My new AR-15: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Someone new to the world of airguns encounters jargon, technical terms, confusion and mountains of urban legends. I know the feeling because, when I recently acquired an AR-15, I had the same experience.

I write this blog today about my experiences acquiring a firearm to help the new airgunner learn to make decisions about the airguns he doesn’t know and can’t actually handle before buying. Once you read the report, I think you’ll understand why I say it’s written for airgunners.

I never liked the AR
I was exposed to the U.S. Army’s M16 when it first came out in the 1960s, and the problems it had were so many that it didn’t make a good impression. For starters, I’m a rifleman, which means I care more about hitting the target than anything else. The M14 that was the standard issue at the time was doing that very well, but the new M16 proved incapable of hitting a man-sized silhouette at 300 yards. Since I wanted to qualify expert (having already done so with the pistol, the M14 and the .22 rimfire) with every weapon the Army gave me, I found this shortcoming to be a huge drawback.

I wasn’t aware of all the ballistic testing that had gone into the creation of the 5.56mm round before the M16 came out. I just knew from my first range experience that the rifle was inaccurate beyond about 250 yards. To a shooter who had already qualified expert with three other weapons, that was inexcusable.

Then there was the problem of cleaning the gun. The M16 required lots of cleaning and lubrication to continue to operate reliably. The M14 didn’t seem to need as much cleaning, though it did need to be lubricated, just the same. But the M14 was easy to field strip, clean and lubricate, while the M16 had some parts that were very difficult to clean in the field. Strike two.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I didn’t like the M16. And several years later, when I had about 100 of them in my company arms room in Germany in the middle 1970s, I grew to dislike them even more for all their petty maintenance and cleaning problems.

After I left the Army, I swore to never have anything more to do with the fully automatic M16 or its semiautomatic civilian equivalent, the AR-15. Occasionally, I’d see one at the range and watch the owner fumble with frequent jams, horrid accuracy and other problems that I remembered from my Army days. I thought the case was closed

Enter Crosman — the MAR177
Then, in 2012, Crosman brought out the MAR177, and I had to test it. But since the MAR is just an upper, it needs to be mated with a lower receiver to work — and that lower has to be an AR lower! You may remember in my review of the MAR177 that I actually built an AR lower receiver for the test.

Crosman MAR77 complete rifle
Crosman’s MAR177 drove me to buy the firearm it copies, as I’ve done several times in the past.

When the test was over, the MAR177 went back to Crosman, leaving me with an AR lower. Crosman told me they had plans to bring out other MAR-type airguns, so I couldn’t get rid of the lower, yet. Until they did, I had nothing to use it with. Until I got a firearm upper of some sort, that lower was just an expensive bunch of useless gun parts. That’s when I began to think about possibly owning an AR-15 for the first time!

I didn’t know anything about ARs!
I had avoided the AR so completely that I now discovered I knew next to nothing about it. When I began to do research, including some done with readers right here on this blog, I found out that my information was old, outdated and generally no longer true. In short, I was like someone new to airgunning who didn’t know what he didn’t know and didn’t know where to turn.

Books
I tend to rely on books to get spun up on something new. And I know that Patrick Sweeney is an excellent gun writer based on his books about the Colt 1911. They were a wealth of information when I decided to go full-on with the 1911 after receiving a nice one as a gift several years ago. So, I reckoned he would be just as good with the AR 15.

AR 15 books
When I want to learn about something new, I turn to books.

Boy — was I wrong! Sweeney writes about ARs using jargon and repetition. He salts his chapters with pithy anecdotes from gun classes he has taught or references to law enforcement operations — neither of which have any interest for me. As I said — I’m a rifleman — not a zombie fighter! Sweeney and I don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to the black rifle.

However, in fairness to the author, he’s not writing for me. He’s writing to the majority of AR owners who think exactly as he does and want to know the latest and greatest tactical advantages the gun might offer. They number in the millions, where I’m just one.

And, among all the insider trivia, there were nuggets of useful information. Therefore, I read and decoded what was in those books until I had a good newbie-level of understanding.

The airgun comparison
And here’s where my plight will begin to relate to a budding airgunner. You may not know whether to get a spring-piston rifle with a steel mainspring or a gas spring, just as I didn’t know whether to get an AR with direct gas impingement or a piston-driven system.

I read and read and finally discovered several references to the fact that the direct gas impingement system would probably make the more accurate gun when all other things were equal. The reasons were explained in such a way that I could understand and internalize them. I also discovered that the makers of the piston-operated systems are working diligently to make their systems more accurate all the time — so the accuracy gap is closing with each passing day.

Returning to airguns, there are precious few airgun books for you to consult, but this blog is written for that purpose — to help explain the fundamentals of airgunning and to help you solve your individual problems.

So, you read and read, and one day you realize that all the gas spring guns I’ve tested are hard to cock. Maybe you don’t like that. And you’ve also read that many of the gas spring guns I’ve tested have only mediocre accuracy, while there are some with a coiled steel mainspring, like the RWS Diana 34, that are very accurate. From this, you’ve learned that you want a gun with a steel mainspring, just as I learned that I wanted an AR with direct gas impingement.

Looking at my plight again, I read about rifle barrel twist rates and discovered that the rifles with a faster twist are good for heavier bullets, and heavier bullets make for greater accuracy at longer distances. I like accuracy, and I like to shoot long distances. So, I knew that I wanted a barrel with a twist rate of 1:7 or 1:8 inches instead of the more common 1:10 and even 1:12-inch twist rate that many of the tacti-cool carbines seem to have. I also learned that Colt was at one time very concerned that buyers of their AR-15 would attempt to turn them into M16s, so they changed the pivot pin sizes for many of the parts on the lower receiver of their AR-15. Hence, there are a certain range of Colt AR-15 rifles that, while okay by themselves, will not accept common upgraded parts that all other AR-15s can use. Since parts interchangability is one of the AR’s strong suits, these Colts are seriously disadvantaged.

You read about airguns and discovered in this blog that, while there are a plethora of pellets from which to choose, only a few of them are the most consistently accurate. You learned which ones they are, and you know that you can either waste $30 buying the wrong bargain pellets that don’t work in most airguns, or you can spend half that much and get (far fewer) pellets that will drill a dime every time when fired in the gun you have decided to buy.

I read and discovered that using certain extruded gun powders will keep the AR-15 action clean for many hundreds of shots. And some of that kind of powder also develops very low breech pressures, so barrel wear is similarly reduced. The interior of today’s AR-15 is a far cry from the gummy wreck the M16 was in the late 1960s. And there are specialized tools that can clean those hard-to-reach parts in seconds, instead of the hours that it used to take us with toothbrushes.

Varget CRT tool reloading book
AR-15 technology has changed over the years. Now, there are cleaner-burning gun powders and specialized tools to reach the places that are hard to clean.

After all your reading, you decided to buy an RWS Diana 34P. You know that you’ll have to learn to use the artillery hold, and you know that you want the rifle in .177 caliber to save the most money on ammo per shot — but you’ll be buying 10.3-grain JSB Exact domed pellets instead of the “bargain” pellets found at Wal-Mart. Yes, your pellets will cost you three times as much as the cheap ones, but your hit ratio will be even greater than that. So, this more expensive pellet is actually a savings.

I learned that a standard AR-15 is only good for about 3 minutes of angle (a 5-shot group of approximately three inches at 100 yards); but with the right barrel and bullet, the same rifle can be a sub-MOA rifle, too. I learned that instead of being confined to the rather short magazines that fit the rifle, I can load every round singly into the breech to give me the room to load much longer and more accurate ammo. If I buy the right upper receiver and barrel and load the right ammo for it, I can have an AR-15 that’s respectably accurate.

Where no man has gone
Like you, I’ve ventured into a world I didn’t understand. Like you, I found there are truths, lies and everything in between. But instead of rushing out and squandering my money on the first “bad boy” upper I found, I waited for the right one to come along. And it finally did! I found it two weeks ago on a Texas-based gun-swapping website.

The upper I found has a free-floated Saber Defense 24-inch stainless steel fluted bull barrel with a 1:8-inch twist. The extra long barrel means it’s an efficient powder-burner, which means it will take larger loads of slow-burning extruded powder and develop higher velocity for greater accuracy at long range. The extruded powder is both clean-burning and develops much lower chamber pressure than ball powders. Best of all, this rifle was built for 1000-yard competition shooting and has a .223 Remington chamber instead of a 5.56 or Wylde combination chamber. It was, literally, built for accuracy.

AR 15
Not a gun most AR owners would want — my rifle has a free-floated, 24-inch bull barrel that’s chambered for .223 Remington instead of 5.56mm. I shouldn’t shoot military ammo in it; but with the right reloads, it’ll shoot rings around a stock AR. It’s exactly what I wanted. The scope is a Tasco Custom Shop 8-40X56mm that I used to compete in field target.

The bolt in this upper was hand-selected from 25 bolts for the best fit, and then the gunsmith handlapped those lugs that were not in 100 percent contact. My reading tells me this last step is unnecessary, but it’s comforting to know someone went to all the trouble to do it. It shows that he wanted an accurate gun! He also adjusted the gas flow so it doesn’t overpower the bolt. The result is a rifle that gently throws its empty brass in a neat pile about 8 feet from the gun at two o’clock. Of course, I’ll use a bass catcher [Note: Tom meant to write "brass catcher," but this was so funny I had to leave it--Edith] to keep all the ejected brass safely on the bench with me.

The owner wanted to get rid of this upper because he discovered that it wasn’t competitive in a breeze at 1,000 yards. It worked well at 600 yards, but there the competition was too fierce for him — so he wanted to build an upper in a larger caliber for the 1,000-yard competition, where there are fewer shooters.

It has exactly what I wanted, though, so I made him an offer that he considered generous. We met at my range and each got to shoot the other’s gun before we traded. I not only got the upper, I also got the load he’d developed for 600-yard competition. I was out of the specific bullet used in that load, so I loaded a lighter bullet (68 grains instead of 77 grains) while I waited for the heavier bullets to be delivered. I went to the range last week to see what the new gun would do.

AR 15 target 1
The sight-in target at 50 yards was shot with the most accurate ammo. Each round was loaded singly because they were too long to fit in the magazine. Next time, these will be my target loads! The hole next to the dime has seven rounds.

AR 15 target 2
This target was shot at 100 yards with rounds that fed through the magazine. The top three were too high, then I adjusted the scope and fired the seven below. Clearly, this group is not as good as the rounds that were fed singly.

The first time out, I confirmed that the rifle wants to be loaded single-shot with rounds that exceed the magazine length. I also confirmed that it will shoot a 68-grain bullet very well. I’ve now acquired a large supply of 77-grain bullets, but this means I’m not wedded to them.

It’s nice to come out on top
Like you, I couched my expectations for the AR in terms of what I’d read and believed. Since that was but a fraction of all the information that was available, I felt confident that the little I did know was correct. And I was pleasantly surprised when the rifle (upper) exceeded my expectations the first time out!

That is what I want for each of you with airguns. I want your experiences to be pleasant and surprisingly good. I want them to exceed your expectations the first time out.

I can’t help those who act on their emotions and go for guns based on velocity claims or advertising hype. Just as the average AR sold today would not be considered an accurate rifle, the average spring-piston air rifle is also quite a handful to deal with. I can’t help those who buy their guns on impulse and refuse to take responsibility for their own actions; but if you’ll be patient, I’ll help you find the airgun that’s ideal for you.

Am I an AR guy? I don’t think so. If I told most AR owners how I operate the rifle — loading each cartridge single-shot and shooting 10-shot groups — I think they would be appalled. But has my opinion been changed by my experience with this one rifle? Yes, it has. I spent the time and did the research to discover the things that mattered the most to me and ignored those that didn’t. I focused on what I really wanted; and when it came along, I was ready to act.

I hope this blog can do the same for you.

70 Responses to “My new AR-15: Part 1”

  • Bub Says:

    B.B. Welcome to the dark side. ARs have come a long way since their introduction in the 1960s. For an accuracy hound like you the faster twist was definitely the way to go. You should find the gun offers outstanding reliability, especially if you keep the bolt well lubed. Cleaning not as important as lube. btw Colt switched back to regular pins a few years back. Enjoy. Bub

  • duskwight Says:

    B.B.

    On accuracy side – I wouldn’t expect top accuracy from a weapon that was designed as an army assault rifle. It has it enough for a draftee to hit a man-sized target inside 300 m range – isn’t that enough? Mechanical loading IMO is always too much of a stress for the cartridge, so no wonder that results are worse when rounds are auto-loaded into chamber rather than carefully inserted by hand.

    My challenges continue – this time one of my new-old FWB C62 cylinders went off – vintage 1996 seals decided that I’m asking too much of them and died with a sigh, a loud and freezy one. Since they are that vintage and badly designed from a repair point of view, I’m now drawing a design of my own, with teflon/polyurethane valve seals, stainless steel body, beryllium bronze head and, of course, repairable.

    duskwight

    • Matt61 Says:

      Now, this is something I have wondered about. Why are semiautos so necessarily abusive of cartridges? Each round follows the same process of going from magazine to chamber; they have to do or there would be malfunctions. Perhaps the bolt hits the rear of the cartridge with more force because of the gas that it powering it, but is it that much harder than people who work the bolt in the frenzy? And if the bolt is hitting the case head what damage can it do? Not much based on the appearance of the case head afterwards. But I hear the same warnings about the abuse of the cartridges inside of M1A type rifles.

      Matt61

      • duskwight Says:

        Matt,

        I would also add to that moving parts – automatics requires more space to operate (go back and forth, lock either by rotating bolt/lugs or tilting bolt or roller delay and so on) so their work is inherently less uniform and tolerances are inherently looser. Not to mention that semi-auto starts to reload the moment it fires (that is why I know some SVD users just turn autoloading off for some sensitive job) and moving/vibrating parts can affect the process of exiting the barrel and so on. Like grains of sand all those tiny factors collect and form quite a hill.
        And of course one can hardly achieve a level of violent shakes and hits by working rifle’s bolt with a hand that will compare to autoloading. As far as I know most accurate sniper rifles are bolt-action.

        duskwight

      • Wulfraed Says:

        It’s not so much the chambering of a round as the extraction process. The extraction process begins while there is still enough energy in the recoil to cycle the bolt… That means both a fast pull on the case rim, and possibility for the case to still be stretched against chamber walls.

        The HK-91 is a roller-delayed bolt — no gas port to unlock the bolt; basically the recoil is pushing the front of the bolt backwards as soon you fire, but a wedge on the rear part of the bolt forces rollers into the receiver. So the front part is delayed while it forces the rollers inwards accelerating the rear part faster.

        This takes place while there is still high pressure in the case — the HK-91 has a fluted (longitudinal grooves) chamber so that minor pressure drop is enough to release half the surface area.

  • Titus Groan Says:

    Hello B.B. and Fellow Airguners. Your analogy with purchasing an AR upper, and a newbie airgun buyer was spot on. I have no clue about the AR rifle’s design or how it is built. They are illegal up here. About 5 years ago, I was deep into the wonderful world of airgun hype and jargon. I couldn’t make sense of half the features written about certain models that caught my eye. There was so much to choose from, and they all seemed to say it would be the last gun I would ever own. Like you, I waited until I knew enough about certain guns I was interested in. About this time, I found your blog. You had written the bible on the Beeman R1, and I found out that Beeman was not only made by Weihrauch, it had the same models just with different name plates. Eg. R9-HW95. So I eventually bought a HW 97 in .22 cal, topped off with a Hawke AirMax 4-12×40 scope. It is still one of my favourites among my 9 Weihrauch rifles and 5 pistols. I don’t think I would be a happy camper today if I had followed my first impulse, and bought a Gamo .22 cal/shotgun. The ads were so glossy, and the specs and features made it seem it was light years ahead of anything out there. I have since read a few very negative reviews and I believe it has gone the way of the Dodo.
    Thanks for your insight and good luck with the new AR 15. By the looks of the groups, it would be a gun I would be proud to own too. Keep us informed on future developments.
    Caio Titus

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Titus,

      Thanks for your feedback. I try hard to explain the jargon as we go, but an experience like the one with this AR is really refreshing to me. It reminds me of just how it feels to try to learn something that everyone is encrypting.

      Good for you for getting the HW 97. It’s a solid rifle and the Hawke scope is a wonderful piece of glass.

      B.B.

    • Matt61 Says:

      A good point. Without information about airguns, I would be lost, but my only source of airgun info is right here. I’ve read some airgun articles that are appearing the major gun magazines but they are far inferior.

      Matt61

  • duskwight Says:

    B.B.

    Just to add some.
    I’ve recently stumbled upon a nice text. I think it could be of a great use when it comes to choosing something: http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2013/01/24/40-years-of-gun-wisdom-in-5-easy-lessons
    What do you think about something like that for airguns?

    duskwight

  • RidgeRunner Says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but it has been a looooonnnnnng time since I fooled with the .223. What exactly is the difference between the .223 and the Nato 5.56 (besides power and accuracy of course)? Am I correct that the .223 will chamber and fire the 5.56?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      RR,

      Both cartridges have identical dimensions, but the 5.56 has a stouter (thicker) case — which means less powder capacity.

      The difference is in the chambers. The 5.56 chamber has a longer leade (the distance before the bullet engages the rifling). That allows the cartridge to be loaded to higher pressure and yet not destroy the rifle. When you shoot a 5.56mm round in a rifle that has a .223 chamber, the pressure rises by a minimum of 10,000 psi. Instead of 52,000 psi, you are generating 62,000 psi, or a proof load. It will work, and you can even get away with it a long time, but when the rifle gets fouled and the pressures rise from that, they are now rising from a low proof load into a region whewre you don’t really want to go.

      My long-range rounds generate about 42,000 psi, even though they are much more powerful (faster and with heavier bullets) than the military rounds. That’s all done by using the right powder, and using the correct standoff from the rifling.

      B.B.

      • Matt61 Says:

        Wondered the same thing myself. So what happens when the army wants accurate ammo for its Special Purpose Rifles (SPR) that are supposed to be designated marksman rifles. Do they get a match version of the service caliber that would still be inferior to .223? Or do they go with .223? Would that fit properly in the military chambers?

        Matt61

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          Matt,

          The Army seldom if ever has the need for the same kind of accuracy I am after. If they need it they don’t develop a special 5.56mm load. The get a whole new rifle — one that is blisteringly accurate right out of the box — like the .338 Lapua. They may take a long time, but they eventually do catch up.

          B.B.

  • twotalon Says:

    B.B.

    I was not impressed with the Mattel 16. The looks, feel, and the firing behavior turned me off.

    twotalon

    • Robert From Arcade Says:

      Me too, but all of that is a moot point here, as they are now banned and even a single shot centerfire one would be illegal because it has “evil” features, so even if i wanted to try I can’t. However the analogy to airguns and hype on power and looks was spot on.

      • B.B. Pelletier Says:

        Robert,

        Yeah, and the funny thing is, out Second Amendment is NOT about hunting! It’s about freedom — from any government seeking to oppress us — including the current administration. We have allowed the U.S. gun-grabbers to push us far down the slippery slope, so that some of us — like you New Yorkers — are actually living in an oppressd state.

        The Bill of Rights was voted into the constitution to protect the citizens from government oppression. Federal government oppression. The states didn’t believe the federal government could be contained, and they wanted certain rights to be able to do something about it, if necessary.

        I am seeing people who used to be comfortable with the status quo awaken and realize that it’s too late, or almost too late to do what they always thought they would do if anything like this ever happened. Watch the news, because this ain’t over yet.

        B.B.

        • caveman Says:

          BB,
          I hope you are right!!
          It seems to me that the NRA doesn’t get to involved with state issues, I think that they should make a stand in NY (to late for Ca.). I think NY’s latest legislation has much to do with the currant ammo shortage. We (rifle team) will run out of ammo by July (Camp Perry National Matches) if we can’t find some more.

      • Matt61 Says:

        So, how did NY get around the thicket of problems in defining an assault rifle? In California, I think the definition is any two of several evil features one of which is a detachable high capacity magazine. Now the best approximation is an assault rifle with a magazine no larger than 10 rounds with a lock that requires a tool to open. As such, the rifle is defanged considerably, but it is still the same gun for those who are interested in its design and handling. Can you own one of these in NY?

        Matt61

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      TT,

      Like I said in the report, I felt the same. I even objected to the buzz of the buffer spring against my cheek every time the M16 fired.

      I wish you could shoot this rifle I am showing here today. It is absolutely NOT like that! It shoots like a real rifle should shoot, and if I can get sub MOA 10-shot groups at 100 yards, I doubt I will be shooting my Garand as much. Won’t get rid of it, though.

      B.B.

      • twotalon Says:

        B.B.

        I didn’t like the “boooiiinnng” either. Or the rubbery/spongy feeling recoil. Or the shape of the butt that I could not keep in a consistent position on my shoulder.

        Never had a desire to own any AR type. Really have no use for them anyway.

        twotalon

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          TT,

          You’re talking to a guy who mostly shoots single-shots like the Ballard and others. I think even bolt-actions are newfangled fads that will eventually pass. ;)

          B.B.

          • Robert From Arcade Says:

            New fangled bolt actions ? I don’t now about TT, but I haven’t got used to them lever actions they just came out with! I’m now glad I didn’t rechamber my Ruger #3 in .223 yet. It will shoot like your AR does now and it is a faster single shot to load. As to the banning here in NY , we are putting up a a fight . the fat lady isn’t singing yet…

  • Bub Says:

    I would encourage everyone to write and/or call their Congressmen in support of our Second Amendment rights. So called assault rifles are used in a very small percentage of crimes and are responsible for very few civilian deaths in the USA. Hunters and airgunners may think they are safe from such legislation, but it’s my understanding there are a lot of airguns we can purchase in this country that are not available in other parts of the world.

    • Edith Gaylord Says:

      Bub,

      Assault rifle is just a name. A gun isn’t inherently evil. How many millions of assault rifles exist in the U.S.? Compare that with how many are used in crimes. The % is so small that it’s ridiculous.

      If getting rid of guns or seriously restricting guns were the route to go, how come Chicago has so much crime? It’s pretty much tight as a drum!

      I have a knife in my kitchen drawer that could be called an assault knife. But it just sits there, inanimate, until my hands bring it to life. These types of inanimate objects are not dangerous until someone picks them up and gives them a purpose…whether it be good or evil.

      I’ve regularly hit my congress critters with emails. They come back with some automated drivel…usually. One time, it was not automated, and I was greatly disappointed to see the answer because it countered every reason I had for voting for that person the last time (and was contrary to what they stated as their political position while running for re-election).

      You can write your congress critters, but there have to be a LOT of us writing or it won’t matter. Let’s not forget that for every email you send, there are efforts from lobbyists and others in D.C. who have your congress critters’ ears for much longer periods of time.

      Sign petitions, write emails, send stamped letters, write on their facebook & twitter pages. Bombard them with your opinions. If you write strongly enough, you just might get through. I got through to one political hopeful via his website via a seriously bombastic email, and he had the brains to listen. He got elected, and now he’s in congress & fighting for the rights of gun owners. Sometimes, they don’t listen until you slap ‘em a couple times to get their full attention! THEN, you can talk some sense into those thicks skulls :-)

      Edith

      • duskwight Says:

        Edith,

        Where do I sign? Every word – a coin of pure silver!

        duskwight

      • kevin Says:

        I would also emphasize that the time has come to make your voice heard.

        Erosion of our second amendment rights has escalated at an alarming rate. The historical precendence for governments around the world first forcing registration of all guns and prohibiting ownership of others has ultimately lead to confiscation of all guns. Historically tyranny and dictatorship soon follows.

        I would encourage people to join and/or donate to organizations committed to preserve our second amendments rights. NRA, Gun Owners of America, etc. already have a voice but need our financial support to help make it louder.

        If you click on this link it provides an easy way to communicate with your representatives quickly:

        http://www.ruger.com/micros/advocacy/

        kevin

        • Bub Says:

          Edith, I couldn’t agree with you more. I hate to use the word “terrorist”, but the anti-gun forces can use terrorist tactics for driving through restrictive gun laws. By that I mean they only have to get the occasional proposed bill pasted to gain ground whereas the pro-gun forces have to win every fight just to maintain ground. Pro-gunners have a fight on their hands for at least the next four years and IMO likely much longer than that. Even if our efforts fail I’d rather know I sent letters and emails, made phone calls, supported organizations like the NRA, etc than if I hadn’t done anything. And of course voting for Second Amendment supporters and against those who aren’t. As always I enjoy reading your blog. Bub

  • dangerdongle Says:

    I hope everyone here has voiced their opinion to their various representatives-and continues to do so frequently. This is a pivotal moment for firearms owners in the US and I don’t think, should the ban pass, it will be allowed to expire when the next shiftless crook gets into office, regardless of party affiliation. “Black” guns and hi-cap mags are just the beginning.

    Off the soap box, I like what you’ve done with your AR very much-and yeah, I’m one of ‘those’ guys that appreciates tacti-cool.

  • Pete Hallock Says:

    SIDEBAR: If you missed it on the Diana 25 comments, T.W.Chambers & Co, Ltd, U.K. is back in business shipping air gun parts to the U.S. I ordered a few parts for a Diana 25.
    Pete
    California

  • Mike Says:

    BB, a neat method to single load AR’s is to use one of the 10 round clips that are used to load AR magazines. Just load one round at one end of the clip and use the clip as a handle to insert that round into the chamber. I used to do this with my old Colt SP1 when shooting High Power Matches back in the 80′s.

    The AR was developed to use “Stick” powder like IMR-3031 which burns fairly clean. The Ball Powder the Army used back in the 60′s caused a lot of the early problems with fowling. The Ball Powder also pushed up the pressure and cycle rate which wasn’t for the best.

    Mike

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Mike,

      Thank you for that tip! I will get one of those loaders.

      B.B.

    • Matt61 Says:

      I was wondering how you single load the AR with rounds that are too big for the magazine. You stick them from below through the magazine well I guess.

      Matt61

      • B.B. Pelletier Says:

        Matt,

        You feed them in through the ejection port. Leave the empty magazine in place to provide a floorplate and the rifle gobbles them up without a hitch — or at least mine does. Just load a round and press the bolt release. Shoot. Then do it all over.

        B.B.

  • cowboystar dad Says:

    A blog on accuracy…how apropos.
    Yesterday was the first day this year that was nice enough to head to the range (NO WIND and ‘only’ -8C).
    I don’t know if it was the lack of wind, or the Savage (.22WMR) is finally broken in (about 1000 rounds total now)…or the new scope.
    But I got 4 very good 5 shot groups at 100. Two of the groups can be covered by a nickel.
    To say I’m ecstatic is an understatement :-)

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      CSD,

      A nickel! Now that is a group. And with the .22 Magnum to boot!

      Good shooting!

      B.B.

      • cowboystar dad Says:

        Thanks b.b.
        My first thoughts are that was the lack of wind.
        I’ve struggled with this gun to maintain 1.25-1.5″ groups.
        But yesterday the flags at the range were hanging straight down…they weren’t moving at all.
        Here in Alberta (prairie country) a typical ‘windless’ day means the winds are only about 5-10mph, so this was unusual.
        On another note, I’ve finally decided to step up to a centerfire.
        After reading a book on the battle of Ortona (Italy) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Ortona
        I’ve decided to buy the iconic Canadian battle rifle, the Lee Enfield. A local dealer has 4 of them in stock, all in good shape at a price of $495 ea. Don’t know if that’s a great price, but I’m going to pick one up this weekend.
        The Battle of Ortona was fought primarily by the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. I’m from Edmonton, and by grandfathers brother (don’t know what that makes him to me) died in the battle…so there is a real reason in my mind to own one of these rifles.
        So any input from yourself or anyone who owns one would be much appreciated.

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          CSD,

          I own and shoot a No. 4 Mk1 SMLE. Love it. They come with stocks of different lengths, and the short one will kick your teeth out. Mine is an inch longer and is a soft recoiling rifle.

          B.B.

        • Matt61 Says:

          You’re the man with your Savage rifle and now the Lee-Enfield. Great job. I take enormous satisfaction in just reading about this. I’ve never heard of this battle you mention. I guess that I classed it as part of Winston Churchill’s failed strategy of attacking the soft underbelly of Europe which was not soft at all. The Italian campaign ultimately stalled out although there was plenty of ferocious fighting.

          Actually, this battle with its house-to-house fighting does not look like one that played to the strengths of the Lee-Enfield. (By the way, the pic of the Canadian sniper in the Wikipedia photo looks very much like the guy is using a Mauser.) Anyway, for more on the mystique of the Lee-Enfield, you might want to read up on WWI battles. That’s were the Lee-Enfield really shined; the No. 1 Mark III version they were using was essentially the same rifle with a different barrel profile and forend. WWI was where the Lee-Enfield re-established itself against the Mauser after a dismal showing in the Boer War. Although the Mauser was a superior design for target shooting and hunting, the Lee-Enfield was the superior battle rifle with its larger magazine, fast-action, and reliability. The Battle of Mons in 1914 was where this was really shown to effect, but it occurred throughout WWI. For a dramatization, you can look for a YouTube video on the Battle of Paschendele which actually shows a film about a Canadian unit in action. It looks pretty realistic from what I can see. Siegfried Sassoon wrote about this battle, “I died in hell/They called it Paschendele.” Part of the hellishness of this battle was its never-ending mud where the Lee-Enfield showed what it can do.

          Good luck with the purchase. My Canadian Long Branch Lee-Enfield with a near unfired bore was $425. Yours sounds a little high, but that may be relative to availability. I know a couple of great dealers in the U.S. but don’t know if you have access. If you want their names, you can email me at gufgo24@yahoo.com.

          I’ll be interested to see how your rifle feeds. :-)

          Matt61

          • Mike Says:

            How prices have risen. The most I have ever payed for an Enfield was $175.00. I guess I’ll enjoy the ones I have!

            Mike

        • J-F Says:

          “I’m from Edmonton, and my grandfathers brother (don’t know what that makes him to me)”
          Wouldn’t he be your great uncle?

          -8 I’m jealous! We should get there tommorrow, after a week of -30 and less it’s will be more than welcomed and we should be up to +8 by Wednesday… but only for the day :(

          Congrats on the groups

          J-F

          • cowboystar dad Says:

            Isn’t that one of the grand things about Canada J-F?
            Yesterday actually got up to -5c (after we left the range).
            Tonight they’re forecasting -25c.

    • duskwight Says:

      CSD,

      Only -8? *smiles viciously*
      Congratulations on your achievement. I would name one more factor of accuracy – it may be the rifleman who has “broken in” with this very rifle. I noticed it myself a few times – accuracy come with a sort of “click!” sound, when after some tens or even hundred rounds you suddenly start to understand how the specimen that is right now in your hands behaves. It must be muscle memory of sort – when you just turn your head off and start doing everything right automatically.

      duskwight

  • john Says:

    Being a veteran and having seen combat in 3 separate theaters (desert storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq), I had my fill of that black rifle. I actually never want to hold one ever again no matter what Diane Feinstein manages to foist off on us or how accurate they manage to make them. I however absolutely love my AK-47 and variants for home defense, pest killing for things muskrat size and bigger, and for deer hunting (5 round magazine and scope and it’s a valid and legal hunting gun with a .308 bore and 2785 fps muzzle velocity out to 300 meters). Plus it doesn’t matter if I drag my AK through mud, snow, water, sand, or a manure pile, it will always fire reliably and accurately enough to do what I need it to do. It’s also very easy to clean compared to the m-16 which has all manner if fiddly little pins and springs that are easily lost. It seemed back in my army days everybody lost the extractor pin or extractor detent spring and on occasion larger parts. With an AK you have 3 parts to clean when field stripping it and it can be done with mittens on. Try doing that with an AR15 or M-16. For ease of use, reliability, and simplicity of cleaning in the field, I’d name the AK47 and variants king of the pile.

    • Matt61 Says:

      Thank you for your service! And how interesting to hear about the AR platform in more recent conflicts using improved technology. I keep hearing reports from Colt and the Army about how much the troops love their M4s, and then more critical individual reports like yours.

      Matt61

      • john Says:

        Everybody is entitled to their likes and dislikes. I personally do not like a rifle with so many fiddly little bits in it. It just means more things to clean, lose or break. I believe in the term “K.I.S.S.” or “Keep It Simple and Stupid.” I might give up a bit of accuracy with my AK47, but I gain a reliability you just can’t get with an AR platform. Since I do tend to get dirty when I am hunting and my rifle does tent to end up in some foulness on occasion, I require something i don’t need to keep oiled and clean. I need to know when i squeeze that trigger a shot will be fired and the next shot chambered.

        I did however learn a trick to clean an M-16 in a hurry though and leave it spotless. I always used carburetor cleaner to get off the gunk off my rifle. Our armorer was always amazed at just how spotless mine was when I turned it in. I’d field strip the thing according to regs on an old white towel so I wouldn’t lose anything. Then I’d spray each piece and wipe it down with an old t-shirt. Then I’d apply the thinnest coat of oil I could apply, assemble it and turn it in. It would take me around 5 minutes to clean it while everybody else was scrubbing away with their Break Free CLP and an old toothbrush. I never let on how I did it until now.

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          John,

          Carburetor cleaner — eh? I hope I don’t have to go that far, but I have a can, just in case.

          B.B.

  • Tony Chow Says:

    Good article. I want you to know that single-loading is exactly what High Power competitors do with their match-grade AR’s in the slow fire stages. The rules require this and the long, high-BC bullets makes the cartridge longer than magazine size anyway. We do use the magazines during rapid fire stages though!

    So, there’s nothing wrong with single-loading when accuracy is your goal!

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Tony,

      Thanks for that. The guy I got the upper from is a long-range competitor and he’s the one who put me onto it. For what I want to do with this rifle, it makes the most sense.

      B.B.

  • Matt61 Says:

    B.B., you certainly came through with a detailed test. There’s a lot about the AR that I had not heard of like the special non-fouling powder. The other concern with the DGI is the excess heat that gets routed into the action and causes premature wear. But if you’re single-loading and target shooting this may not matter.

    I’m surprised that things appeared that different for you since the 60s since the basic action, I believe, has remain unchanged. I recently read some congressional report about a battle in Afghanistan where an army outpost was overrun, and afterwards the dead were found to have their rifles torn down and were trying to clear them. That sounds like Vietnam. But there are any number of more positive reports that can be found. I don’t have time to look back, but I take it that your rebuilt lower has an improved trigger. That is supposed to be a weak point of the AR-15. How interesting to hear that the accuracy of the standard M16 before the improvement is about 3MOA. This is something that is hinted in the literature, but no one comes right out and says it.

    I like your seller’s strategy of eluding the competition to achieve success. Heh, heh. That is Sun Tzu’s Art of War all the way.

    BG_Farmer, what a playground you have for your 3D targets. I’m so jealous.

    Mike, funny you should mention that technique about letting up on the trigger when your sights drift off. I had heard about that version of the surprise break. But it seems to me that moving between the quivering of the sights and the stop start of the trigger squeeze would cause confusion, the very thing you said is actually not that much of a problem. My current method involves precisely ignoring sight movement and squeezing the trigger with the inevitability of the Second Coming. So far so good. My initial results were not a fluke. Just this morning, I jumped out of bed to admire all those tiny holes. (Thanks Victor.) But one thing I’ve learned is that there’s a lot out there, so I could very well come around to that trigger method you describe. What happened after 23 years of using this method, or are you still using it?

    Matt61

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Matt,

      Yes, I built the lower with a National Match trigger. Compared to a good airgun trigger it isn’t that good, but compared to the standard AR trigger, it is fine.

      B.B.

      • john Says:

        It works well. I still use that trick on all my powder burners today. A bit of carb cleaner will strip all the carbon, oil, and other gunk out of your gun. Shoot a bit through the barrel and run a patch or two through it followed by one with light oil and it’s clean. That trick left me all kinds of time to do other things I needed to do back in my army days. The trick is don’t forget to apply a very light coating of oil to all surfaces after they are hit with carb cleaner or they get this white dry look to them.

      • Matt61 Says:

        I forgot to mention the irony that after you dismal initial experience with AR accuracy, you are now using it as a target rifle. :-) That would indicate some changes in the intervening years. Any comments on how the rifle feels to shoot? R. Lee Ermey in his column sounded off in his usual way about his problems with the AR-15 at Camp Perry. He claimed that the M1A platform allowed him to pull the rifle hard into his shoulder, and the AR … did not … He sold the rifle on the spot for $1800.

        Matt61

    • Mike Says:

      I still use it as one of my techniques. But, since I retired, I don’t train new staff members anymore. I still work but not for the State anymore.

      Mike

  • john Says:

    I just heard from my House Representative on the recently introduced Assault Weapons ban. I had asked him to oppose Diane Feinstein’s proposed ban. He appears to be against a ban as she opposes but is all for mental health checks and increased background checks. To me that is good news. I’m hoping more people will contact their senators and their house representative and tell them they do not want Feinstein’s assault Weapon ban. I can’t do this alone. Will you all stand and fight this woman with me? The second Amendment is not about protecting hunting and sport shooting. It’s about our right to keep and bear arms in case we need to defend ourselves or overthrow a tyrant. You can’t do that with a shotgun and pistol.

  • Matt61 Says:

    I forgot to mention that I saw Arnold’s movie The Last Stand this weekend. And I loved it! I confess! Starring gun was a Vickers machine gun. If you are what you shoot, that’s the image of Arnold who still has what it takes although he keeps his shirt on the whole time. He even successfully pounds his way through modern martial arts techniques. I had a good weekend, I must say.

    Matt61

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Matt,

      This particular rifle feels great to shoot. Once again, Gunny and I are after different ends. I am after ultimate accuracy and he is after hitting the target. They are subtle but important differences.

      B.B.

      • john Says:

        Everybody has different needs. You appear to be a target shooter where shot placement matters way more than it might to a hunter that has a bigger “money shot zone”. I might have a kill zone of an inch or more where a target shooter has to get all his shots inside a dime. A soldier has an even bigger target zone since if you nail a man in the arm or leg you may have taken him out of the fight for now and a chest wound could prove fatal. An assault rifle isn’t really designed for target shooter accuracy. since on a battle field as long as you get your shot on a man sized target it will do.

  • Johng10 Says:

    Is there any accuracy / ease of shooting consistently differences between the RWS 34 versus 34P ?
    Thanks.

    Ps: The Marine Corp version off the M-16 is pretty accurate. It has a faster twist rate and uses heavier rounds than the Army’s version.

    Pps: Carb cleaners and brake cleaners will leach the carbon out of the steel in your barrel and significantly shown its life.

    • Johng10 Says:

      Meant shorten its life, not shown its life.

    • Vince Says:

      Are you sure about that? Carb cleaners are intended for use on carburetors, which often have carbon steel parts.

    • kevin Says:

      Johng10,

      Re: “Carb cleaners and brake cleaners will leach the carbon out of the steel in your barrel and significantly shorten (sp) its life.”

      Hasn’t been my experience. Would greatly appreciate some evidence of this. Please.

      I don’t use break cleaner but have used carburator cleaner on all of my stainless guns for years. Carburator (and suspect brake) cleaner are not to be used on blued guns. Most importantly you must remove the action from the stock since carburator cleaner is not kind to gun stock finishes. Carburator cleaner won’t remove all of your fouling but will make brushing easier. Carburator cleaner must be followed with a good lubricant.

      kevin

    • Johng10 Says:

      They were using carb cleaners in the Paris island armory for years in the mid 1980s, but found it caused the barrels to last about a third of their normal life. There was a policy memo after that about using CPL only, and prohibiting carb and brake cleaners.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Johng10,

      There is no difference in accuracy between the Diana 34 and the 34P. The 34P, however, does have a synthetic stock that will be less susceptible to problems with moisture. In extreme conditions, such as a field target match that was shot in the aftermath of a hurricane, wood stocks swelled up so much they actually split. That is an indication that they are also affected by less moisture that can have smaller affects that are more difficult to see. Synthetic stocks don’t have these problems.

      B.B.

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