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SSD’s Top Christmas Gift Picks from 5.11 – Day 7

Monday, November 29th, 2021

How could I create a Christmas list of 5.11 Tactical products without including a choice of pants? After all, the brand is named after a trouser model. But instead of the classic, I’ve selected one of their newer designs, the Apex Pant.

It’s a low profile design that doesn’t scream tactical. The material is 67% Polyester/ 33% Cotton which is both comfortable and hard wearing. It also has a bit of mechanical stretch and is treated with Teflon to resist stains. I always keep a pair of these in my pickup along with a spare shirt in case I need a change for changing a tire or something worse. This graphic depicts the pocket layout.

One of the things I like about 5.11 is that they always offer a wide variety of color and size options. There are too many colors to mention here but what’s important is sizing. They have 28-44 waist in 30, 32, 34 and 36 lengths! They can fit most anyone.

There are loads of other gift ideas at 5.11 Tactical’s Merry Missions site.

WL Gore & Co Provides Initial Feedback from the Altama APEX Boot User Trial

Monday, November 29th, 2021

In July W.L Gore & Associates put out a call for testers for a boot by Altama called the APEX. This new boot incorporates GORE-TEX THEMRIUM® and GORE-TEX Extended Comfort technology and examples have been with the wear testers for about two months.

Gore has received their initial round of feedback from the testers and we thought you’d be interested in hearing what’s being said.

Before we get started, the graphic below is a reminder about the boot’s construction. You’ll want to keep this in mind when reading the feedback. As we mentioned during the call for wear testers, the boots incorporate a lightweight insulation and a membrane which won’t leave you with that clammy feeling many associate with waterproof breathable boots.

A lot of information has been collected so far and I had a chance to review a report of the feedback. Here are a few of the initial impressions from users.

First up is a statement from a user which discusses boot weight, fit and aesthetics; all from a positive perspective.

Well from the nine years I’ve been in the military, I always compare any pair of boots to the Garmont NFS which I’ve been using for the most part of my career. Straight out of the box, I love the style and aesthetics of the boots. Upon picking them up, they are extremely light for goretex boots, so that’s a major plus. Upon donning the boots, the toe box is nice and roomy which is also a huge plus. Most boots have narrow toe boxes, so these boots are definitely well though out. As well, I love the speed laces. With Garmonts, I have to loosen each row of laces individually to loosen them. With these I can put in my boots and pull the laces snug and tight. As well, the multiple lace holes is great so people can place the laces as high as they want

Now on to the GORE-TEX technologies discussed earlier.

Insulation: Most goretex boots are pretty hot. I have not had an issue with my feet sweating wearing these boots.

Finally, some comments on fit.

I was skeptical at first because I have to try on boots before I buy. Every different brand of boot/shoe fits me differently. So I was worried about the fit. I have a size 9 foot and depending on the footwear and purpose, I range from a 9-10. At first fitting, the foot bed felt like it was missing something and I followed the instructions for the additional supplied foot bed and inserted it. That fixed the problem. I was surprised it worked so well. The boots are very comfortable and have been worn everyday for a week in garrison use during pre-deployment administrative activities. Overall, they have been very comfortable and only needed a few hours break-in time.

The foot bed referenced above is a component of Altama’s TruFit sizing which allows total fit customization for each foot by the addition or removal of TruFit spacers under the footbed. Others had issues and suggested additional resources to educate wearers. Here’s an example of that feedback.

Better instructions with the trufit. I couldn’t understand the purpose of them other than if you have wide feet don’t use them. I have wide feet so I left them out. But now after two weeks of use I may put them in to try. My feet feel like they are floating a little in the boot. I honestly don’t know what they are other than an insert. Maybe a QR code to a YouTube video with an explanation and instructions

All of the information has been shared with Altama and will also be used by Gore to provide input for future design and product concepts. They are also adopting the suggestion to improve communication with customers regarding Altama’s TruFit system which customizes fit via insole components.

Expect more user feedback to follow in late January. Temperatures are starting to drop so we should expect more insight on how well they kept the wearer’s feet warm.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Hand Bearing Compass

Sunday, November 28th, 2021

A Hand Bearing Compass or Sighting Compass is mainly used when on a boat or when you are trying to take a bearing while moving; they can be used side by side. It is a compact magnetic compass capable of one-hand use and fitted with a sighting device to record a precise bearing or azimuth to a given target or determine a location. It is used to sign a bearing, and that bearing will be the one you would have to take if you wanted to head toward that object.

A hand bearing compass is used to measure the magnetic direction of sighted objects relative to the user. A steering compass tells you where you are going, but the hand bearing compass tells you where to go. Unlike a GPS receiver that does the same–perhaps quicker, more conveniently, and more precisely–the hand-bearing compass does not rely on electrical power or satellite reception. It is a good backup, and you should always have at least one in every boat. They are mainly used for racing sailors to see who is sailing faster on the same tack or if you are trying to overtake a ship or boat so you can intercept it.

How they work

A hand bearing compass allows you to take bearings of distant objects, which you can then transfer to a paper chart to create plot lines. Taking bearings of at least two 45 or more degrees apart results in intersecting lines on the chart, giving a position fix. To get the most accurate position, just like on land, you should try and take bearings of three different objects.

Different styles

We offer several different hand bearing compasses, either in “hockey puck style” or with pistol grips. High-end binoculars also come with bearing compasses, and many boaters prefer a good set of binoculars over a hand bearing compass because they’re easy to use.

How to take a bearing

To use an arm’s-length compass (usually with a pistol grip), put the lanyard around your neck to stabilize the unit. Hold the compass at eye level, then line up the V-notches in the sighting vanes on the top of the compass with the desired object; now check the bearing on the compass card. If this sounds like juggling while walking across the street, you feel the same way we do. It can be tough to keep compass and sights lined up and checking some small numbers all at the same time. Add to that the motion of a boat in a seaway and poor visibility, and you face long odds of taking an accurate bearing.

A better choice is a hockey puck style compass with an infinity prism held up to your cheek and lets you see across the top of a small prism. When you focus on the object in the distance, the prism projects the bearing into your field of vision, so you don’t have to shift your eyes. Object and bearing are in focus at the same time, which is a tremendous asset for taking accurate bearings in rough conditions.

Operating a digital compass is very much like taking a snapshot. You use the unit’s aiming system to take the sight, then press a button. The compass stores the bearing in electronic memory for future recall.

Avoiding a Collision

Take a bearing upon first sighting another approaching vessel, like a ship. Take a second bearing a few minutes later and repeat at regular intervals. If the approaching ship’s bearing remains the same, you are at risk of a collision. If their bearing has changed, rotate, so you are sighting along the original bearing. If you’re now looking at the water in front of the ship, you’ll pass ahead of it. Sighting behind the vessel means it will pass ahead of you.

What to look for

Compactness: Models that are comfortable to wear around your neck on a lanyard and fit easily in a pocket so that you can keep them nearby.

Night Lighting: Like other navigation instruments, bearing compasses should have night-lights. Some use small battery-powered lamps. Others have glow-in-the-dark lighting, which uses small quantities of photosensitive or radioactive gas. We like this type best because it is ready at a moment’s notice, and never needs charging or new batteries.

Accuracy: A precisely graduated card and excellent damping are critical for obtaining accurate sights. Most people can get a bearing accurate to 2-3 degrees on a moving boat using a well-damped, infinity prism compass that is held near the cheek. In a seaway, pistol grip compasses that are held at arm’s-length are probably accurate to about 10 degrees. Sources of error that affect your bearing’s quality include inaccurate aiming, violent motion, steel-rimmed glasses, and bad visibility.

SSD’s Top Christmas Gift Picks from 5.11 – Day 6

Sunday, November 28th, 2021

The All Missions Packs feature 5.11’s HexGrid attachment which is PALS compatible. I’ve been a fan of HexGrid since they previewed it to me years ago at SOFIC.

There are three sizes of AMP to choose from. The number designation is how many hours of operational time the pack size is designed to support. Since it’s mission focused, I prefer the AMP24 which has a 32L capacity.

The panel loader’s clamshell design let’s you get at your gear and allows you to open the main compartment completely of you’re using it for medical or comms gear.

There’s a concealed compartment, hydration/laptop compartment against your back and four side pockets as well as a bottom stash pocket. They also offer a internal and external gear set of pockets to further organize your gear.

Look for Tungsten, Black and Kangaroo color options. Other sizes are 12 and 72.

There are loads of other gift ideas at 5.11 Tactical’s Merry Missions site.

Primary Focus – Can 6.5 Grendel Get You Where You Want to Be in an AR Drop in Receiver?

Saturday, November 27th, 2021

What’s all the hype about with the 6.5 Grendel?

The 6.5 Grendel doesn’t fit next to the 6.5 Creedmoor in a side-by-side comparison, despite similar concepts and similar naming structure. Sure, they shoot the same diameter bullet – and very accurately at that, but that’s about where the similarities end. So, what’s all the hype?

Simply put, you can do more with your AR-15 rifle than you could before with a much easier conversion, that doesn’t get you outside of the realm of the effectiveness for the AR platform, and you can do it while driving tacks out to 750 yards and maybe then some.

You aren’t going to win any benchrest competitions with the 6.5 Grendel, but then, you weren’t going to be competitive at those ranges and with those specifications in a semi-auto sporting rifle either. The Grendel is very interesting for those who want significantly better accuracy; good recoil profile that compares favorably with the .223 as well as range that nearly triples the on-target range of the native offering.

Yes, the ammunition is going to cost you more, and the components aren’t as “mainstream” as the native cartridge/caliber choices, but you get near drop-in ease of implementation, with “almost unbelievable” improvements in accuracy and range.

What’s the hype about the 6.5 Grendel you ask? It’s a better offering than standard AR folks have had for shooting accurately to 750 yards than ever before, without one off-builds. And it is affordable. You’re taking a gun that is capable of MOA under some pretty exacting specifications which require significant tweaking at minimum to get there and making it a native ½ minute semi-auto for about the price of a decent bolt action rifle in additional costs. 

You can’t do that with a 6.5 Creedmoor affordably, and you cannot expect too much more from a platform that routinely catches flack when it shows up to longer range competitions. You may be able to find full factory builds on sale for half that of the Creedmoor – and that means you can be shooting a lot of intermediate range 6.5’s well before you match that price tag – and you can usually get an upper or a whole rifle faster than the larger 6.5.

Is it genuinely competing with the 6.5 Creedmoor and other strategically long range cartridges in the “6mm class”

No, the 6.5 Grendel isn’t competitive with the “6mm’s” generally speaking, but it’s not designed to be competitive with those rounds either. It was built to deliver exceptional accuracy and it does that, but it was designed to do that in a shorter, lighter, semi-automatic rifle, like the AR-15. It has a special purpose, but that special purpose isn’t 850+ yards, per se. It’s also a lot more approachable for AR-15 purists, because it drops into the normal platform, instead of the larger .308 AR style variant.

Just looking at a 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge vs. a 6.5 Grendel almost tells the tale of what to expect from the different offerings, but it’s a nuanced story with a lot of very cool features on both sides. You kind of just have to align with one or the other, or both, in separate configurations – especially if you are dropping either cartridge onto the backbone of the AR platform. They are very different beasts, and both are definitely beasts in their own right.

To say that a 6.5 Grendel is going to compete with benchrest cartridge offerings that have been punching 5-shot one-hole targets for decades is sort of ridiculous – it’s designed and built to fire reliably out of a basic AR-15 setup, with a bolt/carrier/barrel change. You’ll need a magazine too, but they aren’t typically hard to find. And that’s kind of the beauty of the Grendel in 6.5 – it’s approachable, can actually be found occasionally on the market instead of being a myth, and it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t.

If you want to shoot $3-4 a round ammo there are plenty of benchrest cartridges that will put you there. If you want to shoot a 6.5 Creedmoor on benchrest, you aren’t really opting for an AR anyways. So yeah – they do different things.

Bolt guns are the real domain for one hole targets that need to be in that one hole configuration all the time.

The cool thing about the 6.5 Grendel is that out to regular distances for range work, it’s going to get you really close to that desirable one-hole target, and you are probably less than 1k out of pocket on a decent upper receiver build, or less than $1500 on a dedicated factory rifle on the intermediate to high end. Sometimes you can find the kits or rifles at half those respective prices too – so yeah – it’s approachable for high end accuracy out of an AR.

If you’re talking about paper targets, the 6.5 Grendel is good to go to 750 yards and the 6.5 Creedmoor is good to twice that, but the Creedmoor won’t achieve those numbers out of a 20” or 22” barrel on an AR. In the field you can expect out of a typical AR configuration for the respective builds, about 650+ yards on the 6.5 Grendel and about 850+ yards on the Creedmoor, with both requiring a well dialed optic and some adjustment at those extreme distances to take a deer-sized animal at that range.

Ideally, you’re shooting a 6.5 Grendel out of a 20 or a 24 inch barrel from the AR, and you’re getting the most out of a 6.5 Creedmoor at a 24”+ barrel, with a 26” or 28” barrel being optimal for the 6.5 Creedmoor. Note: 24” Grendel barrels are basically a myth for the AR – super hard to find unless bespoke.

In the field hunting for deer, it almost makes more sense to be using the 6.5 Grendel unless you like the 6.5 Creedmoor so much you don’t mind carrying an AR that is 12+ pounds and has worse accuracy than the cheaper, lighter bolt action in the same caliber (Creedmoor). If you’re hunting for deer at greater than 650 yards with an AR, you may not be taking appropriate shots, even with a tack driver like the 6.5 class.

What’s a realistic expectation of all things equal with off the shelf components and an off the shelf or simple maker’s build?

You can get to ½ MOA all day long. But that may not even be the goal. What’s probably even more interesting, is that the 6.5 Grendel makes a compelling case as the gateway drug to the precision long range shooting world to allow casuals the opportunity to test the waters and see if they like it before they commit 15 weeks of pay to dip their toes in the long range precision game.

You get to test if you like tromping out 750 yards to get a target after only a handful of shots.

You get to test if you like adjusting windage for slight shifts in crosswind activity on the regular, so you don’t ruin that pretty target out there at 750 yards.

You get to find out if you mind only shooting $40 worth of ammunition on a range trip because you take 2-3 minutes or more playing around with the notepad and the settings and your bench configuration at the range between each shot.

You get to see what it’s like to not ALWAYS have a flyer on your AR target.

Here are the numbers for a basic comparison:

6.5 Grendel approximate average performance based on typical grain weights:

90 grain bullet; ~2875 fps velocity; ~1650 ft. lbs. of energy

120 grain bullet; ~2700 fps velocity; ~1950 ft. lbs. of energy

123 grain bullet; ~2675 fps velocity; ~1910 ft. lbs. of energy

130 grain bullet; ~2500 fps velocity; ~1810 ft. lbs. of energy

Note: shorter barrels than 24” are going to see some reduction in velocity and may see larger standard deviations.

6.5 Creedmoor approximate average performance based on typical grain weights:

120 grain bullet; ~3075 fps velocity; ~2450 ft. lbs. of energy

143 grain bullet; ~2750 fps velocity; ~2250 ft. lbs. of energy

Note: these are out of a 28 inch barrel, with a 26 or 28” barrel being optimal for the Cartridge; the average length of Creedmoor barrels for the AR308 platform is probably in the 20-22 inch range, so you can expect these velocities and the ultimate range of the projectile to take big hits.

The 6mm PPC that the original case for the Grendel was designed from, is a powerhouse in history, and the 6mm’s and 6.5mm classes are brilliant when it comes to delivering on target for accuracy. Ultimately, they are a great way to send a projectile on a man sized target or a deer sized target. That’s why the AR market has adapted to them so well. The terminal ballistics on both of the 6.5’s are excellent for hunting, and suitable for some military use cases. And the extended range on both the Grendel and the Creedmoor, while totally serving different goals, are incredible.

What can you expect? A very capable cartridge with a very nice range of activities with off-the-shelf ammunition that doesn’t cost more than $2 a round usually. The price probably has a bit of a kicker during times of low ammunition volumes, but it isn’t detrimental to the type of shooting that 6.5 shooters and hunters are doing. It’s a safe place to be for someone who wants more than a decent accuracy upgrade to their favorite rifle platform (the AR, obviously) and doesn’t want to be too far into the weeds for the privilege of it.

What was the original intent of the 6.5 Grendel

The original intent is touched upon up further in this article, but here’s a more in-depth exploration to help clarify how the 6.5 Grendel, despite being a bit less popular with the precision shooter crowd in the AR world, has outperformed its original intent in many observer’s minds.

Basically, the designer (Bill Alexander) wanted to outperform the .223 Remington and 5.56×45, with a longer effective range and that could be used in the normal OAL/magazine constraints of the AR. Pairing with Lapua Ballistics expert Janne Pohjoispaa and Arne Brennan, a competitive shooter, Alexander, who owns Alexander Arms, launched the product at a blackwater facility where it was more accurate than the .308 at intermediate distances and still had supersonic velocity at 1200 yards.

So, if anything you might gather from those statements – it should be that it was meant to be used in a military rifle, for use in battle. And meant to be better than the .223/5.56 and the fact that recoil is half that of the .308 and intermediate distance accuracy is better, it seems like it delivered on design parameters.

Has the 6.5 Grendel lived up to the hype?

It seems obvious by the sold out products in the space, and the demand for ammunition that it has gained more than a few fans or followers. But the basic performance promises of the cartridge make it very interesting for those who want to deer hunt with their AR out further; or want a flatter shooting, better terminal performance round for warfighting or defensive purposes.

It’s not the 1200 yard gun the Creedmoor can be with a long barrel and a bolt action. But is it the better option for those who value the numbers and want the familiarity and approachability of the AR?

It hasn’t won a contract yet for U.S. military adoption. The 6.8SPC hasn’t either, thanks to the cost prohibitive nature of swapping out a decades old relationship with the 5.56×45. Interestingly the 6.5 Grendel is being developed in a Zastava rifle that looks to be adopted eventually by the Serbian military forces.

The 6.8SPC is an interesting cartridge to compare beside the 6.5 Grendel:

6.8SPC approximate average performance based on typical grain weights:

115 grain bullet; ~2575 fps velocity; ~1675 ft. lbs. of energy

120 grain bullet; ~2450 fps velocity; ~1600 ft. lbs. of energy

Note: this is out of a 16 inch barrel which aligns well with military use cases, generally.

Given the nature of the things you can do with the Grendel out of a standard AR, it’s pretty safe to assume that the cartridge and subsequent builds on that platform have lived up to the hype. 

Where is the sweet spot for the 6.5 Grendel?

Shooting out of a 20” barrel on the AR would be nearly ideal thanks to the increased stiffness of the barrel, and the fact that the only real gain is tighter standard deviation ranges and some velocity past 600 yards if using a larger barrel length. The original manufacturer itself (Alexander Arms) points to a preference of 20” and 24” barrel lengths.

If you are hunting or target shooting past 450 yards and out to about 700, you can be well served by the 20” barrel and some basic understandings of your optic and the characteristics and bullet drops for the cartridge you are shooting.

On an AR, this makes it even more approachable than it already was, relative to the 6.5 Creedmoor, which is great on the AR, but much better on a long barreled bolt action in both target use and field use going after bigger game.

Some final notes about the 6.5 Grendel in an AR build

It’s a winner. It’s affordable. It’s realistic. It’s not pushing the absolute limits of the AR platform for no reason, and it can really get you where you want to be on an upper receiver platform, which may not be the case for many other alternatives. 

The 6.5 Grendel, despite not being chosen for a military contract, is well within the appropriate performance ranges to be considered a better alternative for nearly everything compared to the 5.56/.223, except when you factor in the access to cheaper ammunition that comes from being the darling of the US Armed Forces since the late 60’s. If you are not shooting 30 rounds at a time, but instead, 1 every 30-40 seconds, the Grendel is a compelling offering out of the AR, especially when you like tight groups and want to squeeze something different out of the muzzle of your AR. 

If you need a dual purpose rig for target work and deer harvesting, the 6.5 Grendel does not disappoint.

Primary Focus is a weekly feature from Primary Arms that covers various firearms related subjects.

SSD’s Top Christmas Gift Picks from 5.11 – Day 5

Saturday, November 27th, 2021

A pocket tool is a great stocking stuffer and I really like 5.11’s EDT Hex.

It comes with two heads featuring #1 Phillips and 3/16″ slotted screwdriver tips along with T6 and T8 Torx heads. They are kept in place via ball-dentent.

It’s a simple device which can come in handy on a daily basis. If this isn’t the one for you, there are loads of other gift ideas at 5.11 Tactical’s Merry Missions site.

Coming Soon – “Niveh T’ah’in (Warrior)” a Film by Mystery Ranch & Mission Roll Call

Friday, November 26th, 2021

MYSTERY RANCH has partnered with Mission Roll Call, an organization dedicated to providing veterans with a powerful, unified voice that our Nation’s leaders heard, to create a short film called Niveh T’ah’in (Warrior) – centered around Sam Alexander’s transition from the U.S. Army.

Sam is a veteran of the U.S. Army who served as a Green Beret.  

After returning home from the Army, Sam received a business degree to benefit his native tribe, the Gwich’in. He later started an adventure travel company, Latitude Six-Six, that would immerse travelers in “the full Alaska experience – seeing the land and the local native culture through native guides as well as through visiting local communities.”

Sam found as he would say, “his service after his service.”

Many veterans struggle with not only finding their way to serve but finding their passion for life post-service. The mental challenges that veterans face are unimaginable, and the mental toll is unbearable for many on their own, so having access to proper healthcare is essential. Unfortunately, not everyone has easy access to the services they are promised post-service – especially those who live in remote areas, like Native Alaskan veterans. With such profound limitations, the result is veterans who do not prioritize their mental care and may be more prone to suicide.  

Watch the trailer and stay tuned for the latest collaborative MYSTERY RANCH and Mission Roll Call film Niveh T’ah’in (Warrior) – a story about finding purpose in life after the military. Watch the YouTube Premiere on November 30th at 13:30 EST/11:30 MDT.

Read more now on MYSTERY RANCH’s latest blog Meet Green Beret Sam Alexander, and connect with Mission Roll Call to learn more about their movement.

SSD’s Top Christmas Gift Picks from 5.11 – Day 4

Friday, November 26th, 2021

It’s day 4 of my Christmas list from 5.11 Tactical and my pick is the AT Mid Boot.

The AT Mid Boot features their All Terrain Load Assistance System with its support plate.

It features a welded mesh upper with 3D molded TPR toe and heel protection. The mid-sole is dual density foam and the high traction outsole is ASTM slip and oil resistant.

Available in Dark Coyote and Black as well as a two-tone Dark Coyote/Ranger Green combo in whole sizes 4-14 regular and wide with half-sizes from 6-12.

There are loads of other gift ideas at 5.11 Tactical’s Merry Missions site.