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.