April 7th, 2020

Next Generation AR with Thumb-Activated Lever Trigger

Thumb-operated Receiver TOR T.O.R. Blackwater Iron horse AR15 thumb trigger

Thumb-operated Receiver TOR T.O.R. Blackwater Iron horse AR15 thumb triggerHere’s a radical new rifle. Instead of a vertical trigger that moves rearward when pulled by the index finger, this Blackwater T.O.R. A1 rifle has a lever INSIDE the lower receiver. That lever is moved by the operator’s THUMB, causing the rifle to fire. The claimed benefits of the “thumb-gun” are: 1) Improved Ergonomics (thumb stays in alignment with point of aim); 2) Better Mechanics (thumb is strongest digit and can manipulate lever easily); 3) Enhanced Safety (trigger blade/lever is not exposed).

This AR-type rifle was developed by Iron Horse, now partnered with Blackwater Worldwide. The new T.O.R. (aka “Thumb Operated Receiver”) A1 is the industry’s first AR-platform rifle incorporating patent-pending, lever-driven fire technology.

Thumb-operated Receiver TOR T.O.R. Blackwater Iron horse AR15 thumb trigger

Iron Horse A1 Precision Rifle
The manufacturer has made some interesting claims about this new thumb-lever system. Blackwater/Iron Horse claims that “Multiple samples of users show a shorter learning curve and reduced shot group size”, and that the design “lends to greater accuracy in precision shooting… with its inherent natural ergonomics.” One claim we do believe, is that the thumb lever may help disabled shooters. Additionally the manufacturer notes that because the “trigger guard completely encases the trigger” there is less chance of snagging the trigger in brush or vegetation.

How the Lever Trigger Works
The operator’s thumb goes into a port in the top of the polymer grip (see grip photo above). This allows ambidextrous firing by right- or left-handed shooters. The thumb points forward, in line with the barrel. The lever itself is contained INSIDE the lower. Watch this video to see how it works:

Is the Thumb Lever a Game-Changer?
“Ironhorse’s revolutionary trigger system has the potential to be a game changer” states Eric Prince, Founder of Blackwater Worldwide. “Our in-house testing has shown a significant decrease in shot group size when compared to a traditional AR-15 trigger set. We think this technology … could replace traditional triggers altogether at some point.” The manufacturer states that the thumb-operated trigger “has been shown to greatly enhance the experience of a large portion of the shooting community and makes shooting possible for those who have limited mobility or severely injured fingers.”

Thumb-operated Receiver TOR T.O.R. Blackwater Iron horse AR15 thumb trigger

About Iron Horse and Blackwater Worldwide
Iron Horse Firearms, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, was founded by a former U.S. Marine Ryan McDonald. The Patent-Pending Thumb-Operated Receiver was first developed in August of 2016 and became a fully operational system in the fall of 2018. Moving forward, Iron Horse Firearms will be doing business as part of Blackwater Worldwide.

In 2019, Blackwater Worldwide re-entered the firearms and ammunition market in the United States. In its first year of operation, it has acquired or developed multiple firearms lines and a proprietary ammunition line. The company is headquartered in Concord, NC.

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April 7th, 2020

How Ammo Temp Can Affect Velocity — Freezing to 130 degrees F

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold
In this .308 Win test, 70° F ammo shot 96 FPS slower than ammo heated to 130.5° F. And the 130.5° ammunition was 145 fps faster than ammo taken right out of the freezer (at 25.5° F). That’s a huge difference…

EDITOR’s NOTE: The Sierra tester does not reveal the brand of powder tested here. Some powders are much more temp sensitive than others. Accordingly, you cannot extrapolate test results from one propellant to another. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the actual recorded velocity shift with ammo temperature variations in a .308 Win.

Written by Sierra Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd
This story originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog
A few weeks ago I was attending the Missouri State F-Class Match. This was a two-day event during the summer and temperatures were hot one day and hotter the next. I shot next to a gentleman who was relatively new to the sport. He was shooting a basically factory rifle and was enjoying himself with the exception that his scores were not as good as he hoped they would be and he was experiencing pressure issues with his ammunition. I noticed that he was having to force the bolt open on a couple of rounds. During a break, I visited with him and offered a couple of suggestions which helped his situation somewhat and he was able to finish the match without major issues.

He was shooting factory ammunition, which is normally loaded to upper levels of allowable pressures. While this ammunition showed no problems during “normal” testing, it was definitely showing issues during a 20-round string of fire in the temperatures we were competing in. My first suggestion was that he keep his ammunition out of the direct sun and shade it as much as possible. My second suggestion was to not close the bolt on a cartridge until he was ready to fire. He had his ammo in the direct sunlight and was chambering a round while waiting on the target to be pulled and scored which can take from a few seconds to almost a minute sometimes.

This time frame allowed the bullet and powder to absorb chamber [heat] and build pressure/velocity above normal conditions. Making my recommended changes lowered the pressures enough for the rifle and cartridge to function normally.

Testing Effects of Ammunition Temperature on Velocity and POI
After thinking about this situation, I decided to perform a test in the Sierra Bullets underground range to see what temperature changes will do to a rifle/cartridge combination. I acquired thirty consecutive .30 caliber 175 grain MatchKing bullets #2275 right off one of our bullet assembly presses and loaded them into .308 Winchester ammunition. I utilized an unnamed powder manufacturer’s product that is appropriate for the .308 Winchester cartridge. This load is not at the maximum for this cartridge, but it gives consistent velocities and accuracy for testing.

I took ten of the cartridges and placed them in a freezer to condition.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold

I set ten of them on my loading bench, and since it was cool and cloudy the day I performed this test I utilized a floodlight and stand to simulate ammunition being heated in the sun.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot F-Class Ammo cold

I kept track of the temperatures of the three ammunition samples with a non-contact laser thermometer.

The rifle was fired at room temperature (70 degrees) with all three sets of ammunition. I fired this test at 200 yards out of a return-to-battery machine rest. The aiming point was a leveled line drawn on a sheet of paper. I fired one group with the scope aimed at the line and then moved the aiming point across the paper from left to right for the subsequent groups.

NOTE that the velocity increased as the temperature of the ammunition did.

The ammunition from the freezer shot at 2451 fps.

Frozen FPS

The room temperature ammunition shot at 2500 fps.

Room Temperature FPS

The heated ammunition shot at 2596 fps.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot cold

The tune window of the particular rifle is fairly wide as is shown by the accuracy of the three pressure/velocity levels and good accuracy was achieved across the board. However, notice the point of impact shift with the third group? There is enough shift at 200 yards to cause a miss if you were shooting a target or animal at longer ranges. While the pressure and velocities changed this load was far enough from maximum that perceived over pressure issues such as flattened primer, ejector marks on the case head, or sticky extraction did not appear. If you load to maximum and then subject your ammunition to this test your results will probably be magnified in comparison.

Sierra Bullets Ammunition Ammo temperature temp test hot cold

This test showed that pressures, velocities, and point-of-impact can be affected by temperatures of your ammunition at the time of firing. It’s really not a bad idea to test in the conditions that you plan on utilizing the ammo/firearm in if at all possible. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to also test to see what condition changes do to your particular gun and ammunition combination so that you can make allowances as needed. Any personal testing along these lines should be done with caution as some powder and cartridge combination could become unsafe with relatively small changes in conditions.

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April 7th, 2020

Blue States Seek to Disable Insurance for Gun Owners

insurance commissioner gun ccw law montana NRA

Article based on report from Montana Shooting Sports Association.
Some states with anti-gun leadership are aggressively trying to eliminate insurance programs that help protect gun owners who may be forced to use a gun in self-defense. These liberal-controlled states claim they can block such self-defense insurance coverage because insurance is not allowed for an “illegal activity”. Interesting theory — since when did self-defense become illegal? The right of armed self-protection is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Most states have a position titled “Insurance Commissioner”, a public official (usually elected) who regulates insurance matters. We are seeing harsh anti-gun policies being pushed through by State Insurance Commissioners, often as the behest of Democratic-party Governors or Legislative leaders.

For example, in Washington State, the Office of Insurance Commissioner (OIC) sent cease and desist letters to the NRA (regarding previously offered Carry Guard*), the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), the Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network, U.S. Law Shield, Firearms Legal Protection, and CCW Safe, demanding that all quit doing business in Washington State. California’s Insurance Commissioner blocked NRA Carry Guard Insurance, and the same thing is likely to happen in other states in the months ahead…

insurance commissioner gun ccw law montana NRA

Gary Marbut, President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, says that citizens need to be concerned with state candidates for Insurance Commissioner (or equivalent state official): “In Montana, the function of an insurance commissioner is performed by the State Auditor, an elected position most people don’t think about much. Because of the attack on self-defense insurance in other states, the race for State Auditor is worth paying attention to in Montana. As voters, you and your friends should know which candidates pledge that self-defense insurance will NOT be targeted for eradication in Montana.”

That advice should be headed by citizens in other states as well. With so many attacks on Second Amendment rights from liberal politicians (and the mainstream news media), we don’t want state insurance rules to be used to disarm law-abiding citizens, or subject them to increased risk of lawsuits.


*The NRA’s Carry Guard Insurance program is no longer offered. Cancellation of this program is due largely to aggressive actions by State Insurance Commissioners in blue states such as California, New York, and Washington.

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