Friday, May 11, 2018

Because none of you asked....

Based on my last post I figure you should know what my prime choices are for my AR builds.

First off, KNS Precision for the pins and small parts and Wolff for springs. Both are well respected names in the industry and while I've not had a rifle yet that's hit a barrel life limit, so it's hard to say with certainty, but they've not failed or broken on me yet. Specifically, KNS's non-rotating trigger/hammer pin set got me started with them. I've replaced enough broken trigger pins on AR's at ranges that they became a fail point that I wanted to improve and KNS's NRTHP's were the answer to that.  And they were good enough that they lead me to looking to KNS for all the other pins and small parts.  Wolff springs, I selected them on advice from a 3 gun competitor that I used to work with. I've only ever had problems with one spring on any of my builds and that was one of Brownell's 50,000 round extractor springs that immediately didn't work out of the box, or Ziploc baggie as the case may be.  If a Wolff spring ever fails on me, I'll be sure to let y'all know.

I have used JP Enterprises Silent Capture Buffer Spring system and it's currently in my truck rifle. If you don't care about hearing the "Sproing of Freedom" when you shoot an AR, then I can recommend them.

For triggers, my first choice used to be Rock River Arms National Match Two Stage Trigger. This is a nice drop in two stage trigger with a smooth pull,  definite wall and good break. For around a hundred bucks it's good upgrade over the mil-spec GI trigger. I say used to be because I've been lured away and fallen in love with Geissele Automatics SSA-E trigger. It runs around a hundred dollars more than the RRA's trigger, but in my opinion it's worth every penny.  Again, it's a drop in replacement for the GI trigger and if you ever get a chance to shoot the two next to each other, you'll understand why it's my top pick for triggers.  Just keep in mind that I'm only looking at drop in replacements for the trigger. There are quite a few full customizable, fully adjustable triggers that will fit in the AR platform, but when you're looking at maintaining your rifle in the field, waiting 2-4 weeks for the replacement part to show up isn't my idea of a good idea.

Yes, I will always go with Magpul for the furniture on my rifles. Unless I'm looking at final weight as one of my considerations.  Then, and y'all will scoff at this, I go to ACE ARFX stocks. They're a good trade off between weight and ruggedness.  They'll survive being used as a brace when dropping into prone that I'd hate trusting a folding or collapsible stock to do.  They're a fixed stock, yes. But before you dismiss them. Unless 6 ft. you and 5 ft. 2 in. wifey are using the same rifle for home defense or you are actually in the military and have to adjust for varying levels of body armor a fixed stock is actually preferable in my opinion.

Now, these I'm going to list all together. Norgon's Ambi-Mag release, Teal Blue Bravo's PDQ Ambi Bolt Catch and any good ambi safety selector.  But not because they make the rifle more ambidexterous.  Yes, being able to shoot from either shoulder is a good skill to have. But because I want the only thing my off hand doing is getting the new mag and seating it.  Everything else can be done by the hand on the pistol grip without having to shift excessively.  Keeping my had there helps me maintain positive control of the rifle and the less fumbling, the less likely I'll be to... fumble... the rifle.

A good ambi charging handle like the Raptor is nearly a must these days of optics.  Often the optic sits right above the charging handle and being able to reach it can be problematic. Being able to reach up on either side to run it rather than having to try to reach around to hook both handles is a plus

For receivers, I've been a fan of Aero Precision's AR and .308 uppers and lowers.  They produce them in house and have an excellent QA department.  And I can hear y'all saying that so long as they're Mil-Spec, why pay more. There's a big difference between meeting the mil specs and using the mil specs as your starting point. When you start on .308 AR builds, you'll quickly learn that the .308 AR platform was never adopted by the US and therefore there is no mil-spec standard. DPMS's LR platform uses a lot of parts common with the AR-15. There are still differences, but they have more common parts with the AR-15 then the AR-10 system has. And Aero Precision uses the DPMS spec for their .308 AR's.  Again, maintaining in the field gets a lot easier when you don't have to have too many special parts for that one rifle.

Finally, as far as optics go, I have no recommendations.  I've used Trijicon, Burris, Aimpont, Vortex, and EOTech.  They've all worked, all held zero within abuse limits, and really made these tired old eyes look like a better shooter than they are.  The only caution I'd give you is you get what you pay for, so that 30 dollar red dot might look good to the bank account, but it may not look so good when it costs you standing in a shooting match or venison on the table.

Ian and Carl over at InRange TV have a great series on building an AR platform. They called it WWSD, or What Would Stoner Do, they approached their builds with weight as one of the primary considerations and they still ended up using a lot of the parts that I trust for my builds.  Although I swear their 3 gun rigs don't weigh half of what my truck rifle does.

Finally, these are my opinions and your mileage may vary. But these will give you a sense of peace of mind that your rifle will work and work when you need it to also.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

NRAAM 2018 – Saturday Review Day

            Not that I had a plan for ANY of NRA AM, but I decided Saturday that I’d revisit some of the products that I’ve reviewed over the years. So, after getting my voting out of the way and figuring out some sort of plan at the press room, I tied my shoes (yeah, it’s about to get real) and hit the floor.  I planned to focus on some of my “go to’s” for my AR builds.  Namely, and in no particular order, Magpul, Adams Arms, AeroPrecision USA, KNS Precision, and Diamondhead. And as a bonus and since they were there, I thought a visit to Barrett was in order. Outside of those I would see how much time I had left that day.

            As some of you may know I’m a pretty staunch Magpul fanboi.  Aside from a couple of notable exceptions (cough, BAD lever, cough) they are spot on for putting out a product that is rugged, dependable, works out of the box, and is the best bang for the buck.  Talking to one of their reps that day, they’re being pretty cagey about what’s new on the horizon.  Although he did say they might be working on a magazine for the M14 platform. But that’s been a running gag for a while now.  Nothing on a Gen 4 for their mags, no word on any new AR or other rifle furniture. I can understand their reticence on talking out of turn, though.  They got a little burned when their Rem700 stock wasn’t perfect on it’s first release and the delays that resulted.  I’ve used the UBR on a couple of carbine builds, their PRS for a 22” precision based around BCM’s Mod 12 18” precision upper as well as their AR MOE rifle stock on an LR-308 build. Aside from the UBR and PRS being heavy and both those rifles ending up on the high end for finished weights they are my first choice for AR builds unless I’m focusing on weight.  And it will come as no surprise to anyone that Magpul pmags are my only choice for my AR and LR platforms.  And because Magpul really failed to market it well enough, any of the furniture that Magpul put out in the sand color were designed to take Rit Dyes.  There’s an excellent article about that over on GunMag Warehouse’s website at  And finally, we talked about the demise of the dust cover.  Traditionally, the feed lips on the top of the mag were a very common wear point.  Those lips spreading would make a magazine useless and it was very hard to tell they’d spread enough to cause them to fail. Trust me, I’ve bought my share of Korean M14 mags and I’m very familiar.  The material used in the pmags removed that fail point in their mags.  So, keeping pmags fully loaded in storage won’t affect their useful life.  I would still recommend using dust covers on mags you keep loaded in long term storage because, well honestly, dust. Needing to keep the rounds from pressing on the feed lips and bending them just won’t happen on pmags. But keeping dust and sand out of them will keep that out of your rifle and gumming up that system.

            One of my first builds, and one that turned into my truck rifle, made use of Adams Arm’s piston conversion kit.  When I built this rifle Adams Arms’ kit had only been out for a couple of years. Then, the only option had a gas block that was the same height as the receiver and had an adjustable gas piston system. And that will tell you how long this rifle has been knocking around in the back of my truck.  I’ve yet to have the piston system fail. Since then, they’ve introduced a low-profile gas block version that comes in either an adjustable version or a fixed version.  I am tempted to get their fixed low-profile gas block version and see how it stands up to life knocking around in a truck.  When I first put this on my rifle I had a hard time getting the information that I needed to make sure that the piston arm had free clearance to travel back and forth, and then finding a hand guard that fit that. Since then, the sheer number of handguards that are available on the market has increased so much that finding a free float or standard hand guard that will accommodate the piston arm has ceased to be a problem. The only complaint that I have with the Adams Arms is the bolt spring that they have.  This keeps the bolt from sitting locked in the receiver. Since I keep the rifle stored broken down, I have to be conscious of using my thumb to keep the BCG pressed in when mating the upper and lower. Otherwise, I’m banging the BCG into the lower. Talking with their rep at NRA AM, she did say that you can run the system without that bolt spring, and many people have, but it might drag a bit when operating.

            Speaking of my truck rifle. That was the first build that I used AeroPrecision’s upper and lower on.  At the time, all the research I did showed that there were only a handful of actual AR receiver manufacturers. Everyone else contracted to have their name stamped on the side. AeroPrecision of one of those handful and they had an option to have the PDQ ambi-bolt release lever preinstalled on their lower.  More on that later.  That upper and lower, bought at separate times, had an amazingly tight mating. I was impressed with their machining and finishing and honestly, they’ve been practically the only choice on my builds since then.  They’ve introduced an integral free float handguard mounting platform on their uppers that makes installing a free float handguard a breeze. No more trying to get the gas tube timed right. Everything bolts right up, no muss, no fuss. One of my next builds will definitely use one of these enhanced uppers.  The rep told me they’re doing something like an open source spec for these and there’s already a couple of manufacturers who are going free floats for this system.

            KNS Precision Inc. has for a long time now been my go to for all pins and small parts for my AR builds.  There’s definitely a school of thought out there that believes that those pins are those pins and pins are pins are pins.  I’ll preface this with saying this is totally anecdotal, but I’ve replaced enough broken trigger pins on ranges of OTHER peoples’ AR’s that having never had any KNS pins fail on me is cheap peace of mind.  I talked with the owner of KNS for a good amount of time on Saturday.  We covered their new AK stuff which include the pins as well as adapters for folding stocks and an improved piston for the gas system.  They also have a quick disconnect take down pin that I will be picking up and running a torture test on. 

            On my most recent .308 build I used Diamondhead USA VRS T-308 handguard.  Aesthetically, I liked the look of the handguard with matching flash hider. Since I bought this they’ve improved the ergonomics on the VR series of handguards and introduced a wider range on those handguards.  I liked the amount of mounting options their handguards give you. There are plenty of either KeyMod or MLok mounting points to put anything you want in the most comfortable position for you on the rifle.  They also do backup sights, compensators, and gas blocks, but I honestly don’t have any experience with either of those and as such really don’t have an opinion on them.

            I had enough time to swing by Barretts booth and talked to them. There are no real new systems coming from them that they’d admit to but there are upgrades and improvements to the buffer system on their M82 rifles that will have me sending mine in for a PMS check and overhaul.

            The rest of the day and Sunday, I just spent wandering around looking for anything that would just out at me as “The New Thing” ™.  Unfortunately, nothing really jumped out at me in that arena. Maybe next year.  But that’s the thing with the AR platform. There’s been sixty some odd years of improvement on this platform. It’s going to be a hard hurdle to clear to supersede it.  Until that phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range comes out I’ll happily keep playing with the AR.

Monday, May 7, 2018

NRAAM 2018 – The NRA and me, a rocky relationship.

This year was my first time attending the NRA’s Annual Meeting. Not knowing what to expect I think I was pretty free of any preconceived notions as to what to expect.  

But first, let me get you some background about my relationship with the NRA.  Way back when I first started becoming aware of our 2nd amendment right and as a consequence worried about protecting it, I saw the NRA as an easy, maybe “slack-tivist”, way of doing something about it.  So, I joined, just your basic membership. Back then though, I pretty quickly came to the conclusion that for me the NRA wasn’t being proactive enough, not being strong enough, not really fighting hard enough protecting our 2nd rights.  So, I joined the GOA (Gun Owners of America) and the SAF (Second Amendment Foundation) because I could see those two groups actually doing things and going to court to protect our rights, and I let my NRA membership lapse. I was not happy with giving up an inch while waiting for the next mile to disappear.

Fast forward to the Parkland H. S. shooting and the birth of Herr Hogg and his spoiled child activism. It was pretty plain at this point that the masks were off and the grabbers were finally open that yes, they were coming for our guns. And while my opinion on the NRA hadn’t changed a lot over the years, they were making the right motions to fight back this time. And I decided that I’d better show them that I would back that.  So, I called up the membership people and rejoined at the lifetime level. H’Ray me, right? Well, no. This is really barely one step up from the slacktivism of the hashtag generation out there. But, it is a step. I have started. This first step of standing up and being counted as one of the millions that cares about the preservation of the one right that will ensure that all the other are safe. Because I firmly believe that the 2nd isn’t about hunting, nor is it about defense of life and limb. It is ultimately about keeping the Hitler’s and Stalin’s and Pol Pot’s from herding us up into the gulags and concentration camps. Look at history and you will see that taking the means of self-defense out of the common people’s hands always, ALWAYS precedes the genocides. And you can sit in your suburban middle-class home and scoff at that but ask a Ukrainian farmer in the 1930’s how impossible it would be to starve to death while producing bumper crops of wheat.

I’m not going to tell you what my plans are beyond being a lifetime NRA member. I mostly don’t know what they are anyway, maybe looking into getting NRA instructor training or range safety officer training.

We all have our own reasons for what we do and believe.  Please go to and make your own decisions on why you should join.