Tag Archives: firearms

Witness Protection Shotgun

There are a number of shotguns released today designed to avoid classification as a “short barreled shotgun”. For our international readers, under the complicated and confusing US law, a “short barreled shotgun” has to be registered with the ATF, which means a $200 fee, fingerprints, photos, and a six month wait. But a short, “stockless” gun like the Tac-14, Shockwave or V3 Tac-13 is not legally an SBS, and so you can buy it and take it home with you immediately, with no extra fee.1

Now, lots of people will debate the utility of such a weapon. I think the utility might be best understood with a little history, not that every weapon needs to serve a practical purpose. Some guns are fun guns, and that’s awesome. But this weapon has good applications. For one, shotguns with slugs are good bear repellent, and a very compact, stockless shotgun can be strapped to or thrown in a backpack pretty easily.

What many may not know is that the US Marshals had a professional gunsmith make something an awful lot like the Tac-14 back in the 80s. They called it the Witness Protection Shotgun. Being law enforcement, the US Marshals could buy what the NFA would call “Short Barreled Shotguns” with 14″ barrels and stocks no problem. But that’s not what these were.

The Witness Protection Shotgun started life as a Remington 870. It had a 12.5″ barrel, which was as short as they could cut the 870’s barrel given how it attaches to the rest of the gun. It also had a cut, shaped, and refinished “bird’s head” grip of wood, shaped a lot like you’d see on the Tac-14. They also added a sling plate at the front, much like the Wilson Combat vertical sling plate. The idea here was to both attach a sling and provide a handstop to make sure that the support hand didn’t end up in front of the muzzle. Magazine capacity was four 2 3/4″ shells.

You may have figured out the intended role from the name. The idea was to have a tremendously powerful, concealable weapon for use in the witness protection program. With a very short barrel, no stock, and general lack of bulk that comes from a pump shotgun (as compared to say, a Colt Commando), the Witness Protection Shotgun was easy for a marshal to hide under his coat. These were popular with the US Marshals in the 80s, and then fell out of favor.

And with proper technique you won’t hit yourself in the face when shooting one either.

  1. Your mileage may vary. Some restrictions may apply if your state is run by communists. 

Let’s Bash: The “Combat-Reliable” AR-15 Build

TFB ran an article about a so-called “Combat-Reliable” AR-15 build. It’s silly.

First, the concept is dumb. What does “Combat-Reliable” even mean? Looking at the parts list, lots haven’t been used in actual combat. And that would be “combat tested”. If you want a “combat reliable” rifle, here’s one, albeit one with a slightly longer barrel. And technically, without burst or auto fire capability. Let’s say you’re an army and looking to buy carbines. You’re not going to gucci it up and spec out specific parts. You’re going to call your preferred FMS-approved vendors, buy some M4s,1 and go have beers. You don’t want to bother with parts compatibility and testing. And carbines aren’t all that important anyway. They need to work. Savings can go into more important things like bombs and artillery.

And really, if we look at how many rounds are fired in combat, it tends to fall way short of the MRBS numbers on an existing Colt/FN/whoever M4. Not to mention that there’s a big supply chain for parts for boring old M4s already. If your bolt breaks, replace it. Which you can do with the existing supply system.

But ok. Let’s suppose we want to make a rifle as reliable as possible for our own reasons. Which is fine. That’s a thing we can do as a civilian with our own money. Let’s just not make too much of a fetish of combat. It’s not 2006 anymore. So let’s look at the particular parts.

Lower, why? Billet because it’s cool? There are other lowers (Radian AX556, LMT MARS) that do all this one can AND let you lock the bolt back from either side, so they do ambi better. The LMT is also forged, so it should be lighter. Billet lowers look awesome, but do nothing for reliability.

Upper: Why?! Again, are we picking this part because it looks cool? Fine, but don’t try to tell me it’s somehow “more reliable”. Why still have the forward assist? Where’s the reliability/functionality gain? If you want “more rigidity” (not that I think it matters), get the Vltor MUR. Otherwise, go forged. On the other hand, if this build was sponsored by San Tan Tactical, good on your for getting a sponsor, and why aren’t you touting their awesomeness for being part of your project?

Bolt carrier: It’s a standard full-auto spec carrier, which is a fine part. Let’s look at the coating though. There are a lot of coatings out there. Hard chrome is chosen here, but there’s also DLC/Ionbond, NiB and NP3 (nickel-teflon). What I have never, ever found is any actual data showing that these are actually better than the standard parkerization in field use. Yes, some coatings are harder or more naturally lubricative. But the AR-15 is normally run with oil on the carrier and bolt, and the mil-spec phosphate coating “holds” lubrication pretty well. Now, if you want to make the argument that some other, non-standard coating is better, you need to tell us what we’re trying to improve. NP3 is the slickest and DLC is the hardest, so those seem like obvious choices. Hard chrome is great for abrasion resistance, and it looks awesome, but these are internal parts and the existing phosphated carriers don’t really have a problem with abrasion.

Bolt: This is a standard bolt with a hard chrome coating. There are bolts out there made of better steel that have extractors with better tension and lugs that are more resistant to shear. If your goal is to make a super tough rifle, you should probably have one of those.

Rail: The centurion rails are a nice upgrade to a milspec rifle build because they fit the stock barrel nut and are freefloated. But this is built from scratch, so why use the “stock” barrel nut at all? Geissele Mk 16 (from the URGI) seems the obvious choice here, because MLOK is lighter, cheaper, and doesn’t require rail covers. Geissele claims that their rail is the most rigid, which is good if you plan on attaching lasers to it and are looking for the last 1% of awesomeness. Also, most aftermarket barrel nuts that are reasonably modern don’t require timing for the gas tube, which is great. As a builder, timing is an annoying step.

If you want to argue that quad rails are the right choice, you need to tell us why. Most people are going another direction, including USASOC. USASOC going mlok seems to indicate that it’s certainly tough enough. Even if you want to go quadrail, why 9″? Why not go longer and have more room for accessories/your hand/bracing on a support? I’ve seen no data indicating that quadrails are actually any better at retaining accessories, if that’s a concern. They’re also more expensive.

Gas block: Why bother with a folding front sight block in 2018? Irons are not your primary. Get a longer rail and put folding BUIS on that like a normal person. You can’t even make a durability argument here, because those still fold. A fixed FSB would be more rugged, but that’s not what you have here.

I would argue, like Ian and Karl did with the WWSD rifles, that buis are superfluous these days, but I recognize that not everyone agrees. If you want irons, get something that is made of better materials than the ARMS sights and is elevation adjustable. Those rear sights aren’t all that durable, and isn’t that our goal here? Not to use old parts from 2006?

Barrel: Why is midlength gas optimal on a 16″ We’ve just seen Crane testing show that midlength is better than carbine gas on a 14.5″ barrel. So maybe intermediate gas is better on a 16″. Also, that is a government profile barrel, and that is a stupid, muzzle-heavy profile. Either go with a lightweight profile to save weight, or go with a medium profile for better accuracy/automatic fire capability. The government profile makes no sense.

The chosen flash hider should be able to mount a suppressor. If we want “combat” suppressors, maybe the Surefire SOCOM ones that have seen combat. But in any case, suppressor capability should be there. Even the basic “A2” flash hider can mount some suppressors.

Stock: Again, a really old part. Why? There are better stocks. There are certainly tougher stocks, to the extent that such things matter.

  1. Or HK 416s, since those are about 95% M4. 

Let’s Bash: The Ribbon Gun

I was going to write a nice answer to Chris’ question about this new thing, but then I thought “Why not write an article instead?” So let’s do that.

The Ribbon Gun is the latest in a long line of “Space Age Future Rifles”. It has four 6mm barrels side-by-side in one big block, and it shoots ammunition stored in blocks that keep all the bullets in a neat little row. It’s supposed to have a theoretical cyclic rate of something like 250 rounds per second. Ignition is electronic, but it sill uses (supposedly) some sort of gunpowder to drive the projectiles.

So let’s get on to my opinion. As you may have guessed from the title, I’m not a fan. Here we have a rifle that supposedly capable of some sort of ludicrous cyclic rate of fire. There’s no word on how it’s going to eject those ammo “blocks” fast enough, or how a solider is going to carry enough ammo. The ammo magazine looks big, bulky and heavy. Which is perfect for soldiers who are already overburdened with electronics, body armor, and batteries. Let’s give them more ammo weight; that’s the ticket to success. Perhaps they just mean it as some sort of “hyperburst,” but that comes with its own problems.

Electronic ignition is nothing new. The advantages of such are frequently touted, but the success and popularity of designs featuring electric ignition is just not there. The VEC-91 was a market failure, and had its share of problems. It’s the gun of the future, and it always will be. Or so the joke goes. Electronic ignition should be simpler, but do we really need more batteries? They better at least be standard batteries. Does it lag?

And of course, any kind of rate of fire that’s quite fast will have the problem of waste heat. This design shows very little appreciation for how it will be cooled, though it is just a prototype. That’s always a problem with high rates of fire or so-called “hyperbursts”. One of the things seen in previous programs was trying to figure out just the right amount of dispersion in a hyperburst to get enough spread at expected combat ranges to make up for aiming errors. It’s a very difficult problem to solve, and no one quite has it figure out.

We’ve seen a number of high rate of fire weapons before. I have a book full of fantastic future rifles. They went no where. There are significant technical problems inherent in such a design, and the tradeoffs really aren’t worth the costs. Perhaps they can make a soldier “more accurate.” Or perhaps they’ll just enable him to miss faster. And nobody ever talks about keeping Pfc. Schmuckatelli supplied with enough ammo to sustain the rate of fire. Could every man in the Werhmacht Heer have carried an MG42? I think not. And no, it’s not the weight of the weapon that’s a problem; it’s the weight of the quantity of ammo.

I’d rather buy JDAMs. Maybe I’m missing out on another SPIW. Maybe I’m missing out on the next Lebel. If it proves to be good, it’s a lot easier to make the second of something. But that’s really not all that likely to be needed. Existing carbines are pretty good, when you look at them as a whole.

Let’s Bash: the Laugo Alien pistol

Today’s obscure piece of firearms technology is the Laugo Alien, a fascinating handgun whose slide rides between the frame and an interchangeable top strap.

This is objectively cool, and in the same way that CZ’s low-ride slides yield a nice straight-back recoil impulse, I can see how this design would do the same. It has the added benefit of fixing the sights to a non-moving platform, which is good both for tracking sights, and for not subjecting electronic sights to quite as severe conditions. All told, I think it’s a worthwhile experiment, and could very well be the next thing to catch on.

That said, as ever, we have to ask ourselves what the gun is for. The answer is pretty clearly ‘competition’. For one, just look at the colors. Subtle this ain’t. For another, look at the front iron sight: a big, delicate fiber-optic jobber. Finally, read the text in the second link. Laugo is planning an Open-division kit, which includes a Picatinny top strap, a flared magazine well, and a compensator. (No pictures of the comp, unfortunately.)

So, is it a good choice for competition? The answer is pretty clearly no. Let us count the reasons why.

One: caliber choice. The Alien teased so far is a 9mm pistol. That means USPSA Limited is out, at least as a serious contender. .40 is the sweet spot there, as in any sport with a major/minor distinction. USPSA Production? I think the iron-sight version would technically be Production-legal, but Laugo has to sell a few thousand, then get them on the Production list, and buying one for Production prior to that is a bit chicken-and-egg. USPSA Open? They seem to be leaning in that direction, with a pistol a full half a pound heavier than a Beretta 92 which has an optional Open-division kit. I wouldn’t want to be the first to put a few thousand rounds of 9mm Major through it, though. Carry Optics? Also no, because the sight is frame-mounted.

There might be some room for it in other shooting sports without a major-minor distinction, but then you run into problem two.

Two: magazine choice. Catastrophically, the Alien uses proprietary magazines. This is never, ever a good idea, especially if you’re building something in the technological avant garde. Magazines are hard to get right, and the best answer is almost always, “Use Glock, Beretta 92, or CZ 75 mags.” Proprietary magazines also limit you to 17 rounds of 9mm, which is insufficient for any sort of competition use besides Production division. Too, they’re expensive, they can be hard to find, and they’re a big part of problem three.

Three: no aftermarket. The best competition guns are those you either have custom made to have irresponsibly light triggers, those with custom shops which will do irresponsibly light trigger jobs, and those you can buy irresponsibly-light trigger parts for. Laugo is probably not going to sell a pistol out of the box with a two-pound trigger, and until such time as parts are available, it’s going to be a less-optimal choice.

All that being said, I can’t deny the coolness. Furthermore, like I said above, I think it’s very likely to end up being a good idea. I just don’t think it’s quite ready for the crucible of competition yet.

(If you’re reading this and want to prove us wrong, Laugo, we’ll give you our local FFL’s address.)

Parvusimperator Reviews the Vortex Razor Gen II-E 1-6

Kind of a mouthful of a scope name, but it’s high time I review it. The Gen II-E is the lighter version of the Gen II that three gunners have been loving for years, and that SOCOM has been slapping on their carbines when they want a low-power variable optic. The II-E is basically the same great scope, but four oz. lighter. Subtract one Royale with cheese. Great. I’m always down for lighter weight.

I went with the JM-1 reticle, because I’m buying this scope for competition, where a simple BDC-type reticle will do nicely. Other reticle choices are MOA-dots and mildots. So if you want ranging references, go with those. All reticles have a 0.5-MOA illuminated dot in the center of the crosshair. It’s small enough not to cover stuff up, but bright enough to be easily seen just about anywhere. “Daylight bright” is a frequently abused term in optics reviews. I will say that it’s as bright as my Aimpoint. Or, if you prefer, there are settings that are entirely too bright to be without blooming on an sunny Pennsylvania day. So it should be bright enough for anything.

The illumination dial is nicely thought out. Pull out to adjust and then push in to lock, just like a locking turret. Also nice is that between each setting there’s an off position. So you don’t need to go all the way back to zero every time you want to shut your scope off. It’s a nice convenience feature.

The adjustment turrets are capped. Once the caps are removed, the turrets themselves are adjustable with your fingers, not a screwdriver/cartridge case. The adjustment increment, in my case 1/2 MOA, was printed right on the turret, which was also nice. I didn’t need to consult a manual, so I didn’t have to worry about forgetting it at home. For this scope and its intended uses, capped turrets are ideal. BDCs are not for dialing range on.

Looking through the Razor, we find very clear glass. Even at the edges. The scope has a really wide field of view and a very forgiving eyebox. The wide field of view means that the scope body will very nearly disappear on 1x. Up close, the Razor is fantastic. It’s fast as my Aimpoint, and that’s high praise.

Letting the scope stretch its legs a little, it also does well at range. The field of view is great on 6x too, and the reticle doesn’t get in your way. I like simple reticles, and you can’t argue with good glass.

I don’t have any complaints about the Razor. It’s a little heavy, but not inordinately so. It has a second focal plane reticle, which means that the subtensions are only accurate on the maximum magnification. That’s fine by me; that’s the only time I really expect to need them. It also means that it’s easier to design a reticle that works across all magnification ranges when the reticle doesn’t change with magnification. Technically, it’s also way easier to make a second focal plane reticle brightly illuminated. I’d rather have the simple reticle and bright illumination.

Is this the right scope for you? That depends on your application. For 3-Gun and other action shooting disciplines, this scope is the gold standard. Understand your needs before you go buying, especially if you can’t look through it first. All that said, I’m extremely happy with my purchase, and I love my Razor.

Announcing the Glock 45

In the pages of a German gun magazine comes interesting news. Glock has a new model: the Glock 45. Confusingly, it’s chambered in 9mm. Because Glock loves confusing you. Or they just don’t care.

Anyway, what is the Glock 45? Well, it’s sort of like the Glock 19X, but a little different. Like the Glock 19X, it’s got a Glock 19 length slide and barrel on a Glock 17-sized frame. Unlike the Glock 19X, the Glock 45 is black. If you were waiting for a black 19X, here you go. It also has front slide serrations, and a bit of a built-in magwell. From the pictures, there doesn’t appear to be the cutout at the front of the grip. It also comes with front slide serrations, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Seeing as the Glock 19X is super popular, we’d expect the Glock 45 to be popular too. Lots of people like the short-slide, long-grip design, in Glocks and also in P320s and 1911s.

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.

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.

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.