It was roughly four years ago that I discussed building this first aid kit. That link will take you to the primary post back then, where all the why's and wherefore's are batted around. Since then, the kit has mostly lived in my vehicle, that being the one place I know will be near me 'most' of the time. Anyplace else, and I'd be too far away to access the emergency kit at least half of every day. So far, this home built emergency med kit has survived three different vehicles, and quite a few (Decidedly minor) events. Today was time to de-pack, evaluate, replace, and RE-pack the bag. Needful things were found here or ordered from Amazon, and the kit goes back to it's home. Fresh batteries in the flashlight, and swap out all the self-adhesive band-aids. Dates were checked on medicines and anything close is being replaced.
In that time, what has been most used? Surprisingly, the one thing most often used and restocked so far? Benadryl Gels. Not only is the girlfriend allergic to some common things, but others have hit that hard as well. Being deep in a forest of New York state late at night, and hearing "It's getting hard to breath" can really focus a man's attention. Next most used, besides common bandaids? The Steri strips. These things magically bridge the gap between 'Put A Band-Aid On It!' and 'Awe crap.... that really needs stitches'. I recall a 2 O'clock knock on the bedroom door.... "I was doing an avocado, and cut my hand really bad". Yes.... stabbing a knife into your hand counts as cutting it I suppose. After cleaning it up, I steri-stitched it closed. The next day it didn't look bad at all, and I don't think she ever did see the doc about it. The duct tape was removed some time ago. Far too useful to leave in the bag, I suppose. I also didn't like sending someone into the bag every time they wanted tape for something. Too often, I worried the whole kit would get moved or raided.
Added in at the suggestion of knowledgeable people, a CPR resuscitator. I was SUPPOSED to get the training I need to properly use this widget, but that slipped by the wayside as so many things do. Not only is it difficult to find such training around here, any first aid training at all can be a chore to round up. Yeah, I know.... get off my ass and find it! In the meantime, here's a handy YouTube video that lends a clue.
Something overlooked before, but added now. Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and antacids. While all these are well represented in my home, my work, and the girlfriends purse (larger on the inside than the outside), having them in this kit as backup can't hurt. Something I'm damn grateful to have never needed yet, the Israeli blowout bandages. It's comforting to know they are there, but with luck they'll never be called to duty. Again, a handy video on their use. As always, I'm happy to hear good ideas from all the shmart people in the tribe. Any thoughts? Suggestions? Pointed barbs of sarcasm aimed at my ignorance? All are welcome!
I'll link this story to where I read it (The Firearms Blog), but beware they are a linkfest site, with heavy advertising. It seems Mossberg bought up the old Chip McCormick patent for drop in triggers a while back, and has now decided to go after a bunch of small fry companies making such gadgets. I'm afraid things like this DO color my buying decisions. The firearms community is not particularly huge, with most companies we deal with being quite small. A relatively big company in the business that's attacking small entrepreneurs strictly for financial gain,. and limiting our buying choices by doing so..... that's a company I will avoid doing business with. It's not the first time Mossberg has pulled this stunt. I understand it as a business move, but understanding does not equal agreement. Just because the law says you CAN do something doesn't mean it's the RIGHT thing to do.
Amazon is having a $10 off a $50 purchase sale on SOG knives. That's 20% off, and just about reaches my 'Get Out The Wallet' threshold. I could use a new pocket knife, and maybe a few as Christmas gifts as well. Nothing says 'I Care' like a gift wrapped bundle of sharp things!
Is commercial ammunition a commodity? A box or two... we all trot down to our local shooting emporium.... but what about larger quantities?
When I wish a case or two of ammo, I don't buy it at a local gun shop. The markup is just too stiff. I believe in supporting the good folks who have local stores, but I simply can't afford to throw cash away like that.
So, the question stands. Is bulk ammunition a commodity? Do we shop solely by price, like we were buying heating oil? Personally, I have dealt with SGAmmo and Widener's, and found both to be excellent to deal with. I understand Tam deals with Lucky Gunner... and that has to be a solid endorsement. MidwayUSA is a Go-To for all sorts of gear, components, and parts.... but I have never brought myself to pay their ammo prices. Out of curiosity, I picked a staple ammunition and checked a number of sites for pricing including shipping. A 1000 round case of Blazer Brass 9mm Luger 115 grain FMJ. The results:
Looking at that, I know where I'm going to order from, (If I needed more just now). That said, I have to wonder if there isn't something more to consider here. What value added is there to on-line ammunition sales?
(After comments begin rolling in :-)
So, issues besides price include shipping costs (which I lump into price), speed of service, and delivery concerns. What can an on-line supplier do to earn our business? I'll use an example. In my real life job, I work on cars. Personally, I order and use about 100K a year in parts and supplies. When I choose a supplier, price is part of the equation, but it's not the sole deciding factor. Getting the right parts, of decent quality, and in a timely manner..... these things are important and will cause me to spend a bit more. All these factors are under the control of my suppliers, and easily balance out the cost issue. I choose to spend money accordingly. Now, how does this translate when choosing an on-line bulk ammo supplier?
I was giving the nightstand Taurus PT908 a good run, while working on the reset. One shot from DA, followed by another shot SA, as quick as I could. The trigger reset on that pistol is... challenging. Several times in the 250 rounds I fired, I missed the reset and had to start again. Now, this pistol has a flamethrowing 600 lumin light mounted on it, and I left it on for this session. After all, it's how the pistol normally is equipped, so I should practice with it in place. I even practiced actuating the light for about half the session, even though it made no difference at 50 feet in harsh sun. 250 rounds of muzzle flash, with half of that being reloads sporting Bullseye powder...... left a mark on the light. Yeah..... that's dirty, that is....
I've been shooting mostly 55 grain FMJ ammo in my AR's because they shoot it well, and I have me a fair bunch. On occasion, I've shoot the 62 grain green tip in them, with mediocre accuracy. Certainly noticeably larger groups than the 55 grain bullets.
But the thought keeps ringing in my brain: My AR's have 1 in 7 twist rates. They are SUPPOSED to shoot heavier bullets better...... %$#@ it. Before I begin ordering heavy bullets by the bin full, I thought I would just give something a shot. I bought a single lone box of Hornady 75 Grain Super Match ammo. This stuff costs like gold, and by accounts is one of the best AR match loads on the market. Want to see what happened?
This rifle has a Spikes heavy barrel upper with a mid-length gas system, a 1/7 twist, and a 3x fixed Nikon optic on it. I shot it from the bench, on a decent rest but still hand held. My heart beat was weaving the cross hair a good inch across the bull as I did my breath, breath, squeeze. The groups were fired three rounds at a time, with cooling time in between. The target on the left, 55 grain PMC Bronze bulk ammo (The one flier was called). The target on the right, the 75 grain Hornady $uper Match. I shall note.... if I had shot the 62 grain M855, the group would have fallen between these two in size. I'm open to suggestions here.
Some random thoughts running through my mind as I wait for the tea to brew (I do mine from loose leaf in a percolator. Don't leave your spoon in, unless it's stainless). A couple AR lower receivers rolled in, and are now stashed for a time when I (a) have money to buy parts, and (b) have time to build a couple. Bought as investment in the face of almost certain mass stupidity in the near future, I suspect these receivers will grow up to be interesting additions to the family. One, likely will turn into an A2 match rifle. The other a heavy barrel accuracy rig with a telescope on it. That, of course is all subject to rapid and frequent changes.
In other internal mumblings, the sound of keys jangling woke me with an idea.... See, here at the Dark Castle I've amassed just a bit more than the safe will hold (And when will someone design a safe that holds Mosins??). That means I needed an armory..... you know..... a closet. So there is a closet where all the extras go. Being that somehow, through insanity I suppose, I have allowed children to abide in the Dark Castle again, that closet also gets to hold all the medicines in the house, and anything else I don't want those rotten crumb crunchers getting into. Yes, it has an entry lock. Yes, we need to get in multiple times daily. Yes, that is a pain in the ..... it's a pain. Imagine every day at 4:30 AM "Where the hell did I leave my keys THIS time??" That is where the idea came in... why don't I see about an electronic lock for the armory?
A quick peruse of Amazon via cellphone as I lay half awake, showed a wide selection available. Enough that the decision got set aside til after the mornings tea had a chance to dissolve some of the sleep from my eyes (and stomach). Requirements: Simple to use, not crazy difficult to install, a key backup of course, and not so wildly expensive that I cry if it turns out to be a POS. Any of my gentle readers here who have experience or ideas on this, please chime in. I only wish to buy one of these things.... not a collection like my Big Box 'O Holsters. Speaking of holsters, and this speaks to how my mind wanders before the tea smashes the fog, I recently renewed my carry permit. While in our Sheriffs office, I asked the nice man how busy he was lately. He said it had finally slowed down a bit, and lately they only had about 50 new applications a day. In a county of 500,000. I take these numbers as promising, and tweaking them in regards to time and assumptions, I am thinking about 10% of our population have carry permits. Also in regards to holsters... and another example of how convoluted my brain works... I need practice with my carry pistol. The G30 needs to get another 500 rounds of .45acp very soon, less my sad skills fade to zero. Thinking that thought, I wonder if it's time to consider a switch? I've carried that compact Glock for many years, and I'm happy with it. On the other hand.... 9mm ammo has come so far lately. Is it time to trick up a 17 or 19 for carry duty? The tea is ready.... and I am ready for it. Ya'll have a fine weekend my friends, Ya hear?
Winchester has something new out in the way of cheaper 9mm range ammo. Well.... new to THEM but not new to the shooting world. It's Steel cased pistol ammunition. Some years back, I shot a bunch of the imported steel cased ammo in both rifle and pistol, as a test to see what it was all about. I've been shooting Soviet steel cased Mil-surp for years in my Mosins and such, but that is a different animal. One has different expectations of brand new commercial ammunition as compared to 40 year old military surplus ammo. Coming under the names Tula, Brown Bear, Silver Bear, and Wolf, these imports are about the cheapest range ammo one can buy. Always with steel cases coated in ..... something, these inexpensive cartridges proved to be hit and miss for me, quite literally. Not that I'd object to having a few cases tucked away, but one has to limit expectations with them. Their quality (for me) was a bit iffy, with wide velocity variations. Worse, in the rifle cartridges the coating on the cases would eventually play havoc with my chambers and make extraction problematic.
So, what has Winchester done with this product? They say the cases are made here in the USA, with their own special coating to inhibit rust. In addition, they are using a brass jacketed lead core bullet, and Winchester powders and primers. Delivered in a box of 150 rounds (Three trays of 50 each) from Wideners Reloading and Shooting Supply, they are priced there just a bit under Winchester White Box. WWB is typically one of the cheapest of the American made range ammo offerings, often found on sale at various suppliers. At this point, Widener's is the only place I see this new Winchester ammo for sale. The basics: A 115 grain FMJ bullet, with a lead core and a brass jacket. Winchester says it trots along at 1190 FPS. My own Chrono testing across a 20 round sample gave a velocity average closer to 1150 FPS out of a S&W 9c compact pistol. Velocity variations were considerably tighter than I recall the import ammo having, mostly staying within about 20 FPS.
Function was 100% with all 150 rounds through this pistol in the space of about 30 minutes. No failures of any kind to report. Accuracy was at least on par with any bulk 9mm Luger I've used, and better than many. I didn't bench it, but holding all the rounds inside a 4"x6" index card at 50' while shooting offhand was not a problem. Recoil was light, about what one would expect for target ammunition. An old box of Golden Sabers was sacreficed after the Winchesters, just to serve as comparison. The less expensive steel cased Winchester was quite mild and civilized in contrast. For me, the real question.... once function was assured.... was how bad the pistol would be fouled. My experience with the import steel cased ammo left something to be desired when it came time to clean the pistols, so I had qualms there.
I guess Winchester was being straight. Field stripped after 150 rounds of the USA Forged, I couldn't have told you it wasn't their White Box I was shooting. Yes, it was dirty, but nothing out of the ordinary. It was the kind of dirty that tempts me to wipe it down, use up a couple Q-tips, spray some lube, and call it good. In the field of grunging up a pistol, the Winchester is way, way ahead of the import steel cased ammo. On the ammo itself, I have nothing negative to say. It performed decently and exceeded expectations in every way compared to the imports. If a shooter just doesn't care about having reloadable cases leftover, I can't see any reason not to buy the Winchester USA Forged if it's cheaper. That said.... it would be nice if the price on this new American made steel cased ammo stabilized a little closer to the import end of the spectrum, rather than nipping at the heels of the White Box. If it were a bit more reasonably priced, I might lose interest in reloading my own 9mm target ammo!
The way I see it, Anybody can spend a lot of money and buy the most superific, whizbangious , extra special operatortorious, and ermagerd expensive AR-15 on the market, and then proclaim it the best functioning rifle one can buy. Just like a person can buy a hammer, or buy an Eastwing framing hammer... both will do the job for 95% of the people who need a hammer. The professional carpenter though, might appreciate the extra quality of the Eastwing. Yeah.... I own an Eastwing, a hand me down from my Dad who DID use it professionally. What I don't own is a hyper-expensive whiz bang AR-15. Instead, I have a few I put together myself and enjoy shooting quite a bit. Are they fancy? Nope. Do They Function? Yes... so far at 100% with not a single issue. With that in mind, I was curious about the cheaper incarnations of such beasties. Will they function reliably? Sure, they may not be pretty, but will they hammer the nail every time or not? Figuring to start with an inexpensive complete upper, as I had just assembled a lower and it was wanting a top half... I procured a PTAC complete slick side upper from Palmetto State Armory. It came complete with a bolt group and charging handle, A-2 style front sight, and built in rail on the receiver. All this, for only $269. Pinned to the completed Rock River lower, the entire rifle came in just over $500. Nicknamed 'El Cheapo', it certainly looked the part. No forward assist, no dust cover, and a wide open field of possibilities for sighting, since it had none on the back. What I really wanted to know was... would it function reliably? Lets face it, what can a man expect from an upper receiver group that cost under $300 shipped to the door? I determined to give it a hard run, and see what it would do. Short of burying it in sand, I figured the harshest thing I could inflict on an AR upper is to run it bone dry for an extended round count. In this case, I pulled the number 500 out of.... um..... the air. 500 rounds on a dry and dusty AR-15, a platform that once had a reputation for being fussy about cleanliness and lubrication. The fine folks at Wideners Reloading and Shooting supply got
wind of this, and sent along a big box of Federal 55 grain ammo. The American Eagle number in the Federal lineup, it may be one of the most popular AR fodders available. Good quality, reliable, and not too pricey. A solid choice for this test. Take note.... Supplying the ammo for this was Wideners idea. They are a bunch of shooters just like us, and seem dedicated to their sport and their customers. It might be a thought to include them on the list of folks we do business with, seeing as how they've been serving shooters for a long, long time now. The rifle had an Eotech holographic sight mounted on it, for ease of shooting. Also... it's just plain fun to shoot with. A comment: It seemed funny to have a sight installed that cost more than the whole rifle put together. Range time with El Cheapo and the PTAC upper; This really falls into two categories. Functionality, and accuracy.
Accuracy was reasonable from the PTAC with 50 yard groups under 2" and 100 groups hovering just under 4" Now, if this was an expensive upper those numbers would upset me, but not so for a $269 unit. The thing is, maybe this rifle is more accurate than that. Recently I have been questioning my aging eyesight when it comes to more precise shooting, and the Eotech
gives no magnification to assist my elderly peepers. To that end, when I get a spare scope and the gumption, I will mount some glass on this rifle and really go after it's best accuracy.
That leaves function. Here, I have nothing to report. Nothing.... and I mean nothing. Failures to feed? Nope... nothing. It chambered every single round perfectly. Failures to fire? Nope.... nothing there either. Bangity Bangity like boring clockwork. Failures to extract? Again, nothing to report.
What else is there to say? 500 rounds on a bone dry AR upper, of the cheapest kind I could locate, and not one malfunction of any kind.
Now, I know that might change if the round count on the rifle was 5000 rounds instead of 500, or even 10,000 rounds. I'd never expect a direct impingement design AR to go uncleaned and un-lubricated that long. It would be a hateful thing to subject any rifle too, let alone a dirt cheap M4-gery. The final word.... would I recommend this PTAC upper to someone who wanted to build a cheap but functional AR-15? I can only say Yes, I would. I'll be keeping this one, and glad to have it. My next AR-build will probably be something a bit nicer, but I have no qualms at hauling El Cheapo out of the safe and putting rounds down range with it.
Okay.... those might not be the exact words, but I did get an E-mail asking my thoughts on cleaning products for our firearms. I thought I'd jot a few notes here amongst us friends, and let everyone poke and prod with their own advice. (I'll link where I can). I break my cleaning and lubricating down into a few basic areas.
Removing copper from a bore
Cleaning up after corrosive ammo
For general cleaning, I break out one of two products. Breakfree CLP, or Ballistol. They are different products, but serve many of the same purposes. Intended to be 'all in one' gun cleaning and lubricating agents, they do a decent job most of the time for most gun maintenance jobs. Ballistol is the better bore fouling remover in my humble opinion. CLP is what I sent to my friends in the sand, and they seemed happy with it.
CLP, we are all most aware of already. I prefer to use it in the needle applicator, although I do have spray cans for some jobs. The needle applicator lets me put a drop into a trigger mechanism, or on a Q-tip or patch without making a mess. I also use it in my air tools at work, and the same spray can has lasted me two years so far in that role. Ballistol.... that's an old beastie indeed. Ginned up by wily Germans about a hundred years ago, it has really stood the test of time. I use it as a general cleaner, but it's my all-time favorite go to
on my old Mil-Surp rifles. It's designed to work on corrosive ammo residue, and it does a bloody good job. It can also be mixed with water to do bore flushing, and makes quick work of black powder fouling (if you are into the dark arts).
Wipe down cloths.... I use Sentry Solutions Tuf-Cloth. Yeah, kinda gimicky, but they work well for me and don't leave an oily residue that holds dirt and dust. I keep mine in the original bags they come in, or in a zip lock. Don't leave them
out, it cuts their life span by a bunch. Kept bagged, I use about one a year... yes, they will do that. Lubrication? Well..... the CLP needle dropper for some things, but honestly... plain old Mobile-One 5w30 motor oil. Why pay a fortune for some whiz-bang trumped up incarnation of Canola oil when a quart of Mobile One will last a lifetime and perform with perfect satisfaction? Needle applicators can be had on Amazon, if you are allergic to shopping (People... ugh) like I am. Copper removal from a bore.... a touchy subject. There are a LOT of different approaches to this, but I always come back to relying on basic chemistry. Yes, a boatload of arm tiring scrubbing can wear away copper bore fouling, but why do that? Chemistry is our friend, and a simple, but careful, application of ammonia will turn copper fouling into a nasty blue goo that pushes right out of the bore. On copper fouling, I use the ancient Sweet's 7.62 formula, or on a nastily fouled Mil-Surp with corrosive ammo, straight up Parson's Ammonia found in the grocery store at $2.49 a quart. In both cases, I treat copper removal as an intermediate step in bore cleaning. Some scrubbing with regular bore cleaner to remove propellant fouling, and then a soak with Sweet's. Follow with another bore cleaning to remove the blue goo, and protect with my choice of lubricant for that rifle.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE about using ammonia based copper removal products, including Sweet's 7.62. 'Soak' means a couple minutes.... not hours. The chemical will attack the metal, given time. That's bad news for a good rifle bore. I limit copper removal to my high velocity rifles, and some rougher bore Mil-Surps that live in the castle armory. Even then, only about once every few hundred rounds or so. That's about it. A handful of products and a few simple procedures, and no great stress over it. My shootin Arns are in good shape and work every time. Disclosure: Yes, I am an Amazon affiliate. If someone buys something through a link I post, I get a tiny percentage of the purchase in the form of Amazon credit. With this, I usually purchase shooty stuff and review it here. Think of it as a way to support the blog.... and my thanks to you for it! (A quick check shows me it's up to $2.08 for the month. Huzaaa!)
(Edit editorial: Another read found a handful of ridiculous spelling and syntax errors. I thought we were friends here! Why doesn't anyone tell me about these things?)
Today's postal delivery brought a very cool thing to The Fat Man's hands. A muzzle device... a flash suppressor... a very pointy reminder of the dangerous end of this rifle. This special accessory for the PTAC (El Cheapo) upper's barrel came by way of Chuck Bogardus, a fine machinist and all round good guy out of St. Louis. In his mad scientist machine shop, he hand crafts muzzle devices like this flash suppressor, and also muzzle brakes. 5.56 or 30 caliber, his product is pretty damn nicely made. I paid $25 for this beauty, shipping included. Chuck's work is good, and his prices reasonable. The thing is..... no one will find this device in a store or catalog. There's one man, and one man only, who makes these. If you just have to have something this special for your rifle, contact Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org, or friend him on Facebook (facebook.com/thebogie). Herself, already liking this AR I put together, took a gander at this after it was installed. She pricked her finger on the sharp points, and then pretty much declared it her rifle now. Damn.
150 rounds into a 500 round no-clean and no-lube test, and the PTAC upper seems to be functioning perfectly so far. Using the first 5 magazine loads of the 500 rounds sent along by Wideners Reloading and Ammunition Supply, the rifle was sighted in. Then.... out to 100 yards and used to bring a new shooter into the AR family. She took to this rifle like a duck to water, quickly announcing it fits her much better than my own slightly larger, and considerably heavier bull barrel carbine. "I Can't hit that target from here!" Yes..... yes she could. In fact, her very first ten rounds of anything larger than .22 rimfire fired in her life mostly populated the black on a standard smallbore target.
The rifle functioned flawlessly. There were no Failures to feed, fire, or eject. Accuracy was acceptable, with steady 10 rings on the 50 yard sight in target, and all in the black at 100 yards. I suspect a scope may be required to reveal the upper's true accuracy potential. Moving to dirt clods on the 200 and 300 yard berms, hits were like clockwork.
An interesting discovery, of no significance to the test, my issues with the Eotech holo sight giving me a line instead of a center dot were resolved. It turns out eye and eyeglass placement made every difference, with a more squared up aspect being required to give me a clear picture through the bifocals. The slick side upper, lacking forward assist and dust cover, also lacks the bump behind the ejection port normally found on an AR. This minor lack allows the ejected shell casings to ding against the right side of the receiver, leaving a bit of brass marking. It also has the ejected cases hitting the ground way off to the right, about 5 positions down the range. I'd hate to be
standing behind the shooting positions to the right of this rifle as it's fired. On the other hand, the empties piled up like dirty gold, in a small area. General impressions so far: It's a decent upper for the $269 price tag. Fit and function are all there. With only 150 rounds in, I simply can't find anything to grouse about yet. (Honestly... I'm beginning to wonder if 500 rounds of no-clean and no-lube is enough to really stress this upper. Maybe I should stretch it to 1000?) Yeah, it may look a bit funny being a 'slick side' upper, without the features we normally expect on an AR receiver. That said.... it functions just fine.
So far. Disclosures: Wideners was kind enough to donate the ammo for this testing. Nice people, and clearly a company populated with shooters. Give their site a visit if you like. The upper being tested, I just bought that for myself. I'll likely be buying more of PSA's products, depending on how this test works out.
Advancing age has it's drawbacks, all trumped by the simple act of waking up each morning still alive. Advancing age also has some advantages, such as the 'Been there, Seen that, Done that' syndrome. If one hangs around this mortal coil long enough, one gets to see things happen that have happened before. It's a micro correlation of the old adage: Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. What has the Old Fat Man's thoughts meandering this way? Elections, my friends. Elections. They have results, they have consequences, and they have sometimes predictable opportunities. Most of my friends that I write for here.... you've been around a bit. Do you recall the results of the last few major elections for us in the shooty world? Yeah.... people lost their tiny little minds. They thought there was a chance His New Highness would move to steal our human rights away, first removing our ability to defend them. Luckily, that turned out to be mostly just bloviating hot air as most politicians spew every waking moment. Right or wrong in their reaction, American citizens DID react. They bought guns, and they bought ammo. While they still could. People who never owned a weapon in their lives suddenly decided they needed one RIGHT NOW. The results were utterly predictable. After all, the American gun industry, as thriving as it is, is still a pretty small business compared to the mass of 'Murican humanity. No industry could keep up with only a sudden 30-40% increase in demand, let alone an overnight 200% increase. Yeah..... supply dried up and demand went nuts. Gun shops were reduced of stock quickly. Ammo flew off shelves. On-line bulk ammo suppliers went dry fast, and then screeched and crawled under the pallets as demand increased even more. Other predictable results came to pass as well. Public ranges were swamped and private gun clubs saw their membership skyrocket. Firearms 'trainers', good and bad, sprung up and got busy fast. Also predictable, violent crime dropped across the board in America, excepting those bastions of socialist joy that deny their peasants the human right of self defense. But.... that's not what I write about here. What has me pondering this fine rainy morning, is the notion of what I should be doing investment-wise right now, knowing what is coming this election year. I've lived through a bunch of these events, and they are predictable in their consequences. After all... being honest with ourselves.... we DO know who will be elected President this year.... don't we? Right now, the first day of May, the year 2016, at 8:19 am... I can buy almost anything I want in the way of ammunition and firearms. I can do it on-line, while sipping coffee. Ammo delivered to my door by a knowing UPS driver, firearms sent to my local dealer where I pick them up after the legalities are observed. The only hindrance being my own financial situation (Hey STOP laughing there! I heard that!) Tomorrow? Two months from now? November 9th? I can't promise what will be available then, or not available at any price. I can't promise.... but I can predict with some measure of certainty. What do you think?
Some years ago, on a club range in Chester county, Pa., I was quietly shooting some groups while testing a load. A few spots down, the only other people there were shooting a Garand. Obviously their first time. They managed to load it, fire eight, and I heard the lovely 'PING'. This was followed by a good ten minutes of confusion on their part as they tried to load it again... sans en-bloc clip. I walked over, picked up the clip from the ground, and offered it to them. They angrily told me it wasn't theirs and to mind my own business. I still have that clip someplace.
That giddy feeling when you get a text message from UPS saying they just delivered a package to your door....
From Wideners, 500 rounds of 5.56 to run through the El-Cheapo upper as a test, and a 150 round box of 9mm Steel Cased range ammo from Winchester. With luck, this weekend will see both offerings at the range. The self explanatory 500 round function test on the AR upper from PSA, and a look at the Winchester 9mm as well. Given my experience with imported steel cased ammo from our tovarich in Russia, I am most interested in the cleanliness of the USA Forged from Winchester. Such from Tula has functioned okay for me, but left my weapons heavily fouled. Also, the Tula showed me quite a wide variation in velocity. Some of this Winchester 9x19 fodder will be run across the Chrono to see if it's up to expectations.
What we have here..... is a test. The Lower on this rifle is a basic decent quality Rock River with CMMG guts and a generic PSA stock. It's good quality, but nothing special. It's job in this here testing is to make the other half of the rifle work. That's the Upper Receiver Group, which happens to be about the cheapest complete upper that Palmetto State Armory offers. A PTAC unit, with NO bells or whistles. Not even a hint of jingle or peep out of this thing.... not even a forward assist or dust cover. It's got all the other basic M4gery parts, including an MPI tested bolt, Full auto bolt body (extra weight) and standard charging handle. The test begins this weekend, with luck, and will consist of 500 rounds straight without cleaning or..... and here is the nasty part..... lubricant. Moments ago I mounted an old Eotech sight to make shooting this a bit more fun, and cleaned the upper before it's first shot. The chamber and lugs were scrubbed, and the bore as well. Then, they were left as dry as they might be after being cleaned. No lubricant of any kind was put back on.
Before the weekend, 500 rounds of basic Federal 5.56 will be delivered from Wideners Reloading and Shooting supply. It's a good choice for this test, as it's also about as basic as it gets. Decent quality ammo that people shoot the heck out of since it's priced right. The Fat Man might have a bit tucked away himself... never hurts, especially at current prices. What I'm curious about is how well the basic Upper will function. Doing that many rounds on a direct impingement rifle without cleaning AND without lubricating might be a bit mean. Still.... sometimes you have to push it a bit to see how things function in adverse conditions. Besides..... (As herself just said)....a good long test also means lots of Boom Boom fun!
What does one get for $269 when buying the cheapest upper available at Palmetto State Armory? Well..... it looks like slightly more than $269 worth of parts, assembled and ready to go (minus a good clean and lube). That includes: 16" Barrel length Nitride Barrel M4 profile Carbine Length 5.56 Nato Chamber 1 in 7" twist rate F-Marked Front sight post A2 Flash Hider Sling Loop Standard Hand Guards w/ heat shields Forged Slick Side upper receiver **Upper may or may not have T-marks Full-auto profile Bolt Carrier Group Carpenter 158 Bolt Charging Handle
Notice their description says 'Slick side' upper receiver. That means no forward assist, and no dust cover. PSA's description also says these units may have blemishes, although mine does not.
I was curious what one gets for that kind of money, when the URG's I like are usually quite a bit more. Actually, a LOT more. The Spikes mid-length upper I have on my favorite AR came in at a little under $550, and I considered that a darn good deal.
Plunked onto my latest Franken-AR lower, consisting of a Rock River receiver with CMMG guts installed, I plan to give this cheapo upper a basic clean and lube, followed by a 500 round no-clean test. Lets see if cheap and functional can co-exist.
The furniture is basic, and the only extravagance it will see is an optic in a nod towards my aging eyes. This really is a cheap rifle, coming in at about $500. Using an Anderson lower would have knocked another $60 off that, and a cheaper guts package could have saved another $20. Right now, Bud's is selling a DPMS Oracle basic AR for $535, delivered. A S&W Sport (With sights and everything...) is only $650. Building a low-dollar AR-15 doesn't really save much moola, but it's interesting and fun.
Starting this weekend... bangity bangity in the interest of SCIENCE!
Range conditions: Holy Bleeping WIND Batman! I'm talking cold wind.... frigid wind.... an unholy gale from the bowels of the north pole, sent down JUST to screw up the one single day I can make it to the range. A steady but wildly shifting 'breeze' around 20 mph, with frequent treacherous gusts approaching 50 mph blowing from every direction possible except up a man's kilt. Yea, a might bit whifty, one might say. Desiring to sight in the AR with it's new Nikon optic, The Fat Man needed a plan. A Plan..... A Plan..... So, too much wind blows the little poodle popper bullet around like a politician on an issue. All over the place. But... not so much at close range, where the wind has little time to work it's evil magic. Knowing that, I turned to Nikon's on-line ballistic program. There, after entering the chosen optic, the ammunition, the height-above-bore of the scope centerline, and the approximate curvature of the earth at the range, the free software gave me predicted points of impact. Thus, setting my zero range as 200 yards, I could see the 25 YARD suggested POI for that round. I did this for both 55 grain and 62 grain 5.56 rounds.
At the range, with 1256 clothespins holding my target paper to the 25 yard backstop, I set up on the bench using cement blocks to hold my rifle down, lest it blow away. The target had 1" dots on it to serve as aiming points, with duplicate 1" stickers placed exactly 1.75" lower than the aiming point. If the math was true, the rifle set to place it's group on the bottom dot would be dead on at 200 yards, and 1/4" low at 100 yards. Firing the first round, I sandbagged the rifle with the crosshairs on the bullet hole created. Adjusting the scope accordingly, the next round was almost exactly on target. Within a few more rounds, I was making one wide hole on the lower predicted point of impact. Moving to a 100 yard target held in place with wind resistant nuclear atom-o-glue and some magic profanity, I again fired groups using both 55 grain and 62 grain ammunition. The groups, although VASTLY more spread out than the 25 yard target, did center as predicted.
Shooting at 100 yards was limited to only 20 rounds, a couple groups per type of ammunition. By that time, The Fat Man's fingers were numb, and his eyes heavily blurred from the cold wind. Results? I certainly didn't do the shoot-testing I desired, but the rig is roughly sighted in for sure. On the agenda is firing at ranges from 25 yards to 300 yards. The target turret adjustments want testing, as do the quick-disconnect mounts for return-to-zero. Happy with the optic so far? Yes, yes I am. It has the same clarity and and brilliance my other Nikon optics have, and it seems just the ticket for my aging eyes. More range testing will happen, and also some Appleseed style targets for score. Look to this blog for near future reports!
In the end, I decided against lights, batteries, bells, and whistles. I went with the Nikon 3x32 fixed power carbine scope. I've mounted Nikon scopes on the most accurate bolty 30-06 I own, as well as my laser-like 10-22 heavy barrel target rifle. Both optics are crystal clear and a joy to shoot with. That being the case, I decided to stay with Nikon on this rifle as well. The P-223 scope series seems pretty much designed for the AR family of rifles, with this 'Carbine' model being specifically made to serve at short to moderate ranges on top of 16" 5.56 carbines.
It features a reticle with three heavier lines and the upper one lighter. At the center, a fine crosshair, and two horizontal aiming bars below it. The single power optic is designed for the 55 grain .223 round, to be sighted in at 200 yards with the center crosshair. That being done, the two bars below it represent aiming points for 400 and 600 yards. The scope is short, as befitting something designed for a carbine. Only just a bit over 8 inches long. It's not particularly heavy either, which makes sense for it's intended use. The target style adjustment turrets (1/4 MOA per click) are designed to have the scope sighted in, and then lift to reset at zero. This allows one to dial around with abandon, while still being easily returned to zero. These turrets are also the only quibble I have with the scope, so far (Pre-sight in and range testing). The idea of adjustment turrets that don't lock, and can be changed every time I case, carry, or bump the rifle.... AARRGGG. We shall see if I can live with that, or if it becomes an issue. I will say this, they don't turn *too* easily, so perhaps they won't change with every stray breeze and brush.
The rear of the scope has a marked and easily (but stiffly) adjustable focus to bring the crosshairs into crystal clarity for the shooter. For mounts, I chose the Warne extra high quick detachable units, made of real honest to God steel. Yes, they are heavy. Yes, they don't look tacticool. YES.... they are tougher than a pissed off MMA champion. The mounts are high enough to get the scope up to a comfortable altitude on the AR platform. Also, they are high enough to have the rear scope bell easily clear a folded BUIS. Coupled with the 'quick detachable' feature, that means a folding backup sight can be left in place and sighted in, with only a few moments needed to pull the optic and get the sights into play. Why? Because stuff breaks, that's why. Two is one and one is none, and blah blah blah.
The reality is the Old Fat Man has had three scopes break in the field, over his life. Also, several red dot optics have come a cropper on me at inopportune times, including the vaunted Eotech. Battry's go dead, ya know? Contacts corrode. Crosshairs go kerflooie sometimes. Hell, even the best mount made can snap the hell off, given a stupid enough maneuver like falling down a bank. Yup.... been there, done that, have the 'stupid dents' to show for it.
These Warne mounts use SIX steel screws on each mount to attach to the scope. Four in the bottom and two more on top of the scope. Each ring must be fully disassembled to install on the scope. The 'quick detachable' feature is a lever actuated screw mount with a squared stainless steel captive key to locate the unit on the rail (or Weaver base). A darn nice feature of these mounts; Once the scope is installed on the rifle, the levers can be lifted and turned to index in any position the shooter desires. With luck, I'll be on the range tomorrow. After sighting in, I'll be detaching and reattaching the optic multiple times till I am comfortable with how close it comes back to zero. I'm not expecting miracles, but hey.... a man can hope!
Ya know what I would pay real American dollars for? A weapon light / laser that has a built in video camera. One that activates when the light/laser is turned on, and records video to a micro SD card till the unit is turned off. In 60 second increments say, til the unit is deactivated or it runs out of room on the card. I'd pay extra if it offloaded the video automatically via bluetooth to a linked phone app. Just thinking.
The confession part: I haven't been doing much shooting the past year or two, and what there was involved nothing more than grabbing gear and walking out the back door of the house. It wasn't lack of interest, but more a life too up in the air and busy. That's changing now. I've rejoined my local club, and Herself is ready, willing, and able to enjoy that time with me. Interest is now trumping lethargy. The range bag part: I'm looking at the bags I have, and realized NOTHING is ready to go. It's all a jumbled mess, and gear has been scavenged here and there for impromptu back yard plinking sessions. Most didn't get put back, because I'm a stupidhead.
Viewing this stuff laid out on the brown-paper-of-shame, I'm considering my range bag needs. One for pistols and one for rifles? Another for matches and Appleseed? (GOING to be doing more of both). There was some shock at what *wasn't* in any of the bags. No eypro. No earpro. No wipe down cloths. No staple gun. No screw driver set. What was forgotten in the big bag... the reminder of a moments stupidity. The cut off barrel from a rifle fired with a boresighter still installed. Only a short seconds lack of concentration, but it could have been WAY worse than it was. I'll keep that in the bag.
Building an AR15 is fun. The old stoner design is easily worked on, and not much is needed to do the job. Parts swap is little harder than putting together a Mr. Potato Head toy. Even *I* can do this... and that means almost anyone can. Still, the AR design does hide a few $%#@!^& surprises for the neophyte, and has been known to have an old fart like me say some unkind things as well. Chief among those for the Old Fat Man... the blasted spring underneath the buttstock plate. The first time I ever removed an AR buttstock... well.... lets just say this ancient house has a LOT of hardware hidden in the cracks of the wood flooring, and there is a tiny bleeping spring down there keeping it all company.
The spring is there to push on a detent for an action pin. Not a complicated or precise job, it just serves to put pressure on the pin so it won't fall out on it's own. It's housed in an equally tiny hole drilled through the lower receiver, and the buttstock plate holds the spring in place once it's assembled. In other words, every time one takes off the buttstock, there is a miniature little partially invisible component that's under pressure there, just waiting to zing off into parts unknown and bring forth an exceptionally unfriendly verbal barrage from the would-be stock swapper.
Trying to outsmart the design, I decided to deal with it before I even began putting the guts in this Rock River lower. It's a hole, with a spring in it, and it's not rocket surgery. It just needs something to keep it there. Enter: a 4x40x1/8" set screw.... and a little 4x40 NC tap to make it fit. This tap is a perfect fit for the hole. So much so, that I ran the tap into the hole using nothing more than the multi-tool from my belt to grip it. In fact, I did it in my lap, while also chatting on the confuser, and had the plug installed in less than 5 minutes. The tap cut cleanly even while dry, almost scarily easy.
The tap and drill set, along with the vanishingly tiny plugs, came from Amazon. With less than $15 expended, I have the tools and parts to do the trick on this and the next three rifles I build.
I'm hoping the rest of the build goes this sweet!
(Now.... can someone point to where I might buy an A2 or A3 complete upper that doesn't cost more than just buying a whole new rifle?)