Add A “Thumper” To A Blast Cabinet And More Than Double Your Productivity!

Okay, Ronin’s Grips started making Yugo M70 grips sometime around 2004 and rapidly added models – the challenge was that I hand polished each and every one of them. It took a ton of time, handwork and was putting my carpal tunnel through the roof. Jeff Miller of HillBilly Firearms told me to abrasive blast the grips for a better grip and a heck of a lot less handwork. I was sold – I had to change something. Jeff also gave me a few tips – get a foot control to protect the seals vs. being in the cabinet with all of the grit, put transparency film on the window of the unit to make it last longer and he told me to get a “thumper” to make the grit settle.

Well, way back in the day margins were super thin so I bought a large bench top abrasive blast cabinet from Cyclone Manufacturing in Dowagiac, MI – they are about an hour from my shop and I could pick it up along with the foot control, I got a box of transparency film either from Amazon or a local office supply store, but I had no idea what a “thumper” was or how important it is to productivity.

Fast forward to about a month ago. Abrasive blasting used to take me a while – blast, hit the cabinet or manually move the material around in the hopper, blast some more, whack the cabinet or move the material around … it gets old. It took me years to realize that this really sucks but blasting was so much better than polishing that I didn’t think much about it.

So, a “thumper” is basically and industrial vibrator (insert joke here) that uses an electric motor in a housing with off center weights on the shaft that then vibrate like crazy when the motor runs. I guess you could call it the power of Amazon but one day I was scrolling through Amazon and a suggested item came up – a concrete vibrator – and it looked like a small motor in a housing. I had 25 Galil grips I was going to blast and all of a sudden I remembered Jeff’s advice.

Okay, the power of a vibrator with a blast cabinet is that the vibrations cause the grit to shake down to the lowest point constantly. You can blast and blast and blast. The unit was $118 with free delivery and I figured I would give it a try.

It shipped from the importer, not Amazon, and showed up a few days later – it was pretty quick as I recall. The unit was very well made other than my needing to tape up a plastic junction box on the power cord that was a little cracked and I needed to attach a 120 volt plug – it was one phase and they said about 40 watts so nothing special. The machine label says – 110V, 1 phase, 40 watts, 3600 RPM – the little thing totally kicks butt and was only $49.

Here’s a close up of the label – note it says 40 watts. There are bigger units but I don’t think you need them for an abrasive blaster.

I didn’t put it on the blaster right away because I wasn’t really sure how violent it would be and I am glad I didn’t – it vibrates like you would not believe – there is nothing subtle about it – and I immediately realized two things – 1) I was going to mount it on the free standing tool bench and not the plastic blast cabinet walls or it would eventually shake loose and 2) I needed a variable speed control to tone it down some.

Try #1

Okay, so sometimes you just have to poke fun at yourself – or at least I do. I marked the bolt holes on the 3/4″ plywood bench top and mounted the vibrator. I then plugged the power cord from the vibrator into the speed controller, the controller into a surge strip and turned it on at full speed.

I wish I had a before photo or a video of what happened next but I don’t. Every single thing on that table started vibrating right off of it. Yeah, all the grit went to the bottom on the blast table but the blast table was headed to the edge of the bench too. Whoa! I hit the off switch.

Try #2

I simply took some strips of plywood and added a cradle around the legs to limit travel. That worked. Time to try blasting some stuff.

Here’s the vibrator.
Here’s the speed controller.
Another view of the strips to limit travel. Everything on the floor had been on the workbench before I turned the vibrator on the first time 🙂 By the way, the 3/4″ plywood top is screws into the stands it is on.

Actually Blasting

Folks, it is night and day different – stunningly different. Because I don’t have to stop and whack the side of the baster or reach in and move grit around, I’d bet I’m getting work done 2-3 times faster. A bench top blaster doesn’t have a very deep bottom so without a thumper, I spent a lot of time moving grit over to the pick ,up.

Another fun lesson learned. Over the years, I’ve developed the habit of putting my chin on the plexiglass as I focused on doing the work. Don’t do that. I put my chin down on the vibrating plexiglass and it felt like someone was playing the tambourine with my teeth 🙂

Those are two IMI Galil grips getting blasted. What an amazing difference.

In Conclusion

This is one time I can honestly tell you that I have one regret – I should have done this years and years ago. Wow. It was worth it! I’ve used vibrator and speed controller both extensively for a little over a month and it’s a great combo. I don’t use the slowest speed but I am closer to the low end on the dial than I am the fastest speed.

Note, I got lucky with my first purchase. I really wasn’t sure what size to buy but the 40 watt unit has worked great. I can’t imagine anyone needing a bigger unit for a blast cabinet. These generic industrial vibrators have all kinds of uses including for the movement of powders, grains, rock, etc. so they sell bigger and more powerful ones as well.

I’d highly recommend this to anyone who has a ton of blasting to do and is getting tired of having to stop and manually move grit around.


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’s Up With Palmetto State Armory And AAC Ammo?

In 2021, there were reports that Palmetto State Armory (PSA) was going to start producing their own ammo. For those of you who don’t know PSA, they started with discounted AR parts and sporting goods stores and grew rapidly now producing a variety of platforms including AK rifles and pistols and a Glock 19 compatible pistol known as the Dagger.

At any rate, the ammunition market could not keep up with demand starting with the fear of what would happen when Biden took office, the pandemic, etc. When and where there is unmet demand there is potential opportunity and that is what PSA went after. PSA is investing in a new ammo plant being built in Columbia, SC, with plans for it to be fully operational in 2023 using the letters AAC – America’s Ammo Company.

Uh… wait … isn’t there already Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) using a similar logo? Why yes, there was. Emphasis on “was”. You see, AAC was a brand owned by Vista along with Remington. When Vista tanked, the parent company of PSA, JJE Capital, bought them so AAC is a sister company to PSA.

JJE Capital also now owns DPMS Panther Arms, Stormlake, AAC, H&R and Parker Brands. The JJE website doesn’t mention those but I read them in another post about the sell-off of Vista. JJE does identify PSA Defense (safety and training), Palmetto State Armory (PSA), and Palmetto Outdoors Shooting Facility.

PSA itself is actually a family of companies including: DC Machine, Ferrous Engineering, Special Tool Solutions, Spartan Forging and Lead Star Arms. This means these firms are owned by JJE Capital as well.

Okay, returning to Advanced Armament Corporation’s fate: Going forward AAC was split into two divisions – AAC suppressors and firearms (which are to be resurrected) and then AAC Ammo adopted the slogan “America’s Ammo Company”.

What about the ammo?

When I first heard about it, they planned to stick to major calibers – 5.56 NATO, 7.62×51 NATO, 5.45×39, 7.62×39, 7.62x54r and 9×19 Luger but that was hearsay. Now they are still ramping up I am sure but what is on the PSA website right now as I write this post are some components – 9mm 115 gr, and .223 55gr that are in stock. For ammo, they list 9mm 115gr FMJ and 9mm 124gr FMJ and both are in stock.

These are 1,000 AAC .223(.224) 55gr projectiles ready for reloaders. For folks unfamiliar, these are just the bullets – not the entire cartridges.

Some of the items have one to four reviews – it’s all new after all and they are largely scoring 4-5 starts. One reviewer criticized the quality of the .223 (.224) 55gr bullets/projectiles and said accuracy suffered.

This is 9mm 115gr FMJ ammunition. They have 9mm 124gr as well.

Conclusion

I think it’s good for all of us that PSA/JJE has entered the ammunition market. There was a blog post back in October 2021 that they had spent $100 million on starting up ammunition production including primers up to that point – I’ve not seen a total amount referenced. Clearly they are just getting started and it will very interesting to see how they do over time as they come up to full production.


All photos are the property of Palmetto State Armory.


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 Adventures With Rock Island Armory 9mm Extractors

Starting in 2021, I started to offer 10mm magazines for the Rock Island Armory A2 HC pistols – “A2” being a marketing opportunity to refer to the next generation 1911A1 pistol prototyping the US Army did starting in 2004 that experimented with different sights, extractors, mainsprings, etc. The “HC” stands for high capacity and reflects the RIA pistols are using a staggered magazine design to hold far more rounds than a single stack could.

At any rate, I had a number of customers ask me to produce mags for the 9mm RIA A2 HC pistols – the 51679 Tac Ultra and the 56645 Pro Ultra Match HC. Our 10mm mags had proven to be very successful and after enough requests, I decided to enter the 9mm magazine market.

One thing I learned with making AK grips is that you really need to have the weapon to make a part for it. This allows you to check fitment, reinforce potentially weak areas, etc. So, when I started with the 10mm mags, I bought a 52009 Rock Ultra HC and later a 56862 Tac Ultra Match HC. Why? Because you also find that a given firearm may differ enough that if you build and test only with it, you may not be making something others can use.

There’s an engineering problem called “stacked tolerance”. Every part has a specification that says, for example “9.0mm” and then there is a tolerance specified – for example “+/- .01”. That means the part produced can range from 8.99 to 9.01 in size. Make an assembly and all of those tolerances may combine, or “stack” in such a way that if you build a part to work for that particular unit then another assembly that happens to stack in the other direction may not be able to use that part. Testing on multiple pistols helps with a testing – at least a bit because you are reducing the odds of one pistol having a problem or working and others not.

So, by having both the 52009 and 56862 10mm pistols, I could test magazines to make sure they fed right, dropped free, etc. With the 9mm pistols, I had limited funds and just started with the 51679 – the Tac Ultra. That decision bit me hard.

The Initial Magazine Prototyping Didn’t Make Sense

When I prototype, I buy a bunch of original magazines and then start looking for what is close enough to modify and start tinkering with the feed lips, feed angles, the spring and the follower. To keep track of things, I applied numbered stickers to every magazine and kept track of the dimensions plus performance.

What I also learned with the 10mm mags is that the best dummy rounds are the machined aluminum A-Zoom Snap-Caps. Dummy rounds that are made from a case and a bullet will see the bullet pushed back into the case and/or get deformed after some fairly low number of cycles. The machined aluminum A-Zoom Snap-Caps are dimensionally accurate and can cycle hundreds of times before needing to be replaced. By the way, don’t do this type of work with live rounds – it’s an accident waiting to happen.

Back to the 9mm world, I was working on the mags and things just didn’t make sense. A magazine would work and then it wouldn’t. One set of dimensions would work and then they wouldn’t. Something just wasn’t adding up. The pistol would fail to eject randomly, I’d then have the old round and the new round in the slide at the same time and of course it jammed.

It had to be the mags right? I blew through a bunch of mags and time before it dawned on me that the pistol itself must have issues. I hadn’t questioned it before because the pistol was brand new out of the box. Sure, I had cleaned and lubed it first before cycling hundreds of snap caps through it. The problem was that I assumed it was good to go and the initial testing seemed to show a reliable pistol … but I only tested a few mags worth of snap caps – maybe 34-52 cycles max.

Testing The First Pistol

I loaded a magazine up, racked the slide and loaded a snap cap. I then pulled the slide back slowly and the extractor lost control of the extracted round as I pulled the slide to the rear. That wasn’t supposed to happen. If I went slow, it would either fail to extract completely or lose control of the round.

I’m not a 1911 gunsmithing guru but I had to learn some stuff really fast. I knew if I sent the pistol back to Rock Island/Armscor, it would be at least a month before I would get it back. So I read posts and watched videos that explained the pistol had an extractor problem and how to correct it. I bought a few different brands of 9mm extractors, the Brownells extractor tool, the Jack Weigand extractor gauge and tensioning tool.

Boy, I could not get that thing to work even after trying a few different brand extractors and a Wilson. At this point I was pretty ticked off. My last best guess was that the extractor looked like it was clocked slightly. When I inserted the Weigand 9mm gauge, I could feel initial tension as I inserted it and then it would drop off rapidly as I inserted the gauge the rest of the way (it centers over the firing pin hole). Rather than do a new firing pin stop plate, I decided to stop chasing best guesses mainly because I was blowing time I did not have to spend. The pistol was under warranty so feeling both stupid and defeated, I finally got an RMA to send the pistol back.

No, I’m Not Incredibly Patient

In the meantime, I bought a 56645 Pro Ultra Match HC and it has worked great – no problems at all. I was able to work out the details on the mags. Now, I am not patient so I actually ordered a second 51679 Tac Ultra that I looked at, cycled a few rounds through but really didn’t use a great deal – my primary go-to test platform was the 56862 … until I decided to take some photos about the RIA 9mm A2 HC pistols and looked at the 51679’s extractor.

The second 51679 is at the top and the 56862 Tac Ultra Match is at the bottom. The Match pistol has nice checkering on the front of the grip, the top of the exposed barrel is a grey matte finish and has a target rear sight.

“You’ve got to be kidding me” – I thought to myself. Inserting a choice F bomb of course. The extractor in the brand new 51679 that probably has less than 100 hand cycled Zoom snap caps through it was almost completely broken off other than a little tiny nub on one end. WTF?!?!

I was happily taking photos for a blog post when I saw the silver grain of the busted extractor. Yeah, I was swearing up a storm. Really?

Okay, two 51679s bought from different vendors off Gunbroker about a month apart both having extraction problems …. wow. I’ll be honest – I’m disappointed. RIA 1911s are econobox models but they usually work – so, no, I’m not remotely happy not to mention jumping through hoops waiting for ever for their customer service to respond. I did learn a bunch though and will share with you what I did and what you can do if you want to.

Metal Injection Molding For Extractors Isn’t The Best Choice

The problem is that to keep costs down, Armscor, who owns the Rock Island brand, make the ejector using Metal Injection Molding (MIM). If you search on the web, you will see a ton of guys arguing against the use of MIM in high stress parts. As I just learned with extractors, it’s not the strongest manufacturing approach – making them from forged high-quality steel is a far better idea.

I removed the extractor from the pistol and zoomed in as best I could to get you this photo. You can see the grainy structure that is a signature of metal injection molding. That nub at the top right edge in the photo was just enough to yank the case out of the chamber … sometimes.

Okay, if you get a new RIA 9mm pistol, check the extractor out of the box. Clean and lube it, go to the range and keep your eye on the extractor. If it breaks you have two options – send it back to Rock Island/Armscor for a RMA repair or do it yourself. Heck, you could even just replace the extractor yourself before you have a problem if you want to.

I Decided To Replace the Extractor Myself

I learned a ton on that first pistol plus I had all of the tools and spare Wilson Combat extractors. I just needed to trust in my abilities a bit more and try it again. If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I am persistent and don’t give up easy. With this in mind, I dove back in again with far better results.

The top is the failed Rock Island 9mm ejector and it is a series 70 design. The lower extractor is a state of the art forged 9mm extractor from Wilson Combat. It is a series 80 design but will work just fine in a series 70 pistol.

First, let me explain why I went with a Wilson “Bullet Proof” .38/9mm extractor. They have an excellent reputation a number of guys posted about throwing away their RIA ejector and installing a Wilson. Instead of being MIM, here’s what Wilson says about their extractors:

  • Fully Machined from S7 shockproof tool steel with a tensile strength of 275,000 PSI
  • Optimized hook design for maximum strength and case rim contact
  • Hook location tolerances held to +/- .001″
  • Radiused corners for extended life and smooth feeding
  • Enhanced design holds tension longer over factory part many times over
  • Heat treated to optimum hardness and cryogenically treated
  • Guaranteed for life against breakage or we will replace at no cost to you

Note I went with a series 80 extractor even though the RIA pistols are based on a series 70 design. You can use a series 80 extractor in a series 70 pistol but not vice versa. You can get them from Brownells, Wilson directly and other places.

Recommended Tools

You don’t need specialized tools but if you can afford them, I would highly recommend the following:

The long angled tool is the 1911 Extractor Tool from Brownells and totally worth it in my opinion. The long angled end lets you reach into the slide and push extractor back and then down into the hole for removal. The other end is perfect sized for pushing down the firing pin to aid with the removal and installation of the firing pin stop. Note the blue A-Zoom snap cap – that is the color of their volume packs of rounds. Exact same material and tolerances – just a different color.
The silver block with the red handle is Weigand’s tool for adjusting extractor tension. The big orange thing is the Lyman mechanical trigger pull gauge. The brass plate is the gauge with a brass S-hook that I added. The gauge is sold as a set and each end is for a different caliber. The hole you see is actually for lining up on the firing pin hole – I just added the S-hook on the .38 end because I don’t have any plans to shoot .38 Super. Note, the small blade screw driver makes it real easy to nudge the firing pin up or down so the firing pin stop plate can be pushed into position.

Polish the Extractor

From what I read and saw, the Wilson extractor is practically ready out of the box other than setting the tension. Some guys recommended polishing the surfaces where the cartridge will come in contact and I did that with one of the small rubberized abrasive polishing bits in my Dremel.

How to Install

Make sure your pistol is unloaded – that the chamber is empty and a loaded magazine is not inserted. In short, work safe. Also, do not use live ammo for testing – I highly recommend A-Zoom Snap Caps.

Let me give you an overview and then a couple of videos to watch:

  1. Remove the slide
  2. Remove the firing pin stop plate by pushing down with the straight short end of the extractor tool and then slide the plate off. Be CAREFUL that the firing pin and/or spring don’t come flying out as you remove the plate.
  3. Push the extractor backwards by pushing the head of extractor backwards down the hole out the rear of the slide
  4. Insert the new extractor and line it up so the stop plate can be re-inserted. It needs to line up with the top and bottom of the stop plate groove and it needs to be straight up and down parallel to the sides. You don’t need to install the firing pin and spring until you are done.
  5. Insert the Weigand gauge and pull it out using the trigger pull gauge to find out how many ounces it takes.
  6. Use the Weigand tensioning tool to increase or decrease the tension. I dialed mine in to 28 ounces (1.75 pounds).
  7. You can try testing feeding and extracting dummy rounds to see how it performs. The extractor should maintain control until the extracted dummy round hits the ejector.
  8. Once it is dialed in, you can then re-install the firing pin return spring, lube the firing pin and reinstall it also.
  9. There’s a trick to the plate – wiggle it in and push down the firing pin enough to get the plate to sit on the “shelf” at the rear. You can then maintain pressure on the plate and use the other hand to use the extractor tool to push the firing pin down far enough and hold it there while you push the plate back into place.

More Details

Wilson has a video on how to change to their extractor and a bit about setting the tension:

Now, I also read the Brownell’s blog post about extractors plus a more detailed Wilson Combat instructional PDF file.

The following is a video of Jack Weigand explaining how to use his extractor gauges and tensioning tool:

Adjusting The Extractor Landing Pad

The most detailed post and guidance in general about extractors that I read is here – and if you read down, you will get to sections/replies about 9mm extractors. One thing you will notice discussed is reprofiling the “fitting pad” to better fit the radius of the extractor hole. I stoned and polished the fitting pad to be more rounded but that was it. I put more emphasis on getting a weight in the 25-28oz range and did do that after may 3-4 tries.

Pulling the gauge out the final time was about 1-3/4 pounds which is 28 oz. In testing the pistol, extraction was just fine.

Was The Match Pistol Higher End?

I wondered if maybe more care was put into the match pistol. There are some nice perks in terms of features but the trigger feels about the same between the two pistols. I’ll write up something more detailed down the road – for now let me just say they pistols are not night and day different in terms of how they feel with cycling the slide or pulling the trigger.

In terms of pricing, there’s not a huge difference on Gunbroker. The first 51679 was bought on 3/5/22 for $819.99, the Match pistol was $899.00 on 3/25/22 and the second 51679 was bought on 4/3/22 for $899.00 also. In writing this, it’s surprising that the Match wasn’t $100-200 more on the street but it wasn’t. If you look at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) – Armscor did set the 51679 at $899 and the Match 56645 at $1099. In other words, Armscor was hoping the Match would command a premium.

You can find the 51679 pistols right now with a bit of hunting. The 56645 match pistol is challenging to find as it seems to be a bit more rare now but it is out there too. I’d tell you to get the 56645 Pro Ultra Match HC if you can find it. As you can imagine, I’m not too thrilled with my 51679 experience right now and there is little to no price difference *if* you can find one.

Conclusion

I’m not sure what to tell you about what happened – I only have data from two 51679 pistols and one 56645 pistol. It could just be really bad luck – neither of my current 10mm pistols have given me any trouble and the 56645 Pro Ultra Match has been fine so far as well although I have only cycled maybe 500-600 snap caps through it so far.

The first 51679 had something going on that I can’t explain and am waiting on Armscor to fix it under warranty. It certainly was not a broken extractor. For the second one to have a snapped extractor claw with so very few rounds – I guess that highlights the limitation of MIM and that forged extractors are better – there’s a reason why Wilson’s Bullet Proof extractors have such a good reputation.

So, at this point, magazine production is in full swing and we offer a number of magazines based on Mec-Gar P16 and P18 designs for owners of 9mm RIA A2 HC pistols.

We’ll see what Armscor comes back with regarding the first pistol and I’ll report it here. I guess the big thing I want folks to know is that changing an extractor is not an arcane black magic endeavor. There are tons and tons of videos and posts that you can read. At some point you just need to wade in, give it a go and learn.

My other lesson learned is that don’t replace a busted Armscor extractor (MIM) with the same thing. Upgrade. I decided to go with Wilson Combat due to all the good reviews I read and would recommend that.

I still have a lot to learn about 1911s and don’t claim to know much. I’m really focused just on the mags but I hope this helps out anyone who reads it.

A Stunningly Good 1911 Reference Book Recommendation

By the way, If you want a really good book with tons of dimensions, drawings and photos, then get Jerry Kuhnhausen’s “The Colt .45 Automatic – A Shop Manual”. What I bought off Amazon is the “New Expanded 10th Edition” published in 2015. It gave me a better understanding about the extractor and the firing pin stop.

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.



Is GrabAGun Legit?

With a name like “GrabAGun”, you have to wonder if they are legit or not. Well, to cut to the chase, they definitely are but I did wonder. I started

using them in 2021 and they have great pricing and are quick to ship. I figured everyone else must be looking for deals so add them to the list of other sites such as Palmetto State Armory and Primary Arms.

They have some great deals on firearms and ammunition so add them to your list of online firearm websites that are good to go. I wouldn’t recommend them unless I had first hand experience.

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.


Today’s Meme: I’ll Be Really Pissed


Image is public domain: “15-megaton Castle Bravo explosion at Bikini Atoll, March 1, 1954, showing multiple condensation rings and several ice caps.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mushroom_cloud#/media/File:Castle_Bravo_Blast.jpg

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 you having a hard time finding 9mm magazines for your Rock Island Armory A2 HC Pistol? We have them.

This post was updated April 27, 2022

I’m a fan of Armscor’s Rock Island Armory (RIA) 2011-style pistols – the A2 HC series. They took the ParaOrdnance design of the 1911 that uses a staggered magazine to hold more ammo and made it their own. In a staggered design, the rounds offset left and right but come up to a common single feeding point at the top of the magazine. This enables round counts that are almost double the original single stack design but requires a fatter grip to hold these thicker magazines.

This is my 51679 with the original 17 round mag on the left. Note the wedge shaped base plate – it’s what enables one more round. To the right is a nickel finished Mec-Gar P18 magazine with a Dawson +200 base plate. By the way, we don’t have any spare limited P18 mags – they all had their dimples removed.

It can be a challenge to find quality magazines for these pistols as Rock Island & Act-Mag and Mec-Gar struggle with COVID and supply chain issues. We entered the market in 2021 with magazines for the 10mm & .40 S&W pistols and now we are introducing magazines for the 9mm pistols.

All of our mags are tested for 9mm Luger / Parabellum / 9×19. At this time we do not have a way to test .38 Super or .22 TCM. .22 TCM requires shorter feed lips so I know the P18 mags will not work.

In case you are wondering, I own both a RIA 56645 Pro Ultra Match HC and a 51679 Tac Ultra FS HC 9mm so that is what I am using for design and testing. By the way, “FS” means it is a full size 1911/2011 vs. something more compact like a Commander. The “HC” means it is the higher capacity. Some times you’ll see RIA refer to “A2” and that is a marketing opportunity for them because there was testing and consideration by the Army of what would could come after the M1911A1 in 2004 and they were bantering around the designation M1911A2 but they did not go far down that path.

We have two magazine offerings. One that is ready today based on P18 mags with limited availability and a second (we call it the second generation) that is based on P16 that I can readily get. They should work in any 9mm RIA pistol that uses RIA magazine 54180 or 54180B.

Option 1: Mec-Gar 9mm/.38 Super P18 Based Magazines

The first new mag is based on the Para P18 magazine that Mec-Gar offers. On one hand these are ready to go for 9mm and .38 Super but on the other they are a bear to find.

Okay, so you can see a RIA frame there on the left, the pistol on the right is the 51678 Tac Ultra and the magazine is a Mec-Gar P18 magazine with the original follower, spring and a Dawson +200 base plate. Note this magazine does not have a window in the magazine body.

With the P18 magazines, the feed lips are long and work fine for 9mm and .38 Super but they will not feed .22 TCM just so you know. We do remove the dimples (which is why there are windows in the mags) so they can hold 15 rounds, add a ceramic dry lubricant inside the magazine and Dawson base plates. I really like Dawson’s plates – they lock in place and work very well.

Close up view of the P18 feed lips.

Please note that these are 15 round magazines due to the base plate. If you want 17 rounds, then you could order a RIA A2 base plate from Greg Cote LLC or elsewhere or you could get one of the aftermarket P18 magazine extensions from Taylor or Arredondo – both will require fitting.

We do retain the Mec-Gar factory spring and follower. By doing this, the slide can still lock open on empty.

That top right edge of the black follower is the “shelf” that comes up as rounds are fed and when the magazine is empty, it is high enough to then lift the slide lock lever and lock the slide open.

So, we do have these magazines on the website for sale right now. Click here for the 9mm magazine section of our store.

Again, I could only find a few of these mags so I needed to come up with another plan as well and that involves modifying P16 mags.

Modified P16 Magazines

While the P18 mags are virtually impossible to track down right now (I bought every one I could find), I can readily source P16 magazines for 10mm and .40 S&W – notably the ones with 10 round limits. These require a fair amount of modification to work in the 9mm RIA pistols and we are doing the heavy lifting to make the P16 tubes work. We remove the dimples to allow for 15 rounds and create the “windows” plus we modify the feed lips to properly handle 9mm rounds. As a last step, we apply a ceramic dry lubricant inside the tube to aid with feeding.

The original magazine supplied by RIA is in the pistol. Three P16 derived mags are to the left and you can see the windows cut in their sides.

To improve the feeding we custom modifying the followers and retaining the existing spring. This enables the magazines to lock open on empty as shooters are accustomed to. For people wanting competition followers that do not lock open, we offer Arredondo spring and follower combinations.

A second generation 9mm mag is on the top right. The long spring and blue follower assembly are the Arredondo units. The short spring and black follower are what Mec-Gar used originally.
Look at the black follower on the right – see how there is a black plastic shelf molded into the follower just above the top left edge of the magazine body? That is what lifts the slide stop lever up and locks the slide open. The blue Arredondo follower was made for competition and it does not have that shelf – in fact, the follower dips down to purposefully not lock the slide open.

As with the P18 mags, these P16-based mags will hold 15 rounds. If you want 17 rounds, then you could order a RIA A2 base plate from Greg Cote LLC or elsewhere or you could get one of the P18 magazine extensions.

These magazines are ready. The only difference between the second generation windowed mag and the P18 magazine are the windows, the tube is stamped “P16-.40” on the side so we add a “9mm” label on the bottom and the second generation mags come with the Arredondo spring and follower. Like I said though, once I am out of the P18 mags then the only ones I will have to sell are the second generation P16 mags.

Options

With both magazine offerings you now have options when it comes to the base plate and for the P18 mag, whether you want to upgrade to the Arredondo spring and follower or not.

Conclusion

We now have mags for a number of the RIA 9mm high cap (HC) pistols. If you are concerned about whether they will function in your pistol, we will stand behind them if you run into any problems — customer service is something we take very seriously.

Please email me if you have any questions or suggestions.


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.


Looking at a ZPAP M70 With Polymer Furniture Out Of The Box

In my last review, I provided detailed photos of a M70 with maple furniture [click here for that review]. I bought this M70 at the same time and it came with a Polymer furniture set. In taking the rifle apart, I saw the same extensive tooling marks.

In this post, I’ll provide photos and observations for this rifle. In case you are wondering about the setting, it was 15 degrees outside so I did the review in our kitchen – my shop didn’t suddenly grow appliances 🙂

The stock is a Promag Archangel OPFOR four position stock with an adjustable cheekpiece. It’s solid, well thought out and didn’t rattle when I shook it. The pistol grip is a comfortable Tango Down model. Note the recoil pad on the stock.
The stock is adjustable four positions – here it is fully extended. The stock does not fold by the way.
The cheek piece angles upwards in the front by pushiing the grey button. Note the sling swivel quick connect hole.
Top left, the dust cover doesn’t fit flush with the trunnion. The unique recoil spring assembly locking buttonm is just above the top right edge of the side mount rail. Speaking of which, I really wish someone would make and sell this side rail. Zastava USA doesn’t import it. You can see tooling marks on the back of the mag catch housing. The ZPAPs have tons of tooling marks but function well despite them.
In general, I like Hogue’s products. This handguard with the overmolded rubber feels really good in the hand.

Conclusion

I thought about doing a big blog post with a ton of photos showing all the machining marks but decided against it. The rifle and furniture are solid but the metal working lacks refinement. If you’d like to see the detailed photos from a M70 ZPAP with a maple stock bought at the same time as this one, click here.

Zastava turned out a rifle probably to hit a price point and could have done better but at a higher cost. I didn’t expect to like the polymer stock set but I do – the buttstock, grip and handguard all feel solid and feel good when you shoulder the rifle.


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.


Looking at a ZPAP M70 with Maple Furniture Out of The Box

I had a chance to get an up close look at a couple of the new Zastava ZPAP M70 rifles recently. The subject of this post arrived wearing a maple furniture set and quite a bit of heft that one would expect from a larger M70 AK vs. an AKM.

To give a bit of background, the ZPAP rifles are based on the military M70B1 rifle with some changes.

  • A smaller commercial buttstock is used
  • No grenade launcher gas block
  • No night sights
  • A commercial wood grip was used instead of the very ergonomic traditional black polymer model
  • No bayonet mount
  • Semi-auto fire control group
  • A fire control group retaining plate vs. a retaining wire

For whatever reason, when I got “bit” by the AK bug, I really dove into Hungarian, Romanian and Yugo AKs initially. I always liked how the Yugoslavs took the Russian design, made it their own, and turned out some exceptional AK variant rifles. The fit and finish of the Yugo rifles always impressed me.

Well, let’s fast forward to today. I field stripped the rifles, wrote down some notes and took a ton of photos. If there was one general disappointment I found across the rifles it was the abundance of tooling marks. Rather than coming across as a refined AK, the ZPAPs come across as capable bruisers that are rough around the edges.

In terms of cycling, the finish is very smooth and the trigger feels like a typical AK. However, the lack of refinement was disappointing to me. I actually thought about taking it apart and redoing it but don’t have the time.

Now don’t get me entirely wrong – from everything I have read the ZPAP M70s are capable and nothing I saw or felt made me doubt that.

So, let’s get started at the rear and work our way forward on this photo heavy post:

First up is a steel buttpad on the male stock. You can see they are using Torx head screws vs. old school blade or Philips screws. This recoil pad is smaller than the military rubber model found on earlier model rifles – the stock is smaller as well.
Here’s a better view of the Torx screw. You may find it funny that I am making a big deal about their using a Torx screw but it is because I am so fed up with traditional blade and Philips screws on rifle stocks. If the wrong sized screw driver is used then the metal deforms and looks horrible. With a Torx bit, granted it needs to be the right size, but you can really torque on them without deformation.
This model has a maple stock set. Zastava USA offers a number of stock options including sets you buy and swap later. They retained the traditional M70B1 stock attachment method so this opens up a world of surplus and aftermarket stocks including M4 designs.
Here you can see the receiver, the selector lever with a notch cut in it to hold the bolt open, the wood pistol grip and a relatively traditional handguard other than it being made from a ferrule.
The rivets are all over the place in terms of shape and compression. It looks to me like the parts were finished and then assembled. I might be wrong on this but I am trying to figure out why the finish on the rivets looks worn – maybe it was just from rubbing in the box. I’m not sure.
The handguard has a nice pattern from the maple wood in it, They continued the use of a steel ferrule at the rear of the lower handguard to protect the end grain of the wood from the relatively hard and sharp sheet metal receiver.
You can see two very different rivets here. I mentioned earlier that the rivet heads are all over the place in terms of shape and you can see tooling marks even on them.
The dust cover has gaps between it and the trunnion. Ideally, those would not be there.
Peeking inside you can see they have a plate fire control group retaining plate. That’s cool. Note how they use the height of the plate to stop just short of the selector lever hole to keep things in place. That’s a simple and effective idea right there.
They are using a double hook trigger. The disconnector retains the tail from the full auto design. The double wound hammer spring is also very robust..
Interestingly, the selector lever stop is relatively tall on the ZPAP M70s and, unfortunately, you can see tooling marks on it. The selector notches in the receiver are nicely formed.
That’s the side rail for mounting optics and it is unique to Zastava. Nobody else makes this rail so it can be next to impossible to find them unless you buy a ZPAP M70 and use it as a base to build from. The problem with that is you can see all of the clean up required to get rid of the tool marks.
The bolt carrier is flattened with the serial number but there is also an electro-pencil (vibrating etcher) number on the trunnion and other parts – you’ll see them in other photos.
Here’s the electro pencilled serial number on the trunnion. To clarify, I have to assume it was a serial number at least used during assembly.
Here’s another example of the electro pencilled serial number – this time on the rear of the recoil rod assembly. By the way, you can see the operating side of the unique recoil spring assembly lock. Being able to lock the recoil spring part way forward makes installing the dust cover so simple compared to fighting the dust cover into position with the recoil spring assembly having a mind of its own. The lock was originally built in for handling the recoil of rifle grenades but sure makes re-assembly easy as well.
Not too bad. You can see a lot of tooling marks but the notch for the bolt is pretty well done.
Here’s a close up of the groove the bolt’s timing key rides in.
Here’s the bolt in the bolt carrier. The serial numbers are readily apparent on both parts showing they are matching.
Here’s the bolt. They tried to electro pencil the serial number on the hardened steel shaft in the filet shown above but boy, I sure can’t read it.
Machining/tooling marks are everywhere but at the heart is a very robust AK bolt face. You can see a bit of lacquer from the test rounds by the firing pin hole.
Here’s a good view of the chamber end of the barrel and the extractor cut out. Note the slight bevels from about 3pm to 11pm on the barrel face. They would add in reliable feeding no doubt – a cartridge off a but would follow the bevel and go into chamber all things being equal. There is still a riveted bullet guide between the magazine and the barrel.
The fit and finish of the wood overall is very good. The gas tube cover is nicely done.
I wish the metal work was as refined as the woodwork to be honest. The buttstock, grip and handguards are all very well done.
The lower looks good.
A close up of the lower handguard rear ferrule.
This is the lower handguard secured by its retainer. Note the lathe marks on the barrel. I would prefer smooth steel.
Rear sight block
Interestingly, the rear sight leaf is steel colored and the numbers are blackened.
They inscribed the serial number on the elevation adjustment slider.
Handguard retainer and gas block. Note the gas block still has the separate sling ring and no provision for a gas valve that one would see on a military M70 series.
Sling loop and gas block.

In Conclusion

This review dove into details that most AK buyers will not notice. There are tons of reviews and videos of these rifles that show how reliable they operate plus how durable they are by shooting tons of rounds [Click here for Rob’s review at AK Operators Union – he does solid reviews]. I did not have a chance to take this rifle to the range but it felt solid when I function tested it. Honestly, it cycles very smoothly – the tooling marks did not affect function.

The rifle appears solid and has the heft to go with it. While the woodwork was very well done, I honestly found the fit and finish of the metal parts pretty rough. Zastava could turn out a far higher quality weapon if they chose to – I’ve seen it in my military surplus kits. I have to assume they built these rifles with a lower price-point in mind and let the cosmetics issues happen. I hope they choose to turn out a higher end product in the future but in the mean time one of these rifles will give you a big bruiser at a reasonable price.

I hope all the photos give you some food for thought.


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.


When Strength and Quality Matter Most

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