Saturday, 02 June 2012 09:04

S&W merges Sigma and SD line to create SD-VE?

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For those wondering why S&W had a Sigma and an SD line of very similar products. To me it looks like they are merging the two from this announcement yesterday:

http://smithwesson.hqcampaign.com/ps/introducing-the-new-smith-wesson-sd9-ve-and-sd40-ve-available-shipping-now-consumer

 

Thursday, 10 May 2012 15:02

My Blade-Tech factory tour

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About a week ago I dropped by Blade-Tech to pick up  holster. Their customer service is stellar and they had the holster done (at no charge) in a day, even cutting it to custom length for me. Anyway, you can read the details here: http://fortreg.com/firearms/?p=2149. But, this is about the tour...

Blade-Tech kindly offered to give me a factory tour which I gladly took them up on. For those that don't know Blade-Tech is located in Puyallup, WA (kind of between Seattle and Tacoma).

I was first struck by the size of the facility. I parked and walked up to a building marked BladeTech.  That was the first suite which was not retail accessible. I kept walking...and walking...about four suite lengths. That's when it dawned on me--The whole strip  was Blade-Tech! They have grown quite a bit since they first opened up Lakewood, WA!

They currently occupy approximately 30K square feet. They were literally expanding (knocking out walls, etc)  into 45K as I took the tour with eyes on expanding even more. If you were thinking that they are a small shop, you would be wrong!

I didn't realize it, but they have two knife divisions and a fire safety equipment division. They build soft goods, for example fire extinguisher carriers.

Speaking of soft goods, they are expand that line into the vest/armor carrier market! Think Tactical Tailor type gear.

Back to the tour...

I saw an injection mold machine used for their Revolution line of holsters.  It uses little plastic pellets that are shaped/sized like wood stove pellets. I think they said there are two.

I was lucky enough to be there while the Kydex mold machine (sorry, not sure what it is actually called) was running. I will try and explain it as best I remember. It runs two molds at once.

Basically there are Kydex sheets of different thickness depending on what they are making. Interesting, because I have noticed that some of their competitors only use one thickness. Logically, Blade-Tech's IWB holsters are thinner than a level III duty holster. I didn't count, but there were at least three different sizes.

So, these sheets are placed into ovens and heated up. The pistol  molds  are placed on top of two separate vacuums. These molds have tiny holes in them. The heated sheets are placed on top of the mold and the vacuum basically sucks them onto the shape of the molds!

Several large blowers then cool the roughly formed holsters. If you pictured someone with a hair dryer to heat the Kydex to mold it and then a fan to cool it off, you have the right concept, just not nearly on the same scale or technology.

From the holsters are checked by hand. Actually, let me just mention that I was genuinely surprised at how much a Blade-Tech holster is made by hand. It then goes to a person that actually puts a mold of the firearm to finish fitting. After that it goes to a person that puts the mounting hardware in, and then finally off to a QC person.

I would be very surprised if someone ever gets a holster that their pistol doesn't fit in.

Speaking of molds! This was my favorite part of the tour. Row and rows and rows and rows of stacks of molds of pistols! While I was there I spied a mold for a S&W 4566. I see an order being placed shortly. In case you couldn't tell I was really impressed with the number of molds they have. They also do flashlights, multitools, and revolver speed loaders.

I seriously doubt that anyone in the industry has more molds than Blade-Tech does.

I asked why the Blade-Tech website did not list all the holster/pistol combinations that I know they have. For example, the traditional belt holster has a huge list of selectable pistols (like the 4566), but if you go to the Eclipse it is quite a bit shorter (no 4566).

Regarding this, there are a couple things to point out:

  1. There is a new website coming out and the current one is incomplete for all of the molds they have. If you call customer service they do have a full list. (They do have a toll free number too.)
  2. They haven't made molds for all of the holster combinations they could possibly make. In other words they probably have not made  an Eclipse for a S&W 4566, although they can.
  3. They plan on offering the Eclipse for everything they have in the standard belt line. Unfortunately, they are not the same mold so they have make it.
  4. The Revolution holsters use completely different molds and they are VERY cost prohibitive. I wouldn't count on the list of supported pistols to expand greatly. They will probably only have/get molds for the most popular pistols (so, no 4566).

 

I asked about turn around time. They are currently at 5 weeks. This is in line with a lot of Kydex holster makers. They were actually embarassed - they had prided themselves that they until recently had a 1 -2 week turnaround previously. They are currently running 3 shifts a day including weekends to get caught up!

Now, order back logs might raise concern that QC could suffer, especially as employees work increased/more shifts. However, I was surprised and impressed that everyone there seemed to be happy--from customer service, to sales, to Kydex molder, fork lift driver, etc.  Definitely a sign of a good company.

So--great products, superior variety of pistols molds, exemplary customer service and they have happy employees? Blade-Tech is  definitely doing things right.

Heads up potential Seattle visitors! Last week the "May Day Zone" became weapons banned & confiscation, authorized by the mayor's emergency powers executive order.  Makes you wonder -- what would happen in  a real and protracted emergency  Like Hurricane Katrina? Or an eruption in the Ring of Fire?)

Anyway, article from the local news today:

Peaceful protesters said violence perpetrated by a select few wrecked their message a week ago on May Day, but the ...

http://cdn.localwireless.com/wap/news/text.jsp?sid=26&nid=529401638&cid=21216&scid=-1

You may have heard about the Seattle "May Day Protests" and the "Black Bloc" of self-proclaimed anarchists causing mayhem and destruction.

You may have even heard that Mayor McGinn banned "weapons" that included sticks, rocks, flag poles, etc. But, what you may not have known is that he actually banned *all* weapons and the police were allowed to confiscate them.

Am I being alarmist? Maybe not when you consider that this is a Mayor that attempted to uphold former Mayor Nichols' illegal firearms ban -- despite being told by the Attorney General that is was illegal, ruled against in court, ruled against in Appeals, and then finally ruled against by State Supreme Court! See a trend here? What was the order called?

ORDER AUTHORIZING THE CONFISCATION OF WEAPONS

Now, I know of no instance where there was a problem for a legal CCW holder (a valid reason why the framers of our 70s CCW laws made it CONCEALED carry) but the order is written vaguely enough to cover licensed CCW holders.

To the Mayor's credit the order did not apply to lawfully kept weapons in place of business or residence. HOWEVER, legal CCWers should have been exempted also!  Walking to your car or driving home could have put you in violation of the law in which your firearm would be potentially confiscated and you would face a $500 if convicted.

You might be wondering how this order is legal? Well, actually it appears that under  RCW38.52 it is:

RCW 38.52.020: (b) To confer upon the governor and upon the executive heads of the political subdivisions of the state the emergency powers provided herein;

and

RCW 38.52.070: (2) In carrying out the provisions of this chapter each political subdivision, in which any disaster as described in RCW 38.52.020 occurs, shall have the power to enter into contracts and incur obligations necessary to combat such disaster, protecting the health and safety of persons and property, and providing emergency assistance to the victims of such disaster. Each political subdivision is authorized to exercise the powers vested under this section in the light of the exigencies of an extreme emergency situation without regard to time-consuming procedures and formalities prescribed by law

Now the interesting thing is that even under Emergency Powers heads of political subdivisions are still answerable to the Governor.  This explains why the ORDER AUTHORIZING THE CONFISCATION OF WEAPONS mentions that a copy was sent to the Governor and King Co. Executive.

The order was written to expire in 48 hours or earlier. True to his word the Mayor did rescind it today.

I include copies of the orders here since these things tend to disappear after time and memory.

120501PR-proclamationConfiscation

120501PR-civilOrderConfiscation

120502PR-proclamationConfiscationTermination

 

 

You may have seen my post Caution: Do NOT use S&W M&P compact in a Blade-Tech Revolution (FS) holster.

In a nutshell I found that putting my M&P compact into the  Revolution was not a good idea because magazine pops out (they actually only make it for the fullsize). The problem was, of course, only with the compact. Fullsize M&P in the Revolution was fine.

Blade-Tech saw my post and responded quickly that they would check it out, and send me a replacement that worked with both! I also asked that they cut the holster to the compact size. You will see pics why shortly.

When I told Blade-Tech that I could pick up the holster, since I was local, they invited me for a tour of their factory! OK, the holster thing first...

Click on the pic for fullsize.

 

Here is a close up of the holsters, I just thought it was interesting that my original had a S&W logo with little "Military Police" lettering while the new one has the opposite:

 

Holsters side by side to show difference in length (fullsize vs compact). Actually the new one is a little lower, the pic makes it look more dramatic than it is.

 

I think that little bit of material circled is the difference between the two. It was hard to get them both at the same angle to compare. Trust me there is a difference.

Top: Fullsize in the Revolution
Bottom: Compact in the new custom compact

 

If barrel length is important to you - this is how it should look

 

This is what the Compact pistol looks like in the Revolution holster which had the mag problem.

 

Here is what the fullsize looks like in the new compact holster. Looks worse in this pic than the next two.

 

From these next two pics you can see that it BARELY pokes out

 

Keep in mind my mag drop problem with the Revolution Holster  was caused by using a pistol in their holster which it was not actually designed for (compact in a fullsize  holster)! Blade-Tech provided a fix for my problem unsolicited and went above and beyond in customer service-- making me a new holster that worked with the fullsize AND compact and, at my request, even cut  it for the shorter pistol for the compact pistol!

I really like the  new  holster. I hope they add it to the line up.

It's past midnight, my factory tour story will have to wait until tomorrow. But, I will leave you with this....I saw a mold for a S&W 4566 and Steyr  pistols. In fact, I am pretty confident that  no one has more molds of pistols than they do, and they are not all on their website yet.

Well, it has been awhile since I posted 1911 hammer drop to half-cock (July 22, 2010!) Some projects just get pushed back. I have been messing with 10mm and 40s a lot more than 45ACPs lately, but I digress.

To recap my previous post...
The problem was that my 90s Edition Springfield 1911A1 (kind of in between the GI and the MilSpec before they offered either) had been converted with Ace Hindman's help to 45 Super and spent a number of years running Ace's "Tactical Loads" (185gr @ 1200-1400fps). Unfortunately, I suspect, that accelerated wear help bring about intermittent hammer drop. Meaning that the hammer falls from cock to half-cock. Not good.

Here is what it looked like (from the original post):

Examining it showed a little more wear on the hammer than I would like. I filed on it and was softer than I would have thought. In fact, I messed it up.

Oh well, I like ring hammers and might as well swap it out. Might as well do a few other things too since the parts more than likely would have to be fit. Here is what I ended up doing:

  1. STI Match Sear – these are HARD and are almost perfectly cut out of the bag
  2. EMC Ring (commander) round hammer – I just like the look of these and they are bars tock for the purists.
    The sear and hammer went together perfectly!
  3. Colt 1991 Commander grip safety – because I don’t need/want a beavertail, I don’t want to notch the stock one for the ring hammer. This one dropped right in.
  4. Wolff Sear Spring - very mild arching
  5. Replace frame pins – they had become loose, falling out if you tilt the pistol
  6. Colt aluminum solid long trigger – I love this trigger in my Delta. No frills, no set screw to back out. People looked at me like I was crazy. I think that if I had gone with a normal lightweight trigger I would not have had to arc the new sear spring. It replaces a Pachmayr long trigger (its polymer!)
  7. STI extended safety (more on this below). I actually wanted a classic 1911 Army-style safety but couldn't find one. Oh well, single-sided safety it was.

So, I needed to fit the original stock safety to work with the new parts. So, I fit it (more like attempted). It actually came out decently and functional but it dropped down to the "fire" position a little too low and the detent stop was a little off.  A safety is cheap and I am kind of picky. My local gun smith fit it and checked that everything else was ok.

Here is what it looks like (finally) completed:

 

There we go, only 2 short years later it is completed and a new life for a pistol that I originally bought in 1990. At least I got better at taking pictures.

Sunday, 22 April 2012 11:33

Colt 6920...pics or it didn't happen

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I am excited about my 6920 and had the camera out today anyway. So, you get some pics :)

This is a follow up to: Just picked up my Colt LE6920 "M4" - details and a little talk about the feedback I have been getting

I know as a lot of people say..."Pics! Or it didn't happen!" So, without further delay a March manufactured Colt LE6920. Click on the pic if you want to see the full size:

 

Colt Defense roll mark

 

New "M4 Carbine" roll mark

 

Other side

 

 

MPI stamped bolt

 

Bottom of carrier

 

Key staking

 

H buffer and you can see the fit and finish of the lower

 

Upper T Marks and also fit and finish

 

Castle nut staking

 

Roger's Super Stock, note the Colt Defense Logo

 

Removable buttpad with Colt logo

 

 

Bottom (mag well)

 

Barrel stamping

 

F marked front site, also note the included and installed side sling swivel. A nice touch.

 

The accessory pack packing. I included it because I thought it something you don't see every day. Note the label which says "Suswuehanna Association for the blind." It was included inside sling's bag

 

The included Colt accessory pack: sling, 2 20rd mags, manual, cleaning rod, 2 brushes and the rear sling swivel was a nice touch.

 

The blue label from the side of the box. I find it uninteresting but I notice that other people's threads have it, so I included it too. I think that not all of the older ones say "M4 Style Semi-Auto":

 

I am tired of reading about how Colt uses non-standard pins and you can't attach non-Colt uppers/lowers. This was true on my R6600 back in the 90s and maybe true of the "Target" sporter line but NOT on the 6920s.

Here is a Rock River Arms (RRA) upper with the Colt 6920 lower:

 

Here is the Rock River Arms (RRA) lower with the Colt 6920 upper:

 

There you go. One of the most regarded and argued about kings of the M4gery (civilian) world.

 

 

In March I blogged that Steyr Arms USA had received a shipment of pistols (Steyr pistol fans - new shipment just in). At the time I checked with my LGS and they were priced pretty high. I don't recall exactly but I think it was in the $500 - $600 range.

Well, good news if you are looking. I just got a flyer from Cabelas that runs from April 26 - May 6.

In it is the Steyr M-A1 9mm pistol for $399!

Check out the specs here: Steyr M-A1 from SteyrArms.com. If you are a regular you probably know that I am big fan of the Steyr pistols. I have owned an S40 for quite a while. I got a good price on mine since it was during the GSI importation fiasco and Steyr's temporary withdrawl from import to the U.S. However, I paid more than that! And that was around 2002. Here are some pics of my S40: My S40

Anyway a great pistol at a great price!

Stock photo from Steyrarms.com (which the Cabela's ad appears to use also):

First of all, I ordered it from my local LGS after having waited a few hours to go in from their call  and missed their last batch (7). The price was $1029.99 + tax. That's $70 less than WalMart sells them for (note: none of my local Seattle/Tacoma area WalMarts sell guns that I know of). That is also significantly less than any of the online sources I could find.

Even an internet source at $995 (good luck finding one) + shipping + dealer fees + tax (yes, WA makes you pay sales tax for transfers) would have been more. My shop even apologized, apparently only a few months ago they were selling for $995+tax!

Wait time, however, was about 6 weeks. I don't know how many they got in, but they did have one up on the wall for sale.

OK, I didn't have time to snap pictures and it looks like everyone else's.  This is what I got...

  • Blue label box that says LE6920
  • LE prefix SN
  • Colt Defense rollmark
  • M4 Carbine rollmark
  • Roger's Super Stock
  • The bag it came in says it was made in March

Fit and finish appear perfect. Definitely was test fired as their are brass marks on the deflector. Bolt closes perfectly when functioned slowly - something I haven noticed that other brands out of the box don't do. Other brands also have that "new bolt" smell when you cycle them. The rifle is also pretty well lubricated, something other brands don't always do. Staking (both) look great.

The stock is interesting. It feels nice. The cam lock seems a little flimsy, but then again it doesn't do much. I did notice that the fit on the extension tube is very tight. I couple of my old GI aluminum 30 rd mags were tight in the well. I will try them all out in a little while and see if it is just chance or consistent with a particular brand.

On to the questions/comments...

So, why didn't I get brand x?
Probably cost or availability. Colt's quality bang for buck at a little over $1000 is very good. They are simply a work-horse.

Yes there are better, but entry level LaRue or Noveske start at $1500. Enough of a difference for me to get the Colt and an EOTech or a lot of ammo/etc. Move up from entry level and you approach the cost of two 6920s!

One brand I wanted to handle was BCM. They just were not available to see or even buy!

LMT Defender was close. The standard version was noticeably more than the Colt and the SOPMOD brought it up even more. I wish they put their enhanced bolt in this rifle that would have made up a little more price difference. Also weird they don't use an H buffer.

Let's face it, Colt is also brand recognition. Not that I anticipate selling it, but if I had to, or wanted to upgrade to something else it shouldn't be too hard to sell the Colt. Especially since demand > supply

You are paying for the Colt pony and kool-aide
Well, this is true. But since the price is about $1000 it was in the sample ball park as other brands. Actually, well-priced considering that only a year or two ago they were going for $1200. Actually, if you can't find one locally and don't want to wait, I found more than a few vendors that were willing to sell you one today for $1200. Anyway, as the top instructors say: Colts consistently run (not that they don't ever put out a dud) and as mentioned before are always in demand.

A few folks recommended brands such as Rock River, Bushmaster, or to build my own
I currently own a RRA, a Bushmaster, an Oly and have a few that I put together myself. I like them all. I wanted something out of the box that was "done" with high quality parts and could be considered a "fighting carbine." I have hopes of taking some courses down the road. In fact, FAS (Firearms Academy of Seattle) is literally down the road (strangely, not in Seattle but Olympia area).

 That stock sucks. It is not even going to be issued to troops. It is a Magpul CTR ripoff, the sling swivel attachment is too low and top attachment needs to be cut off!
It is designed and made by Bill Rogers so I am certain of its high quality and design. if you are unfamiliar please Google. Heard of Wilson Rogers products like the Wilson 47D magazine? Same person. Colt also claims that they modified it to make it more durable. Personally, I don't really see the revolutionary nature of the old stock and don't particularly care if it is issued or not--It either works or not.

A CTR ripoff? Well, they do kind of look similar. Functionally no though. The AR parts world is ripe with similar products. Ask Vltor -- they are/were suing Magpul over the ACS.

The sling swivel attachment is too low? Perhaps if you are comparing it to Magpul products. The SOPMOD and Vltors have it pretty much the same low position. Cut the top one off if you like, but  it doesn't bother me.

And don't get me wrong, I am a BIG Magpul fan including the stocks. I just don't pooh a product because it isn't an "M." Again, it either works or doesn't.

Carbine length gas system destroys bolts and was designed for 14.5" barrels. Mid-length has less recoil and isn't as dirty. You should get a mid-length.
Actually, conceptually I like the mid-length better. However, Colt has been building 16"-ers for a long time and have it tuned to a science. As I recall Colt's first run was with 16" and adopted 14.5" later. I think it was in the "AR15 Sourcebook." Somebody is going to make me look it up, aren't they? :P

Regardless, Colt bolts are very high quality, the system works and works well. Maybe a MOE pistol grip for a spare bolt.  I also have this crazy theory that it being slightly over gassed (vs mid-length) enhanced reliability, kind of like using a heavier recoil spring in a semi-auto pistol. Dirtier? Yes, I think so, but as for recoil I don't really notice the difference. Now a 6.8SPC yes! I wouldn't build it on a CAR length.

What's weird is that there are a lot of people endorsing piston rifles with CAR gas systems. These, to me, seem like the slam the bolt a lot harder and have more recoil. Maybe that is why Ruger went with a mid-length (equivalent) piston. Anyway, mid-length = nice, but not a necessity to me.

If Colt built a mid-length people would be crying out that it isn't "mil-spec" any more. Kind of like they are with the 6940.

You need to have a monolithic rail and free float barrel
No, I really don't. I have both and yes there is a difference but not much. Especially not for the cost of a lot of systems. This is a "duty" rifle, it will see 100yds distance average-- 200 yds max. For a rail, I will buy one of those little 2" strips that attach into the stock hand guard holes to attach a SureFire flashlight.

Hmm...I do need somewhere to put batteries. Maybe I will replace the stock afterall. :)

You need to replace the sling
The sling is very.....basic. I swear by Boonie Packer quick adjust cinchable 2point slings. They are tough, inexpensive ($25 shipped), and local.

AKs are better, especially now that you can add 12' of rail. Besides 30caliber cartridges are better.
I don't do Warsaw Pact rounds. Seriously. The most exotic (non-U.S.) round I own is a 303 Brit. As mentioned above I don't do rail. I wouldn't mind a quality AK like a Hungary or CZ, but they are not cheap any more. If you are going 'bigger is better' and there is certainly validity to that, in a non-AR platform (I am a big 6.8 fan) then I think I would just step up to a DSArms FAL or pony up the cash for a Springfield M1A. I am pretty heavily invested in the AR platform though, to make any type of switch.

I do believe in the mystique of the big '.30' rounds. In fact, I own a Marlin 3030 lever, an Inland M1Carbine, Enfield in 303 Brit, a 6.8 AR (.277 is close to .30)  and the king -- a Springfield M1 Garand to meet the 30caliber criteria. :) Each round/platform meets a specific need.  However, 5.56 will do fine against zombies.

Wholesale Sports/Sportsmans Warehouse has Magpul 30 rd PMAGS (non-window) on sale for $10!
That is a good price! I tried the ones I have and they fit perfectly.

My wife wants to know why for $1000 you only get a cardboard box instead of case
I don't know, but if it keeps the price down I am ok with it. Hazard4 is coming out with a sling bag that will hold an AR. Eberlestock also makes some nice backpacks with AR attachments. One of those will do the ticket. I do have cordura soft and hard rifle cases. But that's no fun.

But, $1100 (after tax) is still a chunk of change though (more than the replacement dryer I just had to buy) so  I probably won't be buying anything too exciting for a bit. However, 223 ammo I have :)

Thanks for reading and all of the comments/suggestions/questions!

 

 

Do NOT use S&W M&P compact in Blade-Tech Revolution holster! -- Seriously, the mag falls out in the holster if it is tapped on the side!!

Yes, I know it is for the fullsize, but putting a compact in a fullsize holster is not really that outrageous or even illegal. The holster is still an amazing value!

More below...

Most of the time I like having a full size and compact of the same pistol because I can interchange magazines and holsters.

This is not the case with the Blade-Tech Revolution which is for a full size (they do not make a Rev for compacts): http://www.blade-tech.com/Smith-Wesson-Holsters-for-M-P-Series-Pistol-Revolution-Series-Holster-pr-1034.html#product_images

I picked up one of these locally very inexpensively ($30 I think) because I needed a holster to go the range that day. Having both a paddle and belt attachment they are a bargain and pretty comfortable. However, for OWB concealment there are holsters which hold the pistol closer to your body. For CCW I use an IWB.

I decided that I wanted to run to the grocery store and switched out the fullsize for  the compact. To my surprise the mag wasn't seated! Hmm...I locked it back in and put on my jacked and must have slapped the side because I heard the mag click out again!

After experimenting briefly it became very obvious that any type of push to the side or handle of my 9c caused the mag release to engage in the holster!

Put the FS back in and no problem. The FS stayed in the holster.

Below are the stock photos from the Blade-Tech website. These prominently display the "M&P" logo, while mine has a big "S&W" instead. Maybe this has been fixed in later versions, but I would try it first. I would still buy another one again.

 

 

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