AR-15 Hacks: Clean Your Rifle Like A Boss

The most tedious part of AR-15 cleaning is the bolt. Fortunately there are tools to help, like this OTIS B.O.N.E. tool.

The most tedious part of AR-15 cleaning is the bolt. Fortunately there are tools to help, like this OTIS B.O.N.E. tool.

While no one really knows for sure, industry sources estimate that there are more than 10 million AR-type modern sporting rifles in the US. That’s a lot of rifles, a lot of ammo and a lot of cleaning!

Inspired by the popularity of the modern sporting rifle and its many variants, and the fact that I just like them, it’s time to embark on a series of AR-15 hacks. Over the next month or so, we’ll take a closer look at all sorts of tips and tricks that will help you clean, maintain, use and customize your AR-15.

To start things off, let’s take a closer look at cleaning tips. If you listen to the internet forums, you might believe that cleaning an AR-15 is a tougher chore than scrubbing the boilers of the Titanic. According to some, the design is so bad that more grime collects in the action from each and every shot than that deposited by all the gas semi-automatic shotguns on South American pigeon hunts over a year’s time.

Yes, the AR-15 direct impingement design does vent hot, dirty gas into the receiver and smothers the bolt and carrier with each shot. But in the scope of things, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. If your day job is strolling through wadi’s in Afghanistan, where the airborne dust resembles talcum powder, then your results may vary and daily cleaning is probably a necessity. Here, I’m referring to recreational and home defense AR use.

If you’re using your rifle for range gun, competition or as a home defense option, you can take a more practical approach to your cleaning chores. If you own a rifle of at least moderate quality, it’ll run when it’s dirty. Just for fun, I’ve been boycotting a cleaning job on a Smith & Wesson M&P15 OR rifle I picked up last fall. That’s right, almost a year ago. Why? I’m deliberately letting it go without cleaning just to see how forgiving it is as it starts to get grimy. To date, the rifle has somewhere around 1,500 rounds through it in all sorts of conditions, yet it runs. Contrary to popular belief, your rifle does not have to be babied to run reliably – within reason of course.

I’ll assume you already know the basics on how to disassemble your AR-15 rifle, so I won’t go over that here. If you want a really good video overview of how to field strip and clean your AR-15, check out this video produced by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Gunsite Academy. Here, we’ll focus on tips, tools and cleaning products that will make your cleaning chores easier.

Cleaning set up

A lower receiver vise block, like this one from Brownells, makes your cleaning and maintenance chores a lot easier.

A lower receiver vise block, like this one from Brownells, makes your cleaning and maintenance chores a lot easier.

If we’re joint to talk about doing things the easy way, step one is to figure out how you’re going to hold rifle parts during cleaning. Unlike a traditional rifle, the AR-15 hinges open, or even separates into multiple parts when you open one or both takedown pins. Holding on to a hinged-open AR that’s flopping around with one hand, while you’re trying to scrub with the other, is kind of like hitting a baseball with a Slinky.

The answer (for me) is a lower receiver vise block. This is a neat little piece of gun maintenance tool that inserts into your magazine well and locks into place. The idea is to put the bottom of the vise block into a workbench vise so the rifle is supported. They’re not as cheap as you’d expect, but good tools rarely are. If you have more than one AR rifle, or are planning to do more tweaking of your rifle, it’s a good investment – you’ll use it forever once you have it.

The best part is, with the lower receiver solidly supported, when you open the rear takedown pin, the upper receiver will hinge down towards the floor. This is important for cleaning the barrel because…

Barrel cleaning

Ideally, you want to clean a rifle bore from the chamber to muzzle so all the powder residue, chemicals and miscellaneous grime dribbles out the muzzle rather than back towards the action. That’s why I’m in favor of the OTIS cleaning system. In the case of cleaning the AR-15 rifle, there’s another, more specific, reason. The barrel extension is perhaps the hardest part to clean in an AR-15. Buried deep within the upper receiver, it makes you work just to get to it, and once you do, you’re confounded by a three-dimensional maze of bolt lug recesses and hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. It’s a pain. If you’re dredging solvent and grime towards the chamber, gunk will collect in those hard-to-reach barrel extension recesses.

 

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What a Difference a Trigger Makes

Will adding this to an AR rifle improve accuracy?

Will adding this to an AR rifle improve accuracy?

Gun shop wisdom says a good trigger makes all the difference.

It should be obvious that replacing the trigger doesn’t have any physical impact on a rifle’s accuracy. It’s not like it synchronizes barrel harmonics to the tune of “You’re So Vain” or anything. A trigger doesn’t touch the barrel or impact flight path, yet everyone swears it makes a rifle more accurate.

That’s kind of true. But it doesn’t make the rifle more accurate, it makes it easier for you, the shooter, to get the best accuracy that the rifle is capable of. This is an important distinction.

The reason is that pesky physics thing. When a rifle takes several pounds of pressure to break the shot, and the rifle itself only weighs several pounds, it’s gonna want to move, at least a little bit. A good trigger, with a smooth action and reasonably low pull weight, is going to make it easier for you to break the shot without moving the sight alignment of the rifle. When you’re trying to extract every last fraction of an inch of accuracy, a little bit of unwanted movement means a lot on the target.

According to John Vehr, President of Timney Triggers, “There is only one reason to upgrade a trigger in a firearm – to make you more accurate with the firearm.  A great trigger will allow you to become more accurate by eliminating physical factors like drag, creep and heaviness – Less movement equals better accuracy.  A great trigger will allow the shooter to make the act of pulling the trigger more of a mental decision that a physical decision.  A great trigger is an extension of the mind and should break exactly when the shooter calls for the shot.”

I shot groups with proven accurate handloads before and after the Timney Trigger installation.

I shot groups with proven accurate handloads before and after the Timney Trigger installation.

Gaining more practical accuracy by using a custom trigger sounds great in theory, but I wanted to put it to the test in a quantifiable way.

I decided to take two rifles of proven quality and accuracy, but with less than optimal triggers, and test their accuracy before and after a trigger upgrade. The folks at Timney Triggers sent me an AR-15 Competition trigger for the test. This trigger, the 3 pound 667 model, is a self-contained unit with drop-in installation.

My thought for the test was simple. Shoot groups of 5 shots each with each rifle with its standard factory trigger. While at the range, swap the trigger for the Timney AR-15 Competition trigger, and reshoot the groups. Same ammunition, same rest, same day, same atmospheric conditions and same shooter. When all was done, I figured on applying some common core math to compare the average group sizes before and after. Then I realized that this article was due in 2014, so I skipped the common core stuff and added, subtracted and averaged the old fashioned way.

Read the rest at AmmoLand!

10 Reasons the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational Is My Favorite Shooting Event

Jerry Miculek of Team Smith & Wesson looks on as a competitor blasts an aerial target (upper left)

Jerry Miculek of Team Smith & Wesson looks on as a competitor blasts an aerial target (upper left)

I had the good fortune to compete in, and cover, the shooting community’s coolest adventure, otherwise known as the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational. As the name implies, this is a full-blown outdoor 3 Gun match.

The third annual Crimson Trace event was held at the COSSA shooting range located in the high desert about 7,394 nautical miles outside of Bend, Oregon. The remote location and match schedule ensures several things: it will be dark, as in black hole kind of dark; your equipment will have to perform in exceptionally dusty and dirty conditions (drop a magazine in the dirt here and it will sound like nails on a chalkboard for the rest of the match); and, you will not sleep for several days.

A look down at some of the shooting bays in use.

A look down at some of the shooting bays in use.

1. Sleep

More accurately, lack of sleep defines this event. Shooting begins around 9 pm and continues until four or five in the morning. The first night of competition, I rolled back into my hotel room after sunrise – exhilarated but tired. Lest you think you can catch up during the day, busses leave for the range before lunch for training, safety briefings and sponsor range demonstrations. Next week, I’ll get into some really neat new products demonstrated at the range event.

2. Safety

As safety is the number one concern, range officers are more plentiful than fake ID’s at a Justin Bieber concert. As all of the range officers are avid 3 Gun Shooters themselves, there is a full match for them the two nights prior to the pro match Friday and Saturday nights. We media weasels squad up with the range officers and shoot the full match with them Wednesday and Thursday nights. This is a great win-win solution. We media hacks don’t have to shoot with the pros and face total humiliation, the range officers shoot the full match, and we all work the bugs out before the pros start Friday night. As you’ll see from the photos, every person on the range wears glow sticks front and back for absolute visibility. A big hat’s off to the professionalism and dedication of all the range staff. They preserved the perfect safety record while adding plenty of fun.

Nope, not dark enough yet. A pre-match briefing at Stage 7.

Nope, not dark enough yet. A pre-match briefing at Stage 7.

3. My Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO

I wrote about this gun prior to the match. Hard use in the dusty match conditions confirmed my early opinions. Dumping mags in use dry dust all week got the gun plenty dirty, but it ran like a champ. The best part was comfort of high-volume shooting. I used American Eagle 147 grain 9mm ammo that clocks in around 950 feet per second. The recoil impulse was light and smooth – perfect for high-speed competitive shooting.

4. Live entertainment

During the awards ceremony, Crimson Trace founder Lew “Joe Cocker” Danielson stopped mid-speech, ran to his truck to retrieve his guitar, and broke into a rousing rendition of “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” As a special tribute to the ladies’ present, he followed with an a capella encore performance of “You Are So Beautiful.” Lew explained lack of guitar accompaniment to the fact the song requires seven chords and he only knows four so far. An inspiring moment from one of the industry’s finest individuals. It was epic.

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Personality Quirks of the 300 AAC Blackout

Like any gun and cartridge combination, the 300 AAC Blackout has its own personality. Getting to know a few of its character traits can save you a lot of time should things start to act wonky. Let’s take a look at a few of the more common potential gotchas.

Chambering the Wrong Caliber!

Here's a .223 Remington cartridge dropped into a 5.56mm chamber. No problem!

Here’s a .223 Remington cartridge dropped into a 5.56mm chamber. No problem!

You hear internet stories about someone who stuffed the wrong caliber cartridge into a rifle and pulled the trigger. If you’re like me, you take these legends with a grain of salt, shake your head a bit, and move on. Another internet myth right?

Well, this one is true I tell ya! I saw it happen!

I was at my regular outdoor range a month or so back, when I heard a loud bang, closely followed by what can best be described as a “panic shriek.” The scream was intense – kind of like the one Mike Bloomberg makes when he inadvertently stumbles into a Friends of NRA banquet. Looking a few benches to my right, I saw two men, one an experienced shooter, and the other a new shooter, looking dazed and confused. Actually the newer guy was looking more scared and in shock – staring at his hands as if he was surprised they were still attached. Somehow he had stuffed a magazine full of 300 Blackout supersonic cartridges into a 5.56mm rifle, managed to chamber a cartridge, and pulled the trigger.

Here's a 300 Blackout cartridge loaded with a ballistic tip bullet, dropped, not forced, into the same 5.56mm chamber.

Here’s a 300 Blackout cartridge loaded with a ballistic tip bullet, dropped, not forced, into the same 5.56mm chamber.

As you might guess, the gun exploded. Literally. The bolt was bent, upper receiver bulged out, barrel extension trashed, lower receiver trashed and the barrel was now plugged with one very elongated .308 caliber projectile. The shooter was incredibly lucky as much of the pressure escaped through the magazine well. Still, there was enough force in the conflagration to bend a lot of steel and aluminum. The shooter suffered plenty of stinging and mild burns to his hands and face.

Now that I had seen it happen, I became a believer. At least with the right bullet profile, it is possible to fit a 300 Blackout cartridge into a 5.56mm / .223 chamber – at least enough so to allow the rifle to fire. When I got home, I removed an upper from one of my 5.56 ARs and dried dropping various 300 Blackout hand-loaded cartridges into the chamber to see if any would fit. With big and fat bullet profiles, no subsonic loads would come close to fitting, but lighter weight 110 and 125 profiles did in fact come pretty close to fitting in the chamber without application of undue force.

The moral of the story is that it can happen, so be careful when shooting any rifles of similar cartridge design. In this case, it’s doubtful the experienced shooter would have made the mistake, but the new shooter had no idea. Apparently his mentor was paying attention to something else when the shooter loaded the gun.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to minimize the risk. The simplest method is to use magazines of different color for 300 Blackout. Get some tan, dark earth or grey ones. Or you could use metal mags for one caliber and plastic for another. If you already have a supply of magazines, check out MagBands – silicon bands that clearly identify the caliber contained within.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

 

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Transforming A Basic AR-15 To A Home Defense Rifle

The "after" version of the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR. It's all geared up for the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational and home defense use.

The “after” version of the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR. It’s all geared up for the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational and home defense use.

A few weeks ago, I discussed my plan of using the upcoming Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational to choose, equip and practice with guns I’ll use for home defense. Since then. I’ve decided to use a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR for the rifle. It’s a standard AR-15 design with a notable exception. Instead of the classic A2 fixed front sight and gas block, it comes equipped with a rail gas block. And as a home defense choice? Absolutely. M&P 15’s run – reliably – and are cost effective to boot.

The before photo.

The before photo. When doing gun work, you’ll want a proper set of gunsmithing screwdrivers like this

Gearing it up for both the night 3-gun competition and home defense use requires some tweaks. Here’s what I decided to do.

Rail for lights and lasers

Installation of the quad rail was easy - I didn't need any tools.

Installation of the quad rail was easy – I didn’t need any tools.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR comes with the standard round plastic handguard. It’s comfortable and does a good job keeping your support hand cool when the barrel gets hot, but doesn’t have attachment points for rail accessories. I chose to replace it with a Blackhawk! AR-15 Carbine Length 2 Piece Quad Rail Forend. It offers rails on top, bottom, left and right and has great ventilation in between to let the barrel cool. You can also get it in rifle length if your gun is longer than mine but enough about that.

Installation is a snap. You don’t need tools, not even a hammer. Just remove the existing handguard by pulling down the delta ring in front of the receiver until you can pry the existing handguard halves out. The new Blackhawk! handguard also comes in two pieces, so put them in the same way. After they are pressed in place, you bolt the two halves together. It’s not a free-floated solution, but it’s rock solid and you don’t have to do any serious construction work to install it on your rifle.

A little detail that makes a big difference

I also chose to install a Blackhawk! Offset Safety Selector. This is one of those “oh duh why didn’t I think of that” inventions. It relocates the safety lever itself 45 degrees so you can easily reach it with your thumb without shifting your grip. A great aid for safety and usability, and for competition, it might just help you avoid a procedural penalty for not engaging the safety on your rifle.

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How To Zero Your AR-15

bullet-trajectory

Eyesight is straight, while bullet flight paths arc.

Today we’re going to do complicated math. We’ll be talking about zeros, trajectories, and gravity. Fortunately we will not be talking about shooting in zero gravity as bullets would fly forever, or at least until they crash into the drifting hulk of the Discovery One.

Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as deciphering the true meaning of White House press briefings, as long as you understand how bullets fly. Bullet trajectory is almost as simple as dropping a brick, except the bullet flies forward as it drops towards the ground. When you fire a bullet, there is no magical force that helps it defeat gravity. In fact, if you fire a bullet from your AR type rifle, perfectly parallel to the ground, the bullet you fire will end up hitting the ground at just about the same time as a bullet you let fall from your hand straight down. I say, “just about” only because the earth curves a bit, and the fired bullet will have a smidge farther to fall than the dropped one. It’s that gravity thing we just can’t defeat, no matter what.

No matter how fast a bullet is flying, it’s constantly falling towards the ground. Even bullets from those so-called “High-Powered Assault Weapons.” If you look at the path of a bullet, it will always be a downward sloping curve, kind of like congressional approval ratings.

But wait, you say, when I aim right at a target 100 yards away, the bullet hits it! That’s correct, but only because the barrel is actually pointed a little bit upwards relative to the ground. Shooting a bullet is a just like throwing a football except you don’t get 12 million a year plus a signing bonus. You need to aim it up a little bit so it arcs back down to intersect at your desired impact point.

Most AR optics are about 2 1/2 inches above the bore line.

Most AR optics are about 2 1/2 inches above the bore line.

Whether you use iron sights or a fancy optic on your AR rifle, you will always need to plan for the intersection of the straight line designated by your line of sight and the arc of the bullet. Your line of sight is not subject to the laws of gravity, so you see in a perfectly straight path unless you stayed out too late last night. Since your bullet leaves the barrel in an arc pattern, it may actually intersect your line of sight twice – once on the way up, and again on the way down. But that depends on your zero distance.

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Weaver Kaspa-Z Scope Review

The Weaver Kaspa-Z Scope is a swingin' deal at a street price of $199

The Weaver Kaspa-Z Scope is a swingin’ deal at a street price of $199

Lots of folks are skeptical about the whole Zombie thing. Unrealistic they say. Will never happen. I say just look to Washington, DC or The Maury Show live studio audience. It’s obviously real.

Even if you choose to remain in a blissful state of denial about the Kardashians Zombies, you ought to check out the Weaver Kaspa-Z Zombie rifle scope.

Why? Zombie label or not, it falls in the heckuva deal category. With an MSRP of $299.95, you can actually find one on the street for about $199.

Just the specs

If you don't want zombification on your scope, leave off the stickers. All that remains is the turret fonts and a hazmat logo that's kind of cool.

If you don’t want zombification on your scope, leave off the stickers. All that remains is the turret fonts and a hazmat logo that’s kind of cool.

Here’s what you need to know about the Weaver Kaspa-Z scope:

It’s got a 30mm tube, so make sure you get appropriate rings.

Zoom range is from 1.5x to 6x.

The turrets offer ¼ MOA adjustments and total adjustment range at 100 yards is 80 inches.

It’s got multi-coated lenses to increase light transmission and prevent zombie-attracting glare.

It features a nitrogen-filled tube to prevent fogging.

Weight is a hair over 16 ounces, so it’s got some meat on the bones. I was impressed by its construction – especially for the price point. It’s a solid beast that could probably be used as an impact weapon against the undead.

The second focal plane reticle is black and easy to see in daylight conditions, but has illumination powered by a CR2032 battery. Just twist off the illumination turret cap to replace the battery.

The Z-CIRT Reticle

I really like the Z-CIRT reticle. It's a mil-dot geek fantasy.

I really like the Z-CIRT reticle. It’s a mil-dot geek fantasy.

I’ve had some quality time behind Weaver’s CIRT reticle. A while back, I took a close look at the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24 scope which also uses the CIRT reticle. Besides being a cool looking pattern, the CIRT is insanely useful for both targeting and distance estimation.

It’s clearly designed for AR platform rifles and Weaver conveniently includes pre-mapped ballistic information for a variety of .223 Remington / 5.56mm rounds.

  • Shooting M855 ammo? Then you know that the top of the vertical post is your hold point at 325 yards.
  • How about M193 ammo? Then you know the second horizontal bar is your hold point for a 585 yard shot.

I could go on with pre-mapped firing points all day as the CIRT is carefully calibrated to give you near infinite hold points. Oh, and it’s a swell ranging tool too.

  • The solid center dot corresponds to the size of a zombie head, assuming it’s still in one piece, at 200 yards.
  • At 100 yards, that zombie head will fill the area between the parentheses around the solid dot.
  • Assuming your zombie still has both arms, the top horizontal hash mark represents 20 inch shoulder with at 400 yards.

If you’re a mil dot freak, you can go crazy. Weaver gives you elevation indicators ranging from .25 mils to 10 mils and everything in between. Windage is also marked out the wazoo. Get a phone or tablet program like Ballistic and go crazy mapping out aim points for any load you want.

Performance Against the Undead

I had hopes of using this against hordes of undead at long range, but they’re all on hiatus until the next season of The Walking Dead. Instead, I mounted the Weaver Kaspa-Z scope on a Daniel Defense DDM4V5 300 AAC Blackout rifle. That was particularly fun with the Z-CIRT reticle as there are plenty of aim points to help me cover the wide range or trajectories available with 300 Blackout ammo. When you’re ballistic performance ranges from 110 grain bullets cursing at 2,500 feet per second to 240 grain subsonic bricks lumbering along at 950 feet per second, you need some flexibility.

After doing a little basic mapping, and zeroing the supersonic rounds at 50 yards, I started doing some semi-serious tests.

I tested the Weaver Kaspa-Z on a Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout rifle. Suppressed of course.

I tested the Weaver Kaspa-Z on a Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout rifle. Suppressed of course.

The Scope Olympics

I usually like to “shoot a box” with a new optic, like I did with the Weaver Tactical 1-5×24, but I was bored. So knowing the measurements of my 5 target sheet, I started doing some predictive shots. Using one target as the hold point, I did some clicks to inches math and started trying to hit other points on my target backer. Like the Weaver Tactical, the Kaspa-Z had no issues with impacting within 1 MOA of where it was supposed to, even with large windage and elevation adjustments.

One of the other things I always verify in a new scope is whether the point of impact stays constant when you change magnification levels. With a scope that starts at or near 1x magnification, this can be a little tricky as you’re relying more on your eyesight to properly sight in a distant target. For the Kaspa, which starts at 1.5x, I set up a target at 100 yards and fired a carefully aimed shot at the lowest magnification level. I then cranked up the zoom to about 3.5x and fired another at the exact same point. Last, I enjoyed the luxury of actually getting a clear view of that 100 yard target with the full 6x magnification. All three shots were within about an inch and a half of each other, which was darn lucky as I could hardly see the target at the 1.5 zoom level. Old eyes and all that.

Closing Arguments

The Weaver Kaspa-Z scope is a deal. Even though it has a Zombie name, the Zombie gear is optional as most of the zombification is accomplished by a pile of stickers in the box. You don’t have to put them on if you don’t want to. Construction is solid and performance was great. I really dig the CIRT reticle. It’s fast at closer ranges and infinitely flexible if you want to establish pre-determined hold points at all sorts of distances.

Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15 VTAC Rifle: A Review One Year Later

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 VTAC I with Warne RAMP scope mount and Bushnell Tactical Elite optic.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 VTAC I with Warne RAMP scope mount and Bushnell Tactical Elite optic.

Most gun reviews allow for a short acclimation period, a couple hundred rounds at the range and a rushed story and photos to meet an editorial deadline. We thought it might be interesting to do a “one year later” review on a gun – just to see how it holds up over time and use. While announced by Smith & Wesson all the way back in their 2009 new products catalog, I picked up the M&P VTAC I just under a year and a half ago. It was new in box, found with a small stash tucked away in a Smith & Wesson warehouse somewhere. Now in its second iteration, the M&P 15 VTAC remains as popular as ever. Let’s take a look.

A Tour of the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC I

Let’s take a look at what makes the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC special. The simple explanation is that the VTAC models are preconfigured factory produced hot rods. The VTAC is more than a “marketing bundle” where various third-party accessories are bolted on and factored into the price. The base rifle itself includes premium upgrades that set the VTAC apart before any toys are hung on the rails.

Core Component Upgrades

When talking premium upgrades, you have to start with the Barrel. The VTAC I features a 4140 steel 16 inch barrel with a 1:7 twist. The aggressive twist rate stabilizes longer (and heavier) projectiles like 77 grain bullets. Numerous components are chromed for wear and ease of cleaning including the bore, chamber, gas key and bolt carrier.

JP Enterprises Single Stage Match Trigger and Speed Hammer

The big deal about the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC is the inclusion of a first-rate trigger. AR type rifles aren’t exactly celebrated for their quality triggers, but the JP Enterprises Single Stage Match Trigger is outstanding. Oh, it also features the JP Enterprises Speed Hammer upgrade.

Even though I’ve become accustomed to the feel after shooting a few thousand rounds, it will still offer a surprise break when I’m concentrating on precise shots. It has no detectable take up and no over travel. By my measurement, it breaks extra crispy at 3 1/2 pounds.

Viking Tactics Handguard by JP Enterprises

The 12.5 inch aluminum handguard is attached to the receiver with a steel nut, resulting in a free floated barrel. The handguard itself is completely round, with a light texture applied to the aluminum surface. It’s insanely configurable with use of three included rail segments that can mount to the top of the hand guard via a line of seven screw holes or on the bottom or sides using rail backers that attach to the oblong grooves in the hand guard.

SureFire FH556-212A Flash Hider / Silencer Adapter

The original VTAC included a Surefire flash hider.

The original VTAC included a Surefire flash hider.

The included Surefire flash hider is a dual purpose accessory. It’s primary purpose is to reduce flash signature in order to protect the shooters night vision and conceal position. This one also helps prevent muzzle rise. This particular flash hider also serves as a no-tools mount for SureFire FA556K, FA556-212, FA556MG, or MINI suppressors. The Surefire flash hider attaches to the VTAC’s standard ½” by 28 tpi threaded barrel, so it’s easy to configure most any muzzle device you want.

VLTOR Modular Stock

The VLTOR ModStock has waterproof compartments for extra batteries or beef jerky - your choice.

The VLTOR ModStock has waterproof compartments for extra batteries or beef jerky – your choice.

The VLTOR stock offers six positions for varying lengths of pull. Not only does this accommodate different shooter dimensions, it allows quick reconfiguration to properly fit when the user is wearing body armor or other gear. The stock also contains two waterproof compartments large enough to house (3) CR123 or (2) AA batteries in each compartment. You might also want to use these compartments for critical spare parts – firing pin, springs, or perhaps beef jerky. The stock also has three different sling mounts: top, center and a quick-detach stud swivel mount if you prefer that to simple loops.

The gizmos are nice, but what I like most about this stock is the ergonomic design. The top offers an extra wide and smooth surface, owing to the storage compartments on either side. The shape makes for a comfortable and solid cheek weld surface. I also like the butt design. It slopes down and towards the muzzle, and is coated with a textured rubber pad which helps establish a solid position against your chest or shoulder.

Surefire G2 Light and VTAC Light Mount

Smith & Wesson includes a 60 lumen Surefire G2 tactical light with tail switch that mounts wherever you want with the included Viking Tactics light mount kit and hand guard rail segments.

Viking Tactics 2 Point Sling

If you haven’t used the Viking Tactics Quick Adjust Sling, try it. After one-time “permanent” length adjustment, you can use the quick adjust pull tab to cinch your rifle in tight or loosen it for firing flexibility. When sized correctly, you can even shoot from your offside shoulder without adjustment to the sling. It’s handy.

This rifle arrived pretty much loaded – with one exception. I immediately replaced the standard hard plastic grip with an Ergo Tactical Deluxe Grip. Now it was ready for the configuration games.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

New From The NRA Annual Meeting: Daniel Defense Offers Custom Finishes

Daniel Defense DDM4v9LW with new Tornado finish.

Daniel Defense DDM4v9LW with new Tornado finish.

I have a mental block. A lot of them actually. But one prevents me from doing anything to a brand new factory gun. The finish is perfect after all, as all the parts were done professionally at time of manufacture. It seems such a shame to mess with it. That would be like taking your new Dodge Charger to Maaco for a paint job, right?

While Cerakote provides amazing personalization options, I’ve only really considered doing it to well-used guns. Now Daniel Defense is expanding the selection of factory-applied Cerakote finishes with its Tornado shade of grey. It will be available through Daniel Defense retailers in July on two models, the DDM4v5 and the V9 LW.

The Cerakote finish is the second new color option Daniel Defense has launched this calendar year. Mil Spec +, a flat dark earth variation, was first unveiled at SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January. “When you look for a new car, you have substantially more color options than just black,” noted Jordan Hunter, Daniel Defense Director of Marketing. “Customers want choices other than the mil-spec Type III hard coat anodizing, or matte black, and the Daniel Defense Tornado™, we believe, will be well received by our customers.”

R.I.P. One AR-15 Rifle – Another 300 Blackout / .223 Kaboom

I’ve read a few stories recently about someone, somewhere, shoving a 300 AAC Blackout cartridge into a .223 / 5.56mm rifle and pulling the trigger – subsequently blowing their gun to bits. Some folks call BS and say it can’t happen as the rifle won’t go into battery and fire.

Well, I’m a believer now, considering a guy 3 lanes down from me blew up his fairly nice looking AR today. In the confusion, I was not able to get the brand of the rifle, but that matters little. Containing 55,000 pounds per square inch of pressure is not in the job description.

This was the round below the cartridge bomb in the magazine. I found it on the ground amongst lotsa small pieces of magazine, spring and follower. And quite a few case fragments. As you can see, it absorbed some violence.

This was the round below the cartridge bomb in the magazine. I found it on the ground amongst lotsa small pieces of magazine, spring and follower – and quite a few case fragments. As you can see, it absorbed some serious violence.

I was pretty occupied with my own business, gleefully trying out two new SilencerCo silencers for which I’ve waited about 10 months. A 22 Sparrow SS and an Octane 45 by the way. And yes, they’re awesome. Happiness = That feeling when your slide cycling makes more noise than the gun shot. That nirvana was achieved with a Smith & Wesson M&P22 with a SilencerCo Sparrow using Aguila Subsonic 60 grain .22LR ammunition.

Suddenly I heard a “splosion” noise and a scream from a few lanes to my right. Running over to see what happened, I saw a man holding his hand and obviously somewhat shaken up. I immediately started looking at his face as he was somewhat disoriented and all was clear there. His left (support) hand looked like he had fondled a few bricks of charcoal for a while. Thankfully, and maybe miraculously, no cuts or blood anywhere. While his hand was “stinging like crazy” in his words, there did not appear to be any burns of consequence. This is one incredibly lucky guy, especially since I can’t be sure he was wearing shooting glasses. The way they were placed on the table, I’m not sure he had them on when he blew up the rifle.

Here’s the apparent sequence of events, picked up from listening to the rifle owner and the shooter.

The owner had two uppers at the range. A .223 and a 300 AAC Blackout. He obviously hand loads as there were 100 round ammo boxes of each type nearby.

The shooter appeared to be new and somewhat inexperienced. I can’t be sure, that’s just an observation from seeing the interaction after the kaboom. Either the shooter picked up a magazine full of 300 Blackout cartridges, or the rifle owner handed him a magazine loaded with Blackouts. I can’t be sure. They weren’t sure themselves.

The shooter loaded the magazine of 300 Blackouts in the .223, chambered a round, and fired. Then the Kaboom. I was not able to discern, nor was the owner, whether the shooter felt anything abnormal trying to chamber the first round. As  the shooter appeared to be inexperienced, I’m not sure they will ever sort that out.

Once we determined the shooter was physically OK, I wanted to get out of their business, so I didn’t get any photos of the rifle, but I can describe the damage. In short, it was pretty much totaled. Perhaps the Magpul front hand guard, rear stock and trigger group can be salvaged. That’s about it.

Here's a .223 Remington cartridge dropped into a 5.56mm chamber.

Here’s a .223 Remington cartridge dropped into a 5.56mm chamber.

The magazine blew up, along with spring and follower. And you can see what happened to the other rounds in the picture here. I *believe* the fact that he was using a polymer magazine may have saved the shooter from additional injury. The explosion clearly took the path of least resistance. Perhaps a metal magazine would have allowed more pressure to go in other directions in addition to out the magazine well.

The magazine well on the lower was bulged out. Kind of like an Elmer Fudd cartoon shotgun.

The upper receiver was also bulged out from the explosion.

The bolt and carrier were both trashed – bent all to hell and completely stuck in the upper and barrel extension.

I assume the barrel extension and barrel were trashed, but as everything was fused together, there was no way to tell for sure until they rip things apart. Shoving a .308 inch diameter bullet into a .223 inch hole is asking for damage I would think.

While I was not shocked at the damage to the aluminum upper and lower, I was surprised at how much the bolt carrier and bolt were trashed. That’s hard stuff there.

Here's a 125 grain 300 Blackout cartridge dropped into the same 5.56mm chamber. Too close for comfort?

Here’s a 125 grain 300 Blackout cartridge dropped into the same 5.56mm chamber. Too close for comfort?

With the brief opportunity I had to look, that’s about all I could tell. But now I was curious. Would similar rounds allow the .223 rifle to go into battery? I decided to try under much safer conditions.

After removing the bolt and carrier from my Smith & Wesson M&P 15 VTAC (5.56 chamber) I dropped in a .223 Remington round to get a rough visual on where it sat. OK, that worked fine, as expected. Next, I dropped a variety of 300 AAC Blackout loads into the chamber, exerting no pressure at all and just letting the round fall. As expected, the big subsonic rounds didn’t get close to proper depth, however some of the longer and skinnier bullet profiles did – mainly the 110 and 125 grain ballistic tip bullet types. Not to the full and proper depth, but close. Close enough where a little encouragement by an inexperienced shooter could force the bolt into battery.

Lessons?

Wear eye protection. Always. This guy won the lucky human award today and I don’t think that’s given out more than once per lifetime.

When bringing a new shooter to the range, hover over them like a helicopter parent. At least until they gain some knowledge and proficiency.

If you own both rifles, figure out your own method for segregation. Perhaps wrap the Blackout magazines with colored tape, or put a colored base plate on them so they’re easily visible.

It might not be a terrible idea to take one or the other rifles to the range, but not both on the same visit.

Whattdya think?

Grab a copy of my free eBook, A Fistful of Shooting Tips. It will help make you a better shooter and the envy of your range in no time.

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