Sunday, December 17, 2017

Bitcoin - Maybe the Best Survival Currency Ever

Bitcoin - Maybe the Best Survival Currency Ever

After three years of saying maybe I should buy some Bitcoin while it was in the $300-$400 range I finally bought in the middle of 2017 at around $4,000 a Bitcoin. As of December 2017 we are now hitting over $19,000 a Bitcoin and it shows no signs of stopping. That investment has of course has done extremely well nearly tripling my investment in less than six months.  If Bitcoin continues to raise at the same rate over 2018 year, I could very well be a millionaire by the start of 2019, but that was not why I purchased it. More importantly, I can access the money anywhere in the world… or even space if needed, even if I am stripped of everything. Perhaps Bitcoin may be the best survival currency ever.

For my “real job”, I create and present on a lot of business solutions and strategies including Blockchain which is the underlying base technology of Bitcoin. The very general concept of all the different blockchain technologies are in essence the same - there are participants which hold accounting-like ledgers and they all share each change to the ledgers on a consensus bases. If one ledger has a block of data chained/linked to it, they all get a copy and have to agree to the change. Usually there are many ledgers, which instills inherent trust among all the participants. The more participants and ledgers the more trust since everyone has to agree on every change to the ledgers - with Blockchain technology, no one is going to pull a fast one and slide something by. Generally all the transactions are encrypted and anonymized.

Bitcoin leverages the Blockchain technology to record the holdings of Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Bitcoin calls the thousands of globally dispersed ledgers “miners”. Miners are all linked, encrypted, and agree on ledger changes.  The result is one of the most globally secure currencies ever devised which tracks full or fractional amounts of Bitcoins. In the early days, Bitcoins were actually “mined” or created via a fairly substantial investment of around $1200 considering Bitcoins at that time were selling for under $100. Today that process is so expensive it is less expensive to just purchase Bitcoin.  Bitcoin is typically purchased via exchanges such as Coinbase, Kraken, Poloniex and others similar to how you would use an online stock brokerage like an Ameritrade or eTrade.  Thought the nerdy folks will hold their own cryptocurrency keys (think of them as stock certificates) on some type of USB device, most people have the online exchanges hold their cryptocurrency keys.  The online exchanges allow you to buy and sell just like a stock and most allow you to transfer the sales proceeds easily to Paypal or your regular bank account.

Using Coinbase, the process for me was fairly simple. Set up a Coinbase account, verify some deposits on my bank for a wire transfer and deposits on my credit card accounts and then I was ready to buy. I transferred in money from my bank account which is slower, but less expensive than the higher fee credit card cryptocurrency purchases. Overall the process is pretty simple, but not quite as smooth as online stock trade accounts.

Currently there are hundreds of various cryptocurrencies on the market, however Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin are the most popular by far.

Early on I made a lot of money during the internet bubble where stocks were soaring, but those valuation increases are nothing compared to what is happening with Bitcoin. I am not a broker, and admittedly willing to throw disposable income at some risky investments. Some investments have panned out and some I lost my shirt, but I have never had an investment that tripled my money in less than six months with no apparent slowdown. I would never have gambled my house payment, or the kids college money, but I wire transferred a fairly substantial amount of cash into an account on Coinbase (think of them as Ameritrade, or eTrade for Bitcoin) and initially purchased three digital currencies. Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

After what appeared to be a stall in Ethereum and Litecoin, I sold them and moved all the money into Bitcoin. In hindsight, it was the right decision and wish I would have dumped all the money into Bitcoin at the start. To date though investments in Ethereum and Litecoin would still have doubled my investment.

Sure I hold out hope that the insane growth continues and I and up a millionaire, but the real reason I wanted to have some money in Bitcoin was that it provides a completely transportable currency even if I am stripped naked and walked over the border of another country. That seems like an extreme example, however throughout history and even currently, political refugees are being forced from their homes with nothing more than their clothes.

How would I start over in another country if that happend to me, or suddenly US cash was worthless, or all Gold and Silver was confiscated like in 1933 as ordered by FDR. Just as I have a stash of cash, hold some silver and gold, the prudent option is to have a currency which can be accessed anyplace in the world. A suitcase of $20s and pound of gold at home does you little good if you are stranded far away from those funds.

Sure it may take a week to reset passwords and reestablish my Coinbase credentials if forced to move without my electronics, however the money would still be there and once accessible, I have now have a tidy sum of Bitcoin which can be transferred into any bank account around the world.  If you have not considered Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency as Gold/Silver 2.0, it may be the best investment you could make in your survival.

Bitcoin may be the best survival currency ever, after all US cash, gold and silver have not increased in value much over the last decade. Perhaps it is time to think of survival beyond just physical currencies.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Glock G19 and G17 Aftermarket Match Grade Barrel Test Stock Feddersen Faxon ZEV and KKM Tested

Glock G19 and G17 Aftermarket Match Grade Barrel Test Stock Feddersen Faxon ZEV and KKM Tested

For the vast majority of Glock shooters, practical accuracy is far more relevant than what a Glock can deliver when bolted onto a bench fixture, but we still all hope Glocks aftermarket barrels are a drop-in accuracy fix. Every buyer has the same question - “Will a match grade aftermarket barrel really deliver an accuracy improvement?” According to my testing, the answer is it depends.

Many times I have noted that aftermarket Glock barrels are questionable upgrades for buyers looking for a magic fix to improve 7-yard accuracy especially with budget blasting ammo. During a tour a few years ago inside Glock, I observed Glock’s own in-house pre-shipment testing which assures every Glock going out the door can deliver 1-inch 25-yard groups from a shooting fixture - factory Glock barrels have the potential to be plenty accurate. 

In a previous article, I noted an example test where I fed my very accurate KKM barrel complete junk 9mm Maxx Tek 115gr ammo which netted a horrible giant group, but then to prove the point further I then proceeded to shoot a group a third the size with the stock factory Glock barrel with the same ammo. This previous test was just to showcase an extreme example that premium barrels really require premium ammo to outperform stock Glock barrels.

Faxon Glock G19 G17 Barrels
featured 90-degree recessed match crowns
This test confounds people, because after all, why would a premium barrel not always shoot better. The reasons are pretty simple. Most match grade Glock barrels such as Wilson, Storm Lake, KKM and others have historically feature a slower 1:14, 1:16, or 1:20 twist designed to stabilize heavier match grade rounds. In the case of KKM barrels they were specifically designed for 147gr Hornady Tap bullets, but they can shoot 115gr rounds pretty well also depending on the ammo. The 1:9.84 factory Glock barrel twist rate by comparison is fast compared to match barrels; in some cases almost twice as fast. The faster twist is usually more optimal for lighter and usually less expensive 115-124 grain rounds, while also tending to offer better bullet stabilization of less concentric bullets.
Feddersen Glock G19 G17 Barrels

The other reason for improved accuracy with cheap ammo is that factory Glock hexagonal rifling by the design forces even crappy wobbly bullets to center up correctly, heavily distort/deform them to the point that pretty much any round shoots fairly well and usually shoot to about the same point of aim. The problem is that this hex rifling also heavily distort those perfectly concentric match grade rounds, so stock barrel you do not deliver the huge accuracy improvements from super accurate bullets. The less aggressive button rifled match barrels allow those premium match bullets to shine, but do not suffer fools who feed the match barrels cheap rounds.
Faxon Glock G19 G17 Barrels

I was anxious to repeat my previous test with good quality mid-grade FMJ practice rounds. The test included the brand new Glock 17 and Glock 19 match grade barrels from Feddersen and Faxon along with my proven KKM, ZEV and factory barrels shot from a Gen 4 G19 with Apex Trigger and Gen 4 G17 Salient with Salient Trigger. My hope was to understand what ammo quality and shooting distance delivered a noticeable improvement after a barrel upgrade. A lot of other industry tests have focused on ransom rest testing at 25-50 yard ranges, but I wanted to go at this a bit differently because and I have always been focused on practical accuracy delivered as the gun is typically shot -  I never shoot a pistol off a ransom rest in the field and want to know the results I can expect in the field.

After a little testing of a variety of ammo, I found that about 30 cents a round for factory FMJ range ammo was the point where there became a noticeable statistical accuracy advantage upgrading to a “match grade” barrel. Typically ammo of this grade is priced around $15-$25 per box of fifty. Using ammo under that tier of ammo quality, the factory barrel generally delivered similar or noticeably better accuracy than match barrels. As a good representation of “good quality” range ammo, the final testing ammo was 9mm Fiocchi 115gr FMJ, Sig Sauer 115gr FMJ, 124gr FMJ, and Winchester White Box 124gr FMJ. Notable 147gr rounds were not used because these are usually not “typical” range ammo most people shoot or that is widely available as range ammo unless you are a reloader.

Through a variety of test shoots and a lot of measuring, 15-yards seemed to deliver statistically significant and visually notable differences between factory and match barrels shooting mid-grade ammo. 15-yards is also the range at which most people can precisely still see the target with acuity. Sure most of us shoot well beyond that range and many NRA matches shoot at 25 and 50 yards, but 15-yards is a practical distance for most shooters to still see the inner bullseye crisply.

Of course there are Ransom Rests and all sorts of supports, but I had enough faith in my bullseye shooting abilities to go at this 15-yard test with dual sets of standing unsupported five round averaged groups. The worse flyer was thrown out of each group to remove a portion of my influence and allowed the two average groups to tell the accuracy story. A better shooter could certainly improved the groups, but this test is a group average good enough to give readers an idea of what each barrel can do. As you can see on some of these groups, these barrels were certainly capable of impressive accuracy.

With the ammo selected and a 15-yard test based on dual averaged four-round groups, I was ready to test. An indoor range was used during off hours to assure I was not startled or unduly stressed from booming gunfire and I started working through testing. If I saw more than a 50% difference between the first and second group sets, I reshot the groups. Around 500 rounds later I felt I had a fair representation of what each of the barrels could deliver.

Though I am more of a steel banger with my Glocks, I will on occasion bulls-eye shoot to tighten up my groups. The results recorded some of my best Glock shooting ever which included several sub-1” groups, but most importantly I was able to show statistically how a match grade barrel Glock can start to improve accuracy.

Below are my accuracy results for the 15-yard four-round groups. With an air of caution, my suggestion is to look at this grid and the Average group size and Average % Improvement to understand the type of accuracy jump you can expect if you test through to find your Glock’s prefered practice round. This should not be used as a crib sheet of which ammo to feed each barrel. Every barrel, recoil spring variance, and trigger setup will shoot differently in every gun - in a few cases my setup was lucky. The net of this test was that the KKM, ZEV, Faxon and Feddersen barrels really started to shine at the 15-yard line with mid-grade practice ammo.

Though work was done to attempt to make sense from a trend perspective of which twist rate or barrel liked what bullet weight,  the results captured seem to indicate that each barrel simply had preferences or disdain for particular rounds. For whatever reason the KKM really seemed to be all over the place on both the G19 and G17 depending on the ammo used. By contrast the Faxon has the smallest Standard Deviation and thus were more consistent across various ammunition.

(note my original post had some minor formula issues which have been corrected)

Fiocchi 115g FMJ Sig 115gr FMJ Sig 124gr FMJ Winchester White Box 124gr FMJ AVG Min Max Standard Deviation Avg % Group Improvement over Stock G19 Barrel
Glock G17 Feddersen 1:9.84 1.756 1.461 0.804 1.118 1.285 0.804 1.756 0.413 48.8%
Glock G17 Faxon 1:10 1.778 1.301 1.178 0.859 1.279 0.859 1.778 0.381 49.0%
Glock G17 KKM 1:14 1.275 2.398 3.714 1.763 2.288 1.275 3.714 1.056 8.9%
Glock G19 Stock 1:9.84
2.322 3.083 2.073 2.571 2.512 2.073 3.083 0.431 Stock
Glock G19 Feddersen
1.517 0.523 2.525 1.866 1.608 0.523 2.525 0.835 35.9%
Glock G19 Faxon
1.549 1.960 1.829 1.916 1.814 1.549 1.960 0.185 27.7%
Glock G19 KKM
1.423 2.398 3.724 1.763 2.327 1.423 3.724 1.015 7.3%
Glock G19 ZEV
1.581 2.145 2.989 1.694 2.102 1.581 2.989 0.639 16.2%

Faxon Glock G19 G17 Barrels
Faxon - Faxon has come out of the gate hard with arguably some of the most accurate production priced AR15 barrels I have tested. In nearly every test we have completed, even the company’s ultra-light pencil profile barrels have far outperformed heavy typical mil-spec barrels delivers some shockingly small sub-MOA groups. Faxon has now introduced Glock Match Grade barrels. This was my first opportunity to test them and I am again impressed with the barrels. The Faxon G17 delivering the third best overall group and the second smallest group on the G17 platform and overall were the most consistent from round to round. Considering they are offering threaded options, custom fluting and color finishes at around $220 a barrel, I am positive they will become an instant hit.

Feddersen Glock G19 G17 Barrels
Feddersen - Fred Feddersen is widely considered as the barrel genius in the gun industry and the inventor of dual patented SEPR (Single Edged Polygonal Rifling). Fred has received two patents on the SEPR rifling. Feddersen manufacturers match grade barrel blanks many companies use for their barrels and the company is now making Glock unthreaded and threaded and 1911 barrels with the SEPR technology. Noting that the Feddersen G19 and G17 delivered the top two shockingly small groups of this test… and yes folks those were dual 4-shot group averages with the ammo. These were test barrels and not for sale yet, but I hope that Feddersen is intending to get this on his site and into distribution right away based on my tests.

KKM Glock G19 G17 Barrels
KKM - KKM has been long considered the top Glock match grade barrel for nearly ten years and still delivers some impressive groups. This test specifically was a little unfair to the 1:14 twist rate KKM because this barrel loves 147gr match rounds and really starts to strut its stuff at 25-yards and beyond. The KKM barrels can be a bit picky, but are amazing performing barrels when you find the rounds they like.  KKM is still obviously delivering a dependable average 10% accuracy improvement with just range ammo. Feed this barrel the top tier ammo and groups drastically shrink.

ZEV Glock G19 G17 Barrels
ZEV - ZEV initially noted that they use a proprietary rifling, but I have seen in more than one place a twist rate of 1:10 listed. ZEV is another fixture in the competitive Glock shooting circuit and has consistently been the barrel of choice for many pro shooters. ZEV was also the first company to offer “fancy” barrels with various finishes, threading, and even fluting for Glock barrels plus a huge line of Glock performance accessories.  ZEV puts a lot of extra finishing into their barrels that you do not see elsewhere. They do deliver that wow factor and less picky than other faster twist barrels.

Aftermarket match grade barrels can improve accuracy with no impact on reliability. Through the course of planning, initial testing and final testing of eight different aftermarket barrels, I had zero functional issues with any barrel which is a great side note if you want to leave these barrels in your pistol for defense.

Faxon Glock G19 G17 Barrels
The intent of this test was not to show which ammo shoots best in which barrel, or necessarily which barrel shots better, but to roughly prove that match grade barrel can deliver noticeable accuracy improvement at reasonable shooting ranges with reasonable priced ammo. Is it possible some other less expensive ammo would deliver similar result? Sure, but I was looking for a statistical rule of thumb for ammo quality to drive improvements with the match barrels.

Notably, these match grade barrels can statistically deliver accuracy improvements of 20%-100% over factory stock barrels, but at 15-yards that could only mean .5”-1” smaller group which could be a huge deal for buyers. The results proved that to me that these barrels do offer buyers an advantage at 15-yards and beyond. For the person intending on just shooting on the 7-yard line the difference would not be worth the investment.

Though I did not cover it in this test at 25-yards and 50-yards these match grade barrels can make a significant impact to hits on steel or scored bullseye groups. Feed these barrels the really great premium match ammo and I am positive this groups could improve further which could be another interesting test.


Monday, November 13, 2017

MDT ESS Sniper Chassis System Review

MDT ESS Sniper Chassis System Review

Some of my favorite precision rifle chassis's reviewed were the billet HS3 and LSS chassis systems from the Canadian company MDT offering the precision rifle shooter true drop in precision rifle chassis which can immediately up the precision of nearly any standard precision rifle action from Tikka, Savage, Remington, Ruger American, Browning, or Howa.

MDT’s LSS is a lightweight sniper chassis and the HS3 is a unique color panel configurable chassis.  Now MDT has introduced another great chassis named the ESS which is available in seven different actions, left or right handed, and configurable with multiple forend options, lengths, colors and buttstock options. The result of the configurable options are several 1000 different configurations - literally your MDT ESS precision rifle chassis may be extremely unique compared to others.

To test out this new MDT ESS chassis I choose a Howa 1500 Short action, right handed FDE base chassis, 15-inch NV railed handguard in FDE, with the MDT Skeleton buttstock in FDE. Of note, I could have mixed and matched colors for a unique look. The black handgrip and other small parts offered a nice color contrast for the build. The MDT ESS stock was set up with a Howa HWB40004 .223 action with 20” heavy bull threaded barrel. All of MDT’s stocks accept AICS pattern magazines, however MDT offers their own reliable and affordable polymer AISC pattern 10-round magazines which I use frequently on many precision rifle builds.  In this case I used their .223 AICS polymer magazine which is compatible with the longer 77gr+ .223 long range optimized bullets.

A Timney trigger was added to maximize accuracy of this little precision rig. I have been using Timney triggers for years and they always deliver impressive results downrange and are one of the few companies who offer a huge variety of triggers for various firearm models and brands beyond just Remington.

An awesome precision build deserves a top-end optic. The Burris XTR II 5-25 with G2B Mildot reticle certainly fit the bill to help the already highly accurate Howa action deliver everything it possibly can. Burris offers several other reticles however as a writer I like simplicity of the mil-dot reticle to do editorial swaps between various optics and rifles without relearning each new reticle. Weaver 34MM rings were used to mount the huge 34mm tube-ed Burris XTR II.

According to MDT the HSS chassis represents a lot of refinements from its original chassis designs. Several of the MDT chassis are used widely as OEM precision rifle chassis by manufacturers throughout the firearms industry in various configurations. The chassis carries forward the proven V-block bedding system designed to form a solid and reliable base for the rifle action. MDT tuned the magazine well to ease insertion while also quieting the rattle and movement of the mag in the chassis - my take is that it is significantly tighter. The tab style magazine release has been replaced with a semi-flush ambidextrous paddle that can easily be activated by a weak or strong hand but is less likely to be accidentally released.

MDT also tweaked the recoil lug mortise to accommodate a wider variety of aftermarket recoil lugs, and the trigger area has been opened to accommodate most aftermarket triggers. Other ergonomic elements include an integrated barricade stop for the precision rifle shooters adding a polymer forend grip at the balance point to improve cool to the touch handling with a hot barrel. The octagonal profiled handguard delivers more improvised and solid rest use than a round forend. Even thumb shelves have been added for open grip shooters.

MDT moved from a typical AR buttstock interface to their own ESS skeleton buttstock trunnion which greatly improved the AR15 compatible comfort and trigger finger alignment. The ESS stock is fully adjustable including lateral adjustment for the butt-pad and the cheek rest height. MDT will offer an M4 carbine style buffer tube adapter in later 2017.

What is most appealing about the MDT HSS chassis system is that the buyer can configure the chassis exactly the way they want it without compromising on features. If you want a short, long, railed, partially railed, or un-railed chassis you can get that all without hoping you can fit or remove rails later on as needed. MDT offers the HSS chassis for Remington 700, Savage, Ruger American, Tikka T3, Howa 1500, Stiller Tac 338, and Browning X-Bolt actions.

Most MDT’s ESS chassis kits start around $950 and go up from there depending on options selected but some configurations are a little less. Assembly is easy and simple delivering an accurized platform without messy bedding. Our chassis installed on the Howa 1500 action in a matter of minutes.

The Howa actions have proven themselves to me to be more consistently accurate than my Remington actions and this setup was no different. The older Howa .223 action were a slower 1:12 twist and loved 55gr or lighter rounds, however the newer .223 actions like this one are 1:9 which are more accommodating to heavier bullets. Working through various test rounds it became apparent that the Howa .223 still liked the lighter spectrum of bullet in the 62gr-55gr range. My best 100-yard groups were from Hornday VMAX 53gr Superformance rounds delivering a nice five round .43” group. Overall this rig shot sub-MOA with pretty much any match quality ammo I tested which was primarily Hornady.

This is a beefy heavy duty precision rifle chassis with nearly limitless configuration options. MDT consulted a number of professionals in the precision rifle shooting industry in the development of this chassis and it is clear they did their homework. The fit and finish is exceptional, the fitment of the action was problem-free, and the performance was very impressive.  Once you get over the looks and have spent time behind the chassis shooting, the ergonomics have been well refined over their multiple chassis systems and this one is by far the most comfortable with complete control over all adjustments.

The chassis is well built, delivers the heft needed for a precision shooting platform, and allows the shooter to configure or reconfigure the platform as needed. This is an outstanding chassis which delivers all the capabilities, precision, fit and finish of a high-and premium chassis without the cost.

Weight: Chassis: 1.6lb
Forend: 0.6lb - 1lb
Buttstock: 2lb.
Length of Pull: 13.4" - 14.4" (Based on Remington 700).
Ambidextrous, easy reach magazine latch – can be operated with trigger finger or left hand.
The extra large magazine well for easy mag insertion/removal.
Barricade stop in front of the magazine to prevent putting pressure on the magazine.
Angled front profile with hand grip for minute vertical adjustments and comfort/protection from the elements.
Thumb rests on both sides of the chassis.
Wide front profile for extra comfort/stability when resting on flat surfaces.
Stock height at comb and heel – 0.5” below bore centerline.  1.0” of riser adjustability.
Allows for barrel contours up to 1.300” straight taper.
Accepts AICS pattern magazines for both short and long action. (3.715” long action)
Accepts aftermarket lugs up to 0.375 thick and tapered
Compatible with all non-beavertail AR pattern pistol grips.  Beavertail grips will fit with minor trimming.
CNC machined from Aircraft grade Aluminum and finished with H-series Cerakote.  Cheek-piece, fore-grip, and butt-pad constructed of composites.

The ESS Chassis System comes complete with a chassis, butt stock, and a forend.
All hardware is included. You will need Allen keys to assemble and install on your rifle.