This is my Blaster. There are many like it…

…but this one is mine.

The Blaster: A TacSol AR-22T upper with 15" AP Customs Tactical handguard

The Blaster: A TacSol AR-22T upper with 15″ AP Custom Tactical handguard

Well, there may not be any like it.  Looking at it completed assembled, my first thought was, “That looks like something out of Star Wars.”  But now you know why I asked if 15 inches is too long: It’s installed on a Tactical Solutions AR-22T dedicated .22 rimfire upper. Ordinarily a 15″ handguard on a 16.5″ barrel is not a problem (although they are most often used on 3-gun type rifles with 18″+ barrels).  However, because the rimfire barrel is recessed into the receiver by over an inch, I knew the barrel wouldn’t be too much longer than the handguard.

The yellow line indicates where the barrel begins.

The yellow line indicates where the barrel begins.

What I didn’t account for is the gap between the receiver and the back of the tube.  That left all of 1/16 of an inch of barrel to extend past the end of the handguard.

Technically the barrel extends past the handguard

Technically the barrel is longer

Obviously, there won’t be any trouble finding a place to mount iron sights on top of that which was the reason for adding the rail to begin with.  The plan is also to add a bipod stud as well and the handguard does have a row of vents along the bottom for adding accessories.  One of the two included APC add-on rail sections could be used for that purpose. They are rock solid when mounted and offer impressive flexibility of mounting locations [@1:30, 3, 6, 9 or 10:30 o’clock any where along the length].

Two 2 inch add-on rail sections are included with AP Customs Tactical Handguard

Two 2 inch add-on rail sections are included with AP Custom Tactical Handguard

However, the idea of adding a rail only to have to add a bipod stud adapter to then attach a bipod just irks me.  AP Custom will be introducing a simple, low profile bipod stud accessory but it hasn’t been released for sale at this time.  [BTW, they recently released a lo-pro QD socket that I want to try too.]  I did try IWC’s excellent V-2 Mount-n-Slot for MagPul MOE forends but while serviceable, it’s not an exact fit; MagPul vents are narrower and the surfaces around them are flat rather than curved like those of a free float tube.  This leaves a very slight amount of play when MOE accessories are mounted to an APC tube (unless you really want to wrench them down; I didn’t).

Vent size comparison: AP Customs carbon fiber handguard (top) to MagPul MOE (bottom); IWC V2 Mount-N-Slot on MOE

Vent size comparison: AP Customs carbon fiber handguard (above) to MagPul MOE (below); IWC V2 Mount-N-Slot on MOE

That didn’t keep me from doing a mock up of what it would be like with a bipod mounted though.

Shooting from within the rough.

In the jungle, the quiet jungle…

So now all it needs are the iron sights that led to this whole undertaking.  Well, they’re backordered.  But I’m sure that they’ll be along shortly; this panic buying stuff is tapering off, right? *sigh*

Until then, I’ll still be having a great time with the ‘Blaster’.  The TacSol upper is not only accurate and fun but it’s also an excellent training tool (inexpensive to shoot and great for introducing new shooters to the AR platform). Adding the AP Custom handguard and (eventually) aperture sights only makes it better.

Just one more pic.

And just one more pic.

Mini Review: Black Dog AR Bolt Saver = $3 Peace of Mind

Ever had the bolt fall out of a disassembled AR 15 upper?  I won’t forget the feeling; it’s sort of like a little version of when you almost fall backwards in a chair.  With a centerfire AR upper it’s less likely to happen because the bolt should engage the locking lugs and provide a small level of retention.  However, since .22 conversions are a blow-back action and therefore don’t use locking lugs, there is nothing to keep them from falling out when the upper is off the gun.

That’s how it happened to me.  I most often use a discreet carry case to transport my rifle and frequently take along one lower and two uppers (a 5.56 and and a Tactical Solutions AR-22 LT).  After all, there’s no sense in attraction unnecessary attention.  In order to fit the rifle in the case, the AR halves are separated from the lower.  Thankfully I was standing over my bed when the bolt fell out and it landed safely.  I’m much more careful now but when I learned of the Black Dog Bolt Saver, I knew I was already a customer.

Black Dog AR Bolt Saver

It’s a simple and effective solution for folks like me who don’t want to risk dropping their AR bolts (again).  It consists of a L-shaped plastic bracket and two pins that cover the underside and rear of an AR upper in order to retain the bolt and as a side benefit it also somewhat prevents accumulation of dust, lint and such while the upper is off the lower.  About the only change I’d suggest is a way to retain the pins when it is not being used.  When not attached, the pins easily fall out of the bracket.  Additional holes for pin storage or keeper lanyards would help.  Just be sure you keep the ziplock bag it comes in for storage and you’ll be O.K.

BD Bolt Saver secured to AR-22 LT

Another feature I found is that because a .22 conversion doesn’t require a buffer, with the bolt saver in place it is possible to chamber-check the 22 upper.  Best of all it’s downright cheap.  Like chamber flags, it performs a needed service for just a few bucks so why wouldn’t you have a couple on hand?