One of my favorite posts to write last year – even if no one read it – was the 2018 in Review post. This was a review of the year, followed by some plans and goals for the next year. My shooting year is basically complete at this point, barring a couple of matches, so I think it’s time to start looking back so I can move forward.
I recently had a conversation with a shooting buddy of mine about his “class rifle”. It was a very well-thought out AR-15 build that he was slowly piecing together. Knowing this guy pretty well, I noted that he had a bunch of ARs already, and, to the best of my knowledge, had never actually taken a training class before in his entire life. He confirmed these facts to me, and then told me he was hoping to take a class with some YouTube celebrity I’d never heard of, and said trainer that didn’t even have a class scheduled in this area.
When I noted that there’s like half a dozen excellent training companies within like two hours of where we lived, he got kind of quiet and made some mumbled non-committal remarks. We then moved on to some other topics. But that conversation has stayed with me, because it seems like it’s a common line of thinking.
A recent conversation on Facebook has gotten me thinking about “the journey” that shooters take in their (unending!) quest for mastery.
I see discrete stages of shooter development. The stages I define below are really oriented towards tactical/competition shooting with pistols and carbines, but I am sure extreme long-range and shotgun sports shooters will see some very similar patterns.
I’m going to record my AR-9 trouble-shooting process in this blog post so that maybe someone else can glean some insight into all the things that can possibly go wrong, and how to fix them… because I lived through them.
I bought a DDLES “Glock mag” AR lower from Gunbroker once upon a time because that was the hotness like five years ago, and hard to get hold of. It was a smoking deal; based on the person’s other sales item and lack of engraving on the lower, I suspect they had an illegal SBR they were parting out in an attempt to make it go away. I dutifully filed a Form 1 on it, waited G-d only knows how long, and bought a cheapo PSA upper to put on it – I think it was 10.5″, whatever it took to get it across the magic 29″ OAL floor we have in MD.
It was a terrible performer right out the gate. It didn’t eject right. It didn’t cycle reliably. It tore cartridges in half. But, last night, after months of work, I got it working. How? Read on.
I love competition. I have been slacking with doing it due to family commitments and taking up BJJ, but I’m hoping to do a bit more USPSA in July-September. Competition really drives the standard for speed, accuracy, and efficient movement, so I want to lead off the post by saying this isn’t some sort of variation on “competition gets you killed in the streets” or other nonsense. However, I just want to talk about how competition has had something of a negative effect on firearms development in a couple areas, because I think that has been inadequately explored.
First and foremost, I think factory compensated pistols have not been nearly as developed as they could be due to the fact that they dump you straight into USPSA Open division. Contrary to nonsense opinions on the Internet, good compensators make a noticeable difference with 9mm ammo, and I really think their downsides (cycling problems) could be greatly reduced if manufacturers spent some R&D time on resolving them.
Second, detachable-mag shotguns. As I think I’ve noted previously, Swearengen’s well-written 1970s-era book “The World’s Fighting Shotguns” extols the virtues of detachable-mag shotguns. He felt that if you were going into trouble, they were a superb weapon in almost any close-in environment (note that the book was written before the proliferation of effective body armor, though). While I readily acknowledge that they have logistical issues in a home defense situation, they put far more firepower on target in a sustained fire engagement (like 15+ rounds), can be changed from breaching to buckshot ammunition much more quickly, and provide certain benefits in gun handling and administration.
Unfortunately, that detachable magazine dumps your shotgun into 3 Gun Open (and maybe USPSA Open), which is a huge disincentive to their use in more casual competition settings (and makes pump guns with them completely unusable). Courses of fire and training classes are designed around the limitations (and sometime strengths!) of tube-fed guns. This leads people to downplay the advantages they bring, because they are never put into a situation where they need to use them. (I would suggest that shoot-load drills with more than three rounds are where detachable mag shotguns start looking substantially better.)
Honorable mention: IDPA is doing no one any favors by banning weapon lights. I don’t think this has significantly harmed the development of weapon lights, but it’s contrary to the IDPA “run what you brung” mindset.
Those are the two that come to mind. I’d love to hear if my readers can think of others.
After engaging in YET ANOTHER argument online about 9mm NATO specs, I’d like to just say my piece once right here and then reference it. I have STANAG 4090 right in front of me; it’s not that hard to read, it’s just that most people have not.
American shooters have had access to M882 for years. This is excellent ammo, and I run a lot of it through compensated pistols. Unfortunately, this has also led to many shooters deciding that M882 is the NATO spec, and nothing else works. This is absolutely not the case, and I would be glad to tell you why after the break.
On the recent Primary & Secondary modcast 187, Matt was discussing his new DSA FAL and the general concept of taking what was an obsolete battle rifle and making it new again. I thought this was a cool idea, and decided to embark on a similar project. I have a number of relatively obsolete guns in my safe, but a fair number of them are in “mil-spec” configuration, and thus I don’t want to alter them. But I do have a Sig 556 SBR and a Sig 556R Gen2 that are basically just old “cool guy” guns from a decade ago, and thus fair game.
I took a long look at them, and what I thought needed to be improved… and did it.