Monthly Archives: September 2016

Parvusimperator Reviews the Vickers Glock 17 (RTF2)

This review is going to be a little different. I’m actually going to focus more on the Vickers-specific add-ons/changes than the gun itself.

What we have here is a Gen 3 Glock 17. So it’s a 9 mm, “duty-size” handgun. Holds 17 in a mag, striker fired, super reliable. Runs great. Again, you probably know if you do or don’t like Glocks already. Gen 3 means that it doesn’t have the revised striker, ejector, and recoil spring assembly of the gen 4. It also doesn’t have interchangeable backstraps or a reversible mag catch. Note that Gen 3 mags will work in a Gen 4 for righties, gen 4 mags will also work in a gen 3. The Gen 4 is less proven than the gen 3, simply by virtue of not being around as long. The guts of the Gen 3 are the same as the earlier gen Glocks. Also possibly noteworthy is that the trigger on the Gen 3 is a little better than the one on the Gen 4. Not much, but noticeable if you focus. This one is a Vickers Glock, so it comes with a number of extras from Larry Vickers’ company and Larry’s preferences. The first you will notice is the frame.

The Vickers Glocks are all built on the RTF2 frames. This was the second attempt by Glock to make a pistol with more texture. The RTF2 was thought by focus groups (or whatever testers) to have too much texture, so Glock softened it a bit for what would eventually end up on the Gen 4 guns. I prefer the Gen 4 texture to that of the Gen 3, but remember, I like texture. I like RTF2 even more. Not quite enough to put a ton of effort into hunting it down, but given the choice, it’s my preference. I also like that the texturing goes higher on the frame, right up to the slide rails on the RTF2. This is where I want texture, because this is where I want my grip to be strong: as high as possible. The RTF2 has texture right where I want my support hand to be locked in, yay. Also, my Vickers Glock 17 happens to have a cool Wolf Grey frame color. It’s different. Kind of a feldgrau, but lighter.

Now lets get to the Vickers parts. The next thing you’ll notice is that the Vickers Glocks have good sights. No really. Real sights!

I’m saying that again, because it’s worth repeating: THIS GLOCK HAS GOOD SIGHTS OUT OF THE BOX!

Thank you, Larry! You rock! These sights are the Vickers Glock sights, and consist of a fiber optic front sight and a plain black, u-notch rear sight. Front sight width is 0.125″, rear sight notch is 0.145″ wide. OUTSTANDING! Note that if you would like a narrower front sight, you can hit up Dawson precision for a front fiber optic sight in a matching height. Or some other height if you’d like to change the sight picture’s relationship to where the bullet goes. Anyway, these are exactly the kind of sights I like. It’s also kinda weird to have actual good sights on a factory gun. Especially a factory *Glock.*

The Vickers Glock also comes with the Vickers slide stop and Vickers Mag release catch. The Vickers slide stop is basically the perfect size. It’s got some more texture than the stock one, and it’s bowed out a little. So it’s easier to hit with your thumb. However, unlike the Glock factory extended slide stop, no amount of high, aggressive gripping will accidentally trip it, or prevent it from locking the slide. It’s great.

The Vickers mag release catch is just a bit bigger than the stock Glock Gen 3 one. That’s fine. I don’t really have a problem reaching the factory one. This one is easier to reach. But it’s not so big that the mag will fall out of your holstered gun. It’s a good thing to try if you want faster reloads, or have trouble reaching the stock one. It’s a pretty cheap part to experiment with. That said, it’s still not reversible. Lefties should probably get a Gen 4 if they care.

The Vickers Glock comes with some baseplates for the included mags. The Vickers baseplates are, well, baseplates. They hold the mag guts inside the mag body. Very important. They seem to work. They also have little notches in the side for extra leverage in case you need to rip the mag out to clear a malfunction. I’ve never had to do this, but it’s a nice feature.

Finally, the Vickers Glock comes with Larry’s Grip Plug/Glock tool. Lots of people don’t like the gap at the back of the Glock grip. Some people have noticed reloads getting hung up there. It’s pretty easy to fix with a grip plug if this bothers you. The Vickers Grip Plug does this job, but also includes a Glock Tool. Remember, all you need to thoroughly detail strip your Glock is a 3 mm punch. One is built right into this grip plug. It’s a nice value add for this part. While I don’t generally like the idea of disassembling out in a field, or at a match, it’s nice to know I could. Plus, if I want to work on the gun, it’s nice to not have to wonder where my Glock tool and my punch set have gotten to. There’s a tool built into the gun instead.

So overall, while the Vickers Glocks are a little more expensive than a factory Glock, I think the included extras make the package worth it. They’re certainly worth it from a simple calculation of what it would cost to buy the parts separately. If you like Glocks, or striker fired pistols in general, this is a good buy.

US Military Modular Handgun System Update: S&W Eliminated

We’ve got some news on the US Military’s Solicitation for the M9 replacement.

First, a brief aside. I am extremely skeptical that this program will actually result in a pistol being procured by the US Military. There have been many, many attempts to replace the M16/M4, and all have failed. At this point, I’m pretty sure the carbines just start laughing at the attempts. So color me skeptical of this XM17.

See, a large part of the problem with replacing the M4 is that its really quite good. There are some perceived flaws, but it’s a great gun. It’s actually really reliable. And it’s in the system. Spare parts, armorer training, the whole lot. So when compared to a bunch of expensive “wonderguns” that don’t live up to the ad copy, or a bunch of slightly different guns that still shoot the same damn 5.56 mm round, it’s no shock that the M4 sticks around.

But what about the M9? Well, here’s my two bits, though it’s not really at issue here. I think it’s a fine gun. I’m also not personally a big fan1. I think the decocker/safety is in an awkward place. I’m not a fan of double action pistols. And you’re basically stuck with the sights its got, though newer models have rectified this somewhat, depending on sight availability. But that’s the opinion of one guy. Who’s a pistol shooter and pistol enthusiast. The M9 is mostly in the hands of guys whose job doesn’t involve lots of shooting. They don’t get a ton of practice with it. Changing the pistol isn’t going to change the fact that they won’t be able to hit a barn from the inside, and they won’t care about their pistols. Now, people who actually care about and frequently use pistols, the elite forces types, get enough training to make it work and have budget items to buy whatever they please. And really, pistols aren’t that important. Since the competitors all shoot 9 mm rounds, I’m not sure this is worth the effort.

But for now, the Army disagrees on that last point. Or perhaps they agree with my earlier point of disliking the M9. So they solicited a new “Modular Handgun” which was a really, really long document when compared to the FBI’s solicitation. We’ve learned one of the entrants has been tossed.

Smith & Wesson.

Now, part of me was surprised by this. S&W had partnered with General Dynamics Land Systems for its offering. And GDLS is one of the biggest American contractors, with lots of experience getting contracts in Washington. I thought this was a great business move for them, work with someone who has experience in dealing with the Pentagon. But it wasn’t enough. They’re out.

And now, time for some rampant speculation!

First, who might we expect in the downselect? Glock, of course. Especially after winning the FBI contract. Glock is the big, obvious, 800 pound gorilla in the room. They’ve also been selected by SOCOM, so those guys whose job involve lots of faceshooting seem to like them. I might also expect SiG to go far, and then possibly FN or Beretta, since FN is a big weapons contractor, and Beretta makes the current pistol. We’ll see from there.

Now, let’s talk about the S&W entrant, the M&P. I’ve got some time on an M&P40. It’s a solid gun. Of course, the US Army is interested in 9 mm. And the M&P9s have a poor reputation for quality control and accuracy at range (beyond 25 yards). Not all of the full size 9 mms have the problem, but that’s the rep they’ve got. Maybe there were QC issues with their submission? Maybe there were production concerns?

Note of course that the M&Ps come with a manual safety option, but the Glock, P320, and the Beretta APX don’t. Doesn’t really matter. It’s something that can be added if a competition demands it. I’m also not sure if that’s a requirement of the MHS, or something preferred, or if the US Military has moved on from that desire.

1.) It is, however, quite iconic. The Beretta 92 is the weapon of choice of many wonderful fictional characters, including John McClane, Martin Riggs, and the S.T.A.R.S. team.

Resurrected Weapons: LRAC F1

There’s a relatively unsexy class of weapons out there that are critical, but don’t get any of the cool press of ATGMs. Behold, the humble rocket launcher/recoilless rifle. The HE Projector. They’re super useful, because there are plenty of targets on the battlefield that need a healthy dose of prescription HE, but don’t necessarily warrant the trouble of a guided round. Bunkers, for example, have a habit of not moving out of the way in time. These weapons are unsexy because there’s not a lot of room for whiz-bang gadgets. It’s a bazooka. Plain and simple.

A bunch of the use cases are conveniently used by disposable rocket launchers, like the AT4 or the M72 LAW. These tend to be lighter than the traditional recoilless rifle/unguided rocket launcher designs, and a lot less trouble. But they’re not reloadable. And you’re stuck with whatever round is in there; usually it’s a HEAT round. Which would be fine, except that these weapons aren’t going to punch through the front armor of a vanilla T-72, let alone a modern T-90 with ERA on the front. Other rounds might be more desirable. And here, the old recoilless rifles and rocket launchers still shine. Let’s look at one you might not be too familiar with: the French LRAC F1.1

The LRAC F1 is a reusable 89mm rocket launcher. The tube is mostly fiberglass, which keeps the weight down. It’s a 1970s-vintage design, but the launcher and sight weighs only 5 kg. This is very good, even compared to the modern versions of the venerable Carl Gustav recoilless rifle. The sight is a pretty simple fixed 3x optic with a stadiametric reticle. Gunner does his range estimation and chooses the point of aim by himself and fires. Pretty typical for this class of weapon. Rockets weigh 2.2 kg.

Available warhead types include a HEAT round, rated for 400mm of RHA penetration, which scares exactly no one these days. Oh well. We have Javelins for tank-killing. There’s also a HEAT-Frag Dual Purpose round, a smoke round, and an illumination round. These days, the most useful are the smoke round and the dual purpose round. The major use cases for this are first as a portable, short-range assault gun for infantry support, and second as a way of quickly throwing obscuring smoke a reasonable distance to break contact or hide an attack.

Rocket technology really hasn’t changed since the 70s, so the LRAC F1 is still a competitive system. Or it would be, if the French still used it.2 What changes would we want to make to update it?

Honestly, not many. Mostly produce new rockets, maybe integrate night sighting options. The launcher is plenty light already. The existing rockets aren’t very reliable anymore because of age, of course. Production should focus on the dual purpose rocket and the smoke rocket. Reformulating the smoke round to be infrared screening as well isn’t very hard, and would be very useful. Also, a thermobaric rocket would be an excellent idea. I’m a huge fan of the type. The tubes are rated for 130 launches, so they’d need to be made too. Pretty simple, and we can easily keep the cost down. No guidance system, no exotic materials. No gold plating.

There’s no good reason why the LRAC F1 can’t be successful on the arms market with good marketing. There’s plenty of demand for these systems, and not a lot of types that are still in production. Weight is a constant complaint, especially with the closest western competitor, the Carl Gustav. This does the same thing for about half the weight.

Verdict: Approved for production by the Borgundy Ordnance Procurement Board

1.) Also known as the LRAC 89 or the ACL STRIM.
2.) It’s been replaced by the AT4, a good (though somewhat limited) single-use rocket launcher, and the Eryx, which I’m not a fan of.

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

Things I Don’t Care About: What You Carry

Hello, dear reader. Today I would like to comment on all those out there who would like to give you advice on what you should carry, as a sequel to my post about being ok with what guns you buy. Name pretty much any kind of gun, or at least anything even close to reasonable for concealed carry, and I guarantee you that you will find two things:

(1) At least one article by some yahoo telling you why he carries this thing, and why you should carry it too. Likely condescending to people who disagree with said yahoo, but not always.

(2) At least one article by some other joker telling you how carrying this thing will Get You Killed on Da Streetz, dawg. Or something like that. I was never a cool kid. I don’t know how they talk. Again, likely condescending, but not always.

Again, whatever it is. Gun, method of carry, *whatever*. Striker-fired pistol, J-frame, 1911, double-action pistol, bigger-than-J-frame-revolver, appendix carry, condition one carry, condition three carry, etc.

Fear not, dear reader. I am here to tell you that I do not give a hot shit if you carry, what you carry, or how you carry it.

To be honest, there’s an awful lot of ‘butthurt’1 about these things. If you’ve picked something that isn’t popular, you’re probably thinking “Gosh, I wish this was popular, so I could pick up chicks or something”, so you’ve gotta try to change the world and convince everyone you’re right. If you have the popular choice, you have to defend it from all of those annoying attackers, so you can be the one to get the chicks or whatever. Seriously, this is about the tone and nonsense out there that you see.

Well, yinz2 can fuck off. You ain’t going to see that here.

You might be wondering what I carry. I carry a striker fired pistol. Usually it is made by Glock. Occasionally, it isn’t made by Glock. And sometimes, I carry a very nice 1911, barbecue gun style. I carry on the strong-side hip. I’ve grown accustomed to the trigger characteristics of striker fired pistols (especially the ones made by Glock). This works for me. You are not me. You might make different choices. You might have different priorities.

Maybe you prefer double action pistols, like Fishbreath. When he carries, it’s a Beretta PX4 compact. Yes, with the stock safety/decocker. He likes that pistol. There are days when I envy his commitment, because it took me a lot of experimentation to come right back to the same damn (Glock) triggers I started with, but whatever. We’re different. That’s okay.

You see, we’re adults. Also, we’re friends. We understand that we’re different people. We understand that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And that’s okay. You make your bed, and you sleeps in it. Everything has trade-offs.

Okay, great! If you choose to carry, carry whatever you damn well please. Fishbreath and I do. We don’t evangelize about pistols to each other.

But wait! There’s more! So much of this is based on preference and working with your chosen pistol. Don’t believe me?

Fine. Plenty of guys win at competition with Glocks. Bob Vogel is one example. I’m going to pick Bob because his Glocks are pretty much stock, besides new sights. If they’re good enough for Bob, they’re not holding you back. Open gun excluded, of course. That one’s all fancy. But he’s won in divisions that aren’t Open as well. His first win was with the same Glock 35 that he carries on duty. So there. If they’re good enough for Bob Vogel, they’re good enough for you.

Plenty of guys win at competition with double-action pistols too. Ernest Langdon has done great and won tournaments with some Beretta 92s. Even won in IDPA CDP division with a P220 against a bunch of good 1911 shooters. If they’re good enough for Ernest, they’re good enough for you.

So much depends on your goals, the effort you want to put in, and what you’re comfortable with. Presuming you buy something decent from a reputable manufacturer (so, most handgun companies) the gun isn’t going to be the thing holding you back. Also, you probably shouldn’t listen to some random jagoff3 on the internet tell you what you should carry. What does he know about gunfighting? Because he sure as shit doesn’t know you.

As for what you should carry, and where, there are tons of variables in that too. How permissive an environment are you normally in? Do “No Guns” signs carry the force of law in your area? How worried about violent crime or armed terrorist attack are you? Does your job involve lots of sitting? Lots of standing? What’s your body type? What’s your method of dress. I know none of these things about you, dear reader, and I wouldn’t pretend to do so to suggest something to you. I don’t want those clicks.

Going back to Bob Givens’ data on actual CCW gunfights, the key thing has been Having A Gun, probably followed by Got You Some Training, since all of the data comes from Bob’s former students. Trigger type or placement of gun didn’t matter too much. Practice is important. Having something reliable is important. Which reliable thing? Probably doesn’t matter too much. Carry what you like.

Only you can determine what you like. Only you can determine what you’re comfortable shooting and carrying. If you’re taking classes, you can ask your trainer for some advice. In person, so he can get some information about you. But most good trainers will give some broad suggestions. There’s no one correct answer.

1.) I think this is a word kids use on the forums these days, so I’m gonna use it too.
2.) I live in Pittsburgh now, so I’m bound by law to use this word.
3.) I am also bound by law to use this word.

The Crossbox Podcast: Episode 11

In this episode, Jay rambles for a full half hour on a gun topic (a Crossbox first!), we trash a three-gun group whose rules specify what color your magazines are (and are not) allowed to be, we make a connection between Bond and Longstreet, and we decide that the French aren’t so bad after all.

Further reading
Jay’s Goldeneye Source review in one line (approximately): wow, how old-school. I don’t remember it taking this many bullets to kill someone. Oh, right. I always used the P90. That’s why.
Goldeneye Source
Civil War II
Your Korean tank…
… and IFV
And the Gripen


M2A3 Bradley Planned Improvements

I’m on record as being a huge fan of the Bradley. But it’s a little bit disadvantaged when compared to newer designs. A large part of this is just the nature of upgrades. Newer designs have more headroom for upgrades than older ones. So while the Bradley still provides excellent firepower, and has enough multilayer ERA to get its protection up there with the rest, it’s now suffering from all that extra weight. Plus, it has a lot more electrical systems, which mean it needs more power. Which subtracts further from what you have on the sprocket for the drivetrain. Let’s see how Big Army is thinking of improving the Bradley.

Perhaps the most urgently needed and the most boring are the suspension changes. The M2(A0) Bradley had a design weight of 22,800 kg. This has gone up to 30,300 kg in the M2A3 version, and higher still with the extra applique reactive armor modules of the Bradley Urban Survival Kit. More weight means more load on a suspension that wasn’t designed to take it. Just like when you overload your car, this makes the Bradley sit lower on its suspension. This causes two problems. First, it reduces mobility across rough terrain. Basically, anything that isn’t a good road, you’re going to go slower. Again, you probably figured that out from your experiences in overloading your car. Second, and perhaps less obviously to those who drive, is that you’re more vulnerable to mines and IEDs. There’s less space underneath, and that empty space helps diffuse the blast. Clearly, we’d like to fix this. And so, top of the list of fixes is the suspension system. This means new tracks and a new set of torsion bars. This will restore cross-country mobility and ground clearance. It’s a much-needed fix, even if few people spend time thinking about torsion bars.

A quick side note. The US Army could redesign the suspension system and check a modern buzzword box or two. But why bother? Torsion bars work just fine. And most of the expected areas of operation are pretty flat. We don’t expect to spend the majority of our time driving over mountains. So hydropneumatics would be a waste of money. Ditto uncoupled running gear. Expensive luxury features aren’t worth the trouble. Those lead to budget kills. Smaller, more modest things are the sorts of things you can get approval for in today’s not-Cold War world.

Next up is the engine. Again, your experiences in driving will no doubt lead you to think that more weight means more power is needed. And that’s part 2. The original Bradley had a 500 hp engine. This was upgraded to a 600 hp model as a part of the M2A2 design. More weight, more power would be nice. I don’t have a model yet, but I’ve heard hints of and would expect a roughly 750-800 hp engine to be coming to Bradleys near you.

Next we come to optics. On the docket for the Bradley are the same third-generation thermal optics as installed on the Abrams as part of the SEP V3 package. This is another obvious upgrade. Have a single sort of thermal viewer across both vehicle fleets, only need to stock one kind of spares and train to fix/replace one kind of unit. Again, this means better visibility through smoke and dust.

We can expect an active protection system as a near-future follow-on. Big Army just hasn’t picked one yet. Again, smart money’s on Trophy. It’s relatively cheap, COTS, and proven capable of stopping things. Expect the Bradley to get what Abrams gets in terms of APS. This might come in ECP2, or might get rolled in before.

The other mod that I would expect is TOW-RF support. This enables the wireless version of TOW to be launched. It doesn’t affect compatibility with earlier versions. I don’t know how well it works in areas with heavy ECM. I would prefer a more modern missile, but this would be a positive step. On the other hand, this is a really small change, and I don’t have good information on whether it’s already being rolled out, part of ECP1, planned for ECP2, or planned on a separate roll out.

One thing I’ve heard exactly nothing on is any changes to the cannon. There were several proposals before Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the US Army appears happy with the 25 mm M242 gun in light of combat experience there. I see no reason why they shouldn’t be. Lots of other modern designs (with the notable exceptions of Russian things and K21), have pretty poor capacity for their primary guns, as seen in this handy table:

IFVReady CapacityCaliber (mm)
M2A3 Bradley30025×137
M2 – 30 mm conversion18030×173
T-15/Epoch turret50030×165

Some notes on the above. I’m defining “Ready rounds” as “rounds from which you can fire without manual loading”, since these are autocannons. So the CV9040 gets the quick-access rounds counted as ‘stowage’, because someone has to grab them and refill the 24-round ready feed system (three eight-round racks). The K21 gets credit because the 200 rounds it has under the turret basket are connected to the gun via an automatic resupply system. So it has, in effect, 224 ready rounds with its giant autoloader-thing.

Note also that the Russians do not have any rounds stowed separately in any of their IFVs.

The K21 IFV

And now for something a little different. Let’s look at the South Korean K21 IFV.

In a lot of ways, this is an old-school traditional style IFV. It’s lightweight, coming in under 26 tonnes. It’s even amphibious. That said, it has some unique construction features. To keep overall weight down given the protection level (which we’ll get to later), the Koreans use fiberglass for the vehicle structure. This is a first for a military vehicle. And while we don’t know a lot about the long-term durability of fiberglass in a military vehicle, it does keep weight down while not jacking the price up too much. It’s a good idea. The K21 also has two (presumably sectioned) rubber inflatable bladders under the vehicle skirts to provide extra buoyancy and stability in the water. This is much nicer than the giant canvas erectable overskirt on the M2(A0) Bradley. And, it means that the K21 can actually cross rivers, like the BMPs. And, just about nothing else these days.

Protectionwise, the K21 is built for the Korean peninsula. It’s got frontal armor against the 30×165 mm APDS threat that’s likely from North Korean IFVs. The rest is protected against 14.5 mm HMG rounds, and the roof is protected against shell splinters. This armor compromise was likely necessary to achieve amphibious capability, but it’s rather marginal by modern standards, as it lacks extensive RPG protection. It should work in the Korean peninsula, and that’s what matters. I don’t know how much more weight the suspension is rated for, so I don’t know how easy it would be to up-armor the K21. But if we can tack a whole bunch of ERA and applique armor on a Bradley, it could be done here, if we wanted.

Okay, I’m not a fan of the armor. I like heavy. But I do like the armament. The K21 has a 40 mm Bofors clone, complete with a modern MBT-grade fire control suite and full stabilization systems. Big punch. Optics for fire control are like those on the K2 Black Panther, so they’re excellent third-generation thermal viewers and modern laser rangefinders. The commander’s sight is, of course, fully independent. Note that the turret is a conventional, two-man affair. Modern MBT fire control with a big 40 mm autocannon? Yes, please.

Let’s talk a little more about that 40. The 40 mm Bofors round means you comfortably outgun just about every IFV in the world. Aside from a few tank-like things like Namer1, you can kill any IFV you want with frontal hits, and you can punch through any MBT’s turret side. Plus, you get a really big HE shell, and the good folks at Bofors have already developed plenty of advanced rounds for you, including the 3P (Programmable, Proximity-fused, Prefragmented). The downside of course is that the rounds are very big. This is the 40x364R mm round, and it’s a beast. Which means ammunition stowage and handling is a massive pain. In the CV9040, the Swedes have a triple-feed ready rack that holds a whopping 24 ready rounds2, and there’s 210 more in various racks with various levels of accessibility. The ready rack has to be topped off from the semi-ready-rack (which holds 48 rounds) by hand, and then the dismounts have to refill the semi-ready-rack from under the turret basket, where most of the rounds are stored. It’s a massive pain, but it’s workable. If the year is 1935, you can’t do better.

The South Koreans took a different, more modern approach with the K21. They still use the 24 round ready rack, but built an autoloader in the turret floor to replenish it. Underfloor storage is about 200 rounds. The system looks like this:

Neat, huh? Way better than that goofy ikea manual reloading process on the CV9040. This is a 40mm system I can get behind. This will actually let you keep fighting for a while, and with a really powerful round to boot. Be still my beating heart.

The K21 also has a 7.62×51 mm coaxial machine gun. It’s a clone of the M60D. There’s also provision for a two-tube launcher for South Korea’s latest ATGM, but I can’t confirm if these have been fitted yet. Or maybe I just don’t have pictures. This missile should be a lot like the Israeli Spike LR, in being a top-attack, fire-and-forget missile. I don’t know if the Koreans had Israeli help, Israeli licensing, built a copy themselves, or just came to the same conclusions Rafael did about ATGM design. Still, it should be a good missile choice. Much like the Puma, if the Germans would get off their butts and finish the integration already, dammit. Seeing as the South Koreans actually have proximate threats, and they spend Real Money on defense, they’re much more trustworthy on such matters. I wonder what ‘Get ‘er done!’ translates to in Korean…

The K21 does not currently feature any kind of active protection system. The Koreans are planning to integrate that as a follow up. Given the threat level on the Korean peninsula, I approve of this plan. Historically, programs that choose not to do everything immediately, and get a working, good enough version in the field and then add on extras tend to do better. There are plans to integrate a hard-kill active defense system on an improved version in the near future. There are also plans to try to reduce the weight further. All in all, this project actually seems well managed for once.

Dismounts are another area where the K21 shines. It holds nine. NINE! That’s a squad! How can they do this on a 6.9 m long vehicle? Simple, they compromised. Given that the most likely confrontation is a conventional war with North Korea, who’s not likely to bury giant IEDs, the South Koreans stuck with old-school bench seats in the back. They’re not fancy shock-absorbing, blast-resistant seats, but they’re more compact. So you can keep the protected volume (and hence, weight) down, and still carry an actual, usable squad of dismounts. Good on you, Korea! Here’s to real wars and not stupid COIN-y “police actions”.

A word on costs. The K21 costs $3.95 million. Given the electronics, this is a very good price. Almost like good project management helps you come in on budget.

There are some other variants out there that you might be interested in as well. There’s a “medium”2 tank version available with a crew of three and a 105mm low-recoil gun. Perfect for your assault gun needs. It also gives you something with a reasonable gun that can cross rivers with your infantry carriers.

So, what do we think? Well, but for the protection, it’s great! And if it had a hard-kill APS, it might be a reasonable compromise on protection, given that it can float. Armament is great, as is dismount capacity. We’d probably prefer to forget about amphibiousity and load it up with a modern, multilayer ERA kit like what’s on Bradley, and call it good. That gun system is really hard to argue with, especially when you add the ATGM capability. This thing rocks.

1.) Not technically an IFV, but you get the idea.
2.) I would call it a light tank, but medium tank probably looks better in the ad copy. It’s the same weight as a regular K21 and is just as amphibious.

Protective Pistol I AAR and Bonus Glock 34 Mini Review

A couple weeks ago I finally got off my butt and took my first handgun class. It was awesome. I’m going to go over some takeaways in a moment, but first, let’s look at what I brought to class.

Mini Review
I took my Glock 34 (Gen4) with me to class. At this point, there’s not a ton to say about it. It’s a Glock. You probably know if you like them or not by now. Gen 4 means interchangeable backstraps and good texturing. The Glock 34 is the “practical tactical” model. Glock built this with an eye towards competitions, which isn’t to say you can’t do other things with it. It’s size was determined by the biggest possible Glock that would fit in the standard IPSC box, which was built around (among other things) a Government model 1911. Because of the small size of the Glock striker firing mechanism, this means you get a long 5.31″ barrel for your troubles, and a correspondingly long sight radius. Awesome. The frame is the same as that of a Glock 17. It also comes with Glock’s factory extended slide stop and a “Minus” connector, which means a lighter and generally nicer trigger pull. I think my Glock 34 trigger pull feels a lot like my VP9 trigger pull. Take that as you will, subjective evaluation, sample size of one, etc. It’s also marvelously soft shooting, even for a 9 mm.

Why did I take the Glock 34? Well, I shoot it great. Plus, I wanted something relatively unmodded for class. I also wanted iron sights, because I figured we’d be working front sight focus drills and such. Plus, I’m coming back to liking irons, specifically for sight tracking reasons (at least, when I can make that work) and acquiring them quickly when in close. And they’re not annoyingly prone to hanging up on your concealment garment like the RMR does. Anyway, I also picked the Glock 34 because I have another Glock I could use as a backup gun that could take the same mags and holsters. So I’d be set even if my gun broke.

-end mini review-

I’m not going to go into all of the details covered in the class. Mostly because I’m not going to explain those as well as my instructors did. But I’ll cover the broad strokes. Protective Pistol I is all about basic gun handling and developing a response to the most likely sort of threat that a concealed carry permit holder is likely to encounter. We covered a bit on the laws of Pennsylvania, safe handling procedures, and marksmanship fundamentals. We also talked through a number of examples from incidents on the street. My instructors were great at telling us how they got to what they were teaching us, and why they were teaching us that. Usually, they could break out cases or let us go test things to demonstrate that the things we were learning really did work.

Let’s talk takeaways. They taught that a strong grip was key to shooting at speed. Treat the Glock like an old revolver (in double action), not a tuned 1911 for bullseye with the “surprise break”. They taught some movement as part of the response to the threat, in order to better regain the initiative. They even had a video of a convenience store clerk responding to an armed robber. The robber was holding the clerk at gunpoint, but the clerk’s sidestep on the draw bought her time to be able to get the first shot off, which convinced the would-be robber to flee. It was a good example of how their techniques worked without having to make us break out the simunition guns.

I also loved the student:instructor ratio. It was 7:2, which was about perfect. This is a class I’d recommend, and will probably take again to focus on the fundamentals they reviewed. I’m also keen on more classes from these guys. They were great!

How did my gear hold up? Very well. No significant problems. I had a sturdy belt and a good holster already, plus plenty of mag pouches. Our instructors reviewed some quality brands to buy from if we needed anything (I’m sure I will), plus some stuff to avoid. E.g. Dark Star Gear is awesome, serpa holsters suck.

I ended up making a few changes to my Glock 34 after the match. I want to try the Vickers extended slide stop instead of the Glock factory one. I found the factory one pretty easy to bump when going for a high, strong grip. I think the Vickers will help with this. I also would like to get some more time with an extended mag release. I found the stock one to be a little short if I didn’t want to change my strong hand grip. Some time on the range with another student’s gun told me I might like a non-serrated rear better, so I’ve got a new set of sights to poke at. I really like the fiber optic sights though, so I’ll stick with that up front. Fiber front/plain rear worked well for me.

Experience also showed that the MagLula is super effective at loading magazines. Way better than the little thumbsaver that comes with most pistols these days. I ordered one as soon as I got home from class.

Both instructors had Surefire X300U weaponlights equipped with the DG switch. I’m sold on this too, at least if you’re gonna run a weaponlight. It makes operating the light intuitive and easy by adding a grip-activated pressure switch to the light. And Surefire lights are the weaponlights to buy, again, if you want one. For carry, I’m still debating. It does add some width and some weight, and it’s probably not *needed* on your carry gun.

But for a nightstand gun, for the gun you reach for when something goes bump in the night? Hell yes put a light on it. You don’t want the first words you hear after you shoot some intruder at oh dark thirty to be “Daddy, why’d you shoot me?” And yes, this has happened. It sucks. Don’t let it happen to you.

Another lesson, this one from another student. A female classmate was using an XD Mod 2 Subcompact pistol. In 9 mm of course. She was having a lot of trouble establishing her grip in timed drills that involved a draw from the holster. The instructors suggested she try a bigger pistol, and one of them brought out his spare M&P9, complete with holster. This really improved her performance on the drills. She wasn’t a big woman, but she shot the M&P fine. I didn’t get her thoughts on how the gun felt, but it shot right, and that’s the important thing.

Clearly, we had awesome instructors, who were good at diagnosing problems and offering solutions. Good on them for being prepared. The other lesson is that even if you’re petite, it’s easier to get a good grip on a bigger gun. There’s a tendency for women to choose or be given small guns to shoot. I don’t think this is wise.