Category Archives: Scattered Shots

Reliability is not always reliable

Over the past weekend ,I and some other looserounds staff  went out to do some more T&E of gear and  guns to write about. After trying out all the new stuff to play with, we decided to do some training together  in two man pairs.  at one point in some drills my carbine ran dry while my partner was relaoding. To keep him covered I immediately  drew my sidearm to keep fire going. One my friend was loaded , he continued to fire.  I was next to him on his right side.  WHat happened  next is one of those moments that is 1 in a million and proves that you have to be ready for anything , anytime with the ability to fix it or adapt to it.

While my 1911 was firing and the slide was moving backwards, at the same time a fired 556 case from his MK18 ejected and went right into my open ejection port inducing a failure.  I fixed it , but not without a pause. It was not that I did not know what to do, it was the sheer strangeness of what happened.   The 1911 I used is my colt rail gun with over 1,4000 rounds through it. The pistol has never given me any trouble other then a bad mag spring from a wilson combat mag. But the incident proves that it does not matter how invincible your glock is or how tough your 1911 or even your own skill. You practice because things like this happen and it does not matter how much you paid for the gun or how good the parts or ammo  in it is.  You do not and can not know or predict.  Always be training for the unexpected.  Problems will never come in the training class , square range way  instructors always set up. Sometimes it will be a one in a million.

 

Abusing the Accurate Rifle

We all love accurate rifles. Col. Whelan  famously said “Only accurate rifles are interesting” and we all love that gun that can shoot little bug holes to show off with. It instils confidence in your fire arm to know it  is capable of such things and in a lot of cases that confidence can equal better performance.  In America we always want the best, and when it comes to rifles one of the defining characteristics of ” the best” is being able to shoot the tightest group possible.  The idea of the one shot kill holds a mighty sway on the american rifleman. So powerful is this myth that  instructors have to teach students to shoot the bad guy to the ground and when a soldier hits a haji with his M4 he expects the bad guy to fall over dead just like in a movie. When it does not happen, complaints start up claiming something is wrong with the rifle or the caliber or what ever. Of course poor  shooter skill and poor  shot placement could not possible be the culprit. Because of this we see a trend demanding larger calibers and more accurate rifles.

There is nothing wrong with wanting more accuracy but the trend for more and more accurate barrels started earlier then you may think. When the lure of the sniper and the one shot one kill legend started first, it was in the 90s. The sniper became the new  focus and sniper rifles became very popular.  The  use of the M16A2 in service rifle at camp perry to dominate also had a large hand. Now, years later  with manufacturing processes and tricks and techniques learned over the years, we now have small shops that offer up barrels on their AR15s that can shoot close to 1/4 MOA.  Of course with this ability to make the rifles that can do this, came the demand to have them.  Even if someone could not possibly hold a 1/4 inch group at 100 yards, it did not stop the desire.

A lot of these high quality super accurate rifles could easily be used as sniper rifles and indeed are more accurate then military issue rifles. The problem  is that all this is all the accuracy from these barrels and the time to make them and money spent is wasted away like a democrat spends your money.

Time after time I look through the popular gun boards and see  users with Larue OBR, PredatARs and  Noveske rifles  doing rapid fire mag dumps at targets no further away then 50 yards.  Most the time it is on man sized targets and they have mounted the popular T-1 or eotech or something there about.   Why do they need a gun that shoots 1/4 MOA to hit a man sized target across the room?  Some of them do not even take the gun off of a benchrest and restrict their shooting to 25 yards incredibly.  I have even seen some shooting these match rifles using  military surplus ball ammo. They do not even bother with the match ammo it takes to achieve the precious level of accuracy they so badly wanted and paid for. The biggest mind boggler to me is the mag dumps. Sure the rifles can handle it, but that accuracy level of the barrel will only last so long and after a certain number of rounds fired, it will go from 1/4 or 1/2 to 1 MOA or 2 or even larger depending on what goes bad or wears first.

Howard:  -The first time I saw a LaRue Stealth Upper, it was being used to bump fire.  All of the 5.56 OBR rifles I have seen have had either an Aimpoint or Eotech on it.  Similar for Noveske rifles.  Often they were just used for offhand rapid fire.  The sort of shooting I witness these precision rifles used for could be achieved with any quality standard carbine barrel.  While it is very nice to have a match barrel, why spend the money one one unless you actually require that accuracy.-

A carbine meant to defend your house and shoot across the room, does not need match accuracy. A carbine that will see mag dump after mag dump does not need this level of accuracy.  A gun meant for SHTF or the end of the world does not need it either. In fact, a less accurate 2 MOA barrel with a proper NATO chamber, chrome lined , tested and made from the proper steel is more desirable to me in a time when conditions are at there very worst then some match barrel.

Further more, other then bragging rights, what do you need with it if you are the typical shooter? I do not mean beginner here either. I am talking about someone who shoots and trains regularly.   If you train for urban fighting and typical carbine distance, you just do not need it and likely you wasted money on something you may not even or will ever, have the ability to shoot to its potential or even half of it.   After taking a few carbine classes with high round counts or showing all your friends how you can shoot 15 rounds in 3 seconds like a magpul DVD  you have just lost a little more of that  expensive accuracy.  A barrel starts to wear as soon as you start to use it. I would bet the farm that those who buy such match barrels are very meticulous about cleaning it. And why  not? It  is so precious and it cost so much!! Probably had to save up for it for months or trade a few guns to get it. Problem is they clean it so much they are wearing it more then the rounds they fired did. Of course if they buy into the  myth of needing to “break in” the barrel by shooting and cleaning, they just started the process off at a faster rate then if they had just shot it. And they did not accomplish any “break in” either.

For those who think they still can benefit from such a high level of accuracy take a look at most targets used in 3-gun or IDPA or  FBI Q targets.  The areas marked as the zone needed to hit for the fastest stops, none of them need  even 1 MOA most of the time.  The head shot is some times used as justification. But I will not take a harder head shot under stress and risk a miss when I could take a body shot and know I am going to hit. Even if it takes two shots, at least  there is greater chance the target will react from 1 hit then the zero chance of the target being slowed from a miss.  A hostage shot you say?   Do you really trust your self to zing a round past some kids eyeball to hit the CNS  on a bad guy with only  a few inches exposed?  In the real world with no sand bags and comfy bench with a rest and a cold drink and shade you are sure you can take that shot with a red dot sight  while the heart tries to beat out of your head?   Maybe its best if those shots are left to snipers or until you got a better angle.  if you are in this position things have gone very bad and probably is not going to end well anyway. If you are a civilian, rambo fantasy aside, there is probably no way this is going to have a happy ending.

A lot of the more well thought of and popular sniper weapons issued by the military these days does not meet the accuracy requirements and specs advertised in the  more well known precision AR makers. The original requirement for the much vaunted USMC M40 rifle was  2 MOA.  Carlos Hathcock pulled off all of his toughest shots with  rifles that  would not have printed under 1 MOA if  Jesus, Buddha, and Cuthulu himself had blessed them.   The current M24 SWS  shoots just over 1 MOA at 1 hundred yards.  For a fighting gun, you really do not need the accuracy it takes to win a NBRSA match.

Of course rifles with this high a level of  accuracy have  use and can really take you to the next level. The trick is knowing when  your skill reaches a point that you can benefit from them and  being honest with your self about the type of shooting you do, what the rifle will be used for and if you will need it.  IF you are going to be using the rifle  for the  ITRC and need to make hits out to 800 yards and you are capable  of making those hits, then it could pay off. If you  compete at 3 gun and do most of your work at 50 yards with maybe a rare shot or two out to 200  on a 10 or 6 inch plate  then you do not.   Urban sniping on the SWAT team? Yes, it could do that, but there is a IF to that. Most  of these guns will  have a round from every group that will be a “flyer” that could take a 1/2 inch group to a 1.5.  The Noveske barrels are known to fling a shot out of a group. It is still a tight group, but I am not comfortable not knowing for sure where the next round is going to hit. If I was a sniper taking a hostage shot, that would terrify me.

If you like to blast dirt clods, go to carbine classes, plink or run serious drills, you are way better served with a quality Milspec barrel. It is very important to note that just because you do not need a “match barrel” that does not mean you should go out and buy a cheap barrel or gun.  There is a huge difference between a quality made barrel and  some no name  barrel from some cheap kit.  A quality milspec barrel , with quality match ammo will often give a match barrel a real run for its money and make high end barrel makers blush.  I have a milspec barrel that will keep 20 rounds inside 1 inch at 100 yards.  That is no small feat for a military barrel and a lot of people trying to sell you a match barrel will tell you that can not be done. But that is a lie. Often good milspec barrels with proper ammo could hold their own in a lot of military type sniping rolls and you could not tell much difference between a quality Milspec barrel and a national match barrel  in the hands of a top 3 gunner in a 3 gun shoot or rifle match.  The best part is, the milspec barrels are hardened for combat with chrome bore and chambers and a NATO chamber keeping them running when things get hot and very dirty. In some cases  this would choke a pure competition barrel and gun. Then where did the extra accuracy get you?

The proper barrel needs to be put in perspective with how you are going to use it and your skill level.

On Handgun Malfunctions

Shawn and I asked Mark Hatfield to comment on a malfunction training issue he had.

On Handgun Malfunctions

Once upon a time I was in a class where the topic of the moment was clearing malfunctions of semi-automatic handguns. One of the presumptions was that the user was in a gunfight when this problem arose. We were taught two methods. The first was a long taught technique that was OK for a number of situations but did not clear everything as the second method could. As all of us being experienced shooters, were not expected to be able to forget the first, long practiced, method, but be able to move to the second if the first did not resolve the problem.

‘Always’ was a word spoken often when referring to this drill, the second method would ‘always’ fix the malfunction. Always. Some of you reading this may already guess where this story is going. The teacher created a simulated malfunction in my gun. I did the approved method which always works and ….. it didn’t work. I simply moved to a similar technique taught by a different school and it took care of the problem.

Years ago it was Massad Ayoob who said that while semi-auto handguns may malfunction (jam) more often than revolvers, they are easier to clear, while a revolver which jams may have to go back to the workshop. Also years ago, some people used to proclaim that revolvers never jam. The truth is that revolvers can jam in a number of ways, and I have experienced more than a few of them myself.

Some of us shooters who are now experiencing life on the downside of the hill remember when shooters of semi-autos who were with the ‘cutting edge’ of the art practiced several different drills, each for a different type of malfunction.

Remember that these ‘immediate action’ drills are for when lead is flying through the air. In some rare extreme situations, what appears to be the immediate problem can be resolved, another shot fired, only to have your gun blow up in hand and face. These type of situations have happened twice with guns which belonged to me. Fortunately these particular guns were ‘overbuild’ and designed to handle higher pressures than earlier versions of similar guns. While the guns were damaged, the shooters were not. While in these two cases there was no catastrophic destruction of the guns, such can and thankfully rarely, does occur. For ordinary range practice, when a problem occurs, you stop shooting.

It is John Farnum who points out that if you’re shooting at someone and a malfunction occurs, don’t just stand there and be shot at while fixing the problem, MOVE. While fixing the problem, move to get behind cover or at least just keep moving to make it more difficult for your attacker to hit you. All his malfunction drills include moving off of the spot where you were.

As has been said before, two sounds you never want to hear from your gun: a ‘click’ when it was supposed to go ‘bang’, or a ‘bang’ when you thought it would go ‘click’.

Range Report

An odd issue, the round managed to slide forwards and the large rim of the 7.62x54R held it in place in the lower.  The round had to be hammered out.  No matter how simple the machine, there can be issues that take it out of commission.

Additionally last weekend we has an out of battery (OOB) detonation destroy a Walther G2 rifle.  While the rare .22 OOB does little to a Ruger 10/22 or an AR15 conversion kit, these little pot metal plinkers that Walter is sell can not seem to survive them well.  I would recommend to pay a little more and get a more durable firearm.  Consider it an investment.

On that note, fortunately the owner of the firearm was wearing his eye protection as the top of the rifle was broken.  Often at the range we have a hard time getting people to consistently wear their eye protection.  Some even get offended when we tell them to do so.  I shouldn’t have to explain to people that eye protection is necessary for so many reasons.  From kabooms to richochetes, there are so many good reasons to wear eye protection and no acceptable excuses.  If you say your eye-pro makes your S&B look like a NCStar, buy higher quality eye protection, you can afford it.  Should you think that eye-pro makes you look un-cool, would an eye patch look better?  I dunno, perhaps some people would like the pirate look.  If possible, wear wrap around eye ballistic protection, while prescription glasses or sun glasses are better then nothing, they pale in comparision to the better protection quality ballistic eye protection will give you.  Your eyes are worth it.

Oh, and when you are at a public range, it is good to pay attention.  Not paying attention and doing things like going down range while the line is still hot is not generally a good idea.

Thoughts on the M16A4

To preface this, let me state that I served in the Marine Corps as a rifleman and that I carried a FN M16A4 in Iraq.  The above picture is of the rifle I carried in Iraq.

I see online that some people have a hardcore love for the M16A4.  In reality, it is not that good.  Please don’t get me wrong it isn’t a bad rifle, but it is not a great one.

When considering the M16A4 uses as a combat rifle it is ok, but not as flexible as a M4.  If you employ the M16A4 as a battle rifle, like the M1Garand, M14, and M16A2 that preceded it, it is great.  However a battle rifle is not suited for all combat.  The longer length of the M16A2 & M16A4 along with the fixed stock, makes for a less then ideal rifle for close quarters battle or for use with body armor.  Its’ 40 inches of length makes the rifle more awkward when egressing vehicles.

The main benefits of the M16A4 over the M4 are higher muzzle velocity and longer sight radius.  The benefits of increased sight radius are negated if we use optics.  While more velocity is always nice, it is shot placement and bullet selection that is very important.  Outside the military, we are not limited to M855 ball ammunition, and there are plenty of alternative that will function excellently in shorter barrels.

For a civilian, I can see why someone would want to reproduce a military rifle.  However from a cost effectiveness standpoint, building a M16A4 clone is silly.  Few companies make M16A4 style uppers, and there is good reason for that; they just don’t sell well.  The Knights M5 RAS quad rail used on the rifle runs about $320 dollars new.  For far less then that you can get a lighter, cheaper, free float rail.  The Government profile of the M16A4 combined with a heavy non-freefloat rail does not make for the best accuracy or consistency.  A proper M16A4 clone is neither accuracy enough for precision competition, nor as handy as a M4 style carbine.

While I was in the Corps, there was a big mentality that the M4 was just such an inferior weapon system.  I believed this for a long time, till finally I started to realized that if the entire Army was fielding M4s, it can’t be junk.  However our Army does make mistakes, but other groups like the SEALs, some of the British, German, Irish, and Australian special forces, etc.  Many elite forces around the world choose the M4 or variants(like the C8SFW) for their mission over their own countries standard issue rifle, or full length M16s.  Clearly the M4 has the reliability and capability for those end users mission.

The M16A4 is a battle rifle, however the M4 carbine is a versatile jack of all trades that is better choice for most individuals.

Picture of my last M16A4 clone rifle before I finally decided to move away from the M16A4 platform completely.

Brass over Bolt malfunctions.

Last Sunday I helped a shooter at the range with a brass over bolt malfunction.  Brass over Bolt is a rare malfunction where a casing(live or spent) gets stuck over the bolt and between it and the charging handle.  I’ve learned that the quickest way to clear one of these jams is to reach up in the mag well with your middle finger and put that finger on the bolt face holding it back.  When that bolt carrier group is held back, you can run the charging handle forward, and knock the stuck casing/round free.

Shawn and I both agree that while the brass over bolt malfunction can be cleared quickly, in a faster paced or close range fight you may be better off transition to a sidearm if you have one available to you.

While I was in the Marines with all these used and abused M16A2 & M16A4s and old worn out mags and we never saw or heard of a brass over bolt malfunction.  Now the funny thing is, every time I have helped someone with a brass over bolt malfunction I noticed they they were not using cheap or worn mags, they were using Magpul PMags.  I have discussed with Shawn and he too noted that brass over bolt malfunctions seem to be rather new, and seem to mainly have happened in AR15s using PMags.

So, have any of you had the brass over bolt malfunction and what mags were you using when you had it?