Monday, January 20, 2014

First Look: Streamlight TLR-1s Weapon Light

This isn't exactly a "First Look," since I've had the item being reviewed mounted to my duty weapon for over a year now, but I realized I hadn't had a chance to share my thoughts on it.

First of all, I'll preface the actual review with a bit of a warning: If you choose to use a weapon-mounted light of any kind, it is highly recommended that you take advantage of the plethora of instructors out there, and seek some form of training in the proper deployment of the light in conduction with whatever types of encounters you foresee using it in.  That's my opinion, of course, and I found the training I received in the proper use of a weapon light to have been invaluable.  Using any kind of light in a low-light tactical situation carries a number of risks, most notably in revealing your position to an unknown attacker.  Many training courses offer a number of different techniques for employing a light source to your advantage, which can prove invaluable.

First of all, the packaging was minimal, yet adequate.  My TLR-1s was packaged in a simple molded plastic clamshell, inside of a branded cardboard box.  All of the pieces were kept in place, and everything was visible before opening the package.  Nothing was damaged in transit, the packaging was adequate to prevent damage in shipping, and the item worked as intended straight out of the package.

Included in the package, we have the light, a pair of CR123 batteries (commonly referred to as "Streamlight Batteries"), and a plastic bag containing adaptors to allow the light to work with different brands of pistols, given the subtle inconsistencies in grooving in most pistol rails.  Assembly was simple, as the Glock adaptor was already installed in the light, so all I had to do to get the light mounted and working on my Glock 22 was install the batteries, clip it on the rail, and tighten the screw.  I have heard that some generations used a different type of fastener to secure the light to the rail, but mine uses a simple screw with a slot for using a coin or other implement to tighten/loosen.  Installation took 30 seconds, and required no instructions.  Battery replacement requires removing the light from the weapon, which is a positive factor in my opinion, as the batteries aren't going to fall off during normal use, provided the light is securely fastened.

Streamlight advertises this light as producing 300 lumens of light output, which I can't confirm, as I don't have the technical equipment to do so in my garage.  I will, however, state that this is a VERY bright light, more than adequate for any tactical use you may have for it.  Light output is comparable to my upgraded Surefire 6P, with a slight perceptible advantage to the Surefire, due entirely to the upgrades made after purchase.

Using the TLR-1s is easy, as the controls are rather intuitive.  There is a "butterfly" type rotating switch, which allows for control of the light with either hand.  I prefer to activate the light with my support-hand thumb, as this keeps my trigger finger unoccupied, and I find that I can activate the light more accurately that way, particularly when using the strobe feature.  To turn the light on, you can move the switch one way for momentary, the other way for steady on.  To activate the strobe feature, simply double-tap the switch to momentary on, holding it down on the second tap.  I've only ever used momentary on for situations requiring a weapon drawn in the past, so I rarely use the "steady on" function.  The strobe feature is useful for disorienting attackers in low-light and no-light environments, although I do not recommend using it without receiving some form of training first, for reasons mentioned above.

Durability is impressive.  I've had the TLR-1s mounted to my Glock 22 .40 caliber pistol for over a year, and I've taken it to the range at least a dozen times, qualified with it at work twice, and conducted several firearms training events with it.  The Streamlight has performed flawlessly.  The body is made of anodized machined aluminum, and despite the heavy use it's received in my possession, the light still looks mostly as it did out of the box.  One adverse effect I've noticed, is that since the front of the unit protrudes farther than the front of the barrel of the Glock, it gathers excess carbon buildup at a pretty high rate.  It's not usually enough to interfere with light output, but I've noticed some discoloration of the bezel around the light, particularly the chrome accent ring between the light bezel and the rest of the unit, but this is purely aesthetic, not affecting the function of the product in any way.

To compound on the durability of this light, I've been told by a number of people that it's not a good idea to install a weapon-mounted light to a Glock .40 caliber pistol, because the recoil alone is known to have caused light failures, and others have reported weapon lights causing weapon malfunctions.  I've noticed no adverse effects in either the light or the gun, despite hundreds of rounds being fired, and the light only being removed for cleaning after a trip to the range.  I'd venture that I've fired close to 1500 rounds since mounting the light.

I purchased the TLR-1s for $120 from a local gun shop, but they have been seen going for $99 on, plus shipping, and I've seen some even better deals popping up around the 'net.  Also, you can find a number of accessories for the TLR-1s, including remote switches for long guns, and a very neat "contoured remote switch" for Glock pistols, which allows control of the light with the strong-hand middle finger.  The accessories available for the TLR-1s are also compatible with the TLR-1, and may be compatible with the TLR-2 and TLR-2s, although you should verify before purchasing.

Overall, if you're in the market for a weapon-mounted light, I strongly suggest taking a look at the TLR-1s.  It's a solid light that comes with a limited lifetime warranty, is easy to use, and includes hardware to mount on most rail-equipped pistols manufactured in the last 10 years.  It can also be used on a MIL-Standard rail, if you choose to mount it on an AR15 or other similar weapon, although I'd recommend taking a look at the TLR-1s HP for that purpose, which is essentially the same light, with a larger reflector and bezel, allowing for more effective light patterns consistent with longer distances that you may encounter using a rifle, versus the closer quarters of engagement you will see with a standard service pistol.  This is not the only weapon light out there, far from it, but it's solid, and is comparable in quality to all of its competition.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, let us know!  You can leave a comment here, with no registration necessary, post up on our Facebook page, or shoot us an email at  We hope to have some pictures to share in the near future, so be sure to check back with us!

First Look: Magpul AFG

Well, I know this may not be as exciting for some of you as it is for me, but I acquired a Magpul AFG (Angled Fore Grip) from a friend over the holidays, and it has since been mounted on my AR15.  Previously, I had used a simple and inexpensive vertical fore grip, and honestly, it was useful, but I thought the AFG was a better fit for me, having held a rifle equipped with one previously.

Packaging was simple, the item was inside a clear plastic bag, which was neatly packaged in a clearly marked small cardboard box.  Nothing fancy, this is a very durable item, so unnecessary precautions weren't taken in preparing it for shipping.  It was clean and undamaged, and all of the parts were already in place.  Speaking of parts, the Magpul AFG has only three: The main component, which is essentially a piece of composite material, a nut, and a screw, which attach the grip to the rail.

Installation was simple.  Remove the screw, slide the grip onto the rail, position it where you want it, reinsert the screw, and tighten.  Installation shouldn't take more than a minute, even if you have other rail-mounted accessories that you need to remove first.

I can't really speak on increased accuracy or any other quantifiable improvements since installing the AFG on my rifle, although it felt much more comfortable.  That is purely a subjective analysis, however, and since this is largely a matter of preference, the best I can say is to give it a try.  I'm not going to spin a web of deception and tell you it'll make you a better marksman, or explain some completely fabricated theory about how this product will decrease back pain or increase the resale value of your home.  I can't endorse the product as a "Must Have" for everyone, because not everyone is going to like it.  There's not really much else to be said about it.

Check back soon, I'll be sharing some pictures of the AFG in the coming days.  If you have any questions about this, or any other articles featured on The Low Ready, give us a shout in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in an email to

Thanks for stopping by, and we look forward to reviewing more fun and exciting products throughout 2014!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Words of Wisdom-The Rules of Firearm Safety

Now, before we begin, I'd like to mention that this post is going to be much less formal than the others.  I'm not reviewing any products, I'm not describing the ballistics of a specific weapon, ammunition, etc.  I'm simply going to cover the basic principles of firearm safety.  We all know the "fundamentals", the list of rules in circulation that everyone has heard at one point or another.  My first exposure was my first week of Basic Training, the first time I had ever held a firearm.  I don't remember "hearing" the fundamentals of firearm safety, so much as I recall having them forcibly pounded into my cranium, through my "brain bucket," with the buttstock of a figurative M16A1. . . I'm going to forego my spotty recollection of a possibly traumatic experience, and move on to the "meat and potatoes."

I will also preface this by saying that the purpose of this post is mostly as a reminder to those of you who have some experience.  Newcomers to the hobby can still learn something, but the stories relayed below will be based mostly on my experiences with the inexperienced shooters I've had to "gently" remind of the rules while at the range, in firearms training classes, and the like.

Rule #1: It's a Lethal Weapon, you idiot!
Until you've had these rules explained to you, if you've never handled a firearm before, it's unlikely that the "4 rules" are at the front of your mind.  The first time I handled a firearm, I think the only thought I can remember was, "This is so cool!  I wonder when we're going to get to shoot these things!"  The last thing on my mind was the power of the weapon, and I was SO sure that it was unloaded, I really didn't care where I pointed the muzzle.  Well, for a minute, anyway.  If there's anything my time in the military has taught me, it's to always treat the weapon as if it's loaded, even when I'm sure it's not.  There are too many stories about people who have had negligent discharges while handling firearms, we don't need any more.

Rule #2: Don't point that thing at me!
It doesn't matter how many times you tell someone this rule, they will always forget.  We need to be attentive at all times, especially with those who have little or no experience.  I have done firearms qualifications for employees of the company I'm employed by, and it seems that no matter how many times I've said it, someone always has a loaded gun pointed at them when we get to the firing line.  Usually, it's me.  That's why I wear a vest, and carry a hefty life insurance policy.  The key here is situational awareness.  One of the more terrifying educational instances was when an employee had a weapon malfunction on the range.  I instructed everyone on the firing line to "Cease Fire", which they did, and everyone except for the individual involved cleared and holstered their weapons.  The individual I was dealing with conducted malfunctions drills on his weapon 3 times under my supervision, and was unable to clear the weapon.  I then instructed him to "keep the weapon pointed downrange, and hand it to me slowly."  Next thing I know, he turns toward me, says, "Here ya go," and I look down at the barrel Smith and Wesson .40 semi-automatic pistol swinging toward my midsection.  Situational awareness, folks.  Learn from my mistakes!

Rule #3: Get your finger off the trigger!
This one, like all the others, would seem to be a no-brainer, but still, the first thing people always seem to do when I let them handle one of my firearms (those who haven't handled them before, anyway) is put their finger on the trigger.  I prefer to keep it simple, to the point, and always observe how folks handle the firearm BEFORE it's loaded, but after my brief safety lecture.  I've had tons of fun going to the range, and allowing folks who have had no exposure to firearms the chance to gain a stronger understanding, but it's always been my priority to emphasize safety.  Most firearms will only discharge if the trigger is squeezed.  I'm not saying that malfunctions are impossible, which is why we have rules #2 and #4, but a trigger finger on the trigger when the other rules aren't being followed can be a recipe for disaster.

Rule #4: CEASE FIRE!!
This rule is one of the most often-overlooked, and one of the most important.  You've made sure all weapons are treated as if they are loaded, muzzle awareness has been a priority, and fingers have remained safely indexed outside of the trigger guard.  This may seem like a repeat of #2, but there is more to it than simple muzzle awareness. . . The key is to be aware of your target.  Know what's behind it, what's in front, what you might hit if you miss, where the bullets will land.  You can't just set up tin cans on the fence and plink away.  Well, you could, but I'm not sure anyone has built a fence in front of a proper berm for the purpose of setting up cans. . .  Safety is the key word, and it's not just the safety of those directly involved at the range, it's the safety of everyone within the distance that projectile will travel.  Believe it or not, once that bullet leaves the barrel, it doesn't cease to be our responsibility.  Another point to consider, range safety is not the responsibility of one person.  Everyone present is considered a safety officer, in that anyone can call "Cease Fire" if they observe any unsafe conditions or behavior.

Following these rules should come naturally to those who have the proper mindset when handling firearms.  Some of us have been given a more rigorous introduction to these principles than others (Military & Law Enforcement firearms training tends to have that effect), but the intention of the above rules is to maintain a safe environment, and I believe everyone can benefit from familiarizing themselves before ever coming into contact with a firearm, loaded or otherwise.

As always, if you have anything to add, feel free to comment below!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: .300 AAC "Blackout"

This topic is one that has come up a number of times with friends and family, particularly when discussing the AR-15 platform.  The .300 AAC Blackout cartridge (known simply as ".300BLK" on the forums) is a relatively new arrival, and has steadily been gaining a following in the enthusiast world.

First off, I'll share the basics of the cartridge.  This is essentially a trimmed-down .223/5.56 case, necked down to accept a .30 caliber projectile.  The overall length of the cartridge is only slightly shorter (.4mm shorter, to be precise) than that of a 5.56 round, although the projectile is significantly larger.  The beauty of this design is it's simplicity; a .300BLK rifle requires only a barrel replacement, every other component is identical to those in the more common 5.56mm and .223 caliber iterations of the AR15.

I would like to point out a problem I see with this, and let this serve as a warning.  A .300BLK round is shorter in overall length, and can possibly chamber fully in a 5.56mm/.223 caliber rifle.  This means that it's possible to mistakenly put a .300BLK round into a magazine with .223 ammo, chamber the round, and fire the weapon, which would likely result in significant damage to the weapon, and possible injury to the shooter.  This is why, when I go to the range, I make sure the ammunition for the .300BLK is kept separately from any other caliber, and I pay close attention when loading magazines.  I am not speaking from experience here, I haven't blown up my rifle by mistakenly loading the wrong cartridge, but this is an issue I have heard about happening at least once before.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk a little bit about the ballistic properties of the round.  This cartridge is available in a number of different bullet weights, most common being 115gr. and 125gr.  A standard 5.56 NATO cartridge has a bullet weight of only 62gr.  Since the Blackout was designed as a .30 caliber solution for the AR15/M16/M4 platform, the ballistics are most frequently compared to those of the original AR15 caliber, the 5.56mm NATO.

For comparison's sake, let's briefly review the ballistic properties of a common AR15 variant:

Caliber: 5.56mm NATO (62gr. FMJ-BT)
Barrel Length: 16 Inches
Effective Range: 500 m (Point Target)
Bullet Velocity: 2,927 ft/sec.
Energy: 1,303 lb/ft.

And the same rifle, chambered in .300 AAC Blackout:

Caliber: .300BLK (125gr. UMC)
Barrel Length: 16 Inches
Effective Range: 460 m (Point Target)
Bullet Velocity: 2,215 ft/sec.
Energy: 1,360 lb/ft.

As you can see, the velocity is lower, as expected, for the .300BLK.  Energy is higher, but in terms of bullet drift and drop, the Blackout experiences both at a shorter distance than that of the 5.56.  The 5.56, being a much smaller/lighter projectile, doesn't carry as much energy moving past it's effective range, however.  The .300BLK above carries the same amount of energy at 700 m, that the 5.56 cartridge does at 500 m.  The projectile size and energy increase of the .300BLK also allow for greater penetration of "hard targets" than the 5.56.

Another benefit of the .300BLK is that the original project goals specified that it be suitable for use in a short-barreled carbine outfitted with a Suppressor.  A 220gr. subsonic .300BLK is a fantastic round for suppressor use, especially when coupled with a short barrel.  With a quality suppressor mounted to a 9" Barrel, you can expect a reduction to approximately 130-135 dB, which is below the 140 dB "Safe Threshold" for unprotected hearing.  Supersonic loads, however, are significantly louder, even when using a suppressor, and may result in hearing loss if proper hearing protection is not used.

I will elaborate more on this cartridge, including photographs, within the next several days.  I have only one AR15 in my collection now, which is chambered in .300 BLK.  I made the switch just over a year ago, and I haven't looked back.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Review: Heckler & Koch USP45 Tactical

Recently, I decided to act on impulse, and picked up a pistol I have always been intrigued by.  This is the Heckler & Koch (HK) USP45 Tactical.  I spent some time at the range with the USP a while back, but we'll get to that later.

First of all, this is a BIG pistol.  It's a full-size .45ACP semi-automatic with a 4.78" Threaded Barrel.  The magazine capacity depends on which model you purchase, but most will include 12-round magazines.  The USP weighs in at 1.9 lbs without a magazine, and the overall length of the pistol is 8.64".  Included with most is a cleaning kit, soft-sided case, two 12-round magazines, and of course, the pistol itself.

Build quality is fantastic, everything fits as you'd expect for a pistol in this price range.  The trigger pull is smooth, with a clean break and short reset.  I did notice a "catch" in the decocking lever, but nothing more than you'd find in a comparable pistol from another reputable manufacturer.  The ergonomics are alright, the grip angle is similar to a 1911, although this feels markedly different, by virtue of the size difference and single-stack vs. double-stack design.  The grip design is similar to a 2nd-generation Glock or Springfield XD.  The slide retracts easily, with no noticeable roughness.

It's got a threaded barrel, but uses a less-common "reverse", or left-hand thread design, which is rather uncommon.  If suppressor use is the primary concern for going with the H&K, keep in mind, you may need to purchase a suppressor specifically for this weapon.  The raised sights are designed for use with a suppressor, which is an often-overlooked addition by many suppressor users.

If you are planning on using a weapon-mounted light, however, one thing to consider is the rail design employed on the USP.  H&K uses a proprietary rail design, and is NOT compatible with most off-the-shelf weapon lights for this reason.  If you want to use a weapon light on this pistol, you only have two options: Buy the Insight USPC light made specifically for the USP, or purchase an adapter, and use a standard weapon light (Surefire X300, Streamlight TLR-1/2, etc.).  The USPC light is about $190 new, whereas a Streamlight TLR-1 can be found for around $100.  If you go with the rail adapter, holster selection just became a whole lot more difficult, and you may need to go with a custom holster.

When I took the H&K to the local indoor shooting range, I brought along a box of Winchester FMJ ammunition, which has recently become my go-to choice for range ammunition.  I also brought a box of 50 rounds of Winchester Ranger .45ACP Jacketed Hollow Point ammunition, since my intent was to carry this particular ammo, and wanted to at least put some rounds downrange to familiarize myself with the way the pistol handled it.  I was not disappointed.

With the target about 15 yards from my shooting position, I was easily able to place all 12 rounds right where I wanted them.  My grouping was similar to that of my duty weapon, a Glock 22 .40S&W pistol, which I've put hundreds of rounds through.  All 12 rounds hit within 8-10" of the center of the target.  The targets I use for these range trips are usually standard law-enforcement silhouette targets, and every round fired at this distance would have resulted in significant damage to an attacker, given all other factors were equal (which we all know, in a self-defense situation, is rarely the case. . . )

I replaced the target with a fresh one, and put it at 25 yards from the bench.  In a standing, unsupported position, using my normal two-handed grip, I was able to place all 12 rounds of the 2nd magazine on the target.  This pistol fired accurately, the sights were right where they needed to be, and handling the pistol was just as easy for me as handling my primary carry pistol.  Every round went where I intended it to, and the smooth trigger pull lended itself quite well to preventing anticipation.  Overall, the USP was a fantastic shooter, accuracy was more than adequate for the distance I was shooting, and reliability was not a concern.  I put 150 rounds of ammo through the USP that day, and did not experience any malfunctions.

Overall, I'd say the H&K USP .45 Tactical is a fantastic pistol, it is accurate, easy to handle, and is very reliable.  I'll detail the positive and negative aspects of the pistol below.  Remember, these are simply my observations, I'm not endorsing or condemning this pistol in any way.

Pros: Accurate, simple operation, reliable, and low-maintenance.  Not to mention, aesthetically, it's a fine looking pistol.

Cons: Heavy, bulky, difficult to conceal, holster selection is limited, proprietary rail, proprietary barrel threading.

The Final Word: As a target pistol, this pistol does a fine job.  If you are looking for a concealed-carry pistol, you might want to keep looking.  Even given the proprietary barrel threading, light rail, and difficulty in finding holsters, this is a fantastic firearm, and is arguably one of the best combat pistols ever made.  From a practical standpoint, I personally wouldn't use this pistol for anything other than target shooting, or open carry.  From a firearms enthusiast standpoint, I appreciate the weapon for it's simple design, reliability, accuracy, and aesthetics.  In the end, you are the only one who can decide whether or not to purchase this particular model.  You won't miss much if you don't, but you won't regret it if you do.  Either way, this is a fantastic shooter, and I really enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gun Control: Will It Solve Anything?

In response to the senseless shooting deaths of 27 people at the hands of a psychopath last month, President Obama signed 23 Executive Orders on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013.  The President also urged Congress to pass into law an Assault Weapons Ban, universal background checks, and magazine capacity limits.  What our politicians are able to come up with is not quite clear yet.

The proposals I've heard about so far have run the gamut from reinstating the 1994 Clinton Assault Weapons Ban to an all-out confiscation/forfeiture of any weapon with a single "military-like" characteristic.  We've all heard the same arguments from both sides.  "Think of the children!" and "We need more guns in schools!" immediately come to mind.  What I don't agree with is the fact that politicians, our representatives in government, are using this tragedy as a soapbox upon which to preach their agenda.  The knee-jerk reactions from the Left are forcing the Right to respond, which turns a tragedy into a political circus, which I personally find despicable.

Regardless of my personal feelings on the matter, the fact is simple.  There is a lot of talk of taking immediate action, and several things have already been done in response to this event.  I'm not here to try to scare you, or inform you of what's going on, because I believe it is your job to look at the information and come to your own conclusions.  It's not my place to convince you to agree or disagree with my opinion.  I will, however, strongly urge you to make your opinion known to your representatives.  If you think there should be no further gun control measures taken, write them a letter, make a quick phone call, send an email.  If you believe that the solution to the problem at hand is to eliminate assault weapons, restrict magazine capacities, and require stricter background checks for every firearm purchase, let your representatives know.

On the other side of the coin, not only should you let your representatives know YOUR opinions on the matter, but you should make an effort to learn THEIR stance as well.  It is increasingly important for everyone to do their part here.  Make your voices heard, and make sure your representatives are representing your interests, not their own.

Please take a moment to let us know where you stand, vote in the poll on the left side of the page.  We would love to hear your opinions below in the Comments section as well, or you can join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Something Brewing at Smith and Wesson?

I wanted to share this new video, uploaded by Smith & Wesson (via YouTube) on Wednesday. . . The video is VERY vague, it doesn't tell you what is coming, but one thing's for certain, S&W is up to something.  Could this be a single-stack M&P (hopefully with a better factory trigger!) to remain competitive with Springfield's new XDS?  Maybe some sort of S&W-branded non-lethal self-defense option, like OC spray?  Stun Gun with interchangeable backstraps?  We don't know, but it definitely something we want to know more about!  If you have any ideas as to what could be going on at Smith & Wesson, leave a comment!  We'd love to hear your opinion!

Here's the video:

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