There are numerous situations where firearms are required to be visibly marked as “clear” with the use of a chamber flag. Whether you’re at the range, taking your firearm in for repairs, or flying guns with you during a trip, you’re going to need one of those flags at some point. Some people even use them at home so guns are easily identified as clear. In those cases where you want to mark a gun as clear but would also like the option of loading a round quickly, you used to be out of luck. Using a chamber safety flag meant removing the flag prior to chambering a round, and sometimes those flags are awkward to remove. Now there’s the Hornady Rapid Rack.
The Hornady Rapid Rack was officially launched at SHOT Show 2016 and is now for sale on various gun gear sites and in some gun stores. It was designed with two particular scenarios in mind: to allow gun owners to keep long guns ready to go at a moment’s notice but with a clearly marked empty chamber and to allow members of law enforcement to carry long guns in vehicles with visibly empty chambers, but to go hot, fast. Of course, there are other times the Rapid Rack comes in handy.
Hornady manufactures the Rapid Rack from aluminum, so this is a far more durable product than typical empty chamber indicators. It’s L-shaped with the handle coated in red plastic which allows for a better grip as well as greater visibility for its job as a chamber flag. The handle also has a slight bend at the end, giving the user more leverage than would be otherwise possible. The upper portion, which is meant to be inserted into the gun, is silver and somewhat cartridge-shaped. It’s quite lightweight.
Directions are included and are necessary given that this isn’t just another flag. There are actually two ways to place it in your rifle. You can either lock the bolt back, insert the device, and slowly release the bolt until it’s in place against the Rapid Rack, or you can pull the bolt back with one hand, insert the device immediately ahead of the bolt, and slowly release the bolt. What you do not want to do is allow the bolt to snap forward against it. You do, however, need to be sure the extractor engages. If it doesn’t, the process of charging the gun as the device is removed won’t work.
Once you’ve properly inserted the flag, place a loaded magazine in your gun. Now you’re ready to go; your rifle is clearly flagged as having an empty chamber, but your mag is loaded, so you can load the gun quickly.
To chamber a round, simply grab the red handle, pull it straight back in one quick movement, and let it fly. Literally, let it fly. The flag isn’t meant to be carefully pulled back and placed in your pocket, all the while keeping it in your tight grip. With this system you pull it back – a lot like a side charging handle, actually – and let it fall. When done properly, a round will be chambered and you’ll be ready to shoot.
I tried out the Rapid Rack on my Axelson Tactical Combat Series 5.56. It was simple to use and performed exactly as promised. I didn’t have any problems with the rounds chambering properly when I pulled the handle back quickly. Pulling it back slowly only resulted in the device sliding forward once again, back into its place. If there isn’t a magazine in place or the magazine in question is empty when you pull the handle back, nothing happens. It doesn’t jump from its position like it does when it’s making way for a live round, it simply stays put. Not to say you can’t easily remove it, because you can. Removing the device when you aren’t trying to chamber a round is just like the removal of any chamber flag: pull the bolt back, remove the flag, and either close the bolt or lock it open.
Basically this seems to act as a separate, detached charging handle. There are certainly scenarios where it could come in handy aside from those mentioned above. For example, there are some outfitters where a hunter will be asked to keep their chamber empty and sometimes flagged, depending on the situation. This is a great way to put guides at ease when traveling to a blind with a truck full of armed strangers while allowing guns to be quickly charged should game appear in a shooting zone. And when it comes to the home defense scenario referenced by the company it does make sense to use this if you prefer guns not actually have a round chambered, yet want them ready faster. Unless you already have a side charging handle the Rapid Rack would indeed allow you to make ready with greater speed. That is of course in addition to your gun being visibly flagged as having a clear chamber.
Bottom line: The Hornady Rapid Rack is a neat product, one worth having around for many gun owners and worth trying out for most. The cost is negligible; sites such as Midway are selling them for between $8.99 and $10.99 depending on the model. They’re available for the AR-15, AR-10, and some 12-gauge shotguns (a list of models is available on the Hornady.com site). It’s definitely durable, too. After going through the “let ‘er fly” chambering process more than 100 times in my Axelson AR-15 the only sign of use was a little smudging where the device met the extractor.
You can visit Hornady’s site for a closer look: http://www.hornady.com/in-the-news/latest-news/introducing-the-rapid-rack-by-hornady