Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Can a Gun be $6,000 and a Good Buy?

In our opinion, this one is. We’re not looking for a precision rifle that can say hello at 1,000+ meters — for one thing, there’s no place to shoot it to its potential in our corner of a state of smallholdings — but if you live in, say, Texas, Utah, or in the gun’s current home, Colorado, there’s a hell of a long-range rifle for sale at a reputable gun shop in Erie (North of Denver, East of Boulder, off I-25). Can you recognize a face from this close-up?

Accuracy International Action

A bolt face, that is? OK, you’ll certainly recognize this caliber marking:

Accuracy International barrel mark

The gun is a several-years-old, but apparently gently used and well kept, Accuracy International rifle. AI makes renowned, and ungodly expensive, sniper rifles in the UK and has a branch in the USA that makes them for the Western Hemisphere market.

Accuracy International full length

While it’s on GunBroker, which usually says “auction” to us, the minimum bid equals the buy-it-now. (If you have to ask, you may not be in this market).

The AI has mandatory modern precision rifle features, like a detachable magazine and Picatinny rail…

Accuracy International Action view

… and “preferred” features like a fully adjustable, folding stock. (Excuse us, “chassis”. What’s the difference between a stock and a chassis? About $2,000! Thanks, we’ll be in the blog all week).

This is as good a place as any to digress about adjustable stocks. Why are the stocks of military sniper rifles adjustable? Because a stock that fits the shooter, as Purdey and Holland & Holland (among others) knew well over a century ago, produces more hits on game (two- or four-legged, the principle is the same). But the bespoke-gunsmith approach to stocks is not practical to an army, where you must quickly outfit snipers, and where you must replace the snipers more frequently, on average, than the rifles. Being a subset of infantry, it’s to a degree a young man’s game; and unlike the snipers, the rifles don’t move on to leadership and training roles, but stay operational for years, even decades.

Plus, the military is wonderful (/sarc) at reorganizing working units, so even in peacetime a guy often leaves his dialed-in rifle behind and arrives at Unit B where they hand him a rifle dialed in by someone else. (Or his own unit has to send him to Sexual Harassment Interpersonal Training or some inane NCO school for a month, and he comes back to find Old Betsy has deployed with a new guy “you get Rack Number 36,” whatever that is).

So the ability to raise, and extend, and maybe even cant that stock a little bit is a wonderful feature to have, in any organization with a rifle may be used by more than one person.

The folding stock comes in handy any time you have to get in and out of a vehicle, whether it’s a Toyota pick up truck, an SDV or an MH-47. (Or the crappy Malibu you drive because you spent all your money on guns).

Accuracy International Folding stock

But the real strength of the weapon is not its features, but its precision and quality. AI is not unique or all alone in that; there’s an awful lot of come competition at the high-end of the precision rifle market. But this is truly a Rolls-Royce, for someone seeking the Roller of this market segment. (Actually, now that Rollers have VW motors, and Hot Wheels made-in-Taiwan styling, what’s the Roller of that market segment?)

Accuracy International full length right

As the heading of this blog post states, the quality (and snob appeal) of an AI rifle don’t come cheap. For this one, rhe price is a bracing $6,000, a substantial discount from the cost of a new one, for a gun that has a century of shooting ahead of it. Of course, that’s only half way to a working rifle; you’re looking at thousands more for a suitable glass and mounts. (the Mile High Gun Shop can help you out there, too; he’s the US distributor of excellent but crazy-expensive Swiss Spuhr mounts, and is well-acquainted with high end scopes).

At that price, flying into DIA and renting a car to inspect the rifle seems sensible, even though, as we mentioned, the dealer has a fine reputation in the precision shooting community.

Yes, it’s overkill for elk hunting, which you can do perfectly well with a Remington in .270. And the average shooter, which includes us, would probably be better served by a $1,000 gun and $5,000 in ammo and range time. But ads like this make our acquisitive little black heart skip a beat.

 

Is the HK 293 Really Coming?

H&K, having decided that we don’t suck and they don’t hate us after all, is trying to bring a semi-automatic version of their G 36 rifle to the United States and worldwide market. To do this they have to leap two regulatory hurdles: authority to export the firearm from the Bundeskriminalamt, the “Federal Criminal Office” that manages the Federal Republic’s stringent weapons export laws, and then authority to import the weapon to the US, from the payroll patriots at the ATF.

Recently-delivered HK 243 of an overseas customer shows its G36 roots.

Recently-delivered HK 243 of an overseas customer shows its G36 roots.

It gets better, if you define “better” as a bigger headache for H&K officials: the US and German laws were written with no consideration of each other, and impose confusing, arbitrary, and contradictory requirements on someone trying to send a rifle from one nation to the other. Meanwhile, H&K officers don’t want to respawn the Ernst Mauch “Because You Suck. And We Hate You” era: they’re determined to make a gun worthy of their company’s good name, not the bowdlerized crap of the 1990s.

These incompatible laws result in H&K’s having to divide the small worldwide market for oddball >$2,000 semi rifles into two separate model numbers, the HK 243 for the rest of the world and the HK 293 for America. (Not sure which model goes to Canuckistan, if any).

As the situation stands now, the BKA has approved the German export license, but the ATF is the logjam. (It is possible that the H&K application is mired in the ATF’s newfound commitment to political partisanship). The weapon has all the same parts as the G36, but military G36 parts including barrels, trigger mechanisms, bolts and carriers don’t interchange (this is required by German law).

HK243_0002

The standard G36 magazine is not a NATO STANAG magazine; as you can see, it has a constant curve, better for feeding than the part-curved part-straight M16-derived NATO mag. But a clever interchangeable magwell converts the G36 (or its civilian equivalents, in the picture below an HK 243) to take the NATO magazine.

HK 243 in italy

The US model would probably hit the docks in an unsalable (but legal!) configuration and then be rebuilt for 922 (r) compliance at H&K’s Newington plant (or H&K’s partners, Wilcox) in much the way that the FN SCAR-S gets a makeover at FNH USA between its Belgian factory and its American customers. The US model is likely to be as much as $1,000 more expensive than the Euro-spec gun — think of it as a hidden §922 (r) tax.

A similarly high price has hindered the widespread adoption of the FN SCAR, an excellent weapon handicapped by having its manufacturing processes dictated by lawyers and politicians.

Correction

We were remiss not to link & credit an HK Pro thread from which we drew the pictures and distilled lots of the information this thread. It is here:

http://www.hkpro.com/forum/hk-long-gun-talk/196906-hk243.html

No slight to the forum or its members was intended. The thread is a rich source of information (and speculation) about the 243 and 293.

3D Printed Fire Control Group

We’ve seen several of the WarFairy designed 3D-printed AR lowers being put through their paces, but here’s something we weren’t expecting to achieve test-fire status so soon — the Deimos 3D-printed fire control group.

The printer used was a Rostock Max V2, a deltabot style printer. An E3D hotend was used. The material was ABS filament and was treated with acetone vapor after printing. The same printer printed the lower receiver (which had mods to accept this FCG) and the FCG itself.

The FCG design is based on general best practices, adapted for 3D printing and for ABS plastic as a material. Before it is manufactured, it is rendered, both bare:

Deimos FCG rendering no receiver

And in a rendering of the lower receiver:

Deimos FCG rendering

By “general best practices,” we mean a trigger with hook or hooks, hammer (with places for the hooks to engage) and disconnector (also with hook) of the type designed by Browning over 100 years ago for such semi-auto firearms as the Auto 5 shotgun and the Remington Model 8 rifle. This general Browning design was adapted by Garand, Kalashnikov, Stoner and many other subsequent designers. (If you examine an AK and AR closely, you’ll see their kinship in this area. Both inherited the Browning fire control, the AR via Garand and the AK via Remington Model 8). This FCG has three parts in semi-auto form: a trigger, a hammer, and a disconnector.

Deimos FCG parts w springs

By”‘adapted for 3D printing and ABS plastic” we refer to changes required by this material and means of manufacture. Each of the parts is printed on the Rostock Max before getting its acetone vapor bath. And each part has some base and support material that must be removed.

Deimos FCG disconnector as printed

ABS is a strong plastic, but a brittle one. Nylon may be better; an FCG printed in white nylon (presumably Taulman 618) is shown here. It’s unknown why this version has not been given the test-fire treatment, yet; perhaps there are yet undisclosed problems with it. But the nylon works better “on paper.”

Deimos FCG nylon

Here’s the FCG in the lower, cocked:

Deimos FCG in place

And here it is, decocked:

Deimos FCG in place hammer down

The “wet look” of the plastic is a result of the acetone-vapor bath.

Home manufacturing is just getting started, and right now, it’s still for tinkerers and fiddlers, not for end users. It’s a bit like computers were in the early years — it’s in the hands of a shadowy priesthood, guardians of abstruse knowledge. But it turns out the priests are very friendly and helpful once you show a sincere interest.

It’s still harder than (and easier to go wrong with), say, starting up a new Mac or assembling an Ikea table. But so were earlier versions of the same products.

Some people will try to stop this. Lotsa luck. You can’t stop the signal.

This isn’t just about one single design for an AR fire control group. It’s about putting the tools of design, testing, and iteration — the whole RDT&E cycle, really — into the hands of anyone who’s got the nerve to pick them up.

John Browning had to file metal into shape, largely by hand, to transfer his ideas into real prototype firearms. But that was a century ago. Today, we don’t have to any more.

Latest Printed AR Lower Test Fire

This is a more recent AR lower design, called the Alimanu Phobos. Here’s an image of it:

alimanu_phobos_printed_lower

And here’s the source of that image, a video showing the lower and showing it being test-fired.

Here’s what the video post says:

A test-fire video of the Aliamanu-Phobos AR-15 Lower Receiver designed and printed by ArmaDelite. Printed with ABS plastic on a XYZPrinting da Vinci 1.0 printer, this design is derived from previous designs like the FOSSCAD Phobos, Vanguard and vanguard JT lower receivers. MOAR test fire videos coming soon!

We suspect that the feeding problems may be due to the reduced rigidity of the lower compared to a standard 7075 machined forging. If the positioning of the magazine with reference to the bolt carrier is not consistent, you might get results like this.

The files can be found here:

https://www.sendspace.com/file/lkw9nm

Don’t click any of the big Download buttons. This is what the actual link will look like.

Screenshot 2015-02-22 01.12.36

Annoy a totalitarian. Share gun design files.

 

This is the PTR-32 Gen I Drum Mod

One of the licks on the initial PTR-32 was that it was picky about magazines. The manufacturer still says the Gen II performs “best” with certain mags, including the grey Bulgarian polymer mags, but it’s less finicky than its previous iteration.

PTR-32 with Drum Cut

However, that still doesn’t help anyone wanting to use an AK drum in the PTR. The AK magazine, apart from the top 3/4 inch or so, stands proud of its own firearm. But the PTR, like an AR or its G3 ancestor, has a magazine well that protects and supports its own magazines for over three inches on each side. (Don’t gouge us on the dimensions; we’re using uncalibrated eyeballs to make a point). Some drum magazines have “necks,” like those meant for ARs, drums for Glocks (totally a thing, although it’s really just a gimmick, except for Glock-mag-using 9mm carbines), and the original “snail” drum for the Luger and the MP.18.

But the the common AK (really, RPK) drums don’t have any neck at all, and assume that they’ll be clear of the receiver as soon as an AK mag is. Those two drums are:

  • The original Soviet and satellite drum, which holds 75 rounds, loaded from the top like a stick mag and distinguished by its tapered, truncated-conical shape and its prominent winding lever on the front;
  • The Chinese drum, available in 75-round and less-common 100-round capacities, loaded by releasing spring tension and loosening clips to open the hinged backplate of the drum. It is distinguished by the hinged rear cover, a small winding key on the front that is hinged to lie flat, two clips that hold the back closed, and a push-button spring release on the back plate. Sometimes drums of this pattern are sold as Korean or Romanian drums. (The Romanian military used the Russian style).

Both of these drums are reliable. The Russian drum is a little more tactically sound, as the various hinged bits on the Chinese style drum are prone to rattle. Both drums tend to be rust blued, so they’re somewhat vulnerable to corrosion.

But to make either drum fit in the PTR, one needs to Bubba the magazine well. We’ve seen people admit to doing this with an angle grinder and with — what else, where Bubba is concerned? — a Dremel. The picture with this story shoes one of those alterations, on a gun that was for sale online.

According to the seller, this did not harm the firearm’s usability with stick magazine at all.

We’d be concerned about weakening the mag well, on which a service weapon is sometimes rested. We think could make a more robust and attractive mag well alteration by:

  1. Making a rough cut but leaving a lot of metal to support the next step;
  2. Using a bead roller or some type of rolling die to add some rigidity (where the cut will weaken the “edge” or “rim” of the mag well);
  3. Deburring and refinishing the edge.

We’d also be leery of any cut into the mag well that may remove ATF-required information. As long as the receiver still displays the manufacturer (or importer) name and city, the caliber, and the serial number, you should be OK. But the ATF takes a very dim view of any marking alterations, and if you have to make them, only prior approval will cover your precious posterior.

There are a few 7.62 x 39 oddities out there, and while this mod may work on a factory-style steel receiver, it probably should not be attempted on one of the Special Weapons (or any other) cast receiver.

Improved 7.62 x 39 PTR-32

We’re way, way behind on this, because the company slipped it into their line at SHOT, promoted it heavily at SHOT, and is shipping several versions in quantity. This is the PTR-32 Generation II, of which, the company seems not to have good photos (Call Oleg Volk!)

ptr-32_gii

The original HK32, the PTR’s conceptual daddy, seems to have been a “catalog” weapon that was promoted, displayed, demonstrated, but never manufactured in quantity, unlike the Hk31 series (G3), which was the third most popular 7.62 NATO rifle, issued to a couple dozen countries, or the HK33, the 5.56 version which was adopted by Thailand (and possibly others?).

hk32proto

The above image is from HKPro, which has a brief writeup on the HK32. More recently, The Firearm Blog notes that an HKPro forum member found an instance of HK32 in the field, in service with Mexican Policia. But the weapons were very rare, and used an oddball proprietary magazine. According to HKPro, Bill Fleming (most renowned now for his pre-86 full-auto conversions of HK firearms) gunsmithed some custom HK32s, and Special Weapons supposedly made a run of what they called the SW32, which should be avoided (Special Weapons was one of the Todd Bailey companies — Special Weapons, Bobcat, Coharie, more names that the bottom-of-the-line Chevy and for the same reason, because each name got poisoned by the crap products and worse service) so there has always been plenty of demand for a roller-lock in the 7.62 x 39mm M43 cartridge.

HK promoted and promoted it, back in their roller lock days before they raised the white flag and started cloning the AR. From the 70s through the 80s it was a staple of every HK full-line catalog, and featured in every HK article in the trades, in Small Arms of the World. But it never was a production item, probably because if you were shooting AK ammo you couldn’t beat the economics of AKs. Heck, if you were a communist or terrorist, the KGB would make sure someone gave them to you. So there never emerged large military sales for the HK rifle in Russian intermediate-cartridge form.

PTR Industries, which is back in full production (and has made up 2014 layoffs with new hiring in its new location in Aynor, SC) has made a sort-of HK32 clone with one very significant improvement: it takes the cheap, available, reliable AK magazine. We say sort-of because the PTR guys did not have an HK 32 to work with, and knew from the start they wanted to use AK mags, so they basically re-designed the G3 platform for 7.62 x 39, just as HK did. (HK used the HK33/93 receiver for its start point on the 32, while PTR used the larger and heavier HK31/91 receiver).

Incidentally, the “PTR” stands for Precision Target Rifles. The rifles were originally made under the name JLD with the PTR being the product name, but the names were harmonized years ago. If you find an HK clone from JLD Enterprises, it’s simply an older PTR and should be equal quality (it may have more imported parts than newer PTRs).

The firearm is made in a confusing array of versions, including gelded versions for ban states like Massachusetts and Californistan.

The principal division between versions is:

  • Early PTR,-32, now retroactively named the Generation I,  made from 2009-2013, maybe ’14. This version was extremely picky about the AK mags it worked with, especially the first production ones.
PTR-32 GI

This is a Gen I PTR-32. Most of the changes needed to make the Gen II take more varied AK mags are internal.

 

 

  • Generation II PTR-32, supposedly more eclectic in its acceptance of AK mags.

The very first, experimental PTR-32s were not released to the public. They used a proprietary magazine that did not interchange with AKs (or, presumably, with the rare-to-nonexistent HK 32s). The GIs were, as noted, magazine finicky. Note also that to make AK drums fit in the PTR-32, the traditional approach has been to cut away the magwell. (Talk about voiding the warranty!)

Post-number letters tell you what features the gun has. As we’ve broken them out (we couldn’t find a breakout, but there has to be one somewhere), K stands for 16″ (versus 18″) barrel, C is a ban-compliant gun for MA and NJ with subcapacity magazine and no muzzle threads or device, R stands for a welded-on Picatinny rail, and F we think stands for a railed fore-end, but it may just be for the PTR machined-alloy fore-end. This part looks at a glance like a G3 standard slimline handguard, but when you handle it you can see that it is machines from aluminum and has holes for attaching Picatinny rails for accessories. It’s a nice feature. In addition, versions that accept M4 style sliding stocks are always shipped with rails, and include “M4R” in the model name.

ptr-32_m4r_gii

We’re not blind HK fans here (the only HK on hand is a 416, actually), but the roller-locked system is the sort of ingenious mechanism that tickles our fancy, and it has one theoretical, and occasionally practical, advantage over the more common gas guns: it adapts really well to a wide range of loads. So we suspect that this PTR-32 would make a wicked good suppressor host with some downloaded 7.62 x 39… kind of like the .300 Whisper/.300 Blackout in the AR platform, with the possibility to change mags and go supersonic if crowd-control becomes a more urgent matter than minimizing signature. And also, of course, the possibility to fire cheap practice ammo — at least, until some minion at ATF hikes up his jackboots and bans it.

The PTR does have a stiff trigger. This is characteristic of the HK design, and a trigger pull in the double-digits is possible on an ordinary production piece. If you’re used to an AR, or to the long, smooth, and light trigger of an AK, you have some adjusting to do.

Here’s what PTR says about this firearm:

  • Made with match grade bull barrels
  • Chambered for 7.62×39
  • Rate of twist: 1 in 9
  • 15mm x 1mm right handed threading for attachments (flash hider, compensator etc.)
  • Barrel diameter: .70”

The muzzle threads fit HK stuff, but not AR or AK muzzle devices, so that’s something to bear in mind. The mag that PTR ships the gun with is a Bulgarian polymer AK mag, and that’s what they recommend; for steel magazines, they recommend Chinese and Korean over others.

PTR’s receivers are made, as they say, “on original H&K machinery to German military specifications,” of .059″ steel. In fact, they acquired the Portuguese PMP G3 production machinery, which was set up by HK back in the 1960s. The PTR-32 is available with a standard receiver which accepts HK / Hensoldt claw mounts, or a receiver with an integral (welded on) Picatinny rail, which accepts modern scope mounts. Likewise, there are handguard options that offer rails, for the inveterate gadgeteer.

For us, the PTR-32 doesn’t fill a need, but for some people it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. (Enough that PTR has reportedly increased production). We’re more inclined to the GI PTR-91 versions, ourselves.

We’re waiting for the 9mm version. PTR has gotten to the point where they make almost everything in house… a PTR-94 would be a win, but it would be a major tooling investment — we don’t imagine them doing it until the 91 and 32 momentum is completely spent.

So Sumdood posts a deal on Reddit…

… on a Century C308 FAL Clone. We are not making that up.

Century C308

Need we say any more about Century fans? It’s certainly not an FAL clone. We took it for a G3 clone with a welded-on picatinny rail, when we saw one in the rack at Kittery Trading Post this week, but it turns out it’s a mélange of used CETME parts and lowest-bidder domestic content. It has some kind of ate-up muzzle brake on it that looks like it tripped the sensor that said, “lowest cost.”

Supposedly there’s some video out there with James Yeager promoting it. Yeager probably didn’t take it for an FAL, at least.

Having seen a few Century CETMEs, including this model in the shop (we wondered why it had a new-gun tag on it, it looked used) and shot a lot of G3s… we can recommend some other courses of action:

  1. Save up an extra hunge or two and get a PTR-91 instead.
  2. Save up a lot of extra and get a preban CETME. Be wary of earlier Centuries, as they’re pretty crummy — definitely worse than these new ones.
  3. Save up a basic metric crapton extra and get a preban H&K 91. (Budget $3K).
  4. Wait a long time for a Springfield SAR-8 to come up at auction (it’s a Greek semi G3). A few come up every year; the wait will give you time to save up.
  5. Or just get the FAL. Some people can’t tell the difference, after all.

There are other options that are not even as good as the C308, like earlier Centuries and anything made by Hesse, Vulcan, or any of those related companies. Sure, the old HKs are way more money, but it’s a “buy one and cry once” thing.

One off HK clones and homebuilts may or may not be any good. We’d want to see it run, or have a guarantee.

Customizing your Carbine: Pro and Con

1959 ChevyIn 1959, a General Motors executive boasted that there were so many options available to buyers of the 1959 Chevrolet, that it was theoretically possible for no two of the hundreds of thousands of Chevies delivered that year to be alike. (In fact, many popular configurations were made in vast quantity, and many theoretical combinations of options made no practical sense and were never built). It’s quite a difference from today, when you have red, white, black, silver, and Option Package A or Option Package B. The new way of doing things substitutes soulless modern efficiency for funky 20th-Century soul.

Sometimes it seems like there are more ways to customize an AR type carbine than there were for that ’59 Chevy buyer. Oddly enough, the AR and the ’59 Chev are near-contemporaries, too; but initially, there was nothing but factory standard parts for the rifle. The military was offered an evolutionary/revolutionary  CAR-15 “system” with submachine-gun, rifle, carbine, and LMG versions, and apart from 10,000 SMGs for special purpose units, they didn’t buy.  Civilians could buy a Colt SP1 Sporter until the 1980s, when they got the option of a CAR-15 inspired SP1 Carbine, and they could customize either only with surplus parts or knockoffs of them.

CAR-15 Family

 

The first real mods that tried to extend the gun came in the 1970s, with things like the Rhino gas piston conversion, and the 6x45mm round. Both are forgotten now, but led the way for many subsequent attempts to pistonize the AR and to fit it with alternative components. That was 40 years ago. The AR is now recognized not as a single rifle or even as a CAR-15-style “family” but as a highly modular shelf full of

ar15newsdotcomNow, there are so many new AR parts all the time there’s even a website devoted to the announcements, AR15News.com. A quick look at the parts being promoted there suggests that even today, add-on parts fall into two categories:

  1. Personalizations that modify the gun in a way that pleases its owner; and
  2. Modifications that are meant to change the basic function of the gun.

Here’s an example of the former: the DS Arms “bufferloc” kit. (And here’s it’s press release on the aforementioned AR15News). It claims a number of benefits, but the one we see as real is that a nose-heavy upper doesn’t swing sharply open when the rear pin is pushed out. This is a minor aggravation, but a real one. Some of the other claims seem to use to either be (1) theoretical, not data-based’ and (2) beneficial only if the gun is not made right in the first place. (For example, they claim to prevent carrier tilt, something that’s not a problem in ordinary direct impingement ARs, if they’re built to spec).

We don’t mean to bag on DSA. They’ve been around for a while, and build some high-quality products. We can vouch for their RPDs and FALs, for instance. But their latest accessory got us thinking about accessories, period.

Accessories: everybody loves ‘em. AR gadgets are to guys (and some gals) like high heels are to many other gals’ closets (and some guys’, probably; it’s a free country, but we really don’t want to know). Gun folk no more explain to shoe folk the difference between our AR uppers than they can explain the difference between this year’s and last year’s Manolos.

If you want an accessory, by all means get it, and try it out. If it’s your gun, you only use it by yourself, and it makes you happy, that’s the only criterion you need to meet. But if you work with a team, or if you’re buying for a department, unit or agency, there are a number of reasons to go slow on buying cool AR stuff.

  1. Uniformity of weapons has its benefits. If one of you is out of the fight, perhaps because he’s wounded, performing a specialty task (medic, breacher) or communicating with higher, interoperability of weapons with the shooters actually shooting means the non-fighting guy’s guns and ammo become a potential New York reload for the fighting guy. (One combat duty of NCOs in the US forces is accountability and cross-leveling of weapons and ammo). There is no feeling so stupid as holding a strange gun and looking at a strange optic, unsure which button turns the illuminated reticle on (and worse, what turns it on on the NVG setting as opposed to the one that lights up your face for the enemy).
  2. Personalization limits resale appeal. While you can sell a generic M4 knockoff to anyone looking for a generic AR, your potential buyer pool shrinks with each add-on, proportional to the distance of that add-on from the norm. Fewer buyers = less demand = less support for a premium price. Paradoxically, spending thousands to accessorize a gun may decrease the prospects, and economics, of selling it.
  3. Accessories never add their own value to a gun. It’s strange the way that works, but a $2,000 AR with $2,000 in premium accessories changes hands for $2,100 all the time. A $1,500 gun with a $100 ambi selector and a $300 drop-in match trigger is a $1,500 gun. You’re never going to get the price of that Larue mount for your ACOG back. So do you buy the Larue or stick with the factory two-knob job? Depends. If your mission means optics are on-again, off-again, you’re going to love the Larue. If you set-it-and-forget-it (for instance, if you use other NODS tandem with the ACOG, and don’t have to swap on and off), then the Larue is of small benefit to you.
  4. Odd calibers make great stories, but we’ve learned some things from the 2012-13 ammo shortage. In a panic, common calibers disappear first as hoarders grab them. But much larger quantities of common calibers are kept on hand. At the peak of the empty-shelves period, the oddball rounds that were available varied widely from one shop to another. In one geographical area, you could still find .300 Blackout and 6.8 SPC; in another, you could find no “near-military” calibers like that, but only hunting ammo for such rounds as .243 Winchester. An odd caliber is, unless you’re standardizing it across an agency, a  permanent supply and interoperability problem.

So can we boil it down to one pithy phrase? As it happens, we can. For “hobby” ARs, suit yourself. For combat-oriented ARs, figure out where the center of the unit/team/market is, and deviate from that point only after careful consideration.

If you are that guy who wants to run an EOTech when everyone else is running an Aimpoint, that’s OK, but it’s on you to make sure the other guys are comfortable with your holographic sight — and that you have spare batteries at hand. An illuminated optic that isn’t subject to frequent preventive-maintenance inspections is nothing but a device for storing dead batteries.

What’s Up in the 3D Printed Gun World?

Time for an update, eh?

WarFairy Lower Banner

We’ve been seeing really creative AR lowers for a while now. A lot of the greatest ingenuity, like the FN-inspired creations above, come from the innovator who calls himself Shanrilivan and his creative entity WarFairy Arms. Watching his Twitter feed, or @FOSSCAD’s, is a good way to keep up with what’s coming from the community. (Coming soon: AR and AK fire control groups, for example):

AR fire control group

If you think there’s no innovation happening in firearms, you’re not tapped into the maker community inside the gun community — or is it, the gun community inside the maker community?

Some Words about Development

These lowers are not being “engineered” in any real sense of the word. Instead they’re being designed, and are then being tested, in a very tight closed-loop development cycle. From lowers that busted in a couple of shots, we’ve got lowers that have endured thousands of rounds. And that look stylish. This pastel AR has a printed lower and printed magazine.

printed lower and mag

It’s ready for its close-up, Mr De Mille:

printed lower and mag closeup

To see about 15 more pictures of printed-gun developments, including magazines, a 7.62mm lower, a revolver, and more, click the “More” button.

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AR 9mm Billet Lower

If you’ve ever wanted to build an AR in 9mm (maybe using that DEA upper that’s lying around on a pistol?) you may have been deterred by the difficulty in making a 9mm AR run, or the general fiddliness of the conversion, with a magazine-well adapter roll-pinned in place. Well, the guys at Gun Point have thought of you.

Gun Point 9mm AR lower r

There are some pretty cool features on this lower, which is designed for the Colt AR magazine. Since the full length front to rear of a 5.56 magazine is not required, the mag well shrinks to the size needed to support the SMG mag, with loooong lugs on the front, well reinforced, to hold the pivot pin. Indexing the magazine into a well that fits – what a concept!

Gun Point 9mm AR magwell

 

 

The lower comes with the Colt style extractor, ejector, and feed block in place. It’s approved by the ATF as “Cal-multi” which may be helpful for some of you behind enemy lines where ammuntion purchases are keyed to your registered firearms.

Here is a GunPoint custom SBR built on what appears to have been an early version of this receiver, with a VLTOR upper.

GunPoint 9mm SBR

The styling is something you might or might not like, very modern, with an “index cut” in the magwell for one’s trigger finger and pictographs for “safe, semi, and ‘talk to a crowd’ settings” on both sides. The trigger guard is an acquired taste; we prefer the opening mitten guard as seen on the M16, but we can’t deny that this eliminates one of the most common points of failure on AR receivers, especially by new or rushing builders.

 

Gun Point 9mm AR lower

Finally, they’ve banished roll pins by using socket-headed screws for such things as the detents and the bolt catch pivot pin.

Gun Point 9mm AR bolt catch screw

The socket-head screws, and the Allen wrenches, come in the package:

Gun Point 9mm AR screws

Screws-vs-pins is a bit of a double-edged sword. A roll pin is cheap and in normal use will never come out. Screws need loctite, need to be checked periodically, and when they’re gone are a lot harder to replace than a standard-sized roll pin. Both fasteners can come loose, especially if mistakenly installed. (Did you know that roll pins are not designed to be reused? Like the rod bolts in your smallblock Chevy, if you take them off you should put new ones in their places. If someone loses a roll pin from an AR, usually the bolt catch pin, it’s usually because the part was frequently and erroneously removed and replaced. So going the screw route means committing to maintaining the torque and/or loctite on your screws, and going the roll pin route means minimizing post-installation gefingerpoken und slippenouten.

Well, that’s what we say about it. Here’s what Gun Point says about it:

The Gun Point Custom GPM-15 9mm Billet lower receiver is a unique design, sleek and strong built unit that comes with all the features in the top of the line models without the high cost. We have designed this lower with everything you need. NO ROLL PINS!! The roll pin has been replaced with a set screw to eliminate the need of beating on the lower receiver. The rear take down pin detent spring is also held in with a set screw making it easier for you to change buffer tubes. Our receiver tension set screw effectively eliminates any unwanted “slop” between upper and lower receivers for superior accuracy. The oversize trigger guard gives you ample clearance when using gloves and the Finger Rest naturally guides the tip of your finger to the same resting place each time.

This dedicated 9mm lower receiver is designed for the Colt style magazine.

7075 Billet Aluminum
Mil-Spec component compatible
Upper tensioning set screw 1/4 – 28x .375
Bolt Catch screw in pins in place of roll pins
Bolt Catch 6-32 pivot screw included
Threaded saftey detent hole for 6-32 set screw
6-32 x .125 Saftey Detent set screw included
Integrated Oversize Trigger Guard
Finger Location Identifier / Finger Rest
Bullet pictogram selector markings
Type III Class 2 Hardcoat Anodized Finish (Standard)
Optional Cerakote colors available – Add $30

It will set you back $318 shipped to your FFL, but there’s an introductory price of $264, including shipping.

We have not tried this lower, and in fact we generally prefer forged to billet receivers in AR-land… but we have had dealings with Felix at GunPoint / AV Guns, in fact, a customer service problem where a rifle rack we ordered via Gun Broker was destroyed by the carrier enroute. Despite the fact that he’s one of the busiest NFA dealers in Florida, Felix and his guys got personally involved and made their customer — your humble WeaponsMan — whole, waiting themselves for the reimbursement from the freight company.

Like many great Americans, Felix knows what it’s like to taste American freedom after suffering under foreign tyranny. If you thought you were a patriot, check out guys like him sometime.

We can, therefore, recommend these guys and this company without reservation, which adds up to a thumbs-up for their new lower, sight unseen.