Tag Archives: Night Vision

Optic of the Week: Leupold CQ/T

First time I used a Leupold CQ/T it was mounted on a friends M1A.  It seemed to me an impractical combination as it was mounted really high making it awkward on the M1A and I’d much rather have more magnification on a .30 cal.  That aside, I found the CQ/T rather interesting.

The Leupold Close Quarters/ Tactical is a real odd duck of a scope that really came out before its time.  Before the 1-X variable power craze of nowadays, there was the 1-3x CQ/T.  It is fast and easy to switch between 1x and 3x because the entire ocular section of the scope (up to the rail) rotates.  The Leupold CQBSS received rave reviews for this feature, but it was in the CQ/T long before it.

Most of the CQ/T scopes have a circle dot reticle (much like the Eotech) that can be illuminated in amber or red.  The circle dot is always visible.  Before it was discontinued Leupold did finally make some with their CMR reticle, an ACOG like bullet drop chart(BDC).

Reticle is 2nd focal plane.  It is eteched At 1x the Dot is 3 MOA and the circle is 18 inches at 25 yards (~69 MOA), at 3x the Dot is 9 MOA and the circle is 6 feet at 200 yards (~34 MOA).  The math is much simpler if you round to 72 and 36 MOA which I think was the intent.

Illuminated reticle is bright, but still somewhat lacking outdoors.  The adjustment has 12 positions including OFF and night vision modes.  The reticle will blink if you have a low battery.  I couldn’t get a good picture outdoors of the illuminated reticle so here is an indoor one.

Adjustments are a simple 1/2 covered turrets.

The “battery pack” is easily removed or secured with less than a quarter turn.  

Weirdly, you have a removable container to put the battery in.  If you had several you could do quick battery changes, and this also would protect the optic should the battery leak.  It doesn’t slow down battery changes, but makes the process different from other optics.

The mount is rather weird.  The CQ/T has a narrow section so that it can mount to an AR15 carry handle.  Unlike other scopes that can do that, this one has 3 threaded holes to give different eye relief options.

The rail mount is two piece and pinches the scope to your rail.  Solidly mounts the scope but makes it annoying when you are taking it off or moving it.

I am really impressed by the CQ/T and I think it is a good scope, but it is just shy of a great scope.  Leupold seemed to make some odd design decisions regarding it.  For example the rails on the scope, they should have either gotten rid of them, or gotten serious with low profile adjustment so that there would be a usable amount of rails.  The circle is huge, I think they would have been better off with a 1 MOA dot and a 19-20 MOA circle.  A mount that doesn’t get all loose and floppy when you are removing or attaching it would also have been an improvement.  The battery pack was an interesting idea but could be replaced with a simpler cap.  I think the biggest possible improvement would have been an illuminated horseshoe reticle with an ACOG like BDC.

I went and read some old reviews of this scope and the complaints were generally about cost, weight, size, and eye relief.  I think this came out in a time when people were not used to spending a good bit of money on an rifle optic.  Now people gladly spend large sums for AR optics.  This scope is 17.5 oz, so it is heavy, about twice the weight of an ACOG.  But to put it in perspective it is a 1/3 pound lighter than the similar Elcan Specter DR.  To me it doesn’t feel overly large or heavy on an AR.  Eye relief seemed fine to me, but unlike a reflex sight, you still have strict limits on where you can place your head to use it.

I put this scope on my 5.45 AR (pictured in the first picture) and did a little bit of rapid fire and shot some clay pigeons at 50 yards.  I found the CQ/T to be very fast and easy to use.  I like it, but I feel it is just shy of being a great optic.  I would not recommend it because it has discontinued, not to mention there are now 1-6x scopes that are similar size, weight, and MSRP.  I think that is a shame because I think with just a little work it could have been exceptional.  Lastly, there are some being sold really cheap lately, if you want one, now might be the time to get one.

 

Optic of the week: AN/PVS-4 Night Vision Scope

The bottom optic in that photo is an AN/PVS-4 Night Vision Sight.

The PVS-4 is a 3.6x scope, usually Generation 2 but there are Generation 3 PVS-4 scopes out there.  While considered obsolete in the U.S. the PVS-4 still gets used around the world.

This scope is sizable, 4 pounds and over a foot long.

The PVS-4 comes with a mount that can be attached directly to an AR15/M16 Carry Handle.  A variety of other mounts, including the pictured rail grabber are also available.  The PVS-4 also has a variety of mounting options for grenade launchers and crew served machine guns.

Operation is pretty simple, everything is clearly labeled.

The PVS-4 originally used a weird battery (BA-5367/U) generally unavailable anywhere.  Adaptors exist allowing you to use 2 AA or 1 CR123 batteries instead.  Many PVS-4 scopes have two places, on the top and on the right side, where you could install a battery.  Only one battery is needed to use the optic.  These scopes have been made by many companies in many places in the world, some have omitted the side battery compartment, others were built or rebuilt to only use 2 AA or 1 CR123 batteries.

The AA battery adaptor shown above can only be mounted on the top of the scope, the CR123 adaptor shown below can use either mount.

The objective lens cap for the PVS-4 gives you 6 different options for varying the amount of light let in.  This lets you use the scope during the day, even during the brightest day in the deserts.

The downside is that your view through the scope becomes somewhat obstructed.  I’ve read that people saying they had zero shifts from zeroing with the cap on then shooting with the cap, but I haven’t had the chance to test that.

Reticles are interchangeable if you can find the relevant reticle cell.  The one pictured above is the M16-M203-M79 reticle.  Other options include a cross hair, M14-M60, M2 Heavy Machine Gun, and some assorted rocket and missile launcher sights.

Unfortunately due to the combination of the illuminated reticle, tube brightness, and the daylight apertures makes initially using the scope a little more complex.  When I went to take some photos, I initially got the tube brightness and focus set up so I could see the target clearly but then when I turned on the illuminated reticle it was too dim to see, even at max brightness.  So I had to reduce the amount of light coming in and put the reticle brightness on max to get the photo above.

The photos really don’t do the optic justice.

Much like with the Darkstar, when I tried shooting clay pigeons at 50 yards offhand I found the optic slow and awkward.  It is really best employed from a stationary position and some sort of rest.

Side note, I found on this PVS-4 someone had cut out the flaps in the eye piece.  Normally these eye pieces have 2 flaps to prevent light from spilling out when the optic is on.  Most people find them annoying because you have to press your face into the eyepiece to be able to use the scope.  Most of this style eye piece that I saw in the military had this same modification.

The PVS-4 is perhaps one of the best Gen 2 night vision optics available, and was quite popular compared to the early 3rd Gens due to how well it handles bright lights.  Early 3rd Gen Nightvision would have large halos around bright lights while the 2nd Gen PVS-4 does not have that issue.  That is why you may find some old recommendations where the PVS-4 is recommended for urban use over Gen 3.  That said, newer Gen 3 is far superior to the PVS-4.

It is a good optic, and still works well, but there are far smaller and better options available to us now.

Optic of the week: NV-224 Darkstar Night Vision Scope

The top optic is a Darkstar NV-224 night vision scope, below it is a AN/PVS-4 for comparison.  The company that made it, Tactical Night Technologies is long out of business.

This scope uses the same image intensifer tube as the PVS-4.  While these tubes were made as Gen 2 and Gen 3 models, as far as I know all the Darkstar scopes are only Gen 2s.  I’ve heard people claim that the PVS-4 tubes are some of the best and most capable of the gen 2 night vision devices and I believe them.  That said, these are a product of their time and are large and heavy.

At 4 pounds and nearly 12 inches long this is not a small optic.  I tried doing some rapid target acquisition and firing at 50 yards and I found the scope very slow and awkward for that purpose.  Usable, but far from ideal.  It would be better for use in a stationary position off a rest or support.

It runs off two AA batteries.  On this particular one the plate for the batteries has broken loose and has to be popped back in place for the scope to work.  Battery life is suppose to be 20 hours, but I didn’t get the chance to test that.

An Elcan mount provides the ability to attach this scope to a Picatinny rail and all zeroing is done on this external mount.  Once zeroed, the dial for elevation and be adjusted for 300-800 meters.

Operation is simple.  If you are using it during the day, you leave the protective cover on the objective lens.  At night you remove it.  There are a couple of brightness settings on the power switch.  By the objective lens there is a focus for target clear, and by the eye piece there is an Eyepiece focus.  I was able to clearly see the target and the environment.  Unfortunately the pictures above do not do the sight justice.

The Darkstar objective lens.

The rubber eye piece cover has a shutter in it that opens when you press your face up against it.

Overall I like the Darkstar NV-224, but it is old and obsolete.  If you can find one cheap I think it is worth while, but it just is not competitive with more modern night vision devices.

A copy of the manual and some additional information is available here.

The SAWs that never WAS: Part 1 & 2

Since the passing of our friend Kevin AKA “Hognose”  owner of weaponsman.com we have be  reposting   his work here in tribute and to make sure it survives. This is another technical article from Kevin in part of a series.

The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon is widely distributed in the US Army and Marine Corps (even after the Marines replaced many SAWs with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles). But how did we get to that point, and what other weapons were considered along the way? This series will look at each of the four contenders in turn. The principal objective of this article is to set the stage, and introduce an unfamiliar cousin of a familiar old friend: the XM106 Automatic Rifle, an M16A1 redesigned by Army engineers for the tactical role once filled by the Browning Automatic Rifle in the American rifle squad.

It’s a bit amazing that a SAW program got any traction at all. In 1979, the Army was concerned about the vintage of its small arms and other systems. While we’re most concerned about small arms here, the Army’s RDT&E guys had to develop it all, and they had their hands full trying to field or develop, at that time:

  1. The XM1 Tank (with 105mm gun; not yet named Abrams).
  2. The 120mm smoothbore follow-on for the M1. This was principally setting up American manufacture of an already-successful German gun.
  3. The Infantry Fighting Vehicle and its cav variant (not yet named Bradley).
  4. The Copperhead laser-guided precision artillery shell.
  5. The YAH-64 helicopter (“Y” means prototype; the Army was testing 5 prototypes, but they hadn’t selected the night vision and fire control systems yet; everyone remembered the AH-56 Cheyenne, which had gotten to this stage and beyond before its ignominious cancellation).
  6. The still unnamed MLRS rocket system was in early phases of tests, and precision guided rockets for it were barely on the engineers’ whiteboards.
  7. Improved missiles:  I-HAWK, TOW, and Pershing II.
  8. New missiles: HELLFIRE and Patriot.
  9. US production of the superior British 81mm mortar.
  10. Firefinder radar.

Those are the ones that turned into successful fieldings, but every one was opposed by vocal lobbies, which argued that the weapons cost too much, and would never work. (Some of these opponents were concerned patriots, like John Boyd’s famous reform mafia; others might not have been, like the CDI, a group that toed Ivan’s line so thoroughly that it was rumored to be financed by the USSR, and that did indeed fade from prominence after the USSR went belly up, although no one ever found any proof of anything as far as we know).

To the delight of the opponents, some development projects would turn out to be turkeys, like the DIVAD gun (later named Sergeant York; its fate was sealed when a high-stakes live demo saw it lock on to a latrine fan instead of a hovering, easy-pickin’s drone helicopter). Some would blow their budgets and get put out of their misery by the Carter administration or the Congress. Nobody remembers the US Roland AA missile, or the Stand Off Target Acquisition System, a helicopter with a Rube Goldberg targeting radar that needed a Heath Robinson raising and lowering mechanism.

But all in all, for all that the suits would like to zero out Army R&D, and for all that some projects would be dead ends, the need for these systems was so great, and/or the contractors had promised to manufacture them in so many Congressional districts, that the Army had an RDT&E budget request for $2.927 Billion for FY 80 (which began 1 Oct 79).

The principal small arms program was the SAW (the long-running Air Force/Joint pistol trials, the M231 Firing Port weapon, and a 30mm repeater grenade launcher which never saw type-classification, were some of the others). The Squad Automatic Weapon program was well along; the service needed to complete a developmental and operational test of four prototypes and evaluate the test data. Considering that it would produce a weapon still in the field today, this program’s budget request was almost invisible: $500,000. It was a little less than 2%, not of the RDT&E budget, but of 1% of the RDT&E budget (0.01708% if you do the math; rounds up to 171 10/1000ths of a percent).

The Army had just given up on the idea of a return to a .30 caliber small arm. A study called IRUS-75 evaluated the .30 concept as part of a question of the overall organization and equipment of the future rifle squad; a follow-on study, the Army Small Arms Requirements Study (ASARS), made it clear that the caliber mattered less than having two auto weapons per squad to provide a base of fire, as the BAR had done in days of yore.

The four NATO ammo contenders. Soon after the SAW tests described in this series, NATO chose the SS109.

The four NATO ammo contenders. Soon after the SAW tests described in this series, NATO chose the SS109.

The Army conduced an extensive computer study that determined the optimum caliber for a SAW was 6mm. This caused the first casualties inflicted by the SAW as logisticians’ heads exploded: they had no desire to stock a third caliber alongside 5.56 and 7.62. Accordingly, the SAW was specified to use 5.56mm ammunition: not the standard M193 ball round, but whatever round came out of new NATO testing, whether it was the FN SS109, the US XM777, or something completely different. The test guns were, as we understand it, set up for XM777. (XM777, like SS109, sought to get more penetration out of the 5.56x45mm cartridge by using a steel penetrator. It was, however, backwards-compatible with the 1:12 rifling of earlier 5.56 rifles. SS109 proved superior in NATO tests to SS109 and experimental British and German small-caliber rounds, and was adopted; the US version is M855).

The Army did not have an entirely free hand in weapons development, since the Joint Services Small Arms Program had been established in December, 1978, as “the senior joint services body for small arms development,” but the Army did retain control of the SAW program. By early 1979, four prototypes were under test by the Material Testing Directorate of the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. One of the four was going to be the SAW and replace two of the rifle squad’s M16A1 rifles. (Doctrine at the time designated one rifleman in each fire time the “automatic rifleman”. He got a bipod and more ammo. The rest of the riflemen were supposed to fire on semi-auto against point targets only).

The four candidates were three belt-fed 5.56mm light machine guns: Ford Aerospace’s XM248; FN’s XM249; H&K’s XM262; and one magazine-fed weapon, the XM106.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 11.09.28 PM

The XM106 had the home-field advantage: it was developed by the Army’s own Ballistics Research Laboratory. But it was, by far, the least advanced rifle. It was essentially an M16A1 with a modified fire-control system and a bipod. It fired full-auto only, from an open bolt, and had a heavy buffer system to bring the rate of fire down to 750 RPM. The bipod was an M2 bipod, as used on the M14, but it mounted above the rifle’s barrel. All XM106s appear to have been hand-built, toolroom guns, and there are a few variations among them. The XM106 had a clever, but complex, interchangeable barrel, a desirable feature in a weapon that may be called on to deliver lots of automatic fire. In most XM106s, the front sight base was moved closer to the muzzle end of the barrel (which army records record as 482mm [21.5 in.] including the flash suppressor, the second longest of the contenders), reputedly to extend the gun’s sight radius.

XM106 removable barrel version.

XM106 removable barrel version.

The barrel-changing mechanism removed the front sight and gas tube from the gun, leaving the bipod attached to the receiver. The handguards, as you can see in the picture, split. This system had two drawbacks — one, shared with the M60 and numerous other GPMGs is that rear sight adjustments could only be zeroed for one barrel — when you changed barrels, you changed point of impact, and it might have done something ugly to the accuracy of your weapon. The second drawback is clearly visible in the picture: that gas tube hanging off the spare barrel, just asking some GI to bend, break, or plug it with something.

The XM106 was not only magazine-based, it had its own special magazine — sort of. A spring clip held three 30-round magazines together. When one was exhausted, the auto-rifleman pressed the magazine release and shifted the mag over and reinstalled it. It was another Rube Goldberg / Heath Robinson contrivance, but in the late 1970s there were no reliable high-cap magazines.

We’re not aware of any surviving XM106s. The open-bolt mechanism and the plate renaming the fire selector positions lived on, however, on the M231 Firing Port Weapon. Colt was to reevaluate the M16-based MG and develop a version in conjunction with Diemaco for Canadian Army tests; that would also fire from the open bolt, but it had a superior barrel change system and bipod to those of the XM106.

If the XM106 was the least technically ambitious of the SAW contenders, Ford’s XM248, which instantiated some concepts developed at BRL and elsewhere in the Army ordnance world, was at the opposite end of the spectrum — a technical stretch. But that’s for the next installment.

Other than its influence on Colt’s future private developments, the XM106 was an evolutionary dead end. With four very different guns to choose from, three had to lose, and with its lack of a belt and awkwardness, the XM106 was never really in contention. It’s interesting to compare it to the M27 automatic rifle the Marines ultimately chose to replace most of its SAWs, a weapon that accepted the inconvenience of magazine loading for the benefit of much lighter weight.

That the XM106 was so quickly set aside tells us that “not invented here” wasn’t holding the Army ordnance experts back in the late 70s and early 80s — the gun was designed by their own compadres at the Ballistics Research Laboratory, but it wasn’t the best. Any disappointment that BRL might have had was limited, however. Their firing-port weapon design, a more extensively modified M16A1, was adopted as standard equipment for the new Infantry and Cavalry Fighting Vehicles, and it, too remains in service today — so there’s a little bit of XM106 still out there.

In Monday’s installment, we gave you the overview of the SAW program as of 1979, and we looked in depth at the least radical design, the magazine-fed M16 variant, XM-106 automatic rifle, a product of the Army’s own Ballistic Research Laboratory. Today’s installment will fill you in with a little more on the competition and its history, and will go into a little depth — unfortunately, a little depth is all we have — about the XM-248 and especially its forerunner, the XM-235.

To recap, as of the beginning of 1979 four candidates were being compared for a concept of a Squad Automatic Weapon that was then (barely) filled in the infantry fire team by giving one guy a stamped-steel bipod and permission to set his selector to Crowd Control. Along with the XM106, which was an M16A1 with some concessions to firing high rates and volumes of automatic fire, the contenders at this point were three belt-fed 5.56mm light machine guns: Ford Aerospace’s XM248, FN’s XM249 and H&K’s XM262.

XM248

The XM-248 is a good-looking gun with a straight inline mechanism and a very clever belt feed that had the potential to be more positive, but less upsetting to accuracy, than the typical feed tray that’s been standard on GPMGs ever since the MG34 instantiated the category way back during the Great Depression.

To understand the XM248, we have to roll back a bit, to the very dawn of the SAW program in 1975 (the term “SAW” dates to 1970, and the idea of an intermediate gun between the rifle and the 23+lb M60 GPMG dates to 1966). The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command had noted that a war in Europe was possible, and Europe was vastly more built-up than in the last war. Even then, much of the fighting was in cities — dismounted infantry terrain. A squad automatic weapon that could deliver fire in high volumes would benefit such a squad, in what the Army now calls Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) and then called Military Operations in Built-up Areas (MOBA). So in 1975, the Army began designing in its own labs, and calling for, from industry, a new weapon, at the same time it began to evaluate M16 improvements that would lead (through a winding path blazed mostly by the USMC) to the M16A2. Both improvements were aimed at MOBA as well as just generally increasing the lethality of the squad, and drew upon TRADOC studies that said fire volume was more important than fire precision.

6x45mm_compared

The 6.0x45mm cartridge, centered between the 5.56 and 7.62 NATO.

The new SAW — the squad’s volume-fire weapon — would use either an optimum cartridge or the standard rifle cartridge. (Each approach had its adherents). The first round of paper SAW candidates were chambered for disparate cartridges, including a new experimental 6mm and the standard 5.56mm. The 6mm fired a 105-grain projectile at 2450 fps (6.8g/.747m/s) compared to the M193 round’s 55gr/3250fps (3.5g/990m/s), giving the new MG a range beyond 800m. One of the main drivers of the 6mm caliber wasn’t anything to do with ball ammunition — it was that given the tracer technology of the time, no known compound could trace to and beyond 800m in daytime, and be contained in the volume of a 5.56mm projo. Army ordnance guys really liked the 6mm; loggies, and the senior generals who would have to square a new caliber with our NATO allies, were more reserved, for entirely non-technical reasons.

Because it was no longer in production or actively being promoted, the Stoner XM207E1 was out of the picture. In any event, the Army’s ordnance officers had a strong prejudice against it: the SEALs loved the gun and used them until there were no parts to be had, but the Army considered it too maintenance-intensive to be reliable in the hands of draftees with GT Scores of 80. Likewise, Colt’s CMG-2; and like other guns rejected before the contest began, they fired the 5.56mm cartridge, which didn’t meet the Army’s desire for an 800m+ weapon.

xm233The three contenders in the 1975-76 round were made for the 6×45 cartridge and given sequential model numbers. XM233 (left) was Maremont’s entry. As you might expect from the maker of the M60, it looked like a baby 60. The XM234, a spindly-looking thing, was prototyped by Philco (about which, more below). And the Army’s own Rodman Laboratories (at Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois) developed a radically new concept which was labeled XM235.

Two more-familiar 5.56mm guns that were being developed in Europe and entirely outside the Army competition at the very same time were not considered at this time: the FN Minimi and the H&K HK23. Ironically, they were rejected specifically because they were 5.56mm weapons. But we haven’t heard the last of the little round and these two commercial guns, either, because in Developmental Test/Operational Test 1, they, and a heavy-barreled variant of the M16, were used as controls and benchmarks for the “real” 6mm guns.

Philco’s 6mm gun was called the XM234, and it looked like this:

xm234

And that picture is almost all we know about it. At the time, we recall reading, and laughing about, the idea that Philco had entered a gun in the Army competition. Philco was the subsidiary of Ford that made the radios and 8-track players (don’t we keep telling you, The Past Is Another Country? Some of us lived there). And so, the idea of it making machine guns was pretty funny. But Detroit automakers are no slouches on mass production, and the Army has often turned to them when it needed quantity and quality. In World War II, the Navy threw a young officer named Henry Ford II out so he could take over from his ailing father and take charge of Ford’s war production, which included guns, gun parts, and complete B-24 Liberators. GM made M3 grease guns, and later would produce M16A1s with considerably less drama than Colt, despite a rather lacking Technical Data Package. So, Philco probably could make a gun; auto manufacturing technology was effective for guns; and mechanical engineering is the same discipline of materials, statics and mechanics for a gun designer that it is for a guy designing a valve train or power-steering mechanism.

By the time the 11th Edition of Small Arms of the World, from which a number of these facts and photos are taken, was published in 1977, the defense branch of Philco had taken on the more dignified name, Ford Aerospace & Communication Corporation.

There’s very little information about the Philco entry available, especially online;  and at the end of the first phase, DT/OT1, in December, 1974, both its gun, the XM234, and Maremont’s weren’t what Army evaluators were interested in. But they really liked the Army’s entry, the XM235:

xm235

The XM235 had been developed by a dedicated team at Rodman, led by Curtis D. Johnson and including at least 7 more dedicated engineers, who all signed on to the patent US # 3,999,461 on the gun (USPTO link) (Google Patents link).

General Arrangement from Patent 399,461 is unmistakably the XM235.

General Arrangement from Patent 399,461 is unmistakably the XM235.

One of the controls also fared well at the tests: the FN Minimi was as reliable as the best of the 6mm guns, and more so than the H&K. It used then-special FN ammo (SS109) which didn’t interchange with the riflemen’s 1:12 M16s. Nobody liked the HB M16 as a SAW.

At this point, the Army dropped the idea of the 6mm round. It not only complicated Army logistics to have a third entire caliber, but it would be hard to sell to NATO, where American allies had already had two Yankee cartridges rammed down their throats. So the SAW was going to be 5.56mm. How were they going to get the 5.56 to perform “beyond 800m” as the spec had said? They weren’t. So the new spec was “up to 800m.”

This set the Army up for the next round of testing, but they needed someone to produce the XM235. The prototype that so impressed everyone at DT/OT1 was handbuilt, and the Rodman guys weren’t manufacturing or production engineers. The answer seemed obvious: let Maremont and Philco, uh, Ford Aerospace, bid on producing the the XM235. Ford won the bid, and engineers being engineers, began improving the design even as they committed to building a couple of dozen prototypes in 5.56 for testing. The 5.56 quasi-production variant of the XM235 was the XM248.

Let’s take a look at the XM235 technically and see why it was so admired at the time. We’ll push back Ford’s many changes that produced the XM248 till tomorrow. (This post is already 1500 words long!)

The Rodman engineers began with a clean slate and the understanding that, other things being equal, automatic weapons firing bursts had always been less accurate than rifles firing single aimed shots. This wasn’t invariably a bad thing, as it allowed for the natural dispersion of a burst to “correct” in a way for a gunner’s aiming error, but it was terribly wasteful of ammunition.

Engineers being engineers, they asked why the automatic guns were less accurate, and they concluded that several things degraded the accuracy of automatic weapons:

  1. Parts of the mechanism were moving whilst bullets were still in the barrel.
  2. Whether operated by recoil or gas, the operating mechanism reflected excess energy back into the weapon, what the developers called “high restitution” from rebounding parts.
  3. Extant light machinegun designs had overly high rates of fire (650 to 1000 rpm).
  4. Peak recoil was high (500-1200 foot/pounds – 2,200-5,300 N).

Those items, taken together, degraded accuracy. So the characteristics sought in the 235 design were:

  1. A long motion of recoiling parts.
  2. A soft cycle without the hammering of buffers on stops often seen in LMGs.
  3. Rate of fire reduced to 500 rpm, little more than half that of an M16A1 with M193 ammo loaded with WC846 powder.
  4. Reduced recoil impulse (to 200 lb-ft) and reduced recoil effects on muzzle movement by careful placement and design of stock and grips, gas system, and so forth.
  5. A change in belt handling to reduce the stop-and-go motion of the belt
  6. Placing parts that induced motion inimical to accuracy (the belt feed, for instance) close to the weapon’s center of gravity, to reduce the moments these parts induced for a given force.

In addition, the engineers wanted to design a weapon with world-class reliability and maintainability. They wanted it to be made up of field replaceable modules, and readily field-stripped in 10 seconds. They wanted to reduce the parts count relative to the M60 (they cut the parts count by 40%).

The receiver was extremely unconventional. What looks like the receiver in pictures is a sheet metal cover with no structural function. The fore-end likewise is a simple stamped cover. The actual receiver comprises two long tubes, a forward end cap that joins the tubes to the barrel, and an aft end cap that contains a sophisticated hydraulic buffer. The bolt carrier rides between the tubes, and connects to upper and lower pistons and springs, which ride inside the receiver tubes (which do double duty as gas tubes). The bolt carrier also contains, of course, the bolt, which has three lugs like an AK bolt, dual extractors and a plunger ejector.

The bolt carrier also drives, in its long travels, a rotating cam tube that turns a feed sprocket that lifts the feed belt with rotary action. There is no reversing or reciprocating motion orthogonal to the direction of fire — unlike the classic MG34/MG42-inspired feed tray cover, or that of the Browning or Maxim for that matter.

XM235 exploded view

A spring-loaded firing pin rode in the bolt, and the fire control and related switchgear were contained in the pistol grip. In order to hang the belt container exactly on the center of gravity, the pistol grip was also hung on the center of gravity front-to-rear but offset to the right. Several effects came packed with this: moments of any operator input on the pistol grip were reduced, because it was at an arm of nearly zero, increasing accuracy; the weapon gave the gunner unprecedented control; and the weapon required right-handed operation. The Army liked the former two, but were keenly aware that about 10% of troops are left-handed. The weapon also required left-handed operation because it was, in effect, a bullpup design. Previous Army skittishness about bullpup safety may have been reduced by measures taken to prevent an out-of-battery firing, and the bolt’s location within the heavy carrier and the solid sheet-metal receiver cover.

Ford Aerospace had the order to produce 18 production-ready XM248s, which were to be the XM235 in 5..56 (instead of the abandoned 6.0×45) with a few improvements. (In the end, they’d make two versions). The improved XM235 was the XM248. Then, post-Vietnam budget cuts savaged the SAW program. The money was there to make the XM248s, but not to test them. The XM235 had been set to compete against the Minimi — if the Minimi could be lightened enough to meet spec — and a couple of USMC-sponsored heavy-barrel M16s (again). That is, in fact, where the 1977 11th Edition of Small Arms of the World left the competition: uncertain, and potentially cancelled entirely. The budget for the competition had been cut so much that the Army had no money for testing the 18 5.56mm XM248s that Ford delivered under their contract, or anything else. IF FN was going to lighten the Minimi, they’d have to do it on their own — contract money wasn’t forthcoming. H&K was fuming on the sidelines, believing their HK23 had been unfairly DQ’d. And Army squads still had, by MTOE, an “automatic rifleman” whose only concession to firepower was a tinny little bipod for his M16A1; alternatively, they could carry a heavy M60 and its heavy ammunition along.

Tune in tomorrow as the XM235 emerges from its Ford chrysalis as the XM248 — and becomes the most advanced light machine gun the US Army ever rejected.

Optic of the week – SU-231/PEQ Eotech 553

Around a decade ago it was common knowledge that Eotechs were faster to use and better than Aimpoints.  Just like how not very long before that it was common knowledge that the Earth was flat.

The Eotech sights use a laser to project a hologram of the reticle in the optical window.  This allows for a greater variety of reticle patterns then a diode sight like the Aimpoint.  Most common in Eotech sights are a 1 MOA dot with a 65 MOA circle around it.  A downside to holosights are shorter battery life.  Battery life on the Eotech is advertised to be about 1000 hours.

There are other variations with additional dots to function as a drop chart.  There are also machine gun reticles.

For the life of me, I could not get the reticle to show up nicely in a picture.  Despite how it looks in the photo, the reticle is bright and easy to see.  If you focus on the reticle, you will see that it is comprised of a bunch of dots, it will appear to be fuzzy if you have the brightness cranked up.  That is just due to the nature of how it works.

Windage and Elevation is easy to adjust using a coin or similar tool.  Both adjustments have positive clicks and are easily accessible on the right side of the sight.

Brightness is adjusted using the up and down arrow buttons on the rear of the sight (there are some models where the adjustments are on the left side of the sight).  If the sight is off, hitting one of these buttons will turn on the sight.

The Eotech will automatically turn it self off it preserve battery life.  Turning it on by hitting the down button will have the Eotech turn off after 4 hours.  Hitting the up button will have it off after 8 hours.  Holding both buttons will turn the Eotech off immediately.

Some models, like this 553 have a NV button that will dim the optic for night vision use.  While you can sorta get away with using most optics with night vision by using a dim setting, that can damage nightvision over time.  NV setting reduce the brightness enough so that you will not damage your expensive night vision device.

I did some shooting with this Eotech and with a Aimpoint T-1 on the same rifle.  Shooting from the bench, or rapidly engaging multi targets off hand was quick and easy with either optic.  Both were fast and easy to use, but I would not say the Eotech was any faster or easier than the Aimpoint.  The only real noticeable difference in use was that this Eotech 553 felt much heavier on the rifle than the T-1.  Looking at the stats on them, the Eotech is about 3 times heavier.  That is an additional half pound on the rifle over the weight of the T-1.

I used to be a major fan of Eotechs.  But over the years I saw multiple Eotech Holographic Weapon Sights fail in various ways.  Battery terminals would break, I’ve seen the prism break loose.  Lenses delaminate, and reticles dimming.  The biggest issue was that many Eotechs would drain their batteries even when off.  I found that my Eotech 512 would drain the batteries even when off.  I had to store it with the batteries removed.  I felt the high failure rate of Eotech sights was damning on its own.

Turns out it gets worse.  L3 was aware of issues with their like of Eotech sights, and were covering it up.  L3 paid a settlement of 25.6 million dollars over this.  The biggest issues they were covering up were that the sight wasn’t actually parallax free and that there could be massive zero changes if the optic was exposed to temperature changes and it turns out that Eotech sights also were not as waterproof as they are suppose to be.

Despite these persistent issues, you still see fans of Eotech sights defend them online.    The most often statement in Eotech’s defense is that the Navy SEALs are using Eotech sights.  I point out that the SEALs use what they are issued, are the individuals are not purchasing these out of pocket.  They also have far more range time and funding so doing stuff like rezeroing before a mission or replacing batteries each mission is a non issue.  But even NSWC Crane had to issue a Safety of Use Message about the Eotech warning about a 4 MOA Thermal Drift problem, fading and disappearing reticles, and 4-6 MOA parallax error.  SOCOM acknowledge these sights have issues.

So if you want a known substandard sight, buy Eotech.

Optic of the Week: C-More Tactical Reflex Sight

C-More ARW-4.  Black aluminum body, 4 MOA dot.

Around 2003ish I learned about the C-More Tactical Reflex sight which paired a C-More Reflex Sight along with a cut down adjustable rear sight carry handle base for the AR15.  I’ve wanted one since then.  Back in 2017 I learned they were discontinued, so I found a used one and purchased it.  I fully expected to have it for two weeks before deciding that I didn’t like it, just to turn around and sell it.  Instead I really love it.

The C-More sights never seemed to gain much ground in the tactical market as they were seen as fragile and unreliable.  Yet they were very common place, and still used a good bit on the competition side of things.

First thing of note with the C-More sight is that there are a huge number of variations of them.  The body can be plastic or aluminum.  It can be a rail mount, slide mount (for pistols) or a bridge mount (for pistols).  The sight can be purchased in different colors, Black, Grey, Red, Blue, and Green.  Also you can change the dot size by replacing a module giving you the choices of 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, or 16 MOA dots.  Then there are also differences in the battery compartment and, the intensity switch between models.

I think the C-More is popular in the competition market for several reasons.  Being able to choose a dot size that works best for you(E.G. larger dot for use on a pistol) is a major plus.  Some of the C-More models are rather inexpensive, down to about $240 list price right now.  Also being able to get them in a color that matches your competition gun doesn’t hurt.

Now I don’t know for sure why the C-More Reflex Sight never really caught on in the tactical community.  From what I’ve read it sounds like early on the Army and some individuals tried the polymer C-More and decided it was not durable enough for combat.  I believe this was also done back in a time before reflex sights had become mainstream for combat weapons, and they were still rather untrusted.  In any event, the C-More seemed to have found its home primarily in the competition environment.

For me, my C-More sight found a home on a Colt 6933 upper.

This C-More model gives me a standard rear sight.  If I wanted to I could remove the optic from this base and attach it to a rail mount base.

The Iron Sights provide a lower 1/3 co-witness.

Looking over the sights give an awesome sight picture with a crisp red dot in a thin circle.

Brightness is adjusted by a knob behind the emitter.  On this model the brightness knob has distinct clicks and the first couple of settings are for night vision.  On many C-More models this is just a click-less rheostat.

The battery compartment is in front of the emitter.  On this model there are 2 non-captive thumbscrews holding the top plate on.  Other C-More models use Allen screws.  I don’t think these screws would come loose on their own, but if they did they would be easy to lose.

Windage and Elevation adjustments each have a locking screw.  Neither adjustment has clicks, so you just turn the screw the amount you hope is right, lock it down, test fire, then adjust again.  While click less adjustments are sometimes heralded as superior due to the ability to make smaller adjustments than a set click value, but in reality it tends to just make the zeroing procedure guesswork.

When I came up with the idea of doing the optic of the week posts, I planned to do side my side speed and handling comparisons of the various optics.  For example, in years past it used to be considered common knowledge that the Eotech was “faster” than the Aimpoint.  I believed this for a while and that is why I started with Eotech.  Finally the multiple personal Eotech failures drove me to Aimpoint.  Now when I try these various optics side by side, I don’t notice a measurable speed difference, they all just work (with a few notable exceptions).

I really love this sight, but in the end I do not recommend it.  It has been discontinued, so that makes it hard to recommend in the first place.  Now days we have newer and smaller optics that have proven to be very durable and have much longer battery life(such as the Aimpoints) that render this old design obsolete.  The open design of the C-More allows the chance of dirt or debris to block the emitter.  In the past the light from the emitters of reflex sights were often considered a major deal breaker as it might compromise your location to the enemy.  Over time the massive force multiplier that optics function is considered to well offset the risk of your location being revealed to the enemy by the sight.  I find the C-More red emitter and glare from the lens is very visible from in front of the optic.  It seems more so than newer alternatives.  I tried to get some pictures of this but I was unable to get it to show up well.

I think the C-More is a really nice sight, but it has been eclipsed by newer, better options.

TNVC/ARFCOM giveaway.

Prizes will be awarded on April 15th.

The Night Vision Company and AR15.com are doing a giveaway of multiple items including Night Vision,  a thermal Scope, an AR15, and more.

Click here to enter.

Here is the prize list:

Items in this giveaway will include:
– TNV-14 L3 Omni 8 Multicam – http://tnvc.com/shop/tnvpvs-14-l3-gen3-omni-viii/
– TNVC GoPro Adapter – http://tnvc.com/shop/nvg-adapter-for-gopro-hero-cameras/
– Team Wendy LTP Bump Helmet – http://tnvc.com/shop/team-wendy-exfil-ltp-bump-helmet/
– Wilcox G11 – http://tnvc.com/shop/wilcox-l4-g11-mount/
– TNVC Helmet Lanyard – http://tnvc.com/shop/tnvc-base-jump-lanyard/
– GoPro HERO 4 – http://tnvc.com/shop/gopro-hero4-silver/
– GoPro Blackout Housing – http://tnvc.com/shop/gopro-blackout-housing/

– ARFCOM 16″ 5.56/300BLK Billet Rifle (user’s choice) w/15″ BD Series Rail, Magpul grip/stock, custom laser engraving featuring AR15.com/TNVC logos
– Steiner DBAL-A3 Class 1 Laser System – http://tnvc.com/shop/steiner-dbal-a3-class13r-ir-laser/
– REAP-IR Mini Thermal Scope – http://tnvc.com/shop/ir-defense-reap-ir-35mm-mini-thermal-scope-640-x-480/
– Night Goggles Inc. Mini Recording Sytem with Tactial Rifle/Helmet Pouch – http://tnvc.com/shop/night-goggles-inc-mini-dvr-recording-system/

 

Upgrading My Outdated Weapon Lights, the Surefire X300

This past week, I sold a few of my older weapon mounted lights (WML) and got some very awesome deals on replacement lights. I sold several, over 12 years old, Insight M3 tactical lights and a first Gen Streamlight TRL-1. I carried some of these on duty years ago when they were the best/newest WML out there.  All were in like new condition and served me well, but with 65 and 80 max output lumens, these lights were very outdated. In fact, they were dangerously inadequate for my needs. I probably hung on to them for a few years, far to long because of sentimental reasons, and I was so use to them.

7-6-14 Cell 059
Old Streamlight TLR-1 / Insight M3 Weapon Lights
Surefire X300 Weapn Mounted Light
New Surefire X300 Weapn Mounted Light

For a pistol weapon light, I personally like lights at or under 200 lumens. I have found that this provides very adequate target identification light, while preserving my night vision, with appropriate use. The new lights at 500, 600 and over lumens, have a negative effect on my night vision, with momentary on and off use indoors and at typical handgun engagement distances. I find that I get several spotting/blinding circles, from the momentary on position with over 500  lumens. While this is great for blinding your adversary, it also creates those hard to recover spots in my eyes.

Surefire X300's
Surefire X300’s / Sig & Glocks
Surefire X300's
Surefire X300’s / 175 Lumens

I was able to sell off all of my older WML’s and broke even with their replacements, (pretty damn good).  I was able to find two (2) new in box, Surefire X300’s and one (1) like new in box, Surefire X300. I have used the X300 before and found the 175 lumen Surefire X300 to be my personal preference, for my home defense/carry handguns. The Surefire’s have a more focused light beam compared to other WML’s. This makes them have a brighter focused beam that extends their range an bit, with a descent cascading peripheral edge light feel.

Surefire X300's off
Surefire X300’s off
Surefire X300's On
Surefire X300’s On

Final Thoughts:

I think  I made out extremely well, replacing my older weapon lights and getting the light output (lumens) I prefer in a home defense or carry weapon light. Now that the Surefire X300 Ultra’s (A and B) are out, you can find some great deals on people selling the older x300’s. I will be replacing some of my rifle WML’s with X300 Ultra’s in the near future. If you happen to find an older quality X300, don’t hesitate to jump on it for your CCW or home defense handgun.

Duncan.

The SSM Review: A System for Shooters

Six Second Mount

I have had the Six Second Mount for a few months now. I have put several hundred rounds down range on a otherwise stock Glock to try my hand at the latest and greatest of pistol enhancements.

The mount has worked well. It introduces a few notable upgrades for the shooters who are willing to sacrifice portability for performance. Not quite a race gun, but not a clean slide melt RDS system… it fits somewhere in between. So what’s the point?

The story from ALG defense is that a certain counter terrorism unit liked the performance of a RDS on their Glock, but they encountered frequent failures of the RDS, so they approached Geisselle for a solution. The solution was introduced from their sister company ALG defense as the SSM. I don’t know what G forces are produced on a red dot as it slams to the rear of slide travel and then is suddenly slammed forward back into battery, but suffice to say I think that battering a small electronic optic like that, no matter how hardened it may be, will likely lead to failure sooner than how the SSM mount isolates its RDS from movement.

six second mount 3
Fully Loaded SSM

 

Our RDS for the SSM is mounted as low as possible over the slide and the only movement the RDS will see is the movement of wrist flexion and whatever amount of travel the grip and frame of the G17 see in your hand. It’s isolated and free and clear of the damaging G forces that slide mounted systems will experience.

The SSM’s lattice work frame extends down to the plastic Glock rail where it clamps in place over it to offer a picatinny rail mounting solution for all manner of lights and lasers, etc. The two points of hard contact for the mount are the trigger pin, which is replaced by the ALG system, and the front rail which is another pin that clamps over the aforementioned Glock rail.

So it’s cool looking, and offers a bulky way to attach a light and a laser, so how is that better than a svelt slide mounted setup other than red dot durability?

Well, looking past that very important point of RDS durability, it does offer unique shooter advantages. The weight of the system, especially with a light or laser mounted up front, mutes the muzzle flip significantly. With the muting of recoil, we have much less visual deviation with the red dot. It dances up and down, but it is very easy to track. The foreward weight bias keeps in securely in the window of the RDS. Having the RDS in a fixed spot helps you to keep track of that dot better than if it was driving back and forth on a reciprocating slide. A muzzle device would further reduce flip, and this mount could run in Open USPSA just fine, I think.

six second mount 5
10 yards out as fast as possible. I’m not proud as 10 yards isn’t impressive, but I’m not ashamed either. I would be happy to examine my groupings like these on a dead assailant. Critique my performance even while I wait for the authorities.

 

Having a RDS mounted up top gave me a great deal of precision at all distances and allowed 100 yard shots to be, well, too easy. I had a fifteen yard zero and at 100 yards I aimed at the head to drop 9mm squarely into the torso. My shooting buddy called out the shots to ensure I was getting hits and… I was, over and over. At this point several onlookers put down their equipment to watch my fancy ray gun, and they watched and commented as hit after hit was called out at 100. The precision made hitting the human silhouette child’s play.

So what else does it do?

The rail and light mount being permanently attached also allows you to zero a light and a laser together for you high speed types with night vision. Apparently the Glock rail is prone to losing zero with fancy IR lasers… according to the customers who approached Geisselle.

The biggest hurdle is the size and the weight. With G17, rail, TLR-1 light, and PA red dot, it weighs in at 32.9 oz or 2.06 lbs unloaded without a magazine. Rock in a fully loaded G17 magazine and we are at 42.8 oz or 2.68 lbs.

How do we carry the weight of the SSM widget system? We need a good holster. I approached Vigilance Tactical in Elizabethtown PA for a custom solution, and they delivered two holsters which do a fantastic job of carrying the G17 with and without light attached. After a brief jog in the mail to Recoil magazine, my light bearing holster, dubbed the Nocturnal Sentry 6, was sent back to me and added to Vigiliance Tactical’s model listings.  Yes, that is my Glock pictured on their website. Thanks, I’m a proud parent.

six second mount 2

The Vigilance Tactical holster was the last piece of the puzzle missing to make the SSM more than just a nite stand gun. The Vigilance Tactical kydex gives me a great holster for the SSM and offers some portability / concealability under a coat in winter. Having both the slimmer model  Sentry 6 for sport, and the full on tactical model with thum-break for the full SSM Kit, I have options. Vigilance Tactical did fantastic work and retention is strong. Aesthetically, it looks great. Some of the other holsters I have seen for the SSM look, well… awkward and crappy.

six second mount 4
The Vigilance Kydex tied this project together. Special thanks to Vigilance Tactical.

 

Wrapping up, the SSM is a full-on kit for someone who is looking for every advantage in a fighting pistol. It mutes recoil very well, minimizes dot loss from slide reciprocation, and increased red dot longevity / lifespan by isolating it from harsh recoil. The costs are increase weight, bulk, cost, and complexity over slide mounted setups, but if you want to carry something that will last you out in the wasteland, go with the SSM and eat the weight. If you need a slimmer gun, then it’s not suitable for your goals. I can see this as a perfect firearm for a recoil sensitive shooter in a home defense environment as well.

The SSM offers lot’s of dirty firepower on tap for the more recoil sensitive shooting soul.