Monday, March 15, 2021

New Ruger MAX-9 Pistol 9mm Small High Capacity

New Ruger MAX-9 Pistol 9mm Small High Capacity

Sturm, Ruger & Company just introduced the MAX-9 - a pistol with all the features of a full-sized handgun in a size that is comfortable for everyday carry. Chambered in 9mm Luger, the Ruger MAX-9 has an impressive 12+1 capacity. It measures just 6” long, has a slide width of less than 1”, weighs 18.4 ounces, and is equipped with a 3.2” barrel. This micro-sized pistol fits comfortably in an inside the waistband holster or pocket holster, or conveniently in a concealed carry purse.

The MAX-9 features a tritium fiber optic day/night front sight that adapts to a variety of light conditions, and comes optic ready for direct mounting of co-witnessed JPoint and Shield-pattern micro red dot sights. The 10-round magazines fit into a comfortably sized, medium-textured grip and 12-round magazines not only provide additional capacity, but also increase the surface area of the grip. Standard models are available with an ergonomic and intuitive thumb safety that operates similarly to those found on 1911-style pistols, and Pro models are available without the external manual safety lever. All models feature an integrated trigger safety and a loaded chamber viewport that provides visual indication of a cartridge in the chamber.

“The Ruger MAX-9 is a game changer,” said Ruger President and CEO Chris Killoy. “With industry-leading features at a highly competitive price, this American-made handgun will provide a versatile option for consumers looking for a superior offering in the popular micro-compact market.”

Like many Ruger pistols, this striker-fired pistol is built on a precision-machined, rigid aluminum fire control chassis and fitted with a durable, through-hardened steel slide and accurate hammer-forged barrel. The MAX-9 ships with two E-Nickel Teflon® coated magazines: either one 12- and one 10-round, or two 10-round magazines.

What I "Think I Like" About the MAX-9
Ruger has positioned this as a compact high capacity 9mm for 10+1 or 12+1 carry. For me I have always considered this the perfect sweet spot in the capacity vs concealment size. This is in the G26 size and capacity range which is still one of Glocks best sellers and a size more of the industry has emulated. Sig's 224, 365 size, Springfield Hellcat, H&K VP9SK, and Walther PPQ SC.  I am sure Ruger will bring it's typical value price point and position this as a feature loaded gun at a Ruger price considering the added features including red dot mount milled slide. Ruger also is offering a MX-9 model with a thumb safety which, for at least part of the target market, is a preferred feature for purse carry.  Great new introduction for Ruger.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Old and New Reloading Manuals Load Data Resources PDFs

 Old and New Reloading Manuals Load Data Resources PDFs

Like everyone else in the shooting sports community, I am scrambling to buy components for reloading.  If you are an existing reloader, then your already know there just is not a lot of stuff out there. What you can find you buy now fast and worry about what you can reload with it later. Even worst case you buy it because you know you can trade it for something you do need. 

Shopping for ammo and reloading components has become like pandemic shopping at the grocery store. You do not have the luxury of being able to create the perfect recipe for your 30-30 or 45-70 lever action or chicken chow mein, but you know that with a jar of expired peanut butter, off brand soy sauce and some type of meat, you can make some peanut butter chicken-ish Asian inspired dish that is not all bad. 

That means I am personally am now using SRP - Small Rifle Primers as a substitute for both small pistol and small pistol magnum primers and in some cases magnum pistol primers for small pistol primers. I am also going back in time through years of reloading manuals to figure out what all can I reload with the 1970s 8-lb metal can of 296 that I bought after finding it sitting in the corner of my gun dealer's shop.

Currently, I am attempting to reload 45-70 with Accurate 2495 with 500gr soft points and unless you go back to a Circa 2000 or 1994 Accurate powders reloading manual, you are not going to find a load for it. Would you believe there is a IMR 3031 load as well. Once you find the powder you have, then it becomes the juggle around that same time period to find out who has the bullets you have matched with a load for that powder. Yeah digging through these archives sucks, but historically it can also be kind of fun. There is gold in them there files... reloading gold.

I am also seeing a lot of old expired/retired and surplus powders on gun show tables that unless you are over 80 years old, these powders are not going to seem at all familiar. Being able to go back in time and figure out what you could use a half a can of unfamiliar powder for that you scored can be an amazing adventure. Having that is a somewhat searchable PDF Google Drive helps tremendously.

There is no warranty, assistance, or help included with this post and use of any of the documents for reloading and all is provided with an express USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.  If you are a reloader you know the risks and know that some of these very old manuals were really pushing the limits of the strength of the firearms.

Over the last few months, each time I find a reloading manual online in PDF format I download it and now I have a pretty expansive library I am making available to you. Of note, I have no idea where I found many of these, claim no license or otherwise ownership and note that all of these publications are out of print or otherwise considered public domain or product support from the manufacturers. Here is the big Google Drive file of Gigabits of  Old and New Reloading Manuals Load Data Resources PDFs

Have fun, and stay safe with the use of these. Reload on my Pandemians.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Auto Ordnance Deluxe Titanium Gold Thompson Tommy Gun Review

Auto Ordnance Deluxe Titanium Gold Thompson Tommy Gun Review

Yeah... this is one of those times where you know spouse will give you the look, but you will actually gleefully sleep on the couch lovingly spooning this stunning $2900 T150TDG Thompson 1927A-1 "Deluxe Semi-Auto", Titanium Gold Plated Tommy Gun against your body. Speaking from experience, when your wife asks for something gold for her anniversary, a violin case with a golden Tommy Gun is probably not what she was expecting and it will be off to spare bedroom or couch with you. Never fear, just the initial excitement phase of owning this gun lasts for months.

Auto-Ordnance was the original manufacturer of the Tommy Gun AKA Chicago Typewriter. The current reformed company is now owned by the same company as Magnum Research and Kahr Arms - all of which are delivering extremely high quality firearms. The current Auto-Ordnance Thompson Tommy Guns are actually higher quality and higher toleranced versions of the 1927A-1 originals, but fire from a closed bolt and in semi-auto only. Quality is superb. If you want a full auto Tommy Machine Gun even as a LEO or Military you have to look into the extremely expensive old pre-ban options. Auto Ordnance does offer NFA registrable factory made short barreled rifle models and also non-functioning display models as well.

The Tommy Gun represents a timeless style which harkens back to the roaring 20s, mobsters, and WWII. The Thompson design ran a long hard used course through history as one of the most heavily purchased and issued machine guns in history by civilians, law enforcement, and military. It was a gun that helped empower the big New York and Chicago mobs, provided LEO & military with reliable firepower for fighting crime and in the trenches, and was also a favorite ranch/truck gun as well. It was pretty accurate, fired the effective .45 ACP round, and the weight and design delivers almost insignificant recoil even with the heaviest .45 ACP loads. If a shooter could actually lift the gun, the recoil would be a non-factor.

Shoulding the Auto-Ordnance Thompson makes you also want to slip on a fedora and pinstripe suit or circa WWII military uniform. This titanium gold nitride plated version with violin case makes you want to upgrade to a Borsalino Fedora and Tom Ford couture suit. After all, the mobster carrying this gun would not be wearing anything cheap.

Essentially the T150TDG Thompson 1927A-1 "Deluxe Semi-Auto", Titanium Gold Nitride Plated Tommy Gun is the same version Auto-Ordnance sells in a variety of configurations. The difference among the many versions is finish quality and the slight variations through the years of production.

The 1927A-1 version is the most popular in the line, so Auto Ordnance decided to offer a special Deluxe edition. This Deluxe model features a mirror polished finish which is then coated with a Titanium Gold Nitride finish. Auto-Ordnance offers this limited edition Deluxe model in this Ti-Gold finish and polished chrome. Both of these models are fully functional and can be shot, however the beautiful Ti-Nitride-Gold finish is the same coating used on top end drill bits so it can take a beating and still look beautiful. Magnum Research uses the same finish on some of the limited edition Desert Eagle pistols and it has proven itself incredibly durable over the years. Once your friends find out you own one, it is hard to keep the Gold Tommy in the safe. With the super durable Ti-Nitride-Gold finish, I will never be worried about keeping it looking factory fresh even after a lot of use.

The T150TG includes both a titanium gold plated 20-round stick and 50-round drum magazine. Now if you are going to drop $2900 on this limited edition gun, then you really should go all the way and order the custom $180 “Violin Case” available in either cello or guitar profiles. Believe me there is giant difference in presentation when pulling this out of a Pelican case or a violin case. Violins are pretty small instruments, so “Violin Case” may be a bit optimistic name, “Cello Case” would be a bit more size appropriate name. The case delivers a luxurious foam interior which can accommodate your Chicago Typewriter, a stick mag and round drum magazine. With the case, this kit pushes past a retail of $3000.

As I hoisted the 13lb, no that weight is not a typo, muzzle heavy 1927A-1 Tommy Gun to my shoulder I was reminded that in the old days men were not wimps. If you fill and attach the 50-round drum, the Tommy Gun can easily tip the 20-lb mark when it is ready to rumble. This is a freaking beast of a gun that weighs as much or more as a fully loaded heavy barreled sniper rifle.

Charging the Thompson is difficult with a smallish size charging knob finished in slick gold titanium nitride and wicked strong recoil spring. As I was charging...attempting to charge, holy freaking cow that bolt spring is heavy, good lord this is freaking child safe…. minutes later I found the appropriate leverage point to get the factory new bolt moving backward. Some ancient WWII dude at the range suggested a loop of paracord be used to charge the gun “that’s what we used to use”.  If your brain is thinking AR15 charging, the Thompson is not going to be an easy slap to charge at all, however once charged the glorious fun begins.

Though this Thompson 1927A-1 is equipped with a rear ladder sight which is in theory calibrated to 600-yards, it is not a tack driving gun. The Tommy delivers practical accuracy of around 1.5” groups at 25-yards which equated to 5”-7” groups at the 100-yard ranges in my testing. At 200-yards I was still able to ring a standard steel silhouette and usually ring it eight out of ten times at 300 yards. Defensively accuracy? Absolutely and a whole bucket of fun in the process, but 500-600-yards would have some luck involved. During the hundred of rounds I had zero issues with feeding and functioning - reliability is definitely not an issue.

Well, the T150TDG Thompson 1927A-1 "Deluxe Semi-Auto", Titanium Gold Plated Tommy Gun may not shoot rounds quite as fast as an AR15, however the case of .45 ACP rounds seemed to evaporate stunningly fast. 

There were sad faces all around after a little over 1000 rounds moved through the Thompson. This is a blast to shoot, it delivers zero recoil to the shooter, and is way more accurate than it should be for a 1927 design that has been polished and gold titanium plated. Honestly, I want to take it rabbit and squirrel hunting - that would be a blast.

With all this discussion about outlawing deadly AR15s, I have not heard anyone say peep about Tommy Guns… at least that was my justification to my wife. This was the defensive carbine of the 1920s, 1940s, and all the way to the 1970s when the AR15 started to get into civilian hands.

The T150TDG Thompson 1927A-1 "Deluxe Semi-Auto", Titanium Gold Plated Tommy Gun are limited edition and will not be around forever. If you want something special, something unique and something that brings a wow factor to any range session you had better get one on order. This is not only a unique collector piece which Tommy gun fans will value highly down the line, but it delivers a huge fun factor. I cannot recommend this wonderful gun enough. Suck it up and whip out the Amex, it is worth it.

Auto Ordnance Deluxe Titanium Gold Tommy Gun
Models T150DTG
Caliber .45 ACP
Barrel 16.5", Finned (with compensator 18")
Weight 13 lbs.
Length 41" overall
Sight Blade front, open rear adjustable
Finish Titanium Gold
Stock Walnut fixed stock and vertical foregrip
Magazines One each 50 Round Drum and 20 Round Stick Magazines
Warranty 1 year
* Specifications subject to change without notice
MSRP: $2,963.00


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Friday, January 1, 2021

Ultimatum Precision Deadline Action - Redemption

Ultimatum Precision Deadline Action - Redemption

About a year ago Ultimatum asked me to beta test their original Ultimatum Precision action and I had a boatload of problems. For the precision shooter, a stock Remington 700 action with a custom barrel is not enough to deliver the accuracy they need. Usually competitive shooters who use Remington 700 receivers have the perfectly decent attached barrel pulled off (for a charge), and then have milling done to true/square the action typically referred to as blueprinting the action (for a charge). At that point they have invested $300-$700 in a Remington 700 action plus another $350 worth of gunsmithing and that now $1000+ rig does not include any bolt, scope rail, or recoil lug upgrades - they still do not have a competition receiver that has all the extra features of high-tier custom receivers.

For the precision shooting crowd they often turn to custom billet Remington 700 format “style” receivers from Defiance, Stiller, Big Horn, or in this case Ultimatum. These high tier custom receivers usually offer a giant jump in overall stiffness and accuracy, have been engineered to be perfectly straight and true, are manufactured to very high precision tolerances, and usually offer included upgrades such as thicker recoil lugs, short throw bolts, recoil-proof scope bases, three-lug bolts, Savage pre-fit style barrel threads, improved dual ejectors, and simplified bolt disassembly that does not require a vise and special tools. 

In short they are well worth the extra money and easier to home gunsmith but they are not cheap with retail prices ranging from $1000-$2000 depending on options. Ultimatum’s first attempt at a competitive precision receiver in late 2016 was a valiant attempt, however there were certainly some areas for improvement that we have seen in this new Deadline action.

The initial build with the first production units from Ultimatum netted my single most unpleasant and problem riddled build ever. To date it is the only gun build which I wanted to throw through a wall and smash in the street due to the wrong published barrel specs, inability to be fit to an aftermarket stock, and the requirement of basically hand fitting every single aspect of the gun from front to back. It was not pleasant, but Black Hole Weaponry came to the rescue and cut down, rethreaded, custom fit and installed the original custom BHW barrel they had made for the build. 

That original build has been an amazing shooting and stunning looking precision 6.5 Creedmoor rifle ever since. I provided the feedback to Ultimatum and they noted they would work out all the issues and get back to me with a new updated action mid-2018. The result is the new $1498 (CAN) Ultimatum Precision Deadline Action available in both short and long actions which resolves about every issue I experienced with the old design - in short, “Redemption”.

The barrel threads on the Ultimatum Deadline action are no longer some goofy-ass long threaded hybrid Remington Savage barrel thread, but now just a standard 1-1/16″ x 20 thread designed to accept any Savage pre-fit small shank barrels. Technically Ultimatum made this change in the later batches of the original design, however not in the initial release I was testing. The beauty of the Savage style barrel and barrel nut design is that it completely eliminates the dreaded chamber reaming process for barrel fitting and headspacing and allows for DIY barrel swaps. As long as the barrel is small shank Savage pre-fit compatible it can get swapped any time the heart desires. In short if you can install an AR15 barrel you can install a Savage pre-fit style barrel. A highly summarized install process is to screw in the barrel until stopped by the go-gauge, tighten up barrel nut and verify the headspace to assure the bolt fails to close with the no-go headspace gauge. The great thing is that the process is repeatable with the same accuracy from swap to swap assuming owners headspace the same way each time.

Another issue solved by the Deadline action was to loosen up the tolerances a little to get the barrel threading into a useable spec that does not require a gunsmith. Even after we figured out the wrong threading problem on the old V1 version, the specs were still too tight on the receiver threads and it required a lot of barrel thread tuning with an adjustable threading die to get the barrel to fit due to the super tight thread tolerances on the receiver. On this new Deadline action version, both barrels from Northland Shooter Supply threaded up perfectly with just copper anti-seize without any issues or need for gunsmith tuning; just as it should be for the DIY barrel swapper.

The Savage Prefit style barrel threading allows the home DIY builder to buy whatever barrel they want and install it at home. All owners need for an easy switch barrel set up is the receiver barrel tightening tool and barrel nut wrench from Ultimatum, a set of headspace gauges; I use the $80 three piece set of Forster Go, No-Go and Field chamber gauges from Fulton Armory.

A huge advantage to the Ultimatum is just the extended barrel nut which prevents removing the scope just to swap barrels. Otherwise the barrel nut is too short and requires complete scope rail removal just to tighten the barrel. The long extended fully Savage 1-1/16″ x 20 barrel thread compatible Ultimatum Barrel nut really is a must for anyone with an extended rail receiver setup. Ultimatum offers a Extended Nut and Wrench combo.

Other options on the new Ultimatum Deadline action include right and left hand models as well as single or multi-shot receivers. The huge list of features on the new Deadline action meets expectations for a premium tier precision rifle receiver and adds a lot of features that are quite innovative.

Sturdy Rear Tang - A sturdy rear tang ensures that the action is seated properly in the chassis/stock and that the action remains as stiff and true as possible. This helps to maintain accuracy. The bottom profile of the Deadline receiver was also reshaped to more of a standard Remington 700 profile receiver which means there will be a lack of cursing as you attempt to mount it into most aftermarket precision rifle stocks. Some stocks may still need a little tweaking, but nothing like the oddball receiver footprint of the old design. 
Old Action Left, New Deadline on
Right with Rem 700 profile tang

Is is not as fat, but still thicker in the right places for improved rigidity while still offering chassis fitment compatibility. The old version’s tang and recoil lug was just a tad too thick and required a lot of stock modification. Though I did not measure the differences between the old and new version oversized barrel lug, the new version did not seem to have the compatibility issues with the chassis I had on hand like the previous version. The Tang is clearly smaller with more footprint similarity to factory actions which was a great move.

20 MOA Aluminium Picatinny Rail - Deigned to handle the heaviest optics on the market, the rail features 6x #8-40 mounting screws and recoil-proofing with 2 dowel pins. If you are a picky precision shooter, you may want to increase or decrease rail rise. Many premium receivers include integral rails, but the Ultimatum Deadline retains the recoil-proof benefits while still being able to choose different rail cants. Of note the top rail is proprietary. The ridiculously priced $298 CAN 4340 steel 20 MOA version upgrade is available and eventually a 30 MOA version as well. I would hope the price of rails comes down a bit in price because I could buy a complete Remington non-Barreled action for that. Thankfully, even the immortals in the group who shoot with the gods would be hard pressed to justify upgrading the very robust included 20 MOA aluminum rail.

Minimal Ejection Port - The action uses a minimally sized ejection port in order to maximize the strength and stiffness. I did not have any issues with ejection thanks to the very powerful dual ejectors on the bolt.

Removable Floating 3 Lug Bolt Head - The floating bolt head design ensures that the bolt face is always perfectly aligned with the axis of the barrel, further helping accuracy. The bolt head is also removable and replaceable without tools meaning that caliber changes are made easy and quick - no Remington bolt disassembly vice tool needed. I would highly recommend investing in both bolt faces should you want to expand to other barrel calibers later on. The bolt comes standard with a dual ejector system which launches round authoritatively about four feet away.

4340 Steel Construction with Liquid Hard Nitride Coating - 4340 HTSR steel is used for the action housing. 4240 HSTR is a heat treated and stress relieved very tough high tensile steel. The hard nitride improves wear, corrosion and chemical resistance. Surface hardness is also improved with the hard nitride finish.

Gas Blocking Shroud with Anti-rotational Lock System - The shroud to action housing fitment acts as a "wall", restricting any residual blow-back gases. The notch at the top of the bolt shroud locks rotational forces during cocking, minimizing friction to allow a lighter bolt lift. Early on Ultimatum did a lot of work to assure safety with the bolt while drastically lightening its initial bolt lift effort. The V1 bolt lift was a beast, the later bolt versions were great and the Deadline carries though that work with even more refinement. A lot of R&D went into just the bolt and throw.

Integral Recoil Lug - The recoil lug is machined into the action to maximize strength and to provide additional thread interface to the barrel. It is 5/16" thick. On a factory Remington 700 action the recoil lug is held in place with the barrel threading tension. Most pro precision shooters note factory recoil lugs as a big point of potential weakness for accuracy degradation. Most premium tier receiver manufacturers now offer one piece integrated lugs to deliver more rigidity and Ultimatum included that design aspect in this design.

AICS and AW magazine compatible - Thank God. The feed port on the new Deadline action was specifically designed to accept AICS and AW style magazines now… before it was not, so I am super excited about this feature. As with any custom precision rifle build, you will likely still need to either modify the magazine latch length on the chassis or the magazine catch to assure proper magazine fitment. Expect that modification any time you add bottom metal or use aftermarket chassis for any receiver manufacturer unless you just get lucky.

Remington 700 Trigger Interface - With a Remington 700 trigger interface, many trigger options are available. Early on I received a series of replacement trigger hangers from Ultimatum on the old V1 as they constantly tweaked the design. The trigger hanger on this new Deadline action was spot on and had no fitment issues with snugly mounting the awesome 2lb Timney flat trigger bow match trigger I used on this build.

60 Degree Bolt Throw - With a 3 lug design, the bolt throw can be kept to 60 degrees, ensuring quick operation.

Battery Safety - The firing pin can only protrude the bolt face if the lugs are locked and in battery. This safety mechanism ensures that if the bolt head is not properly installed, the rifle does not fire.

For this build I wanted to give the new action a lot of testing in a realistic situation of a switch barrel rig. The idea of a switch barrel rig is being able to swap barrels and calibers easily leveraging a single investment in a high quality receiver, trigger, optic and stock to shoot multiple calibers with just a barrel swap. The job of a premium receiver is to make that barrel and caliber swap as simple and consistent as possible.

In the case of this Ultimatum based rig, I ordered both .223 and .308 bolt faces which can easily be swapped without tools or a bolt vice. 

With this flexibility, the Ultimatum Deadline setup can support pretty much any short action compatible caliber including .223 bolt face calibers like 17 Remington, 204 Ruger, 222 Remington, 223 Remington, 6x45, 6 & 6.5mm TCU, 20 Tactical, 20 Practical and .308 bolt face calibers like 225 Winchester, 22/250 Remington, 6mm Norma BR, 243 Winchester, 250 Savage, 260 Remington, 6.5/284 Norma, 7/08 Remington, 284 Winchester, 300 Savage, 308 Winchester, 338 Federal, 35 Remington, 358 Winchester, 6 & 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Lapua, 6XC… just to name a few.

In this case I choose two popular calibers that showcased the precision of this type of rig without resorting to the always super accurate Creedmore or TCU chamberings. Most people expect Creedmore and TCU rounds to deliver very consistent sub-1-inch range, but most people are very impressed to see those reliable tiny little groups from .223 and .308 rounds. The great thing about a switch barrel rig is that an owner can just keep adding barrels and length for the calibers they want. Likely I will add both .308 and 6.5 Creedmore with nice long barrels as well.

To further challenge this rig from an accuracy perspective, I choose very short 17-inch custom barrel lengths. The long range precision guys usually opt for 20+ inch barrels to deliver tiny little groups and higher velocity, however my intent was use with a suppressor and adding another 9-inches on top of a 21-inch barrel makes for a gigantic gun. A multitude of precision shooters recommended a 16 or 17-inch barrel for suppressor use and long 20+ inch barrels without suppressors. With a switch barrel rig I can have it all.

In theory anyway I have crippled the potential accuracy with “imprecise old-school standard calibers” and with short barrel on an otherwise stunning rig equipped with a Bushnell Elite Tactical 6-24 Riflescope, KRG Whiskey 3 billet chassis, Timney flat bladed 2-lb match trigger, YHM Phantom QD muzzle brake, YHM Titanium Phantom Suppressor, and of course the Ultimatum Deadline action. The Criterion and Shilen barrels from Northland Shooter Supply though would deliver the best the .223 and .308 chamberings could offer.

Of note the KRG Chassis are spectacular and deliver a huge amount fo shooter comfort when behind the rifle for long periods of time. 

Criterion and Shilen are both very well regarded barrel manufacturers in the precision shooter circuit but they primarily only wholesale. Both companies utilize Northland Shooter Supply for customer sales which I will admit was super easy to deal with and had plenty of knowledge about both barrel manufacturers. Northland suggested I try one of each barrel and from my perspective these two companies are very tightly matched in quality, precision and accuracy. At my level of shooting it would be a tough argument to pick one over the other. Both offer stainless barrels with extended barrel life, both appear to have the same level of finish quality, both offer match grade hand lapped barrels with 11-degree target crowns or recessed hunting crowns, and both are nearly identically priced. Flip a coin and you can't go wrong either way. I did order Northland’s barrel nuts, however as noted install would have required scope base removal to use them. I will ask Northland is they can offer extended barrel nuts for Savage barrels since it seems everyone now have extended rails on their actions.

My 17-inch barrels were chambered in .308 1:10 twist and .223 Wylde 1:8. Northland Shooter Supply offers both tapered and contoured barrels for Shilen and Criterion however I choose simple but heavy full bull barrel profiles. My hope was for a .223 Wylde barrel which shot 40gr Hornady V-Max rounds equally as well as heavier 70+ grain bullets. I am happy to report that the .223 Wylde Criterion barrel have delivered 100-yard .279-inch groups with Hornady 40-gr V-Max and .306-inch groups with 73-gr Hornady ELD match rounds. There have been more than a few groups even smaller than that which were blown by a bit too much excitement. A funny story when sighting in the .223 barrel at 50-yards happened when I shot a 3-shot string to assure I was on paper and zero'ed before wasting a bunch of money pounding rounds on the 100yard range. I went down and looked at the target and only saw one hole. Again I went back and shot another three rounds to find another single hole. I was thinking I was missing the target, but instead was stacking rounds when I shot three different shots with three different points of aim. Wonderful barrel. 

The .308 barrel I am still testing through various ammo and reloads, however I have been pleasantly surprised with .25-inch sized (and smaller) groups with 168gr Federal Gold Medal Sierra Match King ammo. This build will easily keep up with my FN SPR A3G with the same ammo and it does it with a 17-inch barrel vs 24-inch barrel on the FN - for reference the FN SPR A3G guarantees .25-inch groups or better at 100-yards.

From my perspective, Ultimatum has achieved Redemption. They have covered off on all the design elements and customer service points the initial customers provided and they have one heck of an action for just under $1500 - CAN. They have also thought through a lot of pain points that I have not seen addressed in the market such as the extended barrel nut to prevent removing the scope rail for every barrel swap.

Timney, Bushnell, KRG, and YHM delivered all outstanding products which made this rig perform amazing, but the Northland Shooter Supply really help to showcase what a switch barrel rig like this can deliver. Swap out to a longer barrel in a cheater calibers like Creedmore or TCU chambering and all those already amazing group sizes noted are likely to jump in half. In fact many of Northland’s customers have references noting single hole groups with 6.5 Creedmore and other benchrest rounds. If you want a precision barrel, I cannot recommend Northland Shooter Supply enough.

Top tier precision billet receivers like this Deadline action are not just cool looking, they actually are good investments if you are serious about accuracy. If you want to get into precision shooting, a Remington 700 SPS Tactical is a tough setup to beat for the price and can still be enjoyed with all the chassis, trigger and optic upgrades, but stop there because all those parts can move to an action like the Deadline. The jumping off point is when the next upgrade involves gunsmithing of the factory Remington 700 action. That step is just not worth the effort or money, omits the features of high tier receivers for about the same price, offers little savings compared to other options in the market… and from a resale perspective, it will just be another Remington 700 receiver with dubious gunsmithing work. A $1400 receiver may seem expensive initially, but once the lack of gunsmithing both initially and ongoing and the added features, the customized factory Remington receiver is not the deal it initially is perceived as.

Savage barrel prefit receivers add in the value of carrying over the investment in the chassis, optic, trigger, and the receiver itself with just the barrel swap. Once you get the hang of swapping barrels, the process only requires about fifteen minutes including torquing back down the scope and chassis to spec and setting the scope zero of the next caliber. Of note, as long as I am consistent with my scope and chassis torque setting and track my rezero settings for each caliber, there has been no issues with returning to perfect zero between barrel swaps. My recommendation is to make the jump to a high end billet receiver such as this Ultimatum Deadline action, choose a high quality barrel, and invest once in great components that can support you regardless of calibers you might want.


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Monday, December 28, 2020

Brownells A1 XM16E1 Old School Retro Prototype AR15

Brownells A1 XM16E1 Old School Retro Prototype AR15

At this year’s 2016 SHOT show amongst all the super custom short barreled and suppressed AR15s I was happy to see simple Veitnam A1 old school carry handle receivers were appearing as well as new production A2 carry handle designs. Yes, in fact we have come full circle and the old carry handle design is now retro cool again. Among the old A1 carry handle upper receivers, I was excited to see the production sample of the Brownells A1 upper receiver I had talked with them about in 2015 under a nondisclosure agreement.

This is actually pretty big news since Brownells has never...ever offered a firearm under their name before. The Brownell is not just another “me-too” receiver redesign. In an interview I did with Frank Brownell earlier this year he noted, “We wanted to do something classic that people would get really excited about that was more than just another AR15 receiver set. Our biggest challenge has been keeping them in stock.

To develop the upper and lower receivers, Brownell’s worked with Nodak Spud, the preiminant vintage M16/AR15 receiver manufacturer. Nodak develops faithful retro forgings of the original early M16 styles which are a bit different when compared to today’s receivers. On the lower receiver there is no logo plastered on the mag well, the buffer tube union is less reinforced, and the selector markings are only on the left side. 

The older A1 carry handle uppers have a simpler detent windage wheel adjustment for the rear sights and the newer A2 uppers feature both windage and elevation adjustment. The result of that partnership was an extremely high quality authentic retro Vietnam era XM16E1 style A1 upper and matching M16A1 style 1960s - 1970s style lower receiver. If you want to make a period correct XM16E1 version of grand daddy’s Nam rifle, Brownell’s upper and lower will get your build moving correctly in the right direction. Also Brownells has an extensive catalog to accessorize that receiver set. Brownells also offers a 20” AR15 Retro Barrel with a period correct 1:12 twist, however it has been so popular that they could not spare one for this poor writer.

Stoner created a limited number of “Prototype” AR10s featuring some incredible bleeding edge materials, manufacturing and concepts. In fact the original AR10 had fluted lightweight barrels and fiberglass handguards. Earlier AR10 prototypes even used steel lined aluminum alloy barrels to reduce weight. Stoner did not do this same bleeding edge prototyping for the smaller AR15 and instead focused on a productional design. What would an AR15 prototype rifle have looked like? This article all about creating an old school prototype AR15 that weighs in at only 6-lbs, 1-ounce and would have had Mr. Stoner drooling. A few folks spitting swear words for bastardizing a retro receiver set while others will start giving me “Likes” and pinning my pics their Pinterest accounts - regardless this was a fun build.

As I added a list of parts to my Brownells shopping cart, I kept asking the question “What if?” What if Stoner had pushed the development of the AR15 platform like he did with the AR10 platform. The initial government contract asked for a 6lb AR15 rifle and the fielded AR15 weighed in at just over 7-lbs, but could I hit that design goal with my prototype XM16E1 build?

New cutting edge materials of the 1960s would have been too costly for production military rifles. In the early 1960’s, stainless steel, carbon fiber, and Tritium that had been widely manufactured for over a half a decade. These are still all pretty top end upgrades even by today’s standards.

Manufacturing capabilities of the 1960s included precision forgings globally, Wire EDM (Electro Magnetic Discharge) in use in Russia, and Bowing’s testing of punch card CNC machining. Indeed this provides a pretty impressive set of materials and manufacturing technology capabilities from which a producible AR15 prototype could have created in the 1960s.  Modern AR15 design innovations such as free-float handguards, effective muzzle brake designs, adjustable gas systems, and use of more polymers were possible but just not conceived.

The technology and materials were available. What would that look like if Stoner would have pressed on. It seemed like a cool project.

Custom gunsmiths of the 1960s could have made a gun with the same features on an AR15 we have today but that would not be a reasonable prototype. A A1 AR15 prototype should be recognizable by Vietnam veterans who would state the enhancements could have improved their shooting, maneuverability, reliability, and potentially helped save lives.

There were some stock parts which were retained included the Brownells A1 XM16E1 upper and M16A1 style 1960s - 1970s style lower receiver, teardrop forward assist, the bolt & magazine release components, selector switch, pivot pins, and A2 buffer tube, spring & buffer spring.  To increase reliability in very harsh wet environments, all the detents were upgraded to KNS stainless detents stainless anti-rotation trigger pins.

The WMD NiB-X BCG represents probably the most unlikely technology of everything on this gun simply because NiBo coating had literally been just invented by Dupont in 1972 and the Vietnam war ended in 1975. WMD’s patented version would still be generations of coating updates later. Chrome BCGs would have been possible, but Gen 1 NiBo was the newest technology and used it here. That noted, if that self-lubricating, more reliable, and cleaner NiBo coated BCG would have been used, it could have greatly increased reliability of fielded guns and saved lives in Vietnam.

Instead of a heavy A2 stock, a Doublestar Ace Skeleton stock was used to drop weight, slim down the gun, and increase overall strength. The existing forging and machining technology of the day could have easily made the detailed receiver bulkhead and buttstock of the Skeleton stock and the lower tube is a bent aluminum tube. The Ace Skeleton stock uses standard A2 buffer tube, spring and buffer. A nod to the time period was about 24-feet of vintage style paracord from used for custom wrapping the buffer tube instead of the rather “modern” foam cover shipped with the Ace stock.

In the 1960s, polymer molding was really advancing to the point that someone could have pulled off delivering a design similar to the Magpul MOE-K2 grip and Strike Industries polymer ejection port cover. Other little ergonomic additions which could have leveraged 1960s CNC punch card machining to create the ergonomics enhancing billet Mega Arms ambi-charging handle and billet Seekins Precision extended trigger guard.  

Triggers of that time were horrible, but a very manufacturable option using precision investment casting is the HyperFire’s new EDT trigger. This trigger delivers an entry level match trigger which was technically possible if they had HyperFire’s innovative patent. The EDT has a trigger design which offers no perceptible take-up or over-travel and lighter overall trigger pull; all of which would increase accuracy and shooting speed.

Instead of an aluminum sleeved steel barrel and fiberglass furniture like Stoner used, I used a Faxon pencil profile barrel and a Clark Carbon Fiber Forend with Billet Aluminum barrel nut.
Though the original AR15 had a thin barrel this ultra-slim 18” rifle length gas system Faxon pencil barrel would have been considered really light back then and similar in weight to the aluminum sleeved barrels Stoner used on very early AR10 prototypes. An updated Daniel Defense precision billet machined .625” front lightweight steel sight base design reduces just a bit of weight. The Precision Armament AFB muzzle brake diffuses recoil and kills the flash much better than a standard flash hider of the day. Carbon fiber was first invented in Ohio in 1958 and the simple but insanely expensive tube shape on the Clark handguard was one of the first shapes made in the mid-1960s and could have been used as a handguard material.

I felt that although the injection molding technology might be able to reproduce a plastic magazine, the specialized high strength polymers used for reliable AR15 magazines today had not been invented yet. I stuck with a more period correct 20-round Brownells aluminum magazine which has proved itself reliable for decades.

Tritium sights were actually first used by the military on the original MOA Single-Point Sight used in 1970 Son Tay raid in Vietnam, so that technology could have been available before that in a basic post sight. A Mepro Tritium front sight was added to improve hits after dusk or in the dark areas of the Vietnam jungle.

I think Brownells stumbled onto a great idea and people are having fun building up and shooting these retro builds. This of course is my version which was a extremely interesting research based build. What was most interesting was the initial 6lb design rifle weight and finding that the fielded rifles were actually 7-pounds. Back then 6-lbs would have been a very tough goal weight. Surprisingly even with all the new modern light weight components this build just met the original design weight at 6-lbs 1-ounce. Removing the paracord (2-ounce savings), using an ultralight BCG (3-ounce savings) and ACE Ultralight stock (5-ounce savings) could have dropped the weight to around 5.5-lbs, but I think the balance would have been off.

Shooting this little lightweight historical build was a lot of fun just plinking. As a training gun the extreme light weight and 2.5-lb weight saving would be a welcome change compared to a typical 8.5-lb AR15 loaded with an optic. Sure with a pencil profile, the accuracy does wander a little after the barrel really heats up, however it is not the dramatic combat accuracy change everyone thinks it is. The build is still plenty fun to shoot at cans and golf balls sitting on the tailgate of my truck with my army surplus jungle print camo Boonie hat and reminiscing about the long history and innovation journey of this incredible firearm.  Stoner would at least had a laugh.


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