Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Making an iPhone 4S bracket for 1/4-20 mounts

I have an upcoming project for Griffin Armament where I will be testing the performance of the M4-SD Tactical Compensator and one of the tests I have in mind will requires video and planned to use my iPhone 4S for this purpose. There are various brackets and mounts available on the market but I didn't find any that allowed me to view the screen while filming that would also provide a solid contact around the phone to prevent the phone from shaking off from the rifle firing near by; looks like I will be hacking one together for the shoot.

I stared with looking around on the web for either a case or a mount that I can use as a base to start and I deiced to go with a window mount type that I found on Amazon which includes a goose neck and suction cup that attaches to the phone bracket. Another item I ordered with it is a bar mount with a 1/4-20 thread screw which is the industry standard screw size for attaching any camera (just like on a tripod). The bar mount I plan to use for attaching directly to the barrel for future use.

As for how I plan to attach the bracket to the bar mount and other 1/4-20 mounts is pretty simple, I headed out to my local homedepot and hunted around for parts and this is what I came out with;

3" x 3" T-Plates
1" Corner Brace
1/4-20 x 7/8 Coupling Nut
Shortest 1/4-20 bolt I could find
(3) 5.8x10mm nuts and bolts

One of the holes in the corner bracket will need to be drilled out to 1/4" wide to fit the 1/4-20 bolt, simply clamp the bracket into a vise (failing that, screw it down into a piece of scrap wood) and drill through one of the holes with a 1/4" drill bit and if you have a way to deburr, you should to avoid a cutting hazard. The T plate will be affixed to two of the holes of the iPhone bracket with two of the 5.8x10mm nuts and bolts with the third set to attach the corner bracket to the T plate. The 1/4-20 bolt will pass through the enlarged hole which will be affixed with the 1/4-20 x 7/8" coupling nut where there will be enough space left in the coupling nut to thread onto tripod and other 1/4-20 camera mounts. See pics below for reference, it's a really straight forward build and should be done in under ten minutes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

SBR Build Completed! (and How to install the Troy Battlerail Bravo)

The upper parts have finally arrived and have now completed the build as of 9/18/2012; I have been waiting for this rifle completion for nine months and considering the coincidence in length of time, it can be said that my SBR is born. Least to say I'm thrilled and haven't been this excited since a midget discoverd the husky section.

The parts in the build have been covered in previous posts but to recap here for the final build;

Lower Receiver Parts

Colt AR-15 Lower (Pre-Ban)
Magpul MOE Trigger Guard, MIAD grip, & B.A.D. Lever
Geissele SSA Trigger
Vltor A5 Kit & IMOD stock
A.R.M.S. #71L Front and Rear Polymer BUIS

Upper Receiver Parts

Stag Arms Model SBR 11.5" BBL + Upper
Troy 11" BattleRail Bravo
Magpul ladder rail covers
BCM Gunfighter Mod 4
**soon to be added**
Griffin Armament M4SD II Compensator

I zeroed the rifle at 50 yards which also is know as the Combat Zero and if you use an A2 rear sight; it is possible to zero at 50 yards utilizing the Improved Battlesight Zero. The reason I chose the 50 yard zero has to do with how the 5.56mm projectile travels where at a 50 Yard zero the projectile hits Point Of Aim (POA)/Point Of Imapct (POI) and again at around the 200 yard mark and intermediate distances are a relatively flat trajectory that is +/- 1.6" out to the 250 yard range. This deviance is compensated with hold overs which means to hold my POA over the target a known amount above my expected POI at distances outside of the near and far zeroes and once trained with the hold overs, hitting 2" steel targets out at different distances are easy without having to fiddle with the elevation of my sights which makes for faster shots on target in a competition with multiple targtes at varying distances. The reason this zero works is the misconception of bullet travel path that when it exits the barrel, the projectile goes straight and drops down but in reality it is an arch which maintains terminal velocity over a longer distance. When the rifle is zeroed at 50 yards, the barrel is not level to ground pointing straight at 50 yards but at a slight angle upwards to produce an arch in the bullet path that is consistent with your aim where the upward angle is ever so slight to the shooter's perspective that it appears to be straight on. A very awesome explanation has been posted on the m4carbine forum by member Molon that is worth a read if you want to know more about the 50 yard zero and how it works (scroll down further on his post to check out the Revised Improved Battlesight Zero if you are using the A2 rear sight, very much worth the read).

The #71L sights which are the low profile polymer offering from A.R.M.S. Inc. is a pretty good sight, I like the rear sight better than Magpul's because it has the short range notch at the top of the sight already but the front sight needs a little work. The front sight simply has too much flat black with no definition and found it hard to quickly acquire the sight post center in the rear peep. I painted white alignment lines on the bottom and top surrounding the front post as well as the top ~1/4" of the post florescent green. The quick fix makes the sight pop out and is now a significantly easier, faster, and repeatable sight alignment.

White base coat

Florescent green applied to post

View from the peep

There are components on this rifle (aside from the short barrel) that I have been wanting to test out and the parts lived up to my expectation. The BCM Gunfighter charging handle (CH) with the Mod 4 paddle which is the medium size latch works exactly as advertised. I resisted buying the Gunfighter CH for the longest time as I was just being a cheap bastard.....until I recently managed to break my CH on my other AR exactly where the BCM literature mentions it. I manipulate the CH one handed with my support hand (that would be my left as I am right hand dominant) and with a standard CH, the one hand manipulation puts all of the stress against the roll pin that attaches the latch/paddle to the handle as well as adding a side way torsion that visibly warps the handle a bit. The BCM CH does not experience the warp as it is a much heavier duty CH compared to the GI and the added rigidity makes the CH manipulation easier. Looks like I will be ordering the second one to replace the replacement on my other AR now.

Comparison shot between the BCM (bottom) and GI (top) CH

Another part is the Troy BattleRail Bravo measureing in at 2.2" wide and 2.44" high which is the update that redesigned the existing TRX and BattleRail line where the new rail is lighter weighting in at 13.35 oz. and attaches to the rifle with less parts for a better, more solid fit and has a closer resemblance to the Alpha series of rails. I shot the SBR for an hour and a half straight while sighting it in and it never got hot, maybe a little warm but nothing uncomfortable at all and with the combination of the Magpul ladder rail covers, I was able to keep a solid thumb over grip on the rail the entire time without any heat issues that would necessitate gloves. At one point when I was adjusting the front sight post, my left hand came in contact with the A2 flash hider just to remind me how burning hot the rifle is (much cursing ensued), it was easy to forget the fact with the rail which did an amazing job at keeping the blistering heat at bay. The only gripe I have with the rail is the finish which I have already started to see wear spots on and it has seen exactly one indoor range trip.

There seems to be no good explanation of the Bravo rail's mounting method or for that matter how it works; so here it is finally, how to mount the Troy Battlerail Bravo. Troy did away with the proprietary nut and uses the existing castle nut on the AR platform which makes for better parts commonality and a simpler installation process. The rail has four screws and tabs and the tabs slide between the barrel and castle nut and the screw tension binds the castle nut between the clips and the rail.

All of the parts

Here the clips slid between barrel and castle nut to illustrate where they will go

You will need to hold the clips inside of the rail and thread the screw in and turn a few turns to keep them in place, the idea is to have enough slack that the tabs will slide in between the castle nut and barrel on their own during installation. Aside from the clips, the rail has keyed sections at the end of the rail that will need to be lined up with the castle nut ridges for installation which you can see highlighted in red. It becomes obvious when mounting that you will need to install the rail off center for the ridges to line up to the castle nut and will than need to be twisted to center for alignment before tightening the screws.

As for the sum of it's parts, the SBR overall functioned flawlessly. I did not experience a single malfunction but to be fair I haven't really put it through it's paces yet either. The Vltor A5 system gave the SBR the reliability of a rifle length buffer system that I was looking for. The FA BCG certainly performed well with a smooth feed, solid lock up, and a very positive ejection at around 4'clock which is where the case should be ejected towards. The dwell time couldn't have been timed better between bolt, buffer size, and tube length in conjunction with spring tension which also makes for a rifle that recoils very flat and straight back that allowed easy follow up shots once I got used to the shorter barrel getting influenced by the bullet spin as it exits the barrel more (the force exerted on the projectile from the rifling forces the barrel to move up and to the left) compared to my 16" AR. As i mentioned in the parts list above, I am waiting on the Griffin Armament compensator to try out in the very near future and will be writing about it here. Now to choose an optic for this rifle....

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Few Watch finally arrives, less than stellar impression

After waiting longer than I had to, the watch arrived this morning. Before getting into the watch, there was a delay in production and no communication from Few regarding this delay until I contacted them. Even after contacting them, responses were extremely slow and when Few finally admitted to missing the committed production time, they at least offered me a free additional strap for taking so long. I have to say that I am less than thrilled with Few's communication and hope to see it corrected in the future.

The watch arrived in a nondescript cardboard box which was well packed, inside I found a black leather case, extra strap, watch link tool, and a lanyard adorning Few's logo.

The black PVD finish is pretty even across the watch but is not a particularly durable finish as I already see a spot wearing through.

I am not certain what printing method Few is using but it calls for improvement as fine details are lost and prior to printing, Few needs to either fix a current process if there is one or employ a color matching process as the design I submitted and the dial that is printed are two separate tones of grey. You can compare against my original design in an earlier post, notice that the barrel on the M4 isn't even printed on the final production watch, thanks for SBR'ing it.

Few needs to pay attention to simple things that are so basic I have to wonder if the people who assemble them are even qualified to begin with such as the bracelet width being wider than the lug width and as a result the links next to the lugs do not lie flat and are torqued away. Another disappointing detail is the bezel as well, I chose the black bezel with white markers and what I received is a black bezel with steel markers, the website shows as clear as day that the markers are white as you can compare it against the steel color bezel they have on their design site and can see a definite difference between the white and the steel; all of this feels like simple inattention to detail and could have been avoided had they a better quality standard and a quality assurance process, if one exists at all.

You can see in the pictures below where the bracelet is too wide against the lug and as a result is torquing the bracelet away and creating a gap and bad fit.

The watch so far is keeping time but only been wearing it for a handful of hours and will have to wait a couple of days before concluding on it's time keeping capabilities. Overall I am disappointed, the slow communication and production time may have biased me but the bad fit and finish on top of the less than quality print of the dial, I contacted Few regarding all of my issues and will see what they have to say about it and what may be done about it. If they decide to try to make it right, I think I would be able to maintain a positive opinion on the company but if not than Few just maybe another company in a long line of retailers of sub-par quality goods.

Update 9/14/2012:

I've decided to keep the watch since I like most of the parts of the watch and is hard to find a suitable replacement in the price range and besides, I do work on watches and will likely get to re-working the dial myself later versus waiting on Few to get their act together. As for my opinion of Few watches, do not get the steel bracelets as they do not fit their cases; I am not certain if the case is OEM'ed by FEW, outsourced for production, or use an existing case design from a supplier but they need to learn a thing or two on how to test these things out on CAD and then onto rapid prototyping before charging people money for something as simple as a band not fitting which should have been discovered during prototyping if not quality assurance. If FEW is the designer of the case, they are simply terrible at industrial design to let an out of spec lug or bracelet slip by. I would avoid their PVD as well as it is not a good quality PVD and I wouldn't bother with a custom dial unless it is really simple since they screen print and would of been nice to know what resolution screens they use to minimize design detail getting lost. So if you are in the market for a dive style watch where you can swap out some features, it's a good pick but for true customization, leave it to craftsmen who understands what quality is. I also tried contacting FEW to see if I can get a partial refund on the bracelet and the botched dial, I am still waiting to hear back.

update 9/28/2012:

After waiting several weeks for a reply, Few has agreed to refund me $46 USD which is the cost of the bracelet that does not fit and the custom dial that was not executed well. The email process did take a long time but I am glad in the end of them refunding me for the less than stellar quality parts. The partial refund at least does show that Few as a company wishes to make things right with the customer.