Batman’s Swiss army knife or Tactical junk drawer.

Ok we have all seen it,  done it, or have a friend who has fallen victim to it. Mall ninja-itis. yes I make up my own terms and diseases, and yes I believe a hyphen is all that is required to make two words into one word to explain just about anything. This is ‘Merica after all :). For those of you who haven’t witnessed a mall ninja in its natural habitat, I will try my best to to explain. If you would like a more in depth explanation of a mall ninja I suggest you take a look at RationalWiki, but I will do my best to cliff-note it. (There I go with hyphens again) I believe that a true mall ninja is a person who has become over-enthused with all things tactical. They tend to frequent a considerable amount of forums and read opinions from fellow Ronin mall ninja’s. They then attempt to create the most tacti-cool weapon that could ever be created. Call it taking good ideas, and adding more good ideas to it, then adding more good ideas to that, Without taking into account how all of  the components will work together. kind of like inventing a submarine-helicopter that has ejection seats, and stealth paint, and a vortex cannon, that runs on bio-diesel. The idea that you can fly the helicopter and not get noticed on radar, but if the blades break or quit working you can use the submarine feature and stay submerged running on nothing but fryer grease using the vortex cannon to stun anything in your path. The fact that an ejection seat doesn’t work on a sub or a chopper means nothing. Ejection seats are way ninja. I think you get my point..

I use to work at an outdoor store that I’m sure anyone who is reading this has probably visited, and probably signed up for one of there credit cards so that you could earn points and get a whopping $20 off of your first purchase. I won’t plug them right now but I’m pretty sure you know who they are. Anyway… I sold firearms, and I actually worked with some of the most knowledgeable gun guys that you could meet. Pistols, rifles, shotguns, long range, 3-gun, you name it they knew it, Including the AR-15. Personally I’m not real tacti-cool, I don’t shoot with my forward arm extended, and I don’t throw my thumb over the top of the hand guard. I don’t side charge and I don’t bump-fire. I don’t have the street cred for that. But I do shoot the AR-15 on occasion, and I do enjoy them a lot. I have seen some of the slickest rigs (in my opinion) to ever be built, I have also seen the mall ninja rear his ugly head. The AR-15  in its original trim, as devised by Eugene Stoner, was a pretty well designed firearm. (Yes you will say, “but it was actually The AR-10 that came first and the 15 was just an adaptation and afterthought.”) As for timeline, yes that is correct, but the AR-15 has had a more wide spread success. The firearm was relatively light weighing in just a bit less then 6 pounds sans magazine compared to its predecessor the M14 which weighed just over 9 pounds in the same condition. The AR fired a smaller round, and in such could carry more ammunition. The smaller round also created less recoil, resulting in a firearm that was easy to carry, and that just about anyone could be trained to shoot. As for fire-power, the 5.56 cannot hold a candle to the 7.62, but that was never the intent. The other perk to the Ar-15 platform is the fact that it is highly adaptable to most situations, and is easy to customize. With accessories ranging from Hello Kitty dust covers to The M203 grenade launcher and the Master key. At the Gun shop we referred to them as “grown up legos” , you can build them into whatever your little heart (and credit card) desires. However they usually fall into two categories: Batman’s Swiss army knife or the tactical junk drawer.

Batman’s Swiss army knife: Think of this as the purpose built gun, that has all the accessories needed to take care of the situation that it was built for. It is well thought out, and built for a purpose. I saw a lot of these firearms, they were often owned by people that had an honest need for that style of rifle. I set up quite a few of these for farmers and ranchers. They liked the shorter length of the collapsible stock for being able to throw them behind the seats of there tractors or trucks. They liked the ability to mount an optic (either a scope for longer range, or a reflex site for close up work) because they were using there rifles for culling coyotes from there grain fields, or protecting there herds. Plus they were light and durable, the ammo is reasonable, and with a thirty rounder on there, even if you are missing, you can chase that yote to the next county. Varmint hunting AR’s tend to be the same way, they have longer match barrels, with high power scopes up top and bi-pods attached to the bottom of the hand guard. Everything needed is well within reach and purpose driven. Operators rifles also tend to fall into this category. Purpose driven for tasks that they were designed for. Barrels ranging from 7.5″-20″, suppressor ready, full quad rails or KeyMod systems. Noveske and Daniel Defense have been building great “off the shelf” models for years. These rifles address a need, and are all built to do one job, very, very well.

The Tactical junk drawer: Just take everything I just wrote and add it all onto one rifle. the reason why I call it “A tactical junk drawer” is because every one of these rifles has a story of how those quad rails got so full. Either there friend up-graded there optic/ flashlight/ laser vertical grip/ forward looking infrared/ 100 round double drum mag and they got “one heck of a deal on it”. Or they wanted to get free shipping on there order from and in so, they bought a bunch of “awesome” stuff. I have seen both cases and don’t get me wrong, I like “stuff”, I mean name one red blooded American male that doesn’t want to climb into a fighter jet just so that he can flip all the switches and toggles.But there is also a line that I think most people draw in the sand where enough is just enough.

Not the mall-ninja. I have personally seen customers come into the gun department and ask what we would charge to mount a scope? Of course I would tell them that we mounted optics at no charge and just to bring there firearm’s to the front and have them safety checked (uh oh now you probably really know where I formally worked :)) then they would bring the rifle back and we would see what we could do. The rifle that most sticks  out in my mind was a rear dandy and I could tell from some distance that this was no ordinary AR-15… For starters there was the fact that this was an all billet rifle, it fit together tighter then most bank vaults. No expenses were skipped what so ever, It was chambered in .300 AAC Blackout, it sported a 10.5″ barrel (legal SBR) on the end of the barrel there was a Yankee Hill Machine muzzle brake with external threads for his Yankee Hill suppressor ( it was in the rifles case, and it just oozed awesome). The gentleman explained to me that it took longer for his two $200 tax stamps to be submitted then it did for him to have the parts purchased and shipped. After a a little conversation, and “coveting thy neighbors SBR” We finally got down to the nitty gritty and I asked him what I could mount up for him. He nonchalantly reached into his range bag and pulled out a 30mm 1-4x rifle scope and a one piece P.E.P.R. style mount. Easy enough. Then he pulled out a Leupold DeltaPoint reflex sight. Both would be easy installs, no problems there. Then back to the range bag he went, producing a Vortex Strikefire. I asked he was trying to make up his mind as to optics and if he wanted me to mount one, let him try it, then un-mount it and mount the other. He looked at me as if I was speaking Latin. “No I want them all mounted up.” Back to the bag he went. “How deep is that bag?” I asked my self, as he rifled through its contents. He then produced a set of Magpul MBUS front and rear sights, as well as Three 45 degree offset pic rails. Now I was giving him the confused dog look (you know the one, head cocked slightly sideways, ears raised…) Turns out captain tactical wanted flip up iron sights on a 45 degree offset as a backup to his red dot ( Yes both items would be on the same side as the ejection port ), mind you, the iron sights and red dot were to work as a back up to his primary scope/reflex sight combo on the top. (Yes, that’s four separate sight systems.) At this point, I’m a little eloquently disheveled so say the least, and before I can stop the words from falling out of my mouth, I said “alrighty, I’ll mount them up, we will check fit and eye relief, anything else you need bolted up?” I should have just kept my yap shut. The customer, like he had it been waiting the whole time for me to ask, replies with, “well sense you asked, and you have a Fat wrench in the back there, I got a few more things that I wouldn’t mind having you install if you would”. What had I done? Now I’m contributing to the delinquency of the mall-ninja, I start trying to cover my name tag in hopes that my name won’t end up written under a picture of this gun on some urban-tactical mall ninja Dojo. I disappear to the back room, and start the assembly, feeling a little like Victor Frankenstein. Not only was I tasked with mounting four sight systems and getting them to somehow aim remotely the same direction, (have you ever to tried to explain the algorithm for intersecting arcs to a man in BDU pants? Me neither, my mouth had already got me into enough trouble for the day.) I also installed a Streamlight flashlight and pressure switch,  a Crimson trace vertical grip/laser combo, and to round out the combo, a Tops Wolfhawk fixed blade knife that connects to the Picatinny rail. An hour later, I emerged from the back room, every screw had been torqued to spec, every extra groove in the picatinny rail (I think there were probably only 20 open slots all said and done) had been covered by LaRue Tactical indexclips. I walked The firearm out past the counter, and handed it directly to the customer. I did this for 2 reasons: 1. This compact rifle had gained enough weight to make lifting it over a glass display case seem like a horrible idea for the case, and my back. And 2: I didn’t want anyone to see me holding it. In 1 hours time, the rifle that had gone from the envy of anyone, to the joke of everyone. People all down the gun counter turned and looked, a man in a CCW vest and boony hat, that had a Star wars rebel alliance logo sowed onto it, stared in wide mouthed envy. Another man shielded his young sons eyes, hoping that he wouldn’t have to try to explain what that “thing” was. I asked the customer what he thought of the eye relief, and if it fit him alright. He just shrugged, shouldered the rifle (trying to find a place to throw his thumb over the  over-cramped hand guard) and laid his eye directly upon the scope like he was looking through a monocular. “Yeah it will do, I’m pretty picky about this kind of stuff, once I get it home and see how it looks in the mirror I can adjust, I may have to find something else to go on the other side. You don’t want to mess up the balance you know? I have a friend who has a bone stock AR that really needs some accessories, he just needs to learn that you have to be prepared for anything right? I think I have another range bag with a bunch of stuff in it, maybe I can make him “one heck of a deal on it. What days do you work?”

-Oh No, here we go again.-

-Grant Willoughby,  5/1/2016-


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