KE Arms/KE15 Rifle

KE Arms has brought me on board as Marketing Director after shooting SMM3G 2015 with them.  I’m excited to be part of a company with such impressive manufacturing capabilities and quality people.  Amongst other things I will be coordinating match sponsorships for the company and shooting events.

FullSizeRenderI got my rifle from KE Arms back in November of 2014.  You may notice some differences  in parts in some of the photos.  In the months leading up to SMM3G 2015, KE Arms brought several new products to market.  I added them to my rifle as they became available.  Consequently I did a few different photo sessions.  KE’s ability to bring new products to market with such speed is one of the reasons I chose to accept employment with them.

Here’s a break down of the components on my rifle I used at SMM3G

R-003The Flared Mag Well lower makes reloads on the move or under duress much easier. Fumble factor is reduced significantly.

The NP3 coating on the upper and lower simplifies cleaning making it a simple wipe down process.

R-007The KE Arms Match Trigger is a crisp 4.5 pounds with short reset.  This is one of the products that came on line after I initially received the rifle.  The JP Pins and KNS pins pictured in these photos are not required, I simply prefer them as an extra level of security to keep Murphy at bay.

KE Arms ambi selector.  Another product that came out after my initial build.  There are  several variations that allow the user to choose the right feel.  Each selector has a long arm and a short arm that can be configured for left or right handed shooters.

Opposite side showing long arm configured for left handed shooter.

Receiver end plate accepts HK style hooks or QD Swivel.

With HK Style hook attached.

PMAG extensions add +5 rounds on 30 rounders or +6 on 40 rounders.  46 round magazines mostly eliminate the need to reload on normal 3 Gun Match stages, but cannot be used in the prone position.

Delta-S Keymod handguard.  The Delta-S is lightweight and cools fast

BCM Keymod socket attached
BCM Vertical Fore Grip attached.  One of the cooler Keymod accessories I have used.

R-010Ergo Grip Keymod covers in place.  The ergo covers give a nice positive grip and offer some protection to unused section of the handguard.

We have a lot more products in development that I look forward to putting into use on the range!

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Superstition Mountain Mystery 3 Gun Match 2015

The Superstition Mountain Mystery 3 Gun Match (SMM3G) is held annually at the Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club in Mesa, AZ.  It is the longest running active 3 Gun match in the country with the most competitors.  This year over 390 competitors participated. KE Arms generously provided me with a sponsor slot for the match and a rifle to evaluate by using it at the match.  I will be doing a full write up on the rifle in a separate article.  To get ready for the match I used the  guns I would be using there at as many local matches as I could.  I also took a Rifle/Pistol competition class from Kelly Neal two weeks before SMM3G using the same rifle and handgun I would use there.

The Guns

Here are the guns I used to compete in Open Division:11091344_343831852473208_1008908448906077055_n Shotgun: VEPR-12 Shotgun with Vortex SPARC 2.  I started with 13 rounds in the shotgun, and a second 12 round mag clamped together with the first.  Extra reloads were with MOLOT 8 round magazines from Legion USA

Pistol: Suarez International Glock 17 with Trijicon RMR and Suarez’s new suppressor sights.  I use Limited length mags that hold 20 rounds.

Rifle: KE Arms KE15 with competition funnel mag well and NP3 coating on the upper, lower, and Delta-S free float keymod handguard.
KE Arms Duty 4# Trigger
16″ Daniel Defense Barrel
Suarez International Kompressor
Nightforce 1-4X Scope Harris 9-13S Bipod (used on one stage).

I’d say my shotgun is the closest thing to a true Open Division gun.  The pistol is somewhere in between open and tactical.  The rifle could be a Tac-Scope rifle if I didn’t use a bipod.  However, any one feature from a higher level division bumps a competitor into that division.

Staff Match

I chose to shoot through with the match staff so I could work on various media projects while the main match was in progress.  Shooting through with the staff gives one an appreciation of how much effort goes into a match of this size.  Planning and logistics for the next year’s match begin almost as soon as this year’s match is over.  Stages are designed well in advance  and concepts tested at the club level match leading up to it.  Setting the stages up takes a lot of man power and time before the match starts.

The staff match starts at 6AM two days before competitors arrive.  Staff shoot until dusk the first day, and until done in the afternoon the second day.  The focus when shooting the stages in the staff match is to proof them out; make sure props will work, targets will function and stay in place, safety issues are resolved, and stage descriptions make sense.  There is always something to be fixed on every stage.

It is readily apparent what starts out as fun turns into work and by the end all the staff simply want to be done shooting. I would be surprised if anyone that shoots the staff match is truly competitive and on their A-game. The compressed schedule and different mental focus makes it almost a different event entirely.  Another factor is that there aren’t as many shooters to observe and plan stages.  The more people you get to watch the more potential solutions and problems you can see before your turn to shoot.  There were several things in retrospect that I wish I had done differently after observing more shooters during the regular match.


The match theme this year was Back to the Future. All the stages incorporated elements from the film trilogy. The shooters bags all included some goodies at the start: PMAG30, KE Arms +5 PMAG extension with SMM3G engraving, Prolix gun cleaning products.


Here’s my match in the order the stages were shot:

Day 1 Morning Stages

One thing I noticed on Stage 2 was most of my squad hit the moving no-shoot at the back when it leveled out on the track.  I think the change in direction resulted in people pulling the shots as they were leading expecting it to keep going in the first direction.

Day 1 Afternoon Stages

On Stage 3 I wish I had shot the steel first then the hangman.  Watching other shooters this made sense in retrospect; get settled in on the big targets.  Get solid behind the rifle and on the optic then shoot the small pipe.  Interesting challenge nonetheless.

On Stage 4 I shot conservatively because I saw others struggle on the timing.  This was definitely a stage where the more you saw it shot, it was easier to understand the timing of all the activators.

Stage 6 ended up getting thrown out because it took too long to reset during the regular match.  By the end of day two a full squad was backed up.


Loose gear? Stuck casing? Debris in your fire control? Luckily I had my Honor Point JACS with all my Trooper Division equipment to support the squad with gun maintenance and fixes.

Day 2 Stages

Day 2 started out very windy with with wind speeds of 15-30mph.

Stage 7 was my worst stage of the match.  I couldn’t tell where I needed to hold with the white backers  behind the targets.  I’m not sure it would have mattered anyway with thw winds being so inconsistent anyway.  I saw a lot of people struggle on this stage for similar reasons.  Others lucked out and had no wind to deal with.  That’s simply how it goes sometimes shooting in field conditions and the elements are unavoidable.

The rest of the stages went fairly smoothly for me.  The only malfunction at the match for me was with the VEPR-12 after switching to slugs there was one failure to eject.


I use the “load 8 system”: 8 round VEPR-12 magazines in chest rig when the 25 rounds on the shotgun at start aren’t enough.


Many of the  names here may be recognizable.  The top of the charts here is a who’s who of competitive shooting.  SMM3G has the highest concentration of exceptional shooters out of any match I attend.


The last time I shot open division at SMM3G in 2010 I was 24th out of 59 shooters. I shot Limited division at the match the past few years.  This year I ended up 28th out of 82 shooters in open. And that’s with all the inherent difficulties of shooting the staff match. My goal was to break into the top 30 so I am content with that. Maybe next year I can break into the top 20.  Being 35.106% slower than Jerry Miculek is doing pretty decent as far as I’m concerned.

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Interviews at Superstition Mountain Mystery 3 Gun 2015

I did some interviews at SMM3G last week with other competitors.

3 Gun History

Eric and Kurt Miller have been shooting 3 Gun for 20 years, including the original SOF matches that started it all. In this interview we discuss how the sport has evolved over time. Unfortunately I was too young at the time to have competed in SOF 3 Gun, and I feel like I missed out.

I do wonder how popular a match where all the stages were semi-surprise format would be today? The few events I have been to that have had blind stages I scored disproportionately higher on those stages than I did on others at the same match. I agree with them that the surprise stage format really levels the playing field.

Shotgun Reloading

We can argue about the real world practicality of shotguns and these techniques, but for the purposes of the game it is a large part of it and necessary to be competitive in most divisions.

Kurt Miller is one of the elder statesmen of 3-Gun. In this video we discuss how 3-Gun reloading techniques have evolved and why he reloads the way he does.

Jay Carillo is relatively new to the 3 Gun world, but he has a passion for it and has moved up the ranks fairly quickly. He explains how he loads 4 shells at a time in this interview:

Notice they both agree that the load 2 or load 4 system is easier for novices to master in less time. Either way if you’re using a tube fed it would make sense to have both the shell caddies and load 2 or 4 systems available depending on the match. At a match like SMM3G there are few liabilities for the newer systems. At a match like Hard as Hell crawling through tunnels, well the floor of the tunnel was littered with broken shell carriers.

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February-March 2015 Local Matches

Rio Salado Sportsmans Club Multigun Match 2-14-2015

First match using the KE Arms Rifle and Nightforce 1-4x Optic
3rd/22 Open. 9th/87overall

Rifle:KE15 16″ Barrel
KE Arms Match Trigger
KE Arms Delta-S Handguard
Suarez International Kompressor
Voodoo Innovation Competition Lightweight Bolt Carrier Group

VEPR-12 with Vortex SPARC II
(It needs a deep cleaning and scrubbing of the gas ports)

2 Gun Action Challenge Match 3-21-2015

5th/63 Shooters Over All

Same KE15 rifle as above and my Suarez International Glock 17 with RMR.

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New RECOIL Web Articles

I have a few more articles up on RECOIL Web

Drop in Carbine Handguard Alternatives

Shotguns at SHOT Show 2015

Viral Video: Unplanned Targets

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Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 1-6x JM

As I discussed in my 3 Gun Division Break Down: Tac-Scope article 3 Gun or Multi-Gun Competition has been fueling the quest for do everything optics.  Tac-Scope equipment division rules and 3 Gun stage design reward having a single optic that can handle as wide a range of shooting problems as possible.  The Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 1-6x JM (hereafter Razor HD) is as close to a true do everything optic that I have had the opportunity to use. The Razor HD is made in Japan, but the quality of this optic is as good as any American or European glass I have used.  It has a 30mm tube and the optical clarity and light gathering is excellent.  The photos below really don’t do it justice compared to viewing through it yourself.


IMG_6506The Razor HD is heavy at 25.2oz.  For this much functionality, the weight is a necessity.  I used an Aero Precision lightweight scope mount to add as little extra weight as possible.  You will need an extended or potentially extra long extended scope mount to help mount the Razor HD properly with it’s long eye relief.  It is important to note that the eye relief does get shorter the higher the magnification setting.  Make sure the scope is mounted to work well on the highest magnification.  The Aero Precision mount was easy to install and solid. IMG_6511 Caps off showing exposed turrets. IMG_6514 The windage and elevation adjustments are 1/2 MOA per click. IMG_6754 Switching from 1 to 6 power is a very long movement requiring 180 degree rotation.  I added a The Shooters Source Universal Scope lever to help turning the magnification up and down.  It has a long plastic strap that has threads molded into it.  It is tightened by twisting the knob and the extra length is cut off.IMG_6751 The brightness adjustment knob is pulled out into the unlocked position to turn it on or off.  Every other position is off, making it easy to turn on to your preferred setting from off with one click.   For daylight visibility I used setting 10 or 11 most of the time in the Arizona Desert.  The battery cap is easily opened with a coin and houses a single CR2032.

Looking through the Razor HD Gen 2

The JM Reticle was designed in conjunction with renowned competitor Jerry Miculek to give action shooters fast and functional aiming.

sub_rzr-g2_s_1-6x24_jm-1_moa JM


Magnification on 1X


Magnification on 1.5X


Magnification on 2X


Magnification on 3X


Magnification on 4X


Magnification on 5X


Magnification on 6X.  Plates are 14″x16″ at 300 yards.

Using the Razor HD


The Razor HD was very easy and fun to use over all.  The long eye relief, true 1X setting, and active day light illumination make the Razor HD almost as good as using a red dot at close range.  The reason I say almost as good is there still is a window the shooters eye must be behind.  However even from awkward positions like shooting underneath a car off both shoulders it was not noticeably slower for me than using a red dot.  The BDC worked well out to 400 where I was able to use it a few times.  The only time I was able to shoot to 600 was at the end of a stage at Hard as Hell 3 Gun after running through a trench and up a hill from a semi-supported position, so I would not consider that a good test of how well the BDC actually works vs my ability under stress.  Watch the highlights video below to get an idea of how well the Razor HD works in solving different shooting problems:

If you’re looking for a do everything optic the Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 1-6x JM should be at the top of the list.  I have never had a single optic that worked as well under so many different conditions.

Photos by Whiskey Two Four Studios

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OPEN DIVISION: 3 Gun Divisions Break Down

Open Division is the almost anything goes division. When people use the term “race guns” they are often referring to Open Division equipment. There is a common misconception that buying expensive equipment is a substitute for skill.  Without the requisite skill level more advanced equipment can actually be a liability.  Open is a very competitive division, albeit usually smaller than Tac-Scope.  You must put the time in practice to do well in Open.

There’s also a misconception that Open Division guns aren’t “practical”. The truth is if you look at the features of current generation service weapons many would fall into Open Division if used competitively.  Many of the same concepts like dual optics on rifles, red dots on shotguns, and most recently now red dots on pistols are carrying over.

Again I will be referencing Superstition Mountain Mystery 3 Gun Rules as they generally set the standard for other major multigun matches. The current version of the rules apply the principle of if its not prohibited, it is legal.  Firearms must still comply with minimum caliber requirements and ammunition restrictions discussed in the Limited Division Article. In short .223 is minimum rifle caliber, 9mm minimum handgun caliber, 20 gauge minimum shotgun caliber. Generally no armor piercing or magnetic projectiles are allowed, this includes steel shot and bi-metal jacket projectiles.

Handgun Handgun holsters must safely retain the handgun during vigorous movement, and must completely cover the trigger. The belt upon which the handgun holster is attached must be worn at waist level. Shoulder holsters and cross draw holsters are prohibited.

Optics, compensators,  porting, and other modifications are all allowed.  Using a red dot on a pistol takes more practice and training than using iron sights.  Once mastered it offers some distinct advantages in speed and accuracy.


Travis Gibson’s Cameron’s Custom 2011. An example of a typical Open Pistol. Note C-More sideways to get lower to the bore. The optics and comps on Open Pistols often require specialized holsters.


Kelly Neal with Open Pistol equipped with Leupold Delta Point


Craig Outzen’s Open 2011 holstered with optic cover on to keep it clean between stages.


My Suarez International Glock 17 with Trijicon RMR and Viridian X5L Light/Laser and 33 Round Magazine. Take the mag out and replace with standard length and it could be used as a duty or carry gun in traditional holster. Any one of these features can make it an Open pistol. Weapon lights may or may not be allowed in Tac-Scope or Limited. Lasers count as an optical sight as does the RMR. Magazine length may not exceed 170mm.

Magazines can be 30mm longer than in Tac-Scope or Limited. Glock 33 rounders are over this length limit.  Some matches have no capacity restriction so open is truly open.  I typically just use my Limited length mags when competing in open with mag length restrictions because Open length mags/extensions are typically harder to find or more expensive.


More than one optic is allowed.  It is common to use a magnified optic on top and an offset red dot.  The down side to an offset red dot is most of the time they can only be used from the strong side shoulder.


Leupold sponsored shooter Kelly Neal with Open Rifle. Note variable optic on top and Delta Point mini red dot offset on handguard. Kelly tells me he uses the Delta Point to 25-50 yards depending on the stage and shoots through the scope for further distances.


Author’s Open CAV-15 MKII RIfle 2005. I had to drill and tap my free float tube to mount an OKO red dot sight offset with an ACOG on top.


Author with Open CAV-15 MKII Rifle 2009. Note Aimpoint Micro on Daniel Defense offset mount. There are now a number of purpose built options for mounting offset red dot sights.

Stacked Optics are another option for dual optics.  The down side is more bore offset and two different cheek welds.  The up side is it can be used off either shoulder.  I’m in the minority preferring stacked optics.  As a lefty I have to switch shoulders too often on stages designed for right handed shooters to use offset red dots all the time.  With a 50 yard zero the bore offset issue is minimized.


Leupold HAMR with Aimpoint Micro in Hahn Precision Mount


Eye on the red dot


Eye on the HAMR.  Rifle is a GWACS Armory CAV-15 MKII with 16″ Lightweight Barrel. Supporting devices (e.g. bipods) are permitted, and may start any stage folded or deployed at the participant’s discretion.

SMM3G Rules allow the removal or installation of the bipod at the shooter’s discretion.  Confirm that this is allowed at the match you are attending as this rule can differ.


Bipods aren’t useful as often anymore, but they’re a good thing to have in Open if you do find somewhere to use them. Mine is on a QD mount so I can pull it off when I don’t need it. A swivel pod is a must for use on uneven terrain.

Muzzle Devices

Compensators and Brakes larger than 1″x3″ are also allowed.  Most people in Open still use  comps/breaks that would be legal in Tac-Scope or Limited.


JP Enterprises Tank Brake-Open Division only.


JP Cooley Brake-Limited and Tac Scope Legal.  Also legal in Open if you want to use one.


Shotgun is perhaps the most radical departure in equipment from the other divisions.  Higher capacities and faster mechanical reloading methods set Open Division shotguns apart.  There is no limit on shotgun capacity in Open.


Travis Gibson with an Open Remington Versamax. Note extra long mag tube and optic. Speed loading devices and/or detachable box magazines are permitted.


Wyatt Gibson with Roth Concept Innovations “RCI-XRAIL” equipped Benelli. The XRAIL is an automatically rotating tube assembly. When one tube empties the next alligns to keep feeding. These can hold over 24 shells. X-Rail users often don’t feel the need to use speed loaders since they start with so many shells in the gun.  Photo by Pat Kelley

Magazine fed shotguns are often seen as a short cut to fast loading.  While this can be true, they still require practice and a more educated user because they have idiosyncrasies that tube feds do not.  The most common mistake I see new shooters make is buying a mag fed shotgun not understanding they are only allowed in open.  If you have a mag fed shotgun and no other open equipment, I would generally recommend getting a tube fed and shooting in Limited or Tac-Scope.  Or simply accept that you will be at a disadvantage and shoot for fun.


Saiga-12 in use by author 2012. With the sunset of the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, the door was openned for magazine fed shotguns. They have become increasingly popular in recent years. A number of specialized companies make products for the Saiga-12 and the AKDAL MK1919 to turn them into competition shotguns.


Saiga-12 with 20 round MD Arms Drum 2009. When drums run they are great, but I found them to be too unreliable. Most mag fed shooters prefer straight insert mag wells for faster reloading than the traditional Saiga-12 rock-n-lock. Mag wells preclude the use of drums.


The VEPR-12 is probably the most cost effective shotgun to buy for open division. It comes with most of the features people were spending hundreds to add to Saiga-12s including: straight insert magazines and last round bolt hold open. The downside is there are fewer magazines available for them, and SGM magazines are likely to require end user repairs to work.


Johnny Lim of Limcat with his custom AKDAL MK1919. Note large capacity magazine fabricated by attaching multiple mags together. Photo by Sterling White.


Craig Outzen with his Firebird Precision Custom AKDAL MK1919


Craig Outzen with Firebird Precision custom AKDAL MK1919. Note mag pouch on his leg. Tubular speed loading devices must feature a primer relief cut.

Old Tech-loaders without the primer relief cut caused a few catostrophic failure of chain firing all the shells in a mag tube as the one at the rear discharged setting one off after another.  It has likely been almost 20 years since this design safety change has been made.


Jojo with his Open Benelli  set up to accept Tech-Loaders. Note the large speed ramp to help align the loaders, and quiver of loaders on his leg. Photo by Sterling White.

Red dots are a big advantage on Open shotguns for making slug hits at range.  Personally I find they help shoot close range target arrays faster as well.  With both eyes open using a red dot on a shotgun is like using an aimbot cheat code in first person shooter games.


Flying clays are not a problem to hit with both eyes open using a red dot.


Open Division is best for experienced competitors intimately familiar with their equipment.  If you only have a few of the open features it’s best to decide to either go all the way or down grade to another division.  Open is a very fun division to compete in at high round count matches like Ironman or Hard as Hell.  Less reloading and mechanical shotgun loading advantages make those kind of stages significantly faster.

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