Colt’s New Lightweight Commander Part 1

The   of Colt light weight Commander  has been  around for a long time.    It was the first major variant of the M1911 that colt brought out to the market and while a lot of the big names associated with handgun use and training and gun writers  at the time considered  close to perfect for carry, it did not take off in popularity at the time.

The original Commander with the ally frame  lead to  the Combat Commander with the steel frame.  The all steel frame commander is  a fine gun. It handles superbly and  some people, lie my brother, find they can shoot the combat commander better than a full size 1911.   I have owned both and love both but I have come to prefer the original commander over the CC. The reason for that is that if I am going to be carrying a smaller gun, I may as well have a smaller and lighter gun.  For all of my adult life I always preferred the full size M1911 for carry and I still do. But with the  Commander ( I will refer to the alloy frame as what it originally was , the commander and the steel frame later model as the CC , for Combat Commander )I get a M1911 a little shorter and considerable weight savings.  While the Colt Defender is a sub compact, it  doesn’t give the sight radius or full grip of the commander.  The subcompacts also require careful accounting of how often you replace springs.  Of course that isnt’t a deal breaker or a negative, it’s just the trade off for having such a compact gun.  Just like rotating tires and changing oil.

With all that in mind, when Colt brought a Commander back out in specs that are much like my beloved XSE models, I bought one as quickly as I could.

Like all Colt handguns it came with two Colt factory mags in the same finish as the gun.  They are of course full sized mags because the commander has a full sized grip.  Both mags are the 8 round type sure to give an upset tummy to the 7 round mag purists I have no doubt.

 

A very nice touch on this new model is the grips.  This is a big upgrade Colt has been adding to its current pistol line up because they are the  very tough VZ grips.  As you can see the grips are made with the Colt logo made into the checkering and it is very attractive to my eyes.  I like checkered wood grips on CCW guns and these look and feel the same as wood checkering and are a lot tougher.  Unlike wood checkering these won’t wear down and smooth out like wood, keeping the gripping texture the same.

The commander comes with the an  extended combat safety.  I am not 100 percent but I am pretty sure it is a wilson combat model.  I still prefer the STI safeties that came on the XSE series, but I have no complaints with this one and I doubt I will ever change it out.  The temptation to go ambi is strong though. I have a hard time understanding why anyone for not want a safety they could deactivate with either hand when it comes to a gun they think some day they may have to fight with.   That said, it is not a must and I will leave this one as is.

You can see the current commander comes with the hammer type that was introduced when the original commanders came to market.  A lot of people really like the look of this “rowel ” style hammer and will add one to their guns.  For a long time I was indifferent about this but in recent years it has grown on me.  It is however slightly heavier than the rounded hammer that is more common, so it does have an advantage beyond classic good looks.

You can also of course see the now standard S&A grip safety.  I am pleased to say this is something colt has started doing since 09 and it was long awaited by me.  There are a lot of grip safeties out there but this one is the one I always opt for when I have a choice.

The commander also comes with the standard sights for Colt’s combat and carry pistols.  Those of course are the Novaks. I know there is a move towards rear sights that can be used for cycling the gun by hand if wounded in one arm but I find that there are plenty of other edges on a 1911 that  can be used for this.  The front sights, the edges on the ejection port are a couple of examples.   I love the look and lines of the novak sights. I also like the non snag lower profile.  It’s been around forever and more than 2 million have been sold.  There is a reason for that.

Another very welcome touch is the front strap.  Like the Colt Gold Cup target pistols, the commander has the front strap cut for gripping grooves. With the VZ grips, and the matching MSH, this makes for  a very solid and sure grip.

And of course the scalloping cut where the trigger guard meets the front strap is there.  This little bit of detail makes a big difference for me.  The way I grip the guns benefits a lot from that little bit of metal being removed.  I know it makes no difference for some people’s grip, but it does for me and its a very nice touch that used to be a custom gun only detail.

Like every pistol Colt has made for carry use since 2009, the commander has the edges dulled for carry and comfort.   The front sight can be seen and its the Novak front.

The commander also uses the standard, original recoil spring guide and plug.  No full length guide rod. I can remember a time when the standard  JMB system was good enough, then it wasn’t and we all had to have guide rods, and now we are back to the USGI original parts being the preferred and wise choice.  I agree for what it’s worth but it’s funny how things go back and forth.   Of course the commander uses its own parts for this as its shorter than the government model.

On the topic of recoil springs, the commander uses the now standard dual recoil spring system.   The original 10mm delta elite came with a dual recoil spring system and it was brought back when that gun was resurrected.   The next gun to get that treatment was the  M45A1 made for MARSOC.  This  dampened recoil and wear and tear on parts so much it was made standard on a lot of the new models.   It does help,  I noticed the recoil of the new delta to be tamed greatly and it makes a big difference with this light alloy framed commander.    I have no doubt it will eventually be the recoil spring set up in every colt gun in the near future.  It adds not complication in taking the gun apart nor does it hurt function.  It does soften recoil.   I am considering changing over to  dual springs on my guns that are already comfortable to shoot like my full size government models in 45 ACP.

The crowning on the barrel of this gun is interesting.  The picture doesn’t show it well  but It has a very nice crowning job.  I don’t mean it’s just a competent job done on an assembly line, I mean it looks to me like it was given special care.  I have carefully compared it to my other Colt’s of this years vintage and it has a crowing job you would expect from a gunsmith.  I have not confirmed this is a new standard Colt has started to phase in, but I hope so, I will update this post when I learn the answer to this.

The barrel is the stainless steel Colt barrel seen on all modern guns save for the models that come with the Colt national match barrel. Of course it is shorter than the full size gov model.   The standard slide release is seen on the right side as well as the three hole competition trigger.  Unlike the XSE models or Gold cup this 3 hole trigger is  not adjustable for over travel.  This isn’t a problem because the truth is, the new triggers from Colt are excellent.  They are crisp and break clean.   That is not to imply they are 2 pounds or lighter, but they are  greatly improved from the triggers from pre 09.   I have purchased five Colt M1911s since 2014 and the triggers on these guns are all I could ask.   I have never bought into the complaints about the series 80 triggers anyway, but the factory has really upped their game on putting out fine fire control parts on their pistols.  I can only  imagine how good the new series 70 competition series 1911s  are.

The roll mark on the slide is the now standard style that is a throwback to the commercial vintage models.  It has always been my favorite version.   I’m glad to see they are sticking with this marking system for  the time being,   The right side roll marks are of course the lines that denote  the specifics of the model as always.  In this case the light weight commander.

Right side also shows  larger flared ejection port.  Another now standard feature on all models not meant to be retro.  The new style cocking serrations can be seen.  These first showed up on the MARSOC M45A1  USMC gun and it looks like they are here to stay on every gun that is made to modern styling.  A few models have the legacy serration pattern or something else but every gun that is meant for tactical/CCW use now has this pattern.   If I could change only one thing..       Not to say I hate it or have to avert my eyes, but I simply like the older style  or the serration found on the older XSE models not extinct but for the Combat Elite.    Some will rejoice that there is not forward slide serrations.   Looks-wise,  I don’t really care.  Do some models look better without them ? Yes.  Do some look fine with them ? Yes.    If I am going to have them I would rather have the older style if I had a say in the matter.  But having them, not having them or style  would not make me buy or not buy.    For the record I do think front cocking serrations are a nice thing to have on a gun that may be used for the most serious of environments and having options in emergencies are always good.   I like them on my XSEs, I like not having them on some other models.   I just like 1911s .

Just for comparison,  pictured below is classic serrations and XSE style.  I use XSE  as a expedient term not only for angle of the serrations but spacing of each cut  as well as  forward serrations. This angle of the serrations of course existed before the XSE line, but  the amount of serrated cuts and size  varied.

This is the more classic retro original style.

And below are the XSE type seen on a Combat Elite.  All styles are fine with me.   But, as I said before if it was up to me, I would have stuck with the XSE style.   I’m sure the change over came because it was easier to make some using the new system that was came about for the specs of the M45A1.   It would have been a waste to have a set up just for one model pistol that came about because of the wants of the most flaky and fickle of customers, the US Gov.

 

 

 

Not pictured because I forgot, is the standard Colt slightly beveled magazine well.   A little better than no bevel but not really enough to reach the same benefits of an extended beveled well.   I have not felt any real pressing need for an extended beveled well added since I stop competition.    For carry or fighting guns I like being able to quickly load mags that don’t have a bumper pad,   My thinking is, you never know what mag you may have to use in an emergency and I want it to lock in immediately without worrying because it doesn’t have a pad and I didn’t eve think about it because I am used to my personal mags having the extended bumper.   Without the extended well It’s not an issue for me .

As usual, part 2 will be accuracy testing.  I have been carrying this gun for about 3 months in a variety of holsters and carrying options.  The gun already has 1500 rounds through it with no problems.  Accuracy has already show to be excellent with my carry ammo so I expect it to do well with other types and brands.    Formal accuracy testing beyond what I carry has not started as of this writing but it will be coming with a few weeks,    Please come back by for Part 2.

 

 

 

Accuracy Testing The Vintage 1/12 Milspec Barrel

Accuracy in modern carbines is always a popular topic on the various gun boards and news stand  slick gun rags. People want the newest barrel some company is making that promises more accuracy.  New chamber types, coatings, contours , linings and materials are all shown to us to try to win your money.

If you have read this website for a while you know I like to take a chance to convince people that their barrels on stock rack grade AR15s is already a lot better than they think and honestly more accurate that most of their users, The modern M4 carbine milspec barrel’s accuracy potential should not be ignored or tossed aside for something that costs a lot more and may not really offer any real gains.    I think I have preached this until I am blue in the face. Even stock milspec barrels are fine now a days.

But what about those from 40plus years ago?  Everyone knows those M16A1s and CAR15s weren’t all that accurate right?  We have had plenty of ‘Nam vets  tell us   Don’t forget those   cold war national guard  vets (with those old worn out A1s left over from Nam waiting to be replaced with A2s ) around to tell us how bad they were. Why , they couldn’t even qualify with them  at 25 yards with reduced range targets!!    You won’t find many people ready to argue with that.   Why would you even bother?   Those older 1/12 twist barrels won’t handle modern match rounds in the 77 or 69gr range.     But what if?..

What if that’s all you have?  Maybe you like A1 profile barrels and retro guns?  Maybe you just can’t give up your nostalgia or you just want to be different.   Or you are curious like me,  So I gave it a try.

I borrowed my friends Colt SP-1 AR15 carbine to find out.  The gun  has everything an early AR15 could be given to it by Colt.  The A1 sights, the A1 profile barrel and the 1/12 twist chrome lined Mil-spec bore.      I set the gun up on rest with bags front and read and got it as locked down as I could get it and started shooting with match quality hand loads,

Groups where shot at 50, 75 and 100 yards.  The A1 sights being a limit for me.  The older A1 front sight post shape has always been harder for me to  get the best out of it.   I used bullet weights close to the M193 load used the most during its heyday.  I selected and loaded bullets I have experience with that have always squeezed all the accuracy I could get  for shorter ranges.   Not being able to use 9 or 77 grain bullets int he 1/12 barrel I did not try for longer range accuracy testing.

The 50 and 55gr Blitzking sierra bullets are excellent, really excellent.   Those  two have always been go to bullets when loading for shots   400  yards and under when I want higher velocities, flatter trajectories and more explosive effect on targets when using rounds like the .218Bee  or .223 from a bolt action varmint rifle .   All groups are 5 round groups, You can see above how well those two weights perform.

The 55 gr Vmax from hornady is also a dependable bullet if you want an accurate bullet for varmint or target use. I used the  50 and 40gr Vmax .22cal bullets almost exclusively when I wanted a ballistic tip before sierra introduced the Blitzking.    Not to say that I think the BlitzKing is the end all be all for ballistic tip bullets,  They just shoot a bit better in some of my varmint guns.   The 40gr Vmax is still the bullet I would recommed for varmint use on small targets  in rounds that are not in the class of 22-250 or 220 swift.

Since I am on the topic, I will save my handloading component choices for a different post.

The real dependable money maker for  300 or less accuracy for milspec AR15s  is the 53 grain flat base HP matchking.  The bullet performs well in a 556 NATO chamber for a few reasons and its fairly well known.  I will go into this in a later post, but for now I will just show you the results,    The bullet is an old fav for seeing what  a milspec barrel and NATO chamber can do.   Give it a try if you handload and no one has ever told you about it.

I’m guessing that some of you may be let down that I didn’t shoot further.   I just couldn’t be sure I could use those sights well enough to shoot to the guns potential to 100 yards and beyond.  So I used the most accurate loads and fired groups at 50 and 75. I think this was a decent balance for distance and what I could see.   I did shoot some at 100 yards and the strain it put on my eyes gave me a raging headache.   When it gets like that, you can’t tell if bad groups are you, the gun or the ammo or the weather.     I rested and did the final record group of  a10 shot string.  I feel this shows what the gun could do at 100 yards or at least gives and idea of the potential it has if optics had been mounted and a better trigger added.  Neither of which I would bother to do on this classic rifle anyway.

Above is group I fired for record at 100  yards.  It is a 10 round group fired from the bench and bags at 100 yards using the 55gr blitzking.  I chose the Bltizking 55gr because it seemed to me to slightly edge out the others and I had run our of the 53gr flat base HP.  Otherwise I would have shot 100 with  the 53 grain matchking  without hesitation.

The older  SP1 Colts are still great shooters unless you  haveone some one ( or you) mistreated.  The original A1 barrels on original A1 or SP1 uppers have the same potential. They are the same Colt ( or made to colt spec by  another company for the gov at the time) made Milspec barrels.   Just because it is a 1/12 doesn’t hurt accuracy,  just accuracywith heavier bullets.  Many varmint bolt actions rifles came with 1/12 twist for 223 remington for years.  It’s about knowing  the limits of the barrels twist rate , not the quality of the barrel.    I think it is odd that a lot of AR15 users make a lot of noise about  faster twist rates in their modern guns when they never shoot anything heavier that 55gr M193 type ammo.   I suppose it’s just the thought.

If you have one of these or you have made yourself a “retro clone” with original parts, maybe you will look at it in a little different light now, or maybe some of those stories told  at the gun store round table BS sessions will seem less like wisdom and more like what they are.

Lastly. the gun ran perfectly.  It is a vintage Colt AR15  SP-1 carbine. AS you can see it has the original CAR15 metal stock which is much sought after these days and is in near mint condition.   Below is the  test carbine with Sp1 rifle.  A classic pair to be sure.

 

 

Build verses buy your first AR?

 

I saw again recently someone suggesting that a first time AR15 buyer build their own AR15 so that they would be better familiar with the parts and operation.  I think a person could learn the parts and operation of a firearm just fine without building one.

By all means build a custom AR if you want too, but I highly recommend buying a good factory built AR15 for your first one.  Having built quite a few ARs myself, and seen many more built, there are all sorts of mistakes a person can make.  I’ve seen incorrectly aligned gas blocks, gas tubes, hammer springs reversed or under the trigger pin (allowing the trigger pin to walk out.  Loose barrel nuts, loose castle nuts (allowing the stock to rotate and or the buffer retainer popping out and jamming the action), and more.  The AR15 is a pretty simple weapon, but simple does not mean that you cannot mess it up.  A factory built gun will generally be assembled correctly and you will have a warranty if there are any issues.

The best thing about the AR family of weapons is the massive amount of aftermarket parts.  It can be overwhelming, and not all of it plays nice together.  With more and more companies producing parts, they are not all interchangeable.  For example, many hand guards now do not fit correctly on various billet uppers due to these aftermarket billet uppers using different dimensions then a milspec upper.

If you buy a complete rifle from a reputable manufacture, you know the parts they choose to use will work.  If you build your own, you will need to do a little research.  Sometimes trying to just buy all the best individual components will leave you with something that won’t work together.  For example, some years back a few companies were making enhanced bolt carriers.  A guy I knew purchased the LMT enhanced bolt carrier since it was supposed to be better than a standard one.  He built a SBR with it, and found it didn’t work (The LMT carrier might not have been the only issue with it, but I’m using as an example).  The LMT enhanced bolt carrier was tuned and built for a 14.5 inch barrel or longer.  This guy just saw that there was an “upgraded” part, bought it, and never realized it wouldn’t work for him.

I could go on with more examples, but if you’re going to get an AR for serious use, or if you are not very familiar with them, it is recommended you buy a factory AR15 from a reputable company.

5 Reasons for the AK’s Legendary Reliability

 

Since the untimely passing of our friend, Kevin  AKA Weaponsman, we will be running  “the best of weaponsman.com” in his memory.

 

5 Reasons for the AK’s Legendary Reliability

AK-47The Avtomat Kalashnikova obrazets 1974g and its successors have an enviable reputation for reliability, especially under adverse conditions. There are a number of reasons for this, and we’ll go into them in some depth here. First, though, let’s say what is not a cause:

  • It’s not because of blind luck.
  • It’s not because the weapon is orders of magnitude better than its worldwide competitors. Indeed, by the end of WWII a very high standard of reliability had come to be expected, and weapons that did not meet this standard were mercilessly eliminated, like the Johnson M1941 and the Tokarev SVT.
  • Mikhail KalashikovIt’s not because Kalashnikov the man had genius that was lacking in other men. His competitors in the field, from Browning, to the Mauser-werke engineers of the 1940s to Stoner, were certainly men of genius as well. (Heck, so were Tokarev and Johnson). He’d have been the first to tell you he was just a thinking engineer.
  • It’s not because of breakthroughs. Almost every feature of the AK is recycled from somewhere else. What Kalashnikov did was synthesize them in a new way.

The Kalashnikov rifle is not, in fact, a universally superior design. Compared to its worldwide competitors (the FN SAFN and FAL, the CETME and G3, the M14 and M16 series, to name the most important), it is less accurate, less flexible/adaptable, and less ergonomic than every other. It offers less practical range than any other; and at the other extreme of range, it is the worst bayonet handle. It weighs more than some, has the heaviest magazines by far, and has an inferior weight-to-firepower ratio to most. It is inaccurate from the shoulder in full-automatic fire, yet it is designed to be fired, preferentially, on full automatic.

The strengths of the AK have overcome these deficiencies to make it incredibly common worldwide. Those strengths, compared to its competitors, include a somewhat lighter weight of ammunition, a larger standard magazine, great simplicity of operation and ease of manufacture, and that vaunted reliability, perhaps its most salient characteristic.

Design features of the AK which contribute to its reliability include:

1. Simplicity

The AK is almost as simple as a hammer. It is simple to build and manufacture (we’ll go into some specifics below). It uses no space-age materials, not even any aeronautical technology, just 19th-Century steel and iron and wood. (Much later, Kalashnikovs would have composite magazines and composite furniture. The US put composite stocks on BARs by 1944, and had them ready for the M1 and M14 in the 1950s, but an AK would not have a composite stock in its home nation for another forty years). There is no advanced machinery needed to produce an AK — indeed, one can be built (and they have been built) with hand tools and no precision measuring equipment, not even a micrometer. The rifle itself has no parts that cannot be filed, ground or machined from steel, or hammered from sheet metal, or riveted or welded from parts made this way. Most auto repair shops have the tools needed to build an AK, apart from rifling the barrel; the necessary materials are in the same shop’s scrap pile.

The AK’s operating system is simple and proven, a long-stroke gas piston system and a rotating bolt. Unlike the dainty bolt of the AR system (lifted itself from the M1941 Johnson) with its 7 precision locking lugs (and one false lug on the extractor), the AK bolt has two locking lugs, oversized, overstrong, and remarkably tolerant of undersized contact patches with the locking recesses of the trunnion. (Factory AKs have wide disparities here, especially those made by some of the more slipshod non-Russian, non-Chinese factories. The guns all seem to headspace correctly, operate normally, and fire reliably).

The AK does have one part that is a highly complex weldment: the magazine. The magazine and the feed path in general is very simple, straightforward, and repeatable, which is why the mag clearly got a lot of engineering hours. Gun designer David Findlay, who’s worked at Remington, Marlin, H&R 1871, and Smith & Wesson, says**:

Feed-system design, though, is one of the most important aspects of any weapons performance. A great deal of testing must be done to ensure good performance. Small variations and subtleties in magazine dimensions can have enormous impact on gun reliability and function.

Findlay wrote these words in explaining the engineering of the feed path of the Thompson Submachine Gun, but they’re generally applicable, and go a long way to explaining why Mikhail Kalashnikov lavished so much care on the magazine design. The fact that the receiver of the AK has received many modifications, but that the only change to the magazine is in reinforcing ribs and later magazine-body materials seems to hint he got it right.

An old engineer’s quip is that the designer’s objective is to “simplicate and add lightness.” (This has been attributed, among others, to automotive engineer Colin Chapman and aerospace engineer Burt Rutan). Mikhail Kalashnikov started off by “simplicating” most of the potential for trouble out of his design. (He didn’t make “adding lightness” a priority).

2. Environmental protection

Every designer has long known that foreign matter — mud, dust, and what have you — are the bitter enemies of reliable function in the short term, and that corrosion, rust, is the long-term destroyer of gun reliability. If you examine an AK you will see that it’s hard for foreign matter to intrude into, say, a dropped rifle. The safety, modeled loosely on that of the Remington Model 8 (a Browning design), does double duty in sealing the gap between the receiver and the nonstructural receiver cover. In operation, the charging handle, which is part of the bolt carrier, reciprocates in the open slot that the safety/selector seals shut. That seal and the lack of other large entrees into the receiver keep the interior clean.

Unlike Browning or Stoner, Kalashnikov was limited by the Soviet industrial base; he couldn’t call out exotic materials or sophisticated protective treatments, so early AKs were all steel and rust blued, an attractive finish that was weak at preventing corrosion. Some critical parts, though, notably the gas port area, the gas piston, and the bore, received hard chrome plating, and the weapon is designed in such a way that rust or pitting on other parts just does not matter in terms of reliable function or accuracy. It’s not unusual to find AKs in the field with all kinds of surface rust and pitting on their exteriors, only to find that the vitals, protected by chrome plating, have held up, and the guns still shoot within the modest (and sufficient) standards of a new AK.

3. Lack of small, dainty (and fragile) parts

A field-stripped AK contains nothing you’ll need to grope for if you drop it in tall grass (or mud, or a stream) in the dark. The pieces are big and robust, deliberately so, and this philosophy extends to the internals.

heartbreak ridge AK47 2

Nothin’ dainty about it.

The story of the development of any weapon you care to name involves interesting (and sometimes distressing) breakages. The FN, for example, was prone to firing-pin failures (the answer, which took the experts of three countries to fix, was to reduce the hardness of the part, as measured on the Rockwell C scale, and to shot-peen its surfaces: problem solved). The very first AR-10 tested by the US government had a bullet emerge from the side of the barrel in testing, not exactly a confidence-builder. (They gave up on an AL alloy barrel with a steel liner, then, which neutralized the gun’s weight advantage over the extant M14). Indeed, the AR-10 had terrible problems well into its development and production, and the Portuguese were still solving problems with it during their colonial wars in the 1970s. Many of those same problems, and a set of new ones, struck during development and production of the M16. The AK presumably had problems with these, but because the information was closely held at the time, archives have not fully opened, and most of the principals passed on without leaving technical memoirs, we know about only a few of them (for example, the failure of the first model stamped receivers, which caused a change to a machined-from-billet receiver).

The internals, though, seem to have been robust from the very beginning. Kalashnikov’s point of departure was the Garand trigger group, which itself borrowed from Browning. (Stoner would choose that same point of departure). This is part of the brilliance of the design: he wasn’t inventing for the sheer joy of inventing, but to make something that worked. That means, where he didn’t have a way of doing it better than someone else, he borrowed happily.

Borrowing aside, the Kalashnikov’s departures from Garand practice (apart from those required to render the weapon selective-fire, and to improve the Garand’s sub-optimal safety) showed a lot of interest in making things sturdier. The hammer spring, for instance, is made of two wires coiled together, giving some small redundancy; it also does double-duty in the AK as the trigger return spring.

4. Minimal use of tight tolerances

There are some parts of a gun that absolutely must fight tightly to ensure accurate, safe, and yes, reliable operation. On the AK, almost all of those are permanently assembled at the factory (the barrel into the trunnion, for example). The trigger mechanism is designed with a lot of slop and play in it, which is why AKs have that typically very long, smooth trigger pull with a surprise let-off (SKSes are similar), but it isn’t that way to manage the trigger pull: it’s there so the mechanism will be positive and safe the first time and the 1,000,000th time.

The only moving parts with truly tight tolerances are the fit of the bolt lugs into the trunnion, which affects headspace. For safety and accuracy headspace has to be right on. But the non-bearing surfaces in the trunnion are opened up enough that dust and dirt has somewhere to pack into, other than interfere with the tight fight of bolt to trunnion. John Garand considered the wise use of tolerances key to the legendary reliability of the M1*. Like the AK, its only critical tolerances in the operating mechanism come from the interface of the lugs of the rotating bolt with the mating recesses of the receiver.

5. Use of very loose tolerances everywhere else

Garand deliberately eschewed the use of a bolt carrier in place of an operating rod. He considered the competing bolt carrier and tipping bolt design (as used in Tokarev, Simonov and FN rifles) more troublesome both in production and in service because they had more critical tolerances. While the AK uses a bolt carrier, its fit to the bolt and receiver is if anything even less critical and looser than Garand’s op-rod.

What Rayle (and Garand) thought of as an innate flaw in bolt-carrier vs, op-rod systems, the need for precision tolerances both on the locking/headspacing feature of the bolt and its receiver, and also on the interface of the bolt with the bolt carrier, turns out to be an innate flaw in the Browning (Tokarev, Simonov, Saive, Vervier, etc). tipping bolt. The AK’s bolt can interface with its carrier just as loosely as the M1s does with its operating rod, with no harm to the functioning of the rifle.

This is not to say that nothing on the AK is manufactured with precision. (That would be the STEN). The beauty of the AK, from an engineering design viewpoint, is that nothing is manufactured with unnecessary precision.

To Sum Up

aklgcolcopyThese things, taken together, suggest that the AK is narrowcast at its original role as a submachine gun replacement for the semi-literate peasant conscript army of a nation lacking depth in precision manufacturing. It was the perfect gun for the Red Army in World War II, even if it came a little too late. It was also, therefore, the perfect gun for the continuation Soviet Army.

Unlike the service rifles of the USA or Germany, or the first-generation battle rifles of the West in the 1950s, the AK was manufactured without an excess of precision which limited its adaptability as, say, a sniper rifle. (The AK’s then-unique use of an intermediate cartridge also did this). But it suited Soviet doctrine of mass attacks and mass fires well. Unlike the NATO rifleman, the Soviet soldier, although instructed in semiautomatic fire on ranges, was also extensively drilled in live-fire obstacle courses, and was expected to run them firing on full-automatic, from the hip. He was the heir of the submachine-gun battalions of the Battle of Berlin, and planned to fight the same way, as mechanized infantry guarding the flanks and securing the obstacle-ridden forests and towns to enable the great tank attack. Hence, the first click off safety on an AK is full-auto, contrary to every successful NATO selective-fire rifle.

The same adaptations, design decisions, and production practicality that made the AK a perfect replacement for Ivan’s retired PPSh submachine guns, made the AK a perfect weapon for terrorist groups, “national liberation” movements, and under-resourced armies of newly free colonies worldwide.

Like the Mauser before it, the AK is a universal gun. And like the Mauser, the AK will be with us until something better supplants it. And “better,” in this case, will be defined by history and by nations, not necessarily by gun experts.

 

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* John Garand’s comments come from Rayle, Roy E. Random Shots: Episodes in the Life of a Weapons Designer. 

** Findlay, David S. Firearm Anatomy: Book I: The Thompson M1A1 Submachine Gun. p. 76. San Bernardino, CA, 2013: Findlay, David S.

This entry was posted in Foreign and Enemy Weapons, GunTech, Industry, Rifles and Carbines on by .

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF

The site owner is a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S), and you can expect any guest columnists to be similarly qualified.

Our focus is on weapons: their history, effects and employment. This is not your go-to place for gun laws or gun politics; other people have that covered.

Assorted chatter.

I’m never really sure what to say on occasions like Memorial Day.  I think SoldierSystems summed up my thoughts a little more elegantly then I could have said.

I’m happy and upset with the Razer brand.  I’ve long been a fan of Razer mice, so when I was looking for a wireless headset I ended up getting a Razer Man-o-War.  Really awesome headset.  Some time ago I broke one of the pads on it, so I contacted them and asked if I could buy a replacement pads.  They said they didn’t have spare parts, but they would be willing to take my broken headset back, give me full store credit for it, and free shipping on my next order.  I was surprised, and took them up on the offer.  Irritation finally set in when after receiving back my old headset they dragged their feet a couple of weeks before giving me that store credit.  But now all is well and I have a replacement on its way.  I thank Razer for replacing my broken headset, I just wish they would have done it faster, or better yet just sent me a replacement pad.  In the end, for about $12, I have a brand new headset on its way to me.

Gulf Coast Armory

I swung by Gulf Coast Armory to drop some stuff off for Cerakote.  When I was looking at some of the work Jeremy has recently done, this caught my eye.  A cross between the Superman logo and the Autism Society puzzle pieces.  I really love how that piece looks.

KAHR ARMS P45 Part 1

With Trump winning the election. A few things have come to pass.   Gun buyers ( wrongly)  have assumed the danger  of a possible “assault rifle” ban has ended for a while, the rush to buy those guns has subsided ,  there has been a sharp alarming rise in radical left violence  and CCW promotion has been on the march.   With growing carriers  and more states “allowing”  permit less carry, those new to CCW need guns to carry.  Most of the new gun owners  wanting a handgun have  more interest in  smaller more compact and lighter pistols for carry.  In fact a lot of veteran Concealed carriers want those things in a carry gun if the last few years  have taught us anything.  I suppose not everyone is like me and insists on always having a full size government model on the at all times.  Who knew?

 

With that in mind, when Kahr arms graciously  offered me my choice in pistols to review, my first selection was the P45.  Assuming I don’t explode the p istol in my own face, you will be seeing us reviewing more firearms from Kahr.

https://www.kahr.com/Pistols/Kahr-P45-w-Night-Sights.asp

Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Operation: Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech; “Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block; no magazine disconnect
Barrel: 3.54″, polygonal rifling, 1 – 16.38 right-hand twist
Length O/A: 6.07″
Height: 4.8″
Slide Width: 1.01″
Weight: Pistol 18.5 oz., Magazine 2 oz.
Grips: Textured polymer
Sights: Drift adjustable, tritium night sights
Finish: Black polymer frame, matte stainless steel slide
Magazines: 3 – 6 rd, Stainless

 

With the specs listed above, lets take a look at the gun with my observations.

The gun is indeed flat and compact.  It has the now standard polymer frame common on modern pistols.   The rear  of the grip has a textured checkering that bites into the hand when as soon as  you grip it. It is  not sharp or painful but it is effective.  I found it to work a lot better than the type I have encountered on the various glocks I have shot.

The front has the same type of  checkering as the rear and  once you grip the gun, it is staying put.

 

P45

The front strap also has a undercut where the trigger guard meets the front strap.  This allows a higher grip and is something I have on all of  my serious use M1911s.  The trigger guard also has a contour in it that helps lock the alternate shooting  hand into place once you wrap it around your firing hand.  At first glance I didn’t know what purpose of this was but it became pretty clear quickly.  I don’t know that it will perfectly match up to everyone’s  hand shape and size but it did mine.

The magazine release button is where you expect and works perfectly.  It has some checkering on it but not as aggressive as the grip.  With the size of this gun it should be no problem for even small hands to hit  it without having to change the firing grip.  Same goes for the slide release.  The release is made with some slotting to make it easier to operate but being a 1911 I prefer something with more of a ledge on it personally.  If you are a “slingshot ” kinda Guy or Gal or something in between, I doubt it will matter.  Administrative operation of the slide stop is still easy and positive.

As I tried to show in the picture above, the machine work on the slide is pretty impressive.  If a lack of any tooling marks matters to you then this pistol will make you feel happy your hard earned dollar was spent on something  with quality looking craftsmanship.  It doesn’t do a very good in the picture above but I will try to get better close up pictures in later parts of the review and test. ,

The sights are nigh sights as listed in the specs and they work well.  Front and rear are the same color green though if that is something that concerns you.   They sights are dove tailed in place though so changing should not be a problem if that is your wont.  The rear is also made to facilitate operating the side with one hand if the need arises.

The pistol came with three stainless steel mags.  The extended magazine being the 7 round mag. I’m glad to see the gun come with three magazines because it is my policy to carry a handgun with at least 2 spare mags.  I think this is just smart policy no matter how many rounds the guns magazine will hold.   All three have worked perfectly in dry runs and dry fire.   

Now as for size.  I have take a picture of the P45 besides my various CCW guns most people are familiar with. I hope this will give an idea of its  compactness.   First off above is the P45 beside a Colt Defender. The defender is the subcompact from Colt with the 3 inch barrel  and holds a standard of 7 rounds of .45 auto.

Below is the P45 beside a Colt lightweight Commander.  The commander uses the same frame as a full size government model but with a slightly shorter slide. I should mention now that  yes the Commander will have a review up soon .

The P45’s trigger is like most triggers of its type. Not as good as a M1911 trigger of course  but a lot better than a DA/SA. It is workable and I am hoping with use it will improve even more so.

As is my custom this is the first part in a 2 to possible 3 part review.  Accuracy testing will be in part 2 and part 3 will be reliability endurance testing if  it is not included with the accuracy review.  I will shoot a variety of hollow point and self defense ammo through the pistol and it takes time to gather up.  That is the reason for a delay and the reviews being done in parts  for those that have asked in the past.    Please keep and eye out soon for part 2.

Gunner Wade on Silencers

Where the hell was this guy when I was in?

I still run into many people who believe that silencers drastically degrade accuracy and velocity.  Unfortunately this myth is still common in many popular video games, and all too many people believe that to be a fact.  A good deal of the pro gun youth only know firearm info from the games they have played.

It is true that some of the early pistol and submachine gun silencers that relied on wipes, mesh, or large internal volume to keep .22 and 9mm rounds subsonic did reduce velocity and accuracy/precision.  Modern designs don’t do that, and can actually give a small increase in velocity.  I’ve seen some rifles shoot tighter groups when shot suppressed.

Kinetic Concepts Tactical Rhodesian Kydex Holsters

The fellows over at KCT have made up some their excellent Element I  IWB kydex holsters done in Rhodesian camo for the guys at Rhodesian Arms.com.     After seeing some other pictures on KCT’s instagram account I was impressed. I have always loved this cam pattern,

If you like it, get in touch with KCT as they have said they are willing to work something out with you so you too can have one of these special run holsters.

 

GM94 Grenade Launcher

I was pointed to this youtube video about the Russian GM94 43mm grenade launcher.

Now, I don’t know Russian, so I have no clue what they are saying.  My first impression is that it looks like a handy launcher.  Our M203s and M320s are single shots, and the M32 6 shot launcher is somewhat awkward.  This seems like it would be easier to pack and deploy than the M32.  Being able to fire 3 rounds quickly would certainly be handy.

I doubt very many of us have any experience deploying thermobaric grenades, but I certainly would love too.  They are suppose to be more reliable and effective then fragmentation grenades for incapacitating or kill in their effective radius.  We have been fielding thermobaric rounds in our SMAWs, and even have one for the 40mm launchers (XM1060).

In the end, this video above is worth the watch just for its cutting edge computer graphics.

The Best of “Weaponsman” Part 1 (M16A1 Maintenance Survey in Vietnam)

As we reported last week and as everyone familiar with this website knows, our friend Kevin O’Brien, AKA “Hognose”, passed away. Kevin was a good friend of looserounds and  we often shared info back and forth for a variety of gun related topics.    Not 100 percent  sure that weaponsman.com has will be available in the coming years I will be running a weekly ( or maybe more or less often) “best of post” of some of Kevin’s best stuff  from his website to save  it for all and as a tribute to our friend.

 

M16A1 Maintenance Survey in Vietnam

By Kevin O’Brien ” Hognose”

We’re looking at a declassified report from the US Army Weapons Command in 1968. The report is available to subscribers to Small Arms of the World in their archives. And we came across the following little gem, which we’ve already served with several Vietnam-SF buds. Emphasis ours:

The first USAWECOM survey team stayed in Vietnam from 21 October1965 until 2 December 1966. (4) While the primary purpose of the team (5) was to provide maintenance instruction to a nucleus of officers and men from each brigade, who would then teach their own units, direct support organizations wece also instructed.

The team taught maintenance in every major USARV unit except the 1st Air Cavalry Division. (6) Students brought their own weapons, magazines, ammunition, cleaning materials, and accessories to class. A detailed inspection of each student’s equipment revealed that with the exception of the weapons of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the 173d Airborne Brigade, and the 5th Special Forces, all the weapons were poorly maintained.

The footnotes (4) and (5) refer to the team’s report and describe the makeup of the team — led by an ordnance LTC with four experts from USAWECOM and three from Colt. Note 6 explains why the Cav wasn’t trained — they said they were having no trrouble with the M16A1, and asked only for instructors to work with its divisional maint battalion small-arms shop.

So what was jacked up about the GIs’ guns?

The most common faults observed were:

  1. Excessive oil on the weapon
  2. Carbon buildup in the chamber, bolt, and bolt carrier group
  3. Overloading of magazines with 21 rounds of ammunition
  4. Oil and grit inside magazines (frequently accompanied by lubricated ammunition); and
  5. Failure to replace worn or broken extractors and extractor springs.

Other deficiencies noted frequently were shortages of technical manuals, cleaning equipment, and repair parts, and a general lack of knowledge of the M16 rifle among officers and noncommissioned officers.

At first it may seem strange that soldiers were unfamiliar with their weapons, but you have to remember how this report fits into American small arms history. The M16A1 was a standard — in Vietnam, only. The rest of the Army still soldiered on with the M14, and an awful lot of people in Army Ordnance still had their noses out of joint that Westmoreland had ordered a lot of weapons that were Not Invented Here (the M14, like the M1 before it, was developed in-house by the Army). Some of them wanted the M16 to go away. Others wanted it to fail. Still others were captivated by the small-caliber, high-velocity concept and the M16’s brilliant ergonomics, and determined to help make it work. And many were of a type with Army men of all nations and all times: given a mission, intent on carrying it out.

We thought it was interesting that three airborne units (the 101st was still nominally Airborne at this time, although it would only have the name as n honorific by the time it left Vietnam) had few worries with their M16s, although it seems like the 1st Cav didn’t either. So why were the airborne units squared away, when most of the legs weren’t? Turns out that it wasn’t due to the higher quality of troops in the supposedly all-volunteer paratroop units, but had a more mundane explanation:

The 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the 173d Airborne Brigade, and the 5th Special Forces were the only units surveyed that had received training with the M16 for a significant period of time prior to deployment to Vietnam. Men in other units had been given training in marksmanship but little or no instruction in care and cleaning of the rifle.

On a follow-up visit, intended to cover maintenance of the very maintenance-intensive XM148 grenade launcher, a subsequent team discovered that many of the M16s turned in for maintenance (which might not be typical of all M16s in the field; a working weapon doesn’t get turned in for maintenance) had pitting in the chamber. They did the math and came up with a statistical prediction that 10% of all 16s in Vietnam would need a replacement barrel every three months. That correlated nicely with field complaints of extraction and ejection problems. One answer was to add chrome plating to the chamber (later, the whole bore) of all M16A1 rifles, and this report seems to be where that suggestion was first committed to official writing. This suggestion was not exactly rocket surgery: at the time, the Russians had been doing it for 20 years.

The chrome chamber weapons have “MP C” or “C MP C” markings on their barrels. The later Vietnam-era chrome bore weapons are marked “C MP B.” After the war, the marking changed to “C MP CHROME BORE” and that’s what most of the small supply of surplus M16 barrels say. The bore chroming is not a sign of a particular model of M16, it’s simply a running change, one of many hundrendrds

A lot more interesting stuff in this report. There is a CYA aspect to some of it, for sure, but it’s a window into a problem (M16 Jamming, circa 1966) of which much has been written, usually without reference to primary sources like this.

About Hognose

Kevin  O’Brien  was a Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).