Sunday, July 29, 2012

Versus! Part I: AR vs AK

I've decided to do a few articles pontificating on which platforms I prefer. Most of it is based on anecdotal evidence, which is not actual evidence. But going off half cocked has never stopped me before. So here we go with the first installment; AR vs AK. (Not Arkansas vs Alaska)

I fall solidly into the AR camp. Why? It's a better gun, period.

The stories of AK47 reliability are greatly exaggerated. As are the stories of AR15 unreliability. In my personal experience, I've seen four AK47s explode. I mean real AK47s, not civilian semi-auto clones. The Afghan National Army is a sad excuse for a bunch of soldiers, and they don't do ANY maintenance. If you neglect ANY weapon, it will fail. All four exploding AKs looked to me like firing out of battery. It blew out the receiver near the barrel and popped the top cover off. I know of one AR15 that fired out of battery and cracked the receiver, but left the barrel and barrel nut unharmed. It was a Rock River Arms heavy profile M4, and the explosion was at first blamed on improperly made handloads, but upon inspection of the damage, it was clearly a case of firing out of battery. Firing out of battery is one of the worst things that can happen to a rifle, but is all too common in early semi-autos (*cough* M1 Garand *cough*).

Second, the stories of AK47 inaccuracy and AR15 accuracy are true (mostly). The long-stroke piston and loose tolerances of the AK don't lend themselves to accuracy over great distances. I have seen some Arsenal and old Russian milled-receiver AKs that could do 2.5 or even 2MOA, which is pretty respectable and probably about what you'd get out of the average off-the-rack M4/AR15 carbine. However, those milled AKs cost the same or more than a well-made AR15. And a well-made AR will do 1.5 or 1MOA all day (provided you have decent ammo--not Wolf).

There are some upgrades available for the AK, but it will never be the modular platform the AR is. I have a dear friend who owns three or four AKs, and they all suffer from the same insane design flaws. There is an optics mount on the left side of the receiver, but you can't use it with a folding stock because it folds to the left. So you can either use your hideously expensive stock, or put an optic where it was intended to go. The only other option is to get an expensive set of handguards that need to be hand-fitted to your AK and mount your red dot on the gas tube. Then hope and pray it doesn't get so hot as to damage the optic. AK triggers are crap. TAPCO actually makes a reasonably good AK trigger that isn't super expensive. But it isn't as good as an AR trigger. And there are about 2.5quadrillion options for AR triggers.

Then there's the cost. A random piece of crap Romanian WASR will cost around $400. Lets call it $400 for the sake of argument. For that $400, you get a rifle with horrible trigger backlash and possibly canted sights. So you'll need $30 for a new trigger and $60 for new sights. Possibly more. And then you have a $500 rifle that shoots 4 or 5MOA. Want to add an optic? You'll need to shell out another $100 for a mount, be it a tri-rail handguard or a cantilever mount for that block on the left of the receiver. If you're cool with that, fine. Best of luck. But for about $700, you can build your own AR15 carbine that will have an acceptable trigger and excellent sights right out of the box. And if you want to add an optic, just get an optic with a picatinny mount (which most come with these days). No need to hand-fit new handguards or buy an expensive cantilever mount.

All of this is not to say that buying an AK is wrong, or you're wrong for liking them. I'm just saying that I prefer the AR for the above reasons. I believe it is far more modern, and far more versatile than the aging AK. To my mind, the AK just isn't on the same level as an AR. Even a top-shelf AK like an Arsenal is no match for a top-shelf AR like a Noveske or LWRC. An AK can be a functional and useful rifle, but it will never be as flexible or versatile as an AR.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Upgrade Your Eye Pro!

Andrew Tuohy at Vuurwapenblog did a fairly comprehensive test of eye protection. I'm pretty far from a safety nazi when it comes to training, but eye and ear pro are a must. Here's a few YouTube videos showing why you need your eyes and ears. Enjoy.

A "kaboom" can be caused by numerous things, but the most common are firing out of battery, and poorly made handloads. In any case, if you want to keep your eyes, you'll need MIL-PRF-31013 rated glasses. Gloves probably aren't a bad idea either if you're testing a new AR build or getting data on a new handload.

Have fun, but keep all your bits and pieces.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Safeties, I'm Like "f*** you!"

So in the last piece I wrote , I bragged on the accuracy and handling of my Para LTC. But there is another side to her. I experienced a failure I've never seen before. I had the slide locked back from shooting the second to last string, so I slapped in a magazine and racked the slide. But nothing happened. The slide lurched about 1/4" forward and stopped with a round partially in the chamber. So I did tap-rack-bang. But I got to "rack" and nothing happened. I locked the slide back, dropped the mag, and inspected the breech face and chamber. The firing pin was protruding about 1/4" out of the breech face. Why? Because the of the stupid Series 70 firing pin safety. I was able to replicate the failure when I got home and started playing with the slide. I don't know how to remedy it, and I'm going to be in contact with Controlled Chaos Arms to see if it can be removed.

The firing pin safety is useless in a 1911 because the firing pin is sprung from the front. Plus, modern firing pins are lightweight. So you'd have to get one hell of a fall with the impact directly in line with the muzzle to force a slamfire. WTF is with gun companies heaping safeties on their guns? Is it just lawyers making the calls? It's annoying, and I'm starting to get a little pissed about it.

Lawyers have also ruined late-model concealed carry guns like the LC9, S&W Bodyguard, and S&W Shield by putting manual safeties, mag safeties, safety safeties, etc on them. It's a carry gun! The whole point is to fire quickly, not see how many safeties you can disable before your attacker finally kills you!

Get rid of the damn safeties!!!!


I made it out to my sister's place where I have a makeshift 50yd pistol range. I test-fired my Para LTC with its Springfield arched mainspring housing and the transplant was successful. But instead of my usual kinda unstructured shooting, I decided to spend the day doing the F.A.S.T drill. The F.A.S.T. is, to my estimation, one of the simplest and most realistic drills you can do. Also, it's pretty economical since each string is only six rounds.

I cheated and shot a few warm-up strings with both my Para LTC and M&P9C. Then I got down to business. I did modify the drill for my 1911, and here's a full disclaimer. My holsters and go-faster gear for my 1911 somehow didn't make it to my new house with me, so I started from position Sol. Also, I have no mag pouches, so my four round magazines got tucked into my belt. I have five GI magazines (I threw away my Para 8rd mags because they were junk), so I loaded two mags with two rounds, and two with four. The fifth mag got the full 6 rounds, which I disbursed at maximum speed. Actually, they all got sent as fast as I could without losing control of the group. More on that topic later.

Here's strings 1-3 with my good 'ol .45:

I did ok, but my point of aim was a little low on the head shot segments. Strings 4-6 were largely the same, but with the POI improved. So I turned the speed up to 11 for my final three strings. 

I dropped one shot, but I'm happy with it overall. I was actually going FAST on this F.A.S.T. I had some more .45 ammo, but it was getting bloody hot out, so I put the 1911 away and got my M&P9C and put it in my N82 kydex holster, and got to work.
I wasn't counting on the light-recoiling 9mm to have so much muzzle flip! A quick adjustment to the nut behind the trigger, and I gave it another go. 

Adjustment complete, I decided to go faster. Note the two-in-one hole in the head

My final rounds weren't bad, and I was going like hell. However, I had to call it a day because a cloud of bees had come out of the field to sting me with great vengeance and furious anger. 

Here's the pic I accidentally took whilst being stung on the left ring finger and both shoulders. I then packed up and went home.

So I learned a few things. First, the 1911, despite its much larger round, was easier to control at full speed. All that weight serves it well for recoil control. Second, some of my GI mags are a little tight in the mag well and that makes reloading a pain. Third, my M&P is almost too easy to reload. That thing handles very fast, and despite its muzzle flip, it can run very fast and accurately. 

I also learned that the F.A.S.T. drill is fun and is a fantastic tool for practical shooting. To me, the drill can be used in two ways. First, it ties all the fundamentals together--accuracy, speed, reloading, and drawing. Second, it can be used as a simple tool to find your failure point. How fast is too fast? Well, give it a shot. I didn't push myself to failure today, though I had intended to. The sun and some angry bees convinced me to leave before I got to it. Maybe next weekend. 

Keep trying to get better and faster. As Daft Punk puts it "our work is never over". 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Don't You Want [An AR Pistol]?

I've been half-assedly looking for a project (not a "project" like my failed AR24), and I think I've got one. A friend of mine built a badass custom AR pistol, and it has me wanting to do the same. His parts list (and paint job) are a little higher-dollar than my concept, but it's largely the same. I figure I could build this thing for around $1000, and I have enough leftover AR parts in my toolbox that I can just about finish the lower without spending too much. 

So here's my parts list:
The upper: Rainier Arms CE10. 
The lower: PSA AR15 Lower 

The Parts Kit: Spike's Tactical no-trigger/hammer kit. (no pic because screws and pins aren't interesting to look at)

The Buffer: PSA Pistol Buffer Kit 

I'm probably going to buy a used EOTech micro from one of my friends to finish it off. I may also put on some Magpul MBUIS sights. Also, here's a pic of my friend's pistol before it got cerakoted. I probably won't cerakote mine, at least not immediately. Provided my wife will agree to let me spend $1000 on a toy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

On The 1911

I finally moved all of my gun stuff out of storage and into my semi-finished basement on the 4th. I've been really busy at work, so I haven't gotten to the range for a while, hence no new articles for a week. But as I rooted through my stuff I found my old parts box. I have bits of a Ruger GP100, most of an AR15 lower, various springs and small screws, and a Wal-Mart bag full of my Springfield GI's old guts. What caught my eye was the arched mainspring housing and the "U.S." marked wooden grips. So I grabbed my punches and a screwdriver and attached the stuff to my Para LTC. Results below: 

I prefer the arched housing, and I put the grips on for pure irony, as my LTC is old enough that it was made in Canada.

I really like my 1911s for range use, and I do a lot of hunting with a .22LR-converted 1911. But that's about where my love affair with the old warhorse ends. There are just too many other better options these days. 

Most, if not all plastic great-grandchildren of the 1911 weigh far less and carry far more ammo. They're also cheaper, and unfortunately, usually more reliable. Even if you spend upwards of $1200 on your 1911, it will probably have certain types of ammo it won't shoot. It will probably not like to run dirty, and if the trigger wasn't honed properly, it will bump-fire under otherwise normal circumstances (I've seen it in a 1970s Detonics, an AMT, and about a half dozen Kimbers). That's not mentioning how much "tuning" has to be done on the internal extractor (S&W and Sig run externals on their variants). Then there's the narrow mag well which slows down reloads. And it only holds 7 or 8 rounds. And good 8 rounders are hard to find. For practicality's sake, the 1911 is an antiquated platform. And this is coming from a guy who thinks the S&W Model 10 is the pinnacle of firearms development. 

The Glock 21 and M&P45, just to name two contenders, are better options for someone who just wants a nightstand gun or something to carry afield. They're lighter, they hold more, they come with good sights, a decent trigger, they're easier to use, and they much, much cheaper. It's hard to justify a $1000+ gun that holds half as much ammo and weighs twice as much as its $550 competitor.

That said, I learned to shoot handguns on an AMT Hardballer, and will probably always have a 1911. But my nightstand will be occupied by an M&P of one type or another for the foreseeable future. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Don't Give A Damn About Knives

The title says it all. I don't give a damn about knives. Unlike 99% of firearms enthusiasts, I really don't have any interest in knives. Not blade design, or metallurgy, or knife-fighting skills, or anything of the sort. Don't get me wrong--I never leave the house without my Gerber Paraframe clipped into my pocket. I like to have a knife because they are useful tools to have around, but I don't have any emotional attachment to them in the same way I have no attachment to my crescent wrenches that I use all the time at work. If one breaks, I'm off to Lowe's or Home Depot to get another one. All I demand from a knife is that it be handy to carry, sharp, and at least slightly durable. It doesn't need to be able to hammer nails, or pry windows open. But it does need to be able to open mail, cut boxes open at work, and occasionally cut insulation out of roof caps.

I don't think of knives as weapons, or at least not primarily as weapons. There are a million other options I'd like to try before getting into a knife fight. There are a ton of good reasons to carry a knife other than going Ninja Gaiden on a bad guy. Car accidents top my list of why to carry a knife. Seatbelts can jam, airbags can fail to deflate, and windows can refuse to roll down, all of these things conspiring to keep you trapped in a mass of twisted and possibly burning metal. Any decent knife can be used to cut the seatbelt, pop the airbag, and smash a window.

Fast forward to 2:18 to see the knife break a car window.

With the rise of tactical-ness in the last few years, there's been a new emphasis on knives along with the use of firearms. And that's fine. I'm just not into it. I'm not into knife-fighting (because I'm not into being cut), and I don't think that "trainers" should teach knife techniques under the assumption that knife-fighting is ever a good option in the same way I think "trainers" shouldn't teach house clearing techniques under the assumption that clearing your house is an individual task (if you look in the FM 7-8, you'll see room clearing under "fire team" tasks). Being a libertarian (as opposed to Libertarian), I believe in your right to spend your money however you want--even if it's on knives. I just don't "get it", and I don't think I ever will. I just don't give a damn about knives.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Man With The Golden Gun, Part II

I dropped the model 10 off with Controlled Chaos Arms, and sprung for a two-tone finish with burnt bronze and graphite black. Pics to follow as soon as I get the gun back. I'm guessing it will be about two weeks. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Mistake. Four Coffins.

I got out to my sister's place out in the country today. I did some more seven yard draw-and-fire practice, this time with Buffalo Bore, Federal Fusion, and Winchester White Box "Self-Defense". To be perfectly clear, I step off 7 big paces, and I draw from concealment and fire as soon as the barrel is between me and the target. It's more hip-shooting than "flash sight picture". I draw, get the muzzle between me and the target and fire. Here's my first go with 5 shots of Buffalo Bore 158 High Velocity, 5 of Federal Fusion 158gr, and 5 WWB 110gr "Self Defense".

The extra holes in the cardboard were from me wringing out that Model 10, which will probably go to CCA next week to be Cerakoted. I shot it at 25 yards and my group was in the right side of the target, but I know it was my trigger pull being hampered by the much-too-fat Pachmayr Presentation grips. Anyway, all 15 went into a sheet of 8.5"x11" paper. Not bad for using my cowboy sense instead of a sight picture. 

This is a shitty picture of my next 15 rounds, which were 5 rounds of 110gr Winchester, and 10 rounds of 125gr 38spl +p. Again, all on paper, and three rounds in a row went into the ragged spot in the 4 o'clock of the bullseye. 

This isn't something you need to spend hours and hundreds of rounds practicing, but it is something you should practice. Time to first shot is a big deal. Where that shot goes is an even bigger deal. And doing this is fun. Now back to work for the week! Some of us don't get the Fourth of July off. 

Project: The Man With The Golden Gun

Last fall, I traded my CZ-82 for a S&W Model 10. The Model 10 turned out to be a 10-3, and the finish is pretty rough. The grips were some old plastic target grips, which were broken. But the cylinder locks up like a Swiss watch and the trigger is like glass after 50 years of service. I replaced the broken grips with some soft rubber Pachmayr Presentation grips (which I hate. I ordered wooden "service" grips from Midway last night.).

Anyway, even after the cleaning and scrubbing, there's still some light rust pitting on the right side above the trigger. The finish is blotchy on the cylinder and just about gone around the muzzle. To remedy this, I've contacted Controlled Chaos Arms about re-finishing in Cerakote. And the color? Burnt bronze. I will be The Man With The Golden Gun.

Essentially the color scheme I want
I love old S&W revolvers, and I can't wait to give new life to the old, worn and world-weary 10-3. Updates to follow.