Archive for the 'AR-15s' Category

AR-15 Barrel Profiles

4 months, 3 weeks ago

History is important to understanding the past, but also to understand the present and potential future changes based on past experience. But history isn’t the only thing discussed when Widener’s considers AR-15 Barrels.

Many believe the barrel is the heart of a firearm. Maybe that’s why the various AR-15 barrel profiles are so close to the hearts of many gun owners. Shooters carry strong feelings on this topic, so we’ll walk through them carefully, talking about AR barrel histories, profile variations, and the latest styles.

In these modern times, the AR-15 is among the most popular firearms worldwide. While many may think of the AR-15 as a new weapon, it’s been around since the late 1950s, and the barrels on this iconic rifle have undergone about as many changes as the gun itself. So let’s talk about the origin of the AR-15 barrel profile, why changes were made, and what type of profile is best for you.

How Barrel Profile Impacts Shooting

Your barrel’s profile is essentially the thickness of that barrel. You can find a bunch of different profiles out there for your AR-15s. Generally, thinner barrels are lighter. That’s great if you’re a hunter and you need to haul your AR-15 through the woods. You can also maneuver with thinner profile barrels more easily.

If you worry about recoil, you might opt for a thicker barrel profile. They help weigh down the gun for more stability; they can also sometimes withstand heavy mag dumps better than thin barrels. Military style shooters who fire rapidly may also prefer a heavy barrel. The heavier profile can help absorb heat and prevent the reliability issues that come up with an overheated barrel.

A History of AR-15 Barrels

The man leading the invention of the AR-15, Eugene Stoner, made strides in establishing the foundation of modern AR barrels. The first barrel on the AR-15 was made for the M16A1 — the pencil barrel.

The story goes that the military thought the barrels were “bending” under the stress of drills and off-label prying tasks. This prompted the updated “government barrel,” which has some extra stock on the muzzle end to prevent warping.

Later, some people discovered that the barrels probably weren’t bending. Instead, there was a debris buildup at the point of the gas block, called a “bent barrel.” There’s some variance of opinion on this, as the earlier pencil barrels are generally regarded as being of lower quality than today’s pencil barrels. Regardless, these earlier flubs (imagined or not) with the AR-15 barrel sparked the evolution of future profiles.

Let’s talk more about the specific barrel profiles on the AR-15 and their purposes.

The Most Notable AR-15 Barrel Profiles

In the next few sections, we’ll review some of the most common barrel profiles on the AR-15. Keep in mind that, in this guide, we’re talking specifically about the barrel profile. If you’re curious about barrel twist rate, best barrel length, or steel type, you can browse some other articles on our site. We’ve also listed some barrel diameters below for reference. These are all taken from the base (thickest part) of the barrel and may differ depending on the manufacturer.

The article continues with a discussion of several barrels.

Single Stage vs Two Stage Triggers: AR15 Trigger Testing

4 months, 4 weeks ago

Video Included.

While the dispute between single stage vs two stage trigger is very much a preference thing, this won’t be a preference article. This article will discuss build and mechanics, the options and reliability of each, and why one might be chosen over the other in specific situations.

When thinking of a single-stage vs a two-stage trigger, the main terms that need to be known are hammer, sear, and disconnect. As these three parts will differ between triggers in an AR.

Hammer:The hammer is released when the trigger is fully pulled, striking the firing pin to ignite the primer of the round. Note: The hammer does have a portion on it that is known as the “searing portion” but it is not usually referred to as the main sear.

Sear: The sear is a separate part from the disconnect and hammer. The sear will be the last ledge that the hammer slides off of before being totally released to hit the firing pin. Dependent on the trigger, the sear can be a part of the trigger or its own separate piece that is then connected to the trigger.

Disconnect:The disconnect holds the hammer down after the trigger is pulled and the gun is cycling. As the gun is cycling, the hammer is pushed down and held down by the disconnect. This disconnect will then release once the gun has fully cycled and the trigger has been released. Once the disconnect releases the hammer, the hammer is now being held down by the sear.

Below is a graph provided by TriggerTech of various trigger pulls comparing pull weight and trigger travel distance. You can see the different forces and trigger travel required to set off different triggers as well as the amount of variation from trigger to trigger.

As some are better with words and some are better with actually seeing it, below is one of the better videos I’ve found in explaining the mechanics of the single-stage vs two-stage trigger. His example being with a Mil-spec single stage trigger in a standard AR-15 and then a Geissele Super Dynamic Two-Stage trigger.

It is worth it to note that all triggers will be different, even when it is a simple single stage trigger. Aftermarket triggers such as Triggertech, Hiperfire, and CMC are all very intricate designs and will differ from the example below but will have similar steps of operation.

Educational details about build and applications at the link.

Some Options for AR Pistols

6 months, 2 weeks ago

If you own one of these things with a brace you have a decision to make. Doing nothing is still a decision. The article is about more than just the brace and covers AR pistols in .300 AAC Blackout among other things.

Like most people I can shoot more accurately with a rifle. An AR pistol with a brace is not a rifle but it does give at least three points of contact when used as intended. I bought a stripped lower receiver from my local gun shop and ordered a lower build kit from Palmetto State Armory. Online an upper receiver with a ten-inch barrel was ordered. Besides a red dot optic and flashlight, a detachable sling was desired. An SBA3 pistol brace was chosen because of the good reviews and the ambidextrous QD sling socket. After everything was assembled it became one of my favorite firearms. Accurate, low profile, in a caliber that had dozens of projectiles in weight and configuration with many suitable propellants that could be experimented with. But then came January of 2023.

The ATF rule 2021R-08F, almost 300 pages of nebulous wording of what classifies as a short-barreled rifle (SBR) includes overall length, weight, and eye relief of an optic. What it boils down to is if you have a barrel less than sixteen inches and a pistol brace the ATF now considers it an SBR.

What is Judge Roger Benitez Waiting For?

BY Herschel Smith
7 months, 3 weeks ago

If he does what Washington Gun Law suspects he’s going to do, i.e., drop his decision the day of the signing of the AWB in Washington, then the good folks in the state of Washington, if there are any left, will immediately take the ban to federal court.  With the Heller “in common use” test, they will surely win – or otherwise, have an unconstitutional decision to appeal to the Ninth circuit.

As it is, if Judge Benetiz made his ruling before the Washington bill becomes law, the ninth circuit could just leave this along, let it apply to California, and then the folks in Washington are on their on.  Or, they could take the Benitez ruling up, make an unconstitutional decision, and then get slapped down by the supreme court.

If Benitez waits until the bill gets signed into law, he is sending a message to the folks in Washington.  Take it to court.  That way, when some progressive judge turns it away, the ninth circuit has split district court rulings to contend with and must take the cases to reconcile them.  They have to find that the AWB is unconstitutional under Heller, or else they get slapped down by the supreme court.

There is also the optics to consider – a Benitez ruling on the very day the controllers announce a new AWB in one of the most progressive states in the nation, all in the ninth cicruit.

There is no leaving this in the states – this will get dealt with one way or the other.  And remember boys and girls, if the AR-15 is such bad jiu jiu to the controllers, make sure you keep yours.  The best way to do that is to have one (or more) to begin with.

Judge Benitez is a master-level, or even galaxy-level, troller.  And quite a good judge too. And notice the drama with which this is all playing out. I find it both amusing and interesting. Then again, I don’t live in the People’s Republic of California where this all must be taken more seriously.

Interview with Reed Knight on Eugene Stoner and the AR-15

BY Herschel Smith
8 months, 1 week ago

My regular readers know that in these parts, we speak the names of John Moses Browning and Eugene Stoner with hushed reverence.  As an engineer, I have a special appreciation for fine engineering as was performed by both of these men, as well as by Jim Sullivan.

There have been indications in the past that Eugene Stoner’s family was opposed to civilian ownership of the very weapon he designed and built.  This article points to that.

“Our father, Eugene Stoner, designed the AR-15 and subsequent M-16 as a military weapon to give our soldiers an advantage over the AK-47,” the Stoner family told NBC News late Wednesday. “He died long before any mass shootings occurred. But, we do think he would have been horrified and sickened as anyone, if not more by these events.”

But their comments add unprecedented context to their father’s creation, shedding new light on his intentions and adding firepower to the effort to ban weapons like the AR-15. The comments could also bolster a groundbreaking new lawsuit, which argues that the weapon is a tool of war — never intended for civilians.

Eugene Stoner would have agreed, his family said.

Of course, this is supposition and hearsay, with his family attempting to leverage the reputation of their father for their own political ends.  But you see why nerves are sometimes a bit on edge when someone like Reed Knight speaks about these issues.  Reed knew him better than virtually anyone else and worked with him at KAC before Stoner passed away.

Along with (on the same day as) the shooting in Tennessee, no less than four hit pieces came out in the legacy media on the AR-15.  It’s not my intent to rehearse the details of the shooting (nor to tackle every hit piece).  That has been done elsewhere, from the rapid response of the police (versus in Uvalde), to the need to harden schools, and finally to the fact that she chose this school because it was a soft location whereas other potential targets had too much security.

My intention is to fisk one of the hit pieces from The Washington Post.  In this piece, Mr. Knight is quoted.

Eugene Stoner, a World War II veteran who invented the AR-15 in the late 1950s while working at Armalite, a small engineering firm in Hollywood, had no interest in civilians using his invention, said C. Reed Knight, who owns a Florida gunmaking company and considers Stoner his mentor.

“He looked at this thing as only for the military side of the house,” Knight said. Stoner, who died in 1997, thought his invention was past its prime by the mid-1990s, Knight said. He added that Stoner would have been horrified by the idea that “he invented the tool of all this carnage in the schools.”

I figured that this was a response to a very specific chronological question, and so I contacted Mr. Knight for clarification.  He graciously allowed me to spend some time with him over the telephone.  Since there is no transcript (I didn’t do this interview via email), I’ll try faithfully to reproduce some of the things he conveyed to me.  You’ll have to trust that I got it right.

First of all, Reed began a rundown of the history of Eugene’s work on the AR platform.  I knew all of this anyway, but it was nice to here Mr. Knight reminisce about his relationship and Eugene’s work.  He began in the late 1950s on the design.  It is of course correct to say that Eugene didn’t design the rifle for civilian use, since his work was targeted towards the military, and it was a military contract under which he worked.  He was paid to work on a rifle for the military.

There is a great gulf between saying that his work was done for, and financially supported by, the U.S. military, and asserting that civilians shouldn’t own the rifle, or that Eugene would have been opposed to such ownership.  That’s what’s being implied in The Washington Post.  Both Mr. Knight and I agreed on this point, and Mr. Knight made it clear that he was answering a very specific question on chronology, not politics or liberty and rights.

As an editorial point, I’ll observe that what Mr. Reed stated to me and what I recalled as the next events dovetail together.  Eugene sold the patent for the AR platform rifle to Colt in the early to mid 1960s.  Reed said to me, “… and colt immediately wanted to market the rifle in the civilian community, which of course is their right.”

Also as an editorial point, for more evidence of both the timeline here, and ATF malfeasance, my friend and colleague David Codrea sent me this article (which I had read before but forgot), in which Len Savage worked with Stephen Stamboulieh to obtain original classification letters through FOIA.  The results are interesting.

“Colt sent a pilot model rifle (serial no. GX4968) to the BATF for civilian sale approval on Oct. 23, 1963. It was approved on Dec. 10, 1963, and sales of the ‘Model R6000 Colt AR-15 SP1 Sporter Rifle’ began on Jan 2, 1964,” one critic of the article contended. “The M16 wasn’t issued to infantry units until 1965 (as the XM16E1), wasn’t standardized as the M16A1 until 1967, and didn’t officially replace the M14 until 1969.”

Civilians had this rifle before the troops in the field did.

“There are several things that are interesting,” Savage told AmmoLand News about the classification letter. “One, it shows pre-Gun Control Act ATF policy on the AR-15 system,” He noted. “It also shows why the most likely reason an AR lower is considered a ‘frame or receiver’ is that from 1962-1968 Colt marked the lower receivers with the information (flat surface as the upper is round). Meaning the regulatory scheme used by ATF  1968 to present is based on what Colt marked pre-1968 and not the statute. Willfully and knowingly.”

“Len hit the nail on the head,” Stamboulieh weighed in. “The current notice of proposed rule-making reads as if there was just no way the ATF could have known that the AR-15 split modular design was a thing. Back in 1968, the agency promulgated the definition of frame or receiver, post-dating the classification letter of the AR15, and that shows why they should have originally known what they were making a definition for.”

He and Savage also cleared up a point of potential confusion on why the classification letter refers to the AR-15 as an “automatic rifle.”

“It is because (my thoughts) that they sent two rifles,” Stamboulieh offered. “One was an automatic rifle, and the other was the modified rifle made to be not a machinegun (a semi-automatic version). So the ATF said, yes, this modified ‘automatic rifle’ is not a firearm under the NFA (therefore, not a machinegun and in other words, a semi-auto).”

“Bingo!” Savage replied. “They sent an ‘Unserviceable’ M16 so ATF could compare it and the new rifle and were told it was still considered an MG even if unserviceable since it was not properly destroyed. I laughed when Colt was told ‘file a Form 2’ in order to get it back… Wonder if it is still in National Firearms Collection?”

“In 1968 firearms industry terminology ‘automatic rifle’ means the same as ‘auto-loading rifle,’ i.e., a rifle that loads itself for the next shot,” he recalled. “Even in 1979-1980 when I took my hunters’ safety course the State of Michigan used the two terms interchangeably throughout the course.”

Thanks to David for reminding me of this article, and to Len and Stephen for the work on the FOIA.

Returning to Reed Knight, I continued with him on what Eugene thought about firearms ownership by civilians.  He told me that Eugene had a large collection of firearms and was a strong supporter of the second amendment.  Just to close the loop on all of this, I asked Reed if he believed that the rifle he currently builds at Knight’s Armament should be prohibited from civilian ownership?

I was met with an unequivocal ‘NO’.  He did opt to clarify that he firmly believes that, but most of the work they do at KAC is for the military since they focus their efforts on military contracts.  But that doesn’t change his beliefs about and support for the 2A.

Reed went on to discuss the current state of affairs concerning schools, shootings, etc.  We both believe in firmer security including armed resource officers and armed teachers, and he mentioned cultural changes that might have led to the situation we see today, including video games (I don’t happen to agree with that assessment concerning FPS gaming), unaddressed mental health issues, and other things.  I mentioned that my own readers might strongly add spiritual and moral problems as the primary cause, and he agreed with me that those issues play a role.

I’ll close my interview report by conveying two quotes by Reed: “I can’t blame the thieving that goes on in the jewelry store on the hammer that broke the glass.”  “It’s terrible to piss on Eugene’s grave because of what evil people do.”

That’s common sense, but not so common today.

I’ll also leave a few more editorial remarks.  If we’re going to consider chronology, it’s a fact that the Remington .223 was designed before the NATO 5.56mm, and in fact, Eugene based the 5.56mm on the .223, making a few minor changes to the casing before adoption as the standard NATO round.  So civilians had both the cartridge and the gun before the U.S. military did.  I won’t go into detail on the minor differences between the .223 and 5.56mm cartridge.  That’s not within the scope of this article.

I’m left wondering how writers like Philip Bump continue to be employed, who stated flatly that …

It is estimated that there are 20 million AR-15-style rifles in the United States at this point — a powerful, deadly type of weapon that didn’t exist as a consumer product two decades ago.

First, I think this estimate is quite low.  But note that he puts the commercial availability as 2023 – 20 = 2003.  How on earth do these writers get paid unless the pay master knows they’re writing pure bunk and wants it that way?

Now, one might criticize Mr. Knight for even agreeing to interviewed by The Washington Post.  But that’s his business, not mine.  But it must be noted that there are two ways to write things: truthfully and with the complete story, or twisted so that every remark, every comment, every [partial]fact, every half-truth, and every quote feeds a narrative, that narrative being the one the publisher wants to push.

That’s what you see when you read The Washington Post and similar publications.  Legacy media indeed.  I repeat: there is a world of difference between making observations and statements in response to questions of chronology (even if the writer is too stupid to know that’s what the question and answer is really about), and world and life views concerning liberties and rights.  It’s easy enough to string hearsay together with false implications of chronology and make a narrative.  It appears to be much harder to tell the truth.

I’ll say the same thing I did to Reed Knight.  Over these pages, we value the truth above all else.

School Shooting in Tennessee

BY Herschel Smith
8 months, 2 weeks ago

Everyone has seen the news reports on the school shooting at a PCA church school in Tennessee.  I won’t rehearse the facts here.  Pray for the families.  We have friends who are close to some of those who perished today.

I have a few observations to make, and then more for tomorrow.  I have a [hopeful] interview with an individual cited in one of the pieces today on AR-15s.


First, don’t you find it just a bit odd that no less than four (4) hit pieces came out over the legacy media today, and before the morning was over, an attack on a school occurred with the woman carrying ARs?

Second, the shooter was engaged within 15 minutes after the 911 call was made and put down the shooter.  Suck on that, Uvalde police.  Cowards.

Third, something seems wrong with this account.  She was carrying two AR-15s and a pistol.  Something doesn’t add up.  No one needs or carries two rifles and a pistol.  The additional rifle would just get in her way and bang around, impeding her mobility.

Best Bullet Weight for 1 in 7 Twist Rate?

8 months, 2 weeks ago

I thought readers might find some interest in this.

As a bullet is fired, the rifling in the barrel forces the bullet to spin. So, in a 1:8” twist, rate the bullet rotates one full turn every eight inches. In a 1:7” twist, the bullet rotates one turn in seven inches. The smaller the number, the faster the twist; you need to remember this.


If a bullet spins too slowly, it cannot stabilize and won’t achieve either optimum velocity or accuracy. What occurs is called yaw. The bullet is unstable and does not hit the target with the tip of the bullet, but perhaps the side of the bullet.

I built a retro AR-15 with a 20” barrel and 1:12” twist and fired 77-gr. bullets that perfectly keyholed the target because the rifling couldn’t stabilize the longer, heavier bullet. So, the bullet hit the target sideways. Accuracy is horrible with heavy bullets in that rifle. With 55-gr. bullets, however, that retro rifle with a 1:12 twist shoots the black out of the target. Rifling can also be too fast and over-stabilize the bullet causing the bullet to fragment in flight and lose all effectiveness.

When Eugene Stoner developed the AR-15, the idea was to use lightweight bullets in the 45- to 55-gr. range through a 20” barrel. Barrels were rifled in a slow 1:12” twist rate, capable of stabilizing lightweight bullets but not heavier bullets. Fast forward a few decades, and .223 bullets have evolved in bullet style, bullet material and weight. Today 75- and 77-gr. .223 bullets are just as common as 55- to 62-gr. bullets. Twist rate is your clue on what weight bullets will perform optimally in your gun. Some shooters might not think twice about the twist rate in their barrel, but if they knew that could fine-tune their bullet performance they might pay closer attention.

Twist Rate Sweet Spot

Most AR-15 rifles and carbines produced today use rifling with a 1:8 twist rate. In my opinion, a twist rate of 1:8 is perfect for a general-purpose, 16” barrel AR since this twist offers versatility and can easily stabilize both light and heavy bullets. In fact, the sweet spot for 1:8 bores are bullets weighing from 62 to 77 grains.

In the 1980s, when the U.S. military moved to the M16A2 rifle and the 62-gr. M855 cartridge, it chose a 1:7 twist rate that has become the de facto rifling in all U.S. military rifles and carbines chambered in 5.56 NATO. The change had to do with the 1:7 twist rate stabilizing heavier 70- to 77-gr. bullets and the rifling’s ability to stabilize tracer rounds. The 1:7 twist can stabilize bullets weighing up to 90 grains.

I had an engineering professor who was fond of saying, “Test them like you use them”. So, to prove out the thesis, I sat down at the range bench with a stock, off-the-shelf Springfield Armory ATC with its 1:7 twist rate for heavy bullets and mounted with a Leupold Patrol 6HD 1-6x24mm scope. I used Nosler cartridges since they provide a wide assortment of bullet weights, bullet material and bullet types — from lightweights like the Expansion Tip 55-gr. lead-free ET rounds and the Ballistic Tip 55-gr. BTV, to Match Grade 70-gr. RDF (Reduced Drag Factor), and the lunker in the bunch Match Grade 77-gr. HPBT.

More, including test results, at the link.

Think of the Children!

BY Herschel Smith
8 months, 3 weeks ago

Barrel Rifling Twist Rates Explained

BY Herschel Smith
8 months, 3 weeks ago

All Outdoor.

Rifling Twist Rates

Ideal twist rates produce a gyroscopic factor between 1.5 and 2.0.

Factors between 1.0 and 1.3 are marginally stable, but they’re generally considered too slow. Factors between 2.1 and 2.9 are fast, but stable and accurate. Factors above 3.0 are suitable, but not ideal. Climbing above 4.0 may cause over-stabilization of the round being fired, which can harm accuracy. The optimal twist rates for 5.56 and .223 loads are:

  • 45-gr Varminter: 1:12 twist
  • 55-gr (M193): 1:9 twist
  • 62-gr (M855): 1:8 twist
  • 77-gr (Mk262): 1:8 twist
  • 80-gr Sierra Match: 1:7 twist
  • 90-gr Sierra Match: 1:7 twist

The way I read the table, 1:9 twist rate is good for just about anything up to 77 grains.  I wouldn’t shoot anything above that in 5.56mm anyway.  Heavier bullets than that need to be .224 Valkyrie, 6mm ARC or 6.5 Grendel.  I once thought that .224 Valkyrie was a flash in the pan, but occasionally I do see it at Academy and Cabella’s.  It’s also possible to pick it up via Ammoseek.

I don’t have anything in that caliber and would not.  I like the 6mm ARC too much to switch to something less effective and versatile.

Brownells on Buffer (and other) Springs

BY Herschel Smith
8 months, 3 weeks ago

Okay we’ve covered this before.

So there is yet another post about magazine springs and whether they should be replaced, and if so, when.  This is in the same theme I wrote about several years ago when there was another little flurry of articles and posts about this.  I’m going to cover this ground one time for everyone.

Metal creep is caused from slippage of crystalline structures along boundary planes, whether FCC, BCC, or whatever.  One reader writes that “springs don’t wear out from compression.”  This is along the same lines as most of the [mistaken and incorrect] articles I linked the last time I addressed this issue that claimed that stainless steel doesn’t creep below the yield limit.

Do you know any piano tuners?  I do.  Yea, they have to go back a few days later and retune because of metal creep.  But most piano wires are carbon steel under high stress.  What about stainless steel?

Do not make the claim that stainless steel (like SS304) doesn’t suffer creep below the yield limit and at low temperatures.  Yes … it … does  (“In all tests at applied stress/yield strength ratios above 0.73 some plastic deformation was recorded”).

No offense, but don’t try to be an engineer if you’re not one. If you make the claim that SS304 (I presume the material of most magazine springs) doesn’t suffer from metal creep, you’d be wrong, and then you’d also be answering the question the wrong way.

The right way to look at the question is one of whether the creep is significant.  It usually isn’t, and it is less significant than for carbon steel.  It’s also not significant for applied stress/yield strength ratios lower than what the authors tested.  Where your specific magazine spring falls in this data set is best determined by the designer, not me (I don’t have drawings or any other design information).

Stop saying that it’s only the compression / decompression cycle that puts wear on springs.  Stop it.  Just stop.  That’s not true.

It … is … not … true.

It’s true enough that the compression / decompression cycle is fatigue wear, but it’s also true that this means slippage of the crystalline structures just like metal creep.

Again, the question is whether this creep is important under the specific design circumstances or not, whether the specifications are challenged or not.  It’s not about whether creep will occur.  It does, and it will, even if undetectable by you.

I’m not saying here that it’s a bad idea to leave your buffer spring compressed.  I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea to leave your magazines full of rounds.  Don’t misunderstand what I’m asserting.  I’m not even asserting that Brownells was wrong in their conclusions, even if they didn’t do all of the necessary analysis to properly arrive at their conclusions.

I am asserting that the justification for whether you do or don’t leave springs compressed has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the spring undergoes a compression / decompression cycle while it’s in the configuration it’s in.

It has to do with a materials and structural engineering analysis that most people don’t do (and probably don’t need to do), and which Brownells didn’t do for the video above.

This may sound like a nit, but not to an engineer.

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