Where can you buy the oil and filter for a 2021 Ram 2500 with a 6.4 Liter Hemi ?

I bought my 2021 Ram 2500 in September 2021. It was my first brand new truck and when I saw what the dealer was charging for oil changes, I knew there was no way I was going to have them work on my truck – I’ve always done my own work but because this may well be my one and only new truck, I knew I better do some homework.

First off, I did not want to void my warranty. In talking with the dealership their recommendation was that I only use Dodge/Mopar brand oil filters and Pennzoil Platinum 0w40 engine oil plus I should keep a log of when I changed the oil, filter and with what. Okay I thought – I can do that.

This is a great example of where the Internet and the web can just drive you nuts. If you search about what oil and filter to use, you will get just a ton of search results with guys offering up their weird home brew concoctions, using different weights, brands, etc. That was all fine and dandy but I did not want to void my warranty or give a dealership some excuse to charge me because I didn’t use the approved oil.

Which filter does it use?

If you want to stick with factory parts to avoid warranty headaches, you need the Mopar MO-339 filter. I am using the 04892339AB but am told there is now an AC part number. Regardless of the letters, I would not be concerned if searching turned up an AA, AB or AC. The main thing is that the correct model is MO-339.

This is the correct model number – Mopar MO-339. Sure, there are other quality brands of filters out there such as Wix but my intent is to use Mopar filters until the warranty expires. Then I will move to Wix or whoever is best at that time.
FCA is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. They are now owned by Stellantis – just FYI. The part number is 04892339AB. The last two letters reflect minor revisions to the base numeric part. For example, 04892339AA would have been a previous version of the part. Odds are it would work ok if you find it. I always go for the most current part number I can find because usually they are trying to improve/fix design issues. The AB series started in 2019. I saw an AA filter that was marked 2009-2011 and recently read there is an AC series but I have not seen it personally.

Where can you find the Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic 0W40 Oil?

You are going to need 7 quarts of oil if you change the filter and I always change the oil and the filter. I am used to walking into Autozone, O’Reilly’s or Walmart and buying oil. They do not carry this weird Pennzoil “Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic” 0W40 that Dodge was specifying. Apparently there were some office politics about switching to Pennzoil and to lock people into using Pennzoil plus being more likely to go to the dealership for oil changes they (I’m not entirely sure who “they” are but will blame both Dodge and Pennzoil) – they came up with this odd spec that really wasn’t required. Stuff like that irritates the hell out of me – they could have specified something else and made it easier for all of us.

At any rate, as mentioned, I am sticking with what Dodge specifies through the warranty period. The dealership will usually sell it but do you know where I found it and at a far better price? Amazon – yeah, Amazon. It’s the cheapest and most convenient source I have found and is also why you will find thousands of reviews. Again, remember you will need 7 quarts.

With the supply chain and economy having so many issues, I bought four cases (there are 6 quarts per case). They showed up at my door the next day – it was great!

Quick comment on my experience so far

My first oil change some time late last year was quite an experience. The oil filter had “factory installed” printed on it and boy, it did not want to come off. I wound up using a vise-grip type oil filter wrench to get a good enough hold to finally break the seal and spin it off.

I just did my second oil change getting ready for Winter and rotated the tires also [click here for a post about how to do that the easy way]. I figured I would take a minute and share with you where to buy the filter and oil from and hope this helps you out.

The filter is located just to the left of the bottom of the lower engine’s crank pully. An end cap filter wrench/socket makes changes really easy. For the first one, the factory installer went nuts either torquing it down or the seal stuck to the block – I’m not sure which it was but I had to really crank down with a locking oil filter wrench to get it off.
A 76/14 (76mm with 14 flutes) oil filter end cap socket is the size you need. Mine is made by Lisle and their stuff tends to be really good. Definitely get one for going forward. Mine could not break the filter lose the first time but it wasn’t the socket’s fault – the filter’s flutes rounded over it was on so hard.

By the way, the torque spec for the oil drain plug is 20 foot pounds. Now I know some guys just feel how tight to go by hand and I did that for over 30 years but now do to nerve and muscle damage, I can’t tell how tight I am pulling so I torque to spec – totally up to you.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


How to rotate tires on a Dodge Ram 2500 or any truck with heavy tires the easy way

I bought a new 2021 Ram 2500 in September of 2021. It was my first heavy gasser with a 6.4L Hemi and a piece of advice a lot of guys gave me was to make sure I rotated the tires with every oil change. It sounded reasonable – it’s heavy truck and the tires need to be rotated so they will wear evenly. If you don’t do this your handling may suffer such as picking up a wobble or you may wear the tires such that they must be replaced prematurely. Ok, I was totally on board with concept but then started thinking about how heavy they probably were – I sure knew they weren’t going to be light.

Factoid: FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automotive – who owns Dodge now – and FCA is now part of Stellantis – for those keeping track of who owns who) reports the LT275/70R18E Firestone Transforce AT tires as weighing 50.7 pounds. The 16×8 steel chrome clad wheel comes in at 45.2 pounds. Add them together and you get 95.9 pounds not including any wheel weights, TPMS, etc. So you might as well say that each weighs 96 pounds. Yeah, that’s quite a bit for me.
Weighing in close to 96 pounds, these tires are a bit too heavy for me easily lift and hold in place when it comes time to mount them on the lugs. For you guys who muscle them around all day, good for you. I can’t any longer.

From years of doing stupid stuff, my back and hands are nowhere near as strong at 55 as they were in my 20s and 30s. I’ve always done my own oil changes, tire rotations repairs in general and didn’t plan to stop and pay the ridiculous prices the dealer was quoting. I knew it would be a heck of a struggle for me to lift the tires up and hold them in place while getting the first couple of lug nuts on to hold it. I needed to figure out a way I could lift the 33″ 96 pound tires up into place using mechanical advantage.

So I started by searching on the web for tire/wheel lifts and most of what turned up had to do with moving truck tires across a shop on a dolly. I wasn’t finding anything that said “use this to lift your tires up and down at the vehicle.” My next stop was the local Harbor Freight store to look at various automotive tools and jacks to get ideas. It was there that I got an idea.

There are ratcheting vehicle dollies for garages where there is one dolly for each wheel. You pump a foot pedal and a pawl engages a notch and pushes two cylinders together under the tire. As it does this, the tire and vehicle are lifted up. You do this on all four corners. The dollies have caster wheels under them and if you have a clean concrete floor, you can then slide the vehicle all over the place to either store or work on it. One early trade name was “Gojak” and since then tons and tons of companies have made them.

Hmmm…. I could take one of those and use it to lift the tire into position and hold it as long as I could lift the tire high enough. These jacks are rated at over a 1,000 pounds and my truck’s tires were going to be far, far less than that. No, it was the height that concerned me because I needee to lift the truck high enough to remove the tires in the first place.

I didn’t particularly care for the looks of the Harbor Freight model so I did some digging and found a Sunex unit on Amazon that works in a purely mechanical manner – some hydraulic models from other brands are reported to leak.

It arrived and took just a few minutes to install the caster wheels. I did make one mistake, I was curious if it could lift one corner of the truck – the answer is a resounding “NO” and I did bend the outriggers that hold the casters slightly. I really didn’t expect it to bend but it also didn’t really hurt the unit from an intended use perspective.

This is a Sunex model 7708 1,500 pound car dolly. I’m not really sure it can handle 1,500 pounds but it works great for lifting tires into place.

Most importantly, it worked perfect. I would roll the tire over to my truck, slide the jack in by the edges of the tire and then pump the foot lever until it was the right height. I could then install the lug nuts in an amazingly easy manner. It worked so well I did it both on my Ram 2500 and on our Highlander.

I used my Vevor 11,000 pound pneumatic jack to lift up the truck a side at a time and put 6 ton jack stands under each side of the axle. Never trust any jack to hold up a vehicle while you are working on it – especially not a heavy truck. By the way, I really like the Vevor air jack.
Pulling the tires off is easy – gravity is working with you. I use an IR 232TGSL Thunder Gun impact wrench that has held up remarkably well over the years- I bought it after wearing out a couple of cheap ones. I also use a Chicago Pneumatic (CP) SS4211 lug nut socket set to avoid damaging the rims. The sockets have a plastic protective sheath around them and are thin walled for tight areas.
The 2500’s lugs are 14mm and the lug nuts need a 22mm socket. What I like about the CP set is that they are color coded. This copper colored socket is 22mm and I can find it fast due to the coloring. Note, CP stands behind their products. I bought the set in 2018 and shortly after, one plastic jacket started cracking. I called customer service and they mailed me a free replacement. I’ve not had any problems since. Again, let me plug the Thunder Gun. I want to say I wore out two or three cheap impact wrenches before this one. They claim 625 ft lbs max torque in reverse and 550 ft lbs in forward. I can tell you I have busted loose some really rusted nuts with this.
To mount the tires in their new location, I’d get the tire over in front of the hub and then slide the dolly into place to do the actual lifting. You put the silver cylinders on each side of the tire and pump the red lever (you can very easily do it by hand) to lift the tire up.
So the silver toggle on the left side of the red foot lever allows you to change whether the pawl under the lever is pushing the bar and drawing the silver cylinders together or if it moves the pawl out of the way so you can lower it.
So you use the foot pump to get the height right and then you can rotate the tire – the silver cylinders in the dolly turn so you can perfectly line up the wheel on the lugs and put on the lug nuts. Folks, it makes installing the 96 pound tires stunningly easy.

So, in hindsight after actually using the dolly, it really doesn’t take much actual lifting distance to get the tire into place. When I jack up any vehicle, I typically only lift until the tire is 2-4″ off the ground after I put the jack stands in place – so the gap between the floor and the bottom of the tire is not huge. I also realized you can go with just about any of these jacks – you don’t need super heavy duty because the weight of the tire is relatively small. Just read the review for whatever before you buy it.

Additional Details For Fifth Gen Ram 2500 Owners

By the way, in case you are trying to find the rotation pattern, it is a reverse cross meaning the front driver’s side goes to the back passenger side. The front passenger side goes to the back driver. The two former rear tires move straight up – rear driver to front driver and rear passenger to front passenger.

Tires on the 2021 Ram 2500 move in a reverse cross pattern. Rotating them with each oil change is recommended. (Source: Photo of page 496 of the 2021 Dodge Ram 2500 Owner’s Manual)

If you are looking for the lug not torque spec, it is 130 foot pounds for cone lug nuts – mine had cone lug nuts. If you have flanged lug nots, it is 140 foot pounds.

On the topic of torquing the nuts down, I start mine by hand to avoid cross-threading the nuts and then I run them in quickly with my impact wrench using a torque limiting “torque extensions” – these extensions work with impact wrenches and twist at a predetermined torque but get weaker with time so they are great for bringing the nut down to the rim but not for setting the torque. I do the final torquing down with a 1/2″ torque wrench. Do NOT keep tightening with the impact wrench or bad things may happen such as cracking your rim.

Lastly, the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) will learn where the tires are automatically. Note, you can’t change the minimum tire pressures for the front and rear without going to the dealer or knowing how to re-program the appropriate computer settings. At least, I can’t in my Tradesman. If you can in another model, that is something I don’t know about but count yourself lucky – I wish I could.

In Summary

The car dolly idea to do the lifting and positioning really paid off and now I can do the tire rotations safely and easily. I hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Are Rock Island Armory Double Stack 9mm 1911-Style A2 HC-series Pistols Any Good?

Rock Island Armory (RIA) is a brand name that is owned by Armscor Global Defense located in Marakina, Philippines. Armscor obtained a license from the Philippine government in 1952 to begin making firearms. In 1980 it became Arms Corporation of the Philippines (ArmsCor) and in the mid-80s they bought the US brand “Rock Island Armory” and began exporting firearms to the US. They have invested in quality improvement and automation to create their wide variety of firearms offered today. They also have opened plants in the US – one in Stevensville, MT, and the other in Pahrumo, NV.

In March 2022, a Philippine TV crew visited the Armscor factory in Marakina and produced this nice video that focuses mainly on their 1911 production area:

The reason I wanted to share this with you is that RIA pistols do have a long history and Armscor is not some fly by night company. This is my opinion – I would describe RIA 1911 pistols as being designed, built and sold to shooters who want an acceptable 1911 without spending a fortune. They are not claiming to turn out semi-custom pistols – instead, good enough pistols at an affordable price point.

In marketing, when you are trying to hit a certain price point to attract the buyers you are after, you have to figure out the features, the materials, and process combination to get you there. Now reliability and accuracy are features also so this needs to be factored in – the pistols need to be good enough but not necessarily over the top – even though we wish they were.

Ok, but are the 9mm HC 17 round pistols “good”?

So let’s go back to the question – are they good? For the price, yes. You can’t compare them to far higher end pistols such as Stacatto or Bul – it’s simply not fair. It would be like comparing a daily-driver economy model Ford or GM car to a BMW. Yes, they are all cars but the engineering and attention to detail during manufacturing in the BMW are going to be very different. They are for different markets comprised on people with different disposable income levels and tastes – and have different price points.

The two pistols I am discussing to be clear are the 9mm RIA A2 HC pistols – the 51679 Tac Ultra FS HC and the 56645 Pro Ultra Match HC – by the way, FS means “Full Size” and HC means “high capacity” because they hold 17 rounds in staggered magazines.

The frames and slides are made from 4140 alloy steel via CNC and they do have QA steps. The barrel seems to be pretty decent but then the price point issue begins to creap in.

I bought four of the A2 HC 80% frames back when I was doing R&D on magazines for the 10mm/..40 S&W calibers (they use the same magazine design) and also the 9mm magazines. What not everyone knows is that these pistols also share a common frame. I installed the RIA magazine catch and ejector but they milled all of the holes and applied, as you can see, a very decent parkerized finish.
Here are two 80% frames with the top one holding a 10mm magazine and dummy red A-Zoom round. The bottom one has a 9mm magazine. The blue round is an A-zoom snap cap and I don’t use or recommend them any longer as the bullet is shaped very differently than a 115gr or 124gr FMJ round so you may think feeding will work when it doesn’t. I sure found that out the hard way.ĵ

For example, to keep costs down, Armscor uses metal injection molded (MIM) parts. I know through first hand experience, the extractors are MIM and they will not have the longevity of a forged part made from tool steel such as one from Wilson Combat *but* the extractors can be replaced if you ever have a problem so it’s not like you suddenly have a boat anchor and that’s one of the beauties of 1911-style pistols – there is a huge aftermarket parts industry and tons of websites/forums out there to help you sort out what is going on not to mention 1911 gunsmiths and that Armscor has good warranty service – I’ve had to avail on it twice – one on a 6″ 10mm Big Rock and also on a 9mm Tac Ultra that had failure to extract issues … and on that one, there was something seriously wrong because just replacing the extractor didn’t work. [Click here for a post I wrote about my extractor journeys with RIA 9mms].

The top is the original Armscor extractor and the claw snapped off. The bottom is a forged tool steel Wilscon Combat. If you run into an issue, read the post I wrote and upgrade to a Wilson.

They also use a parkerized finish and its applied very nicely. There is a but coming – but parkerizing leaves a rough finish and means they need to wear in more compared to other brands that use a different finish and/or have careful polishing and tuning while parts are assembled.

Every parkerized RIA pistol that I have seen has a very nice consistent finish on it. The left pistol is the TAC and you can tell due to the bushing, normal barrel and no checkering on the grip. The right pistol is the Match. It has a bull barrel, full length guide rod and checkering on the front of the grip. The rear sights differ but you can’t see them in this photo.
That’s an 80% frame with no modifications right next to it’s finished cousin – a 51679 Tac Ultra. Under the pistol is one of our tuned Mec-Gar P18 magazines with a Dawon +200 base plate. Click here for our 9mm RIA magazine offerings.

Conclusion

This is my way of saying they are good enough. You are buying an entry level pistol that has been on the market for many years and word would get around quickly if they were utter junk. Does the gun need wear in? Yes. Might there be issues? Yes. Do they have warranty support? Yes and they do stand behind and repair their pistols.

Would I recommend these RIA Tac Ultra FS and Pro Match Ultra HC pistols to someone looking for an entry level 17 round 9mm 1911 style pistol? You may find it odd but yes and I would and I’d explain the above.

I hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


My Favorite Rifle of 2022: The IWI Tavor X95

I like compact rifles but that means you have some combination of shorter stock and/or barrel. With that shorter barrel also comes trade-offs in terms of velocity because the ammunition is expecting a longer length of barrel and unburned powder exits the muzzle – often with a really cool flash. Other than shock and awe, that wasted powder isn’t turning to gas to shove the bullet down the barrel. It’s all a game of trade-offs. So, what if you don’t want to play the trade-off game?

This is where you enter the world of bullpups. A bullpup refers to any weapon where your cheak is basically resting on the action with the magazine under it. The barrel can actually be much longer now because the buttstock is gone and so you have a compact weapon with higher velocities. So what’s the catch?

Well, a lot of bullpups have a huge trigger problem. They typically use a solid linkage to take the movements you create by pulling what looks like the trigger and transfers them to the rear of the weapon where the actual trigger, disconnector are at. The result is long mushy feeling triggers …. unless you have a plan and Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) did have a plan when they designed the Tavors.

My first encounter

The first time I saw a Tavor was a number of years back. My friend, Scott Igert, who owns Michigan Gun Exchange, had one in and it caught my eye. It looked like something out of a SciFi movie and I wasn’t really sure whether I would like it or not plus it was way more than I could afford at the time. I shouldered it a few times and had Scott put it back. I read a bit about them and decided it didn’t fit into my plans … at least not then now fast forward a few years – like maybe 3-5 years.

What changed my mind? Why did I go back?

Interestingly enough, a number of things happened. First, I had learned a lot more about firearm design. Second, I’d worked a lot more with both IMI and IWI Galils in both 5.56 and 7.62×51. Third, because of the Galils I became interested in Isreaeli weapon designs in general and what drove the industry constantly towards innovation (existential threats to the state are certainly a big factor. Fourth and final, I was getting kind of jaded towards short barreled rifles excluding pistol caliber carbines. I guess I should mix in a healthy dose of curiosity across alll of those.

So, I wound up older, maybe a bit wiser and more interested in the Tavor. I could also afford one I must add, but it was still going to be a chunk of money. So, I ordered one with the intention of selling it if things didn’t work out – as Scott will tell you, I rarely hold on to firearms of any kind.

What’s up with the name?

I’ve always found why something is named what it is of interest. If you’re really into the history of words you study what is known as the etymology of a given word. Me … I’m a redneck from Southwest Michigan and am just curious where they come from so I can sound smarter than I am when drinking with friends.

Ok, “Tavor” – where did it come from? Well, you may know it’s modern English name of Mount Tabor and it romanized name from Hebrew is “Har Tavor”. It is a real mountain located in lower Galilee, Israel. According to the Hebrew Bible, a great battle was fought there between the Israelite army and the army of the Canaanite King of Hazor. It’s also considered the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus. There is so much history around Har Tavor that there is a whole wikipedia page devoted to it.

Is the Tavor X95 a new design?

Not exactly, the design team to create the Tavor began work in 1995 with Zalmen Shebs as the team lead. They wanted a rifle that could withstand sand and the elements, be accurate enough and also compact enough to be readily carried in vehicles. Of course, they wanted something better than the American M4 and the Galil had proven itself to be too heavy and large for continued use by the Israeli miliary.

By 2001 they had versions of the Tavor in trials that helped them learn better what was needed and refined the design to better handle fine sand for example. It was issued in November 2001 as the TAR-21. From 2001 to 2009 a number of refinements were made. In November 2009 the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) announced they would adopt the Tavor X95 as their standard infantry weapon.

That’s a short summary and the whole point is that it is not brand new and your not risking a bunch of money to be a guinea pig. The Tavor has seen real combat use and performed respectably. If you buy an X95, you are getting a proven weapon that has a good combination of accuracy and reliability in a variety of environments.

Ok….So what did I buy?

I bought a model XB16 in August 2021. This model of Tavor is black (you can also get them in flat dark earth or olive drab), is in 5.56×45 NATO, has a barrel length of 16.5″, an overall length of 26.125″ inches and weighs 7.9 pounds empty.

I wanted to pair it up with an optic that would excel in close quarters with rapid sight acquisition and a wide field of vision but that I could also magnify a bit if needed. I went with the Vortex UH-1 holographic sight and a 3x flip up magnifier. I had a red dot and magnifier combo on an AR many years ago and did NOT like it. The UH-1 and 3X magnifier pairing on the Tavor were made for each other. If you want speed, flip the 3X out of the way. If you want some magnification, flip it back into place.

There is only one change that I made internally. A lot of Tavor owners were removing their original trigger packs and installing either a Timney or a Gisselle. I backordered both and the Timney showed up first. Changing a trigger pack in a Tavor is super easy – it’s a modular cartridge that goes up through the bottom of the bullpup. The Timney did make a world of difference.

I put a Streamlight 88509 weapons light on it along with a real IDF Zahal sling. For mags, I use a combination of Magpul Pmags and Lancer Advanced Warfighter mags – I like both and just grabbed some spares.

Lastly, I did go for one accessory I don’t normally buy – a fitted Peak Case. Normally I just go with some generic carrying case but decided I wanted something a little “cooler” and more protective than a softsided case. Click here to go to their page in a new tab.

By the way, the Zahal sling can be purchased off ebay from here.

Unlike some of my reviews, I don’t have a ton of unpacking and assembly photos. Why? Your’s truly misplaced/lost/deleted almost two months of digital photos and I have no idea how. What I can do though is jump ahead to the results:

The Peak case comes pre-cut for the Tavor and a handgun off to the left. I actually have the original trigger pack stored in there for Click here for their web page.
Here’s the Tavor with the Zahal sling and the Vortex optics mounted.
The rail covers slide off once you depress the button.
Pushing that button allows you to slide a rail cover right off.
The Tavor X95 design immediately made me realize that I needed to read the manual and a couple of Youtube videosto learn how it works. In this photo, we are looking at the back bottom. You have the mag well hole and behind it is the bolt release lever for when the bolt locks open on empty.
There’s the trigger with the mag release to the above left and the safety selector lever to the back right.
Combining a Vortex UH-1 with a Vortex 3x magnifier gives you a lot of versatility. When you want a wide field of view for close-in work you can flip the magnifier out of the way as shown in this photo. When you want 3x magnification, just flip ti down.
The Vortex UH-1s are great optics. This is my second and I can’t recommend them enough. Rugged, bright, easy to use, reliable and a no-nonsense fix or replace warranty – what more could you want?
With the Timney trigger pack installed, I did 5 trigger pulls and the average pull weight was 4 pounds 9.7 ounces. The minimum pull weight was 4 pounds 3 ounces and the max was 4 pounds 15.4 ounces. One thing you tend to notice with good triggers is both a lighter and more consistent pull weight.

Preparing for the range

I’ve written about this before – do not take a new firearm straight to the range or you are going to have a lousy time. Instead, field strip it, clean & lubricate it and then cycle the action about 200 times to let the parts wear in and get to know each other – no, you don’t need to pull the trigger 200 times. It makes a world of diference with most firearms.

Range Time

We were able to take the Tavor to the range twice this summer and put about 300-400 rounds of bulk box M855 through it. The Tavor ran flawlessly – no problems feeding or ejecting. The control layout does take some getting used to – the more I use it then the more I will get used to changing magazines I’m sure.

Jim shooting the Tavor – he definitely liked it. I mentioned it in my blog post about taking the Stribog to the range that same day – Jim forgot his hat and the only spare I had in the truck was my wife’s. Nice hat Jim 🙂
Niko fire the Tavor from a number of positions and really liked it as well.

I honestly did not think I would like it but I actually do. It takes some getting used to in terms of the controls and swapping magazines but these are things that practice can overcome. Think about it, you have a 5.56×45 NATO rifle in the same form factor you would normally find a SBR or braced pistol with a much shorter barrel.

This photo highlights the advantage of a bullpup over a traditional firearms design. The weapon on top is a Grand Power Stribog SP9A1. It has a F5 Manufacturing Modular Brace, the action in the middle and then only has an 8″ barrel. The Tavor has the rear “stock” and action integrated with a 16.5″ barrel that can achieve far higher velocities from the 5.56×45 cartridge than a shorter barrel could. Yet, the over all lengths are almost identical.

We were shooting at paper targets and plates – not for accuracy – at about 10-15 yards. The Tavor just handled wonderfully. I couldn’t have been happier.

After a bunch of rounds we needed to let it cool down before putting it back in the bag.

By the way – I like the weight and rear-biased balance. Granted 5.56 does not have much recoil to begin with but the Tavor is very pleasant to shoot. Again, if you hear people mentioning it is awkward, well, bullpups in general take getting used to because the mag is so far back.

Summary

I kid you not, I really didn’t expect to like it as much as I do. It’s compact and reliable. The trigger is good enough … some day when I have time, I need to take it to the range with match ammo and see how it does but for now, I am quite happy. I’ve tried a number of different rifles this past summer but this takes first place and my IWI Galil Ace .308 takes a very close second [click here for my review of it]. The rest are all “ok” in comparison.

There are a ton of positive Tavor X95 reviews out there and now I know why. If you are on the fence about buying one, just get it 🙂

I hope this post helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Stribog SP9A1 Range Results And My Observations – Why I like it!

In the last post, I told you a little bit about the Stribog and the modifications I made [click here if you missed it]. I took it to the range twice over the summer and ran about 400-500 rounds through it flawlessly – really. So let’s talk about the details.

Prepping to go to the range

One thing I have learned over the years is that most semi-automatic weapons need to break in and that includes the Stribog. Never take a weapon out of the box and expect it to work. Instead, field strip the weapon, clean and oil it. After that, cycle the slide manually a few hundred times (literally) to get a jump start on the break in process.

What happens during wear-in or break-in is that surfaces that rub together – either by sliding or rotating start to have the surface smooth down. Despite what you may see, most surfaces have thousands of tiny ridges and spikes sticking up that cause friction and screw up operation. As the weapon cycles, these little edges are worn down. A decent oil or light grease can help with this as it fills in these areas and the luibricity enables the parts to slide or rotate while they are wearing in.

This is to be expected of most weapons unless you are buying a custom firearm where the builder has probably meticulously polished everything. By the way, firearms with parkerized parts need wearing in the most. On the other hand, other finishes, such as Nickel Boron, may need it less.

What’s my tip for you? If you want to have an enjoyable first range visit, clean, lube and cycle your weapon at least 200 times.

Function tested the Stribog

Just to be safe, I function tested the Stribog to make sure the fire control system was working right:

  1. Make sure the weapon is clear
  2. Try pulling the bolt back and let go. The spring should forefully return the bolt to the home position. If it doesn’t, take the weapon apart then clean, lube and try this again. If it still doesn’t then something is wrong and you should talk to who sold it to you, Grand Power or do some searching online – just be cautious because not everyone posting advice knows what they are talking about so be a healthy skeptic.
  3. Cycle the bolt, pull the trigger and you should hear a click. If not, you have a problem.
  4. Make sure the hammer is not cocked (pull the trigger if you need to – See #1). Now, pull the trigger and hold it down and cycle the bolt – you may hear or feel a light click as you release the trigger – that should be the disconnector catching the hammer so it doesn’t follow the bolt back. When you squeeze the trigger you should hear the normal click of the hammer hittin the firing pin. If the hammer isn’t getting caught, you have a problem.
  5. Cycle the bolt, turn the safety to on and try to pull the trigger – it should have little to no movement and you should not hear the hammer hit the firing pin. If you do hear the hammer hit the firing pin – make sure you did turn the safety lever the corrrect direction and all of the way to safe. If it still fires, you have an unsafe weapon that needs to be serviced / returned for warranty repair.

Range Trips

The Stribog has been to the range twice as of my writing this. The first visit was with my friend Jim and we used 124 grain S&B FMJ ammo. I like to use the 124 grain ammo during initial break in of 9mm firearms as there is a bit more recoil impulse to overcome remaining friction.

Jim putting 124gr FMJ rounds down range through the Stribog. We were both vey impressed. Ok, about the pink hat – Jim forgot his hat and it was a bright sunny day. The only spare hat in my truck was my wife’s. Sooo… Jim wore that hat and has endured good natured ribbing ever since. He’s a very good friend and a great shooter … even with a pink hat on – Hi Jim 🙂
Niko is cutting loose. You can see some smoke rising from the muzzle. It was toasty from all the rounds. Niko is about 6′ 2″ tall and I’m only 5′ 8″. The adjustable brace worked really well for both of us as a result. By the way, that F5 modular brace system is incredible. I am running it on both my Stribog and CZ Scorpion Micro.

It ran great – I think we put about 90-120 rounds through it with no problems at all. In the second trip, we ran about 60 rounds of the 124 grain S&B FMJ. We then ran probably 300 rounds of 115 grain CCI Speer FMJ bulk box ammo and wrapped up with about 30 rounds of the IMI 124 grain +P black dot hollow points through it.

The IMI +P 124gr load is decent. The black paint is used to identify it is a +P load. It’s just a paint and not any form of special coating. If you read the reviews, it’s a decent HP load at the end of the day. I wish I’d brought some other HP loads to try as well. We didn’t have any issues but people have reported problems in the past with HP loads,

What was amazing was the we had zero, none, nada failures to feed (FTF) or failures to eject (FTE). I attribute this to how I break in all semi-autos before I go to the range the first time as mentioned above. It should also tell you that the Stribog is pretty well thought out and made.

The Stribog really performed great during both of its range trips. Note, we only used straight 30 round mags and none of the curved ones. I had the curved mags buried in my range bag and we simply didn’t get to them. We used mags both with and without the steel reinforcing lips and did not have anyu issues with either one.

So what else did I notice?

In both cases, we were shooting paper targets and plates at about 10-15 yards from the standing position. The combination of the Stribog, Holosun Optic and F5 modular brace proved to be excellent.

Controlling the Stribog even during rapid fire was easy. The relatively small 9mm cartridge has very little recoil to begin with and fired from the Stribog with a brake, it’s very easy to keep the muzzle on target. I’m sure the brake helped some but givent he weight of the Stribog and an 8″ barrel, it probably would have been ok without it. If nothing else, the brake looks better than the threaded muzzle protector.

The trigger is perfectly decent. It’s not a match trigger but it is one of the better factory triggers I have encountered out of the box in a pistol caliber carbine. I used my Wheeler digital trigger pull gauge to collect some test data – I carefully pulled the trigger 10 times and found that the average pull was 5 pounds 10.8 ounces. The minimum was 4 pounds 10.2 ounces and the maximum pull was 6 pounds 6.8 ounces. Not bad. There is a spring set to reduce the pull that can be bought but I don’t reallly think the pull needs to be changed given close quarter use.

By the way, I always compare triggers mentally to the worst triggers I have felt out of the box. The worst trigger award goes to H&K and clone MP5s. Yuck. I’d described those triggers as pulling a truck with no wheels through the mud. With practice you get used to them – I guess with enough practice you can get used to just about anything and they do wear in a bit – but they suck out of the box.

Moving on, I do wish the charging handle was a tad bigger to spread the load a bit more. It’s jost a tad too narrow for me but that’s just me. There is a folding charging handle option I plan to try at some point.

I do wish the charging handle was a tad thicker. See how it tapers in the middle? I do plan to upgrade to a folding charging handle in the future. The controls overall are well thought out and easy to use. The safety is just above the pistol grip, the magazine reease is above and to the front of the trigger and the slide release is immediately above the magazine release.

Summary

The Stribog really delivered. It was fun, accurate and reliable at the range. I wish I had brought some other hollow points to try but it didn’t cross my mind. I actually bought a case of the IMI +P 124gr HP rounds specifically for my PCCs if self defense was required – I really only shoot FMJ at the range.

To wrap up, I like the SP9A1 Stribog and have no hesitation recommending it to others given my experience. There is a growing aftermarket so you can customize the pistol to fit your needs.

I hope this helps you out!


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


What is a Stribog? It’s currently my favorite pistol caliber carbine

I do a lot of reading and a few years ago I read about a new pistol caliber carbine (PCC) called a “Stribog” by Grand Power. It was a blocky looking thing but it was getting good reviews. The more I read, the more positive real-world reviews I encountered. Finally, in a fit of obsessive compulsive behavior, I ordered one in and now it’s my favorite PCC. Well, that would be too short of a post so let me back up a bit and give you some background.

Where did the name “Stribog” come from?

First off, “Stribog” is pronounced “Stry-Bog” and refers to an anicent Slavic diety that can be interpeted as the god of wind or, depending on the translation, the god of annihilation or war. Others say he was the gold of the cold but regardless, that’s what it was in centuries long past. [If you want to read more, click here for a cool post on Wikipedia].

Who makes it?

The Stribog is made by Grand Power, a relatively new company located in Banská Bystrica – Slovenská Ľupča (Slovakia). Mr. Jaroslav Kuracina started the company just before 2012 when he then got funding from friends and the rest is history. They now are producing 2,000 firearms per month on CNC machines based on Jaroslav’s designs.

By the way, Jaroslav’s patented design is how the barrel locks into the slide by rotating. This matters for two reasons – first, it reduces barrel rise meaning you can get back on target faster. Second, it reduces felt recoil – enabling the shooter to better stay on target also.

In 2008 they started exporting to the US and today, Global Ordnance of Sarasota, FL, is their US distributor. In a relatively short amount of time, they have not only entered the US market but created a good reputation in the process. You can now find the Stribog being sold by many different vendors including Global Ordnance directly, Palmetto State Armory, GrabAGun and many others.

Which model did I get?

I bought a SP9A1 with a folding SB Tactical brace in November 2021. It is my understanding that at some time prior to that the charging handle was of the reciprocating type – meaning it would travel forward and backward as the bolt cycled. One thing I made sure of was that it did have a non-reciprocating handle and it did. I would bet by the time you read this you will only find new firearms for sale with the non-reciprocating handle but buying one used might be a different story.

Chambered for 9×19 NATO (9mm Luger) and fire +P loads. 9mm NATO tends to be hotter than 9mm Luger so +P ammo is not a challenge for it.

8″ barrel with 1/2″x28 threads – this thread is commonly used for 9mm muzzle devices so you can readily add compensators, suppressors, etc.

The Stribog arrived nicely packed in a hard case.
Here;s looking at it from another angle. Honestly, I can do without the screen printed white text and graphics.
It took me a minute before I looked at the lid and noticed the three magazines tucked in there.

In looking the pistol over, there were a few areas for improvement. First, I do not like the trangular SB Tactical brace. It works but doesn’t suit my taste. I also wanted to do something with that 8″ barrel poking out the front of the handguard, install a muzzle brake and a reflect optic.

Installing the F5 Manufacturing Modular Brace

Folks, I’ll tell you up front that F5 Modular Brace System is my favorite brace. It really is well done plus they make a number of Stribog related products if you are interested.

Pop out the back lower pin and you can then change the rear plate in the top half. The pin is captive meaning it will push through but will not exit the other side so don’t force it.
This is as far as the pin will push out. You do need to push it until it stops so you can remove the back plate but don’t force it out.
Push the plate down slightly and then it will pull out.
The F5 literally slides right back in place of the plate. It’s very nicely done – my unit did not require any fitting.
For the brace, I switched over to the cool F5 Manufacturing’s modular brace system that then holds a Tailhook brace. I like the modular system because it is adjustable and reminds me of a SCAR.
The GearHeadWorks Tailhook is one of the slickest braces in my opinion. It’s made from aluminum and the hook is deployed by pushing a button and folding the it outwards.

The Dragon Snout

There is actually a neat 3D printed angled forearm extension made for the Stribog known as “the Dragon Snout”. It’s made by 3D Experiment and sold by Global Ordnance among others. It fits and feels great plus aesthetically I like covering up the approximate 3″ of barrel that stick out of the factory handguard.

First off, it’s a great name! It’s also very well done.
The Dragon Snout mounts by sliding it onto the existing 1913 Picatinny Rail on the bottom of the pistol’s handguard. One minor detqail – the Dragon Snout will likely need to go on before your muzzle device. For the Grand Power S9 shown, it did need to be mounted after the Dragon Snout.

Grand Power S9 Muzzle Brake

I went with a Grand Power 9mm brake that has an integral locking nut. Unfortunately, I do not see it for sale right now anywhere so I can’t link to it. Here are some photos of it.

The S9 brake is seems to work quite well and it was easy to install.
The threads are protected by a barrel nut so you remove it and thread on the new brake. It’s interesting to note the proof mark on the barrel 9×19 CIP – CIP is a European standards group that does the work of SAAMI there. CIP and SAAMI standards are often close but not exactly the same due to differences in where they collect pressure data. SAAMI also has +P and +P+ whereas CIP does not.
When installing a brake, thread it on as far as you can and then back it off only as much as you need to “clock” it (align it) and then tighted the locking nut.
Here’s a good photo of the brake and how it is larger than the Dragon Snout’s front hole. You can also see the integral iron front sight and charging handle.
The Stribog was really shaping up and I liked both the balance and the way it felt when I brought it up.

Adding a Holosun HEC-510GR Green Reflex Sight

My opinion of Holosun optics has improved quite a bit over the last two years – mainly because I started using the versus just reading about them. My go-to holographic sight is the Vortex UH-1 when I can afford it. When I can’t, I have found the Holosun optics to be very decent affordable choices. I especially like the HEC-510GR and bought mine at EuroOptic.

In general, I like Holosun’s use of two power sources – battery and solar plus you can either manually shut off the optic or use the shake awake feature that turns the unit and then off after a period of inactivity.

I find the green colored reticle super easy to find. Bringing the Stribog up and acquiring the target is both very straight forward and fast.

The HE510C-GR arrives well protected in its box ready for you to install the battery and mount it.
The unit has a quick release lever so you can remove the optic quickly either for cleaning or if you need to get it out of the way. I really prefer optics with quick release levers because there are any number of reasons why you may need to get it out of the way in a hurry. For example, if this Holosun were to fail, I’d remove it and quickly fail over to using the integral backup iron sights that are built into the Stribog’s top rail. Those sights flip up but are too short to use with the Holosun so I just leave them folded down.

The Final Result

I was very happy with the weapon – it all came together in a nice package:

Here’s the finished unit – A Stribog SP9A1 with the F5 modular brace, Dragon Snout forearm, S9 brake and a Holosun 510C-GR optic on top. That is one of the straight 30 round magazines,

Quick Comment on Magazines

The magazine design is unique. While there are now options for the lowers that let you use Glock mags, the native magazine is a proprietary double stack design.

You have a number of options for magazines – 20 and 30 round plus there are ones that are straight, with and without metal reinforced tops and a curved model. Right now, I have a combination of straight 30 round magazines both with and without the reinforced metal feed lips.

I’d recommend you have 4-8 magazines at least for your Stribog. Why? It’s so much fun to shoot you will go through 30 rounds fast. A number of places sell Stribog magazines and I bought a few of my spares from GunMag Warehouse. I bought a couple of the steel reinforced lipped models from Global Ordnance but everyone seems to be sold out of them at the moment. I haven’t had any problems with the all polymer units but if we make a broad generalization, steel reinforced mag lips of any design tend to last longer.

Summary

Ok, the Stribog was assembled and ready for the range! For a change, I am writing this after taking it to the range twice, having a blast and will talk about my experiences with the weapon in my next post.

Here’s one view of the completed Stribog.
And another.

I hope this post gives you some ideas and I definitely like the Stribog.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Why Does A Plow Truck Need Ballast And How Can You Easily Build A Ballast Box?

Ok, quick post today. I’m getting ready for Winter here in Michigan and that includes getting my 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman and 8′ Western Pro Plow 2 ready. Which, by the way, is why you are seeing a bunch of truck posts vs. firearm posts right now. At any rate, last year was my first year plowing with the truck and plow and knew I needed a better solution for holding the ballast weight. That’s the topic for today’s blog post.

What is ballast for a snow plow and why does it need it?

Simply put, ballast is weight that you add at the far back of your truck to balance the weight of the plow in the front and improve traction. Now I like Western plows but if you want a really good explanation of what ballast is and how to use with graphics, click on this link to Boss Plows. Western has one but it’s not as good in my honest opinion.

The important thing that the Boss page explains very well with the diagram is that ballast goes all the way to the rear behind the rear axle and not in front of it or on top of it. Just imagine a long lever arm – by adding weight to the far back, you are levering up the front and offsetting the weight of the entire plow bolted on to the front of your truck.

It does help to understand how much ballast you need and it’s not necessarily the same weight as the plow. A lot of factors go into the calculation. Again, I use a Western plow so I use their Quick Match web page to calculate how much ballast I need and it’s 240 pounds. I do add a bit for more weight to improve traction as well but that is the minimum I need.

What material to use for ballast? I like sand

When I bought my RAM, I looked in the bed and there are very shallow pressed indents on the left and right side to secure the ballast. Ideally they would be deeper so you could drop a 2×6 or 2×8 in there to hold your ballast. I like to use the 60 pound tubes of sand that you can buy. First off they are a great source of dense weight – meaning you get a lot of weight for the volume they take up and second, if I get stuck on ice or need more traction on ice pulling something, I can cut open a tube and use the sand for traction. This is why I don’t use something like steel or lead back there. Back in the day, my dad used clay cat litter bags for the weight and in case traction was needed. He’d use the bags over the summer for our cats’ litter boxes and then buy any new bags he needed in the fall. He pulled my sister’s Tercel out of a lake after spreading the cat litter all over the icy road behind the tires of his 81 Bronco — it definitely works but we don’t have cats so I just use sand.

By the way, a Quickrete 60 pound tube of sand is $5.37 as of my writing this. It’s definitely affordable. By the way, I like Quikrete because they know guys are using this for weight and put it in a durable woven bag that holds up.

Why build a box?

Simply put ballast is in the way and can be a pain in the butt to work around. Last year, I put the four tubes of sand and 100 pounds of old weight lifting plates in a way too tall plastic tote. That turned out to be a mistake. First off, the tote was way too tall and made getting things into and out of the bed a headache. Second, even though I strapped it to the tie downs using a ratchet strap and a board on top, there are limits to how tight you can strap down the load. I had a couple of times last Winter where I stopped fast and the very heavy ballast tote slid forward – that is not good. You certainly do not want a ballast to come flying at the cab during an accident. Bottom like, the plastic tote box was a bad idea.

This was a very bad idea. The plastic wasn’t strong enough and a few times it still slid forward last year. Also, it was way too high and in the way. I was in a rush and bought this tote at Home Depot. It’s a fine tote but don’t try to use it or something like it told hold ballast. It will move on you.

Solution: Make a box out of 3/4″ plywood

I did some digging and there really weren’t any ballast solutions out there that I cared for because I wanted something very strong, with minimal height that could also be walked on, stacked on, etc.

I decided to make a very stout box and it all started with understanding the dimensions I had to work with.

This is about 19.5×60 – I only went back as far as my floor mat plus didn’t want any box latches to hit the tailgate. I decided to only do 19″ deep and about 57-59″ wide. The box would be held down by a ratchet strap.
240 pounds is four 60# tubes of sand. Laying them out on the ground and doing some measurements that worked out to 18″ deep, 52″ wide and right around 4″ tall. Now this was some guesswork because the tubes are somewhat malleable – you can push the sand around some and make them shorter, longer, thinner, or fatter.

Given the above dimensions, I knew a box with an internal dimension of 18x52x5 would work. The question then became what wood to use. I have had very good luck with 3/4″ plywood. That stuff is remarkably strong. I then considered whether to do framing around it or not with 2x4s or make the walls out of 2x6s but finally just decided to do it all with 3/4″ lumber. The good news is that you can make the entire box from one 4×8 sheet – the top, bottom and four walls.

To hold it together would use #8 1-5/8″ treated deck screws – the new ones with some serious coating and Torx heads. Given they would be in the bed of the truck, I wanted to reduce the odds of rusting plus wanted their strength – both in terms of shear strength and how well the threads would bite into the plywood. I thought about gluing things together as well but changed my mind. If I ever needed to replace a damaged board, then I could with just screws but not so if I glue was used as well.

I wanted the top to have a strong hinge so I could access the sand inside if I needed to cut open a bag and use the sand for traction. I also wanted a strong hinge that wouldn’t bend easy so I went with 4″ gate hinges from Ace and used #10 wood screws. To hold the front down, I used draw clasps from Home Depot. I used the screws in the package and they looked to be about a #6.

To further reinforce the plywood I would use eight 4″ inside angle braces. The intent was to spread out the support and fastening duties without taking up a ton of space. Three braces on each long wall and one on each short wall. I used #10 wood screws.

Lastly, I wanted the wood to be protected so I went with a deck stain. We’ve had very good luck with Home Depot’s Behr deck stain so I just grabbed a can of Russet. It’s a decent medium brown but in hindsight I wish I had gone darker.

Here’s the frame. The long pieces are 57.5″ long x 5″ wide. The short sides are 17.5″ long x 5″ tall. That gives an outside diameter of 57.5″ wide x 9″ long for the frame. I could have made it maybe 0.5-1″ shorter but wanted to make sure I had enough room.
I test fit it around the sand tubes and I was good to go. I was a bit higher than needed but decided to slip a couple of 25 pound steel barbell waits in the top.
The top and bottom pieces of 3/4″ plywood are 57.5″x19″. I repeatedly did test fittings to make sure I didn’t mess up a cut.
Installed the Ace Hardware brand 4″ gate hinges with #10×3/4″ wood screws. Self-centering drill bits are worth their weight in gold when you are installing hinges and brackets. I’m using a Bosch set now – the cheap import models fall apart too easy.
Installed eight of the 4″ inside angle braces with #10×3/4″ wood screws.

One recommendation I would tell you is to use a sander and round over all of the edges so reduce splintering in the future. It also reduces the “ow!” factor if you run into it while moving things around.

I bought pre-tinted Behr deck stain. I like it because it does have an opaque pigment and ran over the steel parts to as I was in a rush. I’m not a huge “it’s gotta look perfect” kind of guy. I’m more of a “If it’s sealed it is good enough” guy.
I did have some spare 1-1/4×1/8″ thick” angle iron that I cut, drilled and painted to protect the sides of the lid from the ratchet strap and to also distribute the downward pressure of the strap more evenly.
The box fit the back and I did have some room as I flattened the tubes out. By the way, I let the deck finish cure for a day before I put in the truck and part of the second before I installed the tubes. I didn’t want the deck stain to glue itself to the rubber floor mat if I pushed it down too early.
Added in two 1″ 25 pound plates that date back to my early days of weight lifting – late 80s if I were to guess. I had four but there wasn’t room towards the sides. Now that the box was at 290 pounds that was good enough for me.
The box is secured by the 1.25″ ratchet strap to the tie down eyelets of the truck. I really didn’t want to drill holes in the bed and invite rust plus the box will only be installed during the winter. The box can’t slide forward because of the wheel tubs plus the rubber floor mat really has a healthy grip on it and the bed floor thanks to the strap.

Summary

The box feels very sturdy and can’t move at all now that it is strapped in place. I think the truck has the weight it needs and I don’t have to worry about it shifting around.

I hope this helps you out!


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Replaced the Under-Powered OEM Battery In My 2021 Ram 2500 With an Interstate AGM To Avoid Load Shedding When Snow Plowing

My one big disappointment with my 2021 Ram 2500 with the 6.4 Hemi is it’s lack of sufficient electrical power to run my Western Pro Plow 2 snow plow and the heater on full – yeah, that combo has issues. My truck came with the Snow Chief option package that was supposed to make it snow plow ready with a 220 amp alternator plus anti-spin rear differential, aux switches, LED clearance lamps, LT275/70R/18E tires on 18″ wheels and a transfer case skid plate. One would think it’s good to go but it’s not – at least not in terms of the alternator. Can’t say I am overly thrilled by the tires but at least they work even though not ideally on ice and snow.

At any rate, back to the point of the post – my bone to pick with DC power system (the combination of alternator and battery) is that it can’t keep up with my raising my 8′ Western Pro Plow 2 while having the defroster on full. The truck’s computer senses that there is too much of a power draw and it literally shuts off the blower motor … in the middle of winter while I am trying to plow. When this first happened last year, I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure something was wrong.

The local Dodge dealer, Siemens in Bridgman, Michigan, was next to no help even though I bought the plow from them — they said the battery and alternator were just fine. Honestly, I am usually not impressed by car dealership service departments and SIeman’s underwhelming response didn’t surprise me although it was disappointing. Bear in mind that 2500-series Ram trucks were hard to find due to COVID and a shortage of chips so I decided to figure this out myself despite being more than a little ticked off that my brand new plow ready truck wasn’t exactly plow ready – which for me means that the heater on full and the plow’s hydraulic motor should be able to run at the same time.

So what was happening?

The newer Ram 2500 computers (technically it is the ECU or Electronic Control Unit), maybe all newer RAMs actually, have their computers programmed to protect electronics by using a strategy that prioritizes some loads over others. This means it shuts off some high draw loads before others to prevent a brownout (a drop below the recommended power levels) that would cause damage. This is known as “load shedding” or just “shedding”.

On one hand, yes, I am thankful that the electronics were protected and the computer shut off the blower and not the plow itself – either of those cases would have really ticked me off. On the other hand, I need heat in the Winter and sometimes the blower set on high is needed. Why was this even happening? Yeah … that was the big question.

Note, I could not find any official details behind how the 2021 Ram’s computer handles load shedding. If you have some any official details, I would sure like to learn more. Email me at info@roninsgrips.com

The Western Pro Plow 2

To give some background, I bought a brand new Western Pro Plow 2 with the truck and financed them together. It has an 8′ steel blade and Western’s documentation rates the motor’s draw at 205 amps at 2,250 PSI. There are a few other relatively small draws – 1.5 amps for the solenoid coil, motor relay draw 2.2 amps and switched accessories of 0.75amps.

This is a Western 8′ Pro Plow 2. The plow assembly less the mount weighs 668 pounds.

So. running the hydraulic motor to lift the big 8′ steel blade is substantial – probably pushing near or even past the rated 205amps. I don’t think I ever had shedding happen with left and right pivoting but I can’t say for sure.

The problem scenarios was t hat I would get in the truck, warm it up, turn the blower on high, lift the plow and the computer would shut off the blower completely. I was told it would restart after some time but did not experience that – I would turn off the truck, turn the blower motor down one notch and things would be fine. That was my work around though – I would warm up the cab, reduce the blower by one notch and then use the plow. As the cab warmed up, I reduced the blower speed further and further. Now if I forgot that then the computer would shut off the blower. Man, it was frustrating.

The 220 Amp Alternator

To be very candid, Dodge’s decision to put in place both an underpowered alternator and battery and claim it to be plow ready is bogus. I am not running an abnormally large plow for a 2500 – 8′ is the recommended blade width.

Yes, it is a 220 amp alternator but it is not cranking out that many amps all the time – it depends on the engine RPM. In doing some reading, many/most alternators rate their full output at 6,000 RPM. The RPM is of the alternator itself and the pulley will likely have some multiplier vs. engine RPM. I found a FCA technical bulletin on the smaller 160 amp alternators and they have a 2.9:1 ratio and show the steepest power output between 1,250 and about 2,500 alternator RPM. The power increases much more gradually until they stopped the curve at 8,000 RPM.

The Snow Chief option package includes a 220 amp alternator. The problem is that while 220 amps sounds great it is not producing that level of output all of the time.

My point is that even with the bigger alternator, given that I am plowing, the RPMs are going up and down over and over plus I am never going very fast. Hmmm….. I usually was idling when I had the blower running and went to lift the plow. With an engine idle speed of 720 RPM (I just went out and got that from my ODB2 scanner), we’d get an alternator speed of 720 x 2.90 pulley ratio = 2,088 alternator RPM. Using the output chart that FCA has at 2,000 RPM the alternator is producing about 146.5 amps.

Hmmmm…. far less than the plow’s draw of 205amp let alone having the blower on high. I did some digging and while I couldn’t find an absolute number from Dodge, the range mentioned seems to be 15-20amps. I don’t often plow in the dark so I am not factoring in lights. Regardless, the alternator would not be producing enough amps so the demand would need to tap into the battery’s reserve but that wasn’t enough obviously.

To make this more approachable, I took the data from FCA and generated the following table that shows you engine RPM and the amp output. If you click on the photo you can see a larger version.

Quick comment: I did not know it but there is a dual alternator option for the Hemi-powered 2500. With two alternators, both are contributing amps even at lower RPMs. Had I known, I would have tried to negotiate adding this option in as part of the purchase and at least had it financed. Then again, it would have been a gamble to avoid this problem that I didn’t even know existed.

The Original 730 CCA Battery

Let’s now consider a second important element – The battery powers the starter to start the truck of course but it also serves as a reserve buffer to even out power delivery when there are surges in demand that the alternator is unable to cover. Dodge went mediocre here. Why they didn’t use a bigger battery or even dual batteries – I don’t know. Well, I do know – either they went cheap to make more money or the engineers didn’t have real world snow plowing experience or didn’t talk to any real snow plow owners. Sorry guys – I have to call it the way I see it.

The OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) battery that came with the truck brand new was only rated for 730 cold cranking amps (CCA). While that is enough to start a 6.4 liter Hemi and run the stock electronics, it would appear to not enough to compensate for a plow at lower RPMs – at least not my Western 8′ Pro Plow 2 anyways. A smaller plow would likely have lower power demands and conversely, a larger plow would likely have higher power demands.

Here’s a peek at the label that partially covered by insulation. Having the right battery is critical to serve as a buffer for when power draw is higher than what the alternator is currently producing.

By the way, cold cranking amps identifies the battery’s potential amp output at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 Celsius. They measure the output of the new battery for 30 seconds and it has to maintain at least 7.2 volts (technically it is 1.2 volts per cell of the battery).

Because I live in Michigan and it has Winter weather, CCA is what I care about. Cranking Amps (CA) is measured at freezing which is 32F or 0C and not really something that matters to me. I need more CCA both because of starting the big Hemi in the cold winter (the stock battery did fine at that) but also to support all of the electronics plus the plow’s hydraulic motor … and this is where the stock battery fell short.

What did I do?

Well, I couldn’t afford to add a second alternator and aftermarket second battery mounts in the engine compartment were expensive (unless I wanted to mount something underneath on the frame which I did not want to do). By the way, I actually bought and tried to test fit the passenger side battery try for the Cummins diesel models and it will not fit due to the location of the computer/ECU on the fender wall and there wasn’t enough space between the air box and the engine coolant reservoir.

Even though you can buy the passenger side battery tray from the Cummins version of the 2500, the ECU is in the way and there is not enough room between the coolant reservoir on the firewall and the air filter box. So the hope for a Mopar OEM second try and that would fit in there went out the window.

So, once realized I couldn’t affordably add a second battery given my budget, I opted to buy the best AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery I could find with the highest CCA rating in the H7 form factor. I had to make sure I bought the best battery I could but it also had to be affordable (sorry Optima – you’re too expensive).

I talked all of this over with my friend John – who is a professional mechanic with a ton of experience. He recommended that I go with an Interstate H7 size AGM battery. Now let me explain a bit more about why this was the case.

Starting with the brand, Interstate works with a number of manufacturers who actually build their batteries – namely Clarios and Exide. They are sold through a series of 200,000 dealers including Costco.

H7 relates to the shape of the battery that the RAM 2500 is designed to hold. An H7 measures 12-3/8″ x 6-7/8″ x7-1/2″ (315x175x190mm).

AGM is a relatively newer battery technology that can produce both higher CCA and reserve power compared to traditional flooded lead acid batteries of the same size. AGMs are still lead acid but there is a thin fiberglass matt sandwiched between the lead plates and they are bundled together. There are tons of websites out there with far more details on AGM where you can read more.

The Interstate AGM battery is rated at 850 CCA – almost 120 more than the OEM battery. That really sold me. I’ve used AGM batteries in the past and had very good luck with them so I had John pick one up for me the next time he visited Costco. Thanks to inflation, it was about $217 out the door.

Installing The New Battery

Okay, before you do anything else – make sure the battery you just bought is the same size and the terminals are still in the right place. Stuff happens. It’s better to find a mistaken purchase out before you do anything to your truck.

Modern vehicles have a ton of info in their computer and a lot of it disappears when the power is lost – either when your battery completely dies, or in our case, if the battery is disconnected. A lot of it will be re-learned as the computer communicates with the sensors and figures out what is normal. Now what all gets lost in the UConnect system after a power loss tends to get different answers. Let me just say I didn’t want to deal with any problems so what I did was power the computer (ECU) through the OBD2 port under the dash using a purpose built cable from VSTM and a Clore Automotive JNC660 jump pack. This combination provides electricity to the computer so none of your settings are lost – it makes changing a battery very straight forward.

I ran into a situation this summer with our Highlander that had a completely drained battery and my little Noco jump pack couldn’t start it so I decided to get a bigger one. The Clore Automative jump packs got really good reviews so I bought this one plus it has a 12 volt cigarette lighter-type outlet on the left side that I can use to power ECUs via the ODB2 port. I had to charge it and the male prongs for plugging into an extension cord are conveniently located on the front. The green light means it is fully charged,
This is an ODB2 power cord from VTSM. You can plug it into a cigarette outlet in a jump pack or used the supplied adapter and connect it to any 12 volt power source such as another battery.
The photo is from a weird angle – I’m down in the foot well looking up – you can see the hood release in the lower right portion of the photo. The V-ish shaped female receptacle is the ODB2 port where we can connect the power charger or connect any ODB2 device such as a code scanner for that matter.
With the ignition off, plug the power cord from the jump pack to the ODB2 connector. My multimeter is on the seat because I wanted to make sure the jump pack was putting out 12-14 volts and the polarity was right before I plugged it into my truck.
To get started under the hood, I disconnected the stiffening brace that is located right above the battery and set it to the side out the way. I really like magnetic trays to avoid losing parts.

The next step was to disconnect the battery. I removed the negative terminal first and pushed it to the side. I disconnected the positive terminal assembly from the battery’s top post and covered it with a Nitrile glove. In most cars, and I am assuming it is the case with my truck, the powering of the computer through the OBD2 port also sends 12 volt power to the now-disconnected positive power cable and I did not want a surprise from something shorting. Cheap insurance in other words.

With the plow and everything, there is a lot of additional stuff on the positive (red) side but they are all connected to the terminal. When you loosen the terminal and lift it up, everything comes with it. There wasn’t anything else securing the positive terminal assembly in my case.
If it looks stupid but it works then it’s not stupid. Yeah, I wrap the exposed positive terminal with a nitrile glove that is an electrical insulator and rubber band it in place. I don’t want any surprise sparks/shorts. In many cars if you power the ECU via the ODB2 connector then the positive battery wire is energized. I didn’t confirm my Ram was this way – I just assembled it to be clear. I just wrapped the terminal with a glove and called it even out of an abundance of caution.
I should mention that I have an aluminum work platform that I stand on to reach in the engine compartment and I also put a fender protector (in this case a thick red fabric) to make sure I don’t scratch anything. Many years ago I scratched a car with a belt buckle and felt like an idiot. Lesson learned. I protect fenders now.
This is the battery clamp that is a plastic wedge and bolt. I removed mine and put them in the magnetic parts holder. Note the orientation of the clamp – if you try to reassemble it smooth side up you will be wondering why it doesn’t line up. Yeah, I tried to install it upside down and spent a few minutes trying to figure out why that was so. The photo shown is the correct orientation.
Starting a few years ago I realized it was a really good idea to take a paint pen and write down when I installed the battery. I went to write on the battery and noticed an aqua colored sticker with 9/22 printed on it. Maybe Costco put it there – I don’t know. Knowing my lousy memory I could see me looking at the sticker years from now wondering if it was the install date so I went ahead and wrote 9/2022 on it anyways because I still recognize my own handwriting at my current age 🙂
Left is the OEM battery and right is the new Interstate. I always put batteries side by side one last time to make sure the layout matches. I’ve made my share of mistakes in the past and don’t mind sharing with you that it pays to verify things several times before you get too far.

I did take the insulated jacket off the OEM battery and put it on the new Interstate AGM battery. It’s not necessarily to keep it warm – it protects it to some extent from high heat in the engine compartment as well.

Batteries are heavy. Make sure you have a step or something so you can line things up and protect your fender. Installing the new battery is just a reverse of what I listed. Re-install the clamp, the positive side terminal, the negative side terminal and then the reinforcing strut.

Be sure to remove the ODB2 power cord at this point. The battery tested over 12 volts so I turned on the ignition and everything seemed to work – the truck started, ran fine, all of my phone settings and stored Sirius XM stations were there, etc.

The truck is back together at this point. I do like to make sure any new battery is fully charged. If I had thought about it, I would have done this before I installed the battery – that’s what I usually do. I forgot and just stuck my Noco 26 amp charger on after testing and it went to full very fast meaning the battery was practically full.

Truck & Plow Testing

Starting the truck and running the base electronics are one thing but could it actually support the plow better? Now that was the big expensive question. I sure hoped it would.

For the first time this fall, I hooked up the big plow, lifted it up and brought it over to the driveway. The fact the truck could lift the plow was the first promising sign.

I tested the truck and plow three ways and did short videos of each:

The first test was turning on all of the lights, AC on full, defroster and then running the plow.
The second test was running the heater on full plus the lights and defroster then running the plow.
I forgot the truck’s voltmeter gauge until I was doing the tests. This lets you see what happens to the volts when each item is turned on. I never thought to do this with the original battery but wasn’t going to bother swapping to do this either – too much work and I am not that curious.

Battery Testing Via Foxwell BT705

The company that actually makes the OEM battery for FCA/Dodge is Clarios. They were a spin off from Johnson Controls and were bought by Brookfield Business Partners, an equity firm, in 2019. My point is that they know how to make batteries and also point out on their website that 1 in 3 cars on the road are running a battery made by them.

The reason I am bringing the lineage up is that the shortcoming is not their fault or something defective during the manufacture of the actual battery in my truck. The factory battery label claims 730 CCA and in testing with my Foxwell BT705 with the temperature at 46F, it delivered 760 CCA and this is despite being out of the truck without any charging for 7 days. No, the battery is just fine in terms of hitting its declared specification but Dodge should have put a bigger one in.

The OEM battery made by Clarios delivers in excess of the amps claimed (766 as measured vs 730 on the label). It’s not their fault that Dodge under-spec’d the battery or failed to do the right pairing of alternator and battery.

In terms of the Interstate, whew. It is packing some amps. The label claims 850 CCA and the digital BT705 meter is reporting 883 CCA. That is 133 amps more than the flooded lead acid OEM battery. The truck hasn’t been used for over 24 hours – closer to 36 if I were to estimate it – so no last minute charging there either. The temperature was still 46F so neither battery was tested at 0F just to be clear.

The Interstate AGM tested at 883 CCA vs 850 on the label. It also scores higher.

By the way, I’ve owned the BT705 battery tester since January 2018 and have found it to be quite reliable. The tester gets great scores on Amazon and I have never had it tell me that a battery was ok that then failed. This matters to be a lot in the Winter as I don’t want family or friends getting stranded with a dead battery.

Test Conclusion

Based on the tests conducted above, the Interstate AGM battery provides enough of a buffer that the problem appears to be fixed. There is one variable though and that is the temperature. You can see from the dash that it was 61F when I did these tests. When I plow it might be anywhere from 0 to 40F. In general, the colder a battery is, the less output it will have. I still have the Interstate’s higher 850 CCA (measured at 0F) to make me hopeful but winter will be the real test. I can hope, right? If I were to bet though, I bet the shedding problem is solved because real world I will not be running all of those accessories at once either.

It’s Not A Perfect Solution — AGM Batteries Still Have Limits

I do need to make one thing very clear – a battery is a buffer. If you are using power faster than the battery can be charged, then eventually load shedding will happen. Think of water behind a dam. If the water goes out slowly or once in a while and the reservoir can refill, everything is good. In contrast, if you use the water too fast or for too long, the reservoir will empty and there will be little to no water running from the dam. Same idea.

An AGM battery contains quite a bit of reserve power and can sustain higher loads longer than a flooded lead acid battery designed for starting and lights. Even an AGM has limits though

I tend to do a bit of plowing and then drive. A bit of plowing and then drive. If you are doing a ton of plowing before the alternator can replenish the battery sufficiently then shedding will still happen. You will then need to decide if you add battery capacity via a second battery or invest in a dual alternator set up. One trick is to hook up a battery charger – I like Noco Genius smart chargers – to fully charge your battery over night if need be. It all comes down to how much you plow and how long the alternator has to catch up.

Summary

Let’s wrap this post up. Despite Dodge’s claim that the Snow Chief package makes a 2500 truck plow ready, that is not necessarily the case. It would appear that the single 220 amp alternator running at realistic engine speeds during plowing will not produce enough amps to support the plow and the blower motor. In addition, the original battery doesn’t provide enough buffer to temporarily compensate either for the lack of alternator output relative to demand.

There is no indication that anything is defective – let me be clear on that. Instead, these are design issues and should not have surprised anyone. Plows have been around for decades. The dealership who sold me the truck and the plow, not to mention the installers they contracted with, should have known whether there would be an issue or not but nobody raised a flag and said “stop” or “hey, just so you know – you can’t run your blower motor on high and raise your plow at the same time.”

Given the test results of placing a full load on the combination of the original 220 amp alternator and new Interstate AGM battery, it would seem that the load shedding problem has been solved. While the temperature during testing was 61F and thus 30-60 degrees higher than what would be encountered during my typical plowing work, the higher CCA rating of the new battery and the likely load on the battery during real use being lower, the probability is quite high that the problem is fixed. That’s a mouth full.

If you are having problems with load shedding, your first least expensive option is to go get a good AGM battery from a reputable dealer with as high of a CCA rating as you can get for the size battery your truck uses – again, my 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman with the 6.7L Hemi uses an H7 size battery.

I’ll post updates after I actually use the plow in the Winter but I’m betting the problem is fixed. $50 says I never hear a peep from Dodge about fixing this, paying for the battery or even just providing any further insight. So, for all of you folks that snowplow and have a Ram 2500, I hope this helps you out.


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When Strength and Quality Matter Most

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