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.