Monday, November 24, 2014

Making the 7.62x39 Work Reliably on the AR15

Making the 7.62x39 Work Reliably on the AR15

Running the 7.62x39 in the AR15 platform has gotten somewhat of a bad rap. Read through forums and you would think people are a little bi-polar with one post saying they could never get it to work and the next post noting they bought one off the shelf or built one and never had an issue. Kinda like people who love or hate the 300 Blackout.

Just as I was a fan of the previously cheap-to-shoot 5.45x39 round, I am a fan of the now cheap 7.62x39 round. Prices on that 5.45x39 round shot up a bit after they prevented cheap import surplus rounds, however the 7.62x39 round is still cheap and has been even through the great ammo crisis of the last ten years. I am not kidding… I could actually walk into Cabelas and buy whatever quality I wanted of $6 per 20 boxes of steel cased AK-47 rounds.  I have a lot of time behind my AK-47 at this point thanks to 7.62x39 ammo availability. Currently, I am seeing that the venerable 7.62x39 round is still consistently 20%+ less expensive than .223 for plinking rounds. My thought was why not complete a build that could save enough money on the first 2000 rounds to pay for the entire 7.62x39 AR15 upper… you know, if I can get it working.

WHY A 7.62x39 AR15 UPPER?
Some people will ask why you would ever want a 7.62x39 AR15 upper. Beyond the cost savings facts, the 7.62x39 is actually a more versatile round in many respects than the 5.56 Nato round and has proven itself as a better deer and hog round by AK47 hunters. Heck, the 7.62x39 round is basically just an up-powered 30-30 round which is arguably the most successful deer hunting round in America. The 7.62x39 delivers more energy than the 5.56 Nato/.223 Remington or 300 Blackout out to the 200 yard mark which is where over 95% of training, plinking, defensive and hunting shooting is done. Many will say why not just use the 300 Blackout? Well from my experience the 300 Blackout round shares many of the same functional reliability problems as the 7.62x39 round running in an AR15 unless either caliber are well tuned. Yes... yes, I know your 300 BO rifles runs great, mine needed tuning to run both subsonic and high velocity rounds. Add in the 300 Blackout is still $1.00 a round compared to $0.40 per .223 round and $0.30 per 7.62x39 round. The 300 Blackout has its place, however a working AR15 7.62x39 upper can deliver more power for less money... you know, if I can get it working.

The most significant problem with the AR15 format running AK-47 ammo has been feeding and functioning. There have been a lot of theories on what exactly is needed to make the round run in the AR15, however usually it seems to come down to recommendations to start cutting on magazines and I don’t think magazines alone are the culprits. I wanted to see if I could figure it out for you my Pandemians and in the process have some fun with this awesome round.

Every possible problem I could have experienced with this build, I did and nothing came easy. I placed an order with Delta Team Tactical for a $139 16” 7.62x39 Melonite Barrel with a Carbine length gas system and their complete $139 7.62x39 Phosphate Bolt Carrier Group.  Although inexpensive and high quality products, the company could not have screwed up my order more if had been somehow intentional. A month later and I was still working through them sending me the wrong thing… again, but problems were eventually resolved. I plugged the barrel in a Anderson Manufacturing blemished $40 upper and then used a new Parallax Tactical M-Lock forend. The only real high dollar components on the upper were a Fortis gas block and a Lantac Dragon comp to take the bite out of the heavier recoiling round. A Lucid red dot topped the upper, however it would be months before I was able to really get to using it. For the majority of testing I used my WMD Beast lower.

Once assembled, I ran to the range excited to function test the build. Testing centered around the inexpensive ammo with a couple steel cased Wolf and Cabelas Herter's 7.62x39 rounds using Magpul Pmags and some C-product 6.8 SPC mags which some had noted would work just fine if used with just a few rounds... they didn't. The upper would not feed more than one round at a time and even then seemed to still jam the first round on the center of the M4 feed ramp and in many cases would not even fully extract. When the gun did cycle, the gun was also short stroking big time and was nowhere near approaching the point where it would lock back on the magazine.  Problems? I had problems. Surprisingly the only problem I did not have was detonation. Many have noted that you need a special firing pin, however at least with this standard Mil-Spec lower trigger, there were no detonation issues.

After the first time out, I realized the gun was way way way under gassed with a far too small barrel gas port hole, I also needed a dedicated Ar15 7.62x39 magazine for testing, and needed some work on the barrel's feed ramps.

Many range trips later of test, fail, tinker, and repeat, I had polished the feed ramps to a mirror finish and drilled out the barrel gas port to a huge 1/8 (.125") size and suddenly the gun was locking back and at least trying valiantly to pick up the next round in the magazine. Jam city baby even with the C-Products dedicated 7.62x39 magazine feeding FMJ, but I really could not fault the magazine. There was more wrong here than magazine issues and what my aggressive feed ramp polish would resolve. That split feed ramp was an issue.

What I found was that most people had figured out the gas port size problem, however feeding was always an issue and I saw only one company address it completely and that was Bushmaster.  Bushmaster offered a 7.62x39 rifle and from all accounts it fed and functioned like a dream. 

The main design difference in these rifles were oversized gas ports and they featured a single large feed ramp which in essence removed the split between the M4 feedramps to just form one giant ramp. This made sense because due to the tapered case of the AK47 round the round would angle toward the center of the feed ramp when the bolt attempted to pick up a round and guess what is in the middle, yep the split in the middle of the M4 feed ramps. So, I whipped out the Dremel and got to grinding away the split. Sure I took a couple deep breaths before I basically trashed a perfectly good barrel extension, however in my mind it had to be done. It worked and worked perfectly. In fact now I can fed this upper with pretty much any magazine, however the C-Products dedicated 7.62x39 magazines delivered the best high capacity performance. I would expect any unmodified Stoner and ACS clone 7.62x39 magazines to deliver the same performance.

I have now put twenty full mags through this upper running on a variety of lower receivers including the WMD Guns Beast lower and it has performed outstanding. In fact I have had zero functional issues in those 600 rounds other than the very occasional bad round which is expected with inexpensive ammo.

Well they have. Bushmaster did, however it was just not very popular and they discontinued it. From what I can tell the single large feed ramp idea died with the discontinued product line. The prevailing issues which would solve all the major issues are that the gas port sizes are almost always too small for the 7.62x39 round and that the split M4 feed ramps only cause jams. If barrel manufacturers delivered a single large feed ramp and 1/8" gas port hole in the barrel, almost all the issues would be resolved. Add in some dedicated 7.62x39 magazines and you are good to go.

If you have feeding issues, Dremel out the middle of the M4 feed ramp and its likely any feeding issues you are having will disappear. If your bolt is not locking back on the last round, you probably need a larger gas port. In my case I needed to enlarge mine to 1/8", you might be able to get away with a smaller port depending on your build. This process is as simple as removing the gas block and then carefully drilling out the gas port hole to a larger size. I would start smaller and slowly increase the size.

Apparently there are many people who have been able to just buy working 7.62x39 uppers slam in a dedicated 7.62x39 magazine and start rocking the round, however the vast majority of folks have issues of some sort. Hopefully my tips and modifications of a ground up build will allow you to build and enjoy a problem-free AR15 7.62x39 upper and save some cash in the process as you enjoy a cheaper to shoot AK47 round.  Next up? How about a 7.62x39 AR15 pistol build.

Delta Team Tactical -
Parallax Tactical -

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Economics & Why $25 AR15 receivers and $300 AR15 Rifles will be on Shelves Soon

Economics & Why $25 AR15 receivers and $300 AR15 Rifles will be on Shelves Soon

Dandy functioning
$39.99 Palmetto Armory
Lower, Anderson Uppers, and
MicroMOA Overrun barrel
created a wonderful pistol build
Back just a few years in the ancient times of the year 2000 there were less than 29 or so manufacturers producing AR15 receivers and rifles. I wish I had the exact number, however according to my research it would appear that under thirty is the generally accepted number for that time period. Now fast forward to 2008 as a noted socialist event organizer from overseas assumed the presidency and a liberal heavy congress convened. We justifiably all feared "they" would be coming for our guns. Well its not like it didn't happen... they did try and still are.

The explosion of AR15 manufacturers began at that point and has not stopped even beyond the current market sales downturn of the firearms industry. As of 2013, there were an estimated 500 AR15 manufacturers in the US and that does not include import manufacturers. It seemed everyone and their brother was producing AR15 receivers and rifles either themselves or via OEM relationships. Most were just "Me Too" products with their logo on the side of some existing manufacturer. Even giants like Mossberg, Ruger and Smith & Wesson got in the game backed with competition crushing marketing programs. Shooting from 29 AR15 manufacturers to 500 is over seventeen times the number of AR15 manufacturers in 2013 as were estimated in the year 2000.  Even with bloated AR15 sales that is a lot of slices of just one AR15 sales pie to slice up. If the panicked frenzy of AR15 buying had continued in 2013 and 2014 it would not be an issue, however it did not.

2013 was a little soft from a firearms sales perspective and 2014 firearms sales began with a deafening silence and a quiet panic from people who have never even considered having to do "marketing". Many new firearms manufacturers just ramping up production in 2013 and 2014 were shocked at the lack of demand for their Me-Too products and wondering where all this supposed demand for AR15s was. I have heard from more than one of those original 29 manufacturers that the firearms bubble has burst and they are facing some challenging financial times after such a boom up until 2013. Some of the most respected names in AR15s are now facing financial shortfalls they have never experienced. Many of these newer manufacturers are now terrified that sales out are not equaling bills coming in. This puts the squeeze on everyone.

Its easy not have have to worry about budgets and financial planning when your company has a continuous twelve month backorder. Having rode the ".com" bubble, I can tell you that fiscal responsible behavior from new business owners is not created in the best of times, it is created when you have to try really hard to make every penny count and you are maximizing efficiencies. To meet "perceived" demand, I saw first hand people with no machining or business experience jumping into million dollar manufacturing equipment and real estate purchase agreements and taking even bigger business loans. Even in the best of times this is risky behavior.  I actually had several Congressman approach me willing to provide free land, building, and grants to me if I was willing to bring new firearms manufacturers to create jobs... looking back it was a low risk opportunity that I should have jumped into, however where would that company and those jobs be now.  It really is a economics 101 supply glut issue. There are just too many AR15 manufacturers on the market to support a sales demand far less than what manufacturers need to produce and sell to survive and even right now I can buy a lower receiver for the price of two pizzas.

The reality was that liberals politicians were the best salesman the firearms market has and likely will ever have. That entire political fiasco drove "gun people" to buy way more than they ever had and drove even "non-gun" people to suddenly develop a "I had better buy some guns now or never" attitude.  The sales spike of all firearms and ammunition was more than a rather small and incestuous cottage firearms industry had ever seen. Those who were already up and rolling with production made the kind of money during that bubble which allows them to retire stunningly rich all within a five year period.  Even those manufacturers who had excess capacity from aerospace or machining businesses, were able to jump in and start churning out wildly custom premium priced AR15 parts and rejoice when they began raking in giant piles of cash simply for just making receivers and a handful of custom parts. The "me too" manufacturers jumped into the market as well. Some did well... some not so much.

Most companies made significant facility and equipment investments to start making or increase current AR15 capacity which required bank loans and more workspace. Top shelf $2500 AR15s rifles begin slipping to $2000 to move excess inventory which pushes the $2000 ARs to $1500, and so forth until you get to the $500 AR15s which end up being pushed to the $300 range.  Excess capacity leads to a glut of individual AR15 parts on the shelves at prices unseen in well over 20 years. As an example, I have been picking up blemished $39.99 Anderson Manufacturing and Palmetto State Armory upper and lower receivers, $80 Nibo BCGS, and $100 barrels over the last month from various sources. Even now, patient DIY AR15 builders can build nicely appointed AR15s well under the $400 mark. $300 AR15s on the shelf and $25 blemished lower receiver are not that far off if the glut continues.

Stay tuned folks... if you think prices are low now, wait until late 2014 and 2015 and I would almost guarantee complete AR15s will be less than a cheap iPad and stripped lower receiver will less than the price of a large pizza.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II Review

Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II Review

At one point or another we all want to have a firearm of another color. Historically, that means something like Duracoat or Cerakote with a cost of a couple hundred dollars and two months or so separated from your precious firearm. In many instances we want something faster, less expensive, and in DIY format.  Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II gives you a durable DIY home option for customizing and protecting your firearm. I have found to be pretty darn good; it easily resists aggressive fingernail scratches and remains unaffected by any of the harsh cleaning chemicals uses on our firearms and does it for $12.99 a spray can.

I have heard a lot of people's conjecture of this $12.99 per can spray on firearm epoxy paint. Some say it is just remarketed Krylon Enamel or some downgraded Duracoat finish. Actually if we get down to it, Aluma-Hyde II is basically the same readily available VHT Epoxy appliance spray paint usually available in only glossy tan, white, and black. Brownells Aluma-Hyde II is offered in around a dozen shades of camo and other gun finish colors. Oddly enough it was the smell of the stuff that I recognized and remembered from when I had repainted a couple old refrigerators with Black Epoxy VHT spray paint long-long-ago. That finish still is there fifteen years later on those refrigs have taken a beating.

The $8 appliance epoxy spray paint mentioned is available lots of hardware stores, however generally all those paints are pretty high sheen. Brownell's variety of around a dozen different flat and semi-gloss colors add a few extra dollars to the final $12.99 price tag. You can use any of the hardware store appliance spray epoxy paints to deliver the same results however colors are limited and they will be high gloss requiring a light buff with steel wool to take the gloss off after final curing

I  picked up can of “Earth Brown” Aluma-Hyde for a AR15 pistol build I was working on.  Initially I was skeptical about the coating, so I chose to use a $39 Blemish lower receiver along with the customized Black Rain Ordnance stripped, chopped and milled forend. I also painted my buffer tube which was a DIY pistol buffer tube which I milled off the entire buttstock rail interface. Why would I "buy" a pistol tube when I am drowning in rifle buffer tubes and its easy to just mill off the "illegal" portion when mounting to a pistol?

Like appliance epoxy spray paint, the Brownells Alma-Hyde II is not regular spray paint and if you treat it like it is, your results will suck. Epoxy spray paint was originally designed for use in marine environments however it works well on anything that needs a very tightly sealed and durable coating. You do need to assure your coated parts are pretty immaculately clean. The easiest way to achieve cleanliness of parts is to fully strip and clean parts then just soak all the parts liberally down with spray brake cleaner then rinse with clear water and air dry using a heat gun or blow dryer to speed things along.

The "real" epoxy paint requires mixing the epoxy paint with a hardener, however the spray on version relies on warm parts and a long cure time. For spray on epoxy paints, users have four basic phases - a coating/tacky phase 0-60 minutes, short-cure phase promoted by a low heat source 60 min - 24 hours, long-cure 1 day - 14 days, and finally the fully cured phase.  

Generally, you are able to reassemble the Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II coated parts 24-48 hours after painting "if" a low heat source is applied. I recommend just letting everything full cure for a couple weeks otherwise I will guarantee your fingernail will end up finding and scraping off that one area which is still soft like I did on some later projects.  

Once the pristinely cleaned and dried parts are ready, you should hang them on heavy wire hooks. I made my hooks from electrical wire and hung them on my 2-wheeled cart outside. Cure time will decrease if the can and parts are warm, so gently warming the parts and can on a furnace register will really help deliver a harder finish faster. At this point, applying the Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II is similar to applying spray lacquer which means lots and lots of very very light coats. If you try to rush with heavy or even medium coats you will end up with lots of runs and drips which equals a crappy looking final finish and in some cases waiting for several weeks for the finish to be hard enough to sand down and recoat. Be patient with thin coats.

Once you are done with six or so light coats of your chosen Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II, you can move the parts carefully inside. I say carefully, because this is where I bumped one part into another and added a few imperfections to a near perfect finish. 

Once you have the parts safely hanging, I pointed a couple utility lights on the parts to keep them around 90 degrees and left them cook under the lights overnight. The overnight low heat cure worked well however, a second slightly higher temp 100-115 degree cure in the oven overnight delivered a harder final finish and will speed the final long term cure considerably. I freaked out a bit when I heard people “had to” bake the parts to get a hard finish. This is simply not try. The Aluma-Hyde II will cure fully in about two weeks, however if you are an impatient SOB like me, a very low temp oven cure is the answer. 

Initially, I also imaged placing still wet parts into my wife’s high end Wolf oven and ending up with a mess and a very mad wife. This is also not the case either. In my opinion, the parts should not be placed in an oven to speed the final cure until a day or two after they have been sprayed. One of the parts I did put in the oven a little tacky had some finish issues. If you do choose to low temp bake your Aluma-Hyde II parts, it should be any no messier than just placing dry to touch parts on a sheet pan in the oven overnight. I did use a piece of cooking parchment paper … just in case the Aluma-Hyde II suddenly slid off the parts, which is did not.

The Before "raw" stripped and chopped Black Rain Ordnance handguard.

Normally, all spray epoxy paints will continue to cure for a couple weeks. Even three weeks later a nose on the part will still detect the scent of curing paint. I witnessed that although the lower receiver was fingernail hard at the 48 hour mark after the lamp cure and over cure, my thicker coated handguard has taken nearly a week to get to the same hardness point. In reality, if you don't want to cock up a perfectly good paint finish I would wait at least two weeks to assemble the painted parts. Its a great low cost DIY durable finish, I just never said it was fast. If you talk with many of the professional finishing and coating places most will end up air curing your painted parts for a week or two before shipment just to assure the final product is as durable as it can be before shipment back to you.
The after Aluma-Hyde II coated Black Rain Ordnance handguard.

The final hard long cure phase finish of this $12.99 spray can of Brownell's Aluma-Hyde II is quite impressive. In fact I would say if you take your time and do a good job with many coats, it is every bit as good as many most premium spray on finishes I have seen and used on firearms with the exception of CeraKote. Sure this super durable paint will wear through eventually, all will, however it is exponentially more durable than every other rattle can finish I have used on firearms and will not melt away when a drop of gun cleaner its hits the finish. The great part is that if a year or two down the road it does look a little beat up, you can just recoat it yourself without needing to strip off the old finish.

The finish does offers some corrosion and weather resistance and if applied as directed will deliver a pretty impervious finish to the elements.  What I like is that an old and beat up firearm can have new life and a new look with just $12.99 of Aluma-Hyde II and if you start combining colors for a camo look, the combinations could get really interesting.

Descriptions on Brownell’s site and the pictures of the colors are not particularly accurate. You may have to experiment with the colors to find the shade that matches your furniture or expectations. The “Earth Brown” I purchased is pretty close to old WWII army Jeep green, so I am somewhat convinced that whoever named these was partially color-blind and has been confused at the sight of brown stoplights for years. The green color is OK, however not what I wanted or was expecting. Just be aware that the colors they described, pictured, or on the cap may not be quite what you get on the final product.

For those will little patience, rush projects, and like to take short cuts, you will be unimpressed with the look, finish, and durability the Brownell’s Ala-Hyde delivers, however if you are willing to do the job right the results are impressive, durable, and transformational from a looks perspective for only $12.99.

Approximately a dozen different colors
$12.99 Per can
Available in spray can or liquid for airbrush application

Brownell's -

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Liberty Safe Revolution 12 Safe Review

Liberty Safe Revolution 12 Safe Review

I have a Big fat boy Liberty Safe, a couple wall safes, however after much discussion and a "reshuffling" of high value items, my wife and I wanted another small-mid sized higher security safe in our bedroom to store our Home defense AR15s, concealed carry handguns and a few random items we wanted out of reach of the kids. Sure, we even have an In-Wall safe in the house, however we simply had too much crap to stuff into another wall safe.

Once again I looked toward Liberty Safe for a slim heavy-duty home security safe to slip into the closet and found their newer Revolution series of safes fit our size capacity needs.  Liberty Safe’s Revolution series of safes are available in 12, 14, and 24 gun sizes however I choose the compact and slim 12-gun model for around $550 delivered.  

Liberty does have a less and more expensive lines of safes, however the Revolution line was designed around providing a lower cost safe option which still delivered a good fire rating and excellent security but is less full featured with simple internal wall coverings and just a single fixed partial shelf instead of a customizable interior and/or door organization pockets.

The Revolution's finish, wall thickness, combination lock, locking mechanism, and door locking bolt count is also reduced and a step down from features used on the higher end safes such as my Liberty Fat Boy. At $520, it is still a very good quality safe, however Liberty wanted to provide a solid and secure lower cost option and needed to cut cost somewhere. Based on the four months I have owned and used the safe, I believe they struck a great balance between the very affordable prices and features of the the Revolution Series.  

One thing I would like to add to the safe is a set of Liberty's LED light kits to assure firearms could be accessed quickly even in the dark.

The delivery was similar to my Fat Boy safe, however this time I elected to not opt for the in-home placement and setup and just used their standard curbside delivery option.  Delivery took about six weeks due to a mixup on delivery scheduling and my phone number, however my new Liberty Revolution safe was dropped off in my driveway ready for me to unbox and unbolt from the delivery and shipping pallet.  Of course the small shipping pallet was saved to get the Round Boy pizza oven ready for pizzas as a reward for lugging a safe up two flights of stairs and the heavy duty packaging was saved to be used for training targets on the range. I may not be the "greenest" guy on the planet, but I do like to eat and shoot, so in this case it worked out for the tree huggers.

Once the Liberty Revolution Safe was freed from its packaging, I secured it to my 2-wheeled hand cart with ratcheting straps to give us something to grip and make the move and placement infinitely easier. Despite the weight of the safe, the move up two flights of stairs was surprisingly quick and uneventful with a light assist from Mrs Pandemic, however it was exhausting. Once in place, I slipped a 1/2" spacer under the front of the safe to level it and then secured it to the wall and floor with bolts to prevent movement or tampering.

Unlike the rest of the the safes in the house we do not have this Liberty Revolution Safe loaded down yet. I say "yet" because I am sure the contents will grow again over time, however at the moment we have plenty of room in the safe and can easily and very rapidly access the contents.

The features of the safe have been simplified, however it still has a couple notable internal features. The interior left, right and rear internal walls are lined with sets of standard wavy gun racks which will accommodate up to a dozen guns. There is a single middle shelf which still allows longer rifles and shotguns to be loaded into the safe without the shelf getting in the way. For the majority of homeowners, this is a very economical solution which secures the primary defensive guns in a small and unobtrusive footprint within the closet.

We all go ga-ga over the newest firearm, however we need to set aside just a bit of our fun money funds to purchase a safe to avoid theft or unintentional tampering/curiosity of our beloved firearms.  I do know of a father who came home to find his unloaded and cable locked Remington 870 stuffed with a grilled cheese sandwich by his son. Yeah, not the heart stopping conversation you want to have with the wife. A safe prevents that issue and provides a simple and fast accessible solution should the need arise. We generally dial up all but the last number before bedtime to speed up access should we need it.

The Liberty Revolution safe does the job of securing your firearms and valuable all without breaking the bank in a footprint that handy… I just wonder if I need another one for guests in the extra bedroom in case this one gets too full.

Security Rating Non-UL
Door Type Composite
Door Thickness 1" composite door
Door Bolt Sides 2-Sided Military Style locking bars
Body Steel Thickness 14 Gauge
Total Body Thickness .75"
Lock Combination/Key, Sargent & Greenleaf™
Lock Type S&G UL Listed Combination lock (no key)
Relocker Type Fail-Safe™, Punch and Drill
Bolt Locking Type Direct Cam Drive
Bolt Diameter 4" Military Style Locking Bars
Bolt Protector Type Triple Hardplates

Fire Protection
Fire Minutes 30 Minutes
Fire Rating 1200°/30 Minutes
Fire Temp 1200°
Layers 3 in ceiling and door, 1 on sides and doorjambs
Door Seal Heat-Activated, Expanding Palusol™

Style & Functionality
Fabric Type Fabric
Upholstery Fully Upholstered
Interior Lighting optional
Door Panel None; Accessory Door Panel Available

Revolution 12
Bolt Count 10
Long-Gun Storage (Approx) 12
Interior Type Gun Only
Dimensions H x W x D (Depth includes handle spokes installed; Add 1.5" for optional outlet kit) 59.5" x 18.25" x 18"
Exterior Height 59.5"
Exterior Width 18.25"
Exterior Depth (Includes handle spokes installed; Add 1.5" for optional outlet kit) 18"
FOOTPRINT (Width x Depth) 18.25" x 16"
Exterior Cubic Feet (safe body only) 10.1
Interior Height 57.4"
Interior Width 16.7"
Interior Depth 11.6"
Interior Cubic Feet 6.4
Weight 247 lbs.
Country of Origin United States
MSRP $579
Starting Price $519