Tag Archives: firearms

Errata: URG-I updates

Earlier this year I wrote a post on the URG-I upgrade kit for USASOC’s M4s. This is a pretty simple set of drop-in parts to improve the functionality of the M4 by using a low-profile gas block, barrel with a midlength gas system, improved flash hider that can also mount a suppressor, and a new, longer, free-float handguard with mlok slots instead of picatinny rails.

When I first wrote the article, I compared it to a “stock” M4 upper. To do so I had to make some guesses as to the weights of the new parts. I have since been able to find the correct weights, and the article has been updated with those.

If you just want the correct weights without re-reading the article, they are as follows:
Geissele Mk 16 13″ handguard, 14.7 oz.
Surefire SF4P flash hider, 4.48 oz.
Daniel Defense 14.5″ CHF Midlength, Gov’t profile barrel, 24 oz.

Whence Cometh PMAGs?

It occurred to me that there are plenty of folks who don’t understand how and why Magpul’s fantastic PMAGs became the standard magazine for AR-15 users both civilian and military. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

In terms of product, Magpul’s PMAGs1 hit a solid mix of reasonable price, reasonable quality, reasonable durability, and reasonable reliability of feeding (which is to say, function). They’re also pretty ubiquitous. Easy to find almost anywhere. While you can buy more durable magazines, they will cost you more. And mags that are cheaper by a large enough margin to care about don’t work as well.

Magpul wasn’t the first to come to market with a polymer magazine. Their first prototypes were made in 2006. They were among the first to come out with a polymer magazine that worked well, and they had built a customer base with some of their other quality products, like their magazine pulls (hence the company name).

Of course, the AR-15’s original magazines were made from thin aluminum. They were originally intended to be disposable after a single use, and this allowed the Armalite design team to make them very lightweight. However, the military did not go for that, and reissued magazines. Civilian shooters would also not treat aluminum magazines as disposable items either. However, the Armalite design team was not given a chance to redesign the magazines to make them more durable.

One of the things that will crop up with ‘USGI’ aluminum magazines is that the feed lips can deform, whether from being dropped or being smacked or whatever. And a property of metal is that when deformed with enough force, you’ll get “plastic deformation,” i.e. it will stay bent. If the feed lips get messed up, your mag isn’t going to work. These can be subtle problems. Your eye won’t know, but your rifle will. Like the princess and the pea.

Now, the military hates to throw things out, so mags that get bad from use and abuse (or stupid, stupid boots) are going to stick around. And civilians aren’t very likely to throw out bad mags either. They paid good money for those! That’s not to mention the affect of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which allowed the sale to non-law enforcement civilians of standard capacity magazines made before 1994. So those aluminum mags were going nowhere. And those old mags were now worth a premium, so whatever crappy mag that a guy could dig up could be resold at a significant profit. Even if the mag was beat to hell.

I still have a folder of data on my hard drive of proper feed lip dimensions and instructions for retuning feed lips to get them close to original spec so that they wouldn’t induce double feeds. Ugh. Bad memories.

After the sunset of the ban in 2004, the market exploded with manufacturers making standard capacity magazines. Of course, the nature of the aluminum USGI magazines meant that it was pretty hard for the layman to tell if the magazine was made by anyone who knew what they were doing. Substandard materials or construction methods could lead to more problems. Or more rapid onset of problems. Or not; you could just get lucky.

Enter Magpul’s PMAG. Magpul hit the market with a good design, good materials (finally–remember this wasn’t the first attempt at a polymer AR-15 magazine), and good quality control. If you bought a Magpul PMAG, it would work, unlike previous polymer magazine efforts. And you didn’t find PMAGs in a box with a bunch of other curbstomped mags at a gunshow. Even if you did, they looked distinctive. Plus, they were cheap enough to buy a lot of.

Once they got the polymer magazines working well, Magpul’s choice of material brought other benefits. Polymer doesn’t deform like aluminum does; ironically it doesn’t do “plastic deformation”. It’ll either spring back to its original shape (elastic deformation) or break. And when it breaks it’s obvious. Maybe there’s a chunk of feedlip missing. Maybe there’s a big crack down the back of the magazine. Maybe the weld split. And it’s probably going to vomit bullets all over the floor when you try to fill it.

There you have it. Why we love our PMAGs.


  1. All caps, because Magpul spells it that way. And when I say PMAG, I do mean “Magpul’s PMAG” not something else. Not the imitators. And I like Magpul a lot, so I’ll happily oblige them on their branding. 

On Army Shotguns

Shotguns are curious weapons. While they are possessed of limited capacity and are a pain to reload with any kind of speed, they have a number of useful features. While they were terrifyingly deadly in the trenches of World War 1, these days they tend to be specialized weapons, often using breaching rounds. Let’s talk about some of the different kinds of rounds one might want to shoot through a shotgun in a military context, and then we’ll talk models of boomstick.

Buckshot
Everyone’s favorite close-range manstopping load. Contrary to popular belief, you do need to aim with buckshot, and it will not send a man flying. Seeing as it consists of 9 pellets, each about .33″ in diameter, it will do an excellent job of ruining a man’s day.

Slugs
Hunters know there are a lot of fancy slugs out there for specialized purposes. The military guys tend to stick with pretty boring slugs. They’re still 0.72″ in diameter, and they’re absolutely great for wrecking stuff.

Breaching rounds
While buckshot and slugs can be used to smash the daylights out of hinges and locks, there’s a significant ricochet hazard. Breaching rounds are made from sintered metal pressed together, and are designed to safely destroy door hinges or locks with no risk of ricochet injuries.

Now, let’s get on to the guns themselves, and bring up Questions of Procurement. Let’s first note the obvious absence above: there are no “less lethal” rounds listed. This is notable mostly because it drives the constraints on our firearms. “Less lethal” rounds like beanbag rounds and rubber bullets don’t have enough of a propellant charge to reliably cycle most semiautomatic shotguns. The semiautomatic shotgun would then have to be manually cycled. While this is doable, if this is a key consideration then a pump-action shotgun is going to work better.

With any manually-operated shotgun, the onus is on the operator to not screw it up, and this is annoyingly easy to do. In general, absent a strong need to run less-lethal loads or a very severe budget restriction, the semiauto shotgun is the better choice, because it means there’s one less thing for the shooter to think about. There are few enough shotguns on the market that it suffices to ask a few more features questions, and that will determine our weapon.

First, let’s look at operating systems. Semiautomatic shotguns are either inertia-driven or gas-operated. Both can be reliable if well made. The simplicity and lighter weight of the inertia-driven options make them extremely popular with sportsmen. However, inertia-driven shotguns have the weight of the gun as one of the key parameters for their operation. So, adding weight to that gun, say by adding the lights, lasers, and optics that usually come on military weapons, can make them less reliable. For this reason, we’ll stick to gas-operated models.

Let’s next talk of magazines. Due to the nature of the (usually plastic) shotgun shells, making a reliable detachable box magazine fed shotgun is tricky. There are some who do it right now, namely Saiga and Molot.1 Both of these are Russian, and we run into the usual issues of NATO and politics. We might also expect Remington and Mossberg to introduce some new models of their respective Versamax and 930 shotguns to take advantage of the detachable box magazines which they have introduced on their respective model 870 and 590 pump-action shotguns. However, these are not yet out, and we in the Borgundian War department do not like to be beta testers. I would also honestly wonder if a more traditional, integral, tubular magazine fed shotgun would not be preferred for its extra handiness, since the shotgun is a specialized secondary weapon in military service.

Given the above, the choice is pretty obvious: the Benelli M4 (known in US Service as the M1014). It is highly reliable and tolerates long firing schedules and the general abuse of service well. We will make a few further catalog stipulations. Specifically, we’d like to opt for the M4 Entry model and the factory, three-position, collapsible stock. The three-position stock allows for easier use for those wearing body armor. The Entry model has a 14″ barrel, instead of the 18.5″ barrel on the standard model. Given that the shotgun is a secondary weapon, and the breacher also carries a carbine, we would expect the reduced weight and length to be preferable. Postulating a magazine tube of equal length to the barrel, this will also reduce capacity from 7+1 to 5+1. Again, because this is a secondary weapon used for special purposes, the loss of capacity is not a major issue.


  1. Of the two, Molot seems to have better QC. In both cases, competition shooters tend to tune the guns extensively, though a good deal of that is due to wanting to run their shotguns with the cheapest ammunition in Walmart. 

A Racy Rifle

I’m getting a desire to plan a new AR-15 build. I haven’t done one in a while. And I can do literally nothing to hurry the gunsmith building my fancy open 2011 along. So, let’s think about a new rifle.

It’s going to be a competition rifle. No compromises for other things. I have other rifles for that. Plus, I’d love to bring it to one of Ian and Karl’s practical two gun matches. That would be fun.

Compensator: Coda Evolution Fury
I like the M4-72, but it’s a little annoying to be behind. The Coda is designed for maximum flatness of the rifle, which is more important than recoil management, since we’re shooting 5.56. Let’s keep it flat, keep it simple. Plus the compensator is titanium, and that will help keep weight down. Oh, and we’re going to get it flame anodized, because it looks cool.

Barrel: Stretch 16, fluted
This barrel is the new hotness among 3-gun shooters. It’s got an intermediate-length gas system, which is somewhere in between midlength and rifle length. This feels about as soft as an 18″ barrel with a rifle length gas system. But, as you might have guessed from the name, it’s 16″ so it handles faster. It’s a high quality barrel with a medium profile. Not as light as we’d like, but it’s still not super heavy. Flutes will help with the weight a bit. Plus, we can get the Stretch 16 in cool colors. We’re gonna go with red, because it looks cool.

Note that because the gas system is nonstandard, the Stretch 16 comes with an appropriately sized gas tube.

Handguard: Coda Evolution Lightning 15″
When I was looking at handguards, I wanted something lightweight. I wanted something with as little fixed rail space as possible. I wanted free floated (duh!). I wanted a barrel mounting method that did not require any timing, because timing is annoying. And, preferably I wanted a design that wouldn’t require a whole bunch of extra panels to keep my hands from getting hot. It needs to protect my hands from heat as-is. Coda delivers with a really nice carbon fiber handguard. It’s got Mlok slots, doesn’t require timing for the install, and should be good at keeping heat away from my hands. The 15″ model chosen weighs under half a pound. And it looks cool.

Gas block: SLR Rifleworks Sentry 7 Adjustable
An adjustable gas block is mandatory on a good competition rifle. We’re using the SLR rifleworks model, appropriately sized for our barrel. It’s a high quality gas block, easily adjustable, with an extra set screw to prevent the adjustment screw from backing out. Plus, it’s titanium. It’s great. It’s under a handguard though, so we don’t have to worry about if it looks cool.

Upper: Odin Works Bilet
This one might change if I find a deal. I want a pretty standard upper, but it needs to not have the stupid forward assist. I hate that dumb part, and it’s time to start building rifles without it. I do also want capability for a dust cover and a brass deflector. Done.

Bolt Carrier: Whiskey Arms LBC
Part two of reducing recoil is a low mass bolt carrier. We’re going as low as we can here with an aluminum bolt carrier. ALUMINUM! How very space age. Note that it does need lots of lubrication, and it has a somewhat finite service life. Manufacturers say they usually expect about 10,000 rounds out of one. That’s not a concern. If wear proves to be a problem, we can always switch to a lightened steel bolt carrier and readjust the gas system. Note that lightened steel bolt carriers are about twice the weight of an aluminum carrier like this one.

Buffer Spring: JP Captive
And now, part three of our recoil reduction system. The JP Captive spring system is a part I’ve been meaning to try, mostly because I can. It’s adjustable for weight, and comes with a spring kit. And everyone who tries them loves them.

Primary Optic: Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6x
It’s the Vortex Razor! It’s four ounces lighter! It’s got a giant eyebox, which I really like. It’s got super bright reticle illumination, which I really like. It’s the most popular optic by far on the three gun circuit for good reason. It does everything you want well. It’s at a reasonable price point. Oh, and this version cuts a quarter pounder with cheese off the weight of the original. Plus it looks cool.

Secondary Optic: 45-degree offset Leupold Deltapoint Pro
I like to shoot open for reasons of pistols with dot sights and compensators. Open is a lot less useful for rifles, but it still lets you put two optics on, so we might as well, right? The offset red dot can be useful occasionally for needing to do fewer power changes with your primary optic. You can also use it to avoid having to switch shoulders to shoot around a weak-hand side barricade.

Stock: TBD
Of course this rifle needs a stock. But something that’s important to me is balance, and so I’ll test-fit my upper to various lowers and see what sort of stock would balance the rifle best. So this will be covered in the future.

Lower: Doesn’t Matter
Really it doesn’t. From a functionality perspective, a lower is a lower. Some have ambi controls, but I’m right handed, and having played with those, it’s not a big deal to not have them. Even if I wanted, say, a right-side bolt release, there are a whole bunch of billet lower manufacturers who will oblige.

NSWC Crane Likes Midlength Gas Systems

These days the US miltary favors M4s with 14.5″ barrels and carbine-length gas systems, which is to say, a gas port located approximately 7.8″ in front of the bolt face. It works. On the civilian market, lots of companies are offering (usually pinned) 14.5″ barrels with the midlength gas system, i.e. gas port about 9.8″ ahead of the bolt face. Civilian shooters will tell you the midlength gas system is a softer shooting system. But is it more reliable? We could make arguments about it, but NSWC Crane decided to put it to the test.

Barrel Wear: Accuracy Degradation
In a normal, carbine-length gas system, a degradation of accuracy can be seen after about 6,000 rounds. Crane’s testing found that after 12,000 rounds, the midlength barrels did not suffer appreciable accuracy degradation.

Muzzle Velocity
Does the midlength gas system cause any loss in velocity? In the unsuppressed case, the carbine had a mean muzzle velocity of 2,905.4 feet per second, and the midlength had a muzzle velocity of 2,906.4 feet per second. The difference in means is -1.0 feet per second, or 0.04%.

In the suppressed case, average muzzle velocity was 2,989.7 feet per second for the carbine system and 2,983.0 feet per second for the midelength. Here the difference is 6.7 feet per second, or 0.23%. In either case, muzzle velocity is negligible.

Terminal Velocity (100 yards)
Given the negligible difference in velocity at the muzzle between the carbine length and midlength gas systems, we would expect the difference at 100 yards to be similarly negligible. And it is. In the unsuppressed case, carbine-length gas system yields a terminal velocity of 2,635.9 feet per second and the midlength gives 2,677.6 feet per second for a difference of 41.6 feet per second or 1.57%.

The suppressed case is similar, with the carbine-length gas system providing 2,654.1 fps and the midlength providing 2,686.7 fps, for a difference of 32.6 fps or 1.22%. Overall, there’s not much of a performance difference. Midlength is actually slightly better. Of course, we wouldn’t expect much of a difference in velocities from changing the gas system length.

Cyclic Rate
We might expect a change in cyclic rate from altering the gas system length (and hence the gas pressure in the system). Also, small reductions in cyclic rate tend to be good from a parts-life standpoint as well as a controllability standpoint. So what do we get? Again, we have the suppressed and unsuppressed cases. In the unsuppressed case, we see a reduction of 127.2 rounds per minute or 15.9% going from a carbine-length 864.8 rpm to a midlength 737.6 rpm. The suppressed case gives us a reduction of 62.7 rounds per minute or 6.9% when we go from a carbine-length 944.2 rpm to a midlength 881.5 rpm.

Stoppages
Given the reduced cyclic rate for the midlength, does this translate into more reliability? The tests showed that it did. The carbine length gas system had 65 stoppages, and the midlength gas system had 30. The high temperature (160 F) testing phase accounted for 5/65 stoppages in the carbine-length gas systems and 1/30 stoppages in the midlength gas systems. Low temperature testing (-60 F) accounted for 27/65 stoppages in the carbine-length gas systems and 15/30 stoppages in the midlength gas systems. All other stoppages occurred in ambient-temperature testing.

So now we have some hard data proving that midlength gas systems are better on 14.5″ barreled weapons. Great! This gets more interesting because the USAF is looking at buying 50,000 improved M4s for security forces, battlefield airmen and OSI. That’s the kind of significant buy that can have an impact on what kind of weapons the rest of the US armed forces use. Remember, the Air Force were the first to embrace the M16.

Movie Guns: Bond’s Walther PPK

Quite possibly one of the most famous movie guns ever, the Walther PPK has been (generally) Bond’s sidearm since his introduction to the silver screen in 1962. It probably doesn’t need much introduction, but I’m going to give it one anyway.

The 7.65 Browning (.32 ACP) Walther PPK replaced the .25 ACP Beretta 4181 as Bond’s sidearm in the novels starting in the book Dr. No. A fan, Geoffrey Boothroyd, had written Fleming disapproving of this small choice of firearm (in the Beretta). They corresponded for a while, and after establishing that Fleming thought Bond should be armed with a semiautomatic pistol, eventually settled upon the Walther PPK as the new firearm.

As a brief aside, I hate the Walther PPK. I can’t stand it. The trigger is garbage. The sights are virtually nonexistent. The mag release is in a stupid place. The grip is entirely too small for the hands of any reasonably-sized man. The slide seems purpose-designed to tear up the web of your hand. I would say at least it’s pretty, but there are plenty of other pretty guns out there that aren’t a total soup sandwich to shoot.

Now, because James Bond is a franchise but his weapon remains basically unchanged, we’re going to look at this first in the context of 1962 when the first movie was made. We’ll also look into it as a choice today.

1962
Much as I hate to admit it, the PPK is not a bad choice in 1962 given Fleming’s strict criteria. There are not a lot of small semiautomatic pistols available. My preference would be to either relax the semiautomatic requirement and carry an S&W Centennial Airweight, chambered for .38 Special, or to relax the size constraint a bit and carry a Colt Commander2, chambered for 9mm. In either case, I get a much more effective round and a much more shootable weapon. Most of the time, Bond has a great concealment garment on. This does require a bit more effort on the part of one’s tailor, but that is why one employs a tailor.

2018
You must be joking. There are so many better choices in 2018 that it truly boggles the mind, and it gets even worse if you relax those constraints again. In the Profoundly Small Semiautomatic category, we have the Glock 43, S&W M&P Shield, Walther CCP, and SIG P365. Also the Glock 42 if we don’t mind shooting .380. If we let ourselves go a trifle bigger into double stacks, we now include the PPQ SC, Glock 26, M&PC, and P320SC, which are even better, and can take larger magazines from their bigger brothers. If you’re still packing a .32 ACP anything in 2018 and you plan on wet work, you need to have your head examined. The .380 version is outclassed both by newer, better pistols in .380 as well as the latest crop of small, single-stack 9mm pistols. In .380 right now, I’d be all over the soft-shooting Glock 42, which fixes basically every problem I have with the .380 PPK.


  1. To quote the wonderful Mr. Boothroyd, “It’s a lady’s gun, and not a very nice lady at that.” 
  2. Later called the Lightweight Commander. It’s a 1911 with a 4.25″ barrel, an aluminum frame, and chambered in 9mm. What’s not to like? 

Parvusimperator’s AIWB Experimentation

I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of fantastic innovator. AIWB is pretty popular these days. I’m late to the party. I get it. But it’s still a decent topic, and when all of your trainer friends use it daily, it might be worth looking into. And I’m really big into experiential learning, so what the hell, right?

Let’s review our terms. AIWB (Appendix Inside the Waistband) is a mode of carry where the gun is forward of the hipbones (usually between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on your person). It has a number of advantages over traditional behind-the-hip IWB:

  • Better concealment

  • Faster draw time (generally)

  • Easier to defend against a gun grab

  • Much easier access to the gun when seated

At the same time, there’s an obvious bit of caution here. Clearly, we’re in the vicinity of some very important things. For some actual testing, and not just a bunch of nervous prattling, check out Ballistic Radio’s video on the subject HERE. As a bonus, this also includes some good AIWB reholstering technique to maximize safety.

Now that we’ve dealt with that annoying elephant in the room, let’s get on with it. I did need to get some stuff for this experiment. First, holsters. I wanted holsters designed with appendix carry in mind, so I hit up the good folks at Dark Star Gear for some AIWB holsters. Dark Star Gear is also the brand used in the cool video above, they’re the brand used by several of my instructor buddies who kicked off this shindig, and as a further bonus they’re local to me. I got a holster for my Glock 34 (which also fits the Glockblaster if I remove the weaponlight) and another for the Glock 17. While the Glock 17 will fit in the Glock 34 holster, I wanted to see if the reduced length of a Glock 17-specific holster mattered for comfort.

Key things I wanted in my holster were adjustable cant (I wanted to play with zero-cant and negative-cant options), and something to help tuck the gun in close to my body.

I also got a Wilderness Instructor Belt. I got the wilderness belt because lots of my instructor buddies recommended it. They also mentioned that having some kind of belt with the capability for lots of (possibly small) adjustments would go a long way to making my appendix carry experience good.

Also, note that I did not purchase pants with a waist size any larger than what I would wear if I did NOT have a gun tucked inside the waistband.

And now, a brief bit about me. I’m about average height and am a skinny dude. I spend most of my workday sitting. So sitting comfort is important to me, and the easier seated access is a nice plus. Also, my commute is roughly twenty minutes each way.

In terms of pistols, I tried my Glock 34, my Glockblaster sans weaponlight, and my Glock 17 with RMR. Here’s what I found:

  • All pistols were concealed much better AIWB than IWB or OWB with a cover garment. I could be quite discrete with even a light t-shirt as a cover garment. While my office is a pretty permissive environment, this made me feel better generally. Also, it’s pretty cool.

  • Both guns were comfortable seated at my desk or in my car. I had no complaints and wasn’t tempted to remove my gun to improve seated comfort.

  • The Glock 34-length holster made bending over a little uncomfortable. The Glock 17 less so. I don’t bend over much during the day, so this wasn’t a huge downside. Still worth noting.

  • My draw times from concealment are faster. I expect them to improve with practice.

  • My instructor buddies were spot-on about having a belt supporting a wide range of adjustments. The wilderness instructor belt is a lot more comfortable with an AIWB holster than my standard heavy leather belt, mostly because of the wider range of adjustments.

So my conclusion overall is that I really like appendix carry. It works well for me, my body type and the guns I like to carry. As with everything else, your mileage may vary. However, if you’re curious about AIWB, I would encourage you to try it out with some purpose-built gear.

On J-Frames

The persistent popularity of small snubnosed revolvers, typified by the J-Frame models of Smith & Wesson, for concealed carry purposes astonishes me. Back in the day, sure. Small, reliable, semiautomatic pistols in a reasonable defensive caliber did not exist. But this is Anno Domini 2018. It is not 1958. There are plenty of options if you want something really small and concealable and reliable and chambered in a reasonable defensive caliber. Off the top of my head, there’s the S&W M&P Shield, the Glock 43, and the Walther PPS, all with established track records and manufacturers with good QC. These are reliable choices. They’ve been on the market for years. They work. Really. And they provide so many advantages over the small revolver that I still am astonished that people go for the revolvers instead. And no, I also don’t know why my tactical friends keep seeking out training on the damn things. Let’s review the many ways that the small, single-stack semiautomatic is flat-out better than the old-school revolver competition.

  1. Sights
    I tend to get picky about my sights. Modern semiautomatic pistols allow me to be picky. There are a wide variety of sights available for your Glock 19, letting you pick exactly the ones that work with your eyesight. Single-stack subcompacts like the PPS, Shield, and Glock 43 are no different. They all have sight dovetails. This highly advanced technology allows you to change out the sights to something that better suits your needs and eyes. It’s amazing. And these small pistols from established manufacturers have a large aftermarket. You need dovetails, but you also need sights to put in them. But we have you covered with the choices above, whether you like 3-dots or tritium or fiber optics.

    The vast majority of J-frames have atrocious “sights” that consist of a little lump of metal on the front of the barrel and a little trough cut in the rear of the frame. Not adjustable, not high-visibility, not tritium, and certainly not interchangeable. Simply put, the stock sights are awful and you are stuck with them. There are a few J-Frame models that actually have dovetails, but they are tremendously expensive and there are few manufacturers working with this market niche. Otherwise, better hope your chosen rounds shoot someplace sensible based on a reasonable sight picture.

  2. Trigger
    I’ve gotten less picky about my trigger choice these days, though I still like good ones. Anyway, I can think of few things worse in a trigger than the average double action pull of a recently-made revolver. Long and heavy, and probably gritty too. Lots of people will advocate an Apex spring kit in your J-frame. Which helps. Or you could get one of those single-stack subcompacts that has better trigger out of the box. And these single stacks can also take trigger improvements, just like their bigger brethren. I’m sure if I grew up firing revolvers and figuring out how to make that trigger work well, a slightly-lightened wheelgun trigger would be the “bees knees”. But I didn’t, so it’s not. Comparing stock to stock or modified to modified, the semiautos will have the better triggers, and you’ll likely be more familiar with them, because most of your shooting is going to be with some full size semiautomatic pistol.

  3. That Wheel
    You get five shots in a j-frame. Six in some competitors. At which point you’re working with speed strips, probably. Maybe speedloaders, but those are bulky. This is a different and slower reload drill than the modern semiautomatic, which you probably spend most of your time shooting. And even the small single-stack pistols mentioned previously all hold more bullets. Also note that the J-Frame’s footprint matches that of the double-stack Glock 26, which holds twice as many bullets and can accept magazines from other, larger Glock pistols.

Just about everybody is going to be better suited to buying a small semiautomatic these days. And you’re not giving anything up on size either. Here’s an overlay from the late Todd Green, who is also firmly in the more bullets camp, where we can see that a J-frame and a Glock 26 are both about the same size.

Glock 26 j frame

Oh, and one more thing. J-frames with the locking hole in the side of the frame above the cylinder release have been known to have this lock break, jamming up the gun. Just what you want.

Soldiers’ Gadgets: Geissele High Speed Selector

The AR-15 selector is a pretty standard component. There are a few variations on the lever shape, some including an ambi part for lefties, but it’s worked the same way since the 1960s: Point the lever forward (“0 degrees”) for Safe, point the lever straight up (90 degrees) for semiautomatic, and point the lever back (180 degrees) for full automatic. Or burst. Pretty simple.

One innovation seen occasionally on competition guns is the ‘short-throw’ safety lever. This is a safety lever where semiauto requires less than a quarter-turn of the lever. Usually it’s about a 45-55 degree range of travel that will switch the rifle to semiautomatic.

Something like this has also been seen on some military rifles, including the FN SCAR. On the SCAR’s safety lever, the 45 degree position is semiautomatic and 90 degrees is fully automatic. It’s definitely easier and faster than the standard AR lever, but it’s not really worth fussing about. Unless you’re a competition shooter where every tenth of a second counts, in which case, you can mod your heart out. That said, it’s not a super popular mod on the competition circuit. Usually money gets spent elsewhere.

It becomes a little more interesting when combined with a recent Marine Corps study. The Corps appears to have (re)discovered that fully automatic fire is more effective on moving targets than semiautomatic fire. This is no surprise. We’ve known this for a while now. Recall that the original demand for the rate of fire on the MG-42 came from wanting to maximize hit probability for a target moving from cover to cover at range. And Project SALVO and SPIW were all about increasing hit probability by getting more bullets downrange.

All that said, let’s look at the specific formulation, since we have it for this study. Numbers are always good. To simulate an enemy soldier moving from cover to cover, the marines looked at a man-size target moving at a speed of about 10 miles per hour, at a range of 50-150 yards, and assumed a 2.2 second exposure. They worked out that if a soldier was firing on semi-automatic, the hit probability was about 0.4. This hit probability went up to 0.6 simply by switching over to full automatic.

Anyway, the Marines were a little concerned that by the time the soldier saw the moving target, flipped the selector to automatic, took aim, and fired, the target would be gone. Remember, there’s only a 2.2 second exposure time. So they reached out to Geissele to help. While they were wishing, they also wanted the transition in and out of full-auto to be as easy as possible.

Geissele’s high speed selector starts with a 45-degree position for semi-automatic, and a 90-degree position for fully automatic. Just like the SCAR. What’s new is that the selector is spring loaded. So the marine holds the selector in the 90-degree position with his thumb to fire on full-automatic and lets go when he wants to go back to semi-automatic.

I like the shorter throw, but I’m not entirely sold on the spring-loading. It seems to me like this is the sort of thing that one ought to be able to handle with doctrine and drill. A technological solution in search of a problem. And I really don’t think the short throw is worth the bother.

There Is No Milspec AR-10

Anytime I hear the words “milspec AR-10” my teeth get set on edge. There’s no such thing. I’m gonna repeat that.

There is no such thing as a “milspec AR-10”.

Got it? It should be pretty clear. No. Such. Thing.

Let’s start with what exactly is “milspec.” You may have guessed it’s short for “military specification,” and you’d be correct. For the US Army (and some others), they like to take ownership of certain products. Sometimes there are competitive bids. For the M4, there’s a specification of what exactly an M4 is, and then the US Army can have companies bid on how much it will cost to make a certain number of rifles to that spec. The milspec is owned by the military (in general).

So there’s no “milspec AR-10” because no major military adopted the AR-10 and cemented the design that way. Emphasis on the and. Merely adopting the rifle is insufficient. The AR-10 was used by the Sudanese, Cubans, and the Portugese, but none of those made a spec. All of those arms were built by Artillerie Inrichtigen, which wasn’t able to get more contracts and stopped making AR-10s ages ago. Still no spec.

Things got confusing in the 1990s. By that time, Eugene Stoner was working for Knights Armament, and they made the SR-25, a modern take on the AR-10 design for use as a semiautomatic marksman’s rifle. This used the gas system improvements worked out on the AR-15 and had a number of parts shared with the then-issue M16A2. The magazine design is also used in DPMS’ AR-10-pattern rifles, among others, and you can find these magazines as “DPMS/SR-25” pattern.

There’s another pattern of magazines currently in use for AR-10-pattern rifles. This one is made, confusingly enough, by Armalite. The original Armalite company ceased operations in the early 1980s. The rights to the name were bought, and Armalite was relaunched in 1996, with a new AR-10 pattern rifle (among other things). At that time the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was in effect in the United States. This bill prohibited the sale of new magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, but older magazines that held more than 10 rounds could still be bought and sold. So (new) Armalite made magazines that had a common design with M-14 magazines, so buyers of their rifle could use existing, common M-14 magazines with a couple easy modifications. These are “Armalite” pattern magazines, and they’re not compatible with DPMS/SR-25 pattern magazines.

And no, neither DPMS nor Knights nor Armalite are responsible for any current milspec “AR-10-pattern” rifle.