Year End Product Review – Part 1

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We are coming up on our 1 year anniversary of The BrassTacs going “live”. Throughout the year, we have covered new products as well as old. We have tried to add a different perspective to our content than what is being put out across the industry. We try to put products into an end user perspective that the companies manufacturing intended the products be used for. We had the opportunity to put to the test; new products from Springfield Armory, Remington, Leupold, Sig and a Doppler radar system that changed the face of ballistics testing altogether.

We understand that some…or most of these products may be a tad outside of the budget for gifts. However, if any of you are like me, procrastination with regard to Christmas or Birthday shopping never seems to subside and it comes down to the last minute scramble to make sure those we care about have the best gifts that are within our budgets. We broke down what we thought topped the list of most “sought after” into 9 categories that directly benefitted the industry in their respective spaces.



The list is long and distinguished. The rifle among all rifles that we felt compelled to add to this list, is on the pricey side for gifting. If you have someone who is a precision shooter in your life, or someone who just wants to be a part of the “best build ever”, Sean Utley covered the collaboration between, Curtis Custom, Alamo Precision Rifles, and ABC [Barrel Company]; all put together by Saltzman Gunworks.

A Collaboration For The Best Build Ever

A few months ago, Curtis Custom and Alamo Precision Rifles released the Axiom receiver. BrassTacs was handed the first sample for review. Even though it wasn’t connected to a completed rifle, it was still amazing in its inception; 60-degree throw, Defiance Manufacturing like tolerances, roller bearing cocking piece, and under $1000. Too good to be true, right? Well sort of. Because today Alamo Precision Rifles raised the price of the Axiom to $1095.00. In my opinion, that may still be too low.

We imagined this build would look good when it was just a pile of parts, but we probably didn’t realize just how stunning it would turn out at its completion

An action of such as this deserves only the best components for its completion. Not only that, the craftsmanship needed to be of exceptionally high standards as well. Because of this, I turned to Saltzman Gun Works. In full disclosure, Saltzman Gun Works has been my gunsmith for over 10 years. They’ve fixed more of my screw ups than my wife has. I’ve never had one of their complete custom rifles, mainly because I didn’t think I could afford it and in some way thought myself undeserving as if I wasn’t a good enough shooter for one of their builds. If you want to flash and flare, you can look elsewhere, but if you want real smithing and machining to exacting standards, then these guys are for you. Their list of clienteles stretches from champion F-class shooters to Elite LE and military units. I’ll leave it at that.

Not only did Saltzman Gun Works build the gun but they also designed the chassis system in which the action rests. The SGW R2 chassis represents an evolution in the precision rifle chassis. Only the SGW R2 chassis features a built-in recoil reduction system. The butt of the patent-pending chassis allows 1.5 inches of travel and can be adjusted for stiffness. And while it might not be best utilized to its full capabilities in a 6.5 Creedmoor, it still works. And it’s nothing short of amazing in a build chambered for something larger like the 300 WM.

Across 8 different brands and weights of factory ammunition, the SGW rifle averaged .565 inches from 100 yards. I left out several brands and weights, mainly because I didn’t have them on hand. Either way, this was an impressive feat for the gun. I’ve seen many rifles that only like one or two brands and weights. This one allows the shooter to have options.

Black Guns

 Sig Sauer MPX   

 MP5, MP40, Thompson M1921 and even the “frankengun” Luger P08. All sub guns, who helped solidify the debate of whether a pistol caliber shoulder-fired weapons’ effectiveness at various ranges. Some more aesthetically pleasing than others; while shooting in close quarters, they all hold tons of value.

Sig stepped up their game and introduced their line of sub guns. Coined the MPX. Due to its versatility in rapid barrel changes, immediate adaptability between platforms. Similar sub guns all but have the end user pigeonholed into one end user. The “X” has a variance of either “pistol”, or short barreled rifle (SBR). The moving parts remain the same between both, however; as many are aware…the difference between the two is earmarked by a brace that closely resembles a buttstock or no brace at all and a full telescoping stock. If you have a SOT or live in an SBR friendly state; the MPX is available as an SBR which comes with a collapsible/telescoping buttstock.

Out of the box with a hand stop for those c clamp types in the world

Finding a “permanent home” within a vehicle for a firearm like the MPX can be easy also vicarious. If you are one that travels a lot by vehicle, it can fit virtually anywhere. Between and under the seats specifically. Before stowing the MPX in either spot, know the laws specific to the transport of firearms in your state before you find a home for the MPX in your vehicle. Do yourself and our friends in blue a favor. If you are going to put the MPX under your seat, should you be pulled over, please let them know that you have it, and what condition you keep in. [loaded or unloaded]

 Our price to value assessment is also evenly balanced. Typically, anything with the modularity of the MPX, its price reflects. The MPX PSB (Pistol Stabilizing Brace) MSRP right above 2k. Yes, two grand is a lot of money for anything that you cannot drive, but what you get is Sig functioning with Sig versatility. The best part of it all, the MPX is readily available. We would recommend starting out with the MPX equipped with the Pistol Stabilizing Brace and customize from there. With any model of the MPX, your quest for the ultimate off body defense weapon could come to a screeching halt!


Type Semi-Automatic
Gas Short Stroke Piston
Caliber 9mm Luger
Magazine Capacity 10, 20, 30 rounds
Handguard 8” one piece key mod
Barrel Length 8 Inches
Overall Length 27 ½ (extended) 17” Folded
Weight 6lbs 5oz (unloaded)
Stock Stabilization Brace
Grip Sig Polymer/Contoured
Trigger Pull 7lbs
Finish Type III hard coat anodized
Safety Selector Ambidextrous
Bolt/Mag Release Ambidextrous
MSRP $2,084.00
Manufacturer Sig Sauer

 Handgun (General Use)

Yes, we know, there is an endless sea of categories when it comes to pistols and how they’re used. Which is why we chose two pistols from two completely different ends of the handgun spectrum. Having covered pistols from many different manufacturers, under many different prefaces, and under very different circumstances, the two the stood out to us more than the rest is the Kimber Grand Raptor II and Remington’s Brand new RP9. The GRII is a full-sized rail-less 1911 chambered in the ever-thumping .45 ACP as the RP is a poly gun that Remington came out of nowhere and made a statement in the plastic gun market that they will be sticking around for a while! Other pistols that deserve an honorable mention; Sig Sauer P226 TacOps, and a Glock build that we did overseas with a P80 kit and Zev slide from Brownells.

 Kimber’s Grand Raptor II

One of if not the most revered production 1911 manufacturers in the game go by the name of Kimber. Their quality craftsmanship, tight fitment, and unsurpassed accuracy are all facets that cement their guns at the top of the heap. In fact, data will prove that it was a normalcy to work through malfunctions until most Kimber firearms expended at least 200 rounds before calling customer service and bellyaching about a gun that “failed”. The Grand Raptor II is not one of these guns. Many shooter malfunctions came from the tight slide to frame fit, not a bad problem to have, so long as you have (or had) the patience to work through them and trust that once the gun is “broken in” it will run flawlessly for the rest of its time in yours and anyone else’s collection. Although the Grand Raptor II isn’t old by any stretch, it does meet our 2-year window to be pulled from the back of the vault to be tested appropriately.

What you see is what you get with Kimber. There are no gimmicks or extras included with your purchase. Holsters, mag pouches or mass- produced magazines are not what drove you to purchase the product, so nothing of the sort is included. One Chip McCormick [8 round] magazine, the mandatory cable lock, a polymer bushing wrench, and gun, is what you get! There are plenty of other products out there which come with all the enabling equipment to go to the range. The Grand Raptor II was not made or brought to market under the pretense of a general use tactical 1911…it is a genuine work of art from Kimber’s custom shop.

It is a breath of fresh air to get a product that we do not have to focus on tactical courses of fire or the more annoying one use fits all approach to shooting. Yes, it is a pistol and we have said it a million times; pistols were designed for close offensive and defensive engagements.  The Grand Raptor is the ultimate balance between a tactical, defensive and competitive tool.

The two-toned reptilian 1911 is absent accessory rails, which [these days] typically disqualifies a pistol from falling into the tactical category. The slick dust cover and it’s full-size do qualify it to be shot in USPSA single stack competitions if you want to try your hand at that [we did and was quickly humbled]. If tactical is what you want, Kimber makes the Desert Warrior for a top of the line railgun. That said; the Grand Raptor II is perfectly balanced should you need to take rapid follow-on shots in a “tactical” situation. Though the Grand Raptor II would not be our first choice in clearing rooms, it is adequate in its function to keep your rounds focused on their intended targets should you call on it to defend your home!


Kimber Grand Raptor II

Type Single Stack/Semi-Automatic
Caliber .45 AUTO
Overall Length 8.53”
Weight 36 oz empty – 44 oz loaded
Grips Scaled Rosewood panels
Trigger SAO – 6 lb
Finish Polished Steel Slide/Polished Stainless-Steel Frame
Barrel 5” Oversized Stainless Steel
Sights Adjustable Tritium Rear/Tritium Insert front
MSRP $1512.00
Manufacturer Kimber America


Remington RP9

As the heavy hitters in the striker fired game flourished, Glock’s release of the 42/43 and all the MOS models. Springfield Armory with their Mod 2 XD and Smith released the M 2.0. Then, Sig Sauer with their release of the P320 and others. To many standards, Remington would be late to the table by injecting yet another plastic pistol into the market. Someone once said that good things come to those who wait…well, the RP9 could very well be an instance where the wait was worth it.

The RP is by no means an out of the box “perfect” pistol. It does, however, have all the makings to check a variety of practical boxes. The PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coated slide makes for a sleek look with extra durability throughout the pistols lifespan. The PVD material adheres to the stainless-steel slide and barrel for an extra durable barrier between the elements and critical parts of the pistol. PVD has proven to be significantly lighter and stronger than other coatings and turns the recoating of common ceramics and phosphating into a thing of the past. Throughout our testing of the RP9, we consistently drew and holstered the pistol. The hard bolteron thermoplastic rig from HTC did not leave wear or marks on the slide and carbon build up, wiped off effortlessly, so maintaining the RP9 is easy and doesn’t require a whole lot of work to keep clean.

The RP9 magazine capacity holds 18 plus one in the chamber. Unless you live in a communist state where the lawmakers think that you are less lethal with 10 rounds in a magazine from the factory, Remington ships the RP9 with enough magazine space to house almost an entire box of ammo with both included. Convenient for gun fighting…the magazines proved to be even more convenient when at the range. Less time at the loading table and more time pinging steel!

Our initial outing with the RP9 was positive. Up to this point, I personally gauge striker pistols from the model that I carry for daily use in Afghanistan. It was a breath of fresh air not having to compare the RP9.  The pistol is adequate in our range needs and one that we would have complete confidence in as a home defense or daily carry if our preference was to carry a full-sized pistol. We understand that for some; carrying full sized is the only option. If so, and you have not yet gotten a closer look at the RP, check it out, it may be what you need for your EDC.



Type Semi-Automatic/Striker-Fired
Caliber 9mm
Magazine Capacity 18+1
Barrel 4.5” Stainless Steel PVD
Overall Length 8”
Width 1.39”
Weight 1lb 11 oz (unloaded)
Finish UVD Coated
Sights 3 Dot, Drift adjustment
Trigger Weight 6lb Tested
MSRP $489.00
Manufacturer Remington Arms Company

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