A few weeks ago I had the distinct privilege of attending the Big 3 East Fall “event” held at the Big 3 East (a private range and training facility) at the edge of a swamp, outside of DeLand, Florida (near Daytona Beach).
This convocation, which consisted of journalists and industry reps, was a grass roots affair, organized by and for the media. It was the antithesis of the SHOT Show, a colossal undertaking (with 70,000 attendees).
Big 3 East, by contrast, had only around only 100 attendees. It was hardly big and that was just fine by all concerned. It provided the perfect forum for us creative types to connect with firearms manufacturers, third party parts makers and vendors of all stripes. Some of the top gun writers in the nation, such as David Fortier, Tim Harmsen and Jim Tarr are in attendence.
I liken it to a Woodstock for gun guys (and gals) where journalists bunk together in a dormitory on the property share their collective love of firearms. Although the Big 3 East Fall is a business-like occasion it’s not without fun. The gathering culminates in a ritualistic destruction of an automobile by lots of guys with guns. (Unfortunately I missed this!)
At Big 3 East it’s small enough so that if a blogger or writer needs to buttonhole an executive from Glock or the founder of a smaller scale manufacturer such as Definitive Arms or even a tiny startup company such as Triumph Systems they had free reign to do so. No meetings in hotel lobbies or bars were necessary when you had a convenient picnic table–not to mention three ranges on the premises.
The grass roots nature of Big 3 East was underlined by its very genial, volunteer staff. These were all colleagues of one of the founders of the affair (and the owner of the property) Dillard (aka CJ) Johnson, a highly decorated army combat veteran and Blackwater contractor who served two tours in Iraq.
We journalists were introduced to a whole slew of new products. In this first article of in a two-part series, here are just a few of the items I found of interest…
Glock’s new MOS red dot mounting system
One of the clear industry trends over the past few years is the increased use of red dot optics on polymer handguns. Of course mounting optics on handguns is nothing new. It’s been done for years on 1911s, wheel guns and other firearms with dedicated mounts or picatinny rails. What’s new with the plastic guns is integrating them directly atop the slide. In the past you’d need the services of a gunsmith to do this and needless to say, it could get pretty expensive.
Glock isn’t the first to do this but it’s noteworthy when an industry leader and trend setter such as Glock jumps in the fray.
Glock’s MOS (Modular Optic System) takes the muss and fuss out of this process by offering four different base plates that will accommodate a number of popular red dots. These include EO Tech, Docter, Insight, Meopta, Trijicon, C-More and Leupold’s Delta Point models.
In order to make room for the base plates, Glock has specially configured their slides. The MOS System is offered on four of Glock’s Gen 4 models–the 34 (9mm), G35 (.40), and G41 (.45) 46 and the hefty G40 (10 mm). If you want the MOS on your Gen 4 figure on paying another $65 which includes the base plates.
I really like this arrangement.
As an aging boomer who loves to whack metal plates on the range, my eyes are not what they used to be. A red dot makes it so much easier to acquire a target which of course will serve you well for home defense. As optics get more reliable and are able to withstand the ample g-forces produced by a slide, it’s a no-brainer to incorporate this technology. To the best of my knowledge Glock allows you to place a greater variety optics on a greater variety of guns than any of its competitors.
I shot both their G34 and the G40 and loved this system. Stay tuned because I plan to do a thorough review of an MOS enhanced Glock in the near future.
Geissele introduces several new products
Geissele exemplifies the best of what I call the “cottage” industry side of the US firearms space.
It’s a great example of how a mom & pop concern can grow into a well-respected enterprise by producing great products at a reasonable price. Their chief claim to fame are triggers for the AR platform but at Big 3 East they also featured one of their newest products, an AK trigger group, known as the AKT, which is sold by Geissele’s ALG Defense division for $49. At the event it was installed in a nifty little Arsenal AK-74, which proved to be a perfect match.
As an AK aficionado and the author of an AK buyer’s guide (How to Buy an AK-74) I’d been dying to test this trigger. It was a one-stage trigger–crisp and light. The light action (maybe 2.5 lbs) caught me by surprise but once I got used to it, I was easily nailing a 12″ plate at 100 yards. That said, it may be a bit light for some folks used to the much heavier stock AK trigger.
ALG product manager Ashley McArthy said that in response to customer comments about their first iteration of the product, the AKT now comes with a secondary, slightly heavier spring option for folks who might want more of a two-stage-like trigger. (I hope to do a T&E in a future writing project so stay tuned).
In addition to the AK trigger, ALG showcased a new red dot mount specifically for the Glock platform. Called the 6-Second Mount, it will work with optics that conform to the Aimpoint “footprint” as well as the Trijicon RMR’s configuration. Reportedly this product was designed with specs provided by a counter-terrorism unit.
The name, 6-Second Mount, comes from a description used by one of the operators who said:
“The fight lasts 6 seconds… Either they’re dead or you’re dead, and aggression saves the day.”
Why do they need or want this type of mount?
When entering a linear environment, such as an airplane or bus, the team’s primary weapon is their pistol and they were looking for a fast sighting method that was rugged and robust. They didn’t like a red dot integrated on a slide because they simply did not believe the red dot technology available today can consistently handle the g-forces associated with the slide’s acceleration. By their reckoning, separating the sight from the slide means more dependability.
The ALG 6-Second Mount is machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and is designed for the Gen 3 Glock 17, 22, 24 31, 34 and 35.
Manticore Arms Unveils several new rails
There were several vendors at Big 3 East who epitomize a new generation of designers in the firearms space. These are guys who show a flair for creativity that is rarely seen in largely companies. One of them is Manticore Arms.
Manticore founder, Sven Jonsson designs high end rails, muzzle brakes, folding stocks and other third party parts for a number of platforms including the Tavor, AK, and AR.
Sven is known for products that are both highly functional and aesthetically pleasing.
A classic example of this is his recently introduced Alfa Rail for the AK which works hand in glove with the Ultimak’s M1-B optics mount.
He had several other products worthy of mention.
The first was an extremely light KeyMod handguard for the VEPR. The VEPR, although a well-respected AK variant, is sometimes treated like a poor relative by manufacturers when it comes to production of third party parts such as rails. There are simply not a lot available.
Manticore Arms addresses this head on with a rail that looks something akin to a high tech cheese grater, without the rough edges. It was both slim and light, which definitely works in the VEPR’s favor. (In case you never lugged one around, the VEPR, weighs about a pound more than the average AK and it needs all the help it can get in the weight reduction department). This new rail should find great acceptance in the VEPR community. Price is $214.95 from Shore Tactical.
The second item, his Transformer Rail for AR-15, really created a buzz among journalists. It was a case of “why didn’t somebody think of this before”. What Manticore did was design a rail that combined both KeyMod and M-lok slots. With these particular standards in flux, it makes sense to have a rail that could accept whatever accessory you want to add. Installed weight for this is only 11 oz including the barrel nut. Dimensions: are 13” length, 1.5” exterior width, 1.09” interior clear width. Price is $185.
Triumph Systems makes its debut
One of the cool things about Big 3 East is that every company–whether a start up or an industry icon, got equal billing in front of journalists.
Founded by former Navy Seal Jared Ogden and his business partner Ken Harris, a long time National Guard member, Triumph Systems got the attention of the cadre of journalists that attended Big 3 East. There were several reasons for this. The first was their soft launch of a product known as the Pivotal Trainer.
This setup entails a stand, target hanger, remote, and a 360-degree rotating motor. The hanger can be manually or automatically rotated which provides students the opportunity to practice shoot/no-shoot scenarios. The intention of Messrs Ogden and Harris is to make professional-level training technology more affordable to the masses by using fairly basic technology that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
They definitely had a hit with their proprietary target, the ”Threat Down silhouette” which includes bubble-wrap type mounds filled with a colored liquid that oozes down after perforation so there’s no mistake in discerning what you’ve hit. (See top photo).
Equally important about this company’s founders is their dedication to community service. Jared told me that he and Ken plan on training under-funded police and/or sheriff’s departments around the country with their products and services free of charge.
Stay tuned for Part II of this series.
Robert F. Kay, who lives in sunny Honolulu, is the author of How to Buy an AK-47.
Top and bottom photos courtesy of Matt Korovesis, Outdoor Hub. All other photos by Robert Kay
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