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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.

 

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.

Q&A 2

This is the second session of LooseRounds.com Q&A.  If you have a firearms related question please email it to QA@LooseRounds.com. We will post the your questions anonymously and give you our answers.

Shawn and I thank Catherine Kim for the article she submitted and to thank Duncan Larsen for the articles he has submitted and for his help on our Facebook page.  We also appreciate the work CJ does as an editor on LooseRounds.com, he keeps us from looking as illiterate as we are.  Thanks also to Adam O’quinn for taking the 901 in action shots.

 

1.  How are the Surefire 60 round mags?

Howard:  Both Shawn and I own Surefire 60 round mags and we like them very much.  While we haven’t torture tested them, or run them very heavily, they appear to be good mags.  We recommend them, but be sure to test each mag before you rely on them.

2.  ar15 bolt face ring

Howard: Well that is not much of a question.  Normal wear on the bolt face may leave little pits, and a ring corresponding to the primer on the round.  If any pits extend into the firing pin channel, replace the bolt.

ARMY TM 9-1005-319-23&P and AIR FORCE TO 11W3-5-5-42 page 3-22 explain:

(a) Bolt faces with a cluster of pits which are touching or tightly grouped, covering an area measuring approximately 1,8 Inch across, will be rejected and replaced.

(b) Bolts which contain individual pits or a scattered pattern will not be cause for rejection.

(c) Bolts that contain pits extending Into the firing pin hole will not be rejected unless firing pin hole gaging check determines excess wear.

(d) Rings on the bolt face (machine tool marks), grooves, or ridges less than approximately 0.010 inch will not be cause for rejection.

3.  Winchester Model 70 used in Vietnam?

Shawn:  There were two types, one was the heavy barrel national match that had a target stock and a heavy barrel with a sporter stock.  The sporter stock model started off as sporters and then the Rifle Team Equipment (RTE) armorers added match heavy barrels.  Both were glass bedded and free floated by the RTE armors.

4.  Duty holster for 1911 with light

Shawn:  LooseRounds uses a Dark Star Gear holster kydex that can be used for IWB or outside carry.  Found it to be best of its type tested so far.

5.  scar 17 vs sig 716

Howard:  Right now you can get more parts and accessories for the Sig, such as cheap quality Magpul mags.  However as for company quality control and function out of the box, I would trust FN more then Sig.

6.  What cheap asian are good?

Howard:  Well, the following are optics and accessories are junk.  UTG, NcStar, Leapers, Counter Sniper.  Some of Tapco stuff is good, but much of it is junk.  ATI is similar with mixed quality items and plenty of junk.

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!!

 

Gear Tree/ PC Stand

A lot of people have a ton of tactical gear with no decent way to store it. It is hard to find hangers that will support the weight of plates and mags already loaded plus all the extras.  After seeing a few versions of this handy system me and my Dad put a couple of them together ourselves to hang gear on. It keeps it ready and not tangles up.

The first is the one I keep my TAG  Banshee on.

It holds the Banshee loaded with plates and armor, three 30 round mags and 3  ten round 1911 mags.  Also  it holds my warbelt with x2 ar mags, 1 1911 mag my pistol holster, IFAK and dump ouch and GPO pouch.  On top rests my ACH MICH helmet. When making them if you want it to hold a hat or helmet you have to remember to have the main support be tall enough to hang the head cover on.

The beauty is you can make them as tall and wide as you want. And they are strong enough to hold every bit of gear you own if  the gear has a way to hang off of it.  It does not cost much to make them either since all you need is a few 2x4s and some paint and nails.

Be sure to make the base well enough to keep the stand balanced when loaded down.

The base is the one part  that you can not make too small. But you do not need to make it huge.  Make it big and you can always trim it down. We always just make them a little bigger then we think we will need just to be safe.

The second lacks the helmet stand but holds a full riflemans kit MOLLE II FLC and a Source WXP. This is quite a bit of weight but the stand handles it with ease. This one was made a little smaller but with wider “shoulder” so to keep the weight even across the vest.

On a side not the MOLLE II FLC is an excellent fighting kit that is often over looked.  they can be found in coyote, ACU, Woodland and DCU all over the web at very affordable prices. They are made my gov contractors for the military> They are not  the coolest new stuff but they can take a ton of abuse and hold more then you can stand to carry.  They do not hold armor but can fit over armor carriers just fine and the vest area is  mesh so it is much cooler then a lot of chest rigs. it can also be configures as a chest rig as well as the vest system.  I will do another full article on the FLC later.

The only downside is the gear tree does not easily fit into a closet or hide as well, but it is a safer way to store you armor and it is always ready for you to don in a hurry. Nothing gets tangled and your gear is not laying in a corner getting peed on by the family cat. Another bonus is if airs out and drys faster when wet or sweaty with your manly funk.