General

Heads Up! MVT Chest Rig is Back

I got notified this morning that MVT has restocked their SOR chest rig. This is a slightly updated version of my MVT 3X Rig that has served me well. It is a very clean and low profile setup that provides a lot of versatility.

Buy it at the MVT Gear Store

The Special Operations Rig (SOR) was designed in collaboration with SOF personnel, specifically to fill the need for a chest rig that will comfortably carry the AN/PRC 152 radio. This capability has resulted in two collapsible side pouches that enhance the rig by allowing the carriage of two radios (one each side), or 2 x 5.56 magazines in each radio pouch, or use the pouches for admin items or leave them collapsed. In addition, the front of the radio pouches have four rows of MOLLE, for the attachment of admin pouches as needed.

These specific design features and capabilities have resulted in a chest rig that is extremely versatile to varying load requirements, and will suit non-military as well as military personnel, whether or not you carry a radio on your gear. It can be used entirely as a standalone chest rig, attached to a plate carrier, or as a hybrid allowing optional attachment to a plate carrier, depending on the tactical situation.

  • Wear the SOR with the supplied H-harness, over a Plate Carrier or standalone.
  • Utilize the supplied PC Kit to attach the SOR directly to your Plate Carrier.
  • Multiple use options, as an assault panel over a PC, or standalone in ‘recon mode.’
  • The SOR is designed to allow the radio pouches to adjust comfortably across your chest, or if worn over a PC, the radio/mags fit into the space beside your front plate.

The Special Operations Rig (SOR) is well designed and crafted, 100% MADE IN USA, giving you the ability to carry four (4) x 5.56 (.223) magazines in easily accessible magazine pouches. Utilizing kydex retention inserts in the magazine pouches gives excellent magazine retention while allowing for lighting fast reloads. You can plus up the rig to 8 magazines, using the collapsible side pouches, as needed.

This rig has some outstanding features:

  • 5.56 (.223) magazine pouches with kydex inserts x 4.
  • The 4 front kydex mag pouches also come with elastic removable retention pull-tabs, to give you more options.
  • Low profile slim fit with the 4 x magazine pouches close to the body.
  • Each magazine pouch is supplied with a Kydex insert which both secures the magazine and allows for fast reloads.
  • 3 rows of MOLLE across the rig for maximum versatility.
  • 4 MOLLE wide side panels for the attachment of additional pouches.
  • 2 x collapsible radio/magazine pouches behind the side panels, specifically designed for the AN/PRC 152 radio / 2 x 5.56 magazines.
  • The side radio  pouches also feature a velcro adjustable bottom panel, which allows for adjustment of the radio fit up or down to operator comfort.
  • Adjustable elastic cord straps on the radio pouch to secure items of various sizes.
  • 4 adjustable points for a “perfect fit” for almost any body type / shape.
  • H-harness design – providing comfort to be worn by itself, or with a backpack.
  • Map / Notebook Pouch on back of rig.
  • Rear velcro patch, with optional cover, to allow the attachment of a sub-load pouch.
  • Antennae loops on the bottom of the rig. By using a flexible antenna extension, you can route the antennae(s) down and under the rig.
  • 500D Cordura.
  • 100% MADE IN THE USA.

KYDEX INSERTS: At MVT, we believe that you need a rig that is quick and easy to insert mags, bump mags, or do a tactical reload. What we wanted was a way of doing it with one hand, allowing you to keep the other on the rifle, scanning. Kydex inserts allow you to remove and insert, one handed, including in low/no light. You can hang upside down without worrying about your mags falling out. They provide pouch rigidity, so it’s easier to reload, without the pouch collapsing around the mag. When worn over the front plate of a PC, the kydex provides a rigid 4 mag shingle, which allows more mag carriage than the usual 3 mags that the front of a PC usually allows.

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General

If I Was Starting Over

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I’ve read a recent spate of forum posts about people’s homes being broken into and their firearm collections stolen. Obviously, that is a terrible event and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

But it made me think.

If I was starting over with my collection knowing everything that I know now, what would I focus on? I thought this question tied nicely with my AR-15 guide posts, since those are where I dumped my current understanding of the platform (and continue to be the most popular posts on the blog).

If I was Buying My First AR-15

If I had to start over from scratch, or I was just getting started in the AR world, my first rifle would be a Colt Combat Unit Carbine. It represents nearly everything I recommend for first time buyers, and I would expect it to perform admirably in nearly any role it is pushed to do.

Specs

  • Barrel: 16.1″
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Finish: Matte Black
  • Receiver: Matte Black
  • Safety: Ambidextrous Safety Selector
  • Stock: Magpul MOE SL Buttstock Collapsible / Folding Stock
  • Magazine: 1 / 30 rd. Magpul PMAG
  • Weight: 6.47 lbs.
  • Rate of Twist: 1-in-7″
  • Sights: No Sights
  • Barrel Length: 16.1
  • Overall Length: 33 to 36.5
  • Features: Mid-Length Gas System/ Lightweight Profile Barrel
  • Handguard: Centurion Arms M-LOK CMR

Sure, I could always build a more specialized rifle with this barrel or that trigger, but this package represents an excellent “do-all” carbine.

If I Was Buying My First Rifle Optic

The first optic I ever purchased was a Trijicon TR24G, one of the better early examples of the 1-4x variable market. It still works well, though I don’t have it sitting on top of anything at the moment.

Having now experimented with red dots, low power variables, and fixed low magnification optics, I definitely have a preference for the fixed low power varieties. That said, if it is a first optic, and one that I’m going to presumably use for a while in a variety of roles, then I’m going to take a variable.

My choice would be the Vortex Razor Gen II-E 1-6x with VMR-2 MRAD reticle.

The illumination is bright enough, the magnification range is good, the optical clarity is fantastic, and it’s proven to be durable. I prefer the MRAD reticle because I can always move the optic to other rifles/platforms and figure out my drop points rather than having to improvise on a preset BDC.

If I Was Buying My First Handgun

The first pistol I ever purchased was a 1911. Specifically, it was a Springfield Black Stainless Loaded model, which was set up more for competition than anything else. I didn’t really know what I was looking for at the time, and 1911s were all the rage on the internet. Technically, I also had a HK USP-9c on loan from my father, which was a much more practical self-defense pistol, but I returned it to him after buying my own pistol. After that was my Beretta 92A1, then FNS-9, and then the CZ P-07.

I prefer hammer fired pistols over striker (call it a safety thing, I like the reassurance that the hammer is not cocked during holstering). I don’t care for cocked and locked carry, or single action only pistols that would otherwise require me to cock the hammer before firing the first shot.

I’m a big fan of my CZ, but I feel like it wouldn’t be a first pistol.

If I was starting over, I would pick up an HK P30L LE model (included night sights) and go master it.

If you just cannot stand DA/SA pistols, then I would pick a Sig P320 Compact. I know it’s not popular right now because of bad press, but the same happened to the Beretta 92 when it was first adopted by the military as the M9. But that’s the bottom line for me, the P320 series is the new official handgun of the US military, which means it is going to have ample aftermarket support and accessories- something nearly everything in my collection lacks.

I’m sure someone will argue that I should recommend a Glock 19, and it’s a fair recommendation. It is a well known quantity, reliable, and has ample support as well. I’ve just never liked shooting Glocks, and this post is about what would pick.

If I Was Buying My First 30 Cal

My first rifle was an M1A, which was awesome for showing off at the range. Then I picked up an M1 Garand from the CMP. Then I got into ARs, then a bolt action, and then I started a 308 AR that I never finished.

If I was doing it all over again, I would get a SCAR 17s and be done with it.

Yes, it costs more. But when I factor in all the money I spent on the M1A ($1700ish to buy it, then nearly another $1000 for the stock it sits in), and then the bolt action, and what it would cost to build a reliable 308 AR- we are in the same price range as the SCAR. It’s already a proven platform, and doesn’t require a lot of tinkering.

If I Was Buying My First Set of Load Bearing Gear

This is an odd one. I’m still working on it myself, and I think I’m up to four different platforms myself that are nearly fully equipped. If I was totally starting over, I would make the choice between belt-oriented (old school) and chest rig (new school).

If going with a more traditional belt-oriented method, then I would look at the First-Spear Joker Rig. Again, yes, it is expensive. But it will last you forever, and offers a lot of flexibility. This would be a great “one and done” solution (after you get the pouches, of course).

If I was going more in the direction of chest rigs, I’m a big fan of my MVT Rig, but he doesn’t make them anymore (or really any gear, for that matter). The next best thing is the Mayflower UW Gen IV Rig. Pair that with a decent duty belt with some extra mags and such, and you have a very capable system.

 

 

General

Continuing Education

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My interests are wide and varied. Small arms and marksmanship have long been my number one passion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take the time to learn about other things. Any given day, I’m reading articles about exercise science, nutrition, photography, history, amateur radio, bushcraft, camping, and others. YouTube, as politically charged as it has gotten, is still a valuable resource for learning.

Max Velocity Tactical has been putting up a series of mini discussions on his YouTube channel that are particularly interesting. While all the videos are worth watching, a recent one on his view of the correct training progression stood out to me. It’s about investing in ourselves to become better.

The Value of Training

I will never argue that learning to shoot better from a professional instructor is a bad thing. Doing so reinforces the fundamentals of marksmanship, safety, and has a variety of benefits. Eventually, though, if you keep taking varieties of Carbine I and II from different schools, you haven’t broadened your horizon.

Even though I’ve only attended one small unit tactics training course, it was enough to show me that the individual weapon skills is really a small part of a larger whole. Gun boards are filled with people bickering over minute details of their weapons. While the difference between that trigger and this one, or that red dot and this one, can be interesting in a philosophical context- it ultimately doesn’t matter all that much. Note, quality still applies here. If the difference between item A and item B is that item A is clearly higher quality and will stand up to abuse while item B is a cheap Chinese knock off, that is a different argument.

I can see value in these discussions for competition shooters who measure win or lose by fractions of a second against their peers, but must of us aren’t competing at that level. If we turn our attention to the defensive use of our weapons, then things like mindset, sound decision making, and fitness levels become much more important.

Attending professional training, especially outside your comfort zone, is how you improve. It shows you your weaknesses, so you can fix them. It gives you ideas of what else you could be doing. It teaches you that winning is a combination of factors, and we mostly focus on the smallest of those.

I’m not saying that individual weapon training should not be performed. On the contrary, it should be part of an overall package of learning. I’m not saying that everyone should go out and pretend they are Rangers, either. But, I do firmly believe that anyone who takes the defensive use of small arms seriously should spend some time rounding out their skill set with actual tactics, techniques, and procedures.

More Knowledge

Did you know there is a curve of performance and how it relates to your heart rate? There is a window, between 115 and 145 beats per minute where fine motor skills and problem solving are at their best. Coincidentally, this same range is roughly what we could consider the Aerobic metabolic range, where the body is most adept at mobilizing fat stores to provide steady energy. Exceeding that curve into the anaerobic state induces all kinds of effects, such as reduced fine and complex motor dexterity, reduced marksmanship, reduced cognitive processing, reduced peripheral vision, reduced depth perception, and others. Knowing this, you start to get a picture of how important fitness becomes. Granted, Grossman is referring to psychologically induced stress more than physical fitness, but I find the correlation notable. If your heart rate shoots past the 140s on a casual walk, what are you going to do under actual stress? Running drills up and down the hills at MVT’s West Virginia facility will tech you this.

Have you seen, or done, the quick left-to-right-to-left “scan” after completing a drill? Did you actually scan, peering into the distance, corners, and others areas? Actual training will show you the difference.

Wrap Up

This post was really musing about knowledge. I focused on tactical knowledge in particular, but I want to get across that it is important to always be learning. If we aren’t constantly challenging ourselves to grow, then we stagnate. Do the hard thing and push yourself.

 

General

On Mindset, Willpower, and Doing the Hard Thing

“We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up effort in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a General, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth’s surface, and he surely unfits himself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise. A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world.

As it is with the individual, so it is with the nation. It is a base untruth to say that happy is the nation that has no history. Thrice happy is the nation that has a glorious history. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. “

— From “The Strenuous Life,” Theodore Roosevelt, April 1899

The Will to Fight

I have been quiet lately.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Rather than beat around the bush, I will just get on with it. I was forced to say a final goodbye to my two year old son last month. His tragic death was due to an incurable neuromuscular disorder he was born with, and it eventually robbed him of his life. He will be utterly missed, and I look forward to the day I get to join him again in the next world. In the months leading up to his passing, and the weeks since, I’ve given a lot of thought about life.

Nothing is ever a guarantee.

We have all grown soft in some ways, comforted by the relative safety of our borders and ease of plentiful resources. We often forget what it is to truly struggle. Many of us have our demons, and they can surely be hell- but they are not a literal fight for survival. It is not until we see the things we always assumed would be there ripped away from us that we begin to understand just how fragile the world really is. It is in that moment that we realize just how difficult things could really become, and how woefully unequipped to handle it we really are.

I have had on and off discussions with people in my circles about preparedness. Usually this is in the context of natural disasters, not black helicopters or Red Dawn or anything like that such things would surely put me in the category of “crazy veteran”). I’ve come to find that many people, at least in the well-off and highly educated stretch of land surrounding Washington DC, have no plan. Their primary course of action is hope. At best, they hope that someone else is going to come help them, protect them, or take care of them. At worst, they “plan” to give in and let whatever happens…happen. To paraphrase what one of my former commanders used to say during staff meetings, “Hope is not a valid course of action. Figure it out.”

These people simply have no fight.

Something that I’ve learned in the last two and a half years is that every day is earned. Life, especially a comfortable one, is not a given. It is the end result of hard work, of toil, patience, and very often the undertaking of mundane everyday tasks that must be done to build it. If not done by those that live it, then by someone else who did it on their behalf. If we are to survive, it will not be those who live in perpetual comfort who get us there…it will be the fighters who demonstrate the grit to keep going when all else has failed.

How do we develop this will if we don’t already have it? The same way my son fought for every day he had: by working for it.

Do the Hard Thing

We are all lazy.

Some of us are worse than others in this regard, of course, but everyone is lazy about something. Why walk or ride a bicycle when we can drive? Why eat healthy when crappy food is cheaper and easier to get? Why lift weights when I work a desk job? Why practice marksmanship when I can buy better gear? Why get professional training when I can just talk about it on the internet?

To some degree, every one of us has dealt with a question like this. I’ve fought with every one of these, and it takes effort to overcome them. Sometimes I slip into the easy path, choosing to get an extra hour of sleep rather than get up at 5:00 AM for a work out. Sometimes I cheat and get unhealthy food rather than warm up the healthier prepared option I brought with me. That is life, it happens.

But in the greater context, the ability to move forward, to survive, is built one decision at a time. Our long term success is built upon a series of good decisions made over years. Until we commit to making those good decisions, to take the harder path more often than we do not, then we are destined to fail.

Failure cannot be treated as an end state, however. As the opening quote made clear, victory is obtained by those with the willingness to dare. Sometimes, daring greatly will lead to failing greatly. Such failures come with valuable lessons to those willing to listen and dare greatly again.

Moving Forward

For reasons that should be obvious, shooting and marksmanship have been much lower on my priority list than when I started this journey four years ago. Quietly, in the background, I’ve been reading, studying, and experimenting.

The world is shifting under our feet, and we should all feel a little unsteady about how things have been going. We can choose to do the easy thing, to complain about it on the internet, or to endlessly argue with people we don’t agree with. We could choose to simply buy another gadget, and pat ourselves on the back that we are that much more prepared for hard times.

Or, we could do the hard thing and truly prepare ourselves. We could be working on our raw skillsets, making us less reliant on gadgets for success. We could be focusing our or physical fitness, increasing our chances of surviving difficult times. We could be seeking to learn from those who have been there before us, and gain that real experience. Reading it in a book is simply not the same.

We need to earn our days.

 

General

Range Report

It’s been a busy three months since my last post. We bought a home, moved (again), and I recently received a promotion at my job. With all of that going on, shooting and writing just didn’t top the priority list. Sorry about that.

However, I finally did get out to a range again. There is a nice indoor facility only a few miles from our new home, so I might be able to make much more regular trips out there. It is an indoor facility that only goes up to 50 yards, but it is better than nothing. This marks my first time putting any rounds downrange since the MVT class I did back in October.

I had limited time, so I hit the range with a purpose.

First, I finally got the chance to function check the rifle I finished last summer. It shot beautifully as far as function and handling go. I did not get to finish sighting it in or perform any accuracy testing mostly due to my own haste to get to the range. I brought the wrong eye pro, for starters. The tinted lenses combined with the rather dim indoor lighting made seeing the sights quite challenging. On top of that, I did not have the appropriate tool to adjust the Ashley 1/2 MOA front sight. I also had some trouble getting a stable shooting position due to the narrow lane dividers, but it was mostly my own “rust” from not having shot for groups in quite a long time. I did note that the RSO on duty gave me “respect” for slinging up and assuming a proper sitting position on the line, which is probably fairly rare in these parts.

My second purpose was to test out a CZ P-07 that the range had for rent. I’ve been considering purchasing one for about six months. I’ve never had access to a range that I could rent one until now, so it was nice to actually get to shoot it before I commit to purchasing one. I was very satisfied with the one they handed me, and I expect to pick up one of my own soon for both carry and bedside duty.

In all, the 40 minutes I spent on the lane were a welcome return. I was happy to see that was still capable of shooting moderately well (particularly with pistol). I want to make it a more regular trip, seeing as the location is less than 10 minutes from my house.

General

Pistol Standards

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It should come as no surprise that my decision to regularly carry has moved pistol shooting higher in my priorities. I wrote a bit about the subject around two years ago, but my focus has remained steadfastly on rifle shooting for the most part. The reason, frankly, is that I find shooting rifles to be easier, and therefore more fun.

Pistols are more difficult to master and are far more unforgiving of weak fundamentals. Despite that, if bad things were to unexpectedly happen, 90% of the time we will find ourselves reaching for a pistol out of convenience. Be it a carry weapon, or the bedside gun, we owe it to ourselves to be proficient with it.

My trusty Beretta 92A1 has been somewhat retired, and the focus of my practice has been with my FNS-9. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the Beretta. It has functioned flawlessly for seven years, but its large size means that it is not the pistol I carry. Instead, I carry My FNS-9, which has provided flawless function over five or so years and several thousand rounds. The major downside for it when I first bought it was the lack of holster availability. Today, I’m finding that the problem has been remedied by the market.

Standards

It’s no secret that pistol shooting is more challenging. Different schools and agencies have different ideas of standards. The Rogers Shooting School essentially requires the ability to hit an eight inch circle at 20 yards on demand in less than a second. Redback One and Ken Hackthorn use modified IDPA targets and standards and involve drawing from concealment. The FBI’s new standards do the same, but with modified Q targets. There is, of course, NRA Bullseye standards as well.

I suppose, the standard you choose to pursue depends heavily on your needs. For me, those needs are squarely in the defensive. I am particularly interested in Bill Rogers’ methods, though I doubt I could afford (either in dollars or time) to attend his school any time soon. The 8″ circle used in his standards is essentially the same diameter of the “-0″ zone of the IDPA targets used in other schools, and I believe provides a good starting point.

Most pistol training occurs at less than 10 yards. I’m certainly guilty of this for most of my shooting. While I’ve demonstrated the ability to make hits on silhouettes at 100 yards, or pepper poppers at 50, I didn’t exactly apply strict timing standards to those moments. As far as I can tell, there is no downside to practicing quick hits at longer ranges with a pistol. All of the skills needed to make that hit on an 8” plate at 25 yards will translate well to making hits at closer ranges. The opposite is not necessarily true.

There is also the matter of hands. I have nearly always shot with two hands in a modified isosceles stance (arms straight, feet staggered). This is obviously the most stable and contributes to good accuracy. But the reality is that defensive shooting is more than likely going to involve one hand rather than two. The second hand could be carrying something, guiding someone (like my family), or be injured. It make sense to practice with one handed shooting more than I historically have.

So, all of that said, these are my focus areas:

  • Hitting an 8″ circle at 25 yards on demand in less than 1.5 seconds from the ready
  • Hit an 8″ circle at 25 yards on demand in less than 2 seconds from the draw and shooting with both hands
  • Hit an 8″ circle at 25 yards on demands in less than three seconds from concealment using only the strong or weak hand

For training purposes, I could always just grab a batch of 8″ paper plates. But it is difficult to get data off of that. A better route will be NRA B-8 targets, which are 25 yard pistol targets with a 5.5″ black. If I can train to keep them there, then 8″ would be much easier.

All of this presumes I can get adequate range time to practice. Sadly, that has been much more difficult to do since the move. However, indoor pistol ranges are much easier to find that nice outdoor rifle ranges.

General

The First Time Carrying

Not long ago, I mentioned an event that solidified my decision to obtain my concealed handgun permit from Virginia. Shortly after that, I filed the paperwork and started the waiting game. About 20 days later, my permit arrived in the mail.

On one hand, the feeling was “Oh, cool…” and I somewhat shrugged it off. Perhaps it was the reality hitting me that I really didn’t have an excuse anymore. I’ve also been seriously looking into a dedicated carry weapon, but haven’t committed. I realized, however, that it was like most things in life: the journey starts with a basic step.

I’ve been eyeballing a CZ P-01, P-07, or Sig P320 Compact. So far, though, I haven’t bought anything. The entire time I’ve been having this debate, my FNS-9 has been sitting in my safe loaded with Hornady Critical Duty. I also happened to have a belt-mounted kydex holster for it (made by the now defunct Trojan Tactical).

“Well,” I thought, “I might as well give it a try.”

The family and I went for one of our walks out among the local trails. The FNS rode outside the waistband (OWB) on my belt, but inside my jacket.

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A few things immediately became apparent to me after this walk. First, the standard FNS-9’s grip can print pretty badly off the side of a jacket. It’s just too long to be carried concealed this way. I found myself resting my elbow up against my side a bit more in order to hide the print. I now realize that this is the purpose of canting the holster. Second, I found the weight of the pistol to be somewhat comforting.

The TroTac holster does not have the ability to cant, so I needed to find a suitable replacement. I ended up selecting a Vedder Holsters Rapid Tuck. I received it earlier this week, and promptly took it out on the same walk. It was very comfortable. I even ran a few errands around town with it quite comfortably. The ability to cant the holster makes a huge difference in concealment.

I will continue experimenting with positions. For now, my preference seems to be strong side kidney. I will report back once I have a final spot. I also plan to talk a bit more about the holster itself. The FNS-9 may end up being a fine carry gun, though I would still like something a little shorter and narrower.

In all, I’m finding that the decision to carry is not some magical talisman that makes things better. I didn’t really expect otherwise, though. I wasn’t particularly “fearful” before, but I do find comfort in knowing that I have more options.