Walkabout In The Weminuche Wilderness

Herschel Smith · 05 Aug 2018 · 38 Comments

"There are no socialists in the bush" - HPS All of my physical training only barely prepared me for the difficulty of the Weminuche Wilderness (pronounced with the "e" silent).  It's National Forest land, not National Park.  The Department of Agriculture no longer prints maps of the area, so we relied on NatGeo for the map, and it's good, but not perfect. We have a lot of ground to cover, including traveling with firearms, the modification I made to one of my guns for the trip, the actors…… [read more]

How To Quickly Oil An AR-15

BY Herschel Smith
2 months ago

Bolt Carrier Group Stress Test

BY Herschel Smith
11 months ago

This is an interesting video.  It wasn’t made to test the gun so much, but rather the BCG.  He makes that very clear.

It sort of makes you wonder about those Soldiers complaining about firing 400 rounds through their Colt guns at Wanat and Kamdesh only to see their guns seize up.

First of all, remember that the Army hasn’t trained their men in fire control and marksmanship like the Marines.  I’m not saying that – an experienced trainer who has time in Afghanistan is saying that.

Second, I maintain that the problems at Wanat had to do with being deployed at the bottom of a valley in between mountains, giving up the high ground, no logistics, no support, a poorly connected and poorly manned observation post, and a total time of more than a year from start to finish to build and man the COP (giving the Haqqani network time to deploy fighters at will).  Again, see multiple entries on The Battle of Wanat.  If you haven’t studied it, it’s a sad but necessary tale.

There is a rich history of blaming the gun for the failures when the real blame had to do with leadership, so it’s entirely misplaced blame to point to the gun.  But it does cause you to wonder if those Colt guns had a better BCG would they have seized up after 400 rounds (400 rounds in 30 or so minutes at Wanat).

There are a lot of very good coated BCGs like this Titanium Nitride component.  This is the guts of the gun.  It makes sense to outfit yours with a good one.

 

Texan Takes 416 Pound Feral Hog With AR-15

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 1 month ago

Remember I recommended hunting hogs to save the environment?  In Texas, a man is not only helping the environment, he’s making things safer for himself.  From the Longview News-Journal.

A Union Grove man says he bagged the “big daddy” feral hog that was wreaking havoc on his property — all 416 pounds of him.

The Gregg County Game Warden’s office posted photos on Facebook this week showing Joe Clowers’ kill.

“This pig had been terrorizing his property for years — five or six,” said Game Warden Todd Long. “So every time he went hunting, he took a little extra firepower in case it showed up. Well, this time, it showed up.”

Clowers used a .223-caliber AR rifle to kill the pig.

The hog had preyed on the fawns in the area, and Clowers said he always stayed armed when visiting his deer feeders in case the hog in question charged him.

“My property lays between some populated areas, and I try to maintain an environment like a sanctuary or nursery for the deer to raise fawns,” Clowers said.

“He was the big daddy. I called him the ‘bush beast.’ “

This is a big hog to take down with an AR-15.  I had wondered first of all where he shot him (was it a head shot?), and second, what ammunition he used?

Did he use standard 55 or 62 grain FMJ rounds, did he use 55 grain soft point rounds, or did he use heavier rounds such as the Hornady 75 grain or Sierra Matchking 77 grain?  I suspect there are a lot of folks who would like to know.

I ended up talking to the Upshur County game warden via telephone, and he thought that the hog was taken with a standard round, at which I commented that it must have been with a head shot although I couldn’t tell anything from the pictures.  He agreed and said that he believed it was taken with a head shot.

Congratulations to Mr. Clowers.  Nice shot.  Nice hog.

Homeowner’s Son Shoots And Kills Three Would-Be Robbers With An AR-15

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 8 months ago

Via Instapundit, this report comes to us about defensive use of an AR-15.

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (KTUL) — One person is in custody after three suspects in a Wagoner County home invasion were shot to death Monday afternoon by one of the residents.

According to the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office, the suspects’ getaway driver has been arrested. The 21-year-old woman turned herself in at the Broken Arrow Police Department hours after the shooting, saying she had information.

Investigators haven’t released the names of anyone involved but say the deceased suspects are between 16 and 18 years old. Two of the suspects were armed, according to investigators. One with a knife and the other with brass knuckles.

[ … ]

Mahoney says the suspects broke in through a glass door in the back of the house. After entering the residence, the suspects encountered the homeowner’s 23-year-old son who also lives there.

“There was a short exchange of words and then gunfire happened,” he said.

Two suspects died in the kitchen and a third ran from the home but collapsed and died in the driveway.

Both residents are cooperating with investigators. The homeowner’s son volunteered to go to the sheriff’s office to give a statement.

“Preliminary investigation, it looks like it was self-defense,” said Mahoney.

This is impossible.  We all know that no one needs that awful high capacity magazine, and no one needs an AR-15 for self defense, even against multiple intruders.  And we all know that it’s more dangerous for the homeowner to have a gun than it is for the assailants.  Guns take on a life of their own and turn and shoot the innocent like they have an evil brain.  The report must be mistaken.

No, I’m pretty sure it says what it says, and he is alive and well, and the assailants are not.  He did one thing right, and one thing very wrong.

First, what he did right.  He assumed that if he had not used his weapon, the assailants would have harmed him.  If an intruder is in your home, you must assume they are armed, and armed with more than you can see in the instant you are making your decisions of life and death.  And you must also assume that they are capable of using their hands to kill you.  Finally, you must assume that if they are in your home, they intend you harm.  It may not be correct at the time, but you simply don’t know that and cannot discern their intentions with certainty.

Now to what he did wrong.  He talked to the police.  Boys and girls, don’t ever talk to the police.  Not even if you shot in self defense, not even if you have nothing to hide, and not even if you’re an honest and decent human.  Don’t talk to the police.

Ever.

 

AR-15 Ammunition And Barrel Twist Rate

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 9 months ago

There are a lot of articles and discussion forum threads on barrel twist rate for AR-15s.  So why am I writing one?  Well, some of the information on the web is very wrong.  Additionally, this closes out comment threads we’ve had here touching on this topic, EMail exchanges I’ve had with readers, and personal conversations I’ve had with shooters and friends about this subject.  It’s natural to put this down in case anyone else can benefit from the information.  Or you may not benefit at all.  That’s up to you.

This is a discussion about 5.56mm ammunition and barrel twist rates (and later, about the shooter and ammunition quality).  If you wish to debate the effectiveness of the 5.56mm round generally, or wish to disparage the choice of the Eugene Stoner system, I’m sure there are forums for you.  This is not it.

In the real world, ammunition isn’t concentric, and even if it is almost precisely concentric, pour density can be slightly different throughout the ball, and voids can develop.  This causes gyroscopic stability problems with bullets, even in the best manufactured ammunition. But much ammunition would not be considered the “best manufactured ammunition.”  Ammunition will only be as good as the QA under which it was made.

When center of gravity is off-axis it can cause bullet lateral throwoff, yaw and a host of other problems with bullet trajectory.  In order to overcome these problems, rifling twist achieves this gyroscopic stability for the bullet, thus negating the effects of the manufacturing process (at least in part).

Overstabilization can occur with a barrel twist rate that is too high.  There are incorrect commentaries out there on this subject.  This writer explains that higher twist rate is virtually always better.

Conventional wisdom taught us that slower twist rates wouldn’t properly-stabilize a bullet, causing it to yaw. On the other hand, faster rates could over-stabilize lighter bullets, causing similar problems. This is correct in theory—however, modern ballisticians have pretty much de-bunked the over-stabilization theory as a practical matter. All things being equal, it is better to have too much twist than not enough.

While his statement is a bit imprecise, there is something very precise about it.  It is precisely wrong.  Yet there are much cleaner and simpler explanations of why high twist rate is not always good.  One commenter at this discussion thread summed it up well.

You can certainly overstablilze (sic) a bullet if you spin it so fast it doesn’t nose over at the top of its trajectory … Best thing to do is not spin bullets any faster than what’s needed for best accuracy.

Correct.  If a bullet is overstabilized, it tends to stay pointed along its axis of rotation, even on the final (downward) part of its trajectory.  This can cause keyholing, odd aerodynamic effects (flying sideways through the air) and even bullets to wildly spin off trajectory.

Above it was noted that displaced CoG can cause gyroscopic stability problems, including “lateral throw-off.”  This figure is given to us by Paul Weinacht in his paper for the U.S. Army (Army Research Laboratory, ARL-TR-3015) entitled Prediction of Projectile Performance, Stability, and Free-Flight Motion Using Computational Fluid Dynamics (Figure 9).

Angular_Motion_Epicycle

Or if you wish to visualize what this might look like in 3D … Dean and LaFontaine, Small Caliber Lethality: 5.56mm Performance in Close Quarters Battle.

Yaw

Bullets from rifled barrels eventually achieve stability by yawing back and forth, while undergoing a larger revolution about the major axis of the trajectory.  So quite obviously, it’s necessary to spin the bullet, and to spin it enough to give it stability, while protecting the need to nose over on the final part of its trajectory.  Getting this twist rate and spin right has been a matter of much testing, internet fights, and lot of engineering study and heavy spending by the taxpayers.  I know that my guns perform well, and so I decided to contact my manufacturer for his opinion on the matter.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have two Rock River Arms rifles, one Elite CAR A4 with a 16″ Barrel, twist 1:9, Quad Rail, and another competition gun with a muzzle brake and 18″ SS barrel with a twist rate = 1:8.  I have recommended RRA rifles to my readers before, but there are many good guns on the market.  Your probably have one.  I sent a list of three questions to RRA, and Steve gave me these responses (the question isn’t included because it wasn’t forwarded back to me, but it’s apparent what I asked except for the first question, which was basically does RRA warranty their 1 MOA for both M193 and M855.  This is Steve’s response.

Herschel,

Thanks for your questions.  I’m going to take them in reverse order.

3.  1:9 is adequate for many, but not all rounds typically used in an AR platform.  Between .223 Remington and 5.56mm NATO, there are rounds from 45 to 90 grains (that I am familiar with) and I know of, but have never shot, lighter and heavier rounds.  No single twist is going to handle all of them.  1:9 is adequate for a sizable number of them, however…including the two most commonly available, in bulk and at reasonable prices…55gr FMJ (M193)and 62/63gr FMJ (M855).  It is not ideal for rounds lighter than 50gr nor those over 68 or 69 grains, which is why there are other twist rates commonly available…including from RRA. We offer a 1:12 24” bull barrel for our Varmint hunters who prefer to use the lighter bullets for prairie dogs and other targets, and both 1:7 and 1:8 barrels in a variety of configurations for those who want to shoot heavier bullets…up to and including the newer 77gr loads and 80gr VLDs.  We’ve also run custom twists for a limited number of contracted purchases.

2.  Yes.  1:9 does well with both M193 and M855.  Different barrels perform differently, but 1:9 generally stabilizes both weight/length bullets fairly well,  It neither over nor under spins either and does not produce key holing.

1.  The hardest question to answer.  Neither M193 nor M855 are notoriously accurate rounds.  They meet military, not match, requirements.  Our accuracy claims are the rifle’s capability…but the shooter and ammo have to do their parts.  There are loads that are commercially available and claimed to be “M193” and “M855” equivalents that clearly aren’t, and they aren’t  capable of  ”minute of bad guy” at 100 yards, let alone the .75 to 1.5 MOA claims that we make for our different rifles.  That is no reflection on our rifles or barrels, or the shooters…unfortunately there is some real crappy ammo on the market today, which will not perform well out of any barrel, of any twist rate.

Thanks.

Steve/RRA

This is a good response, but let’s not stop here.  While perhaps not recalled by some, American Rifleman has given us a fairly comprehensive look at 5.56mm ammunition and barrel twist rates in an article entitled Testing The Army’s M855A1 Standard Ball Cartridge.  It is rich with history on how the Army fielded the M855A1.  Ignore the issue of the M855 versus the M855A1 for a moment and consider the background.

Accuracy cannot be assessed without addressing the rifle barrels’ twist-rates. In the early 1980s the M855’s 62-grain bullet was developed for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). For purposes of interoperability, the same load was adopted as the M16A2 rifle’s standard ball as well. A February 1986 U.S. Army study noted that the M855’s bullet required a “1:9 twist [which] would be more appropriate for the M16A2 rifle, improving accuracy and reliability.” Multiple studies confirmed the 1:9-inch twist requirement.

But then a problem arose. The U.S. military’s standard M856 5.56 mm tracer round was longer, heavier (63.7 grains) and slower than the M855 ball, and simply would not stabilize with a 1:9-inch twist barrel. Thus, despite it doubling M855 group sizes, the M16A2 (and later, the M4) specified a 1:7-inch rate-of-twist barrel to stabilize the tracer round. It remains so to this day. Therefore, M855A1 was test-fired with both 1:7- and 1:9-inch twist barrels, and it was verified that this new cartridge is consistently more accurate in the latter barrels-as was its predecessor.

Don’t slip past these paragraphs, because they explain why “Milspec” is 1:7.  It isn’t because 1:7 shoots M193 or M855 more accurately.  It’s because of the weight of tracer rounds.  As we’ve discussed before, the term Milspec doesn’t mean better, or worse, or anything at all except that it precisely meets the specifications outlined in the purchase order(s), excepting whatever variance notifications they might make on a given batch of guns.

The M855A1’s developers have described it as yielding “match-like” accuracy, which most rifle shooters would define as one minute-of-angle (m.o.a.), or groups measuring no more than 1 inch at 100 yards. While the new ammunition has proved more accurate than the green-tipped load it replaced, testing did not yield match-like accuracy, especially in the standard 1:7-inch twist-rate found in today’s M4s and M16s. At 100 yards, the best group with a 1:7-inch barrel was 1.62 inches (1.6 m.o.a.). At 300 yards. it similarly fired 1.6 m.o.a. (4.9 inches) and widened to 1.8 m.o.a. (7.5 inches) at 400 yards. At these same distances, firing the M855A1 through a 1:9-inch twist barrel reduced group sizes by approximately half.

The tests demonstrated that 1:9 twist produced better accuracy, approximately twice as accurate.  Now take note what the testers found with the newer M855A1 regarding repeatability.

On average, the new ammunition produced one flyer in roughly each five rounds, which, it can be argued, exaggerated the group sizes. Since the Army announced that, “On average, 95 percent of the [M855A1] rounds will hit an 8×8-inch target at 600 meters,” each group’s most errant bullet impact was discarded and group sizes recalculated. Statistically they improved, but not enough to place 95 percent of rounds so close at 600 meters, at least when using the standard 1:7-inch barrel-which may explain why accuracy was less than expected.

There is one “flyer” in every five rounds.  This seems to me to be a significant problem with this ammunition combined with the barrel twist, and the commenters don’t seem to like it very much either.  Finally, this.

When U.S. Army shooters twice fired public demonstrations of the new round, they did not employ standard 1:7-inch twist M16A2s or M4s, but accurized, match-grade, stainless-barreled rifles from the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU). I contacted the AMU and learned that these rifles did not have standard-issue 1:7-inch barrels, but most likely 1:8-inch twist, which probably accounts for their “match-like” accuracy.

Isn’t that rich?  The Army made claims of “match-like accuracy,” and proved the rounds shooting out of different barrels than are deployed with Soldiers, using 1:8 twist, not 1:7 twist.

The American Rifleman article goes on to discuss in some detail the performance of the M855A1 with slim-profiled targets like malnourished tribal fighters in Afghanistan (so-called “ice picking” the target without fragmentation), performance at barrier penetration (concluding that it is better than its predecessor), and its lethality once it does penetrate barriers.  I recommend this reading to you.  It’s well worth the time.

So to summarize what we know, remember some basic things.  First, the bullet has to be spun to give it gyroscopic stability.  This spin needs to match the bullet (including mass and length), and care must be taken not to over-stabilize the bullet.  If you shoot typical .223 ammunition (55 gr.), or M193 or M855, a twist rate of 1:9 is probably just about ideal.  You’ll probably lose some accuracy with a higher twist rate.

This loss of accuracy is likely not significant for a lot of shooters.  If you shoot much heavier ammunition (and there is a lot on the market), you probably need to consider a twist rate of 1:8.  Finally, none of this matches the value of good ammunition or good shooting.

That’s the good news.  Most guns can outperform the shooter, and I know that’s the case with me.  I’m a decent shooter.  Not great, but decent.  I’ve taken my Tikka T3 .270 bolt action rifle and literally put rounds through the same hole at 100 yards (with slightly more tearing of the same hole in the paper).  On the other hand, this is with a good scope, no wind, a cool and comfortable day, all day to work my craft and thus no time pressure, no one else to be concerned about, lots of coffee to wake up, and a full belly.

But if I had kept records, it wouldn’t have happened again exactly like that since, theoretically, even with perfect ammunition, considering barrel harmonics and that physical processes like this are a heuristic phenomenon, if I had continued to log my shots this way, it would have doubtless shown a standard distribution (distance between each shot and mean).

But regardless of the details, you’ve done it before.  Control breathing … get good sight picture … back out of the shot if you’re not mentally right … know where your trigger breaks … and so on.  You know the drill, since you’ve done it many times.  It’s perhaps the purest pleasure a shooter can have.

Now throw in simple annoyances like a whining partner at the range, losing daylight and time pressures, hunger, and any of the other 100 possible nuisances that can sap your accuracy.  Then your accuracy goes to hell, doesn’t it?  Now, combine that with wearing heavy gear and being shot at, and I’m sure it diminishes your control over your weapon.  Thankfully, I only have the experiences of my former Marine son conveyed to me.

The good part of this is that regardless of your barrel twist rate, if your AR-15 is reliable, even if it’s not top of the line, it can probably outperform you.  That means getting better isn’t a matter of getting a new rifle or barrel with a different twist.  It means practicing with your rifle, sometimes under duress.  It also means buying good ammunition.  Steve at RRA is right.  The shooter and ammo have to do their part.  I object to cheap ammunition just like I object to cheap engine oil.  I’m trying to develop the discipline at the store or online to buy better ammunition.

Right, I’ve got it.  I feel your objection.  Good ammunition (e.g., Hornady $2 per round .270 for my Tikka) hurts.  This is my wealth, and it’s hard to part ways with it since it’s hard to earn it.  But using bad ammunition at the range makes it hard to impossible to assess your practice.  Use of my value pack Federal .223 at the range means that my accuracy is irrelevant if I’m using the same reticle holdovers I would for 5.56mm since the muzzle velocity is different (and very slightly lower than the 5.56mm).  You’ve got the picture.

The best way to get better accuracy is probably not to get a better gun.  It’s to practice with the one you’ve got.

Here is a related video I found interesting on gyroscopic stability.  He’s wrong about the math being incomprehensible, but it is rather difficult if you’re involved with partial differentials or worse, the Navier-Stokes equations in CFD.  You need some specialized training in mathematics in order to tackle that.  You don’t have to know any of that in order to understand the basics of shooting.

This discussion probably won’t end the debate on barrel twist rate, and it certainly won’t end the fight between the Army and Marine Corps (who doesn’t want to deploy the M855A1).  But I hope it was helpful to you.

Prior:

Considerations In Selecting AR-15 Ammunition

Army And Marines In No Rush To Chamber A Common 5.56mm Round

A New Cartridge For The Army?

Army And Marine Corps On M855 Ammunition

AR-15 Animation

Why I Abandoned The AR-15

Does AR-15 Barrel Length Matter?

$3000 Versus $1000 AR-15

Eugene Stoner And Jim Sullivan On AR-15 Engineering And Design

What Length AR-15 Barrel?

Army Seeks Gun Industry Help On M4 Carbine

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months ago

The U.S. Marine Corps led the way.  At the time I said this:

Recall that I told you “that Rock River Arms, Knights Armament, LaRue Tactical and Daniel Defense isn’t the Colt produced under milspec for the Army and Marine Corps (these are all superior to the Colt M-16 and M-4)?”  And recall that John Jay and I have both discussed Milspec and what it does (and doesn’t) mean?

It should also be pointed out that there are many things that can be tweaked on the Stoner platform (Milspec design) that can make it much more reliable than the Colt.

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.

The high quality AR-15 manufacturers know all of this and generally make their parts better than Milspec.  But now the Army wants in on the game.

The Army is asking the gun industry to build new components for its soldiers’ primary weapon — the M4 carbine — a move that experts say is a tacit admission that the service has been supplying a flawed rifle that lacks the precision of commercially available guns.

At a recent Capitol Hill hearing, an Army general acknowledged that the M4’s magazine has been responsible for the gun jamming during firefights.

On the federal government’s FedBizOpps.gov website, the Army announced a “market survey” for gunmakers to produce a set of enhancements to essentially create a new model — the “M4A1+.” It would include a modular trigger, a new type of rail fitted around a “free floating” barrel and other parts. The upgrade is supposed to improve the rifle’s accuracy and reliability.

The Army last year took the significant step of beginning to convert the basic M4 into the special operations version, the M4A1, with a heavier barrel designed to better withstand the heat of rapid fire.

The Washington Times reported in 2014 on confidential prewar tests that showed the barrel was prone to overheating. The Times also quoted active-duty soldiers who said the M4 is inferior based on their experience in battle. A Green Beret said he takes the extraordinary step of rebuilding his M4A1 on the battlefield by using components from other gunmakers — technically a violation of Army regulations.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, an artillery officer and decorated Vietnam combatant, is one of the M4’s most vocal critics. He also believes the 5.56 mm M855A1 ammunition — an environmentally sensitive, or “green,” round — is wrong for the gun.

Gen. Scales said the Army’s new solicitation is further proof of the carbine’s shortfalls.

“It’s another attempt by the Army to make the M4 look good,” he said. “If the Army wants to improve the M4, fine. But it’s not a weapon suitable for high-intensity, close combat in extremes against an enemy who is basically matching us in weapons performance in a close fight. Everybody knows the weapon has flaws.”

Mr. Scales said the M4’s basic shortfall is that it uses gas, or direct, impingement to extract and expel its shells as opposed to a piston system. A piston firing mechanism is in the prolific AK-47, which runs cleaner and cooler but is considered slightly less accurate.

This article is a complete mess.  It goes from things that we’ve discussed before that should be obvious (such as a floated barrel to avoid interference with [natural frequency] barrel harmonics by fixed points), to old battle philosophy (such as the notion that Solders and Marines today shoot Carbines fully automatic as if they are some sort of area suppression weapon like a SAW – seriously, this is thirty or forty year old battle tactics, the stuff of Vietnam rather than the professionally trained fighters of the twenty first century).

It ends (for me, simply because I couldn’t bring myself to read any more) when that loud mouth, washed up old coot General Scales started begging for the piston system again.  Good grief.  He weighs in against the Eugene Stoner platform for CQB, which is ironically the situation in which it is the best weapon on earth by far.  My message is clear.  Just stop.  The main stream media needs to stop being a day late to the story.  We’ve already worked this one over until it’s bloody.  General Scales needs to go home and stop advocating for whatever armament company he’s working for today.  The Marine Corps and Army need to stop telling the world what they are going to do about non-existent problems with their weapons.  They have diarrhea of the mouth.  Wanat and Kamdesh were not caused by weapons problems.  They were caused by the idiot general who deployed Platoon-size U.S. forces to ensconce themselves in valleys to fight off Battalion-size Taliban forces who had the high ground.

But what does need to happen is with the Marine Corps and Army.  The procedures need to change to allow the armorers the freedom and latitude to arm the men with the weapons they need.  If they want Magpul magazines (with the no-tilt follower), then they should get them instead of the ridiculous Milspec magazines with the follower that binds and sticks (yea, it’s happened to me too).  If a free floated barrel is better (and it is), then change the Military specifications to allow a free floated barrel and replace them all.  If stronger buffer springs are better, then replace them all.  Just go do it.  Adapt, improvise and overcome.  Don’t be bureaucratic pointy-heads.

And something needs to happen with Patriots too.  We should all learn from the intransigence of the Army and Marine Corps.  If there is a better part, buy it.  Test it.  Work your weapons systems.  Learn them.  Practice with them.  Procedures are good insofar as they help you.  If they become a hindrance, defenestrate them.  You control them – they do not control you.

And by the way, around these parts we speak the name of Eugene Stoner with hushed reverence.  Do otherwise at your peril.

Prior:

Army And Marine Corps On M855 Ammunition

Marines To Get Rifle Makeovers

Blaming The Gun For The Battle Losses

The Reliability Of The Eugene Stoner Design

Blaming The Gun For The Battle Losses

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 11 months ago

Robert H. Scales wrote a piece for The Atlantic entitled Gun Trouble, with the catchy subtitle as follows: The rifle that today’s infantry uses is little changed since the 1960s—and it is badly flawed. Military lives depend on these cheap composites of metal and plastic. So why can’t the richest country in the world give its soldiers better ones?

Scales then proceeds to rehearse the history of flaws after the initial rollout of the M-16 in Vietnam, well known flaws (and failed to mention others, such as the fact that the chamber and barrel weren’t chrome-lined in the initial stages of production).  He pans the 5.56 mm NATO round, and ends up recommending two (what he considers to be) improvements.  First, he wants a larger caliber round, and second, he wants a gas recirculation system rather than the current DI system in use in the Eugene Stoner design (He fails to mention that the gas recirculation system weighs the front end of the rifle down and makes it more difficult to maneuver in CQB such as room clearing.  This is a point made to me by my son, who didn’t even like my quad-rail on the front end of my RRA rifle due to its weight).  Scales points to Wanat as proof positive that American lives are being wasted by a bad design.

The M4, the standard carbine in use by the infantry today, is a lighter version of the M16 rifle that killed so many of the soldiers who carried it in Vietnam. (The M16 is still also in wide use today.) In the early morning of July 13, 2008, nine infantrymen died fighting off a Taliban attack at a combat outpost near the village of Wanat in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. Some of the soldiers present later reported that in the midst of battle their rifles overheated and jammed. The Wanat story is reminiscent of experiences in Vietnam: in fact, other than a few cosmetic changes, the rifles from both wars are virtually the same. And the M4’s shorter barrel makes it less effective at long ranges than the older M16—an especially serious disadvantage in modern combat, which is increasingly taking place over long ranges.

In spite of the high number of kills in the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Scales calls the 5.56 mm a “varmint round.”  We’ve seen all of this before, much of it coming from experience many decades ago.  But we’ve seen testing that simply shows much of the bad press for the Stoner design (and good press for the Kalashnikov design) to be false.  Recall the testing done on the Knights Armament rifle, and reader Pat Hines sends two more examples here and here.  The point is granted that Rock River Arms, Knights Armament, LaRue Tactical and Daniel Defense isn’t the Colt produced under milspec for the Army and Marine Corps (these are all superior to the Colt M-16 and M-4).  Furthermore, recall that we’ve discussed what it means to be milspec and what it doesn’tNot milspec isn’t always worse, and milspec isn’t always better.

Still, my own son Daniel tells me that he never had any problems with either his SAW or an M-4 when he used that in training and in Fallujah, Iraq (while still claiming that my RRA rifle was better than the Colt he used).  The biggest problem with Scales’ argument isn’t that it doesn’t rely on hard evidence regarding quality battle rifles today (and it doesn’t, and some AR-15s are better designed and manufactured than the M-4 it must be admitted).  The biggest problem with his argument is that it blames the wrong culprit.

My coverage of the Battle of Wanat goes back to before the Cubbison report, from 2008 until recently.

Analysis Of The Battle Of Wanat

Investigating The Battle Of Wanat

The Contribution Of The Afghan National Army In The Battle Of Wanat

The Battle Of Wanat, Massing Of Troops And Attacks In Nuristan

Second Guessing The Battles Of Wanat And Kamdesh

And many other articles.  I am proud to have contributed in some small way to the Wanat report still on file at Fort Leavenworth (on page 255 three of my articles are cited).  Specifically, it was published by the Combat Studies Institute Press, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center.

The kill ratio was indeed lower at Wanat than has been noted at other engagements, but the fact that Soldiers had to put 400 rounds through their weapons in such a short time frame is indicative of a different problem than the gun.  First of all, with all due respect to the Soldiers who were there, fire control and long distance optics would have been a valuable commodity.  When training his “boots,” my son worked first, middle and last on rate of fire and fire control.  And use of a larger bore weapon wouldn’t have helped barrel temperature (have you ever shot a large caliber weapon?), and would certainly have hurt the ability to regain sight picture after firing due to significant recoil.

Use of DMs with M-14s or bolt action sniper rifles would have helped (the Marines make use of such tactics), as would have training in shooting uphill (to which very few units train – I know this from conversations with Army trainers).  But the biggest problems with Wanat were associated with command choices that could have been done differently.  Vehicle Patrol Base Wanat (it was a VPB rather than a FOB), took entirely too long to set up, allowing enemy massing of forces, something I’ve noted on a number of occasions in Afghanistan (it’s a favorite tactic when the Taliban think they can greatly outnumber their opponent).

Furthermore, terrain was critical in that the U.S. troops didn’t control the high country surrounding the VPB which was in a valley.  One Marine Captain commented to me as follows:

The platoon in Wanat sacrificed control of the key terrain in the area in order to locate closer to the population. This was a significant risk, and I don’t see any indication that they attempted to sufficiently mitigate that risk. I can empathize a little bit – I was the first Marine on deck at Camp Blessing back when it was still Firebase Catamount, in late 2003. I took responsibility for the camp’s security from a platoon from the 10th Mountain Div, and established a perimeter defense around it. Looking back, I don’t think I adequately controlled the key terrain around the camp. The platoon that replaced me took some steps to correct that, and I think it played a significant role when they were attacked on March 22nd of 2004. COIN theorists love to say that the population is the key terrain, but I think Wanat shows that ignoring the existing natural terrain in favor of the population is a risky proposition, especially in Afghanistan.

The force was simply too small (platoon size versus virtual battalion size Taliban force), and they were simply outgunned.  It’s remarkable that they didn’t have even more casualties.  Blaming the gun we deployed with the Soldiers is the easy thing to do.  It’s also the wrong thing to do, and it’s disingenuous.  Blaming the men who made the decision to deploy the way they did would be the hard thing to do because it gets personal.  But at least it would be honest.

See also:

Battle Of Wanat Category

War is Boring, The M-4 Carbine Is Here To Stay

Dan Morgan on Wanat

WeaponsMan Part 1 and Part 2

The Firearm Blog

AR-15s In The News

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 2 months ago

Courtesy of Say Uncle, there is this on use of an AR-15 for home defense.

If you are considering an AR-15 as your choice of home defense weapon, I urge you to read “”Bring Enough Gun”: A History of The FBI’s Long Arms,” by Bill Vanderpool in American Rifleman, October 2013, pages 115, 116 …

On page 115, Mr. Vanderpool begins discussing why the FBI chose to replace the H&K MP5 type weapons with members of the AR family for “entry” weapons.  He gives a brief history of the decision-making process and concludes that “…the AR system was found to be a safer and more effective round to use in close-quarter combat.”  [He means safer to shoot inside rooms than the two submachinegun rounds in use at the time in 9mm and 10mm.]

Well, yes, this is rehearsed in articles I’ve written about the AR-15 and ballistics of the 5.56 which tends to yaw in flight and shatter upon impact (frangible ammunition, not green tip, or steel core).  Remember though, use of any weapon inside a home means that you must remember the rules, one of which is that you must be aware of your backstop.  Dry wall is not a good one regardless of whether you are using a handgun, shotgun or rifle.

Policymic summarizes five instances of use of the AR-15 in self defense (situations that likely saved lives).

April, a 32-year-old named Jasper Brisbon attacked a Philadelphia couple as they entered their home. The man grabbed his AR-15 and pointed it at the intruder.  The man told Brisbon to leave, but he didn’t. Instead he advanced menacingly as the resident screamed, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” and finally fired a shot into Brisbon’s torso.  He called 911 and an ambulance delivered the intruder to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police said the AR-15 was legally purchased.

This February, a man and woman attacked a tax preparation business near Detroit, pointing handguns at the receptionist and owner.  As you can see in this surveillance video, when one of the attackers advances past two horrified victims to check out the next room of this house converted into a small business office, a security guard behind the door enters with an AR-15 and scares off the intruders with two shots.

This January, two men with a handgun broke into the NY apartment of a Rochester Institute of Technology student named Raymond. His AR-15 may have saved his life.

In 2010, a 15-year-old Texas boy used his father’s AR-15 to defend himself and his 12yo sister when they were home alone one afternoon and two home invaders attacked their house.

Then the author lists the 1992 LA riots where a Ruger Mini-14 was used.  I am surprised that they didn’t list the instance of Mr. Stephen Bayezes that I discussed in No One Needs ARs For Self Defense.

The owner of the Guns and Ammo Gunsmith store in North Augusta, S.C. thought he was going to die tragically. Three men had driven a van into his store, executing what they hoped would be a quick “smash-and-grab” robbery.

Instead, they met owner Stephen Bayezes, who opened fire on the three intruders after the commotion set off an alarm, hitting each one at least once. He says he is not proud of what he was forced to do, but added sometimes “you’ve got to.” The incident occurred on Aug. 9, but the owner says a set of tire marks on the store’s floor and an unfinished wall are daily reminders of the night that he almost lost his life.

“It’s a haunting thought. It literally is a haunting thought when you see the tire tracks, you hear the tires,” Bayezes told WRDW-TV. “Everybody assures you that you just did what you had to do to protect your family. They say it’ll heal over time, but when does time go away? It’s something that nobody ever wants to do.”

But he says he had no choice after he heard one of the robbers shout, “Shoot the mother f**ker!,” followed by the sound of a gun cocking. “I mean, they would’ve shot me. In my mind, with no reservation. If that firearm had been loaded, I might’ve been a statistic.”

Finally, Quartz.com notes that Cerberus has tried to unload manufacturers of AR-15s (probably Bushmaster) but has been unsuccessful, and is still making loads of money off of AR-15s.  Then the author makes this amusing comment.

The inability to close a deal says a lot about the conflicted state of the US gun control battle. There’s clearly something wrong with owning this company—otherwise, why would Cerberus try to sell it and why would no buyers emerge? But there’s also little apparent public-relations cost (and no litigation cost—gunmakers in the US aren’t liable when their weapons are misused) to owning the firearms giant, at least as long as Cerberus claims not to want to. And meanwhile, the money just keeps rolling in.

Uh huh.  Look, we’ve discussed Freedom Group / Cerberus before, and how they are essentially venture capitalists and look to bust up competition rather than making their procurements better.  Thus, the way they look to increase sales in any one category is to buy and close down competition in that category.  Many a small and medium sized gun manufacturer has closed down after being purchased by Freedom Group.

They aren’t good for the gun market in the long term, and thus I won’t shed a tear at their problems.  But it’s a nice problem to have – making all of that money.  I suspect that they are trying to get out while the market is at the peak (or thereabouts), to invest in something else.  Freedom Group isn’t about guns like the article seems to think – good or bad.  It is about money.  That’s why the article is misleading and confused.

AK-47s are also in the news and you can read about it if you wish (I have shot the AK-47 before and I think it’s an imprecise, rattling clanker), but around here we speak the name of Eugene Stoner with hushed, reverential awe and respect.  If you say anything bad about Eugene Stoner or AR-15s you will be banned for life and imprecatory prayers will be spoken about you and your children’s children.

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