First Gear | De-Grinching, First Gear Fashion

posted on December 4, 2016
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With Christmas in view, we’re taking a break—sort of—from our maneuverable AR/MSR build. The good news is we have at least one item on the following list that will probably find its way onto that rifle anyway, but we also wanted to highlight a couple that are such useful “gift” class articles that we just couldn’t let them linger unremarked. 

SureFire Sidekick – SureFire doesn’t need much in the way of introduction to most shooters: They’ve been providing the best in tactical illumination for a looooong time. Rugged almost to the point of literal indestructability (we think the warranty rules out contact nuclear blast, but otherwise …), we can vouch for owning several samples on the high side of 15 years old, maybe 20, and they’re still running strong. 

A quite natural default is to think of them for either weapon lights or flashlights, and our giftable article falls neatly into the second category. In terms of utility and elbowed-out competitors, however, it’s pure SureFire: in a hard-to-argue class by itself. 

The Sidekick is a compact little job. Think about the remote for your car, and you’ll have it right: 2.5 inches long by a little over a half-inch thick, and weighing in at a paltry 2 ounces. Corny as it sounds, that’s the only thing small about it.

Easy on your pockets, hard on the dark. Photo by A1F Staff.

The three illumination levels all run intuitively from the same rubber-sealed button switch. A battery-sparing, 5-lumen mode is first up, and is great for reading or producing discreetly low light for hours—45 hours, to be exact. Two quick presses gets you to 60 lumens; plenty for tire-changing-type use, and easily bright enough if light is “spilling” from other sources. And if you only need a fair amount of light, you’ll get 4 hours of runtime for the task at hand in this mode. Burn-‘em-down mode comes with three presses close together: only 45 minutes of “on” time, but at a whopping 300 lumens. 

Don’t like that power-up sequence? Reverse it yourself in three simple steps to High/Medium/Low. 

Doberman power in a Doxie package isn’t the end of the line in terms of SureFire’s cleverness, either: This little light also features USB charging. We doubt we need to explain the convenience here. We figure, sitting at our desk, that 25 or 30 charging locations are within a dozen steps, and the car is a gimme, too. 

In classy SureFire fashion, cord, keyring and mini-carabiner are included. In Christmas fashion, it came ready to light up, too—fully charged. Hunting up red and green seasonal filters, however, is on you. 

Visit SureFire at (MSRP $79.99) 

Newbold Targets – We concede that our impulse to say, “told ya!” about Newbold polymer targets is adolescent, so we won’t do it. Oh, wait … 

Actually, the biggest problem we had way back in the ‘90s when we first enthused about these was convincing range management that they were as safe as promised: The “too good to be true” impulse flunked us out a couple of times. We persisted, and quite apparently so did Newbold. 

Newbold’s elastomer targets—made of rubbery, flexible ElastiMAX™—are absolutely as promised: A material that reacts to bullet strikes like a solid target, yet lets the projectile pass through while “healing” the hole behind it. Just hit it again, and again, and again … up to thousands of times.

The benefits are as obvious as they are versatile. No fragments, for instance: Sufficient energy for target response gets peeled off the bullet as it passes through the target and impacts in a normal fashion in the berm or other trap. Indoors, this is even more beneficial than it is outdoors: Less—perhaps no—lead gets volatized in a hit. 

There are no ricochets, either, since there’s nothing in the target or mount systems hard enough to redirect projectiles. Everything stays on the range.

Plenty of shapes, sizes and mounting methods, all “self-healing.” Photo by A1F Staff.

We’d argue that the utility of reactive targets in getting new shooters to enjoy shooting is essentially unrivaled, but often hard to create. Poking holes in paper or cardboard has—and always will have—an importance and benefit of its own. But there’s nothing like seeing something happen when you get it right and send a bullet where it belongs. And just in case you’re thinking they only dangle from overhead support, as our photo implies, think again: Self-resetting, knock-down, etc. are all available. 

We have a hard time thinking of any target type that facilitates the fun of reactive shooting quite like Newbolds, yet dodges range issues so adroitly. With kits starting at $9, it’s difficult to imagine why every shooter doesn’t keep a few around. Better yet, gift a few, if only to yourself. 

Newbold has an excellent and extremely detailed FAQ for their targets and target systems. While primarily intended for pistol, they do have rifle applications, but they are not appropriate for BB or air-powered arms. Visit them at

Suarez International Rifle Kompressor V2.0 – It is so tempting here to just say “get one.” We used V1.0 of this brake/comp in a rifle build not long after it was introduced, and thought “full-auto rated, beautiful to the eye, physically short and (looks like) a cinch to install correctly; what could go wrong?” 

Not a darn thing, as it turned out. We think the “bought” or “recommended (and used)” total is now over 20. Somewhere in there, a “V2.0” came along, and we thought we better get up to speed on that. And that’s where the trouble appeared.

Comp ports on the other side–flat, sealed bottom reduces dust signature when firing prone. Two thicknesses of crush washers, too. Photo by A1F Staff.

Ok, not trouble exactly: V2.0 is in hand, but has yet to make it onto a 5.56. But what it does on a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 is worth the telling, and … yes, we know: compensating a .22LR? 

Affirmative. We hope to have an NRATV clip up for your edification soon, but running two rifles side-by-side, one “with” and one “without,” is a 100 percent proposition so far—everyone agrees that the improvement is utterly apparent, and big fun. Better still, the estimable Mr. Suarez assures us he has restocked (since we cleaned him out for our own ration of stocking stuffers), sale price and all ($30). 

As for 5.56 performance, we’ve got a second one standing by and will get back to you: The Kompressor is a serious candidate for our Maneuverable Rifle. But the first one isn’t coming off that M&P any time soon, though its effect on our .22LR stockpile is already a disaster. 

If this means we’re back to “just get one,” we concede. 

Visit Suarez International at

Part 1  Part 2  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7  Part 8  Part 9


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