NSWC Crane Recommends MLOK to SOCOM

Soldier Systems Daily reported late last night that Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane has conducted testing of multiple modular rail systems and after testing NSWC Crane recommended SOCOM adopt Magpul’s MLOK for acquisition efforts.


The full report and testing results are not yet cleared for public release, but the executive summary has been released to the public.


A few things in this EXSUM stuck out to me.

The EXSUM mentions “other modular rail systems” (plural) so aside from KeyMod – which is an assumption on my part, I’d like to know what other types of mounting systems were tested.  But I have my doubts that any of those lesser known attachment methods would have been recommended to SOCOM without demonstrating a clear superiority to MLOK and KeyMod. The lesser known attachment methods might have not have a chance of being the NSWC Crane’s recommendation to SOCOM due to an inability to solicit a Request for Proposal (RFP) that could be answered by multiple NAICS code holders. SquareDrop, SIGMOD, HKey, KeySlot, Qsert, and RAHG (among others) have very little traction outside of their creator companies championing those methods. If an RFP for a SIGMOD rail could only be answered by Sig Sauer, then only one entity could answer that RFP.


KeyMod and MLOK are the two major competing industry standards for modular rail attachment in the commercial AR15 world. (image from ar15news.com)

In repeatability testing, M-LOK allowed for the repeated installation of the same accessory rail in the same location on a handguard with an average point of aim (POA) shift of 1.3 MOA, as low as one quarter the average POA shift observed by other modular rail systems.
– Did MLOK perform the best in this, or was the worst performer just 4x worse than MLOK? If MLOK did not perform the best, what attachment method did perform the best for repeatability testing?

Drop test results demonstrated that M-LOK systems maintain securement of accessories to the handguard and sustain less damage from impact forces than some other modular rail systems.
– Notice it said “some” and not all. What system or systems outperformed MLOK in this test?

Failure load testing demonstrated that M-LOK systems support the highest load of all modular rail systems tested. In fact, the test equipment used to interface with 1913 accessory rails secured with the respective modular rail system across testing repeatedly failed prior to failure of the M-LOK attachment system. Even so, testing of the M-LOK systems failed at loads as high as over three times the maximum failure load of some other modular rail systems.
– Ok, so this was a tested area where MLOK was the top performer. Again, knowing where the other systems failed would help to see if MLOK only performed marginally better than KeyMod and that 3x margin of superiority MLOK showed was over one of the more obscure attachment methods then it doesn’t really indicate the death of KeyMod.

That being said, SOCOM does have an impact on commercial industry standards.

The MLOK:KeyMod ratio in my safe is 4:1; I’d just like to know the full test data to understand SOCOM’s decision. In the EXSUM it appears that only 3 of the 5 tested areas identified a wide performance variance among the tested systems and of those 3 area only one area was mentioned where MLOK was the top performer. Knowing these test results would help drive innovation in the commercial market and in Department of Defense small arms development.

I’ve Been Thinking About “The Chart” Lately…

Two somewhat recent posts in AR15.com General Discussion have caused me to begin thinking about The Chart (Google Doc). The first thread was essentially asking if there would be interest in an updated version of The Chart, and in the second thread a poster was suggesting there should be a .308 AR version of The Chart. The first thread has already been archived, but my criticism of The Chart was the last post in that thread. The second thread is still active, and my criticism of The Chart and the added difficulty of doing a chart for a platform that has no industry standard, TDP, or STANAG associated with it is in that thread. Unfortunately not even a message board is the best avenue to relay my thoughts about The Chart.

Is The Chart bad? No. The Chart is a starting point. When it was conceived, it had a purpose. But despite the initial “good” that The Chart provided, it quickly became used in negative ways. It was used to stifle discussion about emerging technology relating to the AR15. The inclusion of some TDP derived specs as opposed to the absence of other TDP characteristics does not appear to have been done in a non-biased way.


Are the characteristics in the left column generally good things? Yes.

Are there areas in that column that can be improved upon? Yes.

When these characteristics listed on The Chart were rigorously cited as the standard to achieve – not the bare minimum to achieve – then The Chart became a negative product.

Why is a 1:7″ twist listed? Because that is what is in the TDP. But why is a 1:7″ twist listed in the TDP? Because that is the twist needed to properly stabilize M856 tracer rounds, something that the average civilian or LEO will never use except for range fun. When not factoring in a need to stabilize M856, many experts are advocating for the use of 1:8″ twist barrels which can stabilize non-tracer 77 grain bullets.

Why is 5.56 chamber listed? Because the STANAG 4172 mandated that 5.56 is the standard cartridge for NATO forces and that was incorporated into the TDP. .223 Wylde is becoming more and more popular with long range AR-15 shooters and many of the finest barrel many manufacturers like Green Mountain, White Oak, and Lothar-Walther offer barrels with the .223 Wylde chamber.

Additionally, the H Buffer is on the list because the TDP says that an military issued M4 will have a H Buffer weight. This is another area where other options are superior, like the H2 for shooting suppressed or the Vltor A5 system which provides a lot of “tunability” for an AR15 or M4.

One thing I have noticed since I have been in the military is how the civilian world – through market innovation – has allowed the military to improve equipment simply by purchasing a COTS (Commercial Over The Shelf) solution. Other times that improvement take place by seeing the need for improvement in currently issued equipment, seeing that a commercial product is very close to achieving that solution, then issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to allow companies to tailor their commercial product to meet the RFP and be accepted by the government*.

(*I am giving a very simple version of this. Read the FAR and DFARS if you want know the entire process or if you are having trouble sleeping. )

In my anecdotal observation, the Marines have been far more willing to use a COTS solution compared to the Army. Kelty, Eureka!, and New Balance have produced products for the USMC that were a substantial upgrade over the older issued gear that those COTS items replaced. Innovation in the commercial/civilian sector led to better equipment being issued to Marines. From what I have seen the Army sees commercial products that are superior, then years later when that product is finally produced by Skillcraft or whoever else, it is emulated poorly and the commercial products that were emulated have already been commercially superseded by improvements on that product by the producer or by a competitor. Simply, the Army acquisition and procurement process is too slow to get the latest and greatest to a Soldier. The Army Rapid Fielding Initiative helped circumvent this time consuming process to get better equipment to Soldiers faster than the traditional acquisition process allows.

Although a lot of silliness (and stupidity) can occur on the online message boards like Ar15.com and M4Carbine.net, there are actually a lot of important people who try to get information from both of these message boards. People involved with the development of the next generation of the M4 visit both of these sites, so shouting down a product that does not comply with the current TDP does not help the people coming to those websites gain information to help them make a decision that will result in a superior product being fielded to Soldiers and Marines. The Chart enabled items and characteristics to be dismissed as “not good enough” simply because they were not on the TDP.

There are areas where I think the next M4 can be improved with innovation from the civilian sector. The cancelled M4A1+ program listed many areas where COTS solutions can be used to provide these improvements. Of course, SOCOM elements like JSOC teams will continue to use COTS solutions regardless if they meet the TDP or if they are on The Chart or not.

The Chart is all but dead. Even the biggest advocates for The Chart on M4Carbine.net rarely reefer to it. Even they have realized that market innovation should be welcomed. Any so-called resource that is used to dismiss new technology is not a resource that should be relied upon by anyone not wanting to build a replication of a specific product from a specific era of time.

Ballistic Advantage 5.45×39 AR Upper Receiver

I got into the 5.45 arena a few months before the ATF reclassified 7N6 as armor piercing and never got to fully appreciate the “poison bullet.” At the time, military surplus 5.45 7N6 ammo could be had for just slightly more than .22LR, unless you were willing to do the Neckbeard thing and wait at Walmart every morning at 6am. Paying less than 2 cents per round more than .22LR for regularly available ammo that was an actual centerfire rifle round seemed like an obvious good idea at the time.

The ATF’s reclassification of 7N6 as armor prevented further importation of that ammo into the U.S.

Although in August a judge ruled in the ATF’s favor during a court challenge to the 7N6 reclassification and subsequent importation ban, the inevitable changes that will take place in the upper levels at the Department of Justice and ATF after January 20th make it possible that 7N6’s designation of armor piercing could be changed. If that does happen, I will be shooting 5.45 again.

Enough bullshit. Let’s get the the item at hand.


Like any good consumer, I started out my researching my options. I read several positive reviews about the now discontinued Smith & Wesson 5.45 upper receiver, but after seeing that those were no longer being made I started looking for other options. One name continued to pop up when I was researching 5.45 ARs- Ballistic Advantage. BA made Spikes Tactical’s 5.45 parts which was another very positively reviewed 5.45 offering. I stumbled upon Ballistic Advantage’s website and saw they were selling complete upper receiver groups. I quickly purchased one remembering the few threads I had read where 5.45 uppers had sold pretty quickly.

Shipping and processing was fast and my Ballistic Advantage URG arrived last week. I ended up getting a stripper lower from Aim Surplus and a lower build kit from PSA.


Continue reading

New Generation Inforce WML

I’ve realized that I post here far less than I should. Recently a few members of AR15.com who I respect greatly have discovered that blogs are a better format for the information they are attempting to share. That has encouraged me to update this blog more often and I am adding Nick and Ryan’s blog (Science of the Gun) and Billy’s blog (AZ Rifleman) to the links of this site.

I have posted some useful threads in the Technical Forums at AR15.com, so an easy way to populate this blog with relevant info is to consolidate the information those discussions have driven.

My first attempt at this will be my review of the revamped Inforce WML.

I had a third gen. Inforce WML in the sand colored polymer. I knew that there had been reports of the sand polymer cracking, but it was a screaming dream on Amazon compared to the black and FDE WMLs and I needed something with white light and infrared (IR) light for use with night vision.

Anyways, the polymer begins to crack near the bezel, I finally get around to contacting Inforce on September 30th, and after a few exchanges of emails that day I have a RMA and their customer service rep has asked what color light I want for my replacement since they are no longer making lights with the sand colored polymer. I think I returned the cracked light on October 3rd or 4th.

October 14th  the replacement shows up. They sent me a Gen. 4 WML to replace the Gen. 3 WML and the Gen. 4 is a noticeable improvement over its predecessor. The toggle switch between IR and Vis feels tighter and locks into place requiring slightly more force to change. The safety now locks into place with an audible click sound. The threads are metal as opposed to the polymer threads of the earlier WML.


Continue reading

A Long Overdue Update

I hope to update this blog more often.  I have made several new purchases and will post my feedback on those items as I have time.  The rise of ISIS from a Syria-Iraq issue to a transnational problem-set (and the subsequent Iranian counter to ISIS) provides a lot of material for discussion as well.

In November of 2012, I wrote a paper as a writing sample for an analyst position I applied for. I didn’t get that job, but reading this paper now could be an insight into what might have been.

To find what the people of Syria and the world will see after the end of the Syrian Civil War, one only needs to look to Syria’s east to see the struggles it will face in mending a religiously divided country after the harsh rule of a dictator and a prolonged conflict. The similarities between Iraq and Syria should be evident to anyone who is a student of the Middle East: a ruthless dictator eventually expelled or killed (assumed in Syria’s case); that dictator being from the minority religious sect (Sunni in Iraq, Shia in Syria); the influx of foreign fighters into the country during the conflict; and a poorly organized transitional government or government in waiting. Of all these difficulties, the biggest threat to peace in a post-Assad Syria is the lack of a respected, effective, replacement government. This is also the problem that is the easiest to correct and the only problem the US government can help resolve.

Continue reading

S&W M&P10 – More Observations

After posting my initial observations there were some more questions thrown out, all that I didn’t even think about covering in the first post, so I did a little research to get smart on the other .308 ARs by watching a cleaning video on youtube for the Armalite AR-10 and a few videos on the DPMS LR-308 so I could compare and contrast it the M&P10. While seeing these, I noticed a few more similarities and differences between the .308 ARs already on the market and M&P10.

The buffer looks a lot smaller than the Armalite AR-10’s buffer. I noticed the M&P10’s buffer was proportionately smaller than an AR15’s buffer to buffer spring, so I broke out an AR15 buffer to see how the M&P10’s buffer compares to it, and it is absolutely smaller than the Armalite AR-10 buffer. It looks like the same size as an AR15 buffer, but it may have weighed a little more (even though I did not do a precision weigh).  This is in addition to being kind of beat up where I could tell it had hit the buffer retainer pin more than a few times. The picture I posted in my earlier review did a poor job of showing the wear on the buffer.  Hopefully one of these two do a better job of showing the out of the box wear on the buffer.

Continue reading

Smith and Wesson M&P10 – 308 – My first impressions

I have been wanting to explore the AR platform beyond 5.56/.223 and took my first dive into that area with yesterday’s purchase of a Smith & Wesson M&P10.  I am located an hour and a half from the nearest range that would allow me to shoot beyond 200 meters, so my first impressions of the rifle out of the box are below.  But first, a little history lesson on the M&P10.

S&W got into the AR market with their M&P15 line.  So far, the M&P rifles have been generally well received from those knowledgeable on the AR platform.  Everyone I know that owns one has nothing but glowing reviews of it.  The M&P line is marketed towards military and police (hence M&P) and the M&P line of pistols have made gains in the law enforcement market, an area S&W dominated until Glock moved onto that scene.  One negative thing about the M&P pistols has been the poor trigger feel (keep that in mind moving forward).

Before I purchased this rifle, I knew I was going to be making upgrades to it in order to make it more of a precision rifle than my AR-15s.  Enhancements already planned were a Magpul PRS stock, a free float rail, a bipod, a more ergonomic pistol grip, and an optic of some kind.  Specific items I have in mind for these are listed at the bottom of the post.

Spec sheet from S&W here

The good:
A very light weight considering it is a 7.62mm rifle.  The M&P10 weighs in at less than 8 lbs.
The rifling in the barrel is a 1:10″ 5R twist, which has had very positive things reviewed about it.  I cannot speak for the 5R part, but the 1:10″ twist is the same as many high-end .308 caliber rifles.
The rifle has an ambidextrous safety and bolt release.  Since I am a righty, I don’t see the need for them, but I do realize there are many southpaws that shoot.  I operated the ambi controls from my left side and they worked okay I guess.  The uncomfortableness I felt was probably just from me operating an AR’s controls with my non-dominant hand.

The flash suppressor looks like it will be very effective

Continue reading