Author Archives: parvusimperator

Parvusimperator Reviews the F-22 Raptor

No fighter discussion would be complete without mentioning this one, even if it’s technically not available for the procurement games.

To understand the F-22, we should first look at the ATF, or the state of military aviation in the ’80s. The core of the USAF was the F-15 and the F-16. These were great fighters, but the Soviets had counters, namely the Su-27 and the MiG-29, which were at least the equals of the American fighters. In the maneuverability area, they might even be considered a bit ahead.

American doctrine was heavily invested in air superiority, and the USAF was always looking for the next big thing, so they put out a design concept for the ATF. It was to fly faster and higher than other fighters. Or, more precisely, to cruise higher. Speed is good, since speed is energy that can be converted into maneuvers. Energy is life. But supersonic speed meant afterburners, which burned fuel rapidly. So most fighters couldn’t sustain supersonic speeds for very long. The USAF’s idea was to use new engine technology to push the envelope of cruise speed, not maximum speed. The resulting fighter would not be faster than the Eagle, but it would be able to maintain supersonic speeds without lighting its afterburners (to “supercruise”). These engines would be designed to work at higher altitudes, because altitude can be converted into energy. Energy is life. Energy is winning.

Of course, there were secret projects in the works too, and so the USAF added stealth requirements. Stealth demanded careful shaping, special skin, and internal carriage of weapons. This helped the supercruise, since it reduced drag. A protracted development period due to the end of the cold war, and a competition between the Lockheed and Northrop Grumman entries eventually resulted in the F-22 we know today.

The F-22 is the king of the skies. Full stop. There is no better aircraft at aerial combat. None. Fighting with a Raptor really, really sucks. The Raptor has a massive, powerful, highly advanced, low-probability of intercept radar, and the obvious stealth features. So it’s going to see you first. And because it cruises at mach 1.2-1.4 at a higher altitude than you, the Raptor has the energy to decline any engagement it pleases, or dictate the range as it pleases.

If the Raptor chooses to engage BVR, as we’ve mentioned it’s going to get the first shot. It sees you first. It gets to position favorably. Plus, if you’ll recall, it’s flying higher and faster than you. So its missiles get that much more energy, because they start from a supersonic platform, and get a gravity assist as they dive down. Which is a great recipe for an intensely frustrating exercise. And by ‘exercise’, I mean ‘simulation of being smote by an angry god’.

But that’s BVR. The Raptor owns BVR. What if we force the merge and go to WVR? Probably by stipulating in the exercise rules that it’s a WVR fight, but still. Well, here go some of the advantages, though it’s still a massive pain to acquire a lock on the Raptor. At least you can see it. And you can engage with IR seekers, but not super well. Everybody dies in WVR. The Raptor is no exception. But it has the best aerodynamics of any fighter around, with a very high thrust/weight ratio and very low wing loading. It also has thrust vectoring. So even in WVR engagements, the Raptor is a winner more often than everybody else. It’s kill to death ratio at Red Flag is hilariously lopsided, and that’s against pilots who dogfight for a living.

If you’re thinking this is quite gushy, and excessively positive, you’d be right. I love this thing. But it’s not tops at everything. The internal weapons bays are somewhat limiting. The Raptor was designed around a warload of six AMRAAMs and two Sidewinders internally. This isn’t a bad loadout, though it could be bigger. However, those bays are not very deep. So the F-22 can’t carry much in the way of bombs. And it can’t carry any bombs that are all that big. The F-35 can’t carry many bombs, but it can carry two of just about any air to ground weapon you please. The F-22 is limited to bombs of 1,000 lbs or less, and that size class also rules out most standoff weapons. Plus, it only recently got ground-oriented radar modes. Ground attack is not its thing. Though the USAF is trying, and has made special small GPS-guided glide bombs so the Raptor can bomb more stuff.

Oh, and it’s out of production. Even when it was in production, it was super expensive. You could theoretically restart the production line, but that would cost a whole bunch of money. And the USAF only bought 187, which isn’t a lot. And there are have been issues with the onboard oxygen generating system, which have restricted that flight envelope. Those should be fixed by now.

So it’s an expensive, gold-plated, air-superiority fighter with gimped ground attack in a world of strike operations. Would we buy it?

Well, we can’t. Production lines were closed in 2011. Sorry. Blame Rumsfeld, not me.

Feels like a cop-out, doesn’t it? Okay, fine. Suppose they got their act together and started making them again. Raptors rolling off the production lines. Would we buy them?

Well, we still can’t. Even if the production lines were reopened, there’s a pesky act of Congress in the way. Really. There’s a law in the United States that says Thou Shalt Not Export the F-22. Even to one of America’s favorite and closest allies, like Japan or Australia or Israel. No Raptors for you.

Sigh.

Okay, that’s another cop-out, right? I’m still avoiding the question. Fine, fine. Remove both pesky intrusions of reality. Would. We. Buy. One?

We’d need a price, right? Well, let’s be awful and take the figure from an offhand quote of an Israeli Air Force general of $200 million, rather than the much more favorable wiki flyaway cost of $150 million. So. 200 million dollars a copy. Would we buy?

Hell fucking yeah, we’d buy.

Did you really think I’d say no to the greatest aerial combatant of all time? Are you mad?
We’d be all over this, if the above conditions were met. Even at $200 million. It’s got Wunderwaffe-class awesomeness. It’s also an absolutely beautiful fighter. It looks right. It is right.

Since this is a game, you might be thinking I should try to trade Fishbreath something so we can both skirt our self-imposed rules a little. He’d never go for it though. He doesn’t like spendy wunderwaffe.

Author’s Notes: This review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by Lockheed Martin, the Fighter Mafia, or members of the United States Air Force.

Engines for Armor: AVDS-1790

The AVDS-1790 is the descendant of the 1950s vintage AV-1790, from the days when American armored vehicles still used gasoline engines. It was redesigned to use diesel (the “D” in the initials) and use a supercharger (the “S” in AVDS) for more power. The supercharger has been replaced by a twin-turbocharger setup, and the engine has been refitted with modern, computer-controlled, common-rail fuel injection. Continental Motors, now a division of L-3, currently offers the AVDS-1790 in 750, 950, 1,050, 1,200, and 1,500 horsepower versions. The Israelis are big fans of the AVDS-1790, using it on most versions of the Merkava and on the Namer, as well as on their M48 and M60 tanks.

Note that the -1790 in the model number refers to the displacement of cubic inches1, not the horsepower or the torque.

At first glance, the AVDS is somewhat odd. It’s a rather big V-12 diesel. Yawn. It’s notably bigger than the other diesels you will find. But there’s a reason for that: the AVDS-1790 is air-cooled.

Air cooling provides some noteworthy advantages and disadvantages. The engine must be physically bulkier, because air cooling must be attached to the cylinders directly. You can’t pipe heat to a separate radiator. Liquid cooled engines will also see a higher amount of power for a given displacement. Liquid cooled engines are also easier to meet emissions targets with.

On the other hand, air cooled engines are lighter overall. They are significantly simpler, because there are no pumps. Further, and this is important for combat vehicle designers, they are more robust. Damage to cooling for one cylinder will not affect cooling from the other cylinders. The nature of an air-cooled system means it’s a lot easier to maintain, since the fins on the cylinders don’t need much in the way of maintenance.

The maintenance and ruggedness are what endear these engines to the Israelis. I’d be interested to learn more about the intake system on the Merkava, since this is a front-engined tank without the usual large amount of grillwork on the engine bay, and yet the air-cooled engines still work well.

I think most telling for the quality of the design is that having gone to the MTU883 in the Merkava IV, because a 1,500 hp version of the AVDS wasn’t designed yet, the IDF went back to the AVDS-1790 for the Namer.


  1. As is right and proper. Suck it, metric system. 

High Noon, No Limits

We’ve talked about a proposed Open-Division optimized Glock build, and a proposed Open-Division optimized 2011 build. Let’s look how they compare.

Cost
This one is pretty easy. Glock by far. Custom 2011 builds are expensive. Tuned 2011 mags are expensive. Glock magazines are not. And an Open Glock can be a good way to break into Open. I should know, I already made a small one.

Trigger
Also easy. 2011. It’s a bigger 1911. The trigger is very short. It can be made very light. It’s the textbook definition of ‘perfect semiautomatic pistol trigger.’1

Magazine Capacity
If we compare apples to apples (9 mm), the Glock gets 26 or 27 rounds in a 170 mm magazine. 2011s are dependent on tuning, but they usually get 29 or 30 rounds of 9 mm in a 170 with the current top parts.

Advantage: 2011.

Springs and Recoil Characteristics
Here, the old school roots of the 2011 come out in its favor. Remember, we’re trying to tune the springs, compensator, slide weight, and load to have as flat shooting a gun as possible. John Moses Browning designed the 1911 so that the slide action of cocking the hammer dissipates some recoil energy. As the slide comes back, the recoil force is dissipated by the recoil spring and the mainspring. Then, the recoil spring pushes the slide back into battery.

Surprisingly, this is easier to tune than a Glock. In the Glock recoil cycle, the recoil force is dissipated by the recoil spring. Easy enough. This spring the presses the slide back into battery. As it does so, it has to partially cock the striker, which means the recoil spring has to work against the striker spring. But the striker spring also provides power to set off primers. So the balance is more difficult to manage, given that we’re also compensating the pistol.

Advantage: 2011.

Caliber Considerations
For our apples to apples comparison, we’re looking at guns in 9×19 mm, loaded to Major power factor. Note that we could also get the Glock in .40 S&W, and the 2011 in .38 Super, .38 Super Comp,2 or .40 S&W. The 2011 has an advantage in being able to take 9×19 mm rounds with a greater overall length, which is a benefit for reloaders trying to make major. While .38 Super/Super Comp brass is quite a bit more expensive and harder to find, it’s a lot easier to load to major power factor, and unlike .40, no magazine capacity is given up.

Advantage: 2011.

Intangibles
A few other things that just kinda go here for me to think about.

I’d actually get to assemble most of the Glock parts. That’s fun. The 2011 would be built for me.

On the other hand, this means the 2011 would need less tuning out of the box. I’d get it, it would be ready to shred. And I’d have someone to call in the event of problems. On the Glock, I’d have to do a bunch of spring weight tuning myself after assembly.

Tuned 2011 mags tend to have issues with slides locking back prematurely. To maximize capacity, usually a follower is chosen that sits high in the magazine. This will often contact the slide stop early, and lock the slide back with a round left in the magazine. This is obviously very annoying. The simplest and most reliable fix is to modify the followers and slide stop to never lock back. Which is different from how must modern guns work3, but shouldn’t be a handicap in a competition, since you should be planning reloads.

That’s a lot of advantages for the 2011. There’s also lots of cost with the 2011. Makes sense. Pay to play. There’s a reason one of these is an optimum choice. There’s a reason why basically everyone at Open Nationals shoots some version of a 2011.

And then there’s one more thing. I’ve wanted a 2011 for a while. A 1911 without the capacity issues? Made to my specifications? That pushes a whole lot of my buttons in a great way.

So we’ll be placing a call for a custom 2011 in the not too distant future…


  1. At least from a shootability standpoint. But for a competition gun, that’s all that matters. 
  2. Basically .38 Super but with even less rim. Note that this is also a chambering difference as the chamber needs to headspace off the throat. 
  3. What is this, 1901? 

Taking it Two Eleven: The Custom Open 2011 Build

A few days ago, I talked about a race gun for Open, I considered making a more-competition optimized Open Glock. But then I got to thinking: none of the high-level shooters in Open shoot modded Glocks. K. C. Eusebio tried it for a while, but never really got it working well. His gun broke a lot. Now he, and other top Open competitors shoot custom-built 2011s1. This gives a crisp, sliding, superlight trigger, and the possibility of a heavy steel frame. Plus lots of tuning options and custom cosmetic stuff from an army of skilled gunsmiths. Gotta look cool in Open. What would a modern, balls-to-the-wall, custom 2011 for Open look like?

Step one is choose a gunsmith. I know my limitations. I don’t have the tools or knowhow to build a custom 2011. And I’d rather someone who already does experimentation come at it. He knows what works.

I picked Atlas Gunworks. There are a lot of great smiths out there, so this choice is a little arbitrary. Here’s why I went with Atlas:

  1. A good reputation amongst competition shooters at the BrianEnos Forums. Admittedly, most custom shops do. But if a smith doesn’t, well, that’s a red flag. So they passed the test.
  2. Atlas guys shoot USPSA matches. This is another check. Lots of builders do this. If you’re buying a gun for a purpose from a custom guy, he should probably do it too so he knows what works.
  3. Builds that look to be what I want. I would like options, and I would like someone who’s updating their designs. Check and check, but again, most already do this.
  4. Atlas has a bunch of great instructional videos about mag tuning and 2011 design aspects. So they know their stuff, and are willing to talk about it.
  5. Atlas has a very nice website that both showcases options and encourages you to call and chat. Perfect. I want a nice, approachable smith. And I want to see an options list and think, and then chat with them to work everything out. Exactly what I want.

Yeah, that’s a sort of arbitrary list. That’s ok. Lots of great smiths out there means your choice gets kind of arbitrary. And that’s okay. Nothing against any of the other smiths that I didn’t pick, really. Most everyone has a guy or two they like.

Okay, next we’re going to come up with a preliminary parts list. Remember, we’ll be calling once we get money in hand and are ready to go, so this might be subject to change. Again, that’s ok. It’s a custom build, and consulting experts is always a good idea.

  1. Long Frame/5.0″ build. This is a ‘short’ gun, with a shorter, “commander-length” barrel and less overall length (5.0″ rather than 5.4″ overall), and a long frame. We’re trying to keep the weight relatively low in the gun, and fight the nose-heaviness associated with a government-length bull barrel, government length slide, and compensator. We want mass to fight recoil, but we want to keep the gun balanced to improve transitions and bringing the gun to ready. Nose-heaviness doesn’t help us.

  2. Caliber: 9 mm. The modern open gun shoots hot 9 mm or .38 Super Comp to maximize the number of rounds per magazine. In both cases you probably have to reload. 9 mm brass is cheaper, so go 9 mm. I could be talked out of this though.

  3. Grip: Phoenix Trinity EVO. It’s machined out of steel, it’s one piece with a built in mainspring housing, and it doesn’t actually feature a grip safety.2 Oh, and its super comfortable. It even comes with an aggressive texture right out of the box. Steel here gives me more weight low in the gun, and that’s a win.

  4. Double Undercut Trigger guard. The better to get a high grip with.

  5. Slide Lightening. All of it. Less slide mass means less reciprocating mass means less felt recoil. Winning. This has to be balanced with spring weights, but there are two in a 1911/2011 to do it with: the recoil spring and the mainspring. We’ll let our awesome smiths make this work. It’s what they do.

  6. Optic: Leupold Deltapoint Pro. I like the Leupold Deltapoint a lot. Amongst the small micro-red dots, it’s the heavy favorite in carry optics for shooters without an optics sponsor. It’s durable enough to be mounted on a slide, it’s got a bright dot, it’s reliable, and it’s got a nice big window. Bigger than the RMR. In terms of carry dots, the RMR wins because it has much, much better battery life. For competition use, I don’t care as much. As a bonus, the Deltapoint Pro’s battery can be changed without removing it from its mount.

  7. Various Small Parts. Okay, now we get to boring stuff. Pick a safety you like, pick a big magwell, pick a big mag release, etc.

  8. Various final shaping and finish work. More boredom, at least for you, dear reader. Picking stuff to suit my tastes. I shan’t bore you with the details here either.

That covers our design. It’s gonna be expensive. And super awesome. Join us later for a shootout between this and a Race Glock.


  1. Technically this is an STI trade name for a high-capacity 1911 with double-stack magazines. But that’s a mouthful to type. I’m going to keep using ‘2011’ as a colloquialism, with the understanding that it may or may not be made by STI or even have STI parts. 
  2. There is a grip safety bit, but it’s fixed in the “down” position, so it is impossible to fail to depress it. It provides no safety. Sorry, redundant feature from the US Army Cavalry in 1910. 

Glockblaster 2: Glockblast Harder

Last time I visited Raceguns, I built with the constraint of keeping it at least semi-concealable. What if we dropped that requirement, made it for open-class shooting first?

We’ll need a base gun. We’re going with the Glock 22. This gives us the option to shoot .40 and make major power factor easily with factory ammo. Or we can drop in a 9 mm barrel and shoot 9 mm. Note that to properly switch from .40 to 9 mm, you’ll need to take an extra 30 seconds to swap extractors. Also, the beefier slide for shooting .40 is a little more comforting if we go to 9 mm major. We can always remove material, but it’s hard to put it back.

While the shorter slide of the Glock 19/23 makes it handle a little nicer with a red dot without comps, we’re going to be compensating this pistol, which will take away most of the advantage of the shorter slide. We’d still expect a lock-time advantage, but this is outweighed by the full-size grip of the 22 having a lot more magwell options. Also, I prefer the feel of the full size grip. Further, it’s easier to make a frame-mounted optic work well with a full size slide.

The Freya magwell on my heavily modified Glock 19 is very well made, but it didn’t make my reload times much faster. It’s not all that much bigger than the normal magazine opening. I do like it because it helps push my hand higher up on the gun, especially on the draw. I like this advantage, but it’s not really why one buys magwells. That’s true for the other concealment-type magwells too.

But on this one we’re not looking at the little concealment magwells. We’re looking for big mag funnels. Given the proliferation of 170mm length magazines from ETS and Magpul, I’m not going to worry too much about compatibility with basepads. Besides, that’s nothing a file wouldn’t fix. What we are going to look for as the differentiator is weight. Glocks are really lightweight, and we’d like to add non-moving mass to improve recoil characteristics. So we’re going with the SJC magwell, because it’s the biggest and heaviest we can find.

Next, we’re going to need an optic mount and optic. Free of the size constraint imposed by a desire to easily conceal the weapon, we can mount an optic on the frame, which will abuse our optic a lot less. Our mount is the ALG six second mount, which interfaces to the frame with the accessory rail, and by replacing one of the trigger pins. This will be more secure (and hold zero better) than mounting simply by attaching to the frame rail.

I like ALG’s products a lot, but the big driver towards picking the Six Second mount is my choice of optic: the Aimpoint T-1. I’m picking the T-1 because I want a bombproof optic with good adjustments, good battery life, and I actually like the closed tube design. I prefer not having to think about nature getting all over an emitter lens. Also, honestly, can C-More shorten their stupid Railway sights? Those look so 90s. They’re super popular on open guns though, so clearly I’m missing something.

The shorter Aimpoint T-1 will also not overhang the ejection port, so we won’t have to worry about tuning that. Win win.

This is going to need a compensator. Duh. It’ll be bigger than the one on our original Glockblaster because there’s more gas from the hotter .40 round, and we don’t care about length. We’ll go with the SJC Major Comp. Great reviews, very effective, and it even looks good.

We’ll need a threaded barrel, of course. I’m going to do this right. And I’m in no rush. So we’ll get match target barrels from Bar Sto, and have them professionally fitted.

Next, we’ll want an aftermarket guide rod. A steel one, again for weight reasons. More importantly, this will let us get the right weight recoil spring to go with our compensated barrels. We’ll get a bunch of spring weights and test.

I know what I like for triggers. Overwatch Precision’s DAT flat-face trigger with NP3-coated trigger bar, and the TTI Grandmaster spring/connector kit. That said, I might like to try something different. What is left to do? Well, some of the aftermarket trigger companies change the trigger bar/trigger shoe interface geometry. There’s a little bit of this done with the Overwatch triger, but if we go for a complete kit we can do more with that. Plus, I need to get all of the things like trigger housing and striker anyway. Might as well go with a kit from Zev or DK and see how that is.

Perfect, right? Well the problems K. C. Eusebio had with his open Glock got me to thinking…

Glockblaster Shooting AAR

I’ve spent more time with my Glockblaster since I last wrote about it. Since then, I’ve taken it to class, taken it to a two-gun match, taken it to a USPSA match, shot it a bunch on the range, and carried it frequently.

So let’s review, Q&A Style.

Is the red dot an improvement over iron sights?
Yes. The red dot is amazing. It does require practice, especially on the presentation, but it is a superior sighting system. It makes moving targets and long-range targets easy.

Does the compensator function as advertised, or is it just a barrel weight?
Yep! The compensator does its job. If dry and run with underpowered ammo, the gun may jam. The compensator definitely works to compensate using gasses. Note that a bigger compensator would be more effective, but then it would be harder to conceal and we’d have to mess with recoil spring weights. I’m running a stock recoil spring assembly, and the pistol functions well.

Is this gun as good as a 2011 in USPSA Open?
No. It comes close, but we can definitely get more performance out of the system. It’s not uncompetitive in Open, but it’s definitely suboptimal compared to a tuned 2011. It’s also a lot cheaper than a tuned 2011. And, requires a lot less tuning. Tuned 2011 mags are $130+, Glock mags are $20. At this point though, the limiting factor is definitely the knuckle-dragger behind the trigger. Yeah, I’ll probably get a custom 2011 someday, but for a guy getting started it’s fine.

Is this gun concealable?
Yes. It’s big, especially with the light. But not more so than a Glock 34 with light or government model 1911 with light. It’s no Ruger LCP, but it is concealable with a good holster and a little effort on one’s part.

How was the optic choice (RMR06)?
I really like the RMR for its class-leading battery life and durability. It’s got a smaller window than a number of competing sights, but I haven’t found this to be a big deal, given presentation practice and the compensator. I like having manual intensity control much more than automatic intensity control. Also, I really like the smaller dot size. That’s a preference thing, but mine is for the little dot.

How is the magwell?
The magwell is well made, but probably not worth it. It does help push my hand higher, and it closes off the gap at the back of the frame. Those are nice. It doesn’t make the magazine opening that much bigger, so I don’t notice much difference on my reloads. That said, I also suck at fast reloads, so maybe I’ll see a difference down the line with more practice. I will say that I have had zero problems with the magwell either coming loose, or not working with magazines. All magazines I’ve tried work fine, even stock Glock 19 mags with factory basepads. No problems inserting those.

Is the flat face trigger worth it?
Oh yeah. Love the trigger. It feels way better than stock. If you’re on the fence for this one, go for it. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Do I regret not getting a lot of slide work done?
Well, my slide doesn’t have front cocking serrations, windows, or little skulls. I don’t care. It’s got the RMR milling, cerakote over the milled surface to fight rust, and that’s it. Don’t need anything else. Also, why bother with front cocking serrations when you have a milled mount for an RMR? It’s a sight with a bonus cocking handle built right in.

TTPs: On the Flinch

A few weeks ago I had a good friend come by for a visit. She had never fired a gun before, and was keen to learn to do so. I grabbed a couple guns from my safe, some ammo, and headed to a nice indoor range. She quickly took a liking to my Glock 17 with RMR. As we were shooting, she noticed her shots were moving down the target. From where I was standing in the lane, it was clear she was flinching. Let’s talk about how to fight the flinch.

First, what I did not do:

  1. I did not simply tell her to “Stop Flinching”. It’s not a conscious thing.

  2. I did not break out the snap caps for a bunch of ball and dummy work. Ball and dummy drills are useful if you are trying to diagnose a flinch. Once the flinch is diagnosed (which I had already done), they are worse than useless, because the ball and dummy drill makes you very aware of an unconscious reaction, and your efforts to fight it usually make it worse. Maybe this works for you. It has never worked for me.

Now, on to what I did. First, I talked through what was going on. It’s natural to be a little flinchy. There’s an explosion going off in your hands. It’s ok. We just have to learn to get past that.

I also noticed that she had a backwards lean to her stance, and she had a tendency to pause her trigger press partway through to fix sight alignment. From personal experience, I know this leads to a suboptimal trigger press. Often, we end up jerking the shot when we do this. And this gave me an idea.

I directed her to lean forward a little to help absorb recoil. Then, the gun (even a 9 mm) wouldn’t feel like it was pushing her off balance. I find thinking of a fighting stance helpful for those with martial arts experience. Or, “nose over toes” if that resonates better with the student. This is often counterintuitive for students who don’t think of themselves as “big”. They think they’ll want to lean back to keep balance while lifting the weapon. But the weapon isn’t all that heavy, and they’re not going to be holding it up for hours. Leaning back maximizes the ability of the weapon to push them off balance, which will reinforce the flinch. We don’t want that.

Next, I talked trigger pull. I spent some time on this, and directed her to really focus on not stopping. If you find yourself stopping, take your finger off the trigger, take a couple deep breaths, and try again. Continuous press. Do not stop. I wanted to give her something else to focus on that wasn’t the flinch. I’ve found trying to tell myself over and over to not do something usually makes me do the thing. So it’s easier to work with “Do something else”.

In this case, it worked great. Got a lot of that flinch out, and her shooting improved. So the next time you’re struggling with the flinch, try focusing on something else.

The Five Seven is Stupid

It’s true. The FN Five Seven1 is profoundly stupid. Too stupid to have a good time.

There’s nothing really good about it. If you hold one, you’ll notice that the grip is quite long. The better to accommodate the longish 5.7×27 mm rounds. It’s awkwardly long, and it’s fat at the back, narrowing at the front. So, vaguely egg shaped, if you were to look at it from the top. Nothing else is like that, and there’s a reason for that. They could have made it a long oval like a 1911. People like that. Or even something squarish like a Glock or USP. Both of which work well for people. But no.

The trigger is awful. Apparently you’re pulling the trigger bar across the whole Sahara desert. It’s mushy, gritty, and creepy. Nothing redeeming about it.

The slide release is weird. Like everything else about the gun, it’s plastic. Or polymer. Whatever. But it gives absolutely no feedback. It doesn’t feel like it’s a lever. You press on it, and it feels like a solid molded protrusion. Until you press down like it owes you money. And then it will release the slide. It’s too small. It really doesn’t do its one job.

The safety on the Five Seven is proof that a frame mounted safety can be done extremely stupidly. It’s directly above the trigger. You can reach it with the tip of your trigger finger. Or your weak hand thumb. No one else does this. It’s unintuitive. It’s easy to engage accidentally, and engagement isn’t even positive. If anything, it’s negative. It’s everything a safety shouldn’t be.

How does it shoot? Well, recalling the time I spent on a range renting one, it’s ok. The sucky trigger made me sad. The round has good paper punching ballistics. Very flat shooting. So, that’s a plus.

At least, as long as you’re made of money. It’s an expensive pistol that shoots expensive, hard to find ammo. Terminal performance of actual rounds that have seen service is atrocious. Maybe defensible in the P90 when you can riddle the bad guy’s face with 15 in a second, but not so good for a pistol. You get 20, though, so there’s that. It’s also very loud for what it is. So it’s a poor choice for the recoil-averse, even though there’s no recoil. That bang and flash will induce flinches anyway.

I think the biggest indictment of the Five Seven is that both Fishbreath2 and I should like it, and both of us don’t. At all. It’s a hipster gun that’s ultramodern and grew out of the last years of the cold war. It’s flat shooting. It should be our favorite thing since the 9 mm Luger round. But no. It’s a super expensive curiosity. It doesn’t really do anything well that you can’t get elsewhere.

Except, I guess, be the Ultimate Status Item for drug lords. It’s got that going for it.


  1. No, I’m not going to capitalize it the way the FNH Marketing department wants. That’s stupid too. 
  2. It really is a terrible piece of kit, and something I wanted to like. I just can’t bring myself to it. The controls are awful, and I am this blog’s resident AK shooter. -Fishbreath 

M4A1 PIP vs HK 416A5

We talked a little bit about the M4A1 PIP before. Let’s compare it to the popular and successful HK 416A5.

The 416A5 is the latest variant of HK’s version of the M4. It’s available in a number of barrel lengths, but to try to keep this comparison as objective and direct as possible, we’re going to compare carbines with the same barrel length: 14.5 inches.

While the 416A5 is a production weapon, the M4A1 PIP isn’t. So I’ll have to make some guesses as to what it might have looked like in an approved format. In the above article, I made some guesses:

  1. “SOCOM” profile (a medium profile) barrel
  2. Safe/Semi/Full Auto Trigger Group
  3. Daniel Defense M4 RIS II (12″)
  4. Cut down pinned gasblock (as on Colt 6920-OEM2)
  5. Knight’s Armament folding front and rear backup iron sights
  6. H2-weight buffer
  7. B. E. Meyers 249F flash suppressor

Pretty simple. I chose those parts because all of those have NSNs, and are already-approved accessories, and Colt already makes guns with that particular low-profile gas block. I keep going back and forth on the notion of changing the stock, and settled on not changing it mostly to keep things simple. The obvious stock alternative is the SOPMOD stock, however I couldn’t find anything on stock changes, so I opted to be simple and leave the existing stock. The SOPMOD stock weighs 11.5 ounces, which is about 4.4 ounces (0.275 lbs) more than the regular stock.

Let’s compare them. Both carbines are capable of semiautomatic and fully automatic fire. Both carbines do not have a burst feature. Both carbines have collapsible stocks. Both carbines offer quadrail handguards. The M4A1 PIP has a 3″ longer handguard (12″ compared to the 416A5’s 9″ handguard), but both are longer than the 7″ RAS/RIS handguard currently present on the M4.1 Both fire the same 5.56×45 mm round.

Doing a weight comparison, the M4A1 PIP weighs 6.99 lbs as above, unloaded and without optic. The 416A5 weighs 7.68 lbs unloaded and without optic, which comes to a weight difference of 0.69 lbs. Where does the weight difference come from?

Both rifles have medium-profile, 14.5″ barrels. The 416 also has a short-stroke gas piston system and a heavy handguard, both of which add weight. The stock of the 416 is also a bit heavier.

Carrying more weight sucks. But weight can also bring advantages. Bearing in mind the following destructive tests had a sample size of one, let’s see what weight helps with.

On a standard M4, firing 140 rounds rapidly and continuously will raise the temperature of the barrel to the cook-off point. At this temperature, any live round remaining in the chamber for any reason may cook-off (detonate) in as little as 10 seconds.

What if you keep going cyclic? What if you’re desperate? Colt tested this in 1996, and discovered that the barrel on a standard M4 (with full auto trigger group) will burst after 596 rounds fired cyclic. That’s just under twenty magazines worth of rounds. That is a lot.

The M16A2 (also with a full auto trigger group) was also tested to destruction. Its barrel burst after 491 rounds. That’s also a lot, though less than the M4.

The M4A1 with the heavier SOCOM-profile barrel will fail after it has fired 840 rounds cyclic. In this case, the barrel won’t burst, but the gas tube will fail. If this was a problem, you could conceivably use a beefier gas tube. Or accept that this is good enough, since a soldier’s basic load is 210 rounds.

Unfortunately, I can’t find much in the way of good data on when the HK416 (or the M27 for that matter) fails if it’s run cyclic until it chokes. I do know that it’s “more than 900 rounds” but that’s the best I’ve got. This makes sense: the barrels are similarly beefy, and eventually the op-rod/piston will fail. Or the barrel will. Waste heat sucks.

So what do I think? Well, a good part would depend on what price you could get both guns for. But if you could get the M4A1 PIP as a package from Colt for any price that isn’t exorbitantly over that of the 416A5, I’d probably go with the M4A1 PIP. I like less weight, and I really don’t think the piston system gets you all that much for your trouble.

That goes triple if you already have M4s/M16s in your procurement system, since you can just swap uppers (and trigger groups if you have that infernal burst mechanism).


  1. We could have used a 9″ quadrail on the M4A1 PIP, but that would have increased its weight advantage, and we would have had to pick a handguard that isn’t currently in the inventory. The DD M4 RIS II 12″ handguard is already in the system, as the handguard for SOPMOD Block II upper. Also, note that I don’t have a weight figure for a 416 with an extended handguard. 

Unmanned Autocannon Turrets

There’s a big interest in remote weapons stations for machine guns, since they let you use the guns without exposing yourself to enemy fire. Their bigger brothers, unmanned autocannon turrets, are also increasing in popularity, because they’re a cost effective way to add firepower to vehicles. Let’s look at some options. Alas, costs are unavailable, so you’ll just have to guesstimate.

EPOCH
First, Russia’s Epoch turret. It’s used on the T-15 Armata Heavy IFV, plus the Kurganets IFV, and could probably be retrofitted on to other things. It’s got a 30×165 mm autocannon with 500 rounds of ready ammunition (dual feed with one 160 round box and one 340 round box), a 7.62x54R mm machine gun with 2,000 rounds of ready ammo, and four Kornet-EM ATGM tubes. The gunner has a day/thermal sight with laser rangefinder. The commander has an independent day/thermal sight with laser rangefinder as well. I do not have information on whether or not these are Gen 3 thermal sights. No secondary remote weapon station is fitted for the commander. Epoch is not protected against autocannon fire. It is fully (i.e. biaxially) stabilized. Eight smoke grenade launchers are fitted. It is capable of high-elevation fire. It does not appear that reloading the turret is possible from under armor. Also, even though it lacks armor, given it’s bulk and ammo reserves, I would expect it to be heavy. Also, relatively expensive. But it does have the most firepower of any turret on our list.

MCT-30
This is the turret that the US Army is fitting to some of its Stryker vehicles for more firepower. It’s made by Kongsberg, out of Norway, and it has a lot of options. The gun is a 30×173 mm autocannon, with 150 rounds of ready ammunition (dual feed with a pair of 75 round boxes). There’s also a coaxial 7.62×51 mm machine gun with 600 rounds of ready ammo. ATGM launchers are available as an optional extra. The gunner’s sight is the usual day/thermal with laser rangefinder. An independent commander’s sight, or a Commander’s Remote Weapons Station, are available as optional extras. The basic turret has negligible protection, but the turret can be provided with protection against up to 30 mm autocannon rounds (STANAG Level 6) as another optional extra. High-angle fire is another optional extra feature, as are threat detection systems and active protection systems. All versions can be reloaded from under armor. We’d expect weight and cost to vary significantly based on desired feature set. It’s not a bad turret, but we wish it could accommodate more autocannon ammunition. A pity that’s not another optional extra. Full stabilization is standard.

Samson RCWS-30
This is an Israeli turret, currently in use on the Czech Pandur II. It’s very barebones, without any kind of protective shell. It comes with 200 rounds of 30×173 mm (in a 140 and a 60 round box), a 7.62×51 mm machine gun with a 460 round box, and a pair of tubes for Spike ATGMs. The turret is fully stabilized and a commander’s independent sight is available. A commander’s remote weapon station is not available. There are no protection options available for this model. On the other hand, it’s only 1,400 kg ready to fight. Also, since it’s an exposed gun and feed systems, it can be fitted with any other autocannon system. Conceivably, one could also increase the ammunition capacity, but that might require more powerful traverse and elevation motors. It is capable of high angle fire as well. This is probably my favorite turret from an ‘add more firepower’ standpoint, since it’s light, cheap, and provides balanced firepower.

Lance-RC
The unmanned version of the German Lance turret, the -RC variant is very nearly identical to the turret mounted on the Puma. It comes with a 30×173 mm gun with 200 ready rounds (dual feed, but I haven’t found box sizes), a 7.62×51 mm coaxial machine gun (probably about 650-700 rounds based on the Puma’s capacity for 5.56), and the option for a pair of Spike missiles. It’s got STANAG Level 6 protection out of the box, and excellent optics for the gunner and an independent sight for the commander. It can also be fitted with additional cameras to improve situational awareness or a laser-based jamming system as part of a soft-kill APS. As you might expect, it’s heavy and expensive. But it’s also very nicely equipped.

Of the NATO compatible turrets, what you’re trying to do will determine which you buy. Platform and transportability requirements will also impact your decision.