Category Archives: Firearms

General Scales Is Still Wrong About Infantry Rifles

Who thinks the next US infantry rifle needs to be heavy, complicated, incredibly expensive, based on unproven technology, and reminiscent of much-maligned acquisition programs like the Littoral Combat Ship and F35 Joint Strike Fighter? A retired two-star general named Bob Scales, that’s who.

If that name sounds familiar and you weren’t previously under his command or in the Army between the years of 1966 and 2000, it’s probably because Scales has been railing against the M4/M16 for many years. Scales has, in many other areas, put forth a number of thoughtful and well-reasoned opinions; his discussion of infantry rifles, which has been going on for years and most recently was the topic of a Senate hearing, unfortunately falls short of his discussions of other areas.

Here are four requirements Scales puts forth for the next infantry rifle: modularity, new calibers, stealth, and better precision. We’ll look at each of these requirements and evaluate them accordingly, then discuss other factors relating to the selection of a rifle for infantry use.

Modularity

Multiple weapons can now be assembled from a single chassis. A squad member can customize his weapon by attaching different barrels, buttstocks, forearms, feed systems, and accessories to make, say, a light machine gun, a carbine, a rifle, or an infantry automatic rifle.”

It’s as if Scales isn’t aware that this is already possible with the M16 and M4 family of weapons. However, as the great chaotician Ian Malcolm once put it, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Sure, you can plop a belt fed upper on an AR15 lower right now. Is the result a superior firearm when compared to existing inventories of weapons? Highly unlikely. And it seems that every time we’ve seen the argument that weapons can be customizable by the end user – most specifically, barrel or upper swaps between designated marksman and entry style carbines – are a good idea, they’re evaluated by the military and then quietly passed over when it comes time to cut a check. In addition to creating a logistical nightmare, the modifications to any platform which would allow quick change barrels result in a heavier and more complicated weapon which does not end up being utilized to its full potential by the majority of end users. Ask any infantryman if he’d like to carry several pounds of extra barrel around on the off chance that he wants to make his infantry rifle into a light machine gun in the field as Scales suggests and he’s likely to ask if you made it into the military on an ASVAB waiver, albeit somewhat less politely.

New calibers and cartridges

The military must change the caliber and cartridge of the guns it gives infantry soldiers. [American firearms designer Eugene] Stoner’s little 5.56‐mm cartridge was ideal for softening the recoil of World War II infantry calibers in order to allow fully automatic fire.

But today’s cartridge is simply too small for modern combat. Its lack of mass limits its range to less than 400 meters. The civilian version of the 5.56‐mm bullet was designed as a “varmint killer” and six states prohibit its use for deer hunting because it is not lethal enough to ensure a quick kill.

The optimum caliber for tomorrow’s rifle is between 6.5 and 7 millimeters. The cartridge could be made almost as light as the older brass‐cased 5.56‐mm by using a plastic shell casing, which is now in final development by the Marine Corps.

Here, Scales blends myth and a lack of historical understanding with a glimmer of truth. Sure, 6.5 to 7mm infantry rifle cartridges exist, and they offer significant benefits in terms of ballistic or terminal effectiveness when compared on a one-to-one basis with 5.56mm NATO. But that last acronym is the key – NATO. We have standardized ammunition across all of NATO, ensuring commonality of everything from 9mm pistol cartridges to the 120mm cannon ammunition shared by the M1A2 Abrams and the Leopard 2A7 tank used by Germany. Should we choose to break away from 5.56mm, though, we’d be unable to share what is likely the most-produced cartridge in the world, the infantry rifle cartridge, with all of our major allies in the event of a conflict.

A small edge in ballistic effectiveness – and when one steps back and looks at the differences between 5.56 and Scales’ favorite, 6.8mm SPC, as compared to significantly larger cartridges like 6.5 Creedmoor or 300 Win Mag, they do become small – pales in comparison to the logistical benefit of being able to acquire ammunition from more than a dozen sources in the event of all-out war. The alternative is convincing all of NATO to dump 5.56 as well. We did it once before, with the switch from 7.62×51 to 5.56×45. It’s possible, but it would be an uphill battle requiring lots of other changes to weapons platforms as well. The only realistic caliber switch on the horizon would be going back to 7.62×51 – but that would be really dumb.

Where Scales really goes off the rails is his put-down of the “civilian version (.223) of 5.56” as being designed to kill varmints, attempting to paint the military cartridge with the same brush. On the contrary, 5.56×45 was designed as an infantry rifle cartridge, having been developed out of the SCHV (small caliber, high velocity) program of the 1950s. That study found that lower recoiling ammunition resulted in more hits than the existing, larger cartridges. Needless to say, physics and ballistics haven’t changed much in the last 60-70 years. Where 5.56 has been hamstrung is with ineffective projectile design, but that’s finally being addressed with various programs such as SOST and M855A1.

Scales trots out the old “.22 caliber projectiles are banned for deer hunting in 6 states” trope – hey, even more states ban hunting deer with rifles altogether. Should we equip our troops with hunting-legal shotguns or muzzleloaders so that they can also legally hunt deer in Ohio or Rhode Island?

Simply put, the idea that 5.56mm was designed to be anything but an infantryman’s best friend is false, as is the assertion that its range is less than 400m. Training is far more of a limitation in terms of long range effectiveness than caliber, but I didn’t see a discussion of that by Scales. Just throw money at defense contractors, he says! That’ll fix everything! Unsurprisingly, Scales sits on the board of directors of defense contractor Northrop Grumman.

It’s Scales’ last point on this matter – plastic cased ammo – that really starts to fall into the “transformationalism” trap. If you’re not familiar with that word as it applies to defense matters, the “transformationalists” have given us programs like the Northrop Grumman-built USS Ford with its failing Advanced Arresting Gear and Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System, the USS Zumwalt with its now-defunct Long Range Land Attack Projectile, and the F35 JSF with its, well, everything.

These are all programs that were contracted out before the technology was proven with the expectation that by the time the ship or plane entered service, all the kinks would have been worked out. As a result, we have a carrier well behind schedule that can’t reliably launch or land aircraft, a 7 billion dollar pocket-battleship-sized destroyer without ammunition for its two small guns, and a stealth fighter that can’t stealth or fight years after it was expected to enter service. We don’t need to add an infantry rifle to this list.

Prove plastic cased ammunition beyond a reasonable doubt; then we can talk about putting it in a service rifle. The fact that polymer/plastic ammo projects have been in the “final stages” for many years should give anyone pause before advocating that they be adopted by the military. Alternatively, let’s assume they work out better than anyone could have hoped – just as Scales claims this would result in 6.5 or 6.8mm ammunition lighter than 5.56, it also means far more 5.56mm could be carried for the same weight. Remember, Rommel didn’t say “The winner in a bayonet fight is he who has a rifle bore one millimeter larger than his opponent,” he said “The winner in a bayonet fight is he who has one more bullet in his magazine.”

Stealth

The Army can achieve an infantry version of stealth by attaching newly developed sound suppressors to every rifle. Instead of merely muffling the sound of firing by trapping gases, this new technology redirects the firing gases forward, capturing most of the blast and flash well inside the muzzle. Of course, an enemy under fire would hear the muted sounds of an engagement. But much as with other stealth technology, the enemy soldier would be at a decisive disadvantage in trying to determine the exact location of the weapons firing at him.”

This is one area where Scales and I see largely eye to eye, but it doesn’t take a whole lot to put a sound suppressor or silencer on a rifle, including the ones we have now. If hiding the location of a shot by visual means is of the utmost concern, though, I’d take a great flash hider like the AAC Blackout over a silencer mounted on an A2 or a muzzle brake. It’ll reduce flash to a greater extent. Side note: silencers aren’t a new development, contrary to Scales’ claims.
Precision

Computer miniaturization now allows precision to be squeezed into a rifle sight. All an infantryman using a rifle equipped with a new‐model sight need do is place a red dot on his target and push a button at the front of his trigger guard; a computer on his rifle will take into account data like range and “lead angle” to compensate for the movement of his target, and then automatically fire when the hit is guaranteed. This rifle sight can “see” the enemy soldier day or night at ranges well beyond 600 meters. An enemy caught in that sight will die long before he could know he was seen, much less before he could effectively return fire.”

Here, Scales jumps on the transformationalism bandwagon firmly with both feet. He’s talking about products like TrackingPoint, which, even if produced on a massive scale, would likely triple or quadruple the cost of an infantry rifle, add significant weight, and most importantly, promise much while delivering little. It’s amazing, he says! The enemy will die before he could know he was seen! Meanwhile, in the real world, the TrackingPoint team finished nowhere near the top when competing in the Vortex Extreme in 2013 against shooters with conventional optics. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to making it through a course in the field and hitting targets than having a magic wand for a riflescope (note: TrackingPoint later set up their own competition with Taya Kyle using TrackingPoint equipped rifles against competition shooter Bruce Piatt using standard optics – TrackingPoint won their competition, unsurprisingly).

Of course, the vulnerability of these types of systems to interference has been previously established, and chances are that computer whiz kids with the backing of a state like Russia, Iran, China, or North Korea would be at least as good at finding ways to interfere with these “computer miniaturized” rifle scopes as the American security researchers who figured out how to do it in their spare time.

Lest you think I’m making mountains out of molehills regarding the weight and effectiveness of TrackingPoint’s firearms, their 5.56 rifle sold as a replacement for the M4A1 weighs 12 pounds.

At Whom Shall We Shoot With This Rifle?

But this brings up another point – who would we fight with this rifle? Are we, as General Scales once suggested, going to be killing large numbers of Russians with it in Eastern Ukraine? Are we going to hand it to Marines and tell them to storm some artificial reefs in the South China Sea? Are we going to continue to use it in low-intensity conflicts in the Middle East for the next century? Do Scales’ suggestions give us a one-size-fits-all master key of a rifle that will truly do anything? Or do his suggestions leave us with a rifle that would have increased weight, complexity, recoil, vulnerability to interference, and dependence on unproven technology?

Students of military history know that while technology has often proved critical in battles throughout history, the level of training, morale, and supply of a force often played a much larger role than the details of the weapons they employed. After a decade and a half of constant war, and with sequestration continuing to wreak havoc on training and readiness, what new funds can be diverted to the military should be focused on fixing the major issues facing the forces at the moment – not on fixing what ain’t broke – especially when those “fixes” have the potential to create even more problems for the military.

Based on purchasing only 100,000 rifles, Scales estimates that for a price tag of $100,000,000, we could equip all Army and Marine infantry with new rifles – that’s $1000 per rifle.

How he reaches this number is a mystery, for he advocates buying a new design that doesn’t exist which is based on unproven – worse, failed – optics technology and fires a bullet that isn’t in the military inventory out of a plastic cartridge case that is languishing in testing and, again, isn’t in the military inventory. How does Scales think the military can buy this new rifle which currently does not exist – not to mention a computerized optic and a silencer – for $1000 when recent ~100,000 rifle contracts for the well-established M4/M16 without an optic came out to $642 per rifle? Why does he ignore the massive costs of switching over to a new caliber and the logistical difficulties that would be experienced from such a change?

Scales also seems to be out of touch with the war that has been going on since the year after he retired. Scales claims that new rifles are only needed for the infantry and that the M4 and M16 will be fine for “non-infantry personnel in the unlikely event that they find themselves in combat.”

Scales’ obsession with providing just the infantry with a new rifle ignores that, while all combat troops (including infantry, armor, artillery, combat engineer, etc) do have higher casualty rates than non-combat troops, it is not an “unlikely event” that non-combat troops will find themselves in combat. Indeed, the “modern war” Scales decides the M4/M16 is not suited for has been marked by a drastic increase in non-combat troop involvement in combat. The MOS with the highest number of female deaths in Iraq at one point? Truck drivers.

He also seems to think that changing rifles will have a major effect on troop survival rates in combat. But studies of US military combat injuries from Iraq and Afghanistan show otherwise. One BCT deployed during the surge suffered a large number of casualties – but gunshot wounds represented only 9 percent of hostile injuries and that only 5.7 percent of those gunshot wounds were fatal. Meanwhile, 77.7 percent of all hostile wounds were due to IEDs and 7.6 percent of those wounds were fatal. In other words, gunfights result in only a fraction of the injuries sustained by American troops and those injuries are less likely to be fatal than the IED related injuries which make up the vast majority of combat injuries in modern war. The lethality of gunshot wounds has decreased from 33% in previous conflicts such as Vietnam to less than 5% in the Iraq and Afghanistan periods, largely due to better body armor and casualty evacuation protocols – but also because of a renewed enemy focus on killing Americans with explosives, not guns.

Conclusion

What does all of this mean? Well, Scales’ ideas for a new rifle are simply not grounded in the reality of the war American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines face every day. Their conflicts – infantry and non-infantry – encompass a wide variety of situations that would not be materially affected were they to carry a different rifle. Their deaths in gunfights pale in comparison to their deaths from other forms of combat which could be addressed with greater effect. Plus, every dollar spent on a new rifle is a dollar not spent on improving readiness, ensuring a high level of training, and maintaining equipment that does save lives. If advancing the capability of American infantry via new technology is the goal, putting that money into drones, electronic warfare, or even exoskeletons might yield more impactful results than incremental rifle upgrades. Contrary to Scales’ imagination, the sums of money involved in such a change would be breathtaking. Most important, the M4/M16 is a known item, while Scales’ paper rifle is a complete unknown.

Decisions on what makes a good infantry rifle should be limited to what is currently proven to work and be reliable in field conditions right now. Major General Scales means well, but if adopted now, many of his proposed changes would not save American lives – they would cost them.

Why I Own AR15s

In the last week, a lot of people have been asking “Why do you need an assault rifle?” or “Why does anyone need an AR15?” or more plainly saying “No one needs a semi auto rifle that is just designed to kill people.”

The firearm industry responds with “they’re not assault rifles, they’re modern sporting rifles!” I have previously stated that I don’t really care what they’re called but also that the whole “modern sporting rifle” thing is stupid.

Perhaps I’m biased on the whole sporting thing. I don’t hunt. I used to hunt when I was little. I would shoot birds and varmints with a .22, although I later killed bigger things. I prided myself on hitting what I shot at the first time and not causing unnecessary suffering.

On a hunting trip not too long after I left the military, though, I had an easy shot lined up at a distance (30 yards) that would have been a guaranteed hit with a rifle that would have guaranteed an instant and humane kill (.270 WSM).  But sometime in between bringing the rifle up to my shoulder and putting almost enough pressure on the trigger to fire, I realized I couldn’t pull the trigger. I didn’t need to kill that animal and thus I didn’t want to kill it and thus I couldn’t kill it. So ended my hunting days – nearly ten years ago now. Since then I’ve gone out of my way to save as many animals as I can.

Maybe this is why I’m against the “modern sporting rifle” line, but even the NSSF’s own data shows that hunting is a very small part of why people buy ARs – in fact it’s the last reason they listed.

I'm using a photo of me with an MPi-74-whatever in an article called "Why I Own AR15s" just so someone will say "That's not an AR15!!"
I’m using a photo of me with a full auto MPi-74-whatever in an article called “Why I Own AR15s” just so someone will say “That’s not an AR15!!”

No, I own ARs because they’re the most effective weapon I can carry into a fight by myself. I don’t want to get into a fight, but I do want to get out of a fight. That means bringing a weapon that keeps bad guys away from me and lets me shoot back at as many bad guys as are choosing to shoot at me. As was constantly drilled into my head in Field Medical Service School, fire superiority is the best medicine on the battlefield.

The idea of “not needing anything more than” X, Y, or Z firearm is stupid. A gunfight is not a jousting match – there is no chivalry involved, no obligation to carry a lance of equal size and weight as my opponent. While I can certainly defend myself with a pistol or a shotgun, I cannot really project power with either of those. With a semi auto rifle, I have the ability to put bullets in very specific places at any distance – from the end of the muzzle to almost any yardage at which I could conceivably justify the use of lethal force.

Moreover, these bullets have less chance of doing damage to things I don’t want to shoot (such as innocent people) for a variety of reasons, most notably from the inherent precision afforded to the shooter by a rifle.

In a fight between a guy with a pistol and a guy with a rifle, the guy with the rifle has massive advantages. Just ask the off-duty police officer who engaged the Orlando terrorist with, I am told by a law enforcement officer in the Orlando area, over fifty rounds from his service pistol before retreating because he was out of ammo (The “only good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns” mantra only works for some of the garden variety mass shooters, mostly the ones who aren’t motivated by religious ideology, and is another cutesy saying we need to do away with quickly).

Put simply, the same things that make semi auto rifles desirable to terrorists make them desirable for use as defensive weapons. Take semi auto rifles away and bad guys will search for different and even more effective ways to kill. We can never assume that the doctrine of individual irrational actors will remain constant, nor should we believe that this all started after the (toothless) 1994 AWB went away in 2004. Take away the bad guys’ dynamite and they will use hunting rifles. When they meet in groups and we take away their rental trucks and fertilizer, they’ll use airliners.

I would rather people ask how the terrorist who murdered nine people in a church managed to pass a background check he clearly shouldn’t have than ask why we need semi auto rifles – a category of weapon that is involved in less than three percent of firearm homicides each year and isn’t the weapon of choice for even a plurality of mass shooters since 1982, despite the fact that the AR15 has been available to civilians for about fifty years.

I would rather people ask how we can prevent bad guys from isolating a group of innocent people from protection long enough to cause them great harm. That’s the real problem here – terrorists are like radiation in that the duration and proximity of your exposure to each determines your chances of survival.

Of course I don’t think that owning a scary semi auto rifle is the only reason why I wasn’t murdered today. I’m under no illusion of having to use an AR (or any other firearm) to defend myself at any point in the future. Were I to think that I was actually going to need an AR at any specific time or place, I would most likely make immediate lifestyle changes, such as moving to a remote island or maybe buying a Hind.

Then again, I don’t think I’ll need two first aid kits with everything from motrin to tweezers to a dozen tourniquets tomorrow, but they’re still going to be in the trunk of my car.

Back to the 600 Yard Line

Several years ago – okay, seven or eight – my friend Greg Fallon invited me to the informal 600 yard matches he sets up at a local range. They’re monthly, early in the morning, and the range is an hour away from me, so I’ve been an infrequent competitor -especially the last few years, with regular trips up to Utah for the Sniper Country range, which offers shooting to a mile and beyond.

Most of the time, I just went to mess around and have fun – I’d take my 5.45 AK, or an Ishapore Enfield, or some other random non-precision rifle just to see how I could do all the way out at 600 yards.

But when I saw this month’s reminder email, I decided that if I was going to make the trip, I would make it worthwhile.

I had just put together an AR with a V7 stainless barrel – provided by AIM Surplus, I should note – and wanted to see how accurate it could be. Unfortunately the rifle has a stock trigger, but with about fifteen thousand rounds on the odometer, it’s pretty smooth.

Heading to the local gun store, I perused match .223 at a dollar a round before deciding I could make my own for free – or at least, for a sunk cost.

So I put together some shiny bullets, made sure the ACOG was zeroed, and woke up at the crack of dawn to head to the range.

I wasn’t sure how my ammo would do – I hadn’t loaded rifle ammunition in probably two years. Surprisingly, though, I found that everything worked very well. Over two strings of fire, twenty rounds each, my scores were 190-4X and 186-3X out of a possible 200-20X.

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For those who are unfamiliar with the scoring system, the X is worth 10 points and also counts as, you guessed it, an X. The X ring at 600 is 6 inches, the 10 ring about a foot, and so on. I dropped a few outside the center because I wasn’t paying enough attention to the wind, but overall the loads were consistent and the barrel did as good a job as I could have ever expected.

One other note – I removed and replaced the ACOG, swapping it with a Vortex Viper HS scope, many times throughout the match. All recorded scores were with the ACOG, and both optics were in GDI mounts. The ACOG was provided by Trijicon through Deliberate Dynamics and the optic mounts were provided by GDI. I did not notice any shift in point of impact over the course of the match.

Overall, it was a fun match and a good chance to see if I still knew how to shoot long range.

For those who are interested, here are the rifle and ammunition details:

Rifle

  • V7 16″ stainless midlength gas barrel
  • Silencerco Trifecta muzzle device
  • Spike’s Tactical hard chrome BCG
  • Spike’s Tactical upper receiver
  • Seekins 12.0 MCSR handguard
  • Rainier Arms Raptor charging handle
  • Bushmaster lower receiver with stock LPK
  • Magpul fixed length stock
  • Trijicon TA02 ACOG
  • GDI R-COM E-Model mount

Ammunition

  • Prvi Partizan once fired brass
  • Berger 73gr HPBT seated to AR mag length
  • Varget, 24.1 grains
  • Federal GM205M primers

 

Vuurwapen Blog Radio

The other day, I thought to myself that it might be fun to talk about guns with friends, record the conversation, and release it to anyone who might want to listen.

If this is successful, we will do it again, with more guests/co-hosts.

In this first episode of “Vuurwapen Blog Radio,” we discuss the proposed changes to ITAR, different BCG coatings and platings, flash performance while using a silencer on an AR15, and Battle Rifle Company. These topics come from questions that have been emailed to me by blog readers over the last…well questions that have been emailed over a certain period of time to which I never properly responded.

Civilians Who Carry Long Guns In Public Should Be Tarred And Feathered

News of the open letter from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, a polite request for gun owners to not bring guns to Starbucks, has set the gun world on fire – or at least my Facebook feed.

A condensed version of events: Starbucks has in years past not taken a stance on firearms in their stores. They’ve said that local, state, and federal laws are enough. Some gun owners took that as a version of support for open carry in their stores, and went so far as to walk into such establishments while carrying AKs, ARs, and shotguns. Because…other people were doing it, and it seemed like a good idea at the time?

This is sheer idiocy.

Understandably, the result is that Starbucks now doesn’t want guns in their stores. It’s not a hard rule, but a polite request. They didn’t want to be involved, some folks dragged them into it, and they felt their only choice was to make a public statement about the topic.

I have heard a few statements repeated by extreme open carry advocates in recent days, and I would like to address them here.

“Because I can! It’s my right and you can’t take away my rights!”

There are a lot of things you “can” do. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should, with great power comes great responsibility, etc etc.

Furthermore, you don’t have a right to carry a firearm onto private property without the permission of the owner. And since the Supreme Court has ruled that the government can place some restrictions on the carry of firearms, I don’t think California’s ban on open carry (which came as a direct result of open carry demonstrations in the state!) will be overturned any time soon. You certainly won’t be granted the ability to carry a firearm onto private property without the permission of the owner.

In other words, you can blather on about what you think should be reality, but actual-reality is different. It doesn’t matter what you think or what I think. Stop participating in Second Amendment circle jerks on the Internet and face the reality that your actions have consequences.

“F*** you, Starbucks!”

First, if you are unable to articulate your position on a sensitive topic without expletives forming a significant portion of your statements, please stop talking. Your words reflect poorly on gun owners as a whole.

Second, every single private business in America is not a battleground for gun rights. Most business owners want to sell a product, employ people, serve people, whatever. Their business is not about us, and it is selfish, immature, and stupid for some gun owners to make everything about them. It is stupid to organize a boycott simply because a company wants to be left out of a heated discussion.

Finally, even if a company takes a stand against firearm ownership, so what? Life is too short to spend time hating people who don’t like guns. I find it delightfully ironic that some of my Kenneth Cole clothing conceals certain firearms very well.

Variations on this theme: “We need to desensitize people to firearms!” or “People need to stop being uncomfortable around firearms!” or “You don’t have a right to not be offended!”

So let me get this straight, long gun open carry advocates want average citizens to get used to firearms, and their plan to achieve this goal is to do something that they know is going to scare/offend/startle people?

Like I said, sheer idiocy.

I am comfortable around firearms. I carry a concealed firearm every day. I have too many guns, including scary black guns. I’m actually not as vehemently opposed to open carry as some others in the gun industry. Open carry has its place – Starbucks not included.

But if I was enjoying a Chai Tea Latte in my local Starbucks and saw a dude walk in carrying a shotgun, I would become very uncomfortable, very fast. I can only imagine how people who don’t trip on five guns when they get out of bed would react. There is no need to make people upset in order to reach them, unless you are an attention whore.

What extreme open carry advocates seem to not understand is that we are winning this particular culture war – and that they are not helping. Politicians love to talk about what percentage of people support this gun control measure or that, but the number of people who own guns, and the number of people who think it’s okay for average citizens to own guns? Those numbers are increasing, not decreasing. We might differ on the details of the type of gun and how they might be acquired, but gun owners are not facing a hostile US population.

That is, we aren’t as long as we don’t do stupid crap like carry AKs into Starbucks. What have massive open carry demonstrations achieved? Restrictions on how firearms may be carried in a major US state and a major US business chain.

We’ll win over far more people if we show them that gun owners are intelligent, thoughtful, and polite.

Some People Shouldn’t Own Guns…

…but there’s no way to weed them out without wrongly violating the rights of those who should.

I understand that this statement may be offensive to some. In the firearm world, some fully invest themselves in an absolute interpretation of the Second Amendment: that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. I, too, believe that the Second Amendment is important and affords an individual right to own firearms…albeit with a few asterisks. Most notably, I think some people should not have access to firearms.

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It is relatively easy to argue that violent felons should not be allowed to purchase or own guns. It’s perhaps just as easy to argue that those convicted of domestic violence should also not be allowed firearms. Those who would argue against these points will certainly not agree with anything else I have to say, but they’re entitled to their opinions.

After having worked in a gun store for a little while, I came away with the sincere belief that not everyone should own firearms. It’s not a matter of education or experience – yes, at some point, everyone is new to firearms. It’s a matter of attitude and inclination. Some people just don’t care enough to keep and use their guns in a responsible manner which minimizes risk to others and respects public and private property.

I’m not convinced that mandatory training and safety courses will be of much help; even if they’re forced to attend, these people won’t retain much or any of the information that’s passed to them. Someone with the right attitude – of affording firearms the respect they deserve as tools capable of causing harm when misused – will seek out this information without being forced to do so. Novice or expert, it’s the willingness to constantly use firearms in a safe and responsible manner that is important. Yes, perhaps some people just need a little nudge in the right direction. But others will never come around.

It would be easy to say that maturity brings the responsibility which should be required to own firearms, but that just isn’t the case. Men well into middle age – hunters and homeowners who don’t identify their targets – have misused firearms, with the end result being the tragic death of others. Young people may also be at fault in these cases. The unintentional death of innocent people is the most egregious example of how the actions of those who shouldn’t own guns impact others, but the minor actions of irresponsible people are far more common.

The roof/sunshade over the public range in Casa Grande, Arizona. Whether these holes are the result of negligence, willful destruction of property, or a combination of both is almost irrelevant. Any combination of the above is terrifying.
The roof/sunshade over the public range in Casa Grande, Arizona. Whether these holes are the result of negligence, willful destruction of property, or a combination of both is almost irrelevant. Any combination of the above is terrifying.

Take, for example, those who find humor in destroying public property – from road signs to national park entrance signs to the roof pictured above. Perhaps it’s just youthful idiocy which will eventually be outgrown, but every person without a dog in the gun rights/gun control fight who drives by a sign defaced with a shotgun may potentially become anti-gun. Did the Founding Fathers intend for the Second Amendment to guarantee an individual right to destroy public property?

How, though, are we to weed out the undesirables on a massive scale? The bottom line is that we can’t. We can’t readily identify those who won’t be responsible with firearms any more than we are able to identify those inclined to drive under the influence of alcohol. We can punish them after the fact, but that won’t prevent their transgressions in the first place. Theoretically, we could have government commissions screen those who would and would not be allowed to own firearms, but that isn’t acceptable to me considering the abuse which would inevitably result, and the inability of the government to perform the task in the first place.

This is the fundamental difference between those who want to restrict firearm ownership and those who don’t. Should we punish the majority for the actions of a minority? I don’t think so. But firearm owners should be mindful of those who act with reckless disregard when they handle or shoot their guns – and do what we can to correct their actions before innocent people are harmed.

I Prefer Medium Rare Steaks And Well Done AKs

And by “well done,” I mean “burned to a crisp.”

And that means I really like this one.

I was introduced to Mario of Piece of History Firearms by a mutual friend recently, and we’ll occasionally head to the range to shoot cool stuff like MG42s, RPKs, PKMs, select fire Glocks, and so on.

Here are a few recent Piece of History RPK builds.

We started talking about spare parts and projects and so on, and it turned out that I had a spare AK74 receiver and he had what was left of a select fire Bulgarian AK74 which was destroyed in a house fire (for more info on some of the firearms in this photo, see here).

It died in good company.

The major metal parts weren’t damaged, so after Mario replaced the springs and furniture and swapped out the fire control group for a semi auto version, the rifle was reassembled and ready to fire.

Here is the result.

I asked that he not refinish the rifle, which was a bit of a shame since the AKs he turns out are actually…well…pretty.

This one is not.

Despite its outward appearance, the rifle functions without issue. Furthermore (and this is more of a coincidence than anything else), the rifle needed no elevation or windage adjustments. My initial shots at 50 yards were straight through the bullseye.

Those elevation adjustments are pretty much right on, too – at least out to 700 yards, which is as far as I’ve fired this rifle.

Needless to say, I was impressed. This isn’t my first AK or even my first 74, but as a fan of the 5.45 cartridge, I’m glad that I have this rifle. Plus, I think the finish (or lack thereof) gives it a certain amount of panache.

The brake works pretty well, as almost anyone who has fired a 74 will attest. Many of the common muzzle devices of this era certainly borrow some design elements from devices like this one.

Looking past the finish, a number of people have actually commented on the quality of the assembly work. This isn’t terribly surprising, given that Mario has been building AKs for ten years, and his work is pretty highly sought after by knowledgeable folks in the industry.

Mario marks all of his products with his logo, and every one I’ve seen has been worth talking about. Needless to say, there will be more articles on cool rifles and machine guns in the future.

Among them were some of the students at the May carbine course, who enjoyed shooting the 74 out to 300 or 400 yards.

He was so amazed at the rifle’s accuracy that he forgot to use his eye pro.

Later, I saw that I could hit an E type silhouette at 700 when I did my part. At this month’s 600 yard match, I fired a 153-3X out of 200-20X, which isn’t very good, but then again it isn’t that horrible for an AK with iron sights using surplus ammo, either.

5.45 is a very capable cartridge. I don’t buy into the myths of the “poison bullet,” but it’s accurate to a significant distance. That’s more important to me than voodoo.

To me the AK74 is preferable to the AK47/AKM, mostly due to the increased effective range of the 5.45×39 cartridge, but also the reduced weight of the loaded magazines. Also, surplus 5.45 is still being imported. If you are an AK fan and don’t have a 74, or even if you aren’t an AK fan, I would recommend considering a quality example. In my experience, a good sign that a 5.45 AK might be of good quality is a 1/8 twist barrel and/or an original Eastern Bloc barrel. Too many of the 5.45 AKs I’ve owned have had accuracy or keyholing issues due to a poor choice of barrels on the part of the builder.

Yes…yes, I know the safety is on “fire.”

This is by no means a replacement for any of my ARs, and I still feel that the AR is a superior platform in a number of ways. But I have to admit that I really like this AK74.

 

Close Up Photos Of Enfield Rifles

I decided to take some detailed photos of my Enfields; here are the results, along with some comments about the rifles.

Ishapore 2A in 7.62×51 on the left, No4 Mk1 in .303 on the right. These bolt action rifles differ from most rifles of the type produced today in that they “cock on close,” as the bolt is being pushed forward, rather than as the bolt is unlocked and pulled to the rear. They are smoother and faster to operate than the vast majority of modern, off-the-shelf bolt action rifles.
Left side of No4 Mk1 action. The barrel of this rifle is essentially shot out and I will be replacing it with something interesting, perhaps a .375 of some sort.
Right side of No4 Mk1 action. I really like Enfields; I grew up shooting my dad’s sporterized No1, which his mother/my grandmother purchased many years ago for $8.95. It is accurate, light, and reliable. My dad killed a bear with it at point blank range.
Business end of the No4. It’s a good thing that I have the bayonet, since the barrel is shot out. I never know when I might need to impale something.
Right side of the Ishapore 2A action. This is a fine rifle which fires a widely available cartridge from a detachable magazine with a decent capacity (12 rounds, although 10 round mags are also available).
I have used the Ishapore in several 600 yard matches. Using .308 Win Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr BTHP, I have fired higher scores with this rifle than a Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight and an LWRC REPR using the same ammunition. The sights are adjustable to 2000 meters, but I have only used it out to 600 yards. I wouldn’t be very confident with a .308 at 2000 meters…
I am interested in the way things used to be made versus the way they are made today. While the processes which brought this rifle to “life” are antiquated, the result is no less effective than a modern, rack-grade bolt action 7.62x51mm/.308 Win rifle, and in some ways the Ishapore is superior. One possible exception would be optic mounting, but that is more of a design than a manufacturing issue.
I need a bayonet for my Ishapore. Correction, I don’t have a bayonet for my Ishapore.
Everyone’s like, “OMG ZOMBIES!” and I’m all, “Vampires are the real threat.”

Thanks for reading. As mentioned previously, I wish that new production Enfield pattern rifles in various calibers were available.

I Asked Julie Golob Five Questions About Shooting

Julie Goloski-Golob is a kind and gentle mother of two. She posts photos of delicious homemade food on Facebook and shoots for Smith & Wesson in competition, having won three Bianchi Cups (and a lot of other stuff) along the way. She is one of America’s finest shooters, male or female.

I have two photos of Julie Goloski-Golob. This one of her (right) with some foreign-looking girl (left), and one of her laughing after comparing belly sizes with Rob Leatham (Mrs. Goloski-Golob was in her third trimester of pregnancy). This photograph was more flattering. Plus, I’d rather not upset two world-class shooters at the same time.

In one of the finest examples of how bad my memory is, I started talking to her about a year ago regarding her book SHOOT. I read the book when it came out and found it to be an easily accessible introduction to firearms and the shooting sports. I wanted her opinion on a number of topics, so I sent her a list of five questions relating to shooting. She responded to my questions an embarrassingly long time ago, and I forgot to post her answers. One of my questions wasn’t worded very well (it had to do with competition vs. military trainers), leaving us with only four; without further ado, here are my questions and her answers.

Andrew: Do you think competition shooting is relevant to those who have no interest in actually participating in competition shooting? Why or why not?

Julie: I think competition shooting is definitely relevant to those who choose not to compete the same way Olympic swimmers and chefs are relevant to those who swim or cook recreationally. Whether it’s Michael Phelps or Julia Child, those who practice and excel at their craft have much to offer enthusiasts. The same can be said for those who work diligently to improve their shooting skills in competition.

Competition shooters are constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to speed and precision. These shooters are doing things with firearms that would be considered an incredible run twenty years ago. An example would be the El Presidente drill (http://www.uspsa.org/classifiers/99-11.pdf). Back in the day a 10 second El Prez run was considered top notch. Today, using a Production Division gun (a striker fired or double action gun with few modifications from stock) and scoring all A-zone hits, a 10 second run today would be a C-class level score, a national percentage between 55 and 60%.

Competition shooters also have a lot to offer when it comes to intense durability testing as well as research and development. Let’s face it. Shooters tend to send a lot of rounds down range! If something doesn’t work well, or doesn’t hold up to the rigors of an intense day of training, a competition shooter is likely to discover it. Look at red dot optics as an example. Use of these little wonders were introduced into shooting sports and at first were plagued with reliability issues. Competitors started out with heavy, bulky dots, some as large as soda cans. Putting them through the paces in matches, shooters proved that this sort of sighting system is faster than using traditional iron sights.

Andrew: If you could identify one element of pistol shooting as being more important than any other, what would it be?

Julie: Taking speed out of it and just assessing pure shooting down to the fundamental level, the ability to shoot an accurate shot with a pistol comes down to being able put the sights on the target and keep them there until the shot breaks. You can have a horrendous grip and be standing on one foot and still shoot an accurate shot, but if the sights aren’t on target when the gun goes bang it won’t happen. So the most important aspect of being able to score a good hit comes down to the ability to engage the trigger in such a way that the sight picture stays on target until the bullet exits the barrel.

Andrew: Do competition shooters mostly use the same styles and techniques, with victory in competition coming down to an individual’s skill (or luck), or are there an array of techniques/styles/stances/etc which some shooters find give them an edge?

Julie: At first glance, to some it may appear that competition shooters use all the same styles and techniques. Most competition shooters in practical shooting sports are using the isosceles stance and the basic skills of draws, reloads, one-handed shooting, etc. all look very similar when you break things down to that level. There are subtle differences in style though based on athleticism, strength and body type.

Travis Tomasie and Dave Sevigny, with their athletic backgrounds in soccer and hockey, are especially good when it comes to footwork. Todd Jarrett and Max Michel have incredible twitch reflexes and their hand-eye speed make them super fast on draws and reloads. Bob Vogel and JJ Racaza are strong and flexible and that allows them to be both aggressive and controlled. Then there are the legends like Rob Leatham and Jerry Miculek who have worked so hard for so long, they can draw on hundreds of thousands of rounds of experience. Unlike other sports where the majority of successful players are close to the same height and build, shooters represent a much wider spectrum. The best shooters play to their strengths and work on their weaknesses in order to win.

Andrew: Do you call it a “slide stop” or a “slide release” – and if someone calls it a “slide release,” are they in the wrong?

Julie: I never really thought of it! I think I probably use both terms depending on what I am describing. I use “slide release” when I am talking about slide-lock reloads. I refer to the part as a slide stop when I talk about the slide locking to the rear. I don’t view one as being correct or incorrect. To me, both terms are interchangeable.

Thank you, ma’am, for your patience and your well-thought-out answers.