Mission First Tactical E2ARMD4 Compensator

Mission First Tactical has rolled out its first line of muzzle devices. There’s five in all, and I’m in the process of getting good pictures to accompany my reviews. The one you see here is the Mission First Tactical E2ARMD4 Compensator.

I’m OK with the rim lit, on black version I took of the company’s new E2ARMD1. It provides a ton of detail at a glance, but editors and readers like different looks and feels. Add the fact that there’s little/no room for text and it’s not a lead photo candidate.

Finding appropriate elements to include and create a different look, especially for small item is often a challenge, though. In this case I had something different I thought I’d try.

Sandlblasting Media

My driveway here in Raeford, NC, is terrible. Pine trees neglected years before I moved in have turned it into a crumbling roller coaster ride. The differences in elevation show on topo maps.Mission First Tactical E2ARMD4 Compensator, Mission First Tactical Tapered three port compensator, Guy J. Sagi, gun porn, firearm photography, Fear & Loading Water and dirt form in chronic swamps and I cannot afford to have it redone.

Added to the malady is the fact that UPS, USPS and FedEx arrive nearly every day with new gear I need to test for magazines. That’s a good thing in regard to work, but it’s rough on ailing asphalt.

Every spare moment I can muster is spent on my hands and knees trying to patch and level. Yes, I know it’s a short-term solution, but the cosmetic improvement is temporarily therapeutic.

I read somewhere that one contractor always adds fine silica sand in a ratio of one to three pounds per gallon of asphalt sealer for commercial locations. Traction is improved and allegedly longevity increased.

The jury’s still out on the spots where I’ve applied the mixture, but it is shiny. Sparkly when the sun hits it just right, in the spring, once the flowers are in bloom and my knees no longer ache—or so I’m telling myself. Delivery people now know me as the twinkly driveway guy. When an item’s arrival is running late, simply apply asphalt sealer and like magic before it’s dry a truck shows up with the package and I’m asked, “Is that still wet?”

I had some 40-80 grit, black silica sandblasting media around the house and thought I’d give it a try. Let me know if you think it works. It’s dry, by the way and somewhat appropriate considering the precision in modern machining and polishing.

Focus Stacking

This single image is actually more than a dozen combined, using focus stacking. A small item like the Mission First Tactical E2ARMD4 Compensator with my 100 mm Canon Macro lens would be largely out of focus without the technique. Even stopping down the lens won’t pull it all in at an oblique angle.

You’ll notice the bokeh in back, though. While taking the images I didn’t focus all the way to the background to preserve that effect. Doing so is a balancing act, so if you give it a try, be patient.

Mission First Tactical E2ARMD4 Compensator

I haven’t mounted and tested any of the three versions I was shipped to test yet. Photos come first to avoid having to clean things up later for the camera. It’s a timesaving thing, and there’s this insane driveway project I’m in the middle of.

I can say, however, if the Mission First Tactical E2ARMD4 Compensator performs half as good as the great of the company’s gear, it will be awesome. I cannot recommend the company’s products enough.





Rim Lighting a Mission First Tactical Compensator

Rim lighting is a good way to separate flat-black firearm products from a dark background in photography, like this Mission First Tactical compensator. The lines of white on the sides distinguish the outline/borders from the black. You can set up a pair of flashes behind, angled slightly at the product to generate the effect, but doing so risks flare in the lens and an unwanted “wash” of light everywhere else.

It’s tougher than it looks, but here’s a different approach.

Go Big in Back

The Mission First Tactical compensator (model E2ARMD1) seen here is for an AR-15. It’s around 3 inches long, so I we’re close to macro range—if not there. I used a Canon 100 mm f 2.8 macro lens, if you’re wondering.

The flexible gloss vinyl background is roughly two feet wide and four feet long. It dwarfs the compensator, needless to say, but I needed spare material above. At the back it curls up, held by a light stand (anything tall will work) roughly two or three feet higher than the compensator.


A strobe wearing an Impact Luxbanx Small Octagonal Softbox is behind, literally pushed up against the vinyl. It’s 12 inches wider than the vinyl background, so 6 inches were exposed toward the camera on both sides of the background.

To kill ambient light the shutter speed was set at 200. ISO was 160 to minimize noise should the photo wind up being used with one of my articles in a print magazine. That meant I had to run the lens wide open at f 2.8.

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Here’s the Mission First Tactical compensator image’s first step, rim highlights created by diffused directional light from behind the vinyl sheet.


As you can see to the right, it works. Bear in mind, though, if one side of the soft box is exposed more than the other the rim lighting will be uneven. You can use that to your advantage or shift things until you’re comfortable with the results.

Great, you’re thinking to yourself (or telling a co-worker who’s more interested in today’s cafeteria specials). “I can’t see a darned detail in that Mission First Tactical compensator. Its whole body is black.”

Masking the Mission First Tactical Compensator

Mission First Tactical Compensator, Fear and Loading, Guy J. Sagi, gun porn, gun photography, firearm porn, firearm photography,
The second step is exposing the compensator for detail.

You’re right, but at this point I took a photo (actually series of photos) of the muzzle device, exposing for proper detail (left). I opened it in Photoshop, as well as the backlit version I preferred.

Then I copied one, pasted it on the other, and applied a layer mask. That allowed me to “paint” in the rim lighting, while avoiding detail-draining washout and flare. I rotated the image on top for this blog. The compensator was vertical for the photo session.

Sounds simple enough, but masking takes practice, and I can’t possibly improve upon some of the great tutorials out there. I’m no Photoshop expert, that’s for sure, so I encourage you to read about the technique if you like what you see.

Macro work has its own unique set of challenges that about tripled my time on this single image. It’s an expertise all its own, so I’ll spare you that series of headaches for now.

The method’s certainly interesting and budget friendly. I simply moved around a single strobe to create this composite image. If you give it a try I’d sure love to hear your results or what you think of the technique.