Budget “Precision” AR

In case you haven’t noticed, the entry price of ARs has fallen off a cliff lately.  A look at the front page of Bud’s Gun Shop will usually show you at least one budget entry AR from a maker you’ve either never seen, or didn’t think you’d ever see in the AR Market, for right around $500.

Remember just a few years ago when these were hovering at $1k?  Good times.  Anywho, the price to build ’em has likewise plummeted, so if you’ve ever wanted to put one together, if you’re sitting on a closet full of lowers you bought during the great panic, you’ve been thinking of dabbling in a different caliber like .458, or you just want to mix ‘n match a new complete lower and barreled upper to get what you want, now’s the time.

I happened across some good sales around Memorial Day, but since checking, the prices on some of these have actually stayed at the sale price, so this info should still be pretty close to accurate.  As the first thing I acquired to kick this off was a Palmetto State Armory complete lower, I figured I’d keep it simple and go with a barreled upper and see if I could put something together that would reliably drive tacks at paper or varmints out to 300 yards on the cheap.

Since I was yet to foray into FDE colored stuff, I figured for my cheapo “blemished” lower, I’d have Palmetto send me one with FDE furniture.  I figured I’d probably be chucking it anyway, so  why not have a few FDE bits in the parts bin with all the black stuff.  Note on the “blemished” lower – best I could find that counted as a blemish, was an ever so slight discoloration in the finish.  Most people I know that get these never find the “blemish.”  Unless someone with inside info tells me otherwise, I’ve got to assume if it gets knocked over, or someone sneezes on it at some point in production, it’s marked “blem.”

For the barreled upper – I tried to find something over 16″ in a profile that made sense, but failed to find either while keeping the price point, so settled on the ubiquitous 16″ M4 profile.  Specifically, I went with what was on sale at Primary Arms.  I’ve heard mixed thing about Radical Firearms’ stuff, but most of the issues are with complete rifles, and typical of cheap BCG assemblies.  In this case, I’m just going for a barreled upper, and at that price, I’ll work it out, even if I have to replace the gas block or something. Plus, it’s always nice to throw business to a local manufacturer.

It’s also worth noting that the cheapest they had on sale came with a rather interesting hand guard.  It’s a free floated round tube with MOE compatible slots.  As best as I can tell, it’s a Radical Firearms original part (it is marked with their logo on the forward part of the rail).  While I like the look, and the round shape and size are pretty comfortable – the finish wasn’t great, and after now having used it, I can say, MOE attachment sucks – no wonder they developed m-lok.

So, upper and lower mated with no problem, rifle now needs a heart.  Luck had it that PSA had a Nickel Boron BCG on sale for $100 (and, despite being advertised as a daily deal, appears to *still* be on sale for that price).  I’ve never had a bling BCG, so figured I’d get it a shot.

Note: it’s not a full auto BCG, as a lot of folks tend to like using, with the thought it gives it extra strength / weight due to the extra material, but it’s also a $100 complete NiB BCG, so make of that what you will.

Also needed a charging handle, and figuring I was going to scope this one, and riding on the bling high of the NiB BCG, I went with a Gunfighter Mod 4 CH from Primary Arms that I’d already had waiting for a project in the parts bin, so in it went.

So that’s it, the rifle now passing function check, it was time to put some bits and pieces on there to make it capable of what I wanted out of it.  I already had a perfectly decent optic not in use, an older Bushnell Banner 4-12x40mm Adjustable Dusk/Dawn scope.  It hadn’t had a home in a couple of years, and punching paper at the range or bulls-eyeing prairie dogs doesn’t require mil-dots or fancy target turrets, so this will do.  I also had a cheap, but serviceable AR mount that would work for said scope.  I’ll include both of these, as well as the charging handle in the final price, but in my case, I didn’t have to worry about them.

This brings me around to one of my final points – with the FDE funiture on there, I figured I’d delve into one more thing I’ve been meaning to try out, and this being a cheap build, I’ve got no qualms about it – rattle can painting a rifle.  After doing a bit of research and running across this:

(Credit to jwfuhrman on m4carbine.net)

I went with Rust-Oleum Satin Dark Taupe.  It still ended up being a bit lighter than I wanted, probably a closer match to Magpul’s new “Sand” color, but matching shades of FDE is pretty tricky business, and I’m still happy with the way it turned out.  It’s also worth mentioning that this paint took a good 12 hours before it wasn’t tacky, and about a full day before I was comfortable handling it.  It’s also a tad glossier than I’d have liked, but the feel to the touch reminds me of the satin Cerakote finishes, which is exactly what I wanted.  Also, it’s already began to dull a tad, and should lose that extra sheen with regular use.

Spraying it was as easy as masking parts off and dusting until the black was covered.  It’s worth noting that you’d probably want a good clean and degreasing with brake cleaner or similar before doing this under normal conditions, but as these were new in the plastic and unlubricated, I didn’t need to do that kind of prep.

While I haven’t gotten a chance to test it at range due to weather lately, I did a 25 yard 100 yard zero at a local indoor range using free-to-download targets from ARMA DYNAMICS.  These are a pretty good resource to get a quick and dirty zero if all you’ve got access to is an indoor range.  In shooting it, I noticed two minor things this rifle could still use to make it that much better at it’s given objective, that would still be within what I consider a budget price range:

A bipod (which also required mounting solution, and as this tube had MOE slots, I went with a Magpul MOE 5 slot rail segment)…

…and a fixed stock.  I’d been wanting to try out the the carbine MOE Fixed stock I’d been seeing.  With the extended pad, it’s still just a tad shorter than I’d like, about the length of a 6 position one in from the longest, but it’ll do.

So that’s that, for now.  I’ll give an update when I get to stretch it’s legs a bit, but for the all-in on this one, even if I had to buy the parts I already had on hand, it’s a steal.  As stated at the beginning, if you’re not yet in the AR club and want to, or simply have AR projects you’ve been wanting to start (or finish), now’s the time.

Build Price Breakdown:

BLEM PSA AR-15 FREEDOM CLASSIC LOWER – 7779346B
$129.99
PSA FREEDOM 5.56 NICKEL BORON BCG – 516445123
$99.99
Radical Firearms 16″ 5.56 M4 Barreled Upper – with 10″ MOE FGS
$179.99
Bravo Company / Vltor 5.56/.223 Charging Handle Mod 4
$49.95
Bushnell Banner 4-12x 40mm Adjustable Obj Rifle Scope
$89.99
CCOP High Profile AR-ArmourTac Rifle Scope Mount Rings
$33.55
Rust-Oleum 241238 Satin Enamels Spray, Dark Taupe
$3.98
Leapers Tactical OP Bipod
$32.97
Magpul MOE Polymer Rail Section – 5 Slot
$4.49
Magpul MOE Fixed Carbine Stock
$23.99
Magpul PRS Extended Rubber Butt-Pad 0.80″
$11.95

Total Price as Configured: $660.84
No shipping prices were required in the above build

If I was to spend a bit more on it, the first thing I’d go for would be replacing the milspec trigger PSA included.  It’s not the worst, but it’s a typical milspec AR trigger.  I’d try to catch a sale for a Timney or Geissele.

PSA AR-9 Hybrid, Part 2: SBR’ed

 

If you saw the previous review/build post here, you’d know there was something we’ve been waiting on.

Well, after only 239 days, our Form 1 (e-filed, trust) was approved.  So, $200, 7 Months, and 25 Days, we’ve got our official Federal Government A-OK to put a different shaped piece of aluminum and rubber on the back of our pistol.

Transition was easy once the necessities were out of the way – that is, engraving the trust name on the receiver, making that a new SBR was manufactured, where and by whom, to match the approved Form 1, and what is now on the NFA registry.

On that note, I have to give a shout out to John Kleiber of Class 3 Weapons in Houston, TX.  If you need some engraving done, or want to skip the process and just buy an SBR’ed lower or full SBR (or just about any other NFA item you can think up), give them a call.

Once that was out of the way, all that was left to do was swap the Pistol Buffer and End Plate for a standard AR Buffer, End Plate, and Castle Nut.  Went with a low cost DPMS buffer tube, as I’ve used these a few times before, matching castle nut, and a PSA End Plate with a QD point.

And, finally, the transcendent moment where you put a stock on there.

I initially went with what I had laying around because I hadn’t decided on anything special yet, so it got an old Windham marked standard AR stock.

After shooting with it once, and deciding I wanted something a bit more stable, and running across one in my local Academy Sports, I picked up the flavor-of-the-month MFT Minimalist I’ve been seeing on 9 out of 10 posts on r/nfa lately.

The hype is well deserved though, its stable, with a nice wide contact surface, and gave a perfect fit on my buffer tube with absolutely zero rattle, while also not being too tight to move freely when engaged.  I’ve heard some cases where people have issues with the Minimalist being a bit too night, but the fit with the DPMS tubed seemed perfect.

It’s noteworthy that PSA has come out with a different model of this lower that has slightly different lines that make it look a tad more like the AR from which it was derived, and has the Last Round Bolt Hold Open feature.  While I like the design a bit better aesthetically, and LRBHO is a great feature – this is primarily a range toy, and that would be one more moving part to fail.

Cops Can’t Shoot- Part One: The Base Failure

I won’t pull any punches. Most cops- most, not all- suck at shooting. It isn’t their fault. It is an institutional policy that puts them in a place to fail. To put it simply, they aren’t trained for a gunfight.

Most Police Academies last an average of 6 months. In that six months, trainees typically get two weeks each of unarmed self-defense/restraint techniques and shooting. While some departments spend more time on each, two weeks seems to be the average. Much of each of these modules pertain to use of force and escalation of force using role play and simulators. During the unarmed combat section, there is often hands on, force-on-force training which prepares officers for the realistic expectations of dealing with a combative suspect. This is good training. Where the training fails, is preparing them for a gunfight.

Most Academies spend most of their time on when to shoot, and less on how to shoot to survive. They teach square shooting- Trainees are taught a proper draw stroke, proper weapon presentation, sight alignment, and trigger pull on a paper target on a static range. If most officers were shooting paper paraplegics, this would be fantastic training. But gunfights are fast, kinetic actions, where stillness will get you hit. Training officers for a week on a square range is setting them up to fail. For many officers, this is the only training they will get. Then they will shoot on an annual or biannual qualification test that consists of the same passing standards of the academy- shooting X rounds on a paper target in Y time period. This is not adequate to teach them to survive. What should be happening is force-on-force roleplay with simunitions or the like, with officers who have been in gunfights being the OPFOR.

The military teaches a holy trifecta to win a gunfight- “Speed, Surprise, Violence of Action” If you have all three, you will win most of the time. But, in the words of Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want.” Troopers are further taught that if you can’t have all three, double up on the other two. Typically, an officer will not have the element of surprise. That means they need to put rounds on target, as fast as possible, pressing the fight to end. To do this, you need to have some actual experience with shooting accurately on the move, under stress. This can’t happen in a square cadence range of “Establish Grip-Draw-Present-Fire”. You need to teach officers to shoot, move, and communicate while under stress.

Until there is a basic change in training methods from the square mentality, cops will still fail to shoot well in real situations.

Why I Don’t Get Excited For SHOT Show

As I write this, we are hips deep in SHOT Show 2017 coverage. SHOT Show is the E3 of guns. For many, this is their favorite time of year. The industry as a whole uses this to show off new products, revisions to old products, and products that are in the pipeline. It’s great.

Except that it isn’t. Unlike E3, where there seems to be some accountability in actually producing on promises, SHOT seems to be where great ideas and good intentions go to die. While much of actual SHOT Show convention space is devoted to products already on the market. This is cool, but everyone knows about Glocks and Trititum sights. Most of the press coverage is devoted to new and unique products- this year things like SilencerCo’s Maxim 9 is the new hotness. Its awesome to see videos of guys getting to use and demonstrate these. Unfortunately, too often these things turn into vaporware. How many times have we seen a “Final Production Prototype” on the floor at SHOT with promises of “2nd or 3rd Quarter this year” only to never see hide nor hair of it again. Each year, I have gotten my hopes up on things like the Magpul Masada, US Palm’s takedown AK, or Desert Tech’s entire product line. The promises either end up never happening, becoming the Duke Nukem Forever of the gun world (I’m looking at you, Masada/ACR), being so delayed that people drop pre-orders, and the cool thing never has chance to thrive.

I understand that producing a new firearm is not a simple process. It takes a lot of time, R&D, and facility infrastructure to make. But until the gun industry learns it’s lesson the way the Video Game industry did, SHOT Show is demonstration of old news and vaporware.

HPA of 2015 Reintroduced in 115th Congress as H.R.367

As anyone on the ASA’s mailing list would know, the 115th Congress has reintroduced the Hearing Protection Act of 2015 (previously talked about here), this time as H.R.367 “To provide that silencers be treated the same as long guns.” Yeah, I’m hoping they work on that title a bit, but it was just introduced yesterday and currently has 43 Cosponsors.

Text for the bill has not yet been provided, but in the coming days it will likely be a verbatim copy of H.R. 3799, along with a companion Senate bill.  While I’m not getting my hopes up, introduction into the 115th Congress gives it some advantages that it didn’t previous enjoy.  While there was a slight increase in the Republican edge in Congress, there was previously and it never even got a committee hearing.  No, the advantage comes from the fact that not only would this bill have a significantly better chance to NOT get vetoed, it also has a proponent in the President Elect’s son, who notably met with SilencerCo CEO Joshua Waldron.

In any case, I’m cautiously optimistic, while I wholly suspect the pending stamp refund to get axed from the bill faster than an M-10’s cyclic rate, that was always there as a negotiation concession.  As said before, be sure to keep up the communication with your representatives telling them you expect to see their support of this during this session.

Edit: Found this thread, good bit of information on it, and it will likely be updated with a who’s who of key figures in getting this thing moving, so pay attention, and we might end up with a good list of representatives who need to be contacted.

Black Friday Sale at Silencer Shop

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As a good follow up to last week’s post about the hope for action on the Hearing Protection Act of 2015, Silencer Shop is currently having a pretty noteworthy Black Friday sale from now until 11:59PM CST on 28 Nov.  If you’ve been thinking about getting a can, it might be worth it to go ahead and pull the trigger this weekend.

In case you haven’t shopped here, or looked too closely, at how Austin, TX based Silencer Shop works, they not only have one of the widest selections of in-stock suppressors available, but a large dealer network that can handle all of your Form 4 paperwork, plus a new Kiosk system at specific dealers which allows you to handle fingerprinting on site, and finally a mobile app that lets you take and submit an ATF approved photo, so no more going to Walgreens for passport photos.

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They’ve got 2 pages of good on sale deals at the moment, although some of the more desirable options are already Out-of-stock (looking at you Gemtech Multimount 9).  If you’re looking for a lightweight & compact .45ACP can, the GM-45 is still in stock, and lited for a very attractive $499, and the Liberty Cosmic is going for $664.

If you find something there you want (the easy part) and can afford (come on, you can’t beat these prices!), you’ll need to select a dealer on the left side menu after selection options.  Prices may vary slightly, as this includes transfer fees.  You’ll want to selection one with the powered logo as this indicates a dealer that will work with Silencer Shop to handle all paperwork, and if available nearby, one with the Fingerprint logo, showing that they have a Kiosk on site.

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Once added to cart, you will be reminded that you require a tax stamp (for now anyway, COME ON HR 3799!), which you will be able to add to the cart for $205.  $200 of that is to the ATF, and $5 goes to Silencer Shop for setting up such an awesomely streamlined system for making NFA purchases.  For more on that, see here.

If you find any other good deals, be sure to comment below, or on our Facebook Page!

Happy Thanksgiving, and good luck on Black Friday!

Post Election To-Do List: Hearing Protection Act of 2015

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Well, a lot’s happened so far in November- so without rehashing what everyone’s seen nonstop for the last week or so, lets just say, some bills that may have been hung up to to not having a chance of getting signed, may actually start to see the light of day.

The one I’m personally looking forward to seeing get some action would be good ole’ H.R. 3799 / S.2236, the Hearing Protection Act of 2015.  In case you didn’t catch it when it was introduced, it’s a House and related Senate bill to remove “Silencers” (Suppressors) from the NFA and regulate like a long arm, 4473 / NICS and out the door (depending on state and local laws).  While in the short term, suppressor prices would probably spike as everyone would be buying them up the second they’re deregulated, but long term, once you can buy ’em off over-the-counter, so to say, the boom that will bring to the industry will be fun to watch.

Right, so down to what you can do to help- currently both bills have been languishing in committee since last year, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations for the House bill, and the even more exciting Committee on Finance for the Senate bill.  Republicans have House, Senate, and as of January, the White House.  There are no more road bumps left to getting this thing passed except the ones we allow.  That said CONTACT. YOUR. REPRESENTATIVES.  <- The form linked here will autopopulate a letter to your local reps based on the address you use, which you can change.  Personally, I added a line at the end indicating that I look forward to action on the bill that has sat since November of last year.

Facebook Page Activated!

 

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As much as I would like to think there are folks out there randomly visiting my site to see the newest thing I decided to talk about, that is just not how people generally find out about updates.

In an effort to make this easier, I’ve launched a Facebook page where links to new articles will be shared, making it easier or folks that follow to see when something new is up, and hopefully be able to share it more conveniently.  It’ll also be nice to be able to have discussions there, where communication will likely be quicker… as much as I try to pay attention to comments on here, if my phone lets me know every time someone comments, I’ll likely be a lot more active in answering questions, or thanking folks for sharing info.

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This will also enable me to easier get vendors and other communities involved.  So come visit on Facebook and stay tuned, once I get some content linked over there and start getting some likes, I may have to feel out doing a giveaway or setting up an event!

NFA Applications: Post 41P CLEO Notification

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NOTE: This is going to be a quick one, but I intend to expand on it by turning it into a catch-all list of CLEO contact information for every County in Texas, as I wasn’t able to easily find it when searching.

Since ATF rule 41P went into effect, not only are you not able to do Form 1s for a Trust online, but you now have to complete fingerprinting and provide a photograph just as if you were completing for an individual, additionally, each responsible person in your Trust needs to complete a Form 5320.23 with their own fingerprinting and photograph.  The applicant (and each responsible person if applicable) is now required to perform CLEO notification, as well.

If there’s one positive to come out of this, it’s that the CLEO notification requirement is now simply “notification” and no longer requires a sign off.  How this works is- you simply copy your completed Form 1 / 4 / 5 prior to submission, and mail to your “Chief of Police, Sheriff, Head of State Police, or State or local district attorney or prosecutor.”  In practice, the County Sheriff is usually the go-to on this.  Previously, depending on where you live, you may have had to dance around to see which would sign off for you the easiest (if at all), and in the case of a trust with multiple responsible persons, that would have potentially been prohibitive by regulation- hence the easing it by only requiring notification.

Unfortunately, as anyone who follows how ATF regulations goes, there isn’t a clear mechanism for determining this notification.  The ATF put out an open letter to law enforcement letting them know, but there’s no legal guidelines for retention, thus no way to prove you’re in compliance if they don’t keep your records.  Additionally, I know for myself, and I’m sure many others, I’d prefer local LE to not keep a registry of this, and in-fact man state laws prohibit this.  So, for your own legal safety, BE SURE you send that CLEO notification registered mail, and retain the receipt of it with your records.  Only you can CY(own)A.

Edit: Due to elections in Novemember, the Texas CLEO contact list by county may have gotten out of date, I’ll need to confirm that the contact information is good before reposting.

 

American Shooting Centers – Sporting Clays: Back in Business

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This one’s a little more local/personal than most of my posts, but I just wanted to give a quick shout out to shooters in the Houston area.  Everyone in the area knows how bad the flooding has been since a few months ago and the kind of crazy we saw in town, but you may or may not be aware that until just a few weekends ago, one of the only decent Sport Clays courses in the area, at ASC, was down for the count.

While they had a limited reopening, still not too long ago, it was questionable when their sporting clays fields would be reopen, and if so, in what condition patrons would find them.

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Well, I’d like to report, that they’re back up and running, and I’m digging the new arrangement.  Blue course feels a bit more challenging that it did before (but is still nowhere near the red course’s difficulty, so no need for concern for the casual shooters).  A few of the stands weren’t open at the moment, and you can still see that repairs are underway.  Also, a new system is in place with a “pay as you go” instead of pre-loaded amounts.  The pricing is a bit cheaper to build in the free presentation pairs, but since we usually shoot at those anyway, it’s just additional savings.

I’ll head back out in a week or so for a more detailed report and get some more pictures, as this was just a quickie 50 round run to see how the place looks after being under water for 3 months.

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