I Am Not An Operator. Neither Are You.

The “tactical” industry has been overrun by the use of the word “operator.” It’s been used too much in advertising for too long, but this has perhaps had a trickle-down effect, to the point where random people on the internet kick the word operator around like it’s a ball on some dirty third world street. I’ve even seen people refer to me as an operator, which, quite frankly, horrifies me (and also caused me to write this article).

In the purest sense of the word (and leaving out the kind of operators that sit at a switchboard or who make computer systems operate or whatever), an operator is a person who has, among many other things, completed the Operator Training Course, run by very cool parts of the US Army. The term later was used to describe other SOF personnel, which, I guess, is still a bunch of hard dudes, but then everyone else caught on, and now you can’t spend 15 minutes browsing gun and gear sites without finding some reference to the equipment “allowing the operator to execute critical mission blah blah blah,” and that’s not even in advertising, just some guy’s blog.

An operator is not anyone who may or may not have been in the military, is not obese, can shoot an AR-15 without falling over backwards, wears Oakleys, and owns a plate carrier.

It’s possible that the term is simply being used to describe the physical operation of something – which is fine, I guess – or it’s there to give readers a tactical hardon. I guess some people get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside when they read these sorts of things, but come on. The simple fact is that I’m not an operator, you’re (probably) not an operator, and people need to stop making themselves feel special by calling each other operator.

Hard Data on 5.56 vs .223 Chamber Pressures

When I started this blog, it was to put out good information, reliable information that every shooter could use. I didn’t want to dumb down what I put out so that the bottom 10% could understand it, and I didn’t want to make it so technical and hard to read that only the top 10% could understand it or cared enough to try to understand it.

I understood from the outset that people might take my opinions and advice into consideration when making purchases, so I’ve focused on being right above all else. I’ve tried to be concise, because your time is valuable, but some things just require additional explanation. I try to attack problems from a number of sides – the technical, as I am reasonably intelligent and have an eye for detail, but also the practical, for I have been deployed and understand what’s really important about gear or firearms that might see hard use.

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve reaped amazing and wholly unexpected benefits from my efforts. One thing I didn’t expect was getting a job with a big internet retailer of ammo – LuckyGunner. Among other things, I have recently become the most visible part of the team for their new blogging effort. The new LuckyGunner Labs is a project that will, among interesting stuff put out by some of my coworkers, allow me to create and research and test things that I basically didn’t have the resources to do on my own.

I say “me” and “I” – but it’s not just me. Having people with an eye for perfection (and the power to withhold a paycheck!) look over my work with a critical eye has improved the quality of what I put out by leaps and bounds. And the other people I work with are very skilled – working with Chris, who makes great videos, has definitely forced me to step up my game on that front.

The first big project (and it has been a BIG project) is an in-depth look at what the real differences between 5.56 and .223 are. It’s a topic that I have been considering and experimenting with for years, but without hard data, my lone voice would have been lost in a sea of opinions on the internet. Thanks to LG – and Paul and Brian and Maciej, who I have been working closely with for months – not only has the technical aspect of the content been thoroughly researched, but it’s packaged in such a way that it should appeal to a broad audience, and manageable enough for the vast majority of shooters to understand, should they take the time to do so.

I would not be a good person if I didn’t mention the assistance of other folks, outside of LG, who helped make this report what it is. Firearms historian Daniel E. Watters of TheGunZone provided a lot of historical and technical information, as well as insight into the project. Cagen and Thad of Barnes Bullets were invaluable in their assistance in verifying the pressure data and went several extra miles in conducting additional pressure testing with their equipment. I can’t remember the name of the ballistician at H.P. White, my apologies – but he was extremely helpful and insightful, too. My friends Zach, Nick, Caleb, and Aaron proof-read early drafts of the article or offered technical assistance, and Mike the rocket scientist very rightly tore apart the way I had written it the first time around.

I certainly hope that this will continue for the time being – I don’t see myself as a gun blogger or gun journalist for life, but I’m not done yet.

Revolvers Are Not Perfect, Or, The Problem With Revolver Fanatics

The only Dillon Blue Press article I’ve ever read was a passioned defense of the revolver, which criticized automatics for being finicky and unreliable. Revolvers were described as essentially perfect, although the author conceded that automatics could carry more rounds between reloads. I have since thrown away all the Blue Presses I get, with the exception of the one that had Julie Goloski-Golob on the cover (she’s no fake “gun girl”), and the one with my friend Meredith on the cover with one of her 50 BMGs (she’s also no fake “gun girl,” and she’s my friend).

Revolver maniacs don’t just exist in the print media world. I was at the range several years ago when I overheard a few competition shooters arguing about whether revolvers or automatics were more reliable. After about half an hour of mostly useless back and forth discussion, I interjected with a simple statement: during the final US Army pistol trials which resulted in the selection of the Model 1911 pistol, the Colt 1911 fired all six thousand rounds without a malfunction, while the service revolver had several malfunctions in the same number of rounds (this was the first and last time a 1911 didn’t malfunction). Unfortunately, my interjection of fact only stimulated more vigorous (and useless) debate.

The common belief among a few diehard revolver fanatics is that because the revolver does not have to feed or eject cartridges in the same manner that automatic pistols do, or because the revolver is somehow “simpler” than the automatic, it is better than the auto. Their idea of “better” is, of course, esoteric.

Revolvers remain mechanical objects, and are subject to problems arising from manufacturing defects, parts failures, ammunition failures, improper maintenance, and user abuse – just like pistols. While the casual observer might believe that because the revolver does not appear to have as many moving parts as the automatic, inferring from this that the revolver is therefore more reliable, the revolver is in fact a fairly intricate design, the proper function of which is based on a number of small, moving parts.

Abuse of a revolver, including spinning the cylinder and then slamming or snapping it shut, can cause damage and render the weapon nonfunctional. Similarly, dropping a revolver with the cylinder open can render it nonfunctional. I would go so far as to say that when it comes to physical abuse, revolvers are significantly more susceptible to damage than automatics.

Poorly made revolvers can have all sorts of issues that one would normally not ever conceive of. I have personally seen a revolver with a barrel which fractured just forward of the topstrap and separated from the rest of the weapon. The owner said it flew about fifteen feet downrange after he fired a few hundred rounds. Yes, it was a Taurus.

I have owned, carried, and depended on revolvers. I still carry a Smith & Wesson J-frame quite often. I do so for specific purposes, knowing the limitations of the platform. I also think revolvers look cool and thoroughly enjoy target shooting with a revolver that has a very nice single action trigger.

I would urge anyone who still believes, in the 21st century, that revolvers are superior to automatics as defensive or fighting handguns to strongly consider the facts about revolvers and the state of automatic pistols today. Also, you’re insane.

Revolvers still look cool, though.

Why I Like the SCAR-H/SCAR-17S

Crappy photo of a SCAR-17S I took two years ago

This is not a review of the SCAR-H or SCAR-17S. It is a brief explanation of why I like the weapon system. It could almost be condensed into a Facebook post – but not quite. I will avoid a technical discussion in the interests of brevity.

Put simply, the 7.62X51 SCAR does what it was intended to do at a competitive price.

Although the AR-10 platform preceded the AR-15 platform, the latter has had considerably more refinement, development, and market competition. Thus, you are able to purchase a 5.56 AR-15 that could conceivably fulfill the exact same role as a SCAR-L or SCAR-16S for a fraction of the price of the SCAR. As a result, I find little point to straining one’s finances in order to buy a SCAR-16S instead of a Colt 6920 and a pile of ammo.

However, if you want a truly reliable, durable, and accurate modern .308/7.62×51 battle rifle, you are essentially forced to look at expensive options – in my opinion, the lower priced .308 ARs are not acceptable. The SCAR-17S compares very favorably on price to some of the other options on the market. The platform is functional, reliable, durable, accurate, compact, lightweight, easy to maintain, and easy to operate. It is not without a few drawbacks and it requires a different, or perhaps similar yet more concentrated, technique to keep on target during full auto fire. But it is an excellent weapon.

I think the military has come to many of the same conclusions about this family of weapons, albeit for slightly different reasons.

My Dad

So Father’s Day is here, and I figured I would write an article about my dad. He has been the inspiration for many of the things I have done in my life.

Born in Canada, he came to the United States at 15. He graduated from high school in Reno and joined the Army, where he was an armorer for a mechanized infantry unit. He left the Army before the start of the Vietnam War and used the GI Bill to advance his flying career. He met my mother while working as a flight instructor, then worked overseas as a pilot (he’s also an A&P and IA). He flew Cessna 310s and Douglas DC-3s in Saudi Arabia, more 310s in Chad and other locations in central Africa, and Bell 47s in Lebanon. He also worked as a bush pilot in Canada, flying Cessna 180s and 185s in remote areas.

I wanted to recount a few of the aviation-related incidents he’s dealt with, which explains some of my extreme admiration for him.

– While flying a Beech 18 across the Atlantic Ocean, adverse weather and icing forced him and the rest of the crew to descend to a very low altitude. Not sure if he was going to have to ditch the airplane, he had the co-pilot inspect the emergency equipment that had been put in the back of the plane by their employer. Finding that all of it was labeled “for training use only,” they decided to push on, and successfully reached their destination.

– Having been hired to drop leaflets over Beirut, he was returning to the airport when the passenger in his Bell 47G3B1 threw a cardboard box out of the helicopter. The box hit the tail rotor, which my dad felt through the controls, but there were no other effects. Upon landing, they discovered that the tab on the tail rotor (which serves to indicate damage) had been bent backwards 180 degrees.

– Immediately after takeoff, the right engine of his Turbo 310 died (the cause was later determined to be a fuel line problem). The flight instructor in the right seat said he didn’t think they would make it back on the ground safely, but my dad got the plane turned around and landed without incident.

I could go on for a while with other incidents, but I think you get the point. Oh, and he built us a cabin in Alaska in the middle of winter (some photos here). He once had to shoot a bear from about five feet away, but that was in Canada, not Alaska. He turned 70 this year, but just a few years ago, he and a friend went on a snowmobile trip north of the Arctic Circle to recover a wrecked airplane. Yes, in the middle of winter. Yes, he’s a badass.

Let’s not forget the “little things,” either – teaching me how to fish, how to hold a baseball bat, how to drive a stick shift, how to fly an airplane, how to safely maneuver a small boat, how to work on cars (and airplanes and boats). And, as it’s quite relevant to this blog, he took me shooting for the first time – a 12ga side by side shotgun, a .357 Magnum revolver, and a .303 bolt action rifle – although his attempt to “scare me away from guns” as a child by having me shoot really powerful (for a 5 year old) firearms clearly did not work.

I always manage to be at loggerheads with him about something, but I always have respect for him and what he’s done and how he’s raised me, and I’ll always love him.

Thanks, Dad.

This Article On Barrels Is Really, Really Bad

Okay, so a few weeks back, FourGuysGuns wrote an article about barrel twist rates. I had some serious issues with it from a technical standpoint – it was flat out wrong on some things – and emailed them directly with my concerns. I was concerned about coming across as rude, but they were very cordial.

I wasn’t sure what would come of that in the long term – if they would write more articles in the same vein, or if they would focus on other things, including, as their description says, “gun disassembly, cleaning, holding and aiming (and) proper range safety and etiquette.” I really think that’s a worthy goal, and something worthwhile and helpful to new shooters.

Well, they wrote an article about barrels again, and my brain started to leak out of my nose. The article is titled “Chrome vs. Steel: Barrels of Fun?” It is not fun.

Why get a chrome lined barrel over a steel one?

First off, both “chrome” and “steel” barrels are made of…steel. Yes. In fact, they are sometimes made of the same exact steel. This steel is sometimes referred to as “chrome moly.” Yes, the ones with chrome lining, and the ones without.

Some people say the accuracy of a chrome lined barrel is inferior to that of its steel counterpart. At 100 meters you may notice a ¼ MOA difference between a steel and chrome lined barrel.

A discussion of accuracy differences between the two without bringing forth any facts. Okay…great. This is simply a recitation of what is already out there, much of which is wrong. It’s not even worth talking about unless you’re going to bring something new to the table.

Chrome lined barrels allow for rapid firing in a much larger volume without degrading the quality of the rifling in the barrel…

Minor point…the throat is going to be the first thing to go, and the gas port will erode too. The rifling along the rest of the barrel will last a very long time. It’s common for benchrest shooters to shoot out a throat, then have the barrel shortened and rechambered – the rifling itself is still usable after the throat is gone. This is a minor point, but should you be taking advice on barrels from someone who doesn’t know this?

The last and most minor thing to note about chrome is that it is not susceptible to rust.

They also say that the “most minor thing” about chrome lining is that it is “not susceptible to rust.” Not only is this not true – chrome lined barrels WILL rust, they just take longer to do so – but chrome lining in barrels and bolt carriers was primarily introduced to aid in the prevention or delay of rust. It’s not “minor.”

Steel barrels are not meant for rapid fire. They degrade much faster under high heat/pressure situations

Pressures are going to be the same between the two. They later say shooters should not put “stress… on the rifling” of a bare steel barrel. I don’t exactly know what that’s supposed to mean.

The durability of chrome comes with a slight sacrifice in the overall weight of the rifle. There are many different configurations of barrels but the average weight added to a rifle with a chrome lined barrel is between five and seven ounces.

This is the part where my brain started leaking out of my ears, nose, pores, etc. Any weight differences between a bare steel and a chrome lined barrel are going to be infinitesimal! I don’t know if they confused an HBAR chrome lined barrel with an M4 profile CM barrel, or what, but this highlights the extreme lack of knowledge on the part of the author.

At this point, I don’t care if I come across as rude. FourGuysGuns’ plan is apparently to recite bad gun forum knowledge as truth and use Wikipedia articles as primary sources. People like this have no business giving advice on AR platform rifles – or any firearms, for that matter.

Assisting Inexperienced Shooters at the Range

I recently posted on the blog’s Facebook page that I once witnessed two gun range employees recommend a Glock 27 to a new, slightly built, female shooter. They then proceeded to laugh about it after she rented the firearm and fired only one shot.

She was about ready to leave when I approached her and offered her a .22LR 1911 and some shooting tips. This was one of the first times that I ever did so, and since that time, I have helped new or inexperienced shooters as often as I could.

Most of the time, I’ll see a husband and wife or boyfriend/girlfriend or group of women shooting – not shooting well, but putting rounds downrange – with some sort of centerfire handgun, and I’ll approach them and politely ask if they would like some help with shooting.

I rarely see women alone at the range, and when I do, they rarely need assistance. I am normally hesitant to approach a lone woman at a shooting range anyway, because I don’t want to give her the impression that I just want to show off or hit on her (the range is one of the few places where I have avoided hitting on women).

I am also hesitant to approach men who are not shooting well at the range, because they almost always indignantly refuse any offer of assistance or a loaner handgun. It seems to be a point of pride that they are shooting so poorly. I’m not saying that I have never done so successfully, but I can only recall a few times when guys have accepted my assistance.

Women, on the other hand, have always said yes to me. When I see a woman with a man at the shooting range, and it’s clear that neither is very knowledgeable or skilled with firearms, I ask the woman if she would like some help. I don’t seek the permission of the man she is with.

I know this irritates the men they’re with sometimes, but after a while, even they begrudgingly accept that I’m not there to steal their girl. I explain a few basic things in about three minutes, and I almost always see a dramatic improvement in their shooting – the women, and their men, who pay attention most of the time.

I’m not writing this to brag about what a great guy I am – I want shooters to help other shooters. If you see a similar situation at the range, and feel confident in your ability to safely and properly instruct a new shooter, I highly recommend stepping up and being a good ambassador for the shooting world.

Guns Are Useful and Fun, But a Lifestyle? Please, No.

Some of my friends think that because I work in the gun industry and shoot guns and have a gun blog, I am a “gun nut” or “crazy about guns” or “obsessed with guns” or whatever. Maybe I am, and I’m just in denial. I really don’t think so.

There is nothing in particular about guns that truly excites me. I like the history and tradition of some firearms – those passed down from generation to generation in my family, for example, though I treat my grandfather’s fishing gear with the same respect. I like the utility of some – the Glock 19 is extremely useful for self defense. I like the fun factor of others, which is why the .22LR Marlin Papoose is my favorite firearm.

However, I am honestly puzzled by what I have recently seen referred to as “the gun lifestyle.” What is this, exactly, but a way for some companies to sell me things I don’t need, but think I want, because they will help me enjoy a “lifestyle?”

Look, if lightsabers and the Force existed, I would not carry a gun. If I could carry a magic wand and utter “Avada Kedavra” in order to stop a violent attacker from hurting me or someone I care about, I would be busy making a comparison video of which compact back up wand had the best accuracy. If I had a pegacorn, I probably wouldn’t spend much time flying a Cessna 182. If I had a landspeeder, would I bother with getting 8 miles per gallon in my classic Mustang? Well, yes, because the car is awesome, but I would still spend a lot of time with the landspeeder.

I use these things because they are efficient or fun or cool. I don’t use them to fit in with anyone else’s idea of a lifestyle (Yes, this makes me a hipster – No, I don’t drink PBR). A friend of mine knows more about guns than the vast majority of people, but his true passion is collecting typewriters. Does he do this because he wants to be part of the “typewriter lifestyle?” No, he admires the craftsmanship that went into each one.

I realize that other industries have been successfully invaded by this “lifestyle” thing and I get that capitalism makes the world go ’round, but I would hope that most people are into guns for self defense, fun, hunting, and so on, and would not really be interested in being part of any particular lifestyle. I know that my lifestyle is my own and I wouldn’t want to tell other people how they should live their lives. I think that by simply promoting the idea of a “gun lifestyle,” we turn off potential gun owners who might just want a pistol for concealed carry, for example.

Beyond that, I’m turned off by advertising that targets “tactical nobodies” and tells them that if they buy XYZ gear, they’ll be an elite operator, will survive the zombie apocalypse (this zombie stuff is so retarded), and a scantily clad woman will like them because she has that rifle and chest rig too. To me, paper-thin marketing based on tactical masturbatory fantasies and/or hot chicks without shirts who know nothing about the gear they’re wearing is simply pathetic.

Unfortunately, it also sells – a lot.

Those Who Have Helped Me

I would like to write a brief post recognizing those who have made significant contributions to the work I have been putting out over the last few years. I do not list them in any particular order. I will probably forget (and thus offend) several people here…

Mike Pannone of CTT Solutions – I first met Mike in late 2006 or early 2007, I’m not sure which. Since that time, he has spent countless hours instructing me in the proper use of handguns and long guns. He’s also been an invaluable resource for details regarding the operation and maintenance of the AR-15, Glock, 1911, and M&P. After all, he’s written books about some of them.

Jim of Deliberate Dynamics – Jim has a lot of operational experience with modern weapons and gear. He’s designed a few really neat products and has also helped me acquire interesting gear for T&E. He’s been a great resource on a wide variety of topics.

Paul of Bravo Company – Paul has provided me with plenty of T&E rifles and information about ARs.

Rob Curtis of GearScout – Among many other things, Rob got me in to SHOT last year, and a badge that said “Military Times GearScout” opened doors that a “Vuurwapen Blog” badge wouldn’t have. He’s given me a lot of good advice on how to handle sticky situations, such as the disposal of bodies, which I appreciate.

Steve of The Firearm Blog – We met at SHOT 2011, and he’s done a lot to help me make connections and put my content in front of a lot of people.

Tom of Spike’s Tactical – Tom has sent me a lot of T&E stuff, been a great resource on AR manufacturing, and even allowed me to provide input on some Spike’s Tactical products. The first big item I T&E’d was a Spike’s upper.

Nick of The Citizens Armory – Nick has been a close and personal friend of mine for close to six years, and practically every article or video I post is run by him first, because he can be pretty critical. This is exactly what my work needs sometimes. Other times, he just says “looks good,” and I’m thinking, “Dude, no acerbic wit?”

In addition, my friends Mike, Mike, and Zach don’t have websites, but are no less impressive, and have been no less helpful.

Oh, I forgot – my gunsmith friend Kristofer has been a big help.

Thanks to these people, and others, this blog has become what it is today.