A Boy and His AR15 ( My 6940 )

I often post pictures of my Colt 6940  on gun boards or the looserounds facebook page and people ask me about it. They want to know how it shoots what I have on it and why I use what I use. SO , I decided to talk a little about my gun and why it is the way it is.  It is not perfect or anything special but after years of changing and always evolving my shooting style and methods and most importantly my mindeset, I have settled on it the way it is for now.

As can be seen above, there is a varied combination of parts on my carbine. None of them are added just to make it cool and none of the things I added make the gun less functional.  As I have said many times before, I do Not believe in the idiotic KISS theory. By that I mean I do not think adding a light or an optic is adding “useless tacticool crap”.  Of course some people can and do take it too far, but using things on your gun to give you more capability and a edge over the bad guy is common sense.  Somethings are gimmicks and a waste of money that should have been spent on ammo. But optics, lights and slings are never ever a waste of money( unless its crap cheap products). You do need to think carefully about what to add and if you know how to use it. If not, you can learn. But you would do well to make sure you understand it. Even something as simple as a weapon light could do more harm to you then good if you do not know how to use it during a fight. That may seem to not make sense, but you can blind yourself if care is not taken or draw fire towards you and give away your position. SO yeah, fighting with a light is not just as simple as turning it on and shooting.

To start with, I use the magpul CTR stock. This is one of the few magpul products I liek and is worth having. For the most part I do not like or have much use for a lot of Magpuls stuff.  They make some great stuff, but they also make a lot of gimmicks. I like the CTR because it locks, has multiple ways to mount my sling, it is light, thin and comfortable.  big plus is the latch is not easy to hit and let the stock collapse if I have to use it rested on something. The rubber but plate is nice, not to help with recoil but to keep it from sliding off my plate carrier or other nylon gear.

Next is the charging handle and BUIS.  I like the Knights armament 600 meter sight.  I usually use the standard , but I switched to the micro so the mount for a PVS-14 would clear it. The KAC is my 1st choice always. I have used a lot of different models but I will always recommend the KAC.  The charging handle is the BravoCompany  Gunfighter CH.  I use the medium. The large snags everything on my gear and really digs into the body and the small is not much different from the standard latch.  I find the Medium to be the best of both worlds. It is truly more then just an extended handle. It is very tough and the re design was well done, well thought out and bullet proof. Enough has been said about the quality of the gunfighter already and I am sure it is nothing new to anyone.  I do not use a PRI gas buster cause I ain’t got a can and the Badger breaks. Pure and simple. The badger breaks.

Next is the grip. I love the tango down battle grip. I have small fingers and the ergonomics of the TD grip just work for me. I do not like the MIAD, or the cheap MOE.  The angle of the new Larue and the Bravo company grips do not do it for me. I feel the TD give me a better position to work the trigger for proper trigger control and it will store two batteries int he bottom.  I  use a Knights ( KAC ) ambi safety. I use this because I bought it before Colt started selling their ambi safety but, I feel no need to switch and have utmost confidence in the KAC product anyway. I use the cut away insert for the right side. I found that a full length safety would often drag on my gloves as I went to fire when indexing my trigger finger along the gun. The cut away solved this nicely and is still easily hit with the thumb.

On the left of the gun you can see I have added a BAD lever , a Norgon ambi  mag release and a KAC  QD socket.  The BAD lever makes reloading very fast. It does not always work with every AR15 on the market ( read cheap ) but it makes thing very fast and give me the ambi feature I feel is important on a fighting gun. I do however , feel there is a whole lot of room for improvemt with this type of add on.  The one reason I truly appreciate it is that I can lock the bolt back without taking my firing hand off the grip. If you have to clear malfunctions, the BAD lever really shows its worth. Downside is that you can become dependent on it like a crutch. You can find yourself trying to hit it on a gun that does not have it during a reload and that can slow you down a second or two. That may be enough to slow you forever. So keep that in mind and train with and without it if you have one.

The Norgon mag release. Nuff said. The ambi feature I love so much and deem valuable for a fighting gun.

The KAC QD socket is there because for right now, the 6940 does not have rear QD sling points.  I and a lot of others feel this is the best place to mount a two point sling on the rail. Personal choice, but it gives you more room with the sling. Since the 6940 has one in front, I can move the sling position to the rear or front depending on my needs. And with QD sling swivels it is easily done in no time at all.

Inside is the geissele ssa trigger. Now I will almost always tell you to use the milspec trigger and for good reason. It is hard to beat for toughness durability and reliability. The gun was meant to work with the standard trigger in it. And You can shoot it with all the precision needed. The AR15 is not  benchrest rifle nor is it a sniper rifle. If you are a competent shooter, you can shoot just as well with stock trigger as any other as long as it is safe and functioning correctly. It is not a hunting rifle. Think of the “match trigger ” in your fighting carbine the same as you would as having a light match trigger in your CCWD side arm. Now, if you are an experienced shooter, with a lot of years behind a gun with proper trigger control that can shoot a standard trigger to your full potential. Then by all means try out a SSA or something like it.  Stay away from the Rock River Arms triggers. To be blunt, they are crap. They are fine for the bench rest range shooters who fire 200 rounds a year. But time and time again, high round count carbine classes have shown that the RRA trigger will fail you. It is just not rugged. If you have one that works, great, but its a matter of time before it stops feeling so sweet and starts feeling like mush. If its a target or varmint rifle, that fine. But do not put it on a duty rifle or fighting rifle. It may cost you dearly one day.

My optics of choice are the Aimpoint T-1 and ACOGS, I mainoly use the T-1 because it is just the best all around work horse sight. I do not even know why aimpoint makes RDS that are not T-1s or something like them. No need for much more!! It is small, light, so tough Larry Vickers dropped it out of a chooper twice and it faired better then the gun it was on, and shot it, ran it over, sunk it, and dragged it on a gravel road for miles.  You can see the video on line. Funny thing was it was suppose to be a Daniel Defense add. I think it sold more T-1s then rifles. Those of us who used the T-1 before the video, knew how great it was before the test.  Batteries last almost long enough for you to collect a social security check and it has NVG settings and of course Larue makes his excellent QD mounts for it. A must have to any optic.  I use the KAC over sized adjustment nob that holds and extra battery inside. Not that it will likely ever be use, but you never know, the battery may be bad.

A neat side bonus is the Larue mount has room inside for a couple more batteries, some blow or anything else you may want to hide.

Up front I use the SureFire scout light with Vampire head. The head lets me switch from white light to IR light for the PVS-14  I can mount on the carbine or use helmet mounted.  To activate it I use the Surefire dual SR07 switch. It is a pressure switch and a on/off button switch combined. It snaps over the rail and is so useful I do not know how I ever lived without it.  The PVS-14 is seen below the light using the rifle picatinny mount.

The PVS14 mounted on the carbine. You can see how snugly the KAC micro BUIS fits under the mount nicely. The T-1 has several night vision setting and makes shooting at night as easy as invading france.  Hits out to as far as 100 yards can be made very easily on a night with moon out and stars. On a dark night the Vampire head makes easy work of hitting targets at night.  The IR flashlight can not bee seen with the naked eye so you need NV. But if the bad guy has NV, you stick out like a turd in vanilla ice cream, so you got to be careful how you use it. Just like a white light.  KNOW YOU EQUIPMENT AND WHEN TO USE IT PROPERLY!!.   Together they are a very effective force multiplier that will allow you to dominate a night fight.

My rail covers  are simply Larue tactical index clips. You can use as many or as little as you like and customize them around accessories. They even have clips the will help you route wires around the gun and secure them tightly.  They are slimmer than panels and weigh slightly less. Weight can be a factor even with panels in certain environments and times. It is not a big deal for me, but I always make a effort to save a few ounces  if I can, even if its not a top priority.

After years of suffering 3 point and single point sling fiascoes, I settled on the one sling that made me forsake all others. The Blue Force Gear Vickers Combat Applications SLing. ( VCAS).  It is everything I ever wanted in a sling. I hate 3 points and I hate having single points hit me in the nuts.  The VCAS is tough, comfortable and easy to adjust in a hurry.  I add QD sling swivels so I can take it on and off in a hurry or move the sling to the front, rear or to the other side if need be. I like it. it would take something awfully special to make me stop using it and switch.

Now this is not my only AR by far, but is  the one I reach for first and the one I will depend on for everything.  I have no need for a middy, and I am sold on monolithic upper. I have not seen a more accurate factory  rack grade fighting rifle. The Colt Chromed lined 4150 1/7 barrel is always my choice.  After close to 10 million AR15s  on one side of that number or the other, I feel they know how to make a AR15. With that in mind, colt has never failed me and got my Dad home from Vietnam.  I find the 16 inch barrel to feel my needs and I do not need a rifle shorter.  Plus if used in home defense inside, I do not want to blow out my ears with a 10.5 inch barrel. Nor do I want to explain why I used a NFA rifle or risk losing it forever to some police locker.

For magazines, I use about any quality mag, USGI, Pmags and lately the new Lancer mags, the advanced warfighter mags.  I found the HK mags to be pure hype with not real performance gain to justify the price.  Just like every other HK product I have tried  I do like the surefire 60 round mags. The two sent to me have held up well despite all my abuse and have not failed me. They have limited uses, in some cases but I think they are worth having. I would suggest buying at least one before the election, no matter how it will turn out.If things go wrong, you may never get one for the current price again.

SO that is my carbine, It is not set in stone, but what you see is pretty much how it stays. Optics will be swapped for certain roles and some times it will have a small bipod or VFG. but the items on it in the pictures are the serious fighting upgrades that always stay  on it unless a much better and proven part comes along to replace it. They may do the same but be tougher or  better ergo wise. But the purpose they fill would be the same.

USMC Scout Sniper Weapons of the Vietnam War

In the past months I have written a bit about the use of and primary rifles used by the USMC for sniping use in the Vietnam war. Now I would like to talk a little about them again along with some of the supporting (spotter) weapons and equipment used by typical sniper teams during the war. Everything used is of course not included, but its a small general example of the weapons used by the majority and most common.

In a fast review of the main sniper weapons, or at least the most well known, we start off with the Pre-64 Model 70 Winchester rifle. The rifles in use at the time were a mix of factory Winchester national match and “Bull guns”,  with the heavy target marksman stock and the sporter stocked Model 70 with factory or custom barrels. The custom work being done by USMC RTE armorers for Competition use at Camp Perry for the national matches and sniping use in asia. The optics were the Unertl 8x USMC contract scope purchases during WW2 for the Marine Corps 1903 sniper rifle.  Some other brands of externally adjustable scopes were used but the Unertl was the most common. A few 3x-9x  Japanese made scope saw some very limited use on a few M70s but very few.

Ammunition for the Model 70 snipers was the Lake City Match ammo made for for the national matches using a FMJ 173 grain boat tailed bullet. One of the things that kept the model 70 from being selected as the sniper standard in the years to come was the fact that this was not a commonly issued round.

The rifle that replaced the M70 and became sniper standard until this very day in the configuration of the M40A5, was the Remington M700-40x. The 40x was a target action of better quality then a standard M700 of the time. The 40x action came with a receiver slot for stripper clips used in reloading when the rifle was employed with target iron sights in high-power rifle matches like at Perry.

The rifle was tested and found to be the best COTS choice at the time due to the Winchester stopping production of the very high quality and very expensive and time consuming version of the Model 70  now known as the “pre-64”

The rifle was dubbed the M40 by the USMC and came with a medium heavy barrel chambered in 308 NATO with a plain dull oil finish sporter stock. It used the clip slotted 40x action, did not have provisions for iron sights and had a metal butt pad. Remington provided the rifle in an entire package with a Redfield Accur-Trac  3x-9x -40MM scope in matte green in Redfield Junior bases.

The rifle barrel of the M40 was later free-floated and the action bedded by USMC RTE armorers in Vietnam after the tropical climate proved almost too much for the rifle to take.

An interesting point is that the two most famous Snipers of the war , Carlos Hathcock and Chuck MaWhinney used the Model 70 and the M40 respectively.  Hathcock having a total of 93 confirmed kills to MaWhinneys 103.  Hathcock used the M70 for his fist tour as a sniper when he got most of his kills including his most famous exploits, but did use the M40 some in his second tour before becoming seriously wounded and being sent home. Unfortunately the rifle was destroyed in the action that wounded him and saw him being awarded a silver star.  Mawhinney’s rifle was found years later and still in service as an M40A1. It was pulled from use and restored to its original specs and is now on display.

The less glamorous but very important spotter in a scout sniper team carried more common weapons that every rifleman was familiar with.  The one that seems the most thought of as the spotters weapon when talking about the USMC sniping teams, is the  M14 US rifle caliber .308 NATO.

The M14 is the US Military’s most short-lived issued rifle. Little more then a slightly more modern version of the M1 Garand, the M14 has a detachable 20 round magazine and fired 308 NATO. The rifle was made in select fire ( full and semi ) and was very much like the M1 Garand.  The M14 was already obsolete by the time it came out of Springfield.  It did and still does have its promoters, but few remember or know that at the time, no one really liked it as much as is thought now.  It was soon replaced by the M16 series of rifles. The M14 did see use by sniper teams in the USMC and the US Army. The Army being the heaviest user of the M14 for sniping developing it into the XM21 that used the ART 1 and 2 optics and night vision optics and sound suppressors. The USMC did use it in a limited way ( compared to the Army) for some night work using the starlight night vision optics.  The M14 was carried by  Carlos Hathcock’s spotter John Burke who used it to great effect when working with Carlos and using match ammo.  The US Army struggled to make the XM21  into a reliable sniper weapon for years and sunk a huge amount of money and effort into it before dumping it for the bolt action M24 SWS ( another remington M700).  Kills could be made out to 600-800 yards with iron sights depending on skill of the shooter and was used for security of the team. The higher ammo capacity and full auto fire would be useful to break contact when ambushed or lay down cover if things went bad.  I have not seen any evidence of it being used to break an ambush in my research but I am sure it happened.

The next rifle is of course, the Colt XM16 and the M16A1.  The rifle  replaced the M14 as standard infantry rifle in the early 60s. The rifle was ideal for jungle warfare and after early blunders by the DOD using the wrong powder in the M193 ammunition and not chroming the chamber, the M16 went on to be our longest-serving weapon and respected world wide.  The M16 lacked the long range potential of the M14 in the spotter’s role, but combat had shown a sniper should not fire many rounds from a position least he be found. Having two people firing was more than the idea of no more then 3 rounds fired by the sniper from one hide.  The M16 was more controllable on full-auto fire, was lighter and the spotter could carry more ammo. Later in the war 30 round magazines became available and gave it even more advantage over the M14.  The spotter, already burdened with security, the team radio and other mission support equipment, benefited from the smaller lighter M16.

The M16 was officially considered for sniping use, but lacking a fast enough twist rate for heavy match ammo, and no match ammo, made the chance of it being the standard impossible at the time. Since then the M16 has been developed into sniping roles as the US Army’s DMR, the USMCs  SAM-R and the  special operational forces M12 MoD 0 and MOD 1. Using the 77 gr.  MK 262 MOD 1 ammo, the MKI12 has recorded kills as far as 800-900 yards and is one of the most effective weapons in the US  military when looking at weapons responsible for enemy kills.  The M16 was also used by some in the USMC as a sniping tool before enough sniping rifles were sent to asia. Usually the rifle user purchased the Colt 3x scope and mounted it on the carry handle. Other special scope bases were made by RTE and USAMTU armorers  for sniping use. When in the right hands, recorded kills out to 900 yards were made with the M16/scope a few times, though very rarely.

The other often overlooked but very important piece of equipment was the spotting scope. Used to ID targets, spot missed shots and scan the area for targets, the M49 spotting scope was carried whenever the misison justified its use. Often times the lower magnification of the sniper rifle optics was not enough to ID a target over a civilian and a shot could not be taken with out proper ID by the spotter and spotter scope. The scope was also used to judge wind, mirage and help judge range so that sniper had the most accurate data possible to make his long range shot.  The scope was also used for spotting artillery and many other uses.

The M49 was a 20x power spotting scope that came with its own plastic carrying case for transport.The M49 is still in use today. The M49 also came with a Tripod for steadying it and for small adjustments to correcting its position so the user would not disturb the scope. The tripod came with its own webbing canvas carrying case that could be hooked to web gear.

The other common items used by the sniper team was the light weight jungle rucksack. The pack originally was intended for mountain troops and had a frame that could be used to carry large heavy loads for mountain and winter operations. It was the common issued jungle pack during the war but was by no means the only ruck used. Some sniper teams used captured NVA rucks or the Indig ARVN packs.

Above an M40 rests across a jungle ruck with the spotters M14 and M49 off to the side.

USMC sniper teams used a wide variety of equipment during the war in asia with this being a small part. The list would have also included radios, binoculars, food, the Colt 1911 as sidearms, maps, hats and camo uniforms and face paint, extra ammo, ponchos, poncho liner, knives etc. These are some of the most well known and famous of the many tools used by the Marines to become the premier sniping experts in the world. Next time I will take a look at some of the uniforms and web gear used during the war and the Army’s XM21 M14 sniper and the M14 and the myth that surrounds it.