From, ‘The Vulgar Curmudgeon,” here.
From, ‘The Vulgar Curmudgeon,” here.
Check it out at, ‘Full 30‘ !
The video is really well-done, but here’s a chart as well.
Originally posted on 12 Dec 2014.
Today, NPT members learning or practicing land navigation have so much more going for them in the way of map accuracy than those of us who learned some years back (like in 1974 for some folks….). Back then you took what they issued you, and dealt with it. Declination off? Oh, well, deal with it. Contour lines deceptive? Too bad, deal with it. Symbols inaccurate? Ditto previous answers.
No, the snow wasn’t deeper, and we didn’t have to walk the entire route up hill. However, unless you really paid attention, you could find yourself disoriented very quickly, because of the quality of maps needed wasn’t always there.
Thankfully, today map quality is a quantum leap better than they used to be. Map studies done before taking to a route or a land nav course can save the navigator a lot of time because what he or she sees on the map will more likely reflect what is being traversed. Especially if one gets themselves one of the more expensive, up to date satellite maps with MGRS grid and contour lines superimposed on it. The declination is always the latest available, symbols match what you see on the ground, and the terrain features and contour lines are accurate.
Sure, it costs much more than the basic topographic maps on hand, which are fine for practice, but if you’re serious about your AO, you might consider saving your pennies for an up to date satellite map in 1:25,000 scale. You can also choose the size of map you wish, which equates to how much territory is covered. Again, you can get whatever you want to pay for.
My personal, ‘go to’ place for maps is, www.mytopo.com. I’m sure there are other places out there just as good, but I’ve been very satisfied with mytopo’s offerings, so I stick with them. So much so that when I teach land nav, the maps I get for the class are from there. I don’t recommend the satellite version for a beginning class, because the student will be plotting coordinates and azimuths on it, and that’s a lot of cash for practice. But, to each his own. You have the scratch? Go for it. Otherwise, for a beginner or even an intermediate skilled land navigator, the topographic maps with or without relief shading will do you fine. Just make sure you get the MGRS lines (option available).
An aside, if you’re watching videos from you tube, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you don’t need to attend a good course or join an orienteering club to learn land nav well. All the on-line courses or blog posts in the world can only do one thing: Familiarize you with the concepts, principles, and techniques. You need time under an experienced instructor to make sure you really gain the skill. I highly recommend reading/learning everything you can before attending a course. Doing so makes the class much more enjoyable for the participant, and learning kicks into high gear.
Originally posted on 25 March 2016
Original definition, here; our modification immediately below.
Fieldcraft is a set of tactical skills and methods each NPT member requires to operate stealthily, which may be applied in various ways in hours of darkness or inclement weather throughout the year.
For NPT members, fieldcraft skills include camouflage, land navigation, knowing and being able to apply the difference between concealment from view and cover from small arms’ fire when choosing fighting positions, using the terrain and its features to mask NPT movement, obstacle crossing, selecting good firing positions, patrol base positions, effective observation, detecting enemy-fire direction and range, survival, evasion, and escape techniques. Expertise in fieldcraft is only possible by spending the time, effort, and attention to detail in long hours of training and practice on a consistent basis.
That said the first skill in the fieldcraft family we’re going to address is Land Navigation. It’s a popular subject right now on various blogs, such as ‘Weapons Man’ (former SF soldier – you might consider making his site a daily stop), here, and for good reason: Your expertise as a navigator will have a direct and relational impact on your life expectancy in a SHTF/WROL situation. Further, learning to use a map and compass in and of itself will not suffice: you will need to learn how to travel by terrain association. This skill involves map study and interpretation, and the ability to use the features of the geography you’re in to provide your navigational guide. In essence, your map and compass will become your ‘go to’ reference when you need to verify your location. You’ll have to know the map and compass inside and out before you can effectively terrain associate. Understanding declination adjustments, grid, magnetic, and back azimuth conversions, plotting 8 digit grid coordinates, intersection, and resection in addition to understanding the symbolism used on a map to illustrate various terrain features that will impact your travel are all essential before learning terrain association.
Also understand that learning land navigation is not a daunting task that will take months or years to get the basics. You can learn general land navigation in a two day course (like those we and others offer) over a weekend. The rest of the time is on you – how much you may or may not devote to practice, especially if you’re just starting out on your path to learn this vital skill. Sure, you can go to YouTube and find hundreds of videos on ‘how to’ do land navigation. They’re really great ‘ice breakers’ and overviews. 3 of them are embedded below. The bad news is that, with very, very few exceptions, you’re not going to be able to learn the skill without the guidance of an instructor. So, get a cup of coffee, and watch the below 10 to 12 minute videos for a superb introduction to land navigation, even if you’re familiar with the subject, these are great refreshers and will most likely bring to mind things you may have forgotten over time.
Then, once you’ve done that, if you don’t own one, choose a good compass. If you choose the USGI Lensatic, great! Get the tritium model; you won’t be sorry. Or, if you don’t want to spend nearly $100, get either the Brunton TruArc 20, SUNNTO MC-2 or MC-3. All are superb land nav compasses and won’t break the bank. The Brunton is a bit less expensive than the SUUNTO, and comes with a few advantages you can read about here. In our classes, we teach all three. To be truthful, the USGI Lensatic is the most accurate (1 degree or less) best, but it requires the most expertise and practice to use effectively when attempting precision. The other two are geared more to orienteering, but fit the NPT navigating requirement very, very well. The advantages over the USGI Lensatic is the built in declination adjustment which makes them faster to use for map work because the user isn’t required to convert magnetic azimuths to grid and vice versa. All azimuths are measure on the map as magnetic (again, this is ONLY because of the built in declination adjustment capability – if you don’t adjust the declination to what is on the map, you MUST do the conversion!) We haven’t found any better when it comes to function and price points. Your mileage may vary.
Thought I’d put this back up as there was a comment at WRSA on the impact of not having a correct declination adjustment.
Originally posted 12 Mar 2016
Comments on the last post on Magnetic Declination disagree with, or at least minimized the importance of magnetic declination with the general feeling that, ” …’15 degrees’ isn’t that much of an error” or, “15 degrees will only result in a little bit of extra walking..,” or “I can get where I’m going…”
Now, I’m sure that guys and gals out there who’ve been hunting in one area or another (no matter how large) all their lives and have well used topographical 7.5 minute maps can get from point A to point B and so on with a cursory look at their map and shooting a general bearing with their compass. The primary tool they use is familiarity with the AO (a good thing) and terrain association with the compass used as a back up. Ergo, they may not think they need to worry about declination. And, in that particular scenario, those making claims like that are most likely 100% correct.
For discussion’s sake, let’s get into a SHTF scenario or some other situation where the person is using a new map and is unfamiliar with the territory. Say running a security patrol with your NPT with the task of linking up with a neighboring NPT at a particular location at a particular time. If the NPT’s in the scenario don’t concern themselves with accurate grid azimuth conversion to magnetic conversion, lives could be at stake, and the link up will most likely not occur.
Experienced navigators backed up by the facts regarding magnetic compasses and the magnetic ‘North Pole’ will quickly tell you that if you don’t account for the local declination, you stand a great chance of not reaching your objective (which may be getting back to your truck or home or reaching and injured person or whatever you can think of) or becoming lost yourself.
If you’re looking on your map and figure you need to take a 78 degree azimuth, and set your compass accordingly, and you haven’t either adjusted the compass for the local declination (difference between Magnetic North and True North, either East or West), you have a proportionate error when you shoot your azimuth (bearing) to start your navigation. Here’s the error factor of being off by various degrees computed to distance from the target:
1 degree of error at 1,000 meters from start point = 17.5 meters off target (or 19 yards)
5 degrees of error at 1,000 meters from start point = 87.5 meters off target (95 yards)
8 degrees of error at 1,000 meters (my AO) start point = 140 meters off target (153 yards)
10 degrees of error at 1,000 meters start point = 175 meters off target (191 yards)
16 degrees of error at 1,000 meters start point = 280 meters off target (306 yards)
21 degrees of error at 1,000 meters start point = 367.5 meters off target (401 yards)
That’s for a 1 click leg (1,093 yards). Now, let’s multiply that to, say, a 7 click straight line walk. Drum roll: 2,572.5 meters off target at the end of that little 7 click jaunt from the start point, not taking into account any additional anomalies you may encounter while trying to walk that perfectly straight 7 kilometer line you drew on your map.
Now, for discussion’s sake, let’s make our walk shorter. We’ll use the maximum variation in the US – 21 degrees East (Washington State) for a short, 3 click walk. Drum roll: 1,102.5 meters/1,205 yards (even backing it down to the declination in my AO, 8 degrees, it comes out to 420 meters/459 yards – almost half a click – which is a LOT in a rural/wilderness environment). Over a click off your target from the get go; drift, deviation, and pace count error haven’t been factored in yet.
That’s where you are; imagine where you will be when you think you’re at the end of your first leg. The mind boggles. For fun in this mental exercise, add a little thing called, “night” to the equation. Now, for added flavor, consider when the map isn’t matching up to the terrain and you’re positive that your on the right azimuth, the disorientation (something that occurs with little notice) that can add to all the things you’re dealing with, and oh yes, human error in our calculations.
So, if you’re serious about learning or improving your land navigation skills, find a good course and go to it. Or join a local orienteering club. If you want to attend ours, here’s the link. It’s going to be in April 2015. One day will be spent on the academics; one day will be spent in the field getting some, “dirt time,” rain or shine.
Some facts regarding the 1:7 & M-855 and M-193. It also stands to reason that the 62gr MK-318 OTM would follow suit. Enjoy, it’s a worthwhile and educational read.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to swap out my 1:7 to a 1:8 or 1:9….this sure explains my ‘fliers’….the title has the link to the original, for those interested.
BY Herschel Smith
1 year ago
There are a lot of articles and discussion forum threads on barrel twist rate for AR-15s. So why am I writing one? Well, some of the information on the web is very wrong. Additionally, this closes out comment threads we’ve had here touching on this topic, EMail exchanges I’ve had with readers, and personal conversations I’ve had with shooters and friends about this subject. It’s natural to put this down in case anyone else can benefit from the information. Or you may not benefit at all. That’s up to you.
This is a discussion about 5.56mm ammunition and barrel twist rates (and later, about the shooter and ammunition quality). If you wish to debate the effectiveness of the 5.56mm round generally, or wish to disparage the choice of the Eugene Stoner system, I’m sure there are forums for you. This is not it.
In the real world, ammunition isn’t concentric, and even if it is almost precisely concentric, pour density can be slightly different throughout the ball, and voids can develop. This causes gyroscopic stability problems with bullets, even in the best manufactured ammunition. But much ammunition would not be considered the “best manufactured ammunition.” Ammunition will only be as good as the QA under which it was made.
When center of gravity is off-axis it can cause bullet lateral throwoff, yaw and a host of other problems with bullet trajectory. In order to overcome these problems, rifling twist achieves this gyroscopic stability for the bullet, thus negating the effects of the manufacturing process (at least in part).
Overstabilization can occur with a barrel twist rate that is too high. There are incorrect commentaries out there on this subject. This writer explains that higher twist rate is virtually always better.
Conventional wisdom taught us that slower twist rates wouldn’t properly-stabilize a bullet, causing it to yaw. On the other hand, faster rates could over-stabilize lighter bullets, causing similar problems. This is correct in theory—however, modern ballisticians have pretty much de-bunked the over-stabilization theory as a practical matter. All things being equal, it is better to have too much twist than not enough.
While his statement is a bit imprecise, there is something very precise about it. It is precisely wrong. Yet there are much cleaner and simpler explanations of why high twist rate is not always good. One commenter at this discussion thread summed it up well.
You can certainly overstablilze (sic) a bullet if you spin it so fast it doesn’t nose over at the top of its trajectory … Best thing to do is not spin bullets any faster than what’s needed for best accuracy.
Correct. If a bullet is overstabilized, it tends to stay pointed along its axis of rotation, even on the final (downward) part of its trajectory. This can cause keyholing, odd aerodynamic effects (flying sideways through the air) and even bullets to wildly spin off trajectory.
Above it was noted that displaced CoG can cause gyroscopic stability problems, including “lateral throw-off.” This figure is given to us by Paul Weinacht in his paper for the U.S. Army (Army Research Laboratory, ARL-TR-3015) entitled Prediction of Projectile Performance, Stability, and Free-Flight Motion Using Computational Fluid Dynamics (Figure 9).
Or if you wish to visualize what this might look like in 3D … Dean and LaFontaine, Small Caliber Lethality: 5.56mm Performance in Close Quarters Battle.
Bullets from rifled barrels eventually achieve stability by yawing back and forth, while undergoing a larger revolution about the major axis of the trajectory. So quite obviously, it’s necessary to spin the bullet, and to spin it enough to give it stability, while protecting the need to nose over on the final part of its trajectory. Getting this twist rate and spin right has been a matter of much testing, internet fights, and lot of engineering study and heavy spending by the taxpayers. I know that my guns perform well, and so I decided to contact my manufacturer for his opinion on the matter.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have two Rock River Arms rifles, one Elite CAR A4 with a 16″ Barrel, twist 1:9, Quad Rail, and another competition gun with a muzzle brake and 18″ SS barrel with a twist rate = 1:8. I have recommended RRA rifles to my readers before, but there are many good guns on the market. Your probably have one. I sent a list of three questions to RRA, and Steve gave me these responses (the question isn’t included because it wasn’t forwarded back to me, but it’s apparent what I asked except for the first question, which was basically does RRA warranty their 1 MOA for both M193 and M855. This is Steve’s response.
Thanks for your questions. I’m going to take them in reverse order.
3. 1:9 is adequate for many, but not all rounds typically used in an AR platform. Between .223 Remington and 5.56mm NATO, there are rounds from 45 to 90 grains (that I am familiar with) and I know of, but have never shot, lighter and heavier rounds. No single twist is going to handle all of them. 1:9 is adequate for a sizable number of them, however…including the two most commonly available, in bulk and at reasonable prices…55gr FMJ (M193)and 62/63gr FMJ (M855). It is not ideal for rounds lighter than 50gr nor those over 68 or 69 grains, which is why there are other twist rates commonly available…including from RRA. We offer a 1:12 24” bull barrel for our Varmint hunters who prefer to use the lighter bullets for prairie dogs and other targets, and both 1:7 and 1:8 barrels in a variety of configurations for those who want to shoot heavier bullets…up to and including the newer 77gr loads and 80gr VLDs. We’ve also run custom twists for a limited number of contracted purchases.
2. Yes. 1:9 does well with both M193 and M855. Different barrels perform differently, but 1:9 generally stabilizes both weight/length bullets fairly well, It neither over nor under spins either and does not produce key holing.
1. The hardest question to answer. Neither M193 nor M855 are notoriously accurate rounds. They meet military, not match, requirements. Our accuracy claims are the rifle’s capability…but the shooter and ammo have to do their parts. There are loads that are commercially available and claimed to be “M193” and “M855” equivalents that clearly aren’t, and they aren’t capable of ”minute of bad guy” at 100 yards, let alone the .75 to 1.5 MOA claims that we make for our different rifles. That is no reflection on our rifles or barrels, or the shooters…unfortunately there is some real crappy ammo on the market today, which will not perform well out of any barrel, of any twist rate.
This is a good response, but let’s not stop here. While perhaps not recalled by some, American Rifleman has given us a fairly comprehensive look at 5.56mm ammunition and barrel twist rates in an article entitled Testing The Army’s M855A1 Standard Ball Cartridge. It is rich with history on how the Army fielded the M855A1. Ignore the issue of the M855 versus the M855A1 for a moment and consider the background.
Accuracy cannot be assessed without addressing the rifle barrels’ twist-rates. In the early 1980s the M855’s 62-grain bullet was developed for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). For purposes of interoperability, the same load was adopted as the M16A2 rifle’s standard ball as well. A February 1986 U.S. Army study noted that the M855’s bullet required a “1:9 twist [which] would be more appropriate for the M16A2 rifle, improving accuracy and reliability.” Multiple studies confirmed the 1:9-inch twist requirement.
But then a problem arose. The U.S. military’s standard M856 5.56 mm tracer round was longer, heavier (63.7 grains) and slower than the M855 ball, and simply would not stabilize with a 1:9-inch twist barrel. Thus, despite it doubling M855 group sizes, the M16A2 (and later, the M4) specified a 1:7-inch rate-of-twist barrel to stabilize the tracer round. It remains so to this day. Therefore, M855A1 was test-fired with both 1:7- and 1:9-inch twist barrels, and it was verified that this new cartridge is consistently more accurate in the latter barrels-as was its predecessor.
Don’t slip past these paragraphs, because they explain why “Milspec” is 1:7. It isn’t because 1:7 shoots M193 or M855 more accurately. It’s because of the weight of tracer rounds. As we’ve discussed before, the term Milspec doesn’t mean better, or worse, or anything at all except that it precisely meets the specifications outlined in the purchase order(s), excepting whatever variance notifications they might make on a given batch of guns.
The M855A1’s developers have described it as yielding “match-like” accuracy, which most rifle shooters would define as one minute-of-angle (m.o.a.), or groups measuring no more than 1 inch at 100 yards. While the new ammunition has proved more accurate than the green-tipped load it replaced, testing did not yield match-like accuracy, especially in the standard 1:7-inch twist-rate found in today’s M4s and M16s. At 100 yards, the best group with a 1:7-inch barrel was 1.62 inches (1.6 m.o.a.). At 300 yards. it similarly fired 1.6 m.o.a. (4.9 inches) and widened to 1.8 m.o.a. (7.5 inches) at 400 yards. At these same distances, firing the M855A1 through a 1:9-inch twist barrel reduced group sizes by approximately half.
The tests demonstrated that 1:9 twist produced better accuracy, approximately twice as accurate. Now take note what the testers found with the newer M855A1 regarding repeatability.
On average, the new ammunition produced one flyer in roughly each five rounds, which, it can be argued, exaggerated the group sizes. Since the Army announced that, “On average, 95 percent of the [M855A1] rounds will hit an 8×8-inch target at 600 meters,” each group’s most errant bullet impact was discarded and group sizes recalculated. Statistically they improved, but not enough to place 95 percent of rounds so close at 600 meters, at least when using the standard 1:7-inch barrel-which may explain why accuracy was less than expected.
There is one “flyer” in every five rounds. This seems to me to be a significant problem with this ammunition combined with the barrel twist, and the commenters don’t seem to like it very much either. Finally, this.
When U.S. Army shooters twice fired public demonstrations of the new round, they did not employ standard 1:7-inch twist M16A2s or M4s, but accurized, match-grade, stainless-barreled rifles from the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU). I contacted the AMU and learned that these rifles did not have standard-issue 1:7-inch barrels, but most likely 1:8-inch twist, which probably accounts for their “match-like” accuracy.
Isn’t that rich? The Army made claims of “match-like accuracy,” and proved the rounds shooting out of different barrels than are deployed with Soldiers, using 1:8 twist, not 1:7 twist.
The American Rifleman article goes on to discuss in some detail the performance of the M855A1 with slim-profiled targets like malnourished tribal fighters in Afghanistan (so-called “ice picking” the target without fragmentation), performance at barrier penetration (concluding that it is better than its predecessor), and its lethality once it does penetrate barriers. I recommend this reading to you. It’s well worth the time.
So to summarize what we know, remember some basic things. First, the bullet has to be spun to give it gyroscopic stability. This spin needs to match the bullet (including mass and length), and care must be taken not to over-stabilize the bullet. If you shoot typical .223 ammunition (55 gr.), or M193 or M855, a twist rate of 1:9 is probably just about ideal. You’ll probably lose some accuracy with a higher twist rate.
This loss of accuracy is likely not significant for a lot of shooters. If you shoot much heavier ammunition (and there is a lot on the market), you probably need to consider a twist rate of 1:8. Finally, none of this matches the value of good ammunition or good shooting.
That’s the good news. Most guns can outperform the shooter, and I know that’s the case with me. I’m a decent shooter. Not great, but decent. I’ve taken my Tikka T3 .270 bolt action rifle and literally put rounds through the same hole at 100 yards (with slightly more tearing of the same hole in the paper). On the other hand, this is with a good scope, no wind, a cool and comfortable day, all day to work my craft and thus no time pressure, no one else to be concerned about, lots of coffee to wake up, and a full belly.
But if I had kept records, it wouldn’t have happened again exactly like that since, theoretically, even with perfect ammunition, considering barrel harmonics and that physical processes like this are a heuristic phenomenon, if I had continued to log my shots this way, it would have doubtless shown a standard distribution (distance between each shot and mean).
But regardless of the details, you’ve done it before. Control breathing … get good sight picture … back out of the shot if you’re not mentally right … know where your trigger breaks … and so on. You know the drill, since you’ve done it many times. It’s perhaps the purest pleasure a shooter can have.
Now throw in simple annoyances like a whining partner at the range, losing daylight and time pressures, hunger, and any of the other 100 possible nuisances that can sap your accuracy. Then your accuracy goes to hell, doesn’t it? Now, combine that with wearing heavy gear and being shot at, and I’m sure it diminishes your control over your weapon. Thankfully, I only have the experiences of my former Marine son conveyed to me.
The good part of this is that regardless of your barrel twist rate, if your AR-15 is reliable, even if it’s not top of the line, it can probably outperform you. That means getting better isn’t a matter of getting a new rifle or barrel with a different twist. It means practicing with your rifle, sometimes under duress. It also means buying good ammunition. Steve at RRA is right. The shooter and ammo have to do their part. I object to cheap ammunition just like I object to cheap engine oil. I’m trying to develop the discipline at the store or online to buy better ammunition.
Right, I’ve got it. I feel your objection. Good ammunition (e.g., Hornady $2 per round .270 for my Tikka) hurts. This is my wealth, and it’s hard to part ways with it since it’s hard to earn it. But using bad ammunition at the range makes it hard to impossible to assess your practice. Use of my value pack Federal .223 at the range means that my accuracy is irrelevant if I’m using the same reticle holdovers I would for 5.56mm since the muzzle velocity is different (and very slightly lower than the 5.56mm). You’ve got the picture.
The best way to get better accuracy is probably not to get a better gun. It’s to practice with the one you’ve got.
Here is a related video I found interesting on gyroscopic stability. He’s wrong about the math being incomprehensible, but it is rather difficult if you’re involved with partial differentials or worse, the Navier-Stokes equations in CFD. You need some specialized training in mathematics in order to tackle that. You don’t have to know any of that in order to understand the basics of shooting.
This discussion probably won’t end the debate on barrel twist rate, and it certainly won’t end the fight between the Army and Marine Corps (who doesn’t want to deploy the M855A1). But I hope it was helpful to you.
With all this talk of the POTUS going full retard by telling the Justice Department and ATF to come up with rules to ban a carbine accessory and ‘any device that turns a rifle into a machine gun’ (the ATF once stated a SHOE STRING was a machine gun part), there’s an alternative to ‘buying them while they’re hot’ only to find out later that you have to turn them in….
Range time with your standard, semi-automatic AR carbine or rifle. Back in my youthful days spent learning the finer points of marksmanship, we were taught that hits count, not noise.
Sooooo, the idea is simple: Take the money you may have been considering using buying a slide fire or bump stock, and get a case of ammo instead. They’ve risen in price already due to the forthcoming ban to anywhere from $400 to $500. You can get a 1200 round case of IMI for that price, easy.
Take that 1,200 rounds and diligently practice the fundamentals out to the farthest range you can shoot on your range or your area. It’ll keep you busy for a couple months. When your done, you’ll have increased your personal sphere of influence a bit more than if you had bought that “evil” accessory. Disclosure: Not my target, but it could be yours!
Originally posted 6 Feb 2014; updated on 4 May 2015.
8 Feb 2018 REPOST: The AR-15 carbine is quite possibly the most customizable platform on the planet. Given so many choices for enhancements, which upgrades offer the best “bang for the buck”? Some upgrades have a huge “tacti-cool factor” specifically designed for the battlefield, and others are designed with practical use in mind. Naturally, reliability upgrades should win over what is “tacti-cool” if your AR is the primary tool you’d use for self-defense of hearth and home during a WROL or SHTF situation. And that’s what we’ll focus on here.
When it comes to practical enhancements, keep in mind that the AR market is flooded with parts as well as rifles. Some are top notch quality, some are mediocre and the others . . . well, they’ve been manufactured not using the best quality control. So, remember, not all parts and carbines are created equally. Caveat Emptor! Best strategy when looking for an AR? Whether building your own AR or buying a complete one; use reputable manufacturers, such as Daniel Defense, Bravo Company or Spikes Tactical, for example. (We have extensive experience with the quality turned out by BCM and ST. *Please see the note from ST at the bottom).
As of this repost, pricing for AR parts, as well as ammo, are well below what they were when the original was posted & updated. Now. Is. The. Time!
AR Practical Reliability Enhancements (in order of importance)
I. Chrome Lined Barrel (CLB): The fact that some manufacturers still make non-chrome lined barrels for non-competition AR barrels is astonishing. By forgoing this option, the consumer is saved $50 to $100 depending on the manufacturer. It’s worth the money if you’re building, or having an AR built. Chrome lined barrels offer protection from corrosion and ease in cleaning after shooting a high volume of rounds at the range. It also takes much longer to ‘shoot out’ a CLB, which is the pratical advantage in terms of cost for having one. Through the years, serious competitors have held that accuracy suffered from having a chrome lined barrel. Not so much anymore. Top quality manufacturers have pretty much perfected the process. Recently one of our staff built a carbine with a ST light weight 16” barrel and clover-leafed his group off the bench at 100 yds with a 3x ACOG. Granted that’s not field condition shooting, but more so a demonstration of the inherent accuracy of the platform with a good chrome lined barrel. Bottom line? Don’t let claims of diminished accuracy in a CLB dissuade you from protecting the lands and grooves of your bore from corrosive conditions. Most AR’s priced around $800 (or less) and up typically have a chrome lined barrels anyway, so this may be be a moot point for you. If you’re thinking about replacing your barrel, make sure it’s a CLB!
II. Bolt Parts Upgrade Kit: http://www.bravocompanyusa.com/BCM-Extractor-Spring-Uprade-Kit-p/bcm%20extractor%20spring%20upgrade.htm $4.95. This is a no brainer. Increased extraction reliability is a very good thing. http://www.bravocompanyusa.com/BCM-Gas-Rings-p/gas%20rings%20set%20of%203.htm New gas rings anyone? $2.95. Another no brainer. If you stand your bolt on it’s end and the weight of the carrier is forced down on the bolt by gravity, you need to replace your gas rings on your bolt. Some factory gas rings don’t do well past 1000 rounds. Some last much longer, but the point is to have a spare set to change out. You’ll be happy you did.
III. H2 Buffer & Sprinco “Blue” Buffer Spring: H2 buffer – http://www.bravocompanyusa.com/H2-Carbine-Buffer – About $30. Increased reliability and reduced felt recoil (read faster target reacquisition). Springco’s buffer spring – about $20: “The Enhanced Power spring is designed to provide a bit more spring power than a standard power spring along with improved consistency, long service life and sustained reliability of a high quality spring.“ http://www.nokick.com/Sprinco_M_4_Carbine_Enhanced_Power_Buffer_Spring_p/sprinco-25007.htm
III. Froglube: (instead of standard CLP). $15 for a container. http://froglube.com/ Not only is it much safer to use than standard military CLP, but the paste functions properly much longer. Cleaning is easier with a Froglube treated product. Friction reducing Froglube increases reliability and keeps your upper assembly housing cooler, which minimizes wear . . . you can see where I’m going with this. Of course you could just stick with copious amounts of LSA or motor oil and have it spray down the guy next to you, but I’d rather pack a small container of Froglube given the option. Important note: Apply sparingly, let adhere to the part in question, and then wipe virtually dry until only a thin film remains. Too much and you might find your AR bogging down for a few rounds.
IIIA. Gunzilla: DTG has been using this for a couple years now, on both pistols & rifles. Cleaning is a breeze; great rust inhibitor, and we carry in our rucks in a 6 ounce squirt bottle. So far, so good. Another good option.
IV. Nickel-Boron Bolt Carrier Group: Whether you choose a $250.00 Fail Zero Bolt Carrier group, or a $140 Surplus Arms & Ammo version, the NiB coating has shown to reduce friction and heat big time. Cleaning the BCG is a breeze. You can almost just wipe it down with a rag. Fail Zero claims you can run a ridiculous amount of rounds through a dry weapon fitted with a FZ BCG. We still use a thin coating of Froglube anyway. After all of the other practical enhancements, this is the next thing you would do . . . if you had the cash.
Practical Accuracy Enhancements (in order of importance)
I. Reliable set of Optics: Aimpoint, ACOG, Burris, Vortex Strike Eagle, Etc. Optics whether magnified or not, help one hit what they are aiming at more reliably than good old iron sights. (Iron sight shooting should be practiced and the skill should be maintained as we all have backup sights on our personal protection carbines. Sometimes optics do fail. Simply having iron sights and not having practiced with them to a degree of proficiency won’t help you when your optic goes Tango Uniform.) You’re looking at $400 to $1300 for a good set of optics depending on the brand and the application. The ACOG would be the best in our opinion for general purpose accuracy on an AR IF the eye relief wasn’t so short that it’s uncomfortable. Best is now between the Aimpoint Comp4 or Aimpoint PRO (what we have) and the Vortex Strike Eagle, depending on the application for the carbine in question. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford the Aimpoint Comp4, get the Aimpoint PRO for $400 shipped. You’ll receive a 2MOA (Minute Of Angle) red dot with an amazing battery life, mount included, and you’ll have an immediate leg up on engaging your paper targets. The Strike Eagle is a great replacement for the ACOG with a built in BDC for 5.56mm; it is also around $400 or less. You can’t go wrong with either choice. A word on cost: If I had to choose between a $100 red dot, ACOG knock-off, or other cheaply made optic or my irons, I would take my irons. Quality optics are that important.
II. Geissele 2-stage Trigger: $250 to $180 depending on sales. A Geissele trigger is just the cats-ass. You have to feel the trigger break on one of these to truly appreciate it. Your groups will get tighter, given proper trigger control/depression. Some like the ‘flat trigger’, others like that standard curved trigger. We have both on staff rifles. Either way, Geissele triggers are superb!
There are many upgrades and customizations that offer a minimal increase in accuracy, however, the overall plain-jane mil-spec M4 (gery) works very well. These are the two accuracy enhancers that give a noticeable improvement in grouping.
III. Vortex Flash Hider: Why? Because it works. Extremely well. So much so that we use these exclusively on any defense carbine or AR pistol we have available. Several styles, all for $65. We’ve used night vision to try to see flash from semi-auto firing. No flash. It’s worth the money. http://smithenterprise.com/products04.01.html
The Bottom Line: We recommend learning to build your own AR, (with the help of an expert if you are not one), naturally complying with all applicable laws regarding the purchase of lower receivers and associated parts. You’ll end up knowing your personal protection AR much better than if you had it built by someone or buy it “off the rack.” If you end up doing all of the reliability enhancements we suggest, you’re looking at about tacking on $165 to $275 on your $800 carbine. Not too hard to swallow that pill. And if you have the cash to spend on the suggested accuracy enhancements, you are looking at adding anywhere from $400 to $1500.00 on to your AR for a total high end cost of about $3,000 (a hell of a lot less now, at least for the time being – the 2018 elections might have a significant impact on pricing…now. is. the. time.), give or take. It all depends on what you want to spend. When making your decision to enhance your AR to any particular level, whether it’s only adding a better extractor or going ‘whole hog’ and spending a few grand, always remember this true statement about anything to do with AR’s: You get what you pay for. So, don’t go ‘cheap’ or settle for a ‘reasonable facsimile’. The AR will fail when you don’t want it to fail…
* SPIKE’S TACTICAL – Updated Policy for State and Local Law Enforcement Agency Sales: In light of the recent and numerous anti-gun and anti-2nd Amendment laws pending across the Nation, Spike’s Tactical will be joining other manufacturers and distributors and limiting the business we do with LE agencies in those states. As of today, it will be our policy not to sell prohibited items to government agencies and agents in states, counties, cities and municipalities that have enacted restrictive gun control laws against their citizens.
Spike’s Tactical LLC 2036 Apex Ct. Apopka, FL 32703 Phone: 407-928-2666 Fax: 866-283-2215
DTG tries to support companies like this whenever possible. We are aware that ST is not the only firearm manufacturer out there to take this stance. It’s nice when you see a company stand by the premise that citizens have the same rights to secure their lives and property as law enforcement.
Original update posted in January, 2016
UPDATE – February, 2018. Capetown is a coastal city in South Africa. It is the second-most populous urban area in South Africa after Johannesburg. It is also the capital and primate city of the Western Cape province. As the seat of the Parliament of South Africa, it is also the legislative capital of the country.
Capetown is experiencing a very, very severe drought. “Yeah, but that’s in Africa….”, ok, granted. What happens in your AO when the water infrastructure takes a dump or the water is so polluted you can’t use it, or for whatever reason, the local, county, state or federal government starts a very, very strict water rationing program? Can you provide potable (drinkable) water from ‘other sources’ to keep your family hydrated?
Here’s the article. If you don’t have a private well, and you are dependent upon a metropolitan water system, think, as you look through pictures of people standing in lines or buying 5 gallon jugs of water, and the increased level in armed police on stand-by against potential unrest, what you might do in that situation. If you DO have a well, think what will happen when the government puts a lock on it and confiscates your water. Don’t think it could happen? Check the laws in your state about water rights. Check the federal laws about what is included in ‘navigable waters’ that fall under federal jurisdiction.
Water IS life…..
Reason #7468 is how the water issue in Flint, Michigan is being handled. The facts will support the position that political motivation and manipulation by transnational socialists put the people depending on the water system in jeopardy. However, when you decide you don’t want to be dependent upon ‘the system’ with no other recourse, get one of these. Any water, including that in Flint, comes out potable. If you’re concerned with heavy metals and other particulates, get the ‘zero water’ filter here. Running your water through both of these will be cheaper and thousands of times more efficient in the long run. Icing on the cake? You don’t have to wait for someone to bring you cases of bottled water or ‘the state’ to tell you when you can or can’t drink water.
Pathogen Elimination: Sawyer ‘Zero Two Bucket Kit’
Order it here. Best $125 you’ll ever spend…don’t think this kind of activity won’t come to your town eventually. The more commodities that are given away ‘free’, the more of your ‘tax dollars’ are wasted proportionately, and eventually, more and more people will figure out that you can get the same things you pay for through taxation that comes from your paycheck without having to go to work. So, mitigate your exposure. Your family and your NPT will thank you for having the foresight to make sure they didn’t die of water-borne pathogens….
Dissolved Solids (lead, chromium, and others) : Zero Water Bottle Filtration System.
I’ve used this exclusively for day to day drinking water needs for some years now. I’ve also got the ‘Zero Two Bucket’ system for any time I’m suspicious or an announcement is made that the water system has bacterial contamination, like during power outages. Because my wife’s health and mine are important to us, in those situations, we run it through both before we use the water for anything other than hygiene. You’d be surprised how good water tastes when it’s not chock full of garbage.
We also use the ‘Total Dissolved Solids Meter’ with the above to check the status of the dual filters. When it reaches 6 parts per million, we change the filters out. The meter is ‘dumb’ so it measures objectively. Stick it in a glass of tap water, and you’ll see upwards of 140 parts per million of ‘stuff’ (no specific identification) in the glass. Rinse out the glass, put some water from Zero Water Bottle Filtration System in it, and it comes up ZERO parts per million (on new filters) of any ‘stuff’.’ Only thing you’re drinking is water. It cannot get rid of illness causing pathogens, however, so when in doubt, we do as I described above. Basically, it’s double jeopardy for anything causing our water to be non-potable (drinkable).