Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Gun Nut Goes Too Far....Maybe

Okay, so maybe I was a little rough with Bushmaster over the ACR. The truth is that I've wanted one since I saw it on Future Weapons about two years ago. Unimpressed with piston-op ARs I'd seen in the gun rags, I was looking for something new and interesting. I *almost* bought a Sig-556, but then the reviews on it were so-so. Throw in a proprietary trigger that isn't very good, and it looked like I could spend $1350 in better ways, and I ended up with an M&P15 which was well under $1000. But the ACR (Masada at the time) used AR triggers, so if the stock one wasn't what you wanted, there were already lots of affordable replacements in production. Add in that the Masada used cheap and plentiful M-16/AR15 barrels, you could have it in whatever length you wanted in seconds.

According to some vague postings on the interwebs, which I know is a fantastic source of information, the ACR no longer accurately reflects what Magpul was trying to accomplish. The current ACR uses proprietary barrels, and if I read the article right, it also uses proprietary triggers, so good luck customizing either of those things without spending MORE money with Bushmaster. As if $3061 wasn't enough. I also read that there is no longer an option for an AK-47 lower that took cheap AK mags. Originally, converting your ACR to 7.62x39 and shooting cheap steel case commie ammo would only require spending the cash on a barrel, bolt, and plastic magazine well. The original design was brilliant! And it isn't like Magpul was pulling these ideas out of a hat. They had working prototypes that had these features. Bushmaster has just decided that these revolutionary features---features that would justify spending the money on the rifle---were not necessary. In short, it would appear that Bushmaster has re-engineered the ACR to be not as good, but more expensive, and at the same time made it so you have to keep spending money with Bushmaster if you want to achieve what Magpul said they could do for the pittance of $1500.

Maybe $1500 was not a good estimate. Maybe injection-molded plastic parts cost a lot more to make than I think they do. Certainly start-up costs have to be covered and they'd need a lot of stuff to start making ACRs. But as Magpul had it designed, the ACR could have been built with a lot of stuff that Bushmaster already had lying around. That certainly would have kept costs down. Or at least I think it would have.

At any rate, the ACR is still at least interesting, even if it isn't revolutionary anymore. If prices do ever drop down below $2000, I'd at least think about getting one. But right now it looks like the SCAR-L is going to be more affordable--which is shocking because FN hates civilians almost as much as H&K does.

And while we're on the subject of expensive 5.56 toys, the MSAR and FS2000 both used to retail at or above $2000, which I think is about the ceiling for 5.56 prices. For me anyway. But those two guns offer meaningful departures from the AR platform, while still using cheap AR mags. Now that MSAR E4s are down to $1400, I'd think about one. FN still wants around $2000 for their bullpup though. They're definitely worth it if you need a short 5.56 but can't get an SBR.

As for me, yeah, I'll think about an ACR, but only in a few years if the price drops dramatically. $3000 is just way too much to spend on a toy gun. I'm not a super duper Modern Warfare 2 operator. I don't spend my weekends running secret ops against communists in Paraguay. If I get a rifle like this, the closest it will get to combat is wasting zombie-shaped cardboard targets. It might even go camping with me and fend off a 40lb coyote. Maybe. Then again, my $450 AK-74 does that pretty well already. And for $3061, I could get about 21,600 rounds for my AK. Or I could get a used motorcycle. Or put a downpayment on a house. Has Bushmaster gone too far?....or have I?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bushmaster To Release Cutting Edge Rifle; Shoots Self in Foot

Hitler and I apparently had the same reaction upon learning that the Bushmaster/Remington/Magpul ACR is now going to cost $3061 in civilian hands with a 1/9 NON CHROME-LINED BARREL. For some perspective, you can get a fantastic LWRC M6A2 for about $2000. The FN Scar, which would have been the ACR's primary competitor, has an MSRP around $2400 for the 5.56mm model and $2900 for the 7.62x51 variant.

I have been waiting with baited breath for several years for Remington to release the ACR, which started life as the Magpul Masada. Magpul said they would try to keep the price around $1500, which I would have gladly paid. That's about what you'd pay for a souped-up, top-shelf piston powered AR15. What Bushmaster and Remington have effectively done is take a cutting-edge design from Magpul, then build it down to a price (why else would you NOT line the barrel and chamber with chrome?), then give it a price tag that would make H&K fanboys flinch. Remington (who now owns the infamous Bushmaster name) had the recipe for a great weapon system that I think could have edged the AR out of the law-enforcement and personal defense niche. As it existed at Magpul, the ACR was revolutionary. Now it is just another piston operated 5.56, but priced at about twice what the competition charges. And marketed under a name that is known for cutting corners on their AR15s.

Congrats Remington/Bushmaster. You've officially shot yourselves in the foot.

Prove me wrong.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FAIL: My Final Experiences With the AR-24

Let's start with the positive. The AR-24, Tangfolio (EAA Witness) and CZ 75B are all fine weapons with excellent ergonomics, a solid feel, and lots of options for how to deploy them (Traditional DA/SA or cocked and locked). I should also add that every review I've ever read of the above listed firearms has been either good or great. In fact, there are some very rabid CZ fans out there that will probably be plotting elaborate revenge after this column is complete.

My specific AR-24 has been nothing but trouble since I traded in my 3rd Gen Glock 17 for it about this time last year. I fell in love with the ergonomics, and loved the idea of a single action 9mm with 1911-like ergonomics for such a low price. Add in the fact that it takes cheap and plentiful EAA Witness 9mm magazines (which now come in 16 and 18 rounds in free states), and I thought I would be getting a great trail/competition gun. The fit and finish was very good. The frame/slide fit is excellent. The trigger was decent, but I thought I could tune it up a bit with just a bit of polishing.

From the start, the AR-24 had a really bad habit of failing to extract about 1 in 25 rounds, which is abysmal. Over the last year, I put in an 18lb recoil spring, a stronger extractor spring, and finally an extractor from an EAA Witness. Now it only fails about once every 150rds, but it was pretty dirty at that point (which shouldn't really make a difference). In an effort to reduce the trigger pull, I clipped ONE coil off the hammer spring, and polished the engagement surfaces on the sear and hammer. Now it produces light hammer strikes and doesn't reliably set off rounds with hard primers (i.e. the cheap stuff from overseas). I have a replacement factory tension spring on the way. As soon as it's here, it's getting a deep cleaning and is going on the chopping block. I refuse to own anything that behaves like this. Yeah, it will be working fine, but it's the principle of the thing.

My M&P 9C, on the other hand, has been reliable as a wood-burning stove, and I can shoot about 50% with it from 50 yards unsupported. Just today I shot 15 rounds from 50 yards and 7 hit the 8.5"x11" target, with 5 of those rounds striking within about 4" of each other, roughly centered on the paper. The rest I strung out vertically and over-shot my paper. Not bad for a 3.5 barrel with a run-of-the-mill gun nut behind the trigger. Oh, and I was using 124gr S&B cheap-o ammo.

That's how it ought to be. Yeah, no matter how tight quality controls get, a stinker will inevitably squeak though. I'm not mad at Armalite (the importer) or Sarsmilaz (the actual maker). I could have sent it off to Armalite (at my expense) and they may or may not have had it running again and who knows how long it would take to get it back. Armalite has been a little busy, what with Obamamania just a few months ago. I was especially hesitant to sent it back when I knew the problem was with the extractor, and the money I put into a new extractor, extractor spring, and recoil spring would roughly have covered the shipping costs to get it to Armalite.

I still would recommend an EAA Witness (which is about $100 cheaper than the Armalite, and $150 less than the CZ). I have a friend with a Witness .45 and he likes it, and he carried a CZ-97B for a number of years as a duty gun as well. Still shoots the CZ in competition as of the last time I saw him. My situation is sort of like the guys who experience a Glock "Kaboom!" (google Glock + Kaboom images). Well, not exactly. Glock Kabooms are usually experienced by guys who ignore Glock's warning that the chamber does not support the cartridge and +P ammo or handloads can and will create an explosion. It's a freak occurrence to get a bad gun from a reputable maker. Gratuitous Glock Bashing (I carry a Glock at work):

On the bright side again, I'll let you know what I replace the AR-24 with since I'll be without a service-sized 9mm. Leaning toward an M&P9L right now, but we'll see, since I'll be overseas again soon. I may just sell it and buy something shiny for my wife. Hey, Dan Wesson makes a very shiny 10mm 1911.....

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Gun Nut Lives

Obligatory rock video. The Cars rocked!

Yep, I'm still alive and blogging. I've been insanely busy at work, and thus my gun-nuttery has been put on the back burner. However, I have some days off coming up, and some projects I'm working on for FLGN. Curiously, my number of followers has increased since I slacked off, so I guess I'll try to get some new and useful stuff up here by the middle of next week.

I recently replaced the extractor on my problematic AR-24 with one from an EAA Witness, and a test fire is due here pretty soon. I may try to take it out tomorrow if the road crews can get the five inches of snow cleared by the afternoon. I'm anxious to get out there because my record of shots between FTE's was 99. I'll be bringing 150rds and wringing that sucker out good. Once it's fixed, it's going bye-bye and I'll be adopting a new M&P40--if my boss will let me carry it. Otherwise it'll be an M&P9L. So that's two things in the works.

Also, I'm working on a treatise on personal security based on various works by the big names in shooting, as well as my recent professional experiences. Here's a sneak-peek: LOCK YOUR DOORS.

Keep 'em in the 10-ring.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Here We Go Again...

Above, you will see a Smith & Wesson 3906. J&G Sales has a few for $350 in very good condition, and dammit, I need one. Let me explain why.

The 3906 was born in the late 1980s, and was nearly D.O.A. thanks to the influx of mega-capacity "Wundernines" with plastic frames. The 3906 is about at anachronistic as they get. It was made from enough steel to make a Volvo station wagon, and features a low-capacity single-stack magazine (eight or nine rounds, depending on manufacturer). It seems like engineers looked at the future of handguns and decided that lightweight polymers and magazine capacities reaching toward 20 round were NOT the wave of the future, and built a gun that everyone else had been making a version of since dirt was new. That's not to say they didn't do a good job. The 3906 is very solidly built, has a slim grip, and developed a reputation for accuracy and dependability during its short life (it was discontinued in 1991 after unimpressive sales numbers rolled in).

To sum it all up, it is a classic. The presenters on my favorite T.V. show, Top Gear, say that to be a classic, a car has to be two of three things : interesting, rare, or beautiful. The S&W 3906 is all of those things. And now it is fairly cheap as well. I think it would make a great utility piece, or bowling pin gun. Mainly, I just need more S&W classics in my safe. I may not pick one up soon, and I may step up to the 5906, which was a double-stack version of the 3906 that held 15 rounds (17rd mags are now available, though the 5906 has also gone out of production). I've always wanted a single-stack 9mm, and the 3906 may be just the thing. You just can't have too much stuff with a S&W stamped on the slide.