|Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 4 (Fall '08) - Other Products Review: TICK Add-On Tactical Rail|
TICK Add-On Tactical Rail
Reviewed by Harwood Loomis ()
(This review has been updated. If you want to read only the update, please click here.)
With an increasing interest in “tactical” use of handguns by non-military and non-police individuals, especially for personal and home defense, awareness has grown of the value of being able to see the target during nighttime encounters. A great many modern semi-automatic pistols currently on the market and now coming to the market routinely include tactical rails for the attachment of either a weapon light or a laser aiming device. However, the M1911 pistol was designed nearly a century before the invention of such devices, and the basic design makes no provision for attaching such tactical accessories.
A few manufacturers of 1911 pistols offer some models with integral tactical rails. Springfield Armory, Para-Ordnance, and Wilson Combat are examples. Caspian Arms, the well-known supplier of 1911 receivers to custom gunsmiths, offers a receiver they call the Recon Rail model, which incorporates a tactical rail. In all of the above pistols, the rail is made an integral part of the recoil spring tunnel area of the frame, forward of the trigger guard and beneath the slide.
In an effort to accommodate existing 1911 pistols that do not have an integral rail, the firearms accessory industry has also developed various add-on rails that can be installed onto existing pistols. Typically, these add-on rails require either drilling the receiver for mounting screws, welding or silver soldering the rail to the receiver, or a combination of both. Such accessories, then involve not only the cost of the accessory itself, but also the cost of paying a gunsmith to perform the installation. And, once installed, the rail usually cannot be removed; if it is removed, the frame of the pistol will have been irreversibly modified.
What about owners of 1911 pistols who don’t wish to spend a lot of money, don’t want to have to send their pistol to a gunsmith for however long it will require to perform the installation, and especially who may want to have the ability to remove the rail in the future without leaving the pistol permanently altered? Isn’t there something to fill this gap in the marketplace?
The TICK Rail
Yes, there is. Enter TRG—Tactical and Rescue Gear, of Plano, Texas. TRG is a company founded by LTG (Ret.) Jack Woodmansee (USAR), his son, CWO John “Woody” Woodmansee III (USAR), and Donald W. Wooten. The invention of many of this company’s innovative products springs from the creative mind of Vice-President Woody Woodmansee. The TICK weapon light rail is no exception. With decades of military service behind them, it should be no surprise that the Woodmansees interests gravitate toward gear that can make missions easier (or simply more possible) for soldiers in combat. The original version of the TICK Rail was developed for the M9 Beretta, for the simple reason that the M9 is the handgun issued to virtually all U.S. Army and other U.S. military personnel who are authorized to carry a handgun. And the Beretta M9, like the M1911, does not have an accessory rail. TRG saw the need, and developed a lightweight, easily attached, snap-on Weaver/Picatinny accessory rail that can be installed on a pistol in seconds, and subsequently removed without leaving any permanent modifications to the firearm.
The TICK Rail for the Beretta was introduced in 2004. As information about it became more widespread, TRG received requests to develop versions for other popular “tactical” handguns. Models of the TICK Rail were added for the 1911 in late 2004 and for the SIG P226 in 2006.
What It Is
The TICK Rail is deceptively simple. The mount itself is made of a black plastic and is formed with extremely clean lines and sharp corners. It is designed to snap around the front dustcover portion of the pistol’s receiver. The right side of the mount is longer than the left side, and has a hole drilled to correspond to the location of the slide stop pin. The package includes a special slide stop that is slightly longer than a standard 1911 slide stop, and has the end of the pin finished in a flat rather than rounded. All that’s required to install the TICK Rail is to remove the standard slide stop, snap the rail in place, and install the matching slide stop.
Not all 1911s are dimensionally identical, and to be able to use a weapon light effectively and with confidence, the mount needs to be stable. TRG addressed this by providing a slight degree of rotational clearance where the rear portion of the rail interfaces with the front of the trigger guard. A small nylon set screw is located in this extension. With the rail installed on the receiver, the set screw is tightened until there is no rotational play. The installation is complete.
Woody Woodmansee sent M1911.ORG a sample of the TICK Rail with an invitation to mount it up and try it. After giving some thought to what pistol might provide a representative platform, since I don’t have an M1911 or M1911A1 to use I dug out an Argentinean Sistema M1927. The Sistemas were manufactured in Argentina under license from Colt and are widely regarded not only as fine pistols, but also as being dimensionally interchangeable with Colt M1911A1 pistols. The TICK Rail slipped right onto our test M1927, and required just a couple of turns of the set screw to snug things up. Once installed … it stayed. We removed and reinstalled the rail several times over the course of a couple of weeks, and never had to adjust the set screw again after the initial installation. We found that the mount came off easily, and reinstalled with no fuss or bother, and no slop or looseness when it was reinstalled.
The TICK Rail In Action
Having verified that the rail was easy to install, we then moved on to putting it to use for the purpose intended. For our testing, we used an industry-standard Insight M3 weapon light. The M3 slipped right onto the TICK Rail and locked solidly in place. The twin tabs on the rotary switch came to rest just ahead of the trigger guard, easily accessible to the trigger finger or the index finger of the support hand, yet far enough forward that the tabs do not overlap or obstruct the trigger opening.
With the M3 in place on the TICK Rail, the switch functioned normally, with no interference from the rail mount. We were, in all honesty, surprised to find that even with the slide stop pin securing the rail only on one side of the frame, the mount was more than sturdy enough to support the weight of the Insight M3 weapon light. We took the pistol, with the rail and the weapon light installed, to the range to see what would happen after actually shooting with the appendage in place. And the result was …
… nothing happened. The pistol shot normally, the light didn’t fall off the rail, and the rail didn’t fall off the pistol. We took a full 100-round box of standard-power 230-grain FMJ ammunition to the range, and we ran through nearly the entire box before the range closed down for the night and brought our shooting to a halt. At the end of nearly 100 rounds, the TICK Rail was still in place and felt just as solid as it did when we first installed it.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by how well the TICK Rail performed, and lived up to its promises. It is, as commented above, deceptively simple. It simply doesn’t appear that something so lightweight and so simple could actually work, and work well. But … it does. There’s no arguing with success.
We did, however, encounter an annoying issue: Holsters. If the TICK Rail is intended for use on duty weapons, there has to be a way to carry it. Therein lies the rub. TRG’s web site offers the TICK Rail for three different pistols: The Beretta M9, the 1911, and the SIG P226. Whether by accident or by intention, the descriptions accompanying the three different models mention fitting in holsters only for the SIG. The page for the 1911 version shows a photo of a pistol in a nylon holster … but the pistol in the photo isn’t a 1911.
What we found was that the Sistema with the TICK Rail installed could be persuaded to fit fairly well in a generic, padded nylon belt holster. However, we had to extend the security strap approximately half an inch before we could snap the strap to secure the pistol in the holster.
Moving on to a nylon, thigh-mounted tactical holster, we found that the pistol wouldn’t fit at all with the TICK Rail installed. We were able to shove the pistol far enough into the holster to cover the trigger, barely, but it took a bit of work. And the security strap was simply too short to fasten with the rail on the pistol. The photograph shows the gap to be made up with the strap adjusted to its maximum length. Not having anticipated this issue, we had only one tactical holster available. It is entirely possible that similar holsters of other brands may have longer straps and not present any problem. If not, nylon webbing is readily available and it would not be a major undertaking to replace the strap or to splice in an extension. But … the railed pistol didn’t fit the holster “out of the box.”
We also have two tightly-molded holsters for 1911s with integral rails, both from Kramer Leather. With the TICK Rail installed, the Sistema would not fit into either of those holsters. The TICK Rail extends slightly farther down from the underside of the frame and slightly farther forward than an integral rail that’s part of the receiver, and the difference is enough to prevent the TICK Rail-equipped pistol from fitting into the molded holster. It appears, therefore, that when using the TICK Rail on a 1911 pistol the choice of holster must be made carefully, and the range of choices will be significantly narrower than for 1911s without rails, and even narrower than the range of holsters available for 1911s with the rail as an integral part of the receiver.
The following photographs show our test pistol with the TICK Rail attached in juxtaposition to a 1911 built on a standard Caspian Arms Recon Rail receiver. The photographs show that the TICK Rail extends farther below the normal line of the frame dust cover, and also slightly farther forward than a rail that’s built into the pistol.
Further complicating the task of fitting a TICK-equipped pistol into a holster, the add-on rail of necessity adds thickness to the forward portion of the receiver. In fact, the added thickness makes the area where the rail is attached slightly wider (thicker) than the slide. The slide on our Sistema test pistol measured 0.914” wide. The receiver measured 0.752” wide. But the out-to-out thickness of the TICK Rail measured 0.947”, meaning that it is almost 1/10th of an inch wider than the frame on each side. With high quality leather and Kydex holsters being molded tightly to the actual shape of the pistols they are intended to carry, it should not be surprising that a TICK-equipped pistol will not fit into a molded holster made for a pistol without a rail, or made for a pistol with an integral rail.
The bottom line is: It works. The TICK Rail was designed and intended to be a field expedient way to quickly adapt a standard pistol for use with a weapon light, at low cost and without requiring sending the weapon to a gunsmith or armorer for an installation that would permanently alter the weapon. The product meets all those goals, and performs (at least for the duration of our exposure, which covers several days of actually working with the mount on a pistol, spread out over the course of a few months) beyond our expectations. When I first opened the package, I absolutely did not believe the product would work as advertised. It was too easy, too simple, and too light.
I am pleased to report that I was wrong in my initial impression. Although I certainly do not consider a standard 1911 equipped with a TICK Rail to be fully equal to a 1911 with the rail built in as an integral part of the frame, I do consider the TICK Rail to be a viable way to mount a weapon light on a standard 1911 without spending hundreds of dollars and permanently altering the pistol. Although the TICK Rail was originally designed for use by the U.S. Army, and is intended for combat duty, it is eminently well suited for those among us “civilians” who already have a 1911 or three at home for home defense, and would like a way to mount a weapon light to one (or more) of our pistols rather than having to buy another gun just to be able to put a gun with a flashlight in the bedside table drawer.
Very soon after we notified Woody at TRG that this article had been posted, we received a very courteous e-mail from him, thanking us for doing the review (not a problem, Woody, any time you need someone to play with gun stuff without having to buy it, I’m your man), and going on to mention that our finding regarding the difficulty of fitting the TICK-equipped pistol into a holster reinforced feedback they had already received from a major 1911 manufacturer to the effect that it would be a “good thing” if a pistol equipped with the TICK Rail and a Surefire would fit in a Safariland holster made to carry such a weapon. I wish we could take sole credit for being such a moving force in the industry that they redesigned the product just to resolve our problem. The redesign was already in the works, though, but the benefits showed up quickly. They don’t waste a lot of time in Plano, Texas, it seems. Woody’s e-mail was followed up almost instantly by one from Keith McKenzie at TRG, informing me that a sample of the revised TICK Rail was being sent out. It arrived today.
The new rail is visibly smaller, vertically, than the original. I used a dial caliper to measure each rail installed on a 1911, and the difference in height from top of slide to bottom of rail (to outside bottom, not in the slots) was .08”. Loosely translated, they reduced the height by nearly a tenth of an inch.
Installation is unchanged. The new rail slips onto and off a pistol just as quickly and easily as the original. Close examination showed that, in addition to raising the rail closer to the pistol frame and barrel, they also reduced the overall length by a small amount, by making the cross rail nearest the trigger a bit narrower.
As for fitting into a holster, the new design is a tremendous improvement, but it still doesn’t (and, in fairness, cannot) get the rail as tight under the barrel as one that is integral to the frame. Comparing the new TICK Rail to our reference Caspian Recon Rail 1911, the new TICK hangs down less farther than the original, but it is nonetheless farther down than the rail on the Caspian frame.
We tried putting the pistol equipped with the new TICK Rail into two Kramer Leather holsters designed for pistols with integral rails. These are new holsters that were sent to us for review (which can be found here in the e-zine very soon). We have worn them for testing, but they haven’t been worn on a daily basis for an extended period of many months or even years. They are still snug even for the Caspian pistol. The TICK-equipped pistol, though, wouldn’t go into either of them
We then took out the same tactical thigh holster we had tried with the original TICK Rail. Here, we observed a distinct improvement. The pistol went into the holster smoothly, and it felt that it went in as far as was intended (fully protecting the trigger) with no need to force the issue. Regrettably, when the retaining strap was run where it should be with a 1911—over the end of the slide with the hammer cocked—we were still unable to snap the buckle together. But the end at least reached to the female half, indicating that we had gained perhaps an inch.
However, even without modifying the retention strap, we found that the strap could be fastened if it was routed below the beavertail rather than over the end of the slide. And, it should be noted, this tactical thigh holster is a generic model, not designed specifically for the 1911 form factor and manual of arms. As we noted originally, other tactical holsters may have a slightly longer strap which would close on a TICK-equipped pistol, and the additional insertion depth into the holster resulting from the redesign has to increase the likelihood of being able to find a tactical holster that will accept a 1911 with the TICK Rail attached.
Posting an update to the original review also allows me to expand on the original article with an additional thought: Suppose you already own a 1911 for home defense, and you want to equip it with a rail and a light. Or, suppose you are one of those who prefers the Commander form factor over the Government Model form factor. Until now, there was virtually nothing available to mount a tactical light on a Commander-sized or compact 1911. Most of the gunsmith add-on rails that require bolting and/or welding won’t work on pistols smaller than the Government Model because the frame dust cover is shorter.
That’s simply not a problem with the TICK Rail. If you were paying attention, you might have noticed that in our photo showing the new and old versions nose-to-nose, the new TICK is mounted on a Commander. The reverse cut on the end of the rail sits forward of the slide scallop cut, unlike on the Government Model, where they align, but functionally—no problem. The TICK Rail slips right onto a Commander frame, and there’s plenty of dust cover length to provide a stable installation platform for the rail.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the revised design represents a significant improvement in usefulness, and does not appear to present any counter-balancing ill effects. Lest it be thought that the redesign failed to achieve its objective, allow me to clarify in closing that the objective requested by the major pistol manufacturer was to have their pistol, equipped with the TICK Rail and a Surefire tactical light, fit the Safariland holster made for carrying pistols with the light attached. Woody reported that the redesigned unit accomplishes that goal, and therefore was a success. That the same redesign doesn’t allow a pistol with the TICK rail to fit all holsters designed for pistols with integral rails is not a failure. As my Zen teacher used to say, “That’s what is. Accept what is.” The redesign will greatly expand the range of holsters that may accept a 1911 pistol equipped with the TICK Rail, and that’s still a good thing.
Finally, Woody pointed out to me in his e-mail that the inability to put a TICK-equipped pistol into a standard holster isn’t the problem I envisioned it to be. It is said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Old dog, here. I was guilty of one-dimensional thinking. In my mind, you have a pistol equipped with a rail, and then you have a tactical light. The pistol rides on one holster, the light rides in another. What I completely overlooked is that the TICK Rail is designed such that, once fitted to the frame, it can be installed and removed without taking out the slide stop. Got that? The rail unit has enough flex that it can be slid onto the frame and snap right over the proprietary slide stop pin. Bingo! What this means is that the pistol can actually be carried in any holster, and the light can be carried already attached to the TICK Rail. Sliding the TICK Rail with light installed onto the pistol is no more difficult or time consuming than sliding a tactical light onto a fixed rail. In fact, it’s probably faster.
The TICK Rail looks even more like a winner now than it did when I first looked at it.
You may discuss about this product, ask questions or in general discuss about this review, in this thread in our Forums Site.
Tactical and Rescue Gear
Toll Free: 800-561-7612
Web Site: http://www.trgear.com/osc/eshop/product_info.php/products_id/216
TICK Rail MSRP: $59.95
Phone: (203) 453-1570
Web Site: http://chrisindoorrange.net
|Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 4 (Fall '08) - Other Products Review: TICK Add-On Tactical Rail|