The TSAR (Tritium Search and Rescue) watch was designed and manufactured for diving or SAR (Search and Rescue) use by the Marathon Watch Company (a Canadian company). It is the latest version of the Canadian SAR watch and was manufactured under contract to the Canadian and U.S. governments (NSN: 6645-21-558-0133Q) for issue to SAR personnel. It’s in use by NASA divers (NSN: 6645-20-001-9382). Marathon has been around since 1939 supplies government, commercial and military clients worldwide and is currently the only contracted manufacturer of gaseous tritium watches to the U.S. government. Their manufacturing plant is in Switzerland, where the TSAR is made. The TSAR, and other government-issue watches is available through County Comm. It is made in limited quantities and each watch is serial numbered.
The Maratac ACQ (Analog Quartz Compass) watch offered by CountyComm is made by Timex (essentially the same model as the Timex Expedition E-compass model), specially for Maratac (who make the Zulu watchbands shown above). A miniaturized digital sensor detects the earth’s magnetic field and also allows the user to adjust for local declination. The ACQ comes in a black watch ‘taco’ case, and is supplied with a black Zulu two-ring watchband. The watchband bars are solid and non-removable, and designed to be used with the Zulu bands.
The ACQ case is made from 316L stainless with a satin finish and is water-resistant to 100m. However, it’s not water-PROOF, and is not meant as a dive watch, so buttons should not be pressed when it’s submerged. The white face has large, easy to read markings, with one-second tics around the dial. It’s powered by a ‘proprietary four hand movement’, referring to the hour, minute and second hands, plus the skeletonized compass needle/hand. A small date window is located at 4:30 on the face. The two buttons above and below the crown are for activation and adjustment of the compass. The crown does not unscrew, but is pulled straight out for time, date and compass adjustments. Depressing the crown activates the Indiglo light for reading the face in the dark.
The bezel turns smoothly in both directions. North is marked by a luminous triangular insert at the top, and the other directions are marked in large letters. The bezel has ‘notches’ around its perimeter spaced every 10°. Using the notches, compass reading accuracy is about +/- 5°. Fine graduations at the top are for declination angle setting.
TacTikka XP – This is the military version of the popular Tikka XP that was introduced in ’05. The compact yet powerful TacTikka XP shares all the features of the civilian version. It uses a single 1 watt LED light powered by three AAA batteries. The LED has four light levels – economic (lowest), optimum, maximum and “boost” (which almost doubles the maximum setting for momentary use).
There is also a “blink” mode, where the LED flashes on and off for signalling. The light is turned on and off by depressing a rubber button (the left one). Pressing it once and leaving it turns it on at the maximum setting. Pressing it again immediately after first turning it on toggles it through the optimum, economic and flashing modes.
The button on the right with the lightning symbol is the “boost” button and when pressed, the LED gives off a very bright light as long as you hold down the button (an automatic power limiter drops down to maximum after 20 seconds to prevent overheating of the LED). On the side of the body is a small window which lights up and flashes 5 seconds after the light is turned on. This is the battery life indicator. It blinks green when the batteries are fresh, and orange when about 30% of the life remains, then red when they need to be replaced.
Eotech’s 553 (military version) takes CR123 batteries which are now commonplace, for an advertised battery life of 1100 hours at nominal setting. The two CR123 batteries are housed in a battery compartment that is tethered to prevent loss. Finish is flat dark earth, a USSOCOM colour (in which the Vltor and Tangodown furniture below are available in as well).
A great improvement over the single screw mount of the previous versions are the A.R.M.S. throw levers. I don’t find them to be obtrusive in any way, on the left side. The 553 is also about .25″ higher than the 551. I found that the 551 sits a bit low on a flattop, and adding a .25″ riser gives the best cheek weld. The 553 addresses that issue, and puts the window/reticle at the right height now. It also co-witnesses the irons in the bottom 1/3 of the window instead of centering it vertically, also an improvement.
PREVIEW – Vltor Weapons Systems debuted their VIS (Versatile Interface Structure) upper receiver/rail system at the 2006 SHOT Show. It’s a one-piece (monolithic) upper receiver/rail system, initially manufactured in two separate pieces, then joined together by the salt dip brazing process.
Brazing is the process of joining two pieces of metal with a solder or filler metal with a high melting point, just below the melting temperature of the base metal. Simplisticly, the salt dip process involves immersing the pre-heated pieces in a molten salt/brazing flux bath, which heats up the part quickly and uniformly. The melted filler metal flows between the joints through capillary action, and when removed and cooled, results in an extremely strong and high-quality joint. One of the advantages of salt-dip brazing is that it enables designs which might not be possible through a conventional machining process. It is this process that enables the VIS to have a outside-threaded receiver-barrel interface that will take a standard barrel.
Note that the following applies to the pre-production prototype pictured here – the production VIS will have minor changes, and I’ll update this when it’s available.
The VIS is designed as a monolithic upper which takes any standard M4/AR-15 barrel. The only thing that needs to be changed is the barrel nut, which requires removal of the front sight base (a normally simple matter). The VIS comes with a proprietary barrel nut wrench. It’s not meant to be a quick-change barrel system like the MRP, but it’s possible to switch barrel assemblies relatively easily, if both have the barrel nuts already installed. No removal of the standard gas tube is needed.
The EOD Utility bag from County Comm is nifty little bag that can serve quite a few different roles. Inspired by the military claymore bag, it was designed to be small enough to fit under truck seats but modular so more capacity could be added to the outside.
Out – Overall dimensions are approximately 12″ x 8″ x 5″. The material used is a khaki nylon (only this colour is currently offered) laminated with a waterproof material on the inside. A 2″ wide web handle is sewn on top. On the front of the bag are 4 rows x 12 columns of PALS webbing. On the rear of the bag are 4 MOLLE-compatible straps that allow the bag to be attached to any PALS webbing.
At first glance, the spacing of the straps looked a bit strange, because the columns alternate between 2″ and 1″ wide, instead of 1.5″, but the straps match up perfectly with evenly-space PALS webbing. note, however, that it take 7 columns of PALS, so if the item you’re attaching it to has even columns of PALS (bartack in the middle), it’ll be offset a column from the center. If you’ve got odd columns (column in the middle), it’ll be centered. An mystery is the use of small Scovil snaps on the straps instead of the larger, standard size. Makes no difference in function that I can see, though. On the bottom of the bag are 6 rows x 2 columns of PALS for attachment of MOLLE compatible items.
Tangodown is now offering Foliage Green furniture that matches the Foliage Green plastic hardware spec’d for the Army ACU/Universal Camo. It’s pretty close to the green they offer, but more on the grey side. I’ve shown both in the photo on the right for comparison.
The Mercharness from Mercop is an alternative way of carrying small or large fixed blades concealed on one’s person. It’ll work with any sheath that has eyelets. It consists of a length of OD, black or khaki 550 cord and five short lengths of rubber tubing. The inner diameter of the tubing is tight enough to enable to tubing to be used for securing the ends of the 550 cord without slipping, yet allow andjustments.
One of the tubes creates the X in the middle of the back, while the other four secure the loose ends. The loose ends are threaded through eyelets in your knife sheath, then back through the tubes. A small wire loop is supplied to aid in getting the end of the cord through the tubing. The wire loop is first inserted through a tube, then used to pull the end of the 550 cord through. Assembly took only a couple of minutes. The harness is adjusted by sliding the tubes back and forth, changing the length of the loose ends. The knife can be positioned high up under the armpit, or lower down. It can also be positioned slightly forward or to the rear depending on how you adjust the harness.