Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

Over at Gunmart Blog, they’ve always been good to me.  From pretty early on they started linking to posts of mine in their Daily Firearms News updates.  I think they played a huge part in getting my search rank up to where it is now.  In fact, they’ve referred 953 (as of this post) views to my blog since I started, making them second only to Google Search.

When I heard that they had launched a new website specifically for their “Daily Firearm News” I had to spread the word.  The website is called The Gun Feed.  Over on the new website they will be providing links to firearm news, articles, videos, reviews, and more, from every part of the web.

Go give it a look.  I’m sure you’ll find something over there worth reading or watching.

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As some of you may already know, I own a 22lr conversion kit for my AR15.  When I bought the kit it came with one 25 round magazine and I went ahead and bought a spare.  With the 25 round magazines however, I found it difficult to use the bipod; the magazine rested on the table rather than the butt of the rifle.  Sometimes I had to extend the legs on the bipod just to achieve proper sight alignment.  I wanted something shorter that was still compatible with my conversion kit.

Black Dog Machine MagazineThe Black Dog Machine 22lr X-Form magazine was the solution.  It came in several different capacities and colors, but I opted for the shortest they had (10 rounds) in black since I planned to paint it anyway.  It was reasonably priced (in a time when gun parts and accessories are hard to come by) and it shipped much faster than I expected.

At first glance it isn’t all that impressive.  Its very lightweight (the magazines by CMMG were weighted) and made of pretty thin plastic.  But that is far overshadowed by its exceptional performance.

Loading the CMMG mags is a pain.  It takes forever to drop 25 22lr rounds in them and the spring is extremely firm.  With the Black Dog magazine, that is not an issue.  The spring, while firm, is easy to depress enough to load.  Even loading the magazine to full capacity is easy and there’s hardly any resistance.  You would expect a light spring to not feed properly, but I’ve yet to have a fail to feed (granted 22lr rounds aren’t as large as other calibers).

(2) AR15 22lr MagsAnother pleasant surprise was that the bolt catch worked.  According to the website and some information I found online, the Black Dog magazines didn’t hold open the chamber when using the CMMG conversion kit after firing the last round.  This information was wrong in my case; it works very well.  It even locks into the receiver better than my CMMG mags which occassionally require extra effort to fully insert.

Overall I think its a fantastic product.  The 10 round capacity is much better for my needs.  1) It keeps me from blasting through as much ammo.  2) It let’s me use my bipod without the magazine interfering.  25 and 30 round mags are great and I very much enjoy the ones I have, but for target practice and general use, a smaller capacity magazine will do the job for me most times.

If you’re looking for a magazine that will work with your CMMG 22lr conversion kit, definitely consider one by Black Dog.  You will not be disappointed.  My only regret is buying just one . . .

**  Updated on 4/9/13 – Added pictures and links  **

I’ve been meaning to talk about these things since Christmas but I kept forgetting about it.  Today I came across them again over at The Sportsmans Guide and it triggered my memory.  Since The Guide has them back in stock once again, I’ll give a brief little review so you know whether or not you’d like to get any for yourself.

(2) 20-round AR15 magazines coupled together

While I haven’t put a considerable amount of ammunition through them, I can tell they are well built.  They’re quality magazines that haven’t failed to feed yet.  They’re easy to load and even work pretty well with stripper clips.  They come with couplers that hold two of them together.  Swapping mags becomes as simple as dropping the two down and sliding them either left or right to insert the second.

The magazines are lightweight and can actually fit in my front shirt pocket.  Even when coupled together they take up only slightly more room than a 30-round mag.  The difference being that when linked together these are wider than a 30-round mag is so they don’t fit in most magazine pouches.

Using two 20-round magazines gives you 40 round capacity for only a slight amount of extra work.  In addition, should 30-round mags ever get banned, these fall in with slightly lower capacity.  Doubt that would help considering they want us using only 5 or 6 rounds, but hey, smaller magazines are easier to hide . . .

Regardless of where you stand on the magazine ban-wagon, for $30 (less if you’re a member) you can get 120 rounds of magazine capacity.  That’s really hard to beat considering most 30-round mags are going for around $30 each!  This deal probably wont be available long, so grab them while you can.  I can assure you that you wont be disappointed.

Of course if you want to go big then you can always buy this instead . . .

Its been a long time since I’ve purchased a dedicated video camera.  I’ve been using my Samsung GalaxyS for videos recently and it works great, but it just can’t do what I want.  So when I started looking for a camcorder, I went to Best Buy.

The salespeople were nowhere to be seen, so I started looking around and playing with the various models on my own.  I tried camcorders by Sony, Panasonic, and more, but I stopped and spent most of my time in front of the Samsung models.  I own 2 Samsung tvs, a Samsung phone, a Samsung Tablet, and now a Samsung camcorder.  I love their products and they’re an easy company to deal with.

I wasn’t able to test video playback in the store, but I did get to look through all the settings and try the zoom and image stabilization.  Focus was very fast and I was able to zoom the entire length of the store and read the price tags.  I was impressed with how it worked and especially the $179 price tag.  So now I get to test all the features.

Pros:

  • Easy to use:  I was able to pick it up and start recording as soon as I opened the box.  Nothing complicated about it.
  • Can take pictures as well as video:  Being able to take both video and pictures is pretty handy.  See below for quality comparison.
  • HD video (1280 X 720):  Even after editing, converting, and compressing for Youtube, quality is still impressive.  Straight out of the camera its simply incredible
  • HDMI output:  Almost all tvs now have an HDMI input, so having HDMI as an output on the camera means I can just plug it in and watch my videos in true HD.
  • MP4 video files:  In the world of file types, the MP4 seems to be the most modern.  Most phones use them now and in my experience its been easy to edit without losing much quality.  I’m no tech guru, but I am pretty certain the MP4 is superior to most other video file types out there.
  • 52X optical zoom:  Optical zoom is always superior to digital zoom because digital zoom distorts the image.  Optical zoom (from my understanding) uses only lenses and glass to zoom.  One reason I love my DSLR is the interchangeable zoom lenses; no need to rely on digital enhancement to see farther.
  • Image stabilization:  As I mention in the cons below, this thing is too light.  Having the camcorder automatically stabilize the shot for you (or try to at least) is a huge benefit.
  • Accepts SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards:  Any time you have several options its usually a good thing.  After years of going through cameras and phones, I have several of these cards laying around.  I still bought a new one though since 8GB was only $8.
  • Can still record while charging/no battery:  While not practical, I have already used this capability twice.  I can sit on the couch and record things inside or out the window, even when the battery is dead, as long as I have it plugged up.
  • USB Charging (includes wall outlet):  USB charging is standard on most devices now.  The days of product specific chargers is gone (thank goodness!).  I can charge this thing anywhere I go (new cars are even equipped with USB ports now) and that’s always a plus.
  • Removeable/replacable battery:  No product should ever be made without replaceable batteries (Apple I’m looking at you).  Products that are unable to outlive their battery life are pointless and being able to change batteries allows me to carry a spare (I have 4 for my DSLR) when traveling.  There are few things worse than witnessing something amazing only to find out you have no charged batteries to record it with.
  • Built-in speakers for playback:  There’s nothing worse than catching your buddy just as he trips and falls on the ice and being unable to play back his f-bomb and cries of pain.  There’s no downside to including speakers, yet some companies still don’t.
  • Stereo microphones:  Why not?  Guys always brag about their stereo systems and how impressive it sounds, but all that is wasted if your videos are recorded with only one mic.
  • Lens-cover reminder:  Its easy to tell when the cover is on; the screen stays black.  Sometimes though it takes a second or two for that to register in your head.  Having a message flash on the screen is a simple reminder that doesn’t get in the way at all.  All companies should have little features like this in my opinion.

Cons:

  • Focus is not as quick (or accurate) as I had thought:  It sometimes takes more than one or two seconds for the camera to figure out where to focus.  And it doesn’t always know what I’m looking at.
  • Small, even for my small hands:  My hand wraps all the way around the body and reaching both the record button and the zoom require me to bend my fingers more than a comfortable amount.  Finding the photo button is also a challenge for my fingers.
  • Light:  If firearms have taught me anything, its that weight isn’t always a bad thing.  If something is really light and held in your hands at arms length, its difficult to hold steady for most people.
  • LCD playback is not as clear as actual video:  The LCD display obviously isn’t HD, so playback isn’t going to match the actual quality.  Unfortunately this sometimes makes it difficult to see if the video you just shot is good or not.
  • Playback is sorta confusing at first:  You’ve gotta press and hold to the right more than 3 seconds to activate fast forward.  Tapping right or left only once goes to the next video, even when viewing playback full screen.  Stopping fast forward or reverse requires that you press “OK”.  Pressing the opposite direction reverses the playback.  Just a little confusing initially.
  • Mini USB:  The current standard for phones is Micro USB, and I personally think that should’ve been carried over to this.  Mini USB hasn’t been standard since the PS3 was released.  Having all my cables utilize the same connections makes things a lot simpler but I can live with it like it is.
  • Can’t close the LCD screen while charging:  This is probably to help stabilize the camcorder itself to prevent falling or leaning on the cable.  Unfortunately it takes up twice as much space this way so charging is a little less convenient.  Maybe I’m nitpicking here but I would prefer if it could charge while closed.
  • Have to charge batteries IN the camcorder itself:  This is only inconvenient if you intend to use multiple batteries.  My DSLR uses a seperate charging device for the batteries which means I can be charging one while I’m using another.  There are probably devices built for this purpose that you can buy, but it should’ve come with the camcorder itself in my opinion.

Neutral:

  • Auto upload to Youtube:  I honestly haven’t even tried using this feature because I haven’t had internet at my dad’s.  But I also wouldn’t use it because I like to check everything on a computer first so I can edit anything if I need to.
  • Pictures (at a distance) are not that sharp:  Definitely not HD quality but its not a DSLR or anything.  It does what its designed for and nothing more.  Pictures of things close up are really good but zooming at all diminishes the quality significantly.  See below for comparison.

In a day or two I’ll add I’ve added some photos and videos to let you judge the image/recording quality for yourself.  But until then, Hopefully my review can at least give you an idea of what the Samsung F90 camcorder has to offer.  I’m definitely pleased with it and think I made a good investment.  As time goes on and I get more and more videos uploaded, perhaps it will speak for itself.

If you’ve used this product for yourself and have an opinion of it, please feel free to share it.  I didn’t find any reviews of it at all online before I bought it, so let’s get some up.  Whether you love it or hate it, let me know in the comments below.

Taken with Samsung F90BN under ideal circumstances

Taken with Samsung F90BN under ideal circumstances

Taken with Sony a300 DSLR under ideal circumstances

Taken with Sony a300 DSLR under ideal circumstances

Make sure you watch this video on the best quality setting if you want to judge the recording quality.

**  More photos and videos to come  **

I don’t talk about my job that much (I have my reasons for that) but today I’m going to a little just to give some backdrop to this product.  The people I work with are constantly breaking things on a day to day basis and its my job to find the parts and pieces they need in order to fix and maintain everything.

One thing we go through quite often are flashlights.  Just about every employee has one and sometimes they get lost, dropped, run over, etc.  They break and its my job to find replacements without spending a fortune.  I’ve been doing this job since July and the only flashlights we’ve found to be extremely reliable are those that are made by NEBO.

I’m not authorized to purchase a flashlight for myself though.  I don’t really need one because I sit behind a desk and do computer/paper work most of the day.  But a few months ago I managed to repair one that had broken inside using pieces from several different broken flashlights I had in my desk drawer.  Its an older REDLINE model and its not in the best shape, but it cost the company nothing and I now have a flashlight when I need one.  I keep it secured on my belt using one of the NEBO flashlight holsters that I bought with my own money.

Flashlight in holster REDLINE Flashlight

The REDLINE flashlights that we purchase use 3 AAA batteries.  They have 4 settings:  100%, 50%, 10%, and Strobe.  Mine only utilizes 100%, 50%, and strobe because some aspect of it is still broken.  Being able to change the light mode is helpful for battery life because you don’t always need 100% brightness to see what you’re doing.  Even though my light is partially broken, it doesn’t seem to suffer any loss of battery life compared to the others we have.

As far as durability is concerned, these things are beast.  They’ve been run over, left out in the weather, and dropped more times than I can count.  I’ve seen them fall violently to the concrete and suffer only scratches.  The only one that has ever broken was the one I have now and that was an internal component.

These flashlights are also really easy to work.  You could argue that all flashlights should be easy to operate, but I would respond that most don’t have 4 different modes that are activated with only one button.  To change the mode you’re using, all you need to do is cycle the light on an off within a second or two; half-pressing the button also seems to work for me.  If you like to use your flashlight in a certain mode you can leave it on that setting and then when you turn it on next time (provided its been off at least 5 or 6 seconds) it will still be there.

Another useful feature these flashlights offer is a magnetic base.  Many times you can let the metal hold the light for you, freeing up both hands.  Its also useful on occasion to reach into relatively small holes in order retrieve metal objects such as screws or bolts.  Its not an incredibly powerful magnet but its strong enough to hold the flashlight up.

The number of lumens these lights provide change between each version.  The one I have is 220 lumens at 100% but I think some of the newer ones we bought were 230 or 240.  I suggest you check the website if you’re interested in what the current models provide.  In addition to the flashlight I covered in this post, NEBO offers many others including some that mount to firearms.  Definitely give the website a look if you’re in the market for a new flashlight.  They’re well worth it.

I’ve been a fan of dot sights since I first began customizing my Mini-14 almost two years ago.  They’re great.  You get a single point sight that does not require lining up a front and rear sight.  This allows extremely fast target acquisition   Most also feature customizable reticles that allow you to change both color and shape.

My first red dot sight, made by Aim Sport Inc, wasn’t that impressive however.  I went more with cost than quality when I bought it.  It suffered significantly in sunlight due to glare and later in its life it became near impossible to zero.  On a few occasions  it even had some double vision.  These problems eventually became too much and when I built my AR15, I decided to invest in better optics.

My next choice (currently installed on my AR) was far above the first in terms of quality.  I knew that I needed something that would prevent glare.  I also needed something strong that would last.  But I still didn’t have a huge budget.  I ended up purchasing a red dot scope made by CP Tactical for $49.99.  I think it is the perfect match of cost and quality.

Not only does this thing look cool mounted on top of my AR, but it performs spectacularly.  There are 4 different reticle shapes and it works in both red or green.  Each color also has 5 brightness settings to better control reticle size and visibility.  Windage adjustments are extremely simple and clearly marked on the unit itself.  It even came with flip up covers for both the front and rear of the scope.

Zeroing the sight is pretty easy at 50 yards.  Beyond that however, it gets tough.  The reticle inside the scope covers about 4″ of a target at 100 yards.  Making precision shots at that distance is fairly difficult.  But at 50 yards its pretty simple and you can clearly see the changes you make to the sight from shot to shot.

This thing has also proven itself to be very sturdy.  The other day, right after I adjusted the sights, one of my bipod legs collapsed and the whole rifle fell hard onto the bench.  My attempted catch ended up causing the scope to take most of the fall.  But when I set it back up and slapped a magazine in, it shot in the exact same area as before.  I was very impressed.

And to top things off, its very easy on batteries.  My first red dot sight chewed through batteries left and right.  If I went to the range I always made sure to have at least two spare batteries with me.  With the new one, I’m still using the battery I put in it this past September.  Evidently the 5 brightness settings really help manage battery consumption.

So to summarize  if you can’t decide on optics for your rifle, definitely consider a red dot scope by CP Tactical.  I don’t think you can beat its quality for the low price tag.  I’ve been very pleased with mine and I don’t think anyone would regret buying one of these things.

I mentioned in a previous post, and over on the My Guns page, that my Ruger Mini-14 is wearing a stock made by ATI.  Its a Desert Tan side-folding stock that features removable rails on all sides of the handguard.  I also bought the extended 6″ aluminum rails for the top and bottom, but I don’t use the 2 on the sides at all.

You can find these stocks just about everywhere online including The Sportsman’s Guide, Natchez Shooting Supplies, and even over on ebay.  Two of my local gun shops even keep a few.  I shopped around for the best deal and found it was just as easy to go directly to ATI and order from them.  They were even offering free shipping at that time.

They are available in both Black and Desert Tan and you can buy them with all the extended rails, aluminum rails, folding stock, or fixed stock.  Offering so many different options was a great move on ATI’s part I believe; its one reason I chose them over other manufacturers like Tapco.

This stock impressed me straight out of the box.  For the price I didn’t think it would be made with this quality.  I thought I may need to do a little sanding or adjusting to get it to fit correctly but it fit perfect.  The entire stock is made from a type of heavy plastic, but the screws, nuts, and other hardware were indeed metal.  The rails that came with mine were plastic but I ordered the 6″ aluminum top and bottom rails to upgrade mine.  The instructions were simple to follow and I had it installed in under 30 minutes.

The Strikeforce stock was a good bit heavier than the Federal Ordinance stock that came on mine but without accessories attached it is still light enough to easily carry.  When it had the bipod, vertical grip, and red dot sight however, it was a behemoth to lug around and shooting it freehand quickly made you find some place to use that bipod.

Something I really like, and later implemented with my AR, is the adjustable buttstock.  Being able to slide the stock in or out is great when adjusting to different shooters.  I always preferred shooting it from about midway extended (I have short arms) whereas Aaron and Ryan seemed to prefer fully extended when they shot.  ATI steps it up and gives you an adjustable cheekrest for the buttstock as well.  I found that useful as well.

image

The way the stock folds sideways though is kinda strange and awkward to carry, but decent for storage.  The original Federal Ordinance stock folded under the rest of the gun (unless you had an extended mag installed) and was completely out of the way and nearly invisible when folded.  I’m not sure I would ever want to shoot it from the folded position but since I like options, I’m glad the Strikeforce stock gives you the ability to choose.

The only thing I really don’t like about the stock is that the upper part of the handguard is screwed onto the lower half.  This wouldn’t be and issue except that it requires a lot more effort as well as tools in order to disassemble the rifle.  In addition, with the upper rail being mounted only on the upper handguard, its possible (while not that likely) that the sight’s zero could change if any of the screws aren’t fully tightened or happen to loosen during a shooting session.

Its also worth mentioning that with the Strikeforce stock, its a bit more difficult to break open the trigger guard for disassembly.  The pistol grip blocks some of the access used to pry the guard open.  I don’t consider this a problem though because I’ve always had trouble breaking the trigger guard loose.  It just means it’ll take a little extra time and effort.

Overall I feel this is a fantastic product.  I’ve recommended the ATI Strikeforce stock more than a few times over the past year to a few other Mini owners.  Its a great value and allows complete customization of your Ruger Mini-14.  Definitely give ATI a look if you’re in the market for a new stock.