First Gear | Oakley Tombstone/Magpul STR Stock/MGM Spinner

posted on July 31, 2016
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Oakley, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Oakley, Inc.

Oakley Tombstone Glasses

If there is anybody who is unfamiliar with Oakley eye protection, we’d like to shake their hand: Clearly, they’ve just returned from an interstellar adventure of consequential duration. Otherwise, the Oakley brand needs little introduction. We’re no strangers to these, but a follow-up is deserved, we believe.

Hugely evident in the Tombstones is extensive consultation with hard-duty users of eyewear. The technology is first rate in just about every sense we could identify from the über-tough Plutonite™ (polycarbonate) lens material to the PRIZM™ finishing: UVA, UVB and 400nm blue-violet filtering give the rimless, 120-degree view a razor-like sharpness that’s difficult to describe. When we first used them, we were on the edge of needing to move to prescription eye pro, but the clarity of the Tombstones has kept us tip-toeing the line for another year, with all the advantages that implies. 

Much as we admire the optical quality, our favorite feature remains the lens-swapping mechanics. Without giving up the benefits of foldable frames, the bows of Tombstones simply snap off the lens assembly with release of a secure latch at the temple. Not only is changing lens colors/finishes a breeze, but cleaning is edge-to-edge effective without residual, reassembly fingerprints. 

Those nifty bows slip easily under muff-style ear protection without two-handed adjustment too.

They’re highly, highly recommended. 

Visit Oakley at  

Photo courtesy of Magpul Industries Corp.

STR Magpul Stock

If you scout around the Magpul website, it doesn’t take long to conclude they have just about every Stoner-pattern buttstock option covered. They have variety, of course, but also finely-tuned specializations that add up to the gear guy equivalent of exhaustion. We don’t make the slightest claim to having tried them all.

But we’ve used the STRStock Type/Restricted—a bunch, and have to say it’s a fixer of rare virtue. We grant this may seem odd: Beyond length-of-pull issues, what precisely could an adjustable AR stock fix? 

In two words, “head position.”

One of the challenges of improving AR rifle skills can be the slightly unconventional head position that modern optics dictate, or at least reward. Particularly if you came up on wooden-stocked long arms, both the stock position against the shoulder (generally higher, sometimes inboard), and cheek position on the comb (also slightly higher) for the AR can leave you hunting for the aiming cue. Even conventional sights are a tougher-than-expected go: Despite the eye and brain knowing precisely what they are looking for, it’s common to see a “hitch” and adjustment in the completed mount of others, or feel one in yourself. 

This is a bummer in several ways, most of which boil down to speed. In recreational shooting applications that may only be about the fun of going faster, but in defensive or protective situations it’s a different matter altogether: Fractions of a second can be literally life saving. 

The STR reclaims the lost time through a simple if slightly indirect expedient. The additional stock area that results from the “S” in the designation—storage—also generates significant extra real estate for the crucial cheek weld. With a bigger target, so to speak, the hitch in head/optic alignment often disappears in only a couple of shooting sessions. With experimentation, many shooters also find they get to optimal head position with the stock adjusted a notch shorter, which is a benefit to overall maneuverability with the rifle.

For those who prefer muff-style ear pro, never fear: At least for us, the Impact Sports/Howard Leights don’t even wiggle when we’re using an STR-stocked rifle. 

Like most Magpul gear, the STR isn’t a one-trick pony either. The water-resistant storage compartments are (intentionally) perfect for several sizes of battery, and sling mounting is a cornucopia: Two loops at different angles and QD sockets provide an even half-dozen attachment options, three per side. Multiple rubber butt plate options add impact protection, comfort and in-between length adjustment options. The length adjustment latch is lockable and protected as well, against both snagging and unintentional operation. 

Take a look, too, at both the ACS and ACS-L stocks if the enhanced cheek weld principle appeals. These swap some features in and out, but without sacrificing the ultra-desirable cheek weld.

Just a reminder: When you pick a stock, remember to get your buffer tube dimensions correct (MIL SPEC vs. commercial).

Visit Magpul at

Photo courtesy of MGM Targets.

MGM Spinner Target

We hate to “go off,” so to speak, on the folks at MGM: They’re fabulous supporters of all things shooting, and especially of our military and law enforcement folks. But they’ve got at least one mighty devious target designer in their shop who plainly borders on old-fashioned meanness. It isn’t funny.

Actually, hilarious is closer to the truth. Get one of their .22 Rimfire Spinners, and—trust us—you’ll acquire a sense of humor, or give up shooting altogether.

The third option is you’ll get a lot better with either a rimfire handgun or rifle, and have tremendous fun doing it. 

The spinner, as far as we know, is nothing like a new design. In one form or another, they’ve been around a long time. The basics are simple—a slightly eccentric axis of rotation keeps a heavier target at the bottom of the presentation with a counterweight up top. The energy of a bullet strike will get the target moving, but multiple strikes are required for the spinning motion to go over the top—a full circle. The first shot, of course, is relatively easy, but adding more energy to the oscillation with additional hits gets progressively tougher as the swing rate increases. Think you’ll just aim at the bottom of the arc for every shot? That’ll work, but we warn you, it’s not as easy as it looks!

What makes the MGM incarnation slick is the (typical) MGM execution: Not just shooting considerations get first-rate design treatment, but storage, ease-of-assembly and function are just this side of mindless. Which, by the way, we consider high praise.

Because of the mechanical simplicity of spinners, we think there’s a tendency to think the “game” will get tiresome in short order, but we found this too hilariously untrue. One of the first things you’ll encounter is the difference between rifle and pistol energy: Three good hits with an M&P 15-22 would get us “over-the-top” reliably, but the best we could manage with a pistol was seven hits to full rotation. It’s good, clean fun, we’d have to report, but mundane once regularly accomplished—fair enough.

Well, now try and do it on the move. We got there with the rifle, but it’s a challenge, especially with movement in both directions (left and right). Pistol still defeats us. Another great variation is available if you can safely use two shooters in start vs. stop roles. The goal for one is to get a full rotation, the goal for the other is to prevent it. Not only accuracy but good timing is required here. Adding a shot limit makes this even more entertaining. No matter the engagement rules, the simple expedient of adding distance dramatically complicates firing solutions as well.

You won’t shoot a spinner long without seeing that it has extra safety considerations that may not apply to all ranges, but which you are obligated to consider. The trickier of the two is the changing angle of the target plate as bullet strike it means that your projectile—or fragments thereof—can exit the range. This is most likely to occur if you shoot at the counterweight on the backswing as it’s face is angled up. We control this by rule, and simply don’t shoot the counterweight, or at anything above the pivot axis. The target plate swinging forward may seem to present the same hazard, but that’s where MGM’s materials come into play: Projectile construction is no match for the 3/8” AR 500. With very new contestants, we’ll color-code the no-shoot as well, as they may less easily understand the rule. Keep it fun by keeping it safe. Like all steel targets, follow the distance and caliber limitations included with your target.

The other issue is more obvious. Edge hits or low misses are inclined to ricochet. This is best controlled in the traditional fashion—place the spinner as close as feasible to the backstop.

Strap on your good humor and humility, and consider an MGM Swinger. Versatile fun and economical skill-building are the all-but-certain returns on your investment.

Visit Mike Gibson Manufacturing at


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