Friday, June 22, 2018

Episode 69 - Bugout vehicles and Who's in your Group?

Bugout Vehicle
Diesel vs. gas - You have to weight the availability of fuel against the flexibility diesel affords.
V6 vs. V8 - Power is useful, but you have to weigh fuel economy.
4WD vs. RWD - Neither of us really favored a FWD hatchback like mine for a bugout vehicle, but I wouldn't place an extreme premium on 4 wheel drive as a rear wheel drive vehicle with sufficient ground clearance should suffice for most situations.

Militia Skillsets
The Shooter - First of all, everyone has to be a shooter.  That said, optimally, one of your party should have well above average firearm experience, preferably military/police/private security training and some knowledge of security or small unit tactics.

The Doc - You need someone with medical training, the more the better.  Extra points for EMT's and people that work in the field vs. a nurse or doctor.

The Mechanic - You need a guy with mechanical skills.  Be it a mechanic, a carpenter, contractor, or a shade tree do-it-yourselfer, someone needs to have some tools and knowledge of how to fix and build stuff.

Dentist - Andrew and I debated this to death.  I say give me the pliers and I'll deal with it.

Cook/Farmer - Once you have assembled this fantasy league of preppers/militia types, it would be really handy to have someone that knows how to cook a meal without inducing food poisoning.  Plan accordingly

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Mala Prohibita: Why gun control will fail every time

Within legal tradition are two concepts most may have only heard of in fleeting chat about why some laws are regularly violated and others are not.  When one takes all other variables off the table, legal offenses we restrict and punish in this country are divided into two categories: Mala In Se and Mala Prohibita.  Stick with me through the Latin, but the two terms roughly translate into "evil in itself" and "wrong because prohibited".  In other words, some offenses are obviously evil, while others are not.

Those laws regulating firearms (not crimes committed with firearms, just possession and carry) fall into the latter category.  Don't believe me?  Let's look at laws regulating marijuana use, speed limits, seat belt laws, jay walking, etc.  These laws are regularly flaunted by a large portion of our population because the majority simply does not believe those offenses are evil in and of themselves.  No one is being harmed by an individual choosing to light up a joint (debatable, but that's how I see it) and absolutely no one can explain to me why seat belt laws even exist (again, no harm being done other than to the individual choosing not to use a piece of safety equipment.)  Likewise, laws against the possession or carry of a firearm are regularly flaunted.

Every time California passes a new version of their perennial assault weapon's ban, manufacturers and owners of the once legal and newly illegal firearms find a way to comply (some would argue bypass) the law.  When New Jersey and Chicago demand their citizens turn in bump stocks, people blow them off.  When New York demands assault weapons be surrendered to the police, the people chuckled under their breaths and the estimated turn in rate was just a few percent.  The PEOPLE have decided such restrictions are not intrinsically evil, and are refusing to abide by them.

Even laws on carry are not universally complied with.  I have a state concealed weapon's permit, in compliance with a law I wholesale disagree with.  That said, I seem to have a complete inability to notice and comprehend posted "no firearms allowed" signs on local businesses.  I don't believe that business, which is open to the public, has any right to restrict my ability to exercise an unalienable right, and I'm hardly alone.  Carrying a firearm in a holster, under my shirt, with no intention of actively harming anyone with it is not evil in itself, hence the law depends on the people simply not wishing to face retribution in order to guarantee compliance.

And this is why gun control has, is, and will continue to fail.  There are plenty of Lefty loons in this world that would happily see all firearms melted into modern art, but they are not the majority.  There are a LOT of middle ground gun owners that will comply with most of the law, but push hard enough and even they will balk at continued tightening of regulations.  Then there are people like myself, die hard 2nd Amendment advocates that preach from the pulpit of "from my cold dead hands".  Guess which way my opinion sways on firearms.

Gun control will fail because the laws restricting ownership and carry are Mala Prohibita, they do not seek to prevent that which is evil in itself, and the people's willingness to comply with such laws will always be limited.  As the laws become more and more ridiculous, the people's opinion of that law will continue to turn until such laws are ignored, actively flaunted, and one day openly challenged.  One will find it exceedingly difficult to prevent a population from doing that which they believe they have every right to do.

Ask the British if you don't believe me. - Phil Rabalais

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Built, not Bought: The little stuff

So, you've put your rifle together.  It will physically discharge a round of ammunition and send it downrange.  But you're not done yet, there are still a number of small but necessary purchases to make your rifle functional.  Some are obvious, some only to those of us that intend to use these firearms outside of a static range on a shooting bench.
***Forgot to mention this in the previous installment - Radian Raptor Charging Handle - I gave a mil-spec charging handle an honest try, and with the traditional "two fingers over the top" grip it works well enough.  What it does not even attempt to do well is allow you to "blade" your hand past the charging handle and actuate the bolt.  This easily remedied that issue, and I only chose this vs. some other options because I had personal experience with it in a friend's built and I know it would work the first time.***

Sling - Magpul MS2 - I have previously had some experience with a number of slings, of the single and two point variety.  My EXTREMELY brief excursion into three point slings has led me to never recommend them or use them again, so let's table that abomination.  With few exceptions I default to a two point sling.  They are versatile for carrying and steadying your rifle when shooting off hand, provide a means to allow you to take both hands off your rifle without it clattering to the ground (if you need to switch to your secondary weapon, or use both hands for any other purpose), and allow you to carry muzzle up or down depending on the situation.  The greatest benefit is the control they lend to your rifle that a single point simply does not. The Magpul MS2 is secured to the buttstock via a tri glide wound through the sling point, and via a QD to the handguard.  This gives me a means to separate the upper and lower (I can hit the button and disconnect the sling from the upper) and if I get tied up I can shed the sling quickly. Extra points for color coordinating the sling to the furniture (OCD is a thing.)

Backup sights/Irons - Magpul MBUS - The MBUS sights are affordable, and appropriate for their intended use.  MUCH better sight options exist if you intend to use irons more often than I do, but as a backup to a more capable and sophisticated sighting system.  They are plastic, so if durability is a concern you may opt instead for the Magpul Pro sights which best I'm aware are made of metal.

Primary sights/The Great and Endless debate - Vortex Strikefire 2 and Vortex VMX-3T - I debated, really debated, using a red dot and magnifier (separate debates) vs. using a Vortex 1-6 or similar scope.  My father, who's AR build is fairly similar to mine in parts and phylosophy, did opt for a Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6, so I have an opportunity for some very direct comparisons.

The Vortex Strikefire 2 is a notorious robust and reliable red dot from Vortex's catalogue, as such being backed by a company with a reputation for not screwing up products and an unbeatable warranty.  It has a 4 MOA dot which I initially was concerned may not be a fine enough point of aim, but I referred back to my phylosophy of use.  I don't see iron sights as being too imprecise, and the front sight post isn't dramatically different in size from the red dot as mounted on my rifle.  I was able to string together perfectly respectable 2-3" groups at 100 yards, and engage an 8" plate mercilously.  The red dot does run off of a single CR2 battery vs. the more common CR123, but I found them available and stashed a spare in my pistol grip.  Note, when things run on batteries, have spares onboard the rifle if at all possible, in your kit if not.  Extra points for the cantilever lower 1/3 cowitness mount included with the red dot.

The VMX-3T is Vortex's second go at a 3X red dot magnifier. I did opt, as many do, to reverse the usual arrangement of the included flip-to-the-side mount (usually flips to the left, mine flips to the right, call it personal preference) which was easily accomplished.  I found the magnifier to be clear, the mount to be very stable, and the limited magnification to provide just enough extra visibility to stretch out the effective range without slowing down target acquisition.  I would never call this a replacement for a 1-6 scope, but it does give you more tools in your toolbox for a red dot. With the two optics paired together, engaging 8" targets at 100 yards is easy.  It was certainly no chore before, but the magnifier does give me a greater degree of target ID and placing my shots than I had without it.  It also gives me a bit better clarity at intermediate ranges.  It will not give you that fine point of aim to make sub MOA groups, but it will stretch your natural eyesight out that much farther.

Mags, cause it ain't a semi auto without them - C Products Defense stainless steel magazines - I picked these up silly cheap from SGAmmo when they had some in stock.  They are a literal clone of GI mags, minus the anti-tilt follower and the steel bodies vs. aluminum.  Perhaps a little heavier, but hopefully also a little stronger, they have proven bomb proof in their reliability.  I'm less picky about a person's choice on mags as long as they run them enough to be secure in their reliability or weed them out as "range only" mags.

All the junk in the buttstock/pistol grip - The Magpul buttstock, as many fixed stocks, has a built in storage compartment.  So does the Magpul pistol grip.  I have managed to cram a few scraps of old tee shirts to use as cleaning rats and patches, a small bottle of oil(Ballistol), a GI cleaning kit (leftover from my Army days) complete with a chamber brush, and spare batteries for my light and red dot.  I would encourage anyone to use onboard storage for bare minimum gear to service the rifle, just so it's always there.  I also have a RATS tourniquet wrapped around the buttstock (not in the location pictured, it slipped and interfered with the charging handle) because Murphy is ever vigilant and things happen.

What I set out to build was a jack of all trades rifle, something equally capable of home defense as defending a neighborhood.  I don't see my max engagement range often exceeding 50 yards, 100 being fairly optimistic, and 200 being extraordinarily rare.  The 18" barrel gives me the velocity to insure terminal ballistics, rifle length gas system and A2 buffer makes for a soft shooting rifle that won't choke on odd ammo choice, quality parts insure I don't have to worry about premature failures, and a flexible optics package that grants me faster target acquisition than irons without any loss in capability in my chosen envelope.  The rifle functions, and is proving accurate as I spend more time behind it.

What else can I tell you about?  Any interest in me talking about my load development as I tackle this new cartridge? - Phil Rabalais

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Built, not Bought: What's going on up top?

When I decided to build a rifle, I sought the advice of those builders more experienced than I, and boy did I get an education in a hurry.

I was quickly introduced to some of the modernizations that have come up in the last several years that neither Stoner nor the US Army Ordnance Department ever dreamed of.  Of course, a change in upper doesn't usually cause such a ripple effect in your parts selection but it does when it's a drastic departure from a standard mil spec upper.

Aero Precision M4E1 Enhanced Upper 
Before I fell subject to this marketting slang, I asked very directly what the benefit was.  Aero's M4E1 upper already features excellent machining, a flat top picatinny rail for optics mounting, and comes in at a very reasonable price tag.  The "Enhanced" upper completely redesigns the barrel/handguard mounting interface in the name of additional rigidity and strength, picking up where Stoner's design and the many workarounds (attempts to integrate free float handguards into the legacy design) left off.  By integrating the handguard mount into the upper itself, the stress of that handguard is no longer concentrated on the barrel nut.  By taking all of that stress off the barrel nut, it could be made smaller, now only dealing with locating and securing a barrel.  And, but reversing the typical arrangement of barrel nut to upper (the upper having outside threads, and the nut threading on) the barrel nut now threads INSIDE the upper and the gas tube no longer passes through the barrel nut.  Way beyond making assembly simpler, it gives a rock solid mount for the handguard.  To which I mounted....
Aero Precision Enhanced Handguard 
Possibly the only downside to using this specialized upper is it restricting your options for handguard.  Quite frankly, Aero Precision has you covered with options ready to bolt on in various lengths, diameters, and colors.  The Enhanced handguard (M-Lok, anodized black, 15") was my choice, as I had intended from the outset to build a full length rifle and I wanted plenty of rail space and to push the front sight as far forward as practical.  Yes, I planned to run an optic, but I am a big believer is making a sight radius longer where practical.  Some will tell you it doesn't matter, it matters to me.  The handguard features a compatible mounting solution with the Enhanced upper (mounts with 8 screws and a little blue Loctite if you don't like things backing off), anti rotation tabs, and a monolithic rail that matches perfectly with the Picatinny on the upper.  I don't care to mount my optics on the handguards, but it's there if you need it.  The handguard is rock solid, and fills the hand, though the Quatum may be a better fit if you like your handguard a little slimmer and lighter.

Faxon Firearms 18" Gunner barrel in 5.56 Nato 
I had always intended to use a rifle length gas system and an 18" barrel, beyond that I was pretty open to suggestion.  I was immediately steered to Faxon Firearms and their Gunner barrel.  Faxon is well known to provide a good product at a fair price.  Being a Goldilocks build/jack of all trades, I was after a full capable rifle that could still shed ounces where possible and not compromise capability.  The Gunner barrel utilizes the "government profile" from the M4E1 extension (with matching feed ramps) to the gas block, at which point is narrows considerably to the lighter weight "pencil profile" for the remainder of it's length.  This maintains more material and ability to cope with heat near the chamber where it pays dividends, but removes crucial weight from the furthest extreme of the barrel aiding the rifle in transitioning side to side.  Having shot this side by side with my father's traditional government profile barrel, I can attest to mine making a noticeable difference in weight and momentum, with a small penalty in additional felt recoil due to the lower weight.  I call it a worthwhile tradeoff for a rifle meant to be carried and shot from the shoulder, not rested on a bench it's whole life.  The jury is still out on potential accuracy as I dig into hand loading, but Faxon is not known to make trash barrels.  I debated briefly on .223 Wylde, but shelved it for the time being as it didn't really add much to my concept other than price.

Toolcraft Nickel Boron Bolt Carrier Group  
I quickly learned that MANY of your big name companies are using Toolcraft as an OEM supplier of their own bolt carrier groups, and I felt no reason to spend more to have someone else's name on the part.  C-158 Carpenter Steel bolt, MPI tested, and nickel boron coated (made of good stuff and slicker than greased owl snot) it certainly looked and felt the quality part when it arrived at my house.  Now, I fight a neverending battle to keep it clean, typical of direct impingement guns.  The nickel boron coating, promised to make cleaning a wipe and go affair, hasn't alleviated the need to soak it in CLP and break out the brass brushes, but it does seam to make the BCG run a little nicer when things get hot and dirty.  For the minimal extra money, I don't consider it to be a waste.

Next week, I'll start meandering my way around the rifle hitting all the little things that make a rifle run, since we've gotten the major parts out of the way.  Let me know what you guys think and leave me your feedback positive or negative. - Phil Rabalais

Friday, June 1, 2018

Episode 66 - The Militia

"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
— George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on Ratification of the Constitution, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788

 "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."
-- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

"That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms ... "
-- Samuel Adams, Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at 86-87 (Pierce & Hale, eds., Boston, 1850)

 "What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."
-- Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787. ME 6:373, Papers 12:356

Militia Act of 1792

Militia Act of 1903

ADJUTANT-GENERAL:Rifle ranges also are needed, not only for the National Guard, but also for the citizen population. To shoot well is a large part of the education of the soldier ; and if the Government can arouse such an interest in shooting, in not only the organized but also the unorganized militia, that our male population shall be familiar with the accurate use of the rifle, we shall have gone far towards evening up the advantage the foreigner gains by his universal conscription. Much can be accomplished in this direction, if the United States will offer free the use of the military rifle on ranges to be established near our large towns. Such ranges would also be available for the instruction of the National Guard. Their cost would be little in comparison with the benefits to be obtained. The cost of sufficient target ranges and camp sites for the whole country will hardly exceed that of one or two new battle-ships.