Tag Archives: projects

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? 

A Fishy Race Gun Shootout: Beretta 96A1 vs. CZ P-09

In previous posts, we’ve looked at two options for USPSA Limited competition: the Beretta 96, and the CZ P-09. Now it’s time to decide which one I’m going to build in the 2017-2018 offseason. Two guns enter. One gun leaves.

Likely trigger characteristics

Beretta 96
I know that the 92-pattern pistols have acceptable triggers as far as creep goes, and thanks to the Wilson Combat trigger bar and lightened hammer, the 96 can handle a tremendous reduction in hammer spring weight. The double-action pull is long and takes a lot of reaching, but the single-action pull is just fine.

CZ P-09
At present, I haven’t handled a P-09 specifically. I have dry-fired a CZ 75, and my impression about that was that CZ’s factory triggers are much lighter than Beretta’s, if perhaps a bit lower-quality. The action tuning I have planned for the P-09 ought to take care of that, and I expect the end result to be extremely light.

The Victor: CZ. Obviously, having not built either of these guns yet, I can’t say this for sure, but I expect the improvements to be similar, and the CZ starts from a better position.

Likely shooting characteristics

Beretta 96
The Beretta is the heavier gun out of the box, and that weight is better distributed both forward and backward and up and down, especially when taking into consideration newly-added steel parts. The 92-pattern pistols point and present very naturally for me, and given the massive amount of material already missing from their slides, are known to have a low flippiness factor.

CZ P-09
The P-09 is not dramatically lighter, only three ounces. Even though the proposed magazine well is aluminum instead of steel, it ought to suffice to level the playing field. That weight is also less evenly distributed, given the construction; like most polymer-framed pistols, it’ll be top-heavy compared to the Beretta when empty. CZs are known for their low bore axes, and that should help keep muzzle flip down.

The Victor: Toss-up. Both seem similar.

Magazines and magazine wells

Beretta 96
Here, the Beretta gives up some ground. Given the two-round improvement from the MecGar extension (which makes total magazine height about 130mm instead of the USPSA Limited-regulated 140mm), I suspect that the 17 rounds is perfectly plausible, given the MecGar spring and follower plus a custom-made 140mm extension. It may even be possible to get as far as 19, with a custom, flat-wire spring and a reduced follower. Only giving up two rounds of capacity against a tricked-out 20111 is nice, but it would take a lot of work, of which none has, at present, been done. The magazine well situation is also pretty bad. Beveling is about the best you can do, and that doesn’t get you much of a funnel, and in fact reduces your weight.

CZ P-09
The parts may be expensive, but the P-09 has options for large-capacity competition magazines and magazine wells. 21 rounds of .40 S&W in a 140mm magazine is entirely competitive with widebody 1911s. It might be nice to have a steel magazine well option in terms of weight, but the aluminum funnel is perfectly functional and large enough to make a difference in ease of magazine insertion.

The Victor: CZ.

Parts availability

It isn’t even close here, so I won’t bother with headers for each pistol. CZ Custom makes just about everything you might want, including a whole bevy of improved action parts, and Cajun Gun Works goes further still. The only aftermarket parts maker for Beretta guns is Wilson Combat, with the occasional spring from Wolff, and neither has anything like the same variety you can get for the P-09. Given CZ’s popularity on the competitive circuit, it seems likeliest to me that the situation will only tilt further in the P-09’s favor in the future.

The Victor: CZ.

Tinkering potential

Beretta 96
The tinkering potential for the Beretta excites me. Since so little can be found from the factory, I’d get to experiment with actual gunsmithery. At a minimum, I’d eventually want to design a custom 140mm floor plate for the magazine, along with a smaller follower. I’d also want to find a flat-wire spring (for minimum compressed height) to push capacity as far as I can. There would be fun 3D printing of prototypes and, eventually, 3D-printing-as-a-service of metal parts. I could do, for instance, a proper magazine funnel, too. If I wanted to move up to Open, I would have to work up an even bigger magazine extension to fit the 170mm limit.

CZ P-09
Tinkering on the CZ is more about buying and installing parts, and tuning what’s already on the gun. There’s less call for building things from scratch, because most of it already exists. I would still have to build 170mm magazines to play in Open effectively.

The Victor: Beretta.

Ergonomics

Beretta 96
I’ve extolled the Beretta’s pointability and presentation before, but the magazine release is a bit of a reach for me.

CZ P-09
Having not handled a P-09, I can’t say if I’d like it or not. The controls are different than my Production gun (an M9), so I have to ding it for that.

The Victor: Toss-up.

Suitability for Limited

Beretta 96
After the modifications discussed in the article, poor to average. The magazine capacity deficit means I would have to reload one or two times more than a 2011 shooter in your average USPSA stage, at a penalty of 2-3 seconds per reload. That will materially affect my performance in the long run. Also, even with a decocker conversion, I have to take the first shot as a double-action shot, which requires practicing a second trigger pull.

After developing better 140mm magazines, average to good.

CZ P-09
After the modifications discussed in the article, great. The magazine capacity is competitive with the guns at the highest end of the field. The trigger ought to be at least comparable, though it will still give something up to a tuned 1911 trigger. With the safety installed, the P-09 can be carried cocked and locked, removing the requirement for a double-action pull2.

The Victor: CZ.

Suitability for Ghetto Open

It’s difficult to separate the guns for Ghetto Open. In that division, I’m not aiming to compete quite as much; .40 S&W is often seen as a compromise when .38 Super and 9mm Major are on the table, for reasons of magazine capacity. For both guns, I’d have to mount an optic to the accessory rail on a cantilever mount. There are good solutions for that problem, though John might disagree, but it’s less ideal than mounting directly to the frame. For both guns, I’d have to work up a 170mm magazine. With the CZ, I can just stretch the 140mm extension. For the Beretta, the same applies; I’d just have to build my own 140mm extension first.

The Victor: Toss-up.

Intangibles

Beretta 96
As I said in its article, it’s cool, and it’s pretty. It has vintage cred, and is likely to attract more attention on the range, simply because it’s a well-known gun but not an ordinary competition one.

CZ P-09
It’s still a hipster competition gun—a hammer-fired, polymer-framed CZ pistol which is not a 75 or derivative. It’s doesn’t have the cachet of a Beretta, nor is it half as pretty.

It’s also $300 cheaper. In fact, if you ignore the magazines3, the CZ race gun with all the trimmings comes in under $1000—a pretty tremendous price point by any standard.

The Victor: Beretta. The CZ just doesn’t have the cool factor.

Conclusions

On the scorecard we have a CZ victory, 4-2-3. This puts me in an interesting spot. Truth be told, before I did this comparison, I wanted to build the Beretta. As parvusimperator said when we were working up this article series, “It speaks to you more.” And it does. I do very much want to return to the Beretta race gun someday.

The end of the previous paragraph gives away the game, though. My goal shooting USPSA is not merely to improve my own shooting. I want to improve my shooting relative to the rest of the USPSA—I want to be competitive. The Beretta could get me there, but especially in reloading, it’s a handicap the CZ isn’t. It’s also, as I mentioned, much cheaper, to the point where I could buy a case of .40 S&W and a proper aft-cant drop competition holster for the CZ before I even get to the Beretta’s price.

So that’s where I find myself. This winter, I’ll be building a CZ P-09 race gun. Maybe in a few years, I’ll put together a Beretta 96 Limited 10 blaster, and work on some of the other tinkering at the same time. Until then, though, the Production-class M9 will have to do for my competitive Beretta shooting. I could maybe justify building the Limited 96 if it were a little more expensive and just as effective. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more expensive, and I’m forced to admit it’s also not as good. The P-09 wins the day.


  1. The largest-capacity 2011 140mm magazines I’ve seen are 21 rounds. 
  2. I’ve heard good things about tuned CZ double action, though. It may be the case that I can get away with the decocker instead, which reduces the number of things to do on the way from the holster to the target. 
  3. Humor me. 

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. 

A Fishy Race Gun Proposal: CZ P-09

In my first post on the Fishy Race Gun of 2018, I laid out my plan for a Beretta 96 competition gun. I said there that a new contender had shown itself, and here we are: the CZ P-09. Since I’ve already justified myself in the previous article as far as building a race gun goes, let’s jump straight into the parts.

The Parts

CZ P-09 .40 S&W
Although CZ is a common name in competition handguns, the P-09 is decidedly unusual in that realm. The P-09 is a full-size polymer-frame pistol in the same pattern as the earlier, compact P-07. Like all of CZ’s pistols, the slide rides inside the frame, rather than outside as is the norm. CZ claims this has myriad benefits. For myself, I find it interesting from a design perspective. I have nothing to say on the relative merits.

Unlike the Beretta 96, the P-09 has nicely capacious magazines from the factory. The flush-fit .40 S&W magazines hold fifteen, the same as MecGar’s extended Beretta 96 magazines. It also comes in decocker configuration from the factory, with parts in the box to switch to a non-decocker safety. (That is, a safety which supports being in the holster cocked and locked.) That’s a major competitive advantage over the Beretta. All the guts, including the trigger, are steel, and even the double-action trigger reach is significantly shorter than the 92-platform pistol1. Finally, the P-09 is a recent design, and CZ, by way of CZ Custom, provides a great deal of ‘aftermarket’ support even for unpopular pistols.

As a polymer-frame pistol from a cheap foreign country, as opposed to an alloy frame from an expensive one, the P-09’s street price is about $440. Call it $490 shipped and transferred.

Sights
Cajun Gun Works, the premier non-CZ Custom CZ gunsmith, provides blacked-out rear sights and a fiber-optic front blade for $80.

Extended magazine release
I haven’t yet held a P-09, so I don’t know if the extended magazine release is important. That said, it probably is, since my thumbs are small. Cajun Gun Works sells one for $40.

Trigger tuning
Unfortunately, there is no all-in-one kit for trigger tuning, unlike Wilson Combat’s Beretta kit. I’ll have to assemble it myself from parts from Cajun Gun Works. First up: their competition spring kit, which includes a firing pin spring, a firing pin block spring, and two reduced power hammer springs (15lb and 13lb, down from stock 20lb). That comes to $25.

While I’m in there, I’d also want to do the Cajun Gun Works short reset kit. It includes an extended firing pin, which serves to make the lighter hammer strike more effective at setting off primers, as well as an improved firing pin retaining spring, and an enhanced disconnector and lifter. The kit costs $75.

Finally, I’d put in a reduced-power trigger return string for $7. The trigger tuning comes in total to $107.

Other internal gubbins
Cajun Gun Works makes an improved hammer which purports to reduce creep in the single-action trigger pull, which costs $90.

Magazine well
Unlike the Beretta 96, the P-09 has a properly funnel-like magazine well available through CZ Custom. It requires a special hammer spring plug ($15) and costs $75 itself, for $90 total. Also, it looks properly race-gun.

Magazines
Now we come to the pain point. A Beretta 96 15-round .40 S&W magazine is between $20 and $30, depending on where you go. A factory CZ P-09 15-round magazine is $50. Fortunately, it comes with two in the box. Unfortunately, I’d want to order two more, and turn three of them into high-capacity competition magazines. Each high-capacity magazine requires a $38 base pad extension and an $18 spring and follower kit. The less high-capacity magazine still requires the extended base pad to fit in the magazine well2.

Let’s break it down. I need to buy two magazines ($100 total). I need three extended magazine kits ($56 each, $168 total) to hit my capacity goal of 60 rounds on the belt3. Finally, I need one magwell base pad sans the spring kit ($38).

In total, magazines and related accoutrements will cost a staggering $306. It’s worth noting that Limited-ready P-09 magazines cost about $100 per, provided you have no starting materials. That’s in rarefied company, not much cheaper than your high-end 2011 magazines.

Finishing
I see less need for it on the P-09, which is, let’s be honest, a profoundly ugly gun4. That said, CZ finishes its suppressor-ready 9mm P-09s in a lovely Urban Grey, which goes some distance toward making the gun merely inoffensive. A similar gray or dingy white on the frame, grips, and magwell would be nice. The local cerakote shop would charge about $200 for that, including the armory fees5.

In total, the P-09 race gun costs around $1200, again less cerakote costs. It lacks the pedigree6 of the Beretta 96, and has a much smaller cool factor. It’s also quite a bit cheaper, to the point that the difference could cover a case of .40 S&W and a competition holster.

Where does that leave me? With two solid options, each with a lot to recommend it. The only thing for it is a good old-fashioned shootout post. Stay tuned!


  1. It’s a hair over three millimeters longer than the Glock’s reach. 
  2. This is not strictly true, but I see no reason to spend $26 on the normal base pad when a mere $12 gets me the full 140mm. 
  3. Why the fourth magazine? It’s nice to have a spare so you can load the chamber without downloading one of your full-capacity magazines. 
  4. Not quite as bad as a Glock, though. 
  5. Something like this would be nifty, but probably more than I would want to pay. 
  6. CZ has a long history of competition, it’s true; it’s just the P-09 in particular has very little competitive history. 

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…

A Fishy Race Gun Proposal: Beretta 96

In my review of the Beretta M9, I teased that I would be looking into a true competition gun based on the Beretta 92 platform. In this article, I’ll go into it a little deeper.

Why?

Why build a race gun at all? I like USPSA. (More on that later.) I like tinkering. I don’t want to be boring and buy the same gun everyone else is using1. There you have it. As I’ve said in the past, I like Beretta 92 platform. It points naturally for me, and my M9 is one of the softer-shooting 9mm firearms I’ve handled. (Obviously. It’s enormous and heavy.)

Given that I find myself really enjoying USPSA, I want to explore some of the other divisions. Given that I don’t have $2500 to spend on a 20112, nor much experience with the 1911 platform, nor much interest in learning how to tinker with the 1911 platform, I don’t have much reason to go in the traditional direction. Given, finally, that the thing slowing me down is not the handgun but rather my limited skill, I don’t mind slightly suboptimal equipment.

Since the kinds of race-y modifications I’m considering take me out of USPSA Production, the obvious place to aim is Limited, where scoring depends on power factor, and 9mm Major isn’t allowed. I need to do a little testing to verify, but my suspicion is that I’ll be insignificantly slower shooting .40 S&W, and the more forgiving scoring will help me out.

So, let’s look at the parts.

The Parts

Beretta 96A1
We’ll start with the gun itself. The Beretta 96 was the first 92-pattern gun chambered for .40 S&W, which is the minimum caliber required for shooting Limited Major in USPSA. The original 96, being simply a 92 with a larger-bore barrel, did not cover itself in acclaim. It was, in fact, oft-maligned for falling apart. The 96A1, a 2010 refresh of the design, solved many of the issues, adding a recoil buffer in addition to heavier construction elsewhere. As a recent design made of alloy, rather than plastic, its street price is about $675. Figure $725, shipped and transferred. Stock magazine capacity is twelve, going up to fifteen with MecGar’s extended jobbers.

The 96A1 also features a front sight dovetail, which brings me to my next item.

Sights
The traditional sighting system for Limited guns is blacked-out rear sights and a fiber-optic front sight. Wilson Combat sells just such a setup for the 96A1, coming to about $1003.

Trigger
Quite a bit going on here. The stock Beretta trigger is plastic, which doesn’t bother me overmuch, and bends a long way forward, which makes it difficult for me to get a good finger on it for the double-action pull. Wilson Combat and Beretta both make an identical steel trigger which features a less aggressive forward bend and a shorter overall reach.

While I’m working in the trigger well, I plan to remove the factory trigger return spring and replace it with a reduced-power unit, to score an easy improvement in trigger pull weight.

The trigger and reduced-power return spring come to about $50.

Action tuning
Wilson Combat sells an action tune kit for $80, which includes three options for lightened hammer springs, a trigger bar, and a chrome-silicon trigger return spring. As far as I can tell, this kit is the only way to get the Wilson trigger bar, which is an important part of tuning lightened trigger pulls.

It goes like this: you install a reduced-power hammer spring. (The kit includes a 12lb spring, down from the 20lb factory spring.) Your gun no longer reliably ignites primers. You install the trigger bar, which lengthens the hammer arc and delivers more impulse to the firing pin.

This is one of the most important mods for a competition gun, and would probably bring the double action pull weight well under ten pounds, and the single-action pull weight to the vicinity of three or four, much better than stock.

Skeleton hammer
The skeleton hammer not only looks cool, it also masses less than the factory hammer. A given spring therefore drives it more quickly, which helps to reduce lock time and increase the energy delivered to the firing pin. $30 from Beretta.

Steel guide rod
This isn’t all that necessary, but I prefer steel parts where I can get them. It also does a little to combat muzzle rise, being a heavier-than-stock part out near the muzzle. $25 from Wilson Combat.

Extended magazine release
As I mentioned in the M9 review, I can’t reach the factory magazine release from shooting position. Wilson Combat makes one which would fit right under my thumb. $50.

Magazine guide
The hammer spring block on 92-pattern pistols normally has a lanyard loop. Wilson Combat makes a magazine guide instead, a sloped piece to guide misses aft into the magazine well. $50.

Gunsmith work
Living near Pittsburgh as I do, Allegheny Arms is within driving distance. As one of the premier Beretta gunsmiths of the modern day, they offer two services of which I want to take advantage. First is a decocker conversion. For a carry gun, I like having a manual safety. For a gun whose sole purpose is competition, I want to do as little as possible coming out of the holster.

Finally, I’m not great at reloads, and any little bit helps. Allegheny Arms will do a fairly aggressive magazine well bevel. It isn’t a full-on magazine funnel, but combined with the Wilson Combat magazine guide, it would meaningfully improve my first-try reload percentage. All together, the gunsmith work comes to $285.

Magazines
The stock Beretta magazines are useless for Limited. To start off, I’d want to buy four MecGar 15-round magazines for a total stage capacity of 60 rounds. That adds $100 to the total. Eventually, I’d probably want to experiment with custom followers and longer extensions4, but given that I could spend an essentially unlimited amount of money tilting at that particular windmill, we’ll leave it off for now.

Finishing
Beretta’s stock finish is fine, but I’ve always wanted a Flat Dark Earth or Desert Sand Beretta. Leaving it at the local cerakote shop costs about $300 for barrel, slide, and frame, plus armory services.

If you’re keeping track, that puts me at right about $1500, not including the cerakote finish. (That seems fair. It’s completely unnecessary, so I could always do it later.) That cost includes some shipping, but maybe not all of the shipping, and of course fixes the value of my time at zero5. In return, I get a Beretta competition pistol, more or less the pinnacle of the platform, for about half of a reasonable 2011 build. It’s what you might call vintage—Beretta hasn’t been properly popular on the competition circuit since the 1990s. It has a tremendous amount of cool factor for me, a massive Beretta fanboy, and even parvusimperator would agree that the 92-pattern pistols are pretty.

So, why haven’t I started building it? Well, a forum post brought a new contender to my attention, and the choice turns out to be harder than I expected. Stay tuned. Next week, we’ll have a look at another Fishy race gun idea, and the week after, we’ll decide which one it’s going to be.


  1. Sometimes, people settle on a given platform because it’s the best. Competition frequently, but not always, finds that platform. For instance, the downforce revolution in Formula 1 came after a long period of mechanical-grip-only racing. We understood aerodynamics, and there were no rules preventing it. It was just that nobody thought to try it. 
  2. Probably can barely even get a used model from a reputable maker at that price. 
  3. I’ll borrow parvusimperator’s sight pusher. If he doesn’t have one, I’ll borrow his brass punches. 
  4. Woo, 3D printing! 
  5. If I consider building a gun leisure, I think that’s reasonable. 

Glock Trigger Pull Mods

I have an awesome and heavily customized Glock 19. It’s awesome. And it would get even awesomer if I had an improved trigger. One of the things I noticed at the high level pistol class I took was that I was the only one running a stock Glock trigger. There were lots of tuned Glock and tuned M&P triggers, plus a PPQ (which has a great stock trigger, something like a tuned Glock). So let’s play around a bit.

First, let’s talk what the trigger pull actually has to do. When you pull the trigger, you finish cocking the striker (at rest, it’s partially cocked). This is done by pulling against the striker spring, of course. Your pull is assisted by the trigger spring, which provides some extra pulling force to help you.1 The path of the sear is controlled by a little bit of bent metal called the connector. At the appropriate time, the connector guides the sear down, the striker is released, and a bullet comes flying out of the muzzle.

Second, let’s talk safeties. Actual, mechanical safeties. The Glock has three things that perform safety functions. First, is the little lever in the trigger. You have to depress this for the trigger to move. And there’s a certain amount of minimum forward travel the trigger has to go through to let the little lever redeploy. Second is the firing pin block. It’s a plunger. When you pull the trigger, a vertical tab on the trigger bar pushes the plunger out of the way. The rest of the time, the plunger will prevent the firing pin from going forward. Finally, the cruciform tab (it’s horizontal) on the trigger bar sits in a slot in the fire control housing. It has to move backwards far enough for the slot to widen. At rest, the narrow part of the slot prevents the trigger bar from dropping away and releasing the sear if the pistol is dropped.

I am not willing to compromise any of these safeties for obvious reasons. Note also that this means there’s a certain required amount of trigger travel before the break if we do not want to disable the safeties. A Glock is not a 1911, and it’s not possible to get an actually 1911-like trigger out of a Glock. Not possible. Well, not without being dumb. We can reduce some of this travel if we’re careful.

There are other things we can do as well. We can reduce the weight of the striker spring. The risk here is that the striker spring is what’s driving the striker into the primer. Too little force means the primer will fail to fire. That’s bad.

We can reduce the weight of the spring holding the safety plunger down. This makes it easier to push out of the way. We’re no longer holding it in place as firmly though.

We can also increase the assistance provided by the trigger spring. Too much and the gun may have issues resetting.

Trivially, we can change the trigger bar from the current ‘Gen4’ design to the older ‘Gen3’ design. This removes a nub which can rub on the frame and add drag to the pull. The nub was added to deal with issues if you reverse the magazine release. Fortunately, I’m right handed.

Finally we can mess with the trigger ‘shoe’ itself, to change the feel, and maybe remove some pretravel and overtravel.

Glocks are very plug and play. No fitting should be needed with most parts out there. It’s very easy to spend a fortune on trigger kits. We’re going to try to avoid that. If you’d prefer not to mess around with parts yourself, go check out DK Custom Triggers. You won’t regret it.

Anyway, you’ll need a punch to disassemble your Glock. If you’re a little rusty on the details, plenty of youtube videos exist to help. Let’s review what I tried. A lot of the following will be a very mix and match sort of nature. That is to be expected. I am not you. I may like different things than you. I may have different preferences as to trigger pull weight than you. That’s ok. Most of these parts are pretty cheap.

To start, I bought a Glock 17 type smooth-face trigger on a Gen 3 bar. Glock makes two kinds of trigger shoes, one with ridges for more Gun Control Act of 1968 points on the import system and one without. The one with is used on smaller guns. I’m not a fan of the feel of the ridged trigger shoe. So this change felt better, and made it a little less likely to pull in a not-straight back direction, but didn’t do much for trigger pull. Well, it took out some of the grit from that nub.

Part set two is the TTI Grandmaster trigger kit. Yes, I know this will not make me a GM-class shooter (alas, I’m not one already). But it comes with a lot of neat parts at a great price. It’s got an increased power trigger spring, a reduced power striker spring, a reduced power plunger spring, and the TTI connector. Score. Price is pretty good too. It uses all stock parts. I found that the connector and plunger spring smoothed out the pull. I’ll have to experiment to see if I get any light strikes with a reduced power striker spring. It made some improvement to the weight though. Definitely noticeable.

I also found that with the 3rd gen trigger bar and the increased power trigger spring on my Glock, that if I let the slide go home gently, the trigger wouldn’t reset all the way. I probably should take a look at it and see if it’s hanging up on something there. But I decided not to bother. I was happy enough with the pull with the standard trigger spring, and I had one more part on the way.

That part was the Overwatch Precision Tac Trigger. It’s the most expensive part, being a machined aluminum trigger shoe. Now I can experiment with a flat-face trigger design. I probably wouldn’t have bought it had I not played around with a buddy’s flat face Glock trigger at a class. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to resell if you end up not liking it. I chose the Overwatch flat face trigger because they’re recommended by more of my friends who like flat face triggers than any other brand. They also have a bunch of great videos to demonstrate that even though they remove some pretravel by playing with the geometry of how the trigger shoe interfaces with the trigger bar, they don’t disable any of the safeties.

Fittingly, the Tac Trigger also made the biggest difference in pull. Way shorter, with less of a perceptible trigger wall. I immediately noticed in dryfire that I could get on the trigger hard and fast with a lot less perceptible movement of the red dot. The flat trigger and reduced overtravel really made it hard to not pull the trigger straight back to the rear. I varied finger position. I tried to pour on the speed. Didn’t matter. I like this trigger a lot.

Pulling the trigger slowly, I found the lighter feel of the wall to be nice. Again, it’s easier to keep the sights on target. But the creep in the trigger is more readily apparent. Is it creepier than a stock Glock trigger? I think so. I think some mush has been added to the ‘wall’ that also makes it lighter. That said, both Fishbreath and I agree that this is a big improvement over stock, creep or no.

Let’s make another comparison: to the Walther PPQ. Which has a phenomenal stock trigger, and some complicated internals to make that happen. Is this as good as a PPQ? No. The PPQ has a really clever internal system to get the trigger characteristics, plus a fully cocked striker at rest. The Glock has a partially cocked striker at rest. Pulled slowly, the PPQ trigger is longer, and has less creep to it. This is still a good trigger though, and I’d give it the nod if you’re looking to improve your Glock trigger.

Interestingly, I tried swapping back to the dot connector. This made the wall a lot more noticeable again, but it also got rid of a bunch of creep, and masked most of what was left with the wall. I decided I preferred the more ‘rolling’ break of the TTI minus connector, so I stuck with that. I think the minus connector always makes the break more of a roll with some creep, and the Overwatch Trigger just makes this more obvious.

So let’s review. Things that made a big change in my trigger pull, and might be worth tinkering with: connector, striker spring, and trigger shoe. I didn’t think the rest of the parts provided that big a difference. Clearly, if you swapped to a NY1/NY2 trigger return spring, that would change stuff. I do know several guys, including one of my instructors, who like the feel of an NY1 spring and a minus connector. Also, note that if you use a reduced power striker spring, test your ammo with it and consider a lightened striker, especially if you shoot Wolf ammo.

Oh, one more thing. You’ll notice that I haven’t provided any trigger pull measurements. Most of that is from not having an NRA weight set with which to measure trigger pull. But also I think too much emphasis is placed on poundage and not enough on the less tangible things like distance and creep and abruptness of wall. And also what you feel comfortable with. Everyone’s different in that regard. Also, note that Glocks aren’t the most tightly toleranced of pistols.


  1. Unless you have an NY1 or NY2 trigger spring, which fight your trigger press rather than help it to meet NYPD pull weight mandates. 

So make yourself an ARK: Fishbreath builds an AR-15

That’s right. It finally happened.

Of course, it’s me, so I built it from a lower parts kit (some years ago) and random upper parts (a few days back), not simply by pinning a prebuilt lower and upper together.

Oh, and it’s in 7.62×39. That’s right: an AR-15 in 7.62×39. A 7.62×39 AR-151.

First thing’s first. Why ARK? Well, I have two existing 7.62×39 rifles. One is the BRK, the Bullpapniy Russkiy Karabin. Another is Kat, which is my competition Russkiy Karabin, or CRK. There’s an obvious theme developing here, so ARK it had to be. In traditional Fishbreath rifle naming style, the acronym has two meanings. The first, most obvious one is that the rifle is an AK caliber in an AR pattern: AR-K. The second is the also-traditional Russian name, the Amerikansko-Russkiy Karabin.

Why build an AR-15 in 7.62×39, you ask? I have a few reasons. First: it’s a deeply underrated caliber. It can do everything .300 Blackout can do, although I grant it’s harder to find subsonic 7.62×39 than .300 Blackout. In ballistic terms, the two cartridges are so nearly identical that the drop-compensating reticle in my chosen optic works for both with the same zero. The difference between the two comes down not to innate capabilities, but to modern development effort2.

Second: the AR platform is admittedly pretty neat. I can hardly deny that the ergonomics are good, and the Lego-for-adults aspect is deeply appealing to me, an adult who rather wishes he had more Legos.

Third: I can’t abide by being so normal as to build an AR in 5.56. Parvusimperator often accuses me of being a gun hipster… and I absolutely agree. An AR-15 in 5.56 does very little to interest me: hipsterish though this sentence may be, it’s played out. 7.62×39 is much more oddball, and therefore more interesting as an exercise.

Fourth: ammo is super-cheap, even if I have to pop by a local gun store. Much ink has been spilled on this front, so I won’t spend too much time on it. Suffice it to say that I don’t even mind having to occasionally pay friendly local gun shop prices for 7.62×39.

To be honest, though, it’s mostly the hipster factor. 7.62×39 AR is an odd combo, I like odd combos, and most of all, I like building things. Let’s get into the nitty gritty on parts.

Lower receiver
Surplus Ammo in Washington State, which is mainly a surplus ammo outfit, also makes decent forged lower receivers. It’s a lower. How much is there to say?

Lower parts/furniture
I got the standard Palmetto State parts kit, minus grip and stock. All the mechanical/internal gubbins are the same, with the exception of the trigger and hammer pins. I went with versions retained by wee c-springs for those, since I’d been hearing horror stories about the pins coming out under use at the time. It seems unlikely, pressing on the pins with my thumbs now, that they might, but better safe than sorry.

For the grip and stock, I went with the sadly-discontinued ATI Strikeforce set. The grip is heftier than most AR-15 grips, swelling to actually fill an average-sized hand, and nicely padded. The stock has an adjustable cheek riser which I’m not currently using, and is also padded. I purchased this set when I was planning to make this lower a 6.5 Grendel rifle, so that explains the slightly more marksman-oriented setup.

Upper receiver
Again, I went to Surplus Ammo, who had a billet upper in stock, charging handle included, for $75 delivered. I have a hard time arguing with that. It has a dust cover and a forward assist, as the Army intended. No side-charging or anything like that. It’s a $75 receiver. You can’t expect much beyond the standard for that money.

Barrel
Faxon Firearms makes a 7.62×39 barrel with a 1-8″ twist. Unfortunately, it’s built to the surprisingly odd government profile, but crucially, it has a much larger gas port than your average 5.56 barrel. Since 7.62×39 is a lower-pressure cartridge by a significant margin, the extra gas port diameter is all but a requirement for adequate functioning.

The 1-8″ twist is also nice: a faster twist can better stabilize a heavy cartridge, and if I eventually load subsonic ammo for this rifle, that’s a handy trick.

Bolt carrier group
LJ’s AR Parts, who I had not heard of until I built this rifle, make a nitride BCG with an extended firing pin for better primer strikes on the harder primers of the standard cheapo steel-case ammo often fired through 7.62×39 rifles. That’s the one I’m using.

Gas block
I got one of the low-profile ones wot attaches by set screw. I prefer set screws to pins in basically every case.

Handguard
Parvusimperator had a spare Troy Industries 9″ jobber lying around. It’s a nice lightweight handguard, ventilated so it doesn’t get hot easily. It also avoids the quadrail problem of heavy rails you don’t need by having a single top rail with attachable sections for other accessories.

Muzzle device
I went with the Strike Industries King Comp, which is well-reviewed and seems effective enough. In my estimation, it works better than the AK-74-style brake. Happily, it’s not quite as bad in terms of side concussion as Parvusimperator’s favored brakes, although it does considerably increase the noise. Factoring in my ear protection, I had a hard time differentiating the report from Parvusimperator’s Garand and the ARK.

Magazines
Ordinarily, these wouldn’t merit mention, but this is a 7.62×39 AR-15 we’re talking about, and standard magazines need not apply. I found Midway’s house brand, AR Stoner, works fine.

Sights
Finally, the bit I alluded to at the very beginning. I chose a fancier optic than is my usual wont: the Primary Arms 1-6x ACSS scope for 7.62×39/300 Blackout. I have to say, I’m sold on the concept: an illuminated variable-power optic with 1x or near-1x magnification on the low end, for use as a red dot-style sight close up, and a bullet drop compensation reticle for longer-range work. This one is a particularly nice example. Parvusimperator, that noted glass snob, said the glass is “not bad”. The reticle is perfect for my purposes: a large illuminated chevron, to be zeroed at 50 yards, plus drop markings for 300-600 yards, the latter being just about the maximum effective range for 7.62×39. Rangefinding markings for each range are built into the reticle ACOG-style, where the crosshatch on the vertical line corresponding to a given range matches the width of an adult male’s shoulders at the same range. There’s also a rangefinder marking off to the side for standing height.

Other handy markings include dots for a 5mph crosswind at each range, and dots for leading a running target (at 8.6 mph, the generally-accepted speed for a man running with a rifle). The latter isn’t especially useful to me, since I don’t really hunt for anything, much less the most dangerous game. The former dots are nice to have, though; crosswind shooting comes up a lot, although I don’t expect it to do so too much with this rifle.

Final notes
There’s a canonical article on AR-15/7.62×39 reliability I want to address fully in a later post, but I do want to touch on reliability concerns and my results here. I went into this project with some trepidation on the reliable-functioning front, but emerged from Saturday’s range test with no remaining concerns: 40 rounds of slow fire while I was zeroing my scope and verifying that zero yielded no problems. Nor did 60 rounds of rapid fire, including some fast double taps, from magazines loaded to a full 30 rounds. 7.62×39 AR owners commonly cite two related pain points: cycling and feeding. For 7.62×39, you want a biggish gas port for the barrel length: at 0.087″, the port on the Faxon barrel in the ARK would yield a tremendously overgassed rifle for 5.56, but seems just about right for the ARK.

I’ve hit my about-1400-words target pretty handily with this first article. Stay tuned for the next one, in which I rag on the AR as a platform!

  1. I repeat this not because it’s necessarily strange (though granted, it is a little strange), but for SEO purposes. Hello, Googlebot!
  2. In defense of this rather bold claim, I present the 7.62 US cartridge (scroll down a bit), which was a subsonic 7.62×39 cartridge capped with a ~200-grain bullet intended to be used with the PBS-1 silencer on the AK-47 and AKM. Sound familiar? In any event, I intend to try some subsonic handloads and perhaps a suppressor of my own down the road.

Meet Madeline, Parvusimperator’s Sweet Sixteen (A5) Build

Let me walk you through an older build. It taught me a lot. Plus, my range notes are at hand already. You will no doubt be amused, dear reader, at this. Because it’s decidedly not a “cool kid” rifle, at least for the roughly present day definition of “cool kid”. This is about as gun hipster as I get. Fishbreath is even snickering.

Also, yes, dear reader, I know. There’s no such thing as a codified M-16A5. It’s not a thing. I am very aware. There were lots of proposals for what an M-16A5 should be, and I cribbed from a few proposals to make mine. Things I wanted were a 20″ barrel and a collapsible stock. Also, something a little more fancy than the regular plastic A1 or A2 style handguards. Let’s break it down.

Why would I want a 20″ barrel? Because I can. I have some other 16″ barrel carbines. I wanted to play around with a 20″. 20″ with a rifle gas system was how the rifle was what was originally designed by Eugene Stoner. So why not see how it does? Also, not getting in and out of a Humvee all day means I don’t really care about handiness. Or, again, I could take a different gun.

Why a collapsible stock? Because I can. Also, because I Escaped from New York, and it’s stupid, stupid bans that mandated fixed stocks. Screw that. Adjustable all the way!

Now, the Canadians have had plenty of good experiences operating an A2/A3-style1 upper with a standard M4-type collapsible stock and a heavy carbine buffer. But I wanted something else. Again, because I can. I went with the Vltor A5 Stock Kit, which was designed at the request of the USMC to replicate the feel and spring performance of the regular fixed-stock buffer system with a collapsible stock. The buffer weights 3.8 oz., and is a different length than either a standard carbine buffer or a normal rifle buffer. The spring is the same one as used with the fixed rifle stock (again, longer than the carbine spring), and the A5 system uses a longer2, seven-position buffer tube instead of the usual six-position tube. It also came with the Vltor Emod stock. This stock is a little longer than most collapsible stocks, which looks right on the longer A5 tube. Note that the A5 tube will work with any other collapsible stock that you like. The Emod comes with two longitudinal storage tubes and a storage compartment in the stock “toe”. All storage compartments have rubber gaskets to seal out water. The stock is also one of the heavier collapsible stocks on the market, weighing in at 14 oz, but that’s fine. I’m using a long barrel here, remember?

Handguard choices are dictated somewhat by our gas system. All the moreso because I bought a handguardless prebuilt upper from BCM. BCM makes good stuff. This gave me a 20″ A2-profile (aka. ‘government profile’, aka ‘M4-profile’) barrel, a standard front sight block that’s properly pinned, and a forged upper receiver, all nicely assembled. I also had a regular barrel nut, for use with standard A2-type handguards. Unless I chopped the front sight block, I was stuck with the standard gas system length. But, seeing as this is a 20″ barrel, that’s a 12″ long rifle gas system, which is plenty of handguard space. This isn’t the 7″ Carbine system, which is long enough for your hands or accessories but not both. I wanted something a little nicer than the regular A2 handguards, and I would prefer free float, because that’s better, and I would like the ability to mount accessories. Ideally, I wouldn’t have to remove the front sight block, so I’d need a two piece setup. I settled on the Centurion Arms C4 12″ Quadrail. This is a two-piece, free float quadrail that clamps around a standard barrel nut. It also has two sockets for quick detach sling swivels. Perfect! I covered those cheese-grater feeling picatinny rails with Magpul XTM rail covers. As a bonus, this system is great at dealing with heat. I may change rail covers in the future–I’d like to give the LaRue index clips a try.

Other than the A5 stock system, the lower is pretty standard. I gave the Stark pistol grip a try, and found that I was reasonably fond of it. Though, pistol grips are fun and easy to swap. Trigger is the excellent Geissele SSA. The rest of the lower parts kit is pretty boringly stock. The lower receiver is made by Mega Arms. Standard forged unit.

In terms of optics, I originally went with my Elcan SpecterDR 1.5x/6x. Which is awesome but heavy. I’ll probably go Marine-approved ACOG (specifically the TA31RCO-A4CP) on Madeline, especially since she’s already on the heavier side of AR-15 builds, and I’ve moved the Elcan to Bridget, my lighter competition rifle. Marine-approved ACOG, with the Marine-approved 20″ barrel and Marine-approved A5 recoil system. Semper Fi!

How does she shoot? Great. Subjectively, the felt recoil is softer, with the longer buffer system and gas system. The A5 does slow the bolt carrier down a little, and replicates the cyclic rate of fire and “feel” of the original rifle system. That’s awesome. I haven’t done a ton of transitions, but they haven’t been a big deal for me. The extra weight isn’t a big deal either, but I’m not a whiny REMF. I get some other cool things with a 20″ barrel and the rifle gas system. I can finally properly mount a bayonet on my rifle! Yay! Alas, I’m a civilian, so I’m not likely to need that. But it’s cool. And if I ever wanted to set up some dummies for skewering out back, now I can. I also get more velocity with a 20″ barrel. This gives me a longer point blank range, longer fragmentation range for M193/M8553, and more penetration at any given range for M855. Not that those last two matter while shooting paper targets, but they’re still cool. Interestingly, the Marines haven’t had the kind of inconsistent terminal performance complaints that the US Army has. And M855A1 has a higher chamber pressure. Maybe that longer barrel does give you something worthwhile…

I really like Madeline. Even if she’s a goofy mix of parts that the cool kids eschew. Maybe I understand a little of Fishbreath’s hipsterism. Or maybe I just enjoy soft shooting rifles. It would be lots of fun to take her to a carbine class.

1.) A3 style is just an A2 with a flattop receiver. They still use the A2 style plastic handguards, not the KAC RAS M5 like the Marines have on their M-16A4s.
2.) 3/4″ longer, to be precise.
3.) M193 and M855 are both significantly more lethal if they fragment. Fragmentation is significantly more likely to happen (read: nearly guaranteed) if the velocity of the bullet is more than 2,700 feet per second when it strikes its target. More muzzle velocity from a longer barrel

Glockblaster Range Report

So all the parts for the Glockblaster are in and it’s assembled. I even added a couple more things: the Glock factory extended slide stop and the Glock factory (slightly) extended mag release. More on those below. Anyway, got it to the range.

WOW.

No really. This thing is amazing. It’s as close as I can get to an actual phaser, blaster, or phased plasma rifle in the 40W range without actually being a fictional character. There’s a bit more flash and noise from the comp, but it’s nothing awful. Once you get used to that, you can actually track the red dot through the recoil arc. It is super cool to keep a target focus and watch the red dot bob a bit in your field of view. So between the comp an the added weight from the weaponlight, the gun doesn’t recoil overmuch. Next to no muzzle flip.

That takes some getting used to. I outran my sights a couple times, simply dealing with a weapon that got ready so quickly. It really, really makes follow up shots a breeze. And with a bit of focus, I could tear a nice ragged hole in the middle of the target faster than ever before.

Will this weapon make you a better shooter? No. Will it give you a whole bunch of advantages and make it easier to shoot fast? Yes, yes it will.

Let’s talk accessories. That covers the comp, the use of the weaponlight as a weight (it’ll probably be great as a weaponlight with the 500 lumens of retina-searing illumination it produces), and the red dot, which you already know I love.

I actually found the Glock factory extended slide stop to be a great choice. It’s just big enough to be noticeably easier to manipulate, but it still won’t get in your way. Gets a thumbs up.

The Glock factory extended magazine catch was made for the FBI. It’s a few millimeters longer than the regular one. Helps with small hands, won’t get pressed accidentally when the gun is holstered. I found it made magazine ejecting a little easier. Fishbreath, who has short thumbs, found it was a significant improvement in being able to easily reach the mag release. So, good choice there.

I haven’t done too much reload practice, but the Freya magwell doesn’t seem to help my time overmuch. I’m probably not quite quick enough yet to notice the equipment improvement being a help.1 But it does help keep my hand nice and high. It will also help prevent your hands from getting pinched by the magazines, if you have big hands.

I also haven’t touched the trigger yet. It’s a stock gen 4 trigger, with the polish of several hundred rounds. I might upgrade this in the future.

There you have it. One of my better pistol projects to date. Even Fishbreath, who doesn’t like Glocks or fancy race gadgets, thought it was great.

1.) See? It’s not just equipment. Duh.