Saturday, November 28, 2009

Walking Contradiction

I hate Aimpoint red dot sights. I have been issued them for about seven years now and though the latest batch have been better, I still don't trust them.

Every Aimpoint I was issued until we got new Comp M2s last year has had the same set of problems. It refused to stay zeroed. The light would go on and off randomly, or go out under the barely perceptible recoil of an M16A2. The ones we had in Afghanistan all went wrong before the year was up, and we all went back to using our iron sights. The special forces unit that we occasionally traveled with all bought their own EOTech 511s, but our platoon sergeant said we couldn't do the same.

Now, I have to admit that the Aimpoints we were issued before were pretty clearly refurbished. Badly. The last batch we've received were brand-spanking-new Comp M2s and they haven't gone wrong on anyone in my company. Not yet anyway.

So why use a red dot sight? Simple: they're faster than irons. Instead of aligning three sight planes (rear aperture, front post, and the target), you only align two (the dot and the target). Also, the Aimpoint is parallax free beyond 25 meters, meaning no matter what angle you look at the dot, it still points to where your round will impact. But the dot is usually 2 or 4 MOA, so it covers 2 or 4 inches at 100 yards. So at 300 yards, it covers six or twelve inches--which is a lot, but still good enough for combat purposes where every hit counts (and ONLY hits count).

But for my money, the EOTech holographic sight is the way to go. It is more rugged, more accurate (1MOA dot), has a better reticle, and is just generally better. Unless you need to deploy from under more than 15 feet of water. Aimpoints are submersible to some ridiculous depth, which the Army often touts as their reason for not choosing the EOTech. Yeah, because there are so many places in Iraq and Afghanistan where the common soldier finds himself underwater.

So I've been looking for an optic for my M&P15 carbine. And I bought this:
Yes, an Aimpoint clone called the Vortex Strikefire, and it retails for about $150. But it has rave reviews from most everyone who owns it. But I can live with an Aimpoint clone for $150 because there's nothing else out there in its price range that has great reviews. It's also called the "Strikefire", which is terribly manly. And it comes with quite a bit of kit for that meager $150, to include a 2x magnifier that screws into the eyepiece. It also comes with the lens covers and an aluminum scope ring to mount it in. There are two kits available--one for hunting rifles, which comes with a medium height ring, and one specifically for an AR-15 series flat-top rifle which comes with an extra high ring. The dot itself can be either red or green, and it has nightvision compatible settings. Vortex is based in Wisconsin and offers a full line of sporting and tactical scopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes. Most of their stuff is VERY reasonably priced.

It should be here Monday, so look for a review as soon as next weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I got a phone call from my unit about a month ago saying I'd be taking another all-expenses-paid trip overseas next year. In that spirit, I thought I'd list the gear I'd take if I ran the world. So here we go, starting from the ground up.

Multi Cam, BDU cut from Crye Precision. Moving on.


Crye Precision Armor Chassis Gen 2. It's breathable and sensibly laid out to preserve your range of motion. It's got to be better than the old IBAS I used last time. I'd get a multicam tac vest to wear over it. Something like the one below, but in multicam.
THE GUNS:I'd pick the Remington ACR (designed by Magpul, so it's a work of genius) as my rifle. Since it is essentially a Lego set from hell, I'd put a 16" barrel on and have it chambered in 6.5 Grendel for some extra range over the 5.56x45 NATO. No matter because changing calibers is as easy as pushing a couple of pins and locking a new barrel assembly in place. I'd put an EOTech holographic sight on it for good measure.These are also a work of genius. The EOTech sight is the best holographic out there, and it's pretty reasonably priced to boot. They're durable, accurate, reliable, and take very common AA batteries. I've seen these turn in 1 MOA groups on AR-15 rifles. The Aimpoints we've been issued in the past have been very fragile, moody, and annoying. Last time I was in Afghanistan, the SF team that lived down the street from us were all issued Aimpoints, but ended up buying EOTechs. I don't think there's a much better endorsement out there.

Of course, I'd also carry a handgun. I'd choose the S&W M&P9 standard model with a 4" barrel. The M&P9 is better than the Beretta M9 in every possible way. Lighter, more accurate, better trigger, better ergonomics, more capacity, and I think it's the fastest handling gun I've had the pleasure of firing. Handguns are a last resort at war, but it's better to have and not need, etc., etc. I'd only carry three magazines for it, and the gun would go cross-draw on my tac vest because I imagine I'll be in vehicles a lot. I really like the Blackhawk Serpa on a drop rig on my thigh, but it is impossible to draw while seated and gets banged by the door if you're on the passenger's side.

The first thing you need to know is that the purpose of a knife at war is to impress your friends, not slice the enemy's face open. They're also handy for opening MRE rations and prying rounds off the bolt face of a Mk-19 grenade machinegun. That's what I did with mine and I really can't think of a reason why I'd be using a knife for combat unless things really went terribly wrong. This big fella should be plenty impressive, and looks like it would be great at prying things. It comes from CRKT, my favorite knife maker, and is over a foot long.

So there it is, I'll have multicam clothes and equipment, what I think will prove to be the most innovative rifle design for years to come, the best handgun on the market right now, the best holographic weapon sight, and the flashiest knife possible. Now we just wait for someone at the Pentagon to read this and start refitting the Army. FLGN out.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Talking 10MM

Above: Video of the first tests of a 10mm Automatic.

My hetero-lifepartner announced the other day that he's getting a Colt Delta Elite with his re-enlistment bonus. That got me thinking about something in 10mm. Join me on my train of thought.

First, I thought about getting a Delta Elite myself.
But for the $1100 price tag you get plain Jane sights, and a standard grip safety (most people shoot a deep cut beavertail type better). You'll get Colt's street cred, but I'm not sure this is the most you can get for your $1100.

Which brought me to the Dan Wesson RZ-10 Razorback.
These go for about $1100 also, but you get a beavertail grip safety and Novak sights. Oh, and it's pretty much hand-built. Expensive, but I think they're worth it. I love me a 1911A1. I think that in 100 years, people will still get all misty-eyed when talking about their 1911. Still, $1100 is a LOT of money. And if you want to shoot it, you'll need to take up reloading (which I do, but I'll need a new set of dies, powder, and the like) or get comfortable with paying $2 per shot. Reloading is still costly, but most people can find space in their budget for it. Especially for a gun this cool.

But then I talked to James about it and he reminded me about the EAA Witness Elite Match.
This is a single-action only variant of the EAA Witness. It also has adjustable sights and holds a whopping 15 rounds of 10mm while the 1911s only carry nine. And it costs about $550. That's right, $550. Can you say "Value for money"? I could buy tools and components for 1000 rounds of 10mm on top of buying the pistol and still NOT spend the same $1100 commanded by the Dan Wesson and Colt pieces. Hmmmm....

But why a 10mm? Well, it's pretty much the most bang you can get in a reasonably sized automatic pistol. The .45 Automatic, which about half of the pistol shooting world swears by produces about 400 ft/lbs of energy with a pretty briskly loaded 230 grain projectile. The 10mm can get over 600 ft/lbs with a 155 grain bullet over a maximum load of Longshot. Plus, right now, it is cheaper to reload for 10mm than for .45 Auto.

Now if only I had a real job....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grounds For Divorce

I'm a bit of a big dreamer when it comes to my collection. I'm also married and broke, so with that in mind, I came up with a short list of firearms that will result in divorce if your average gun nut were to purchase any one of them. If you're independently wealthy and your life-partner is into guns, go for it. There are even more expensive guns than these, but these are attainable and recognizable by people who don't spend 20 hours a day on Google.

#1 The Barrett M82A1
It's huge, it's expensive to buy at around $8000, plus you'll need a scope and rings that will stand up to the nuclear-grade recoil from a .50BMG. Oh, and surplus ammo is about $7.50 PER SHOT. You can load your own for about the same, but you'll need a special press that can accommodate the milk-jug-sized empty cases.

I've fired the M2 .50BMG machinegun many times and can attest that it is indeed a beast. You better have a 1000yd range AND one hell of a backstop. I've seen ricochets climb mountains. I mean proper mountains--Afghanistan style. You can safely fire one here in the states, but you will be hard pressed to find a rifle range in the Midwest that will allow .50BMGs to fire. You can shoot on your own land, but you better invest in a berm, or hire Matlock as your attorney. Owning a .50BMG is a serious money pit. Of course, it's a serious piece of hardware. When your life-partner kicks you out, you can pawn it and finance an apartment or a week in Vegas.

#2 An Accuracy International AW in .308 Winchester.
Why so specific? Well, the AI's in .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua are actually pretty reasonable since a heavy rifle like this one tames the recoil pretty well (so I've read). The problem is that it's pretty much the same rifle in the .308Win flavor....and it still costs $3600 without a scope or rings. Now, it's a fantastic rifle, but I'd bet that most people who aren't editors for SWAT or Guns&Ammo won't shoot this any better than they would shoot a Savage 10FCP HS-Precision or 10FCP McMillan--both of which are under $1000. But when your wife tosses you out on your ear, you can bring it to your college buddy's house and play HALO ODST with this in the room, and comment on how much it looks like the sniper rifle that your character can get.

#3. Anything Chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum.With at least 98 grains of gunpowdery fun pushing a 250 grain FMJBT, the .338 Lapua is right between a .300 Win Mag and a .50 BMG. In fact, if you're just punching paper, the .338 LM might just be the better round. But it still costs about $3.50 per round if you reload. Factory ammo--while very good--could give Congress sticker-shock. And you'll need a really good rifle like that AI pictured above. And you'll need a pretty awesome scope. And expensive scope rings. And a really good berm. And the list goes on. The .338LM gives about 33% of the .50BMG's muzzle energy* while supplying about 90% of the cost of ownership. (* 250gr .338LM=about 5000ft/lbs, 750gr .50BMG= about 13,000ft/lbs--for a frame of reference, a .308Win 168gr= about 2500ft/lbs) Enjoy living in your cardboard box. Until your wife throws you out.

#4 A Wilson Combat CQB EliteThis pistol wins at everything forever. And you pay for the tune of $2600. But, thankfully, it is available in .45Auto and 10mm Auto (as well as a few other calibers that aren't .45 or 10mm, but who cares?). One day I will own one. I love 1911s, and this is pretty much the best (so I've read). Assuming I have a mid-life crisis, I'll buy one of these, jump in my Miata (the ULTIMATE mid-life crisis car), and head to Texas to become a mercen....private security contractor. Then I can brag to all of my 45-year-old, balding and fat Army buddies who have also looked into the private sector that MY sidearm cost more than ALL of theirs. Plus it will be a 10mm, which can bring down a water buffalo. Hopefully my wife won't leave me, but if I'm fat, bald, old, and broke...well, she is the practical type.

#5Too big to carry, and too small to hunt with, the Desert Eagle does a fantastic job of not doing anything particularly well. Even my large man-hands can't get a good grip on this thing. I've never shot one, but I nearly bought one after my tour in Trashcanistan, and I'm eternally grateful that I did not. I hear the .44mag (the one I'd have) doesn't like reloads, or lead bullets. So you're stuck paying for factory ammo, which is expensive. The .50AE is even more so, but you have to be 15 years old to want one. These actually aren't too expensive. I almost always see a used one or two for $1100 or so--usually in .50AE because some kid-at-heart bought one and found out how much fun it is to watch $5 fly downrange every time you pull the enormous trigger. If you buy one and your wife DOESN'T leave you, she is either a saint or plotting elaborate revenge.

So, ladies and gents, you can thank me later. Flatlandmarriagecounselor is done here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Ramones on Defense

Principles of self-defense are so easy, The Ramones can sing them to you. Here's four simple rules to keep you out of trouble based on "Commando". Thanks to Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee. Hey, ho, let's go.

First rule is: The laws of Germany
Be familiar with state and local laws regarding "castle doctrine", concealed carry, and open carry. Also, know what it takes to legally transport your firearms. Know the laws and follow them. Even the dumb ones (no concealed carry on college campuses or for soldiers on post--that worked out great, right V-Tech and Ft. Hood?).

Second rule is: Be nice to mommy.
Of course you should be nice to your mother. Be polite to other people as well...until it is time to stop being polite.

Third rule is: Don't talk to commies.
Don't talk to commies or other lower forms of life. Be careful with whom you associate. If you and your buddy get pulled over and he has an ounce of pot in his sock, you're both going downtown. And if you're carrying concealed at the time, you just committed a felony! (see rule 1) Get better friends.

Fourth rule is: Eat kosher salamis.
Watch what you eat and exercise! If your body is in good shape, the better your odds of surviving a self-defense situation (even one that doesn't need a gun). The better shape you're in, the more stress you can handle. If your gut is full of sticky buns and energy drinks, you may be in trouble. Eat kosher salamis instead.

Learn it, live it, love it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Not To Carry

The only good part about my wife being deployed to Iraq is that I no longer have to suffer through "What Not To Wear" in the afternoons. But since I do miss her, I thought I would do my own version of it with "What Not To Carry"--big mistakes a lot of people make in an honest attempt to be safe.

1. A Knife

I'm not against carrying a knife to use as a tool. I carry a big locking folder from Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT--my favorite knife maker). A knife can be a life saver from a utilitarian standpoint. Say you get in a car accident. The car is on fire and your seatbelt is jammed and the 19 airbags inside haven't deflated due to a malfunction of some kind. The doors are stuck shut also. Well, with a big folding knife like my Desert Cruiser (or any other big folder with lots of metal in it-- Desert Cruiser pictured above), you can pop the airbags, cut yourself free, then fold it up and use it to shatter a window and escape. A knife can be very handy indeed. But unless you are Ninja, pulling a knife in self defense will only end with you stuck to your own blade.

Most people that I have talked out of carrying a knife were women...who wanted to carry a knife to "scare an attacker". If you pull a deadly weapon, you better intend to use it--and stabbing someone to death is hard (so I've read in my criminal justice classes). Stabbing into bone is like stabbing into concrete. Most slashers are caught because the knife pops back across their own hand as the blade bounces off a rib, leaving a tell-tale sign on their hand. Conceivably, a novice knife fighter could deal as much damage to his own hand as he does to his opponent. A knife requires a great deal of skill, training, and will to use it. Even then, slashing wounds can take hours or days to cause incapacitation. Stabbing wounds can be substantially more effective, but a masterful knowledge of both human anatomy and knife-fighting skills is required for someone to be able to count on landing such a strike. That's why you should not carry a knife for defense (unless you are a ninja. In that case, go for it.).

Fancy TASERs like the one above fire two prongs into your would-be assailant and, for three to five seconds, pass huge amounts of pretty harmless electricity through his body. As soon as the cycle is complete, you can pull the trigger again and send him on another five second ride through Painville. However, once the prongs come out, the batteries die, or a wire breaks, he's good as new in short order. You may or may not have time to escape or time for the police to show. Once the cartridge is spent, you must reload or choose to use it as a cattle prod. The problem with cattle prod mode is that the pain only occurs in the muscle(s) between the two terminals. It causes pain while not causing any permanent incapacitation.

The TASER is a great tool for cops who need to take belligerent suspects into custody without harming them. Their only option just a few years ago was pepper spray (everyone me) or going hand-to-hand, which leaves plenty of opportunity for both parties to sustain permanent damage. The cool bit about the TASER is that nobody is resistant to it like you can find with pepper spray. Civilians may or may not find the TASER useful. It might give you a chance to escape, but if you're confronted by more than one bad guy, then you're pretty hosed. If you use it in cattle prod mode, you have to get up to contact distance with your attacker. I'm not sure I want to do that.

3. Itsy-bitsy Cans of Pepper Spray/Mace

Sorry, wrong sort of mace. Cool though.

Okay, here's the stuff. I actually like pepper spray or mace (two different things, but the differences are so technical that they even bore me). I've seen this stuff work wonders. But you have to have a decent sized can of the stuff to make a difference. I keep seeing itsy-bitsy bottles of the stuff in supermarket checkout lines and on gun store shelves dedicated to stuff just for the ladies (I guess pepper spray isn't very manly?). First, some people are not effected much or at all by this stuff--which is bad if you're attacked by one of these people. Second, if they keep sustaining the attack after they've been sprayed (he's on meth or something) then you get to share in the burning sensation because it will rub off on you! How fun! Third, tiny bottles don't have enough juice in them to hit two or more targets with enough product to cause sufficient pain. Additionally, I've seen girls have negligent discharges with these things in public places, which is more than embarrassing.

4. A Gun You Don't Intend to Use
Back to the idea of "scaring" an attacker away. A gun might do that. But it might not, and if you don't intend to pull the trigger, you'll probably get shot with your own piece. If you aren't willing to fire it at an attacker, don't carry it. Period.