2A: Shotgun Importation Ban and its impact on Practical Shooting

With the May 1st deadline looming, I decided to send in an email to the BATFE’s working group for the pending ban of certain shotguns. You can do likewise by sending your comment to shotgunstudy@atf.gov.

Here’s what I wrote:


I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the current shotgun importation ban now under consideration. I am a member of the United States Practical Shooting Association and I use shotguns for competition that are designed with many of the 10 features that are being considered as criteria for banning a shotgun from importation. Telescoping stocks, pistol grips, extended magazines, compensators and additional mounting rails are critically important in our sport. To say these guns serve no sporting purpose is to deny practical shooting as a sport in general.  This may be convenient for your current purposes but it is wrong. The working group cannot use potential repercussions as a reason for denying facts. Namely that practical shotgun shooting is a highly popular sport thereby making many of the shotgun features under consideration “generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.” Continue reading

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Review: Berretta 92FS

In the 1970’s and ’80’s the US military held a competition to select the replacement for the 1911. The new pistol would be required to fire the 9mm NATO cartridge and would be have to meet rigorous reliability and durability standards. After most of two decades and several restarts, the Beretta 92F was selected, narrowly beating the Sig P226 mostly due to cost. Designated the M9, this pistol’s story bears some similarity to the M16 rifle. Both were to use a NATO-standard round and both Continue reading

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Pistol Review: Ruger LC9

Ruger LC9

When I first heard about Ruger’s follow-up to the LCP, the LC9, I was immediately interested. On a personal level I find the idea of using 9mm for a deep-concealment pistol very attractive. I like keeping my calibers to a minimum and since I reload 9mm it makes practicing a lot simpler and cheaper. In the case of .380 ammo, much cheaper. So it was very exciting when I finally got the chance to shoot one yesterday. Continue reading

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Reloader’s Corner: How to remove a stuck case

.223 case stuck in a Hornady sizing die

They say there are two kinds of reloaders: those that have gotten a case stuck in a resizing die and those that will. I don’t know about that (Kevin apparently never has) but I do know that I recently got one stuck while reloading .223 rounds. Continue reading

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CED M2: Chronograph that does it all

CED M2 Chronograph Main Unit

For those of us that reload for competitive shooting, knowing a round’s velocity is critical. In USPSA the all-important Power Factor is determined by multiplying velocity and bullet weight then dividing by 1000. Example: 124gr bullets traveling at 1050 fps yield a PF of 130.2 (124 x 1050 = 130,200 / 1000 = 130.2). With USPSA Production having a minimum Minor PF of 125, the above results would comfortably make the necessary minimum PF. In order to determine whether our rounds make the grade we must reliably measure velocity. We do that with a chronograph. While there are many fine units on the market, one company’s offering stands out: the CED M2. Continue reading

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CETME .308 battle rifle: a brief history

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the genesis of the CETME assault rifle. The story goes like this: Towards the end of WWII, the Germans developed the StG44

StG44 "Sturm Gewehr"

Sturmgewehr, which is considered the first true Assault Rifle. It was late in the war and the gun never saw full production. Also under development was the similar StG45, which would become the basis for the CETME. At the war’s conclusion Ludwig Vorgrimler, a german engineer, joined the development team at Centro de Estudios Técnicos de Materiales Especiales (Center for Technical Studies of Special Materials) Continue reading

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USPSA: 9mm bullets for Production – what weight?

A friend recently mentioned that he had tried out some “sub-sonic 9mm ammo” that was supposed to be good for use in USPSA Production class shooting. He asked me what I thought, which resulted in the following response.

Before I comment on subsonic ammo, a few words are in order:

As a competitive shooter, one of the key reasons for reloading is to work up a tuned round specifically to work with one’s tuned pistol to produce shots with little felt recoil that still achieve minimum power factor for the division one is shooting. In our case (Production division) everyone is scored Minor Power Factor (MinorPF), so there’s no advantage to loading higher than that. Minimum MinorPF is 125. This is Mass (bullet weight in grains) times velocity divided by 1000. So, if you are shooting 115gr bullets at 1100 feet-per-second that equals a PF of 126.5, or just over the minimum for Minor. Most factory ammo is hotter than this, which results in a higher PF but also much greater felt recoil. Shooters desiring less recoil and more control can achieve this by trading velocity for bullet weight. Continue reading

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AR-15: Handguards and Barrels

Recently a friend asked me a few questions about an AR-15 he was considering for purchase. It prompted a lengthy response on my part that I thought would be good to share here. The rifle in question was a Smith & Wesson M&P15PS, which is a piston carbine with traditional carbine-length handguards. Here is a summary of his questions:

Do you know if it’s possible to put a longer handguard on a carbine setup?  The handguard always look so short which seems to be bad for retention and also for possibly burning your self or resting it on something…  I would like to put a longer handguard on the M&P piston one, but would then need to put a rail mount sight further down the barrel do you know about people doing stuff like that?

As you can imagine, I had a few things to say about this setup:

I don’t know much about that particular model but on paper it looks like a decent, relatively basic rifle. I don’t see a forward sling mount and the barrel is the “M4 contour” which I would avoid personally given the relative thinness of the barrel at several points along the barrel. Sure, it probably won’t matter under light use but a medium or heavy barrel will last longer and dissipate heat better, especially under rapid or extended fire.

You asked about the handguard. The standard carbine-length hand guard is 7-8″. Mid-length is usually 9-10″ and rifle length is 12″. Given that this rifle has a piston system you might be limited in what you can do. Specifically, you mentioned concerns for having the hot components touching stuff. I’m not really sure this is something to be concerned about. I can’t imagine ever reaching my hand that far forward while carrying or shooting the gun although I do like the 10″ rail on my SR-556, which covers most of the gas block. Perhaps with your reach it could be an issue but that setup is standard issue for M4 military users (82nd Airborne, Rangers, etc.). You might touch something with the barrel or gas block, but that’s possible with any AR-15.

So, with the gas block you have, there may be no way to put a free-float tube on that rifle without it being some sort of over-size (large diameter) tube. You can of course replace those handguards with anything else that will fit a carbine setup but that will by definition not go beyond the front handguard ring, i.e., not achieve your stated goal.

My preference is and has always been to have a free-floating handguard with an integrated rail system (quad rail). This is because you can attach a sling, bipod or whatever you want and not have it create any stress on the barrel. If you press hard into a sling that is attached to the barrel, you can significantly change the geometry such that your shot goes way left (or right in your case). Same goes for bipod: it can make the POI go high if attached directly to the barrel as is the case with rail systems that simply replace the stock handguards.

The rifle in question looks quite good as a general purpose carbine. Put an optic on the top rail and you are all set. However, you don’t have any mounting points for lights, FVG, bipod, etc. and if you created a sling mount on the hand guard, that would stress the barrel as mentioned.

If this is to be a patrol carbine you have to ask yourself which features are really important. Would you even use a sling? Probably only in a SWAT/HRT role I would think. Same goes for FVG, bipod and perhaps even for a tactical light although I certainly keep one on my AR at all times. Bad things don’t always happen in the daylight.

Lastly, you mentioned the need to place a front sight further down the barrel if you covered or otherwise compromised the existing front rail, right? Be aware that this would only be ideal if the sight is rigidly attached to either the barrel or a free-floating handguard. In other words, if you cover that existing gas block with some sort of after-market extensions, they may not be rigid enough (mounted in the handguard rings) to keep zero with the new front sight. The plastic handguards don’t usually have to be held very tightly in place.

So, I would say that it is probably hard to go wrong buying any M&P product but depending on your intended purpose this particular model might be too much of a compromise. Then again, it might be perfect as a light, simple, accurate piston gun. Only you can determine that.

Well, you knew you would get an earful, didn’t you? 😉 Darn it, I need to get back to my blog!

And so I have.

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And the winner is…

…me! I won the “caption this” contest from Apex Tactical for my caption. Click the picture to read them all. Some are quite funny. Randy and Scott from Apex Tactical are the lucky guys in the photo.

“Man, Shrek, are those mouse-fart loads you’re shooting or did you just…”
“Shut up and shoot, Donkey!”

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USPSA Pistol Shooting: Managing the Mag Release

The modern semi-automatic pistol uses a single or double-stack magazine held in place by a catch. To remove the magazine requires pressing a magazine release button which disengages the catch and allows the magazine to fall free. Pistols normally have this button located on the left side of the grip frame, just aft of the bottom of the trigger guard. For many right-handed shooters this is perfectly functional, allowing the right thumb to shift slightly to press the mag release but not so easy that the mag is dropped inadvertently.

Unfortunately there are quite a few people that can’t easily reach the mag release so they have to pivot the pistol counter-clockwise about 45 degrees to allow the thumb to reach. For those of us in USPSA, this can be a real problem, especially when moving or turning to the left. The trouble relates to that all-important safety rule: the 180. At no time is the muzzle of a shooter’s pistol allowed to break the 180-degree plane that separates up-range from down-range. When shooting my SR9, the sticky mag release (even after it was massaged it was still really stiff) would often require that I pivot the gun even further t0 get a good, solid punch with my thumb. I had a few very close calls at matches that made me change how I held the pistol during mag changes: I had to hold the pistol to my right, well offline so that even with the pivot it was well short of breaking the 180.

I’ve heard arguments from 1911 shooters that this is just a part of life and that everyone should be able to flip the gun to reach the mag release then flip it back to shoot. They claim that this is actually a safety feature to avoid accidentally dropping the mag. Well, I rather doubt that John Moses Browning intended for his large-handed brethren to be able to operate the pistol easily while the rest of us were kept safe from ourselves by not being able to reach the release. No, in fact I think that he simply designed the gun as best he could to work well for most of his intended customers.

When I recently switched from the SR9 to the M&P9 I found that while the mag release was vastly superior to that of the SR9, it was still really tough to insure that I could reach it every single time, even with the smallest “palm swell” insert on the backstrap. There were some memorable miscues where I just couldn’t make it happen. This got me thinking…

This past summer (2010) I had a chance to shoot Bill’s Sig 226 for a week. He had the mag release switched to the right side since he is a lefty. After some fiddling around, I determined that using the middle finger of my right hand to punch the mag release worked really well. It allowed my trigger finger to index high along the slide, where it naturally tends to go, and required no pivoting of the pistol at all. Maybe this would work for the M&P.

I looked over the manual and switching the mag release from left to right (and vice-versa) was incredibly easy, requiring only a small punch, screwdriver, or even a knife blade. I made the change and haven’t looked back. I can’t believe how easy it is to drop the mags this way! The M&P has a raised, stippled button, which really helps but having it on the right side is clearly better for me and I have never accidentally dropped a mag after about 5k rounds. Not only that but my mag changes are noticeably quicker.

So, if you have small hands this might be a good solution. And if you have an M&P, you can try it both ways during your next visit to the range and see for yourself.

Now, where’s that Brownells catalog? I need to order a Lefty mag release for my 1911!

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