Author Archives: parvusimperator

Parvusimperator and the Attack of the Pistol Caliber Carbines

When first introduced, I, like many others, was not a fan of the PCC Division in USPSA. Frankly, I thought it was rather silly to shoot a carbine at a pistol match, even if the “P” in USPSA stands for Practical. Given some time, I’ve come to reconsider the division. And frankly, I could do with some carbine practice, even if that carbine is firing 9mm rounds. I love shooting carbines. It’s my first shooting love, if I’m to wax romantic for a bit. Anyway, this is an opportunity to get some carbine practice in, with the benefit that I don’t need a rifle-rated backstop. This allows me to get some close-in practice on pistol ranges, which are a bit easier to find in my current area. Plus they’re fun to shoot.

With my goals of ‘fun carbine practice’ in mind, let’s see what I’ll end up getting. I do need a competition-worthy PCC. Since I explicitly want this to drill carbine handling and shooting up close, I can ignore all of the faux-SBR “pistols” out there. I don’t have a desire to fill out a Form 1 on this. My goal, strangely enough, is to buy my PCC, add a red-dot sight of some sort, and get shooting. For once, I’m not looking to build or tinker my way to a solution.

So. Ignore the faux-SBRs and just about anything that isn’t intended as a turnkey-competition gun. And, non-SBR barrels are going to get me closer to the handling of my carbines, which are also not SBRs. I’m also going to require my PCC to use Glock magazines, because those are cheap and good and I already have a lot of them (yes, I have some of the 33-round mags). That disqualifies a lot of perfectly good guns, but I don’t care. These are my criteria.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? I’m getting a JP GMR-15. It’s AR-15 based, so the feel and controls are the same. JP makes really nice stuff, and their 9mm carbines ‘just work’. Like their other carbines. It takes Glock mags, and it even has a functional last round bolt hold open. Not that it matters for a competition gun, but it’s nice to have. Oh, and it can be had with a sweet trigger.

The GMR-15 is a blowback-operated gun, like most other 9mm AR conversions. Technically speaking, a gas-operated gun would be softer. But we’re talking about a 9x19mm round fired from about seven pounds of carbine. Recoil is not going to be an issue. We’re principally concerned with movement of the dot, which can be controlled by adjusting the weights of the buffer and carrier. If we want to.

All that it’s going to need is a dot.

Borgundy’s Helicopter for All Seasons

Time to do a procurement post for something I have been putting off: Utility Helicopters. This is a really crowded market, and the fact that we can probably get rid of anything on the really large end as being to similar to the CH-47 that we’ve already bought doesn’t help us very much. Since there are so many plausible options, let’s look at what we need, and then throw on some nice-to-haves that could hopefully narrow the field. That’s a lot more interesting than a deep dive into costs, and much more practicable for me (in that I’m actually willing to write it and I don’t need to track down pricing data).

First, just to simplify things a little, we want a fully combat-ready helicopter that’s been purchased by at least one other nation. Probably obvious, but it needs saying. No reinventing the rotor for this.

Next, we want a capacity of about a squad’s worth of men. As I write this, it occurs to me that I haven’t talked as much as I should about organization, and I certainly haven’t talked much about light infantry. We’ll pick ten combat-laden men as the minimum required capacity. Somewhat arbitrary, but that should cover most squad options. Note the emphasis on combat-laden; this is not a question of overall passenger capacity, but immediately usable passenger capacity for men ready to go into the fight.

Cargo capacity isn’t a huge deal, mostly because we already have CH-47s. I have no particular requirements for cargo capacity, other than there should be some. Certainly anything that meets the troop requirement above will have sufficient cargo capacity for our purposes.

We would also require medevac capability, but that is also no great burden, as most utility helicopter models available already have the capability to be easily reconfigured for stretchers.

Clearly, our utility helicopter should also have the ability to mount door guns, but again, this is no great burden. That’s a pretty standard utility helicopter feature. It would also be nice if we could mount pylons with some rockets for some extra support/attack capability. Also no great burden.

Now, let’s get on to some actual, difficult requirements. We’d like versions available with an aerial refueling probe. Specifically, we’d like this to facilitate longer-range search and rescue operations as well as long range special operations deployments. Fulfilling this is actually quite the tall order by the rules of our procurement game.

That gets us nicely to the UH-60 Blackhawk as our overall utility helicopter choice. It’s not the cheapest option, but it’s also not the most expensive, and it has the variants we want, namely the HH-60 with the refueling boom. And yes, that variant has been exported to South Korea. The Blackhawk is a proven choice, with plenty of export buys as well as good combat service. It also has an available gunship variant. As we’ll see in another post, it’s also one of the few utility helicopters to have an actual production electronic warfare variant. The Blackhawk is available with a bunch of integrated FLIR options (again, thanks HH-60), and there’s even a couple naval versions, should we want them.

Deploying the 6.8 mm SPC 2 Cartridge

The 6.8 mm SPC cartridge was designed to improve the firepower of US special operations forces without requiring the issuing of an entirely brand new rifle. It’s one of many alternative calibers for the AR-15. While it had the backing of Remington, and was designed with the help of some active special operations forces, a number of issues have come up to get in the way of its popularity. These include (in no particular order) two different SAAMI specifications for the cartridge, more effective 5.56 mm cartridges, ready availability of 7.62x51mm carbines, a whole bunch of other important gear that’s not going to pay for itself, and the round not being a non-NATO standard has mean that it hasn’t been adopted by the organizations that worked to develop it. However, a middle eastern special forces unit has adopted the weapon as a compact carbine. Let’s take a look.

This unit contracted with LWRC for the gun, with the goal of having a very short barrel (8.5″) and plenty of firepower. Given a relatively large order of more than 30,000 carbines, LWRC decided to make some changes. To ensure reliable feeding, they worked with Magpul to design 6.8-specific magazines. These are wider than standard AR-15 magazines, and the magwell on the new guns was widened to accept them. The new magazines have that same great windowed PMAG design, hold 30 rounds, and weigh 1.32 lbs fully loaded.

Other than the aforementioned 8.5″ barrel, the rifle has a quadrail handguard, pistol-length buffer tube, PDW-length stock, and a short-stroke gas piston system. The top rail of the handguard is removable to clean or service the gas piston. The rifle is the SIX8-UCIW. A version with a longer barrel, as well as an SBR version are available for civilian purchase, though obviously without select fire capability.

LWRC also worked with ATK (the parent company of Speer) to get a round that would function well in a rather short barrel. ATK obliged with a special round that will do the job, even with military flash suppressants. And yes, it’s SPC II spec.

Ok, what do we think? Well, it’s a solid execution of the “PDW” concept for a protective detail rather than for rear echelon troops. A short, relatively light package with plenty of firepower is exactly what this will deliver. I’m not a big fan of ‘nonstandard’ cartridges for general issue (who, admittedly are not expected to have super-short 8.5″ barrels), but I like the thought process here. Another tool in the toolbox, and one that fills a useful niche at that.

Extra: Hudson in Trouble

Original (Jan 24, 1249)

From SHOT Show:

This is the space reserved for the Hudson booth. It’s curiously empty.

If we dig, we can see why:

Hudson’s parts supplier alleges that they have not been paid. Hudson alleges that the parts were not to spec. It’s ugly, and the court filing goes back to September. I suspect that the parts supplier is too small to take the hit, and Hudson lacks the cash flow/line of credit to simply get parts elsewhere.

Regrettably, setting up a manufacturing business in the United States is very hard.

Update (Jan 24, 1308) (Fishbreath)

As it turns out, the first $15/quarter of PACER access is free, so I went ahead and registered, installed the RECAP extension to upload anything I view to the Free Law Project, and scored Hudson’s counterclaim. Here you go.


Walther Q5 Match SF

Not quite a “New at SHOT Show” piece, since it came out just before, but cool nonetheless. Walther has introduced a new PPQ derivative. They’ve taken their excellent Q5 Match and put it on top of a brand new steel frame. It’s aimed squarely at the competition market, combining the PPQ’s fantastic trigger1 with a lot more weight to soak up recoil. This gun is intended to compete with pistols like the Tanfoglio Stock II and CZ Shadow 2, now that IPSC changed the trigger pull weight rules. Let’s take a look.

Q5 Match SF

Let’s talk through the features. It’s got the same slide as the regular Q5. So it’s got slide cuts to look cool, catch your eye in the display case, and keep the slide weight down so they can still use the same recoil assembly as the regular PPQ. It also has a really excellent optics mounting plate setup that’s very sturdy. It’s great at keeping the optic of your choice securely mounted. Factory sights are fiber optic front and black rear, in case you want to compete in a non-optics division.

That steel frame is the kicker, upping the empty weight to 41.6 oz. from the 21.9 oz. of the standard Q5 Match. Weight fights recoil. For competition, weight is good. The most popular pistols for Production are steel-framed CZ 75 derivatives. Even in Open, where compensators and porting are allowed, all of the top ten shooters in Open Nationals (and a whole lot more besides) have opted for a steel grip to add weight.

The stock trigger is about 5.6 lbs. or so. At least according to Walther. It’s smooth and nice though, so you’ll think it’s lighter. And if you actually wanted lighter, it’s a simple matter to swap two springs to get the pull weight down around 3 lbs. Contact Springco if you’d like a set.

A factory magwell is available for the Q5 Match SF as well, should you want one and be permitted one in your competition of choice.

Walter’s PPQ magazines are well-designed as well. For those of you interested in loading up, here’s a recipe that should get you 23 rounds. Start with the Walther mag body. Order the Grams spring and follower kit for a P320. Shave the tab off the follower that engages the P320’s slide stop, and it’ll fit wonderfully in your PPQ mag body. Add at TTI baseplate and you’re ready to shred.

As for the price, MSRP is a little high, but not unforgivably so at $1,399.99. A bit pricey, but it is a niche market that they’re going for. It’s roughly what you’d pay for a Shadow 2 with all of the Cajun Gun Works goodies.

And yes, I want one.

  1. Fishbreath and I agree it’s the best striker-fired trigger on the market. 

Shorter 3-Gun Rifles?

The “traditional” multigun rifle has an 18″ barrel and a rifle gas system, to create a soft-shooting rifle with plenty of velocity for longer range shots. Is this really necessary?

If we’re looking at matches, a large number will be organized under 3 Gun Nation rules or United Multi-gun League rules. Both of these tend to favor bay matches, with lots of shortish (100 yards and in) shooting. Often, this will be offhand position (i.e. standing, unsupported).

As always, there’s a tradeoff here. Lighter weight will swing faster. Heavier will be more stable, but it will also fatigue you more. Also, where the weight is matters. Weight out at the end of a longer ‘lever arm’ (like a long barrel) will be more fatiguing than weight on a short lever arm.

Now, everyone is going to bring up the long-range component. However, our first point is that there really isn’t much in most 3GN/UML matches, especially if the match director doesn’t want to screw over the PCC folks. Second, you can shoot fine out to longer ranges. If you don’t believe me, go look at Loose Rounds taking an M4 Socom barrel out to 1,000 yards. And that’s without a low-power variable optic with some sort of BDC/MOA-dot/mildot reference for holds. As ever, if you know your dope, you can get your hits. Long barrels are not required for long range work. It will be a little harder with less velocity, but 3-Gun scoring is based on hits; there are no extra points earned for putting rounds in the proverbial X-ring.1

Going with the shorter barrel optimizes for more of the common shots and handling. Most of the time in most matches governed by one of the competing rulesets will be spent shooting up close, and a shorter barrel makes that better.

How short should we go? Well, certainly 16″ is becoming increasingly popular; and that’s the minimum non-sbr length. 14.5 is shorter and lighter still, though that requires either Form 1 paperwork for an SBR or a pinned-and-welded compensator. Shorter than 14.5″ is almost certainly going to require being a registered SBR. Which may or may not be worth the trouble. That’s for the rifleman to decide.

14.5″ has some weight benefits, but it does require being happy with your choice of muzzle device. These days, I don’t think that’s a tremendous burden. There are lots of really effective muzzle devices out there. Picking one and just practicing with the damn rifle is a good idea. Doubly so if you’re an inveterate tinkerer like me.

  1. Which the three gun targets don’t even have. 

OH-58D Kiowa Warrior

Usually our procurement posts are all about buying shiny new stuff. And that’s fine. But sometimes you can get some “pre-owned” stuff for a great price, often from major powers who have decided they don’t want it for no good reason. Let’s take a look at one such item now: the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.

The OH-58D is a derivative of Bell’s venerable and popular 206 JetRanger. The -58D had a more powerful engine than earlier models, and added a Mast Mounted Sight. This globe-shaped module above the main rotor contained a thermal imager plus a laser rangefinder/designator, and allowed the Kiowa Warrior to observe the enemy while the fuselage is obscured by terrain. The OH-58D has two hardpoints that can take small rocket pods, Stinger missiles, or Hellfire missiles.

We should also take a brief moment to talk about the related trainer. The TH-67 is a Bell 206B-3 purchased for use as a primary trainer. It’s available with IFR-rated instruments if desired. It’s another great choice if we’re considering the OH-58, since we’d get some fleet parts commonality. Plus, it’s a common, reliable, and cheap civilian aircraft, and a trainer should be cheap and reliable to facilitate plenty of flying hours.

The Bell 206 family is very popular on the civilian market, and is still in production. As a result, getting spares shouldn’t be a problem. Current models (the model 206L-4) have a strengthened tailboom and improved gearboxes. Other options on offer from Bell include replacing the tail and tail rotor with those of the Bell Model 427, replacing the main rotor and gearbox with those from the Bell Model 4071, and upgrading to a bigger Honeywell HTS900 engine with over 800 hp.

Once we get our hands on the Kiowa Warriors, we can also start considering options for sensor upgrades in the MMS, tinkering with the communications suite, and adding a blue force tracker. As is, the OH-58Ds were very successful in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US Army2 had wanted to replace them with the gold-plated and ill-fated RAH-66 Commanche and then the ARH-70, which also went way overbudget. Currently, the Army has no scout helicopters and is trying to fill the void with other things. Oh, and complain to Congress.

We’d like to take the perfectly good ones they’re trying to sell through the Excess Defense Article and Foreign Military Sale program.

  1. The Bell 407 and 427 are themselves derivatives of the 206 by way of the twin-engine JetRanger development projects of the 80s. 
  2. Who has never known what the words “good enough” mean when they can dream of “better.” 

The ACR’s Aviation Squadron

We’re not quite done with examining the circa-early-1990s ACR. In addition to the three Armored Cavalry Squadrons, the ACR had its own organic air support in the Aviation Squadron.1 Let’s take a look. As always, I’ve seen plenty of variation in the support units.

  • HQ & HQ Troop
    • (3) UH-60L Blackhawk Transport Helicopters
    • (3) EH-60L Electronic Warfare helicopters
    • (1) OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Scout Helicopter
  • (3) Attack Troops, each with:
    • (6) OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Scout Helicopters
    • (4) AH-64A Apache Attack Helicopters
  • (2) Heavy Attack Troops, each with:
    • (4) OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Scout Helicopters
    • (7) AH-64A Apache Attack Helicopters
  • (1) Transport Helicopter Troop
    • (15) UH-60L Blackhawk Transport Helicopters
  • Aviation Unit Maintenance Troop
    • (12) M978 Tanker HEMTTs
    • (18) 600 gal. fuel bladders
    • (7) M977 Cargo HEMTTs
    • (7) M35 2.5-ton cargo trucks
    • (6) M923 5-ton drop-side cargo trucks with cargo trailers
    • (18) Fuel PODS
    • (6) Forward Area Refueling Equipment sets

When I first read of this, I was somewhat opposed, on the grounds that helicopters require lots of fuel. On the other hand, attack helicopters are pretty damn awesome, and scout helicopters are super useful. The above is some serious strikebreaking firepower, and I can’t argue with that. Or won’t. Whichever.

  1. Which I’ve also seen referred to as the Air Cavalry Squadron 

Book Review: MG34-MG42: German Universal Machineguns (Volume 1)

Another book review, this time looking at another offering from Collector Grade Publications.

This book covers the development history, manufacturing history, and use of the MG34 and MG42. It also provides a detailed account of accessories used with these weapons, as well as identifying marks and various ways to troubleshoot malfunctions. Detailed pictures of the many subvariants of these weapons are also included. There are also really cool evaluations of these weapons from both German soldiers as well as Soviet and American experts looking at captured examples.

For me, this book ended up being a mixed bag. I really liked reading about the development history of how the Germans went from the MG 08/15 to the MG34 and from there to the MG42. I also really enjoyed reading about the different tactics used. Less interesting to me was all of the various “Collectible” details, like serial numbers, identifying marks, and minor version changes. Seeing the comparative evaluations was also pretty awesome. It was nice to see German gunners complaining about the rate of ammo usage and the Americans really liking the quick change barrel mechanism, to name two examples.

I also found the accessories section to drag. Some were cool. Some were kinda lame. It’s very much encyclopedic, and often skimming is the best answer. Or having it more as a reference for looking things up in than for reading cover-to-cover.

Now, let’s talk price. I got mine for the sticker price. For me and my interests, anything much above sticker and I’m going to call this a pass. I’m happy at the sticker price. I’ll also note that Collector Grade books are a pretty solid investment in a lot of ways: the out of print ones generally command ludicrous prices in good condition. So if you’re on the fence and can be trusted to take care of your books, I’d suggest you buy it. If you end up not liking it, you won’t lose any money (and might make some) on the resale.