5.56 Timeline

Handgun Shopping

Catherine Kim

I love guns.  While some girls enjoy spending their money on shoes, I like to slowly build my armory and gear to appease my many hobbies.  I don’t limit myself to one brand, but I do have my favorites.  Although my collection is not enormous, it is growing and each addition is special in its own way.  I get quite a number of messages through my FaceBook from girls who want to purchase their first handgun, so I thought I would share my journey.  The important thing is that YOU feel comfortable handling and shooting it.  I can’t even count or recall all the handguns I have shot throughout the years, but as you continue shooting you will start noticing immediately what features you like and dislike.

Catherine Kim

Finding that “right” feeling “out of box” handgun was a bit of a struggle for me.  I started out with the Glock because that was the brand I heard the most about and let’s face it… it is inexpensive.  It shot good and it was lightweight, but one of the things I did not like was the way the grip felt.  With my tiny hands it felt so bulky and it was hard to get a grip with the huge hump on the backstrap.  However, a benefit to Glock was the customization potential and its durability.  There are many third party companies that develop add-ons and replacement parts to customize not only functionality but aesthetics as well.

Next I shot and fell in love with the Sig P226 at the range, so I went ahead and bought one.  It shot smooth and felt a little better in my small hands.  The only problem for me was the long double action trigger pull on the first shot. During that time I started dabbling in competitive shooting, and getting that first shot off was more time consuming than a striker fire.  After taking an IDPA class with my Sig P226, I knew I would have to find another gun if I wanted to dabble in competitive shooting (production class).

Someone brought to my attention the Smith & Wesson M&P series that had interchangeable palmswells for the backstrap. So I went and held one with the SMALL back and it felt amazing.  It was the best fitting “out of box” handgun I had ever felt for my tiny hands. It felt controllable, which is extremely important. Especially for women, if the gun isn’t very controllable, you will be constantly adjusting your grip.  Plus it was a striker fire so it was super easy to use and shoot.

Smith & Wesson M&P

So, I went on a hunt for a M&P 9L, which has a 5″ barrel for a little more accuracy and has a longer sight radius with an overall length of 8.38.”   The stars must have aligned because I found ONE (literally one) available in another state through Armslist.  The previous owner had installed a fiber optic front/black wide notch rear sight combo for faster target acquisition.  Although, the stock three dot Smith & Wesson sights are pretty good and personally I think better than Glock.  Every M&P comes with all three sizes of palmswells- small, medium, and large.  It is really easy to change out and does not require tools. Another aftermarket enhancement my M&P 9L came with is an upgraded trigger.  The stock M&P trigger is not very smooth. That’s the only complaint I have ever heard about them, but that can go for many other stock handguns as well. I have the APEX Competition AEK (action enhancement kit) which gives me about a 3lb trigger pull, and they also offer the Duty/Carry AEK which gives you about a 5lb pull. Both have a super crisp and short reset.

Smith & Wesson M&P

Gun shopping is kind of like shoe shopping.  If you are going to purchase an expensive pair of heels, #1. You want to try it on and walk around, #2. You want to make sure it fits, and #3. You want to make sure it’s comfortable. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.  Happy shooting.  😉

Smith & Wesson M&P

Car as Cover And The 5.56 On Cars

Most of us know that using a vehicle for cover comes with a few caveats.  We know to use a car as cover, we need to get behind the engine block or try to snuggle down behind a wheel and let the metal of the wheel protect you if that is all you got, but a lot of people do not know that thanks to movie and TV.   On the other hand, we are also told the 5.56 is not very good at penetrating anything thicker than a cotton T-shirt without AP bullets or something made to do so.  Anything short of a bonded bullet or M995 just will not do anything against a car.

Today while doing some training at the local Police range, my friend and I decided to do a little impromptu testing that is not scientific in any way, but it does reflect our experience from doing this quite a few times in the past.   We did not use any ball ammo or M855 or specialty rounds.  We decided to use his department issue ammo.   The round is the Federal 55 grain soft point Tactical Rifle Urban round.   We fired from 25 yards using a 16 inch barrel Colt 6920.


I set up a FBI “Q” target behind the car and he shot through both rear doors to see what would make it through.  Five rounds were fired to have the best chance to see results and to account for anything that might go wrong.


The rounds did make it through both doors.  There was of course lots of frag, but the lead core did make it through and still had plenty enough left to go through the cardboard backer and to kick up dirt and gravel on down range.   The rounds did deflect to the left from a foot to a foot and a half.  Still very dangerous and enough to kill a TV cop or robber.

Next I set the target behind the trunk/read. Another popular place  people who do not know better assume is a safe place ( on TV mostly).


No big surprises here for us. The rounds made it through in enough shape and weight to do serious damage and deliver serious wounds at the least.  Rounds of course deflected once again.


A lot more fragmentation this time from the car and the jacket. This is due to a few rounds hitting the  gas cap area. Some of the holes  were very cleanly cut and showed no signs of key holing.  The soft points did show signs of significant mushrooming with the diameter looking more like a .30 caliber bullet.

Last we fired through just one door.


We both have fired a lot of rounds through single car doors and knew pretty much how this would turn out.  Once we had even fired 40 grain ballistic tips from 100 yards and go penetration through single car doors so we got what we expected.


Every round fired made it through the door with a large amount of upward deflection.  But they did make it.  Large amounts of fragmentation and bullet deformation, but very deadly.   A 5.56 is not useless when shooting through cars at what would be distance used in most police stops or what have you, and I would not want to have to hide behind a car only when some one was shooting at me even with SP bullets.   I hope this will demonstrate just how crappy a car works as cover and shows how a 5.56 is nothing to laugh at when used on a car.  Keep in my the ammo used was meant for anti personnel use only and was not a load meant for better barrier penetration. Had they been something like a bonded bullet or solid copper HP Barness TSX,, the results would have been even more significant.



Knights Armament has produced many rails for the U.S. military.  Most well known are the M5 RAS used on the M16A4 and the M4 RAS used on the M4.  RAS stands for Rail Adapter System.

However prior to the M4 RAS, this was the M4 RIS.  The Rail Interface System was used on the CQBR uppers which led to the MK18MOD0 .

The RIS, bottom one in the photo above, is secured using a clamp on the handguard cap.  You can see this clamp in the photo above.  Easiest way to identify a RIS is noticing that the odd numbering counting up backwards from the front of the rail.

The more commonly found RAS has a spring tap on the front that goes under the handguard cap( and is commonly installed over the handguard cap, newer models have this tab modified to prevent incorrect installation).  On the top rear of the RAS, there is a screw for the clamp that grabs the barrel nut.  Even numbered markings count up from the rear of rail.

A M4 RAS retails for $351 dollars.  For that price you can buy newer better free float rails.  However on the secondary market or from Knights own store you can purchased used or blemished M4 RAS handguards for good prices.  The main reason for this rail popularity is due to its used by the U.S. Military, but it is a good solid piece of kit regardless.

The RIS is harder to find, and mainly purchased by people wanting to make clones of the MK18MOD0.  Personally only reason I own one is that it came as part of a package deal.  The RIS is nice, but the RAS is better.  The only advantage the RIS has is that it can accept a slightly larger barrel profile, but ff you are going to use a barrel that large, you would probably be better off with a different handguard.

If you would like to know more, there is a good old write up about the two rails on Quarterbore.