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Posts Tagged ‘BCM Gunfighter’

BCM Gunfighter History : Travis Haley – An Exercise in Compromise

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015


Hanging in my office is a clone of the rifle I carried on two combat tours (Iraq and Liberia). It’s a reminder of where I came from, where I stand today, where I am going and why I am going there.

While serving in 2nd Force Reconnaissance in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, my unit started seeing radical advances in small arms and light weaponry via the SOPMOD program. Suddenly, carbines could quickly be fine-tuned for specific missions by mounting night vision systems, laser aiming devices, weapon lights and red dot optics to the 1913 Picatinny Rail Systems on the upper receiver and handguard.


These technologies opened up whole new tactics, techniques and procedures that could be employed to prosecute our mission of specialized reconnaissance, ambush and direct action raids.

Despite the additional capabilities the SOPMOD program delivered, opinions were sharply divided on the program. Some saw these tools as a burden, adding a lot of “crap” that would only increase the amount of weight our Marines carried on mission for little tangible benefit. A maxed out M4 could run up to 14 pounds, but we didn’t need every component for every mission.

Two Pounds of Metal
The SOPMOD accessory package that my platoon ended up running included almost two pounds of weight in mounting interfaces alone. When I challenged this, I got a typical Marine Corps answer, “Because that’s what you are issued, now quit asking irrelevant questions, Too Speed.” (Too Speed was my call sign.)

I couldn’t accept that answer. It was an institutional answer that repeated a party line and the lives of my teammates were, and will always be, more important than not rocking the boat.


After some trial and error, the first mod I made was to ditch the Surefire M951 Weapon Light and replace it with a Surefire 6P in a shotgun tube light mount that I scored at a sporting goods shop near base. After swapping the 6P tail cap for the M951 remote switch assembly, I then ran the tape switch on the left side of the 203 so activating the light wouldn’t impact my weapons manipulation.

Getting a weapon light in tight with a rail and shaving weight off the interface was something I would spend the next 10 years fiddling with before I had a eureka moment and Haley Strategic Partners released the Thorntail Adaptive Series of light mounts, currently in use by military, security contractors and law enforcement worldwide.

This was a defining moment for me, as it was when I first started tweaking and eventually building original components for my platoon based on the unique requirements of our missions. These experiences of shaving weight, improving ergonomics and finding a balance between capability and utility, would drive the development of so many of the components I have commercialized in my post-service career.


The Rifle I took to War

Colt M4 with 14.5” Barrel
Colt M203 40 mm Grenade Launcher
Knights Armament RAS Handguard
PEQ-2 IR Aiming Laser
Surefire Classic 6P with a custom “Simply Dynamic” mount
Boone & Packer Redi-Mag
Simply Dynamic Multi-Mission Sling (commercialized by Magpul as the MS3)

Load Out
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Force was trained up for both Green Side (reconnaissance) and Black Side (direct action) missions, with the assumption we would be tasked to one or the other. However, when we entered Iraq, our platoon found ourselves doing a combination of both at the same time. Force Recon is a special operations unit that prepares the battlespace and gathers intelligence for the MAGTF (Marine Air Ground Task Force) and then prosecutes specialized targets as directed.

With a few days under our belts, the entire platoon started striping gear and mags, looking for that perfect balance of speed, utility and capability. If you can’t move, you can’t be effective. Most of the Marines went from 13 rifle magazines to between five or six. I ended up with four on my vest and two taped together on my carbine with riggers tape and offset with a stick.


Force Recon ran low signature load outs, often working out of vehicles (mil and civilian), and running a double mag on the carbine meant I had 60 rounds at the ready. When I saw the “Redi-Mag” in a copy of Shotgun News, I ordered it and had it delivered to me overseas. Despite the weight, the Redi-Mag was more versatile than the old riggers tape and stick, and cut my carbine reloads to sub-one second.

I no longer run a Redi-Mag, because there are so many excellent belt mounted magazine pouches available today that I can reload at almost the exact speed as from a Redi-Mag. That said, you will sometimes find them on my house and car guns, as I do not expect to be kitting up if someone breaks into my house or I find myself engaged with an active shooter around vehicles in the streets.


The M203 is a vital component to small and agile units, like Force, who operate in small units in semi-and-non-permissive settings. It becomes even more essential in worst-case scenarios where the mission is compromised or the unit is outright ambushed by an enemy force.

We prepared for scenarios where 203s could be employed for a hasty breach, in instances where a short count/stack was not possible, as well as a posturing tool to achieve immediate fire superiority in the face of an ambush. Finally, we practiced employing them to suppress fortified enemy positions in buildings by putting accurate fire through windows or open doors.

In fact, in the first gunfight I was involved in during OIF, I put this into practice, pumping 40mm HEDP(High Explosive Dual Purpose) rounds through windows of enemy positions 50 meters out. This fire created instant hate and discontent on target, where crew served weapons and M4s did not offer as much of an immediate positive effect. We had never trained to fire the M203 at such a close distance for safety reasons, but I held at the top of the window frame with my Aimpoint and the round went straight where I wanted it.


The MEUSOC 1911 has an almost legendary reputation among 1911 and handgun enthusiasts. One of the most high performance handguns ever built, the MEUSOC 1911 we ran was hand built by Marine Armorers from the Precision Weapons Section at MCBQ (Marine Corps Base Quantico). They fine tuned our 1911’s, hand selecting barrels, link pins, sear springs, ejectors, firing pin stops, mainspring housings and mainsprings. Slides were custom built by Springfield Armory with beavertail safeties and recoil spring guides by Ed Brown, Novak rear sights, Wilson Combat extractors + mag release buttons, and King’s Gun Works ambi thumb safeties.

Force ran the 1911 specifically in direct action raid or ambush missions. It was not a primary and would only come into play if our carbines had run dry or malfunctioned. We carried 10 round magazines with 230 Grain 45 ACP. More than enough to deal with any immediate situation and then refocus on the carbine to get it back into action.

On DRP (Deep Reconnaissance Patrol) Missions, I personally chose my Beretta M92, which was our only 9mm alternative at the time. The flatter trajectory at range of the 9mm and the larger magazine meant more bullets to deal with more problems in the event my carbine was down or permanently disabled.

When I later worked as a security contractor on Ambassador Bremmer’s detail with Blackwater, we would run Glock 17s. But in the end, the mission drives the gear – more importantly, the mission drives the man.

The Mission Drives the Man
When I first started making gear, I was doing it to help keep my guys alive. When I started my first company, Simply Dynamic Tactical, I wasn’t in it to get rich. I was doing it to pass on what I learned in combat and to provide tools that would stack the deck in the favor of the men and women who were going overseas or out on our streets as warfighters, law enforcement or private citizens.

Surviving war is an awesome responsibility. For those who have been in combat, you never forget the brothers you lost. When you are one of those who made it back, you carry a weight that is difficult to put into words. I was lucky to have known such great men in my life. I was lucky to have a second family closer than any people I will ever know.

As I approach the 5th year in business with Haley Strategic Partners, we have tried to bring this industry together and to stay focused on that one mission. Enable brave men and women to complete their missions as safely as possible. Through training, through gear and through mindset.

Stay Sharp and be safe.

Travis Haley

October, 2015

Presented by Bravo Company USA

BCM Gunfighter History – Pt 2 – JD Potynsky

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015


A common misconception is that all Special Operations guys are gun gurus: that they are students of caliber, ballistics, barrel length, gas systems, etc. The reality is quite different. As an 18 Bravo(US Army Special Forces Weapon Sergeant), of course I had to possess the skills to effectively employ my personal weapon systems (carbines, pistols and crew served) in combat as well as the ability to maintain and repair them.

But that is maybe, 5% of the job.

Just as important were the skills needed to lay mortars, be familiar with foreign weapon systems used by indigenous allied and enemy forces, conduct helicopter and airborne operations, perform tactical combat casualty care, use communications systems to call for medevac or close air support, plan actions on an objective, employ small unit tactics under fire, be proficient in hand-to-hand combat, speak a foreign language, maintain a high level of physical fitness and drive everything from cars and HMMWVs to off road vehicles, to name a few.

Over time, those who were personally interested in any of those topics had a great laboratory to work in. So when I look back at how I ran my kit, I see it was driven by considerations for many tasks, but above everything, my combat set-up was most influenced by my time as an athlete.

I spent a good part of my life playing football, from Pop Warner to high school and ultimately college ball. Everything from diet, to work outs to hobbies was driven by becoming bigger, stronger and faster than the day before. In the game, speed kills. If you can see the field and understand the game, you can put yourself in the right space, at the right time, with total control of your body, to deliver a devastating hit to your opponent.

I saw it no differently in combat.

Where the battlespace diverges from a playing field, is that the environment is not set. It can be an interior, where you are moving to a point of domination, or a killing field, where rapid maneuver allows you to destroy the enemy. This makes being quicker on the uptake in assessing the battlespace and finding those sweet spots vital because, in the end, it all comes down to fire superiority and flanking. When I set up my kit and my weapon systems, it was driven by what was going to make me as fast as possible at that fundamental principle of combat.

My unit was tasked with a Direct Action mission. The vast majority of our infils were conducted with vehicles. The targets were almost always compounds. That meant that our realistic threats were typically within a 100 meter radius. It also meant we were never more than 200 meters from our gun trucks with crew served weapons (.50 cals and MK19 grenade launchers).


We started with 14.5″ SOPMOD M4s. As issued, an M4 carbine is expected to deliver a sub three inch group at 100 yards with issued ammunition(62-grain Green Tip). It was a light, reliable and, at sub three minutes at 100 yards, delivered a reasonable degree of accuracy. Was it possible to shoot these weapon systems and get sub one inch groups at 100 yards? Absolutely. But it is a combination of skill, ammunition and platform that delivers that capability.

Given that our mission set rarely required we engage with our M4’s out past a 150 meter radius, when we received MK18 upper receivers many, including myself, switched to the more compact and maneuverable platform. With the issued ammunition and our skills, it matched the accuracy of the SOPMOD and was faster in the tight spaces we encountered on all of our missions.

Given that we ran a large number of missions at night, every carbine had a PEQ-15 on it allowing for accurate shooting out to 200 meters with our night vision goggles. I personally went with a rubberized Hogue AR pistol grip, because it was far more “grippy” especially when using gloves. I also used a Surefire M900A as it gave me a vertical grip, a pressure pad and a weapon light in one package. I ran a Arredondo Oversized Mag Well to give me a slight edge on speed reloads and finally, I topped it off with an EOTech 511 because not only was it the fastest combat proven weapon optic for our mission, but it was compact and allowed for more rail to mount the PEQ and rear iron sight.

That carbine was built around my mission. It performed it exactly how I needed it to. When I was putting together this article I had to look back through old emails to see what half of the items were even called, but each component either helped me go faster or made my task of shooting easier and was reliable enough to let me focus on the big picture.

In the end, that is the ultimate goal of any piece of kit.

JD Potynsky
Northern Red

Northern Red Training Classes


LAV Gives Us the Lowdown on the New BCMGunfighter Stock

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Not only does Larry Vickers give us an in-depth look at the new BCMGunfighter Stock, answering some of your questions, but he also conducts one of his famous “torture tests.”

Introducing the BCMGUNFIGHTER Stock

Friday, October 10th, 2014

You’ve seen glimpses of the new BCMGUNFIGHTER Stock but now it’s here and available for order.

BCM Stock 2

BCM Gunfighter History – Vol 1: The SCUD Hunter Carbine

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

We recently published a photo from Larry Vickers that showed a rebuild of the carbine he used in the Model Prison Raid during the Invasion of Panama. In chapter 1 of the new web series BCM Gunfighter History, LAV gives the rest of the story behind that gun.


SCUD Hunter Carbine

When I checked into the Operator Training Course (OTC) at 1st SFOD-Delta in late 1988, I was issued a brand new, straight from Colt, base carbine. The official Colt designation was Model 723, but we simply referred to those carbines as CAR-15s. To be honest, I was initially very unimpressed.

In OTC, we completed a basic rifle marksmanship class with accurized M14s and after shooting those guns, with excellent triggers, the Mil-Spec trigger on my CAR-15 was terrible. I also distinctly remember only one failure-to-feed malfunction in OTC with my CAR-15; but after that, I honestly do not remember a single stoppage the entire time I used that weapon. Colt was building some of the best carbines in their history at that time and mine was a prime example. It was an excellent small-arm that performed for me its entire service life.

Aimpoint 2000

This CAR-15 was the first individual weapon I had ever used with a red dot sight; in this case an Aimpoint 2000. Experience with it made me realize that target engagements with a red dot optic vs iron sights were much quicker and more accurate across the spectrum from daylight to low light. This started my relationship with Aimpoint that continues to this day. They are quite simply the best red dot optics, in my opinion.

In addition, a waterproof SCUBA dive flashlight painted black was installed underneath the bottom handguard via hose clamps, and then our commo guys wired the flashlight for push button activation. It worked well for the intended purposes but they were replaced in short order once Surefire 6P flashlights came online. 1988 was a long time before Surefire weapon lights hit the market and became the industry standard.

SCUBA Flashlight

The buttstock was a standard two-position Colt retractable. Very lightweight for sure, but it had a sloppy fit to the buffer tube compared to later aftermarket stocks. Our armorers would mill a third buttstock position at the shooters preference once an Operator determined his correct length of pull while wearing body armor. This setup worked quite well, with my only real complaint being the previously mentioned sloppy fit of the buttstock to the buffer tube.

Last but not least, I used an easy to adjust two point sling on my CAR-15 and later my issued M4 carbine that, little did I know, would lead to some great things in the future. I would use my knowledge and experience gained with that sling and combine it with Ashley Burnsed’s commitment to quality to make the Blue Force Gear – Vickers Combat Applications Sling; a sling that has now been sold in the thousands to our military as well as LE and civilian shooters and was recently adopted as the preferred M4, M27 IAR and M16 sling by the US Marine Corps.

Sling Modification

It all started for me, with that original CAR-15 I used during my time in Delta Force.

SCUD hunting wasn’t a mission we anticipated – regardless, our Squadron was prepared for it. The Squadron Commander, a forward thinking Vietnam MAC-V SOG Recon Team vet with extensive combat experience, had “read the tea leaves” months earlier and instituted a refined Desert Mobility Skills Package that would be a critical “tool in the toolbox” for us in this mission.

Based on his experiences in Vietnam, the commander of Coalition forces, General Schwarzkopf, was not a fan of SOF (Special Operations Forces). He was, however, very pro-Delta Force. The Unit had been providing security for him during the buildup to Desert Storm and Schwarzkopf developed a great working relationship with the guys who worked for him.

When Desert Shield became Desert Storm, Iraqi SCUDs immediately began hitting targets inside Israel with the goal of bringing Israel into the war, fragmenting Coalition forces. The Coalition included several Middle Eastern nations who were steadfastly opposed to Israel’s existence and might disengage from the war effort, rather than fight “alongside” Israeli troops.

Coalition or not, the Israelis were not going to let Saddam attack their country with impunity. Aircraft were standing by to cross the border into Iraq, when the National Command Authority delivered an assurance to the Israeli government – the US had finally deployed its most elite troops to locate and destroy the SCUD TELs.

With our Advanced Desert Mobility Skill Sets fresh and in place, our Squadron was first to go.

Delta deployed far behind enemy lines, watching the main routes of travel that the Iraqis were using to launch SCUDs from. Once identified, airstrikes would be called in to eliminate the TELs. Our tactics had immediate and positive results. The accuracy of the SCUD missiles dropped dramatically, as the Iraqi SCUD crews rushed through proper set up and missile targeting to avoid being killed by US aircraft. In the end, Israel stayed out of the war and Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi occupation.

This remains the most memorable time of my life and is precisely why I joined the Delta Force. Shortly before, I had been involved in the rescue of Kurt Muse from the Carcelo Modelo Prison in Panama City. From the deserts of Iraq to the jungles of Panama, this was the right place at the right time in history.

Up until this point, the military was largely using variants of the M16 full-size rifle and SOF was using H&K MP5s. The first organization that thought outside of that box and used a weapon that bridged the gap between sub guns and rifles, was Delta Force. The customized CAR-15s issued by Delta became the main drivers for the modification/customization capability available on all M4 Carbines issued today.

The issue CAR-15 (Colt Model 723) served me well in Panama and Iraq, but everyone on the ground in Delta quickly came to the same conclusion. We essentially had a 200 meter carbine in terrain where we could see the enemy approaching from over a mile away and to engage them effectively, we needed 7.62 NATO battle rifles. A limited number of M14s had been employed by our snipers, but we did not have enough to go around. In addition, while the platform is certainly reliable, bringing it up to modern standards still remains a challenge. In the early 1990’s, when no aftermarket accessories where available, it was a time-intensive process that few armorers were capable of. Since then, there has been a resurgence in both improved M14 parts and accessories, as well as battle rifles in general. This resurgence can be directly traced back to SOF battle rifle use in Desert Storm.

SOF in general has been a catalyst for improving and reinventing things that were set in stone. SOF legend Major Richard Meadows, the man I consider to be the first Delta Operator, was involved with not only MACV SOG but was a team leader on the Son Tay Prison Raid, arguably one of the most influential SOF missions in history. Delta Force grew from that kind of outside-the-box thinking.

It was the Son Tay Raiders who first fielded a red dot sighted weapon system, and it was Delta who picked up the ball with Aimpoint sighted CAR-15s. Every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Citizen who uses a tricked out M4 style carbine today owes a debt of gratitude to individuals like Major Meadows, the Son Tay raiders and the Operators of the Delta Force for pushing the limits of the AR style carbine into one the most successful fighting weapons in the history of the US Military.