5.56 Timeline

More On Colt Monolithic Upper History

A couple weeks ago I did the “10 years of the Colt 6940” post and then a few days after realized I had left out some pretty neat stuff from the history of the Colt monolithic uppers. Over the last 10 years there was some other monolithic upper rifles and carbines from colt in some variants that we never saw displayed at any of the shows

This rifle length barrel and monolithic rail was very interesting. It came about right around the time the USMC was making noise about putting collapsible carbine type stocks on the M16A4. Supposedly making it the “A5” Never happened and neither did this variant. I would very much like to have had this gun but with a match barrel on it for a sort of 694X SPR precision rifle.

This is sort of a compromise of a M4 with a RAS but with the 6940 type folding front site and a piston gas system. Meh.

Above is a piston version of he Colt SCW. We did later see this side folding and collapsing stock trickle out via ebay and gunbroker etc. But so far nothing has been offered for sell as a standard or special order option. Later photos of more refined versions showed a DI gas system and a full monolithic 6940 upper. The side fold stock is pretty nifty but required a much modified bolt carrier group.

The most successful of the 694x series variants for military markets is the Colt IAR. Made up as Colt’s option for the USMC IAR rifle the Colt IAR is made up with a heat sink in the lower removable handguard and barrel more suited to full auto fire. A decent amount of uppers were sold on the civilian market,Howard has one, and some other countries use the full auto military version as IARs and even a sniper support weapon in the case of Mexico. You can see a video of friend of the website Alex, shooting his Colt IAR upper on a full auto lower below

Dyspeptic Gunsmith Goes On A Rant ( again)

You likely know DG from the comments here and weaponsman.com. The other day the maestro conducted another of his masterpieces in the comments and it was good enough to be worth sharing.

Of course we old farts know what we’re talking about.

The worst thing for the American gun buyer has been the “tacti-cool mil-spec” wave of marketing in firearms.

For those who don’t understand why I get down on “mil-spec,” allow me to elaborate. My first job out of school was working for a defense contractor. For me, the term “mil-spec” means “lowest bid, cut-throat cost cutting, cheapest POS we can ship and still pass the contract requirements” level of quality. People who equate “mil-spec” with “quality” are likely from that segment of the US population who have a) never served, b) never been involved in making materials for the DOD, c) and they don’t pay much of anything in the way of taxes, and they just laugh at reports of $640 hammers.

I don’t rant about “mil-spec” just in guns. Example: Just this morning, my ass was in a 5-ton military truck that has been repurposed to a fire truck, ferrying it for our VFD. Folks, I don’t care if you get a boner like Bert Gummer over military trucks while you’re standing on the curb, watching them go by in a parade. Once you’ve sat your ass in one and had to move it around, you’ll know that there’s “no there, there.” They’re durable, they might have been cheap, but the idea that they’re something to wish to drive? Utter nonsense. If you still lust after these trucks once you’ve sat your ass in one and had to drive it, then there’s nothing I can do for you: you need some strong therapy and some medication. My nightmare is having to drive that wretched POS two+ hours to a fire.

Same deal with modern “mil-spec” guns. If you’re willing to toss ludicrous amounts of money after a modern “mil-spec” firearm… well, you do you. Don’t waste my time asking how it can be made “better on a budget.” Something made prior to 1960? Let’s talk. Something made after the Beatles showed up? No.

Since the early 90’s, I had seen the quality of US firearms go down, down, down, down. Since becoming a gunsmith and handling/disassembling/repairing many more guns than I’d ever see if I were just buying them myself, it is beyond question that in the 1980’s (a decade earlier than I perceived the decline as a gun buyer), the quality started declining – rapidly. At first, the quality decline was seen by only those of us who do detailed strip/re-assembly of firearms. By the 90’s, the rot and progressed to the outside. Today, it’s shit through and through. Sometimes, my fingers get shredded while pulling apart a gun – because the manufacture could not be troubled to take the burrs off the metalwork inside the gun. That’s beyond shoddy – that’s a company that doesn’t care what you think about their product. That company, BTW, is Mossberg. They can’t be bothered to de-burr their action rods.

When you look back at the fit/finish/workmanship of guns from about 1960, and then you compare them to guns from the 1990’s, there’s no comparison. None. Compare 1960 to today, and all you can do is shake your head and ask “WTF happened?” Well, firearms customers got stupid, that’s what. They’ve been bamboozled that “mil-spec” is a good thing, when it’s a highly dubious appellation to use as an indicator of quality. But it is now what infects the US firearms market. Then they delude themselves by thinking that their dollars are still worth something when purchasing something tangible. Why is it that gun buyers will happily spend $40K (and up) on a pickup to haul their boat, but they’ll piss and whine about spending $2K on a quality shotgun or rifle? When I was a kid, you could buy a pickup for $3500. Is it because the bank won’t give you a loan to buy the shotgun?

High Standard is (or was) well known for their quality .22LR target pistols. They were popular, accurate and reasonably priced compared to S&W 41’s and Colt “Match Target” pistols. Nicely finished, straight blowback pistols. The 1200 line of shotguns were solid guns, built with steel receivers, and had a basic (not “nice” but basic) finish of blue and basic, low-figure, walnut stocks. You can find 1200’s from the 1960’s for sale in the shotgun market for between $150 and $300. The 1200’s were cheap shotguns in their day – but compared to the shit being shipped out of major companies today, those low-end High Standard shotguns look pretty damn good today. That gives an indication how far we’ve fallen. High Standard fell on tough times in the late 70’s and early 80’s, like so many other quality firearms companies in the US.

And people wonder why I go on epic rants about the quality of firearms available today…

Howard and I both would quibble with DG over the denouncing of all mil-spec guns and modern guns in general across the board. Milspec now a days not so much “lowest bidder” as it is best value. and milspec does meet a standard that it has to conform to and we know what we will get with milspec and what kind of performance and longevity. Many companies just make up whatever standards they want with no track record of proven performance or can’t even meet the low end requirements of milspec. They just don’t tell the buyer that is the reason they don’t try to use the milspec yardstick . Of course milspec is not the end all be all but it is a baseline if that is useful and trustworthy for hard use combat guns for hard work. but I think Howard and myself would agree with where he was going with it.

Thoughts on zeroing

Having spent time in the military and working at a public range I learned that most people don’t understand zeroing sights or optics.

I always found it humorous when some of the regulars at the range would have a new rifle or new optic and invite me to come over and try their new gun. I’d fire a shot and tell them something like, “Cool rifle, but it is impacting 4 inches left for me.” The response I would get would be a coy line much like, “Well why don’t you go ahead and dial it then.”

I like to imagine that I keep all my firearms combat ready, but realistically I would never choose to use some of them in a fight. I wouldn’t grab the 10/22 for obvious reasons. While I would trust a Garand in a fight, it would be far from my first choice. One of the most critical things I think of as part of being “combat ready” would be the simple ability to hit what you are aiming at.

I like to think of the quality of a zero on a firearm as one of several states. I don’t think I’ve seen other people talk much about this, so I want to lay out what I think it.

  • Unzeroed
  • Mechanical Zero
  • Battle Sight Zero (BZO) or Reduced Range Zero
  • Fine Zero
  • True Zero (or proofed zero)

Unzeroed: The least desirable state for a firearm sights to be in. Hopefully an unzeroed firearm will impact close to where you aim, but there is no way to know with out test firing or checking the bore axis to the sights against a common index.

Mechanical Zero: The sight is centered either mechanically or optically. On something like a micrometer adjustable sight, mech zero may be obtained by counting the total number of clicks and adjusting it half way. On scope you could count clicks or use a mirror to get the crosshair centered in the tube. Centering a scope via scope adjustment may not be the same as optically centering.

Generally, one a well built firearm, mechanical zero will be close to right on. On cheaply built guns, not likely. If you have something like a rifle with a 30MOA canted base for long range shooting, the mechanical zero on the scope will deviate from a proper zero because of that.

It used that a brand new, out of the bolt, Colt AR15 or M16 generally didn’t need adjustments from mechanical zero when sighting in. But as of the last few years this no longer seems to be the case.

Battle Sight Zero (BZO) or Reduced Range Zero: There are all manner of reduced range zeroing techniques. Rarely you will see 10m zeroing targets. Often reduced range zeroing in militaries is done at 25m. For the longest time the USMC liked to use 36 yards for a reduced range zero on the M16A2/M16A4. The idea of a reduced range zero is to easily reproduce a longer range fighting zero at reduced ranged. It is easier and faster to zero at 25 meters than 300. Negligible effect from wind, easier to change and inspect targets, etc. The downside is that ANY minor error at this reduced range will be magnified at farther ranges. Say if a soldier was impacting 1 inch left at 25 meters, they might completely miss a hostile enemy at 300 meters. That could cost lives.

I consider a BZO an acceptable zero. I’ve found that with a 14.5 inch AR15 firing M855, if I impact 0.3 inches low at 25 yards, I will be right on at 300 yards. This lets me quickly and easily sight in any similar carbine at the very common distance of 25 yards. I used to have a scoped rifle where my 100 yard zero was 2.6 mils different from my 25 yard zero. I could dial up 2.6 mils and be right on at 25 yards. This allowed me to double check that zero with that gun at reduced range.

A BZO often won’t give you a perfect zero for the farther distance, but they should be close enough. The now common 50/200 zero is a good example. Zeroing at 50y or 50m isn’t going to give you a perfect dead on zero at 200, but it tends be close enough for practical work.

I would not hesitate to go into combat with a firearm that has a BZO. I would prefer a finer zero, but a BZO is functional.

Fine Zero: Simply put, a fine zero is zeroed at the range the firearm is intended to be sighted in at, and is adjusted as closely to being perfect as possible. A magnified scoped rifle might be fine zeroed at 100 yards. Something like a M16A2 or M4 Carbine with CCO would be fine zeroed at 300 meters. Often people going into combat never get the chance to fine zero and must just rely on a BZO.

Sometimes you are limited by the precision of the adjustments. As an extreme example, the leaf sight on my M203. Each click of the windage knob adjust the impact by 1.5 METERS at 200 meters. So if I fire a shot and impact 1/2 METER left of my point of aim, I can’t adjust closer than that. But a fine zero will be as accurate as precise as the sights allow.

A fine zero is preferred over a BZO as it will have removed any error from the BZO and have been tested out to the preferred sighting distance.

True Zero or Proofed Zero: You don’t tend to hear about this outside of precision shooters, longer range hunters, or snipers. People who have to shoot at multiple distances, or an unexpected longer range distance may take the extra step to true or proof their zero.

This is less about the zero, and more about the knowledge and preparation the shooter has made for long distance shooting. Truing or Proofing is finding out where exactly you will hit or the adjustment you need for the various ranges you might be shooting.

Simple example, I used to shoot 565 yards with a 4x ACOG. 565 yards is about 516 meters, so I should have been able to use the 500m mark in the ACOG. Instead, with my firearm and ammo I needed to use the 600m mark to impact where I wanted to hit. Had I only relied on the stock marking I would have always missed.

While I was in the Corps, when we shot the rifle range, we would note our true zero for each distance. Windage adjustment might change due to how we held our rifles, elevation might be slightly different as well. So one persons 500 yard zero might have been setting the rifle rear sight to 5, another might need to set their A2 rear sight to 5 plus 1 click.

You might have a great gun with an a great cartridge and your ballistic calculator spits out a hold over for some distance, but when you actually shoot that distance you may find you need a different adjustment or hold over. Accounting for that is truing or proofing your zero. With out proofing, that drop chart or BDC is just a suggestion, not a fact.

A very few ballistic calculators give the ability to put in your proofing results to calculate a corrected drop chart to ensure you will hit when you need to hit.

Not that simple, isn’t it?

Aimpoint H1 Micro, after 5 Years of use

I have always been a strong proponent of Aimpoint sights. Really, we all have been at looserounds. You cannot go wrong choosing any of the Aimpoint models that are currently available or have been previously available. When I worked for my hometown police department, I was the only officer with an Aimpoint, I carried an ML2 (purchased 2003). I never had an issue with my ML2, it just kept going strong year after year. I wrote an article for looserounds several years ago about that Aimpoint ML2 after running it on rifles for ten (10) years. (http://looserounds.com/2013/04/23/my-aimpoint-ml2-a-decade-in-use/). Since then I have used several other Aimpoints Red Dot Sight (RDS) optics.

There are a lot of micro RDS optics on the market and numerous are less expensive than Aimpoint. So, I want to put this article in perspective for you.  Just like my previous article on the Aimpoint ML2, I am talking about a serious personal defense, military or law enforcement / duty use, micro RDS optic. Something you can trust your life or others lives on. While other RDS optics might serve you just as well, Aimpoint is known for its quality. Aimpoint has the quality and quantity that has served in military and law enforcement units in extreme environments for decades.

PSA 10.5 Pistol w/Aimpoint H1. ADM Mount

In October 2013 and January 2014, I purchased two Aimpoint H1 RDS optics. These Ampoint H1’s have a 4MOA dot and are currently out of production. Aimpoint still makes the H1 micro but it is only offered in a 2MOA dot. When you are testing a RDS sight over several years, it may go out of production, but there are a lot of that sight still out there. Also it gives you an idea of how current models will perform.

I put brand new batteries in the H1’s when I purchased them and set them on setting eight (8). Aimpoint states that on setting eight (8) the micro’s should run for 50,000 hours or five (5) years on the same battery. I would say this is very accurate as I have had both my Aimpoints on over the five (5) years.   

Aimpoint H1/Larue Mount/Colt 6720
Aimpoint H1/Scalarworks Mount

Now you may be thinking, I didn’t continually leave the H1’s on and I never used them in any hard use. The H1 micro’s have seen more rounds on rifles than I even know. They have been through countless training classes, schools and testing at looserounds. I have also tested the H1’s on several different mounts over the years. I have used American Defense Manufacturing (ADM) mounts, Daniel Defense mounts, LaRue Tactical Mounts and Scalarworks Mounts.  You will see these mounts throughout the pictures in the article.  Since the batteries have been on for 5-1/2 years they probably have over 55,000 hours run time on them.

H1’s on 6920 & 6720 / Larue & Scalarworks

For the past five (5) years my pair of Aimpoint H1 mico’s have been my home defense optics, on various rifles, Colt (LE6920s, AR6720s and currently LE6960). I have also run them on a few S&W M&P15-22s and currently on a Palmetto State Armory (PSA) 10.5″ AR15 Pistol.  While I have kept both H1’s on setting eight (8) the entire time I have had them, I have bumped the setting up and down during use, depending on lighting conditions.  During bright days on the range I have had to bump the setting up to eleven (11), or one louder it you know what I mean. I have also run the H1’s on lower settings to sight the optics in on other rifles.  I find that dialing down the sight while sighting in RDS optics, gives you a more accurate Point of Impact (POI) on the sight. After shooting or sighting in, I default the sights back to setting eight (8). I find that setting eight (8) is the best all around setting for most lighting situations.

S&W M&P15-22 / Aimpoint H1 ADM Mount



According to Aimpoint, the Aimpoint H1’s have a 50,000 hour battery life, (roughly Five years). Over the last 5-1/2 years the Aimpoint H1’s have stood up to every day work/use, countless range days, carbine course schools (on several different rifles), and looserounds firearms testing for articles, on the original batteries. Now that I have run them this long on the original batteries, I will change them out. I would suggest that you change out the battery every year just to be safe. I have said this before and it is always confirmed, Aimpoint is the only red dot optic I will ever use for professional or serious personal defense use. If you purchase one of the newer Aimpoint models, (i.e. PRO, M4, M4S, H1 – H2 or T1 – T2), with battery lives of 30,000 to 80,000 hours, these will last you a lifetime. There is no other optic that you can bet your life on and gives you that comfort that it will work every time you need it.       


My thoughts on the 6940

Yesterday Shawn posted about how the Colt 6940 series has been out for 10 years.

I remember reading about the 1040, seeing pictures of the prototypes, wanting a SCW, etc. But when the 6940 finally came out, I had thoughts similar to most. Why bother? Proprietary barrel, m4 profile, carbine length handguard. It seemed kinda silly. Even back then people were leaning toward longer handguards, different gas systems and barrel profiles. Colt came out with a product that didn’t match what the market was wanting.

Some years later I decided I wanted to get a factory Colt Short Barreled Rifle. The nice thing about SBR AR15s is that you can easily swap uppers to make it do what ever you want it to do. I was looking at buying a Colt 6933, when I found that I could get a Colt 6945 for far cheaper. So I did that instead. I am really glad I did.

Factory Stock Colt LE6945

I have long been a fan of the MK18MOD0 style AR15 configuration. I used similar setups long before I ever heard the name MK18. The 6945 is simply a better MK18MOD0. Lighter, with a monolithic upper and free floating barrel. Along with a folding front sight that is part of the gas block.

I really think it is one of these cases where something is better than the sum of its’ parts. Over a little time I ended up setting up the 6945 similarly to how Shawn had his 6940 set up.

I really love the simplicity and elegance of 6945. So when I got the chance I picked up the 6940 pictured above and set that up similarly as well.

It just works.