While “game changer” may be one of the most overused phrases of the past few years, earning my distaste almost as strongly as the completely useless term “bi-weekly” but with a much more violent eye roll, in the case of the Gear Head Works Tailhook pistol braces it’s an apt description. These simple, functional designs are absolutely spot-on.
The Tailhooks in this review are prototypes of products being released at SHOT Show in January. Functionally they’re there, but they aren’t up to production levels of quality and, in a couple cases, are 3D-printed rather than injection molded. A follow-up review of the production units will happen when they’re ready, but for now we’ll skip the assessment of materials and finish quality and focus on design function.
First up is the aluminum Tailhook. This universal design clamps to any pistol buffer tube between 1.17″ and 1.2″ in diameter. It’s machined from 6061 billet aluminum and hard coat anodized.
Installing it is as simple as sliding it onto a buffer tube and tightening down those two bolts. The design is ambidextrous, working for either a right- or left-handed shooter with a change in direction (bolts on the left or bolts on the right).
Inside the Gear Head Works gear logo is a limited-rotation QD sling socket.
From the rear, if you’re thinking “gosh, that looks like it would be a great stock” you’re darn right. As my CZ Scorpion Evo is a registered SBR I could legally shoulder the Tailhook and, I gotta say, the flat back and solid aluminum build make for as good of a shoulder stock as anything.
From MP5s to Vectors to Scorpions to ARs, AKs, shotguns and more, if it can accept an AR-15-style pistol buffer tube it can accept a GHW Tailhook. It’s a clean looking unit that works on just about anything and weighs only 4.5 ounces.
Ah, but how does it work as a brace, you say? Just squeeze the release button into the Tailhook to deploy it.
Out swings the side of the Tailhook — which, again, can be to the left or to the right depending on how it’s installed — turning perhaps unsurprisingly into a hook on the tail of the firearm. The shooter simply places his or her forearm on top of the hook and Bob’s your uncle! Pistol stabilization has been achieved.
All silliness aside, I cannot overstate how amazingly well this design actually works. Not only is it dead simple and lightning quick, it makes for as stable a firearm as any pistol brace on the market while giving the shooter more freedom to maneuver. If you’ve ever strapped yourself into some of the other pistol brace designs, you know how awkward and constricting that can be.
While the Tailhook supports the weight of the firearm in brilliant fashion, it allows for freedom of motion and the ability to lean the gun left or right as desired. When transitioning between targets, changing shooting position, shooting one-handed or two-, or canting the gun over slightly to better align sights with eyes, this freedom is hugely beneficial. Even the use of aluminum instead of rubber aids its ability to rotate on the forearm when desired, while providing complete stability in the directions where it’s needed.
For disabled shooters, the Tailhook’s strapless design is also significantly easier to use. It’s small, lightweight, simple, stout, good looking, and supports and stabilizes a large-form pistol in the most ideal way possible.
Estimated price for the aluminum Tailhook is $100.
Next up is Tailhook 2. TH2 will be injection molded from rigid, reinforced polymer — black initially, then FDE and possibly OD Green — and designed for right-hand use. This model looks even more like a traditional stock; in particular an AR-15 stock. In fact, it even works like one…
The TH2 is instantly adjustable for length of pull, fitting shooters of all sizes. There are five positions providing length of pull adjustment from 10.125″ to 12.75″ on an AR.
It will ship with a proprietary buffer tube that doesn’t allow a normal rifle stock to install on it. Anti-rattle design is built into the locking lug mechanism.
On the right side of the brace is a large, rectangular button used for adjusting length of pull. Towards the rear is a similar button to the aluminum Tailhook that releases the hook.
The TH2’s hook has more surface area than the TH1’s and perhaps feels even better.
The ability to move it forwards and rearwards to hit that perfect spot on one’s forearm is appreciated. On the range, it’s easy to feel how comfort and balance are affected by Tailhook placement.
A sling loop is designed into the left side of the brace and will fit either a 1″ or 1.25″ width strap sling on the production version.For those who prefer to brace a pistol brace on their cheek — an increasingly popular practice — the rounded shape of the Tailhook 2 provides the most natural, most comfortable cheek weld I’ve felt on a pistol brace thus far.
Although I think I’m partial to the lightweight little aluminum job, even this 3D-printed prototype TH2 was impressive and, TH1 notwithstanding, likely the best pistol brace I’ve encountered. It brings all of the same effective design elements — amazing support and stability but with freedom of motion and rapid deployment — as the aluminum Tailhook but with a more traditional look and adjustable length of pull.
The Tailhook 2 will include a castle nut and back plate, but no spring or buffer since many firearms don’t require those parts. Weight of the production units isn’t yet finalized, but is expected to be about 7 ounces without the buffer tube. MSRP is targeted at $199.
Although both Tailhooks are universal in design — again, working on any firearm that can be made to accept an AR buffer tube — some gun-specific mounts are already in the works. Earlier in the review examples for the HK MP5 and KRISS Vector are shown, and immediately above is a CZ Scorpion Evo adapter. This little piece replaces the rear half of the factory buttstock and terminates in an AR pistol buffer tube-diameter mount for the Tailhook.
Length of pull is adjusted by choosing the appropriate hole through which to drive the factory roll pin. In its shortest configuration, the angled part at the end of the mount adapter lines up flush with the rear of the factory stock portion (not shown, as I installed it in a longer setting).
It’s a pretty cool design, but will hinge on Gear Head Works being able to procure just the front half of the factory CZ stocks. That way pistol owners won’t have to worry about legal issues as they won’t ever have the actual “shoulder part that goes up.”
On the Scorpion, 10mm Vector, and my SBR’d AR-15 I found both Tailhooks to be comfortable and highly effective, whether shooting with one or two hands, bracing against the cheek, or using as a shoulder stock. Due to the QD sling socket I’ve actually left the Tailhook installed on my Scorp in lieu of the factory rear half of the buttstock, as I find the sling location preferable to one on the rear of the receiver. I’m definitely looking forward to the production release of the adapter.
In the meantime, the Tailhooks are hands-down my favorite pistol braces. They’re patent-pending and, yes, they’re ATF-approved.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Function * * * * *
As long as the firearm’s center of balance is in front of the pistol grip (which will almost always be the case in a large-format pistol), the under-the-arm shelf design of the Tailhook alleviates that weight/torque and provides amazing support and stability but doesn’t cramp mobility. The Tailhook 2 works particularly great for bracing against the cheek. Both function perfectly as butt stocks.
Ease of Use * * * * *
Push the button, hold the gun. No straps, no muss, no fuss.
Overall * * * * *
My crystal ball has been wrong before, but I think this is the next big thing in the pistol brace game. Functionally and aesthetically, the Tailhooks may actually be game changers.