Category Archives: Tactical Gear

Review: Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator

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If you’re looking for higher-end features in a quality 1911, and you’re on a lower-end budget, look no further than the Range Officer: it’s ready to go!


by Bob Campbell


Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator
Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator

The original Springfield Armory (the very first armory established under authority of General George Washington) started making guns in 1777. Closed by the federal government in 1968, and then privately reopened with a brand new start in 1974 in Geneseo, Illinois, the resurrected Springfield Armory also resurrected its military roots, producing the semi-auto M1A rifles (the first civilian production of the M-14) and soon thereafter the venerable 1911 John-Browning-designed handgun — the “Government Model.”

The 1911 has been produced now by a plethora of different manufacturers, and, holding true to the original design, they all share most things in common. A 1911 is a single-action, magazine-fed autoloader with a sear-blocking safety as well as a grip-actuated safety on the frame backstrap. A well-made 1911 is a hard-hitting, durable, and reliable pistol design (especially hard-hitting in its original .45 ACP chambering). The original 1911 pistol endured a series of rigorous testing trials before being adopted by the U.S. including being dropped in sand, corroded in acid, fired until too hot to handle, and firing through 6,000 rounds without a single malfunction. It was the only design submitted that passed all these tests. (It later passed a 20,000 round endurance test to meet FBI-mandated contract requirements, a contract which was won by Springfield Armory.)

The 1911 safety and firing mechanism is different from most available handguns: its safety can only be applied when the pistol’s hammer is set fully to the rear, ready to fire. Carrying a 1911 in this mode, known as “cocked-and-locked,” makes it very fast getting to the first shot. The single-action trigger helps here too. Unlike the double-action-first-shot, double-action-only, or those using a “trigger-actuated” safety system, all a single-action trigger does is move the sear to drop the hammer. This is an advantage in accuracy and control on the first shot, and for subsequent rounds. The grip safety locks the trigger until the safety is depressed by the shooter’s hand grip.

Springfield Armory offers a wide variety of 1911-style handguns, ranging across frame and slide sizes, weights, calibers, and “levels” of build attention. There is also a wide price range that goes along across that board. The main differences among their various 1911 models are in the attention to details: the component quality, and the level of fitting and tuning, and the finish. At the base level, you can still get an “original” GI-spec .45, and at the upper-end, Springfield Armory can box up a championship-level competition piece ready for you to take to the USPSA Nationals, and win it.

Springfield Range Officer Operator grip
Checkered grips, checkered mainspring housing, a speed thumb safety, and a good beavertail grip safety are desirable features for a 1911. The 1911 is one of the fastest handguns out there coming from the holster to an accurate first shot on a target.

Springfield Armory has used “Range Officer” as a designation for its “value line.” The primary difference between these guns and the higher-end pistols is the finish. The Range Officer line has a parkerized finish (stainless steel is also available). These pistols also have a one-sided thumb safety rather than the more expensive ambidextrous unit. However, the Range Officer lineup still features a match-grade stainless steel barrel and tightly-fitted barrel bushing, two primary keys to good accuracy potential from a 1911.

The Range Officer version tested (the “Operator”) features a light-mounting rail. This rail is compatible with the wide range of available combat lights and lasers. The Operator also has forward cocking serrations on the slide. Its sights are from Novak — a white dot rear and fiber optic front. The contrast is good, and the fiber optic sight provides rapid acquisition. The pistol also features a scalloped ejection port, lightweight hammer, target-style trigger, and a grip-enhancing beavertail grip safety. Trigger compression is factory-set at a clean 6.5 pounds.

Range Testing
Working from an Eclipse Holster, speed was excellent. This holster keeps the pistol secure on the belt and offers a good blend of speed and retention. I loaded the supplied Springfield magazines and backed them up with a good supply of other 7- and 8-round magazines. The pistol was lubricated prior to testing. The magazines were loaded with Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ ammunition.

Springfield Range Officer Operator firing
The author found the Springfield Range Officer Operator a reliable and accurate service pistol. A steel-frame .45 is heavy to carry but the extra weight provides excellent control.

Firing “double-taps” quickly at 5, 7, and 10 yards, the pistol produced excellent results. This is a handgun that responds well for a trained shooter. Moving between targets quickly, and getting the fiber optic sight on the target, gave a solid hit when the trigger was properly compressed. The results simply cannot be faulted. While I often deploy lighter, aluminum-frame handguns because they’re lighter in the holster, the extra weight of its steel frame makes the Range Officer easily controllable.

Accuracy
I also tested with several defense and service loads. Recoil was greater with +P loads and a decision must be made if these loads are worth the extra effort to master. The wound potential of the .45 ACP is proven. I do not let those with a one-safari resume influence my view. I don’t think anyone can argue against the defensive capability of a .45 ACP.

Springfield Range Officer Operator tsrget
The author found the Springfield .45 exhibited excellent practical accuracy. The Operator is factory-sighted for 25 yards and may fire a little low at 7 yards, but this is easily compensated for.

Among the top loads available for the .45 ACP is the Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok. An intelligently-designed bullet with a proven history, the Hydra-Shok offers excellent wound potential. The American Eagle practice load fires to the same point of impact, making the two a good combination. Firing for accuracy from a solid bench-rest position at 25 yards, the single best group was a 2.0-inch effort for 5 shots with the Speer 230-grain Gold Dot.

Springfield Armory has taken a great handgun design and not only made it better, but, with the Range Officer, Springfield Armory made it affordable. Compared to even minimum custom-done modifications to a standard-style 1911, the package wrapped around the Range Officer is a great value.

Springfield Range Officer Operator accuracy


Bob Campbell is an established and well-respected outdoors writer, contributing regularly to many publications ranging from SWAT Magazine to Knifeworld. Bob has also authored three books: Holsters For Combat and Concealed Carry (Paladin Press), The 1911 Semi Auto (Stoeger Publishing), and The Handgun In Personal Defense (The Second Amendment Foundation).

Forming .25-45 Sharps Cases

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From Ultimate Reloader:

Gavin, much like the rest of us, doesn’t like to spend a lot on brass, especially if we’re not looking for dime-sized five shot groups at 300 yards, so the Ultimate Reloaders takes us through a step-by-step guide on how to form .25-45 Sharps cases from .223/5.56 Brass.

Click Here to visit Ultimate Reloader to follow along each of the steps in the process!

Leatherwood Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot Sight Review

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According to the Major, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a truly good red-dot sight…

by Major Pandemic

It used to be that you had to spend the price of your gun just to get a quality red-dot that would endure the abuse dished out in the field. Today we are fortunate that new manufacturing technologies and materials have advanced to the point that a good red-dot can be had for under $100 and a truly high quality red-dot such as this Hi-Lux model are just over $200.

Leatherwood, red-dot, AR15, optic sight, Hi-Lux
The Leatherwood Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot is rugged, reliable, and reasonable.

Leatherwood, red-dot, AR15, optic sight, Hi-Lux

Just after the initial release my then-new Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot sight was mounted on a basic AR15 pistol build and it was later moved to my Sig MPX 9mm pistol. One year and approximately 8000 rounds of .223 and 9mm later, the Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot has performed amazingly well, still holds zero, and I am still on the first factory included battery. From my perspective it is one of the top values for a high quality red-dot sight, so much so that I ordered another one.

This time the red-dot was mounted on a very special Aero Precision M4E1 custom AR15 pistol build.  The build has it all — AP M4E1 integrated handguard mount, a unique cool and functional upper design, an ambi-lower, KNS anti-rotate pins, Ballistic Advantage match barrel, HiperFire EDT2 trigger, and Phase 4 Tactical buffer tube, BCG, Charging Handle, and FatMan Brake. It is a heck of tricked out build that needed a great red-dot and the Hi-Lux is the perfect choice offering a lot of features, great optical clarity and a crisp red-dot.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, FEATURES, AND FUNCTIONS
The Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot is typical high quality that you would see on all Leatherwood Hi-Lux optics. The red-dot design is robust and designed to take a lot of abuse. Once upon a time, only Aimpoint could boast about a 50K+ hour run time, but now this $220 red-dot can deliver that same long run-time.

The Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot also features a tintless tube which in turn provides an extreme amount of clarity and enhanced low light vision. It is one of the few red-dot sights which gives the shooter clear glass versus a dark sunglasses tint. From a form factor the sight is completely cross compatible with all Aimpoint T-1 mounts which are available everywhere. If you have a favorite Aimpoint T1 mount it will work with the Hi-Lux. A couple of my favorite mounts are the Sampson QR T-1 QD mount and American Defense Manufacturing ADM T1 Micro QD Mount. Hi-Lux offers its own $35 co-witness riser, which is hard to pass up for the price, and is the mount I ordered for this build.

The Hi-Lux Micro-Max is extremely compact 2.5-inch length and comes with flip-up lens covers, screw on/off kill flash filter, and spare CR2032 battery compartment in the battery cover. Dot size is 2 MOA, tube size 20mm. Of note, with the added kill flash filter and lens covers installed it does add a bit of bulk over an Aimpoint T1 or similar Primary Arms Micro Dot but not any significant weight. I think most people will appreciate the snap and screw on features unless they really need to strip all the add-ons off for some reason.

My initial Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot sight held zero perfectly through more than a few bumps bangs and scrapes and thousands of rounds of 9mm and 5.56 NATO. I did have some initial concern that the extremely lightweight Hi-Lux Riser might not hold up well to side hits due to the I-beam steel design; however, I have never had an issue and it is far stronger than it looks.

Instead of the typical rotary setting switch, Hi-Lux decided on using push-button operation instead that provides click ON, hold for OFF, and click UP/DOWN to cycle through the 12 dot brightness settings.

Leatherwood Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot, AR15, AR15 pistol, red-dot, optic sight, Aimpoint
I choose this red-dot for a prize AR15 pistol. It’s a fine compliment.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot is one of my favorite red-dot sights. It functions perfectly, delivers excellent clarity, and offers plenty of daylight to low-light dot brightness settings. I will not likely be in a situation where I need a Kill Flash attachment, however the lens covers work extremely well. Owning a safe full of red-dot sights, my experience is that they get dirty quick and the flip-up covers really help assure the glass is clean and bright when I need to shoot.


major pandemic

Major Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly.  MajorPandemic.com

Massachusetts AG Effectively, Unilaterally Bans AR-15s and State-Compliant Variants

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Maura Healey, attorney general of Massachusetts,
Maura Healey, attorney general of Massachusetts,

Maura Healey, the attorney general of Massachusetts, recently rewrote the state’s 1998 Gun Control Act to reinterpret what it had meant since 1998.

Writing in the Boston Globe, Healey outlined the changes:

— The Massachusetts assault weapons ban mirrors the federal ban Congress allowed to expire in 2004. It prohibits the sale of specific weapons like the Colt AR-15 and AK-47 and explicitly bans “copies or duplicates” of those products.

— “Copies or duplicates” mean “state compliant” versions of Modern Sporting Rifles sold in Massachusetts. Such “state compliant” versions lack a flash suppressor, a folding or telescoping stock, or other helpful shooter features. The AG will notify all gun manufacturers and dealers to make clear that the sale of semi-auto rifles with certain features is now illegal in Massachusetts.

— The effect could mean that all AR-15s that have been modified to comply with Massachusetts law are now illegal purely because they are AR-15s. This could eventually outlaw all semi-automatic weapons in the state, which should violate D.C. v Heller’s explicit “common use” standard.

— Healey said in her Globe article that “if a gun’s operating system is essentially the same as that of a banned weapon, or if the gun has components that are interchangeable with those of a banned weapon, it’s a ‘copy’ or ‘duplicate,’ and it is illegal.”

Bottom Line: Some of our customers in Middle America will notice this state-law change and not be too concerned about it, because it is Massachusetts, and things like this are to be expected there.

Quite a few of our customers and fellow countrymen in the Bay State are now in limbo because basic AR-15 parts may turn a vanilla semi-auto rifle into “copies or duplicates” of those products.

Will this turn into another nudge in the direction of our fellow Americans losing their rights? There seems to have been a precedent set with California cities banning firearms, the strict laws placed in Chicago (which seems to be working, he lied), and other “leaders” treating their constituents more like an authoritarian society.

Hopefully the people of Massachusetts sound off in a clear, unified, voice at the ballot box this November.

Ten Essential Tips for CCW Holders

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10-CCW-Tips_Page_01Beretta’s free e-book, Ten Essential Tips for CCW Holders, has some useful tips to consider, in particular for gunowners who are contemplating the pros and cons of everyday carry for themselves.

As the Beretta CCW booklet says, “Carrying a concealed handgun requires a certain amount of confidence. You need to be confident in your knowledge of laws and regulations. You have to have confidence in your accuracy, and you need to trust that you can carry a gun effectively, securely and comfortably. If a gun is a burden for you to carry, you probably won’t.” So far, so good.

Click here to download 10 Essential Tips for CCW Holders as a PDF.

The topics covered are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Knowing How to Carry Your Gun Comfortably and Effectively
  3. Dressing to Keep Your Weapon a Secret
  4. Understand Your Weapon’s Capabilities
  5. Choose a Suitable Caliber
  6. Practicing Basic Skills
  7. Try Your Hand at Point Shooting
  8. Training to Clear Your Weapon
  9. Stage Your Weapon
  10. Closing to Engage a Threat

And Beretta offers some additional information which may be of value to our customers who are considering making the move to concealed carry:

  • 55% of gunfights take place 0-5 feet.
  • 20% of gunfights take place in 5-10 feet.
  • 20% of gunfights take place in 10-21 feet.
  • 95% of gunfights take place in 0-21 feet. (Source: FBI)
  • The average man can cover 21 feet of ground in 1.5 seconds.
  • The average man cannot draw a gun from concealment in under 2 seconds.
  • The average gunfight is over in 3-5 seconds.
  • 3 to 4 shots are usually fired.
  • Most gunfights take place in low-light conditions.
  • On average, one shot in four strikes someone.

Here are three of the ten tips in more detail:

Dressing to Keep Your Weapon a Secret

Once you’ve chosen a holster and a gun, you have to hide them both. The trick is keeping the gun both concealed and accessible. The main give-away is the gun’s outline being visible through clothing (printing). Some tips on choosing the right clothing to carry concealed:

  • Wear pants that have enough room in the pocket or in the waist band to comfortably carry the gun.
  • Shirt tails provide good coverage. Wear shirts that are meant to be worn untucked, and make sure your shirt extends past your waistband.
  • If you will be wearing shorts and T-shirts, you will have to consider carrying a small gun. A slim gun in an IWB holster should easily be covered by a shirt.
  • In fall and winter, heavy clothing will allow the concealment of even full sized handguns.
  • Suit jackets and coats make concealment easy.

Choose a Suitable Caliber

Here the rules are easy to understand. Larger rounds require larger guns, and typically do more damage. Small-framed handguns with short grips can be difficult to grasp. But larger guns are harder to conceal. Again, there is a balance that must be considered.

  • The .25 ACP is a tiny round that is fired from tiny guns. While easily concealed, the .25 ACP is not known for its stopping power.
  • The .32 ACP is moderately larger, and can be a perfectly effective round (though most consider a .32 to be a backup for a larger gun).
  • The .380 ACP is a very popular choice. The .380’s recoil is manageable, which allows for more accurate repeat shots. And many ammunition manufacturers make excellent .380 defensive rounds.
  • The 9mm is very popular, and close to the upper limit for lightweight concealed carry.
  • The .40 S&W is slightly larger, still. It is a popular choice for many law enforcement agencies.
  • The .45 ACP is a venerable handgun round, and offers excellent stopping power, though it is a bit slower than the 9mm.
  • The 10mm is seen by many as the upper limit of practicality. It is a .40-caliber bullet backed by more powder.

Many feel like the debate over caliber misses the mark. Practice, skill, and accuracy will do more for your success than a big bullet. Look for a gun that’s easily concealed in a caliber you can confidently handle and work on your shot placement.

Training to Clear Your Weapon of a Malfunction

What can go wrong will go wrong, and that applies to handguns as well. Sometimes primers don’t ignite the powder. Or the bullet will fire, but the gun won’t extract the spent brass. Or the next round won’t feed quite right. Anytime this happens, you have to fix the problem. Try a tap-rack. Pull the slide back with your non-dominant hand, hard, and let it go again, like you would if you were chambering a round. Sometimes a little shake will free a loose piece of brass. When the slide falls, it usually picks up the next round, or may push a stuck round into place.

This is easily practiced. Snap-caps and/or dummy rounds will allow you to simulate these problems without live rounds in the gun. See how easy (or hard) jams are to clear, and how quickly you can do it. Keep practicing these drills until the tap-rack becomes second nature.

In the worst case scenarios, you will need to lock the slide back and drop the magazine in order to clear the issue. Practice this, too. Your life may depend on your ability to understand the problem and fix it quickly.

When you decided to begin daily carry, what was the biggest obstacle for you personally to overcome? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments section below:

Mad for Magpul

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Long before you’ll feel the excitement on the range of a 3-gun match you’ll need to pick your poison, and by that, I mean you’ll need to determine the guns you want to shoot. Continue reading Mad for Magpul

Guntec Key-Mod Handrails

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Affordable Key-Mod Rails for the AR-15

Since 1989 GuntecUSA has been providing both the professional and average shooter quality products to improve their shooting. Now comes the manufacturer’s AR-15-ready, line of ultra lightweight thin key mod free floating handguard with a monolithic top rail. The all new handguards features a T6 Aluminum body. Guntec’s free floating handguard includes a proprietary steel barrel nut. The rail system slides over the barrel nut and locks up against the receiver with just six screws. Guntec Key-Mod Handrails come in the original Tactical Black, and Dark Earth, and in a variety of lengths and designs.

What makes a Key-Mod rail so great? It’s super-light-weight, endlessly customizable, and easy to use. The open sourced design allows you to place the extra rail anywhere on the handguard, giving you the freedom to choose what components to add, as well as reducing weight of the rail by getting rid of the unused rail space.

Not only is the handrail easy to install, but the key-mod rails are even easier. You never have to worry about rail covers, or hurt fingers, again. Just simply remove your accessory, then remove the rail, and you’re back to the smooth grip of the key-mod rail itself. Still unsure of how the key-mod system works? Check out the easy-to-follow equation below.


We had a quick word with our own Matt D. to get his thoughts on the GuntecUSA Key-Mod system. Matt has a wide range of experience with AR builds. Take a look at the clip below to see just how the barrel nut is set up, and how you can install it without marring your rail.
As you can see from the short clip, the design of the barrel nut makes it impossible to use most armourers wrenches. We’ve seen the results, and it’s not pretty, typically destroying the threads for the barrel screws. We used a crescent wrench, set to the appropriate width of 18mm-33mm. Each handrail also comes with shims, to ensure a super-tight fit.