Friday, August 13, 2021

New Stuff for Articles - Faxon, Eotech, Mossberg, Walther, ATN, Sig, Hawke Optics

 New Stuff for Articles

Thankfully product is starting to flow again and I can get back to product reviews and new builds.  A few things have hit my desk that looks like they are going to be a lot of fun.


ATN Night Vision Monocular - I did a few articles for one of the magazines I write for with this product, and now can work on my own articles and reviews. I recently used these for some night hunting activities and the ATN Monocular works amazing, just mounted in front of any optic. One of the things you will notice with this 1x monocular is that is very very clear. More to come with this.





Faxon 10/22 Barrels - These guys have made fantastic AR and pistol barrels backed with shocking accuracy all for an affordable price. I am looking forward to what this stunning flame fluted barrel will deliver. This barrel features a threaded muzzle and target match crown. If it is anything like the rest of the Faxon line, these should be a great shooter.



Hawke Optics - If you have a crossbow or high tier airgun optic, you likely own or know Hawke optics already. They are a large UK brand who has really only concentrated on the crossbow and airgun markets, but their optics are outstanding. As most airgunners and bowman know, most rifle optics cannot handle the two way recoil of airguns or crossbows. The Hawke line up was constructed around airgun and crossbow recoil and thus is also recoil proof for all rifle calibers up to 50 cal. The Sidewinder series is so good, I purchase two.


Sig Whiskey3 5-24 - If you don't know the BDX enabled eletro-optics line from Sig you should. It really is pretty amazing stuff to be able to range and have the reticle automatically show you the shooting solution.  Sorry no pixs yet on this. 

Eotech Reborn- Eotech finally is its own company again. I have some of their new products and there are more coming through 2021 and 2022. Exciting to see them back at R&D and churning out new innovations.


Mossberg JM Pro 12 Gauge - This thing is nuts fast. My review in Tactical Retailer published so now I can to the unencumbered review for MajorPandemic.com.  If you love to watch shells pour out of a shotgun, this is your gun. 


Walther PDP - The next upgrade to the PPQ series. If you loved the PPQ, then you will likely really love what they did with the PDP that is the basis for the next generation of performance pistols from Walther.



Monday, July 12, 2021

Building a Thank You AR15 Pistol

Building a Thank You AR15 Pistol 

Like many of you, I have a great family. My brother-in-law is an especially kind chap and decided his sister and I needed three vintage original release movie posters. Allegedly he had them stored in his basement since 1982 - an Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of The Lost Ark and Psycho II all in mint condition. If you are a product of the 80’s like I am, these movies are part of my history and frankly I was nerded out. After a lot of back and forth on compensation he would not take a dime for them and noted it was part of his get rid of junk strategy. Framed on the wall, the posters looked so good I could not in good conscience go without reciprocating with stuff I had stored in my basement… but in my case, I have gun parts. Thankfully he is a gun nut also and was thrilled with the idea of swapping crap from our basements.


Enough Stuff for an AR15 Pistol - As a writer and gun builder, over the years I have accumulated a large pile of parts that when combined with a surprisingly small number of purchased parts can make a quite nice AR. In this case my brother-in-law would get a 10” 5.56 Nato Ballistic Advantage barreled AR15 pistol based on an uber legal non-braced design. AR pistols are wildly more prevalent now than they were even just a few decades ago when even most gun people were largely unfamiliar with AR15 pistols. If we look at sales stats, approximately 20-30% of AR owners also own an AR pistol all thanks to the Sig Brace introduced just over seven years ago. They are now one of the hottest selling firearms in the last five years. Though AR15 pistols are no longer even remotely rare in gun culture they are a more rare version of unicorn for non-gun people than AR15s, so in this case I wanted to build to an uber legal more understood spec.


Why No Pistol Brace? - Pistol braces have been approved by the ATF for over seven years as a legal AR pistol accessory, with an estimated fifteen million sold from SB Tactical, Shockwave, Gearhead, Magpul and Mission First Tactical all offering brace options. With that noted, there is just so much going on politically right now with pistol braces that I didn’t want my brother-in-law to have to worry about whether the specific pistol brace he had was legal, now not-legal or failed some type of idiotic ATF proposed point scorecard. At least right now, no one is talking about non-braced AR pistols, so I wanted to stay in that realm. I have written many times about having an AR pistol in your vehicle and that I highly recommend a build similar to the build shown here - 10” barrel, no brace, and an A2 rifle length buffer tube assembly. 


From discussions with LEO contacts, I continue to believe LEOs are wildly uninformed about the legality of AR15 pistols and pistol braces and frankly so are a lot of even gun people. Add in goofy ATF regulations and position papers that are vague for even the experienced and informed Class-3 owners and there is a boatload of confusion. I had a discussion today with an AR owner who kept referring to “braces” as “straps” despite a lot of attempted correction and was wildly misinformed about what braces are.  Imagine the compounded confusion when there is both an uninformed owner and LEO at a traffic stop. Based on those discussions, this is the build without a brace that would generate the least amount of LEO hassles. It is kind of like being married, do you want to be right or happy? In this case with AR15 pistol braces, do you want to be right with an odd looking brace and pistol configuration and experience a 3-hour traffic stop, three cop cars and an ATF encounter or be happily on your way after a brief discussion about your typical looking AR pistol. In this case, the build looks like an old fashioned AR15 pistol which is a good thing.


Basement Stuff AR15 Build - In this case, I had just done a redu on my Stoner Prototype build and had a stripped Brownells M16A1 which was a collaboration between NoDak Spud and Brownells to faithfully recreate the M16A1 receiver. In this case, I thought my Iowa based brother-in-law would appreciate an Iowa labeled Brownells lower receiver. The lower was built out with an unlabeled parts kit which I assume was either CMMG or Aero precision since those are the primary kits I purchase. 


A Seekins trigger guard, Mission First Tactical grip were added for comfort and HiperFire EDT Trigger to deliver a good accurate rifle and nice trigger feel. The buffer tube used was a standard A2 rifle length buffer tube that was Red Lock Tite’ed in. To ensure no one can ever suggest that a stock could be attached, I drill out the rear stock screw threading and also cut off the rear square wrench lug. To protect the rear of the buffer tube, I superglue a ¼” piece of foam under a 1-⅛” (28mm) rubber cap protective cover (five for $8.99 on Amazon). Note also these are listed specifically as a “protective cover” and not a “bumper” like other similar covers are. The entire buffer tube was covered with automotive carbon fiber wrap and then custom wrapped in leftover paracord. Regardless of your shooting style, this length of buffer provides several advantages. It is longer than stubby carbine length buffers and also more comfortable to shoot. Also, the rifle buffer systems are generally softer to shoot and with a bit of tuning, this format can be really soft to shoot.


With the plan to add an adjustable gas block, I wanted to pull as much recoil out of the gun as possible and that is all about reducing reciprocating mass combined with reduced gas pressure. As you see in a lot of competition guns, they are running adjustable gas blocks, reduced mass carriers and/or reduced mass buffers. For this build I reduced the rifle buffer weight from 5oz down to 3oz which is the same weight as a standard carbine buffer weight. In this setup, we can substantially reduce the gas pressure, still retain full reliability and also take advantage of the longer slower rifle length spring geometry. The now lighter rifle length buffer is still used so that the carrier still travels the same distance rearward, however the net recoil feel is overall a world softer. 


A flat top Brownells upper which along with the 10” 5.56 Nato Ballistic Advantage barrel purchased on a flash sale were the only two parts I ordered for this build. The barrel was tipped with a non-identifiable adjustable gas block and an AR-Stoner stainless flash hider. I have found that pistol builds are loud to begin with, but the standard birdcage flash hider is still one of the quietest muzzle devices for an AR, so why make it louder. The handguard was actually an older rifle length Clark Carbon Fiber handguard that I cut to length for this build and used the other half for another pistol build. Carbon fiber has the unique property of cooling faster which makes longer and hotter shooting strings a lot more comfortable to shoot - plus it looks freaking awesome. The upper was trued and lapped and the barrel mounted with LockTite 638. A NiBo WMD bolt carrier group and Phase 5 charging handle were used.


Optics I really went back and forth on. These little 10” barreled pistols can deliver amazing accuracy with variable powered optics, however I wanted to keep build squarely outside any potential ATF questionable zone and they are making some noise about magnified optic equipped braced pistols. With just a red dot, this build would side step that issue. I used an old but proven Bushnell TRS-25. Sure it is not a top end Aimpoint, Sig or Holosun, but it has worked and continues to work even if it is only rated for 2000 hours or 3 months of constant-on use. My brother-in-law could easily add a clip-on magnifier like a Vortex, Burris, or Holosun to improve precision if needed.


This build also gave me an opportunity to cull through my bin of AR15 magazines and send my brother-in-law a bag full of random magazines that ranged from Hexmags, Mission First, IMI, and ETS which were all lightly used.



Testing - Having built many AR pistols with this 10” barreled configuration, the results are predictably impressive. With a clip-on magnifier, I shot a few .25” 50-yard groups with a 4x magnifier and without the magnifier the groups at the same range were around the .50-.75” range. These are super accurate little builds that can really impress. I repeated an interesting experiment where I tuned the gas block with a full 5-oz weight rifle buffer and then swapped to my custom tuned 3-oz rifle buffer. It is pretty cool to feel how much difference that 2-oz buffer weight reduction and substantial gas pressure reduction can make with felt recoil.  The net is this little build shoots fast and can be unpinned and dropped into any backpack which is all legally covered under a concealed carry permit. 


If you have not tried a 10-12 inch AR15 pistol build you are missing out of the best of the AR pistol platform. This barrel size prevents the deafening bark of shorter barrels and retains much of the velocity and accuracy of rifle length barrels.  With the buffer and carrier weight tuning and an adjustable gas block these can be shockingly soft shooting and a true pleasure to shoot.


Out of State Transfers - So you want to sell some guns to your next of kin friends, or in my case transfer a gun to a brother-in-law out of state. In-state, at least at this point in time, individual to individual sales are still legal as long as you do not have any reason to believe the person you are transferring to (transferee) would not otherwise be prevented from purchasing or owning a firearm - note check you local laws. 


Out of state transfers are more complex and require the transfer to go through a FFL dealer. You will need to ship the firearm to the FFL dealer of choice for your transferee and typically requires inclusion of a copy of the ship to FFL dealers license a bill of sale with a copy of your driver's license, your name, shipping address, and phone information (Transferer) and the name, shipping address, and phone number of the Transferee. Check with your local laws, however currently the ATF allows non-FFL individuals to ship rifles or shotguns through USPS, UPS, and FedEx as long as it is declared a firearms shipment and is shipping to an FFL dealer and the above noted information is included in the shipment. Pistols and any other type of firearm must be shipped via FedEx priority overnight or UPS. Generally, I have found that FedEx is less of a pain in the butt to work with on firearms shipments than UPS, but that depends a lot on your local branches.  The FFL receives the shipments, checks the firearm into their books and contacts your transferee to complete the paperwork and pick up the firearm. Unless you are shipping to some insane place like California, New York, Illinois or some other communist state, the process is usually smooth.


Sunday, July 4, 2021

What Would Stoner Do? - A Custom AR15 Prototype

 What Would Stoner Do? - A Custom AR15 Prototype

What if Eugene Stoner had somehow seen or imagined all the cool AR design innovations and manufacturing techniques of today and decided to build a custom AR for himself with the tech from the 1960s? It is a question that comes to mind after a few scotches. Here we are today making all these tricked out ARs, but WWSD - What Would Stoner Do?


A few years ago, I worked with Brownells to build the starting point of this build - something that never was. See that build here. As you might remember, Stoner built the infamous hyperlight prototype based on the AR10 platform, but never an AR15 prototype. A few years ago, I built a representation of that companion prototype of the AR15 platform - that build was used as a starting point for this custom Stoner build. My previous 6-lbs, 1-ounce prototype build really answered the question of what would that smaller Stoner A15 prototype potentially have looked like if he would have used a touch of the modern designs that could have been manufactured back then. Where I stopped injecting new design elements with that build was about where Stoner left off with the AR10 platform, plus a few tweaks like adding a skeleton Ace stock, HiperFire EDT trigger, and Fiber Optic front sight post. Those few gentle upgrades were based on the supposition that he rethought a few things in between his original AR10 prototype and release of the AR15 while still remaining well within materials and manufacturing reach back then.


If Stoner would have seen or imagined all the tricked out AR formats now, he would have certainly built one himself. For this build, I wanted to build the custom AR15 that Stoner would have built for himself based on current design innovations that could have been manufactured then and some elements that might have required some custom hand work. It is easy to speculate his intent for a custom build since much of Stoner’s design work was focused on reducing weight and increasing portability. He also had access to the most cutting edge materials, manufacturing and talent in the aerospace and firearms industry. 


Stone was big on light portable rifles and in fact his first produced rifle was a take-down bolt action AR-5 survival rifle chambered in .22 Hornet. The AR-5’s barrel unscrewed similar to the AR-7 .22LR Henry Survival Rifle (another Stoner design) currently produced today for easy storage even in small spaces. The focus on the AR-5, AR-7, and most other designs including the AR-10 prototype were all around lightweight newer materials and manufacturing methods while retaining functionality. Stoner also agonized over ergonomics, comfort and shootability. Stoner was somewhat limited in that the final intent of his designs were to make money and obviously no one in their right mind would shell out $2000 for a custom rifle - right? What if he didn’t have this limitation at that time and was building for fun. For this build, I pimped out my original Brownells based AR15 prototype Stoner style with weight, stowability, ergonomics, comfort and shootability as design goals.

The Original AR15 Prototype Build


My original Brownells 6 lb, 1 oz AR15 prototype build started with a faithfully recreated XM16E style A1 upper (aka carry handle upper) and matching Brownells branded M16A1 style lower receiver that Brownells worked with Nodak Spud to faithfully recreate. For this build I retained the carry handle upper, 18” Faxon 5.56 Nato pencil barrel, Daniel Defense front sight base, Clark carbon fiber handguard, but from there a number of upgrades were made. The idea for this build was to really push the limits based on innovations and designs of today without exceeding the machining, forming capabilities and materials of 1956-1960s. We have a whole bunch of cool AR15 design tech that could have been made back then and I wanted to base this build on that idea.  When I look at custom hand formed and tooled firearms from the 1800s and early 1900s, it should be obvious that anything is possible, it is just the speed of manufacturing, cost, and the materials that limits the possibilities - don’t believe me disassemble a Browning A-5 Shotgun.



MATERIAL TECH

Receiver & Ergonomics - Forging was typical technology of the day which means that the receiver did not have to specifically look like Stoner originally designed it and could have included many more custom elements. A modern example used in this build was the San Tan Tactical SST-15 ambi lower; though it is a 5-axis billet machined design it could have been almost completely formed by forging and required minimal finish machining.


In fact the similar innovative design and ambi functionality offered in the lightweight MOD2 lower receiver from Primary Weapons Systems is a forged lower receiver just like Stoner could have manufactured. Frankly, I would have used a PWS MOD2 lower here as a perfect example of what forging can deliver, but could not get my hands on one.


PWS Mod2 Forged Lower Ambi Reciever

The San Tan SST-15 and PWS Mod 2 lower receiver design innovations would have added a lot of ergonomic improvements, shootability, and features including ambi-controls for magazine and bolt release. Both the PWS and San Tan lowers also feature integral adjustable tension screws to tighten upper and lower receiver fit, and ambi controls for magazine and bolt release. I added a Battle Arms Development ambi-selector to assure that this AR15 of yesterday is just as comfortable for lefties as correctly handed people. :)  Battle Arms Development take-down pins were used as well to improve the ergonomics of pulling pins and disassembly. For the grip, I used a mil spec standard finger groove grip, ground it down flat, hand stippled it with a wood burning iron, and then milled slots for a custom paracord wrap. The last final ergonomics touch is a latchless Mega Arms ambi-charging handle on the upper. I think Stoner would have liked these extra details. 


Carry Handle Upper & Improved Sights - The XM16E style A1 (carry handle) upper, WMD NiB-X Bolt Carrier Group, 18” Faxon 5.56 Nato pencil barrel, forged Daniel Defense front sight base, Clark carbon fiber handguard were carried over from the previous build because they worked amazingly well. The upper was still a great base to create a custom build from.


Stoner would have also likely carried over the A1 style carry handle upper as he believed it offered a lot of utility carrying the rifle, but he would have wanted to improve the sights for night use. He would have looked at something to illuminate the front post beyond fiber optics and would have found a way to use Tritium (discovered in the 1930s) on the front sight post. XS Sights’ CSAT Precision Target sight set delivers both a daytime high contrast white stripe front sight with tritium insert and a rear triple aperture designed by Paul Howe that combines a standard ghost ring 100-yard aperture with a dual aperatured second sight with 100-yard precision peep aperture and a 7-yard zero top notch aperture. Though a standard ghost ring aperture is just a flip away, the single high precision and notch aperture allows shots from 7-yards to 100-yards plus without flipping the sight. This is definitely an innovation Stoner would have loved because it adds zero weight, improved sighting ergonomics, and improves day/night sighting options.  


Low Mass and Adjustable Gas - The WMD bolt was retained, but the carrier was replaced with a JP Rifles Lo-Mas LMOS Aluminum Alloy carrier to reduce weight along with a matching low-mass buffer. Up front, the Daniel Defense front sight base was drilled and tapped as a converted adjustable gas block to take advantage of the lower mass carrier and buffer assembly. Many… many years ago this was how myself and others created the first adjustable gas blocks before they were widely produced. To pull even more recoil out of the Stoner custom prototype and limit muzzle rise, a PWS FSC brake was installed. The brake combined with the low mass carrier & buffer and adjustable gas block delivers a sizable overall weight reduction and a near recoil-less gun with negligible muzzle rise. Stoner would have thought these updates were addressing a whole boatload of things on his wish list including increased shooter comfort, faster follow up shots, improved shot-to-shot accuracy and an overall lighter gun.


Weight Reduction - To reduce the overall weight even further beyond the carrier/buffer, the astoundingly light 4.3 ounce Brigand Arms Carbon fiber stock would have been possible with carbon fiber and even fiberglass forming of the day. Though not as rugged as the previously used Ace Skeleton stock on my original build, it would have certainly been as strong and Stoner’s choice to conserve weight on a personal custom build. Another innovative PWS part I use is their PWS Ratchet Lock Castle Nut & Endplate set which prevents any loosening of the buttstock without requiring castle nut staking.



Portability & Stow-ability - Portability and take-down features were really appealing to Stoner as were showcased in the AR5 and AR7 designs, so I thought it appropriate to add a Gen1 Dolos Take Down adapter to this build. The Gen 1 Dolos kit is no longer made in favor of the new Gen 2 kit, but the Dolos kits do happen to be compatible with Midwest Industries handguard threading and perfectly sized to epoxy on a Clark Carbon Fiber Handguard.


The original carbon fiber handguard was trimmed down to fit behind the front sight base to allow room needed for barrel removal. The Dolos system addition allows the entire 18” barreled rifle to be tucked into nearly any backpack and assembled/disassembled in just seconds. It is faster than unpinning the upper and the net stowed length is just the barrel length instead of the barrel length plus attached receiver length. This would have been a fairly simple to manufacture design innovation he surely would have wanted to use this to check off his portability and stowability goals. [Pictured - The Customer Prototype build slips easily into a Hazard 4 Plan B sling pack. ]




Trigger Tech - I used what is arguably the most advanced trigger on the market, the HiperFire HiperTouch Competition trigger. These would have been possible with forgings and some manual milling and delivered a fast and advanced trigger, this would have been the ultimate for Stoner. 


Adaptability & Training - The last and final accessory would surely have been a CMMG .22LR adapter kit. Stoner loved small caliber arms and touted continual practice. What better accessory would there have been than a CMMG .22LR kit that would have allowed inexpensive practice and even quieter small game hunting? He would have considered this essential.



WEIGHT & FINAL THOUGHTS

This build weighs in at a feathery 5.3-lbs which is nearly a 1-lb weight reduction from my original prototype build. Considering this is an 18” barrel that is quite an accomplishment. More importantly it would have hit the X on Stoner’s primary weight reduction design focus. With a scant 5.3-lb AR that can also be easily disassembled into a pack, it would have been a go-to favorite gun for him on every trip all while still delivering far beyond the ergonomics, comfort and shootability of the original design. 


With a 5’ish-lb gun he would have experienced the magic that low mass carriers, buffers and adjustable gas blocks can deliver. What should be a gun that lets you feel every pull of the trigger, instead delivers recoil more similar to a pellet gun recoil all while shooting flat and very fast. With the drop-in .22LR CMMG kit this particular Faxon barrel has delivered .5-inch 25-yard groups with SK Rifle Match ammo and is more than adequate for a fun day plinking at the range and using typically does not require me touching the sight zero. 


As I exclaim “holy freaking hell” every time I lift one of my heavy precision ARs, I think of this gun. It delivers an awe-inspiring set of features for a rifle just over 5-lbs. Had I stayed with a standard lower receiver or even a 4.3-ounce polymer James Madison Tactical 80% lower and left off the Dolos kit, retained the lighter HiperFire EDT trigger, the build would have tipped under 5-lbs. This has become one of my go-to fun guns and without question makes me appreciate the design brilliance of Stoner. He would have been impressed with all our advances on the platform today.  For me this represents everything that was, could have been and is today around the flexibility, utility, and configurability of the AR15 design and should be no surprise this is one of my more heavily shot firearms. 


A huge thanks to Brownells for their continued support and support in helping make this build possible. If you have not been to Brownells, they have everything you could need for any AR build. 


Check BROWNELLS for the best deals on firearms and accessories

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Brownells A1 XM16E1 Old School Retro Prototype AR15

Brownells A1 XM16E1 Old School Retro Prototype AR15

[Republished from 2016 Build]

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.


A FIRST FOR BROWNELLS
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.

CREATING A PROTOTYPE AR15
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.


THE CUSTOM BROWNELLS A1 XM16E1 OLD SCHOOL RETRO PROTOTYPE AR15
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 Paracord.com 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.


FINAL THOUGHTS
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.


SOURCES

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Justification for Packable AR15 Pistols in Vehicles

The PWS MOD2 MK107
is the top tier of AR15 pistols.
Justification for Packable AR15 Pistols in Vehicles


An unassuming $40 Eddie Bauer
pack has a suprise in it
Just a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the idea of having a packable AR15 pistol tucked into my vehicle though I have kept a stowed and cased AR15 or Tavor in the truck for years. More times than I can remember that rifle came in handy during impromptu range trips plus the assurance a few 30-round magazines of Hornady Defense and M855 5.56 can provide when you are stranded at night alongside the road. It also delivered personal assurance that I would have more than just a handgun in an extended survival or personal defense situation with the ability to deliver high precision shots under 100-yards and connect assuredly out to 400+ years if needed. Over the last five years, I have worked through a set of theories based on some discussions with some deep experienced friends which I would like to share. One high ranking Army friend formerly special forces, said “There is no one perfect small arm for any situation, the dynamics of the environment you expect to be engaged in dictate the armament.”  For several reasons, it is my theory that having only a handgun is not enough and an AR15 pistol is the better personal defense and road travel firearm to have stowed in your vehicle.

THE POTENTIAL NEED
Discussing my ideas with a few folks who have been there and done that, I began gaming out a few potential theories.  Beyond the zombie apocalypse type events, there only a couple logically probable scenarios which could occur:
  • Personal defense and security during an active shooter situation
  • General support of survival and security needs (such as being stranded or coming home to forced entry situation)
  • Support of movement to a safe location during a hostile/riot situation
  • … and of course an extremely unlikely situation where everything goes to hell and you need a weapon (EMPs, Solar Flares, invasion, zoombies...etc). With all the recent UFO activity, who freaking knows, maybe insane situation #4 is not so insane.


In any other immediate threat situation, the speed and reaction time would require your smaller conceal handgun inside the waistband to come into play first. The logical needs were for a PDW - Personal Defense Weapon which could deliver 90% of the capabilities of a full length rifle with an acceptable tradeoff of shooter comfort. In all those situations Accuracy, Legal Transportation, Accessibility, Maneuverability, and Concealment would all be factors for a firearm stowed within a vehicle.

ACCURACY & SHOOTING
Over the last couple years I have changed my perspective of AR15 pistols from just range toys to serious viable PDWs - Personal Defense Weapons and probably the best home defense gun you can own. The accuracy of these little AR15 pistols has shocked me. One particular AR15 pistol owned can deliver sub-MOA groups from its 7.5” match barrel - yes it will outshoot most rack grade rifles. Most of my other AR15 pistols with premium match barrels can stay well under the 1.5” 100-yard group mark and will keep my 6” steel target clanging away all the way out to 400-yards with ease. After all, AR15 pistols are in essence the pistol versions of rifles without the stock or rifle classification. The pace at which these little pistols can lay down precision hits is pretty amazing to the degree that I have questioned whether a full sized rifle would really give me that more of an advantage over a PDW for use in, around and out of a vehicle.


The SIG MPX pistol tucks into
almost any small pack
If we look at the reality of most urban combat shooting engagements, they occur statistically well under 100-yards which is a sweet spot for a short accurate PDW - Personal Defense Weapon. Statistically, it is also unlikely that any more than 10-20 rounds would ever be needed to address a single situation, but the PDW can still deliver plenty of firepower with a 30 or 40-round PMag attached. Four or five extra mags thrown into the carry bag delivers a substantial firepower capability. From very light 40gr high shock hollow points to M855 steel core rounds, the 5.56/.223 offers a lot of options for defense, survival and threat engagement. It is also statistically unlikely to have a need for supporting a long term armed engagement, but again the PDW can still handle that requirement as well. Though I was a little sore afterwards, I did spend an afternoon hammering 500 rounds through my truck AR15 pistol. That problem-free beatdown of that AR15 pistol changed my perception of what AR15 pistols could deliver drastically in just one afternoon. The PDW format can bring the firepower. I would gladly suffer a little discomfort for a one foot shorter gun that is 2-3 lbs lighter for this particular use.


LEGAL TRANSPORTATION
A 7.5-inch Aero Precision AR15 pistol
in an ultralight small pack.
One of the most important points as a civilian is the assuring your are arming yourself in a legal manner. If you have a rifle stowed in your car, it can be problematic as you drive from one city to another or across state lines. Many cities and states have goofy rifle laws which can include requirements for rifles to be partially disassembled and cased and placed in a particular way and almost always un-loaded. This can be troublesome.

Conversely if you have a concealed carry permit, carrying an AR15 pistol is covered under your permit because after all an AR15 pistol is not a rifle… its a pistol. Unless you are purposefully doing something illegal or demonstrating how easy it is to shoulder a Sig Brace in front of the police, having a loaded AR15 pistol is just as legal as the handgun on your hip. I would suggest referring to your AR15 pistol as a “legal AR format pistol” rather than just an AR15 if questioned. The point here is that in many cases having an AR15 pistol can avoid unintentionally breaking the law should your rifle not fit the widely varying locals regarding stowage for rifles.

ACCESSIBILITY
Having a legally stowed, cased, and unloaded full sized AR15 rifle in the back of the vehicle is a viable concept, however accessibility to that gun to put it into action fast is another matter altogether. It hardly seems a sound idea to have an accessible loaded AR15 rifle on the front seat of your vehicle with a blanket over for concealment - you’ll likely get arrested. One the other hand, a concealed carry license allows loaded pistols to be concealed, on the person or within a vehicles or in personal belongings. It would seem that if the need arose, playing a legally stowed, loaded and accessible AR15 pistol in a backpack in the front seat would be far faster than walking around to the trunk, opening it, unzipping the rifles case, and loading the rifle.


MANEUVERABILITY
Mrs Pandemics Trump Trunk Gun
With a 3X optic, 400-yards is not a
long way at all for an AR15 pistol
Maneuvering a rifle inside a vehicle is a tough situation and most would agree that a short AR15 pistol is more appropriate. If you have ever tried swinging a AR15 rifle around inside a car, it pretty much sucks. Conversely, a 10-inch AR pistol can usually be pivoted from the passenger window to the driver window without becoming hung up on windows, dashes, and steering wheels. Thinking through a multitude of situations which could occur on the road, my theory is that it would be preferable to have a short maneuverable AR15 pistol if facing a survival situation or stranded roadside camping inside a vehicle. If clearing between or around vehicles or through an urban environment to make haste back home, a shorter AR15 pistol would also seem to be the better tool than a rifle.


STOWING, CONCEALMENT & MOVEMENT
Though legality is a big issue, discretely being able to move with an AR15 pistol is probably the biggest advantage of all. There is no way even a disassembled rifle is going to slip into a standard sized backpack. If you need to move discretely with your rifle from your vehicle it is going to be really quite obvious you are carrying a rifle around - "Hey over here everyone I am got a rifle! " A 10.5” barreled AR15 pistol equipped with a Law Tactical folding buffer tube adapter or stowed with the upper and lowers receivers unpinned slips nicely into any standard backpack or messenger bag and no one will know.  A 7.5” barreled AR15 pistol with Law Tactical Folding stock can fit into pretty much any smaller pack.


It is my belief that any firearm permanently stored in a vehicle should be easily concealed, and clandestinely moved in a public setting without undue attention. There was one situation where my truck needed unexpected overnight service due to an accident and another where the hotel only offered valet parking. In both situations I had to de-weaponize my truck and walk through some rather public areas with what was clearly a gun case. Those incidents taught me a lesson that discrete cases should always be used to house firearms in vehicles even if it is just one of those non-tactical square soft cases. A similar situation occurred more recently again when I forgot to remove my firearms from my truck before routine oil change, however I was able to grab my Eddie Bauer backpack containing my AR15 pistol and backup Glock 17 and walk over to the coffee shop to wait without anyone taking a second look - that act also happens to be 100% legal in my state. A standard AR15 rifle is just not going to give you that option unless it is disassembled and in a more discrete case like a Hazard 4 Plan C or something similar.


A simple two-point sling or a convertible ALG Defense Quad Dual QD sling delivers a carry option which enhances both concealment and handling. If “it” did happen during a hostile situation where LEO and government officials were on high alert and you did have to trek on foot back home, it would be much better to have a little PDW AR15 pistol concealed and slung under a long rain jacket than walking home with a rifle slung over your shoulder.


DISCREET VEHICLE CARRY OPTIONS
Sneaky Bags 31-inch SPYDER accommodates
everything from PDWs, Tavors, and
disassembled AR15s
The discreet carry Sneaky Bags are a wonderful option with plenty of internal tactical storage capabilities. The medium Sneaky Bags 31” SPYDER sling bag which looks like a modified tennis racket bag can conceal several firearms at once, but the weight starts to add up. The standard Sneaky 31” SPYDER bag can accommodate a variety of firearms, for example: a Tavor bullpup rifle, a PWS MOD2 pistol PDW, nearly any assembled 12” barreled SBR or AR15 pistol, and dis-assembled (upper/lower) rifles. It is a handy and extremely well made case.

AR15 pistols of course easy drop into almost any backpack and no one pays any attention to your standard Swiss Army or Eddie Bauer backpack. 5.11’s Select Carry sling pack is designed specifically for PDW use. It has an innocuous shape/style and rapid draw feature that makes it one of my favorites for my Sig MPX 9mm and other AR15 pistols.


ACCESSORIES TO MAKE COMPACT EVEN SMALLER
An Aero Precision AR15 pistol with Law Folding
Tactical Buffer tube adapter, Dolos QD barrel
System upgraded with a Brigand Arms 
hand guard
If you own an AR15 pistol you are missing half of the functionality of the firearm if you have not installed a Law Tactical Folding Buffer tube adapter. This accessory negates the need of disassembling an AR15 pistol to stow it in most backpacks. Deployment is fast - pull from the pack, slam the buffer tube over and charge the AR15 pistol and shoot. This is a setup that can deploy instantly from any discrete bag when “it” hits the fan. If you are considering an AR15 pistol for your vehicle, then this would be a must have accessory from my perspective.

From tiny to capable in under 5-seconds.
The DOLOS V2 also chops an AR15 pistol down even smaller. The DOLOS delivers a ratcheting quick takedown option to remove the barrel with assembly and disassembly occurring in under 5-seconds. The DOLOS V2 is compatible with any Midwest Industries thread pattern barrel nut handguard which it turns out is pretty common including the very trick Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber handguards.


The stock Dolos V2 QD Barrel removal system
from Pantheon Arms
Combined with the Law Tactical folding Buffer tube adapter, the DOLOS can deliver a 10”x8” AR15 pistol (7.5” barrel) package that will fit in most Ipad sling packs such as the Drago Sentry and most small sling packs. The shown build features a 7.5” pencil profile .223 Wylde Black Hole Weaponry match barrel, Aero Precision receivers, Phase 5 Tactical Hex2 buffer tube, Sig Brace, Nikon 3X BDC optic, and DOLOS adapter with Brigand Arms carbon fiber handguard. This is a 400-yard headshot capable rig that brakes down to only 10”x8” with a 20-round magazine in place ready to party. The last time I was on the range this little pistol shot a .74-inch 100-yard group.


DON’T PUSH THE LAW
Any firearm within a vehicle has a very high potential to be viewed, handled, and checked during any routine traffic stop. It is my belief that most law enforcement folks are tragically uninformed about what “is legal” when it comes to anything other than a classically sized rifle or pistols. I have had more than a few LEO folks ask me if my Tavor or an AR15 pistol was an SBR. Though we all know AR15 pistols are legally just pistols, however if you are pulled over and you are justifiably searched, I would bet that less than 50% of police would have the knowledge to clearly identify your loaded ready to rock legal AR15 pistol as a pistol - hassle initiated.


The Rogers Rail light is a must for any
AR15 pistol for defense and survival

The Streamlight based light snaps 
on/off any pica tiny rail
and works on pistols and ARs.
Additionally, if your AR15 also looks like an SBR with something a non-firearms educated officer presumes as a stock, you can double the hassle. Sure SB Tactical and Sig Braces are "legal", however this is where I suggest a standard buffer tube might be the better less grey option to avoid extra hassle. Add in that the ATF is again at it suggesting a wildly subjective grade card which could make you heavily accessoried AR pistol illegal, the less to explain to LEOs the better. Notably with the buffer tube extension the Law Tactical Folding Adapter provides, I would submit that shooting configuration to be so comfortable that a Brace is not required. Using a rifle length buffer tube makes for a soft and comfortable shooting AR pistol.

RIFLES IN VEHICLES ARE OUT - PDWS ARE IN
Recently I had a series of discussions with some badass military, LEO, and security folks who were convinced that PDWs were the more correct choice for a vehicle based firearm vs a full sized rifle. Sorting through those discussions, the main re-emphasized points were compact size, firepower, 0-100 yard accuracy/lethality, maneuverability, stowed concealment, and the ability to move with the weapon discretely when not in play. 

From my perspective the AR15 pistol meets those needs perfectly. One of my friends said it well - “If you are going to war a rifle is preferred, but for shots that might be fired in, around and from a vehicle or just for personal defense, a faster handling compact SBR, PDW, or AR15 pistol are tough solutions to beat.”


OUR RIGS
Mr Pandemics gold and grey tiger stripe
Trump Trunk Gun. The Extended A2 Rifle length buffer tube
improves comfort for my 6'1" wife's wingspan.
After a whole lot of shooting and testing, I like the compromise of a 10.5” barreled AR15 pistol. Its has an exponentially quieter bark and fireball and delivers a velocity jump compared to a 7.5” barrel, and provides a shooting platform that gives the shooter more room to stretch out. 

My new favorite factory AR15 pistol is the PWS MOD2 MK107 AR15 Pistol with Maxim Defense Adjustable Cheek Rest - truly an amazing firearm which packs beautifully in the Sneaky Bags SPYDER.


Since I do not want a $2500 (including the Vortex optic) potentially stolen from my truck, I opted for part-ing together a couple AR15 pistols. The his and hers Pandemic Truck guns are both based on Faxon Govt/Socom 10.5” barrels with Faxon matched headspaced BCGs. 

A very nice, light, and highly accurate AR15 pistol
My wife’s pistol features an Aero Precision upper, YHM Quick Pull Take-Down Pins, ALG handguard, Rogers Rail light, Burris 3X 332 prismatic sight, Black Rain lower receiver, Mega Arms trigger, and Paracord wrapped A2 rifle buffer tube which extends the “cheek weld” for my wife. We call this the Trump Trunk Gun, since Trump likes everything gold plated… maybe minus the tiger stripe.


My truck pistol uses a Clark Carbon Fiber handguard, Rogers Rail light, Nikon 1-4 scope, Aero Precision optic mount, YHM Quick Pull Take-Down Pins, Aero Precision upper, a billet lower, CMC Match trigger, Law Tactical Folding Buffer Tube Adapter, and A2 rifle length buffer tube.

Both of these builds have stood the test of time for me, though I did rebuild my wife's pistol with a FDE paint-job and topped it with a Burris 1-4 MTAC scope. In my kit, I have even added a CMMG .22LR drop-in caliber conversion kit to offer even more utility to the AR pistol.


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