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.

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