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Abusing the Accurate Rifle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A Session 1

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

1. Aimpoint vs. Eotech?

Howard:  Shawn and I advocate the Aimpoint.  While early Eotechs were a far superior optic to early Aimpoint, modern Aimpoints easily beat Eotechs.  Aimpoints like the PRO, T-1, and Comp M4 have superior battery life over the Eotechs.  An Aimpoint will run for years while an Eotech will run for a month on a single battery.  In a recent drop test by Andrew Tuohy of http://vuurwapenblog.com/ the Aimpoint beat the Eotech.  Eotech has also had issues with battery draining while the optic is off.  Lastly, for a home defense rifle you can leave an Aimpoint on at all times so your rifle is ready to go.  I would not want to have to turn on an optic in a hurry while in an adverse situation.

2.  Will the Colt 901 take any 5.56 upper?

Shawn:  The Colt 901 will accept any 5.56/6.5/6.8/300BLK/etc upper receiver that has a small front pivot pin hole(Sorry, no old SP1 uppers will work with out an adapter).  You will need to use a mag well adapter and change out the buffer and buffer spring.

3.  Aimpoint PRO vs. Eotech.

Howard:  Ignoring the vs. Eotech part that was previously covered, the Aimpoint PRO is an great economical choice for a AR15.  Running about $400 new, it comes as a complete package ready to mount onto an AR15.  At 3/4 max brightness it will run about 3 years continuously.  You can leave this on next to your bed, or in your patrol car and know that it will be ready to go when you need it.  You can quickly adjust the brightness to be appropriated for the ambient lighting condition.  While it runs off a less common battery, you get so much longer life out of each battery it would end up costing you less then if you use an AA battery model Eotech.

4.  What is the lightest bullet for the 1 in 7 twist.

Shawn:  You can go as low as a 40 grain ballistic tip as long as it is a .224 bullet and not .223 hornet diameter, because the hornet diameter bullets have a light jacket designed to explode at a lower velocity.  Hornet bullets will not stand up to the faster twist and higher velocity.  Any quality 40 grain load will shoot just as well as any quality 55 or 62 grain load accuracy wise.  These lightweight bullets are not over stabilized and will not blow apart in flight.  That myth is from the days where people used the older light jacket hornet bullets in the new higher capacity .22 caliber cases like the .223 and 22-250.

Aimpoint vs. Eotech for the home defense rifle

Both Aimpoint and Eotech are popular reflex optics for the AR15 family of weapons.  Constantly online and there are heated debates over which is the better optic and many people have differing opinions for different reasons.  There is one major reason the Aimpoint should be picked over the Eotech for home defense.  This is the Aimpoints battery life and run time.  An Eotech needs to be turn on before use, and will run 4 or 8 hours before shutting down.  The Aimpoint will run months to years depending on model and brightness.

The Soldier or the police officer when going on duty or starting a patrol has the time to turn on an Eotech.  You don’t know when you might need to use a home defense rifle, and you shouldn’t want to have to turn on its optic before you can use it.  Even worse would be if your battery is dead when you need it.  The new Eotech EXPS3 has a listed battery life of 25 days on setting 12.  The new $400 dollar Aimpoint PRO will run 3 years on 3/4 max brightness.

Back when I owned an Eotech 512, I often found the batteries were dead when I wanted to use it.  I had to store the batteries out of the optic to keep them from draining.  Not only did I have to turn it on before I would shoot, I would have to check during the day that it is still on.  When working at the range, I have seen more then a few shooters day at the range ruined when the only rifle they bought has an Eotech with dead batteries and no iron sights.

If your rifle is a fun gun, get the optic you prefer.  But if you require a reflex sight that is ready all the time, use an Aimpoint.

Springfield SOCOM II quick review

Today I got the chance to look over and to shoot the SOCOM II rifle a close friend bought. Anyone who knows me , knows I am no fan of the M14/M1A rifle. I will not go into the many flaws it has here, but I will say despite my dislike for the rifle I always give them a fair try and never slam one unfairly just because I do not like them.

The rifle arrived  with the companies 10 round mag. Why not a 20 round mag? I have no idea. The mags when new cost double or triple a USGI  Ar15 mag and I know most buyers would want a USGI 20 round M14 mag to start with. Though I do understand legality can come into play depending where you live.

The stock is a nice touch, it fit well and tight unlike some cheap fiberglass types stocks I have seen with huge gaps. The grip and forearm had a sort of checkering though I felt that other then looks, it was not aggressive enough to be used for real grip.  One thing I did appreciate was the mag well had a nice angled bevel to help inserting and rocking in of the magazine.

After picking it up and handling it, I found the balance to be pretty nice it shoulder well and was short and quick when moving it around tight spots.


The SOCOM was also one of the first M1As I had ever held that the top handgaurd cover fit nice and tight and not rattle around loosely like it normally does on a M14.  On top of the rifle in front of the bolt is a short piece of rail for optics.  This is an idea spot for a T-1 or RMR. I don’t think I would mount something as big as a CompM3 or Eotech, but it is a nice set up for the mini RDS.  Having no optics on had to try out , I can not say anything about  if it would co-witness with irons. The rear peep sight is bigger then the traditional rear sight. i appreciate this since I have never found the normal small peep to be handy for me at close range or moving targets. the frnt sight had a tridium vial and the protective hoods on each side of the front post are nice and wide, protecting it but not so close to cause confusion at night or in a stressful situation.

After shooting it and checking zero, we proceeded to do some faster shooting. the muzzle brake did its job well. Using Federal gold medal 168 grain Match, the muzzle stayed flat and reduced recoil with not much flash at all. However, with lake city ball, the muzzle blast would peel paint from a wall and was loud enough to be a real distraction. The ports on the brake did direct the worst of the flash away from the line of sight enough to reduce it. No night firing was done so I can not comment on how bad it would be at night with Ball ammo.

The gun was very controllable during double and triple taps.  A number or shots were fired at a  IDPA target at 25 yards to test how controllable it was during rapid fire.  A few double taps even manged to cut into each other or a least touch because of the effective muzzle device. Double and triple taps easily stayed on the head while firing as fast as possible  even fighting against the 2 stage trigger.

After having some fun and getting a feel how the rifle generally handled, we decided it was time to test if for accuracy. Since we where not on a range that let us shoot past 25 yards we had to settle for the short range.  two  5 shot groups were fired using the before mentioned federal gold medal 168 match load.  No optics were used nor any kind of tripod/bipod. I know it is only 25 yards and open sighted, but I have to say, it shows some real potential.

5 shot group 168 grain match

Both groups are 5 round strings fired with the Federal gold medal 168grain match load. As you can see in the pictures 3 rounds went into the same hole in both groups. Considering both were shot pretty much off hand, thats not bad at all  even as close as 25 yards!!

Now the downside of the SOCOM II is it suffers the same things as all its other versions. A very slow reload. A safety that is not in a good spot at all. In fact. with the smaller trigger guard and the position of the safety, I found ever time I tried to put my finger into the trigger guard, my finger got hung up  between the two and I had to take a second to make sure I got it in where it needed. Sure this is a training issue, but its a issue that really should not even really be there. Other small issues to me are miner, like having to clean from the muzzle and the gun not having a bolt closure or a better safety but these are all personal, maybe other who love the rifle will train hard enough to over come them and perform beautifully with it.    It is a very accurate rifle from what I have seen and it handles great. Plenty of companies make a rail or a way to mount what else you need on a general purpose rifle so there should be no problem there, And you can replace the stock with a multitude of other options. If you want a battle rifle that is  not too long, this is a good choice and its not as pricey as  some AR10 type .30 caliber rifles though you do not have the versatility of the AR type rifles, you still get one nice sweet rifle that is superior to the normal M14/M1a