Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Winterizing Your Gear- Tips and tricks.

It's that time of the year for me. Time to pull out all the gear while my wife is traveling for work and lay it out all over the house so I can put the heavier clothing and sleeping bags in it. This process requires a great deal of self control for me, mainly because I'm itching to purchase a high dollar lightweight down bag for my recreational kit and put my current 20 degree Browning bag into the Minuteman Cache.

Winter brings with it many issues that can compromise your gear and your body. You'll need to have solid and warm footwear as well as warm, layered clothing to suit many temperatures. Rain becomes a critical issue as well. Even the warmest clothing can sap your body temp when soaked with cold rain and wet snow. Your gear should also leave room for body armor. Without a doubt, I've seen body armor left behind during training due to the inability to fit clothing under or over it. This is not an acceptable practice. Test your kit every chance you get. You may look funny hiking with your armor and pack, but don't worry, embarrassment or funny looks won't kill you, it's the bullets that you must look out for. In recent months I've witnessed several people out jogging and rucking with a PC and plates. None of it was military issue and only one was police issue. The local Crossfit gym that I used to belong to had armor days, but not that often.

Water filters are prone to freeze and once frozen with water in the system, can allow bacteria to pass through the membrane due to the swelled pores from frozen water. Imagine that when you actually need to use the gear, your water filter doesn't work. One way to counter this is to purchase new units for unused kit and replace a worn out filter with a new one from a Cache or bag you don't use regularly. It's similar to setting up your kit for a car. Once used, your filter should be on your person to keep it from freezing in cold temperatures and in your sleeping bag overnight, along with some water to keep it from freezing. A little hack I learned from a friend is to heat up some water on a cold night before bed and climb into bead with some nice warm water bottles. Being able to hydrate a meal with water that's not frozen is far more expedient than thawing ice with your stove before eating. It would also use less fuel and not boil off as much water as otherwise. He also taught me to heat up rocks and put them in your boots to help dry them out at night in your tent or sleeping bag. Worked like a champ the one time I tried it.

My trailer equipment is also getting the winter treatment. I'm putting all the military sleep systems back together and making sure the fuel situation is in good order by checking to see how the diesel looks and smells. My generator is also getting the fuel cycled out of it. The one time I needed it 2 years ago, the fuel lines were frozen solid. Never again!

I'm adding a tent or means of making a tent to each kit as well as upgrading the tarps I rely on in a pinch. I've learned that the light to medium use tarps don't hold up well to a good NorEaster in sub zero temperatures. Another little trick I've learned from some survivalist was to purchase some bubble wrap that's made of tinfoil that's backed on both sides with tinfoil for an extra layer of lightweight insulation when you desperately need it. It can be rolled into your normal bedroll or use it to line your pack, but it's a very cheap and easy hack to extend the ability of your sleeping bag or sleeping mat. Some people cut it to fit inside their sleeping bag and put it between the bag and a liner of some type for additional insulation when on frozen ground or in a hammock. It's used quite a bit for pot cozys and such. Very economical solution for many issues where you need a thin layer of insulation. I will put some in the knee pad slots in my pants when it's cold out to protect my knees when kneeling on cold or wet ground. Tape the edges though, they can get loud when moving. Gorilla tape works better than the silver tape you would use for cozys and such.

Remember to relube your firearms with cold friendly lube such as EWL or a commensurate product of similar consistency. Adding a plastic birdcage cover will also keep your bore clear in heavy snow or boggy conditions. Your glove choice will need to be firearm friendly as well. I wear liners and overgloves with an extra right glove with the fingers cut down to the second knuckle. The liner keeps the wind off and the thicker glove keeps the hand warm. Military mitts with removable finger covers work well too.

Winter also means your food intake will increase if you are out in the elements at all. Pack accordingly. I tend to drop some ammo and add some extra Knorr sides into the pack for extra calories. Soft water bottles or bags are easier to keep inside your coat than steel bottles. Grab a couple for 10 bucks, they weight nothing when empty and are a great winter addition to your gear. I like Platypus brand for expense/durability trade off.

In my Caches, I put a white sheet from goodwill in the bin for easy snow camo in a pinch. Cut a head hole and wear it like a poncho "Rambo style" for hillbilly snow camo. Winter time is a prime time for thermal imaging equipment to function at it's best. The disparity in temperatures between the environment and your person shows as a glaring contrast by anyone with an entry level thermal scope.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Gear Review: Portable Backpacking/Emergency Survival Stoves

This one has been in the works for a long time. I've been striving to find the easiest way to heat meals and water for years. The idea is very simple, by the subjectivity of the requirements makes the issue a hard one to crack. Modern Survivalists and recreational backpackers alike have some of the same needs, but the sustainability issue is many order of magnitudes greater for the preparedness minded. We also have to consider the usage for more than one person. In order to properly evaluate stoves for these uses, we must first consider the criteria to be used.

1. Heating ability- This is how quickly it heats and/or how much heat the stove is able to produce.

2. Flexibility- Does the stove offer options to make it more useful?

3. Economy -Is the stove efficient and inexpensive?

4. Fuel availability- Does the fuel store well and/or easily acquired?

5. User friendly- Is it too heavy, too dirty, too hard to use, easily stored, etc?

Using this index, we should be able to get a better picture of what types of stoves are best and adequate for each need. I have every main type of stove available. I'm sure there are different models that do better or worse than the models I'm using, but for this purpose, it will work just fine. I'm not going to be ultra scientific, but I will be working the units as well as possible. Different fuels require different methods and measurements as well.

My first real camp stove was the Primus Omnifuel. This is a monster of a stove. You can use just about any combustible out there to run it. You may need to change nozzles (provided) and take some time to warm it up, but once it gets going, it puts out a ton of flame and even more noise. This is by far the heaviest and most powerful stove I own. If you purchase extra adapters, you can use old Coleman style propane cylinders or even an LP tank like on a gas grill. This is the most flexible stove as well with it's fuel usage and with accessories, you can even hang it from a ridge line or tree. When I say combustible fuels, I mean anything that *might* burn if coaxed properly. I've even had success with vegetable oil, but it required significant heating in order to get it to atomize in the heating block. The listed fuels are gasoline and white gasoline, diesel fuel, isobutane, butane, and kerosene. Kerosene and home heating oil are very similar, so you can use either. For a grid down scenario, this one would be my choice for the best stove you could hope to own. Heating ability 4/5, it by far puts out the most heat, but it needs constant tinkering to keep the flame regulated. The flame can be uneven as well. Flexibility 5/5, This thing is as flexible as a stove can possibly be. Economy 3/5, The unit retails at 150 bucks, and if you add in all the accessories, you are up over 200. Also, fuel costs money. Initial investment is the biggest holdback on this item. Fuel Availability 4/5, As long as you have a liquid that burns or a propane/isobutane cylinder with fuel, you are good to go. User Friendly 3/5, It's a very good, useful unit, but the flexibility comes with the price of cleaning and maintaining the unit. It can be messy and it stinks if you are burning heavy fuels. It's loud as all get out. You can barely speak to someone next to you if you are cooking with a liquid fuel. Another issue is that the manufacturer recommends not using commercial auto fuel due to issues with additives being toxic.
Total score 19. Total Time to heat 2 cups of tap water to a rolling boil- 3:16 minutes using White Gas.

The MSR Pocket Rocket is a very sturdy stainless backpacking stove. This unit puts out the best flame of any backpacking stove I've used. It beats the jetboil and classic stoves I've used in the past. It is extremely rugged and has good regulation ability for multiple cooking uses. It's very nice for keeping water of coffee warm without having to turn it off and back on all the time. The flame can be set very low and still burn true. It's not the lightest unit I own, and it requires a manual start, but other than that it's a good unit. Heating ability 4/5, it heats well and is big enough to fry large pans and not worry about the outside edges not getting done. Decently even flame. Flexibility 2/5, These are only made to work with Isobutane backpacking fuel cells. You can convert it to LP, but it's not as hot is you do. Economy 3/5, it's not expensive and the fuel cells are 6 bucks or so a pop. Not a huge investment unless you plan to use it long term and need 100's of fuel cells. Fuel availability 2/5, these fuel cells are by far the hardest to find at a non specialized retail outlet. User Friendly 5/5, This is the easiest, most reliable way to cook.
Total score 16. Time to heat 2 cups of tap water to a rolling boil- 3:05 on full blast with a waning cylinder. Might go faster with a full cylinder.

Trangia Spirit Stove's have been around a long time. These are used in Europe by some military forces. They are a durable alcohol stove that allows you to keep unused fuel inside the unit. Most alcohol stoves must be left to burn the excess off and then stored. It's an easier but heavier alcohol than some of the bigger names, but this one is a bit more reliable and user friendly. It heats slower than the pressurized stoves in the comparison, but it's reliable unless you are in a significant wind. The best fuel is denatured alcohol. It's not as stinky as Methyl alcohol (yellow HEET) and burns just as well. There are other alcohols you can use but you must be careful, many are toxic if you happen to spill them into your food. Grain alcohol is a non toxic alternative. Heating ability 2/5, depending on the fuel used, it can do a great job heating your food or water. It's not the best flame dispersion, but more than adequate for most duties if you're not in a time pinch. It is non adjustable. Flexibility 3/5, It requires a stable flat (ish) surface to work correctly. A few fuels are available. Economy 4/5, These things are super cheap, as is the fuel. They use very little fuel at a time. Fuel availability 3/5, In a grid down situation you can find some type of fuel left behind when all the gas and diesel or LP is all gone. You can even make your own Grain alcohol if you want to be really wasteful. User Friendly 2/5, This type of stove has a narrow use that works well for backpackers, but is relegated to emergency use for survivalists. It's slow to start and messy until you get good with it. It really needs a pot holder and wind guard to be viable under most conditions.
Total score 15. Time to boil 2 cups of tap water to a rolling boil- 13:41 minutes using denatured alcohol. Heet brand Methyl Alcohol heats slightly faster but stinks horribly.

Esbit Hexamine solid fuel stoves have been used in one form or another for decades in the US military. The fuel is solid blocks of stable burning cubes that look like salt. They are easy to light and can be blown out so you can partially burn the cube if desired. The knockoff brands usually use oval or round shapes. Genuine Esbit is square and has score marks on the larger blocks if you choose to cut them up for a smaller or shorter burn. These stoves are made in many configurations by many manufacturers, but the folding Esbit seems to be the favored by most people. This type of stove is great for long term storage and needs very little coaxing to get it lit. The biggest draw back is, they stink to high heaven. They also leave an oily caked on residue on your pots or pans. The cubes are as reliable as a rock. It takes a serious rain to put them out! My favorite use is to throw one in the kindling to start a fire. It's a sure thing! Heating ability 3/5, They put out an extremely reliable amount of heat. They are not adjustable once lit, but you can make them smaller for less heat or add cubes for more heat. Flexibility 2/5, They only work with Hexamine tablets by a few manufacturers. Not many stores carry them unless they have a significant camping department. Once you're out of tablets, it's a smelly coaster to rest your drink on. Economy 5/5, These things are cheap. You can even make one out of a tin can if you want. The fuel cubes are cheap as well. I can heat 24 meals for 4 bucks worth of tablets and have a few left over for coffee. Fuel availability 2/5, You can get them at Wally world, but they often run out and I have to get them from Amazon. A few different manufacturers make them, like 4 total, so it's a crap shoot when you find them at a retail store. User Friendly 2/5, The biggest issue I have is the smell and the stinky residue. Once I'm done cooking, I'm not all that hungry.  They light easily and work well, but have significant draw back for regular use.
Total score 14. Time to boil 2 cups of tap water to a rolling boil- 8:46 minutes using Esbit tabs. Coghlan tabs take longer and will use 2 tabs for the same duration.

Wood gasifier stoves have been around for centuries. They can be readily made out of a few tin cans and a pocket knife. They work on the principle that injecting heated air into the smoke of a flame will cause a hotter and more useful flame with less waste. Smoke is wasted fuel from the combustion process. You can test this by holding a lighter in the smoke near a fire to see it in action. There are a few different models as well. My favorite model being the TOAKS titanium wood gas stove. There are cheaper commercial options all the way down to 24 bucks, but that TOAKS is light weight and small when broken down. The combustion process is the same with all these top load units. They have an inner burn tray with holes at the bottom to allow an updraft into the base of the stove and an outside liner that traps hot air between the inner and outer walls of the stove. Air is super heated inside the walls and is pushed into the burn chamber at the top to allow extra oxygen into the burn chamber for a cleaner and hotter burn. This makes for a low smoke fire once you get it going. It's obvious when it's operating properly, the air flowing into the chamber from inside the walls looks similar to a gas grill flame minus the blue tint. The main drawback to this type of stove is the constant stoking and feeding you must keep up with in order for the unit to operate at a constant temperature. The cheaper 24 dollar stainless option from Amazon is quite hard to feed. If you use a larger pan, you must remove the pan to feed it. You can use just about anything that will burn in this stove. dry weeds, grass, nuts, bark, cardboard, esbit cubes, paper, etc. Once lit, it will burn hot for a while. If you get a good coal bed going, you can use it as a warmer to keep your food warm for literally hours. It was still warm when I picked it up after 3 hours of smouldering. I used it to warm up some applewood chips for the smoker. I like to boil them if I can't soak them overnight. It kept them warm enough I had to use a scoop to put them in the smoker even after 2 hours post boil. Heating ability 4/5, You can adjust the flame easily by blowing or stoking the flame and well as relying on wood choice for heat quality. Flexibility 4/5, You can use it for many different uses and have similar results. Economy 5/5, The cheapo units sell at 24 dollars with the high end Titanium units going for 100. The big draw here is you can reliably fire it with dead fallen branches for no cost. You can baton firewood and really get it going hot for an extended period. Fuel availability 5/5, you can use anything that burns, for free. Even dried animal poop will fire right up. User friendly 2/5, this is the big drawback for this unit. It takes time to get running, requires the greatest amount of time to get lit, and needs constant attention. You must use care where you set it to keep embers from starting fires as they fall through the bottom and it's not very stealthy due to the smoke it gives off unit it's hot.

Total Score 21. Time to boil 2 cups of tap water to a rolling boil- 6:28 minutes. I used dry sycamore and lit the wood with some small strips of cardboard. It took approximately 5 minutes to get the wood burning before setting the pot on the stove.

In conclusion, you must choose wisely based on your needs and the stove's strengths. There are a few I didn't go over, but they are fringe items that require too much space in a pack or require direct sunlight like with a solar oven. These systems are fairly useless when you consider the drawbacks. Small rocket stoves work almost identically to the top load wood gas stoves. I see no reason to cover them considering the duplicity.

The plan I have chosen is to keep my Omnifuel with my long term food storage, complete with several gallons of White gas. It's a very good option for off the grid use once the grill tanks I've stored give out. It's small size and flexibility are well suited to mobile camping or a shelter in place ordeal. The wood gas stove will go into the emergency evacuation bag. It's well suited to long term sustainability without a resupply. The Isobutane or Alcohol stoves sit in my recreational packs, they are perfectly suited for such use. The Esbit stoves are spread out in Cache's, assault packs and travel packs. Their light weight and long term storage ability are perfect for such use.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Life Boat Analogy and The Idea of a Polite Society.

You hear the battle drums raging about the welfare state from both sides. They expound on facts and figures about spending and humanity with little regard to the economic facts of the social experiment started in the mid 20th century. The easiest way to explain this phenomenon is with a rather simple analogy and to expand it to fit our dilemma.

Lets say there are several large sailing vessels in a river and they are all heading towards the falls and impending doom. Some of the boats are closer to the falls than others, and people from the boats closer to the falls decide to swim for one of the boats further away from the falls. The people in the boats further away from the falls are keeping up with the water for the most part and are slipping towards the falls at a slower rate. As more people start to grab onto the boats further away, they become less responsive and their rate of decline towards the falls increases.

If the people from the boats closer to the river started to swim the boat away from the falls instead of just hanging on, or better yet, brought along a paddle from the boat they left, the boats further from the falls would maybe stay stagnant or would even start to make headway from the falls. Some of the people that abandon the boats closer to the falls continue to cascade from boat to boat looking for a better boat are pushing every boat they reach further towards the falls as they jump into the current.

The demographics are simplified. On each boat you have paddlers and non paddlers. Paddlers add to the thrust and non paddlers add to the drag. Part time paddlers are close to neutral thrust/drag.

Now you have the captain taking paddles away from people that are a net gain and giving the paddles to those that can't use them or don't know how to. The captain is a good man, he wants to save everyone, even though to do so is damning his craft to the destruction of the falls. This creates two issues. First, when the paddles were redistributed for fairness, less forward thrust is available. Secondly, you have able bodied paddlers that see the issue and have no means to correct it within the chain of command. The paddler with no paddle can see the results beforehand but has no means or recourse because the captain keeps adding people to the boat for the "common good" and "equality".

The paddlers that no longer had paddles decide that it's too dangerous to remain so they make a raft of their belongings and strike out on their own. Some choose to do so before the falls come into view, some choose to wait til they have no choice. The ones that choose to leave early are the safest, there is less panic and people are less likely to latch onto the rafts and capsize them.

The rafters have a very hard choice to make. They can take a few extra people with them, but not all. They can only choose the ones that are a net gain as well. To take the ones that are a drag on the raft is to doom everyone on the raft. They must also defend their raft from panicked boaters if they choose to leave at the last minute.

The rafters were paddling hard in the beginning, they were trying hard to make headway with the boat but soon realized that the acts of the captain was negating everything they worked so hard for. They spend half their time paddling, and the other half building a raft, which they are ridiculed for.

It's not hard to see the correlation here. You have businesses and individuals both in each column as well. Businesses can have a net gain or loss, just like people can. The Captain can defend their vessel from boarding by those ill equipped to paddle. The idea that you can save everyone is nonsense. You can't. People that make no effort to save themselves will always be a drag. Survivalists will always be vilified by the moderates and the progressives for saving themselves instead of dying with everyone else on the boats. They will be called cowards and traitors for thinking ahead and not allowing popular ideas of social justice to kill them.The idea that one person is a better paddler than another is lost upon the captain of the boats most in peril. Even if that boat has the best, strongest paddlers, they are being displaced by less effective paddlers in the name of equality.

The current is our debt and cultural divisiveness. The falls would represent a civil war or financial collapse. Each boat is a country, within each country you have a government as the captain and the citizens and businesses as the paddlers. The government chooses to run the boat in faster water by increasing spending, or they can choose the deeper, slower water further from shore. The deeper water is fiscal solvency or a light debt load.

When the end is near, the same captains that chose social justice over logic will choose the best paddlers for their personal life boat. Any time their life is on the line, they will abandon diplomacy and make the same decisions the survivalists did.

I've  seen this happen time and time again with regard to progressive culture. They choose the best for themselves, but apply social justice rules to the masses. All you have to do is look at the protection details behind our leaders. Nothing but the best,  EEOC be damned.

Monday, October 19, 2015

How Many Magazines is Enough?

I have a confession to make. I'm a magazine hoarder of near clinical proportions. Especially with regard to my battle rifles. They take the most abuse in training and use so I feel compelled to have an overabundance. Even during the big scare I made a tactical upgrade by trading 10 Pmags for 30 C products new in wrapper GI mags. This is in addition to the foot locker of used mags I bought at a sale a few years ago. No such thing as too many.

 The thought process I go through is simple and well thought out. I look at my total number of rifles and multiply by 11 for a base line. 11 magazines is what I consider a combat load of 4 to 6 with a few in reserve for your pack or vehicle. I then add in 10 mags per family member to train with. That way we don't burn up our carry/fighting mags while training. Proper training is really hard on mags. My current loadout mags in my level 4+ armor and go pack are 40 round Pmags.

I do prefer mil contract mags, and the larger rental operations have proven that they are longer lasting and take heat cycles better than plastic mags. The brownells GI mags are supposedly the best price for the functionality. I personally prefer C products contract mags. They handle debris slightly better than most and the outside stays buff for a longer time. Most mags get super slick after many reloads and handling, which can lead to dropped mags. They have the green followers which work great, but they aren't the new fangled tan follower that is proven superior and the military is phasing in the tan follower. Beware the black follower. It's not anti tilt and is the least reliable in adverse conditions. Green is still good to go. Magpul followers are great but costly. You can hedge your bets and decrease your loss rate by having some rebuild kits on had as well.

Pistol mags are a bit more robust due to their smaller size and construction. I have a minimum of 3 mags for carry and 5 for training. That way you aren't loading and unloading your carry mags all the time. I have 20 or so extras per model rolling around just in case. I've streamlined my pistols recently and have dropped the 10mm, 40SW and only stock Glock 9mm mags, HK usp 45 mags and a few pocket gun mags. The LCP being my choice for deep cover carry.

I ruin 2-3 rifle mags a year. I ruin 1 pistol mag every couple years. That's for our entire household. Those 30 mags I bought are a 10 year supply if I keep training as I have with the family. I do my best to replace them as time and resources warrant, but I do keep 50 contract GI mags in reserve just in case. My hoarder status is showing.

You also need to remember that I keep lots of AR15 mags in my Caches and I always keep a thousand plus loaded in my bastard child mags and keep them locked away in my safe. No such thing as too many! My lightweight plates stay loaded all the time as well. 3 25 round 308 mags and 3 glock 17 rounders with plus 2's. That's a lot of firepower in a hurry.

Specialty Mags- I do have several rifles that are AR10 or long range in nature. My 300 Win Mag competition gun has 3 magazines for it. They are little 3 round units, and I bought them mainly due to the fact that you can use them as a single shot follower in competition more readily than the stock Remington bottom metal. Not something you need to stock deep.  Same goes for the rest of my long range stuff. I do have a Beta C Mag, but I've honestly never used it. I see no need. You'd have a useless slag of metal for a barrel after 100 rounds of sustained fire. I consider it an investment.

My AR10's on the other hand, each have 21 mags for them. I don't shoot them enough or train with them enough to warrant the extra mags. The 20" gun uses 20 rounders and the 16" uses 25 round Pmags. Luckily Pmags fit the LWRCI platform. They are easy to find and plentiful again. The AR10's have a definitive use and plan of action for my defense plan. They don't need all that many mags due to this. They aren't something I'm going to go patrolling with, just too heavy. It's best for killing buicks and turning cover into concealment. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Budget AR15 Builds and Why I Choose Them.

It's well know that I prefer the AR platform to any other battle rifle. The reasons are due to it's proliferation in the US as well as my familiarity with the rifle series. It's the most common rifle sold in the US for a long time now and it really is well suited to 90% of shooters due to it's modular and adjustable nature. You can build them in literally any configuration imaginable.
 Most recent build. My son built the entire thing himself at 12 years old. It now has a Black Spider red dot.

Another significant belief I have was first iterated by good old Joe Stalin. "Quantity has a quality all it's own." So for the price of a high end manufacturer's AR15, I can build 3 budget guns. Once again, why? Because even a budget build can work remarkably well. Outfitting another person can be more of a force multiplier than a super whiz bang piston driven death dealer.

These builds tend to run around the 650 dollar mark and include a 1x optic. Why an optic? Because it's a crutch. Teaching fundamentals with irons take time, and it's much easier and faster to teach fundamental hold and bullet drop.You might not be outfitting a shooter, you might be outfitting a neighbor.
 The Minuteman Cache includes such a rifle.

What to look for in a budget rifle:
Standard quality parts
Mil spec dimension parts

For this discussion, there are some built rifles that accomplish these tasks. Smith and Wesson's base models as well as DPMS's base models work just fine. I haven't had much luck with PSA or some of the other cheapo parts like UTG and the like. Double star on the other hand have been nothing short of brilliant in my rifles. Many contractors are given DPMS rifles for ship defense and foreign protection details. They work and they're cheap. I've been using the DPMS oracle uppers for all the builds I've done in the past 4 years with a perfect track record. No functionality issues, decent accuracy and a cost around 300 bucks. Hard to beat with an included BCG and charging handle.

Optics are an easy choice. Something inexpensive and durable. Vortex is a good option for this. The Sparc series is pretty good, and there are a myriad of others out there that will work great. Always have extra batteries on hand. I include flip up iron sights as well. I've been prone to getting a gas block with a picatinny rail and dual flip ups die to wanting a clear sight picture. A standard front sight post occludes your sight picture.

I generally install a JP reduced power spring kit to loosen up the trigger a bit. A cheapo sling works great, and it is easy because the rifles I build are very light weight.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

AR optics/Failures discussion.

Ryan over at has a great discussion thread about AR optics and failures. This has been hashed out many times on many pages with both professionals and mall ninja's alike. Optics fail, regardless of manufacturer or use. I've seen every manufacturer and optic made fail in one way or another. I've personally seen simple temperature differential fog lenses and make a an AR into a nice club. Rain can also cause some issues with some fogging. Ryan has a ton more formal military training than I do, and that's really important. The adverse conditions he's seen are a testament to the suitability of the RDS and AR platforms.

As with all electronic/mechanical devices, the more complex, the more issues they have. I'm no expert, but with 15 years of helping at a gun shop that is near a military training facility that trains the tip of the spear, you do pick things up from those guys. There is also a military testing/research facility nearby as well. I have the opportunity of interacting with some very interesting people. They have some interesting input on optics and use. I'm assisting with advanced classes here and there, but I'm still a ways away from teaching the high speed stuff.

I suppose optics are the first thing to consider. I'm pretty big on the Aimpoint M3 for close to a decade. In that time, I've seen every other manufacturer fail on my rifle or another. The only other Optic I've never had a failure out of is a Trijicon Tri-Power. I know and have seen others fail, by not the one I have. It's been run on full auto, 9mm carbines, 308 rifles and many other riles. It's not the most robust unit, but it works in most conditions. The M3 only has one major drawback, and that's the battery it uses is a non typical one, and non rechargeable. It's fairly heavy as well.
I do have a few cheaper models, the Vortex Sparc II and a Black Spider LLC smallish red dots. They seem to work just fine. They are on some training guns my boys use. Keeping them light is important. As the technology has increased I've kept the M3's due to the longevity and the fact that I'm used to them. I see no reason to change yet, it hasn't advanced enough or been tested enough for me to forsake the current units I have.

 I know a plethora of military rifleman that swear by the Eotech's, and I know many that despise them. The only optic that I know of that everyone is fond of is the ACOG. It's ultra clear optics and mid range magnification is head and shoulders above most. I know you can get similar results with a magnifier, but it's not nearly the same. The single best optic I've ever used has by far been the Elcan Specter DR. Sooner or later someone is going to come up with a similar design for less money, and then I will go for it. Until then, I just can't justify the expense.

Another often overlooked issue would be BUIS. Back Up Iron Sights are critical IMO. If you have a Red Dot Sight failure, you will be guessing POI unless you have another method of aiming. All my primary weapons have BUIS with Trijicon front sight posts. In very low light conditions, this is critical to be able to aim with confidence when your target is in the shadows and doesn't allow you to silhouette your front sight post. Another thing all my battle rifles have is a quick disconnect for the RDS. If you break the glass or get dust/mud/blood on the glass your sights are useless as well unless they are offset. Being able to quick release your glass can be important. I've been in that position and it sucks. Raining like hell, sloshing through mud puddles and go prone into a bog and fill your optics with muck.  If you use plastic backup sights, you better stick with airsoft.

AR platform failure points. My goodness how we can count the ways. It takes so little to make a fully functional rifle into a paperweight. I've found that spending the money on a mid to high end rifle generally makes good sense. The major manufacturers spend the right money on the parts that must work properly for reliable function even in abusive environments. I also test my rifles to failure with poor care just to see how well they can handle the grime. My main 5.56 rifle can handle between 2000 and 2400 rounds without cleaning before failure. I spot cleaning every 500 rounds or so does make it last indefinitely. Pull the BGC, shake it off and wipe it down with CLP, brush out the lugs and chamber with a brush, lube liberally and toss it back together. If I run it with a can, the less rounds to failure.

My backup gun will only run 1600-1800 rounds til failure. I've since changed out the buffer spring and extractor spring, so that should help it along. The Chamber in that rifle is a bit rougher than my main rifle, so I put some of the issue as being caused by the chamber slowing extraction slightly. Need to test it again with the changes to see.

The most common "fatal" issue I see in classes and at the range is popped primers. They fall into the works and generally jam up the trigger. This is a crappy jam because it's fatal and cannot be fixed in a firefight. I use reloads most of the time, so it's something I have seen often with my rifle. They can also jam up in the lugs.

The most common non fatal issue is a stuck case. A new extractor spring or extractor will generally fix this. The next common is out of battery failure. This is mainly due to a dirty chamber, wrong buffer/spring combo or bad ammo. Short stroking, not ejecting the old or not stripping a new one is usually caused by a dry rifle. AR's like to be wet with lube. A plugged gas tube can also be to blame, but I've never seen one happen with brass/non russian ammo. Bad gas rings can cause this as well. If you can stand your BCG on the bolt end with it extended and it will not drop to the unlock position without pushing down, your rings are good. You can fix it in the field by changing a single ring if you are in a pinch. That's usually enough to get it back running again. Double feeds are due to magazine issues or operator error.

Last year when I took a vehicle class, I had SEVERAL issues. I know better than to change stuff right before a class, but I did it anyway. My Geisselle  trigger kept spitting pins, My castle nut came loose and I kept jamming cases due to my inability to properly clean the case lube off reloads I was using. I also only had a couple months on a 2 point sling I brought. I used to use the backplate for my rear sling attachment, but it would cause me issues when doing clearance drills. Had to move it back to the stock. I tested my RDS battery before I left, but on the morning of the class, it was dead. Luckily I keep several spares in the gun. Had it not been a class, and had been a real need for the rifle, without BUIS I would have been in trouble.

Mags cause more issues than all the other items listed here combined. I've seen all mags of every type and manufacturer fail. My best advice is to beat up and cycle thru the same mags you keep for duty/carrry. If you like Pmags, keep 10 newish tested mags for your primary kit and beat up a bunch of the same type and manufacturer mags in training. This ideology is two fold. It allows you to test longevity on the mags you plan to bet your life on, and it allows you to train with the identical mags you will carry. When mags go bad, it just sucks. You can fix GI mags, but plastic mags tend to split the feed lips and have to be trashed. These mags pictured below were tested and found lacking. the feed lips are bent and they are unusable in this condition. The second pic is a comparison after adjustment. Filing down the front edge also makes them more reliable and less prone to jam with abuse. I don't personally do so, but I know guys forced to use GI mags that do it with good results.
The Mag on the right is adjusted properly, the left mag has it's feed lips bent down, making the mag useless. I use a magazine lip adjustment tool I bought from MidwayUSA.

I keep a spares kit in my Armor and another in my ammo bag. Included in the kit are gas rings, a firing pin, an extractor and extractor spring, a small tube of oil, half a tooth brush and a stuck case extractor. That's about 25-30 bucks worth of insurance. I keep Red dot sight batteries in the Hogue grip.

The receiver you use is the heart of your gun. I've seen some really weird things with messed up lowers. Buffer tubes threaded out of line, pins out of spec, mag wells too tight/loose, lug cutouts too tight/loose, etc. I've had people bring me junk receivers from brands I've never heard of that will never work right. I've seen big name high production companies with issues as well, but I've never seen an LMT lower that was out of spec enough to cause issues. Their QC is excellent. I generally buy LMT casting and internals for my battle rifles because it's a known quantity. My Bushmaster lowers were all made by LMT many moons ago. There are many other great manufacturers out there with quality products. DPMS has gotten a bad name in past years, but they do make a decent budget rifle/parts. I don't bet my life on them, but my son's rifles are about half DPMS with Bushy L prefix lowers and Spikes lowers. I do have to true up the DPMS uppers to make sure the barrel is straight, but other than that, they do fine.

The buffer tube is the next critical item. I've sold rifle to friends and had them change out the stock and tube to never get the rifle working again. The guy blamed me, and asked me to fix it. He put on some cheapo chinese tube. The threads were cut off center so the buffer had tons of parasitic drag and it was rough inside. I fixed it for him, but learned my lesson. Never trust your life on chinese junk. It's fine if you like fixing your gun at the range, but not good if you intend to fight with it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Beware the Trendy Firearm Wave.

How does that saying go? Hail to the new king, just like the old king?!?!? Or is it, The king is dead, Long live the King? I'm not all that sure, but I've been involved in the firearms industry long enough to have lived through fad cartridges and training, fad camo and mall ninja success stories. It's all a subjective propaganda charade wrapped up in the fad camo of the day. It's not very often that a truly momentous breakthrough happens and the firearms community as a whole is cheering. It's always been 1911 v Tupperware guns, specialty cartridges over "under performing" standard rounds, and tactical drudgery training v home schooled shootists. The fight never ends.

It's really hilarious to me when a "new" thing is actually a rehashed old thing. The 300 Blackout used to be a wildcat round. I was a big proponent of the 300 Whisper back when only one company made dies and JD Jones carried the name. It was a nightmare to find parts to make the thing run. You had to scrape up brass wherever you could, and most of it had too thick a neck so we were turning them down and splitting necks all the time. It was the wild west of load development. Little to say, until AAC decided to back a similar round, it was rather difficult to love the round. Once standardization happened, it became a viable option. Every time I built a blackout gun, someone would come along and buy if from me. I really didn't want to sell it, but I could build a new one and upgrade it with the money they were willing to pay. Dies are still a sore spot in my book, but for the most part, they work. RCBS small base being the single know outlying option.

Every time I open a RECOIL magazine, I see a new improved version of something I used to use paracord and duct tape to make myself. Instead of 30 cents, it's "worth" 30 dollars. There have been some significant ballistic improvements made for better performing bullets and powders, but for the most part, it's just beating a dead horse. How many crappy chinese things do you really need to hang on your 30 pound AR15 chambered in 6.5 superduperrocketshipmagnum? The same one you can only find 3 magazines worth of ammo so you don't shoot it.

We really do need to consider logic over wants some times. I know that personal preference cures all, but come on. If I'm teamed up with you in a class and have to carry that gun doing a simulated casualty evac, I'm gonna drag your super cannon along like towed arty or use it as a walking stick. I've also noticed that those same arty pieces usually have some crappy GI trigger and crappy Amazon parts as a base. I've seen guys With AN/PEQ's and they don't own NOD's or even have a way to Zero it. It looks cool though.

The same goes for "tactical" training. Instead of the fundamentals, they get people interested in the hype more than the content,  or the youtube SELLebrity that runs the school. I'm not sure you know it, but they are laughing their butts off at your expense when you're temple indexing your C-clamp turret stance. You paid to learn something with no value. It's just sad. It's ok to stand while learning the fundamentals, but if you're standing still in a gunfight, you better be the one shooting first. If you're not, you're going to lose.

Remember Ladies and Gentlemen, there's a point to this whole firearms movement. The point is Liberty. Not just for you, but for your children. The enemies of freedom are alive and well here at home, and they are out breeding Conservative/Libertarian/Christians at an alarming rate. Soon they will have the political clout to have a controlling interest in your life. A fight is coming, so you had better make sure you are ready for it.