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
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 “CETME .308 battle rifle: a brief history”
I’ve long been a fan of .44 Magnum revolvers. Like many of us, I first saw one of these in the Dirty Harry movies. The venerable Model 29 carried by Inspector Callahan had been around almost two decades before the first film but what most people don’t know is that it was not in fact the first .44 Magnum on the market. It was beaten to market by several months in 1956 by Bill Ruger’s Blackhawk. The story of how this happened remains shrouded in mystery but the commonly-held assumption is that a Ruger employee found some brass on the range where the round was being tested and brought it back to the armory. Regardless of its genesis, the Blackhawk has secured a place in American firearms history that is still being written.
When Kevin told me he was going to sell his New Model Super Blackhawk, I knew I had to have it. I had already shot it many times and given its history I could not resist. From what I can tell the pistol was manufactured in 1987. The gun is very rugged. The frame is extremely solid and is built to shoot full-power .44 Magnum loads all day long. This was in fact Kevin’s “Bush Gun” when he lived in Alaska. There are not many pistols in the world that can be depended on to stop a Brown Bear but with 300gr FMJ bullets traveling at 1,200 fps, the only real question is “can I make the shot?”
The pistol has a really beefy cylinder too, which it needs of course to handle the high pressures of the round. It also has an adjustable rear sight and a scope rail on top. For safety there is a trigger bar separating the hammer and firing pin, protecting against impact-related accidental discharge. Being a single-action-only pistol and with a one-round-at-a-time loading and unloading scheme, it is not a gun for rapid firing and reloading, although I’ve seen Cowboy shooters do an impressive job while “fanning” the hammer.
I have to say that this is in fact one of my favorite guns. There’s just something about shooting it that is very gratifying. The trigger is light and crisp. The recoil of full-power loads is considerable but the results are equally impressive. From a home defense perspective this pistol is outstanding, provided you can become comfortable handling it. It is small enough to wield in close quarters but powerful enough to stop any threat. In fact, the sight of the weapon alone would give most intruders pause. The fireball from the muzzle blast is also spectacular, especially in low/no light.
Arguably the best feature of this revolver is that it is inexpensive. It is also very accurate, reliable and durable. And you never know when you might run into a Cape Buffalo in your yard 😉
I have mentioned the Mr. Bullet Feeder (MBF) in my post about the Dillon XL650 progressive reloading press but I feel that the device deserves its own post. It is a product that while obviously working as a part of something larger is in and of itself a remarkable achievement.
For those who started on single-stage reloading presses, the move to a turret press (where multiple dies can be rotated for use above a single case) is a big improvement. It allows the reloader to perform all the reloading steps within a relatively short period of time.
A true progressive press is similar to the turret press. It too has multiple dies in a tool head. The big difference is that the progressive press keeps the dies in place and has the cases move under them sequentially on a rotating shell plate, thus allowing multiple actions with each pull of the handle. Consequently the rate of round production goes up by a factor of X, where X is the number of stations (case/die positions) on the shell plate. With simpler progressives, the reloader still has to perform all the same actions as with the turret press, unless the press is designed to automate additional functions.
As press design improved and reloaders wanted more and more automation we got things like the automatic primer and automatic powder feeders, the latter being a huge time saver. Measuring out precise powder loads is of course essential for reloading and once that became automated it really sped up the process. The Dillon 550 press is a great example of a 4-station press that had all these features but it still required manually placing a case in the first station of the shell plate, manually indexing the plate to the next position after each stroke and manually placing the bullet on the case prior to seating and crimping. In the last year or so Dillon has in fact began producing an automatic case feeder for this press so it can be said that the operation can be done without taking one’s right hand off the handle, but the left hand would still have to index the plate and place the bullet.
I’ve already discussed the Dillon XL650 so rather than belabor the point I will simply say that it adds a fifth station and automatic indexing to the already-impressive functions of the 550B. With the 650’s optional case feeder installed this leaves only one task for the left hand: placing the bullet.
As you can see in the picture of the 550B, there is a tray on the left side of the press for placing bullets. This allows quick retrieval and placement of the bullet after each stroke. Many people find this to be a great way to reload. Rounds can in fact be produced very quickly using this setup. Nevertheless, many of us opt for the next evolutionary step in automation by installing an automatic bullet feed system. Once you’ve tried it the system is irresistible .
There are several manufacturers of bullet feeders but the one that has arguably the best reputation is the Mr. Bullet Feeder. I had used the one Glyn has on his Dillon Super 1050 so I knew how much it increased reloading efficiency. When I started using my XL650 without it I realized immediately that my setup wasn’t nearly as quick and efficient. It wasn’t long before I bought one for myself.
The kit for the XL650 comes with a PVC base that holds the main portion of the device (bullet hopper w/ collator plate, motor, guide plates and bullet tube) and this is attached to a simple but very effective bracket that attaches directly to the case feeder support tube. Included in the kit are replacement bolts to accommodate the additional thickness from the added bracket.
The other component of the system is the bullet dropper assembly, which is mounted as a die in the tool head. This device holds a stack of bullets sufficient to produce the downward force necessary to place a single bullet firmly on each case as the case is raised up into the bottom of the dropper. The dropper also houses a sensor switch that tells the collator motor to run when the stack is short. I in fact had a failure of this switch but one quick email later and Rick had the replacement on its way. Gotta love that kind of customer service!
This system takes up no additional space on the reloading bench, is not in the way on the press and perfectly places a bullet on every case that comes by. I purchased kits for 9mm, .45acp and .223. The bullet droppers stay mounted in their respective tool heads so switching calibers takes about 2 minutes longer than before the MBF. You do have to 1) change the collator plate (just like the case feeder), 2) change a small guide plate next to the exit tube on the collator and 3) depending on the caliber, you might need to swap out the tube that connects to the bullet dropper. Very simple.
A reasonable question at this point is “why not put a motor on this thing and reload while you take a nap?” The reloading process as we private reloaders practice it is one of subtleties. The act of pulling the handle not only produces the force that does the reloading but it also provides us sensory feedback as to what is happening within the press. As I pull the handle I know at each point in the stroke what I should feel during a normal pass. If something feels wrong, it probably is. The most common problem is with primer feeding. I know immediately if the primer didn’t seat correctly so I pull that case out of the press and discard it. This would not be possible with a motorized press.
As for the Mr. Bullet Feeder, I couldn’t be happier. The instructions are good, the installation easy and the performance outstanding.
NOTE: In my original post on the Dillon XL650, I mentioned the following regarding where to mount the MRBF:
“Given that the bullet feeder requires a station and the fact that I wanted to use the powder check die (seeing a pistol go kaboom is an eye-opening experience) I got hold of an RCBS seat/crimp die for station five. I have found this to be an ideal setup for 9mm.”
Sometimes things find their way into our lives with little fanfare or notice, yet when removed the void is dramatic. Such is the case with a simple but extremely effective device made by Towa, a Japanese company specializing in labels and applicators. This tool transforms target pasting from a tedious, time consuming task into an almost unconscious activity.
Prior to my involvement with USPSA practical shooting, I used bulls-eye targets, silhouette targets, reactive steel targets and the occasional water-filled container or hapless vegetable. (As a vegetarian I find this last item is particularly fitting). All this worked fine but once I got into the high-volume round counts typical of USPSA, the need for quickly covering the holes in targets became critical. If you’ve ever hand-pasted targets at a match you know what I mean. peeling individual pasters off the backing and applying them by hand is very slow, not to mention the fact that oils from fingers make the pasters stick less effectively.
Enter the Towa APN-30 applicator. This device was previously known as the AP65-30 and may still be listed as such in catalogs. It was originally made for package labeling but somebody figured out that pasters on 1″ wide rolls would work perfectly in this rig. It can be a little tricky opening and loading the roll, but once it’s ready pasters can be applied as fast as the targets are scored. Each squeeze of the lever produces a single paster out the end, ready to be pressed onto the target. I have found that a gentle downward wiping motion is all that is required for the pasters to be securely applied to the target.
One word of advice: as the roll of backing works its way out the bottom of the applicator, resist the temptation to tear it off right at the bottom of the exit point. This will often result in a jam that stops the device after a dozen or so pasters. Tear the backing away several inches below the exit point GENTLY and it will work just fine.
At $79.95 each these are not inexpensive but they work so well and so fast that most serious shooters have at least one. Shooter’s Connection always has them in stock.
Russian ammunition has long been available in the US to anyone shooting the classic 7.62x39R AK/SKS caliber. While much if not most of it may look the same, there are significant differences. The vast majority of this ammunition is produced in one of two plants in Russia: Bear in Bernaul and Wolf in Tula. These are enormous plants that are emblematic of the Soviet military/industrial expansion during the Cold War.
While all ammo produced by Bear/Wolf has been steel cased, early production included a lacquer coating to protect against rust. This is all but gone now (a few pallets may remain in the back of a warehouse here or there) with the new cases sporting a polymer coating instead. This greatly reduces the problems with melted lacquer fouling the chamber. Of course, this problem really was only significant with .223/5.56 cartridges and not with the AK round.
What really sets the Wolf Military Classic JHP apart from the rest for me is the waterproof sealant around the bullet and the primer, the tighter quality control (currently at least) and the hollow point terminal ballistics. Interestingly enough, when considering full metal jacket ammunition, the terminal ballistics for .223/5.56 is more impressive than that of the 7.62x39R round. This is assuming relatively short-range engagements. This is because the AK round tends to over-penetrate (through-and-through) whereas the AR round penetrates a short distance, yaws then disintegrates causing massive wounding. In the case of the 124gr JHP round under consideration, this counter-intuitive condition does not exist. Nothing short of a .308 can outperform the devastating terminal ballistics of this round.
So, why don’t I buy some Winchester White Box then reload this round instead of only shooting factory ammo? Mainly it is an issue of cost. For me, the AK-47 fills the role of low-cost, high-powered, dependable defensive rifle, chambered in the second most common caliber in the Western world. Having a highly-tuned round would be a waste frankly. When was the last time you heard the phrase “7.62×39 Match ammo”? Given that the rifle was designed from the ground up to shoot steel cases (unlike most Western rifles) there’s no worry about broken extractors or ejectors due to the introduction of the steel case. So low-cost Russian ammo is perfect for this application.
There are many great online sources for this round. I normally purchase 1,000-round cases so that I can keep plenty of mags loaded with fresh rounds and still keep proficient with the weapon by shooting it on a regular basis. I probably shoot the gun 60-80 rounds a month, sometimes more in the warmer months. Again, this is just to keep familiar and make sure the gun doesn’t get rusty or full of lint or cobwebs.
So, what about practice rounds? Well, given the low cost of this round, it makes sense to simply use the same round in practice that I would for defensive purposes. It makes it simple to buy, shoot, store and plan for my AK ammo.
I recently had the chance to check out a Sig522 rifle, owned by my friend Dashiell. While I was evaluating the rifle it was pointed out that our friend Bill had the Sig556, on which the 522 was modeled. Wouldn’t it be interesting to look at them together? Shazam! It was done.
I had both rifles for a week, during which time I shot them both several times, separately and together. What follows are my thoughts on the subject.
But first, some current events…
There is quite a trend lately by firearms manufacturers to build copies of their battle rifles chambered in .22lr. It seems to me that two things are driving this. First, a .22lr version is cheaper to buy and much cheaper to shoot than a 5.56/.223 version and second, the brand name and the form factor attract many folks who might not be nearly as excited by say a Ruger 10/22, which is arguably the best all-around .22lr rifle currently in mass production. Speaking of Ruger, even they have succumbed to the allure by producing the SR-22, which at its core is in fact a 10/22. Here’s how they summarize the rifle:
“The final product is an affordable, feature-loaded rifle that faithfully replicates the AR-platform dimensions between the sighting plane, buttstock height, and grip. Although it looks really cool out of the box, there is an extensive array of accessories available allowing a custom configuration, limited only by the shooter’s preferences.”
The SR-22’s internals are pure 10/22 but wrapping it in an AR-15 “skin” is apparently a marketing requirement. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time that companies have jumped in like Lemmings to the sea, but perhaps there’s more to the story. After all, buyers aren’t foolish enough to buy a $400 rimfire rifle just because it “…looks really cool out of the box…” would they? OK, some undoubtedly will, but there’s more to the story I think.
Stay with me for a minute.
The Sig556 is an export version of the Swiss SG-550 military issue rifle. Actually, Sig has based enough of its business here in the US to establish themselves as a US arms manufacturer, so technically the rifle is not an import for us. The parts however are mostly from Switzerland and Germany.
I found the rifle to be a great handling weapon. It is a bit heavier than a standard M4-style AR-15 but lighter than my Ruger SR-556. It feels really solid. The rifle uses standard AR-15 magazines. (I used stanag and PMags without issue) The trigger was adequate but had a long take-up and reset. I suspect one could get perfectly accustomed to shooting this rifle and the ergonomics were great except for the safety. It is simply too far forward to reach with my thumb unless I un-shoulder the rifle and twist my hand 90 degrees around the pistol grip. I found it much simpler to use my index finger to operate the safety on the right side (strong side) of the receiver. This is not easy to do after being so accustomed to the AR platform. In fairness, it is much easier to operate than say an AK-47.
The setup of Bill’s Sig556 included an optional fore stock with small rail sections. This allows quick-disconnect sling mounts, etc. The rifle also sports a nice CompM3 battle sight, which is awesome. All this works just fine for me except for that darned safety. Shooters with larger hands will have no problem however.
With this rifle’s long-stroke piston, solid design and manufacturing, and the Sig reputation for quality, I am certain this gun would be a reliable weapon. For shooters with smaller hands it might be problematic however.
One functional issue I must mention is that the rifle is tough on brass. At first I couldn’t find my spent casings. After several minutes of looking further and further afield, I found them about 30 feet away at about the 1 o’clock position. The gun does have a gas adjustment so perhaps this could be dialed down a bit to keep the brass closer and more at the 3 o’clock position. I didn’t want to mess with Bill’s setup so I left it alone but I will say that every single case (a couple different factory loads and several different handloads) was dented significantly in more than one location on each. As a reloader this is a major concern. I would not reload these cases. Some would, noting that a full-length sizing die would do much to restore the case to its original dimensions. Nevertheless I suspect these dents would not be fully removed. Some were worse than those in the included photo. Given the tremendous stresses these cases endure, I would not feel comfortable reloading the brass coming from the Sig556. Of course if you don’t reload then this is irrelevant.
OK, so the Sig556 is a nice gun. But what about this .22lr version? Glad you asked. The Sig522 is a very interesting firearm to me. Leaving aside it’s pedigree, it is just a fun gun to shoot. The included mag holds 22 rounds of .22lr and with the weapon’s heft (slightly less than the Sig556) there is essentially zero felt recoil. I had intended to shoot only about 100 rounds and before I knew it I had burned a whole brick! This is of course the beauty of .22lr. All this for about $16. With the rifle’s top rail the installation of optics is easy and then you’ve got a pretty close replica of the Sig556. So, why have this thing?
I think that aside from pure cool factor, there’s a very good reason to have the Sig522: for training purposes if you happen to already shoot the Sig556. Perhaps it is obvious to others but this was a novel idea for me. Training with .223 rounds can quickly become a very expensive proposition, but if a shooter with a Sig556 wanted to get in some trigger time on the cheap, the Sig522 would work nicely as a substitute. This is particularly true when the actual shooting isn’t the most critical component of the tactical training. For movement drills, room clearing, stacked approaches, etc., this rifle would allow the same muscle memory development as the 556 and would even allow the trigger pulls, but without the cost associated with the 5.56/.223 rounds. Is this ideal? Probably not, but it beats dry fire drills or simply not training.
So, in summary I like both these guns and I think the 522 is a good replica for the 556. I can’t say that I would go buy either of these guns myself, especially with the safety location on both, but I can appreciate what others like about them. I will say that if push came to shove I would not hesitate to depend on the Sig556.
With the expiration of the so-called Assault Weapons Ban (don’t get me started!) there has been a proliferation of Kalashnikov variants sold in the US. These rifles are almost always built on parts manufactured in former Soviet bloc countries. This is possible because the parts are imported to the US then built into rifles by US companies with a few US-made parts such that they qualify as domestically-produced firearms.
There are many companies that have gotten into the business of parts-built AKs, some of which have good reputations and some not-so-good. One firm that has been quietly building a name for itself is IO, Inc. of Monroe, North Carolina. I purchased one of their AK-47C rifles in 2009. This rifle has proven to be a perfect incarnation of the iconic weapon. That means that the rifle is a no-nonsense, no-frills rifle that just runs and runs. The imported parts are Romanian so the quality is probably not as good as a Yugoslavian kit but with this platform we are talking about relatively minor differences.
When I received the rifle I was surprised at how well it was put together. I have shot a lot of kit guns and I’ve seen some really awful fit/finish jobs. This rifle was nicely appointed with Tapco buttstock, pistol grip and Galil-style front stock. Tapco is no Magpul but they are good at making decent inexpensive components. The gun also came with a Tapco 30-round magazine, which I didn’t like much because it was too smooth and hard to grip.
Within about 300 rounds I did experience a problem: the tiny trigger disconnect spring broke. I contacted IO and they wanted me to send the gun back to them for warranty repair. The cost of the spring was nothing compared to shipping costs so I said “no thanks”. Honestly, they should have just sent me the spring but perhaps I spoke with the wrong person. Anyway, while tracking down that little spring locally, I formally met Glyn, our local USPSA guru, and the rest is history.
While the trigger was apart I took the opportunity to replace the “shepherd’s hook” trigger group retaining spring with a flat steel plate. Brownell‘s had everything I needed, as usual. That Shepherd’s Hook is really tough to reinstall so I was glad to see it gone. Also the retaining plate can’t break like a spring can. Since this repair/modification, I haven’t had any sort of failure or problem with the rifle and I’ve put several thousand rounds of Winchester, Wolf and Mil-Surp ammo through it.
A few other things I changed: I installed a 3-point sling because I just can’t get into that low-carry business. I want to actually aim my shots. I’m funny that way. Second, I installed a Tapco side-folding stock. The stock is a bit longer than the fixed unit it came with, which I don’t particularly like, but the benefit of the folder outweighs the slightly longer length of pull. Being able to wield the rifle in close-quarters is a big plus in my opinion. That and stowing it becomes much easier. Another must-have item for me is the excellent FSC47 “flash-suppressing compensator” from Primary Weapons Systems. With the heavier AK round this device makes a big difference in felt recoil and in target reacquisition. The funny red O-ring really is the right part: the comp stays put due to a spring-loaded retaining pin so the O-ring is just to stop the rattling of the comp on the barrel. Yeah, it’s an AK thing. 😉
I would consider this a good “truck gun” if I didn’t already have the SU-16C. Nevertheless, it is a solid performer that I would recommend to anyone looking for a decent, low-cost AK.
I have a lot of fun shooting firearms but let’s face it, we really do this for a much more important reason than simple pleasure. While it is true that many people hunt with guns, most hunting is done with long guns so time spent shooting pistols has a more profound purpose: self-defense. The handgun is the great equalizer, allowing almost anyone the ability to wield deadly force. This makes it much tougher for an assailant to justify risking their own safety by jeopardizing that of a would-be victim. So, if all this is true then the only remaining question is: how effective will I be when it really counts?
My skills as a shooter ultimately serve to give me every possible advantage in a lethal force scenario. I simply will not give an advantage to an adversary If I can avoid it. Life is precious and I’ll be damned if I will let someone take it away from me, my loved ones or any innocent person. In order to be most effective it takes a reliable, accurate weapon, skills, preparation and perhaps most overlooked of all: the best ammunition available.
I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus (well, mostly I don’t) or any magic bullet that through mystical properties is perfectly effective against any and all adversaries. I believe, as do most experts in the field, that Marshal and Sanow’s famed study was deeply flawed and that the holy grail of firearms science, “stopping power”, is at best an incredibly complex phenomenon. Stopping Power, Knock-Down Power and One-Shot Stop Effectiveness are all really constructs of fertile imaginations and perhaps over-zealous gun writers. They are really just efforts to reduce data almost to the point of no meaning.
Does this mean that the famed .357 magnum is no better than a .380acp? Not at all. What it means is that whenever we discuss terminal ballistics we have to keep in mind that this is only a fraction of what goes into making ammunition truly effective. Above all else, shot placement is absolutely the most critical factor of effectiveness.
So, with all that said, the specific ammunition chosen for defensive/carry purposes is more important than most people think. Winchester White Box 115gr. FMJ rounds are great for practice but when life is at stake I want the very best I can buy. You will notice I said “buy” and not “load”. I make match ammo myself, which is very reliable and carefully constructed, but when life is on the line, I want rounds that are made in large batches with intense quality control before, during and after the process. I want those rounds to be made from the highest quality materials with the best properties for the application. And arguably nobody does that better than Hornady.
After looking over the usual suspects for defensive rounds, I recently selected Hornady’s Critical Defense line of ammunition for my personal carry rounds. They are Jacketed Hollow-Point bullets (Hornady’s patented FTX model) in nickel cases with fast-burning, low flash powders. This powder selection permits full velocity to be achieved even in short-barreled pistols while minimizing muzzle flash and thereby visibility. They also have a rubber plug in the slug cavity to keep lint, etc., out of the nose of the bullet. This material is designed to keep stuff out but to completely disintegrate upon impact, leaving the bullet to do its job. The nickel case is designed to reduce tarnishing and allow easy chamber checks even in low light.
As with any defensive rounds, you should always fire enough of them through your gun to insure they will function properly. I put about 100 through each gun and they were flawless. The cost is inline with other defensive rounds and for me is a bargain at twice the price.
I like this round, especially for smaller concealed carry pistols and with Hornady’s commitment to excellence I would bet my life on it.
When first looking for a CCW pistol I was interested in several criteria: size, weight, conceal-ability, reliability and power. There are lots of manufacturers of 9mm sub-compact guns on the market today and they make some fine pistols. There are also lots of nice compact and sub-compact 1911s out there. All these are nice but sometimes there is a requirement for a really, REALLY concealable weapon. Here’s where the .380 acp round shines. It’s the same diameter as the 9mm but only 17mm long instead of 19 for the Parabellum. The bullet is usually 85-90gr and is going a little slower than the 9mm but many people agree that it is still adequate for close-quarters self-defense work. I certainly think so.
My first experience shooting a .380 was, like many of us, with the venerable Walther PPK. Anyone who grew up watching James Bond movies would immediately recognize this pistol. Unfortunately, like much Hollywood fare, the reality was less than expected. The PPK has a nasty habit of slide-biting the shooter and I just never really liked them. Enter the Argentine manufacturer Bersa and their Thunder 380. I got my hands on a CC model and that replaced the XD9 sub-compact I had been carrying. I liked it quite a bit but I somehow felt something was missing.
Eventually I decided to go back to the 9mm as my primary CCW caliber but I wanted a deep-concealment option in the form of a .380. I shot a couple of Kel-Tec P3AT pistols and was not happy. The snappy little thing would consistently jump up in my hand with every shot such that I would go from two fingers on the grip to only one thus requiring a grip adjustment between every single shot. Having a gun trying to jump out of your hand is not a good feeling, especially if this was a life-and-death scenario.
When Ruger released the LCP it looked so much like the P3-AT that I figured they were simply trying to cash in on the mouse gun’s popularity by cloning the design. This was certainly not the case. I tried shooting a couple of different LCPs and I was really impressed. The ergonomics are subtly different such that with a firm grip, the pistol stays exactly in place while firing. It is also accurate, as much as it can be given the size and very low-profile sights.
The LCP is not a particularly pleasant gun to shoot. With its low mass the .380 round makes it a real handful to shoot, but like anything with regular practice it becomes routine. I find that I can keep all my hits in the A zone at 10 yards, even shooting rapidly. Given the long
double-action only trigger that does take some practice.
Tucked into a nice pocket holster (get one with the rubber strips on the side so it stays in your pocket when you pluck the pistol out) this pistol is almost not there. I like the square pocket holsters because they keep the gun properly oriented for a quick and easy draw and they avoid the dreaded “printing” issue.
With it’s ultra-thin, ultra-light form factor and it’s excellent quality, I consider the LCP my ultimate “pocket protector”.