by Frank Winn, Guns & Gear Editor - Sunday, November 5, 2017
Full disclosure starts our First Gear for today: Browning’s Buck Mark and just about anything from Tactical Solutions are all-but-certain hits with us based on long experience. You are warned: We think objectivity is still within reach, but you be the judge.
Trail Lite Replacement Barrel
The whole “replacement barrel” business, especially when it concerns pistols, brings on a flinch for us. The inescapable implication is that any original is somehow flawed or inadequate, and therefore needs replacement. Barring some cataclysm, this is rarely the case. Most modern firearms are of such quality in terms of design and materials that they simply will not wear out in normal use. (We put, for instance, ~120,000 rounds through a Wilson Combat match barrel, and it still shoots plenty straight.)
But that doesn’t mean there’s never a reason to replace a barrel, either. In rifles, naturally, higher velocities and pressures bring about the necessity in fairly routine fashion. In pistols, we’re more inclined to swap-outs in order to gain additional capacities—a faster twist rate to spin heavier bullets, muzzle-end threading to permit the use of a comp/brake or suppressor, a different rifling type to allow lead bullets, or even to change calibers.
In the case of the nifty Trail Lite (here from our friends at Brownells), a couple of these come into play. Here, we’re removing a still-fine factory tube to add muzzle-end threads. In our case, it’s for suppressed shooting and—when Steel Challenge season rolls back around—a comp (~$35). Complete with a thread protector, the Trail Lite doesn’t take us far afield from completely normal shooting, either: Just unscrew any muzzle device you’ve added, and you’re back to a quite-excellent “vanilla” profile, appearance and accuracy.
There’s another sense, however, in which the Trail Lite might appeal. The trait in question is also the source of the give-away moniker: If you’re thinking of holstering your Buck Mark for a trek, the aluminum-sleeved, steel-lined barrel cuts the weight of the trusty Browning in a way Lean Cuisine can only dream of—more than half (5.5 ounces) compared to the factory version. This light nose won’t just please the experienced shooter with fast-swinging target acquisition; new or younger shooters will benefit from the very “neutral” balance that comes with a lighter front end.
The install, by the way, leaves your factory rig completely intact if you want to reinstall it at some later time.
Trail Lite Scope Bases/Rails
Here, we suffer no sensitivities about suggesting the replacement of an otherwise serviceable component: If your top strap can’t present anything but “notch-and-post” for sighting, dump it! Much as we love the standard version—all our Buck Marks started this way (note plural)—none of them have stayed this way. The platform is simply too much fun with a red dot not to at least try on some 21st-century sighting tech.
One technical note will close us out: Make sure you have an empty firearm as well as the proper driver to run the Browning screws in and out. Depending on the vintage of your pistol, these will either be slotted or hex. While there are only three to attend to, there’s no point in “buggering” any of them. Moreover, it’s such an easy job; no sense in causing exasperation with the wrong tools. (End this problem permanently with a proper driver set like this.)
Frank Winn has been studying arms and their relationship to tyranny, meaningful liberty and personal security all his adult life. He has been a firearms safety/shooting instructor for more than 20 years, and earned state, regional and national titles in several competitive disciplines.
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