Archive for the 'AR-15s' Category



How To Quickly Oil An AR-15

BY Herschel Smith
1 week ago

AR Accuracy Testing At 10,000 Rounds

BY Herschel Smith
1 month ago

In a filthy firearm.

As a young Marine captain, I was the new officer on a rifle team and remember asking the grizzled old salts who had shot in many an inter-service championship or Camp Perry what the proper cleaning interval was for those incredible Quantico-built National Match M16s. The answers varied from daily on one end to at the end of the season on the other. There didn’t seem to be any real testing to support any given answer, and I accepted that you punched the bore whenever it seemed right.

I recently thought back on that experience as I finished up an endurance test on a Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM) upper receiver. Over the course of a little more than three years, I had logged the lubrication intervals using FireClean to see how far the AR would run as it got dirtier and dirtier. At the end of the test, I was in possession of a barrel through which I had logged 10,000 rounds and had never cleaned in any manner. In shooting the last thousand rounds or so, I had noticed that the rifle seemed to be still shooting quite well and thought it would be interesting to do a formal accuracy workup. I borrowed a Bushnell Elite 4.5-18×44 LRTS riflescope to give the barrel every chance to succeed, and grabbed some quality ammo.

All firing was done from the prone position with the rifle supported by a Harris bipod in the front and some bags under the toe of the stock. The rifle had a Geissele Super V trigger, which is an excellent duty and snap-shooting unit, but not normally associated with group shooting. The BCM wore a free-floated KeyMod aluminum KMR-A rail and the barrel was a basic government profile 16” with a mid-length gas system and a 1:7” twist.

I fired a couple of sighters to get the LRTS on paper and then the very first five-round group of Hornady Steel Match clustered five .224-cal. holes into a tight .84” group that could be covered by a nickel. That was pretty close to prophetic, as the average of all five groups with the Steel Match ran .89 from the filthy barrel, with the series tallying .84, .85, .86, .72, and one lonely group over one minute of angle at 1.17.

That performance wasn’t an outlier. After 10,000 rounds, the BCM barrel grouped Federal Varmint hollow points into just barely over 3/4 m.o.a. on the low end and averaged just over an inch due to one “large” 1.5” group that pulled the average over one MOA.

Black Hills 69-gr. Sierra Match Kings clustered together consistently, poking holes in a tight knot while maintaining polite separation for each hole at just under a minute on average with .79, .82, .90, .92, and 1.25” groups.

[ … ]

I was somewhere between pleasantly surprised and mildly shocked for the barrel to do this after 10,000 rounds and never had as much as a boresnake, brush, or patch run through it.

I’m not surprised.  Eugene Stoner engineered a fine system.  Of course, I wouldn’t recommend doing that – this was a stress test of sorts.  Increased fouling and friction will only increase wear and metal fatigue.  But it’s nice to know that the delivered wisdom may not be so wise after all.

It’s funny how old myths die hard.  My son never had any complaints with the weapon system so I never came into it with predisposed prejudice.

AR-15 Wear And Failure Points To Check

BY Herschel Smith
1 month, 1 week ago

From Shooting Illustrated.

So if, like me, you believe in Genesis Chapter 2, you believe in the second law of thermodynamics.  If you don’t but still believe in the second law of thermodynamics, your belief if spurious and baseless but still useful.

Either way, entropy increases.  That means parts rust, corrode, fatigue, wear, fracture and fail.  Always inspect your guns.

5.56X45 Ammunition In The News

BY Herschel Smith
2 months, 1 week ago

Shooting Illustrated:

The simplest, yet most important, difference between the two cartridges is their respective pressure limits. The .223 Rem. cartridge is held to a lower pressure than 5.56 NATO. Some of the testing methods to determine these actual pressures can be confusing, as both cartridges have been tested by the ballistic authorities (read CIP and SAAMI) in the same 5.56 mm chamber, and the resulting data will appear to be nearly equal. However, because of the dimensional variations in the distance between the case mouth and the beginning of the rifling, trying to fire 5.56 NATO ammunition in a .223 Rem. chamber is, simply put, just a bad idea.

The reverse is not true. It is, and always will be, safe to shoot .223 Rem. ammunition in a chamber marked for 5.56 NATO. Commit that idea to memory, and you’ll never get in trouble. The pressures that a 5.56 NATO cartridge can generate are too high for the .223 Rem. chamber, and that is based primarily on the leade dimensions. If you feel that the ability to shoot 5.56 NATO ammunition out of your .223 Rem.-chambered rifle is paramount, take that rifle to a competent gunsmith to have the chamber reamed out to handle 5.56 NATO ammunition.

That chamber dimension for the 5.56 NATO is, in fact, slightly larger than the chamber for the .223 Rem.—in order to have the smoothest feeding and ejection, even with a dirty weapon, to best serve as a battlefield implement—but it is the leade dimension that makes the biggest difference. Leade is defined as the area from the bullet’s resting place before firing to the point where the rifling is engaged. The shorter the leade dimension, the faster the bullet will engage the rifling, and the faster the pressures can rise to a dangerous level.

The most interesting thing about the article is that there is a throw-down in the comments over whether the author is perpetuating the alleged “myth” that 5.56mm cases have thicker walls and therefore less volume, leading to the higher pressure.

John Farnam at Ammoland:

After decades of piously assuring us the 5.56×45 round was “adequate” for military purposes, despite mounting complaints (unsatisfactory range and penetration), dating back to Vietnam, the Pentagon has apparently finally changed its mind.

In spite of a dreary series of failed “wonder bullets” that have, every few years, come forth to “upgrade” the 5.56 round, faith that the 5.56 can ever be “adequate” is fading!

Just as the Marines are buying the HK 416 (M27), a gas-piston AR (in 5.56×45 caliber), to replace aging M4s, Congress and the Army are putting the breaks on that project.

After fifty years of pointless hope that the 5.56×45 round might really be “adequate,” a new, bigger military caliber may now be about to make its debut!

When the AR (in 5.56×45 caliber) first reared its head, and garnered the attention of then Secretary of Defense McNamara, it was slated to gradually replace only the M1 Carbine, never the M1 Garand, later the short-lived M14.

The M1 Carbine, manufactured by the millions during WWII, was originally intended only for rear-area defense and police actions. It was never intended to be a front-line, battle rifle, although it eventually found its way into every corner of the campaign during WWII and Korea.

When I was in Vietnam in 1968, M1 Carbines were still around in large numbers. I saw (and used) plenty of them.

Yet, the AR (in 5.56×45 caliber) somehow eventually became the main, battle rifle of all US Forces, and remains in that status to this day. This, despite continuous misgivings about its adequacy that have been desperately voiced since Vietnam.

Up until now, the Pentagon as assured us that these qualms about adequacy were all in our imaginations!

That is apparently about to change.

Of course, the Pentagon will never admit they’ve been wrong all this time. They’ll simply say “It’s time to move on.”

It was time to move on fifty years ago!

You can color me unimpressed with John’s analysis.  First of all, nothing is going to change because Amerika is flat broke and printing money like there’s no tomorrow.

Second, the only real need for caseless ammunition is so that women can be sent into combat.

Third, there is nothing wrong with the 5.56mmX45.  That’s the real myth here.

The 5.56mm round has killed scores of enemy fighters (hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions) in Vietnam, Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and South America.  It doesn’t need to be replaced, and it did just fine for my son in Iraq.

There are exceptions, of course.  He once told me of a time when he had to shoot an insurgent with a nine-round burst from his SAW, only to see the fighter keep coming at him.  It took a grenade to stop him.  He also told me that he and other Marines had to continue the fight with insurgents (foreign fighters) who had lost limbs and continued to shoot or fist fight.

Those kinds of fighters are ideologically motivated and doped up on epinephrine and morphine.  They tested them and learned that information after the fact.  It would take a .50 Sasser to bring someone like that down with one shot.

The better option is to teach Soldiers to shoot, uphill and down, at distance, and supplement their ranks with a designated marksman who shoots something larger than the 5.56mm or employ a crew served weapon.  Each weapon system has its purpose, and there isn’t a do-everything gun.  If anyone tells you that, he’s lying.

On the other hand, if they do actually replace the 5.56X45, I’ll just grin and nod and say, “Good.  That’s just more for me.”

AR-15 Cleaning And Maintenance

BY Herschel Smith
2 months, 1 week ago

Shooting Illustrated:

I clean my AR-15 gas systems approximately every 1,000 rounds. Direct-impingement gas tubes are easily maintained by inserting a long [purpose-made] pipe cleaner wet with solvent into the tube, then following it up with a fresh pipe cleaner. The portion that extends through the upper receiver is easily cleaned with a couple cotton swabs. Carbon build-up on the inner surface of adjustable gas-block screws can be cleaned off with a wire brush after removing the screw(s). Operating-rod systems with removable gas regulators also benefit from occasional removal of carbon deposits. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions for cleaning them, as they tend to be unique. If your AR-15 has an operating rod that moves through a bushing in the upper receiver, a bit of lubrication on the rod where it passes through the bushing helps to prevent binding.

I guess I haven’t thought much about cleaning the gas system of my guns.  I guess I need to.

Lake County Deputy Shoots Alligator With AR-15, Freeing Girl Trapped In Tree

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 2 weeks ago

Orlando Sentinel:

With a single shot from his AR-15 rifle, a Lake County deputy sheriff quickly put an end to a large alligator that had a teenage girl trapped in a tree for nearly an hour, authorities said Monday.

Jordan Broderick, 15, was eventually able to climb safely down from the tree, according to a sheriff’s report.

Just after 3 p.m. Friday, the Sheriff’s Office received calls from Michael Henderson of Titusville and other family members, saying that his daughter couldn’t come down from a tree near a boat ramp because a 10-foot alligator sat at the base of the tree hissing at her for more than 30 minutes, the report said.

“My daughter’s stuck in a frickin’ tree and there’s gators surrounding her!” the teenager’s mother said frantically to a 911 operator. “Oh my God! Please hurry! Please hurry!”

Jordan was floating on a raft in the creek near Forest Service Road near Alexandria Springs park when the alligator quickly approached her, authorities said.

That’s when the girl grabbed a large branch hanging over the water and climbed into the tree, according to the report. The alligator then waited in the water at the base of the tree underneath the girl hanging from the branch.

When Deputy Mitch Blackmon arrived, he found the girl in the tree screaming that she was tired from hanging on to the branch, the report said.

“My presence failed to scare the alligator away, and it began encroaching on my area at which time I fired one single 223 round from my Bushmaster AR15 killing the alligator,” Blackmon wrote in his report.

The alligator sank into the water and did not reappear, the report said. A Lake County marine biologist confirmed the alligator had died, according to authorities.

Wait!  I thought the 5.56mm round was worthless (he calls his ammo .223, little difference if he’s correct)?  I thought it was good for nothing except inflicting mass innocent casualties?  I thought no one needed such a thing?

Followup thoughts: I hate to jump on Mr. Michael Henderson after a traumatic event like this one, but where is your AR-15, sir?  What kind of man says this? [My] “daughter couldn’t come down from a tree near a boat ramp because a 10-foot alligator sat at the base of the tree hissing at her for more than 30 minutes.”

No offense, but head to the nearest gun store and spend a little money.

Long Range AR Caliber Options

BY Herschel Smith
4 months ago

Ammoland:

The Valkyrie takes standard .224-inch diameter bullets just like the .223 Remington but handles higher weights. Common loads among those released so far range between 60 and 90-grains, and 90 is the most common so far. Like the 6.5m Creedmoor, the bullets are by definition long for their weight, so the .224 Valkyrie also carries velocity downrange much more efficiently than .223 Remington alternatives. Let’s consider some examples.

[ … ]

A similar phenomenon happens with the .224 Valkyrie. When comparing to the common “long range” version of a .223 Remington cartridge, the 77-grain bullets, it carries velocity down range more efficiently. A Federal Premium .223 Remington loaded with a 77-grain Sierra MatchKing leaves the muzzle at 2,720 feet per second. At 500 yards, it’s still zipping along at 1,674 feet per second. At 1,000 yards, it’s gone subsonic to 1,056 feet per second. The Federal Premium 90-grain .224 Valkyrie has a muzzle velocity of 2,700 fps. At 500 yards, it’s still cooking at 1,994 fps and carries 1,422 fps at 1,000 yards. Depending on your altitude and other conditions, it can remain supersonic past 1,300 yards.

The ability to “lose less speed over distance” is what makes the 6.5mm Creedmoor and .224 Valkyrie perform well at long range.

Tom McHale likes both the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .224 Valkyrie.

I’ll also comment that after making some rather cryptic remarks about the 6.5 Grendel several weeks ago, I’ve both looked out for good, well-reviewed 6.5 Grendel guns, as well as the availability of 6.5 Grendel ammunition.

There aren’t a lot of guns out there, and the ones that manufacturers do make are quite pricey if the barrel is any good.  There are .224 Valkyrie guns everywhere, some for quite good prices.  I’ve also see a fairly good bit of .224 Valkyrie ammunition in stores and online, but absolutely no 6.5 Grendel in local stores.  Not a single box in any gun store, Cabela’s, or anywhere else.

The .224 Valkyrie sends a 90-gr bullet down range as fast as the 6.5 Grendel 90-gr round, and it seems to hold its velocity better at distance.  If so, then the 6.5 Grendel probably won’t ever be anything more than a “wildcat” round and the Valkyrie will become more popular.

M4 Mid-Length Gas System Better And More Reliable Than Carbine-Length Gas System

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 2 weeks ago

Military Times:

Using a mid-length gas system on an M4A1 carbine extends the life of the weapon system and increases the weapon’s performance over a carbine-length gas system, according to a detailed study by Naval Surface Warfare Center — Crane, obtained by Military Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Navy’s Crane center is responsible for testing, evaluating, procuring and managing the life-cycle of U.S. special operations forces’ weapon systems. So, naturally, they tested the mid-length gas system on M4A1 carbines at the behest of Army Special Operations Command.

This study may not come as a complete shock to civilian shooting aficionados and U.S. special operations forces who customize their M4 variants, but it does offer data to back up what those communities have believed for some time.

For the uninitiated, the crux of the issue comes down to when the M4 carbine first replaced the M16 rifle.

In developing the M4, the M16’s gas system was redesigned, according to Crane. The M16 uses a 20-inch barrel and gas system, but the M4 designs were crunched down to fit a 14.5-inch barrel.

Because of the shorter barrel, the gas port was moved down and the dwell distance — the delay between where the bullet passes the gas tube hole to the point where the bullet exits the barrel — decreased.

That decrease in distance from bolt face to gas port on the M4 resulted in an increased port pressure compared to the M16 of the past.

The M4’s port pressure measured at 17,000 psi, while the M16’s was at 10,000 psi.

Many civilian clones of the M4 utilize longer barrels, but also place mid-length gas systems on their custom-built designs. This customization increases the distance from bolt face to gas port than what would be normal on a standard issue M4.

Crane — located in rural Indiana — switched the carbine length gas system on the M4’s 14.5-inch barrel and upper receiver group with the mid-length gas system. Then the study cohort shot 12,600 rounds of M855A1 5.56mm through both designs for comparison testing.

The mid-length gas systems experienced a total of 30 malfunctions, while the carbine-length gas systems experienced more than double that at 65 malfunctions. Additionally, the carbine-length gas system suffered 13 unserviceable parts, while the mid-length gas system only suffered 9 unserviceable parts.

[Download the full Mid-Length vs. Carbine-Length Gas System report]

The study also found that the mid-length gas system experienced a decrease in bolt speed and a decreased cyclic rate of automatic fire.

The money quote is this: ” … but the M4 designs were crunched down to fit a 14.5-inch barrel.”  And yet it didn’t have to be that way.  My guns are all mid-length gas systems, and yours probably are as well.

As I’ve said, when you modify Stoner’s design you’d better be careful.  He was a good engineer.  Before modifying his design you need to be just as good an engineer as he was.

And it’s stated in the article and almost goes without saying that none of this is a shock to most of the gun community today.  Once again the civilian gun community leads the way and shows the military what to do.

Army Updating Procedures Because Of Misfiring M4s

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 2 weeks ago

Stars and Stripes:

The Army is updating procedures for use of the M4A1 automatic rifle after a soldier recorded cellphone video of his weapon firing when it shouldn’t have.

The video, recorded in late March, shows the soldier operating a rifle that has been converted from a standard M4, which can fire a maximum three-round burst, to the fully automatic M4A1, according a safety message sent to troops on Tuesday.

The soldier places his carbine’s selector switch between “semi” and “auto” and squeezes the trigger but it doesn’t fire, until the switch is moved to “auto” and immediately discharges a round, the message says.

The Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, first warned soldiers about the problem in March and April.

The M4A1, previously used exclusively by Special Operations troops, is now the Army’s primary individual weapon.

Inspectors were able to replicate the malfunction depicted in the soldier’s video in about 10 percent of the weapons they checked, defense industry journal Soldier Systems reported.

Testing also revealed that carbines from a different manufacturer malfunctioned when switched from “safe” to “semi-automatic,” the journal reported.

The latest safety messages concern M4s and M4A1s, as well as M16A2, A3 and A4 rifles. They order personnel to change the way they check functions on the weapons and perform immediate action drills to diagnose weapon stoppages.

Um … what?

What?

There is no reason a shooter should intentionally misplace the selector switch between modes, but then again in the stress of battle anything is possible and this failure mode is entirely plausible.

The genesis of the problem appears to be a feature of the gun not a part of the original specification, and it seems to me that this is a huge, huge problem.

They don’t need to send this problem to armorers.  They need civilian gunsmiths to tackle this and work the problems out, and that should have done that before deploying the modification.

I’m also not clear as to exactly why they need fully automatic anyway.  This gun can never be an effective area suppression weapon.  Not for long anyway.

Good grief.

Making Your AR-15 Work Better

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 3 weeks ago

WRSA sends us an article on Practical AR Enhancements.  Here is an excerpted list of things he discusses.

  1. Chrome-lined barrel
  2. Bolt parts
  3. Buffer spring
  4. Lube
  5. Enhanced (and more modern) BCG finishes / coatings
  6. Optics
  7. Trigger upgrades

This is a good list and I highly recommend that you read the entire article, and it reminds me of the still highly read and very important article, “Making Your M4 Run Like A Gazelle,” based on work by Mike Pannone and written by WeaponsMan.

Mike has very extensive comments on the M4 at Defense Review, which stem initially from a discussion of fouling. We’ll just quote his conclusions from this piece below, and also recommend his article on reliability issues, and his follow-up on diagnosing the root cause. Conclusions from what we suppose you could call the “fouling piece“:

Fouling in the M4 is not the problem. The problem is weak springs (buffer and extractor), as well as light buffer weights (H vs. H2 or H3). With the abovementioned drop-in parts, the M4 is as reliable as any weapon I have ever fired, and I have fired probably every military-issue assault rifle fielded worldwide in the last 60 years as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant (18B). An additional benefit of the heavier spring/weight combo is that it transmits the energy impulse of the firing cycle to the shoulder over a longer duration, lowering the amount of foot pounds per second and dramatically reducing the perceived recoil. Follow-on shots are easier to make effectively, and much faster, especially at 50 meters and beyond.

I reliably fired 2400 rounds (80 magazines) on a bone dry gun, and I would bet that is a lot more than any soldier or other armed professional will ever come close to firing without any lubrication whatsoever. So, disregard the fouling myth and install a better buffer spring, H2 buffer, enhanced extractor spring and a Crane O-ring (all end user drop-in parts). With normal (read “not excessive”) lubrication and maintenance, properly-built AR-15/M4 type rifles with carbine gas systems will astound you with their reliability and shootability.

via The Big M4 Myth: ‘Fouling caused by the direct impingement gas system makes the M4/M4A1 Carbine unreliable.

DTG writing at American Partisan also discusses AR builds, and we’ve seen some good ones come our way.

But I’ll also say that I’ve seen some very bad ones (when I say “seen,” I mean I’ve witnessed the failures first hand when a friend tried his build).  I’ve seen builds that couldn’t get through a magazine without two or three FTF / FTE.  I think this mainly had to do with mixing and matching of parts with the head space not being properly checked (although we suspected it could have been the choice of gas block location).

Colt, with its reliance of military contracts, had begun to have QA problems by the end of their contract, maybe before.  This is so well known as to go without question.  It doesn’t surprise me that guys were having to make modifications and work their M4s/ARs hard to keep them in working order.

But one thing I get with a completed “system” from a reputable manufacturer is tolerance QA and parts compatibility.  Replacing a BCG is nice, but if you don’t check head space, it might not work right.  Either way, relying on Rock River Arms and Daniel Defense (like I do) means that it works straight out of the box, continues to work, and is highly reliable.

I’ll also say a few words about two more things.  First of all, there has been a proliferation of articles on the Army and Marine Corps jettisoning the 5.56mm round in favor of 6.5 Creedmoor, the 7.62mm round for the .300 Win Mag (for DM guns), and a host of other changes.  Some of this will happen (e.g., the MC adoption of the 300 Win Mag), and some will not.  For a whole host of reasons that would take too long to explain, I think it’s highly unlikely that the entire Army or MC adopts 6.5 Creedmoor and throws away the 5.56mm round.  Some of that is just hype and propaganda for the purpose of attention and money.

On the other hand, I’ve never recommended that anyone make the 5.56mm round their only choice of caliber, and everyone should have a bigger bore gun.  If the Army or MC does use 5.56mm less, that’s good for me because it means less competition for ammunition and [hopefully] cheaper prices.  Regular readers know that I’ll never jettison my 5.56mm guns.  They’re too good, too reliable, too pleasant to shoot, and too easy on regaining sight picture from low recoil for me to consider anything else for CQB up to several hundred yards.  If your AR isn’t as reliable as mine are (I’ve never had a FTF / FTE in tens of thousands of rounds and wouldn’t know how to work a forward assist if I had to because I’ve never had to), you need new ARs or you need to work them as described above.  Don’t go budget or “rack” AR.  Spend a little more and get something with good QA and reliable.

Finally, I’ve noted before (comments section) that I don’t like piston guns or dicking around with Stoner’s design.

(1) Piston-device for AR pattern rifles: A stupid, unnecessary, additional failure mode for a gun that does nothing but add weight to the front end of the gun, virtually ensuring that after eight hours of room clearing ops and CQB, the shooter can no longer hold the weapon upright because of the stupidity of the design.

(2) AK pattern guns: A rifle design for conscripts who don’t give a shit about their equipment and refuse to clean it or care for it, that doesn’t shoot very accurately (minute of man rather than minute of angle).

(3) AR pattern guns: Guns made by engineers, for engineers, machinists, gunsmiths, mechanics and professional soldiers who care about precision, fine machines and accuracy (and don’t want to listen to the constant rattling of the poorly made AKs when they shoot them).

(4) Genesis chapter 2: Man is fallen, and it affects the entire universe.

(5) Second law of thermodynamics (based on number 4 above): Entropy always increases. Things get dirty and break. That means pistons in AKs too. People who refuse to acknowledge the 2nd Law also refuse to care for their guns, refuse to clean them, refuse to change parts, and throw their guns around like they are shovels.

Anyone who thinks that a machine can be made that doesn’t break or doesn’t corrode or doesn’t rust or doesn’t need to be maintained, coated, cleaned and replaced is an idiot who doesn’t believe in science. This includes conscripts who want a gun that they don’t need to work on.

Like my son tells me, if you work it, the AR is an exquisite weapon based on an exquisite design.

I’ve got many AR run-to-break and stress test videos linked, but I don’t need to see any of them.  My guns have never failed me.  I also don’t believe in throwing my guns around and abusing them.  I’m a thinking man.  I believe in entropy.

On one occasion a seller was putting a gun back in it’s case for me, and I asked him to use Rem Oil and spray it down.  “It’s Aluminum – it doesn’t rust,” he said.  I replied, “True enough, but Aluminum does corrode, which is a different failure mode, and my hands and your hands have salts on them.  Now, spray the gun down before you box it back up.”

Because I believe in thermodynamics.  Machines don’t run forever without breaking or needing maintenance, and if this fact causes you to conclude that the AR (or any other machine) isn’t any good, then you need to go back and read Genesis Chapter 2.


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