slings are made from a smooth, fine-weave material that is not abrasive to the back of the neck, as some slings are.
JX TACTICAL AR-15 HOLSTER
This product has limited application, but I think certain individuals will make very good use of it. It is to an M4 what a push-button retention holster is to a pistol. Although it can attach to MOLLE anywhere, it is intended to hold your carbine for quick access between about solar-plexus and belly-button level. A proper and properly fitting tac vest or MOLLE’d armor carrier is necessary to keep it stable.
Longer, heavier weapons will be problematic. A not overly accessorized 16-inch carbine is good to go, but a 20-inch heavy barreled, scoped rifle with a suppressor is probably not.
Attach it to your vest, drop the carbine into it magazine first, and a retention lug clips over the trigger guard to keep everything in place. Bringing the carbine into play is as easy as getting a firing grasp on the pistol grip, pushing the release button, and lifting the carbine out. The “holster” part can be swiveled on its base into several firmly detented positions from horizontal to vertical either way. In no way does it preclude use of a sling.
Depending on gun length and vehicle size, it seems a viable way to drive with a carbine readily available. At $99 retail, it is not inexpensive.