Some psywar from my Father’s war
Many of the military rifles that end of in shooters hands are a little bit above wall hangers said to be good shooters, but often come with defects that make them inaccurate at best or dangerous to use at the worst. Others can be functional and fine as well as perfectly safe but have features that make them a real pain to use and feel terrible with hard to use sights or controls.
Beyond the rifles basic condition of looks some military rifles have problems that make them a lot less than desirable from a practical shooting stand point. Even though the rifles came from the world’s leading military powers at the time, the rifles can often have metallurgical or design flaws in rifles from certain time ranges of their production runs. Low number M1903s and certain Krags being an example. Not to mention some are just bad ideas that came misguided military thinking. On top of that are rifles that can not be fired for lack of the now very rare ammo it takes to feed them.
When buying a surplus military rifle from a FFL or gun show the first thing you should do is look at the bore. If possible by pulling the bolt and pointing the muzzle at a bright light. Do not let the fact that the bore is nice and shiny trick you. Do to the magic of abrasives, many pitted bores have been brought to fool the unknowing. Look at the lands. It is the appearance of the lands that tells the tale when it comes to the condition of the bore. They will be flat on top and nice and sharp at their upper and lower corners. Other than that, slugging a bore will tell you of the barrel is within spec or has been polished with abrasives to hone its appearance for casual inspection from possible buyers.
A shot out barrel with make the gun inaccurate and near useless though very rarely make the gun unsafe to shoot. head-space on the other hand is another matter, Usually the result of a large chamber from wear or sloppy manufacture. Military rifles often have large chambers for reasons of function, but a rifle that will swallow a No-Go or filed gauge is not normal and is something you are risking harm with. Another issue are triggers. Usually military rifle triggers and very heavy but reliable. They can be effectively used with practice. Some however had sear let off that was all over the board and could not be counted on to work the same way twice. Miss matched parts, worn sear interface or problems with the cocking piece or bolt.
Following are some of the more common military rifles found on the market popular with shooters and some of the issues to watch out for.
The springfield M1903 has a history of manufacture that is recounted in enough places and books to make the head swim so I am not going to go into it here. High on the list is the well known issue with heat treatment on the early production of the M1903. The poorly done heat treatment left the receivers brittle and failures of the parts when in use. Sometimes shattering or breaking when tapped slightly by a metal rod. The problem is encountered in rifles numbered below 800,000. these rifles are very suspect and it is not worth the risk of shooting, Some may have been treated in a way to make them safe, but there is no way to tell and best to not be fired. The same problem exists with the rifles produced by Rock Island below 285,507. Most of these low numbered springfields were taken out of service a long time ago but they do show up at gun stores and gun shows, I have seen one turn up and a large show and a guns show in the past 10 years with both sellers having no idea ( or pretending not to know) the guns are unsafe to shoot no matter how good they looked. There is also a largish number of these rifles that were turned into “sporters” during years past and they should not be fired no matter how lucky the owner of the rifle may have been with it.
Another problem with the M1903 is the two piece firing pin which tends to break in a way that the tip protrudes from the bolt face. This condition can cause a primer to fire before the bolt lugs have engaged and lock the bolt into battery. An after market one piece firing pin can be bought to cure this issue easily. One design issue I have rarely hear mentioned is the knurled bolt knob. It should never be used to lower by hand to decock the gun on a loaded chamber This allows the firing pin to rest against the primer creating the risk of a discharge, Most custom gunsmith would remove this when making a custom sporter rifle from the ’03.
the M1917 Enfield rifle another popular rifle based on the British 1914 originally in .303 caliber, the rifle was chambered in 30.06 and issued to US troops to supplement and ended up being the rifle more widely issued during WW1. While it is ugly in some eyes. The large rear sight protecting hoods and the dog legged bolt being the biggest eye sore to some, the rifle is very tough and strong with some being chambered in large dangerous game cartridges. Many found in modern times will show very heavy use with badly worn bores. Usually the rifles with gun bores will out shoot the over rated M1903. The rear peep sight is much easier to use and is faster to use in fast combat conditions. The rear peep is a great aid to those whose eye sight is less than perfect.
the Type 99 Arisaka is the most under appreciate military bolt action rifle out there. Very strong and tough, PO Ackley’s destructive testing found the Type 99 to be the strongest military bolt action of them all. The 99 features a very strange but effective safety that requires you to press and turn with the palm to engage and disengage. While it sounds strange, with a few tries it very easy to get the hang of and is faster than some other safeties from the time. The stock looks like a reject 2×4 from the local drunken saw mill operator with what appears to be a crack in the stock. The “crack” was done one purpose and make the butt stock two piece and very strong in a clever design. Many like to joke about the rear sight that folds and has wings that fold out for hitting moving aircraft. The rear is very good in my opinion other than the useless anti aircraft side folding features. While it is further forward than a good rear peep, it does have a aperture rear sight that is large and fast to use, For further shots, you can fold it up in the ladder style like the M1903 with a smaller peep and markings for range. The 7.7 Jap rounds is in the same power range as the 303 Brit round and can give fine results when hand-loaded with match .311 bullets,. Price for factory ammo can run extreme or hand-loading. Original ammo is pretty much collector stuff and very pricey. One great feature on the Type 99 is the chrome lined bore. The finish is often rough with tool marks but it can be very well done and beautiful. In this case looks can fool you because if the Arisaka is in good condition , it is one of the best shooting military rifles.
It all started with an off hand comment. A friend and I had been shooting to 1,000 yards and a little beyond for years and while talking to a 3rd friend one day and telling him about the D&L sports ITRC and a recent article in The Accurate Rifle magazine about it, I mentioned a section at the end about participants of the match having a choice to “join the One Mile Club”. The best I can recall, the idea was the shooter got as many rounds as he wanted at the target 1 mile away but, after having made the hit, had to zero back down and make a 100 yard shot. The person got only one chance at the 100 yard target after scoring the 1 mile hit or else they would not be counted as one of the OMC according to whatever rules they had decided on locally. This had stirred up some talk among the us local long range shooters and got the gears turning.
From there, the friend I was talking to about decided he would build a gun just for the attempt and at a local gun show, a Model 70 long action with trigger was purchased as a base to build the intended 1 mile rifle. Being a machinist, my friend had intended to barrel the action in some appropriate cartridge yet to be determined and build the action into a chassis system. The gun would be huge. heavy and not good for much else.
A few weeks of talk on this line among a few other friends really spread the fire and we started to get serious. We started to look at our options for ways to pull it off. My friend continued to cling to the idea of building a gun just for the shot, but this had very little appeal to me. Then as now, I only wanted to make the hit with something a man could carry by himself and was portable and practical. Another friend who owns the local gun shop got involved and we all determined to decide on appropriate cartridges for the undertaking, The idea was to use something standard. No wildcats and no full custom rifles. That was to be out starting attempt. To work with something factory made and if it was not adequate to the task we would move on from there. Without an unlimited budget we thought it best to use something within our means, and if we found it too lacking or impractical we would then have to decide how much money we were willing to spend to make it happen.
the M1 carbine. Loved and hated in equal parts it seems. Meant to replace the pistol for rear line troops. officers and the GIs that did not need a rifle, the M1 carbine is well known. In recent years a few companies have started to make new “clones” of the m1 carbine to satisfy the every growing demand of out Grandfather’s weapons from WW2. When I was younger it was no big deal to buy a surplus carbine or M1 rifle. I paid 150 for my first carbine and 315 for my first M1 Garand. Then Saving Private Ryan came out, followed by Band of Brothers and all that ended.
Since then, I have taken a look at most of the new made clones of WW2 arms. The carbine in its new life has had some really crap copies made. Sadly enough in my opinion, the most atrocious of some of these clones have been the ones made in within the last few years. The one I am going to show you is not in that class. It is superb. the Inland MFG M1 carbine is the gold standard for new made M1 carbines. Inland even picked up serial numbers ranging after original production numbers in Gov. owned guns as a very cool touch. Now, there are a few features that may not look exact to the discerning M1 collector and expert, but all features on the gun are present to reflect the carbine over its history and retain that broad general look so iconic to us all.
One thing every one I have let handle the gun has mentioned is the wood and how it looks. This is because Inland’s personnel had a relative who worked on the original war production guns and gave all the information on the original wood stain with pictures, the formula and all steps how to attain it. That may not impress you, but that is a very neat continuation of a lost method from the original time period, that I think really ads a great touch. And it looks great indeed.
Unlike some of the other new production M1 carbines or poor attempts at said carbine, the Inland comes with the adjustable rear sight. The rear is the same as found on the M1903A3, adjustable for wind and elevation. I have seen this site reproduced on the 22LR carbines meant to look like the M1 but they are cheap near useless things. This one is robust and well made with positive returning clicks.
As expected , the makers name and serial number is on the rear of the receiver behind the rear sight. You can see how well made the sight is and how the peep sight travels to the rear to raise your elevation.
The front of the receiver and its markings. The excellent parkerizing can be seen in the picture but my camera does not do justice to the pleasant color of the park. Its that grey matte finish we all know and love.
Some of the efforts of other companies produced wood that fit poorly with edges bordering on splinters. The Inland has no such problem. You can run your hand all over it and not get cut. The only sharp corners are the ones that need to be, such as the sights,
One of the give a ways of the old universal carbines is the cut away on the op rod. Not on the Inland. It works smoothly and is robust. It also makes that wonderful metal on metal sound I love when being cycled by hand. Irrelevant, but I still love that sound.
Maybe a sticking point for some of the stickier sticklers. The bayonet lug is the late war and Korean war era. The carbine can be had with or without, The M1A1 paratrooper model from the company does not have it. I think its not really something to complain about really. as I can see most buyers wanting to mount one of the many surplus bayonets on the market. It is well done and made with the great park’ed finish.
The sling attaches at the front with the usually sling swivel. Inland supplies a brand new M1 carbine sling with the rifle as well as the stock oiler bottle.
Sling attaches to the rear and is held in place by the oil bottle. I did not set it up that way because the sling is brand new and tight and I did not want to force it in place since it’s a loaner form the maker. Inland tells me the method to get it in place the first time is to wet the sling, then use a rubber mallet with a gently tappy tap or roller to press the sling and oil bottle in place to break it in. I felt no real need to put it in place so I just assemble the sling around the stock the same way most owners of M1 carbines do minus the oil bottle. It works. Good enough for me.
A matching stock and top hand guard. If you have not spent a life around surplus firearms, you have no idea how rare that is and how nice it is to see.
The magazine that comes with the gun is the standard capacity original. Of course the gun will take the later 30 round magazines. It locks into place and has the mag release button. The safety is also the button just to the rear of the magazine release. This has cause some problems for a lot of people over the years who hit the wrong one at the wrong time when it matters most. Other carbines had a switch or selector lever for the safety that was less likely to cause you to mistakenly dumb your ammo at the worst time if you are not careful. This type I think is faster but something to be aware of. Not the best safety position but it is correct for the carbine.
As you can see, the gun is made well and looks great. Better than any other new made M1 carbine I have seen. In the next part I will be giving the accuracy testing results and reliability of the gun,
After taking a look at the parts and guts on the Colt 6940 Piston carbine last time, it is now time to show the results of testing the carbine for accuracy and reliability.
For my accuracy testing of the carbine, I used the Leupold 18x target scope on a Larue SPR mount and my usual bags and test as I am wont to do. I fired all groups shown at 100 yards and 200 yards using a variety of match factory ammo as well as my own match handloads. I also fired the gun at 1,000 yards and 500 yards in my typical test to push it as far as possible. Once again for the long range resting, the 18x target scope was used,
To make the job a easier , I did use a SSA trigger int he carbine this time. The reason for using the SSA trigger instead of the milspec trigger this time, was because there is a reputation of piston guns having a little less accuracy than DI guns. My thinking was to try my best to eliminate anything I could that may give results that I , or anyone, may be biased to attribute to the piston system. So I used the match SSA trigger and a very secure front rest and sand bag set up from a bench. I wanted to get every bit of accuracy I could from the carbine.
Above are the 5 rounds groups fired at 100 and 200 yards. Due to limited amounts of some of the test ammo, I was only able to use 5 round groups after zeroing the gun and settling in. While all groups are what I considered great, I did notice small changes in the group size with certain match ammo from the DI guns to the piston. When using the DI carbines some of those brands shoot better in about every DI carbine/rifle I have used and other bands are not as tight while it seemed to be the opposite with the piston. Now, this is a small amount and not worth even talking about in a practical matter, I only noticed because of firing the ammo through so many guns that I was able to notice the change, Practically speaking , and from the outlook of field use, It is irrelevant. You can notice the SSA and the TAP strings vertically at 200 yards and beyond, I shot these at a later time with a cold clean bore and with a cold dirty bore and hot dirty bore. Those brands of ammo string vertically in the gun after you get to 200 yards. Again, practically speaking, it is not enough to matter or worry about in a carbine with a milspec barrel meant for fighting. It may be just this one gun, or may be those brands are sensitive to a piston operated carbine. I have no idea. But I present the info to you regardless.
Above is the target with the boxes of some of the brands tested. Below is a closer picture of the groups for closer inspection.
After seeing the results of the groups and being pleased with the accuracy , I determined it was worthwhile for long range testing. With the guns potential in mind, I and my friend loaded up and went to the mountain top strip job for the long range testing 3 weeks ago. Weather was mid with slight winds. Being on top of the mountain, it is hard to catch a windless day. The wind without fail travels right to left and can be seen on target as can be seen in almost all long range test targets from me.
I used a cardboard target with two orange panels to make target ID easy and to give me a better aiming point. Readers will notice I have used as variety of different target types and styles for long range testing, This is an ongoing project of mine to determine the best target and color combination to make long range testing as easy as possible to center the target in the optic for precise aiming, This system worked well on a sunny day, but the color or the paper was not much help late on when the sun was not shinning on it directly.
The shots fired at 500 yards , I circled with a sharpie. The 1,000 yard shots I drew a square around them. The one hole with a star like squiggle drawn around it, is a hit that I am not sure is a 500 round or 1,000 yard shot. I thought it was a 1K shot but later I thought maybe I intended to mark it when I fired the 500 yard group. So I marked it as a 500 shot to not give myself the benefit of the doubt and make a note of it. I feel it is more honest in this case to just call it as a 500 yard hit. On top of that, the 1,000 yard string obviously shifted to the bottom left corner and I feel it was unlikely that one of the 1K shots hit that far right and high.
The first fired 10 rounds at 500 yards using the Black Hills 77 grain MK 262 MOD 1 ammo. Five hundred yards is not a serious challenge for a quality carbine. Especially off of a bench rest and bags with an 18x optic. As per my usual method, I fired 10 rounds on a steel target gong to confirm my zero. I think fine tuned on a few skeet I lay around the target to make sure it is refined, then fire my “record group” of 10 rounds. As you can see I missed the target completely on one shot and of course the specially marked hit that may or may not be a shot at 500 yards. So NOT giving myself the benefit. 8 out of 10 rounds on target at 500 yrds. But, this is a very good group. The wind showed me some mercy while I fired the 10 shots and it shows. Once again, you can see the vertical stringing sneaking into the group.
Last I fired 20 rounds at 1,000 yards with 6 hits and then the hit in question that may have been a seventh round hit, Once again, not giving my self the benefit, I toss this shot out since it is in doubt, I give a count of 6 hits. The wind at that distance carried the shots further to left and I used several minutes to get me on the target this much. For the 1,000 yard group,I switched to my personal hand loads, It is a pet load that out performs factory ammo and is hot enough I do not share the load data. Now, whether it shoots better at this range or I just have more confidence in it, I have no idea really. But confidence is a huge factor, so I stick with it since it has always performed well for me. It takes extreme effort to get a 16 inch barreled carbine on target at 1K. Using a 20 or 18 inch barrel or better yet, a 24 inch barrel 556 gun is like heaven compared to the gymnastic it takes to get a carbine on but it can be done. Once again, I show it, just to show what a person can do with an M4.
The 6940Piston has some benefits in the long range testing in the fact that it comes with the SOCOM profile heavy barrel that is a big help. If the piston does disrupt the barrel from its extra movement and vibrations, then the heavy SOCOM barrel meant for harsher full auto firing schedule, helps cut this down possibly.
Last we come to the reason that the piston M4 carbine is supposed to exist. More reliability and especially in hard use with little cleaning, And of course in a military context, full auto fire with little cleaning and lube.
Last week friend of Looseournds.com and my neighbor , Tug Valley Armaments brought his full auto guns out for us to do some hard testing of the Piston Colt. Since getting the gun in the mail from Colt. I have rnot cleaned or lubed the gun. After 784 rounds of no cleaning and no lube, It was time. We put the upper on the full auto lower and fired up a few 40 round Pmags to get it so hot, it took glove to even hold it by the KAC vertical fore grip. I stuck a full surefire 60 round mag in the bone dry, very dirty gun with zero lube on it and held the trigger down until empty.
The gun went through the magazine without issue. Let me tell you it was hot before I fired the mag, and it was smoking after., We got the carbine dangerous hot.
You can see the barrel of the carbine smoking from the heat of the 60 round mag dump after not taking a break after also firing through five Magpul 40 round Pmags and various USGI 30 rounders. There was no problem form the gun. It ran wonderfully. I cannot make any dubious claims of the BCG being cooler because it was a piston though since by the time I stopped shooting even the receiver extension was hot to touch.
One observation we did not expect is that the gun on full auto would not run with the full auto lowers carbine buffer. We slapped the upper on the Class III lower and left the buffer it had in it in place. I went to auto and it was semi auto only. After thinking about it a second, we put the H2 buffer that comes standard in the 6940Piston, in the NFA lower and the gun ran perfectly. Just more reason why I have always appreciated Colt giving at least the H buffer in their carbines and heavier buffers based on what the gun was intended to do.
The piston 6940 is a superb piston AR15 carbine. If you are the type who thinks he has to have a piston to kill the commie invasion, I can not see you being let down by this gun or find any complaints. If you just want a great gun and you like this one and do not have any strong thoughts on the piston vs DI, you are gonna love this gun. If you are a DI die hard guy like me? You are still going to really like this gun. I won’t be switching to piston nor do I feel the need to, but I am impressed by this gun. I think the DI does edge it out in accuracy with match ammo, but in practical field use it is not really a factor. Since I used match ammo for the testing in the part, I will be using milspec issue ammo testing in the next part to see how it does and possibly a direct shoot off between the 6940 Piston and the standard 6940 DI gun. So, if you are interested check back for that info.