Category Archives: Scattered Shots

Unnecessary “Upgrades”

It is common for a firearms enthusiast to ‘upgrade’ a firearm after they get it.  The question is if each change done to the firearm is really an upgrade or not.

Plenty of changes can be made to most firearms to add capabilities, improve ergonomics, etc.  However often people are changing things just for the sake of change, or make questionable upgrades that are sometimes downgrades.

Some examples.  New Beretta 92FS pistols come with some plastic parts.  Some owners on gun forums remove the “cheap junk” plastic guide rod and install a “superior metal guide rod”.  The plastic guide rod replaced the metal one as an upgrade because it can flex and still work, while if the metal guide rod gets bent, it can prevent functioning.  The plastic guide rod also has clearance space for sand or gunk thus allowing functioning in adverse conditions.  These owners are downgrading their pistol while thinking that they are upgrading it.  A similar thing is often done with 1911s.  For quite some time full length guide rods were considered an almost mandatory upgraded.  Now we know that in many cases, you are better off with a standard GI style recoil spring setup.  Even with the Glocks, you often see new owners want to “upgrade” the recoil spring guide rod.

With the AR15 and the AK family of weapons owners will often change out furniture, or make other changes to try and achieve a different look.  Before spending your money, why not take a minute to consider if you really need that $50 dollar pistol grip, or that $200 dollar butt stock.  While most all of these changes are nice, decide if you really need them.  Consider if you really want an opposing lawyer showing a jury your pistol with its Punisher logos on it.  Will it really be so cool at point in time?  Will those aluminium pistol grip be comfortable in hot weather, or when its left out in the sun?  Is putting a several hundred dollar quad rail on a rifle you don’t plan to mount any accessories on really worth while?

Make sure that the changes you make to your firearms are actually improvements, not potential problems.  Each change should be thought out, and improve either the capabilities, functionality, or ergonomics of a firearm.

USMC Scout Sniper Weapons of the Vietnam War

In the past months I have written a bit about the use of and primary rifles used by the USMC for sniping use in the Vietnam war. Now I would like to talk a little about them again along with some of the supporting (spotter) weapons and equipment used by typical sniper teams during the war. Everything used is of course not included, but its a small general example of the weapons used by the majority and most common.

In a fast review of the main sniper weapons, or at least the most well known, we start off with the Pre-64 Model 70 Winchester rifle. The rifles in use at the time were a mix of factory Winchester national match and “Bull guns”,  with the heavy target marksman stock and the sporter stocked Model 70 with factory or custom barrels. The custom work being done by USMC RTE armorers for Competition use at Camp Perry for the national matches and sniping use in asia. The optics were the Unertl 8x USMC contract scope purchases during WW2 for the Marine Corps 1903 sniper rifle.  Some other brands of externally adjustable scopes were used but the Unertl was the most common. A few 3x-9x  Japanese made scope saw some very limited use on a few M70s but very few.

Ammunition for the Model 70 snipers was the Lake City Match ammo made for for the national matches using a FMJ 173 grain boat tailed bullet. One of the things that kept the model 70 from being selected as the sniper standard in the years to come was the fact that this was not a commonly issued round.

The rifle that replaced the M70 and became sniper standard until this very day in the configuration of the M40A5, was the Remington M700-40x. The 40x was a target action of better quality then a standard M700 of the time. The 40x action came with a receiver slot for stripper clips used in reloading when the rifle was employed with target iron sights in high-power rifle matches like at Perry.

The rifle was tested and found to be the best COTS choice at the time due to the Winchester stopping production of the very high quality and very expensive and time consuming version of the Model 70  now known as the “pre-64”

The rifle was dubbed the M40 by the USMC and came with a medium heavy barrel chambered in 308 NATO with a plain dull oil finish sporter stock. It used the clip slotted 40x action, did not have provisions for iron sights and had a metal butt pad. Remington provided the rifle in an entire package with a Redfield Accur-Trac  3x-9x -40MM scope in matte green in Redfield Junior bases.

The rifle barrel of the M40 was later free-floated and the action bedded by USMC RTE armorers in Vietnam after the tropical climate proved almost too much for the rifle to take.

An interesting point is that the two most famous Snipers of the war , Carlos Hathcock and Chuck MaWhinney used the Model 70 and the M40 respectively.  Hathcock having a total of 93 confirmed kills to MaWhinneys 103.  Hathcock used the M70 for his fist tour as a sniper when he got most of his kills including his most famous exploits, but did use the M40 some in his second tour before becoming seriously wounded and being sent home. Unfortunately the rifle was destroyed in the action that wounded him and saw him being awarded a silver star.  Mawhinney’s rifle was found years later and still in service as an M40A1. It was pulled from use and restored to its original specs and is now on display.

The less glamorous but very important spotter in a scout sniper team carried more common weapons that every rifleman was familiar with.  The one that seems the most thought of as the spotters weapon when talking about the USMC sniping teams, is the  M14 US rifle caliber .308 NATO.

The M14 is the US Military’s most short-lived issued rifle. Little more then a slightly more modern version of the M1 Garand, the M14 has a detachable 20 round magazine and fired 308 NATO. The rifle was made in select fire ( full and semi ) and was very much like the M1 Garand.  The M14 was already obsolete by the time it came out of Springfield.  It did and still does have its promoters, but few remember or know that at the time, no one really liked it as much as is thought now.  It was soon replaced by the M16 series of rifles. The M14 did see use by sniper teams in the USMC and the US Army. The Army being the heaviest user of the M14 for sniping developing it into the XM21 that used the ART 1 and 2 optics and night vision optics and sound suppressors. The USMC did use it in a limited way ( compared to the Army) for some night work using the starlight night vision optics.  The M14 was carried by  Carlos Hathcock’s spotter John Burke who used it to great effect when working with Carlos and using match ammo.  The US Army struggled to make the XM21  into a reliable sniper weapon for years and sunk a huge amount of money and effort into it before dumping it for the bolt action M24 SWS ( another remington M700).  Kills could be made out to 600-800 yards with iron sights depending on skill of the shooter and was used for security of the team. The higher ammo capacity and full auto fire would be useful to break contact when ambushed or lay down cover if things went bad.  I have not seen any evidence of it being used to break an ambush in my research but I am sure it happened.

The next rifle is of course, the Colt XM16 and the M16A1.  The rifle  replaced the M14 as standard infantry rifle in the early 60s. The rifle was ideal for jungle warfare and after early blunders by the DOD using the wrong powder in the M193 ammunition and not chroming the chamber, the M16 went on to be our longest-serving weapon and respected world wide.  The M16 lacked the long range potential of the M14 in the spotter’s role, but combat had shown a sniper should not fire many rounds from a position least he be found. Having two people firing was more than the idea of no more then 3 rounds fired by the sniper from one hide.  The M16 was more controllable on full-auto fire, was lighter and the spotter could carry more ammo. Later in the war 30 round magazines became available and gave it even more advantage over the M14.  The spotter, already burdened with security, the team radio and other mission support equipment, benefited from the smaller lighter M16.

The M16 was officially considered for sniping use, but lacking a fast enough twist rate for heavy match ammo, and no match ammo, made the chance of it being the standard impossible at the time. Since then the M16 has been developed into sniping roles as the US Army’s DMR, the USMCs  SAM-R and the  special operational forces M12 MoD 0 and MOD 1. Using the 77 gr.  MK 262 MOD 1 ammo, the MKI12 has recorded kills as far as 800-900 yards and is one of the most effective weapons in the US  military when looking at weapons responsible for enemy kills.  The M16 was also used by some in the USMC as a sniping tool before enough sniping rifles were sent to asia. Usually the rifle user purchased the Colt 3x scope and mounted it on the carry handle. Other special scope bases were made by RTE and USAMTU armorers  for sniping use. When in the right hands, recorded kills out to 900 yards were made with the M16/scope a few times, though very rarely.

The other often overlooked but very important piece of equipment was the spotting scope. Used to ID targets, spot missed shots and scan the area for targets, the M49 spotting scope was carried whenever the misison justified its use. Often times the lower magnification of the sniper rifle optics was not enough to ID a target over a civilian and a shot could not be taken with out proper ID by the spotter and spotter scope. The scope was also used to judge wind, mirage and help judge range so that sniper had the most accurate data possible to make his long range shot.  The scope was also used for spotting artillery and many other uses.

The M49 was a 20x power spotting scope that came with its own plastic carrying case for transport.The M49 is still in use today. The M49 also came with a Tripod for steadying it and for small adjustments to correcting its position so the user would not disturb the scope. The tripod came with its own webbing canvas carrying case that could be hooked to web gear.

The other common items used by the sniper team was the light weight jungle rucksack. The pack originally was intended for mountain troops and had a frame that could be used to carry large heavy loads for mountain and winter operations. It was the common issued jungle pack during the war but was by no means the only ruck used. Some sniper teams used captured NVA rucks or the Indig ARVN packs.

Above an M40 rests across a jungle ruck with the spotters M14 and M49 off to the side.

USMC sniper teams used a wide variety of equipment during the war in asia with this being a small part. The list would have also included radios, binoculars, food, the Colt 1911 as sidearms, maps, hats and camo uniforms and face paint, extra ammo, ponchos, poncho liner, knives etc. These are some of the most well known and famous of the many tools used by the Marines to become the premier sniping experts in the world. Next time I will take a look at some of the uniforms and web gear used during the war and the Army’s XM21 M14 sniper and the M14 and the myth that surrounds it.

Colt Rail Gun 4,000 round Test

Link to our Colt MARSOC  M45A1 Review  Part 1 and 2  to read about the M45A1 USMC 1911s accuracy and features

http://looserounds.com/2014/03/07/colt-m45a1-cqbp-usmc-1911-review-part-1/

http://looserounds.com/2014/03/10/accuracy-testing-the-colt-m45a1-marsoc-1911-part-2-review/

Since the news hit that Colt has won the contract to supply the USMC with the new 1911 pistol for MARSOC a lot of people have had a lot of questions regarding the rail gun. The pistol has been out since 09 and the only cosmetic  difference between the USMC contract gun is the FDE finish, the Novak night sights and a lanyard loop and the size and the M45A1 is a true picatinny rail along with a dual recoil spring system on the USMC gun.  The rail gun is stainless steel, frame and slide. The models with a dark finish are SS as well but with the extra coated finish.  There are a few nice touches on the rail gun that colt does not advertise for some reason, so I will break it down for you.

The rail gun comes with colt’s National match barrel. The barrel is slightly over sized at the muzzle end for a tighter fit for the barrel bushing and then slightly relieved. The slide has been dehorned for better handling and carry. Under the trigger guard is relieved for a higher grip and the front of the trigger guard is milled flat for those who like to put a finger in that spot. The pistol comes standard with Novak low mount combat sights and a Smith and Alexander upswept beaver tail grip safety. The rail gun I own came with the excellent STI ambi safety ( which has always been my personal favorite) but now comes with what may be the wilson combat ambi safety. The barrel and throat and chamber have all the normal upgrades that most 1911 buyers have a gunsmith do. This is a lot of upgrades on a pistol that is not advertised as being semi-custom, but they are there despite Colt not talking about it. You can confirm this all by reading some of the recent gun rag articles on the rail gun if you do not want to take my word for it.

The rail gun submitted for the new Marine special ops pistol has drawn a lot of attention lately from 1911 hater and lovers alike. The 1911 was tested to destruction in some cases and pictures have leaked out showing some cracking.  The rest of the story is not widely out at this point and the net being what it is, things have been taken out of context. The specs on testing show freezing the colt to 25 below for hours then heating to 100 degree then shooting and scraping ice off with knives. This is pretty harsh testing considering no service side arm would have anything like this happen or be shot that much.   But to try to understand what happens when a rail gun is used hard and to soothe the current rail gun owners frazzled nerves I decided to do a 4,000 round test of my own over the weekend.  My rail gun already had 10,000 rounds through it before I started the testing and I had an extra barrel ready to install anyway along with all the springs etc. So I decided I would use up whatever it had left to see what happened. I stopped at over 14,000 rounds through the gun when the USMC stopped at around 12,000.

I started off early in the morning and started shooting and loading mags as soon as they all run dry. I soon found out that I needed help with that so a friend got stuck loading mags for me to keep up the rate of fire and save time. With such a high rate of constant fire, it did not take long for me to burn myself on the gun. At times the gun got so hot to hold I had to place it in front of a large shop fan while reloading magazines

The gun would get so hot even the rear sight would be too hot to touch.

I did lube the gun every 300 rounds and I took the gun apart and wiped it off with a cotton towel. I did lube but I used no solvent or brush. This gave it a little time to cool down so I could hold it. By the time I had fired 2,000 rounds I had a few burns, blisters, and cuts myself. The web of my right hand is raw and my thumbs just plain hurt from loading. I am here to tell you–shooting this much non-stop is hard work. After a while I stopped trying to use training drills or shoot for group. I was so tired I just did not care. It truly is hard work and my ears still ring even with plugs in. The rear and front sight’s white dots became black from powder fouling covering them and my hands became filthy from the crud of so many fired rounds.

In all of this shooting I had three malfunctions. And I can tell you with 100 percent accuracy that it was mag related because it was the same mag, The culprit was a weak spring in a wilson combat 10 round magazine. Once I took it out of rotation I did not have another problem.  The only other problem (other than burning myself) was the grip screws would loosen up. I expected this since i have seen it before and have never loctited them. I normally do not approach this amount of shooting in one setting so I live with re tightening the grip screws once a year when I think about it.

After I finished up I took a few pictures of the gun. These are pictures of the rail gun after the last 1,000 rounds shot through it.

As you can see in the picture, the surefire x300 is so coated I could not see the light when I tried it. I thought the batteries died or the light took too much abuse until I wiped it off and tested it again. The light never got loose and helped tame the recoil slightly. I do not find .45 ACP hard kicking, but after that many rounds, it starts to wear on you.

Eventually the 1911 was so dirty, nothing on it was clean to the touch. Wiping it off every 1000 rounds helped but it seemed like I was still not able to keep up with it. Slip2000 showed itself to be truly excellent oil with a little GM grease added around the barrel link for when it got hot enough to bake off the light oil.

With the exception of the one wilson 10 round mag, all of the mags worked perfect. I only used colt factory 8 round mags and wilson combat 8-7 and 10 round mags along with 5 shooting star mags. The shooting star mags worked fine much to my surprise for they have ever been a source of frustration for me in the past despite their rep. I have 5 of the wilson 10 rounders and all but the one worked perfect.

I did not do any accuracy testing after the fact because to be honest, I was tired and do not think I had the ability to shoot a decent group even if the gun could. Sorry about that, but you are free to try it at home with your 1911.

I took the gun apart and looked it over with a magnifying glass I used to use to inspect diamonds at a Pawn shop and could find no crack or problems. The gun was a lot looser than it was the day before, but is fine. It is not so loose to make me worry or even care and I have 1911s looser than it is now that shoot better than I could hope for. I tried to take a picture showing the inside but they are too blurry owing to my 89 dollar camera not having a setting for super close up.

Above is a picture of my improvised target stand to keep from ruining my normal stuff. It is completely eaten  away from the amount of rounds through it. All 230 grain ball ammo.

Here is a target I used for the last 500 rounds. you can tell how tired I was by looking at the shots all over the target. He was dead already so I stopped caring. Getting those last rounds fired was a act akin to running through hell with gasoline underwear on.

For those of you with a rail gun or thinking of buying one, do not let the out of context pictures of cracked slides make you worry. I now have over 14,000 rounds total through my Colt and it is still working just like Colt meant it to. I do not advise abusing your personal 1911s to the point that I did. I some times part-time gunsmith 1911s locally and have enough Colt parts to build two 1911s except for stripped frames and slides so I can do this with little worry.  I have already replaced the barrel and springs so it is back to normal and I can go back to CCWing it.

It was a tough day. I am just glad I do not have to clean up after myself!!

 

An aside.

Four-Feet

I have done mostly what most men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can’t forget, if I wanted to,
Four-Feet trotting behind.

Day after day, the whole day through —
Wherever my road inclined —
Four-feet said, “I am coming with you!”
And trotted along behind.

Now I must go by some other round, —
Which I shall never find —
Somewhere that does not carry the sound
Of Four-Feet trotting behind.

Rudyard Kipling

Carrying is a great responsibility, live up to the challenge.

Duncan Larsen AKA FailureDrill-P099 submitted this article.

Carrying is a great responsibility, live up to the challenge.

During times of great tragedy there is an opportunity to reflect on yourself as a Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) holder or off Duty Law Enforcement Officer (LEO).  CCW is not just anyone carrying a firearm, it is a state of mind.  You must think about scenarios that might occur around you.  Whether you are an off duty LEO or a private citizen CCW holder, you must mentally prepare for an active shooter scenario.  When I was a LEO, I always carried off duty.  I was not required to do so but I made the decision that I could not live with myself if something happened and I was not armed.  As a CCW holder this has also stayed with me.   Even though you might carry everyday in your own personal capacity, you must ask yourself, am I ready to use deadly force?

I remember as a young officer having a recurrent dream.  This dream was the same for a long time.  I would get into a deadly force encounter and draw my firearm.  I would fire several rounds at my attacker but they would have no effect. The guy would just keep coming at me.  I found later that other officers had this same dream.  When I became a firearms instructor, the head of the firearms division advised me to read two books.  These books were On Killing and On Combat, both by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.   These books talked a-lot about mental preparation for armed conflict.  In fact I found that the books contained officers talking about the same ongoing dream I had.   This dream let you know that you were subconsciously not mentally or physically prepared for a deadly force encounter.  The solution for this preparation is more realistic training with your duty weapon, off duty weapon or CCW weapon. Training over and over builds muscle memory and things  become second nature.  There is a reason officers cannot remember the exact number of rounds they fired in a deadly force encounter.  Their subconscious took over from their thousands of hours of training and they reacted.  They stopped the threat and did not realize it until it was over. Their reaction became second nature.

As a private CCW holder nothing is different.  You must train, you must think about the what if’s and you must make the decision that you will use deadly force when needed.  If you do not challenge yourself mentally and physically you will fail, you will freeze up when it counts.  At the end of the day you must ask yourself, do I want to be a sheep or do I want to be a sheep dog?

Several years ago there was a shooting in Trolley Square, a popular shopping mall in Salt Lake City Utah.  An off duty officer from Ogden City Police Department was having dinner with his wife in Trolley Square. This day he was carrying an off duty weapon, when a young man came in to the mall and started shooting people.  The attacker killed several men, women and children.  The officer was prepared and ran towards the gunfire.  He engaged the attacker with the only magazine of ammunition he had.  These  rounds pinned the attacker in a shop until officers from SLC SWAT engaged and killed the suspect in a firefight.  How many lives were saved? Who knows, but the officer stopped the suspect from killing anyone else because he was prepared mentally as well as physically.  That day he was just a CCW holder, just like you, and lives were saved.  If you are going to carry your firearm, commit to it mentally and physically.

Duncan

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