I’ve completed some interim upgrades to the Musket. We’ll call it the Musket Mk 2 (or maybe just the Mk 2).
Quick list now, and then details of each one and why I installed it:
– Daniel Defense Omega 12 rail
– Gear Sector Gen 3 QD sling mount
– Magpul XTM panels and Hand Stop kit
Why I Did This: Daniel Defense Omega 12
There are a lot of great rails on the market today. If I was going to go for a pure “M16A4” look, then I should have used the KAC M5 RAS. However, that rail is not free floating, which was the whole point for me to install the rail in the first place. I always found the MOE handguards to be extremely comfortable, and was reluctant to take them off. So, priority number one was to free float the barrel.
Centurion Arms makes a fantastic drop-in rail, the C4, and it was my top preference for this project. However, I wanted to retain the ability to remove the rail and reinstall the plastic MOE handguad if I wanted to. I may not always want to keep the big aluminum rail in place, which means I didn’t want to cut off the delta ring assembly or front handguard cap. I also don’t have the tools to remove and reinstall the barrel (nor have I ever had training to do so). That left me with choosing rails that could install on top of the existing hardware.
Of the vanishingly few options that met my desires, the DD Omega was chosen. It installed easily, and feels extremely solid. My concerns about this configuration adding too much weight were alleviated when I found out that the Omega 12 weighs only a tenth of an ounce more than the C4 rail I had originally wanted to use.
However, I was met with another problem.
The shape of the rail feels a bit like an I-beam. I have also never appreciated the “cheese grater” feel of gripping a bare quad rail. This is part of the reason that I went to a slick sided modular style rail with Ascalon. After a fair bit of dry fire, I decided that I needed to do something about the feel, hence the XTM panels. Those have been covered in great detail in many other places, so I don’t think anything needs to get said about them. They do their job, and they do it well. I find them very comfortable and solid on the rail. I now find the rifle to be quite comfortable to carry and hold In awkward positions. You will notice that I didn’t have the panels go all the way to the ends on the sides, as that leaves me room to install a flashlight mount at a later date at the front.
Another bonus to the Omega rail is the addition of QD mounts on the side rails close to the receiver. By attaching at these points, I have found that I can wrap the sling around my back and use it in a more “tactical” manner. This reduces the benefits of a loop sling around my arm, but does still over tension to stabilize the rifle in a pinch. As this rifle is not intended to be used this way on a regular basis, I don’t think this will be a regularly occurring sling configuration, but its nice to nice that there is an option.
Gear Sector Sling Mount and Magpul XTM Hand Stop: Why I Did It
The hand stop kit is more of an experiment than anything. I have gotten used to the slick bottomed feel of the MOE handguard and came to enjoy the simplicity of it. But I found a drawback of the previous configuration. When the sling was attached at the FSB sling swivel, I had to place my hand way out on the end of the handguard in order to get it properly wedged up against the swivel. For most positions, this wasn’t an issue. But sometimes, pushing my hand out that far straightened my arm and reduced how much elevation I could adjust with my elbow.
Once the rail was installed, I wondered how things would be affected if I moved the sling mount a couple inches towards the receiver rather than leaving it all the way at the end. I immediately found that this fixed my previous issue. It also gave me enough rail space in front to attach my Atlas bipod (if I so chose). I went with Gear Sector because I really like their low profile and sleek design aesthetic. I use one of their first generation flashlight mounts for my Elzetta on Ascalon. The difference between the first gen and third gen is that the first gen requires me to slide the mount from the end of the rail into the desired position. The third gen has a different recoil lug design that lets me drop it into any spot I need and tighten it at that point with no need to slide it around.
I then installed the hand stop kit behind the sling mount. Though practice, I find that the front “nub” provides me an even better and more stable “lock up” in various shooting positions. Now, instead of wedging my hand between the rail and the sling swivel (which could sometimes result in a bad “pinch”), my hand wedges up against the front stop. As a bonus, when I take a more “tactical” stance, I can wrap my index finger around the front stop to offer a little bit more control.
As far as the rear stop, I’m still on the fence. I don’t find that it offers anything to me as far as traditional shooting positions go. But it does help for the more “tactical” shooting stance. If anything, I find it works well for off hand when I place my support hand behind it (close to the receiver) and use it in a similar way as the front stop. I’m sure a lot of people who are into faster and more dynamic shooting find it useful. More time and practice will tell if the rear stop stays. When shooting in traditional positions, the rear stop can dig into my palm a bit. It hasn’t gotten uncomfortable, yet, but I’d rather not have it doing so. I already moved it back a bit by installing the “half panel” behind the front stop instead of in front of it as the directions dictate.
The Trijicon TR24G continues to live on top of the Musket, and I don’t think its going to go anywhere soon. I’ve gotten used to the sight picture that includes the FSB, and I have actually found that (at least at 1x) the “floating” FSB actually helps me practice getting consistent cheek and eye position behind the scope. I think my one major draw back is that there might be too much eye relief in a lot of situations. If I am slung up hard, the rifle gets pulled into my shoulder far enough that I have to uncomfortably crane my neck backwards to get proper eye relief. This, of course, can be remedied by pushing the scope a bit further forward in the mount, but it is so situational that I don’t’ think it’s worth the effort.
In all, the Musket has become my favorite AR to shoot. The smoothness of the 20” barrel and rifle gas system is truly a joy to feel. The A5 system adds a lot of practicality to the system. The only drawback I have right now is weight. As pictured, this comes in at 9.2 lbs. It’s still nowhere near the 17 lbs of my M1A, or the 14 lbs of my bolt gun, but it is definitely heftier than my 16” pencil barrel BCM with plastic furniture and RDS.
For purposes of rifle training in the coming year, I am going to consolidate down to just this rifle rather than the two or three I was trying to do this year. I suppose rather than calling it the Designated Marksmanship Training Receiver (DMTR), I will become the Practical Marksmanship Rifle (PMR).