Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Gun ID Question

What are we looking at here?


Every once in a while we’re going to open up a safe we haven’t been in, in a while, and show you what we find there. If there’s any interest, we’ll do this with stuff on the I’m So Awesome Wall, or in the Room of Oddball Militaria.

But at the moment, we’re looking at something you don’t see every day.

What are we looking at? Answer, and some more photos, after the jump.

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Afghan SOPMOD I Update

Originally, when we got M4A1s and SOPMOD gear, the only documents that made it to us after Group HQ coonfingered the gear were these little 11x17 posters. All the manuals (and some of the gear) were gone.

Originally, when we got M4A1s and SOPMOD gear, the only documents that made it to us after Group HQ coonfingered the gear were these little 11×17 posters. All the manuals (and some of the gear) were gone. [Bear with us on the photos. It will take a while to get them into this post! It should be good now].

When we last left our attempted clone of our Afghanistan 2002-03 rifle, we had taken it to the range and zeroed it with M193 (our indoor range doesn’t permit M855 due to the steel penetrators), but only using the iron sights. We had made already the first small changes to tweak the rifle to ape its wartime predecessor, including:

  • A Colt 14.5″ M6920LE Short Barreled Rifle.
  • Replacing Colt’s factory Rogers Super-Stoc with the actual Colt stock from our wartime gun (the unit dumpstered them when SOPMOD stocks came in — and a friend still on duty dumpster-dove for us).
  • Replacing the front handguards with the correct vintage Knight’s rail system and VFG. Yes, we know VFGs are out of style in 2015, but they were still the cat’s ass in 2002, and that’s what we’re building. We’re going to do a few other things wrong before we’re done, to keep our SBR vintage correct.
Status quo ante. This is the carbine at the end of last effort, in December 2014.

Status quo ante. This is the carbine at the end of last effort, in December 2014.

Three things that we were still looking for were less common: a Knight’s Armament Company flash suppressor/mount for the Knight’s suppressor;IMG_1765 a vintage-correct ACOG TA01NSN;IMG_1764 and an AN/PEQ-2 laser target indicator/illuminator. IMG_1766Each of these posed certain problems; the KAC mounts were intermittent in availability at retail (although the company includes two with each suppressor); the ACOG has since been improved, upgraded, and (in military service) bowdlerized by a militant atheist driving Satan’s own horsemen, military lawyers, before him; and the PEQ-2 is subject to ownership and ITAR limitations; its infrared laser can be hazardous to human vision on some settings.

There is also a plague of counterfeit optics on the market.

Moreover, some significant percentage of the mil-spec ACOGs and the PEQs on the market are stolen government property. More than one buyer has found that stolen property was soon followed by a CID, NCIS or FBI agent who is looking to retrieve it as evidence in a criminal investigation; others have discovered that their purchases were stolen only when they sent the item for service, and discovered that it wasn’t coming back, but instead going back to its last legitimate owner.


It is possible, fortunately, to check by serial number, with a simple phone call. For example, Trijicon customer service will look up an ACOG for you if you simply dial them up at (800) 338-0563.

KAC suppressor mount/flash hider

(We received the mounts, but not the suppressors, before the deployment; it turns out that some of our remote company’s SOPMOD gear was diverted by Alabama boys better connected to Group HQ). The mount didn’t go on right away in 2001 when we got the guns, and it’s not going to go on this one right away, either. We thought we’d include it in this rundown but we’re out of space and time. So we’ll do that along with an overview of how to change out AR muzzle devices right, which is trickier than you think. There are two separate ways to time an A2-type flash suppressor: using shims or using a crush washer. The Knight’s unit uses shims, which is more fiddly for the armorer, but more predictable in outcome. The shims make up for the fact that different muzzles may be machined slightly differently with reference to where the threads start around the clock. Since it’s important that the two blank “slot” areas of the flash suppressor be underneath (there are some tricks with this we’ll mention when we do the install story) then there’s a trick to aligning and torquing the muzzle device.

The one we have was generously sent to us by frequent commenter Miles.

ACOG TA01NSN, 2003 vintage SN 0427xx

One thing we wanted was a correct (or close) vintage ACOG with the ACOG4X32JN8:12 marking on it. It is a reference to the Christian Bible, which in the King James Version says:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

The inscription that threw the press into a tizzy. ACOG TA01NSN

The inscription that threw the press into a tizzy. ACOG TA01NSN

Fairly on point for an illuminated optic intended to save lives. Of course, an over-ten-year-old optic that depends on tritium for illumination is going to be dead, dead, dead. Fortunately we’re not planning on starting a war any time soon, and as it turns out, it’s possible (if expensive) to have the ACOG thoroughly overhauled at the factory. Before we’d do that, we’d want to know if JN8:12 could stay.

When this inscription was discovered, the media, atheists, and anti-Christian groups exploded into outrage. The company, which had put Bible verse references on every product since its founding by a Christian, Glyn Bindon, backed down. In the military, the inscriptions were removed pursuant to threats by a former military lawyer named Mikey Weinstein, a militant atheist of Jewish extraction and totalitarian inclinations, who is vocal in his hatred for Christians, and who seeks to impose atheism as the Established State Religion of the United States.

We called Trijicon to determine when the scope was made. Trijicon customer service heard the serial number and the pleasant lady said, “That doesn’t sound that old… wow, it is.” It was made in 2003, and we confirmed that it was not ever a military-owned optic.

Trijicon can make the scope new again, for $570, which provides, “a thorough overhaul, restored tritium illumination, and a new warranty.” And no, they won’t grind the inscription off, like the bible-haters make them do to military scopes. You can set it up right through the web site (although it’s a very good idea to ring them with the serial number first. If it’s stolen government property, they not only won’t overhaul it, you won’t get it back). The overhaul seems like a good deal, but apart from the dead illum, this scope is in nice shape and just flat doesn’t need it.

Mounting the scope is child’s play — the factory mount isn’t exactly QD, but is easy to set up and quite repeatable in terms of zero. If you’re grieved by the effort involved in spinning two thumbscrews, maybe SF is not for you.

Numbers on the rails can be used to replicate or repeat a scope-positioning situation.

Numbers on the rails can be used to replicate or repeat a scope-positioning situation.

Back in 2001-02, we sometimes had to put the ACOGs in suboptimal position to allow the carbines to rack in the modified M12 racks our unit had at the time. When we went downrange, we lost that garrison problem, and now that we lock guns in big, roomy safes, we don’t need to play scope-position games.

We initially positioned it here, based on memory. Checking eye relief, we discovered our memory was wrong.

We initially positioned it here, based on memory. Checking eye relief, we discovered our memory was wrong.

The ACOG finally wound up here, flush with the front of the receiver. This is the position it's in in period photos. Background: psyops posters we handed out to Afghans, explaining 9/11.

The ACOG finally wound up here, flush with the front of the receiver. This is the position it’s in in period photos. Background: a framed pair of the psyops posters we handed out to Afghans, explaining 9/11.

All that’s left is to zero it.


This was actually the first item we acquired, and the most expensive. (If someone offers you a cheap one, see comments above about stolen government property).

It actually comes with the bracket you need (called the ) attached to the PEQ itself. There are also other adapters available; we used to run these on pre-M4A1 guns with an adapter that attached right to the barrel.

It actually comes with the bracket you need (called the Rail Grabber) attached to the PEQ itself. There are also other adapters available; we used to run these on pre-M4A1 guns with an adapter that attached right to the barrel. By the mid-oughts, a lot of guys had replaced these factory mounts.

Since 2002 we’ve changed how we use this and similar devices and tend to deploy it on the top rail, but because we’re repopping the 2002 setup, on the right rail it goes.

As it turns out, according to the book, the right side where we ran it was not doctrinal -- top or left was. Lacking these books, then, we didn't know that.

As it turns out, according to the book, the right side where we ran it was not doctrinal — top or left was. Lacking these books, then, we didn’t know that. Picture on the left shows the pre-rail-era adapter.

What the AN/PEQ-2 is, is an infrared (only) laser pointer, aiming point, and floodlight. It does have to be zeroed which is done under NODs. You can start with a boresight.

WRONG. To install the PEQ, you have to remove one of the rail covers by pressing down on its center point. A screwdriver scratches the metal gratuitously....

WRONG. To install the PEQ, you have to remove one of the rail covers by pressing down on its center point. A screwdriver scratches the metal gratuitously….

A small block of wood, or any other non-marring tool, doesn't. With the center of the spring depressed, the rail cover slides off.

A small block of wood, or any other non-marring tool, doesn’t. With the center of the spring depressed, the rail cover slides off.

This was an extremely useful unit downrange, ub a variety of ways. And it will be useful if we ever contract over there again. It doesn’t really add much practical to this rifle, but it’s essential to its gestalt. 

The rail grabber snaps into place and then is tightened with the thumbscrew....

The rail grabber snaps into place and then is tightened with the thumbscrew….

Then the PEQ fits on. A single screw holds it in place; the mating angles of the Rail Grabber and the PEQ-2's molded case supposedly ensure alignment.

Then the PEQ fits on. A single screw holds it in place; the mating angles of the Rail Grabber and the PEQ-2’s molded case supposedly ensure alignment.

Because of the power of this illuminator, it’s extremely important to leave the blue training plug in place. It’s eye-safe with that in place; with it removed, it’s quite hazardous, and we only took those out downrange. Mission first, safety always.

Summing up

Apart from a general lack of damage, abuse and dust, the Colt 6921 now closely resembles its wartime granddaddy. If we knew where the Taliban cells around here were, we could start getting the damage, abuse and dust up to a more-authentic level.

There are still a couple more details to be done. The vane switch needs to be rigged and installed, batteries need to be put in the AN/PEQ-2 (kind of pointless if we’re not going to be using it in night combat! But we have been weighing everything) and the aforementioned flash suppressor/suppressor-mount be installed.

If we were actually running this gun today, we’d make it a little less Old Guy Gear™ by doing the following:

  1. Moving the PEQ to the top rail or replacing it with a dual-purpose visible/IR illuminator;
  2. Adding a sling. We were still all 80s Ragnar Skool, “slings are for the weak” in 2001. We’re less ‘tarded now.
  3. Replacing the vertical fore-grip with an angled fore-grip.

We’d probably stick with the TA01NSN, even after using the Elcan Spectre DR from the SOPMOD II kit.

The Colt M4A1 — one of the ones we got to replace older fixed-handle M16 Carbines and proto-M4s — was one of only two long guns we personally took out of the box new (a lot of sniper rifles came in but those guys kept the unboxing ritual to themselves).  And that’s in a 30-year career. And then we carried it, downrange, on strikes beyond enemy positions (it’s hard to call them “lines.”) We actually took these guns, our little bunch of guys, and we lived the slogan on our distinctive unit insignia, De Oppresso Liber. We did indeed liberate the oppressed.

For all these reasons and more, reproducing this firearm justified all the expense and time that went into it. We’ll probably be dragging it around the house and terrorizing Kid and Small Dog, mumbling phrases in Dari for weeks now.

Defoor Strikes Again

Needed: riser mount for an Aimpoint.
On hand: Aimpoint, no riser mount, odds and ends.
Input: A now old-guy’s memory of “how we did it back when this stuff was shiny and new”
Result: Aimpoint on a section of Yankee Hill Machine 5/8″ rail. Mission accomplished.

Defoor improv riser mount

If you’ve been around a while, you probably have junk like that in your junk box — sights and mounts and rails for stuff you’re never going to mount again, ’cause it’s as obsolete as a crank handle for a Model T. Also, before we move on, note that Mr Old School who cooked this up is not using a 90s-vintage Aimpoint, but a modern Micro T1. Optics are one of the fastest-moving areas of sooting technology, and if you stand still here you get left behind. Still, as the if-it’s-stupid-and-it-works-it-ain’t-stupid riser shows, the knowledge and cunning you developed 20 years ago (for some of us, 40 years ago?) can still be applied.

This Old Man was Kyle Defoor, who was around back when all this stuff was new and putting it together was hard. (Heck, 20 years before him, guys were doing it with electrical tape — green 100-mile-an-hour tape was still too hard to pry out of Supply — and/or radiator-hose clamps. Look at some of the Son Tay mounts for the Single Point red-dot, or some of the Armson OEG carrying handle mounts we used after that. They were stupid, but they worked. Sort of). Here it is in his own words:

In the mid 90’s when I was first issued an Aimpoint there were no mounts commercially available. ARMS and Wilcox were still a few months out. It was common practice to go to the armory and acquire one Badger Ordnance 30mm scope ring and a 5/8″ riser to use to attach the red dot to the then new flat top rail. The BO scope ring was of course from the snipes and the 5/8″ riser was a holdover from the MP5 days when using a gas mask and needing more height.

Here you see my modern version using the stock AP Micro mount and a Yankee Hill 5/8″ rail piece….not because I want to revisit my past but because it’s all I had available where I was at…..totally freaked some new guys out….and they lost money

And because it’s Defoor, there’s a few prime sarky hash tags:


And the primest of all:


It’s our observation that bagging on New Guys is a self-perpetuating tradition; when a former New Guy becomes an Old Guy he has a lot of pent-up hostility to vent on today’s innocent New Guys. It seems to us that this is more an aspect of SEAL than SF culture, from all the SEALs we’ve known over the years. In SF a New Guy is expected to be learning, sure, but so is an Old Guy, because the mission, situation, and technology is constantly changing. If a New Guy wasn’t a productive member of an ODA on arrival — even though he’s maybe six to ten years from his peak — we’re doing the SFQC wrong. (Especially true for officers, who don’t have six years on an ODA to improve. They’re good right out of the gate, or it’s going to be an unhappy, ineffective team).

To orient yourself in SOF gun history, Kyle’s talking about a time about five years after the MP5’s Waterloo in Grenada, when we had all learned to love the 5.56mm carbine (and had reached a modus vivendi with 14.5″ because it ran so much better than the old 10-11.5″ barrels). But the guns we had came from Colt in several models: M16A1 Carbine, M16A2 Carbine, then XM4. Sometime around 1993 or 4 we started getting guns with removable carrying handles and picatinny-rail flat-tops, to which, at first, we had nothing to attach but the carrying handle. How you got from A (flat top) to B (mounted optic) was on you, for a while. (By the way, at different times we received both “M16A2 Carbines” and “XM4 Carbines” with both flat tops and A2-style permanent carrying handles, direct from the factory. Only some of the M16A2 Carbines had the lousy three-round burst. All these oddball transitional guns were later turned in for standard SOCOM M4A1s).

In retrospect, getting the flattops months and years before optics was probably just the incompetence of the supply system, as it appeared to us at the time to be. But it could have been sheer brilliance: “Let’s put these out here and see what the SF, SEALs and direct action guys do with them, and when they’ve worked out the best way, we’ll adopt it.” Because that’s pretty much what happened. (True, some of the private-purchase mounts like Wilcox and, later, Larue, were a lot better than the issued ones, but the issued ones are OK).

Finally, if you’re interested in technique you ought to be paying some attention to Defoor. We have not personally attended his training but we believe Our Traveling Reporter has; he was, in fact, the one that turned us on to the guy.

How NoDak Spud Polishes an A1 Lower

Here, in real time, NDS’s very efficient Mike polishes one of the company’s outstanding retro lowers. Polishing is necessary before blasting, which is done before anodizing, to allow the anodizing to take evenly and not be blotchy.

NDS is an interesting combination of idea, work ethic, and customer service. You get straight talk, no bull about ship dates, for instance. If they discontinue a product, like their unique “605” upper receiver that cloned modified M16A1 upper forgings that imitated some tens of thousands that were used briefly — and with permission of the Contracting Officer and Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative — to substitute for short-supplied “slick-side” forgings for USAF M16 rifles. (They discontinued it because they were a ton of work for a slow-selling product).

As Mike notes, it’s a small company. Call or email them and you’ll probablt tallk to Harlan, maybe Mike, and when you see the quality of their parts, you’ll be calling back. Almost every customer is a repeat customer. We’ve lost count of the number of NDS lowers we’ve bought (whoever the guy at ATF is that keeps the N-Z section of The List probably knows) but we think we’ve bought six different kinds. 

And, oh yeah, they make AK receivers, which are the class of the field, and a replacement for the crappy plastic AR-18S lower.

To order or look at their product line:

Brownells has Retro M16A1 Barrel Assemblies

These barrels are made to M16A1 spec and are marked: MFR 12238 CHROME BORE 1:12 under the handguard. (As they’re marked with not-period-correct laser engraving).

Brownells A1 barrel

They match the drawing profile, they have chromed bores, non-F-marked front sight bases, triangular handguard cap and M16 (not M4) feed ramps in the barrel extension.

As far as how they arrived at this marking, you’re not going to believe this, but they asked — specifically, the denizens of the Arfcom Retro Forum (they are close to the final version of the marking on the first page, but nail it on Page 3).

Brownells A1 barrel rear

Other alternative A1 profile barrels include those by, Green Mountain, and McKay Enterprises, but all of them differ in some significant way from the A1 barrel (for example, AR15Sport’s 1:12 pencil barrels are not chrome lined and are assembled with M4 feed ramps; Green Mountain’s is unassembled; McKay comes with an F-marked front sight base).

Looks like an easy way to complete one of those M16A1 kits that was kicking around here a while back.

Mossberg .22 kB!

This is what an out-of-battery fired .22LR round looks like, afterwards.

rimfire kB!

Minus, of course, any parts still embedded in the shooter.

You can see what looks like a light firing pin strike at about 4 o’clock. It probably looks light because it was light, because the rim was not fully supported by the chamber when the striker or firing pin struck the case head. But it was supported enough for the primer to fire, with the results you see here. Lucky the shooter wasn’t left-handed, or he might have been plucking that brass out of his face.

From /r/guns:

Was shooting my mossberg 702 (i know get the 702 bashing out of your system if you need to) that i have put a couple thousand rounds through since i have had it, this particular rifle always had minimal malfunctions for me and that is why i held on to it. Most of the time a little spray of clp and it will keep running fine. But today i was shooting federal bulk pack and all was going well until this round exploded and sprayed my hand with debris.
My assumption is that it was not fully into battery when i pulled the trigger resulting in the casing basically banana peeling and ripping in half.
Moral of the story is the value of safety glasses because who knows what kind of shit would have been sprayed in my eyes.

via This is why we wear safety glasses : guns.

A gun shouldn’t be able to fire out of battery. We mean, it should be physically impossible, if the designer was remotely competent. John M. Browning’s guns have safe designs that will not fire out of battery, and he’s been dead since Silent Cal was President.

We don’t know if the gun was stock or modified. There are a number of instructions for doing a Bubba job on the Mossberg 702 / 715 trigger mechanism on the net, for example here’s an Instructable on it. Owners who hack a trigger they don’t understand — and anybody who writes about the “seer” probably doesn’t understand — are the sort of thing that gives gun-company lawyers sleepless nights. One of the things that can cause out-of-battery firing is an improper trigger mechanism, which can be caused by bad design, manufacture, or subsequent modification. Disconnecting or blocking the firing mechanism until the bolt is fully seated is a fundamental requirement of trigger mechanisms.

Without doing surgery on a sample of 702s, ideally including the mishap firearm, we can’t say what provisions are made for safing the gun until complete bolt closure, or why they failed in this case.

The Problem with Overmatch as Defined as “Range”

Recently we discussed Jim Schatz’s 2015 NDIA presentation, in which he suggested that US had lost infantry firepower “overmatch,” which he seemed to define as “longest effective range.” His numbers were fuzzy, with three different ranges for the SVD (one of them being 1500m, and we can’t believe that Jim hasn’t shot an SVD or the better-finished, reverse-engineered Chinese NDM-86), but we had several issues with his concept.


Today, let’s talk about another issue, and that’s the single-point nature of effective range as a measure of firepower.

Here’s a historical example. We would guess that most of the readers of this blog have fired, at least for familiarization, an AK and/or its civilian clones, and an M14 and/or its civilian clones. And most of you, then, would be comfortable that the M14 outranges the AK considerably as a practical matter. This is not only due to the design decision to use a full-house turn-of-the-20th-Century rifle/MG cartridge in the US 1950s design relative to the design decision to use a classic mid-century intermediate cartridge in the AK, although that’s a big factor. But the M14 also has considerable advantages in ergonomics and especially sights. The AK still has a 19th-Century open sight, like a 1891 Mosin-Nagant or 1898 Mauser, just shortened to the extreme practical range of the AK, and has a very short sighting radius (which is not entirely a bad thing, for combat marksmanship, but is a real detractor on the rifle range or when engaging enemies at the rifle’s extreme range). The AK, with a similar weight and much less impulse in every cartridge, has superior numbers on recoil and is more accurate in automatic fire from unsupported positions. (Not to say that it’s accurate in objective terms or relative to semi-auto fire, just that it’s far better on full-auto than you can expect any 7.62mm full-auto service rifle to be, and that therefore one can train to fire it automatically accurately, given instruction and/or ammo).

In Vietnam around the end of 1965, US forces first engaged disciplined, regular troops of the North Vietnamese Army in the bloody battles of Ia Drang. The enemy’s ‘arm of choice’ was the AK47. General Wheeler’s ‘worldwide’ trials had shown the AK to be ‘clearly inferior’ to US weapons, and most US soldiers at that time had shown a preference for the M14 over the then-AR-15. But that was 1962 and peacetime, and this was 1965 and counting. America was at war in the jungle, again.

When US forces armed with the M14 encountered light, mobile Vietcong forces armed with the SKS-45 and AK-47 in Vietnam, the result was not Americans crowing about the superiority of their rifle, but Americans demanding a light, short assault rifle with a 30-round magazine, like the AK.

An AK cutaway from the Czechoslovak satellite Army Technical Illustrated Magazine (ATOM in the Czech acronym). The CSSR wss the only satellite country to reject the AK.

An AK cutaway from the Czechoslovak satellite Army Technical Illustrated Magazine (ATOM in the Czech acronym). The CSSR wss the only satellite country to reject the AK.

If effective range is just one axis on which firearms can be compared, and other axes include ergonomics, controllability, convenience of reload, quantity of ready ammunition and basic load, weight of gun and ammunition. Almost all of these are subject to being improved, and, unlike effective range, not all of them are entirely dependent on cartridge selection.

Cartridge selection is a decision that is not only technical, but also logistical, and, for a nation that often fights alongside allies and coalitions, inherently political. Gun buffs may not like these facts, but they are facts. When the US goes its own way (as it did with M16 adoption in the 1960s) it puts considerable stress on its alliances, particularly after it had already bullied one international alliance and several nations with strong bilateral alliances with the US into accepting the 7.62 x 51mm NATO cartridge mere years before.


  1. From The Black Rifle: M16 Retrospective. Toronto: Collector Grade Pubs., 1987. Quoted in Bruce, Robert. M14 vs. M16 in Vietnam. Small Arms Review. Retrieved from:

This Was Not the Everyday CMP M1 Garand

In the late 1950s, the Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice — the former Army agency that was spun off in the anti-gun Clinton years as a non-profit, and is now the Civilian Marksmanship Program, or CMP — sold a trickle of M1 rifles to lottery winners — or, since it was a government agency, to politically connected men who were able to jump the line.

Kennedy Garand 02

Here’s a couple of pictures and the story of one of those rifles.

Kennedy Garand 04

This M1 started from one of those depots, the Erie Ordnance Depot in Port Clinton, OH to be precise, but was far from a random selection.  The rifle picked for [the VIP] bears a late production 6+ million serial number and is a Type 1 National Match M1 Garand, that has been rebuilt to a Type 2.  After the NM rifle “happened” to be selected for [the VIP], it also “happened” to make its way to Master Sergeant Raymond E Parkinson, a gunsmith assigned to the Second U.S. Army Advanced Marksmanship Unit at Ft. George C. Meade in Maryland.  Once there, much of the work took place that can be seen on the rifle to this day.  In fact, COL Lee was kind enough to detail such changes in a letter he sent to [the VIP] after the rifle was received.  The modifications, as listed in the communication, are:

  1. Adjusted the trigger in order to provide an exacting trigger pull for each shot fired.
  2. Blued all metal parts to prevent rust and enhance the beauty of the weapon.Kennedy Garand 03
  3. Applied a moisture-proof silicon finish to the stock.
  4. Applied a glass-bedding compound to the recoil shoulders of the stock in order to enable the rifle to maintain its accuracy.
  5. Air-tested the bore for correct calibration and flaws.
  6. Test-fired the rifle in a sitting position at 200 yards.

“For your information, Mast Sergeant Parkinson did the test firing and the target is enclosed.  The rifle was not test-fired from a cradle because the gun smiths did not want to scar the stock, however, the test proved conclusively that the rifle is very accurate and as good as any rifle used at the National Matches.”

The VIP was the then-Junior Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. While the Kennedy family has made the most extreme gun control central to their political identity since his death, JFK was a proud veteran, gun owner, and shooter. The carefully polished rifle does not seem to have been fired much; soon, Kennedy was embroiled in the Presidential campaign, which he would win in late 1960. It’s unknown if he took the rifle along to the White House, but it’s now at Rock Island Auctions and is going on the block next weekend, complete with a thorough and impressive provenance.

Kennedy Garand 01

Even the effort to not mar the stock by firing it from a cradle clearly shows the utmost care taken in creating this gun for Kennedy.  Thankfully, the documentation of the rifle’s journey has also been preserved.  Accompanying this rifle are a copy of the original DD1348 form noting that it was shipped to Senator Kennedy in October of 1959, the copy of the aforementioned memorandum from COL Lee to Kennedy, the actual 200 yard test target shot by MSG Parkinson, and a copy of the letter of appreciation that Kennedy wrote to MSG Parkinson thanking him for his work and attention to the rifle.

via The Rock Island Auction Blog: John F. Kennedy’s M1 Garand.

A peculiar set of conditions attached to making a custom rifle for a VIP. Sure, he could jump to the head of the lotto line, but he couldn’t get a specially selected rifle. And top US Army Marksmanship Unit gunsmith Parkinson couldn’t work to upgrade it during duty hours. But the Army does tend to find a way around itself, when its bureaucracy interferes with the mission.

This rifle has attracted its fair share of attention over the years. The May 1967 issue of “The American Rifleman” featured an article on the rifle written by MSG Parkinson himself called, “A Letter Of Appreciation For A Rifle.” In it, he states that he had no idea who the rifle was for and that, just like anyone else, a random rifle was chosen for the task. He writes, “As no substitution could be made even for someone in Congress, the Colonel [Carpenter] indicated that if I could fix up the piece in my off-duty time, it would reflect a helpful attitude and would be appreciated by the gentleman for whom the M1 was destined.” Also mentioned by Parkinson is the custom made shipping and storage crate he created for this special request rifle, which still accompanies it to this day.

What we’re not clear on is how the rifle got from JFK to the Rock Island Auction this coming weekend.

One wonders if some of the people in the leper colonies of the Internet, the ones who are quick to suggest that someone who enjoys guns or shooting sports ought to be shot dead (like, say, certain VA pshrinks), realize that poor Kennedy got what they apparently wanted for him.

For that matter, one wonders if today’s Eloi Kennedys have any idea where their patriarch (well, the real patriarch was Hitler-heiling old Joe, but you know what we mean) stood on the issue of guns and the NRA.

If You Had Only One 5.56mm Carbine?

We have an entire safe full of 5.56mm ARs (well, there’s also an old AR-10 in there) along with the safe of other stuff. But for a lot of people one AR is a major investment, and any more than that take food off the table or otherwise crimp the family budget more than practicable. If you could only have one service rifle, what would it be?

This Larue PredatOBR is a fine gun, but its features (like a quick-change barrel) and price (over $2k before optics) mean it's not Everyman's one and only AR.

This Larue PredatAR is a fine firearm, but its features and price (over $2k before optics) mean it’s not Everyman’s one and only AR. Unless Everyman is well heeled.

Depends, of course, on what you want it for. Hunting has a variety of needs, depending on where you are and what your quarry is; and those needs are different than target shooting or self-defense. Even all target shooting is not the same: competing in 3-gun is different from competing in service or high-power rifle bullseye events. And all of these are different from just having an AR for fun, which in turn is different from home defense.

If you don’t know what you want an AR for, you might be in the same position as someone who wants an AR for multiple purposes. You’re looking for one all-around AR. And yes, trust us on this: you really want an AR, not an AK or G3 clone or Valmet or AUG or Tavor. You want simplicity, reliability, and commonality with the greatest quantity of parts, accessories, information, and ammunition: you want a 5.56mm AR.

For the average Joe’s Everyman’s Carbine, we’d recommend the following:

  1. a good name-brand gun, with
  2. a telescoping stock (it doesn’t matter which one, these are readily customized for short money when you want or need a change);
  3. a 16″ chrome-lined barrel — if you just want one gun, you don’t need a stamp, and chrome-lined has advantages in durability and heat management;
  4. a good single-point optic, not Chinese junk;
  5. a practical sling;
  6. at least six spare magazines, ruthlessly destroyed and replaced when they begin to malfunction; and
  7. nothing too exotic.

By Point 7 we mean don’t need bizarre alloys, trick billet construction, ambidextrous controls (unless you’re left-handed, but try a righty AR first and see if you can run it OK), quick-change barrels, and locavore organic anti-walk pins (if the receiver is drilled and reamed right and the springs are in the right places, pins don’t walk. Ever). That stuff is all marketing. It’s supposed to make you want to spend more money.

Want to spend more money, anyway?

Spend it wisely. Buy ammo and get training. That gives you two things that can never be confiscated, experience and knowledge.

As we were thinking about this a friend flagged us to a Kyle Defoor Instagram posting on a very similar subject — the simple carbine Kyle has been using lately.

Defoor BCM Carbine

Apart from being an SBR, it’s similar to our 7 points above. It’s a minimalist, lightweight approach. Here’s how Kyle describes it:

I was asked a few months ago if I could have only one carbine what would it be/what is a good all around carbine for most people? This would be my answer to both with the only caveat being barrel length as I know some don’t want to deal with ATF stuff. It doesn’t get any lighter, more reliable, or smaller than this keeping the ability to engage realistic targets (IPSC B/C) out to 200. I now have about 5k through the barrel so I’m confident it recommending it now. All other parts are proven, affordable, and easy to attain;

BCM 11.5″ ELW w/KMR rail [ELW = “enhanced light weight”; KMR=”keymod rail” — BCM likes three-letter acronyms –Ed.]
BCM buttstock (defoor version- not rubber) w/rigger band
Aimpoint Micro T w/Bobro Q/D mount
Kyle Lamb sling mounted mid and castlenut w/ Q/Ds
Streamlight TLR-1HL custom mounted at 1 o’clock
Bobro Lowrider sights.

Many people spend more that that and wind up with less gun for their money. Note that the Quick Detachable mounts Kyle recommends only make sense if you’re going to be removing and reinstalling the sight, maybe to go with a scope sight for longer range or a NV sight for the time your area of operations faces away from the sun. But most of your one-gun practical shooter guys are, for the same reasons they have one gun, one-optic guys, too. So, what advantage does QD buy you?

With the sling, you need to ask how you are going to use the sling. Part of being a Real MP5 Guy back in the day was learning what seemed to be 113 different ways to use the H&K sling. But most guys, even when they learned the whole Teutonic sling drill, would find one or two ways they’d use the sling. You might use it as a tactical sling, a shooter’s stability aid, or a handy way to give you two hands to work on something with without using your gun, but you probably won’t use it as all three.

The light is optional, depending on the probable use of your gun. Home defense? Get the light, because crimes take place on criminals’ schedules, and by and large they’re up and active when the honest folks are asleep. But if you’re going to lock it in the safe and take it out a couple times a year for a trip to the range, a light is just a container for dead batteries.

If money is really tight, you can build your gun or buy it a piece at a time. But it’s usually cheaper to buy one that already has most of the features you will want. These are not extensively customized guns of the sort that require just the right customer; if saving money is important to you, you can probably find some used guns in the classifieds of your favorite forums, or on gunbroker, that will meet your needs.

The USMC Goes to the M4 for Infantry Marines

Somewhere, a cynical Devil Dog is saying that this is just to take a pound off so that maybe a female Marine can pass IOC one of these days. But the Marines are finally joining the Army in preferring the M4 to theM16 for infantry units.


According to Military Times and a range of Marines that they interviewed, the momentum has been building for this change for some time. Supposedly, the decision paper is on Commandant Joseph Dunford’s desk for his approval, which is expected. Military Times:

With the endorsement of several major commands already supporting the switch — including Marine Corps Combat Development Command; Combat Development and Integration; Plans, Policies and Operations; Marine Corps Systems Command; and Installations and Logistics — final word is possible in weeks or months.

“The proposal to replace the M16A4 with the M4 within infantry battalions is currently under consideration at Headquarters Marine Corps,” according to a jointly written response from the commands provided by Maj. Anton Semelroth, a Marine spokesman in Quantico, Virginia.

The change would be welcomed by infantrymen who say the M16A4 was too long and unwieldy for close-quarters battle in Iraq or vehicle-borne operations in Afghanistan. They tout the M4 for its weight savings, improved mobility and collapsible butt stock, allowing the rifle to be tailored for smaller Marines or those wearing body armor.

“I would have to say my gut reaction is it’s the right choice and will do a lot of good for the guys in the infantry,” said Sgt. Nathan West, an explosive ordnance technician with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, who carried an M4 on dismounted patrols and vehicle-borne operations during two deployments to Afghanistan as an anti-tank missileman.

We’ll have a couple more pull quotes, but (especially if you are a Marine) go Read The Whole Thing™.

Many other Marines have observed that the drawbacks of the longer M16A4 aren’t compensated for by the limited benefits of the longer barrel. For example, when using modern optics, the 5.5″ longer sight radius, a great accuracy advantage of the A4’s extra barrel length, is irrelevant.

No fight illustrated the need for a smaller primary weapon during ferocious close-quarters combat better than Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004, when Marines fought to wrest control of Fallujah from Iraqi insurgents, sometimes going hand-to-hand.

Rounding corners and getting on target in small rooms was difficult, leading to use of a tactic called “short-stocking,” when a Marine places his rifle stock over his shoulder – instead of securely against the chest and cants his weapon45-degrees so he can still use his optics. It helps in maneuvering, but compromises recoil management and follow-up shots.

“We were taught to short stock around tight corners when we got to our platoon for deployment — it was something unofficial,” said Ryan Innis, a former scout sniper with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, who left the service as a sergeant in 2013 after serving on the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit’s anti-piracy raid force near East Africa.

Innis trained for shipboard operations — the closest of close-quarters combat — and said he was fortunate to be issued the M4 because the weapon’s shorter length proved better for tight spaces.

When the weapon’s not quite right, the man adapts. It’s very unlikely that the doomed insurgents who stood against the Marines’ assault on Fallujah in 2004 noticed that the Marines were employing their firearms sub-optimally

It’s instructive to remember the history of CT and hostage rescue units here. Originally (1970s-80s) these elements cleared buildings and linear targets (like an airplane, train car or bus) strictly with handguns. The 1980s found these units experimenting with compact submachine guns (like the MP5) that could combine superior accuracy at close pistol ranges with handiness nearly as good as the pistol. And after Grenada, the pistol-caliber weapon’s lack of range and versatility put it into eclipse, relative to the compact rifle-caliber carbine.

The question that remained was, could the carbine, evolved from the very limited XM177 / CAR-15 series “submachine gun,” really replace the full-length assault rifle? It was optics that moved the answer of that question from “no” to “yes.”

The Marines like the accuracy of their M4s.

[Sgt. West:] “Anything that takes weight off and keeps guys from getting tired so they are more aware of things around them is good. It is just a little less weight and just as effective of a weapon.”

That is what the Marine Corps found when it began testing the ballistics of its infantry rifles and carbines using their improved M318 Mod 0 Special Operations Science and Technology round.

“The Marine Corps conducted an evaluation of its individual weapons (M4, M27 and M16A4), with specific focus on comparing accuracy, shift of impact and trajectory with improved ammunition, and determined the M4’s overall performance compares favorably with that of the M27 IAR, the most accurate weapon in the squad,” according to the written responses provided by [Marine spox Maj. Anton] Semelroth.

The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle is, you will remember, an HK 416 variant with a free-floated barrel and a tuned trigger. The Marines will also get rid of the select M16A4s being used as designated marksman weapons under the term Squad Advanced Marksman Rifle, by assigning the designated marksman role, optionally, to the auto rifle gunner already carrying an M27 for the squad auto rifle role.

Going to the M4 for infantrymen takes a pound of weight and 10″ of overall length off of every Marine grunt. The M4s will come from Marine stocks without any need for new purchases (all Marines may be riflemen, but only 17,000 are Riflemen by MOS and job assignment), and the M16A4s will be available to be assigned to other Marine troops.

The Times also got comments from Larry Vickers, who should need no introduction. Vickers is strongly supportive of this new intitiative.

Two things we can predict about Marine riflemen: someday soon, the saltier ones will be reminiscing about the “good ol’ M16A4” to their New Guys. And none of them is going to miss “short-stocking.”