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VS762 last won the day on March 4 2015

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About VS762

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  1. VS762

    Vortex SPARC II

    In recent years, Vortex optics have been popping up everywhere. Most recently you can see them starting to have a significant following in 3-gun events. That is where I first saw the Vortex SPARC II. For both duty and competition I have used the Meprolight M21 for years, almost two decades, when a reflex style sight was needed. So if something works why change it? The truth is, as much as I like the M21 it has several draw backs. Shooting from indoor to outside sunlight can be very hard with the M21 or any passively lit optic for that matter. I have tried and long term reviewed countless sights, but always ended up back with the Meprolight for my go to reflex sight. The Vortex SPARC II may have changed that with a few caveats. With that primer this will be a short review, and the yardstick of comparison will be the Meprolight M21. Before this review even started, this sight went through the paces. Several runs in three gun, more hours in the rain than I can count, actually submerged a few times on accident, all to eventually find a home on a 12 gauge shotgun where it has spent the last thousand rounds or so. In all that time, I cannot recall a single issue. While we do not purposely abuse hardware during testing, we do believe in real world trial by fire. The only modification we eventually did was to the lens covers. Pretty much any caliber larger than .22 would cause the covers to pop off. We fixed this with a dab of rubber cement on the inside of the cover. If you are not using this sight for duty, the better option is probably to invest in some cheap bikini style covers. Above you can see the sight picture of the Meprolight and The SPARC II. This image was taken assuming a length of pull of 12.5 inches where most peoples eye would be. The blue tint on the Meprolight is from a contrast filter adapter that was installed for NVGs. It has been on there so long that even with a lens wrench it was not coming off with reasonable force. The M21 sight allows more awareness due to its larger lens and smaller frame. Despite that, three reviewers all shot the same shotgun course faster on the first run than they did with the M21 on the second. On several occasions these results have been repeated. From personal experience the only thing I can say is with the brightness cranked up, you never loose the dot. With the M21 on a moving target, after the shot there is a moment we all felt we lost the dot for a fraction of a second and had to readjust. We repeated the same test with a RMR and had the same results. For us here the SPARC II goes amazingly well with a shotgun if you are shooting dynamic. What was interesting however, is the results could not be repeated on a carbine. We all shot, as would be expected, faster with the sight we normal trained on. Right off the shelf, you can see the SPARC II has the usual professional Vortex packaging. Inside the box, you get not only the tools you need to install it, but also the riser bases you will need to install this sight on pretty much anything. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is a time and frustration saver. Other sights almost all require some odd combination of spacers to bring it up high enough to use with both eyes open (BEO) with head upright in a good position. The SPARC II out of the box with the 40mm setup is almost perfect. If you need more fine tuning, there is also the option for 18mm, 21mm, and 37mm mount heights all right in the box. Below you can see the brightness buttons, the only buttons you will regularly need to access for use. While easy to use, they can be more difficult to activate with heavier gloves but this is true of any sight control system barring maybe turrets. That said, the Vortex Spitfire nails it in that category. So after almost a year where do we stand on the Vortex SPARC II? Several of us here are using it in 3 gun on our shotguns myself included. For carbine however, I still prefer my old tried and true M21 at less than 100m. In the event of longer engagement ranges, Vortex has a solution. The 3x Spitfire. We will be comparing that in an upcoming review. No matter what you decide, you need to gets your hands on a selection of equipment and decide what works best for you. All we can say here is that the Vortex SPARC II is an incredible reliable scope that fills specific roles better than anything else we have tested to date. Didn't get something right? Let us know in the discussion topic: Vortex SPARC II Discussion.
  2. VS762


    Everything else.
  3. As noted in the article there is some lateral play or wiggle in this rail. Really cranking down the barrel nuts helps a little, but a better solution is to put a sling mount or some other rail accessory between the two pieces. Using the Magpul sling mount I was able to remove all perceived play.
  4. Click Image For Larger View Before you can start building up your new receiver, you need to strip the old one of a few pieces. There is no need to remove any of the gas system or barrel components, but you can if it makes working easier on your bench. Start by removing the two screws securing the butt-pad. They are concealed behind two small openings but can be seen partially backed out in the image to the right. The screws are actually Pozidrive, however if you do not have a bit a Phillips driver will work. With the pad removed, now assemble a 6mm socket driver and 12' extension. Click Image For Larger View There is a single bolt that secures the upper to the lower. Using the 6mm socket driver, unscrew the bolt 5 turns. Next, remove the wrench and tap the extension and bit with a mallet. You will not start to see the upper and lower start to separate. Snap the wrench back onto the extension, and continue the remove the bolt in the normal fashion. The bolt and plate will fall free and can be placed to the side. The upper will now rotate forward freely and separate so you can continue to scavenge parts from it. Click Image For Larger View The bolt hold back latch comes off in the familiar fashion. A few taps from a 1/16" punch and the pin will fall free and the latch can be lifted out. The SAS site instructs the hole to be drilled out to 0.093". I actually used a 0.088 bit and found the fit to be a little better. Either one will drill very quick as you are only opening the hole up a few thousandths. In a pinch a hand drill will do the job, just make sure to wear gloves. For those of you running three gun with your MKA 1919, you have probably considered upgrading your polymer lower to an aluminum one. There are two popular choices out there, the Firebird MKA lower and the SAS lower. The main difference between the two is that the Firebird is a two piece lower and slightly heavier, while the SAS lower is one piece and lacks the floating feed ramps. We will talk more about that later in the article. For this review, we will cover the SAS MKA 1919 aluminum lower and the basic installation. Upon receiving your lower, you will find a few things in the box. The SAS lower itself, along with the various hardware that cannot be recycled from the old receiver. What you will not find is instructions. Thankfully the MKA builds up pretty much the same way any other M4 / AR15 platform would. The receiver itself is very high quality in finish. The anodizing is above par, and even with close inspection no machining lines were visible. The bolt catch pin is a threaded one which is a nice touch. I have seen a lot of amateur "gunsmiths" mar the hell out of a lower trying to set the bolt catch pin. The increased pic size will however require you to drill it out ever so slightly. Strangely the buffer tube adapter is a separate piece. I am not sure what that is about, but when all put together the lines of the weapon still flow nicely. Click Image For Larger View Removing the magazine release catch is a little different on the MKA 1919 than it is on the M4. Instead of pressing the button all the way in and un-screwing it from the right side, it is simple screwed on. On this particular rifle there was an insane amount of torque needed to remove this screw. Having said that, you will want to use a quality Flathead to avoid stripping the head out. Click Image For Larger View The hammer and trigger pins need to be driven out from left to right. For me these were in stupid tight. I had to start them with a 3/16' punch before driving them out with a 5/32". Not sure if this is normal, but be prepared to be patient here. If you are not sure that you are driving them the correct way, double check to make sure you are hammering on the rounded side... I know... Click Image For Larger View At this point, everything goes back into the new receiver in the same fashion as any other M4 build. There are instructions on the site should you need to look up anything. So with that out of the way, how does the new receiver preform? Well on mine I had a few issues and concerns. First was the fit of magazines. My ten round mags would fit in but very tight. Actually took took people to pull them back out. The OEM 5rd mags that came with the gun would not fit at all. After some searching around the net, there were some other people with the same issue. That said the ten round magazines would probably wear in and be OK yet never drop free. The five round mags would have been a lost cause. I contacted the supplier but as of writing this I have not heard back. My solution was fix it myself. I marked up the mag well with Dykem and inserted the magazines as far as I could. The center ridge at the back of the magazine turned out to be the issue. Using a full flute end-mill bit I started removing material slowly. By the end I had to remove a fair amount of material. That is to say, enough material that these would have never "worn in". For the machinist out there, the depth was 0.086. At that point neither the ten or five round mags would drop free, but they could be pulled out with finger strength. I will let them wear for a while and remove more material if necessary. So finally... how did it preform? The short answer is great for me. Using a standard stock I was able to get the platform back to the correct LOP for me. In 75 rounds not malfunctions. Keep in mind this was on a previously broken in gun. While it should have been obvious, the purpose of the floating feed-ramps hit me when I got back to the bench to strip and clean. With this receiver, you have to separate the upper and lower if you want to clean the bolt. Based on the PITA UBR II, I can say this is something I will not be doing often. If you are OCD, this may be a plus for the Firebird Precision lower. All in all I would recommend this upgrade if you are using the platform for 3G, or you need a shorter LOP. I feel like a good deal of the pros and cons of this upgrade are subjective. For that reason please chime in at the SAS lower discussion topic if you feel differently.
  5. Just as an FYI radical firearms has a sale on .50 uppers.
  6. VS762

    Magpul UBR Review

    GEN II review up at
  7. VS762

    Magpul UBR Gen II

    Magpul has long been one of the go-to suppliers for furniture for almost any AR or AK build. With the UBR stock recently discontinued, fans have been waiting for the replacement UBR GEN-II. Before jumping into this review, lets go over a few of the reasons you may be considering this stock. For us, the reason the UBR has always been at the top of the list is its strength. This stock is beyond rigid. In addition it is also one of the heavier stocks out there. While this may be a draw back for a pencil build 5.56, this is perfect for helping to balance the weight on something like an AR shotgun or .50 Beowulf. Being completely free from any rattle also helps instill extra confidence in the sometimes intimidating larger calibers. For those of you who like a little junk in the trunk, the UBR has a storage compartment large enough for a few batteries, shell extractor, and NFA paper work. Personally I find these to be an annoyance, so thankfully on both the GEN I and GEN II the doors can be removed. Both versions do require that you use the UBR proprietary buffer tube which is included. So with that out of the way lets take a look at the new UBR GEN II. I will start out by saying this. I usually like Magpul products and may be slightly bias. With the exception of PMAGs and a few of the low end BUIS, I usually recommend Magpul. Waiting several months for this stock gave us something to look forward to. That said, everyone here feels like the GEN II UBR is a step backwards in every way except for price and weight. Click Image For Larger View With everything installed, you will notice a few differences right away. First is the length of pull (LOP) which is increased by 0.48". This is to accommodate what I refer to as the goofy ass A5 buffer system. This is just me, but I feel that if your weapon is not over gassed there is no need for the A5 system. If it is over gassed, or you shoot suppressed, that a pinned adjustable gas block is a much better solution. Rant done and moving along. For those of use familiar with the UBR GEN I, we know that the next step is to set the "memory" to your preferred position. For me this was collapsed with armour, and position 3 without. When you go to do this on the GEN II, you will notice some changes. These changes are, you are SOL. So longer LOP, specialized tools, and no memory. Well, at least it is a few dollars cheaper? With sling attachment points pretty much the same as the original, you can now turn your attention to attaching your preferred sling. If you want, you can take this time to upgrade the strike face to a metal one for a more secure sling mounting point... wait. No you cannot. They removed that also. The big question is how does it preform. Like the previous version, this stock is a tank. It helps balance front heavy weapons, and all while being totally silent. It is a great stock, and we do recommend it with a caveat. That caveat being, get the GEN I if you can find it. Maybe others will have a difference option. If so let us know in the UBR Discussion Topic. Click Image For Larger View Of GEN I vs GEN II Right out of the box the UBR II was less user friendly than its predecessor. For the first time in ages reading the instruction manual became a necessity. The GEN II requires special tools to install. To Magpuls credit they are included. OK, so it requires a little reading. Nothing wrong with technology and continued education. One of the specialized tool is what I am going to call the fat rabbit for giggles. To install the stock you start by removing the stock itself from the buffer tube. This is done in the pretty typical way or moving it all the way reward then depressing the latch at the front while pulling back. OK, so far so good. Then you need to use the fat rabbit (shown at bottom) to pry the cheek piece off the tube. So there is something new. With those two pieces out of the way, the tube installs in the usual manor. Well, almost. You do need a special adapter on your armour's wrench, which is included. Click Image For Larger View Of Fat Rabbit Stock Tool
  8. VS762

    Akdal MKA 1919 Match 3 Gun Build

    Was breaking in new mags and two have an issue when only two shells are loaded... yes I was shooting trap with it. With two shells loaded it jammed every time. With any other number loaded it ran like a top. Two out of my four 5rd mags do this.
  9. VS762

    Akdal MKA 1919 Match 3 Gun Build

    Trying out the Vortex Sparc II on this build.
  10. VS762

    Akdal MKA 1919 Match 3 Gun Build

    Review and install of the Tooth and Nail forend.
  11. A better look at the engraved logo from the above mentioned article.
  12. If you own an Akdal MKA 1919, you know from the factory you have limited accessory mounting options. Personally I am not a huge fan of rails on shotguns, but I do love the ability to weak side charge. Anyone looking to modify these shotguns has undoubtedly stumbled across Tooth And Nail Armory (T&N). This is who made the piece we will be reviewing today. For the reasons stated above, we opted for the "Level 10 Rail" which has the side charge handle installed. A quick visit to their site and eight days later we had the part in hand. When ordering there are a ton of options for configuration. Because we were not looking to add any additional accessories at this time, we ordered the basic 12" forend. In the box, you will find the forend, adapter plate, o-ring, and very basic instructions. When we say "basic" we mean it. Thankfully this install takes less than five minutes and is not rocket-science. Click Image To Enlarge Installation should take less than five minutes with common tools. Start by removing the 4mm allen bolts on the front sight. To avoid marring the finish, splay the mounting tabs of the sight apart gently as you lift off the sight. There are flats machined into the barrel so avoid twisting as you lift it off. Now, remove the forend nut highlighted below in yellow. As you move the the forward band off, the clam-shell hand-guards will fall off. Set those aside, and lift off the hand-guard base plate, what would be the delta ring on a M4. Click Image To Enlarge With the stock parts removed, slide the T&N base plate over the barrel with the narrower portion facing away from the receiver. With a little bit of pressure it will press into place and become flush with the upper receiver. If you cannot get it all the way flush, do not worry. When you tighten the forend on, it will press into place. Now lower the new forend over the barrel and guide rod assuring that the flange on the base plate slides into the forend. Before reinstalling the secure nut, make sure to slide the provided o-ring over it. Tighten the secure nut until the forend no longer has excess movement in it. Worth noting is there will always be a small amount of play in the forarm if you apply enough force. If you are anal, like we are, you can install a sling mount between the upper and the rail. That will fix the problem. Click Image To Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge The build quality of the forend is extremely robust. It achieves a nice balance between being so light it feels weak, and having so much mass it feels unrefined. Tolerances across the entire forend were very good. The finish is what I would consider average at best. With a retail over $200.00 there is room for improvement here. If you look at the photo above you can see where the charge handle had what looks like smut on it prior to finishing. The logo which is supposed to be engraved, was also not touched off properly prior to engraving. Instead of an angry dog, it ended up looking more like an acid spill after anodizing. That said, we will probably duracoat the rail once we are happy with everything on the weapon. So with that out of the way, lets take a look at the fit and install. Click Image To Enlarge There are a few comments on the internet about excess gap between the receiver and rail. This was an issue on the earlier XN guns, and appears to be fixed on the Match Gen II weapons. In the photo above you can see there is no gap. The forend does not however match the taper of the upper. While this would add some machining cost, it would be a nice touch on the next generation of rails. The same goes for at the bottom where the receiver is radiused. Matching the two parts would be an excellent touch. Click Image To Enlarge The open design of the forend will allow everything to run cooler, however it does expose the gas system to more debris. For 3-Gun this is not an issue, however is not ideal if you plan to service the weapon. That said, the side charge makes a huge difference charging the weapon or clearing it. As far as speed on reloads, I do not think it makes a difference one way or another. Overall the T&N rail is slightly narrower and slightly taller than the OEM grip. Depending on your stance and size of your hands, this can be a pro or a con. With this rail, removal of the A2 front sight is required for general cleaning. If you like having back up iron sights, this can be a problem. It is however a problem easy enough to fix with a rail mounted A2 sight. The weapon is more than long enough to still give you a long enough sight radius especially for a shotgun. For the OCD crowd, there is also a little lateral play. This can be addressed, and I will talk about it in the discussion topic below. So in summations is this a worthwhile upgrade? Absolutely! The feel of the weapons and over all function is improved greatly. So if you are on the fence, stop waiting. Take the plunge and give this rail a shot. Did we get something wrong? It does happen. Let us know is the Side Charge Rail Discussion Topic.
  13. If you participate in or follow 3 gun, you have undoubtedly seen the Akdal MKA 1919 by now. With 3 gun unlimited (previously open) being dominated by Saigas and Vepr 12s, it is always interesting to see something new. With the MKA 1919 out for over a decade a lot of people are wondering why this shotgun is not more prolific. The answer is not surprisingly, reliability. While all semi-auto shotguns tend to have their quirks, the MKA 1919 had more than its share. The first generations were plagued with both reliability and durability issues. The GEN2 has addressed all these issues. Sadly, the US will still not get the MKA 1919 Match Pro which features an all alloy receiver due to sporting/importation limitations. Head up though, there is a large aftermarket following for this weapon. So lets take a look at this platform and the features that may finally make the MKA 1919 a Saiga killer. Click Image For Larger View On the business end there are also some updates. While still using internal choke tubes, they are no longer Winchoke pattern tubes. Winchoke tubes are 0.816" x 32. The new MKA tubes are 21mm x 32 (0.824" x 32). Because the thread pitch is the same, Winchoke tubes will screw in and even seem tight. After a few rounds that eighth thousands of an inch catches up to you, and they will loosen. So sad news on that front. Turning to the gas system and bolt, there were some much needed improvements. The gas regulator nut is still a standard right thread, but the jam/lock nut is now a left thread. So far this seems to have fixed the loosening that some earlier owners had. The feed ramps and are not metal and pretty much the entire bolt and carrier have been upgraded. With only 200 rounds through the weapon so far, it is still too early to say how all these improvements will play out. The initial results look promising though. Click Image For Larger View The one aspect that still needs improvement in our opinion are the sights. The sights are m4 style with a peep or blade option on the rear. It is hard to show in a photo, but rapid target acquisition with this set up is out of the question. While I am not generally a fan of red-dot or reflex sights on a shotgun, this platform really benefits from one. So with a street price of around $450 USD is this the holy grail of 3gun ready scatterguns? The answer is both yes, and no. The MKA 1919 is a great platform, but far from competition ready. There are aftermarket parts out there to really make this weapon shine. Parts such off-side charge handles, billet lowers, better stocks and so on. So if you are buying this for 3 gun, expect to invest another thousand dollars or so. Even at $1450 you will be competitive for much less than a prepped Vepr or Saiga 12. The UTAS XTR is a strong option also, but for those of us who prefer a side charge I give the MKA the edge. As always if we got something wrong, tell us. MKA 1919 Match Discussion Thread. Click Image For Larger View Click Image For Larger View On the strong side of the weapon, the first thing you will notice is the now standard ambidextrous safety and over sized magazine release. The logo has also been slightly changed from the previous MKA 1919 XN model. In addition, the charge handle has been updated to what I guess you would call a tactical one. All of these improvements are a massive step in the correct direction. While the safety still feels too smooth and slightly undersized, it does make an effort to support the south paws out there. The massive magazine release button is all but impossible to miss. Magazines now drop free, something that was hit and miss on previous generations. The trigger is slightly lighter than the older XN variant. Over a ten pulls it averaged 8lb 10oz. It is still very much on the heavy side, but the reset is crisp and there is no perceivable over-travel. The bolt release is now also larger and much easier to release even with thick gloves on if you use the palm slap method. Click Image For Larger View Included with the gun, you will find a plastic accessory case. In the case are the extra choke tubes, choke tube key, and the heavy load gas ring. Changing the choke tubes is the only aspect of maintenance or general usage that requires any tools. Worth noting is the gun we received was clean and oiled. It seems more and more common to get a new firearm that is fairly dirty and dry. It is nice to get something, especially in this price range, that you can just pull out of the box safety check and fire. As time goes on, we will keep you posted on reliability in the thread found here: MKA 1919 Match Discussion. Click Image For Larger View Check the discussion forums for updates as we build this up for 3 gun unlimited.
  14. VS762

    Akdal MKA 1919 Match 3 Gun Build

    In the mail