Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saying good-bye to the M9

The Army has announced that it will be replacing the 25 year old M9 pistol.  This announcement came on Aug 28th, 2011.

M9 Service Pistol
The M9 has had a long and some what sordid history with the U.S. Armed Forces.  Starting early in its life cycle a now infamous slide failure injured a Naval Special Warfare member.  Other slide failures were observed during this time period which resulted in several design changes.  One of these changes was the inclusion of a device to capture the slide should it fail thereby preventing it from striking the shooter.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan other problems were discovered with the pistol, among those were problems with the contract magazines that often failed in the sandy conditions.  This was remedied with a new contract being put out and a new vendor selected for manufacturing the magazines.

Unfortunately the problems didn't stop there with the M9.

The open top design of the M9 has also been criticized as it tends to allow debris into the action of the pistol relatively easily thereby causing malfunctions.

The locking block of the pistol was known for failures.  After 5,000 rounds were fired, it was recommended this piece be replaced.  It took several years, but Beretta finally fixed this problem and now the locking blocks are said to be quite durable.  The Army still claims that the M9 has a service life of 5,000 rounds, however Beretta contests this claim and says that the service life of the M9 is more along the lines of 35,000 rounds.  A test carried out under Army supervision fired 168,000 rounds through 12 M9's without a malfunction.

The slide mounted safety has also been a problem.  When Soldiers or Marines have used immediate action to clear a malfunction, they've inadvertently engaged the safety of the pistol.  Immediate action generally requires the operator to grab the slide firmly with their non-shooting hand and rack it rearward very quickly and positively.  Where the operator grabs the slide is where the slide mounted safety is located.

Walther P-38
But the M9 has also had its fans and supporters.  It is an elegant pistol that shares many of its innovations with the WWII era P38 Walter pistol.  The dropping block system of lock-up was borrowed directly from the P38.  The slide mounted hammer drop safety was also borrowed from the design, as was the open top design of the slide.

One thing of interest is that the Army has said that the M9 lacks lethality.  One of the requirements for a new pistol will be "an increase in permanent wound channel" which seems to suggest a caliber change might also be on the horizon.  I would imagine this will be a tough battle given our NATO allies use 9mm and if the US once again goes off the reservation with a non-standard caliber, our allies might protest.  That, or perhaps NATO is considering a caliber change too.  My guess is that the .40 S&W will be a strong contender.

It's also worth noting that back in 2008 the USMC adopted the M9A1 (4,000 delivered that year) which had several improvements including a beveled magazine well, 1913 type rail,  re-contoured trigger guard and a new buffer system.

I look forward to the new pistol trials to be carried out in 2012.  The field should be awash in competing designs including the Glock, M&P, Px4, Sig, HK P30 or HK45, XD, etc.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When Tactical Goes Wrong

It seems that the rush to make a new "tactical" accessory or firearm continues.  We've seen this trend for several years by many manufacturers, but occasionally you'll stumble into a product that makes you think, "what the heck?".  I recently stumbled into two such products and interestingly, they're both from the same manufacturer.


Mossberg seems to be suffering from a bit of an identity crisis lately.  Mossberg made a name for itself early in the 20th century by designing and manufacturing classics like the Brownie pistol and eventually traditional rifles, shotguns and optics.  In the last couple of decades the Mossberg Model 500 shotgun has become something of an icon and is used by the U.S. military.  Mossberg is also one of the oldest firearms makers in the U.S. and is the oldest family owned firearms manufacturer in the U.S.

Despite being a seasoned firearms manufacturer, they've made some real head scratchers lately.

702 Plinkster
Take the 702 Pinkster .22LR autoloader as an example.  Here we have what almost seems to be a traditional semi-automatic .22LR rifle with a detachable magazine and polymer stock.  Where things get really strange is at the muzzle.  That's right, they've added what appears to be a .50 BMG muzzle brake to a .22LR, similar to the brakes found on rifles such as the Barrett M82 sniper rifle.  The massive Barrett brake is designed to tame the vicious recoil of the .50 BMG rifle cartridge.  I don't know why anyone would see a need to use such a device on a rifle that is generally accepted to have no recoil.  I would pay to be a fly on the wall during the conversations between the engineers and the marketing folks at Mossberg when this concept was being pitched.

But apparently the 702 Plinkster wasn't tacticool enough to stand on its own, Mossberg stepped up with yet another head scratcher, perhaps eclipsing the 702 Plinkster.

Model 500 "Chainsaw"
Enter the Model 500 "Chainsaw" 12ga shotgun.  This little gem looks like it's right out of The Evil Dead movie.  Take a pistol grip 12ga shotgun, add a tacticool muzzle device and a chainsaw grip to the front pump handguard and you have what's possibly the craziest looking shotgun ever created and sold by a major firearms manufacturer.  The image to the left is not photoshopped in any way, this is a real product.

I wish Mossberg well in their pursuit of profits, but honestly, I'm a bit dumbfounded with these two products.  When I first saw images of them I honestly thought it was a joke, that someone had photoshopped a couple of images for a gag.  But it's no joke, these are real products.

Mossberg Modern Rifle (MMR)
Mossberg has also stepped into the ring with another new product that's a little more conventional, the MMR or "Mossberg Modern Rifle".  The MMR is basically another AR15 clone which I would argue isn't "modern" in the slightest.  To me calling another AR15 clone based on a design that's 48+ years old "modern" is like producing another 1911 clone and calling it the MMH (Mossberg Modern Handgun).  About the only thing I can see that's unique about the MMR is the unconventional looking pistol grip they've added.

I honestly wish Mossberg the best of luck with these products.  It will be interesting to see how these products fare in the marketplace.  Perhaps they'll sell like hotcakes and I'll be forced to eat a hearty serving of crow.

*** Update 2/17/2012***

It looks like Mossberg out did themselves.  Words escape me when looking at their latest tacticool offering.  This one is called the 464 SPX and it's something to behold, for sure:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Modernizing the AK

It's no secret, I'm a fan of the AK rifle.  There are several reasons for my interest in the AK rifle, but I can sum up that interest by describing the rifle as "stupid simple".  A fighting rifle needs to be simple.  Simple controls.  Simple sights.  Big parts that facilitate easy maintenance, and it needs to be reliable.  The AK is the epitome of simplicity and reliability.  That's why I prefer the AK, it's a no frills tool designed to be brutally effective, which it is.

U.S. M4 Rifle
Here in the U.S. we're in love with our AR15's and M16's.  I'm also a fan of the AR15 and M16, but stupid simple it is not.  It has tiny parts that are easily lost in the field, things like the firing pin retaining pin.  It gets dirty more quickly than other rifles that don't rely on direct impingement to operate the action.  But if kept clean and the troops are properly trained, it's a world class military small arm.  But the feature that has set the AR15/M16 apart from the AK in the last couple of decades is the ability of the AR15/M16 to mount a dizzying array of aftermarket accessories.  Some are more useful than others, but accessories such as modern optical sighting systems are critical updates for a modern fighting rifle.

Russian Kobra Red Dot Sight
The countries that field the AK have developed sighting systems for the rifle, but in my opinion most of these systems are far behind Western technologies in terms of quality, durability, and usefulness.  As an example, the Russian Kobra red dot sight is a popular optic used on AK's.  It mounts to the rifle via a proprietary rail system that resides on the left side of the AK's receiver.  The red dot sight (RDS) sits high above the rifle thereby not allowing a co-witness of the iron sights.  In my experience the Kobra sights are somewhat frail as well.  They certainly aren't in the same league as the Aimpoint Comp M4, as an example.

Aimpoint w/RS Products Mount
As the popularity of the AK grows in the United States, more companies have focused on developing high quality, well engineered solutions for mounting modern sighting systems to the rifle.  A number of things have driven the popularity of the AK in recent times, but mostly the relatively low cost of both the rifles and ammunition have been the primary contributors to this popularity.  Whatever the reason, it's a definite win for those of us who own AK's as we're now seeing some great accessories that rival those offered on the AR15/M16.

Midwest Ind. Rail w/RMR RDS
One of the more useful developments for the AR15/M16 have been the forward mounted rail systems used to mount various accessories.  Until recently, these weren't available for the AK rifle.  One of the pioneers was the Ultimak rail for the AK, but it left much to be desired.  It replaced the gas tube with one that included a 1913 style rail for mounting optics.  The downside is that the gas tube gets extremely hot during extended firing and it then passes this heat along to the optic mounted to the rail.  You also had to cut up the lower hand guard or remove the heat shield to get it to mount properly.  But companies like Midwest Industries came along with a more integrated solution that not only runs cooler but allows you to mount modern RDS systems low enough to allow a co-witness of the iron sights.

TWS Rail with CMR 1-4x Scope
The AR15/M16 also evolved to include a flat top 1913 rail along the receiver that compliment after market railed hand guards.  This allowed the user to mount more traditional optics like scopes closer to the shooter for proper eye relief.  While the Russians did develop scopes based on the receiver rail mounting system, these are of modest quality and set off center, to the left, making it difficult for left handed shooters.  This system has mostly been unpalatable to many Western shooters.  That left the door open for Texas Weapon Systems to develop a reliable method for mounting a 1913 rail to the receiver of the AK, which they did.  This system allows the shooter to mount conventional optics in the proper location while not interfering with the normal operation of the AK, including the ability to easily field strip it for cleaning.

I've only touched upon a few of the new and exciting systems available for AK owners.  There are many new products out there that one should consider when modernizing their AK rifle.  At the Military Arms Channel we review many of the new systems as they are released.  Check our channel frequently to see what's new and exciting for the AK rifle.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's time to say goodbye.

Marine with his M16
We, as Americans, tend to cling to things.  We are a nostalgic bunch.  We love our 1911's, our M1 Garands and our 1960's hotrods.  There's nothing wrong with that really, it defines us.  But we also tend to cling to things for the wrong reasons.  We get comfortable with something and we are reluctant to let go.  Take the M1 Garand and the M14 as an example.  We loved the M1 Garand so much that we refused to let it go.  When the rest of the world was moving towards more modern rifles, we revamped the M1 Garand and came up with the M14, one of the shortest serving rifles in U.S. military history.
The M16 has been with us since the 1960's.  When the M16 came on the scene, it was one of the most revolutionary rifle designs, ever.  Why?  Because it made use of aluminum forgings for major parts, plastics/polymers for the stocks, was super light weight and fired the newly developed 5.56mm cartridge.  The M16, and all of its subsequent variants, became the catalyst for change in small arms thinking around the world, including being the primary impetus behind the Russians dropping the 7.62x39 in favor of the 5.45x39.

I served with the M16A2 in the Marine Corps in the late 80's and early 90's.  My first center fire rifle was a Colt AR15 A2 Sporter II, which I still have in my safe.  I love the AR15/M16.  It's as American as baseball and apple pie.  It's served as our nations primary combat rifle for 46 years, the longest serving rifle in U.S. military history.

Adcor Defense B.E.A.R.
The Army has started trials to find a replacement for the M4 Carbine.  These trials will include rifles ranging from the FN SCAR, Remington ACR, Robarms XCR to updated versions of the M4 Carbine.  Companies such as Remington are fielding revised versions of the M4 Carbine for these new trials as well as new comers such as Adcor Defense and their highly modified M4 style Carbine called the B.E.A.R.

Companies have been modifying the AR15/M16 for many years now trying to resolve "issues" with the direct impingement (DI) gas system.  It seems the most popular modification is to replace the DI gas system with a gas piston arrangement similar to that found on the AR18/180.  The only problem I have with these modifications is that it assumes there is something wrong with the DI system of operation.  I don't believe there is, nor do many who have studied the performance of the M16 in combat.

As a matter of fact, many of these "fixes" to the DI system actually cause more problems than they resolve.  The introduction of gas piston systems into the AR family of rifles has caused things like "carrier tilt", a problem that causes malfunctions and accelerated wear in many modified AR's.  That's where companies like Adcor and the new B.E.A.R. rifle come in, they claim to correct all the problems introduced by other changes made to the AR's original system of operation.  It's a vicious circle, we're now fixing the fixes on a rifle that had no real problems to begin with. 

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I firmly believe that if we're going to test and adopt a new rifle the AR/M16 needs to be retired and replaced with a more modern rifle system.  I say "system" because the modern warrior needs more than a rifle with iron sights on the modern battlefield.  The M16 has adapted nicely to these ever evolving high-tech roles with various modifications, but it's time we adopt a rifle built from the ground up, using modern materials and engineering, for America's warriors.  If we're going to replace the M16/M4 in service, let's do it right and not adopt a warmed over, "fixed up" AR15/M16.  We owe it to ourselves and to our war fighters to give them the best we can make.  I propose we stop with the endless modifications to the AR/M16 and build a new rifle that capitalizes on the lessons we've learned over the last 46 years with the M16 and come up with the next revolutionary rifle design.

We can do it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ruger and the 1911

It would seem the rumors from earlier this year about a new 1911 offering from Ruger were true.  Ruger just announced that they will be producing a new 1911 pistol called the SR1911.

New Ruger SR1911 .45 ACP
The pistol will only be available in stainless steel initially and will have a MSRP of $799.  For that rather modest amount you'll get many of the features you would expect on a slightly more expensive 1911 offered by other companies.  Of course this is assuming the pistols don't sell for their MSRP and wind up selling for $700 or so, which they likely will after the market settles.

The new Ruger pistols sport a raised beaver tail grip safety, extended trigger, fixed Novak 3-dot sights, flared and lowered ejection port, commander style hammer and wood grips.  The pistol is only being offered in .45 ACP at this time.  The pistol doesn't appear to have front strap checkering which some folks may or may not appreciate.  It also sports a traditional internal extractor vs. the external design used by S&W and attempted then dropped by Kimber.

The design appears to be tastefully done and lacks controversial features such as front slide serrations and an ambi-safety lever.  I don't see any roll marks with lawyer speak or large loaded chamber indicators like on the new LC9.  It seems to be a nicely done 1911 that would meet the expectations of many 1911 aficionados.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 5.56mm and CQB: Is there something better?

The U.S. Army recently conducted one of the most extensive studies into small arms performance in CQB (Close Quarters Battle) and published their findings.  This study was conducted to answer concerns that some warriors were expressing in After Action Reports (AAR) post battle about the effectiveness of the 5.56mm NATO cartridge.

Ammunition and Weapons Tested
The test team not only tested M193, M995 (AP) and M855 "Green Tip", but they also tested a number of other loads to see if there were any improvements made to the combat effectiveness of the 5.56mm round by civilian companies.

In the 5th paragraph of the report, Major David LaFontaine makes the following statement which pretty much sums up what I've been saying about caliber selection for many years.
In the end, “footpounds of energy” is misleading, “stopping power” is a myth, and the “oneshot drop” is a rare possibility dependent more on the statistics of hit placement than weapon and ammunition selection.  Effectiveness ultimately equates to the potential of the weapons system to eliminate its target as a militarily relevant threat.
In the end the U.S. Army found that no commercially available alternatives in 5.56mm ammunition performed measurably better than existing issued ammo (M855, M193, M995).  This study was based on CQB effectiveness, and from the ranges of 0-50 meters all ammo tested performed similarly and none stood out as being clearly superior.

The M4 Carbine
Also worth mention is that during this testing the U.S. Army also tested the M80 7.62x51mm round fired from an M14 to compare it to the performance of the 5.56mm in CQB conditions.  It performed in the same band of performance as the 5.56mm ammo tested.  They concluded that in a CQB situation the 7.62x51mm round offered no measurable performance benefit over the 5.56mm round.

One more important note, they also concluded that "shot placement trumps all other variables".  This is something I've been saying for years (and in some of my videos found on my YouTube channel).  Take the weapon you can best hit the target with, then worry about what caliber it is.  For me, I'm a fan of the 5.56mm and 5.45x39 rounds.

In the end we all must choose what best works for us.  Hopefully this study helps some of you figure out the best choice for your home protection and SHTF rifle.

Source:  U.S. Army Study of 556 Performance

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What has happened to Sig?

Growing up I've been a Sig Sauer fan.  One of my very first high capacity 9mm handguns back in the early 1990's was a P226.  I've always been something of a geek at heart, so back in the day I was such a fan of Sig firearms I used the handle "Sig" on my local dial-up BBS systems.

That was when Sig products were made in Germany and were known to be of the highest quality.

My Sig GSR 1911
Jump forward to the mid 2000's and things started to change, at least in my experience.  I bought a P220 from my local dealer in 2005 and the gun had functioning issues.  It failed to feed, failed to eject and exhibited pretty poor fit between the slide and frame.  I was shocked, but I also figured it might just be a fluke.  This particular pistol was made by Sig USA.

A few years later, I was excited to see Sig USA making a 1911.  I raced to my dealer with money in hand for my very own GSR 1911 (seen to the right).  This gun, much like the P220 I had several years earlier had all sorts of functional issues, including going full-auto.  I immediately returned the pistol to my dealer after talking to Sig customer service and being treated poorly.

My Sig 556R
Wow, what happened?  The company I once thought was the pinnacle of quality and customer service had failed me twice.  Bad luck perhaps?

Jump forward to 2011 and the new Sig 556R 7.62x39 rifle introduced at SHOT Show 2011.  Again, I couldn't wait to see this rifle.  It promised to be everything I wanted in a carbine.  Small, light, .30 caliber, uses AK mags which are cheap and plentiful, fires cheap Russian ammo, Sig quality... SIGN ME UP!

My dealer orders two rifles in.  I get the call to come pick up my rifle.  Once I get there, I pop the box open and see the 556R for the first time.  It looked pretty nice at a glance.  I picked it up and that's where things took a turn for the worse.  I first noticed a large amount of play between the upper and lower receiver.  I'm not talking about a little wiggle, I'm talking about being able to move the upper in circles while shouldering the rifle.  It felt broken.

Next I noticed the rifle had blemishes all over it.  The finish was missing in some areas and there were rough handling marks on it, like the rifle had been dropped several times at the factory.  I told my dealer I didn't want this rifle and asked to see the other one.  When he brought it out, it too had the same problems.  I was floored.

My dealer contacted his distributor and got an RMA to return the 556R's that were defective.  He said he would have two more in a few days.

I returned a few days later and inspected the two rifles.  Both had a better fit (one more so than the other) between the upper and lower receivers but one had those rough handling marks all over it again.  I counted 7 dings in the finish that were through the finish and into the metal.  So I took the rifle that had the fewest blemishes and headed to the range.

I won't try to explain what happened, I'll let the video speak for itself.

I was shocked at my findings.  I posted this video on the boards leaving out most of the clips showing the endless malfunctions I was having.  I didn't want to hammer on Sig too badly, I thought my initial video conveyed my thoughts without showing 15 minutes of failure after failure using current production Wolf ball ammo.

But several people on the gun boards questioned my comments about having multiple failures besides the soft primer strikes.  So I pulled together some of the left out footage and created another video showing the severity of the failures I was having with my Sig 556R.

Ultimately, the rifles quality and unreliability were so bad that I decided not to bother with trying to get it fixed by Sig and simply returned it to my dealer for an exchange.  Several reasons prompted this decision.
  • Sig's past treatment of me on the phone was so bad and left such a sour taste in my mouth that I didn't want to deal with them again.
  • The rifle exhibited serious lapses in quality, things like the stock was horribly cheap and didn't function properly, the red dot sight was cheap, and the lower alloy receiver wasn't compatible with steel magazines or military surplus polymer magazines that used steel reinforcements (see image below)
  • Sig is now telling people (customer service reps named Scott and Josh) that the Sig 556R is not designed to be used with steel cased ammo.
  • I discovered the rifle does not have a chrome lined bore and it's not nitrite treated.  Sig claims on their website the barrel is "military grade" yet it lacks these basic military features.

From Sigs' website
How can a rifle designed for "special forces" according to Sig not use steel cased ammo?  The vast majority of the ammo in use throughout the world in 7.62x39 is steel cased ammo.

Erosion caused by use of steel mags
That also brings me back to the magazine issue I mentioned above.  Every magazine I have in my collection with the exception of perhaps 5 are steel mags.  I prefer steel mags.  But the alloy lower receiver of the 556R does not have steel reinforcements where the magazine locks into the receiver and thus, with minimal use you begin to see severe erosion like you see in the image to the left.  It's also worth mention that many military surplus polymer magazines also use steel reinforcements for the locking lip and magazine lips.  It stands to reason these polymer surplus mags may cause excessive wear as well.

So in the end I'm left wondering, "what happened to Sig"?  I expect so much more from Sig that I find my recent dealings with them to be disheartening and troublesome.  I can only hope that Sig hears the frustrations and complaints of its former fans and loyalists and moves to quickly remedy the quality issues many of us see.

Update 3/30/11

A poster, Tim_McBride, on AR15.com has been doing some testing of his own with his Sig 556R.  The results of his tests are quite interesting.
Steel Case Ammo report;
I fired 20rd of each of the following boxes of Ammo. I also fired a few mags of Yugo with no issues.
Brown Bear SP No Issues
Brown Bear HP No Issues
Brown Bear FMJ No Issues
Golden Bear FMJ 2 FTE(Fail To Eject)
Golden Bear HP 1 FTE
Seller & Belliot FMJ No Issues
Silver Bear FMJ No Issues
Silver Bear HP No Issues
Silver Bear SP 4 FTE
Tula 122 FMJ 2 FTI(Fail to Ignite) All rounds fired on second strike, all that failed first strike had very deep set primers
Tula 124 FMJ 3 FTI, All rounds fired on second strike, all that failed first strike had very deep set primers
Tula 124 SP No Issues (Lucky I guess)
UCW 122 FMJ No Issues
Wolf SP No Issues
Wolf FMJ (Black Box) 2 FTI All rounds fired on second strike, all that failed first strike had very deep set primers
Wolf FMJ (Camo Box) 3 FTI All rounds fired on second strike, all that failed first strike had very deep set primers
Golden Tiger 2 FTI (I saved one, the other fired on second strike  
It would seem that the light primer strikes and failures to extract/feed aren't unique to my rifle.  Of the various ammo he tested, roughly half of the types tested failed to either ignite or feed.  I've never seen such failure rates before using 7.62x39 in any rifle chambered for it I've owned.

It's also worth mentioning that since posting my videos and blog entry I've had several owners contact me saying they've experienced the same issues with their new Sig 556R rifles.

The problems with the Sig 556R are wide spread and apparently fairly common.  Hopefully Sig listens to these reports and corrects the issues the rifle has with popular brands of 7.62x39 ammo for future owners.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bullpup Kits and 12ga Shotguns

I'm not typically a big fan of bullpup kits that convert a standard rifle into a bullpup rifle.  It always seems kind of cheesy to me.

Every once in a while a product comes along that changes the way I think about things.  The Kushnapup is one such product.  The rifle they convert?  Well, it's not really a rifle, it's a shotgun.  The Saiga 12ga. to be exact.

You can see the bullpup kit in the picture to the right.  It looks very modern, and draws its inspiration from the Steyr AUG it would seem.

Most bullpup kits look rather gaudy to me, but this kit seems well thought out, at least from the pictures I've seen.  It almost looks "right" to me.  The addition of the top rail and EOTech sight clinches the deal for me, I want one.  Now all I have to do is go buy a Saiga 12ga shotgun, a gun I'm really not all that interested in.

The stock is in the "pre-order" phase so apparently you can't get your hands on one just yet.  Once they're shipping I might have to run out and pick up both the stock and a shotgun to put it on for a review.

Here's a video from the manufacturer showing it in use.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Misinformation about Wolf Ammo

Wolf .223 Ammo
One of the most maligned products I've seen in the firearms community is Wolf ammunition.  Wolf ammunition is made in Russia and is sold under the Wolf Performance brand name here in the United States.

Much of the misinformation surrounding Wolf ammo comes from the fact it uses steel cases.  From this fact several myths have arose over the years and have been spread across the internet via the various discussion boards.

Here are a few of the myths.
  1. Steel cases damage your chamber
  2. Steel cases damage your extractor
  3. Ammo is lacquer coated and it causes malfunctions
I address some of these myths on my YouTube Channel with a recent video.  Here's the video:

The myths become out of control when you have bloggers like TacticalYellowVisor giving outright bad advice.  I stumbled across their blog this morning and was amazed at how bad the advice it offered was.

They instruct the reader to modify their rifle for the sake of improving reliability when in fact they will make the rifle less reliable with Wolf if they follow TacticalYellowVisors advice.  Here's a quote from their blog:
-make sure you have a 5.56 chamber. if you can't be sure of the chamber then have it reamed to be sure.
Wolf .223 is, well, .223 and not 5.56mm NATO.  Looking at the image above, you can clearly see that the box is marked ".223".  What this blogger is telling people to do will potentially make the rifle LESS reliable.

Wolf ammo can cause problems because of carbon build up in the chamber caused by the steel case not sealing completely against the chamber walls.  By reaming a .223 barrel to 5.56mm NATO you will increase the leade (throat) which in turn will allow even more carbon past the steel case allowing it to deposit in the chamber.  By following this bloggers advice, you will increase the likely hood of causing malfunctions, not reduce them.

Extractor mark on Wolf case.
The best advice someone can give you about running Wolf ammo is to do the following.  Buy a couple of boxes, take it to the range and shoot it.  Look for tell-tale signs of problems like the image to the right shows.  If you see damage like this on the spent cases, your rifle is out of time and will not be reliable.  If you don't see extractor marks such as this on your rifle, you're good to go and Wolf should run fine in your gun.

You may have problems with your rifle not cycling Wolf .223 as it's typically loaded to lower pressures than standard NATO 5.56mm and even much of the commercial .223 currently produced.  If you have an adjustable gas rifle like a Bushmaster ACR, FN SCAR, or even one of the gas piston AR conversions, simply add a little more gas until it cycles.  Generally speaking this shouldn't be necessary for most people using Wolf ammo.   I run Wolf in an assortment of 5.56mm and .223 rifles every week without issue.

In my experience Wolf ammo runs just fine in most modern rifles.  You will need to clean your rifle to maintain reliability, but firing 500-1000 rounds between cleanings isn't unheard of.  Wolf doesn't damage your rifle any more than brass cased ammunition does, so don't worry about firing it if everything checks out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Swiss to lose their rifles?

Swiss family enjoying their Sig 550
A news report posted Feb 9th, 2011 tells us that the Swiss are set to vote on a referendum that will outlaw ownership of military rifles (select fire), and pump action rifles, by Swiss citizens.   The Swiss have over 500,000 Sig 550 variants in private citizens hands alone, which is their standard military rifle.

The Swiss approach national security differently than most other 1st world nations, especially those in Europe.  Their standing army is relatively small and all men are required to serve in the militia.  Men from 18 to 34 years of age must obtain military training and then return home, as a member of the Swiss militia, with their rifles.  Only 5% of the Swiss army are professional (full-time) soldiers, the rest are conscripts in the militia.

The Swiss have a long history of firearms ownership and their country is often cited as an example of how private citizens owning military firearms doesn't necessarily increase crime.  Swiss crime has always been low, even for Europe, despite having millions of gun owners in a nation of only 8 million people.  Gun related murders totaled just 24 in 2009.

Why are the Swiss entertaining this legislation then?  The leftists behind the referendum claim it's to reduce the number of firearms related suicides.  Switzerland has the highest rate of suicide in Europe it's reported.

Here in the United States, we're all too familiar with these leftist anti-gun tactics.  We have our rights threatened every year by those on the left who claim they want to "save the children" or, more recently, to prevent violence against politicians.  All it takes is one shooting which gets national attention, and the proposed legislation begins to fly around the hall of Congress.  It seems the Swiss suffer from a similar phenomena in their small Alpine country.  Anti-gunners are the same all over.

I hope the Swiss are able to defeat this referendum and maintain their rights, not to mention keep their militia and thus national defense strong.  It seems the gun grabbers never worry about things like national security or personal safety in their never ending quest to grab guns.

I'll leave you with this video about Switzerland and their time honored tradition of firearms ownership.

The Swiss voted to keep their firearms.  News can be found here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Beretta ARX160 Rifle

Beretta ARX 160
Beretta is set to introduce a new 5.56mm military select fire assault rifle, they're calling it the ARX 160.

The ARX 160 is a polymer rifle that is similar in concept to the Bushmaster ACR.  When I say "similar" that's about as far as I would go in comparing the ARX 160 to anything else currently on the market.  But like the ACR it's mostly crafted from polymer as both the upper and lower assemblies are based on this modern material.

Here are a few of the impressive features of the ARX 160.
  • Polymer construction
  • Ambi-mag release
  • Ambi bolt release
  • Ambi ejection port (configurable)
  • Quick change barrel
  • Folding stock
  • Adjustable stock length
  • Ceramic heat shield
  • Pin-free disassembly
  • Full length top rail
Let's dig into some of the more interesting specifics.

First, the rifle is fully ambidextrous.  You can easily hit all of the controls from either side of the rifle.  You can also quickly change the location of the charging handle without actually disassembling the rifle.  You can also quickly change the ejection side from either left or right, again without disassembly.

Button for changing ejection side
Let's talk about how to change which side the rifle ejects from as I find this to be the most interesting new feature.  All that's required to change which side the rifle ejects from is a bullet tip.  Simply insert the tip of the bullet into the hole located just in front of the stock and push until it clicks. 

Once you do this, the rifle immediately starts ejecting from the opposite side of the rifle.  No other action is required.

Next, a nifty feature is the ability to quickly change which side the charging handle is on.  To accomplish this, simply lock the bolt to the rear and push the charging handle through the ejection port with your finger until it locks on the opposite side of the rifle.  The rifle has ejection ports on both sides of the receiver.  It's amazingly simple.  Again, no disassembly is required.

While rifles like the ACR and SCAR boast user changable barrels, Beretta takes simplicity to a new level.  The ARX 160 has a lever just in front of the magazine well that is similar in design to a Glock disassembly lever.   To remove the barrel, lock the bolt carrier to the rear, pull down on the lever (like a Glock) and pull the barrel free of the rifle.  That's it.

One of the biggest concerns regarding polymer rifles with polymer uppers (where the barrel mates to the rifle) is heat.  Rifles like the G36 have struggled with this issue since their introduction.  I've personally seen G36's damaged by heat.  With the ARX 160, a ceramic heat shield protects the rifle from damage and from what Beretta says, you'll melt the rifle barrel before you damage the polymer.

The good news is that Beretta plans to sell a semi-auto version of this rifle to the American public.  There's no release date as of SHOT Show 2011, but the rep at the show tells us that it will take place in "months not years".  Let's hope it makes it to market before any new gun laws are passed.  The Beretta rep at SHOT Show also told us that it will be "well below $2,000". 

At first I wasn't excited about this rifle based upon only seeing pictures of it. Now that I've learned the details, I can honestly say this looks like one very exciting rifle.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Army kicks off new carbine tests

Colt M4A1 with M203
The US Army has announced that it will be conducting new tests to select a new carbine for general issue.  The current generation M4 will be included in the tests of course, but it will face some stiff competition from the SCAR, ACR, XCR, Colt CM901, and a few others. 

Remington now owns Bushmaster and of course their ACR will be their primary entry but Remington isn't stopping there.  They have a couple of M4A1's with various improvements that will also likely show up in the competition.

XM8 Rifle
This isn't the first time the Army has considered a new rifle.  We all remember the defunct XM8.  There was so much excitement over that rifle that the internet was awash in rumors and discussions and even game manufacturers included it in their wares, assuming it was sure to be adopted.

But it wasn't.

The SCAR Mk16 (5.56mm) and Mk17 (7.62x51) won the SOCOM contract.  But due to cost considerations the Mk16 was dropped but the Mk17 continues on to be issued to our nations Special Operators.

There are not many details as to the requirements for the new rifles.  The Army plans to host an "industry day" in March or April of this year, which is just around the corner.  They will then announce the specifications and answer questions the various vendors may have.

The Army plans to conduct an extensive test period that will span 3 years and several millions of rounds fired.  They plan to conduct a new test, one previously not conducted, which will run the rifles to failure and measure their accuracy throughout their life cycle.

It will be interesting to see what the submissions are and how well each of them fare in the testing.