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Your Gun, Your Way - No Suprises

Your Gun, Your Way - No Surprises

Brownells Is Now Selling Firearms

By David Merrill

Guns Your Way

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched online for the best price on a part or accessory I needed, only to find after the checkout process started that shipping and handling would significantly increase the price of whatever I was buying. Spending all that time, only to have a much higher total price leaves you feeling like someone lied to you. Now, add that up across multiple vendors, and your carefully estimated total price for a given build has ballooned beyond reason. With buying guns online, it can be just as bad, and sometimes worse. Having the actual, honest price right in front you is what I want more than anything else.

(Almost ) Free Is Good

Brownells is now selling firearms - and lots of ’em. Just go to their home page and click on the “Firearms” tab, or go straight to Brownells.com/Guns. It’s well worth a visit. They have more than 30 brands and 3,500 individual firearm models. What’s more, shipping is FREE on any order that includes a firearm. This means you can get everything, all in one place. And I am really talking about everything. The firearm of your choice, plus sights, lights, magazines, ammunition, carrying cases, holsters - all of it. All shipped free. I should note that each order containing firearms does require a $10 FFL processing fee, but it's per order, not per firearm. If you order one pistol or 17, it's a single $10 FFL processing fee. And you get to choose the FFL dealer you want your guns shipped to.

A Handgun That Fits Your Hand

Let’s go through what this might look like, starting with a handgun. Overall, I’ve been very impressed with most of the new and modern so-called “plastic fantastic” pistols. It seems even the lower-end models are far better thought out than the medium- or even high-priced pistols of yesteryear. And certainly we have many, many to choose from in today’s market. There’s probably never been a better time to buy a handgun in terms of price, quality, and availability. This isn’t to say that they’re all equal, but you’ve got a lot of good options.

The Heckler & Koch VP9 was released in 2014, so it’s a relatively new contender in this market, and it sports a lot of the features people look for when searching for a new handgun. Ambidextrous controls are standard, and there’s customization available right out of the box. The VP9 ships with three different sets of side grip panels and three different backstraps, giving you a lot of flexibility for individual fit. A bonus is a set of charging supports on the rear of the slide to aid the shooter in racking the slide.

Regardless of what sights a pistol ships with, someone will always want something different. I have a heavy preference for Trijicon HD sights, but just about anything you want is available, from fiber optic to plain black and everything in between. As far as swapping sights out goes, you can have a gunsmith perform this service, obtain a specialized tool from Brownells, or use a padded vise combined with a brass punch and a steady, practiced hand. I went with the latter, and the entire process took approximately 15 minutes, including the time spent searching on my shop floor for a fallen front sight.

Even if you believe a pistol to be perfect out of the box (I haven’t found one yet), there are still other items that need to be obtained. A holster and a decent belt to mount it on are both requirements if the pistol is going to ever be carried outside of a range bag. For defensive use, I’m a big believer in the appropriate use of a weapon-mounted light; you have to clearly identify the threat and what’s beyond before applying deadly force. The Surefire X300U is bright, has intuitive controls, and mounts perfectly on the VP9’s rail. Exactly as one would expect.

Of course, you have to have more magazines, and Brownells has those too. Not only that, but also magazine extensions. One of the complaints I’ve heard about the VP9 is the factory mag’s capacity of only 15 rounds, as opposed to 17 or 18. Taylor Freelance has +5 extensions that are simple to install, and are optimized to be legal for USPSA’s Limited division if you’re a competitive shooter. 20+1 rounds of 9mm is nothing to turn your nose up at, to be sure.

Get Some Peace of Mind , Too

There’s a more than decent chance that you have a big, heavy, and secure gun safe in your home. Your nightstand or automobile might be a different story, however. Even with a CCW, there are some places where you can’t legally pack a pistol, so during these times it stays in your car. A handgun stored in a glovebox or stowed under a driver’s seat makes for fairly easy pickings if someone breaks into your vehicle.

Gun Accessories
1 Heckler & Koch:
VP9 Pistol - 9mm/4" Barrel
100-402-516
2 Surefire:
X300U Ultra Weapon Light
152-000-156
3 Taylor Freelance:
H&K VP9 +5 Base Pad
100-018-188
4 Magpul:
Tejas "El Burro" Gun Belt
100-019-984
5 Blade-Tech:
Kydex® Belt Holster w/Tek-Lok™
098-000-354
6 Hornady:
RAPiD® Safe 2700
100-018-640

The Hornady RAPiD® safe is an electronic lock box that can be opened with assorted RFID tags (four of them ship with it) or circular barrel keys as a backup. It can be attached with the included security cable to prevent someone from walking off with it. While it’s not perfect, it should stop your pistol from disappearing during a quick smash-and-grab. If you have little ones in the house, keeping this on your nightstand isn’t the worst idea in the world either. While it’s not a full-on gun safe, it’s a heck of a lot better than relying on luck and a prayer to keep your handgun secure when you’re not physically present.

CMMG Options

More Firepower , More Customization

Of course, all of the same can be done for rifles, and usually with infinitely more options. Sub-caliber carbines have come back in a big way in recent years. Let’s follow this theme and look at the CMMG Mk9. It’s an 8.5"-barreled 9mm AR pistol, so it will share ammunition with the VP9. As it’s sold, it ships with one 32-round ASC magazine and without any form of sighting system. That is to say: no irons and no optics.

Because the CMMG Mk9 is AR-based, your sighting options are nearly endless. Magpul MBUS Pro sights are durable and maintain a low profile, while still being obtainable.

Red dot sights do offer some significant advantages over traditional iron sights though. They’re easier to use in low light, when there’s movement involved, shooting with both eyes open, and shooting from unconventional positions. The Trijicon MRO has a great field of view with its 25mm objective window and a crisp dot until you really start pushing up the illumination levels.

Just as with the VP9, you’re going to need a white light for target identification if you’ll possibly be using your AR pistol for defensive purposes. The latest models of the Insight WMLx are brighter than ever at 800 lumens and reportedly even more durable than earlier models. When mounted on the top rail of the CMMG Mk9, the controls are completely ambidextrous, so it doesn’t matter which hand you happen to be shooting with.

Take Stock & Get Support

With the irons, red dot, and weaponmounted light installed, you’re at your functional baseline. Of course, I want to do more. Since the Mk9 is technically a pistol, you can’t have a proper buttstock installed, unless you first go through the process to legally “manufacture” a short barreled rifle. This isn’t as complicated or arduous as you might think, but it can take a considerable amount of time for the ATF paperwork to be approved. Furthermore, in many states, a loaded handgun can legally be stored inside the passenger compartment of an automobile, but the same cannot be said of a loaded rifle. Due to interpretation of the law by the ATF, you also cannot legally fire any of the brace-type attachments from the shoulder.

CMMG Pistol Platform Chart of parts
1 CMMG:
Mk9 AR-15 Pistol - 9mm/8.5" Barrel
100-022-953
4 Insight:
WMLx Weapon Light
100-015-378
2 Magpul:
MBUS Pro Backup Sight Set
100-012-617
5 Thordsen Customs:
AR-15 Enhanced Pistol Cheek Rest
100-020-613
3 Trijicon:
MRO Red Dot Sight
892-000-167
6 Brownells:
32-Rd 9mm AR-15 Magazines - 3-Pak
078-000-198

All is not lost, however. You can still put your cheek on the buffer tube. While this isn’t perfect, it’s certainly better than having no support at all. The Thordsen Customs Enhanced Pistol Cheek Rest provides even more purchase, allowing for more stable shots and more comfort on your cheek while taking them. As a bonus, the Thordsen also has onboard storage for batteries and other small parts. You should be aware that in order to remove the existing tube from the gun, you may have to apply some heat to break up any thread locker.

Even though the CMMG Mk9 is legally a pistol, it’s far larger than your typical handgun. To keep the size small for storage, I added a LAW Tactical Gen 3-M stock folder.

I’d like to tell you the installation of the LAW folder was a drop-in piece of cake, but it was not. Because the Mk9 is a straight blowback operated gun, it has an extraheavy, extra-long bolt/carrier group. This gets in the way of the LAW’s operation. I made mods to the BCG to get the folder to work, and if you’re an experienced AR-15 mechanic, it’s not hard to do. If you are not, here’s my advice: pass on the folder for now and get some experience working on ARs before you tackle it.

As mentioned the CMMG Mk9 ships with just one 32-round magazine. That’s a lot of rounds on tap, but there are no spares for reloads. Since the Mk9 uses Colt-style magazines, you can use the Brownells housebrand 9mm Colt-pattern magazines. A three pack of these Brownells magazines (who ever buys only on spare mag?) plus the included factory mag makes for 128 rounds of 9mm goodness at the ready. Excellent.

The Check Please – Just What You Ordered

We’ve purchased, personalized, and outfitted two different firearms from zero-to-ready with a single order. Sights, lights, optics, magazines, ammo, and enhancements for just the actual sticker price that you see on Brownells.com and no additional shipping costs. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that.