Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

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.

Loose Rounds on the M14

We have a soft spot in our heart for the M14 rifle, even though we experienced it in the service primarily as the M21 sniper system, a fiddly, unstable platform with, “no user serviceable parts inside.” (Seriously. The operator was not permitted to field-strip the gun — that was strictly for the armorers who built the thing. You could swab out the bore, but they’d rather you didn’t). Some of the fiddliness was caused by the Leatherwood ART II scope, an early bullet drop compensator telescopic sight. The Leatherwood was adopted, we always suspected, because Jim Leatherwood had been an SF guy, not because the scope was incredibly great. The replacement of the M21 with the M24 bolt gun, a gun that was developed primarily by SF marksmen (snipers and competitive shooters), was met by hosannas. Its Leupold mildot scope took the onus off the scope’s internals and put it on the shooter, and we liked that.

m24army4

So when Shawn at Loose Rounds penned a post critical not as much of the M14 but of its somewhat unsupported legend of battlefield prowess, he was aiming right up our alley. He has technical support in that post from Daniel Watters, arguably the most knowledgable man on post-WWII US small arms developments not to have written a book. And his arguments are generally supported  by the M14-related books in our collection, some of which appear in footnotes or Sources.

The M14’s history is interesting. It had a long and arduous gestation, involving many false starts and dead ends, before finally settling on a weapon that was a little more than an M1 with a box magazine and improved gas system. This whole process took 12 years (from 1945 to 1957) and cost a surprising fortune, considering that what came out of it was essentially an M1 with a box mag, useless selective-fire switch, and improved gas system.

From the operator end, it looks just like an M1, except for that dopey and wasteful giggle switch,  but you can actually reload an M1 faster.

us-rifle-m14-POV-candrsenal

The M14’s prototype, the T44, came this close (Max Smart finger gesture) to losing out to the US-made FN-FAL version, the T48. The final test found the two weapons roughly equivalent.1 Previous tests greatly improved both arms, and made one lasting improvement in the FAL hat benefited FN and foreign operators: the incorporation of the “sand cuts” in the bolt carrier.2 One deciding factor was that the FN rifle did not have “positive bolt closure,” a way to force the bolt closed on, say, a swollen cartridge. (Never mind that that’s a crummy idea, it was Army policy. Some say, in order to accept the home-grown, Springfield-developed T44 instead of the foreign-designed FAL, but that’s certainly not written down anywhere important).

The M14 went on to have a surprisingly difficult time in manufacturing — surprising because it had been sold on extensive commonality with M1 Garand design, and sold as producible on M1
Garand tooling. All manufacturers (Springfield, Winchester, Harrington & Richardson, and TRW) struggled to make the guns. (Stevens calls M14 production, in a chapter heading, “A Tragedy in Four Acts.”3 In H&R’s case it was not surprising, as H&R had struggled with an M1 contract and only had an M14 contract because of political corruption in the Massachusetts congressional delegation, TRW, which is generally thought to have produced the best rifles of the four manufacturers.4

The M14 was supposed to replace the M1, but also the BAR, carbine, and SMG. Until you see them side by side, most people assume the 14 was smaller than the M1 (image: Rifle Shooter mag).

The M14 was supposed to replace the M1, but also the BAR, carbine, and SMG. Until you see them side by side, most people assume the M14 was smaller than the M1. This “M14″ is actually a civilian Springfield M1A.  (image: Rifle Shooter mag)..

In fact, only a few M1 parts are interchangeable with the M14, including most internal parts of the trigger housing group, and some of the stock hardware, A few other parts, like the extractor and rear sight aperture, interchange but aren’t quite “right.” (The M14 extractor works better in either rifle; the M1 and M14 sights are calibrated in yards and meters respectively).5

The M14 had a short life as a US service rifle, and a controversial one. (Congress, for one, couldn’t believe the amount of money that had been spent for a relatively marginal improvement over the M1). But it has had a long afterlife as stuff of legend. And this where Loose Rounds’ most recent effort in mythbusting comes in. Here is a taste:

Go on to any gun forum, and it won’t take you long to find people willing to tell you how great the M14 is. How accurate,like a laser, tough as tool steel with no need to baby it or clean it. powerful as a bolt of lightening, and how well loved it was by those early users who refused the M16 because they wanted a “real” weapon made of wood and steel…. .. But, is all that really true? Maybe it is a triumph of nostalgia over common sense and reality. One truth is, it was never really liked as much as people think they remember.

The M14 was having major problems even before ARPA’s Project AGILE and a Defense comptroller reported the AR15 superior to the M14;the famous Hitch Report stating the AR15 , the M1 and the AK47 superior.

(Loose Rounds then quotes those exact conclusions from those reports, which are also referenced in many of the Sources we list at the end of this document).

My own Father had this to say. Dad was in Vietnam from 67-68 in the 4th Infantry Division.

“I liked the M14 in basic, It was the first semi auto I had ever fired. It got old carrying all that weight fast running every where all day and night. I qualified expert with it. Once I was issued an M16 right before we over seas, I never looked back.”

For every person who has told me how great the thing is, I have found two who had nothing by misery and bad experiences from it. I myself among them.

The M14/M1a  will be around for as long as people will continue to buy them.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with owning them liking them and using them. By no means is it useless or ineffective.   But its legendary reputation is something that needs to be taken with a grain of salt and careful study of the system if you intend to have one for a use your like may depend on.

If you are curious  posts on shooting rack M14s and custom service rifle M14s with Lilja barrels fired at 1,000 yards can be found here on Looseorunds using the search bar.  There you can read of the M14/M1A compared against the M1 Garand and M1903.

When we sat down last night to start writing this, we were going to analyze their post in great depth, but we can only suggest you go Read The Whole Thing™. The M14 is very beloved, but then, many soldiers come to love their first military rifle quite out of proportion to its qualities. (Indeed, we feel that way about, and retain a limerent attachment to, the M16A1, while recognizing that progress has left the original Army M16 behind).

If nostalgia drives you, LRB has this rifle on a new T44E4 marked receiver in stock -- for nearly $3k.

If nostalgia drives you, LRB has this rifle on a new T44E4 marked receiver in stock — for nearly $3k. We want it but not $3k bad!

Indeed, there is a space on the gun room wall marked out for an M21, sooner or later. But that;s where it is likely to stay most of the time. (Shawn’s post at Loose Rounds has some details about the fiendish difficulty of keeping one of these in accurate shooting trim).

Notes:

  1. Stevens, North American FALs, p.106; Iannimico, p. 62.
  2. Iannimico, p. 59.
  3. Stevens, US Rifle M14, pp. 197-224l
  4. Emerson, Volume 1, pp. 41-70
  5. Emerson, Volume 3, pp. 129-130.

Sources

Emersom, Lee. M1 History and Development, Fifth Edition. (Four Volumes). Self-published, 2010-2014.

Iannimico, Frank. The Last Steel Warrior: US Rifle M14. Henderson, NV: Moose Lake, 2005.

Rayle, Roy E. Random Shots: Episodes in the Life of a Weapon Developer. Bennington, VT: Merriam Press, 1996.

Stevens, R. Blake, North American FALs. Toronto: Collector Grade Publications, 1979.

Stevens, R. Blake, US Rifle M14: From John Garand to the M21. Toronto: Collector Grade Publications, 1979.

Ay, yi yi yi yi Relief….

This guy seems to shop at al-Bubba the gunsmith:

Aye Relief

 

These ISIL imb-isils are answering the shouted question, “How many brain cells have you got?” Note the cat in the second line with two fingers, and the guy in the back, behind the clown with the Syrian-flag headband, holding up all five fingers? They’re the brains of this outfit.

But Bubba is their armorer. Putting the scope where the rail is, not where the scope needs to be, is a bit like the drunk who was looking for his car keys a couple of blocks from where he lost them, “because there’s a streetlight here!” Let’s zoom in a little closer on this lash-up, because the picture’s kind of dark. We’ll lighten it with an Auto Levels tool and see if that helps the Bubba job stand out (it embiggens, but has lousy resolution).

isil_bubba-d_up_ak

The scope is on a who-needs-a-jeezly-cheekweld height mount, and seems to be mounted at an angle to the bore better measured in degrees than in Minutes of Angle or Miliradians. But wait, what’s that opposite the scope?

Why, yes, it is two fore-grips, because Allah helps those who keep a grip, evidently. The clown is gripping a Grip-pod, and right behind it there’s a folding grip, which looks to us like the Command Arms product. (Funny. Grip-pod doesn’t list ISIL when they mention “Who Uses Grip-Pod“. We thought “there is no such thing as bad publicity!”)

And, of course, for extra Tactical Operator fetish points, al-Bozo here is pulling the old two-magazines-and-electrical-tape spare ammo storage trick. Somewhere, Gecko45 just had a nocturnal emission.

This Arab assclown is undoubtedly more of a threat to himself and those around him than he is to any enemy other than an unarmed child, but then, that’s the history of Arab arms in a nutshell, isn’t it?

Despite that, these inept brain-deads have been beating, defeating, hell, clobbering, the guys that were well disposed to us in particular and to civilization in general. We live in interesting times.

 

How Did the FG-42 Selector Work?

We were asked that yesterday and we pontifically pronounced, “it fired from the open bolt in automatic mode, and from the close bolt in semi.”

This one's an SMG Guns semi clone. Pretty, though, innit?

This one’s an SMG Guns semi clone. Pretty, though, innit? Images do embiggen with a click.

Then we rested back on our laurels as Gun Expert and —

“Well, how did they make it do that?”

“*!” Hmm… How did they? “Let me get back to you on that.”

Fortunately, several references on the shelves explain it in terms our walnut sized brain could grasp. It turns out it was very simple, when you consider how complex some of the other design options made the FG. And it imposed some trade-offs, costing the rifle significant semi-auto accuracy as the price of that mechanical simplicity. Let’s walk you through it.

It worked exactly the same on the First and Second model of the FG, by the way; so we will use images of both in this post.

FG42-0034- grip FW

This image is from a crudely DEWATted Second Model FG that was examined by Forgotten Weapons. There’s a great set of images there, and the gun’s internals are mostly present and correct.

The selector switch is on the left side of what we’d call the grip frame. (The German manuals call this part the Lager which can mean holder or receiver, too, but we’ll stick with “grip frame”). The selector swings through 180º of travel; knob forward covers an “E” for Einzelfeuer (“single fire,” semi-auto), and knob rear clicks on to “D” for Dauerfeuer, (“continuous fire,” automatic). Note that the letter that shows is the antonym of the function you get. Don’t ask us; Hermann Göring was not available to take complaints.

FG-42 exploded view

Comparing the Bedienungsanleitung (manual) image of a First Model to the photo of the second model above that, we can see how the trigger works. The trigger pivots on a pin forward of, and slightly below, the selector switch. The axis of the selector switch is also the axle of the sear (in the diagram, Part B8 Abzughebel, literally “trigger lever”). The sear nose (Fangnase, “catch nose,” B8a) is the hardened end of the sear that engages a notch (if you learned engineering English in Britain, a “bent”) in the operating rod (Verschlußführungsstück, “bolt guiding piece,” Part D10).

There are, however, two notches in the op-rod. One is towards the front end, and mostly right of center. One is towards the tail end, and mostly left of center. You can make out the two notches in this Forgotten Weapons photo.

FG42-0003_FWRotating the selector moves the sear laterally either right to align with the front-end notch, or left to align with the tail-end notch. If it aligns with the tail-end notch, a disconnector (Unterbrecher, literally “interrupter”, B9), works by disengaging the trigger from the sear until the trigger is released (i.e., normal semi-auto trigger reset). Thus the selector engages the sear nose with either the nose-end notch, which holds the op rod and bolt assembly to the rear, or the tail-end notch, which holds the op rod and firing pin only to the rear, allowing the bolt to lock fully into battery.

Releasing the trigger releases the op-rod, then. If the weapon is on full automatic, the bolt and op-rod come forward, the bolt locks, the op-rod finishes its full travel, and the firing pin initiates the cartridge. The whole thing cycles again and continues to do so until the operator releases the trigger. When he does, the bolt is held in automatic battery — to the rear.

These schematics are from Allson & Toomey's Small Arms, pp. 226-227.

These schematics are from Allsop & Toomey’s Small Arms, pp. 226-227. The depiction of the selector in these drawings is how we came to understand that the selector (“change lever” in British English) covers the appropriate letter for type of fire selected.

If the weapon is on semi (selector knob swung 180º to the front), the trigger releases the op-rod, which brings the firing pin down on the primer. The bolt then cycles, but returns to semi-auto battery, closed bolt on a live cartridge, regardless of trigger position. The disconnector rides in the notch forward of the rear notch (here “bent”) only to disconnect when in Semi.

fg42mechanism13_11

If you’re feeling envious of FG-42s, you can buy an excellent semi repro from SMG Guns, you can pay more than a new luxury car for a transferable, or you can take the following image, a pile of steel, wood and aluminum, and a set of files and try to do what SMG did:

FG-42 Type II exploded view

It may take a while. Best of luck to you!

Now, the FG42 wasn’t the last word in open/closed bolt hybrid firing mechanisms. As mentioned, having the whole op rod and firing pin move was inimical to accuracy. This not only increased the motion of the firearm on firing, but it increased lock time substantially, giving that motion more time to work on sending your projectiles wild. But that was a tradeoff that designers at Rheinmettal accepted for their simple and reliable open/closed bolt mechanism.

As we’ve seen, waste heat is a real killer of combat weapons in automatic fire, and by extension, a potential killer of the men who fire them. Firing from an open bolt reduces the incremental temperature increase per automatic round fired, by allowing more air to circulate and more of the potential radiative area to be exposed to ambient-temperature cooling air. This has the side effect of moving the critical temperature area or point further up the barrel from its usual position 5 to 8 inches in front of the chamber.

Firing from an open bolt also prevents cook-offs. Contrary to common misconception, cook-offs are usually not instantaneous but result from a round remaining chambered in a hot barrel for some seconds or minutes. For a cook-off to be instantaneous (and risk an out-of-battery ignition) the temperature has to be extremely elevated. For a routine cook-off, which can take some time to happen, the biggest danger is that no one is expecting the weapon to fire, and people may be in an unsafe position forward of its muzzle at that point.

The FG42 was a remarkably good weapon, like many WWII German weapons. Not good enough for them to win the war, fortunately; it was the very devil to produce (ask Steve at SMG!) and was produced in the sort of numbers that would be a rounding error, or the scrappage involved in training some new line workers, in American, British or Russian production. The US produced, for example, about 40 times as many BARs as Germany produced FG42s; Russian production of the pan-fed DP28 LMG was easily double that. (German production wasn’t as dismal as you might think. They produced more rifles and carbines of all types than the USA did. But they did have a tendency to engineer something very good, and then fail to build it in numbers that would make a difference).