Category Archives: Weapons

Get Thee to Thy Range!

 

                                                   25 yards – mix of .45 ACP Ball and .357 SJHP – Clearly, more practice is required!

Life, if you let it, will get in your way when it comes to practicing those skills that will keep you and your family alive in the worst possible scenario.Don’t let life do that! Make and schedule regular time for your dry fire and range practice.  You’ll be glad you did even in the event you never have to use the skills you’ve honed. Why?  Because you’ll be confident you had the skills if you needed them.

Time continues to slip by us, and according to the MSM, 7 in 10 Americans believe some really nasty, spicy times are ahead.

Train now, train often, and stack ’em deep!

Part II: The Ideal Sidearm?

19 round capability (18 round mags & 1 chambered) coupled with a LONG history of reliability and superb ammunition choices, such as the Federal HST (my pick), make the Beretta M9 an excellent choice for a sidearm – though there are others equally as good or better, depending on personal preference and analysis.

In the original post, here, the point was simply made, “The ideal sidearm is the one you have in your hand.”

That’s true, in the most base terms, because if whatever you have is all you’ve got, then it is ideal when compared to having an empty hand.

When going beyond that most basic premise, the intellect should be employed to do a bit of pre-response analysis and tool capability comparison, both specification and performance wise.

Here’s a few questions that are also basic, but essential:

  • What is the nature of the threat you perceive you will most likely be faced with?
  • Is it a single threat, or will there be more than one, such as criminal activity coupled with self-defense against a predatory animal or simply self-defense against criminals or self-defense against predatory animals?

  • Do you have, or are you capable of developing the physical strength necessary to not only operate the sidearm chosen effectively, but navigate the physical stress you will be subjected to immediately before, during, and after the threat presents itself?  If not, are you willing to put yourself on a program to develop the physical attributes necessary?

  • If you anticipate a multiple threat scenario as most likely, does the sidearm you are considering have the ability to hold enough rounds for the initial engagement and then be reloaded quickly for subsequent engagement prior to the cessation of the threat?
  • Do you have the discipline to routinely practice techniques necessary for self-defense in both dry and ‘wet’ fire consistently?

  • Do you have the equipment necessary to carry your chosen sidearm in a legal manner (until it no longer matters, if every, carrying legally is the way to do it – that way you don’t end up in prison for otherwise lawfully defending yourself or others)?

  • What are the specifications of the ammunition you plan on using?  Is it capable of sufficient penetration and expansion when coupled with shot placement to stop the threat you’re faced with?

  • Have you planned to use the same bullet weight for practice as well as for ‘real world’ carry and self-defense in order to experience very similar recoil and point of aim/impact?

There are many more questions you can ask along these lines – remember – we’re narrowing down the countless choices of sidearms available based on our own personal circumstances.  So, should you be new to owning and training with a sidearm, will help you make educated decisions that could save your life or the lives of others.

The Ideal Sidearm?

My Desert Eagle – The Best Zombie Engine Block Killer I’ve Got!  Zero’d at 100 meters.

Which sidearm, revolver or pistol, would qualify as ‘THE‘ ideal in a national contest of all the sidearms available today?  That’s a tough question.  Or is it?

We all have our favorites and can justify our choices to any ‘naysayer,’ right??

Smith, Sig, Glock, Beretta, Colt, Ruger, Kahr, etc, etc, etc, etc!

Mag fed, wheel gun, long barrel, short barrel, adjustable trigger, after market, etc, etc, etc, etc!

50AE, .45ACP, 10mm, 9mm, .357 Mag, 44 Mag, .38 Special, .380, 25 Auto, etc, etc, etc, etc!

And I’m sure there’d be no shortage of folks able to rank all the sidearms they’ve ever owned or shot as to their place in the ‘ideal’ line up.

What we can’t do a great majority of the time, is answer the question understandably and simply, ‘Which is THE ideal sidearm?’

Until now.

And, this choice of sidearm has been mentioned countless times to countless audiences, friends, students and acquaintances before by countless people steeped in common sense, even though various authors, experts, and shooting writers fail to simply acknowledge this simple truth as they discover, debate, and judge, ‘the next IDEAL sidearm.’

Which is THE ideal sidearm?

The one that’s in your hand, loaded, and ready to employ against the threat you’re facing.

Period.

Once you know that, everything else falls into place, because no matter what your personal choice is, you’ll be doing dry fire drills, live fire, ammunition experimentation, mag change drills, and so forth, so when it IS in your hand, you’ll use it effectively, no matter who made it or what type of sidearm it happens to be.

Second Range Report – Savage Model 10 FCP-SR and Primary Arms 4-14 ACSS FFP Illuminated ACSS-HUD-DMR-308

In the first post on this rifle, here, I shot 175gr rounds from various manufactures from Berger down to Fiocchi (cost & inherent accuracy wise).   This time, I’m shooting 168gr from various manufacturers:  IMI, Federal, Fiocchi, and Mag Tech.  Berger doesn’t make a 168gr HPBT match, at least, easily found for sale. So, I’ve got 4 match grade HPBT rounds to compare.

As you can see by reading the first report, the Berger 175’s were top notch in accuracy and quality of production.  Lapua brass, match primers, superb projectiles, and bordering on ‘scary’ accuracy.

Now, to be fair, I fouled the barrel prior to my anecdotal evidence experiment, and didn’t clean the barrel inbetween brands.  So, the Fiocchi had the dirtiest and warmest barrel temps to deal with.  To rule that out, next phase, after the 168’s, I’m shooting the Fioochi first and the Berger’s last, with IMI (new batch of 175gr Match) ad Federal in the middle.  We’ll see how that goes.  Digression complete.

Something else I’m doing doing different is checking impact of the torque of the action screws on accuracy.  Savage says they should be torqued between 30 and 35 inch pounds.  I’ve torqued them as close as I could to 33 inch pounds.  So, we’ll see what happens.  If the first 3 shot groups (yeah, I know, 5 rounds is a better test and I’ll do that later) are more than an inch, I’ll adjust the torque to 35 pounds.  If it shrinks it, great, if it opens up more, I’ll back it down to around 30 and see what that does.

Here’s the results as they were shot.

185 Gr Federal “Juggernaut”  – HUGE disappointment as these rounds are loaded with Berger bullets and about as expensive as the Berger/Lapua 175gr below (about $1.24 per round).  I really expected them to equal, if not best, the Berger brand.  While not ‘bad,’ per se, the 1.5 inch large group was either a fluke or an indicator of possible QA concerns due to the lack of consistency.

Small:  .416 Inches

Large:  1.5 inches

Avg:  .897

175 GRAIN HPBT MATCH COMPARISON

Berger 175 gr HPBT: The most accurate, and most expensive round in the 175gr range.  You do get what you pay for!  $1.24 per round, delivered.

Small:  .311 inches – I’m thinking with some practice, I could easily do “one hole groups” with this ammo.

Large:  .837 inches

Avg:  .574 inches – Basically a half inch at 100 meters.  On average.  Don’t get NO better than that with factory loaded ammo!!

Prime 175 gr HPBT:  I could easily stick with these due with the price point of .94 per round delivered; 30 cents per round less expensive than the Berger (which is a SUPERB round).  If I were to be concerned with budget, this would be my round of choice.

Small: .540 inches

Large:  1.04 inches

Avg:  .730 inches

Federal Match 175 gr HPBT:  Meh.  Federal Match oughta be better out of the box.

Small: .478 Inches

Large:  1.88 inches

Avg:  1.26 inches

Barnes “Precision” 175 gr HPBT:  (Rounds had obvious water spots on the projectiles from improper storage – could have had something to do with performance, but all brands were purchased from the same distributor – no other problems noted whatsoever.)  Will not use – actually feel I wasted the money on the test ammo.

Small: 1.61 inches

Large:  2 inches

Avg:  1.74 inches

MAGTECH ‘First Defense’ 168gr HPBT Match:  If I go 168gr, these are going to be my round of choice…..these are the ‘poor man’s’ accuracy round.  A real sleeper!  Excellent performance all around.  Average about exactly between a half in and three quarters of an inch group at 100 meters!  REALLY good factory load alternative for 168’s.

SUPERB performance, especially when one notes MAGTECH is an ‘economy’ brand.

Small:  .383 inches

Large:  .832 inches

Avg:  .670 inches

IMI 168gr Match (HPBT):  Meh. I expected more out of IMI ‘sniper/match’ rounds.  All 3 groups were very consistent, two of which were within .001 size differential.  They do shoot the same, but the inherent accuracy wasn’t tight enough for me to consider these as my ‘go to’ round.

Small:  1.07 inches

Large:  1.30 inches

Avg:  1.22 inches

Federal 168gr Premium HPBT Match:  Not happy AT all….my rifle doesn’t like this round; surprising, in that it likes other 168’s.  I really thought this round would be at the top of the 168 crowd….

Small:  0.90 inches

Large:  1.5 inches

Avg:  1.2 inches

 

 

Right Now….TODAY….at PSA, You Can Get an AR Kit for UNDER $300

Here.

WHAT IN BLUE BLAZES ARE YOU WAITING FOR??!!??

Ammo is cheaper than it ever has been, so are magazines.  So are replacement parts.  So are upgrades.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my Yugo M48 and my other rifles, but if I gotta defend hearth and home, I’d really rather have an AR with about 4,000 rounds of barrier blind ammo and about 20 mags…..along with another couple thousand practice rounds and some range time.

Get thee hence and upgrade your ‘survival’ armory.

First Range Report – Savage Model 10 FCP-SR and Primary Arms 4-14 ACSS FFP Illuminated ACSS-HUD-DMR-308

Years ago I used to have a very, very accurate Remington 700 Sendero in .300 Win Mag.  I sold it some years ago and replaced it with a Savage 10 with the 4-14 ACSS scope in 7.62 NATO.  While I miss the long range accuracy of that .300 Win, I’ve not been disappointed with the Savage.

Two weeks ago I took it to a square indoor range and put 30 rounds down the tube to see what kind of groups I might expect without making any adjustments to the rifle or glass.  The only ammo I had on had was some Fiocchi 165gr Sierra HPBT Game King, which is a great hunting round.  I’m fond of the 165gr as a general purpose  bullet as it performs very well out to about 700m, and the Game King is designed as a purposeful hollow point.

I was ok with the results; best group, once it was sighted in, was just about an inch at 50m; so 2 inches at 100 is fine for hunting, however, my projected application for the Savage is to distract and disrupt a ‘zombie apocalypse’ against my neighborhood.

As I hadn’t shot this rifle, admittedly, I did things backwards.  All I did to prep it was to patch the barrel and check the optics for solid mounting.  After I shot it and came home, I took it completely apart, cleaned it, and then used a torque driver to tighten the action screws to the recommended inch pound setting from Savage.

I went back to a square outdoor range with 3 different brands of ammunition in two weights:  168 & 175gr – two with Sierra HPBT Matchking projectiles and one set with Berger projectiles.

All shots from the bench, cool to warm barrel, no cleaning between groups, 100 meters, temperature around 80f, partly cloudy, humidity about 75%.

Suffice it to say that the results, with much higher quality ammunition and having the rifle prepped made quite the difference!

This is the result:

Berger Match Grade 308 Winchester Ammo 175 Grain Open Tip Match Tactical 

This was the most accurate (and most expensive) rounds used in my Inherent Accuracy Test, Phase 1.  As you can see, it’s pretty good ammo.  The small squares are 1/4 inch X 1/4 inch, and this is a really good just under or at 1/2 inch group.  The Berger rounds use the best of everything, to include Lapua brass, match projectiles, special power blends, and match primers.  It shows.  But they’re spendy.  Between $1.30 and $1.50 a round, depending on where you get them, and that doesn’t include shipping!  Add another .40 to .60 a round after shipping.  Sometimes you can get free shipping if you buy lots of 200 rounds.  That may come later for me if I choose these as my primary, but even so, they’re expensive!  That’s about $30 a box or more.

Next up is Federal Gold Medal 308 Winchester 175gr Sierra HPBT Match King.  This group was just over a half inch but under 3/4’s of an inch.  The price point difference between this and the Berger is significant, at about $7 a box cheaper than the Berger.  The Federal rounds are also top quality, with the same Sierra bullet, ‘virgin’ brass (so described by Federal) proprietary powder mix, and really consistent primers.

The Federal is less expensive by quite a bit, ranging from .92 to $1.70 per round (this price had a free shipping note so long as you purchase 200 rounds).  The range is a lot wider, but at the least expensive end, adding shipping to the cost makes it about $1.50 or so a round, or $25 a box, and with the eye of a coupon shopper, you can probably get these for less than $20 a box, shipped.

Last, but certainly not least, as the ammo is MOA capable, is Fiocchi’s submission to the 175gr match market.  Titled, ‘Fiocchi Exacta Rifle Match,’ it’s performance was acceptable, though a bit disappointment as it is about the same price as the Federal, which performed clearly better in this test.

I have some IMI 175gr BTHP SMK OTM Razor Core Match coming, so this portion of the test won’t be complete until that gets expended.

After the 175gr performance comparison is complete, I’m going to do 168 gr as well, same brands (except Berger, as they don’t make 168’s), same conditions as much as possible.  I’m including the 168’s as potential ‘go to’ ammo as I was weaned on them back in the day, and I wouldn’t fee right not giving them a chance.

Stay tuned.

Idiots…

The so-called ‘small arms expert,’ here, as noted in “The Rundown” linked from “The Woodpile Report,” here, is either an idiot, or has had his interview quotes thoroughly taken out of context through selective editing to increase the sensationalization to make him purposely look like an idiot.  If the latter was the goal, the reporter succeeded.

The Navy vet quoted in the piece claims the Dayton shooter (self-identified as ANTIFA) was using an illegally modified AR15 turning it into a SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) which are, in fact, illegal to own unless registered with the BATFE with the appropriate tax paid and owner background checks completed.  Right up front in the article the ‘small arms expert’ is shown to have very little ‘expertise’ by the first quote:

“A pistol/rifle hybrid is completely illegal on every level,” Jack Maxey told The Rundown. “It’s clearly illegal in its current configuration.”

In a word, “NONSENSE!”

It was used illegally to murder people, but as it’s configured, it’s pretty safe to say that it was built as an AR pistol.

So, as quoted, the ‘expert’ obviously NEVER heard of or has seen an AR PISTOL.  Mr. Maxey, if quoted incorrectly, should demand a retraction and subsequent correction, and if quoted correctly, take a firearms identification course and apologize to, ‘The Run Down.’

In the photo released by the Dayton PD, the firearm is easily identified as an AR pistol by ID of the Shockwave Blade Pistol Stabilizer in conjunction with the apparent 10.5″ barrel, which further indicates the configuration as an AR pistol, NOT an SBR, at least by appearances.  The only way it can be judged as a SBR is to see if the lower receiver was registered as a ‘pistol receiver.’  If it wasn’t, then it’s a SBR; if it was, it’s an AR Pistol.

Additionally, stabilizers, such as the one in the crime photo, cannot be installed on AR 15 carbines or rifles, because the installation shortens the overall length of the firearm below the legal minimums, again, making it a SBR.

The stabilizer itself sells for under $25 at most major firearms accessory retailers, and the one in the photo is thusly described:  “The Shockwave Technologies Blade Pistol Stabilizer is a lightweight, ergonomic, BATFE approved AR-15 pistol enhancement. This high-strength polymer brace fits all pistols equipped with a standard AR-15 pistol buffer tube (up to 1.25″ in diameter), for a secure, worry-free fit.”

Again, AR pistols are completely LEGAL so long as the owner registers it as a pistol when he or she meets the legal requirements to own it and follows their state protocol for registration when taking possession through a licensed FFL, who, by the way, is not going to risk legal jeopardy themselves by allowing a SBR to be possessed by a prospective owner that doesn’t have the appropriate clearance and approval.

Once the lower is registered as a pistol receiver, it cannot legally have a rifle upper installed on it without having the legal description changed from pistol to rifle, and then again, the owner must have BATFE notification of intent to change the designation and with their approval.  If the AR Pistol owner doesn’t jump through those hoops and installs a rifle upper on the pistol lower, or installs a rifle stock on the pistol lower, he or she has just converted a legal pistol to an illegal SBR.

From what I understand, it’s a PITA to jump through all the hoops to get an AR Pistol lower reclassified, being much easier to simply buy a new lower and build a new AR carbine/rifle.

Sigh…

Comparision / Contrast: Old v New AR Platforms – Pt 2

Posted at AP on 11 Oct 18.

Before we get into this installment, I freely acknowledge that there are as many people out there who simply loathe the M16/AR15/M4/M4gery platform and would rather throw rocks at an enemy than use one, as recently evidenced by comments not making the cut here (I don’t do vitriol) or seen at other sites posting the first installment of the series.

There are also those who really, ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ about continuous product improvement, and honestly don’t care to compare/contrast older versions with newer versions of anything, and operate on what is known as, “The Law of Primacy,” which basically means, “first learned, longest remembered, revered, trusted, etc (put in your own descriptor..)  I actually was in this category for 20 years after retiring from active duty, so much so that I moved to the 7.62NATO round in a M14 type rifle and didn’t consider an AR until about 6 or 7 years ago.  Of course, a lot has changed for the better since even then.

 

 

So, if you’re one of those who reacts in an unhealthy way at the mention of ‘AR’, don’t bother reading on, as all this will most likely do is raise your BP, your ire, and possibly cause you to violate our comment standards when/if you comment.

For the rest of the readership, as you saw in Part 1, the M-16 and its civilian cousin, the AR15 (exception to the designation was the fully automatic USAF AR15) started out with a whimper instead of a bang.  It took some time for Colt to clear up the problems being faced on the battle field due to poor powder replacements in the round, no cleaning equipment, no solvents, and extreme malfunctions solely due to those reasons.

However, once Colt got on the ball, the problems were fixed and the rifle and carbine kept being put through Continuous Product Improvement evolutions to became the most loved/hated platform in the US.  I was weaned on the USAF AR15 slab side (my first issue rifle had the 3 prong flash suppressor on it).  We had no forward assist available, but the thing was, we didn’t need it.  Colt had fixed the issue, so we were fine with what we were given, not that we actually knew what had been improved (E-2’s and 3’s aren’t the most informed people in the military….just sayin’), we just knew it fired when we pulled the trigger and hit what we were aiming at to the maximum range we were allowed to shoot (usually 200 meters or less, most often 100 meters).  Most of us, including me, hated it though, because we were trained by men who’d used the first generation in Vietnam that had problems.  We all lusted for the M-14, which we would NEVER see as a general issue rifle.

My personal dislike for the AR carried over throughout my career, even though I used another variant or two, specifically, the GAU-5A and the ‘Colt Commando.’  Those were, at least, more maneuverable and as we were always getting in and out of vehicles (trucks, jeeps, cars (armored and standard), a lot easier to use and control, especially if you were a dog handler (like I was for 3 years) or were working a support weapons crew, such as the 81mm Mortar (also like I was for 5 years).  Great also for vehicle patrols and other tasks.  The pic below also shows how we adapted the slings in order to carry in more of a ready position.  We taped our unused sling swivels, though….noise and all that.

When I retired from active service, I decided to go with .30 caliber weapons for my personal use and for competition.  So, in a short time, I had an ’03A3, a nice Garand, and a really nice pre-ban Springfield M1A (later sold and replaced with a Fulton Armory refurbed Norinco with all TRW parts except for the receiver).  Used them for 20 years.  Below photo of yours truly with his Fulton Armory reworked Norinco.

Then, age started to catch up to me, and I knew my days of running around with a 10 pound rifle and 13 magazines of 7.62NATO were numbered.  So, all the .30’s eventually got sold, and I listened to some folks talk about how much more improved the AR was.  I was hearing things about 600 meter capabilities, super-stiff barrels in 16, 18 & 20 inch lengths, double-chrome lining, Nickel Boron coated BCG’s, and some superb triggers.

Usually, what sounds to good to be true actually is too good to be true.

In this case, the upgrades and improvements were, in fact, true, and the AR’s I own now run circles around what I was issued, and, in the case of the Colt SP-1 still out there for sale for collectors when they can find one.  I like the SP-1 for nostalgia’s sake; the one I’ve fired hits where it should hit, but it is limited by the barrel twist, the sights, bullet weight, and issue trigger.  But it is the closest thing to what I used during my first couple tours on active duty, save for the lack of select fire.  In comparison, the AR below is an earlier iteration I had for a couple years; bought it right before the first panic in ’09 for about $1300 and watched it go up in value to over $3,000 almost over night.  I decided to go with the ‘Canadian’ influence of a retractable stock but a full length 20 inch barrel.  I wanted to squeeze the most performance possible out of the 5.56NATO round.  It had a Nickel Boron upper, NiB BCG and bolt, 20 in chrome lined FN barrel in a 1:8 twist (it ate everything pretty well), Gisele trigger, Magpul everything, Vortex flash suppressor, fold down BUIS, and an ACOG.  I regret selling that one.  That particular rifle is shown in the feature image at the top of this post.

What’s available for purchase now?  Almost endless accouterments as well as configurations.  I’ll list just a few of the improvements.  Yes, some of them are expensive, but I figure you get what you pay for, and I know my AR’s are pretty much bomb proof.  They also fall into the definition of ‘practical combat carbine.’  Also available is the very popular AR ‘pistol.’  They’re kinda neat for carry in a car, so long as you have a CPL.  Most states won’t allow a rifle to be carried loaded in your vehicle, but, and AR pistol may be, so long as you have your CPL.  Laws vary, so check out your own state’s requirements.

Here’s some of the upgrades available that I’ve chosen for my latest iteration, one that I’ve had for about 3 years:

  • FN manufactured, double chrome lined barrel.  Very stiff; basically a cut down machine gun barrel.  Able to stay very rigid during long firing periods (equates to a smaller cone of fire).
  • Barrel Twist – 1:7 takes the 62gr, both OTM and M855.  Personally, I’d prefer a 1:8, as it’ll eat everything ranging from 55gr to 77 gr, but I’m not quite ready to re-barrel my ‘go to.’
  • Vortex Flash Suppressor – Nothing says ‘no flash signature’ like a Vortex.  You can still see flash signature with the ‘Bird Cage,’ let alone the 3 prong.
  • Folding BUIS w/chevron sight post to replace the standard – Great for snap shooting and back up should my optics go Tango Uniform.
  • Battery Assist Device (BAD) by MagPul – HUGE debate out there in ‘subject matter expert’ land as to what one might do if they train with a BAD and have to use a ‘battlefield pick up.’  I am not in that camp.  I’ve been using the AR system long enough that if a BAD isn’t there, it’ll take about 3 nano-seconds to revert back to activating the standard bolt release.
  • Nickel Boron Bolt and Bolt Carrier Group – Carbon doesn’t adhere nearly as bad as it does on the standard issue or chrome BCG or bolts.
  • Bravo Company Bolt Upgrades – Rubber donuts, stronger ejector springs, and superb gas rings that last longer.
  • Better ergonomics on the pistol grip, adjustable stock, and fore-grip.
  • 200 lumen mounted light on foregrip; safety bail operated.
  • Geissele trigger.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Vortex Strike Eagle variable scope.  Not top line, but is superb and takes enough of a beating to make it balance out on the ROI scale.
  • American Defense Industries quick release scope base – If the vortex goes ‘kaput,’ I can remove it with a flip of the levers and employ my back up iron sights that are pre-zeroed.
  • Heavier buffer/stronger buffer spring – It’s for the carbine, of course, but it does help keep things non-maniacal during follow up shots.
  • Magazines – Mix between MagPul window and stainless steel magazines.  I like both; both take rattle can camo very well.  The MagPuls are thicker at the base, and therefore don’t fit as well into USGI type double mag bandoleers (which I like for ‘extra comfort’).

All in all, the newest iteration I own, and the ones available from quality manufacturers have long outdistanced what was originally issued and available to the civilian market.

Are there better platforms out there?  Sure, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more versatile platform with as many different configurations, optics, furniture, ammo choices, not to mention cost reductions and availability.  Nicely appointed AR’s are going for $500, sometimes less, and the quality isn’t half bad.

Well, that about does it.  Hope you enjoyed the series.

Comparision / Contrast: Old v New AR Platforms – Pt 1

Posted at AP on 2 Oct 18.

“Ch-ch-ch-changes…..Time May Change Me, but I can’t Change Time…”

Interesting start to a new post, huh?  Kinda sorta ‘Bowie-like’ but different….as you can see by the featured photo, this is going to be a comparison contrast with some history thrown in regarding the quintessential American, ‘Go-To’ rifle, the AR-15.

Let’s start out with a little known trivia fact:  Which US military branch had a fully automatic version of the M16 actually designated as the AR-15?

Drum roll:  The US Air Force. The USAF chose Colt’s Model 604 and had it designated the AR-15.  Same thing as the M16 feature image above (not A1), complete with select fire capability but with all the wonderful improvements (to that time) that Colt had made to ensure reliability in combat conditions.

Colt Model 604 was the AR-15/M-16 model developed primarily for the US Air Force. It differed from the XM16E1 and M16A1 in that it did not have the forward assist feature. The “early” models were built with a Partial Fence Lower and 3-Prong Flashhider, and the “late” models were built with Full Fence Lowers and A1 Birdcage Flashhiders.

From what the records indicate, once powder issue had been resolved and fouling was no longer a killer in the field, and the buffer spring had been strengthened, the forward assist was no longer necessary.  We always thought we were being short changed with the AR-15 version, but in all the time I was in the field in swampy, wet, winter, and dry conditions, never once did my issued AR-15 fail to go into battery when firing, so apparently, Colt did fix things.  They even got rid of the three prong flash suppressor that could, but didn’t normally, get caught on local vegetation.  More often it was used to pop open ‘C Rats’ or ammo cases (the violator getting caught became miserable for a few weeks), and then, ‘poof,’ all our rifles were either retrofitted with ‘jungle tips’ (original reference by USAF Security Forces in the 70’s) properly known as ‘bird cage’ flash suppressors or returned to Depot after new ones had arrived.

    USAF Air Base Ground Defense troop with a M16

Then there’s the ‘forward assist’.  The originals on the M16A1 actually fit the thumb as opposed to the ‘push button’ type seen today.  And, it was necessary, from both a physical point of view (the buffer springs weren’t quite strong enough to deal with the crap encountered in the bush) and there was a more important psychological perspective to deal with:  way too many GI’s were afraid of having to break down their rifle because it wouldn’t go into battery during a fire fight.  Even with the problem fixed, the ‘A1’ was a good idea if only for confidence and a ‘make sure’ tool.  So now, everyone who’s anyone won’t buy a M-forgery or full length rifle without a forward assist.  Every single upper I’ve purchased has one ‘De Rigueur.’  You simply cannot find an AR lower without one (which is kind of ironic, in that buffer springs now are available that when compared to the older ones are on steroids!)  At least I haven’t been able to do so.  Basically, it’s an unnecessary feature that will never be used in earnest, which is to ensure that a gunky, muddy, debris encumbered bolt carrier group will seat so the weapon may fire.  All one needs for this rifle to be reliable is a good, strong buffer spring, and routine cleaning, and it won’t fail.  Maybe your mileage has varried/will vary, but I’m pretty confident in what my AR’s have that makes the Forward Assist obsolete.  Colt had fixed that , too, in the USAF’s AR15, and that’s why the USAF didn’t see them for quite a long time (from what I understand, current issue has them – most likely an economy of scale thing….cheaper to make them with them, than make a separate run without them).

Ok…on to basic history:

Military problems with the AR (M-series) in Vietnam:

  • Original powder used to achieve 3K feet per second velocity produced excessive (and I mean excessive) fouling that caused the rifle to jam very quickly (propellants used in today’s 5.56NATO doesn’t foul the chamber or barrel nearly at all).
  • Fouling led to ‘failure to extract’ spent casings, and that got a lot of people hurt/killed.
  • Barrel and chamber were chromoly, not chrome-lined, and were subject to rust/corrosion if not cleaned often.
  • Cleaning kits were in short supply.  REALLY short supply.  Rifles were supposed to be delivered with them, but Colt and the Army got caught short. Troops wrote home begging for .22 cleaning kits from their families.
  • Colt originally claimed the rifle was ‘self-cleaning,’ (which is why they didn’t worry about the cleaning kits) which obviously was not the case.

By 1967, the M16A1 was issued.  Improvements included:

  • Chrome Lined chamber & barrel:  One of the best things they EVER did.  To this day, until Nitride barrels, a good AR has had a single or double chrome lining for increased barrel life and reduced corrosion and failure to extract (dirty chambers can still cause an occasional problem if ignored, so it’s a good idea when cleaning to clean the chamber and not just the bore).
  • Lubricants – LSA, that wonderful, white, gooey lubricant also known as a something to do with elephants that is not mentioned in polite company.  This is where we all learned it ran better when wet.
  • Cleaning Solvents – Worked like a charm (with a lot of scrubbing – nothing like the wonder solvents of today) compared to letting it clean itself.
  • Cleaning Kits & Training in how to clean the weapon:  Go figure.  Who knew?
  • Charging Handle changed out from the ‘triangle,’ which was hard to grip and pull with wet hands, to the more user-friendly version seen today as ‘standard issue.’

The powder wasn’t changed, though, until 1970, to one that was much less prone to foul the weapon to the point of despair.

The rest, as they say, is history.  I was asked on the range one day not long ago if I was using the civilian version of what I used on active duty.  My answer was something along the lines of:  “Not hardly.  This thing is a ‘space gun’ compared to what we had.”  And it’s true.  There have been so many improvements to the basic AR platform that comparison can be likened to a World War II Thunderbolt compared to a F-16 fighter.

When one compares even the improved version of the civilian model, the Colt SP-1 (the one I owned for a short time was made in 1976), is almost prehistoric compared to my 16″, Nitiride 1:8 twist, NiB Bolt & BCG, flat top, 6 position Magpul stock, Gisele trigger, Primary Amrs optic mounted, 62gr shooting, MOA capable/performing (depending on the ammo…) carbine.  Not. The. Same. Animal.

I like the SP-1 a lot, generally for nostalgia, and if I find another example reasonably priced, will buy it again.  It shoots well, and is a great collector’s piece as most are still in great shape and made by “Colt Patented Firearms”, while sporting the ‘prancing pony’ logo.  If there wasn’t anything else for me to grab, I’d take one and have confidence in its performance within its limitations.  On the other hand, if I have my ‘druthers on grabbing something for a problem, I’m reaching for my modern carbine that has every possible improvement to the platform in the way of reliability, accuracy, and durability.  No question.

Next installment:  Comparison of the current practical combat carbine.

 

 

The Sling – It’s for Much More Than CQB or Ease of Rifle Carry…

Excellent opening image above, isn’t it?  It demonstrates the use of a ‘deliberate’ sling on a 1917 Eddystone Enfield, chambered in 30-06.  The image below is an M-14 rifle nomenclature diagram.  Notice the sling is important enough to be included as part of the weapon system, and it’s set up properly for a deliberate (aka, ‘loop’) sling , too.  Following that is an image of a M-16 with one of the older cotton web slings, and it’s set up properly for a deliberate sling as well.  The sling, as taught to many generations of US servicemen, is an aid to accurate shooting.  Even the sling swivels are placed in strategic locations for optimum employment (more on this below).

As mentioned above, the US military (all branches at one point) used to teach marksmanship to include the use of the sling to all recruits (especially the USMC), but, as the years went by and training focus changed from accurate fire to area suppression, less and less time was spent on accuracy, and more time was spent on putting as many rounds into an area or location as possible, to the point that only the Marines continued to teach the sling.  Stands to reason, in the USMC, everyone is a rifleman, first and foremost.

In my own time on active duty, I believe my ‘generation’ was the last to receive any training in the use of the sling, and that was after arrival at our first duty stations, not in Basic Training, and then, not universally across the board.  I was lucky; had a few early Vietnam veterans and cross branch enlistees who took an interest in my shooting capabilities because I was on their squad.  And, about that time, the sling, to most people, became an item with which to carry one’s rifle on the shoulder, and these days, across the chest or abdomen.

HUGE mistake in my opinion.

                   Yours Truly Shooting a M14 Type Rifle with a Hasty Sling

To underscore the point, the primary purpose of a sling is not simply for carrying a rifle comfortably as some may think; rather, it’s an essential shooting aid that allows the shooter to achieve better accuracy in each shot than the shooter would without it.  1907 slings as well as web slings are now mostly used by competitors, re-enactors, and purists (which I count myself as one of the former competitors, now turned purist).  Mores the pity – the generations of younger shooters will most likely not benefit from such superb training as those who’ve gone before did.

Today’s slings (both issue and after market) can be single point, two point, three point, in terms of attachment, as well as variations thereof with slides and buckles to tighten or loosen the sling on the individual for ease of weapon deployment or carrying easier that has a byproduct of letting the troop use both hands for other tasks while retaining the ability to bring the weapon to bear in a threat.  They’re simply an evolution of a need brought about by a major shift in vehicle & airborne insertion into a battle zone.  They don’t have a thing to do with helping the shooter deliberately hit a target a long way away to the back burner.  So, in relation to accuracy, those type of slings pretty much suck as deliberate shooting aids.   One of the reasons is the points of attachment have changed along with the purpose of slings when shooting.

Most military grade or replica of issue rifles have two primary points of attachment for the sling:  On the underside of the forearm near its front end and the underside of the butt stock near its end.

Take the Vietnam issue nylon web sling (above), it’s WWII/Korean War predecessors made of cotton web, and it’s child – black cotton/poly mix (the worst of the lot, in my opinion).  All three good versions were able to be quickly employed as either deliberate or hasty configurations for the shooter to have a really good chance at hitting his enemy at maximum effective or beyond maximum effective ranges, or if closer and under great stress, have a better chance of coming out on top with a first or second shot hit.  In my opinion, the Vietnam issue is the best, because with use it gets softer and does not stretch at all.

Another that doesn’t stretch at all is the Turner Saddlery ‘all weather’ 1907 slings as pictured below.  In my opinion, you can’t buy a better sling than Turner, leather or synthetic.  You might find some just as good, but none better.

                                            Turner Saddlery Synthetic NM Sling in OD

                           US Marine Employing a Deliberate or “Loop” Sling with a M-16A2 Rifle

The front and rear sling swivel locations help reduce any pressure of the forearm against the barrel, which will degrade accuracy.   This can be mitigated, though.  How?  Easy – the barrel must be ‘free floated.’  Back when I competed in High Power, my match rifles, both Garands and M14 type rifles, were free floated to wring the most accuracy possible out of them when using or not using the sling.  Standard issue or replica rifles used are typically upgraded to match level in parts and construction, and the shooter learns how much pressure he can put on the sling before it’s a detriment and not a help in his shooting.  Here’s a very short video on the proper way to install a sling.

If you’re a more ‘modern’ shooter and have a sling installed on the standard USGI gas block clipped in with a plastic or light metal quick release buckle, and you’re putting pressure on your sling, you could easily break your attachment device or put enough pressure on the gas block to cause problems with your accuracy.  If you have a QR release on the side of the forearm, enough pressure may pop your QR swivel right out of its receptacle.   Either of these conditions are not good for your shot.  And Murphy ensures these kinds of things always happen at the wrong moment.  When installed ‘old school’ on older .30 caliber battle rifles or even M16A1’s, through A4’s, these things rarely happen because A:  the sling swivels are reinforced to take the pressure using a sling generates, and B: the sling isn’t putting pressure on anything that will affect the shot.  If you are going to use the current crop of slings, 99.999% of them were not designed to help you attain better accuracy, so it might not be a good idea to try it out on them.  Especially if you’re a ‘CQB’ type – you don’t need the sling for accuracy anyway.  Using a sling is strictly for making accurate shots out to ranges you don’t normally shoot at or when strict accuracy is necessary for a certain shot.

Me?  Sure, I’ve got rifles set up with the more modern 2 point slings, but I’ll always have at least one rifle set up with a 1907 or USGI Nylon sling.  Not so cool looking, but really high up there for making shots when it really counts.

Let’s hear your thoughts on sling shooting in the comments.