Friday, January 13, 2017

My Pre-SHOT Predications — The Year of the PCC

Sig MPX, the uber-9

With just a few days to go until SHOT, I think we can see a little more through the glass darkly. Here are some random thoughts:

2017 is the Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine.

In the last few days I've been flooded with news releases on PCCs. There are a lot of "dedicated" units out there, plus most of the big AR makers have already, or are planning to, push PCCs to market. We've covered this topic extensively here on the blog/podcast, on Facebook on and on SHOOTING GALLERY. In fact, this season on SHOOTING GALLERY we will feature 9mm carbines and pistols and discuss their rise. So remember, you heard it here first!

Several sub-points on this one:

-- Companies who got in early stand to reap big rewards. Kel-Tec with their Sub 2000 comes to mind immediately, We used Sub 2000s in the AMERICAN MARKSMAN finals, and they were a huge success…not to mention workhorses.

-- In the AR arena, CMMGJP Rifles and Rock River are all veterans in the market with solid products. JP has an upgraded version of their GMR-13, the GMR-15. I have a lot of experience with the JP GMR-13, and I would unequivocally say it is the top of the heap in 9mm carbines. But JP now has a lot of competition. Billy Wilson jumped into the fray last year with the Wilson Combat AR-9…I own Wilson Combat rifles and I've had a few minutes with Mike Seeklander's AR-9. It is a superb carbine, which is what I would expect from Wilson Combat.

--Sig Sauer has a MASSIVE hit with their MPX carbine (and the pistol version, for that matter), as does CZ with their relatively inexpensive Scorpion EVO carbines and pistols. The MPX has dropped neatly into the "MP-5 Oh My God I Have to Have One of Those!!!" category…I suspect if Sig could 3X their output, they could sell every one tomorrow afternoon. Sig's MPX (and CZ EVO carbine) sales will be driven even more by the next point…

-- USPSA has a huge home run on their hands with the Pistol Caliber Carbine division. New USPSA President Mike Foley took a big swing and hit this one out of the park. The first PCC Nationals will be held later this year, and the Sig MPX has — initially — emerged as the go-to gun for the division. I could go into a lot of blatherings about why PCC is the right division at the right time, but let me just throw some things out there…pent-up demand generated by 3-Gun, which is constrained by it high barriers-to-entry, ability to run PCC matches or ranges with only pistol bays, and ammo costs. Watch this one!

-- PCC-oriented companies like Quarter Circle 10 and Angstadt Arms stand on the verge of big growth, if they can keep from being run over by the big boys. Both of these companies build superb products. The "My Little Friend" pistol project for SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE is based on QC10 products, and the Angstadt Arms pistol I have is destined to become an SBR. ARES Defense (now doing business as FightLite), the innovative AR-based company that pioneered the belt-fed AR and the traditionally styled AR-based SCR rifle, is going whole hog into the PCC market, with carbines/pistols based on their submachine gun platform, that features the ability to convert to a number of different pistol magazines. I note there's even a Nigerian company, BNTI Arms, with U.S. headquarters in Jacksonville, rolling out a 9mm into the U.S. market.

-- The rise of PCC also breathes life into a couple of other areas. For example, IWI, whose Tavor bullpup was the best-selling 5.56 carbine in the U.S. last year, offers 9mm conversion units and full 9mm carbines, using Colt-style mags. I will be running an IWI X95 9mm in USPSA PCC division later this year. Beretta's CX4 Storm carbine should also see abig boost. One other area to watch is the RONI pistol carbine conversion units. Having worked with SBR versions of this platform, it has a lot of potential. If you're willing to pony up the $200 and hang around for 6 or 7 months for the SBR paperwork (there is a carbine version), it's a neat idea to be able to ratchet your pistol into the RONI and have a carbine. If you don't want to go the SBR route, Mech-Tech has had their CCU pistol conversion system around for years…I think I still have a 1911 version from 15 years ago in my safe.

-- Other companies that stand to benefit from this trend are makers of 9mm carbines like TNW Firearms and their multicolored Aero Survival Rifles, which recently got an excellent review from AMERICAN RIFLEMAN. Other dedicated 9mm carbine companies like Just Right and Thureon Defense stand to benefit as well.

-- I think part of the PCC explosion on the AR platform is due to the debugging of the Glock magazine platform. Carbines/pistols using Glock mags are an easy step for not just Glock pistol owners, but because of their easy availability and larger capacity (30+ round mags from Glock, ETS and the Koreans) are a good choice for everyone. However, the venerable Colt magazines are far from dead. The original 9mm AR submachine gun, the Colt 635 from the early 1980s, used magazines based on the Uzi (and Uzi mags could be adapted to fit), and that magazine quickly became the standard for 9mm AR platform carbines and pistols. There are a LOT of Colt pattern mags out there, and since many many companies are committed to the Colt mags, there is a lot of development… Stag and IWI-branded mags are a definite step up, available in 10, 20 and 30 round versions.

-- The growth in the AR platform PCCs is being helped by the widespread availability of dedicated AR lowers for Colt or Glock magazines, as opposed to the magazines spacer blocks used originally by Colt and most of the AR pistol manufacturers for the last couple of decades. Well made spacers were no problemo (my Spike's Tactical pistol, for example) but there were some really crappy example out there that caused no end to problems.

-- A couple of more platforms to watch…with this renewed interest in 9m carbines and carbine-based pistols, the venerable HK MP-5 is staging a major clone comeback. HK is offering, essentially, their own MP-5 clone, the SP5K in pistol version (although I have been told a carbine version is in the works). It uses the classic HK roller delayed blowback system, is crazy accurate and costs a lot, in the $2700 range, a grand more than the Sig MPX — although, to be honest, all the MP-5 clones will set you back more than any of the guns we've talked about. I've run the Brethern Arms clones — probably my choice if I was buying — and they were super, being, in effect, semi-custom guns. THE FIREARM BLOG recently did a list of the other MP-5 clones out there. Realistically, if you want to go full John McClane and, in your dreams, launch Hans Gruber off Nakatomi Plaza, this is the way you've got to go.

-- Finally, and a readily admit this is an outlier, you can get an M1 Carbine in 9mm from Chiappa Firearms. I love M1 Carbines and am at a loss to understand why I don't have one. The Chiappa runs off Beretta 9mm magazines and has a somewhat sketchy reputation for reliability. Both Inland Manufacturing and Auto-Ordnance make well-thought-of M1 Carbine clones (I've got a lot of rounds through the Auto-Ordnance version), and the guys at A-O even built a few M1 Carbines for 3-Gun competition in jurisdictions where the AR was banned/restricted. Be fun to shoot these in a PCC match (although by USPSA rules the .30 Carbine is not a pistol cartridge).

-- I haven't mentioned Hi-Point Firearms here because I have no experience with them. Hi-Point has taken a lot of flack over the years from snippy gun nerds (hmmmm..I wonder if I know any of those?!?!), but they've been around a long time and are dirt cheap.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Years Day, 2017

"There is always hope..."
-- Aragon, son of Arathorn
"The Two Towers"

"By the rivers of Babylon
Where he sat down
And there he wept
When he remembered Zion

Oh, the wicked carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha's song
In a strange land?

Oh, the wicked carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha's song
In a strange land?

So let the words of our mouth
And the meditation of our heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight
Oh, verai!"

Rivers of Babylon

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve…and Counting Down the Hours!

A "murder" of 9mms, including from the top the Angstadt Arms/Shockwave Brace pistol (Glock mags), IWI X95 bullpup in 9mm (Colt mags), "ole reliable" Spike's Tactical 9mm (Colt mags) and the newest, QC10/Dead Foot Arms (Glock mags). Note that, realistically, an X95 is not appreciably larger than an SBR'd AR pistol, and much less of a pain in the butt.

Ha! The miserable abortion of 2016 has one lousy day to go! Been a long time since I so passionately wanted a year to end!

Going to post more later, but I wanted to answer some comment/email questions. I also want to thank Greg Ellifritz for including me in his Weekend Knowledge Dump, a weekly must-read, for 30 Dec…and yes, I've asked Greg onto the shows, but no dice!

Build for the 9mm folding stock pistol was pretty straight-forward:

Upper: Quarter Circle 10 complete upper, 5.5-inch barrel
Lower: Quarter Circle 10 stripped lower, Glock mags, with mag release installed
Folding Stock: Dead Foot Arms Modified Cycle System; includes folding system, short buffer tube, proprietary bolt and dual spring system
Trigger: Timney, Targa 2-stage
Lower Parts Kit: Seekins Precision Build Kit, which includes a Seekins Enhanced ambi safety and enhanced bolt release. I opted to install the safety with a 60-degree, rather than a 90-degree throw.
Pistol Buffer Tube: Phase 5 Hex-2 hexagonal pistol buffer tube
Pistol Grip: Tyrant Designs; looks absolutely cool, but I am not necessarily sold on it yet. I must say that TriTech Tactical's pending pistol grip that holds a Glock magazine has some appeal. Use, they look wonky as all get-out (especially compared to the too-cool-for-skol Tyrant), but working with the RONI Glock SBR conversions, which carries a spare Glock mag in its vertical foregrip, proved to me how handy it is to have a spare magazine at hand. I've reached out to them, and will probably meet them at SHOT.
Sight: Aimpoint Micro H-1
Sight Mount: Daniel Defense Absolute Co-Witness
BUIS: TBD, probably Troy flip-ups
Magazines: Obviously Glock; I have noticed that the factory Glocks activate the QC10 bolt hold-open while the Magpuls do not. I have not tried any ETS mags yet.

Couple of points on the build:

• The MCS from Dead Foot changes the operating system for the AR, something you won't notice until you try to take the gun down. Instead of just popping the pins to pul the upper receiver, the MCS has a different sequence! You must first remove the dual springs from the shortened buffer — no big deal…you just unscrew the knurled back-end of the buffer tube. Then it's business as usual.

• Regarding the bolt hold-open, this has never been a huge deal for me. I've run AK, H-K and Israeli weapons without bolt hold-opens. I believe it's more of a training issue than anything else. I recall that Gabe Suarez wrote on this years ago (found it). In short, I won't go into conniption fits if the bolt hold-open doesn't, but that's just me.

Note that with the full-sized pistol buffer folded out, the QC10 is pretty close to the size of the X95. What can we learn from this? If you want an SBR-sized gun to use and shooting off your shoulder is important, go with the bullpup. If you can handle the "cheeking," go with the AR pistol…in both cases, lots less paperwork…as stated by my commenters, much better as an actual "using" guns.

• Two other components for the build are not listed, because I don't have them in place yet. I think a 5.5 inch-barrelled upper MUST have a hand stop, so Mr. Hand doesn't interface with Mr. Flash Hider, or, worse yet, Mr. Bullet. I've typically used Magpul here, but I think I'm going with the Troy Industries stop because it is small and light, more in keeping with the build. Not to mention, cheap. Given the length of the barrel, I've gone back to gripping with my week hand on the magazine well instead for the forward rail, which works fine (you're not slinging a lot of mass around with a 5.5-inch barrel). Accordingly, I've ordered some skaeboard grip tape to cut and fit to the forward and side parts of the magazine well on the receiver. Yes, you can get a grip on the foreend, but I'm not sure it buys you anything over a magazine well grip.

• I have no idea what to tell you about shouldering a buffer tube, except not to do it in front of an ATF agent. There are earlier episodes of SHOOTING GALLERY that show me running the Spike's Tactical 9mm pistol shouldered (shot great that way). This was well before the ATF began their yes-it-is no-it-isn't dueling letters on what constitutes a Short-Barrelled Rifle. I've actually been fiddling around with some old silhouette stances (quartered onto the target, weak arm folded in front of the strong hand and arm, with weak hand gripping the foam rubber part of the tube. The tube never touches the shoulder, and it is dead steady. I'll keep you informed. Once again, check out my earlier post one this whole mess.

On another topic, yes, I finally made a decision on the optic for my Galil ACE 7.62 Nato. After agonizing a bunch over scopes, I decided to keep it simple, stupid, and go with a Lucid P7 4X combat optic.

I like the reticle, and it is available in the STRELOK ballistics app on my iPhone. The Lucid HD-7 red dot has been a workhorse on my Tavor, and I totally support Lucid's mission to provide high qaulity optics at a price that require you to sell your car. The ACE will be fun to shoot 3-Gun Heavy Metal in matches where the long shots don't reach out to the stratosphere. You need to Galil clip-on cheekpiece (provided with the ACE) to get a good cheek weld, BTW.

Okay…gonna stop now and take some pictures, which I'll use to update this post…

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Runs Like a Scalded Dog!

I need to get the Aimpoint on it, sight it in, and start putting rounds through it. It also needs BUIS, as light as possible.

What do you think? Should I SBR it????

The Future, Sort Of

So the big news going into SHOT is that Colt is…finally…resurrecting the Colt Cobra, truly one of the great snubbies of all time. Smith and Wesson is rolling out a 6.5 Creedmoor MP-10. Ruger has ditched the .243 in the superb Ruger Precision Rifle in favor of the new hottness, the 6mm Creedmoor (this is outside my pay grade…I'm very familiar with the 6.5 Creedmoor both for long distance shooting and hunting; zero experience with its 6mm cousin…read this from the Precision Rifle Blog, which will give you the facts from an expert). Plus the Ruger American Compact in .45 ACP; the military Glocks 17 and 19 on the near horizon; "boutique" manufacturers spinning out new 1911s, M1 Carbines, little tiny concealed carry pistols, fill in the blanks.

I think what is happening is that as the market moves toward normal times, manufacturers are going to be filling every conceivable niche…think of it as throwing "stuff" on the wall to see what sticks. To be sure, we all benefit from that. I've said before that we live in the "golden years" for firearms…if you want it, somebody is making it, from the very highest end (a nice, heavily engraved Wesley Richards 4-Bore to go with your Cabot Arms meteorite-made 1911) to the very lowest (concealed carry pistols in the sub-$300, even sub-$200 range that actually work).

You want retro? Pick your time period, from Kentucky long rifles to AVATAR-styled guns. FN's "military collector's series" is selling like crazy, especially their semiauto version of the SAW, which (according to my little cherubs, is selling at an incredible level); Inland Manufacturing is cranking out M1 Carbines at a level not seen since WWII. Concealed carry pistols? Take your pick from hundreds. Tactical rifles? Duh! Hunting rifles? An amazing assortment.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Grinding Long March to 2017

With Santa in the rear view mirror, I'm spending most of this week doing a whole lot of nothing, which means finishing up a couple of projects that have cluttered my desk for months. Yesterday I worked toward finishing off the Dead Foot Arms/Quarter Circle 10 9mm/Glock magazines AR project. I'll finish it off this morning and put some rounds through it this afternoon. To be fair to me, this gun will be featured on the last SHOOTING GALLERY episode, which I cleverly put off until after the SHOT Show…I simply ran out of hours. Our 9mm AR show will feature this build, the super Angstadt Arms pistol (Glock mags) with the Shockwave Brace, the CMMG 9mm carbine (Colt mags), which has been built into a 3-Gun "trainer," my super accurate JP 9mm rifle (Glock mags) and my current fav favorite X95 in 9mm (Colt mags).

The reason I decided to dedicate an entire episode to the 9mm ARs is that I see this as an important rising niche for a bunch of reasons:

• Easy of shooting…like running a stapler
• Ammo costs
• Ability to train on pistol ranges

These 3 points taken together make the 9mm carbine/pistol a powerful tool for training, whether your "mission" for your primary AR(s) is self-defense or competition. I think the training aspect is very important…it seems that everyone has an AR, and I think the more training the better. Most of the high-end trainers I deal with welcome pistol caliber carbines in their classes. I fully expect to see pistol caliber carbine-specific classes, say for indoor or caliber-restrained ranges.

But wait! There's more!

• As a self-defense tool…the 9mm carbines and even the pistols are extremely easy to shoot, moreso than a handgun. Given the tremendous improvement in 9mm ammo, the reason the FBI and a flood of police agencies have gone back to the 9, a light, easy-to-shoot carbine/pistol without the ear-shattering noise and blast of the 5.56, loaded with 30+ rounds of, say, Corbon DPX, Hornady Critical Duty/Defense, or the new FBI load, the Speer Gold Dot G2s…tell me that's not effective for home defense.
• Competition…USPSA's Pistol Caliber Carbine class is a huge success, and I'm seeing carbine-style matches popping up all over. At the NRA Show, I reached out to Project Appleseed and urged them to change their national rules to allow 9mm carbines (right now, the rule is that rifles must be .22-8mm, .32, caliber; the last Appleseed I attended, I asked that since I already has a "Rifleman" patch, could I use my 9mm carbine? They said, "Of course." I shot the 3 highest scores of the day with the JP).

I haven't yet waded into the whole SBR issue. You can ready my (apparently endless) comments on the subject here. There additional issues in the comments, too.

I originally planned to include the other 9mm carbine platforms — the Sig Sauer MPX, the newest MP-5 clones, the CZ EVO, etc., but, as usual, I ran out of room. Maybe in a later episode, or on SGO. I got my first 9mm pistol I think a decade ago as a gift from Spike's Tactical. That gun has hundreds of rounds through it, is accurate and has never failed! I wish I could say that about all my guns!

On a totally different note, CJ wrote this comment on my last post on the Ruger Predator 6.5 Creedmoor:
Isn't the Predator a "hunting rifle"? One and a half inch groups at 100 yards with a hunting rifle seems perfectly adequate. No reason not to attempt better results, just as long as you understand you're trying to get Mclaren performance from a standard Ford motor.
 CJ, of course you're right. An inch-and-a-half at 100 yards is perfectly acceptable for hunting purposes. An inch is even better. If I got 2 inches at 100 off my pre-'64 Winchester 30-30, I would jump up and bark like a seal. I tend to bring high standards to a gun, especially a gun that I am going to use "in the field," either for hunting or self-defense. I believe we are in a golden age of firearms…modern firearms are just DAMN GOOD. I remember my father bragging to everyone that he finally created a reload that got him 1-inch groups at 100 yards from his Sako .264 Winchester Magnum, a round so hot that it would actually cook the little Tennessee whitetails as well as kill them. Nowadays, the idea of an MOA at 100 is the ante.

So I apologize…I believe I can get down to 3/4-inch at 100, and with a little luck down to the half-inch I want to see. But the rifle is fine as it is.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Bunker!!!!

My Sweetie gave me a llama doormat so I could feel close to my chosen people!!

Merry Christmas!

May you never have to spit!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Bambi's Dad Takes the Big Sleep

At FTW Ranch in Texas earlier this week, as part of our annual hunting episode on SHOOTING GALLERY. That's a classic Hill Country buck, 11 points. I used a Ruger FTW Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor fitted with a Swaro X5(i) 3.5-18X, probably the best scope I've ever used. Ammo was Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X 143-grains. Shot was 280 yards in late afternoon (why the picture is so dark…it took us a while to work our way down from the ridge where we were camped out). And yes, it was cold…I'm wearing, like, 20 layers…

Earlier in the week I'd been shooting out to 700 yards with that gun/scope combo, except with the Match 140-gr ELDs. One of the big points of this episode (which we may split into 2 parts) is to encourage hunters to challenge themselves to raise their skill levels. If you're steadily hitting at 600/700/800 yards, a 300-yard shot — and most hunting shots in North America fall inside 300 yards — becomes much easier.

To be completely truthful, I wasn't totally happy with the way the Predator was grouping with the Hornady Match, which I have had great luck with in other rifles. I was shooting 1 1/2 inch groups prone at 100 yards…I honestly expected 1 single hole at that distance. I figured I was just having a bad day, but 2 of the FTW instructors — 2 of the finest shots I've ever met — got the same results. We did all the "standard" things you do with a Ruger bolt gun…check the action mounting screws, make sure the scope was appropriately torqued, etc….to no avail. So we switched to the Precision Hunters, and the groups shrank to inside an MOA…still not what I expected, but acceptable.

I'm trying to decide how to go forward with the rifle. I love the way it handles…it's a little beefy at 8+ pounds, but with the 6.5 it has the recoil of a .22. Plus it's the same stock I use on my Ruger Guide Gun .300 Win Mag and my much-used Ruger Gunsite Scout. Yes, I am boringly consistent. My inclination is to give it an EXTREMELY good cleaning, run 100 rounds through it, a second cleaning, foul it and then shoot it for group. I'm also going to be running some other ammo through it to see if there's something sympatico that the rifle likes. I have a bunch of the Winchester 140-gr Match, and I have some American Eagle on order. I'll let you guys know how it works out (on SGO, match).

I can't say enough good things about the scope. I meab Swaro is Swaro (and, sadly, not a sponsor). The combination of 6.5 Creedmoor and 3.5-18X makes this a super combo for most North American hunting (and, no, I'm not talking about the big bears, jeez!). I got the scope with a 4W reticle:

The elevation is dialed, and it's got 2 MOA hold-offs for wind. The X5 has a revolution counter on the elevation turret, which keeps you from getting "lost" if you've dial around for a long shot. Go ahead and laugh, it has happened to me. The zero stop allows you to quickly dial back to your zero.Plus, the Swaro allows you to go "subzero," beyond the zero stop, if you need to. It does kinda take 2 friends and a monkey to initially zero the elevation, but once you get the hang of it, no problemo.

I'm a proponent of dialing the elevation. Like probably most of you who grew up hunting,  all I ever heard was "Kentucky windage," or "just hold up a little if he's way out there!" Of course, in west Tennessee an northeast Mississippi, 100 yards was a looooooooooong shot with that 30-30! Dialing the elevation is more accurate than that holdover, which is why I oped for the 4W reticle. Makes me do what I know is best.

FTW "doctrine," if you will, is to zero at 100 yards, then, in the field, dial to 200, which gives you a "dead on" shot from close up out to roughly 300 yards with the Creedmoor. When we got to the ridgeline where we were going to camp out and wait for dusk, I lasered what I thought might be my closest shot, 220 yards, and my farthest shot, right at 300 yards. Accordingly, I dialed up 250 yards on the Swaro, which worked perfectly for a 280 yard shot.

I know I said last year I was going to stick to strictly mil-dots, but…well, the best laid plans, etc. BTW, the X5(i) is not Swaro's latest entry in the tactical scope market…it is designed from the ground up as a hunting scope. Here's a great review from Jason Keim at Sniper's Hide that sums it up well:
Swarovski truly set out to design, build and deliver the ultimate long range shooting and hunting scope. Did they do it? Honestly, I think they might have, the scope is both optically and mechanically one of the best I’ve used. I personally will have one on my rifle come October when I’m shooting game at long ranges in Colorado this year.
We were working off range cards generated by FTW, and I found their numbers consistent with the Swaro ballistic app.

BTW, I am happy that both Producer John Carter's and my venison will be providing an excellent Christmas dinner for needy families in south Texas! Enjoy.