Friday, April 27, 2012

German Army reporting problems with G36 rifle

The G36 has been in service with the German Army (Bundeswehr) since 1997.  While the G36 wasn't the first rifle adopted by a major military that made extensive use of polymers, it was certainly one of the more popular designs.  It has been used by at least 30 different countries in some capacity making it a successful design on the military small arms market.

Despite HK's sterling reputation for quality the rifle isn't universally loved.  Now a German newspaper is reporting that the German Army is aware of an interesting problem.  Once the rifle heats up with use, the accuracy degrades so much that it's ineffective past 200 meters.

An internal document intended for the Secretary of Defense stated that once the rifle gets hot enemy targets past 200 meters can not be safely engaged.  The document states that the problem represents a significant deficiency in the G36's design.  The military is recommending that troops allow their rifles to cool in firefights to help deal with the problem.  They warn that if troops aren't careful, the G36 can completely fail.  The Armed Forces Association, a German soldiers' interest group, is urging a speedy resolution to this problem.

What I find interesting is that this problem is just now coming to light.  Has the German Army covered up this problem?  I can't imagine that it's taken over a decade of fighting in the Middle East before this problem to come to light.

Fear of Commitment

S&W 9mm Shield
The S&W Shield is a new product that has generated quite a bit of excitement since its announcement at the 2012 NRA Show.  At first glance, this pistol appears to be the cats meow given it's diminutive size, 9mm and .40 caliber chamberings, light weight, good quality sights, and single stack magazine -- all features that are highly valued in the sub-compact market.

However, I've found a couple head scratchers -- I mean features -- that leave a dry taste in my mouth on this otherwise promising new pistol.  The low hanging fruit of criticism is the inclusion of a manual thumb safety.  This is a topic that's been beaten to death already, so I'll avoid boring you with another critique of this less than ideal feature.  The other feature that causes me some concern is the extended 8 round magazine and the polymer grip extension that slides over the body of the magazine.

The 9mm Shield comes with two magazines.  One 7 rounder and one 8 rounder.  The 7 round magazine fits flush with the bottom of the grip.  The 8 round magazine sticks out about 3/4" and includes a polymer sleeve that fits over the base of the magazine giving your pinky a little more purchase on the grip of the pistol.  I will admit, the Shield feels much better in my hand with the 8 round magazine inserted.

Grip extension sliding up on 8rnd mag
Grip extensions aren't a new idea, companies have been including grip extensions on magazines for some time -- the XD Compact and the PX4 Compact come to mind.  However there are two different kinds of extensions in common use and some work better than others.  The floor plate extension like that found on the HK P2000SK works better than the grip extension/sleeve of the S&W Shield and here's why I say that.

The sleeve of the Shield is held in place by friction.  The sleeve can slide up the body of the magazine with little effort.  If you were to carry one of these extended mags as a spare, it's possible that the polymer sleeve would move up the body of the magazine.  Should a reload be required, seating the spare magazine in the pistol becomes far more challenging.  If the sleeve isn't in its proper place, you must really whack the magazine to get it to seat and even then it's not guaranteed it will properly seat.

It's for this reason you must use the 8 round magazine in the gun if you plan on carrying a spare magazine.  However, carrying the 7 round magazine as your spare causes another problem.  Should you require a reload you've now altered the handling characteristics of your pistol by going from the full grip offered by the 8 round mag to the truncated grip of the 7 round mag which leaves your pinky dangling. 

S&W should have committed to a design and stuck with it.  The 9mm Shield should have either been a 7 round pistol or a 8 round pistol.  The use of the polymer sleeve is a compromise that's unnecessary in my view.  I would pick the magazine length that works best for you and only use that magazine in your pistol.  Since S&W dropped the ball with the friction fit of the polymer sleeve, if you choose to carry the pistol with the 8 round magazine as a spare I would super glue the sleeve to the magazine body or remove it to avoid problems.

*** UPDATE 4/28/2012

Today I took a few friends out to shoot the Shield.  Without commenting on the issues I see with the 8 round magazine and the sleeve I let them shoot the pistol as much as they wanted with the 7 and 8 round mags.  All shooters commented about the annoying tendency of the sleeve to walk up the magazine body causing issues with seating the magazine in the gun.

Unfortunately I only have one 8 round magazine to test at the moment, but given the design I have a hard time believing I'm the only one that has experienced this issue.

At this point I'm of the opinion that Shield should have been a 7 round pistol (9mm) and the 8 round magazine was a marketing fopaux.  The length of the 8 round magazine does make it feel better in the hand but it also makes the grip of the Shield longer than the grip of a Glock 19.  The length of the grip is the most important dimension when trying to shave inches from a pistol to reduce printing while concealed.  If I'm going to carry a gun that has a foot print larger than a Glock 19, I'll just carry the Glock 19 and have 15 rounds on tap vs. 8.

Fortunately the remedy to the 8 round magazine problem is simple - I'll leave my one and only 8 round magazine in a drawer and carry my Shield with its 7 round magazine.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Colt Bolt Action Rifle: M2012

Colt M2012-CLR
Colt announced a new bolt action rifle at the NRA 2012 show.  The M2012 is a .308 caliber bolt action rifle that is intended for serious long range work.

The specs speak for themselves.

Caliber: .308 Win
Barrel: Floated 22" stainless w/1:10 twist that is fluted
Weight: 13.2lbs
Action:  Cooper receiver mounted to a Colt chassis
Brake: Surefire muzzle brake
Trigger: Timney 3lbs
Grip: Magpul MOE - compatible with any AR grip

Price:  $3799.00

The rifle will go into full production in about 2 months according to the representative.  The rifle was being shown with two different flutes on the barrel, one featured a straight cut flute while the other featured a spiral flute.  Only time will tell if the flutes will be an option or if Colt will only go into production with one type of fluting.

Colt did mention other calibers were being considered such as .223 and .22-250, however nothing has been decided.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mother Russia's Pistol

Bulgarian 9x18 Makarov PM
It occasionally happens that a firearm is so loved by those that carry it that the weapon becomes part of that culture.  Of course the AK47 achieved this status decades ago in Russia, but there's another Russian firearm that's loved the world over, perhaps you've heard of it.

The Makarov PM (Пистолет Макарова, Pistolet Makarova) pistol chambered in 9x18.

The Makarov entered Russian military service in 1951 and continued to be the primary Russian military service pistol until the adoption of the Yarygin PYa 9mm pistol in 1991.  However, the Makarov's service history didn't end there, it continues to be found in Russian military arsenals and in the holsters of Russian police officers to this day.  Much like the 1911 pistol in the United States, the Makarov is deeply rooted in Russian culture and will likely continue to be popular for decades to come.

Nikolai Fedorovich Makarov was in his late 20's when he served as the chief designer in a Russian factory located in Zagorsk manufacturing PPSh submachine guns for the "Great Patriotic War".   It was here that Nakilai spent years working under Georgiy Shpagin, the creator of the PPSh-41 SMG.  No doubt it was during these formative years that Nikolai drew inspiration from his mentor, Shpagin.

Makarov disassembly
After WWII the Russians began a series of programs to upgrade their military small arms.  The SKS, AK-47 and RPD machine gun all came out of this post war era, as did the Makarov.  For a service pistol, the Russians were looking for a smaller, lighter and more accurate replacement for the TT-33 Tokarev.  The new pistol had to chamber either a 9mm or 7.62mm cartridge.

Nikolai wasn't driven by ego and had no problem examining other pistol designs and borrowing from them as he saw fit.  The Walther PP held a number of design elements that Makarov admired and rolled into his design.  The Walther PP is blow-back operated, has a fixed barrel, a slide mounted safety/decocking lever and required the user to pull the trigger guard down to accomplish disassembly.  All of these features found their way into the Makarov PM's design.

Makarov open magazine
For all of the similarities the Makarov shares with the Walther PP, there are a number of differences as well.  The Makarov has an external slide stop/release, features a chrome lined barrel, has a leaf main spring vs. a coil spring and features a heel magazine release.  The Makarov's safety lever also works exactly opposite of the Wather PP's.  The user must have the lever in the downward position to fire and the upward position is safe/decock.  One unique feature of the Makarov is the 8 round open magazine design.  This design allows for easy inspection of the remaining rounds as well as being easier to clean - or so that was the thought behind the design.  However, the design also allows for debris to easily enter the magazine.  Apparently this design wasn't problematic in service and the Makarov continues to use the same magazine design to this day.

The 9x18mm cartridge was chosen because it lent itself to the blow-back design Nikolai wanted to use. Ballistically, the 9x18mm is very similar to the .380 cartridge.  The bullet of the 9x18 is around .364" in diameter whereas the .380 uses a .355" bullet.  Both can propel a 95gr bullet at around 1,000fps, however the 9x18 is capable of slightly higher muzzle velocities.

U.S. made commercial 9x18 ammo
The Makarov has been built in several different countries.  Russian, Bulgaria, China and Germany (East) have built Makarov's over the years.  Some claim that Romania also built them, but I've never seen a Romanian Makarov nor can I find any evidence one was ever made.  Russia made both military and commercial Makarov's.  These can be identified by their markings as well as most commercial pistols will have target sights whereas all military Makarov's will have simple fixed sights.

Makarov's weren't commonly seen in the West until after the break-up of the former Soviet Union.  Today Makarov's can be found in abundance with examples from each of the countries that have manufactured them being available on the U.S. surplus market.

9x18mm ammunition is available from a number of different sources.  Surplus ammo still finds its way into the United States but many commercial offerings are also available including domestically produced target ammo and self defense ammo.  Newly manufactured steel cased ammo from Wolf, Brown Bear and Silver Bear are also readily available on the U.S. market.

A surprising number of Americans own, shoot and even carry Makarov's as defensive pistols.  Companies such as Fobus and even Don Hume offer carry holsters for the Makarov pistol.

Stay tuned for a video review of the Bulgarian Makarov on the Military Arms Channel!