Category Archives: Ammunition

Magazine Review: ETS & Lancer

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First off, let me apologize for the assault on your eyes that is the above image.  It was created in MS Paint on a laptop via touchpad.  If it has caused any bodily harm, please contact me and I’ll give you the contact information of my attorney.

Okay, so there are a couple of fairly new contenders out there trying to give Magpul a run for their money on polymer magazines.  In a recent project, I tested Lancer’s L5 Advanced Warfigher Magazine, or “L5AWM” magazine in it’s most relevant 30-round configuration with my Windham AR.

While these aren’t brand-spanking-new, they’re new enough that some folks I showed ’em off to hadn’t seen them yet or heard of them, whereas I’m sure any of them could’ve ID’ed a PMAG from a mile away.  They have been getting some attention at SHOT and in other marketing venues, as I’ve been seeing them pop up in pictures of new ARs or platforms using STANAG type magazines, and seem to be the preferred magazine used in SIG’s marketing of the MCX.  Of course it’s today’s SIG, so they probably just picked them because they looked decently sci-fi to go with everything else they’ve been doing lately.

So, aside from looking futuristic enough for SIG, how are they?  Pretty good, actually- Mine were the “smoked” color, which seems to be the most popular.  It’s nice to get a visual read on your round count from any angle, and to even be able to quickly visually identify which ammunition is loaded, and not have an open slit on the side like the window’ed PMAGs.  The material feels a bit harder than the polymer used by Magpul (and Troy), but doesn’t feel the least bit brittle or flimsy.

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The metal upper, which gets these referred to as “hybrid” magazines, sets these apart, and inspires confidence.  It also allows use of the standard loading tool when loading them from stripper clips.  While this has gotten to be standard for other polymer magazines, it still feels nice to have that metal-on-metal contact when doing so.

As far as actual performance, I’ve had roughly 1000 rounds between 3 of these and haven’t had a single failure.  While that’s also singing praises to my Windham AR and the Federal XM193 ammunition being used, not having a single magazine-related failure over that span, even while trying to be a bit more rough than usual, reflects well on these.

They were selling for real cheap for a while, and had been available from Wilson Combat on sale for ~$12 when I snagged them, but they seem to be hitting ‘Flavor-of-the-Month’ status with a price and stock level to reflect that.  At the time of writing, they seem to be going for ~$20.

Edit: Also, happened to find this showing a drop test between these and PMAGs.  Glad someone else decided to repeatedly drop their AR for our benefit, because I wasn’t about to test ’em that hard just for your benefit.

 

Next up: ETS Glock Magazines

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Alright, so these actually *are* new enough that I can definitely call them new, as they seem to have just been announced last October and just started hitting the market around the time of SHOT.  ETS (Elite Tactical Systems), in addition to another translucent polymer AR magazine, brings us translucent polymer Glock magazines.

ets site

Currently available in a variety of sizes and capacities, generally made to match common varieties, that is, a 17rnd Glock 17 sized mag, 15rnd Glock 19 sized mag, 10rnd Glock 26 sized mag, and a 31 round Extended mag.  They’ve also got 10-round limited varieties for folks in places where that’s required, and a 22rnd “Competition Legal” length magazine (140mm).  So, no matter what you’ve got as far as 9mm or .40cal Glock, they’ve got you covered.  They’re also fully compatible with Glock OEM floorplates, and disassemble in the same manner, so feel free to slap a 7151 “+” plate and insert on there and get an extra round or two in ’em.

Also, notably, they’ve beaten Magpul to the market, as Magpul has yet to release their Competition length and Extended magazines, which are currently scheduled for release this summer.  Magpul’s offering also seems to be a bit odd in that they have a lower capacity in the same size magazines compared to both OEM and ETS, their competition, with extended magazines being 21 and 27 round capacities, respectively.  They’re also not compatible with OEM or other aftermarket floorplates, as they seem to be proprietary.

While I haven’t tested these as extensively as I have the Lancer mags, I can say, while my initial impression was a bit leery, due to the cheap-ish feeling polymer and what seemed to be a clearly visible thin-gauge spring, the 31 round magazine performed flawlessly in both my Glock 19 and a PSA 9mm AR pistol over the course of 350 rounds, with only a single FTF in the AR pistol which doesn’t appear to be a fault of the magazine.

One notable quirk, however, is that while these drop free when empty, when fully loaded, they seem a bit tighter going into both platforms with which I tested them.  Not prohibitively tight or anything, but just similar to using magazines that don’t drop-free, kind of like I’ve experienced with some other (very cheap) non-OEM Glock magazines, or older G17 magazines.  Loading one less round seems to have resolved this (30 instead of 31) completely, and I’ll update once I install “+” plates on both.  The company mentions typical marketing-sounding statements about being able to store loaded without worrying about the feed lips, and makes statements about drop tests, and I can confirm dropping and banging these things around both at the range and on an outdoor concrete slab wasn’t able to cause an harm to them in any way or cause any failures, but I just thought this was worth noting.

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At ~ half the price of equal sized OEM Glock magazines, I don’t mind using these for practice, but I’m not sure I’ll trust them for carry until I’ve had the chance to beat them up a bit more and see how they old up.

Edit: Having now had about 1,500 rounds through them feeding an AR9 with no failures, I know they’re at least reliable at that, and they’ve held up to getting lightly banged around.

 

Fouled Cylinder Chambers from using .38 in .357

DSCN1676It’s fairly common to shoot .38 Spl from a .357 Magnum revolver for practice or competitive shooting events, as it’s cheaper, and has significantly less recoil, without much difference in accuracy (despite the “jump” it has to make).  This leads to an often brought up topic of fouling making it difficult to load .357 Magnum cartridges after prolonged bouts of shooting .38 Spl.

The problem comes from the fact that the .357 Magnum cartridge is a bit longer (and miniscule bit wider) than a .38 Spl cartridge.

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This means the .38 Spl bullet has to jump a bit through the cylinder chamber to get to the forcing cone and into the bore.  This means there will be fouling at a lower point in the cylinder, and that build up and burn in over time (sometimes even after a hundred or so rounds during one session) and make loading of .357 Magnum cartridges difficult to impossible.  See the image below to see a ring of where this buildup was removed from the chambers.

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What you end up with is a .357 Magnum Revolver that doesn’t seem to want to accept .357 Magnum cartridges.  Not cool.

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Luckily, it’s not permanent.  Even if cleaned normally after shooting .38 Spl, you still may need to go a bit further to remove this fouling.  You could use a slightly oversized brass brush (for instance, a .40 S&W brush in a .357 Cylinder) soaked in solvent and just have at it for a while.  A serious while.  It takes A LOT of effort to remove this fouling this way.  Luckily for you, I’m going to show you the easy (well, easy-ish, more on that at the end) way.

Things you’ll need:

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  • Electric Drill (preferably newer than the one pictured)
  • Brass brush of required size (in this case a .40 S&W sized one)
  • Solvent (Hoppe’s 9 / CLP work well, MC25 doesn’t break up the lead as well)
  • Tools for disassembly of your firearm

Naturally this will vary by firearm, but what you’re going to need to do is remove the Cylinder.  My sample here is a Colt Python, so here you’ll get a bonus Colt Python Cylinder Removal quick-guide.

  • Carefully LOOSEN this screw enough to easily turn by hand:
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  • Remove by hand while minding that a very tiny spring and plunger sit inside of it.  It’s not under pressure, but may fall out and be a PITA to find.
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  • Use spur to open the cylinder action, and slide forward off of the frame.
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  • Unscrew the Extractor Rod and remove, along with the parts that are now freed up by this.
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  • Complete.

Yes, that cylinder has some serious burn rings on the front as well.  This Python may have the appearance of a safe queen, but she gets worked out quite a lot thanks to being such a pleasure to shoot.  If there’s interest, I’ll do another quick article on getting THOSE rings off, but the long and short- lead remover cloth, or scotch pads and Hoppe’s 9.

So, what we’re going to do here next is go ahead and chock that brush into your drill.

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Soak the brush in the solvent of your choice, and holding your cylinder in one hand and the drill in the other, get that brush in there and let ‘er rip.  This may seem harsh, but the brass stands no chance against the steel inside of your chambers, you’re not going to damage it, but you will break up the fouling like a boss.  For extra-bad fouling, you may want to tilt the drill a touch in circles to apply extra pressure, but not too much or you’ll bend up your brush too much.

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When this is done, you’ll have A LOT of dirty solvent all over that cylinder.  Give it a good wipe and normal cleaning.  Once that’s done, move to your test area (because I KNOW you didn’t have ammunition near your work space, right?) and let’s see what happens.

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Ta-da!  Your .357 Magnum is back to being a .357 Magnum.

Now, about the EASIEST way of doing this that doesn’t involve jury-rigged powertools.  Just buy this.  Brass screen over a rubber piece will get that fouling out in one pass.  Also works very well at cleaning bores and getting your forcing cone clean.  As a bonus, this is a 9mm size, it works for .38 / .357 / 9mm just like brushes / bore snakes, and one tool for multiple guns is always the way to go.

Terminal Ballistics and You! *Controversial!*

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That’s right, I’m tackling *that* subject.  It’s all coming out here.  9mm vs. .45ACP, FMJ vs. Hollow Point.  BATTLE ROYALE!  Yes, this is going to be controversial, as this is one of those topics that will always cause an argument and be basically flame bait on any forum, guaranteed.  Also, while this is opinion, it’s backed up by a video of a very renown doctor who has worked in trauma situations where he’s seen many a gun shot wound which I believe ANYBODY who intends on carrying or keeping firearms for protection should watch.

Before I even bother saying anything more on the subject, here is the video.  It’s long, but worth it.

So, the takeaway here is this- terminal ballistics between handgun calibers and types of bullets is negligible.  What’s more important is hitting somewhere vital, thus the important bit on the shooter’s end is picking a platform and cartridge that reliably lets them get as many accurate hits on the target as they can as quickly as possible.

What does this mean to people who want to carry a handgun for self defense?  Think less about picking the bullet you think will do the most damage in theory, and concentrate on picking what’s comfortable for you to practice with and carry regularly.  It doesn’t matter how high tech or specialized that piece of brass and lead is if you’re not able to get it on target, or not carrying the firearm that delivers them with you because it’s size or weight is uncomfortable.

Additionally, another argument that comes up is of course between FMJ and HP, or other different rounds.  Again, per the doctor here, the important thing really is penetrating and damaging vital structures.  Another argument that frequently comes up is fear of overpenetration causing injury or death beyond your initial target.  As seen in this video, even with FMJ handgun rounds, chances of a center mass hit exiting the target are iffy, but exiting with enough energy to continue doing damage?   I’ve searched for a long time on this, but if someone could provide me a single document case of a round overpenetrating a person and striking and injuring someone beyond them, especially through walls as is often the argument, I’ll personally buy you a drink next time you’re in the greater Houston area for opening my eyes to it.

The last takeaway here?  Get a shotgun for home defense use, and as always, practice, practice, practice.

I welcome comments to this.  Opinions?  Please share!

Edit, for further reading, with some very interesting statistics that backup the above opinion, have a look at the numbers and graphics collected and assembled by Greg Ellifritz over at Buckeye Firearms Association.

Online Ammunition Shopping Made Easy

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Let’s face it- sometimes, the local WalMart isn’t going to have the ammunition you need, especially with the current shortage we’ve got going on.  Even when the local big-box store is in stock, you’re normally subject to purchase limits, either on certain calibers (.22lr comes to mind), or on total.  So off we go, to the internets, to find the cartridges we crave.

There are a couple of old standbys I used to use quite a bit, like Ammunition-to-go (still a pretty good choice), and of course Cabela’s / Bass Pro / Academy’s online stores are usually pretty well stocked, if pricier.

But, a few months ago, I found the ultimate place to find the best deals on ammunition, and a new go-to even if just to see what a particular cartridge is going for at the moment.

Seriously, Gunbot is where it’s at.  It’s not a store, but rather an aggregator, whose creater I would like to buy several beers (though he can likely afford his own through the money I’m sure he raked in on affiliate deals).  Basically, you go there, choose your caliber, and you’ll get lists that you can sort by price-per-round, age of offer, brand, and store.  The site will link you to the website making the offer, and you go there to do the buying.

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They have some additional features if you create an account and donate ($20/yr at the moment) such as email alerts based on price thresholds you can set.  THIS feature, wins.  Back during the darkest months of the current shortage, when .22lr was impossible to find anywhere besides price gougers on gunbroker, you could set email alerts when it was available.  More than a few times, I’d get a ping, get online ASAP, see a few boxes available somewhere, add to cart, and it would be gone in mere minutes of being listed in stock, so apparently I wasn’t the only one using this feature.

Things have calmed down a bit since then, and by watching trends on here, much like watching stocks, you can see the prices slowly settling back down.

Anyhow, just wanted to share this tool, hope it helps!  Next week, I’ll try to have an introduction to cleaning post that’ll help the newbies know what their bare bones cleaning kit should look like.