Thursday, December 20, 2012

We All Float Down Here

Thanks to the snowpocalypse, I have time to write that article about free-floating my AR. I didn't get pictures, as I had promised, but that's for the best since my experience was awful and not representative of how this project will go down for most of you.

First, a video from MidwayUSA. It doesn't show everything, but it is close enough:

There are a few things you MUST have before you do this. For the Hogue tube specifically, you will need a strap wrench because most armorer's wrenches won't be able to reach the gas tube holes, which are in the rear of the barrel nut on this assembly. Second, for ANY work like this, you should have an armorer's block. Mine is a simple piece of machined delrin (plastic). Many of the more complex multi-rail, heat-seeking, quadruple flux capacitor models require a specific torque figure, which will require a very expensive torque wrench, so although this is a fairly straightforward procedure, it might make more sense to buy the parts and have a gunsmith fit it so you don't have to buy all the tools.

And on to some pictures of the finished product:

With the Vortex Strikefire, it even looks a little 3-gun-ish.

There's a gap I'm not wild about, but I'm not hung up on looks.

There are the oddly placed gas tube holes. No such holes exist in the front of the nut, so your average free float wrench won't work.

Although I built this AR with the intent of it being a basic off-the-rack gun, I am now trying to build it into more of a cross between a rugged combat piece, and a polished 3-gun rig. I want my rifle to be good at everything, so here's a list of things to come.

First, next summer (provided the world doesn't end tomorrow) I will invest in a Vortex PST 1-4x30mm scope with 2/10mil adjustments. This piece has a ton of good reviews, and my personal experience with Vortex has been great. The Strikefire may not be the best red dot out there, but it is head and shoulders above ANYTHING under $350. I will probably go with a one-piece mount like a Burris PEPR or something similarly priced.

To finish it off, I'm going with a Geiselle trigger, and I'm not exactly sure which one yet. I'm torn between the Super Dynamic Enhanced and the SSA-E. A good trigger makes your job SO much easier. I am still of the mind that the glass makes more difference than the trigger, but a good trigger will take a lot of pressure off the shooter.

I haven't done a test-fire yet, and probably won't until the 29th thanks to the snowpocalypse, so I don't know yet if the surgery was successful. More updates to come, and probably lots of pictures of holes in paper once the extras are fitted.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coming Soon!

I've been working a lot of overtime lately, so the blog is getting neglected. However, I do have something coming. Apparently no one has ever chronicled the installation of a Hogue free-float handguard. I'll try to have it done Saturday night, possibly Friday--but I'm building a spare bedroom in my basement, so extra work on my range toy is down the list a bit.

Meanwhile, here's a link to the handguard I bought from MidwayUSA. At $50, it's just too cheap to not do. I've also purchased a YHM sling stud that I plan to install with the help of a hardware kit from Wal-Mart.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dear Ford,

So apparently Ford is floating the concept of a new Bronco. I am 100% behind this idea, and I have some winning ideas that Ford can use as long as they give me a new Bronco for my efforts.

First, make a diesel version. No one is going to want a top-heavy SUV that goes fast, so diesel is fine. If I could get a fuel-efficient F-150 or Bronco as a daily driver, I would do so in a heartbeat. My old Ranger was very good in adverse conditions and off road, but it got at best 17mpg. My new job is 41 miles away, and 17mpg just won't cut it. If I could get a diesel bronco with a MANUAL 6spd, 4x4 that got say 25mpg, I would trade off my Mazda 6 in one millisecond.

Second, make a SHTF/TEOTWAWKI version with the diesel motor and manual transmission, and nice tinfoil hat accessories like an A/C 110v outlet (for charging a laptop/gps/mini DVD), slightly higher suspension and slightly beefy tires (not so aggressive that they generate unbearable road noise). Then add some extra lighting, and an oversized alternator to power all of the extras. A snorkel kit and waterproof wiring harness would be awesome, and I would pay a bit more to get it.

 Third, price it under a Jeep Wrangler. I have an Army buddy who once said that Jeep stood for "Just Empty Every Pocket". It doesn't have to be WAY less than a Wrangler, just make it less, and price my SHTF version just under the Wrangler Rubicon.

You're welcome, Ford. I just made you another several billion dollars. Now go DO IT!

Practice Pays Off!

Well, it's match day again. After last month's fiasco with the Hi-Power (a triple feed on one stage and a score-destroying brain fart on the second), I took my trusty Para LTC today, and what a day it was.

I've been doing a lot of snap-cap practice with my SP101--nearly every night for the last month. I've practiced my reloads maybe twice with the 1911, and maybe once a week I do some snap caps for fifteen minutes. Apparently that little bit of practice is really working because I had a great run today. I even remembered to take pictures of the course! So, here we go:

Stage one is 21 rounds comstock, comprised of 9 targets and three plates. All plates must be down before moving on to the next group of targets.

Left side, stage 1

Middle, stage 1

Right side, stage 1

I finished with 16 As, 2 Cs, and all 3 plates in 20.93 seconds, 21 rounds fired. I felt pretty great. Especially when the scorer turned to me and said "Dude, your hits are ridiculous!". Apparently my double taps were only an inch or less apart on all but two targets. Hooray for snap caps!

Then on to stage 2. Start with your hands on the shoulders of the middle target. Single targets get two in the chest and one in the head, hostage holders get two shots each. 17 rounds minimum, comstock scoring.

Stage 2. You actually had to move backwards and side to side. Very different!
I ended up with 15 As, 1 B, and 1 C, in 18.6 seconds. The starting line is the middle target, not the table. Maximum distance was about 10 yards, but moving backwards without breaking 180 degrees took some thought, as did running from side to side.

Sure, I wrote this as a bit of an ego massage, but I really do think it shows what a difference some practice can make. It also doesn't hurt to have a $1500 custom 1911 with tailored handloads and reliable 10rd magazines. Keep up the practice, and if you're not involved in a USPSA/IPSC/IDPA club, you need to get involved. It is tons of fun, and not all that expensive (unless you want it to be).

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Revolver Realities


Since I bought my Ruger SP101 last year, it has been my everyday carry piece, almost exclusively. There are a number of reasons why, and I'll get to that, but there are also a number of myths about revolvers that "trick" people into carrying them with blind faith.

The biggest myth surrounding revolvers is that they "can't jam". I beg to differ. Not only can they jam, when they do, it is FAR more serious than when a bottom-feeder jams. It takes only a minimal obstruction to lock up a revolver's cylinder. The most common culprit on the range is a loose primer pocket that lets the primer back out slightly and binds the cylinder. The most common culprit on the street is loose change surrounding an improperly pocket-carried J-frame.

Full-moon clips can warp and refuse to enter or exit the cylinder as well. Then there is what happened to me today. Apparently HS6 is the dirtiest propellant known to man, and after only 25 rounds, the front and rear of the cylinder were so caked with carbon that it would not close. I wiped the cylinder with my shirt and all was well once again.

Anyone who says revolvers "never jam" is an idiot. However, immediate action is a little easier . If a round doesn't fire, just pull the trigger and move on to the next chamber. If it clicks twice, you're either out of ammunition or the revolver is broken.

SP101 vs J-Frame

Well, the S&W is smaller. And it will most likely have a smoother trigger, right out of the box. However, the SP101 has a full-length ejector rod, which is extremely helpful when kicking emties to the curb. The 442 I carried for some time had the J-Frame's tiny ejector rod which works really well when the cylinder is perfectly clean. Just for the record, a 3" 357 Magnum will get you about 85-90% of the muzzle energy of a 4" service gun, which is still an incredible figure--not a "loud .38" as so many curmudgeons often say. 

If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't get a 3" SP101 or a S&W Model 60 (their 3" 357 Mag). I would instead get a 3" S&W 686 Plus. That would be similarly sized to the SP101 3", but with a 7-shot cylinder. 

So Why A Wheelgun?

Revolvers are inherently accurate, what with their fixed barrels and (typically) smooth triggers. Add in sturdy, wide sights, and you get a lot of accuracy for the platform size. That long, smooth trigger also makes me feel better in a pocket holster or a bellyband. Trigger protection isn't as much of an issue because it takes a concerted effort to pull all the way through. 
There are some practical reasons as well. A 357 Magnum revolver is a wise investment because you can shoot 38 Special through it as well. If you reload (and you should), you can use cheap lead bullets over modest powder charges and shoot VERY cheaply. Also, because 38spl is so low pressure, the cases will last as long as you can keep track of them. When they crack, throw them away. I haven't had any 38s split yetAdditionally, learning to shoot a long, smooth double-action trigger will make you a better shot. If you can master that trigger, you will easily move on to other platforms. 

Sure, revolvers have plenty of shortfalls. But if you know what you're getting into, they can still be very capable weapons. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Just A Shot In The Dark

 It's been a while since I had a good "that's not training" rant. Low and behold, this morning Everyday No Days Off had an article about a former Spetsnaz instructor shooting his fellow instructor at a range in Texas. Three times(!).

Without wishing to get personal, I'd like to beat this issue to death. The problem here is the total lack of target identification. From what I grasp of the story, students were led through a low-light or no-light shoot house to engage targets without the use of NODs or lights. While one can see the utility in training for the worst of all scenarios, one should also recognize the importance of knowing what you are shooting and why.

One of the neat things the Army started doing during the train-up for my last tour was asking everyone who fired a weapon during a CQB range "what did you shoot and why did you shoot?". The core of defensive (or offensive!) shooting is knowing what you are about to destroy. Is it the target you put up an hour ago, or is it your co-instructor standing in front of the target? Is it a burglar or your teenage son sneaking back in from a party? You HAVE to know the answer to those questions before you fire. Period!

There is a new fad with younger trainers wherein common sense safety measures are overlooked because "safety is for pussies". Well, after surviving a number of complex ambushes, I am a huge pussy. I will not fire at shadows, noises, or into an unsafe backstop. If I cannot positively identify what my bullet is about to enter, I won't shoot.

No matter how high-speed your instructor may have been, you shouldn't shoot blind. If you feel a drill or an action is unsafe, then use your judgement and decline to do it. Firearms training is inherently dangerous. Probably more dangerous than golf or bowling even. There's no reason to make it any more dangerous by doing ridiculous drills.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Random Range Reflections

I've been thinking rather a lot about the range day last weekend, and I think I have gleaned a few more nuggets of wisdom on the subject of precision rifle shooting. And while shooting at a 5" target at 200 yards isn't really all that precise, the fundamentals remain the same.

The first thing I've realized is that the semi-auto precision rifle is clearly the way to go. If you're going to spend a few thousand dollars on a precision rig, the bolt gun really doesn't have many advantages left. Thirty years ago, it might have been true that semi-autos weren't as accurate as a bolt action. Today, the difference is so slim that you have to be a very gifted shooter to see much advantage in the bolt gun. Additionally, the SASS allows you to send your next round without breaking down your shooting position to operate the action. That is a pretty huge deal.

Second, a brake makes a huge difference. My Savage 10FCP, despite weighing around 20lbs, would jump an inch or two to the left on every shot. This is less than optimal and eventually leads me to flinch, even though felt recoil is pretty minimal. Also, having a barrel threaded for a brake isn't terribly expensive, and decent brakes are everywhere. For a minimal investment, you can get dramatically improved performance from you and your rifle.

Third, spend money on good optics, and good barrels. Save money on triggers. While a good trigger pull is important, it ultimately isn't what makes or breaks a precision rifle. That's down to a quality barrel and a clear, durable optic. Rings make a difference too. I went through three sets of cheap aluminium rings before buying 'Merican steel rings from Warne. Now all I use are Warne steel rings, and they've all been great.

That's all for now. Hopefully I can wring out my AR15 next weekend, and if I have time, I'll get to the match with the Hi-Power tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fixx-ing The Hi-Power

I have started down the road of either perfecting or ruining the trigger on my vintage FN Hi-Power. Yesterday, I had a moment of weakness and ordered a trigger with slightly altered geometry which will take care of the extra slack before the break. Of less concern will be getting a lighter hammer spring and perhaps a lighter hammer altogether.

But wait, there's more. I got an update on my FaceTube from CCA about a Veteran's Day cerakote deal, so the Hi-Power might go in ahead of schedule for a little cosmetic surgery. I'm thinking "Blue Titanium" as the base coat and all the controls (and possibly the barrel) in "Tungsten".

I'm spoiled (and soon to be very poor) by having a good 'smith nearby and being within spitting distance of Brownells, but still a short hop from MidwayUSA. I write this partly as a warning to folks who are thinking about doing a custom gun. The Fixx got it dead right: one thing leads to another. I have two custom guns from CCA and it looks like before year's end, I'll have a third.

PS, I just got a shipping notice on my PSA barreled upper receiver. Look for a review of my frankengun in the next week or two.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shooting All The Things (warning: no pics)

I met up with some fine folks from the Colfax Gun Club today and proceeded to shoot lots and lots of steel with many different guns. I wish I had taken some pictures, but I was having a good time and wasn't really thinking about blogging.

Anyway, I did learn a few things today. First, the Ruger LC9 is shockingly accurate. I shot a friend's LC9, which had various modifications, at a steel 1/2-scale silhouette at 75 yards and although I didn't hit it, I was missing it by fractions of an inch. (The Hi-Power hit 2 out of 20, then 0-13). Everyone should try shooting their handgun at fairly absurd distances now and again because it magnifies your slightest error exponentially.

Then it was on to the rifle side of the range (which was very nice, by the way). There was a 1/2 scale silhouette and a 5" steel circle at 200 yards. I was all over the place with my Savage 308, which turned out to be just me sucking. After three rounds, I settled down and did pretty well, ringing the silhouette every time and the circle almost every time. It was here that I learned how accurate a well-built AR15 can be. James brought a freshly-assembled frankengun AR that was incredibly accurate. I don't believe either of us missed the circle. Ever. We started out on Hornady match rounds, which I believe were 75gr, then moved on to all sorts of cheaper 55gr .223Rem, which was also able to ring the steel every time. If you ever get a chance to build an AR varmint/SASS rig, go for it. I'm thinking about it already and my PSA upper isn't even here yet.

I hope all four of my readers had a fun weekend and got to do some shooting also. Back to the grind for now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Today Was A Good Day

The FN Hi-Power and I got in the car shortly after lunch and headed for my sister's farm for a test-fire. Though it was a little brisk out, everything went well, and I got 150 rounds of various ammo out of the old girl and the only hiccup was my fault (I'll get back to that). 

There's some pretty evident wear, but next year she'll be nice and shiny.
So I set up some targets and measured off 21 feet with my trusty tape measure. I loaded a 13 round magazine and sent two shots into the right-hand cardboard zombie. Results below:

And with positive results, I moved back to 10 yards and fired the remaining 11 into a very small bullseye target. I didn't shoot super slow, but I was hardly going fast. I was sort of "just shooting". Anyway, it seemed to work out.

147gr Winchester Ranger bonded JHP. 10yds.
So, pressing my luck, I measured off 25 yards and then took two big steps back just to be sure. I fired 5 rounds and was again pleasantly surprised. The group ended up being about 4 1/4", which is not great from a rest, but I was standing and shooting at my own pace. I wish now that I had slowed down and shot for group. Anyway, 25 yard group below:

The group tended to drift right. Shooter error.
Overall, I like my HP very much. I did some modified FAST drills (modified because I only have one magazine) and this thing is very quick and controllable. I can shoot recklessly fast without throwing shots into the "C" zone. If I had a second pair of hands, I would have used my shot timer app to see how fast it was. I also can't wait to grab some Mec Gar 20 round magazines and see how much faster it is than my custom Para LTC at next month's match.

Now for the one hiccup of the day. Well, as I mentioned, I removed the magazine safety. When I did, I put the tiny safety retention pin back in the trigger to make it look nice. Well, I drove the tiny pin about 2mm too far and it was enough to make the trigger hang up against the frame. A quick smack with the edge of my tape measure was enough to get clearance. I will use my brass hammer to drive it flush with the side when I'm done with this article. 

I have done some research on the origins and history of the Browning/FN Hi-Power as a service gun and will probably write something on that once I can arrange it into an interesting format and not bore my meager audience to death.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Browning/FN Hi-Power: A Love Story

Many years ago, when I was just a gun nut in training, I learned to shoot handguns with a 1970s Browning Hi-Power. I've wanted one ever since. And like a bad chick-flick, a series of seemingly unrelated events brought me together with my long-lost love.

A week ago I stopped in at a newer gun store in Ankeny, Iowa, called Rhine Group Firearms. I was referred by a friend, and I stopped in because they had Magpul MBUS sights for less than the big boys did online, and they're 25 minutes from my humble abode. In a wooden case near the AR-15 accessories, a familiar shape caught my eye. "A Hi-Power" I thought, "I haven't seen one of those in ages.". Then I saw the price tag. It was used. For sale on consignment. $400. The finish was a little rough, but as I read the slide, it did not say "Browning". Instead, it read "Fabrique Nationale Herstal Belgique". My hipster sense tingled, and I almost unrolled my cleaning mat and faced Morgan, UT to pray to the great John M. Browing (PBUH). But I did not possess the intestinal fortitude to face my wife and say I spent another $400 on guns this month (bringing the total well over $1000....I don't need to retire...).

Mine is older, has no ambi-safety, and looks nothing like this.

But the days passed, and the Hi-Power haunted me. I looked at Israeli surplus online, mostly without prevail. What I did find was in very rough shape and at almost the same $400. I grew a spine, and asked permission to go buy the Hi-Power. And so I did. Yesterday, after work, I brought home a piece of history--the father of the modern Wundernine. 

The Hi-Power has somehow fallen out of favour lately. I guess it probably has something to do with its current $900 price tag if you buy a new one. And no matter which Hi-Power you buy, you'll need to remove the magazine safety (I'll get back to this). You'll probably want to polish the trigger mechanism a bit also. Or pay a gunsmith lots of money to do it for you. So, like the 1911, a competition-worthy Hi-Power is a $1200-$1500 proposition. So if you get one, you better love it.

So that mag safety. It isn't just annoying like in my M&P9C. Nope, in the Hi-Power, JMB (PBUH) designed this feature so that you would have to learn how to completely disassemble the gun. The mag safety makes the trigger very gritty and with lots of creep. But worse, it prevents empty magazines from exiting the mag well. I mean you hit the mag release, and the empty magazine drops about 1/4" and stops. So you can do a two-handed reload like an AK47, or you can remove the safety entirely in about 5 minutes, which is what He intended us to do.

I hope to get some test-firing done this weekend and will post some targets (unless I shoot like shit). If you get a chance, you should shoot one too. And if you find one cheap, buy it immediately. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I Was Tactical Once, And Young

The wall art on the squad leaders' room. Motivation for a wholesome life, and a good way to start an article.
I know I'm a tactical hipster. And I know I'm a crustier curmudgeon every day. So when I saw a humorous comment on Vuurwapenblog that turned into an article, it spawned in me a desire to share my views on tactical-ness.

After my first gunfight in 2004, I started devouring articles on tactical-ness, and most of it turned out to be tacticool bullshit. From 2005 to 2009, I jumped on the "pack everything ever into your chest rig" bandwagon. I did that because I have two friends who served in Iraq during the heaviest fighting, and both were mechanized infantry, and therefore could afford to have stupidly heavy vests because they weren't walking all that far. And Iraq is flat. Afghanistan is a totally different story, and I would have to re-learn that in 2010.

During this last tour, I was assigned as a team leader (eventually a squad leader) and a designated marksman. So I had all manner of stupid shit to carry, and my Captain and 1SG decided that designated marksmen would carry their M4 and full battle load AND an M14 and full loadout for that as well. We (there were 9 of us) bucked up and carried our loadout of woe through training, and thoroughly modified our kit once we hit country in fall of 2010.

My Kit of Woe. Most of it was gone a week later.
We hadn't been at our outpost long when the M14 gunners were ordered to the nearby special operations firebase to re-zero for altitude and generally train for a day with some proper badasses. The bearded men saw our grossly overgrown kits and asked me (since I was the only NCO in the bunch) why we were dressed as oxen. I said it was ordered by our company leadership, and that I would rather have just my M4 and 10 or 12 magazines. Very gently, the bearded man with an FN SCAR-17 and Nightforce scope called me an idiot. 

He went on to explain that team members carried a maximum of four magazines on their chest rig, and maybe four or five more in a 3-day pack. Further, he explained that when you run up and down mountains all day, you don't want a lot of extra weight. Also, when you move as a small detachment, you don't want to stand and fight unless you absolutely have to. So a huge amount of ammunition wasn't necessary. 

I went back to my outpost and started stripping things off my vest. The bayonet, radio pouch, IFAK, and NVGs stayed, but all the M14 mags went away, and the M14 went into a footlocker until I turned it back in on the way home. I went from 12 magazines to 8, and my only "extras" were IR chemlights, and a dry-erase card with a 9-line medevac on one side and the updated call for Close Air Support on the other side. I had begun my descent into minimalism and tactical hipster-ism.

Fast forward four months and my squad had been in a complex ambush every day for a week, and on the last one, I went up and down three mountains. The only reason I still had gas in the tank for the third mountain was that all I took up was my bare-bones kit. I had water and ammo. That was it. Almost everyone who packed like they were walking to China went down with a knee or ankle injury, or very nearly fell to their death. Mobility is key, and you aren't mobile with 650rds of ammo, a drop-leg holster, and rail after rail of useless rifle accessory.

Yours truly bringing up the rear. That bag weighed 125lbs and all it contained was ammunition, water, and two MREs. Why add more stupid shit?

This is a long-winded way of saying I agree with Andrew Tuohy that things like drop-leg holsters can be a sign of the uninitiated. In mountain warfare, less can be a lot more. The simpler your kit, the less time it takes to put on, the faster you'll be ready to go when the QRF horn sounds. If you don't have space for your secondary weapon on your kit, then remove something from your kit.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I Built That

Friday, after work, I took possession of my RGuns stripped lower and came home to find a package from Palmetto State Armory on my front step. I had intended to take some pictures of the stripped lower, but patience still isn't my strong suit, so I tore into the package containing my MOE lower parts kit (sans trigger group) and set to work.

I scratched my magazine release button on something, but other than that, I got the lower together in about a half hour. It would have been about 15 minutes, but the MOE pistol grip appeared to be pinched in at the top and would not fit on the lower without the added motivation of my brass hammer. I finished the lower with an A2 stock and trigger from my parts box. Now I wait for my upper, and maybe order a case of 5.56x45mm.

I looked over my receipts, and near as I can tell, I will have built this AR-15 rifle for about $30 more than a Mini-14. Here's my parts list with prices (including shipping) rounded up to the nearest dollar.

RGuns stripped lower: $99
PSA MOE LPK w/o trigger: $41
PSA 20" Gov't upper: $345
Bravo Company M16 Auto BCG: $168
Charging handle: Donated, $0
Stock: $0 from parts box (formerly Bushmaster, IIRC)
Trigger: $0 from parts box (Formerly S&W M&P15)
MBUS rear sight: $60

Total: $713

Full disclosure, to buy the rest of the components would be about another $125, so lets say $840. Pics to come, and hopefully I will have the test-fire done by the end of the month.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Things I Learned Today

I got up early this morning, downed a pot of black coffee, and donned my Captain America shirt in preparation for the monthly USPSA match. I packed my fresh-from-the-smith Para LTC and The Golden Gun, and headed out.

There was a HUGE turnout early, and I waited about an hour to get on the line. I shot very well (for me anyway), keeping my time around the tactical tupperware guys and shooting a lot of As. The match was limited comstock, so both stages were 20 rounds, and you could only bring up 20 rounds (with exceptions made for revolvers--24rds). So the playing field was fairly level. After my two stages were complete, I ran back to my car and changed over to my wheelgun gear, and grabbed a box of old reloads. That's when things started to go downhill. Fast.

My revolver score sheet had gone missing, but I found it in the clubhouse. I ran out to the line and gave it to the RO and was placed at the bottom of that order. I got all set up, and the timer buzzed, setting a series of unfortunate events in motion. I screwed up my draw, but figured it out and squeezed the trigger twice at a target 3 yards away. And saw no bullet holes. I immediately knew what was wrong, broke the cylinder open and dumped my ammo and called a ceasefire.

That's right. I'm an idiot. There was no powder in my reloads. To make matters worse, they are Hornady XTP 125gr bullets, and therefore will not budge from my bore until I drill the core out and hammer them out with a 5/16" dowel rod.

So for now, I'm down to my Model 64 for a competition revolver, and I'll be carefully inspecting all of my reloads before they go back in the ammo can. Let that be a lesson to fellow reloaders. Stay focused at the bench, and double check everything!

Now to clean the Para and put my gear away for next month. Stay tuned for my Frankengun AR-15 rifle build. All the parts have been ordered, and should be here in the next two weeks.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dances With Goats

According to Yahoo!News, The Forest Service is fighting a new wave of aggressive mountain goats with shouts and the occasional paintball gun. I only post this because I have a long history of goat attacks. Here are a few:

This goat got most of my candy corn.     


Goat pictured above washed my windshield, then would not leave until I gave her a dollar. She ate it.       

More goat panhandlers.

Goats loitering. I called the police, but they just told the goats to move along. The goats declined.

It's about time someone did something about the level of goat aggression in this country. Tell your friends about the dangers of goats, and take precautions yourself. Don't be a statistic.

*No goats were harmed in the writing of this article. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I Didn't Build That (Yet)

It has been a slow weekend, and I spent some time yesterday cleaning and organizing my gun room. I threw out a bunch of unidentifiable springs, some Triple K brand AR magazines that someone gave me a long time ago, and various empty packages that I had put in my gunsmithing tool box for no reason. By the time I was done cleaning, I found I had not one, but TWO AR-15 triggers (complete!), and a complete M16A2 stock! I told my wife that with this development, it would be silly not to buy a cheap lower and start building an A2-style rifle. She reluctantly agreed, and now I'm going to order a cheap lower from AIM Surplus this week. I've got the rest of the build more or less nailed down as far as components, but I'm still on the fence about an optic, but I'll get into that later. First, let me explain why I want a full 20" rifle.

When I joined the Iowa National Guard in 2002, only elite units had M4s. I went through basic training with an M16A4, and was issued an M16A2/M203 from my unit of assignment. I went on to carry FN Herstal M16A2 serial# 7366928 in Afghanistan, and for a couple of years after I got home. Then I got shifted (without promotion...) to a team leader slot where I carried another FNH M16A2 for another 18 months or so before we got M4A3s. I have a lot of fun memories with an A2. I also had exactly zero problems with those A2s, to include one day where my second FNH rifle spent all afternoon on the line, cycling between me and my squad's two SAW gunners. That rifle must have digested over 2000 rounds in a four hour stretch. And that was after it ate up 180-ish rounds of blanks on a force-on-force drill the previous night and the only cleaning it got was a healthy dose of CLP. My Colt M4A3 was far from unreliable, but I did experience a trigger spring failure on the firing range in Afghanistan. Also, every memory I have where I carried an M4 absolutely sucked. Not the gun's fault, but that's how it is.

So with that said, I'm looking hard at a Stag Arms 20" upper known as the Model 4H.I may upgrade to MOE handguards at some point, but that's about it. Which brings me to my current conundrum. The optic.

I want to keep things simple, so that leaves me with two general options: a very low power scope, or a tube-style red dot.

My favorite optic in the entire universe is the ACOG TA31F, which I used on my final deployment. It was extremely rugged and turned a mediocre rifleman into a serious mid-range threat. When properly zeroed, the BDC is dead on, and will retain a zero even when banged around for months at a time. Unfortunately, the ACOG is also extremely expensive. But maybe one day I'll have one. Until then, my options are somewhat limited.

My short list of possibilities right now is:

Aimpoint Pro ($400)
Burris Tac30 ($300)
Burris MTAC ($400)

As my eyes age, I'm getting partial to low-magnification optics. I also like shooting for group at 100 and 200 yards. The Aimpoint is definitely the better choice for CQB, but I will probably take my AR coyote hunting a couple of times a year and the Burris scopes would do that a little better, especially if I had to take a 200-300 yard shot. I won't be getting a Vortex Strikefire for this build because I want it to be a battle-ready rig. I would trust the Burris and Aimpoint in adverse conditions. As good as the Vortex is, I'm not sure it's ready for combat. Let me add that I don't think there is a better red dot at the Strikefire's price point. If you want a range toy that is functional and looks good, that's the way to go. Mine lives happily on my MP5-22, and it's great in that role.

Now to figure out how I'll budget for my upper, and get this thing shooting by year's end.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Glocktard: Why I'll Never Afford Another AR15, part IV

I like Glock pistols. I don't love them, and I'm certainly no fanboy (except for old S&W revolvers). I carried a Glock 22 on duty for the brief time I spent on a small town police department. I owned a Glock 17 that was reliable as an anvil, and killed a huge number of barnyard varmints. I respect the hell out of the Glock design, and as much as I like my M&P9C, if I were to buy another plastic pistol it would be a Glock.

The M&P has some improvements over the Glock. The components are arguably of higher quality, I like the grip angle better, and I think metal magazines fall free of the mag well better than plastic ones. I also like the fully supported chamber and conventional rifling of the M&P. But the Glock still has a couple of important trump cards. First, EVERYONE makes support items for the Glock. Want a left-handed mag pouch fitted for a Glock 19? Someone makes one. Want a slide plate with a "trucker girl" silhouette on it? Someone makes one. Second, the Glock has been around long enough to have accumulated a service history--and it's pretty good. One day, the M&P will catch up. But it will take the same 30 years the Glock has had. And it's worth noting that 30 years really isn't that long in gun tech terms. Police ALL carried revolvers from the dawn of time until the very late 1970s.  Then in 1985, they all ditched their S&W 3909s, Beretta 92FS, and 1911s for the plastic "Wundernine" from Austria. And though old grumps (like me) grumbled about their "tactical tupperware", the Glock just plain worked.

And that's why I've decided that if I add another pistol to my safe, it won't be my friend's GI 1911. It will be a Gen 3 Glock 19. Additionally, I can rationalize a Glock 19 in three ways. First, I can compete with it on the cheap. Second, it is large enough to make an acceptable nightstand gun. Third, I can carry it concealed in fall and winter. Now all I have to do it sell my wife on those points and perhaps I can pick up a Glock next time I hit Sportsman's. And I'll still never be able to afford another AR15.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why I Will Never Afford Another AR15, Part III

While visiting my hetero-lifepartner last weekend, he mentioned he had a gun for sale. He took a partial trade when dumping his Delta Elite, and that part-trade was a Springfield 1911A1 GI model, just like the one I built up in a futile attempt to make a poor man's TRP. The price is right, and my wife wasn't super mad about me wanting it (I may have bribed her with an emerald necklace...) and I can almost make my savings goal for the month and still buy it.

But part of me really wants to build a neato AR15. I miss having an AR around, but I have no emotional attachment to any particular one (I've had two now). I was issued so many over the years that an AR is more like an expensive power tool than a piece of art like a revolver or a 1911. The only reason I want one is to satisfy the tinfoil-hat-wearing part of my brain that says the S is going to HTF a-la Greece. But in reality, my Benelli Nova could keep the Occupy crowd at bay. Especially if I had three 1911s for "Detroit reloads"....

I need another 1911 like I need another hole in the head. But it needs a good home. And an unwanted 1911 is like an unwanted puppy to me. I just can't bring myself to ignore it. It needs a good home. At this rate I will never be able to afford my AR build.

I guess it's time to start panhandling after work. Spare some change?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

ROAD TRIP!! (Why You Should Own A Cheapie)

I'm downing pot after pot of black coffee in effort to drive to western Iowa to see my hetero lifepartner and take our wives to the Henry Doorly Zoo. Being a fastidious and law-abiding armed citizen, I did my homework. In Nebraska, a "no carry" sign has force of law. No one seems to be sure what the penalty is, but the law reads like you can be charged with a crime, not just told to leave. And not wanting to go to prison, I will leave my gun in the car's locked glovebox.

So which gun to carry? My shiny Ruger? My tricked out Frankenstein 1911? My favorite M&P? None of the above. Today it's commie garbage all the way. My $150 P64 will be in my bellyband today. Turns out impulse-buying a pistol will finally work out for me.

I really don't like the idea of leaving firearms in a vehicle as a standard practice. But some days, it just can't be avoided. If I have to leave my gun behind, I'd rather it be a gun that is cheap and not particularly special to me. As an added bonus, the P64 is chambered in an obscure caliber, and only holds 7 rounds. So in the case it is stolen, it can only be fired a couple of times before the baddie has to toss it or start shoving incorrect ammo into it and hopefully kaboom-ing the whole works.

So here's my observations for the day. First, DO YOUR HOMEWORK before going out of state with your carry rig. When you travel out of state, you must now operate under the new state's bylaws. So for instance, if you have an Iowa permit and you go to Missouri, you CANNOT open carry. You have to obey Missouri's bylaws. And to do that, you have to know them.

Second, buy a cheap but reliable gun for days you know you'll have to leave it in the car, or in the hotel room, or whatever. To my mind, a Ruger LCP or Bersa Thunder .380 would be about ideal. If you're cool with leaving a Glock 19 in the glovebox, fine. It's just that $500 is a lot of money to me, and I'd rather not lose that money and give a bad guy a fairly effective combat piece. Maybe that's some tortured logic, but it makes sense to me.

So ends my ramblings for today. Enjoy your weekend and stay on the right side of the law, even if it doesn't particularly make sense.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More 1911 Minutiae

The second handgun I ever bought was a Springfield Armory 1911-A1 G.I.. It's also the only handgun from my early days that I still own. Albeit, with some significant changes. I bought it thinking I would build myself a custom 1911, and save money over the more expensive TRP model (I was a Springfield Fanboy back in the day). If you're thinking about doing the same thing, don't. Let me dive into some observations on the 1911 and explain what I find useful, and stuff I could live without. There are tons of 1911s out there, so here's some stuff to think about before you commit.

Para Ord. LTC 1911 Commander (OD Green), Springfield Armory 1911-A1 GI (Parkerized)

Let me lead off by saying I think the 1911 Commander is my favorite. I like my 5" Government model, but the Commander points better and balances better. The price for that balance is a bit more muzzle flip, but I go back a long way with the 1911 platform and I don't really notice it going from one gun to the other. My Para LTC has a lot of nice, modern features that are actual improvements over Browning's A1. First, the ejection port is lowered and flared (See the Para's vs. the G.I.). Second, the trigger was excellent right out of the box. My G.I. 1911 got new guts about a month after I bought it. It now has Wilson internals and a Caspian Trik Trigger. 

A 1911 from most makers comes with a 16lb recoil spring. I run an 18.5lb spring in both of mine to prevent battering the frame. Some say it makes the guns more reliable, though I would argue it might cause problems with manufacturers who make weaker ammo. I haven't had a failure to cycle due to the heavy spring. But to be fair, the 16lb springs never gave me grief, either. 

However, when I switched my G.I. gun to the 18.5lb spring, it started binding randomly, and I finally figured out it was the spring causing it. So instead of popping in the girly 16lb factory spring, I bought a Wilson full-length guide rod and it has been reliable ever since. My Para wears a G.I.-style spring cap for aesthetic reasons. This is a long-winded way of saying I don't really have a strong feeling about guide rods in a 1911, though I prefer the look of the G.I. system. 

Top: Para LTC; Bottom: Springfield G.I.
That brings me to the mag well. Traditionally, the 1911 has a square, head-smashing, steel butt. My Para has been relieved, arguably to make reloading faster. I can notice a difference between the two. I fumble on the square well more often than the beveled one. Some guns have an additional mag funnel. Those are nice, but rule out concealed carry and put you in the Open or Limited class of your local shooting club. A beveled mag well is something I prefer, but it still isn't as easy as reloading a plastic double-stack. 

Para LTC left, Springfield GI right.
Most makers give you nice sights these days. Except on GI guns, because the real GI 1911s had horrible, tiny, squinty sights. They're accurate, but far from quick to pick up. I got props at the last match from my R.O. because I was essentially point-shooting the whole stage. On the subject of sights, I prefer a very visible front dot and a plain, sharp rear. I can use 3-dot sights, but I'm not a huge fan. I also don't like fancy adjustable rear sights. They can be fragile and finicky. While at the match, a friend's fancy adjustable sight started self-adjusting sharply to the right during his run. Fixed sights can still be zeroed, though it's more of a pain in the ass. But then they're zeroed forever (barring disaster). 

If I could pass on one thing I've learned in my years of DIY gunsmithing and penny-pinching, I would say to buy the 1911 you want in the trim level you want from the manufacturer you want, even if it costs a couple thousand dollars. Guns like the Dan Wesson Valor (my personal favorite) and S&W 1911PD represent good value, despite being very expensive. It would probably cost the same to buy a cheaper GI 1911 and have a gunsmith build it to be what you want. And it is an exercise in futility to try and do it yourself. You won't save any money (gotta buy tools to do the work!), and you'll probably muck it up once. 

Good luck with your 1911 adventures. Get the one you love, and love the one you get.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Back In The Saddle

I finally got out to a match last weekend. And did both well and very poorly. The match just happened to be the yearly championship match for Central Iowa Practical Shooters out of Winterset, IA. I shot there as a kid, and hadn't been back for something like 11 years. The club rules are basically USPSA, but they treat the semi-autos all the same. Essentially, all bottom-feeders are in the "open", which kind of sucks because a guy like me with a basic 1911 isn't going to catch the guys with STI 2011s and XDM45s. But, you can "run what you brung". You can buy a handgun, an extra magazine, and a double mag pouch and at least compete.

Saturday was the actual championship, followed by a banquet I did not attend because I was watching Iowa State beat up Iowa on the football field. The match was two stages, which I wish I had photographed, because there were a lot of required trick-shots. The first stage was 34 rounds, and the second stage was 30. Sunday, they were 30 and 30. I shot a clean 46.36 and a clean 48.00 seconds respectively on Saturday. Sunday I was on fire. 33.something with one miss, and 31.something clean. Then I went back with The Golden Gun.

My time was 80sec on the first stage because of a very stubborn pop-up plate (shoot the plate to pop a target up). I shot the plate, and nothing happened. Then I shot the rest of the cylinder into the plate, and nothing happened. I then wrestled with an unfamiliar Bianchi speedloader (I'm buying HKS from now on). I shot all As, save for one D. On the second stage, I got through in 50 seconds, also with all As, save for one C.

I learned a couple of things. First, being fast on a FAST drill isn't the same as being fast over an entire course of fire. Second, I'm not very fast at all. If I keep practicing for a couple of months, I know I could get faster. But what I really came away with was a deep desire to shoot revolvers. The revolver runs were by far the most fun for me. They were also the cheapest. And I'm actually competitively quick with the wheelgun. Mainly because everyone else who shoots sixguns has an oxygen tank and a walker.

I have since bought a full compliment of HKS 10A speedloaders, two HKS "leather" double pouches, and new reloading components to up the power of my .38spl loads. I have switched from a Missouri Bullet Co. 125gr LRN over a max charge of HP-38 to a Missouri Bullet Co. 158gr SWC over stout charge of HS-6. The former netted about 230 ft/lbs and the latter around 350 ft/lbs--or roughly 9mm+p territory. Which sort of highlights the 38spl's weakness, which is weakness.

And on that note, I'm off to enjoy the remainder of my Friday. Keep your stick on the ice.

I'm Too Sexy For This Blog

So I just realized I've never shown the completed Golden Gun. Today at work I got a text from CCA, saying my 1911 was done. So here's some pictures. Enjoy. They're too sexy for this blog.

The Golden Gun

Sun glare, and The Golden Gun

OD and Graphite Black controls.

The shadow from my right arm, and also my OD Para LTC

Now an side on my Para. I was VERY disappointed with the factory finish on the LTC, and after poking around the interwebs, a lot of other users were also disappointed with the durability of Para's finish. Every time I got back from the range, there'd be a new gouge or scratch on the slide near the ejection port. I had originally wanted to do a bi-tone scheme with a black slide and OD frame, but I think this just looks better.

As another aside, I wrote in my instructions to CCA that I wanted a basic duty-ready trigger at about 3.5 to 4lbs and clean. And they did an awesome job. There's no creep or overtravel and it breaks very cleanly at what I'd guess is just under 4lbs. Maybe less. I can't wait to get back to the USPSA club next month. 

If you're in Iowa (or anywhere, really), and you need cerakote or just a good gunsmith who specialized in black rifles and 1911s (also does a LOT of work with tactical tupperware of most major brands), then give Controlled Chaos Arms an email or a call.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Number Two: The Case For A Bellyband

There have been a number of cases of folks leaving their carry pieces in public toilets. Most high profile of which was a Secret Service agent who left their gun in an airplane bathroom. With the increase in number of folks carrying, it makes sense that there would be an uptick in incidents like this. Not everyone has had the pleasure of carrying an M4, M9, and M14EBR everywhere they go for months or years on end. Here's a couple of ideas of how to retain your iron while passing your fiber.

You're in the mall when suddenly that Panda Express suddenly exacts its revenge. Of course you're carrying concealed. What now? The Yankee Marshal has some ideas, then I chime in with a case for carrying a revolver and bellybands.

I carry my SP101 almost exclusively. It's just too easy to hide, and with five rounds of Buffalo Bore 158gr JHPs on board, I don't feel under-gunned. Because it has a very heavy trigger, I feel very comfortable carrying it "appendix" style in a bellyband. Aside from being comfortable, the bellyband can help you keep positive control of your gun while losing control of your bowels. Observe first, my usual carry position:

Now, say I've eaten some bad Chinese food (not picking on the Chinese, but that's usually the cause of my intestinal unrest) and I need relief immediately. Well, I can slide the whole bellyband up to my chest level. This maneuver is incredibly easy, and you cannot possibly lose your gun this way:

This works for me. If you have a different way, that's great. Never leave your gun behind. Do test runs in your bathroom at home before trying it out in the wild. Be safe and continue to give lawfully armed citizens a good name. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I Am A Gun Hipster

My Para LTC is now in the capable hands of Controlled Chaos Arms for new guts and cerakote after an unfortunate mishap involving Gov't parts in a Commander frame. It may have been my fault. But enough about that.

I've been agonizing for months over whether or not to tell my wife I need a Glock 19, and beg for permission to buy one. But everyone and their dog has a Glock. I want to be different. Cooler. More ironic. So I give you my current hardware crush: The FNX-9.

This re-release of the FNP-9 features more aggressive texturing, and some unknown changes I can't verify right now because I'm lazy. The FNP's standard mag was 16 rounds, and the FNX holds 17--which is on par with the Glock 17. FN sends you three magazines, and costs about the same as a Gen 4 Glock. But wait, there's more.

FN uses hammer-forged barrels. Stainless steel in everything that can rust. And FN just makes good guns, period. All of my favorite Army-issued M16s were made by FN. I had two such FNs that shot a one-hole zero group at 25 meters. Everything I've seen from FN has been top-shelf, and very rugged. 

So what? Well, the FNX has a couple of very big, very cool tricks up its sleeve. First, ALL of the controls are fully ambidextrous. Got a weak-hand only stage at your next match? No proooblem. Second, the safety can be anything you want it to be. If you like traditional DA/SA, then it's a decocker. If you like 1911s, then it's a regular old thumb safety. You can be a real hipster and carry cocked and locked. Though, if I'm honest, the FNX is a little too large for carry. See the Vuurwapenblog review below for some size comparisons. 

Tomorrow, I'll see if I can track one down to fondle. I gotta get out and pick up some .22lr anyway. Good excuse to hit up my favorite gun store. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Iowa Firearms Coalition 2A Rally!

I got out to the IFC's Second Amendment Rally at the Big Springs Range on Saturday. There were some big-wig speakers, to include Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. There were a couple of vendors, to include Controlled Chaos Arms and Brownells, though Brownells spent most of their time handing out freebies. I got out of there with a free triple mag pouch for AR15 20rd mags. I bought a CCA hat, then shot a Mini-Uzi, and shot a 3-gun demonstration mini-stage. Also, Savage Arms had a table of their newest arrivals, to include a 300 WinMag 110 BA available to shoot for free. Also, the American Silencer Association had a table of suppressed weapons that were also available to fire for free. I shot a suppressed 1911, and it was awesome. I also shot a Savage Model 25 lightweight varminter, and of course the 110 BA.

Below is a video of some class III available for rent, as well as yours truly beating the day's best time on the 3-gun mini-stage. Followed by a Ricky Bobby-esque interview. I don't talk so good, but I can shoot straight. Video below belongs to CRI, shared via YouTube.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'm The Pretender

For all the shit I give to mall ninjas and tacticool wannabes, I'd be lying if I said CQM wasn't fun. Firing controlled pairs at close range, and while on the move is hugely fun. But it's expensive. And it doesn't have to be.

Whilst deployed last year, a buddy and I hatched a plan that should be the envy of most any man. We thought up a tacticool .22LR only shooting competition. We call it "Subcaliber High Intensity Tactical Shooters" or S.H.I.T.S. With options like the Sig 522, M&P15-22, MP5-22, and .22LR conversions for almost every popular sidearm, it only makes sense.

SHITS would only be for fun, and though you might get some good training out of it, the main purpose is to revel in tacticoolness and let your inner mall ninja out. Though I have a scoring system written down (based loosely on Bianchi Cup scoring), I'm thinking about adding bonus points (actually deductions, because Bianchi Cup scores like golf) for wearing outrageous chest rigs, huge knives, and horribly branded gear (i.e. matching 5.11 pants, shirt, hat, underwear, socks, boots, and gloves).

What do you think, my meager audience? Does this sound like something worth pursuing or should I start taking my medicine again?